Archive for September, 2009

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Would You Vote For A Third Political Party?

[ 3 Comments ]Posted on September 25, 2009 by admin in Politics

Friday, September 25th, 2009

Are you one of the many that feels that neither of the two dominant parties represents your values accurately?

I’m what you might call a reluctant Democrat. Although I felt good about voting for Obama, I’m experiencing some consumer remorse, and I cringed as I voted for Kerry, Gore, and Dukakis. Worthy of note is the fact that voting for Dukakis started a long tradition of voting only to avoid having a George Bush in office, and that prior to that I was a cynical young punk that considered himself more or less apolitical. Which brings me almost full circle. I’m so cynical at this point that I have almost come to the conclusion that I think Washington is so corrupt and self-interested and that the two parties are so similar that there’s almost no point in voting. Before I do that though, I decided with some resolve recently that I’m going to “throw my vote away” if necessary in the next presidential election. By that I mean vote third party if the two major candidates reflect my values as poorly as they have for several election cycles. As I explored my thoughts on all of this recently, I came to a disturbing decision. I may just be a Libertarian. Although something about the political party that calls itself Libertarian gives me the willies with their restrained cowboy capitalism, a lot of the principles that can be described as Libertarian (as in this Wikipedia entry) are right up my alley. We’ve talked about Red vs Blue both jokingly and semi-seriously in the past, but we’d love to know: If there were a third party that represented your values, do you think you might vote for it? Vote below and let us know if you think we’re adequately represented by a two party system. Read the rest of this entry »

Does Listening To Music Improve Productivity?

[ 3 Comments ]Posted on September 24, 2009 by admin in Music

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Well, not if you’re a terrorist and someone’s playing Metallica and The Barney Song 24 hours a day.

Apparently Chatter Blocker Also Makes You
Spontaneously Levitate In Your Cubicle

I got into a conversation yesterday with some of my smarty-pants friends about whether or not music in the workplace improves performance. The answer we arrived at, after a lot of pseudo-science was tossed around? Yes. If listening to music improves your performance. Although playing Metallica and Sesame Street music at high volume 24 hours a day will reliably make just about anybody insane, and playing music and feeding beer to cows will cause them to produce more milk*, most things about the experience of music are extremely subjective, and hard to research because of “self-reporting bias”. A classic example is that although mp3′s intrinsically suck as an audio format, they are actually preferred by many of today’s listeners. So if music doesn’t drive you crazy while you work, go for it. Apparently the Mozart Effect has some scientific basis. If you’re looking for some interesting alternatives, this LifeHacker article offers up some ideas. It’s where I found the Buddha Machine Wall, which I listened to while I typed all of this, and it’s also where I discovered Chatter Blocker, which, while an interesting piece of software, would probably be more useful for creating walla for your next movie than improving your productivity. By selecting the “Cypress Goats” and “Male/Female Chatter” settings, I was totally convinced I was at a Turkish Bazaar haggling over the price of my wife-to-be, rather than sitting at the computer. LifeHacker also mentions ambient music like Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. I’m personally pretty partial to this kind of stuff. In fact, I create it myself. Check some of my ambient stuff here (especially calming are “On The Eve” and “Redshore”). People compare it to Stars of the Lid, but in fact that should be the other way around. My stuff is older than their stuff, and both owe a lot to Fripp & Eno’s Evening Star, if anything, nanny nanny. So put on some jams and get back to work now. No-one’s paying you to read stupid web sites, okay? Read the rest of this entry »

Dr. Strangelove Wasn’t So Strange After All

[ Comments Off ]Posted on September 23, 2009 by admin in Technology

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Doomsday Machines and Autonomous Man Killing Robots

I’m convinced that when mankind finally meets its end at the mercy of machines, it won’t be in an apocalyptic “supercomputer decides human race is dangerous and must be destroyed” manner as in films like Terminator Salvation, The Matrix, or Colossus – The Forbin Project. No, you and I know that when machines finally destroy mankind it will more likely be the result of a programming glitch or faulty equipment containing cheap electronic parts made by slave labor in China. Like maybe a programming glitch in the Soviet Doomsday Machine that no-one, including top US government officials seems to know existed. Yes, it seems that as absurd as the film Dr. Strangelove was in so many ways, even the line where Dr. Strangelove points out to the Russian ambassador that “Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is LOST, if you keep it a SECRET!” had a basis in reality. The Russians did have a Doomsday Machine, and they did keep it a secret. The Wired doomsday article just linked to is not breaking news, in fact Slate and Wired both covered the story in 2007, and the book The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy also apparently chronicles the creation of the doomsday machine in 1984 at the height of cold war tension, when the Doomsday Clock was the closest it’s been to midnight since 1952. And if it isn’t the Doomsday Machine, there are plenty of other ways for us to meet our end at the hands of machines. Imagine if an army of autonomous battlefield devices (a nice way of saying “man killing robots”) that are being developed, like the Lockheed Martin Multiple Kill Vehicle (video clip below) the Robotex AH Battlefield Robot or the Boston Dynamics BIGDOG Robot downloaded the latest Windows Update and went on a mindless man killing rampage. Read the rest of this entry »

The I Love Lucidity Show

[ Comments Off ]Posted on September 22, 2009 by admin in Lifestyle & Culture

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

You think you’re reading this, but maybe you’re only DREAMING that you’re reading this. Lucid dreaming is a powerful tool. So powerful in fact, that I’m not sure I actually wrote this.

Don’t worry Lucy. It’s only
a dream. Take control of it!

As someone who entered their teens at the dawn of the New Age era, I was exposed to lots of crazy things like EST, Carlos Castaneda, and the sight of post-hippy nutjob entrepreneurs standing in bookstores’ newly-created self-help sections muttering “OM” to themselves. By the mid 80′s, although I had – for better or worse – integrated a lot of this stuff into my daily experience, I jokingly referred to myself as “Post New Age”. For a brief time I even opportunistically bought quartz crystals at about $5/lb and turned them over at a hefty $20 per crystal to people who believed they had magical powers. In spite of my original fascination with all these metaphysical meanderings, I ended up with a more cynical spirit for a long time, or at least a more pragmatic one. However, some of these crazy ideas ended up becoming scientifically documented, and amongst these was one of my favorites: Lucid Dreaming. I so completely integrated this concept into how I sleep, think and dream, that I forget that others have never even heard of it. Which is why I was surprised to run across the post Lucid Dreaming: A Beginner’s Guide on Tim Ferriss’ blog (he’s the guy that wrote The 4-Hour Workweek) that passionately extols the virtues of Lucid Dreaming. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Ferriss is into it, I guess if you only work four hours a week, you have plenty of time to dream and sleep. In any case, his post sent me on a refresher course; I had no idea that one of the first scientists to seriously study lucid dreaming – Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D. -went on to form the Lucidity Institute, and that the concept actually is a documented phenomena with such an extensive history. If you’re interested in learning more about LaBerge’s work with lucid dreams, check out his book Lucid Dreaming, or check out the very thorough Lucidity Institute FAQ. Me? I’m going back to sleep. If I’m not already. Sweet dreams!

Is The Age of Stupid Stupid?

[ Comments Off ]Posted on September 21, 2009 by admin in Clean & Green, Popular Media

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Today is the global premiere of The Age of Stupid, a dystopian eco-film that the New York Times is calling a sterner and more alarming polemic than An Inconvenient Truth. But is it based on solid science?

In spite of being almost foolishly utopian in nature (I genuinely like to believe humans will come to their senses, commingle, and create a beautiful single race blended from all of the current allegedly separate ones) I still loves me a good dystopian film now and then. Which is why I’m disappointed that I’ll probably miss the special global premiere of The Age of Stupid today. In spite of some complaints from the more level-headed members of the progressive scientific community that the film’s heavy-handed assertions about the end of the world as we know it are poorly supported by science, it looks like a thought-provoking film. It’s also getting decent reviews from sources like Wired and the NYT. The clip featured here, for instance, provides an amusing and brief history of war, which, as the clip points out, is always over resources. They move quickly through war for animals, war for water, war for “shiny things”, war for fertile land, war for “nutmeg slice and tea”, and finally diamonds, slaves and oil. The global premiere of the film – which takes place today and tomorrow – will feature a “green carpet” solar-powered cinema tent in New York, and will be linked by satellite to 442 cinemas across the USA (find a theater here) and to more than 200 cinemas abroad. Special guests include the likes of Kofi Annan and Thom Yorke of Radiohead. The film was put together by Franny Armstrong, director of McLibel and founder of 10:10, a UK non-profit. It was crowd-funded by 220 people who donated between £500 and £35,000 each. Read the rest of this entry »

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