Category Archives: Death Of Common Sense

Before You Freak Out Over The Coronavirus…

…get your flu shot!

It’s indicative of how we’ve lost all ability to do any kind of sane risk management. The new Chinese coronavirus has killed 170 people, which could actually be ten times that – but it’s in a country of over a billion people. There are five, maybe six people in this country who have it and it’s front page news. They’re cancelling flights to China for weeks. Every news hour shows folks coming into US airports and being screened and quarantined.

Five, maybe six people.

And yet the flu kills, on average, over 8,000 people a year in this country.

Not five people. Or six. OVER 8,000. And in a bad year that can double.

Not sick. Dead.

Did you get your flu shot this year?

No?

Then STFU about coronavirus.

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Filed under Death Of Common Sense, Health

Twitter Time Out

There’s a story I tell about my childhood transition from six years of Catholic school in Kansas City to the public school system in the Chicago suburbs.

Suffice it to say there were…differences…between the two environments. In Catholic school I was an altar boy, incredibly sanctimonious, indoctrinated into Catholic doctrine, and probably on the fast track to be the first American Pope. A few short months later as I hit middle school in the Buffalo Grove School District I was frantically trying to keep my head above water socially and stumbling through a process by which I might become a thinking human being again.

The punch line to the story is, “I started that summer thinking that if I told someone to ‘go to Hell,’ the ground would open up at my feet and Satan would personally appear to escort me to Hell on the spot. By the end of the summer, I was telling people to fuck off and not thinking twice about it.”

That line came back to me today as I’ve been put in 12-hour Twitter Timeout for “potentially abusive behavior” when the only thing I can think of that I possibly would have done is tell some wannabe bot account to “go to Hell.”

Who knew that my pre-teen psychological terrors would come to life fifty-plus years later courtesy of an overly aggressive Twitter algorithm?

(Warning – my Twitter presence is much more political and swear-ish than this site. I don’t suffer fools gladly, and there are a lot of them over on Twitter.)

Perusing my timeline this afternoon, I ran across this:

Bullshit right-wing propaganda, probably from a bot account. I was in the mood to respond, as I had been to similar subhuman cretins for a while.

“…some potentially abusive behavior…”

I don’t see it. If we can’t call a lie a lie and call a liar a liar, we’ve lost. It’s a bot, so the account should be deleted. If somehow it’s actually a human, they really do need to think about their life choices.

And then I said “Please go to Hell.” I didn’t even remember saying “please.” How is that “potentially abusive?”

About half a second after posting this, I got a message from Twitter:

The only thing I can think now is that it might be coincidental that this notice showed up just as I posted that particular response. I had been on a roll for an hour or so. Nothing anywhere near meeting any rational definition of “abusive” or “threatening”, but I do recall the phrase “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” being used several times. It was sort of a theme for the day, in particular to a string of right-wing, wannabe fascists who think that…

(*breathe*) (*again*)

Let’s say that we strongly disagree on a number of political and social topics and our visions for the future of our country are highly divergent.

In “Bull Durham” (an all-time favorite film) Crash Davis only gets thrown out of a game by an umpire after using a certain “magic word” in an argument. Maybe I’ll try that next time. At least then I’ll know WHY I’m being put in Twitter Timeout!

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How Steven King Novels Start

It’s just a tiny little gap in the database. Yeah, that’s it! Nothing to worry about. I’ll just go that way and see where it goes, because that’s where the GPS is telling me to go. No worries.

But if I’m never heard from again…

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Note To Morons

I’ve recently mentioned those who, beyond all concept of common sense, believe the Earth to in fact be flat.

How do you explain this?

Image from Flight Aware

That plane is flying a straight line to a very good first approximation. It’s the shortest route between Los Angeles and Seoul, while accounting for things like Russian air space and North Korea.

If, from this view, the “shortest route” would be pretty much due west from LAX, passing just north of Hawaii, then why would the airlines routinely fly from LAX, up the US and Canadian west coast, along Alaska, crossing the Aleutian Islands, down the Russian coast, and across Japan? Given that the price of gas is by far the number one variable in the profitability or viability of modern airlines, do you really think they would do this on every single flight for every single airline, just to keep up the conspiracy and illusion that the Earth is flat?

If you won’t believe or trust science and math, then just follow the money.

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Filed under Death Of Common Sense, Freakin' Idiots!

This Is My Surprised Face – December 28th

In my Twitter feed I follow the New York Times. (Big surprise!) Not only do I see news articles there, but also links to their travel, movie reviews, health, sports, and other articles.

Just now I saw a tweet with the headline, “Being a couch potato is worse for your health than you may have thought.” In short, the article from earlier this month says that a study indicates that if you sit around on your butt all day and then exercise, you get far fewer benefits from the exercise than if you’re moderately active during the day before you exercise.

That’s not so surprising, but I guess it’s good to actually do the study. They’ll be following up with different groups of people to see if the same applies to the 85% of the planet’s population which isn’t young, male, and white. (Before anyone gets all snarky, besides me of course, I understand the reason to start with a group that’s got as little variety as possible. It eliminates or at least reduces some of the variables that could be affecting the results. Once you have that baseline, then you can start doing studies to change one variable at a time.)

What caught my attention though was that headline in the tweet. “Being a couch potato is worse for your health than you may have thought.” Maybe it’s me, but I pretty much thought that being a couch potato put you on the fast track to an early death, so I’m not sure how much worse it could get.

I’m sure there are people who sit on the couch (or the bed, or the chair, or the floor, or whatever) all day AND smoke two packs a day AND pound back a six-pack of brewskies every day AND gorge themselves on a half-gallon of ice cream every day. Yes, that would be worse than just being a couch potato. Statistically I’m sure those people die forty years earlier than the rest of us, but that’s not what the headline is pointing to.

No, I’m wondering about the implied, “Sure, I’m a couch potatoe (sorry, channeling Dan Quayle there!) potato for fourteen hours a day, but that walk around the block with the dog every other day is going to keep me right up there with the Olympic decathlete who lives next door!”

I didn’t think about it for long. The New York Times’ tweets then went on to mention people and events from our current political and social malaise, where everyone’s not just allowed to believe in their own separate reality and facts, but they’re expected to.

To that extent, the findings of this report might help a few people, those who are still thinking on their own instead of gobbling up every bit of BS from every clickbait site out there on the internet. To the rest of us, well, the thing about having your own reality is that the Universe doesn’t care. Enjoy your couch and your early grave!

Me, I think I’ll make sure I get up and walk every time my watch barks at me tomorrow.

 

 

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Reality Check

This image from Saturn was released by NASA and JPL today. It shows the moon Mimas 28,000 miles beyond the outer rings of Saturn and 114,000 miles from the Cassini spacecraft.

pia20510-1041b

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

You can read more at the JPL/NASA website here.

This image is spectacular, to say the least, and it has made its round on various websites today. On many of the sites I visited, the comments very quickly were spotted with (or deluged with) ignorant rantings about how the image was “obviously” fake.

Imagine that. A significant percentage of the population, and a particularly vocal percentage at that, consider this image and those like it to be “fake news.”

Meanwhile, a significant percentage of the population is absolutely convinced that articles about things like “pizzagate” are 100% factual, accurate, and true.

Imagine that. A significant percentage of the population, and a particularly vocal percentage at that, think it’s been proven to be true that Hillary Clinton and some secret international cabal are running a pedophilia and child smuggling ring out of the basement of a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the stomach to do it, but I wonder if anyone has waded through the ignorance, hatred, filth, and outright freakin’ stupidity on these people’s web pages, Facebook posts, and Twitter rants to see how much cross correlation there is between the two groups. Maybe someone far smarter than me could write a ‘bot or app that could do the searching based on certain keywords so that no rational human would have to be exposed to that possibly fatal level of batshit crazy.

My gut feeling is that the correlation is disturbingly high.

This could be one of reasons we’ve got the problems we have.

Just guessing.

 

 

 

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Filed under Astronomy, Death Of Common Sense, Freakin' Idiots!, Space

They Crossed A Line

The Long-Suffering Wife is addicted to Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. She watches the Valentine’s Day love stories (which start about January 2nd) and the June wedding love stories (which start about February 15th) and the Halloween love stories (which start July 1st)… You get the picture. But while she watches those, she’s addicted to the Christmas movies.

This is no doubt better than being addicted to crack cocaine or heroin (I guess it’s sort of being addicted to heroine?) but some of these movies can make me question just how much better.

I end up watching bits and pieces of many (most?) of them because, while they certainly wouldn’t be my first choice for viewing, I like spending some time every night with my wife (go figure!) and I can get some work done on my phone, tablet, or laptop while relegating the movie to background noise where possible.

My issue is usually that they’re just so predictable and formulaic. I can come in during the middle of one I’ve never seen and in 30 seconds or less say, “That’s the heroine who’s engaged to the successful but stuck up rich boy toy who doesn’t stand a chance against the flannel-wearing goofy funny good ol’ boy in the small town where she’s going to amazingly find a way to find the true meaning and save Christmas while also ending up under the mistletoe with flannel boy.”

There are occasionally mitigating factors that make the viewing less stressful for me. Alicia Witt. Lacey Chabert. Danica McKellar.

On the other hand, the other night there was “Journey Back To Christmas.”

I can ignore the really lame time travel story. I’ve been reading science fiction for well over fifty years. Sometimes time travel is done really well, sometimes it’s an excuse to take a really boring story and try to make it different, and everything in between. No matter, time travel? Meh.

No, it’s the incredibly bad depiction of a comet, a key plot point, that had me ready to throw things at the screen.

Folks, you don’t have to be an astronomer to know that comets don’t streak across the sky like fireworks for two minutes and then vanish. People don’t stand out in the village square at just the right moment and “there it is!” so cue the oohs, the aahs, the awe, the magic and there it goes!

Comets are typically seen months, if not years before they’re at their brightest. Look back and see how many months I tried to get decent pictures of Comet Lovejoy. They start out dim, way out in the far reaches of the solar system, gradually brighten as they get closer to the sun and start to boil off gasses, then dim again as they move back out into the depths of the solar system or interstellar space, frozen snowballs.

If they happen to get close enough to Earth at just the right time, which can happen a couple of times a century, a comet can be big, bright, and close to Earth. It will be news. It will be front page news for about two months beforehand and for months and months afterward.

These guys stumbled across a reference to it in an old diary or newspaper…

So, to recap:

  • Huge
  • Bright
  • Flashes across sky in a handful of minutes
  • Has a tail that stretches from horizon to horizon
  • They’re the only ones who know about it
  • They only know about it because they got lucky
  • One minute it’s not there, the next it is, then it’s gone again

What utter bullshit!

Friends, if a comet comes by that catches us that off-guard, it’s only doing so because it’s doing 0.9c, traveling just in front of its light wave. Let me tell you, if something that big is coming that close to Earth at 0.9c, it had better have Bruce Willis sitting on it with a nuke (or Robert Duvall – a better movie by far) or our ass is grass.

But if it’s passing by at 0.9c, it’s going from horizon to horizon in well under a second. There’s no way it has a tail – it never lingered near the sun close enough to start melting. And there’s most certainly no way that it’s periodic and coming back in 71 years. That sucker’s going to be fifty light-years past Alpha Centauri and outbound in 71 years.

Sappy story? No worries.

Stupid plot? Okay.

Half-drawn caricatures for characters? As expected.

Actors we recognize who really, really should be getting better roles? Hey, it’s a paycheck.

Time travel? It’s different for a Hallmark Christmas movie, but hey, isn’t “A Christmas Carol” sort of a time travel Christmas story as well?

But have a huge, key, major plot point revolve around getting 3rd grade astronomy so very, very wrong that there are ten-year olds watching and yelling, “What the hell is wrong with these freakin’ idiots??!!”

That’s when they crossed a line.

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Filed under Astronomy, Death Of Common Sense, Entertainment, Movies

Poor, Poor Apple Computers

And by “poor” I mean that they ONLY made $50.56 BILLION dollars in the first quarter of the year. To be clear, we’re not talking “millions” and we’re not not talking an entire year. That’s not a typo.

$50.56 billion dollars in revenue in three months.

Yet it’s looked upon as a disaster because the pundits and analysts on Wall Street were expecting $51.97 billion.

You can’t even comprehend those kinds of numbers. It’s Monopoly money.

So I want all of you, every single one, to get out there tomorrow and buy a new iPhone or a new iPad. Maybe a new MacBook Air. Or better yet, one of each!

Go buy them on a credit card with 24% interest. That will make those guys (and it’s always guys) on Wall Street happy again, and we all know how important that is. If they can’t buy a second or third tropical island or small third-world country, how will they keep up with the Koch Brothers?

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Our Duty As Citizens

Yesterday I was agitated and pissed off with the state of what passes for news coverage these days, as well as the collective train wreck in an asylum that is our current political circus. I was frustrated, discouraged, having a crisis of faith.

I still am, but then I read this:

Stonekettle Station – Two Wolves

If you’ve read it also, continue on. If not, go read it now. It’s long-ish but worth every second.

Seriously. This means you. I’ll wait right here for you to get back.

Okay?

I have nothing but admiration for Jim Wright. The man has a wonderful way with words, he puts up with no bullshit, and he has the background and experience to back up what he says when he shuts down the dimwitted, clueless, and often only semi-literate trolls who seem to infect every corner of the internet these days.

There is no “but…” to follow that. I want to thank Mr. Wright for writing and posting this, not just because I needed to read it and be reminded of what he says, but because I really needed it at this particular time.

Last night I wondered if we shouldn’t just look the other way, let ignorance be bliss, and hope that the good guys won. Tonight I have been reminded that it doesn’t work like that.

I also absolutely loved Tomorrowland. Its deeper message wasn’t lost on me and while it was fun on a surface level, there were plenty of parts that I found to be quite moving and powerful. Mr. Wright absolutely nailed the reason why it hit me that way.

Of all of the great lines in the Stonekettle Station piece, the one that hit me the most in re-reading it was, “…it is our duty as citizens to be optimists.” I hadn’t looked at it that way, but he’s absolutely right. That’s my big takeaway.

So go buy a Tesla and get tickets to Mars. If you can’t do that, get solar panels or a windmill. If you can’t do that, at least go buy a DVD of Tomorrowland and watch it, both for fun and maybe for a little bit of badly needed inspiration. Whatever you do, go vote, and demand leaders who are optimists and actual leaders, not hucksters who are using fear and hatred to find a lowest common denominator.

Most of all, don’t ever forget that the real Tomorrowland is actually out there waiting for us to build it. Do your best to be a good citizen, do your duty, and be optimistic. I’ll do my damnedest to do the same.

The old line says, “The meek will inherit the Earth – the rest of us will go to the stars!” Maybe it won’t be meekness that keeps them here, but fear, anger, hatred, and ignorance. Whatever it is, we can’t leave them behind if we don’t go.

I’ll meet you in Low Earth Orbit. Or at Clavius. Or the Valles Marineris overlook resort.

 

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Forget The Comments – Don’t Read The News!

Certain prominent factors in my far distant past have conspired over the years to turn me into something of a news junkie. In the old days (i.e., pre-Internet) I needed my daily newspaper and a whole collection of weekly and monthly magazines.

In the current era, I can go hours and hours and hours without checking the headlines. Really, I can! Any time I want!

That’s turning into a curse instead of the blessing I thought that it once was.

Occasionally, like tonight, desperate for some inspiration at 23:00+, I will go read the headlines on news.google.com or the LA Times. More and more that’s becoming detrimental to my health.

I really have tried to remain calm and not go off on too many political rants on this site. I like to keep it reasonably sane and lighthearted where possible. Thus, aside from the occasional snarky comments, often aimed at either side of the aisle, I’ve kept my peace.

But even reading the headlines these days can raise my blood pressure, raise my bile, threaten to re-raise my dinner, and generally put me right off of my fresh fried lobster. I start composing a screed in my head filled with incredulity that certain people are allowed to walk the streets without a keeper, let alone be considered “leaders.” I want to rant and scream logic and scientific facts at morons with a big social media following who are functionally illiterate in any scientific field whatsoever, but insist that they’re experts in climate change, disease prevention, or whatever other batshit crazy cult bait they’re pushing today.

I want to weep for our future.

I fear that if I (and everyone else who’s as fed up as I am) just stop paying attention to the headlines that we’ll wake up one of these days and find that the inmates have not only taken over the asylum, but they’ll be jailing or killing anyone with an IQ larger than their shoe size. But if I do keep having this ignorance, stupidity, and hatred shoved down my throat there may not be enough bleach in the world to ever cleanse my eyes after being exposed to it.

I don’t have a solution. I just know that I’m getting pretty sick of having the clowns run the circus.

If someone wants me to believe in a kind, intelligent, benevolent, and beneficent god watching over us all, they could start with a whole slew of ignorant buffoons coming down with convulsions or festering boils on live television. Or some grim, painful, and 100% fatal disease. Or they could get hit by lightning – that’s always been popular with vengeful gods.

Let’s see something at least! Some sort of sign.

Otherwise, I think we might be totally screwed.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss. We’ve known since about five minutes after the Internet was born that you’re nuts to read the comments – it’s where all of the wingnuts and whack jobs hang out. It might soon be time to stop reading the news, for the exact same reasons.

(See, I did find inspiration for tonight by reading the headlines!)

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