Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20

This weekend has been filled with lots of things about Barack Obama. Even a short piece on why the spell checkers complain about his name. The blog one thinks it should be Ba rack Obadiah. Seems like someone should be able to fix this.

As I listened to a lot of the Obama things I kept running into stories or people talking about what this day meant to them. These stories kept causing a lump in my throat. I realized that the sense of hope in me is very strong. It is really great to feel this way. I am old enough to know that it won't last forever, but damn, it feels good right now.

I know people who hate Obama. I choose to ignore these people. I can do this because they are marginalized right now. I know people who do not feel this sense of hope. These people are sadder to think about. These people are missing something profound that is happening in this country. They may have lots of really good reasons for holding back, but I can't help feeling that they are missing a rare opportunity to believe in something. It may never happen again in my life time.

Today we broadcast the inauguration in the auditorium. My school has a junior high in the building also. The auditorium had 500 kids from 5th to 12th grade. When Joe Biden took the oath they cheered. When Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman were anounced the kids fidgeted, but then listened. When Barack Obama took the oath they went crazy. When he spoke there was not a sound in the auditorium except for applause a few times and boos when he mentioned Bush. I do not think I have ever been in a high school auditorium this quiet or this attentive.

Last week I was in a lab and a black boy was walking by with his pants below his ass. I mentioned to him that Obama had said he didn't want to see this any more. The kid pulled his pants up. I feel a change is happening. I feel different today than I did yesterday. I have hope.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The odor of love.

There seems to be some evidence that people are attracted to members of the opposite sex based on the odor the other person gives off. The person of the opposite sex may give off a smell that signals that there genotype will produce children that are more immune to disease than either person is. This makes a lot of sense from an evolution stand point.

Why we are attracted to a particular member of the opposite sex has always interested me. In some cases there is a clear logic, the other person has money, the other person fits what you think you should have, etc. But often the choice makes little sense. You fall in love and you are not sure why. Falling in love only makes sense if it is seen as necessary for the survival of the species.

This concept has made me reevaluate why people are healthier today then they were 100 years ago. They are healthier. The general consensus has been that there is better nutrition and more immunization. I am sure this is true. But maybe it is not the whole truth. In the civil war soldiers from cities did better than rural soldiers in terms of getting diseases such as dysentery. Dysentery was a huge problem. It weakened whole armies. The argument has always been that city people had better immune systems because they had been exposed to more germs.

What if this is not the whole story. It is possible that the fact that city people have larger choices of mates meant that they were more likely to find someone with a complementary genotype. City folk were breeding healthier kids. I find this appealing because it argues for a wide open mating market. A mating market free from the need to stay within an ethnic, religious or racial group. Maybe bigots produce less healthy kids.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Did George Bush save Social Security?

When you think about it the total crash of the stock market has caused many people to delay retirement. This is exactly what Social Security needed. If no one can afford to retire than the system will save large amounts of money. So, thanks George.

In a few days Barack Obama will be President. This got me thinking about elections. I think that this country basically wants to vote for someone who is not too smart. I think the majority of people are nervous around smart people. This is why George was elected twice. This seems to be part of an American anti-intellectual bias. We want Clint Eastwood or Tommy Lee Jones to be our president.

Obama is not either one of these guys. The only way we can elect someone such as Obama is if he/she has an extra something. Obama is black, Hillary is a woman, Kennedy is a Catholic etc. The winning formula is to round up the people who want a smart leader (even though this is a minority) and add a block that will vote for someone in spite of their being smart (in Obama's case the blacks).

This may reflect the increasing divide in our country. My parents aspired to smartness for their kids. I think a lot of people in our country today are nervous about their kids becoming too smart and moving out of town and rejecting their parents life style. This is sad and needs to be addressed.

Monday, December 15, 2008


The Republican, after totally mismanaging the economy have decided that it is not their fault it is the unions' fault. The senators screaming the most about the auto bailout are all Republican, they are all from right to work states and most of them have non-union auto plants. It is not enough that their states have subsidized these plants so that Toyata and Mercedes and Honda will have a competitive advantage. They seem to feel that they need to destroy the US auto industry to assure this advantage.

When this happens who will benefit. I imagine the power elite in these states will become rich. The overseas car companies will become rich, and the workers will become poorer. Do these guys realize that if workers keep getting squeezed that no one will be able to afford a car. Then what? As companies become more automated the idea was that workers would share in the increase in productivity. If a worker is 10 times more efficient today than in 1960 than the worker should make more money, this is called sharing the wealth. No one wants to talk about this anymore.

There is still talk of Joel Klein for the department of Education. I saw a great quote in The Times. This guy Fuller said that for Klein “It’s tough love without any love,” a perfect description. Putting someone into the Education department who is as anti-union and anti-teacher as Klein is a very bad idea.

None of this means that unions are perfect. But without them we will be back in the days of the robber barons. If you follow the money you will see this.

I also saw an article in the paper about a doctor who has been one of the main proponents of using psycho-active drugs on kids. This doctor is at Harvard school of medicine. When asked how much the drug companies paid him he said not more than a few hundred thousand dollars. It turns out it was 1.2 million. You have to always follow the money.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Catch 22

I went to see Catch 22 last weekend. The play was not that great. All the lines were taken directly from the book, which meant there were some great lines. It was just that it didn't work as a play. There was a discussion by one of the characters about time passing. He was saying that time passed very quickly when you were having a good time, and slowly when you were not. The conclusion was to have a miserable time if you want to feel like you lived a long time.

Meanwhile there was an old guy (he said he was 107) who sat outside a whore's house in Rome. He gave a whole long speech about why Italy would win the war. His premise was that Italians were bad soldiers and therefore less likely to die. He also talked about welcoming the Germans than later welcoming the Americans. Whoever was in power he would welcome them. He was not trying to change the world. He did not want Italy to become the richest most powerful country in the world. He just wanted to be happy. He thought that that was winning.

This guy was very appealing some how. When I think about myself, I think I am not working that hard. I am teaching a class which I love doing. I am playing with technology with an expectation of whatever I do is great because no one expects much. I have no power. Usually a lack of power comes with a lack of control over your own life. In my case this is not true.

Maybe I should think like this old Roman. Whoever takes over, I should welcome them. Just relax and enjoy myself. I think I keep writing about this. The idea of slowing down and just letting life happen. If only I could sit outside a whore house in Rome drinking wine and giving fatherly advice to the whores.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday he expects the OPEC nation will vote in late February on a constitutional amendment letting him stay in office as long as he keeps winning elections.

"In February, at the end of February, I think we should be ready for the referendum ... on the constitutional amendment," Chavez said during a televised speech.

Chavez, a socialist, lost a similar bid to amend the constitution last year and will have to leave office in 2013 if he loses the upcoming vote.

Thank god I don't live in a country that lets it's elected leader change the constitution to meet their own agenda and desire for power.

Oh wait I live in a city that does this. Never mind.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another Reason to Hate Republicans

Mitt Romney was on TV the other day. He was talking about the auto companies. (Mitt should know something about them, his dad ran American Motors and was governor or Michigan)( I owned an AMC car when I was young. It got great gas mileage and the front seat went all the way back. A great feature when you were young and into parking with girls.) Mitt feels that GM and the rest should be allowed to go bankrupt. The reason he thinks they should is that it would allow them to get rid of legacy costs. To Mitt legacy costs include real estate and pension costs.

If you live in a town such as Lansing this is going to be awful. What Mitt's plan does is it means that all these people in your community with GM pensions are going to make less. It also means that all of the GM plants that have closed or been torn down in Lansing can be abandoned. GM will not be responsible for paying taxes and probably not responsible for cleaning up the brown fields they have left behind. The net effect of Mitt's plan is to shift many social welfare costs from corporate America to the government. Of course when the government steps in and says that they should help people or local government Mitt will yell "socialism".

I am not sure where Mitt thinks this will all end up. I am sure it will make real estate cheaper, which will be good for people with Mitt's kind of money. It will probably also lower the wages of servants. All in all a win-win for Mitt.