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I don't need large brains to have a good time.
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This post will be updated every time we go camping so we can remember the attributes, qualities, advantages, and disadvantages of each location. We've been camping three times this year. Each time we got a little better at it and were a little more prepared, and had to adapt to unexpected circumstances each time.

The first weekend, we went to the Buck Hill campsite in Wild River State Park. It's about a two-mile hike from the parking lot, and we were completely ill-prepared for that sort of a hike. We still had a pretty enjoyable time, despite the adverse conditions getting to and from the campsite. We went back there the second week with adequate equipment and expectations.

This week we stayed at a campsite at Afton State Park, which was a markedly different experience. So I felt like I should organize some of the details to help us remember where we've been and what it was like.

Camp SiteHikeProsConsAmenitiesWildlife observedGear notes
Wild River State Park "Buck Hill"2 Miles. Flat terrain, but mosquito nightmare.
  • Remote and isolated
  • Kayak accessible
  • River view / private "beach"
  • Mosquito nightmare hike
  • Hiking during bug season intolerable w/o bug suit
  • No place to hang hammock
  • Highway across river (motorcycles)
  • Campsite has no shade most of the day
Primitive latrine, no convenient potable water. Wood is forage-only, or needs to be transported 2 miles.Veery Thrush, Bald Eagles, Fireflies, Horned Owls, Heron
  • Toilet Paper
  • Water purification or means to transport water > 2 miles (e.g., kayak)
  • Bug suits
Afton State Park "22".75 Miles. Substantial hill.
  • Convenient camp toilets and water
  • Site had trees adequate for hammock use
  • Not far from other campers
Toilets stocked with TP and hand sanitizer and water within convenient daily walk. Cut your own firewood.Deer very close to tent, Red Headed Woodpecker, Snakes, Quail, Rabbit, Goldfinch
  • Saw
Myre Big Island State Park "3"1.5 Miles. One little hill.
  • Convenient camp toilets. Potable water is at least .5 miles away.
  • Site had trees adequate for hammock use
  • Lakeshore, kayak accessible.
  • Reasonably remote.
  • Water is a nontrivial hike.
Toilets stocked with TP and hand sanitizer and water 300 feet away. Firewood is supplied free (no scavenging). Canada Geese, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Rabbit
  • Water purification would be more convenient, otherwise plan to fill reservoir daily.

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UPDATE: The guy responded to me on Twitter. Several times, actually. He apparently has given money in support of gay marriage in the past, so my comments concerning his motivations may have been off the mark. I misjudged his neo-con ass.

But the concept still displays a fundamental misapprehension of the power of money to remedy psychic harms.

In other words, he's a neo-con who happens to support marriage equality.
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[EDIT: See update.]

I was pointed to this site by a college friend on Twitter. It purports to offer moral absolution for you if you eat at Chic-Fil-A by "offsetting" the contribution to anti-gay causes attributable to your purchase through the purchase of 'credits', i.e., donations to pro-gay causes.

There are two problems with this concept.

First, the chicken offset idea is very clever, but also morally deficient. I get that it is conceptually based on the model of the carbon-offset. Where you introduce a certain amount of carbon into the atmosphere, but also pay for an offsetting technology (a tree) that consumes that amount of carbon.

But you cannot simply 'offset' harm, especially in such an orthogonal way. This sort of reductionist thinking might make sense in a strictly mathematical and unnuanced utilitarian model—you just need to sum up the net happiness/utility and as long as it comes out to zero, you're good!—but real-world morality doesn't operate that way. It's not such a simple equation.

Would it be more clear cut for people if the chicken fast food place sent their money to "terrorists"? Could that be "offset"? Sure, profits from your purchase paid to blow some people up, but you contributed even more to the fund that gives their orphans books, so you're all square? Chic-Fil-A supports causes morally equivalent to terrorism. They give money to groups that demonize and criminalize homosexuality. Tasting their chicken is so important it warrants elaborate moral contortions?

I'm dumbfounded that people who claim to care about their friends' civil rights & dignity would go to such lengths to justify fast food brand loyalty. This isn't mere political disagreement, either. There's having a political position & there's supporting it with profits derived from commerce. Other people cook fast food chicken for god's sake.

Second, look at the chicken offset guy's bio & guess whether he genuinely supports the interests of gay Americans, or is just making a buck. He's a member of the federalist society and worked for the American Enterprise Institute. His home page has a fucking picture of himself on Fox News for fuck's sake.

Now that may come off as ad hominem, but note that he is sending on 90% after costs, meaning he's skimming 10% profit on moral equivocation over fast food chicken. For doing nothing but giving you a little balm for handing your money to people who want to stuff gay people back in the closet.

He is an opportunistic fuckwad. Nobody should do this.

[This entry is public; if you want to share it feel free.]

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What is an opinion? Don't bother to look it up, I'll tell you. It is a normative proposition about the world derived from an individual's beliefs about that same world, generally combined with that person's emotions or attitudes.

Every opinion is therefore founded upon propositions about the world that the opinion-haver takes to be true. And this where our popular discourse about opinions goes wrong.

It is often said that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and it is generally accepted that opinions themselves have no truth value. They are neither true nor false, except insofar as they accurately reflect the opinion-haver's individual attitudes or beliefs.

But this misses something essential, which is that opinions are not just attitudes, but normative conclusions derived in part from facts. If the opinion relies upon a false premise, you may not be able to say that the opinion is 'false' but its value as a normative proposition is radically diminished. Why should a person be 'entitled' to maintain an opinion based on fantasy? Should they not instead be expected to reevaluate their conclusions in light of the true facts?

As far as I'm concerned, opinions that are defective in this way are destructive. They obscurely convey false propositional content, yet they are often not just accepted but hailed as valuable "diverse perspectives" that are unassailable with reason because they are "matters of opinion." Hogwash. If something you believe is premised on something else you believe, which underlying belief is false, your conclusion, whether you call it opinion or not, carries with it an untrue implicit assertion of fact.

(see also)

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Two stories out recently, illustrating the folly of the popular animus toward lawyers. First, this story about a fan who was roughed up by a hockey goon (that's a term of art in the sport of hockey). Comments on the story were generally in the fan's favor, until he mentioned "getting legal representation," when they turned against him. People started coming out of the woodwork with homosexually-related epithets, and decrying our litigious society. "You weren't hurt; you don't need a lawyer!"

Then, this story in the WSJ basically blaming consumer defense attorneys for putting the mortgage industry on its head by revealing that these days it is constructed almost entirely of spit and lies. These lawyers are casting doubt an honorable fraudulent industry by standing up for deadbeats!

Both of these stories reflect the peril of a reflexive antipathy for lawyers. In both of these cases, the little guy should wave off competent legal advice, because our society is being ruined by lawyers and because we all get our just reward... someday. I suppose in the afterlife. But there is never any consideration to the fact that the other side of the coin—the corporate professional hockey industry in the first story, and the global corporate professional banking industry in the second—have not just one but an army of lawyers advising them and protecting their legal interests.

The popular sentiment against lawyers only hurts people who quixotically believe they can do a damn thing about the litigious nature of scoiety by not hiring a lawyer. Attorneys do more than sue. They evaluate problems and provide advice. Yes, it is going to be advice rooted in an understanding in legal rights and responsibilities. Lawsuits are actually a very small part of being an attorney, and more often than not it is simply the credible threat of a successful lawsuit that establishes a position to negotiate a good outcome for their clients. And that credible threat exists not because of lawyers, but because of the law, which we are supposed to revere. Are we not a nation of laws?

But go ahead, listen to your corporate overlords and voluntarily tie your hands behind your backs, even when you can legitimately benefit from professional advice.

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UPDATE: Here's someone, "Mr. Electricity", who also complains that US washing machine manufacturers keep us in the dark about their machines' operational parameters. His site allows you to compare the cost of different machine types and laundry scenarios, and discusses at length why a front loading machine will pay for itself in energy savings—especially if you're in the habit of using warm or hot water when you wash your clothes.

But, as this guy points out, washing in hot or warm water all year uses as much energy as leaving a refrigerator door open all year.

Oh, and I forgot to mention how quiet the new one is. It no longer sounds like a jet is taxiing through our basement. The loudest thing it does is beep at the end. =D

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Our new washing machine uses an implausably small amount of water. I love it. Our old machine was probably 30 or so years old, and it used, I don't know, 40 gallons or more per load. This one sips water by comparison.

I only wish major appliances came with tech specs as detailed as the electronics I buy. Stereos, for example, tell you every esoteric measurement, like Total Harmonic Distortion, whether you have a use for the info or not. I know the exact frequency my wifi router broadcasts on. But for some reason the most detailed spec included with major appliances is an abstracted EnergyGuide cost estimate, which is almost wholly uninformative. I realize that modern appliances have sensors and adjust their operation use-by-use... But range and median “resources consumed” measurements in the operator’s manual could still be instructive. At the very least it would not contribute to the perpetuation of everyone’s ignorance of their lifestyle’s resource demands the way expressing everything in abstract dollar amounts does.

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location: Minnesota, Minneapolis

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Promoting myself from my own comment thread, in case you didn't read it or read my link from yesterday:
Part of the problem is that it is automatically turned on, no matter what you clicked when Google "introduced" it to you when you log into Gmail. Lo, you have to turn it off even if you've never turned it on.

Apparently, then, if you also have a Google Profile (something I've never activated) things get even hairier; it activates sharing/following on other Google services that you actually can't undo unless you do it while Buzz is turned on—that is, turning off Buzz doesn't opt you entirely out of the privacy invasion.

I think it's bizarre that Google would seemingly rush headlong into an apparently ill-concieved opt-out privacy clusterfuck… this is the same company that puts projects in "labs" or "beta" limbo basically forever, right?
This person claims the mobile app also snagged a picture from her phone that she had never uploaded and used it for her userpic.

This is why I despise the "semantic web, "smart computing," and such "advances" in user interfaces and computing. Unintuitive and seemingly nondeterministic behavior from devices and software, making decisions based on someone else's idea of intuitive, convenient behavior.

It's very simple: Make it opt-in, folks. If your concept is so revolutionary and brilliant, people will discover it and fall over themselves to turn it on. Seems like the hallmark of the 21st century is software engineers envisioning themselves as the vanguard of the new computing paradigm and they're doing us all a favor by compelling everyone to participate in that vision by default.

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Yo dawg, I herd you liek social networking, so I put a social network in your webmail client so you can socially network while you email whether that's a good idea or not.

How to turn it off.

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I have to disagree with those that say the superbowl ads were misogynist. Those ads were strictly about masculinity. Their purpose was to talk to men about being men (and convey that the manly thing to do was buy what they were selling, of course).

The most misogynist thing about them was that they only used stereotypical femininity as a foil. While I suppose their almost total lack of regard for women could be read as misogynist, I think to do so misses the predominant and truly repellant aspect of the ads: their singular focus on hammering away at a one-dimensional, adversarial, emotionally stunted version of masculinity.

ETA: One thing that came up as gawm and I were discussing this is that I think there is a linguistic/categorical aspect to this. We have a word for generalized negative attitudes about women, but we don't have a word for socially detrimental gender programming. So it is easy for people to identify and decry the former as misogyny, but the latter goes largely unremarked upon. Which is to say, I think the ads were Bad not because they promote negative attitudes toward women, but because the promoted the idea that a negative attitude toward women is part of the essence of masculinity.

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Josh is right. Besides the fist-o-justice mug given to me by my loving wife, this may be the greatest Christmas present I could have gotten.
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Poll #1502139 futurism

WHICH WILL HAPPEN??

3(42.9%)
4(57.1%)


NO CHECKBOXES!

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mood: curious curious

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I hemmed and hawed about replacing my receiver, which is "working fine"… if I ignore everything that's broken and I don't try to use it for anything modern like digital video.

One big issue is that I think the whole concept of the A/V receiver is ripe for an overhaul. This thing isn't ideal but is a step in the right direction. The A/V receiver concept is mired in the twentieth century. Dumb devices, rudimentary bare-bones technology. All hardware and no firmware or software. Why doesn't my receiver have an IP address yet? A web interface? I think in five years these things will be smarter, more flexible, and doing a lot more.

(Then again, I don't want to be dealing with crashes and security patches for my stereo, but I guess you take the good with the bad?)

Anyway, I didn't want to invest a lot in something that I think is poised to get substantially better, relatively soon. And, even if my futurist prognistications are a little off, it's a fact that HDMI 1.4 devices will be shipping next year and anything I buy today will be obsolete in six months—if only in an academic sense, as long as I don't buy something that depends on HDMI 1.4.

So rather than go bleeding edge like I did last time, with an eye toward the future, I considered only my current needs and went for the best price/feature value I could find. I placed an order this weekend for this thing. It has mediocre but passable reviews, but its weaknesses are not relevant to my needs, its strengths are, and it was 40% cheaper than comparable units. I expect it will last me until the A/V Reciever concept joins us in the 21st century.

Since I ordered it the (Amazon) price went up $60. Phew!

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Looking for a PS3? This black friday, you can choose from any number of retailers proud to offer you the device—to the point of highlighting it in their holiday ads—at the low, low, bargain price of Full Retail Price.*

Nothing like a little price fixing to keep the market operating efficiently.

* Best Buy is the only place I've seen advertise an actual "deal." You still pay full retail price but you get two free games. You don't get to choose the games, but I guess you can sell them secondhand or bring them back to Wal-Mart.
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I am an attorney, and sometimes people come to me for advice. A few people have come to me for advice about the law, and I can often help them at least a little bit. Others, however, come to me for advice about lawschool. Specifically, whether or not to attend.

I've addressed the question here at least once before, 18 months ago, when my cousin asked for help figuring out if law school was for him.

Today, I sent an email to a friend facing a similar question, but she's in a different position. While my cousin was still in undergrad, yet to establish a career, my friend is considering changing her career. She has been successful in her career, but her current profession is undergoing radical change and she reasonably might be wondering if she should start orienting herself in a new line of work.

She is specifically interested in the day-to-day life of a litigator. I know at least one or two people reading may have insights into this life that I don't have. I'm sure she'd welcome your insights and corrections to my comments.

Here are my (tl;dr) comments to her.Collapse )

location: law, school

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