Friday, December 30, 2005

The Watchmaker

Some things never change, in fact I might argue that it has all been done before, just like “The Barenaked Ladies” say…

If you took philosophy at one of our fine institutions of higher learning, you might remember William Paley’s “watchmaker” argument for the existence of God.

To paraphrase, he used an analogy of a man walking when he stumbles across a watch on the ground, beautifully crafted pocket watch with all of it’s complexity on the ground-- one would have to conclude that there must have been a watchmaker, because a watch like that could not have just appeared by chance. If you want to read the full thing, here’s a link

If you are reading this and thinking, djobe cannot possibly be advocating the teaching of intelligent design, can he? I thought he was a smart feller?

I tend to think that with most things—we should probably be exposed to lot’s of different perspectives, and the good ones will rise to the top. In the arena of ideas, just like natural selection, the good ones will fare better than the bad ones.

After all, you learned about bad grammar in English class (double negatives, correct use of "ain't")—why wouldn’t you learn about odd, un-testable, unscientific, alternative creation theories in science class?

When someone protests the teaching of an alternative it makes me think that they don’t have the courage of their convictions or trust the persuasiveness of their argument. If you resort to silencing the opposition you must not believe that informed individuals would agree with you.

If you have a persuasive argument, there is no need to silence the opposition—in fact the opposition will only more clearly bolster your own argument.

Do a thought experiment with me….do you object to teaching “our children” about when the greatest minds believed that the earth was the center of our solar system, or when the planet was flat? Do those theories not look ridiculous when compared with the now generally accepted facts about the cosmos? Do you think that exposing children to intelligent design will convert a bunch of kids to throw out evolutionary biology and genetics? (only the stupid ones,---and just like natural selection, they will fail to propagate as successfully as the rest of the population)…

Thursday, December 29, 2005

We are surrounded by our own “yes men”

I like reading blogs.

Observation: frequently blog posts are reactions to something else written by someone else somewhere else.

My question is---do people seek out information that validates what they already believe, or do they seek out lots of information and then form their opinions based on what they have compiled?

I suspect it is more the former than the latter much of the time, and I am certain that I do it too.

The problem is that in our ultra-niche consumption culture—where consumers can literally seek out only the information they want to hear/read/expose themselves to---there is less curiousness about “the other side.”

If you are a hard core lefty, then there are plenty of rags/mags/sites/books to spend your time with, there is absolutely no reason to expose yourself to conservative thought or ideas. And of course, the reverse can also be true.

The ability to choose to only expose yourself to certain perspectives makes the internet less like a globally interconnected web of ideas and more like a hyper-efficient echo chamber.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

"Megaphones matter, but not as much as what you say into them."

I wish I could claim that I came up with the title of this post, but Jonah Goldberg did.

I have been reading every op-ed by Jonah and most of his colleagues at National Review for the better part of 7 years. I have been a subscriber to their excellent magazine for 2 years, but I read the online version as often as I can.

A lot of people have predicted that blogging is this "new medium" that somehow will decapitate the traditional media, but as the title of this post suggests, it is more about what you say...not the megaphone with which you say it. I have no megaphone...but I have this little microphone.

If, and that's a big "if", I were to stumble onto something profound (stop laughing) and I say it on my blog, it will spread. What makes blogging powerful is that ANYONE can say something profound, under the old media method, only the journalistic elite were able to espouse or pontificate to the masses....now that we all have a voice, the potential for the spread of great ideas is infinite. As I have said before, we are all doing battle in the arena of ideas, the best ones will triumph.

Then again, just because you give a person a digital camera doesn't mean they become a professional photojournalist.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


I wanted to write a little bit in response to J-Dub over at MOCOMMONSENSE's recent doom and gloom pontifications.

He has apparently stumbled on a book that has convinced him that the entire planet is in a downward spiral of scarcity and it is only a matter of years before our lives end as we know it, as we move into a Mad Max post-apopcolyptic economy that cannot do anything without oil and we quickly revert into a dark ages inspired barbarism.

If this sounds familiar, it has been a recurring theme of doom first officially introduced by a guy named Malthus in 1798...in response to poverty in Victorian england, but other authors as recently as the 60's and 70's were advising that by the year 2000 England's population would be wiped out by starvation, and the planet would be plunged into chaos as the lack of food would cause nations to war over food.

Another recent book: Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond, New York: Viking, 592 pages, $29.95 plumbs the debths of inanity regarding scarcity and populations with the same ridiculous and ominous predictions.

I tend to agree with Ronald Bailey who wrote in reponse to Diamond's book....in the United States producers use less than half the energy they used in 1949 to produce a dollar of GDP. In 2000 a report from the Cap Gemini Ernst and Young Center for Business Innovation calculated that the value of America’s GDP per pound of finished product rose from $3.64 in 1977 to $7.96 in 2000. This trend toward ever greater efficiency is driven by the relentless market process that pushes producers to economize on resources. The smart bet is that humanity’s steadily dematerializing economy in the 21st century will have less and less “impact” on natural systems while enabling much higher living standards.
Diamond admits that many previous Malthusian predictions were wrong but feels compelled to defend earlier doomsayers such as Paul Ehrlich, arguing that “the reason that alarms proved false is often that they convinced us to adopt successful countermeasures.” That’s flat-out wrong. In his 1968 book The Population Bomb, Ehrlich wrote: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” Unfortunately, influential bodies such as the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations listened to Ehrlich’s population alarmism, and they diverted resources from their highly successful agricultural research programs and put them instead into largely fruitless efforts at direct (and often coercive) population control. It turns out that boosting food production through agricultural research is probably the best way to reduce population growth rates. The countries where food security is highest—Europe, Japan, Taiwan, and the U.S.—are precisely the places where one finds below-replacement fertility rates. Not only was Ehrlich wrong, but his false alarmist predictions probably made the world a worse place.
The only way to solve the allegedly impending global ecological crisis, according to Diamond, is “long-term planning, and a willingness to reconsider core values.” Although vague about whom he would put in charge of global planning, Diamond evinces throughout Collapse an alarming affection for authoritarian rulers who issue top-down orders restraining their citizens’ use of resources. For example, he praises China’s leaders for restricting “the traditional freedom of individual reproductive choice, rather than let population problems spiral out of control.” He approves of measures in feudal Japan that apportioned wood supplies based on social class. He applauds Indonesian and Dominican despots for establishing national parks.
Meanwhile, Diamond calls on Americans, Europeans, and Japanese to reject their “traditional consumer values.” So in essence, Diamond’s solution to the problems he believes humanity faces is to reduce the living standards of the world’s wealthiest societies (U.S., Europe, Japan) and curb economic growth in the poorer countries. This is Malthus’ legacy at its worst, and when Diamond embraces it, Collapse collapses into claptrap.
Science Correspondent Ronald Bailey is the author, most recently, of Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Defense of the Biotech Revolution (Prometheus).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Unions--costly and unnecessary relics

Those of you who may have read previous posts might notice that I tend to be a "free market" guy. Unions, while they purport to be about protecting workers from predatory employment practices, are actually just political action committees that extort money from the very people they claim to protect.

Once again a major public organization of employees that are unionized, the MTA in New York, has decided to strike in an effort to gain "respect." (read "cash and prizes")
Here is how the New York Sun describes it......"a blatantly illegal act of economic sabotage by a union so selfish that it is willing to destroy one of the most important business weeks in the city in a last-ditch attempt to preserve privileges that most private sector employees can only dream of--like the ability to retire at age 55 with a full pension, or the ability to not to contribute at all to health insurance costs."

They may get more than they bargained for--as John Avlon, a New York Sun columnist notes:
Already, trains in Paris, Cairo, and Calcutta operate with computerized or automated systems. In Paris, the Meteor Project was launched in 1998, with an automatic piloting system that controls the train line's traffic, regulates speed, manages alarm devices, and allows for traffic of automatic and traditional conductor trains on the same line. There have been no serious accidents reported since this system deployed in the late 1990s, and more than a billion people have been transported. Computers make the trains run on time and they don't threaten to walk off the job. All of us are replaceable, but some are more quickly replaceable than others.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


I spent Thursday and Friday in Memphis, Tennessee. The company I work for owns the multimedia marketing rights to the University of Memphis Tigers athletic program.

I create invoices and collect money on their behalf. We spent an afternoon meeting with the sales people, and the general manager to see a little bit about what they do, and how they do it. I went on a sales call with one of the account executives, (well done, Mindy).

I also got the opportunity to tour the FedEx Forum where much of our inventory is located, like signage and ribbon boards. I met the Athletic Director of the University and he showed me some of his extensive Elvis collection.

Memphis is a great American city, it feels like the deep south. The best part about visiting was the hospitality of our hosts. Brent and his staff took Mike and I on a whirlwind tour of the city on Thursday evening. We hit a great BBQ restaurant, stopped in on some world famous landmarks and I raced this goat at Silky O'Sullivans.

Great trip. Thanks Brent, Kenny, Pat, Mindy, Abby, and Christie.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Fried Tookie

Gov Schwarzeneggar decided at the 13th hour to grant clemency to the convicted killer of four, Tookie Williams.

Crips and various recording artist's from Death Row Records celebrated the good news by firing AK's and Tec-9's wildly in the air, killing three and wounding 7.

Seriously though, Stan's sentence has finally been carried out, 24 years after he was convicted of murdering 4 people in cold blood. Various gang-bangers and hip hop philosophers will spin his execution into further proof that "the man" continues to oppress the black man in America, while profiting off of the gangster chic lifestyle that they sell to the masses.

Koan of the week

Time to die

Ikkyu, the Zen master, was very clever even as a boy. His teacher had a precious teacup, a rare antique. Ikkyu happened to break this cup and was greatly perplexed. Hearing the footsteps of his teacher, he held the pieces of the cup behind him. When the master appeared, Ikkyu asked: "Why do people have to die?"
"This is natural," explained the older man. "Everything has to die and has just so long to live."
Ikkyu, producing the shattered cup, added: "It was time for your cup to die."

Monday, December 12, 2005

But I support the troops!

There is a recurring theme offered by many “anti-war in Iraq” dissenters. There is no constructive alternative or solution offered--- just lies and distortions and triangulations, and then hiding behind the “DON”T YOU DARE QUESTION MY PATRIOTISM,” trope, even though no one has questioned it.

I question their judgment. I question their reasoning. I question their motives. But their patriotism is intact.
Patriotism, after all, is the last refuge of the scoundrel.

Dean has said that winning in Iraq is impossible. Pelosi has called for a pullout. Murtha, a previously unknown “democratic hawk” (who has opposed the war since it started” has called for a timetable for “redeployment” even though he wouldn’t vote for it when the republicans called his bluff. Kerry has said that American soldiers are terrorizing Iraqis, and that’s a job best left to Iraqis.

These are not the kook fringe of the party, these are the party leaders, Dean is the DNC chair, Pelosi is the House Minority leader, Murtha is an idiot, and Kerry is the junior Senator most famous for denouncing troops in previous conflicts—but he supports the troops! He also apparently ran for President once, too…but he couldn’t have done very well because I don’t know a single person that voted for him.

These are not substantive, rational calls for a re-evaluation of the foreign policy strategy of preemptive action; these are politically calculated attempts to undermine our efforts in a cynical attempt to curry favor with the anti-war left in the hopes of picking up a couple of seats in the senate in the mid-term elections, even as our troops are in harm’s way.

Do you think that the insurgents might use Kerry’s words as a recruiting tool? Do you think they might use Pelosi’s? Or Dean’s? When prominent Americans in power give aid and comfort to our enemies abroad should we applaud their “courage?”

But they support our troops! Oh, and they love their country.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Beatle as an Elephant?

Check out this hypothesis...he claims that Lennon (if alive today) would be a card carrying Republican.

Democrats, follow your star.

With a smirk of schadenfreude, I hope that for the sake of the Republican party, the Democrats continue to keep the good doctor out on the talk shows--putting his feet in his mouth.

Honestly it is miraculous that they are still a viable party when you consider some of their recent actions:
They have declared defeat in Iraq.
They have denounced service men as terrorists.
They have attempted to eliminate ROTC programs.
They nominated a professional war protestor who rose to fame by slandering soldiers as their presidential condidate.
They keep sending a completely unhinged party official out on national media programs contradicting himself on the single most important issue for most voters.

If the Dems keep it up, they will convert even more "Reagan Democrats" to the Republican party faithful.

Lower taxes rates = wealthy paying more

J-Dub will like this. He and I recently had a discussion about the wealthy not paying their fair share of taxes. I won't put words in his mouth...you can see what we said here. I maintain that the rich already pay a huge amount in taxes, and the rhetoric and class warfare does nothing to help the poor, in fact it may hurt them.

Americans are generous

I have an idea, but logistically it is a little complicated, so feel free to share any comments.

I believe that most Americans want to help. They want to help their neighbors in need; they want to help the poor, the needy, the uneducated.
They want to help people in other countries, and they want to help close to home, too.

But, we also distrust some of the charitable organizations and their ability to actually help the people in need. Churches often seem to be more worried about passing the collection plate so that they can continue current operations or build a bigger prettier sanctuary than worrying about helping those in need. The UN tries to help countries all over the planet but that help often doesn’t get to the people in need. Zimbabwe is a good example: the aid that goes in is most certainly going to be stolen by “President” Mugabe and divvied out to his thugs and confidants while the rest of the country starves. Currently almost half of the population is facing starvation, in a country that should be capable of feeding itself, (and exporting excess maize).

So my solution? I don’t have one, yet. If we could find a way to identify specific families and individuals in need, I think we (collectively) would be more likely to help out on a global scale. Think about Katrina-- What would you rather do---send the Red Cross $1000 bucks, or find a family in Louisiana and buy their groceries, buy them clothes and shoes, and diapers and directly help them. In other words, I would love to give a certain amount a month directly to people who are truly in need. Send them food, clothing, cash, diapers, etc…but I haven’t figured out a way to find the family, and deliver the goods. I suppose there is nothing keeping me from picking up the phone and calling a church in Zimbabwe, or Angola, or Missouri and asking what I can do. It would be a start.

Related musical lyric:

Look at me in my fancy carAnd my bank account
Oh, how I wish I could take it all down
Into my grave, I'd save and save
Take a look again, take a look again,
Take a look again at things you have collected
In the end it all piles up so tall
To one big nothing, one big nothing at all…

Late at night with TV's hungry childHis belly swells

Oh, for a price of a coke or a smoke
I could keep alive those hungry eyes
Take a look again, take a look again
Every day things change, but basically they stay the same
Forget about the reasons and
The treasons we are seeking
Forget about the notion that our emotions can be
Swept away, kept at bay
Forget about being guilty, we are innocent instead
For soon we will all find our lives swept away

Koan of the Week

The pupils of the Tendai school used to study meditation before Zen entered Japan. Four of them who were intimate friends promised one another to observe seven days of silence.
On the first day all were silent. Their meditation had begun auspiciously, but when night came and the oil lamps were growing dim one of the pupils could not help exclaiming to a servant: "Fix those lamps."
The second pupil was surprised to hear th first one talk. "We are not supposed to say a word," he remarked.
"You two are stupid. Why did you talk?" asked the third.
"I am the only one who has not talked," concluded the fourth pupil.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


J-Dub and I have been having a couple of ongoing discussions about oil and economics, and he posted something that is positively right wing...has he come over to the dark side?

What are the bloggers saying about us?

Mining the blogosphere for something useful, a little startup company called Umbria has started sending out little automated “spiders” that run through all the blogs and attempt to get information about what consumers are really thinking about products, services, brands, company image, customer service, etc…There are a lot of blogs but not all of them update every day, and many are “cat blogs,” (personal journals).

The story is here

Great idea, but they are charging clients 60k a year for this info. I am pretty sure it could be done much cheaper. And the company they profile has 2 million in revenue, so unless my math is way off---that amounts to about 33 clients paying full price?

I think the number of clients that you could convince that this market research was useful would exponentially increase if you could do it for 1200.00 a year? And would you rather have 30 clients paying 60k or 1700 clients paying a 100 bucks a month?

BTW—if you know how to program a “spider” or how to teach me---this might be an interesting little experiment. Leave me a comment…

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lights, Camera, ....

After a couple of freezing hours spent precariously perched on my roof top, I have partially installed the traditional lights....I have more to put up, but my feet were frozen and my fingers quit working. I was quite happy with the east side, but by the time I worked my way over to the west side I was shivering uncontrolaby and decided to finish up tomorrow. I think the little japanese maple needs some white lights and the bushes in front might as well get a little light as well. My wife came up with the idea of taking the old school big bulb light strands, buying some blue ones and white ones and then changing every other bulb out....I think it looks good.

Buddha Boy update

If you are following the story of the boy in Nepal that has been meditating under the pipal tree, here is an update...in the Times of India.

apparently it is causing a bit of a stir that no one is allowed to get up close.

His associates claim he has been without food and drink while meditating continuously for 6 months....medically that is, of course, impossible.

Friday, December 02, 2005

the winds of change

I work for a company that sells advertising, produces sports and news broadcasts and generally gets involved in lots of different media arenas so I try to keep abreast of what is going on in the advertising and media worlds.

I saw this in Yahoo news, as reported by Reuters...click here for the link...

We believe the Web site will ultimately replace the 30-second commercial as the central expression of the brand ... The TV commercial over time will become more of a way to simply send people to your Web site," said Brian McAndrews, chief executive of Internet marketing company aQuantive Inc..
Television accounts for roughly two-thirds of major companies' advertising budgets, and that could shrink to about one-half in three years, according to David Verklin, chief executive of online media buying company Carat Americas, a unit of Aegis Group Plc.
A main driver of that change will be online advertising, he said, which should see its share of spending roughly double from about 8 percent now, as companies pay more attention to the Web's ability to tailor messages to individual consumers and to track response.
Web video advertisements will be about 10 seconds long, and mobile advertising on cell phones and other devices would be a similar length, he projected.
Verklin, like a number of executives, predicted that television would begin to look like the Internet, perhaps adding clickable Web sites in place of commercials. The element of interaction could increase the older medium's ability to reach smaller, self-selecting groups of clients, he added.
Greg Coleman, new global advertising sales chief at Yahoo Inc., agreed that the Web needs promos shorter than 30 seconds, which then might spill back into television.
"Will the networks allow for a five-second blast or a 10-second spot? It's going to be interesting to see how traditional media will bend and work with the new world," he said. "I think they are going to have to rethink how ads are placed throughout programing."
Widely agreed upon by marketing executives interviewed by Reuters is that ad creativity needs a shot in the arm, especially with the advent of new media formats.
"I think the majority of ads are just dull and mind-numbing," said David Droga, outgoing chief creative officer of the Publicis advertising network. "There is a parallel world out there which is 'ad-land.' I don't know anybody who lives in that world."
Droga, who is starting his own company, DrogaFive, with backing from Publicis, said ads need to be more creative and better suited to brands they represent.
"Anyone can be edgy, but if it is not in sync with the brand, it is just wasted money," he said. © Reuters 2005. All Rights Reserved.

Misery loves company

Here is an editorial written by a much more qualified person than I to pontificate about the current pall of pessimism that seems to overshadow current economic reporting.

The sum of it is pretty easy to understand—regardless of what good news comes out of economic reports and indications, it is spun into a pessimistic view of the US economy.