February 28, 2009

The Best Poster Ever

There's no argument. Link.

February 27, 2009

Unsupport Of Jindal

Everybody these days is talking about how Jindal's poor performance in responding to the non-State of the Union is the "last nail in the coffin" for his presidential aspirations. Let me just say that 2012 is a long way away, and giving a boring, or even condescending speech in 2009 isn't going to stop any real contender dead in his tracks. I disagreed with all of Jindal's policies, but the content of his speech wasn't any lighter than most political speeches let alone most responses to a State of the Union.

He can work on style over the next two years before he has to start running in earnest. John Kerry has had a long career in politics despite being pretty boring on the stump and he was a hair's breadth away from being president. Don't count Jindal out yet.

February 26, 2009

How Have I Never Before Seen This?!

The aborted Buffy animated series. "The harder they what?" Link.

February 25, 2009

How not to criticise sex ed programmes

Ross Douthat links to a Jennifer Roeback Morse post from nearly two years ago claiming that a handful of studies show that sex education programmes -- and we're not talking about the abstinence-only kind -- don't work.

Except that Morse apparently doesn't understand what a control group is, and Douthat apparently didn't have his critical thinking hat on when he read her post. (Or he doesn't understand what a control group is, either.) Both of the primary studies Morse cites are from the 15 June, 2002 issue of the British medical journal. The first is a meta-analysis that aggregates data from about two dozen randomised controlled trial studies of sex ed programmes. It's actually quite methodologically sloppy, because of the wide range of differences between intervention and control groups. The control groups, for example, range from no sex ed at all of any kind to `standard knowledge based prevention curriculum' or `usual sex education programmes'. The other looks at a specific new programme, and concludes that `[c]ompared with conventional sex education this specially designed intervention did not reduce sexual risk taking in adolescents' (my emphasis). Furthermore, in the brief summary at the end, they add that `[i]mprovements in teacher delivered whole class sex education have some beneficial effect on the quality of young people's sexual relationships but do not influence sexual behaviour'. So this is actually a highly qualified success, not a failure, of the programme in question.

In short, in both studies, both control and intervention groups included students taking conventional sex ed. They are therefore irrelevant to the question of whether or not these programmes work better than no sex ed or abstinence-only sex ed.

February 21, 2009

Dollhouse: Episode 2

Ok, that was a lot better all around, including Eliza Dushku. Any thoughts?

Staying Young

I was surprised last night that some of my friends hadn't seen this clip yet, so maybe there are more people who missed it. Link.

February 19, 2009

On A Boat

I know I'm way behind the cool kids on this one, but I can't stop listening to this song. Link.

February 18, 2009


I know I'm probably the only one still watching, but man, this new chapter of Heroes is legitimately good. After this most recent episode I'm actually back to looking forward to the next episode, as opposed to watching because it's DVRed. It's truly amazing what a difference good writing can make. After the last year and a half I was convinced that literally nobody in the cast could act their way out of a wet paper bag, but acting is better across the board. Well, except for Milo Ventimiglia, who's still pretty weak.

Still, it's sad that Pushing Daisy's had to die so Heroes could be resuscitated, but at least something good came out of losing such a unique show.

February 17, 2009

Only On The Internet

By request, here is a site comparing the sizes of ships in Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica, and others. Link.


So, I just watched episode 1. It's good, but I'm still not convinced that Eliza Dushku has the range for what looks to be a pretty demanding role. Eh, maybe I'm just to used to thinking of her as Faith. I'm willing to be proved wrong. Thoughts?

Oh, and I'm starting the betting at 8 weeks before it's canceled.

February 16, 2009

Simple Pleasures

These made me laugh pretty uncontrollably. Link.

February 13, 2009

Dewey, the GOP, and moral dilemmas

Let's suppose that, like Dewey, you endorse both of the following:

deliberative democracy: All reasonable views should participate in and be satisfied with deliberation over public policy.
pragmatism: Swift implementation of the best available -- albeit imperfect -- course of action should not be delayed on the basis of purely ideological objections.

(And no, I'm not going to define `purely ideological' here.)

Due to your deliberative democratic views (and one or two auxiliary beliefs), you believe, in particular, that conservative Republican views should participate in and be satisfied with deliberation over economic stimulus. However, at the same time, due to your pragmatism, you think that implementing the best available course of action for stimulating the economy -- something like one of the three plans the Congress has approved over the past tenish days (new girlfriend + lots of schoolwork = I have no experience of the passing of time) -- should not be delayed on the basis of the purely ideological objections of laissez-faire conservative Republicans. To sharpen the example, let's stipulate that these conservatives will not be satisfied with deliberation over economic stimulus until their purely ideological objections have been met. (Much the same goes for libertarians and other fans of the free market that are not conservatives. But, for better or for worse, they don't have much presence in public deliberation in the first place. I think we should figure out what to do with the most pressing and obvious case first, and then move on to the harder cases.)

What the hell should you do? You can define `reasonable' such that the views of laissez-faire conservative Republicans turn out not to be reasonable. But that just sounds like watering down your commitment to deliberative democracy; you might as well just toss the latter, really.

This isn't just a one-time problem. Deliberative democracy and pragmatism will conflict whenever there are reasonable views that object to the best available course of action on purely ideological grounds; and this will be inevitable so long as there are reasonable views that make purely ideological objections. That is, deliberative democracy and pragmatism will come into conflict so long as there are reasonable views that reject pragmatism.

I don't have an answer to my question of two paragraphs ago. But I do think this is a good example of a genuine moral dilemma, at least for fans of Dewey.

Was Zareck right?

Duelling op-eds on the recent coup attempt here, here, and here. (Massive spoilers behind the links, of course. Don't read if you aren't completely caught up.)

February 12, 2009

A philosopher of science's top five books in epistemology of the last century

Here's the epistemologist's list of `the five most important books in epistemology of the past century':

Chisholm, Theory of Knowledge, 2nd edition (maybe should be Perceiving), Lehrer, Knowledge, Goldman, Epistemology and Cognition, Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy (maybe should be Our Knowledge of the External World), and BonJour, The Structure of Empirical Knowledge

This is all wrong. Here are mine:
  1. Dewey, Logic, the theory of inquiry (or Quest for certainty for just the critical project)
  2. Quine, Ontological relativity and other essays, especially `Epistemology naturalized'
  3. Kuhn, The structure of scientific revolutions
  4. Longino, Science as social knowledge

Picking out just one more is tricky. If I could get two more, I'd want something representing the Strong Programme -- say, Shapin's Interests and the growth of knowledge -- and something representing postwar philosophy -- Hempel's Aspects of Scientific Explanation and other Essays in the Philosophy of Science might be the best choice, though I'm not in love with it.

February 08, 2009

A Stimulus Bill Is Better Than No Stimulus Bill

I've been reading comments over the last several days from Dems upset over how the stimulus package has moved through Congress and the many things included or not included in it. It's all very dire talk about how Obama got played and the Republicans can claim a huge victory from all of this.

But like Matt and Ezra, I'm of the opinion that the goal was to get a sizable stimulus package passed through Congress in Obama's first month and it looks like that's going to happen. Moreover, though the House bill was imperfect and the Senate version was even less perfect, things can still be improved when the bill moves through conference committee on its way to the White House. And at the end of the day, there's lots of good stuff in this bill. There's also ridiculously dumb stuff in this bill, but I think the chances are good that when the midterm elections roll around the economy will have improved enough for President Obama and the Democrats to claim victory in their goal to stimulate the economy. It's important to remember that unless the Democrats somehow get over 60 votes there's going to be some degree of insanity in every bill so it can attrack Republican votes because they're a party that refuses to let go of failed ideas. That President Obama can get "pretty good" legislation through Congress is enough for me to take without declaring the sky to have fallen.

February 01, 2009


Full disclosure before you get too far into this...this is going to be a pretty balls out love-fest for Battlestar Galactica. It's going to get nerdy up in this piece. Be warned.

Drama isn't plot. Drama isn't characters. Drama isn't themes. All of those are important in their own ways, but true drama is moments. It's the moment when your brain *knows* that you're seeing a person faking something but you buy it anyway. It's when you accept artifice as something emotionally true. It's this moment when your personal emotional experience transcends your actual experience that drama really occurs. To put it bluntly, the best, the truest drama is tricking you into feeling things that haven't happened to you.

It's a truly unfortunate fact of our modern society that art has been so soundly categorized. There are people that are deeply affected by opera. There are people that are deeply affected by painting. There are people that are deeply affected by movies. At the bottom, however, all of these people are affected by the same thing: the feeling that something real has been shoved into their perception even though they haven't directly experienced the event which causes the emotion.

All this is to say that drama happens in the reimagining of Battlestar Galatica. This isn't a post for nerds obsessed with the tech in a show about the future. This isn't a post for people that are interested in sexy aliens. This is a post for people that look for shows that get down to something true; something real. It's here if you're looking for it. Like most shows of the highest quality Sci-Fi, the first season is merely a primer for what has turned into one of the most arresting shows on television. I'm two seasons and change in, and I'm hooked. Forget the space battles. Forget the clones and the artificial gravity. This show has made me think and it's made me feel, and that's the absolute best that a fiction can hope for.

Space ships are incidental to the emotion that is evoked in this series. It's a pity that some people will never give this show a chance because parts of it require a an environmental suit. There are moments here as emotionally true as any great piece of drama.

Roger Ebert once said that a film is not about it's subject, it's about how it's about it's subject. I wish more people would give this show a chance to see the moments where it shows how it's about.