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Traditional vs. mRNA vaccine Tue, Jan 11, 2022
I'm not an expert so I'm quite possibly wrong about this, but one way to think about the difference between a traditional (viral vector) vaccine and an mRNA vaccine is this:  A traditional vaccine is like if you took a partially-eaten cookie to a bakery and asked them to make you a similar cookie.  An mRNA vaccine is like if you went to a bakery and asked them to make you a cookie with the recipe you just handed them. #science

Monday Night Mannings Tue, Jan 11, 2022
Peyton and Eli Manning have been hosting a show on ESPN2 during the broadcast of Monday Night Football on ESPN.  It it, these two future fall-of-fame quarterbacks casually chat about the game while making brotherly fun of each other, and they invite a series of guests to chat and joke with them.  All of it is done remotely, which adds some technical difficulties and audio hiccups.  It's not traditional sports coverage, with play-by-play and in-depth analysis.  It's more like watching a game with a friend you haven't seen in a few weeks.  You watch the game here and there, but it's not really the focal point. 

Here's my take:  This is the best sports show in the modern era.  This is must-see TV.  It's made even better by its haphazard schedule, which wasn't weekly and seemed to follow no pattern at all.  You have to look for it, or better yet, stumble upon it.  The guests are varied (athlete, coach, broadcaster, comedian, musician), and the remote nature of it means we're watching people in their homes, on their couches, wearing around-the-house clothes.  It's very intimate, but at the same time completely comfortable.  One guest did fake broadcaster commentary (he was a real broadcaster); another guest dropped an f-bomb.  I'm not sure what the censors thought of that, but I think it added to the casual nature of it all.  They interview current players and show old footage of their bloopers.  They bring up unflattering pictures of their guests as kids.  The comedians and musicians they interview are just there for fun; they're not promoting anything.  It's a breath of ridiculously fresh air. 

Monday Night Football, and really any primetime sporting event, is usually pretty boring.  It's an arbitrary matchup, it's late at night, it's slow-paced and full of commercials.  The ManningCast is the perfect antidote to that.  It's funny, it's simple, and it all happens directly alongside the traditional primetime broadcast.  Just brilliant. #sports

Wrong clocks are worse than broken Wed, Jan 05, 2022
I was visiting someplace that had an analog clock on the wall, and it was working fine but it was set to the wrong time (which I figured out later).  A broken clock is one thing -- you notice the hands aren't moving, the time hasn't changed since the last time you looked at it (which you keep checking because you're a dumbass).  But a clock set to the wrong time?  It's actively bad.  It's not just "not working".  It's giving you wrong information.  It seems like it's right because it's giving you an actual real time.  But that time is a lie, and now you're in a strange place with no idea what time it is, and you're an idiot for believing that lying clock.

That's a good question Mon, Jan 03, 2022
I took training at work a few years ago that involved standing up in front of the class and presenting some material while being questioned and sort of hassled in an attempt to prepare the student to operate in that sort of environment professionally.  Needless to say, I hated it, I've never encountered anything even remotely close to that in my professional life, and if I did, I'd quit on the spot.  Anyway. 

One of the things the teacher criticized me for was for saying, "That's a good question," when he asked questions during my presentation.  His logic was that high-ranking people don't need to be complimented on the quality of their question.  Whatever, bro. 

I realized I say "that's a good question" a lot when I'm presenting something, typically in a work setting.  My primary goal is to communicate, and that involves both the sender and the receiver.  I'm typically not standing up and speaking in front of a group of people for fun, so if my audience doesn't understand what I'm saying, that's a failure.  Since I usually don't know the background or experience level of each person in the audience, I do a mix of dumbing it down and avoiding jargon.  If somebody asks me a question, it usually helps me clarify something, or add more detail to something I might've glossed over, or even include something that I neglected to mention earlier.  In any of these cases, my audience is gaining a better understanding of what I'm saying, which is the whole point.  When I say it's a good question, I mean it. 

So if you're the kind of person who thinks "that's a good question" is somehow patronizing or offensive, you can feel free to shove it directly in your ass.

No easy home projects Thu, Dec 23, 2021
I'm a homeowner, and I occasionally have to attempt to fix things.  I'll look up a tutorial or watch a video about how to do what I'm trying to do, and it's always some guy wearing gloves (always), using his pristine and extensive tool collection to calmly work in a well-lit, comfortable environment where he has exactly the right tool for every single task, and everything works on the first try.  Everything takes 5-10 minutes, there's no blood involved, and no one cries. 

This has never once been my experience. 
  • I own close to a million tools, and I'm always missing the exact right one.  I just had to buy extra-long Torx bits from the hardware store last weekend, because of course I did.
  • I'm always hunched over a project, or wedged beneath it.  There's literally no other way to replace a bathroom faucet unless you remove the floor.
  • My lights are never bright enough, or they never shine far enough, or my big dumb head produces too big of a shadow.
  • My gloves rip the second they come in contact with anything metal, plastic, or wood.
  • My hands and/or body are always covered in blood.  I just received a puncture wound IN THE TOP OF MY HEAD from a fucking nail in the fucking roof of the fucking attic.
  • Every screw is stuck with rust, every removable thing is jammed or broken, and everything eventually requires me to destroy it to proceed.
  • Every piece, part, and product I deal with is non-standard, e.g. extra-long supply lines, extra-wide drain attachments, extra-high voltage wires, etc.
The standard instructional video starts with "Step 1 - remove the old stuff by simply unscrewing it", and that takes me an entire weekend and seven trips to the hardware store before I finally give up and just Dremel it to death. #lifestyle

Penn State chant Wed, Dec 22, 2021
Penn State University has this chant they do, notably at football games, where half the crowd shouts "we are" and the other half shouts "Penn State".  It's cute; it's wholesome; ESPN did a special on it

Here's the thing:  It's dumb.  Fans do it during the game, at mostly inappropriate times.  The offense is on the field, or the defense is on the field, and the fans are doing this dumb chant that has literally nothing to do with what's happening in the game they're supposedly cheering on.  Oh, and the chant ends with "thank you" and "you're welcome" which makes my skin crawl. 

Plenty of colleges have dumb chants.  Auburn has "War Eagle".  Oklahoma has "Boomer Sooner".  These are meaningless dumb things fans say during games to sort of cheer on their team.  But at least most cheers are quick and simple and happen at the right time:  Before kickoff, or after a touchdown, or coming back from commercial break.  At Penn State, it's 2nd down and 17 after their quarterback got sacked, down by 21 points in the third quarter against a conference rival, and the fans do this dumb chant to perfectly signal how much they're not paying attention. #sports

Economics vs. knowledge Thu, Dec 16, 2021
America has a student loan problem.  The blame is some sort of combination of the following: 
  • students borrowing too much
  • colleges offering worthless majors
  • lenders preying on naive borrowers
  • loans backed by the government
  • colleges charging too much
But I think an even bigger issue is that higher education has become an issue of economics instead of knowledge.  We value degrees that can lead to high-paying jobs, and by association we de-value degrees that have no obvious or prosperous career path.  We tend to look down on things like art history or women's studies because there are few to no jobs in those fields.  And I think that's an issue. 

I think there's value in knowledge.  It's not always obvious right away, and it might not be worth a lot of money.  But I think it's good for a society to know things, and to build up a collective base of knowledge, either because it might benefit someone someday, or just for the sake of being knowledgeable.  And it's not just to win at bar trivia night, or because you might be on Jeopardy.  Knowledge can be something that's important in ways that you can't predict.  It doesn't necessarily create insight, or new ideas, or make lots of money.  But it can, and it's important in its own right.

Rocket brain Wed, Dec 15, 2021
A study found that rocket scientists and brain surgeons aren't smarter than the general public.  I was actually just thinking about this recently.  Those disciplines aren't some sort of obscure, hidden knowledge obtained through a secretive quest.  It's just people who had some sort of baseline ability and interest in a topic, then studied and worked hard for a while.  Not to understate their accomplishments or overstate my abilities, but I could do that.  Most people could.  There's a huge caveat that it depends where you live and how your local schools are and all sorts of things.  But in general, most people can do most things. 

I think it's weird that rocket science and brain surgery are put on a pedestal, when really any specialized discipline is essentially equally difficult and impressive.  Electricians regularly work with an invisible death force, yet the average person has no idea how it works much less how to wire an electrical outlet.  Modern life would essentially stop if electricians stopped showing up to work.  Similarly, I hired a guy to redo some drywall in my house, not because I'm unable, but because I'm not good at it.  The work he produced nearly brought tears to my eyes because it was so good.  In other words, trust experts

I think rocket science and brain surgery get singled out at least partly because those subjects are inherently more risky.  Or more specifically, the likelihood of an incident is higher, and the consequences are quite bad.  Getting a rocket to lift off and fly straight is difficult, and if it fails it causes a big boom with lots of fire (high likelihood, high consequence).  This happens frequently enough that it's a legitimate concern for engineers and safety people.  A similar discipline like structural engineering is just as difficult, and the consequences of a bridge or building falling down are just as bad, but the likelihood is much lower (low likelihood, high consequence).  It's the same for brain surgery, but in the reverse order.  If a dentist screws up a tooth surgery, they can just try again next time (low likelihood, low consequence).  If a surgeon screws up a brain surgery, that patient is permanently altered (low likelihood, high consequence). 

[This has been your introduction to Risk Assessment.]

Finally, rocket science doesn't really exist.  Science is the application of the scientific method to further knowledge about a subject.  Not to put too fine of a point on it, but we pretty much know everything we're gonna know about rockets (dangerous claim to make, but I did it).  The science is essentially settled (combine some chemicals or ignite them to produce an energetic reaction).  What we're really talking about when we say "rocket science" is "rocket engineering", i.e. how do I apply this scientific knowledge to shoot a person at another planet?  But "rocket engineering" just doesn't have the same ring. #science

Abortion tyranny Thu, Dec 02, 2021
Former Vice President Mike Pence said of abortion rights, "Americans are ready for an end to the judicial tyranny of Roe v Wade."  I'm not sure he understands what the word tyranny means.  Merriam-Webster says tyranny is "cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others."  Roe v Wade doesn't force people to get abortions.  You can easily and rightfully go your entire life without getting an abortion.  Being able to get a safe, legal abortion is not tyranny; forcing a person against their will to carry a pregnancy to term ... literally is. #politics

Politics age limit Thu, Nov 18, 2021
I 100% think there should be a maximum age limit of, say 70 or 75, for all representative political offices, Supreme Court appointments, and whatnot, regardless of political party and regardless of success rate or popularity.  And NOT because old people are crazy or too old to think properly, but simply because old people are completely unrepresentative of the population at large, both in terms of culture and interests, but also in terms of population statistics.  There are more toddlers in America than there are people over 75 years old.  Octogenarians should not be deciding how to spend tax dollars or creating new laws. #politics

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