Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Scott Walker: Not qualified to be president — or governor

Scott Walker is not a serious candidate for the presidency, which, of course, means he's leading in the GOP primary polls.

His already-extensive catalog of narcissistic gaffes notwithstanding, I recently noted that Walker never finished college, which, in my view, disqualifies him from holding his current office, much less pursuing the presidency of the United States.

And I stand by that assertion.

Predictably, he attacks as "elitist" his critics who say that it's relevant that his highest level of education is a high school diploma. In fact, here are his exact words on that point: "That's the kind of elitist, government-knows-best, top-down approach we’ve heard for years…"

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Anthony Bourdain predicted Boris Nemtsov's murder

Don't cross this guy.
(Photo: www.kremlin.ru)
Oh. My. Word.

If you have Netflix, go to instant viewing, find Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown, select season 3, and watch episode 6 on Russia. Just…do it.

In that episode, Anthony Bourdain dines with Boris Nemtsov at a Moscow restaurant. During the dinner, Bourdain notes that they were "uninvited" from another establishment after the proprietors found out that Nemtsov would be in attendance.

"Critics of the government, critics of Putin," Bourdain says, "bad things seem to happen to them."

Replied Nemtsov: "Yes. Unfortunately, [the] existing power represent, let I say, Russia old 19th century, not of 21st."

Bourdain's voiceover: "Critics of Putin: Beware."

And later on at the dinner: "I don't think you need to be a conspiracy theorist to say, 'Whoever did this very much wanted everyone to know who done it,'" says Bourdain in reference to a series of suspicious misfortunes that have visited Russian opposition leaders over the years. "Everybody understands, and everybody is meant to understand."

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Net neutrality is a B.F.D.

What this guy said.
There was some really good political news today — an exceptionally rare thing these days — and almost no one is paying attention to it, or even knows what it means (which, in itself, is a major part of the problem).

The FCC voted 3-2 to establish strong net neutrality rules, effectively treating the Internet like a public utility. I don't think it's possible to overstate how important this is.

Here's why:
Net Neutrality is the Internet’s guiding principle: It preserves our right to communicate freely online. This is the definition of an open Internet.

Net Neutrality means an Internet that enables and protects free speech. It means that Internet service providers should provide us with open networks — and should not block or discriminate against any applications or content that ride over those networks. Just as your phone company shouldn't decide who you can call and what you say on that call, your ISP shouldn't be concerned with the content you view or post online.

Without Net Neutrality, cable and phone companies could carve the Internet into fast and slow lanes. An ISP could slow down its competitors' content or block political opinions it disagreed with. ISPs could charge extra fees to the few content companies that could afford to pay for preferential treatment — relegating everyone else to a slower tier of service. This would destroy the open Internet.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Add Argentina to your bucket list today

This is the interior of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral, where Pope Francis would celebrate mass when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.
The trip I took to Argentina in December with my dad is already ranked among the most marvelous expeditions I've been blessed to experience in my lifetime (right up there with Peru a year-and-a-half earlier).

Argentina is a very large country — the eight-largest in the world by land area — and we were fortunate enough to get to see a little bit of almost all of it, from the northern jungles bordering Brazil to the very southern reaches of Patagonia, a scant 500 miles or so from Antarctica.

I only just recently got the chance to post all of my photos from the trip. Here's a sampling of them. If you want, you can head over to Facebook to view the rest. They're organized by destination.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Here's one reason I'm not fond of academia

A glimpse into my life these days.
I love my program, and I'm fascinated by what I study. But that's not the same thing as loving academia itself. I don't, and I never have. Here's part of the reason why.
Twice during the course of my reading for school over the past day or so, I came across a word that meant nothing to me. This has been a woefully common occurrence over the course of my graduate education.

The word in this particular instance? Vicissitude.

Mind you, these weren't readings from the same author, or even the same book. They were entirely different. But they both managed to use a word whose meaning — whose very existence, no less — I'm sure is a mystery to 99.5 percent of adults.

If you knew the word "vicissitude" already, I tip my hat to you. You're smarter than I am. If not, here's what it means, according to dictionary.com:
  1. a change or variation occurring in the course of something.
  2. interchange or alternation, as of states or things.
Obviously, there are fairly simple, concise ways to convey this definition without using an archaic, grandiose term like…vicissitude.

Unfortunately, in academia, that's far too often exactly the point. Scholars write to sound scholarly and intelligent — not to reach a wide audience, make a significant impact, solve problems, or just generally enrich society.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Why do sports matter so much to people?

Yes, but why?
I don't ask this question from an above-the-fray, holier-than-thou perspective. Indeed, I watched the Super Bowl with near-heart palpitations in the fourth quarter, and I felt as devastated as (almost) everyone else here in Seattle when a profoundly stupid play at the very end of the game cost the Seahawks their second consecutive championship.

But here's the thing: Anyone who knows me at all knows I really couldn't care less about sports, professional or otherwise. Even more to the point, I had zero investment in the Seahawks until…well, until just a little over a year ago.

I'm studying psychology now, so I'm learning to ask questions about this kind of stuff — questions like why.

Why does it matter so much in the moment? Why do games like these stir such passions in some people, regardless of whether or not they'd ordinarily pay attention to professional football? Why do others seemingly live and die by the success or failure of their chosen team, alternating between moments of unbridled joy and stretches of depression and despair?

In short, why does any of it matter so much — either to bandwagon fans like myself or to hardened enthusiasts who have pledged unwavering loyalty to the same team their entire lives? Why do some turn their allegiance to a sports team into a veritable religion?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What's the real cause of addiction?

The Huffington Post ran a fascinating article about a week ago that speaks to the factors behind addiction. Unsurprisingly, it's not simply laziness or a lack of self-control or personal responsibility, as social-safety-net-hating Republicans would have us believe.

But it's also probably not what you're thinking, even if your political ideology is different. Here's a key excerpt from the article:
Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.' A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else.

So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.
Read that last line again, because it's enormously important.