October 01, 2004

The Unpolitical Animal

The Unpolitical Animal: How political science understands voters by Louis Menand, The New Yorker, [archive text]

Fascinating article about various studys that show why people vote the way they do. Only about %10 of Americans have a logical political belief system. The rest of us vote for other illogical reasons.

2.8 million people voted against Al Gore in 2000 because their states were too dry or too wet as a consequence of that year’s weather patterns.. these voters cost Gore seven states, any one of which would have given him the election.
Long article, first half or so is most interesting.

Posted by stbalbach at 09:27 PM | Comments (1)

September 13, 2004

Blade Runner Brilliance

Blade Runner Brilliance, by George Dvorsky. [archive txt]

One of the better essays on the meanings and significance of Blade Runner. Interesting insights on particular scenes and quotes and how they are more relevant today than ever.

Posted by stbalbach at 09:52 PM | Comments (1)

September 07, 2004

The Age of the Essay

The Age of the Essay by Paul Graham [archive text]

I've been writing/editing Wikipedia articles lately on medieval history topics and so it was with interest I read this article on the nature of writing Essays. Paul Graham provides a short history of the essay, how what we are taught in school with a topic sentence, supporting facts and conclusion is not what an essay is. That an essay is basically the thoughts of the author and where it leads is not known beforehand. In the things you write in school you are, in theory, merely explaining yourself to the reader. In a real essay you're writing for yourself. You're thinking out loud.. In other words, the process of thinking through somthing and writing it out is an essay. An interesting approach to writing that free's one to write on topics where the answers are not allready known. Graham concludes by saying the Internet allows anyone to publish an Essay. The Web may well make this the golden age of the essay. And that's certainly not something I realized when I started writing this.

Posted by stbalbach at 07:18 PM | Comments (1)

August 14, 2004

Good Teeth from Birth to Death

Good Teeth from Birth to Death, by Dr. Gerard Judd

Every once in a while I run into a wacky way out idea that actually makes a lot of sense. I'm not sure what that says about me, but Dr. Judd is a crazy old scientists kind of guy who worked on the Manhatten Project (A Bomb in WWII) among other things. One of his pet hobbies has been to figure out how to have healthy teeth so he basically did all his own research outside of the Dental community and has come to some interesting findings. I love it when someone really smart shakes up the established order and totally rethinks a subject from the ground up questioning the most basic cherished beliefs. Like, bacteria and sugar cause cavities. Or, flouride is good for you. The link above is a summary of what he found and also includes the secret of how to have good teeth. It's actually very simple and somthing you can try right away. I did and have to say my teeth feel cleaner than normal. I've always distrusted the mega toothpaste corporations and besides we all know flouride is a Communist plot!

Posted by stbalbach at 03:26 AM | Comments (3)

July 31, 2004

Psychology of Fear

Fear of Death Wins Minds and Votes, AP article July 29 2004 [archive text].

This study on the nature of fear and politics is about a common sense idea expressed succinctly in terms that are quantifiable. There is new/additional scientific evidence by psychologists that by appealing to fear and death a politican can increase popularity. "A lot of leaders gain their appeal by helping people feel they are heroic, particularly in a fight against evil. Sometimes that may be the right thing to do.. it is a psychological approach, particularly when death is close to peoples' consciousness." Based on his research findings "If I was speaking lightly, I would say that people in their, "right minds", don't care much for President Bush.. policies in Iraq." He wants voters to be aware of psychological pressures and how they are used. "If people are aware that thinking about death makes them act differently, then they don't act differently."

The idea of using fear to garner power is nothing new, but it is interesting to see his research results in the current election climate, and clearly Kerry could be just as capable of the same corruption of power.

Posted by stbalbach at 03:48 PM | Comments (3)

July 02, 2004

Open Source Everywhere

Open Source Everywhere, by Thomas Goetz, Wired Magazine November 2003 [archive text]

This is one of the better articulations of just how broadly the idea of open, collaborative, distributed innovation can be used. Open Source is a revolution across every discipline not just the more famous Linux. Unlike many relatively mainstream articles about open source, Goetz manages to explain the concept clearly enough for beginners without being patronizing, while still providing sufficient new material for veterans to chew on.

Posted by stbalbach at 02:28 AM | Comments (1)

June 22, 2004

Power Steer

Power Steer by Michael Pollan March 2002 New York Times. [archive text].

This is the article that got me buying grass fed beef from local farmers. A NYT reporter buys a calf and follows it from birth to slaughter in the modern industrial beef raising system. Classic.

Pollan is author of Botany of Desire.

Posted by stbalbach at 12:25 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2004

Rapid Climate Change

Rapid Climate Change, by American Institute of Physics Aug 2003 [archive text]

Here is a super single-paper introduction to the topic of Rapid Climate Change - probably the best overview I've read. Woods Hole also has some excellent papers for further research.

Posted by stbalbach at 12:29 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2004

Is there really a Fatherhood Crisis?

Is there really a Fatherhood Crisis?, by Stephen Baskerville Spring 2004 [archive pdf]

Abstract: Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherless children: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and psychological disorders—all correlating more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other single factor. Tragically, however, government policies intended to deal with the “fatherhood crisis” have been ineffective at best because the root cause is not child abandonment by fathers but policies that give mothers an incentive to initiate marital separation and divorce. {emphasis mine} .. wow.

Posted by stbalbach at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

Global Baby Bust

The Empty Craddle by Phillip Longman May 2004 [archive pdf]

You may or may not agree with his conclusions but the facts presented here are stark and real. The world population is on the decline. This goes against everyday experience and the common belief that the world will run out of resources. In fact the world may run out of people it needs to maintain the current civilization. Is that a good thing? You decide. Excellent article.

See also my MetaFilter post on this article with further reading and discussion.

Posted by stbalbach at 03:14 AM | Comments (0)

The Clash of Civilizations

The Clash of Civilizations by Samuel P. Huntington Summer 1993 [archive text]

This is a pretty famous work about the state of the world post cold war. It came out a few years after the classic End Of History 1989 by Francis Fukuyama. End Of History is more in the realm of Philosophy than History as it's based on the Hegalian Dialectic which says History has an End, but provides a nice bookend to Clash which is more about finding patterns of conflict in history and predicting where we are headed. For a comparison of Fukuyama and Huntington 10 years later see this article, Huntington won.

Here's a quick paraphrase to get an idea of the historical context and concept of what Samuel means by a "Clash of Civilizations".

Patterns of Conflict

After the emergence of the modern international system in 1648 (Peace of
Westphalia) conflicts in the western world were among Princes - Emporers,
Monarchs, Constitutional Monarchies. During the process of consolidating
territory the Princes created what we now know as nation-states and
Nationalism. Begining with the French Revolution conflicts shifted, they
were now between Nations, Nation vs Nation. The wars of kings was over, it
was now wars of people with "total war" and conscript armies.

This pattern of conflict lasted untill the end of WWI. Then the pattern
shifted, largly because of the Russian revolution, to a conflict of
Ideologies. First among Communists and then among Nazi-Socialists and
Democracy. This conflict of Ideologies continued through the Cold War.

The conflicts of Kings, Nation States and Ideologies were all within the
context of Western Civilization, "Western Civil Wars" they have been
called. At the end of the Cold War there has been a new shift of focus to
the conflict between Western and non-Western cultures. Non-western
cultures are now the central focus of International politics. It used to
be they were caught up in the wars of the west.. Vietnam War is a good
example, an extension of the US/Soviet conflict.. now the non-Western
countries are the center piece of the conflicts.. it is "us" (The Western
Culture) vs "them" (non-Western). Clash of Civilizations.

More followup discussion at Metfilter here and here and this interesting blog entry.

Posted by stbalbach at 02:16 AM | Comments (0)

An Oil Enigma

An Oil Enigma Alen Brensen, New York Times, June 11, 2004 [archive text]

Ok there's a lot of scary stuff on the net about 'peak oil' and the collapse of civilization and for the most part it's been easy to shrug off as too controversial or tin hat or far in the future. This article showed up on the front page of the New York Times and has some real meat to it that pretty much shows, yeah, we are gonna run out of oil perhaps sooner than later. Granted main-stream press is picking up on reader interest which may or may not mean anything. Good article overall with some interesting background on how the industry works. Who knew that only %10 of the worlds oil was owned by corporations the rest is government controlled so even if Exxon were to suddenly change overnight and become a green corporation, what we need is the consumer to change and force Governments to change. Oh the web we weave.

Posted by stbalbach at 01:16 AM | Comments (0)

The Mentality Of Homo Interneticus

The Mentality Of Homo Interneticus: Some Ongian Postulates by Michael H. Goldhaber, April 29th 2004 [archive text]

Curious and insightful read on how the mind is shaped by the mediums we use. Those who read books primarily will think diffrently then someone who uses the Internet. That our educational and journalistic institutions are struggeling for the first time in 500 years by an entirely new mode of thinking they are not adjusted or designed for. Find out how the mind of blogger and Internet surfer works shaped by the medium.

Posted by stbalbach at 01:03 AM | Comments (1)

Blunt talk by General Zinni on Iraq

Blunt talk by General Zinni on Iraq, interview with General Anthony Zinni, May 14th 2004 [archive text]

This is the article that won me over that the war in Iraq is a bad idea. Hearing it from a cigar chomping General tell it like is has some kind of effect.

Posted by stbalbach at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)

The Oil We Eat.

The oil we eat - Essay by Richard Manning, Feb 2004 [archive text]

"The day is not far off," Kennan concluded, "when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts."

This is an interesting article about agriculture and food and oil and energy and takes a critical look at modern agri-business industry. It talks about how food and oil are both forms of energy and how interconnected they are, the history of agriculture, the problems with the green revolution and current choice of modern crops and processed foods all forms of energy (oil). Everything is looked at in terms of the energy cycle. Some of the conclusions are controversial but this article is loaded with interesting facts that are worth a read.

Based on a book by Manning Against the Grain: How Agriculture Has Hijacked Civilization.

Interview with Manning in The Atlantic.

Posted by stbalbach at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

Bugs, Sweat and Fear

Bugs, Sweat and Fear by Felicity Lawrence, May 3rd 2004 [archive text]

This is another article about how bad industrialized agriculture is except instead of focusing on America it looks at Euope and amazingly they can be just as bad if not worse. Full of interesting stories and facts and highly recommended reading. Follows the trail of a bag of salad from the UK to Spain.

Posted by stbalbach at 12:41 AM | Comments (0)