Sunday, May 27, 2007

Alex Stathopoulos' Cogito Ergo Bite Me

I was e-mailed this recently and was amused enough to post it. I'd post it as a link, but I've been told no one clicks on links because they have irrational (? perhaps not... I don't check Microsoft's virus warning website enough...) fears that they might be linked to Trojan viruses or something. This is an article from Cal Berkeley's Daily Cal.

Cogito Ergo Bite Me

BY Alex Stathopoulos
Daily Cal Columnist
Monday, March 28, 2005
** posted without permission.

For the love of wisdom, they spend nights tirelessly rereading one page of elderly connoisseurs long gone. For the love of wisdom, they lose the ability to speak with friends in "normal" language. And by God, for the love of wisdom, they wear trench coats.

At UC Berkeley, philosophy is the thug gangsta of all majors-cuz you just don't mess with that shit. It's stereotypical but true that one out of every two philizzle mizzles is the person you hope won't sit next to you on the BART train. Two out of three people whose fashion statements make you go "hrmph?" are among the ranks of philosophers. Eighteen of the zombies cast for "Dawn of the Dead" were just philosophy undergrads who got lost after their Phil 12A final (including the one who looks like Jay Leno). And out of all the bar patrons who claim to know if the glass is half full or half empty ... erm ... well, none of them are philosophers (we wouldn't touch that pretentious crap with a 10-foot-pole.)

At this point, I'd imagine that any philosopher reading this would feel slightly insulted by my insensitive jabs. Worry not! I too am a philosophy major and believe it or not, this column is meant to display our discipline in all its highly caffeinated glory!

In a city named after a philosopher, UC Berkeley students who study philosophy don't get the credit they deserve. We aren't the smallest major (watch out Celtic Studies!) but philosophy suffers from a reputation of uselessness. Even our professors occasionally display awareness of this fact-when I told my first philosophy professor I wanted to be a major, he just looked at me blankly and asked, "What's so wrong with money?"

Philosophy is perhaps one of the most misunderstood disciplines on the planet. Throughout time, stereotypes like those above have come to define philosophers as directionless dreamers with no place in normal' society, and with no practical goals.

Yet still, we place Socrates, Plato and Aristotle on pedestals for being some of the first great thinkers-the veritable fathers of science, scholasticism and arithmetic. But back in their day these incomparable men were also looked down upon by the masses as crazy-talking bums, not unlike our very own People's Park residents, plus or minus a few togas.

And likewise, on our very own campus stereotypes continue to determine the perceptions students, parents and strangers have of philosophy. Go ahead, play a joke on your parents and tell them you've changed your major from MCB or economics to philosophy ... just make sure you've got 911 on speed-dial first.

So why does philosophy have such a warped reputation? While in most areas of study, students learn specific skills-such as economic theory, physiology or political analysis-students of philosophy hone one important skill that can be applied to any discipline: critical thought. Problem is, the practical applications of this skill are a little hard to pin down.

Philosophy isn't just the pastime of eccentrics, drunks and men with copious facial hair. No, philosophy is the mastery of argumentation, logic, wisdom and unconventional thought. But because the study of knowledge itself has indirect-though indispensable-manifestations in real life, people tend to overlook the enormous benefits of a philosophical education. Just look at our greatest leaders throughout history. Barring modern politicians, almost all of them were privy to philosophical theory.

Asking a friend what she thought of philosophy, she began, "philosophies are like assholes ..." at which point I decided to conclude this column without a supportive quotation.

Many people try to choose majors that allow them to "keep options open." I recommend philosophy to anyone who wants the analytical skills to succeed in countless fields-even those that offer salaries higher than that of a Wendy's fry-cook. Furthermore, philosophy is for you if you've ever sat down and wondered why people, the world and the universe are the way they are. Plus, if you ever become one of us, you can officially scoff the next time someone asks about cups being full.

And if you still think philosophy is a bunch of crap, you can lick my monads.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Roast or Toast

The weather is in the eighties and I'm feeling toasty today.

Music |
Silversun Pickups | TOAST!

I first heard Silversun Pickups ("sspu" to those in the know) while listening to a Ben Sherman Sampler CD (Volume 6), which I picked up in one of those cool, cute-but-edgy boutiques while I was in Nashville in March. I could be wrong on this, but I think their song "Lazy Eye" may also be on frequent play rotation in Boyfriend's car... :) According to Wikipedia (always in the e-know), sspu is from Los Angeles and has been around since the release of their debut EP in July 2005. After gaining following on the L.A. club scene and releasing their first full length album, Carnavas (July 2006), sspu toured as an opener for Wolfmother, OK Go, and Snow Patrol. The band has also performed on the Late Show, the Tonight Show, Last Call, and Jimmy Kimmel Live, among others. I'm afraid I'm embarassingly behind on this band. Hopefully someone reading this is, too. Glad to have introduced you!

Blog | Cupcake Bakeshop Blog by Chockylit | TOAST!
I am a huge fan of cupcakes. Seriously, I love them. But, honestly, what's not to love about cupcakes? Cute little single serving cakes, often adorned with decorations like frosting flowers, sprinkles, candy, or (God forbid) those weird little silver ball things that bakers tend to overuse on anything wedding-pastry related. I found Chockylit's Cupcake Blog years ago, but recently re-discovered it. I have high hopes (and a yearning pallate) that I will eventually try to recreate some of the beautiful and assumably delicious cupcakes pictured. I love that you can search by ingredients, techniques (the "simple recipe" technique is particularly appealing to me), or themes. However, until undeniable motivation strikes me (or until I can make the big decision regarding which cupcakes to attempt first), I'll just drool over the pictures. Happy Baking!!

News | ABC 4 Investigation: Emos Exposed | TOAST!

I'm toasting ABC 4 for sounding the alarm about a teen phenomenon sweeping the nation. I bet emo is probably the most serious teen-harm outbreak since SLOMing. I think it's funny that ABC 4 notes that emo kids "celebrate" sadness and pain. For some reason, I don't think emo kids "celebrate" anything. That's, um, why they're emo. Read those emo websites again, ABC 4. I bet you won't find the word "celebrate" anywhere. I also thank psychologist Judith Zimmerman for noting that not every kid that looks emo is into cutting, dark poetry, or talking about suicide, and that it's important to differentiate between a fashion statement and commitment to a lifestyle. I wonder if Zimmerman would say something similar after browsing through a litany of pro-ana websites... "Not every kid who looks emaciated, is posting on pro-ana sites, or restricting their caloric intake is ana." It's important to differentiate between a fashion statement and a lifestyle.

Grab Bag | F'real! Shakes & Smoothies | TOAST!
Okay, so the name isn't that great... Actually, I kind of have the urge to say it the same way I have the urge to say Panic! At the Disco - extra emphasis on the unnecessary exclamation point.
**Side note: Seriously, the only time you need an exclamation point smack dab in the middle of a statement should be when you're saying something like "Fire! In Your House" or "Killer! Right Behind You."
Lame name aside, I've tried a number of F'real! products, and they're really, really good, f'real y'all. I get them from Wawa Convenience Stores (worshipped in DelMarVaNj). As far as I've seen/tried, they have milkshakes (Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla - all good), coffee drinks (Coffee - yummy, Mocha, Caramel), and fruit smoothies (Strawberry, Tropical - which is mango loaded excellence). All of the drink varieties come in convenient frozen cups that you get to put in this special blender thingamabob that's made especially for f'real beverages. You select if you want your drink less, regular, or more thickly blended, watch as your drink gets sucked up into the machine and blended, and sip the deliciousness, probably still awestruck over the process. Really, the nifty blender machine is an added novelty. These drinks are delicious. I highly recommend them, well worth a try. Careful on the calories, though. Some of them (such as the Chocolate Malt Milkshake, which I have never seen) apparently pack up to 560 calories.

I fly high, no lie. Bloggin'!!

So, on my ipod I have this "epic" playlist of 500+ songs (504 at the moment) called "Hot Jams." Songs make the Hot Jams playlist for various reasons... Not necessarily because they are "hot," though Mims is on there for his apparent hotness, as are some of my favorite selections from the Red HOT Chili Peppers, HOT HOT Heat, and Nelly's 'HOT in Herre'. Anyways, because Hot Jams is such a large playlist made up of only the hottest jams, I've found I can listen to it pretty much exclusively for various activities - running, driving, getting readying, etcing. Yesterday I was driving back to school with my best friend and Jim Jones' 'Ballin'' came up on random play. Maybe I've been immune because I'm so ballin' and fly, but it wasn't until my friend pointed out the apparent strangeness of the song that I really listened to the lyrics for what they are... disjointed and weird. Below is an amateur analysis, inspired by an article I recently read about the King of Hotness, Mims.

Jim Jones - Ballin'
wear a mean dark pair of shades
Aint you cant see my eyes unless my head is bent , you dig
"Ain't you can't see my eyes unless my head is bent..." I dig, Jim. You've got dark shades. They're mean. What you lack is the ability to speak English coherently.

We fly high, No Lie ,You notice(BALLIN!) Well, yes, Jim. If a bunch of presumably big black guys were flying high in the sky, I think I would notice.
Foreign rides, outside, its like showbiz (We in the building) I like cars/rides, especially foreign ones. I'm a particularly huge fan of German cars. I had no idea, though, that foreign cars were indicative of showbiz. Also, Jim, who cares if there are presumably lux, showbiz-like foreign rides outside if you are in the building and not outside enjoying them? That's like me saying that someone has a Bentley parked outside of my apartment. It's like showbiz outside, but I'm in the building.
(Girl) Boy.
We stay fly, No Lie ,You notice (BALLIN!)
Hips and Thighs, Oh my, Stay focus FocusED, Jim. I presume the hips and thighs you speak of are so magnificent and therefore suctioning away so much of your brain power that you are unaware that you are changing tenses in the middle of your lyrical licks. I'll let it go.

More on the chorus: I'd say it's highly likely that the guys singing the chorus are tone deaf. The girls are okay, I guess, but the guys... well, listen to them. Secondly, I wonder if they planned out this song before they recorded it or if it was supposed to be something totally different... My friend and I picture it like this: Jim Jones is in a ghetto, inner city record studio getting ready to record a song/bust a rhyme/whatever. Oops! They forget to lock the door. For the duration of the session Jim's friends pop in and out of the studio yelling whatever they like at random intervals. Jim and his tone deaf chorus members try to ignore them and keep the rap going. Reviewing the tape of the session later, Jim decides that it's brilliant, puts it on an album under the name of the word that's yelled the most (Ballin') and becomes famous from the fluke. Life is unfair.

Ya boy gettin paper (Money), I buy big cars (Foreign) Thank you for clarifying that the paper my boy is getting is money. I thought he might be READIN' the news for a second there. Also, I know from the chorus that you only like foreign cars (they are like showbiz, even if they are parked outside while you're in the building), but thanks for the reminder.
I need fly rides to drive in my garage (Choose 1) I'll make the choice easy. Pick a foreign one.
Stay sky high (Twisted), Fly wit the stars (Twinkle ,Twinkle) Stay sky high, twisted? How is that twisted, aside from the fact that by flying you would be defying a well-established Newtonian law of gravity? I like that you can appreciate the twinkle, twinkle as you fly wit the stars. Seriously, this is one of my favorite additions. Twinkle, twinkle.
T 4 ? Flights , 80 grand large (BALLIN!) Huh?
So we lean with it, pop with it (Bankhead) I wonder who Bankhead is...
'Vertible jones, mean with the top listen (Flossin) People will disagree, but I'd like to think that "Flossin'," as used by Jim Jones and "Flossy," as used by FergieFerg are both pleas to today's youth to practice good dental hygiene. I bet Bankhead was supposed to say "Brushin'" but said his name instead. Flossy Flossin'.
I'm sayin clean with the bottom ?(Do It) Another reference to dental hygiene. Do it.
I Hop'd out saggy jeans and my rock glistenin(BALLIN!) I bet those glistenin' rocks are your pearly whites from brushin' and flossin.'
But I spent bout 8 grand (Braces!)
Mami on stage doin the rain dance (I think she like me) I think you're witnessing cult rituals. Rain dances? Really, Jim?
She let it hit the floor, made it pop (What Else !?) I can't wait to find out what else.
Got my pedal to the floor screamin fuck the cops(Do It!) You're in your car now? I guess I missed when you left the building, hopped in your foreign showbiz ride and found yourself in a chase with the cops. Also, I'm amazed you said "cops." I thought the trendy rapper term was "po-po" or "rollers," or something like that.

We fly high, No Lie ,You notice (BALLIN!)
Foreign rides, outside, its like showbiz
We stay fly, No Lie ,You notice (BALLIN!)
Hips and Thighs, Oh my, Stay focus

Slow Down, Tonight may be gone tommorow (One Chance!) Tonight will definitely be gone tomorrow. That's how time works.
So I speed thru life like theres no tommorow (Speedin!) Okay... another reference to the time continuum... which is the same speed for you as it is for all of us, Jim. 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day...
100 g's worth of ice on the Auto? (Flossy) Having $100k of diamonds on the car is what makes it showbiz-y. I bet it has a diamond encrusted sink so you can practice good hygiene.
And we in the street life until they call the law(BALLIN!)
I made the whip get naked (What Happen !?) Now, usually a whip is a car, but I'm assuming you mean your girl. Why do your friends what to know what happened? Didn't you just tell them you made her get naked? Idiots.
While I switch gears, Bitch lookin at the bracelet (Got Em) Got 'em? You caught me looking at my bracelet? I wasn't aware that when I was in a car with a guy I was supposed to be intent on watching him switch gears. My bracelet is usually more interesting.
Step out, show me what your all about
Flashbacks of last night of me ballin out (Harlem!)
1 a.m. we was at the club (What Happen !?) Nothing "happen" yet. He's setting up the story! That's like if I said "Once upon a time there was a beautiful princess..." and you jumped on me and asked "What happen?!" Well, I haven't told you yet, but I will if you shut up and exercise some patience.
2 a.m. Ten bottles of bub (Money ain't a thing) Neither is a legal B.A.C.
And about 3 somethin I was thinkin about grub (Hungry!)
So I stumbled to the car, threw the drinks and the drugs (Twisted) What's twisted is that you substitute drinks and drugs for grub. You'd think you could have swung my McDonald's or something. (Big Macs!)

We fly high, No Lie ,You notice (BALLIN!)
Foreign rides, outside, its like showbiz
We stay fly, No Lie ,You notice
Hips and Thighs, Oh my, Stay focus

Nigga could you buy that Buy what?
I keep 20 in the pocket (Light Change) 20 cents is nothing. $20 isn't a lot of money for a lot of people. I bet it couldn't buy one of those bottles of bub you were talking about. (Andre!)
Talk a buck 80 If the bentley is the topic (That grey poupon) I love Grey Poupon, too. I wonder how much the mustard company had to pay to get a shoutout. I bet a mustard rep was walking by the studio and saw people poking their heads in and out shouting inane things. Curious, he poked his own head in, gave a quick shoutout to his product, and was on his way. Either that or some guy thought he had walked into a deli.
But of course gotta fly ...? (Where?) Up in the sky, twinkle twinkle.
To the hood to roll dice on the side of the curb To the hood, to gamble on the street. Presumably because that $20 in light change wouldn't get you very far in Vegas or Atlantic City and/or you'd rather bet less and spend the rest on Andre.
But I know a G Bent' may sound absurd (Get Your Money Up) A G Bent? A $1000 Bentley? That IS Absurd.
Drive 80 up Lennox cause I got an urge (Speedin) I don't know what the speed limit on Lennox is, but I drive 80 on a lot of roads cause I get the urge.
The rap game like the crack game
Lifestyles, rich and famous livin in the fast lane (BALLIN!)
So when I bleep shorty bleep back I think it's nice that you edit your comments to the ladies by saying bleep instead of an expletive.
Lou Vuitton Belt where im keepin all the heat strapped Keepin' it monogrammed, hot, and below the belt.
I beat the trial over rucker (Lets Do It)
All guns loaded in the back motherfucker (Dipset) Yeahh..... this is getting more and more ridiculous.

We fly high, No Lie ,You notice (BALLIN!)
Foreign rides, outside, its like showbiz (We in the building) 2x
We stay fly,(stay fly) No Lie , (no lie) You notice (BALLIN!)
Hips and Thighs, Oh my, Stay focus

You niggas need to stay focus Yes, stop getting distracted by the people who keep poking their heads into the studio to yell things while we try to record.
When your dealin with a motherfuckin G
You know my name, Jones, One Eye, Capo Status
Only above motherfucka
This Dipset ByrdGang We Born To Worst gang name everrr.
Ya'll know the rules fall back or fall back Fall back orrrr fall back. Which should I choose?
Someone tell my bitch summer I'm lookin for her Are you looking for a girl named Summer or the warm season? I'll tell winter to get away. Summer, where iz u, Bitch?
Ya dig, Another day another dollar If my calculations are correct, spending a dollar a day you can make that small change in you pocket last for nearly 3 weeks, provided you don't waste it on Andre.
Fast life fucker heh.

We stay fly, No Lie, You notice (BALLIN!)
Hips and Thighs, Oh my, Stay focus fades

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Way I See It...

So, I was bored today and decided to browse some blogs I skim occasionally. I found an interesting article in Starbucks Gossip, which linked to this article in the Dayton Daily News, in which a woman expresses indignation over one of those "The Way I see it..." quotes on Starbucks coffee cups. In summary, Michelle Incanno ("an admitted Starbucks addict")'s cup was printed with the following Bill Scheel (a Starbucks customer) quote:
"Why in moments of crisis do we ask God for strength and help? As cognitive beings, why would we ask something that may well be a figment of our imaginations for guidance? Why not search inside ourselves for the power to overcome? After all, we are strong enough to cause most of the catastrophes we need to endure."
Incanno says that "As someone who loves God, I was so offended by that. I don't think there needs to be religious dialogue on it. I just want coffee," and as a result "her Starbucks days are over." Incanno, "[W]ouldn't feel right going back."

Beneath the article on the Dayton Daily News site, a number of individuals have struck up a debate about separation of Church and Sta...rbucks. Of course, I have my own .02 cents. Maybe one day Starbucks will print my opinion on a cup. So, the way I see it...

01. This quote simply alludes to the very real possibility that there may not, *GASP!*, be a God, a possibility I know millions of people at least subscribe to, if not wholeheartedly endorse. I generally consider myself overly tolerant, but sometimes I really dislike when people (Incanno) cannot respect the views of others to the point where they claim it is adversely affecting their lives and everyday routines. Scheel isn't expounding God-hating atheism or parading as a satanic Starbucks-sipping sinner here! Furthermore, I'm pretty sure I've seen a number of those quotes which have included some kind of pro-God sentiment. Geez, if everyone who ever got a "The Way I See it..." quote that they didn't believe in/endorse swore off Starbucks... bankruptcy, anyone? As a contemplational side note, I wonder what percentage of hipsters, on-the-go business people, and college students buying $4 lattes with 'Rent's credit card are theists.

02. In his quote, Scheel seems to be promoting personal, inner strength and self-sufficiency, two things one should presumably be able to cultivate, appreciate, and enjoy regardless of religious or areligious affiliation.

03. If all else fails, isn't covering the lame "The Way I see it..." quotes a nice benefit of slipping one of those coffee glove/java sleeve/cup insulator thingies on your cup? I've tried it. One of those thingamabobs covers the dumb "The Way I see it..." quote rather nicely. It also keeps your hand from scorching off. Multipurposed! How convenient. ... Just make sure you don't let the lid pop off so scalding coffee sloshes all over you. It's hot. Sure, you might get to sue Starbucks and become an overnight millionaire on account of your own stupidity but, let's be honest, filing a lawsuit because coffee (which is hot liquid, btw) sloshes out and burns you is sooo late 1990's McDonald's drive-thru style.


I drafted this post last night and was going to publish it today as written, but a trip to my local Starbucks has prompted what I feel is a necessary addition.

First, a rant. Today at Starbucks my friend and I were browsing the baked goods, trying to decide on two things that we would share. One coffeecake-looking thing didn't have a little sign in front of it explaining what it was, so we asked the barrista at the register. She told us it was a "Cherry coffeecake." Then, she asked us if we'd like to try it. Thinking that she was asking if we'd like a sample (sometimes they have samples of new baked goods), we smiled and gave her an enthusiastic "Sure!!" She pulled out the metal tongs and popped one of the cherry coffeecakes in a Starbucks pastry bag. Uhhh... we didn't want to try it to the point that we wanted to buy it. How misleading. Ugh. We weren't feeling particularly confrontational or aggressive, so we sucked it up, bought the damn cherry coffeecake, a slice of the raspberry swirl bread, a grande-skim-extra-hot-vanilla-latte, and a grande-skim-caramel-machiato. My friend and I then took our purchases outside to enjoy.

Our "enjoyment" didn't last long. The first thing we noticed was that the cherry coffeecake that we were slyly coerced into buying had chocolate chips in it. "What if I was allergic to chocolate!?" my friend ranted. We debated going back inside to tell the barrista that her failure to inform us that there were chocolate chips in the cherry coffeecake was causing my friend's throat to close up. Because it was untrue and would have merely been a desperate attempt to get a couple hundred dollars in free Starbucks cards, we decided it was overly cruel and not worth our time. Then, to add insult to "injury," the raspberry swirl slice was a bit stale. Damnit, Starbucks.

Then, THEN, came the zinger. As I sipped my grande vanilla latte, I noticed that I had "The Way I See It..." quote #238. (I wonder how many there are). Having just drafted the rest of this post last night, I decided to pay more attention to my TWISI quote than usual. I gingerly slid my coffee insulator thingamabob down so I could read the entirety of the quote. "The Way I See It..." quote #238 reads:
"Have you noticed that dogs are the new kids? You take a walk with your kid and your dog, but nobody says, "What a cute kid!" Instead, they say, "What a cute dog! What's his name? Is he a rescue?" Maybe if I put a collar and leash on my kid someone will notice her." - Judy Gruen, Humorist and author of The Women's Daily Irony Supplement
Brilliant. Fucking bloody brilliant. I wonder, if Michelle Incanno had gotten TWISI quote #238 would she swear off Starbucks for promoting child abuse? I wonder how many people have gotten Starbucks quote #238 and decided to swear off Starbucks because it alludes to child abuse... or the possibility that your kid is ugly. Probably no one. Conclusion drawn? Overreacting, like stupidity, seems to be a quickly spreading epidemic and your local Starbucks may be opening its doors as a Urgent Care Clinic.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Getting a Bachelor's Degree in "Thinking"

Just some rambling, probably incoherent, why-am-I-up-at-7:30am-for-no-reason thoughts: I am graduating from my fine undergraduate institution this weekend with a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy. My family and parents' involvement in all the ceremonial activity has prompted me to recollect and (re)consider a few things.

My parents have always been supportive of my choice to pursue a degree in Psychology, which was the first major I declared as an undergrad. "Ah, psych," they may have thought, "psychology can at least masquerade as a legitimate, worthwhile field of study. She can be a psychologist or a psychiatrist," both of which require Ph.Ds, the latter of which requires medical school. I think declaration of Psych as my first major may have been my saving grace when I told them I would also be declaring a second major, Philosophy. "Philosophy," they said, surely trying not to raise their brows, "really? What will you do with that?" Whenever people asked this question - which they did, nearly everytime I informed them what my chosen fields of studies were - I thought I was really clever with my standard response; "I'm using Philosophy to learn how to think, Psychology to learn how other people think, and one day I'm going to go to Law School to learn how to use it all against them."

Admittedly, telling people I major in Philosophy to "learn how to think" is kind of a cop-out. My real answer regarding my intentions as a Phil major is probably along the lines of "Shut the hell up, It's too difficult to explain to you that I secretly think I might figure out the meaning of life by majoring in philosophy but I'd rather not try to explain it to you, moron, because I'm kinda embarassed I actually think this way...," response. Eh. So, in a state of early-morning personal reflection I wonder if I have indeed figured out the meaning of life? I contemplate as I prepare to graduate with my degree in Philosophy later today.

In his 1911 satire, The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce has a definition for philosophy which is by far my favorite. I've used it as an away message for times I've wanted to inform my friends I'm presently attending a phil class or writing a 10+ pager about, erm, nothing, for years. Bierce describes philosophy as "a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing." I've underestimated Bierce all these years, thinking to myself "Surely I'll come out with something." Well, no. Bierce was right. Philosophy is a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing. It is perhaps the only college major in which you come out knowing (and I use the term 'knowing' loosely, because at this point I'm not sure you can ever really 'know' anything...) less than you came in knowing.

I would, however, like to modify Bierce's quote slightly. Oh, how I wish that I would be so lucky to be able to maintain steady, methodical progress on my philosophical road to nothingness post graduation. But alas, I won't. I've realized that Bierce's quote seems to describe undergraduate study. One is 'nowhere' freshman year and, with a little luck, reaches 'nothing' senior year. After I walk across the stage today, clutching my pseudo your-real-degree-is-still-pending Bachelors in Philosophy degree I will no longer walk the road. Instead, I will be set out into the Sea of Nothingness - in Neurath's boat. That sounds wholly existential, I'm sure. But it's not. I'm kind of looking forward to my venture into the Sea of Nothingness. It'll be interesting to see what I find. Perhaps I'll be like the ancient mariners, gaining information and knowledge through faulty means (in this case, my own naive and deluded thinking, presumably), but manage to stay alive and intact and enjoy the journey nonetheless. I just wish I had taken a class in carpentry to aid me in reparing my Neurath boat and bought some new Topsiders for this journey, because mine have seen better days (my current pair has accompanied me for much of my journey down the road from nowhere).

I leave you with some of Bierce's other definitions from The Devil's Dictionary which I feel are/have been relevant to my time as a Philosophy major:

Education - That which discloses to the wise, and disguises from the foolish, their lack of understanding.
Learning - The kind of ignorance distinguishing the studious.
Logic - The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding.
Patience - A minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue.
Rational - Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection.
Religion - A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
Road - A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.
Zeal - A certain nervous disorder afflicting the young and inexperienced.

Spice World RETURNS!!

There is a God!! (I had a serious, serious Spice Girl obesession back in middle school. Serious to the point of causing some family drama and my getting in "serious trouble." I kid you not.)

Monday, May 14, 2007

All the world's a runway...

In the May 2007 issue, Harper's Bazaar Editor in Chief Glenda Bailey accused Shakespeare of being mistaken: "All the world is, in fact, a runway, and all of the men and women are fashion critics." Well, Glenda, I'm not sure about everyone being a fashion critic, because if they were we'd probably have a significantly better dressed population, but you might be on to something with the whole runway thing.

Today, the difference between a stage and a runway isn't that great. In Shakespeare's time (though not always in his plays), players would masquerade across the stage in gorgeous, pricey costumes... today, well, we have couture shows in Paris and red carpets where men and women essentially do the same masquerading, except the "stage" is slightly longer and narrower, and sometimes red (obviously). In many modern circles (with the exceptions of particular circles that are made up of devoted theatre patrons), the whole concept of the stage is lost. We have movies now. But, that's where the line between stage and runway gets smudged. Actresses double as fashionistas and trendsetters, often letting their acting slide in the process (Lindsay Lohan?). Star-struck teens and young adults are exposed to actors and actresses more frequently for their fashion "choices" (in quotes because it seems they rarely make these choices themselves anymore; enter Rachel Zoe) than their roles. Instead of emulating their characters, imagining the whole world a stage and ourselves as merely players, we emulate their fashions and, as Bailey suggested, the world becomes a runway and we are merely, um, I hesitate to say models, but at least "players." Fine.

So, running with this "whole world's a runway" concept that Bailey introduced to me, I implore people to keep this in mind while getting dressed in the morning. Honestly, does it take that much effort to pull on a pair of jeans, at the very least? Keep the hoodie, fine... But the cartoon animal print pj pants? Erm, no thanks. People have to look at you, myself included. Let's make the world a prettier place, one minute of minor effort at a time. K, thanks.

Lesbians & Obesity

I recently came across this article in Australian news source, The Daily Telegraph; Lesbians twice as likely to be obese. The nearly-6000 participant Boston University School of Public Health study concludes that "Lesbians are twice as likely as heterosexual women to be overweight or obese," officially concluding 2.69x, and 2.47x, respectively. Furthermore, "findings indicate that lesbian sexual identity is linked to a greater prevalence of overweight and obesity" and "results... indicate that lesbian women have a better body image than do heterosexual women" (italics mine). Researchers further ruled out the possibility that lesbians may just be more muscular and are confident in asserting that the differences are due to adiposity.

Hmmm... Interesting study, to say the least. However, I feel that it is highly flawed, for a number of reasons. First, I don't think it's fair to claim that lesbians have better body images than heterosexual women. This seems to fly in the face of everything I know and have experienced. I'm not a lesbian but, in my experience, I've not only found other women to be far harsher critics of female bodies than men, but also that women tend to appreciate a thinner look. Case in point: I'm walking with a male friend and I see a girl that looks to be about a size 2. My first thought/utterance? "Wow. I wish I could be that slim." His? "She's too skinny. She has no boobs/curves, etc." Seriously, I've had that conversation more times than I can count. So, based on personal experience, I would think that the study would have found just the opposite - That lesbians tend to have a higher prevalence of eating disorders, because they are trying to impress other women, and women presumably know what women want.

Second, and I'm well aware that I'm stereotyping here, but most lesbian couples I've met and seen have a clear "hotter one." Look at Ellen DeGeneres and Portia DeRossi. Ellen's by no means ugly or fat (and I love her show to death), but Portia is clearly the hot female of that lesbian relationship. I'm not sure why this seems to be the phenomenon, but it does. Perhaps the 6000-person study somehow only tested the "less hot" lesbians who tend to be a little bit bigger.

Third, this goes back to the ol' nature v. nurture argument re: sexual identity... but perhaps these women were striking out with men (even if men want a bigger girl than many women presume, a line has to be drawn somewhere) so they are just "trying out" the whole lesbian thing at the time of the study. I'm just saying... I know quite a few fat hetero girls that are having trouble in the male department. Maybe they should try the whole bi/les thing out.


The Ford Pinto

Ford Motors introduced the Pinto in 1970 as competition to the quickly expanding domestic and foreign subcompact car market. Though development and testing of new cars usually takes forty-three months, the Pinto was released in just over two years. Unfortunately, this may have come at a great cost to Pinto consumers, as crash tests showed that the fuel tank was prone to rupturing in crashes at speeds above 25mph and that the car failed rear impact tests when being hit at speeds greater than 20mph. Though aware of this potentially dangerous crash test information, Ford continued Pinto production, maintaining that it met all federal safety standards in effect in the 1970s.

In a study done to improve design, Ford found that the $11 per vehicle cost of improving each vehicle outweighed its social benefits and deemed the improvement “not cost-effective for society.” Using a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the total cost of death in a car accident was estimated at around $200,000 per person. Based on the number of burn deaths and injuries involving automobiles per year, the monetary benefit of improvement of the Pinto to society would have been about $50 million, while cost to Ford to make an $11 improvement on every car produced would have been upwards of $137 million. Based on the $87 million dollar difference, Ford decided not to make the improvements to the Pinto, as it already met current government regulations on gasoline tank design.

On May 28, 1972, Mrs. Lily Gray and a thirteen year old boy, Richard Grimshaw, were driving a six month old Pinto on an interstate highway near San Bernardino, CA at a speed of around 55mph. The Pinto stalled and was rear-ended by a Ford convertible. The fuel tank ruptured and the Pinto burst into flames. Gray was burned to death and Grimshaw sustained severe burns and disfigurement on ninety percent of his body, which later required seventy surgeries. As of 1978, at least fifty-three people have died and numerous others have been severely burned in accidents involving Ford Pintos.

Should Ford and other companies be held morally responsible for deaths and injuries associated with using their products? To analyze this question, I will first compare the Ford Pinto to McDonnell-Douglas’ DC-10 aircraft and explain why I feel that Ford can be held more morally responsible for deaths and injuries resulting from Pintos than McDonnell-Douglas can from DC-10, Ship 29 deaths. Then, I will assess the Ford Pinto with regards to Peter French’s Primary Principle of Accountability and Extended Principle of Accountability. Finally, I will assess the Pinto in regards to risk.

The comparison between Ford Motor’s Pinto and McDonnell-Douglas’ DC-10 is a clear one. Both companies created products that complied with Federal Safety Standard Guidelines but failed to meet the engineering standards of the industry with regard to comparable goods. In other words, standards that had yet to be put into Federal mandate but were regularly being used by other companies in manufacture of comparable products in the industries. Both companies were aware that their products were substandard in some ways (with the Pinto it was primarily in the fuel tank design, with the DC-10 it was primarily with the cargo door latching system) and that there was available technology that could have minimized product deficiencies. The manufacture and use of both products by the public resulted in numerous deaths and injuries which may have been prevented, had either company modified its product.

The difference between Ford and McDonnell-Douglas is that the latter sent their product for modifications to FAA guidelines, upon which three separate inspectors stamped the work records indicating that the modifications had been made to the DC-10, Ship 29. Thus, the plane was presumably flown by Turkish Airlines under the auspices that it was not only safe, but modified to be complacent with FAA guidelines. After presumed modification, McDonnell-Douglas could reasonably claim that they believed the safety risks involving the faulty latch had been ameliorated. Prior to the crash, they were ignorant to the fact that these modifications had not, in fact, been made. Thus, they can be cleared of intent to market a product that they knew was defective. Ford, on the other hand, ran a cost benefit analysis to assess the “estimated social costs of death” in comparison to the $11 per vehicle cost of modifications to improve the design of the car. Ford made a corporate decision not to modify the Pinto, and to continue production using the original and unmodified fuel tank design, though well aware of the hazards it posed at speeds over 25mph. Thus, Ford cannot claim ignorance of faulty manufacturing design. They intended to manufacture the car as it was, well aware of the risks the design posed. Peter French’s Primary Principle of Accountability (PPA) states that “a person [or in this case, a company] can only be held accountable for that person’s intentional acts.” Ford had direct intent in manufacturing the vehicle as it was without modification, indirectly leading to conscious manufacture of a potentially unsafe vehicle for public use, McDonnell-Douglas did not. Of course Ford did not intend anyone to die while driving a Pinto, but they did intend to market an affordable vehicle knowing full well that, given the right conditions, serious death or injury could occur.

French’s Extended Principle of Accountability (EPA) states that “A person [or in this case, a company] may be held morally accountable for his intentional actions and for those actions that he was willing to perform under different descriptions of his intentional actions. Also, he may be held accountable for those non-original or second effects that involve the actions of other persons that he was obliquely or collaterally intended or was willing to have occur as the result or under different description of his actions.” As stated above, it is unlikely that Ford manufactured the Pintos with the intention that they crash, the fuel tank ruptures, and the resulting fire causes injury or death to the driver, passengers, or other people involved in a crash. However, it can be argued that a crash at excess of 25mph is much more likely than a crash under 25mph (though admittedly, I could not find statistical information regarding car accidents by speed) and that, given that the fuel tank ruptured every time in lab tests at speeds exceeding 25mph, it would also be likely to rupture should a crash occur at a speed exceeding 25mph in a “real world” setting. Thus, it can be argued that a ruptured fuel tank in a crash at a speed over 25mph was a reasonably foreseeable event, or second effect, that Ford was willing to have occur in their pursuit of producing an affordable car that would be competitive in the new subcompact car market. If Ford was not willing to have this sort of crash occur, they would have made the $11 modification to each vehicle.

Furthermore, not only should Ford have known that marketing a car that was prone to bursting into flames should a crash occur at speeds excessive of 25mph would pose a risk to consumers, they did know, and they chose to place consumer appreciation of an affordable subcompact car over appreciation for their own lives and safety in their cost/benefit analysis. I, for one, feel you would be hard pressed to find an individual who would value the affordable cost of a car over their own life, and when Ford forwent the $11 modifications that would have made Pintos safer, they were essentially putting value in profit and net worth of the company over value of consumer life – a dangerous and presumptuous mistake.

At this point, Ford may argue that a car is nothing more than a machine, and that machines are liable to failure, breakage, and/or user error. It can be presumed that consumers and users of technology, such as cars, on a daily basis are well aware that they are “taking a risk” when they choose to purchase and drive a vehicle. It can be presumed that Ford’s cost benefit analysis statistically showed that sales of Pintos would offset liabilities and costs associated with poor design. French argues that “a reasonable person will accept a certain amount of risk if the compensation is satisfactory.” In this case, the risk would be that they could get in an accident while driving their Pinto, but in the statistically likely event that they do not, their compensation will be getting to their destination at their own convenience, without having to walk, use public transportation, etc. I feel that a reasonable person would probably not weigh the risk to compensation equation the same if they were aware that, in the (still statistically unlikely, but possible nonetheless) event that they were to get into an accident in excess of speeds over 25mph, their fuel tank would almost certainly rupture and the car would be engulfed in flames. This is certainly a higher risk situation (risk of being in a crash vs. risk of being in a crash and the car catching on fire) and consumers cannot be held responsible for proper risk evaluation as the information Ford had elaborating on safety information was very unlikely to have been available to the public. If it had been, I doubt Ford would have sold very many Pintos, regardless of their affordable cost in comparison to other subcompact cars.

In conclusion, I believe that Ford should be held morally responsible for deaths and injuries associated with the Pinto because they knowingly manufactured and marketed a car to unknowing consumers that posed a higher safety risk to consumers than other similar subcompact type cars, they knowingly chose not to take actions to ameliorate mechanical shortcomings and make a safer car, they ignored the probability of highly foreseeable events that were shown time and time again in the lab to be replicated in the real world, they arbitrarily weighed financial gain as more important that human life, and they held consumers responsible for a risk assessment that they were not provided with enough information to make.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The New Commandments

I should be studying and writing papers, but I find both of these interesting. I may comment later.
Individual Commandments; Bertrand Russell's Liberal Decalogue:

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it is worthwhile to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent on authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do, the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that is happiness.

* First published in the New York Times, "The Best Answer to Fanaticism -- Liberalism," in 1951.

Collective Commandments; Norwegian/Danish author Aksel Sandemose's Janteloven in En flygtning krydser sit spor (A refugee crosses his tracks), 1933:

1. Don't think that
you are special.
2. Don't think that you are of the same standing as
3. Don't think that you are smarter than us.
4. Don't fancy yourself as being better than
5. Don't think that you know more than
6. Don't think that you are more important than
7. Don't think that
you are good at anything.
8. Don't laugh at
9. Don't think that anyone cares about
10. Don't think that you can teach
us anything.

... United States hegemonic worldview, anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Roast or Toast

A candid account of my week.

Music | We are Scientists | TOAST!
Apparently this Claremont, California band has been around since 2000. I just discovered them this week. They got their name when a U-Haul employee was inspecting a van they had rented and asked if they were scientists. They told him they were musicians, but regret it, wishing they had lied about being nanotech geeks. Right, because respectable scientists really rent U-Haul vans to tote around their petri dishes in... Do nanotechies even work with petri dishes?? Check out the cd With Love and Squalor, particularly the song The Great Escape.
Fashion | Dries van Noten wedge sneakers | ROAST!
These hideous oddities were featured a number of times in the May 2007 issue of Harper's Bazaar. For the love of God, no. They remind me of the high-heeled Guess sneakers I had in, like 5th grade (I'm ashamed, but I'm sure my mom didn't pay $615 for mine and I didn't know better back then). If I see anyone wearing these, even a tried-and-true fashionista, I will be mentally throwing red paint on her, PETA-style.

News | Oral sex linked to throat cancer | ROAST!
If for no other reason than the study author being named Gypsyamber. Also, the fact that she added that throat cancer is relatively uncommon and the overwhelming majority of people... probably will not get throat cancer." Also, "We know that after age, the main causes of mouth cancer are smoking or chewing tobacco or betel nut, and drinking too much alcohol." Way to scare everyone, Gypsyamber. This could, however, probably be used as a decent excuse for people that are just super-anti-oral. "Oh, no honey. Not tonight, not ever. I don't want to risk getting oral cancer." Heh.

Grab Bag | Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey | ROAST!
Decent tasting whiskey, I'll admit (though I have limited experience with whiskey - that I can remember, anyway...), and until a few weeks ago I didn't really consider myself a whiskey girl. However, JD is getting roasted for the following reasons: (1) It really fucks you up, which isn't always a good thing. (2) The Jack Daniel's Distillery in Lynchberg, Tennessee is in a dry county. I roadtripped to Tennessee with my best friend for Spring Break this year. We were going to go to the distillery, but decided to skip it. Who cares how it's distilled if you can't get samples?! (Conversely, Yuengling Brewery, in Pottsville, PA is worth the trip if you're only a few hours away.) I bet the guys at Jack Daniel's (Jack himself?) specifically put the JD Distillery in a dry county so they wouldn't have to give out samples after the tour. Cheap bastards.

Fortune Cookies

According to Wikipedia (the utmost authority on e-knowledge), a fortune cookie is a "thin, crisp cookie baked around a piece of paper with words of faux wisdom or vague prophecy, usually served with Chinese food as a dessert."

Faux wisdom?? Vague prophecy?? No way.

I have a weird thing with fortune cookie fortunes. I can never throw them away. I think it's bad luck. They won't come true if you just send them off with the trash. I'm graduating college (God willing) in a few days and, sure, dozens of fortunes have gotten lost over the years; but it's one thing to lose them, sacrilege to actually throw them away. I've started taping them to my magnet board, forming a border around my Dansk magnetisk ords (Danish magnetic words) and cutting into the space I've saved for various beer and a Descartes' Cogito magnets . Sure, they are probably supreme examples of the Forer Effect (as is my sucumbing to their power), but whatever. My fortunes come true. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. "Good news will come to you from far away."
2. "You will sleep well at night" ... in bed. Good one.
3. "Your winsome smile will be your sure protection." I know, I don't really need anything in life besides my smile. I've always thought that. Thanks mom and dad for both your genetic endowments and the thousands of dollars you spent when I was a young teen perfecting what nature didn't.
4. "You will always have good luck in your personal affairs." Well, excellent. Who wouldn't want that? Thanks, China!
5. "You will travel wide for both pleasure and business." The key thing to note with this one is that the Chinese put pleasure before business, which I don't think is very common in Asian cultures. Such uncharacteristic prioritization clearly indicates that this fortune was intended especially for me (I always prioritize in such a way).
6. "You have a slow and unhurried natural rhythym." ... in bed. haha! God, it's too easy.
and the one I got with my order of Shanghai Cafe Orange Chicken tonight...
7. "Keep your feet on the ground even though friends flatter you." Could it have been more perfect?

The lesson here: Keep your fortune cookie fortunes, kids. They may come true some day and, if not, at least you'll have some random lotto numbers to play, right?