musings…over *cool* random ish

POTUS gives SOTUA…OMG!

Posted in LOL, News by msdisdain on January 28, 2010

Now, I figured that if I were to blog THAT much about the Apple iPad (giggle), I ought to cross party lines from technology to politics and make a short mention.  I was satisfied with the President’s State of The Union address.  What else were you expecting?  He covered the talking points I had hoped for (jobs, economy, justification of the bailout, need for banks to be regulated to pay the American citizens back, education, health care, American innovation, the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, the budget deficit and the lack of governmental trust) played each party against one another with each talking point to encourage bipartisan agreement, support and concessions (speaking on national security and war back to back civil rights) stayed away from the ones that were too much of a hot-button item (Afghanistan) and is going to do what so many political analysts predicted he would have to do shortly after being elected:  firmly plant himself in the middle ground between partisan extremes to push for necessary reforms that, as he said, can’t wait.

No really, that wasn’t rhetoric, some of these domestic reforms can’t wait.  I’m sure there were a range of disappointments on either side of party lines, and if you feel that way, may I encourage you to read this New York Times op-ed entitled The God That Fails by David Brooks to give you a clearer picture of the need for and reality of individual accountability.  His job last night was to restore faith and reinvigorate hopes and considering the stinkhole he both inherited and had trouble tackling, I think he did fine.  I also really appreciate that Mr. Obama took responsibility for the shortfalls of healthcare reform instead of the normal pass the buck or finger pointing rituals that blanket Congress.  His most notable quotes to me included, “The best anti-poverty tool is a world-class education” alongside his point about his mission to change the dialogue of politics.  “Saying ‘no’ to everything is not leadership.”  “Unity in diversity,” how novel.  Really.

What was entertaining (and strange) to me was watching everyone stand up and sit down just to get an idea of the range of support he either has or hasn’t.  It’s like watching a football game  it’s loud applause or complete cold-stare silence instead of a pass interception and fumbles.  This furthers my suspicions that politics is, indeed, a game.  In light of that, thank you Mr. President, that was a pep talk the countery needed regardless of your side of the aisle.  Both parties needed it, because of all of the, for lack of a better word, bullshit.  I appreciate the irony, the sarcasm and the well-crafted rhetoric.

Check out this awesome article on the breakdown of the State of The Union:
Analyzing the Address from the New York Times.

Also, the day after the State of the Union, Mr. Obama attended the House Republican Retreat.  If you thought the State of the Union wasn’t at all aggressive enough, have at the transcript from this speech: Obama At House Republican Retreat In Baltimore: FULL VIDEO, TEXT

SOTU Funnies

Equally enterntaining were some the commentary from viewers.  There were a couple of SOTU drinking games circling about like HuffPost Comedy’s State Of The Union Drinking Game 2010 and the following are some anonymous facebook updates, which cracked me up:

Update: “claping like a seal, two sips.”
Response1: “adjusting tie like a seal, three sips”
Response2:  “janet napolitano claps like a cymbal-banging monkey”
Response3: “Where’s the McCain cam?
Response4: “tee hee”
Respoinse5: “peter orszag claps like some thing that is just learning how to clap for the first time in that thing’s species”
Response6: “did one of the supreme court justices have a hissy fit?”

Even funnier:

Caption: ” the administration is tired of partisan politics. so, so tired.  (or is this just janet napolitano being pleasured by rahm emanuel (who is being simultaneously pleasured by valerie jarrett)? we report, you decide.”

And since Obama did point out that he inherited much of the problems (wars, deficit, general crap all around) let us reflect on a LOL:

The Response

And then of course, we have the Republican response, given by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell from Richmond, Virginia.  Tell me what is wrong with this picture (and I’ve received a multitude of comments already):

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Steph’s Law: Politics = LOL

Posted in Uncategorized by msdisdain on October 28, 2009

The image below, taken from Schwarzenegger Gives California Legislature A Hidden Finger basically points out an obvious political LOL and just made my day! Here’s to another reason why politics should make you laugh. Coincidence? No way, man! I’d do the same thing if I were a little kid.

RIP Ben Ali, Founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl

Posted in Eats, News by msdisdain on October 8, 2009

Leave news to be a trending topic on Twitter, but upon finding out that Ben Ali, founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl in DC, passed away of natural causes today at age 82, I just had to ask for a moment of silence and perhaps an ode to the half smoke.

Thank you for making Ben’s Chili Bowls one of the best places I have ever eaten. The food is epic (the half smoke = win), the hip hop is always thick, and the guys behind the line are some of the chillest illest and kindest folk around. RIP Ben Ali!

This does not, however, mean I will discontinue eating there. Food’s dank son!


View http://www.benschilibowl.com for a personal statement from the family.

Below, news as reported by AP:
Ben Ali, founder of DC’s Ben’s Chili Bowl, dies

On the Net:

* Ben’s Chili Bowl: http://www.benschilibowl.com/

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In Defense of the Absurd

Posted in hmmm, News by msdisdain on October 6, 2009

An awesome article from the New York Times published 10/5/09 and can be found at this link:

How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect

Mind

How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect

By BENEDICT CAREY
Published: October 5, 2009

In addition to assorted bad breaks and pleasant surprises, opportunities and insults, life serves up the occasional pink unicorn. The three-dollar bill; the nun with a beard; the sentence, to borrow from the Lewis Carroll poem, that gyres and gimbles in the wabe.

An experience, in short, that violates all logic and expectation. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote that such anomalies produced a profound “sensation of the absurd,” and he wasn’t the only one who took them seriously. Freud, in an essay called “The Uncanny,” traced the sensation to a fear of death, of castration or of “something that ought to have remained hidden but has come to light.”

At best, the feeling is disorienting. At worst, it’s creepy.

Now a study suggests that, paradoxically, this same sensation may prime the brain to sense patterns it would otherwise miss — in mathematical equations, in language, in the world at large.

“We’re so motivated to get rid of that feeling that we look for meaning and coherence elsewhere,” said Travis Proulx, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and lead author of the paper appearing in the journal Psychological Science. “We channel the feeling into some other project, and it appears to improve some kinds of learning.”

Researchers have long known that people cling to their personal biases more tightly when feeling threatened. After thinking about their own inevitable death, they become more patriotic, more religious and less tolerant of outsiders, studies find. When insulted, they profess more loyalty to friends — and when told they’ve done poorly on a trivia test, they even identify more strongly with their school’s winning teams.

In a series of new papers, Dr. Proulx and Steven J. Heine, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, argue that these findings are variations on the same process: maintaining meaning, or coherence. The brain evolved to predict, and it does so by identifying patterns.

When those patterns break down — as when a hiker stumbles across an easy chair sitting deep in the woods, as if dropped from the sky — the brain gropes for something, anything that makes sense. It may retreat to a familiar ritual, like checking equipment. But it may also turn its attention outward, the researchers argue, and notice, say, a pattern in animal tracks that was previously hidden. The urge to find a coherent pattern makes it more likely that the brain will find one.

“There’s more research to be done on the theory,” said Michael Inzlicht, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, because it may be that nervousness, not a search for meaning, leads to heightened vigilance. But he added that the new theory was “plausible, and it certainly affirms my own meaning system; I think they’re onto something.”

In the most recent paper, published last month, Dr. Proulx and Dr. Heine described having 20 college students read an absurd short story based on “The Country Doctor,” by Franz Kafka. The doctor of the title has to make a house call on a boy with a terrible toothache. He makes the journey and finds that the boy has no teeth at all. The horses who have pulled his carriage begin to act up; the boy’s family becomes annoyed; then the doctor discovers the boy has teeth after all. And so on. The story is urgent, vivid and nonsensical — Kafkaesque.

After the story, the students studied a series of 45 strings of 6 to 9 letters, like “X, M, X, R, T, V.” They later took a test on the letter strings, choosing those they thought they had seen before from a list of 60 such strings. In fact the letters were related, in a very subtle way, with some more likely to appear before or after others.

The test is a standard measure of what researchers call implicit learning: knowledge gained without awareness. The students had no idea what patterns their brain was sensing or how well they were performing.

But perform they did. They chose about 30 percent more of the letter strings, and were almost twice as accurate in their choices, than a comparison group of 20 students who had read a different short story, a coherent one.

“The fact that the group who read the absurd story identified more letter strings suggests that they were more motivated to look for patterns than the others,” Dr. Heine said. “And the fact that they were more accurate means, we think, that they’re forming new patterns they wouldn’t be able to form otherwise.”

Brain-imaging studies of people evaluating anomalies, or working out unsettling dilemmas, show that activity in an area called the anterior cingulate cortex spikes significantly. The more activation is recorded, the greater the motivation or ability to seek and correct errors in the real world, a recent study suggests. “The idea that we may be able to increase that motivation,” said Dr. Inzlicht, a co-author, “is very much worth investigating.”

Researchers familiar with the new work say it would be premature to incorporate film shorts by David Lynch, say, or compositions by John Cage into school curriculums. For one thing, no one knows whether exposure to the absurd can help people with explicit learning, like memorizing French. For another, studies have found that people in the grip of the uncanny tend to see patterns where none exist — becoming more prone to conspiracy theories, for example. The urge for order satisfies itself, it seems, regardless of the quality of the evidence.

Still, the new research supports what many experimental artists, habitual travelers and other novel seekers have always insisted: at least some of the time, disorientation begets creative thinking.

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