Monthly Archives: November 2009

Hey, You

Pink Floyd’s concept album The Wall turned 30 today. It’s an odd, ragged, emotional album. It doesn’t have the lasting musical impact of Dark Side of the Moon or the more self-contained minimalism of The Final Cut, but it’s still one of my favorite of the band’s albums.

It helps that I didn’t experience it the way so many people did. I wasn’t a particularly alienated kid, and I didn’t even hear the album until I was in college, so my reaction wasn’t one of “Yeah, man, this album totally speaks to me and my disaffected teenage life!” Instead I appreciated the album’s construction and its sprawling, self-indulgent mess of a story. Plus it has moments of gleaming beauty that I still love to listen to, most especially David Gilmour’s guitar solos in the song “Comfortably Numb”.

Thirty years on, this album’s sales numbers are still ridiculously high, so I expect I’m not the only one enjoying the album today.

Thankfulness

Happy Black Friday Eve!

I understand we used to be thankful for things other than low low prices and artificial scarcity, but hey, lookit those deals!

Off spending time with family. See you on the flip side.

Going Google

I inevitably complicate any computer setup I’m involved in. I’ve mentioned how I made ripping CDs an easy six-step process. It’s like I’m made of entropy and duct tape, frantically trying to keep everything together even as I’m making it fall apart.

So it’s been with our email. I’ve owned granades.com for nearly a decade, beginning when I was in graduate school at Duke. Initially our kind-hearted department admin and the Duke University Linux User’s Group helped host my email. When I moved to Huntsville, I began hosting email myself.

That sound you hear is 2002-era me cracking open a 55-gallon drum full of worms. See, at Duke I had Internet via DSL and a stable IP address. After the move I had a cable modem and an IP that moved around, so I registered for a dynamic DNS address and got two of my friends to relay mail to me via that DNS address.

Then we had Eli and Liza. Suddenly, my free time to fiddle with a cantankerous Linux server evaporated. The box would die and we’d be without email for a day or two. I wanted web access to my email instead of having to SSH into the box and run mutt, and one thing led to another until I was forwarding all of mine and Misty’s email directly to a gmail account and backing the gmail up on the Linux box.

I just learned that mail forwarding wasn’t working for my brother’s family, so I’ve finally bitten the bullet and signed up for a granades.com Google Apps account. On the plus side, now my server doesn’t touch my mail at all, and I can rest comfortably in the warm, soft, big-brothery arms of Google.

On the minus side I have two email accounts, one of which is using POP3 to grab email from the other, and two sets of Google Docs, and two sets of Google Calendar, and…

Man, it’s a good thing I’ve simplified my life.

Advanced Negotiations, An Ongoing Series

From time to time I’ve mentioned Eli’s futile attempts to threaten his sister by saying things like, “If you don’t do what I want, I’m leaving!” He’s moved on from that; instead, now he tattles. He tells us every thing Liza does that’s wrong, where “wrong” is defined as “things Mom and Dad have said are bad, and also things I don’t like”.

My dad harnessed this childhood trait for his own nefarious ends. Every year we traveled from Arkansas to Alabama for Christmas. Our tradition was that, on Christmas morning, we woke up and ran into the living room, where all of our presents were displayed, unwrapped, just as Santa had brought them. This meant that dad had to pack the car with our unwrapped presents.

One year he hit upon a brilliant stratagem. He took me aside. “Stephen,” he said, “I’ve put some of Andrew’s presents in the car. I need you to make sure he doesn’t go near the car and find them.” I agreed, so he then found Andrew and said, “I’ve put some of Stephen’s presents in the car. Make sure he doesn’t go near there.” We watched each other like hawks, ready to tell dad if one of us got within twenty feet of the car.

I haven’t figured out what I’m going to use Eli’s tattling for yet. Eli doesn’t have that problem, though. He’s sure he can use it in negotiations. We’ve started asking Eli and Liza to work out their own disagreements, so tonight, when Eli yelled, “Liza hit me! And it wasn’t for any reason, either!” I asked them to figure out how to resolve the problem.

“Liza, please don’t hit me,” Eli said. “Or else I’ll tell dad again.”

How To Monetize Scientific Controversy

Chad Orzel, who is an excellent physicist and author even if he is a Syracuse fan, had a good point: how do you monetize the scientific controversy you cause?

Two approaches spring to mind. You can make products to address the problem you’ve raised. If you were using my child safety seat example, you could create a small neck pillow like the ones that travelers use on airplanes to help keep kids’ heads on their necks.

But that requires some invention, a capital outlay, and someone to pitch your product. Even if you’re successful you may end up with a quick-flash fad like Crocs or a Joss Whedon show. A far safer approach is to become an “expert” in the controversy and aim for speakers fees and book deals. True, you may have to start at the shallow end of the pool by blogging, but you don’t have to stay there. In fact, if you manufacture your controversy carefully enough, you can even get a foundation created around you to support your advocacy.

Great. Now I need another shower.

How To Generate Scientific Controversy

1. Pick something that is regarded as true by the vast majority of scientists in the field and claim that it causes something bad.

2. Demand that scientists prove a negative by showing that the good thing doesn’t actually have bad results.

3. When people point out that the facts don’t back up your claim, ignore them. As those people get angry and shouty at you, smugly say, “They’re persecuting me! They’re so closed-minded that they won’t let anyone ask questions!” Bonus points for saying that science is now a religion.

4. If more patient scientists perform studies that undermine your claim, or if you manage to get the government to modify the good thing to fix what you were complaining about, move the goalposts!

Let’s see what we can do with this. I know: child safety seats! Properly used, they dramatically decrease kids’ injuries in car wrecks. They’re hella effective. So let’s claim that they really aren’t. In fact, their five-point harness can kill. See, the chest latch rides up and the two shoulder belts tighten until your kid will choke to death.

More rational types may point to reports from the U.S.’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or the American Academy of Pediatrics describing how much good child safety seats do. It doesn’t matter! They haven’t checked to see if the shoulder belts could strangle your child, or even chop off their heads.

Once I get a celebrity or two behind my cause, I’ll be able to put others on the defensive. The NHTSA will have to perform tests to try to prove that child safety seats don’t strangle babies or chop off their heads. Their test results will probably show no such problem.

That’s okay. We know the real danger is that the car seats don’t install properly. It was nice of the NHTSA to look into the strap-strangulation problem, but our work is far from done.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shower.

Update: Since people have asked, I’ve laid out a plan to monetize the controversy.

Biblical Marriage

Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.
-Genesis 28:8-9

“If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her.”
-Deuteronomy 25:5

After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him.
-2 Samuel 5:13

“‘Do not take your wife’s sister as a rival wife and have sexual relations with her while your wife is living.'”
-Leviticus 18:18

If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl’s father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the girl, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.
-Deuteronomy 22:28-29

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” … When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave hm his daughter Rachel to be his wife.
– Genesis 29:16-18,25-28

Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry.
-1 Corinthians 7:1