Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Sunday, May 30, 2004
Autistic Genius Watch--The Agony and the Ecstasy Edition
Apparently researchers are now hypothesizing that Michaelangelo, one of the greatest forces in Western art, was autistic. Anyone who had to read The Agony and the Ecstasy for sophomore year high school English can recite the symptoms cited by the researchers--aloofness, obsessiveness regarding work, difficulty in relating to others or maintaining friendships, tempermental.

Jeez. Are there any great geniuses who aren't thought autistic by some researchers somewhere?


Well, at least--wait. I'm not going to give names. Then they'll be diagnosed with autism.

But just in case you think all of this overdiagnosis is "much ado about nothing",here's the viewpoint from the father of an autistic child.

Saturday, May 29, 2004
If caffeine has this much affect on me...
I don't want to know what anything harder does.

Let's just say that 32 ounces of coffee on a relatively empty stomach is pretty much a surefire route to a caffeine bender.

Apparently the Center of Addiction and Substance Abuse has identified caffeine as a "gateway drug" in young women, saying that young women who drink coffee are more likely than those who don't to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Yes, well, a significant portion of the young women who don't drink coffee are Mormon. If you controlled for religion, would the same results occur? I'm not sure.

Friday, May 28, 2004
June 16, 2005 [CNN] "On Wall Street today news of the draft has prompted a fall in the stocks of several youth-oriented retailers, including Hot Topic and Abercrombie and Fitch. On the upside, both snack-food giant Nabisco and health-food retailer General Nutrition Centers are on the upswing as analysts predict draft-eligible young people will soon be desperately trying to gain or lose enough weight to disqualify for military service."

June 17, 2005 [AP] Nation's Youth Coming Out--But Were They Ever In?
Nearly half of the 20,000 young people called by California draft boards have testified that they have homosexual or bisexual inclinations. Similar effects have been occuring around the country, with estimated rates as high as 80% in many major metropolitan areas. Even in areas less tolerant of homosexuality, such as Wheeling, West Virginia, over a third of those whose lottery numbers have been called have claimed to be homosexual or bisexual.

June 18, 2005 [MSNBC] "Breaking news--we've just been informed that the House of Representatives has passed an amendment to the Armed Services Uniform Code allowing open homosexuals to serve in the military by a margin of 430-5. The Senate is expected to pass the bill with similarly high margins this afternoon, as the only Senator who has been arguing against this amendment is Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania."

I can't wait to fill my selective service card out!
Around campus there have been rumors that Congress has renewed interest in Senator Rangel's call for a military and national service draft for both sexes. While Selective Service officials are keeping mum about these possibilities, on the Selective Service registration website they now have a place where one can press "Female", although they note that females may not currently register. I have not tried this out, as I don't want to potentially break the law.

In the spirit of public service we here at Blog or Not? ("we" being me and whatever people I've talked to in researching this article) have decided to inform the public about how to stay draft-eligible.

1. You must be healthy. Here is a list of disqualifying conditions. Please note that these conditions include such common maladies as braces, chronic depressive mood disorder, and mild scurvy. (I once heard of a college student who ate nothing but cheese crackers and died of scurvy.) However, the doctors can fill out waivers for these conditions if they feel they will not interfere with military duties.

2. You must be of "appropriate" height and weight, which I felt was so important, in our day of mass obesity, to merit its own separate category. Weight restrictions, especially for women, have been eased in recent years due to the growth of the population. If you've received the call and wish to serve your country, try to maintain an acceptable weight/body fat percentage. If you're really enthusiastic about serving your country but are slightly underweight, try eating large quantities of high-fat, high-simple-carbohydrate foods such as donuts, premium ice cream, macaroni and cheese, etc. If you're slightly overweight, go on the Slim-Fast plan--a retired Naval Reserves officer I know swears by it.

3. You should not be openly homosexual or in any way at all attracted to any members of your own sex, and you should not joke about being so attracted. The most heterosexual man on the planet could potentially be disqualified by admitting that he'd rather sleep with Brad Pitt than with the Elephant Lady. Same-sex marriages, whether based on physical attraction or convenience, are similarly right out.

4. You should not be a single parent. This includes divorced parents with joint custody.

In short, everyone who wishes to fulfill their mandatory national service in the Armed Forces should heed these warnings.

I salute you!

Thursday, May 27, 2004
Hyde Park is such a tease
Currently Hyde Park is experiencing its finest weather of the year and the height of its social/cultural season--the Festival of the Arts is underway, the Hyde Park Art Fair and Community Art Fair are next week, and just about every campus organization is having its annual free barbeque in the few weeks. Much of the same holds for the rest of the city--the Printers' Row Book Fair, innumerate summer festivals... ahhh. However, I am thwarted in the pursuit of revelry by finals.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004
Why do conservatives find homosexuality so seductive?
From The New York Times, on reactions to MTV's new gay-centric network:
Mike Haley, a manager of gender issues with the Christian group Focus on the Family, said he worried that the network would encourage young people to think of themselves as gay, just as he said he did for 12 years. [emphasis added]

"You have a kid who is looking to fit in, and here you have a network that looks very inviting, very accepting, and this young kid is going to get a false representation of what homosexuality has to offer," Mr. Haley said. "I really am sad and fearful for these kids who are going to want to be as happy and as happy-go-lucky as Will is on 'Will & Grace.' "

Yes, teenagers are going to ignore their overwhelming desires for the opposite sex because they think shiny green shirts/mullets are cool.

The denial is just overwhelming.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004
Highly Misguided
You'd think that Coca-Cola would realize that it's got the low-carb thing already figured out--Diet Coke, Diet Cherry Coke, Diet Vanilla Coke, Diet Coke with Lemon, Diet Coke with Lime, Diet Sprite, Diet Sunkist, et al. all have zero grams of carbs, as does Aquafina. They could, theoretically, bring out low-carb versions of Powerade and rip-off Tropicana's new lower-carb orange-juice-drink for the Minute Maid division, but there's not much else you can do.

Except, of course, bring out a beverage with half the carbs of regular Coca-Cola.

So, wait, you're trying to cut carbs, but you'd rather drink a half-sugar drink than a sugar-free drink? Granted, I've heard from some people that there's a perceptible difference between regular and diet sodas--from what I can tell, regular sodas are slightly sweeter--but I think the last person who tried to avoid diet sodas while limiting their sugar intake was my grandmother, who would dilute regular-calorie Coke--but then, she'd experienced Tab, so it's sort of understandable.

Thursday, May 20, 2004
If you weren't convinced about Wal-Mart's evilness before...
Sources tell Blog or Not? that Wal-Mart meat is 12% saline solution, at least according to a leading competitor. Those with sodium-sensitive hypertension are therefore warned not to buy or consume steaks purchased at Wal-Mart.

Additionally, Blog or Not?'s physics correspondent has discovered that Wal-Mart now charges 1.50 for the use of a debit card in payment and will not accept the debit-card-as-credit-card strategy. Bastards.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Blogger (TM) tries to emulate LiveJournal (TM)
Those of you with Blogger blogs have been subjugated to the new template--well, perhaps "subjugated" is too harsh a word. Perhaps the most obvious feature of the new template is the new graphical design of the template: it's gotten all rounded and stuff, a bit too "Blogging for Preschoolers" for my tastes. I appreciate the handy button for block quotes in the posting bit--but I harshly disapprove of the inability to view old posts in the same window. When I click "View Blog" I get directed to my webpage in another window--this messes up my stat counts, guys. Not cool.

Additionally, Blogger now has comments built-in in a sort of LiveJournal style: clicking the comments link directs you to a new page where you must either sign in or post as "anonymous". Now, I've been using since I've had comments up, and they've been working pretty well in the commonly-accepted pop-up style.

Finally, Blogger wants me to fill out a profile. Sure, fine, whatever--so I filled out what everyone can deduce just from reading the page, skipping the Friendster/LiveJournal/TheFacebook-esque "favorite books, movies..." parts where you can find out just how many other Blogger users listed The Agony and the Ecstasy as one of their favorite novels.

Memo to Blogger: Many of us who use you instead of LiveJournal use you because you're perceived as more journalism-focused than the community-oriented LiveJournal. I'm just saying.

Monday, May 17, 2004
Sexing Up the Math Department
1. The University of Chicago Mathematics Thong: With a picture of Eckhart in winter on the back.
2. According to flyers floating around Eckhart advertising the undergrads v. grads Math Club b-ball game, Paul Sally was a star basketball player in high school. Yeah, but he's a pirate now, which is even cooler. The only thing that could possibly be cooler would be a math ninja, and even that's open to interpretation.
3. Today as I was going into Eckhart for a probability discussion section, I saw a flyer on the front door advertising that someone's bridal shower was upstairs. I've seen people getting married at the Botany Pond, but who would have a bridal shower in a Mathematics classroom?

The Day's Other Big Civil Rights Triumph
There will probably end up being over 100,000 lines of text written on Massachusetts's first legal same-sex marriages--an event I find worthy of being noted and celebrated. However, we shouldn't let the momentousness of this occasion overshadow another event which happened today, an event I believe actually affects more people:

The Supreme Court ruled that individuals can sue their states without state permission.
The case began when Lane tried to sue the state of Tennessee for up to $100,000 for what he claimed was humiliating treatment that violated the ADA.

Lane crawled up the Polk County courthouse steps once for an appearance in a reckless driving case, but was arrested in 1996 for failing to appear in court when he refused to crawl a second time. Courthouse employees have said he also refused offers of help.

Tennessee did not dispute that the courthouse lacked an elevator, or that the state has a duty to make its services available to all. The state argued, however, that Lane’s constitutional rights were not violated and that he had no right to take the state to court.

The state claimed that Congress went too far in writing the ADA, because the Constitution says a state government cannot be sued in federal court without its consent.

See, this is why I'm not a big fan of the states' rights-heavy interpretation of the Constitution--because states are notorious for infringing upon the rights of their citizens. I believe one of the roles of the federal government is to protect the rights of individuals against the states; I believe one of the roles of state governments is to protect the rights of individuals against the federal government. Unfortunately, I've found that my fellow citizens are lax in holding these governments to these duties--which is why we need lawsuits.

And again, as with my commentary on Brown v. Board of Education on Monday, Tennessee should pay--I'll leave the figure to a jury to decide. Even though my sales tax dollars will probably foot the bill. I figure that if I ever become severely disabled I want the state to know that it has to treat me right.

Sunday, May 16, 2004
WARNING--High-Pitched Squealing Ahead
I haven't been checking one of my e-mail accounts as often as I should, so it was only today that I found out who the Dean Dozen were. Among them: Barack Obama. Dean adds that "I will be on the trail with Barack soon".

[teenybopperblogging]OMG! This is going to be sooo cool! [Squeal] Will they appear at Hyde Park! OMG! Like, should I wear my anti-Ashcroft T-shirt, my "Take Back Tennessee" T-shirt, or my "Zero Tolerance for Zero Intelligence" with the Bush-like chimp T-shirt to the rally*? This is like soooo awesome! [Squeal][/teenybopperblogging]

Seriously--I remember in the "Concious Choice" interview with Obama that Obama noted that while he was a delegate for Carol Moseley-Braun (because she's a constituent), he really admired the Dean campaign. It's good to know there's no hard feelings for--wait, half-hearted support of a Quixotic campaign? That's the political equivalent of lending a neighbor a cup of sugar.

*I do, in fact, own all three of these T-shirts.

Saturday, May 15, 2004
Because we all have useless knowledge
Lately I've become addicted to Political Friendster, which is just what it sounds like--you create links between political players and institutions. I'm contributing both players and links (I got Chicago on the map), but I need your input--because, frankly, while I know that Al Franken went to Harvard, I'm not sure I want to research what his BA was in and when he received it. (Although I probably will anyways, because that's just the type of person I am).

UPDATE: General Studies, 1973. But I still need your help! I have no idea where Richard Perle went to school; I barely know the guy!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004
This isn't the world I thought I woke up in; or, the banality of evil
Today I picked up a copy of the Chicago Maroon and begin skimming an article on a panel discussion about Brown v. Board of Education, noting that the lawsuit was actually a blend of lawsuits that the NAACP consolidated to form an all-out attack on segregated public education. Apparently:

The schools in Prince Edward County closed for five years instead of undergoing desegregation. While white chidren's parents created a private academy, blacks had to find another school system or find work. Now Blauvelt's school [in Prince Edward County] is 55 precent black and 45 percent white, and the state of Virginia [is] paying reparations for those years of school lost to most blacks in the area.

I'm a bit in shock from this--okay, that's an understatement, I was actually walking around in a daze when I read that. I mean, what the hell? I just don't comprehend this. Was our country really this infected with evil fifty years ago? And why the hell do people consider the fifties to be some sort of golden age?

I am really fucking disappointed in my species.

The bitches better pay reparations for Jim Crow--and pay hard. I want the courts to figure out the maximum dollar amount damages that they can inflict on states with segregation and then demand that money. And I'm not even going to benefit; hell, considering I live part of the year in Tennessee, I'm going to have to help pay for it. But whatever. There's no price too high for justice, and governments need to be shown that when they screw over their citizens, they will pay.

Monday, May 10, 2004
Captain's Log, Final Entry
Okay, the Blogging of the Hunt has been a little backlogged. I'll try to assemble a coherent account:

Thursday Afternoon: Almost missed my Probability midterm, but got to it in time. Found out that my roommate and Bilal were handcuffed together for a "friendship test" (one point per hour) Then slaughtered the competition in the "Arts and Entertainment" (read: every damn question is about Patrick Swayze) catagory in "Schollywood Huares", thus helping bring the Breckinridge team to second place.

Friday morning: Math, followed by work and trying to find the judges' blogs. Was unsuccessful in obtaining the signatures of the Committee on Microbiology approving a graduate thesis written on dining hall napkins, but did obtain petri dish and permission to leave it in the lab in the hopes of obtaining colorful bacteria.

Friday evening: The Party on the Quads. Saw my math teacher and a graduate student I work with. Our team definitely had the best party--you could actually discern the theme from it, and we had a fine selection of, uh, "juice" (because of course you can't serve alcohol on the Quads!) Shoshi (one of my fellow captain)'s boyfriend, a circus performer, breathed fire--we had to get a human shield from the chaperones (yes, there were two people from the facilities office ther) to prevent them from seeing the open flame. (Though I should give credit to Snell-Hitchcock, which also had a very clear theme and performed the dance from the "Thriller" video.)

Later that evening: At one point I may have been the only sober person on the Quads. Watched two people get naked and try to put on a sex show, but the guy was too drunk to "perform". (That's a PSA for not overdrinking if I ever saw one--but try to get Partnership for a Drug-Free America to air that.) At this point our party was the only one still going, and it kept going until the judges told us to pack up. (At least one of the judges was falling-down-drunk--I know, because he leaned on me when I was bringing him to our party to show him our self-exploding computer. A second judge almost got sick on one of the benches--good thing I had spare napkins from the thesis.) Fell asleep on one of the Hoover House couches.

Saturday morning: Got a surprisingly decent chunk of sleep for Scavhunt--6 hours. Time for ScavOlympics--hauled 50 pounds of Marx from the Regenstein to the center of the Quads for our bench-pressing contest. (Yes, Marx was specified, as was Engels). Ran through the halls of the University of Chicago Hospitals looking for Y. Oda's graduation from Pritzker (1959).

Saturday afternoon, post-dry Olympics: Retrieved bathing suit and change of clothes from Breck, scavenged a pushcart from 59th Street, found a source for a tree trunk, collected the petri dish (which sadly had no colorful bacteria growing yet) and ate pizza all before the Wet Games.

Saturday evening: Water polo. Made 3rd largest splash in the largest splash contest, even though my "largest splash" is rather pitiful. Presentation of Breck-Hoover's beautiful Italianate bateau for the boatrace--we didn't win, but our craft was seaworthy (read: could be put into Ratner's pool) and by far the most stylish. Kelly and Bilal did a synchronized swimming routine, still handcuffed. Then more arts and crafts at Hoover

Sunday morning: After two hours of sleep, try to calculate the square footage of our Giant Goddamn Sombrero--come up with 47', although I'm not sure if the equation we used for the G.G.S. was accurate, nor if I integrated properly. (I was never very good at surface integrals). Go to Judgement starving.

Sunday afternoon: Finally eat (thank God!) and watch the judging. Turns out one of the judges knew me from work, and scolded me for not getting the bacterial portrait done. This is what happens when a mathematician tries to culture bacteria. At any rate, my mapping of the CTA map to the US map was well-recieved, as was the Breck Castrating Cookie Vagina. I also registered Scav I. Hunt to vote, "changed my name" (or would have if one of my fellow captains, who shall remain nameless, had been around to do his notary public duty), and my roommate created one of Illinois's first same-sex marriage licenses.

Sunday evening: We place in fifth--as well as we could have expected considering our limited funding. First place goes to Snell-Hitchcock, which gladdened the hearts of all non Max Palevsky residents. We clean up the Hoover lounge and try to readjust ourselves to the real world.

And "PEN 15" is still written on my hand, although the "15" part has faded quite a bit due to my scrubbing.

Thursday, May 06, 2004
Captain's Blog, Scavdate .30
In the past twenty-four hours I have slept exactly two. However, our Road Trip team has a car. So it's all good.

Quick Recap:

This year's Obtainment of the List was actually fairly easy, but reliably geeky; it took the form of a game-theory question. Each team supplied one captain to stand in a circle and grab the list--but the first team to grab the list got 0 points, the second team got 5 points, and so on. We were the fourth team to grab the list--282 in all. Then came the Reading of the List, which was punctuated by Hoover's RA squealing whenever she figured out a road trip item.

Now all we needed was a road trip team and a car. See, one of the former captains of The Davin Reed Experience (back before it became Sophonisba does Gary) defected over to the FIST team and took his car with him. Bastard.

But that's all in the past; what matters now is the future. Come to the Quads from 11:30 to 3:00 this afternoon and Friday and eat a DRE, Ph.D Chicago-style hot dog. Or a DRE, Ph.D University of Chicago-style hot dog. We offer both kinds.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
See? We told you.
Proof that Jesus really is a Democrat.

(I am having way too much fun with The Facebook)

Captain's Blog, Scavdate -.22
With less than five hours before the start of Scavhunt 2004, we make our final preparations.

And now we wait.

If you're in East Tennessee this weekend...
head on down to Rhea County Gay Day for food, fun, and annoying humorless fundamentalists(1). Don't get too freaky(2)--this is Athens, TN, not classical Athens--but do give the bigots a nice case of backlash.

(Via the former reigning Mr. Cognitive Dissonance, Andrew Sullivan

(1) Some fundamentalist Christians do, in fact, have senses of humor. The Rhea County Commissioners are not among them.
(2) I think we've all seen the Onion story Gay-Pride Parade Sets Back Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years (I apologize for the Freeper link, but it was the only one I could find.)

Captain's Blog, Scavdate -.49
It is really quite amazing how fast The Facebook(1) has grown--in less than a week it's reached an incredible mass of people. The entire campus will probably be assimilated within the quarter.

(1)The Facebook is like Friendster for the University of Chicago. It was started at Harvard, and has taken really far too much time to get here, but whatever.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004
Captain's Blog, Scavdate -1.17
Sunday's dumpster dive, featuring me, co-Captain the Shoshinator, Bilal (Blog or Not?'s Afghan language correspondent), and Julian (frequent Blog or Not? commentator), was a success. We have obtained a large quanity of high-quality plywood courtesy of the renovations at the University of Chicago's law school and the Midway Studios, and plan to undergo a similar expedition tonight.

Unfortuately, the Captain's Dell of Power is infected with the benighted Gaobot virus. I apologize for the delays in blog updates, especially with regards to the "The Red and the Blue" series. Rest assured, you shall soon see my fisking of the section on gays, guns, and hanging with the guys.

By the way, Sophonisba does Gary: The Davin Reed Experience is still in the market for a Road Trip car. Please contact mcraig (at) uchicago {dot} edu for details.