Saturday, May 17, 2003

WOMEN AND GUNS: What's the deal with women and guns? I told one of my friends this evening that I'm going to buy a handgun soon, and she couldn't fathom why I would want to do such a crazy thing. I tried to explain to her that I wanted it for home protection and that I have a responsibility to be able to protect myself (and my family, in the future). It just didn't register. Guns are bad!

This has been a very typical response from many of my otherwise conservative and sensible female friends. It's really surprising to me, considering that almost every woman is of below average strength (for humans) and is far more likely to be attacked than a man is. Logically, a woman should be eager to get her hands on any device that would allow her to overcome the natural disadvantage she is at when it comes to physical confrontation.

Guns are the great equalizer between the sexes. Maybe someone with more historical knowledge than I have can tell me if it's a coincidence that firearm development/availability and equality for women seem to go hand-in-hand. Force and the threat of force are nature's trump cards for protecting your rights and enforcing equality. Before the advent of handguns women were almost powerless in direct confrontations with men, and it seems pretty clear to me that this would put them at a distinct disadvantage in many other realms as well.
I'D LIKE TO BUY A VOWEL: Here's a couple of word problems for you:

1. What's the most number of vowels in a row that any English word can have? I can think of a word with 5 vowels in a row, are there any with more?
2. How may words can you think of with 2 "i"s in a row? I can think of two, and I thought I knew a third but I can't remember it now.
CO-ED BABY SHOWERS: Who thought of this idea? I mean, it's great to get together with friends who are having a baby, and there's certainly no reason to invite only one gender... but that doesn't mean you should organize the party in the same fashion as if it were a traditional baby shower. Babies make women do silly things -- and I don't mean silly in an entertaining way like when someone falls down a manhole. When I try to join in the fun by making dead baby jokes all the guys think it's hilarious and all the girls act all aghast, like they aren't even funny!

Q: What's the difference between babies and onions?
A: Sometimes I cry when I chop up onions.

Q: Why do you always put a baby in the blender feet first?
A: So you can see the expression on her face.

Q: What's blue and flops around on the ground?
A: A baby playing in a plastic bag.

Come on, these are way more amusing than tiny socks with Winnie the Pooh's disembodied head stitched onto the feet! The girls would have thought so too, in a different setting. The only reason boys ever start acting like grown-ups is because women start taking things so seriously.

I got my friends a "baby aquarium" they had on their gift registry, but apparently the baby doesn't actually go in the aquarium like I had envisioned. Most of the gifts were terribly practical things that every baby needs, like underwear. Oh no wait, babies don't wear underwear. I think some of my friends don't know anything whatsoever about babies, unlike me. I'm great with kids; I love kids. Especially other people's kids, because that way I can dismiss them when they stop entertaining me.

I look forward to having kids of my own, but what if they turn out to be losers? Then what? You're pretty much stuck with them. So I worry about that sometimes. Ok, now I'm just rambling.

All-in-all, it's very strange that any of my friends are having babies. It's great, but very surreal.

Friday, May 16, 2003

POST-WAR IRAQ AND CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES 2: I predicted last month that once peace was restored in Iraq there would be a flood of Christian missionary/relief organizations into the country. Apparently this prospect is not greeted with much enthusiasm by some here at home, and I wonder why?

I doubt that the same people would complain with equal vigor if Muslim missionaries came to America.
WHO WILL LIBERATE CHINA?: Claudia Rosett has a brilliant and insightful article up at Opinion Journal that details some of the more horrific practices of communism in China. I don't want to give it all away, but here's one of my favorite quotes:
Let's start with a joke now making the rounds on Chinese Web sites: You remember Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi Minister of Information? Don't bother looking for him in Baghdad. He's got a new job, in Beijing, doing the SARS briefings.

Why would anyone think that's funny? Well, apart from the WHO itself questioning China's SARS statistics, and the anecdotal evidence suggesting the virus may be far more widespread than Beijing officialdom has said, there's the angle that China's regime has spent decades providing incentives for its citizens to lie to officials and to utterly mistrust what might loosely be called the healthcare system.

That's not solely because salaries are so low, and incentives so twisted, that the quality of surgery in China is widely described as being a direct function of the size of the bribe paid to the surgical team. There's also the matter that China's government has for years poured medical resources into the state's one-child policy, with its penalties, forced abortions and sterilizations. ...

One recent product of China's health-care arrangements has been the spread of AIDS via hideously irresponsible techniques such as collecting blood for plasma and then retransfusing pooled, processed blood back into donors, in some instances infecting entire villages.
Forced abortion is one of the most horrible things I can contemplate. The people in China don't trust their government to take care of them (with good reason) and so it's impossible for China to successfully quarantine SARS.

Some people see China as an up-and-coming great power, but I think the truth of the matter is that although it looks good from the outside, China is just a giant balloon waiting for the final pin-prick. Mean Mr. Mustard chronicles the millions of deaths that communism is directly responsible for in China, and I think it's only a matter of time before the entire charade collapses in on itself. SARS is almost certainly afflicting many more people than the Chinese government is admitting even now, and AIDS may be as widespread in southeast Asia as it is in Africa (just better-hidden). These problems don't go away if you ignore them hard enough.

I don't know enough about the region to know what the aftermath might look like... will China break apart like the USSR did? The Soviet Union was made up of seperate entities, and China is very divided along ethnic lines, I believe. I can only speculate.
YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH: Dominique de Villepin (who is a man) wants 'Lies' About France to Stop. In a letter by Ambassador Jean-David Levitte, France asks the US government to stop the media from reporting "alleged French weapons sales to Iraq and a report last week that French officials provided passports to Iraqis trying to escape the U.S.-led invasion", among other "denigration and lies".

They may not realize that the American media isn't a tool of the US government, and that the President can't simply order them to stop printing negative things about France; they must be thinking of the French media. Maybe the boycotts that would "never work" are actually having an effect on France's pathetic economy? Who knows. But more importantly, who cares?

You screw with the US and you get smacked down -- welcome to reality. Instead of complaining about negative media coverage, maybe the French should be asking themselves that all-important question: why do they hate us? What have you done, France, that has provoked this response by the American Street? You need to examine the root causes before you will be able to solve the problem. Personally, I suggest that you propose a UN resolution on the matter immediately.
SO LONG, AND THANKS FOR NOTHING: US armed forces are leaving Germany and moving to "more friendly countries like Romania and Bulgaria". And we're taking our billions of dollars with us. We sincerely hope that this doesn't cause your economy to utterly evaporate. Really.

Of course, this has nothing to do with you back-stabbing us in the very distant past all those months ago! As Rumsfeld says, "It seems to me that so many things have changed in the world since those forces were put there [during the Cold War era], they're now spread out through dozens and dozens of places throughout the world. That's not efficient." It's all about efficiency -- nothing personal. You're still our bestest friend and ally, it's just that we need a little time apart, that's all. Look, we'll call you in a couple of weeks ok?
DEMOCRATS GONE WILD!: Hopefully we won't have to see Teddy "The Drunk" Kennedy lifting his shirt or anything, but Democrats all around the country sure are acting hysterically. In the United States Senate, the Democrat minority is using end-of-the-world (and possibly unconstitutional) tactics to prevent Bush's judicial nominees from being confirmed, and in Texas the Democrat minority in the state legistlature actually fled the state and refused to return until the Republicans gave in to their demands (what do you think about that, Courtney?).

In both cases, Democrat cry-babies are taking advantage of procedural rules to block the democratic process and to prevent the lawfully elected majority from presiding over the business of the legislature in question. Rather than acting like adults and playing their role in government, the Democrats are acting like children who take their ball and go home when they start losing.

These two examples should make one thing very clear to everyone: the Democrats are more concerned with maintaining their power than with actually serving the people. The Democrats are not content to follow the lead of the population they claim to serve, and are more than willing to go to any possible length to frustrate the will of the people if it doesn't match up with their own. They forget that they do not hold office to further their own agenda or to empower themselves: they are employees of the American people and their only mandate is to carry out our desires.

By undermining the duly elected majorities, these Democrats have shown their true colors. They are self-absorbed opportunists who believe that the people of the United States exist to serve them, rather than the other way around -- particularly ironic for "Democrats", don't you think? So, Democrats, put the bottles down and take off those tacky beads; it's all very entertaining to the rest of us but you're embarrassing youself, and your grandmother might be watching.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

GAME THEORY: Game Theory is a method for formalizing interactions between players. You have a set of players, a set of strategies that the players can use, and a set of outcomes that result from the cross product of the players and the strategies. If you have a 10 player game and a selection of 5 strategies there are 5*10^10 (50,000,000,000) possible outcomes. That's a lot. Let's look at a 2 player, 2 strategy game instead. The one I like is the ever-distressing question of "should I call her/him or not?"

There's a girl/guy that you like and you don't know if she/he likes you or not. Your two options are to either call her/him or not to. If you call and she/he doesn't like you, you might look dumb, but if you don't call and she/he does like you then you'll miss out. So, what do you do? Just apply game theory! The numbers in the table below indicate how much benefit you gain from your strategy, depending on her feelings for you. (Don't get caught up on exact values, I'm going to pick them arbitrarily. The numbers are very important, however, since they determine what the best strategy is.)

You \ SheLikes youDoesn't like you
Don't call-1+1
You want to pick the strategy that maximizes your benefit. If you knew her feelings it would be easy to pick -- call if she likes you, don't if she doesn't. However, since you don't know she feels you'll have to pick the strategy with the highest likely payoff. If you estimate the chances are 50/50 that she likes you then you can estimate your expected gain for each strategy.

If you call, you'd expect a 50% chance of getting +2, and a 50% chance of getting -1.
(0.5)*(+2) + (0.5)*(-1) = 0.5

If you don't call, you'd expect a 50% chance of getting -1, and a 50% chance of getting +1.
(0.5)*(-1) + (0.5)*(+1) = 0

So with those outcome payoffs and those predictions for her behavior you're better off to call than not to call. However, if you think there's only a 25% chance that she likes you then you shouldn't call.

A lot of the trickiness comes from choosing the payoff numbers. Do you really lose something if you call and she doesn't like you? Maybe instead of a "-1" in that position there should be a "0". Similarly, if you really really really super duper like her, then maybe the payoff for calling if she likes you will be much higher than merely "+2". The relative values of these numbers really determine the most beneficial outcome of the game.

That simple example only deals with the benefit to you of your strategy. Let's look at a more complicated game that has benefits for both players: The Prisoners' Dilemma. To set the stage, imagine there are two thieves who have been caught by the police. The cops get the crooks, but they can't convict them unless they find the loot as well, and they don't know where it is. So the police seperate the crooks into two rooms so that they can't communicate to each other and they tell each of the crooks: "If you tell us where the loot is and turn on your partner we'll go easy on you, but if your partner turns on you first then we're going to go easy on him and you're going to take all the heat." What do the prisoners choose to do? We can represent the situation with a table similar to the one above, except that this time there will be payoff numbers for both crooks -- the first number in the parenthesis represents the payoff for crook 1, and the second number represents the payoff for crook 2 (the payoffs are negative because they represent how many years the crooks will spend in jail, say).

Crook 1 \ Crook 2Doesn't talkTalks
Doesn't talk(0, 0)(-10, 0)
Talks(0, -10)(-5, -5)
Crook 1 has a decision to make: does he talk and squeal on his partner or doesn't he? If neither talks then both get to go free, but crook 1 knows that if he doesn't talk and crook 2 does then he's going to get screwed. If both talk, then both go to jail, but at least they'll get some time off for cooperating with the cops.

So crook 1 draws the table above and examines his options. If his partner doesn't talk, then crook 1 doesn't go to jail at all no matter what he himself does; however, if his partner does talk then the length of crook 1's sentence will hinge on whether or not he himself cooperated. So, even though crook 1 has no idea what crook 2 will do, he knows that he'll be better off if he talks to the cops, and so he does. If you've ever watched Law & Order then you know that the cops actually do this kind of thing all the time, and it's very effective.

Bah, games! What good are they in real life? Well, they're good for a lot and game theory is very useful in any situation where there is negotiation, such as diplomacy or economics. Saddam Hussein made the determination that he would benefit most by not cooperating with the UN and destroying his WMD, and his mistake was miscalculating the chance that the United States would attack. He knew that the cost of such an attack would be high, but he thought that the likelihood of it actually happening was low. Additionally, there was a cost associated with getting rid of his weapons because it would have weakened his position in the Arab world and within his own country. He may have constructed a table like this:

America \ SaddamGets rid of WMDKeeps WMD
Invades(-20, -100)(-20*, -100)
Doesn't invade(+10*, -20)(-20, +50)
So based on this table, Saddam would determine that no matter what America does he is better off keeping his weapons. If he gets invaded then it won't matter what he does, since he'll be deposed, but if he's not invaded then he will gain a lot of prestige for having faced down the US and will be able to keep his weapons. I put (*) next to two of the values because I wanted to point out that these were Saddam's miscalculations. He believed that America would benefit most by not invading whether he kept his weapons or not, and so he thought that America would use these values and thus not attack. However, these numbers were incorrect.

Once the United States had deployed troops on his border it was inevitable that we would invade and occupy his country, whether he gave up his weapons or not. Why? Because we can't allow countries to manipulate us into spending that kind of money and effort and then escape us just by changing their minds. If Saddam had changed his mind at the last moment and we had withdrawn our troops, then nothing would stop him from simply waiting until they were far away again and then starting his WMD programs. We would begin to deploy, and then at the last moment he could change his mind yet again. America couldn't afford to play this game, and so from the moment we had serious troops on the ground we were committed to an attack. By America's calculation the "+10*" was really a "-20".

Saddam also thought that if he kept his WMD and America did attack, he would be able to inflict substantial losses on our troops. The "-20*" represents this belief -- even if America attacked he thought that it would cost us a lot to do it, and he thought this would dissuade us. Many people around the world didn't think that the US was serious; based on recent history, they believed that as soon as we started taking casualties we would pull out. In fact, we never did start taking heavy casualties, but even if we had we would not have withdrawn our forces. In America's game theory table, this number was more like "+20". We wanted to go in there and shake up the region, undermine support for terrorism, and give the Arabs a bloody nose.

These two miscalculations resulted in Saddam's seemingly irrational behavior. If he had guessed these numbers correctly he would have seen that the strategy that would have given him the most benefit (and least loss) would have been to get rid of his WMD early and hope to avoid a US attack.

Game theory can be applied to almost every area of life. I'll write later about how our entire social fabric is based around game theory and the enforcement of cooperation, even though it is to everyone's individual benefit to cheat and steal.

Some game theory links:
The Prisoner's Dilemma: A Fable
The Prisoners' Dilemma simulation -- a neat Java applet.
Game Theory from Yahoo

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

AMERICAN TITLES OF NOBILITY: Why the heck am I trying to get my Ph.D.? That's what I ask myself as I stare endlessly at this computer screen studying for the absurdly difficult Written Qualifying Exams I have to take next week. What's the point? I already have my M.S. in computer science, and getting a Ph.D. won't significantly improve my earning power. In fact, when you factor in the cost of school, it may not even pay for itself in the long run. (It helps that I'm working full-time while I'm in school, however.) I don't see myself going into academia at the moment, but I may want to some time in the future. About the only reason to get a Ph.D. in CS is if you want to teach or do research. Myself, I'd rather make money -- for now anyway.

Ok then, so let's be honest... am I putting in all this work just so that I can put "Dr." in front of my name? Dr. Michael Williams. Hm, it does look nifty, I'll grant you that. There aren't many titles that are available to Americans: President, Senator, Justice, Judge, Representative, Governor, Mayor, Secretary, Ambassador, various military ranks... that's about it. Not like Europe where every pop sensation gets knighted, and not like the third world where everyone and their mom gets to be a Warlord, or a Colonel, or a General.

Unless I want to move to Somolia, form a mercenary band, take over a small town, and make myself a Warlord, I guess I should just stick with grad school. If I can't pass these exams... well, Colonel Michael Williams doesn't look so bad.
UNLIMITED GOVERNMENT: Donald Sensing writes that all matters of government come down to the question of how to redistribute wealth. He's largely correct, but I don't think laws against murder fall into that category, for instance.

Donald says that even though conservatives want to cut taxes, they aren't really proposing to actually cut spending -- they just want to raise spending by smaller amounts than the Dems do. This is true. In Washington, if a budget item is expected to increase 5% but then only increases 4%, that's a "budget cut". In the real world, if I think I'm going to get a 5% raise but then only get a 4% raise... well, I still got a raise, not a pay cut. Things are different when you're spending Other People's Money, apparently.

As I wrote before in relation to campaign finance reform, the government simply has too much power and too much money. Donald talks about finding a tax point that maximizes government revenue, but I don't want to maximize government revenue. I want to cut government revenue and cut government spending. I've written before that government spending could be cut by 70% without hurting the military (one of the only essential functions of government, even though it's labeled "discretionary" in the budget) and still leave enough money to fund regulatory and law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the (ugh) EPA.

The less money the government has the less power it has. Campaign finance "reform" wouldn't be an issue if government employees didn't have so much power which they are able to use to benefit their contributors. It's irrational to expect politicians to not use their power for their own benefit from time to time, so we really need to be careful what powers we give them. As it stands, they wield way too much of it over our daily lives and activities. The solution isn't to try to restrict the speech of the people who want to influence the politicians, the solution is to take away the power. As the saying goes, "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely". If the power is reduced then the corruption will be too. Trying to eliminate corruption while leaving the power in place is foolish; it's never worked in the past, it won't work with CFR, and it will never work in the future.
STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE: I think that the government and us citizens would both benefit from this kind of direct refutation by a government spokesperson of faulty reporting by the media. That letter to the editor of Time Magazine was written by Barbara Comstock, Director of Public Affairs for the DOJ, and contains details on numerous errors made in the Time article -- she tears it to pieces.

I wish that the government wouldn't be so timid and afraid to fight back against biased/erroneous reporting. Sure, it's beneficial to be on the media's good side, but it's not as if the government needs to be wholly dependent on reporters for access to the population. Shake things up a bit! Rumsfeld does!

Via The Volokh Conspiracy.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: Again from StrategyPage, bowing to political pressure the Navy has stopped using the Vieques bombing range in Puerto Rico. The people on the island have been complaining for years and they're finally getting what they want. I wonder if they'll regret it?

Of the 10,000 people living on the island (which already has a 12% unemployment rate) 1,200 work for the Navy. The base also pumped $300,000,000 a year into the Puerto Rican economy, and that's all going away as well. The people on the island want to sell the bombing range to developers and encourage tourism, but the range is littered with hundreds and thousands of unexploded bombs and shells from over 60 years of use; it would cost billions to clean up the 12,000 acre facility and make it safe for civilian use. The people on the island want us to pay that cost, but they're living in fantasyland. The Navy has turned the range over to the Department of the Interior for use as a nature reserve.
OPEN YOUR EYES: StrategyPage has a short post on North Korea using the Chinese ZM-87 anti-personel laser weapon to illuminate a couple US choppers flying two miles south of the DMZ. (When you shoot something with a laser you "illuminate" it.) These lasers are designed to overload mechanical optical sensors and to blind humans, and so they're particularly effective when used against aircraft where even a brief loss of vision can have catastrophic results.

Interestingly, Protocol IV of the "1980 Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects" (yes, that's the actual name) prohibits "laser weapons specifically designed, as their sole combat function or as one of their combat functions, to cause permanent blindness to unenhanced vision, that is to the naked eye or to the eye with corrective eyesight devices", and this would appear to include just about every laser weapon system. Some laser systems that are designed to be used for targeting and navigation would presumably not be covered, since they aren't weapon systems at all. The protocol doesn't cover "blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems".

It's basically impossible to design a laser weapon that is powerful enough to do damage to a target but that doesn't, as a primary or secondary effect, also have a very high chance of blinding a human that it is aimed at. Even range-finding lasers can cause permanent eye damage. Everyone knows not to aim $5 laser pointers into their eyes.

The whole thing seems silly to me. I'd rather be shot with a laser and blinded than shot with a rifle and killed, wouldn't you? Some people seem to think that "scientists" will be able to design a "completely eye-safe battlefield laser system" but that's absurd. That's like trying to design an eye-safe bullet. Lasers just don't fall into the same horrible category as nerve gas and small pox (or even land mines) in my mind. Yes, it would suck to be blinded by a laser weapon, but it would also suck to get shot with a rifle bullet or an artillery shell.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

EXTENDED ADOLESCENCE: I wrote about adulthood a couple days ago, and here's an article that gives the results of a survey in which people were asked what ages are appropriate for various life events.
Financially independent: 20.9
Not living with parents: 21.2
Full-time employment: 21.2
Finishing school: 22.3
Able to support a family: 24.5
Marriage: 25.7
Have children: 26.2
I'm not sure how you're supposed to be living with your parents and financially independent at the same time, but whatever. The results don't take into account the fact that the median age for women's first marriage is 25 and the median age for men's first marriage is 27, but then it's just asking for peoples' opinions.

This Washington Times article describes how the attitude of young men towards marriage has changed over the past couple of decades and explores some of the reasons. The author, Cheryl Wetzstein, argues that "commitment phobic" men are are bad news for young women who are looking to build a family before their fertility starts to decline (at age 27, ladies), and she attributes much of this change in attitude to the decline of traditional social forces that used to push men towards marriage more strongly than they do now.

I think our generation is reaping what was sown during the "sexual revolution".
I FEAR CHANGE: But maybe I wouldn't if we had an 18-cent piece! This is why I love computer science -- you can make a lot of discoveries via simulation that might otherwise never be found or considered because they are so counter-intuitive.
In finding coin denominations that minimize the average cost of making change, Shallit assumed that every amount of change between 0 and 99 cents is equally likely. For the current four-denomination system, he found that, on average, a change-maker must return 4.70 coins with every transaction.

He discovered two sets of four denominations that minimize the transaction cost. The combination of 1 cent, 5 cents, 18 cents, and 25 cents requires only 3.89 coins in change per transaction, as does the combination of 1 cent, 5 cents, 18 cents, and 29 cents.

"We would therefore gain about 17 percent efficiency in change-making by switching to either of these four-coin systems," Shallit says. "The first system possesses the notable advantage that we only need make one small alteration in the current system. We could speed up customer service just by replacing the dime with an 18-cent piece."

"The trouble with 18-cent pieces," he admits, "is that it's hard to figure out the best way to make change in your head."
But in my opinion, the best way to simplify our change system would be to eliminate the penny and round everything to the nearest nickel. However, there are powerful political forces that resist the idea, such as the zinc industry which provides much of the metal that's used to make 12 billion pennies a year, and the states of Colorado and Pennsylvania where the pennies are minted.

Just imagine the huge aggregate amount of time that could be saved if people didn't have to dig through their pockets looking for pennies to make change! Many stores already have penny plates that customers can take pennies from when they need them, and this just goes to show that the penny is useless and out-moded. Bills have been proposed to eliminate the penny, but they've died in subcommittee. It's only a matter of time though... the bell tolls for thee, Penny!

Thanks GeekPress.
ELECTION 2004: Here's another Opinion Journal article touting Sen. Lieberman as the strongest Democratic candidate durrently in the running. Peter Beinart doesn't say that Lieberman is leading the pack, but he recognizes that the Senator from Connecticut has a lot going for him that the more left-wing, more dovish Democrats don't. I've said this before.

It's standard operating procedure to play to your base in the primaries and then pull towards center for the general election, so it may hurt Lieberman that he's seen as more conservative than any of the other candidates. However, he's also much stronger on defense than the others are, and that attract the more moderate Southern Democrats.
MALE PSYCHOLOGY: It's generally believed that women understand men more than men understand women. Partially, it's because women are just more complicated than men are, as the diagram illustrates. However, there is at least one aspect of male psychology that most women simply do not understand, and that's the overwhelming desire to appear masculine.

Courtney doesn't understand why a man would balk at attending Mary Washington College; she has probably attended several schools that were named after men and she may never have thought twice about it. Despite the fact that MWC has a 65:35 female:male ratio, they're having trouble recruiting male students, and the mens basketball team is even having difficulty in finding opponents to play against. Courtney doesn't understand why this is the case, but I suspect that almost every man reading this is quirking his eyebrow knowingly.

Men are very dependent on their masculinity for attracting women, and women need to understand that every single decision a man makes is designed to maximize their chances of having sex with as many women as possible. From our clothes, to the cars we drive, to our majors in college, to the movies we see, everything a man does is directly or indirectly focused on being attractive to women. Everything. I'm not joking. Sure, we try and act as if this isn't true... but that's only because it makes us more attractive when we act like we don't care.

Women who are into some male-type things are a real turn-on for most guys. Men who are into female-type things are generally (a) denigrated by other men, and (b) dismissed as potential mates by most women. Sure, gay guys have tons of female friends -- but it's largely because they're safe and gay, which defeats the whole purpose! (Incidentally, some straight men have tried to take advantage of this by pretending to be gay, but I've never heard of it working out well.)

To sum it up: girl + baseball cap == cute; boy + flowers in hair == gay. Extrapolate to Mary Washington College.
ERROR 404: FUD not found! Via Clayton Cramer.
WORLD HISTORY: If you always get Huor and Huan mixed up then you should head directly over to the Encyclopedia of Arda. As long as you've got a few hours to waste, that is.
CRAZY BUSY: Crazy day again today... I hope that nothing interesting happens in the world and I miss it. I was up way too late last night discussing speculative chemistry with a friend from school who knows much more about chemistry than I do; I kept her up way past her bed time asking silly questions about the possibility of creating an animal that uses a more energy-dense transport vector than ATP. Just imagine how strong and fast we could be if we could metabolize 50,000 calories a day! Anyway, I'll be back this afternoon.

Monday, May 12, 2003

CARRY A BIG STICK: If you walk too softly for too long you might have to actually use the stick, like we did in Iraq. Now we're back to walking softly again, but we're getting much better results than we were before. Imagine that!
During the past two weeks, the Syrian government has licensed its first three private banks, considered an essential step in modernizing the state-dominated economy, while approving two new private universities and four private radio stations. Officials are now reviewing the possibility of removing military training from the curriculum of schools and universities and eliminating a requirement that all students join youth groups affiliated with Syria's ruling Baath Party, according to sources close to the leadership. ...

In the three weeks since senior U.S. officials threatened retaliation against Syria, the government in Damascus has sharply changed direction. In addition to sealing the border, the rhetoric has shifted abruptly. Senior Syrian officials and the state-run press have stopped condemning the United States for "aggression" against Iraq and urging popular resistance. They now label the military campaign as a "war." ...

Syrians are increasingly saying that the disaster Hussein brought on his country underscores the need for a representative government in Damascus that will not invite a similar calamity.

"Whatever policy they make, whatever stance they take, people's lives and livelihoods will be affected. Seeing what happened in Iraq, it's not a joke anymore," said a university professor.
A university professor grounded in reality? We should get some of those here in America! It's too bad that it took a war to convince the Syrians that we weren't joking, but that's what happens if you feint with your stick too many times without ever following through. These developments are exactly according to Bush's plan, and if they are mirrored in other surrounding Arab states (such as Iran) then we may get to see an example of the domino effect, except with liberal democracy rather than communism.
WOMEN AT WAR: It appears that Glenn Reynolds is in favor of allowing women into front line combat positions, but I wonder whether or not he believes that their presence actually degrades the performance of the military? I suspect that he thinks it does not, and yet there seems to be quite a bit of evidence that this is indeed the case. I've written on the topic before (post 1, post 2, post 3) and I believe there are very compelling reasons for us as a society to prevent women from taking part in front line combat.
The issue of violence against women was crystallized when former prisoners of war appeared before the Commission, including one of the two women captured during Operation Desert Storm. Testimony about the indecent assault on one of the women drew further attention to POW training programs already in place that "desensitize" male POWs to the brutalization of women with whom they may be held captive. An interview with trainers at the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training center at Fairchild Air Force Base uncovered a logical but disturbing consequence of assigning women to combat:

"If a policy change is made, and women are allowed into combat positions, there must be a concerted effort to educate the American public on the increased likelihood that women will be raped, will come home in bodybags, and will be exploited. The consequence of not undertaking such a program would be large-scale disillusionment with the military should the United States get in a protracted military engagement."
Maybe I'm a just a male chauvinist pig, but I don't particularly want to see that type of thing. Regardless of training, male soldiers will not see the women they serve with as "just one of the guys", and will inevitably take extra precautions to try and prevent their death or capture. This may lead to circumstances where a commander does not surrender when he otherwise would, for instance, or vice versa. Women may not understand this fact or like it (and some men may argue against it for PC reasons) but it's biological and not merely cultural.

There is no need for women to fight in front-line positions, and the peripheral issues that would come into play even if the women could meet the same physical requirements as the men would do more harm than good.
HIYA: I think I've gotten more traffic this morning than ever before -- thanks Bill! Of course, I've got a crazy schedule today at work and so I don't know if I'll have time to take advantage of the traffic and post anything new and interesting... but if you've never been here before then everything is new! Uh, and interesting, maybe.

The Random Conspiracy Generator is kinda fun if you don't want to read my random opinions about things. There's some short fiction over at The Forge.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

TURN ME ON: Via SDB -- a picture that's worth a million words explains the difference between men and women.
TEACHING THE SOFT STUFF: In the comments of this post Mark Aveyard and I talk a bit more about teaching our kids useful skills versus teaching them arts and such.