There is lots of trivia, of course, most of which I don’t care for or understand. But while I was looking at something I found these tidbits that I thought were interesting and/or relevent, at least to me:

  • Alex Borstein, of Family Guy fame (Lois, etc.), has guest starred.
  • Jane Espenson, of Buffy (writing) fame, is a producer and has written two episodes.

But most interesting is how the show got started:

  • Something called the “Family Friendly Programming Forum,” a part of the Association of National Advertisers, funds, among other things, the development of scripts for “family friendly” shows. Gilmore Girls was the first major success of this program. Their definition of “family friendly” is pretty vague, but basically they’re looking for shows that parents and children can watch together and that “embody an uplifting message.” This seems less evil then I originally thought because they don’t seem to be stressing any specific set of conservative values, i.e. in Gilmore Girls the backstory is something along the lines of the mother getting pregnant as a teenager and choosing to raise her child alone.

Interesting, and a little weird. Anyway, that’s that. Oh, also, might as well throw in a quote, for good measure:

I really like him, Rory. I can’t help it. And it’s been a really long time since I’ve felt like this. You can’t always control who you’re attracted to, you know. I think the whole Angelina Jolie/Billy Bob Thronton thing really proves that.

And a reference to Oliver North in the same episode? Vaguely Buffy-esque in terms of snark, not too high brow, but real intelligent rather then fake intelligent like Dawson’s Creek. Hum.

Still not going to watch the show! (he continues to tell himself)

Kelli passed along an article in the New York Times titled Choosing a College Major: For Love or for the Money? Some students who have majored in fields that are not in vogue in the business world are regretting their decisions, and many, many students are choosing their majors and courses not on personal interests but on what will be most marketable and lead to financial success.

Parents and students today often consider college more an investment than a time of academic and personal exploration. Some students say they are education consumers seeking the best return on that investment, which is often financed with a student loan.

I find that reality sad. And I see it all around me here at Brandeis. College has become hideously expensive and tremendously competitive. In recent years the college game has become incredibly complex, with students nearly killing themselves in high school and even before creating the proper profile for admittence into high-tier schools. And now, it isn’t enough to get into those schools, now students are being forced or are forcing themselves to continue on playing the game, getting maximum return on their effort so that when they get out into the hard, unfeeling corporate landscape, they will have a firm foothold. And then they will work and work and work until retirement.

“The world is a more unforgiving place than it used to be, and investment costs are too high for four years of drift,” he said. “If a student doesn’t take the right sequence of math courses in high school, they can lose out on the best jobs.”

There is no rest. There is no chance to discover yourself, to learn and grow and explore. And this drive towards immediate success after college is not good for students in the long-term. We live in a society now where we are going to have to pursue multiple careers over our lifetimes. What may be best right now may be useless in five or ten years. Is it worth it?

NYU career services director Trudy Steinfield cautions that colleges should not become factories for pumping people into the marketplace. But everyone is looking at college these days as an expensive investment, saddling students with huge amounts of debt. And you want your investments to pay off, and pay off quickly. And sadly, right now, Art History or Education or Philosophy is not going to do that.

But you’re only in college once.

The WaPo tells us:

Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person’s genitals “can result in pregnancy,” a congressional staff analysis has found.

Response of the authors and administrators of these programs? Blasting the crazy liberals for politicizing an important moral issue. Uh huh. President Bush and Congress have dramatically increased funding for such programs, which target teens and preteens. These programs are not allowed to discuss contraception or other types of planning. No credible studies have been able to conclusively prove that abstinance-only education in any well helps stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases or incidents of unplanned pregnancy. But, once again, this is a “moral” argument, and so opinions on the other side just are not as valid. Kinda like how evolution is a “theory” and not a fact. Like gravity.

Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says

According to an article on NewsMax, the latest Massive Appropriations Bill(tm) to pass Congress includes $20m for mental health screening programs in elementary schools, which some groups believe is paving the way for mandatory testing and screening through a federal program.

Soviet communists attempted to paint all opposition to the state as mental illness. It now seems our own federal government wants to create a therapeutic nanny state, beginning with schoolchildren. It’s not hard to imagine a time 20 or 30 years from now when government psychiatrists stigmatize children whose religious, social, or political values do not comport with those of the politically correct, secular state.

First I’ve heard of this…is it real? Is the end result hypothesized here really what the people pushing the bill (who are they?) have in mind? Haven’t seen any mention of the program at all before now.

Wolfe combines his powerful distaste for the decadence he has encountered, with an enormous respect for the animal quest for sexual dominance, which he believes is the transcendental fact of human existence. This is why the book is so strangely incoherent, while being so strangely compelling: Wolfe has found among the young habits he finds genuinely repulsive, but they are attached to an honest, almost Nietzschean, acknowledgment of the inner workings of status. Wolfe may be appalled by booze, crunking, and bling bling, but he has an awed (and entirely sexist and entirely homoerotic) respect for the animal powers of young men.

“Soul” and the American imagination By Virginia Heffernan and Stephen Metcalf. Start on Wednesday and read on through.

Now that you’re aware that women will be able to complete the marathon before men run 100 meters by the year 2064, you might also be interested to hear about this interesting study. Apparently, the only evidence that parachutes reduce the risk of death from falling out of a moving plane is antecdotal, and there are no studies to be found that support this (some would say crazy) assertion! The British Medial Journal has the full repot (thanks Kelli!).

The biggest issue the study’s authors found was that there exists no randomized, controlled trials of parachute use in a clinical setting. Without a double-blind test, wherein some people are given parachutes and some are given placebos (empty packs) and the outcomes are observed, there is no real way to judge the effectiveness of parachute use. Instead all we have is the “healthy cohort” effect, which basically says that correlation does not imply causation — while people who use parachutes might be more likely to survive, that doesn’t necessarily imply that it is parachutes that are stopping death. For instance, most people who jump from planes are non-smokers, and generally are fairly young. These other factors must also be taken into account.

There is also this:

It is often said that doctors are interfering monsters obsessed with disease and power, who will not be satisfied until they control every aspect of our lives (Journal of Social Science, pick a volume). It might be argued that the pressure exerted on individuals to use parachutes is yet another example of a natural, life enhancing experience being turned into a situation of fear and dependency. The widespread use of the parachute may just be another example of doctors’ obsession with disease prevention and their misplaced belief in unproved technology to provide effective protection against occasional adverse events.

Now do you really want to be a slave to the fearmongering of doctors? Is that parachute really necessary? The study also points to a a power “even more evil” then sinister doctors — the parachute industry, which has earned billions of dollars based on the (possibly mistaken) belief that parachutes save lives.

If this all strikes you as a bit odd, then clearly you are a member of the unenlightened masses who doesn’t adequately understnad evidence based medicine. The authors suggest that firm believers in that practice might demonstrate their commitment by participating in a legitimate double-blind clinical trial. I anxiously await their findings.

In 1992 a paper was published in the journal Nature that claiemd that, by 1998, women would surpass men at track times. In 1998 Randall Woods put up this reaction, extrapolating the same data to its logical extreme. He arrived at the following predictions (among others):

2064
Women marathon runners outrun men 100m sprinters.
2095
Women marathon runners outrun women 200m sprinters
2271
Women marathon runners outrun the fastest land animal
6419
Women marathon runners reach the speed of sound
103,700
Women marathon runners achieve low earth orbit

And yet, in 1998, women did not catch up with men. Woods suggests that perhaps linear extrapolations are not the best way of measuring athletic success, and instead offers a different explanation for the time gap:

Women’s track did not reach a mature state until the late 1970s, by which time the number of women training and competing at the top level became large enough that the likelihood of one capable athlete rising above the others simply by training harder became less likely. Improvements in performance from now on will be measured in the same small steps characteristic of men’s events.

Yeah, that seems to make a bit more sense. But the question still remains…how much more can Olympians improve, in general? When the difference between first and third is less than a second, or a tenth of a point, one has to wonder if we are reaching a plateau. While improvement has not stopped, it has certainly slowed down considerably. How much further can human beings go in their current state? And will the minute increases in performace be worth the social cost?

If the manifest of ingredients on the bottle had been legible, it would have read something like this:

Water, blackstrap molasses, imported habanero peppers, salt, garlic, ginger, tomato puree, axle greese, real hickory smoke, snuff, butts of clove cigarettes, Guinness Stout fermentation dregs, uranium mill tailings, muffler cores, monosodium glutamate, nitrates, nitrites, nitrotes and nitrutes, nutrites, natrotes, powdered pork nose hairs, dynamite, activiated charcoal, match-heads, used pipe cleaners, tar, nicotine, single-malt whiskey, smoked beef lymph nodes, autumn leaves, red fuming nitric acid, bituminous coal, fallout, printer’s ink, laundry starch, drain cleaner, blue chrysotile asbestos, carrageenan, BHA, BHT, and natural flavorings.

Now that’s some exciting sauce!

A LiveJournaler imagines the future of a perfect couple he observes on their first date:

These two have been moving toward each other their whole lives — someone else who loves Le Petit Prince, someone who hates getting all dressed up, someone who can talk about politics without getting shrill and angry, someone who thinks deeply about things and tries to be a good person, someone who doesn’t have an easy time forming attachments but who loves deeply and lastingly when it happens.

It’s a beautifully written piece and a beautiful thought, and I identify with it and it makes me hopeful for the future. But it also makes me worry. Am I missing opportunities because I can’t make myself a little less shy, a little more outgoing, a little more patient towards people I don’t know well enough to trust, and a little more truthful and expressive about my feelings towards people I do?

Jeremy Hedley discovers that foreigners are now allowed to donate blood in Japan:

One of the questions on the form was whether I have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Really, how would I know? I sway a bit and dribble occasionally but I think I’m OK. I said no.

And when he was done, they gave him a towel:

(You get these small bath towels — good for hot springs — on all sorts of occasions in Japan. Open a bank account, get a towel. Bump into a stranger on the street, get a towel. Sneeze, towel.)

Well, you know, they are massively useful.

A common retort when people start taking about the risks of nanotechology (manipulating matter on the atomic scale) is saying something to the effect of:

Look at it this way – we have self-replicating nano-bots right now – they are called bacteria. Have they turned the world into gray goo in runaway exponential growth? Are we going to be able to make more efficient nano-bots than mother nature has done in the last 4 billion years?

The answer, of course, is yes. Here was the response to that Slashdot post, which was, unlike the parent, not modded up as “Insightful”:

We can build machines that fly faster and higher than any bird, that can travel over land and water faster than any animal, that can see and hear better than any living thing, that can survive higher and lower temperatures than any living thing, etc.

Yes, I think it could happen.

Your argument is stupid. Evolution is not about an intelligent attempt to create the best thing possible, it is about a random attempt to create something that will survive better then the things around it. There is a difference.

I laughed out loud when I heard this on my radio stream this morning:

Morning Edition continues on KCRW, where more Southern California public radio listeners go to get their news

Gee, who could they possibly be targeting?

Joyce McGreevy laments the fate of the poor SUV drivers in her latest column, and wonders why poor people are always upset:

People at the bottom have always had options. Every four to eight years some of us spend at least half an hour at the nearest charming little cafe, offering to register voters. It is truly disheartening to see how few poor people are willing to simply log on with their laptops, search out the right Web site, distinguish between a precinct and a district, take time off from their minimum wage jobs, pack up the kids, figure out which city bus connects with the gated community, guess the password, find the cafe, fill in a card with personal information and entrust it to a total stranger.

Some people just don’t care all that much about democracy.

Darn right.

Looks like Control Room, the documentary about Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Iraq war, is coming to Waltham screens on Friday, June 18th. I’m going to see it, anyone want to come?

Whatever your opinions about the war, the conduct of the journalists who covered it and the role of Al Jazeera in that coverage, you are likely to emerge from ”Control Room” touched, exhilarated and a little off-balance, with your certainties scrambled and your assumptions shaken.

A. O. Scott, The New York Times

I found a good burrito place in The Garage over at Harvard Square. Not as good as Baja Fresh, but easier to get to then Quincy Market. Just thought I’d throw that out there.

Oh, and across the street there is this really wonderful dessert shop called Finale.