Archive for March, 2010

regress

After I get off work today I begin my Easter break, 11 days of nothing to do.  I’ve been trying to figure out plans and I have a couple ideas but right now I don’t know how keen I am on traveling.  I’m not even sure I want to drive home tonight because I have this insatiable urge to spend the next couple of days by myself, getting lost in books, pens and paper.  It seems that Bob isn’t done with us all just yet; but, I don’t think I’m ready to face those thoughts again and I know that in town I’ll have to do just that.  We will see what happens!  It could be nice to go downtown and read all day Thursday.  There are some nice new spots, the weather should be nice and everyone will be at work.  Anyway, I hope you all are having a good week.  I won’t be posting everyday for the next week and a half but hopefully I can get a few thoughts up from time to time.

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Indisitinct

If you know me, you know I’ve had qualms with the rhetoric surrounding the aims and expected results of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider).  I believe that the scientific method is the highest form of man’s reason and I see people considering the LHC as the current pinnacle of scientific experimentation.  In a sense they are definitely correct; we’ve never been able to bang things together at that intensity before.  Therefore, these results are incredibly novel.  In spite of this excitement I feel apprehension to this most recent manifestation of the scientific method especially when explained by this fellow, Professor Tonnelli:

“If you want to discover new particles, you have to produce them.”

Can you see the glaring offense?  The act of discovery and production are two completely different phenomena.  You may interject, well he doesn’t mean exactly ‘produce’ he means we have to ‘make it happen or make visible, to us.  He was lacking in clarity, not in content.’  To a certain extent, you are correct; but you have to give him the benefit of the doubt.  He lacks clarity in any event, which either means that he doesn’t fully understand the meaning of his own words or he’s just careless with them – neither are conducive to good science or good reporting.

A lack in clarity has always produced a lack or distortion in content.  Many philosophers have argued, and convincingly so, that reason and language are one in reality.  Poor language begets poor reasoning and vice-versa. That is why scientific inquiry is so rigorous and why we have a table of renamed elements rather than their old scattered and imprecise names.  Quicksilver, anyone?  Precision in speech is fundamental to the scientific project and it distresses me to see the public look on, and the scientists speak of, the LHC with indistinct awe and excitement.

For probably the same reason I find it increasingly difficult to listen to politicians and a great deal of televised news.  I don’t really know if the general terms of communication in society have been this indistinct and nonsensical throughout time but I find it a bit overwhelming.  Give me thoughtful books and newspapers.  Keep the thoughtless speech and especially the political rhetoric away from, well, everything if possible.  Thanks so much.

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Lake Street Dive

I had one extremely eventful weekend.  All of it memorable, especially the 1½ hour long walk Geoff and I began at 3 am Saturday night.  I would have to say that was the ‘highlight’ but  not my favorite moment.

Friday night at Clementine, I saw a good band that came down from Boston, ‘Lake Street Dive.’   They played their own stuff and mixed in a handful of covers.  While everyone in the band was obviously talented, I’m pretty sure the lead singer captivated everyone at the bar.  I guess you could say she had alot of stage presence.

Here they are doing a cover of ‘faith.’

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It’s Friday. I’m Rich! And I Love the South.

We have reached the auspicious day.  “Cole, you used that word incorrectly!”  Maybe I did, and maybe I didn’t; but I think I’ll refer to Friday from now on as “the auspicious day.” I’ve put another good week behind me and feel good about relaxing a little this weekend.  Also, I’m Rich!  I’m getting my tax return!  Awesome.  It’s almost like the Federal govt is giving me money!  Unfortunately that is of course, not the case.  I wonder how much less interest I would’ve accumulated if I would’ve had access that money (my money) before April 15!  I would certainly be a couple hundred dollars richer.

The quest to file my tax returns has been a harrowing tale.  I began last week by spending a couple hours on the internet and then finally efiling.  I was so excited because, like I said, I’m rich!  Yet the IRS wasn’t too keen on letting me get my return that easily! oh no.  I received emails stating that my federal returns had been rejected because my birthdate was wrong.  Well, I checked the returns and unless my parents pulled a quick one on me the birthday I entered was correct.  I passed through the day, forlorn and defeated.  I felt a deep foreboding, “I am going to have to jump through so many damn hoops…”  Oh, and I did.  In a way, I still am.  But thanks to a kind southern fella from the local Harrisonburg Social Security Office.  I began my search by checking with my dad (he constantly mixes mine and halie’s birthdays.  So I thought maybe he had been putting march 22 on my taxes).  Well, naturally, he had no idea.  So he had me call his accountants.  Who told me they had been using my birthday and that I needed to call the IRS.  What a miserable prospect.  Well, after 1/2 an hour waiting I finally got an agent on the other line.  He had me repeat to him all my information and then concluded by saying “yep, we have a different birthdate.”  I asked him to fix it.  He said, “sorry can’t do that.  We get all those files from the SSA, so  you’ll have to file form 22502304898235 with them, please include you birth certificate and have a second idea to show them”  Well, that sounded like a month long process.  Finally I got in touch with that local fellow I was telling you about.  He was up front and honest; he told me it was a really long process and it wouldn’t allow me to get my taxes done on time.  But he came up with a solution!  He just gave me the false birthdate, a breach in regulation, I’m sure, and told me to go ahead and file then to come into the SSA office over my spring break and we’ll get it worked out then.  I could’ve hugged him.

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Direct TV, An Instrument of Discord

There is trouble in paradise on Taurus Lane.  Last night I was in my room, just listening to Mozart and building super sexy back muscles with my ab-roller when Melissa came home from work.

What you need to know about Melissa:  She works at a desk in college park (a 1 and ¼ hour commute from the house) gets home around 6:30-7:00ish every night and proceeds to her room where she lays in bed and watches TV.  We have direct tv so she’s constantly recording ‘her shows.’  And she records so many at a time that at some points during the evening the TV box in the living room will be recording one of her shows so you can’t change the channel; if you do, the recording mechanism stops.  Sometimes she doesn’t get too bent out of shape, but other times she makes you feel like you’ve killed her baby.

Well every incident up to last night had always been a little awkward, with her sprinting out to the living room in a tizzy and quickly turning the recorder back on.  But last night Mike was in the living room watching some talk show when I hear Melissa sprint out to the living room, “did you delete my recording?”  Mike, of course, responds in the positive and the Melissa just loses her shit.  She’s going on and on about that was “her new show.”  (She always talks about the shows with possessive pronouns, which I find highly disturbing.)  I’m really worried about the next couple of days, though.  I’ve never seen her so upset.  I walked out to eat breakfast this morning and noticed she had taken the dvd player out of the living room.  I’m not sure what that’s all about; the fight didn’t concern the dvd player.  She must’ve decided, “this is mine, and I don’t mike enjoying it!” But now that I think of it, Mike doesn’t use the dvd player, only I do.  Dangit.

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Indigestible Information

I have come to the opinion that food labels are a detriment to the public’s health.  The average consumer, rather, the overwhelming majority of consumers do not have the knowledge to actually use the information properly and as a result they eat less healthily than they would before the obtained the ‘nutritional facts.’  Many adverse effects stem from the nutritional label: foods that have completely different effects on the body are deemed of equal health-value because they contain the same amount of calories.  Fads begin to determine that some characteristics are healthy and people go scouring food labels looking for the unhealthiest product that still contains “no trans fat.”  How many poor fools woof down a bag of ‘0 trans fat’ potato chips and claim to be on a diet?

The law was passed in 1990 and obesity has risen every year.  I know that proves nothing, it’s a loose correlation at best but I offer it up only to show that we haven’t seen societal improvements in health in the past 20 years.

Could labels help?  Of course labels could benefit us but only if we were capable of weighing and interpreting the information, which the bulk of humanity will never be capable of doing.  I personally don’t make any food choices based on the label because I honestly have no idea how those numbers and percents actually register in my body, that is, what actual effect they will incur.  In fact, I would wager that the people who are actually capable of interpreting that information would know that information regardless of whether or not the food item was labeled with nutrition facts.  If you’re that in the know, you don’t need to be told what the nutrition content is every time you buy a can of green beans.  “What about different ingredients, like salt?”  If it’s salty, you can probably taste it.  If you’ve been eating a food-item and you’ve been feeling bad, bloated or downright ill then you should stop eating that food-item.  Many people, I’d wager, eat foods that their body doesn’t really enjoy digesting.  But because they aren’t explicitly told the food they’re eating may affect them adversely they don’t take that as a possibility.

Having access to information causes an illusion of control and a false understanding in people who lack both.

The manner in which information is conveyed can completely determine how the reader, watcher or listener interprets that information.  The nutritional label is presented as a tool to make us healthier and using it can seem to accomplish just that.  “I know calories are bad” (not necessarily true) “this has fewer calories than that” (actual available information) “therefore this is one is probably healthier!” (not necessarily true) This consumer applies limited information to a problem but because she’s being presented with the “nutritional facts” she believes her current knowledge is sufficient to assess the situation.  We may be better off without the information, left in a certain wonderment at the contents of the food, because then we might feel compelled to actually figure out what foods actually cause health in the body.

This can be applied to many different spectrums, and is a fundamental question for the modern world.  We blindly accept the notion that “information is good.”  We should always remain skeptical of both the information presented and our own ability to truly interpret that information.  Wonder can be a noble and productive feeling.

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Failed Math Tests

Test day can be extremely difficult for a teacher, at least for this teacher.  I’ve spent weeks on this past chapter in my algebra classes.  We’ve gone over some of the concepts at least twenty times.  The kids have done well on their homework assignments and were speaking intelligently in class.  Well Hannah and Andrew took their test today (Michael was absent) and gave a miserable showing.  Hannah showed that she understood the material in most places but there were some concepts that surpassed her.  Those combined with a handful of mistakes made for a pretty miserable grade of 77.  Andrew, on the other hand, completely and utterly failed.  Every single concept escaped his mind in some small way.  (x + y)2 became x2+y2.  When exponents were divided or raised to the nth power he forgot the proper operations.  Basically, every concept we’ve learned this year, even those learned in the past chapter, he got wrong in some small way.  To make matter worse, he even failed at doing FOIL correctly, even though I put it on the board.  He honestly thinks he can do math in his head, but he messed up every single foil on the test.  Out of 38 problems he had 2 that were completely correct.  I could hardly talk to him I was so pissed.  It’s so frustrating, because as you’re going through his work you realize “he has no idea.”  That makes you feel frustrated because you’ve worked so hard to teach him but it also is overwhelming.  I say overwhelming because you realize that nothing you say can make him learn this material or do a problem thoroughly enough to get it correct.  The underlying problem is his intellectual laziness.  He hates doing work and isn’t smart enough to simply grasp the concept or perform mental math correctly, so he fails.  I am praying that Michael does better because he’s worked so had on this chapter but I can’t imagine him getting a better grade than Hannah.  She is usually the last one to noticeably (or seemingly) grasp a concept taught but the only student who has the mental stamina to plod through each step and accurately complete the problem.

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