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LeBron James Begins His Metamorphosis Into Giant-Headed Freak Of a Man

July 8, 2010

A two-time MVP who led his team deep into the playoffs. Dogged by criticism that he just couldn’t come through in big games.  Used free agency to leverage a small-market’s anxiety into an orgy of media attention. Destroyed  his sport in the city he left for two decades.  Justified going to a team with a worse record because he was “used to a winning atmosphere”  and “came here because [he thought they had] a chance to win.”

I’m of course talking about Barry Bonds, decimater of Pirates, false hope inspirer of Giants.

And like Barry Bonds’s in 1993, the brand “LeBron James” is no longer selling a phenomenally talented, highlight reel manufacturing, harmlessly self-aggrandizing kid.  It now sells a calculating, heartless, city-destroying heel.  A calculating, heartless heel who destroys his hometown on national television.*

But karma is a bitch.  The 1993 Giants won 103 games, but still lost the NL West to the Atlanta Braves.  The top-loaded Heat could easily topple if and when Chris Bosh or Dwayne Wade go down with injuries.  Or maybe LeBron’s chokeness is just too much to be compensated for by Dwayne Wade’s clutchness.  No matter how the inevitable collapse of the centerless South Beach juggernaut happens, like so many with Barry Bonds, it’s going to be very, very difficult for people not to actively root for LeBron’s Decision to bite him squarely in the ass.

AAAAAND in related news, I may just be extremely bitter that the Hawks paid Joe Johnson max money to give up in the playoffs to the Miami Heat in 2011. My objection is not so much the decision, as the media circus he manufactured about the Decision.  Just way too cruel for such an anti-climactic, poor TV moment.  And seriously, red checkered shirt?

* (And apparently donated the proceeds of the Decision to the Boys and Girls Club. Ok, that’s not so objectionable.  Shouldn’t that have been the lead-in to the decision?  “First off, Akron is my home.  I’m donating the proceeds of this event to charity for kids here and 10% of my salary in Miami is going directly to scholarships for underprivileged Ohioans.  So no matter what I decide, and what some people might think of my employment decision, I intend to have a lasting presence here.”  Instead, he had to be goaded into something more like a  “uh, I gave a lot to this city and this organization.”  Weak sauce.)

I’ve become ‘That Blog Author’– Also, an awesome table

January 18, 2010

David: you should post stuff like this on the blog, with pithy comments. if you are looking for shorter things to post.

Justin: Oh. I was going to write up how brilliant furniture design like this implies a greater need for engineering degrees in our country with a focus on art and aesthetics, and how the lack of more things like this is a failing of us as a society and a culture. The rough draft’s 3 pages.

David: that’s pretty sweet.

Justin: Damnit, I knew I should have put a sarcasm mark at the end of that. My story unfortunately checks out.

David: oh, haha. yes indeed it does.

Science, Politics, and Money

January 17, 2010

Recently I had the pleasure of going to a fantastic event called Atlanta Science Tavern. The premise is simple: Pay a minimal entrance fee, eat some bar food, and listen to an expert talk about his or her research into some scientific field. The talker this time was a gentleman by the name of Dr. Todd M. Preuss who talked at length about the differences between other ape brains and the human mind. The first half of his lecture, however, was a discourse on why his field is under-studied and under-funded, and it reminded me of talks I’ve had with friends after the Climate-Gate ‘scandal’ concerning the role of science in greater society.

Not to give a completely inadequate summary of Dr. Preuss’ talk, but he opined about the resistance amongst modern biologists and anatomists to spelling out sapien-simian brain differences as opposed to their similarities. This goes back to Darwin’s efforts, when he spent the better part of his life focusing on the continuity of species, and thus the commonality was far more important to his thesis than the differences, which could be shot down by the religious community as ‘those things unique to God’s chosen creatures.’ The second problem was funding. Dr. Preuss does almost all of his research with higher apes, such as chimpanzees and humans specifically, which is rather expensive compared to ‘similarities’ research done with other mammals like rats and mice.

His brand of academic troubles are something people in my field aren’t really familiar with. In topology, the field of mathematics where my bets are cast, the practical merit is almost zero, but on the other hand lab costs and upkeep are confined to, in order of price, a steady supply of coffee and chalk. Mathematicians don’t have too much trouble getting funding for essentially nothing more than their living costs while they think. Comparative psychologists and neuroscientists, on the other hand, have to pay for expensive equipment, expensive animals, and expensive techniques. The hurdles they must jump to get their work done are much higher, both politically and financially.

Climate-Gate infuriated me to no end, the supposed controversy and its easily dispelled allegations whipping bloviating jerk-face Rush Limbaugh and others into a frenzy, utterly misconstruing scientifically innocuous emails into some sort of conspiracy by Marxist environmentalists. The lesson it taught me is that, though the results and methods and final papers must be subject to peer review, the public seems woefully unequipped to read intimate details of the process without devolving into red-faced polemics. I don’t think this is unique to science— basically any job one works at where one is required to correspond with others via email has all sorts of inside jokes and references non-humorous that others wouldn’t understand, willfully or not, that could indict both ones’ self and ones’ colleagues.

It appears that Dr. Preuss has to preface all of his work with some sort of due diligence on top of good peer-reviewed work with a disclaimer saying that, no, these differences are evolutionarily founded and not created by some god before anyone will take him seriously. The scientists around him are so fearful of a political reprisal that their science has to be modified to fit into a politically conscious world. Anyone who has any care for the sanctity of science should be feeling rightly disgusted at this point. I’m not really sure what an acceptable solution would look like, but science really needs to be allowed to be, as it were, in order to do its job fairly and as objectively as possible. Placing some sort of negligence charge on scientists who don’t do anything wrong but speak familiarly to their colleagues because of the risk of some hacker stealing their emails, or some fat pundit twisting their words and their meanings, could only be a burden that drives up the already high cost of research into these controversial fields, and further puts laypeople in the mindset of distrusting experts to be experts.

Money is the other problem, and it’s intensely tied to politics. It would be nice if we lived in a world where scientists always got unlimited funding for whatever they wanted to research, but that’s unreasonable. What’s also unreasonable is scientific funding fluctuating with political cycles, further miring research with politics, pundits, and polemics at a cost to everyone. Again, an exact solution is not in sight, but I would enjoy seeing something like a set funding pool that’s proportional to budget in a fixed way, overseen by science advocates who, on one hand, can’t lobby for an increase but, on the other hand, aren’t swayed by Congress to fund one field or another.

Dr. Preuss believes his research is fundamental to solving problems as diverse as AIDS vaccine research to handling the diversity of psychological problems that plague people. Other research in other fields similarly makes lofty claims that, sometimes, turn out to be true. Throwing science to the social machinations of political institutions will do nothing but ruin the effectiveness of research and cast doubt, far more doubt than should be due from people who aren’t experts, onto an already distrusted and disparaged scientific community.

Loyalty Is A Two Way Street, Vols

January 14, 2010

My gut reaction to the Lane Kiffin debacle was, “Man, what a dirtbag.”  The riots in Knoxville over Kiffin’s decision to leave UT after only one (mediocre) season seemed justified in the way that only righteous sports indignation can.

Unfortunately, this indignation is of the self-righteous variety.  Vols fans talk about loyalty now, but what about Phil Fullmer?  The guy brought you Peyton Manning and a national championship only 10 years before his forced resignation.  But one losing season and you become the Delilah to his, admittedly portly, Samson (ok it’s a poor analogy).  What about the 85-41 record he compiled in the years after the championship, including a 12th ranked season the year before his firing?

No, the humiliation of once missing a bowl game in a conference stacked with premier teams is enough to erase 16 years of dedication to the school, along with it the credibility and stability in recruiting the sports media now says Kiffin has robbed Tennessee of.

This is why coaches owe nothing to the programs they are hired to lead.  Similar fates awaited Larry Coker and Lloyd Carr despite their dominance in the late 90s and early 2000s.  Why would any coach wait around when the noose is dangling over his head?

So I don’t want to hear about loyalty from boosters and disgruntled fans.  If you wanted loyalty above results, you wouldn’t have chosen a mercenary gunning for national media prestige. When you find your team near the bottom of the SEC East again this upcoming fall and you want to point the finger at your disloyal former coach, remember one thing: you deserved each other.

Catching Some Z’s With, On and Above

January 14, 2010

USAToday ran an article headlined, “Catching Up On Lost Sleep A Dangerous Illusion” today. My first reaction was that I already see right through the illusion.  My solution is typically not to catch up, but to give up on lost sleep.  Then I read this:

That’s dangerous for public health because many critical positions are held by people who have to stay up long hours, including doctors, paramedics, police officers and truckers.

Eve Van Cauter, a sleep researcher at the University of Chicago, calls the study “almost scary, because it really reveals that a large segment of the modern population may be at high risk of committing catastrophic errors, particularly in the middle of the night and the early morning hours.”

To put this in context, prior research has shown that staying awake for 24 hours in a row impairs performance on par with legal intoxication with alcohol (for driving), and six hours of sleep per night for two weeks causes a similar level of impairment as staying awake for 24 hours, Cohen says.

From USAToday

So since I get about four hours a day and am often drunk for the remainder, I’m guessing that disqualifies me (more) from operating heavy machinery?

Well, clearly it’s not ok to eschew sleep entirely.  Healthy, wealthy, wise and all that jazz.  But I wonder if there’s a loophole.  See, doctors tell us to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, but they don’t say that we can’t get that sleep in prepositional form.

So if I sleep 4 hours and spend the other half sleeping with, around, and in, do I get to have back that medical license I won as collateral in a Guadalupe cockfight? Daddy’s got an itch, and the only cure is illegitimate surgery.

Side note: I wonder how this jives with anecdotal evidence that the Clintons spent Bill’s presidency on roughly 4-5 hours of sleep a night?  Does this confirm the Milhousian reverse vampire hypothesis way back in Season 6?  Or does it confirm that sleeping prepositionally really is a perfect substitute?

Note to anyone important potentially reading this: my blog is satire and only maybe partially reflective of views and reality.

Article III Gets Some Love

January 13, 2010

The Economist makes a great argument for trusting the judicial branch on wedge issues:

There aren’t that many social settings in which people are expected to set aside their fixed positions, listen to opposing arguments with an open mind, accept new evidence and testimony, and come to a fair, just conclusion, in the knowledge that they will be respected rather than disdained for changing their minds. One such setting is a courtroom.

From Democracy In America

Armchair Hypothesis – A Concurrence In Part

January 12, 2010

Since this is such a controversial, though in my opinion not entirely unreasonable, viewpoint, I feel it necessary to shed light on my own views on the subject.

Justin may be right that what’s at play here is not entirely genetic, but I’m not prepared to believe that sexuality is 100% cultural.  I’m not even sure it’s mostly cultural.  Justin hasn’t addressed how tallness and fitness are almost universally found attractive across cultures.  Nor that high-income and intelligence are similarly thought of as prime considerations in finding mates both in the East and West. Nor that animals, despite a lack of televisions and billboards, sometimes practice homosexuality in the wild.  This common knowledge (and plenty of other studies on cross-cultural attraction) should lend credence to the idea that there are some evolutionary, and therefore, genetic pressures on attraction.

But I’m not sure how else to reconcile the meme that ‘sexuality is a spectrum’ without taking a hard look at the spectrums within the spectrums as Justin has done.  It’s highly doubtful that a gene like “Loves the Simpsons” or “Has Killer Tattoos” is hard-wired into our genetic code, the same way that I doubt a preference between the protagonists in Twilight or 17 Again is.  I therefore share Justin’s skepticism that there exists a 100% controlling “gay gene,” especially given the existence of the androgynous David Bowie, who is hot no matter what you have between your legs.

Furthermore, holding up “sexuality is only genetic” as a canard for political correctness’ sake is dangerous. Genetic justifications for otherizing disadvantaged groups have done as much, if not more, harm than those based on beliefs and customs developed through experience.  I hope I don’t need to offer evidence for this assertion.

I find it a much healthier idea, if we aren’t concerned about the science (which I’m also not versed in), for us all to to believe that any one of us could have been more or less attracted to the same sex if not for some random events each member of society could conceivably and inevitably experience.  It is at this point that the firm distinctions between what a gay person is and what a straight person is break down, allowing us to view sexuality in a more mature and nuanced light.

Not to trivialize this obviously touchy subject, but this is also the reason that music and film snobs should get over themselves – these tastes are partially determined by a right-brain dominated personality, but also partially determined by exposure that individuals in no way caused to come about.  But somehow I get the feeling that we are going to come together on LGBT rights and realities much, much sooner than we will get consensus on what it means to love The Fast and The Furious.