Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Spoils

At some point, I thought it would be a good idea to follow the rule “Be Interesting” when it comes to posting on this blog. This would preclude ever talking about my fantasy football teams. I do want future me, though, to know what past me was interested in. And current me is obsessed with fantasy football. So, I’m going to talk about it and you can ignore it.

I WON!!!!! WHOO!!!!

I’m champion in both leagues I played in. One was a money league. I won $250 for first place plus an additional $10 for the highest score during one week in the regular season. So, remember when I wrote about how my team, The BART Police, was done? It wasn’t! A miracle happened! I needed another team to lose, but that team was behind by only 3 points and still had Mark Sanchez to play against New England. I was sure I was going to lose. I watched a little bit of the game and left when it looked like Sanchez had enough points to defeat me. But he threw a bunch of picks and I sneaked into the playoffs as the 6th seed with a 6-7 record. I got lucky in the first round of the playoffs with a low point total, but my opponent did worse. Then, Ray Rice suddenly came to life in the 2nd round of the playoffs, and I blew-out my opponent. In the finals, my persistence in starting Miles Austin finally paid off when he got a hundred yard game for the first time in forever. I also snagged Rob Gronkowski at the last second after I heard Aaron Hernandez was hurt. He got me 17 points while Kevin Boss would’ve got me 0, and cost me a championship. I was also helped by a garbage time TD from Philip Rivers.

In my other league, I successfully defended my championship. My team was called the Hedonic Treadmills. I also kind of sneaked into the playoffs, but it wasn’t as much of a miracle. I lost, but when another team lost, I still got into the playoffs with a 7-7 record as the number 4 seed. (I did, however, have a miracle game where I got 13 points from Adam Vinitieri on MNF to win it.) I survived the first round of the playoffs after TO got hurt, Darren McFadden had all his touchdowns vultured, and AP was a scratch for the Monday night game. In the finals, I made a slap bet with Nick, my opponent for that game. (Thank you Tom Brady and NE defense.) I won, and now I get to slap Nick. Ahahahahaha!

One thing I want to say is that I was right about Jamaal Charles. He is a beast and is an RB1 all the way. I would’ve drafted him in the second round if autodraft hadn’t screwed me. (Luckily, I was able to turn Ryan Mathews into Calvin Johnson. What a steal! I also traded Maclin and Knox for Mendenhall.) My only regret is passing up Jamaal Charles for Roddy White in the third round of the draft in my money league.

I am going to give serious consideration to drafting Jamaal Charles first next year. Dude is amazing.

Cable News Makes You Stupid

I recently posted this on facebook:

Can we just call it like it is: Cable news makes you stupider. If anyone’s watched that episode of The Boondocks where Huey watches nothing but BET, you’ll understand what cable news does to you.

And I included a link to this article: Study: Some Viewers Were Misinformed by TV News.

In retrospect, I never read the study and trusted someone else to inform me on it, so that probably wasn’t a good idea. Anyway, people have been lured into the partisan aspect of this, claiming that Fox News misinforms people the most. Or rather, that people who watch Fox News are more likely to believe certain false claims. I don’t care about this and don’t want to talk about it because I believe that all cable news is stupid.

I recently found some stuff that confirms my bias, so I’d like to link to them:
Be Careful What You Magnify, Ctd on Andrew Sullivan’s blog (He’s on vacation, so it’s not Sullivan writing)
On Cable News by Radley Balko
Cable News Switcheroo by Radley Balko
Cable News: Where Being Loud Trumps Being Wrong by Radley Balko

Word Counts

Limits can be a good thing when it comes to creative writing. Amateur free-form poetry often is often prose with random line breaks. Using a set form can help impose rhythm into the poem. Similarly, word counts can help you tighten up a piece, or you can lazily add filler until you hit the count.

My skepticism of the op-ed/political column has grown. It may be too small a place to actual prove anything. When you write something so weak, it has no chance of educating people. Or so I hypothesize. It could just be lazy writing because Hitchens does marvelous things in his columns. (As an aside, this short blog post doesn’t count as too short because it’s part of an entire conversation that is this blog. I can backtrack anytime I want. It lacks the finality of an op-ed.)

Erin recently posted a small philosophy piece on my facebook wall, and I read through it expecting an argument, but never really found one. It sounded like the introduction to a piece, rather than a real piece. Maybe the author was just trying to stimulate conversation? In any case, I think it was too short to truly argue a point.

Another thing I found online was a political column about the census. Normally, I shouldn’t read stuff like this because of my self-imposed traditional media blackout. (I fail at this a lot, by the way.) It contrasts Texas with California:

First, the great engine of growth in America is not the Northeast Megalopolis, which was growing faster than average in the mid-20th century, or California, which grew lustily in the succeeding half-century. It is Texas.

Its population grew 21 percent in the past decade, from nearly 21 million to more than 25 million. That was more rapid growth than in any states except for four much smaller ones (Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Idaho).

Texas’ diversified economy, business-friendly regulations and low taxes have attracted not only immigrants but substantial inflow from the other 49 states. As a result, the 2010 reapportionment gives Texas four additional House seats. In contrast, California gets no new House seats, for the first time since it was admitted to the Union in 1850.

I think if this was a paper I was grading, I would circle the line about Texas’ diversified economy, etc. and write “Evidence?” next to it. I want to surmise that it’s the form of the piece that limits it. The author only offers quick hits on census data, without offering much in the way of argument. Is there not enough room for a proper argument? Or maybe it’s just my natural skepticism about figuring out cause-and-effect that’s makes me demand a higher standard of evidence? Or, again, is it lazy writing?

Pop Psychology

Pop psychology is often like this blog post: Lazy. This blog post and pop psychology, however, use different techniques. This is just me spouting something off the top of my head without any research. Pop psychology will often grab one study and then overgeneralize, telling you how this changes everything. It will make you feel clever by telling you how this study is counterintuitive and subverts the status quo. Then, it tells you how you can apply this to your own life. Although there are no studies to back up this application, the author has a lot of anecdotes, culled from months of confirmation bias.

I must remember to get closer to the source. One simple heuristic: Distrust psychology books written by journalists.

Assorted Thoughts on Digital Mobs and Tyranny

I’ve tried to hide myself from the day-to-day political stuff. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t comment on important things, even if they’re political topics. So, I guess I’ll say something about Wikileaks because it will help me talk about how it relates to the bigger topic of tyranny.

First, a word on tyranny. It’s unfortunate that most of us are stuck with a 20th-century conception of the topic. Every infringement of rights is step on the dark road towards totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is the industrial version of tyranny. It is a product of the 20th century. Stop using 1984 as prophecy because we are in the 21st century. The dark road is dark enough, even if it does not lead to absolute darkness. That is, it is still tyranny, even if it is not totalitarianism.

In a democracy, such as what America is supposed to be, the law is king. We are supposed to be governed by laws rather than the arbitrary whims of our rulers. Unfortunately, it seems as if the arbitrary whims are winning. The prison at Guantanamo Bay, which is still open (Thanks, Obama!), is not governed by law. We’ve held people there for years and years, without charges. Some of them have even been innocent people, trapped in a legal black hole. Meanwhile, the US government tortured people. This would be bad enough, but the Bush Administration hasn’t been held accountable for its war crimes. What’s more, they destroyed video evidence of the torture. The law is ignored by our ruling class. The US government has jailed journalists with no charges. I can’t complete this paragraph without also mentioning that our ruling class includes the owners of large corporations. I don’t think it makes sense to talk about government officials and corporate leaders because these are the same people; they freely move from one realm to the other realm — it’s very incestuous. So, the government is helping banks kick people out of their homes at a breakneck pace. Corrupt courts let banks commit fraud and lie. This leads me to believe that our government is already tyrannical, and I have yet to mention the TSA or Wikileaks.

Well, I’ll save the TSA rant for another day. (They’re touching our genitals now?! Really? I mean, fucking really?) Some day I may read this and not know what the hell is going on, so I should provide a quick recap. Wikileaks is an website that publishes leaked documents. They published dumps of documents about Iraq and Afghanistan. They also recently dumped a bunch of documents that were provided by a private in the military. These documents include diplomatic cables and I think evidence of war crimes. The founder of Wikileaks is Julian Assange, who is not an American citizen.

After the latest dump, the rhetoric became especially vicious. Many members of the political commentariat have called for Assange to be killed and even for Wikileaks to be declared a terrorist organization. Glenn Greenwald, whose blog is invaluable on the subject of Wikileaks, said, “The way in which so many political commentators so routinely and casually call for the eradication of human beings without a shred of due process is nothing short of demented.” It reveals an authoritarian mindset. The law is king, and we shouldn’t be jailing or killing people without due process.

Then, there’s the fact that all the documents that Wikileaks has published so far have already been published by other news organizations. It’s already dangerous for the government to arbitrarily declare a group a terrorist outfit and then use violence outside the law. But some journalists are openly calling for their own demise. It’s sad that they cheer on tyranny.

It becomes scarier when donating to Wikileaks could suddenly, and arbitrarily, become giving material aid to a terrorist organization. This can be used as the flimsiest of excuses for the government to grab whomever they want.

Now, I’m not talking about the government actually grabbing people. The issue is that the government will have the power to do this. The issue is that the rule of law will have been replaced by the arbitrary whims of our rulers. In Disney’s Robin Hood, King Richard was just as much a tyrant as Prince John.

Speaking of flimsy excuses to grab people, the arrest of Assange has very suspicious timing. I should withhold judgment about what’s really going on, but it just seems too convenient. My mom mentioned a whistleblower in China who revealed that poison was in milk powder. He was put in jail. She said the US is essentially doing the same thing. I am not quick to disagree. We shall see.

The Wikileaks website has been under attack recently. Amazon dropped its hosting after getting a phone call from Joe Lieberman. Visa and Mastercard refused to take money for donations. So, what happened to Visa and MasterCard? Denial of service attacks. The digital mobs have struck.

A mob is rowdy and violent. It’s not a gathering of people who merely shout their displeasure. If we had real mobs today, they would’ve burned down the mansions of the CEOs who caused our recent financial disaster. So, people no longer burn down mansions or tar and feather people, but it seems they do hack into websites. I wouldn’t be surprised if this trend continued. (I might even take some guilty pleasure in it.) The good thing about mobs is that they scare the ruling class, and that’s when they listen. Of course, the mob also has its downsides. Still, I wonder what havoc future digital mobs will wreak. Will they attack their own government as well?

EDIT: Let me post an addendum. I really enjoyed Umberto Eco on WikiLeaks. As the government invades our privacy, we have begun to invade its privacy. And as they digitally attack the people, the people begin to attack them. Interesting.

Free Programming Books

Today, I found this free programming books via Twitter. I started reading random chapters in 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know. Not only did I not know any of things, I couldn’t even understand some of the chapters. Yes, yes, I’m announcing my ignorance to the world. I, however, like to think of it announcing to the world that I’m busy learning things.

In other news, I am pondering quitting Twitter. Well, I’d stop updating, but I’d probably still troll it for interesting content. Using Twitter has morphed my humor into staccato hits. I’ll spit out quick one-liners while my capacity for set-up/punchline is eroding. My comics are becoming tweets.

My blog posts are becoming tweet-ish too! I’ll often post one or two lines instead of sitting down and thinking. Not all writing is equal. Just as the typewriter changed Nietzsche, Twitter is changing me. Funnily enough, it’s also pushing me to a punchier, more aphoristic style. On first glance, this may not be entirely a bad thing because it may be more in line with my natural writing style. My original tweets were private post-it notes. I’d write my philosophical bites on post-its and often return to the same themes in my writing. I guess the problem occurs when the quick hit crowds out other types of thought. Working 8 hours limits the time and energy (the latter is more important, I think) I have to do things, and Twitter sucks up brain power. I don’t have enough brain power to take the time to pause and think more deeply and tweet, do I? Maybe I would if I didn’t have a billion other projects that I want to actually start.

Sitting in the back of my mind has been the problem of the internet sapping my attention. Sophrosyne is the goddess of “moderation, self-control, temperance, restraint, and discretion.” Unfortunately, I think her powers are weak. Humans have a very limited amount of self-control, and it’s better to use cleverness to trick ourselves into doing what we should do. So, now I’m thinking the issue with Twitter is that it’s easier to tweet than to blog. This seduces me into tweeting at the expense of better blogging. It may be better to cut Twitter out of my life. I’ll ponder this some more.

The Parable of the Boy and his Fighting Fish

There once was a boy who owned a magnificent Fighting Fish.

“My, my,” the boy exclaimed, “This is the most wonderful fighting fish in the world!” He admired his fish from all angles, thinking nothing could ever top his most marvelous possession. That is, until he noticed the fish’s reflection in the bowl — and an idea came to him.

“What if,” he thought, “I had two fighting fish. That would be twice as good! It would be so easy too! All I would have to do is get another fighting fish and put him inside of the bowl.”

So with much joy, at his brilliant idea (and also joy at being so brilliant an originator of ideas), he set off to buy another fighting fish.

“This fish bowl,” he declared, “will be the best fish bowl ever!” And so, he dropped the second fish into the bowl.

The fighting fish fought. And fought and fought. “Oh no!” the boy cried out. But they paid him no heed. They fought and fought. Until both fish were no more.

The moral of the story: You are an idiot if you think your feature would be so easy to add to the program I’m working on.

The end of The BART Police

In one of my leagues, the one with a pricey buy-in (okay, not that pricey), my season is over. The BART Police — what a great team name — are done after a 3-game losing streak to end the season. Before that, I was first place in points and either second or third place overall. Instead, I’m going to finish the regular season in seventh place and not make the playoffs. *sigh* This basically ruined the rest of my Sunday.

My players started tanking at the wrong time. After a really hot start, Philip Rivers had like one touchdown in the past two weeks. Roddy White had zero touchdowns. My pick of Miles Austin in the second round looked genius for the first 4 weeks of the season, and then he started doing nothing. Ray Rice underperformed all season. And Beanie Wells… well, let’s not talk about him. Ahmad Bradshaw also had a really crappy game like 3 weeks ago that started my downward spiral. I benched Steve Johnson when he had 30+ points, played him every week after, even the game where he had 5 drops. I inserted Dez Bryant into my fantasy lineup as defenses started rolling more coverage his way and effectively taking him out of the game. Even my kicker joined in, scoring zero points to start my 3-game skid.

And I’m done complaining.

At least I’ll get $10 back for getting the highest score in one week. (Funnily enough, this was the game where I had practically everyone on bye. I had to start Blount and Wells at RB.)

I’m still hoping I can defend my title in my other league.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma

Currently reading: The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

I was reading it during lunch, and I couldn’t finish my burger, haha.

San Francisco recently made a law banning toys in Happy Meals (well, foods that have a certain number of calories or something). People complain about this and government intervention. They should complain more about corn subsidies.

McCain and DADT

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Gaypocalypse Now
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor The Daily Show on Facebook

(via Andrew Sullivan). I’m not sure I agree with Sullivan on McCain’s motivations for being against DADT. It’s not that I necessarily disagree and have my own opinion. Instead, I generally find that it’s hard to discern for people I don’t know personally, and I don’t like commenting on it.


It’s hard choosing to be positive rather than grouchy when you have every reason to be grouchy, but it is a choice. I think it’s okay to indulge in grouchiness every once in a while, but in the long run the positive attitude has better returns.

Welcoming December

It’s December, and I’m on hiatus for The Chalkboard Manifesto. I came up with a good idea for a comic after lunch today, and now I can’t post it. I can take a break from writing comics, but I can’t take a break from ideas coming to my head. I will continue to write them down. I have to capture inspiration when it comes to me.

I definitely need to make a projects list so I can feel like I’m working towards something. Since I got my apartment, I haven’t gotten myself involved in too many awesome projects. It’s always like: Move a couch, pay some bills.

*Breather page
*Redesign Chalkboard Manifesto
*Update resume (not as awesome)
*Create a portfolio for web/programming work
*Make a WP theme for my blog
*Party Hats (the codename for a Ruby on Rails project)

I guess that’s enough for now. Next I’ll think up habits. I kind of want to plot that for a year.

Tomorrow: Duty, Identity, and Decision-Making
*Larry Whitman scripts