Moving Mountains to Overcome Cultural Stasis

Posted on 18th October 2007 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior - Tags: ,
Querty VS Dvorak
Querty VS Dvorak

Keyboard layoutsThe Metric SystemBase number systemsWhere to sneeze… I’ve been wrestling with a lot of obsolete cultural artifacts in the last few weeks. All of these subjects are examples of society adhering to overly-complex, inefficient, or just plain wrong cultural standards.

We make life complicated for a our children because it was complicated for us. We invested the time and effort into learning Imperial Measurements, QWERTY, and the two-party political system; so rather than adapt to a simpler, intuitive system at some midpoint in life, we force the younger generations to adopt our stupidity.

In a bit of conceptual synchronicity, I stumbled across an Isaac Asimov article from 1982, “A Question of Spelling,” this week, where he blames America’s high illiteracy rates on the absurdity of the English language’s spelling and grammar. The fact that the words “‘through,’ ‘coo,’ ‘do,’ ‘true,’ ‘knew,’ and ‘queue'” all rhyme, and can be written phonetically as “‘throo,’ ‘koo,’ ‘doo,’ ‘troo,’ ‘nyoo,’ and ‘kyoo'” is pretty damning evidence against the nonsensical, haphazard complete lack of architecture behind our system for spelling.

“i” before “e” except after “c.” With the exceptions: caffeine, casein, codeine, phenolphthalein, phthalein, protein, ancied, policies, conscience, prescient, ancient, efficiency, deindustrialize, reignite, being, seeing, swingeing

…and SCIENCE. Why are so many Americans illiterate? Because the English language sucks ass.

One of the most convincing arguments I’ve heard for why English will become the dominant world language is that Westerners are incapable or unwilling to learn another language. We’re lazy, we buy the most useless crap, and if anyone wants us to buy from them, they better speak our language. This is the sad reality of cultural norms: our lowest common denominators define them.

Don’t believe it? Go channel surf the non-cable channels for fifteen minutes and come back here. Now we’re on the same wavelength.

Society has a mini reboot switch built into it that prevents it from total stagnation: death and birth. New generations adapt completely to their environment, while the older, inflexible generations die and make room for growth; thus, civilization grows and matures. A civilization who’s members never die would itself croak on its obsolescence.

Things will get better, but first the stasis generation must relinquish control. They’ve really made a mess of things. National Debt, War, ridiculous social policies… but what could we expect from people who can’t program a VCR? There’s light at the end of the tunnel though, the First Baby Boomer filed for Social Security recently. Now we just need to herd the rest of them off to the old folks home (Sorry Mom and Dad).

The Baby Boomers are a wash, but there’s no reason Generation X can’t take up the cause of changing at least a few cultural standards. We lived through the cultural shock of migrating into the Information Age after all. Information Technology’s mercurial nature creates standards that are a moving target. We in the IT world (ie. “Your Betters”), must constantly adapt to new coding standards, new technologies, and new innovations. We know how to adapt.

It’s true the Millenials were born into a world of perpetual, fluidity. To them, change is the norm. As progress accelerates, future generations will become more adaptable. There’s hope for Dvorak, Metric, and Independent Political Parties.

In the meantime, Gen-Xers should prove that old dogs can learn new tricks. Let’s start with something simple, lazy, and true to our rebellious reputation.

Lik spelling theengs fonetically!


“A Question of Spelling,” Isaac Asimov, appeared in Popular Computing, June 1982.

American Government Workers Outnumber Private Sector

Posted on 26th September 2007 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior - Tags: , ,

So I’ve been trying to follow the recent revelation that, if you count all the government employees and contractors, that there are now more people in America reliant on the government for their paycheck than there are in the private sector. The NYT covered the blog wars about it in their article, Debating American Serfdom.

I think exploring this issue would help to explain how America continued to grow in jobs as the private sector muddled through one of the most pathetic and uncertain economic recoveries in history; after all, the federal government is growing by leaps and bounds.

The more money the fed spends, the more jobs result. Does this officially make America a socialist nation? I can’t seem to find the cognitive clarity to figure it out because I’m so excited about MY NEW CHAIR!!!

UNICOR CXO Chair of DOOM!

UNICOR CXO Chair of DOOM!

The UNICOR CXO Chair, which we just got for our division at the Coast Guard base, includes:

  1. Sleek Ergonomic Design!
  2. Adjustable Lumbar Support!
  3. 16 Points of Articulation!

For too long, I’ve been bringing my sleep home with me. Thank you so much all you wonderful taxpayers. Thanks to you, I’ll be able get some proper rest at work. And thank you George Bush junior. Without your total abandonment of fiscal responsibility, this luxuriously comfy chair wouldn’t be possible.

I luv ya Dubya!!!

At $650-plus a pop, my chair cost some poor sap their entire week’s pay at McDonalds! Bite me private-sector loser! Actually, with 80-plus of my coworkers getting these chairs… Bite me 80-plus of you private sector suckers! Total ownage!!!

President Ahmadinejad Goes to Columbia University and Gets Spanked

Posted on 25th September 2007 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior - Tags: ,

…and the Columbia president, Lee Bollinger, took him to the ‘splainin’ room:

“Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” he said, to applause, before directly issuing Mr. Ahmadinejad a series of strongly worded questions on his country’s poor record of civil rights and support of terrorism. “I doubt that you will have the intellectual courage to answer these questions. But your avoiding them will in itself be meaningful to us. I do expect you to exhibit the fanatical mindset that characterizes so much of what you say and do.”

Ahmadinejad’s complaints that Bollinger’s statements were a disrespectful act toward an invited guest were met with a small smattering of applause, but his complaints reflect the difference in values between our countries. In America, we are free to publicly call our leaders jackasses, even our wartime Presidents.

Welcome to America Ahmadinejad, excuse us while we take you to task with the same vigor and bluntness we smack our own Presidents around with. That’s because here, we consider our leaders Public Servants.

I thought Bollinger’s statements were fantastic, awesome, courageous, and resolute demonstration of intellectual fortitude. It was also a great big F U to all the spineless NeoCons who objected to Americans facing the Iranian President in a public forum.

There is no clearer sign of ideological weakness than to suppress debate, and Monday morning, when Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter threatened to introduce legislation that would strip Columbia University of its federal funding if they hosted Iranian President Ahmadinejad, was a dramatic sign of how closely NeoConservative political-thuggery resembles Iran’s theocracy in its hatred for open debate.

Bollinger called Ahmadinejad a jackass, and then Ahmadinejad got up on the podium and proceeded to prove it.

CSPAN radio opened up its lines to callers after the talk, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and even Monarchs (Yes, the Iranian Monarch Party, apparently hiding out in Washington DC) called in to complain that Ahmadinejad got away with evading the questions put to him.

You know what? If it was so painfully obvious Ahmadinejad was not answering the tough questions that even the Monarchs noticed it, then HE DIDN’T GET AWAY WITH IT. He just made a jackass out of himself, as Bollinger predicted he would from the outset.

The most offensive thing about Ahmadinejad’s comments to my mind was his twisting of scientific principles for his own ends. When asked about his statements that there should be more research done into the Holocaust, which he has previously referred to as a ‘myth,’ he replied that people objecting to research were anti-science.

Ahmadinejad did not address his historically ignorant opinion of the holocaust in his response, but, as with all his responses, tried to turn the focus back on the questioner. It was almost as if he were taking a page out of the Intelligent Design movement’s book of rhetoric. How do you say, “Teach the controversy,” in Farsi?

When asked about the execution of homosexuals in Iran, the Iranian President rambled on a bit with some ignorant nonsense about drug dealing and the spread of diseases before giving this bit of silliness:

In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that like in your country. … In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don’t know who’s told you that we have this.

This is the guy who President Bush won’t debate? This is the rhetoric our President won’t rebuke in front of the whole world?

I have very little faith in Bush Jr’s eloquence and rhetorical talents, but he would totally kick this guy’s butt all over the stage intellectually in a debate. As much as I regret our President’s lack of wisdom and insight, I have complete faith that he would serve as America’s gladiator fighting for Democracy in a battle of ideas against Iran’s oppressive theocracy.

Democracy, freedom, and equality are such great %$#&ing ideas that they speak for themselves. Imagine an American President standing on a stage in front of the world and sternly admonishing totalitarians right to their faces like Bollinger did. I wonder what leader would have the stoutheartedness and firmness of conviction to spread Democracy in such an effective fashion?

Barack Obama for President
Barack Obama for President

Happy Constitution Day

Posted on 17th September 2007 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior,science holidays - Tags:

Working on a military base for six years has given me a certain reverence for the American flag. Many mornings I’ve watched the morning flag-raising from my truck as base police stop traffic to prevent it interfering with the ceremony, noticing those days it peaks briefly before descending to half-mast on remembrance days or the passing of high-ranking public servants, and watched it taken down at day’s closing, folded up, and kept safe through the night.

I believe in freedom of speech, so I accept the legality of flag desecration as a means of protest. However much it offends me, I’m emotionally mature enough to recognize that’s the point. They have a right to say and do things that offend me, I don’t have a right not to be offended.

I forgive misguided patriots who slap flag bumper stickers on their cars, wear flag boxers, or leave their flags hanging out all night to grow dew-soaked and moldy. Just as I am a lazy environmentalist, I can accept lazy patriots.

But this is just grotesque grandstanding:

God Bless This Porta Potty!

God Bless This Porta Potty!

Carl Sagan argued that we and our children should pledge allegiance to the United States Constitution every morning, to emphasize the meaning of American principles, rather than treat our flag and our country like a sports team, rooting for it right or wrong. Promising to “bring Democracy” to a country shouldn’t be a threat.

We could do with a little more philosophical patriotism in America, and a little less crass patriotic pageantry.

Just my thoughts for this Constitution Day.

Comments Off on Happy Constitution Day

The Eat Local Challenge

Posted on 7th September 2007 by Ryan Somma in science holidays - Tags:

Whoops! I’m a week behind on this one, but apparently September is Eat Local Month, an effort to get people to think about where their food comes from by eating food produced within 100 miles of where you live.

Why eat local? See 10 Reasons to Eat Local Food. “Local” is better than “Organic.”

Waitaminute! No, I’m wrong. The Eat Local Challenge is scheduled for October 3rd. That’s a relief, and it’s only a single day, and this one gives us a 150 mile radius. That’s nowhere near as daunting as foraging in my backyard for grubs for a month.

Hold on… No, the Eat Local Challenge is in May, the Whole Month of May. So that’s two months and a day every year I’ve got to try and eat food produced within 100-150 miles of Elizabeth City, North Carolina??? Sure we’ve got a good deal of farm produce, but eating local seafood here means adding to our problem of collapsing fish stocks. Ever feel damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

I’m not trying to be obtuse here. I think this is an awesome idea, but it has two really big problems:

  1. It’s disorganized. Pick a date, stick with it, and get corporate sponsorship. Get all the treehugger sites on board.
  2. It’s too long, which violates the “people are lazy” truism. I’m lazy and I’m intimidated by a month of eating locally. This should be a one-week challenge so it doesn’t scare away those of us who are ecologically mindful, but not devotees to the cause.
  3. The goal here is to promote a meme. Get people planting gardens in their back yards, fruit trees, stopping in at the farmer’s market, etc. Push Eat Local resources and “how to” guides more than anything.

“I”m a lazy lazy man,” to quote Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons, like most people, and I don’t have time for 24/7 environmentalism. My fellow dirt-worshiping treehuggers are trying to say that we should be mindful of where our food comes from all the time, and that’s great, but package this message consistently, make it inclusive to the point that people who aren’t taking part in the challenge will want to follow it and maybe take an electronic brochure, and dumb it down enough to make everyone care.

Earthday everyday. : )


Right before posting this, I found the Eat Really Local Challenge, 100 yards. Not commenting on that with a 1024-foot pole.

Jupiterday Diatribe: Pluto is Still a Planet (Still)

Posted on 31st August 2007 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior - Tags: , ,

Somehow in all the incredibly complex hubbub of getting this blog set up (ie. figuring out how to post), I completely missed the fact that August 24th was the one-year anniversary of that infamous day when a bunch of dimbulbs at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to demote Pluto to non-planet status with an ambiguous definition of a planet and criteria that are very difficult to apply.

The online reaction to this development was fierce. Websites like PleaseSavePluto.org, Save-Pluto.de, SavePluto.org, and… um… several other sites that appear to have gone dead due to lack of interest (buncha lazy-butts). I was outraged enough to write an angry missive to the IAU, which was probably never read, and published a letter to the editor about it in my local paper, also which nobody reads.

I swear my opinion has nothing to do with the fact that, if Pluto gets reinstated as a planet, then Eris, formerly “Xena,” formerly UB313, named after the Greek goddess of chaos and formal deity of Discordianism, my favorite theology, will also attain planetary status.

Hail Eris! Goddess of Discordia! She Deserves Planetary Status!?
Hail Eris! Goddess of Discordia!
She Deserves Planetary Status!

Eris’ discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, named the planet after the goddess in light of all the controversy his discovery stirred up (and perpetuates) in the world of Astronomy.


The operative word here is “planet.” Even if Pluto retains its Dwarf Planet status, it’s still a planet. So there are still 12 planets in the solar system, and all you dog-butt-sniffing Pluto h8ers who are so happy because you think you’ve won are actually dumber than a box of hair.

“Dwarf Planet” is still a “Planet.” Not convinced? Try to imagine the following conversation:

Frakwit Pluto H8er: There are 6.4998 billion people on planet Earth!

Person Who’s Not a Frakwit: I thought there were 6.5 billion people on Earth.

Frakwit Pluto H8er: Oh, I’m not counting the 162,500 people with dwarfism. Those are “Dwarf Humans.”

Person Who’s Not a Frakwit: Huh..?

Where’s the #%$&ing ACLU when you need them??? Here is a blatant case of discrimination against people with dwarfism and Discordians/Erisians!

‘elp! ‘elp! I’m being oppressed!

I’ve already been over it, Real Astronomers have already been over it, and the online community has already been over it to death. We all know that this injustice is the result of the Orbital Dynamicists, who felt their field of study didn’t have enough influence over the original drafts for defining a planet.

Well you know what? Boo-Hoo. Go cry emo boy.

Dynamicism is a panty-waist field of study anyways. I mean, come on, you can’t see gravity. So what’s the big deal? Who cares what a bunch of thumb-sucking, diaper-wearing, whiney-ass astro-physicists think anyways? If they’re so smart, why can’t they predict the orbit of Saturns moons?

Mark my words: This is not over yet! Just wait until IAU General Assembly 2009 h8ers!

August 8, 2009 through August 14, 2009 IT WILL BE ON LIKE DONKEY KONG!!!

Just 709 days to go…