Friday, February 24, 2006

 

Fitness Challenge Conclusion

We concluded the 12-week fitness challenge this evening. Interestingly enough, I managed to gain weight but yet still drop body fat percentage since the previous update. I ended up at about 173 lbs - a total gain of about a pound - and dropped my body fat down to 17.8%. That represents a loss of approximately 20 lbs of fat, while gaining 21 lbs of lean body mass. I have to say that I'm satisfied with that progress, especially considering the amount of travel that I did during the last three months.

 

When We Lose William F. Buckley...

So, if the founder of National Review says that the Iraq war is lost, does that mark a significant event?

Mr. Bush has a very difficult internal problem here because to make the kind of concession that is strategically appropriate requires a mitigation of policies he has several times affirmed in high-flown pronouncements. His challenge is to persuade himself that he can submit to a historical reality without forswearing basic commitments in foreign policy.

He will certainly face the current development as military leaders are expected to do: They are called upon to acknowledge a tactical setback, but to insist on the survival of strategic policies.

Yes, but within their own counsels, different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat.

Holy shit. Oh, yea, and the Fox News guys are asking if an "all-out civil war" could be "a good thing." Nice. This must be compensation for O'Reilly's Murtha moment, in which we learn that the difference between lefist cowardly defeatism and a pragmatic patriotic call for withdrawl from the right is, erm, about three months.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

 

Household Net Worth Growth Slows

Surprise, surprise - this country's addiction to debt is starting to show its nasty side effects:

Americans' net worth grew between 2001 and 2004, but not nearly as strongly as it did between 1998 and 2001, according to the Federal Reserve's triennial Survey of Consumer Finances released Thursday.

The big reason: while household assets increased, thanks largely to increased home ownership and higher housing prices, debts – especially home debt -- rose considerably more.

I think there are a few key stats in here. First, median income grew only 1.6% when adjusted for inflation, while median wages actually fell. That's not good. Mean net worth grew more than median net worth; obviously, this points towards a widening of the wealth gap.

Probably the worst stat in here is that the percentage of families who are investing in the stock market or mutual funds actually fell by 3.3%, to 48.6%. We're supposedly living in an "ownership society" (and our tax code has been adjusted to reflect that desire), but this trend would seem to indicate otherwise.

I suspect that these numbers will all continue to move in undesirable directions.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

 

Death Of Neoconservatism

Oh, that's not my declaration - it's the opinion of Francis Fukuyama:

"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the United States from radical Islamism," he argues.

"Although the new and ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction did indeed present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem more generally."

Mr Fukuyama, one of the US's most influential public intellectuals, concludes that "it seems very unlikely that history will judge either the intervention [in Iraq] itself or the ideas animating it kindly".

Going further, he says the movements' advocates are Leninists who "believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practised by the United States".

Well then, OK. If this actually means anything in the short term, I'd be surprised, as administration insiders who offer criticism has not yet been effective at all in actually effecting changes.

Now, on the other hand, the impending social breakdown in Iraq might actually force some people to pay attention to what's going on.

 

DIY Biowar... Made Easy!

I'm really starting to get on this Army Of Davids bandwagon, as I'm seeing more signs every day that we're poised to use technology to make some sort of quantum leap into individualism. The whole concept of "fab labs" is closer than I had previously realized, as rapid prototyping machines and CNC equipment isn't far away from being as affordable as a KitchenAid mixer (or, simply hit emachineshop.com and save yourself the mess). Countertop plastic-injection machines probably aren't far off, and there's a few injection-molding proto shops that are popping up and promising 48-hour turnarounds for simple parts. Oberon and I spent some time last weekend discussing electronics and just how much power that a moderately-educated electrical engineer (or hobbyist) has available at his or her fingertips. Then of course there's the "new media", which I think has not yet really flexed its muscles.

But of course this has a downside; frankly, I had no idea that mail-order and DIY DNA sequencing was so easy:

Eventually, we fumble our way to a plastic dish full of translucent goop. If I’d been working on smallpox—and really committed to my cause—this would have been the part where I’d inject a lab animal with the stuff to see if it got sick. Then I’d give myself a dose and head off on a days-long, multi-airport, transnational suicide run. But it was just yeast. Set on top of a black light, it glowed an eerie bright blue, like a Jimi Hendrix poster. My creation ... lived.

[SNIP]

DNA synthesis is following a kind of accelerated Moore’s law—the faster and easier it gets, the faster and easier it gets. Last year, a group of researchers synthesized DNA strands of more than 300,000 base pairs—longer than the smallpox genome—using a method that eliminates most of the shake-and-bake lab steps I’d spent weeks learning.

Now, let's keep in mind the timeframe revealed in that last sentence - weeks, not months, not years. And this is for someone who had no lab training.

 

Jack Black's Latest Project

OK, let me get this straight - Jack Black will play the role of a Mexican priest who wrestles on the side to raise money for an orphanage. Yea, I'll show up and pay $7 to see that.

Monday, February 20, 2006

 

If 50 Cent Was Crossed With Queen...

...well, there's no need to ponder that question too much further, as someone's already done it:

Q-Unit

All I can say is that this is fuckin' brilliant. "We Will Rock You In Da Club" is probably my favorite so far.

 

Rollins Vs. The Australian Government

Nice:

I just got a letter from a nice woman who told me the man I sat next to on the flight from Auckland to Goldcoast Australia reported me to the Australian Government because of the book I was reading.

[Correspondence between Rollins and Australia goes here]

I really don’t take kindly to that kind of shit. I like it though. Love it. Confrontation. Tension. Adversarial relationships. More please. It’s the only time it gets real.

I love this guy.

 

Policing Your Own

I'm sure that this will get Dennis thrown off the reservation:

My concern is, primarily, with my camp. With my tribe. I'm happy to let Marc Cooper act like a fool because nobody can pin his politics or his opinions on me or mine. He’s shitting in his own blighted house. That isn’t the case with morons like Charles Johnson or, for that matter, even bigger morons like Ann Coulter. They’re taking dumps where I live, which means either I live with the shit or I clean it up. I choose the latter. It is just that simple. The argument that I should leave it be because Marc Cooper does the same is the argument of a five year old child: “But he did it, too!” Sorry, fellow VRWC minions, but if we’re supposed to be the adults in the room, then cleaning up after ourselves goes with the territory.

Get over it.

[SNIP]

So... when I see people yucking it up over at Little Green Footballs over the deaths of 300+ religious pilgrims – innocent human beings whose crime was, evidently, that they weren’t Christians and just like us... and whose deaths are therefore something to gloat over – and Charles Johnson doesn’t think it appropriate or necessary to remove those comments and ban those people from his site, then I’ve got one mother of a problem on my hands. That’s because Charles Johnson styles himself as a ‘former Liberal’, which means he thinks of himself as being part of my political party and my political faith... he wants to live in my house.

[SNIP]

Does anyone want to argue that a collective lack of knowledge of, and a persistent misunderstanding of, of the religion, culture, politics and history of the Middle East didn’t play a huge part in facilitating the success of al-Qaeda on September 11? And if our ignorance of the peoples, religion, history and politics played into the hands of Osama bin Laden and his followers, just how do the actions of “thought leading, tipping point” bloggers like Charles Johnson and columnists like Ann Coulter help to rectify that situation? How does the mocking of the faith of over a billion souls serve our interests in winning the War on Terror? How does the dehumanization of those same billion souls make us stronger - either materially or morally - in the fight against al Qaeda?

Answer? They Don't.

They perpetuate the precise weaknesses we must work to eliminate if we are to win either the War on Terror or the Iraq War. They perpetuate the same sly arrogance that we can and will prevail without effort because we are what we are and they are the ‘Other’; the inferior.


I think that Dennis makes two excellent points here. The first is one of those "meta" sort of things - from a political standpoint, criticizing one's own party and the lunatics within is time better spent that throwing barbs at the other party.

The second - and much more important, in my opinion - is that the mindset favored by many in the War on Terror is fundamentally fucked-up. There's a big difference between pointing out flaws of "the other side" while also acknowledging one's own, and simply outright mocking your adversary. I mean, it's not like Coulter or Johnson are dumb, but I'm not sure if there's ever been a better opportunity to use the word "ignorant".

Anyways, read all of Dennis' piece - if I could explain his point better than he, I would have written it in the first place.

Monday, February 13, 2006

 

Cheney's Inability To Handle His Gun

I'd like to note that the following is stated with the least amount of partisanship possible - Dick Cheney should be going to jail for reckless endangerment for the criminally negligent act of discharging his firearm into another human being. The fucking idiot just set back a whole lot of work done by gun advocacy and pro-hunting groups. And he did it while on a private "ranch" hunt, too. Fucking hack.

For anyone that disagrees with this, I'd only ask that they consider what they'd say had John Kerry shot someone during his photo-op hunting trips in the fall of '04.

 

Flame War Supreme

Man, there's not just one but two lovely flame war threads over at John Cole's place right now.

I can definitely say that I enjoyed a rousing argument much more before the Autoblog gig brought with it the duties of comment moderation. Nowadays, I'm far more likely to just blow off an idiot than I am to actually engage someone in a proper torching. Props to John and Tim for getting down-and-dirty in the comments section over at Balloon Juice.

 

Gasoline for breakfast, napalm for lunch...

...No need, no need to ever burn out. I'm scorching and torching no time for front porching.

And a big round of applause goes out to Henry Rollins for providing the intro to this post.

Before hitting the gym tonight, I decided to try out this GNC carb-heavy drink mix. Basically, it's 50 grams (200 calories) of carbs that are supposed to offer a variety of burn rates, but the big deal is that it has 90 mg of caffeine. There's basically your bottom line on what the stuff contributes to a workout.

And man, what a contribution it makes. I did 35 minutes on the exercise bike at 80% maximum heart rate (160 BPM), and then hit the weights. I'm shaking things up a bit, eliminating leg press and leg extension in favor of more "realistic" exercises such as lunges and deadlifts.

I started my lifting tonight with squats, doing 8 reps at 45 lbs, 8 at 95, 8 at 135, 6 at 185, 5 at 205, and 4 at 225. The last two sets are more than I've squated before, so I'm happy with the results of pushing myself a bit harder than before (previously, I'd hold back a bit on squats in favor of leaving something in the gas tank for max-effort leg presses).

Next, on to the lunges - something I haven't done in a long time. Here, I started with 8 reps (4 for each leg) with two 25 lb dumbells, then 8 with two 50 pounders and finally 6 with two 55 pounders. This left my quads as quivering piles of jelly. Mission accomplished, I'd dare say.

Finally, deadlifts - another lift I haven't done since, say, high school. Using a barbell, I did 8 at 45, 8 at 95, 6 at 135, and 3 at 155. My back has not yet forgiven me, but I think it's high time it gets a bit of a workout.

Then I went back for another hard 20 minutes on the bike, this time at 90% MHR (180 BPM).

My post-workout meal consisted of a heaping scoop of soy protein in milk, and half of a Subway cold-cut sub. I think there's probably one more snack left before bed, which will probably be the half-package of tuna in the fridge.

A fair guess says that I pay for this tomorrow, but due to some traveling this week I'll have to hit the gym in another 21 hours.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?