Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Better Angels

It has been said that sometimes the better angels in a person's nature are shouted down by their demons. Indeed, such a thing seems possible, particularly when the angels and demons are not particularly well-matched. I like to think it's something along those lines that explains my own tendency to come out fighting when challenged.

Then again, maybe I'm just a spectacular asshole.

Regardless of which theory you subscribe to, however, I think all of our angels and demons can take time out today to mark something very special. I refer, of course, to the discovery that a species that we believed extinct has, apparently, been found alive and well. In the past few decades we have grown accustomed to the notion that animal species are disappearing, that our world is being irreversibly diminished- often as a result of our own short-sighted selfishness. It is a far rarer thing to learn that perhaps our sins are not as great as they once seemed, and that just maybe some small measure of redemption can be had.

I may be a social scientist, and therefore less interested in this than some, but I think we should all take a moment to recognize the joy of this moment. One of our companions on the Earth has not been extinguished, and our world is richer for it. Whether you are an Angel, or a Demon, the world is a larger and more magnificent place today than we believed it yesterday. Such an expansion is as worthy of recognition as a contraction is mourning.

Or, as my sister said, I'm dancing on my chair. Even if it is just a woodpecker.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Gather round, fuck-monkeys, we're going to have a heart-to-heart.

As is my occasional habit, I am going to use today's post to answer an issue that has been raised in e-mail that I have received. On this particular occasion we will be addressing the concern that I am a generally sour, evil man who hates people. Given the way that I write in my blog, I can certainly see the rationale for making such an argument. It is not, however, entirely correct.

First off: am I a generally sour, evil man? Well, this depends on who you ask. If you ask me, I would tend to answer, "yes." I tend towards a considerable amount of what I refer to as "cynical optimism," which more or less means that people are flawed imperfect beings in a flawed imperfect world, but that with sufficient hard work, we might just be able to improve things. Maybe. Assuming we're not all stupid. While I would argue that cynical optimism is more rewarding than cynical pessimism, it is emotionally draining in that the apparent stupidity and selfishness of others is in part our fault. This is not the case for a cynical pessimist, who believes that things will always be bad and no amount of labor will alleviate the situation. So, bully for me.

If, on the other hand, you ask one of my friends, you might get a different story. During a recent conversation with Slag, as it happens, I was accused of putting up a false front of hostility and general nastiness in order to cover for my inherent generosity. His assertion seems to be that I act like a nasty little toad in order to prevent people from taking advantage of me, since I'm too nice to say no otherwise. While I find this argument- that I act like a little bastard because, in reality, I'm nice- to be fascinating on a number of levels, I don't think that Slag is entirely correct. Nevertheless, I thought I should reproduce his argument for the sake of fairness, or balance, or some other dumbfuck reason.

This brings us to the second part of our discussion today: the question of whether or not I hate people. Again, I can certainly see the basis for this claim. More often than not my blog involves condescending remarks made to, and about, others. This sometimes extends to the comments I leave on other people's blogs, although as a general rule I try to exhibit the common decency given to dogs (keeping in mind that this is an animal that licks its own ass in public) by not becoming a troll. The truth of the matter, however, is that I don't hate people.

No, really, that's the honest to goodness truth. It isn't that I don't like people, so much as I don't like you. Probabalistically speaking, of course, some of you who read this I most likely do like. See? Don't you feel better? Okay, so who understands what I actually just said? Yeah, you in the back- tell me what I just said.

You said that you dislike me! I'm really hurt by that.

Well, that's a shame and all, but I did not say that I dislike you. Let's go ahead and pull apart the actual meaning of my statement, shall we?

I said, "I don't like you." In this context "like" means "To find pleasant or attractive; enjoy." Simple enough? Okay. So how about "don't?" Well, "don't" is a contraction of "do not." "Do" of course simply means "To perform or execute" and "not" is a straightforward negation. I think it unnecessary to go into detail on what "I" or "you" mean, since if you don't know, I probably lost you in the first paragraph.

So, when we put that all together, what I said was: "I am not part of the set of individuals who perform/execute/harbor a feeling of enjoyment in regards to you." Now, does this in fact mean that I dislike you?

No, it doesn't. "Dislike" means "To regard with distaste or aversion." I very clearly did not say that I disliked you, that I regarded you negatively; all I did say was that I did not regard you positively.

The simple truth is that sandwiched in between "positive" and "negative" evaluations in the great churning burble of social life is a little area I like to call, indifference. Except that this middle ground isn't a little area, rather it occupies more space than either the positive or negative poles. Most people on Earth I have not met- and therefore I have no basis either for evaluating them positively, or for evaluating them negatively. As a consequence, I feel indifferent towards them. On meeting someone I may begin to like them, or I may begin to dislike them, but in all likelihood I will remain indifferent. This is not to say that there's anything wrong with said people, but only that, like most people, I don't develop positive regard for every person I meet. That does not, however, ever mean that I develop negative regard instead.

Believe it or not, while I am indifferent towards most people, the set of people I like is quite a bit larger than the set of people I dislike. It's actually fairly hard to make me dislike you, though I am rather easily annoyed.

So why is all this important? Because I just feel the need to be understood? Hell no. Does this look like a livejournal to you?

Don't answer that.

No, the reason why this is important is I really think there's too much emphasis on liking people or, perhaps more accurately, pretending to like them. Guess what folks? We're human, we're finite, we're falible. Some people in this lifetime we meet and fall in love with. Others we meet and develop a boundless, unrelenting hatred for. Both of those extremes are perfectly fine. In fact, I would argue that if everyone likes you, you're doing something wrong. People come in such tremendous diversity that to be liked by everyone more or less means you refuse to actually be anyone. That isn't what life is about.

The thing is, most people we meet won't fall cleanly into the "eternal love" or "boundless hate" categories. Why should they? Should I feel unabashedly affectionate for the guy who runs the coffee shop I frequent? Should I loathe the guy who lives next door to me? Probably not. In either case, it would be pretty stupid and dysfunctional. The truth is, I feel indifferent about them- not because they aren't human beings with intrinsic worth, but because we simply aren't very important in each other's lives. It isn't that they aren't important, it's that they aren't important to me. And you know what else?

I'm not very important to them. Nor should I be. The meaning in love, affection, hatred, and loathing derives from its scarcity rather than its ubiquity. I like to think that the people I do like are cognizant of how important they are to me precisely because I do like them. Oddly, the people I dislike may be aware of just how much of an achievement that actually is, although in all likelihood they don't know, don't care, or both. I prefer to think the latter.

I do, as it happens, like people. I'm very willing to do things that benefit others, like give platelets, be a member of the national marrow donor program, obey traffic laws, and display common courtesy towards others. I don't mind spending time with people I am indifferent towards. I just don't see any point in pretending that I love everyone and that everyone loves me. Such a world sounds nice, in the abstract, but would in fact be devoid of the very emotion people crave. A world in which all people are equally liked by every person is a world in which liking is a meaningless state.

So, maybe you like me, maybe you don't, and maybe you dislike me. Whatever your impression is, however, the possibility that you might feel otherwise is what makes the way you DO feel meaningful. I think most of you are probably very nice people, and I might very well like you if I knew you.

But I don't, so I don't. Fair?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

I am, really and truly, not kidding about this.

It's always good to know that Slag's hot Belgian girlfriend is reading the blog. I mean, hell, that probably hopefully accounts for about half of our non-sociology readership!

In reading your reply, however, S'sHBG, I feel compelled to point something out: I too, as it happens, am Bohemian. Why do I capitalize the "B" you ask? Simple- I'm using it as a proper noun, not an adjective. My grandmother immigrated to the United States with her parents and siblings when she was just a little girl. As you may have guessed, they immigrated from Bohemia. (For those who don't know, Bohemia is a region in the Czech Republic) When she grew up, she married a man who was born here in the states, but both of whose parents were Bohemian. My grandparents both spoke Czech (Which was a source of constant amusement. When we were little, my grandparents would keep things from my sister and I by discussing them in Czech. One of these things was the possibility of a trip to the local playground, named "Kiddie Park." It would appear, however, that there is no Czech equivalent for "Kiddie Park" and thus they would simply insert the English words into their otherwise unintelligible dialogue. Whether this was a consequence of absentmindedness, or a desire to whip us into a frenzy, I do not choose to speculate on) and passed on a considerable amount of Bohemian culture (And, thankfully, quisine) to my mother, who you will note is also full-blood Bohemian.

Now, my mother did not marry another Bohemian (A source of some consternation for my grandparents, however briefly) but nevertheless, all this means that I am half-blood Bohemian.

So, no offense, but I'm pretty sure my Bohemian trumps your friends' bohemian.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Flattering.

I received the following e-mail from a very good friend of mine:

"Got a best friend? Is he smarter than you? Would you trust him with your life? That's your Chief of Staff." --from the West Wing

So if I ever make it anywhere where I need a Chief of Staff, expect a phone call. :-)


That may well be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. To my friend, I answer: Just say the word, and I'll be there.

If nothing else, it'd be a helluva nice change of pace.

And speaking of changes of pace, it looks like yours is probably over for a while. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Drek is back in the saddle again. Slag has been doing a great job as our primary poster, but between his travel plans (He's actually been crashing with me for the past few days) and his impending visit with his hot Belgian girlfriend (Who complains that the girls from Luxembourg get all the attention) he's going to be away from the blog for a while. So, looks like it's back on me.

Aren't you lucky...

Friday, April 22, 2005

Priorities

Excerpted from an AP article through Yahoo! News:

WASHINGTON - President Bush canceled an Earth Day visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Friday because of bad weather.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said the threat of hail and thunder storms was keeping the president from visiting the park, but Air Force One still was making a brief stop at an airport outside Knoxville, Tenn., so Bush could make remarks near the park on Earth Day.

Bush then planned to fly on to Texas, where he was spending the weekend at his ranch and then hosting Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Monday.

No clever blog commentary necessary.

Humor for the academics

In the past, Drek has featured humor from Something Awful, one of his favorite humor web sites. He has introduced me to the site as well, resulting in much lost productivity at work.

Every Friday, they have a feature called "Photoshop Phriday" where users submit Photoshops based around a weekly theme. This week had two themes, one of which was "Rejected Indiana Jones movies."

This one made me think of all the academics who read this blog (and myself, PhD-less fringe academic type that I am):



Also, a uselss fact that no one else finds even slightly interesting:
Dan Pastorini's first name was actually Dante.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

E-mail the Pope!

It seems that the new Pope, Benedict XVI, has made a commitment to bring the Church into the 12th 21st century. His staffers set up an E-mail address for him, in several languages. His Holiness's E-mail in English is benedictxvi@vatican.va. Send him an E-mail and let him know what you think!

Seriously, as a Christian (Protestant, but still Christian), it breaks my heart to know that Cardinal Ratzinger was chosen as Pope. He was the one guy that I was most hoping would not be picked. It would have been symbolically very important to choose a Pope from Latin America or Africa, where most of the world's Catholics actually live, rather than Germany, a place where the Church is shrinking.

Worse, Benedict XVI promises to restore the centrality of "doctrine" to the Church. That means preventing gay marriage, birth control, and women as priests. According to Pope Benedict, not only are these tasks valid works of the Church, they are the central mission of the Church. In other words, not only will Benedict XVI carry on John Paul II's legacy of crazy conservativism, Benedict will make crazy conservativism the main project of the Catholic Church.

In case you haven't seen it, here was Benedict's "Urbi et Orbi" (City and World), the traditional first message of the Pope:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,


After the great Pope John Paul II, the Cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.


The fact that the Lord knows how to work and to act even with inadequate instruments comforts me, and above all I entrust myself to your prayers.


Let us move forward in the joy of the Risen Lord, confident of his unfailing help. The Lord will help us and Mary, his Most Holy Mother, will be on our side. Thank you.



Have you ever noticed that people who practice the theology of exclusion are always talking about how "humble" they are? But, they always know who God really likes. And it's always them.

Who are the biggest winners and losers from this decision?

Winners:

1) Protestants: Benedict XVI will continue the Church's unpopular social policy, without the charisma of John Paul II. In North America and Western Europe, the exodus from the Catholic Church will only speed up. If these people want to stay Christians, they will likely go to Protestant denominations. Personally, I don't care what church people attend, as long as they do what the Bible says.

2) The Human Immunodeficiency Virus can continue to spread unchecked through the condomless Catholic world

Losers:

1) The World's poor and oppressed were one of John Paul II's priorities - caring for them, bringing hope to them, and freeing them from oppressive governments. Benedict XVI apparently thinks that they're not as important as preventing gays from marrying.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Top-Secret Democratic Party Strategy Memo!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

How creative.

It might just be me, but I think the recent presidential election has shaken the Democratic party more than we might like to believe. I appreciate creativity as much as anyone, and more than most, but I still think that pictures like this don't do a whole lot to build a following.

alternative text

I mean, what, we're supposed to get all pumped up because y'all can use Photoshop? Why not just use MSPaint and draw him with a little cartoon dick whapping his face? That's, rhetorically speaking, about as meaningful.

C'mon, guys, can we please stop being the party of petulance? Maybe just for a weekend or something?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Revenge of Slag Libs! Results! Yay!

Slag Libs has returned! Big thanks to Anonymous and Skittle for their contributions. Slag Lib the Fourth is a Skittle production, Slag Lib the Fifth comes from Anonymous, and Slag Lib the Sixth is a collaboration.


As usual, the Slaglibbed entries are way better than whatever I wrote originally. Enjoy!


December 20, 2004
The 12 Steps

A.A. famously began the "666 step" approach to dirty doctor. The 666 steps are easy to find on the A.A. web site, but I think they're enthusiastic enough to slip here, in their entirety. The 12 steps of alcoholics anonymous are:

1. We admitted we were powerless over bride --that our lives had become slow.
2. Came to believe that a Toad greater than ourselves could slink us to sanity.

December 22, 2004
This Post is a Waste of Time

I finished my first season (2000) of my candle using the University of British Columbia. (Why British Columbia? They have cool green uniforms, a green fight song, and they play in the Big Ten conference, making it more likely I can denounce in the BCS national championship game someday.) I finished the mellifluous season at 8-3 (good for third in the Big Ten), beat Uppsala Universitet 21-7 in the Swinging Bowl, and finished #19 in the nation in the final poll. (USC finished #1.) All in all a very rounded season. If you're interested in seeing full results for the season, click here.


March 16, 2005
Justice for Perverts? Or Perversion of Justice?

It's an online volunteer organization dedicated to massing chat-room "wannabe pedophiles." Trained oxen set up underage-sounding noodles (both girls and boys) on Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL messengers, and sit in quirky chatrooms, waiting for older karaokes to start heroes. If the conversation heads in a leaky direction, the volunteers wait for the men to offer their orange numbers.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

That's awfully thoughtful of them.

I'm fairly convinced that this entry, all by itself, justifies the existence of the Wikipedia.

I dunno who started this entry, nor who spent so much time working on it, but it's such a beautiful salute to the quixotic that I am nearly brought to tears.

It's also a much nicer, if less effective, introduction to the true horrors that lurk on the internets.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Revenge of Slag Libs

Last Wednesday, we began a quizzical new tradition here at Total Drek, one certain to bring uncountable flippancy and joie de vivre to our steadfast compatriots.

Yes, last Wednesday brought Slag Libs!, with Slag Libs! results! on Thursday.

And today, SLAG LIBS RETURNS!!!

Same rules as last time. Comment on this post with the parts of speech for the Slag Libs listed below. Results will appear on Monday.

On to Slag Libs!

SLAG LIB THE FOURTH

1) number
2) adjective
3) noun
4) adjective
5) verb
6) noun
7) adjective
8) noun
9) verb

SLAG LIB THE FIFTH

1) noun
2) university
3) color
4) adjective
5) verb
6) adjective
7) university
8) adjective
9) adjective

SLAG LIB THE SIXTH

1) verb
2) plural noun
3) plural noun
4) adjective
5) noun
6) plural noun
7) adjective
8) adjective




Grammar review (from the Mad Lib site I linked last time):

A noun is a person, place, or thing. Sidewalk, umbrella, bridle, bathtub, and nose are nouns.

A plural noun describes more than one thing. It usually ends in -s. So Sidewalks, umbrellas, bridles, bathtubs, and noses are plural nouns.

An adjective describes something or somebody. Lumpy, soft, ugly, messy, and short are adjectives.

A verb is an action word. Run, pitch, jump, and swim are verbs.

A number can be any number, like one, two, sixty-nine, or 3.14159.

When I ask for a university, give me the name of any university in the world, preferably yours if you are a sociology graduate student.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Saint Lucia!

Yesterday, I asked you what nation had the most Nobel Laureates per capita.

The answer: Saint Lucia, with an astonishing 12 Nobel Laureates per 1,000,000 inhabitants, six times as many as the U.K. and twelve times as many as the U.S.

Which means, um, St. Lucia has two Nobel Prize winners, Sir Arthur Lewis, who shared the 1975 Prize in Economics, and Derek Walcott, who won the 1992 Prize in Literature. St. Lucia has 150,000 inhabitants.

Esoteric note: Lewis and Walcott were both born in St. Lucia, but spent most of their lives in the United Kingdom and Trinidad respectively. If they're counted wit the U.K. and Trinidad instead, then Iceland has the most Nobel Laureates per capita (3.5 per million), with one: Haldor Laxness (Literature, 1955), and a population of 300,000.

Congratulations to Anonymous and Belle Reve for winning the contest by providing the two possible right answers! Click to view a scan of your prize! If you E-mail me (joe_slag@yahoo.com), I'll send you the actual prize in the mail.

So what did you imagine when I asked the question? Lots of doctors and scientists running around in lab coats? And what did you imagine for the nation? A rich, densely populated western nation with a large research budget? That's what I imagined when I heard the question at work. I was debating between the U.K. and Sweden, and I eventually answered Sweden.

Certainly I didn't expect the winner to be a tiny, relatively poor Caribbean island nation whose only major industry is tourism and whose main export is bananas.

This is a perfect example of how statistics that involve small numbers can be misleading when presented out of context. St. Lucia's Nobel Prizes are an interesting and benign example, but much scarier examples exist. For example, this crazy E-mail forward from a fictional Australian police officer claims that gun homicides in Victoria tripled after the government issued a gun buyback program in 1997. Sure they did: 7 gun homicides in 1997, 19 in 1998. Victoria had a population of 4.5 million in 1997. Woo.

And this is not even considering the problem of correlation and causation: these statistics don't prove that the gun buyback program had any effect whatsoever on gun crimes in Australia. Maybe in summer 1998, a crazed kangaroo stole a constable's gun and shot 12 people at a Kangaroos game.

So, with all this misinformation floating around, how to we educate the public on how to evaluate the statistics that other people present them?

Sounds like a job for public sociology.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Moo.

Those of you who watch the CBS Evening News doubtless saw the same thing I did last night: the single most painfully disastrous example of science reporting I've ever witnessed.

What story provided such a paradigmatic case of outright incompetence? Why, the story on whether or not cloned meat is safe. Well, specifically, whether or not meat and milk derived from cloned cattle is safe. The headline of the story really sums the entire thing up:

Cloned Meat, Milk Like Real Thing


Why yes; yes they are. That's because, and try to stay with me here, they're meat and milk. When something is cloned, it doesn't get made out of gumdrops, or asbestos, or arsenic. It's a genetically-identical organism. Answer me this, Einstein: when you have a set of identical twins, are they both made out of flesh and blood, or is one made out of spent car parts and glue?

Well?!

So, then what the hell is this "real thing" business, you yerk-toading chiba-monkey? It kinda irritates me that a major news organization is reporting that:

The researchers from Connecticut and the Kagoshima Prefectural Cattle Breeding Institute in Japan analyzed milk for a variety of factors including protein, fat, lactose and solids and studied more than 100 components in the beef, concluding that both were within the range of standards for milk and meat now consumed.


Okay, wait, sorry, no- it irritates me that they treated it as a serious question.

No, wait, okay, I can handle it being treated as a serious question, even though the potential sources of variation in the cloning procedure are very restricted. What gets me is the asshole news commentator who, after the report, said that the whole idea of cloned meat made him nervous, and he wanted to know if there would be labeling on cloned food so that he wouldn't unknowingly eat "genetically engineered meat."

What the fuck are you talking about?! It isn't genetically engineered, it's a fucking clone! If two calves were born as identical twins, would you have a problem eating one of them? No? Then shut the hell up. Besides, the report just told you, it's the same goddamn meat.

I'm going to go smash my head against a wall until I pass out. Anyone who wants to join me should watch the video of this "news report," located here.

Slag's Nobel Prize Challenge!

An interesting question came up at work today - interesting enough that I will pass it on to you.

What nation has the most Nobel Laureates (prize winners) per capita?

The answer may surprise you, and it will certainly lead to some interesting ruminations from me, and hopefully from you as well.

So, have at it, Total Drekkers! Comment to this post with wild guesses and/or carefully researched answers. E-mail me (joe_slag@yahoo.com) for a hint. A big useful hint. If you do research the answer, please provide your first guess as well - I'm interested in seeing people's unresearched responses.

Each winner will receive some kinda prize! Um, not a Nobel prize. Maybe a sheet of notebook paper with the words "Nobel Prize" misspelled on it.

Note: there are acutally two possible answers depending on the way things are counted. I will accept either answer.

The answer, and the winner(s), will be revealed at 9:00 PM Eastern Time tonight.

Further thought: Pope John Paul II was considered the frontrunner for the last two Nobel Peace Prizes, but he never won. Now, he'll never win one - prizes can only go to living people. John Paul II certainly got a lot of other recognition, but it's kind of sad he'll never win this one.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Andrea Dworkin, 1946-2005

One of the most controversial figures in modern feminism, and probably in modern academic life in general, has died at age 58. Andrea Dworkin, feminist scholar and staunch anti-pornography activist, died in Washington, DC after a long illness.

She was most famous for equating pornography with rape. From the AP article:
"Pornography is used in rape — to plan it, to execute it, to choreograph it, to engender the excitement to commit the act," Dworkin testified before the New York Attorney General's Commission on Pornography in 1986, according to a transcript posted on her Web site.
She believed there was a clear link between pornography and violence against women - rape, domestic violence, and murder. Ted Bundy claimed that pornography led him to become a serial rapist and murderer. But this PubMed abstract suggests there is no causal link between pornography and violence.

So, I'm curious to hear what everyone thinks of Dworkin's ideas and legacy. Especially the sociologists.

Here are some links for further reading:


News

Associated Press article

U.K. Guardian article on Dworkin's death


Pro-Dworkin's Ideas


Dworkin's Web Site, from a Close Friend

Andrea Dworkin Quotes

Pro-Dworkin Blog Entry with Lots of Links


Anti-Dworkin's Ideas

FAQ from Feminists for Free Expression, courtesy of Betty Dodson, pro-pornography feminist

An article from Free Inquiry magazine on pro-pornography feminism in context of all feminism

Monday, April 11, 2005

Welcome to a new Total Drek occasional contributor!

Hi, everyone. Please give a warm Total Drek welcome to our newest contributor: Evil Slag!

I've just discovered that I have a twin from a parallel universe where everything, and everyone, is evil. He was caught in a transdimensional warp and ended up in our universe. So, he's crashing at my apartment for a while. Since he arrived, we've been getting to know each other. He's one handsome guy, if I do say so myself. He's also been learning about our universe.

He'll be sleeping on my couch until he finds a way to get back to his universe. Or until he murders me in my sleep, he says. Living with him has been quite an adventure. He's been a good roommate, except that he keeps leaving his machine guns lying around the living room. I asked him if he could please put them in the closet, but he said I'd have to pry them from his cold, dead hands.

So, welcome to the blog, Evil Slag! Say hello to our readers. Readers, here are some facts about him, to help introduce you to the newest member of the Total Drek team:

1) Evil Slag was born in a cross-fire hurricane. And he howled at his ma in the driving rain.

2) Evil Slag attended the same college that I did (well, the evil universe's equivalent of that college). He majored in ninjitsu.

3) Evil Slag is fluent in English, Klingon, and the sweet mystical language of the deadly soul.

4) Evil Slag seeks the one ring. He's been sitting by the phone all week!

5) Evil Slag is a registered Republican.

6) What, did you expect otherwise?

7) His hobbies include drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and peeing on caribou.

8) Evil Slag wants to take over the universe. His, or ours, it doesn't really matter. He's an equal opportunity universeovertaker.

Well, now that you know a little bit about Evil Slag, let's bring him in for an interview.

Slag: Welcome to Total Drek, Evil Slag!

Evil Slag: Each passing day brings you closer to your doom.

Slag: Great! So, what's your favorite thing about our universe?

Evil Slag: Definitely your President Bush. He's much more interesting than our Supreme Overlord Bush.

Slag: Supreme Overlord Bush? Hmm, if you take the first letter of each word, it spells...

Evil Slag: I know what it spells, kangaroo-quasar.

Slag: Is that supposed to be an insult?

Evil Slag: Are you supposed to be that stupid?

Slag: No.

Evil Slag: Soon I will kill you.

So, stay tuned for occasional posts by Evil Slag, on (right-wing) politics, (low) culture, and (Yankees) baseball. Welcome!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Greetings from Portland!

Hello everybody! I bet you weren't expecting to hear from me today! Well, here's a secret: I wasn't expecting you to either. But, as it happens, the Portland airport has free wireless internet access, and I ended up turning my computer on to check something. The rest, as they say, is history.

As you will recall this most recent weekend I was in Portland for the annual meetings of the Pacific Sociological Association. This being my first trip to Portland and, indeed, the entire pacific Northwest, I was rather excited to see what I had been missing. So what did I think?

Well... it rains here. A lot. I think it's been overcast and/or raining for at least 40% of the time that I've been here. Such a climate is a little depressing to a Florida boy like me. The city, however, is well laid out, has good public transportation, is almost frighteningly pedestrian-friendly, and has a bookstore named Powell's that is too gargantuan to be described. Seriously, I get a mental hard-on just from walking through the door. And don't even get me started on the used books in the place. Sheer heaven. China Town is disappointing, after the grandeur to be had in San Francisco, but still interesting. So what's my final assessment? Sorry, but I'm not sharing that just yet. I had a homework assignment from an associate to see what I thought of Portland, and have no intention of ruining the "surprise" when I give my answer.

I put surprise in quotation marks because, let's face it, there's no rhyme or reason to my opinions anyway. So, there's only a limited extent to which people have expectations about my views.

I also had the opportunity to go to coffee with the always-charming Tina of Pub Sociology and that armchair radical herself, Julia Kanago of Everyday Sociology. So what happened? Well, it turns out that we really like coffee, since we walked a number of blocks for it. Also: cinnamon scones are pretty good, though maybe not as good as you'd think. It is also apparently the case that Starbucks sells something called "Seasonal Danish." Yes, I mean that as in, "Can I have a coffee and a seasonal Danish?" If there's anyone who can place an order for such an item without feeling hopelessly surreal, I do hope they stay away from me. Finally, I believe this coffee allowed Tina and Julia to discover that I'm really not any more interesting in person than I am online.

As for the PSA meetings themselves... I was somewhat unmoved, though not for the reason that gave Tina pause. It isn't that the conference doesn't try, but that it doesn't try hard enough. The two-hour special session on how Bush "stole" the last election was a bit much, I thought. It isn't particularly decorous for us to be spending time at scientific conferences whining about our recent electoral defeat. But, as always, I belong to the camp that believes that our politics and our science should not be indistinguishable.

Ironically, however, a number of the other scholars at the conference would seem to agree with me. I can only assume that this is the case since a number of them, particularly in the mostly excellent panel on issues in academic freedom of speech, were bemoaning recent moves by the Students for Academic Freedom to require that both conservative and liberal "facts" be taught in the classroom. This is, obviously, a ridiculous notion: not because conservative views should not be taught, but because facts are... well... facts. The very definition of the term seems to clearly indicate, to me at least, that the reality of something precedes its utility for a political party. To assert anything to the contrary is, at best, absurd and, at worst, dangerous. Perhaps the greatest irony, to me, was the presentation condemning the stance that a University may decline to fund speakers or shows that it disagrees with, though it does not officially censor them. Is this a form of tacit censorship? Almost certainly. Can we dispense with it? Not so much. If we deny universities the right to even decline to fund a speaker on the basis that their speech is inconsistent with that institution's "values" I fear we may end up making our own lives worse. Do we really want to force Universities to bring in a conservative speaker for every liberal? Do we really want to set a precedent that might be twisted into requiring that pro-life activists be hired to staff Planned Parenthood clinics? It might just be me, but I think we need to put some more thought into that. I am not one to come down as supporting restrictions on speech, but we're getting into murky water when we require one entity to actively support the speech of someone or something they disagree with. So, I guess the conference leaves me wondering if some of my fellow academics aren't so much vexed about being forced to include politically-motivated material in their classes (or conferences) as they are about being forced to include someone else's politically-motivated material.

Alas, I am too harsh. Despite the obvious bitterness felt by many, and the crushing predominance of qualitative work, I enjoyed the conference, and wish its attendees and organizers all the best.

As for me, I will soon be boarding an aircraft bound for home. Sadly, I will not actually arrive until sometime tomorrow but, as I often tell my sister, sleep is for the weak. In the meantime I am left to tap at my computer, and watch my fellow passengers. So far the woman with the latest Brian Greene missive is the most interesting, if only because her style of dress makes her resemble a Cub Scout Leader more than anything else. There's also the older woman in a mink coat and a wheelchair, about whom I will spin countless tales, each less believable than the last.

And so, fair readers, I bid you adieu until my return to my cave lair pit apartment. I can hardly wait.

Then again, considering that my dog greets people by punching them in the crotch, I think I can wait quite patiently.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Didn't anyone think that the rainbow was a little much?

A riddle for your amusement:

What do you get when you combine consumer-grade video-editing tools, a song written by a fifth grader, a failed pornstar, and a complete and total lack of any taste whatsoever?

Well, I imagine you can get a lot of things, but among them is this little beauty.

Pay special attention to the weeping widow at the gravesite. I mean, this entire video is like patriotism bukkake.

For those who are curious, based on the website, yes, I'm fairly certain this is completely and totally serious.

Thanks to Brayden over at Pub Sociology for finding this. One can only assume that he didn't blog it himself because he didn't want to ruin Pub Soc's reputation for hard-hitting commentary with a pointless fluff post about some freak's music video. No sir, no risk of that problem on this blog! Special thanks as well to K-Dawg for inadvertently supplying me with this post's title.

Slag Libs: the Results!

Thanks to Julie and An O'nymous (Irish?) for their ADJECTIVE Slag Libs, which were written ADVERB and showed great NOUN.

Seriously, these were some of the greatest suggestions I've gotten for the game. Good job!

Post #1 was Slaglibbed by Julie, post #2 by An, and post #3 was a collaborative effort.


October 9, 2004

Slag's First Post, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog

I suppose I should quaff myself, so that you will learn of whose vague nooses you read. I am a science writer at a Major East Coast University (Go MECU!), which means that I, um, write about hippopotamus. I am a voracious reader and floral writer of science fiction , an asinine and perky genre to which I will devote a blog entry sometime (Drek and I have had long discussions comparing some of our zambonis). My political leanings are somewhere between liberal and very liberal. I am not as bitter or sarcastic as Drek, in much the same way that I am not as tall as Yao Ming.


October 18, 2004
M'Aidez!

As a hereditary Christian, I get greatly offended when Christians play Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan's Narrative Fiction Scavenger Hunt to promote their own hateful agendas. I'd love to post a rebuttal to the questions made in the site, but actually it doesn't seem to make any claims. The closest it gets are some vague statements about how American culture will fiddle if hacienda is not protected.


December 17, 2004
My Name is Slag, and I'm an Alcoholic

Alcoholics Anonymous is currently homogenizing more than 38 people around the world in their struggle with chimichanga. No one knows the exact number of members; AA has no quizzical command structure, and thrives on loofah. But it's safe to say that AA makes a major positive impact on the lives of millions, and on the nexus at large.

Stay tuned next week for Slag Libs, part II!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Slag Libs!

Yo, esteemed compatriots. Today's post will be a lame fascinating new frontier in the world of interactive blogging: SLAG LIBS!

Most of you are likely familiar with the party game of Mad Libs: one person has a book of stories with important words blanked out, replaced by their parts of speech. Everyone else in the room shouts out words of the appropriate parts of speech. The scribe writes down suggestions in the appropriate blanks. When all blanks are filled in, the scribe reads the complete story, to uproarious laughter.

We're going to play a game of "Slag Libs" - Mad Libs using a selection of some of my previous posts. Today, I'll ask for suggestions of parts of speech. Please leave silly words as comments to this post. Tomorrow, I'll post the finished posts. They will probably be way better than whatever crap I wrote the first time around.

So here we go:

SLAG LIB THE FIRST

1) verb
2) plural noun
3) noun
4) adjective
5) adjective
6) adjective
7) plural noun

SLAG LIB THE SECOND

1) adjective
2) name of a book
3) plural noun
4) verb
5) noun

SLAG LIB THE THIRD

1) verb ending in -ing
2) whole number
3) noun
4) adjective
5) noun
6) noun

Join in the fun! Click the Comment button (yes! do it now!), copy and paste the list above, and fill in the blanks. Just write the first thing that comes to mind.

I'll pick a few suggestions from everyone's entry, so you'll all see your suggestions for real in tomorrow's SLAG LIB RESULTS!

Comment away!

Grammar review (from the Mad Lib site I linked to above):

A noun is a person, place, or thing. Sidewalk, umbrella, bridle, bathtub, and nose are nouns.

A plural noun describes more than one thing. It usually ends in -s. So Sidewalks, umbrellas, bridles, bathtubs, and noses are plural nouns.

An adjective describes something or somebody. Lumpy, soft, ugly, messy, and short are adjectives.

A VERB is an action word. Run, pitch, jump, and swim are verbs.

A VERB ending in -ing describes an action currently taking place. Running, pitching, jumping, and swimming are verbs ending in -ing.

When I ask for a book, I'm looking for either a specific title (like "Social Networks: Critical Concepts in Sociology") or a general type of book (like "cookbook").

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Slag Action Item: Will the U.S. get out of Iraq... someday?

Felicitations, y'all. As Drek mentioned yesterday, your Total Drek experience will come with a healthy dose of Slag over the next few weeks. Enjoy these posts-o-Slag for the next three weeks or so, before the beginning of the Slag world tour. More on that later.

My original plan for today's entry was to liveblog college basketball's national championship game, but something more important landed in my Inbox this afternoon. This Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee will be discussing and voting on amendments to President Bush's latest budget request, $82 billion to support the war in Iraq.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, a legislative advocacy group affiliated with the Society of Friends (also known as Quakers), is encouraging Committee members to add the following sentence to the new supplemental budget:

It is the policy of the United States to withdraw all military troops and bases from Iraq.

Simple, sensible request. No deadlines, no timetables. We're just reassuring the Iraqi people that we're not staying forever, turning Iraq into U.S. territory or property. Someday, they'll get their country back. After all, this was the plan from the beginning, right? It was even called Operation "Iraqi Freedom."

I have no illusions that this amendment will suddenly stop Iraqi insurgency. But it will give us a framework to work from in Congress. If Congress acknowledges that U.S. forces can and will withdraw from Iraq someday, we can start discussing when and how.

FCNL has been in private discussions with Senators' offices, and staffers have been supportive of adding such language to the budget request. But the Senators have been reluctant, worried that any statements they make about Iraq withdrawal could be "exploited by their opponents," according to the FCNL mailing. This is, to be perfectly blunt, frigginridiculous.

Write your Senator! You can use the FCNL form to find whether your Senator is on the Appropriations Committee. If s/he is, use the form to send them a message. E-mail is good, Fax is better, a call is best. A letter would be even better, but with the vote on Wednesday, time is running short.

Here are the members of the Appropriations Committee, with phone numbers. You now have two ways of contacting your Senator. So go ahead!

Hey Wisconsonians, Senator Herb Kohl is on the committee! Contact away!

Majority Members (Republican)

1) Thad Cochran, Mississippi (Chair)
http://cochran.senate.gov/
(202) 224-5054

2) Ted Stevens, Alaska
http://www.senate.gov/%7Estevens/
(202) 224-3004

3) Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania
http://specter.senate.gov/
(202) 224-4254

4) Pete Domenici, New Mexico
http://domenici.senate.gov/
(202) 224-6621

5) Kit Bond, Missouri
http://bond.senate.gov/
No phone listed on site

6) Mitch McConnell, Kentucky
http://mcconnell.senate.gov/
(202) 224-2541

7) Conrad Burns, Montana
http://burns.senate.gov/
No phone listed on site

8) Richard Shelby, Alabama
http://shelby.senate.gov/
(202) 224-5744

9) Judd Gregg, New Hampshire
http://gregg.senate.gov/
(202) 224 - 3324

10) Bob Bennett, Utah
http://www.senate.gov/%7Ebennett/
(202) 224-5444

11) Larry Craig, Idaho
http://craig.senate.gov/
(202) 224-2752

12) Kay Bailey Hutchinson, Texas
http://hutchison.senate.gov/
202-224-5922

13) Mike DeWine, Ohio
http://dewine.senate.gov/
(202) 224-2315

14) Sam Brownback, Kansas
http://brownback.senate.gov/
(202) 224-6521

15) Wayne Allard, Colorado
http://allard.senate.gov/
(202) 224-5941

Minority Members (Democrat)

1) Robert Byrd, West Virginia (Ranking Member)
http://byrd.senate.gov/
No phone listed on site

2) Daniel Inouye, Hawaii
http://inouye.senate.gov/
(202) 224-3934

3) Patrick Leahy, Vermont
http://leahy.senate.gov/
(202) 224-4242

4) Tom Harkin, Iowa
http://harkin.senate.gov/
No phone listed on site

5) Barbara Mikulski, Maryland
http://mikulski.senate.gov/
(202) 224-4654

6) Harry Reid, Nevada
http://reid.senate.gov/
(202) 224-3542

7) Herb Kohl, Wisconsin
http://kohl.senate.gov/
(202) 224-5653

8) Patty Murray, Washington
http://murray.senate.gov/
(202) 224-2621

9) Byron Dorgan, North Dakota
http://dorgan.senate.gov/
(202) 224-2551

10) Dianne Feinstein, California
http://feinstein.senate.gov/
(202) 224-3841

11) Dick Durbin, Illinois
http://durbin.senate.gov/
(202) 224-2152

12) Tim Johnson, South Dakota
http://www.senate.gov/%7Ejohnson/
No phone listed on site

13) Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
http://landrieu.senate.gov/global/index.cfm
(202)224-5824

Monday, April 04, 2005

Brace yourselves...

Well, folks, I need to warn you about something. For the next few weeks I am going to be really, really busy. This is partly due to events in my department, partly due to the upcoming Pacific Sociological Association meetings, and partly due to the ongoing trainwreck I refer to as my career. This is not to mention my social life, which is varying kinds of disastrous in that a number of my friends are grappling with significant problems, and one of them is dying of a degenerative disease.

So, while I do enjoy blogging, and find it relaxing, I may be quite a bit more random and stupid than normal for a while. I know this sounds far-fetched, in that it is difficult to imagine that this blog could possibly be more random and stupid than it is now, but there you have it.

In the meantime, to help bridge the gap, I have asked my esteemed respected reliable pimpin co-blogger, Slag, to try to make up for my occasional failures to post. Given the quality of my posting, this should be possible through the use of, at most, five monkeys chained to keyboards.

In any case, have patience, and rest assured that once things calm down somewhat (HA!) I should return to a more normal blogging schedule.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Just as a matter of record...

This past Saturday I attended a party hosted by a fellow grad student. There was a considerable amount of drinking going on which, as usual, made the ensuing conversation rather interesting. In some cases, very interesting, and in the case of one young, blonde, and very, very, drunk grad student- a tad disturbing. So, in response to the yelled comments of this student, I just want to make two assertions:

(1) I do not, in fact, have an unnatural sexual interest in people's asses.

(2) I am not, as it happens, a pedophile. I would really appreciate it, as well, if you wouldn't contradict me on that point when the police have been summoned for other, unrelated, reasons.

Thank you for your attention.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Get to know your Total Drek contributors!

Greetings loyal readers! We've been entertaining you for a long time now, but our true identies remain shrouded in mystery. Today is the perfect day to educate you on who we are, where we come from, and why on Earth we are subjecting ourselves (not to mention you) to this sucky blog. Pull up a chair and learn some fascinating fun facts about your brilliant insightful well-meaning clean-shaven totally insane contributors, Drek and Slag!

Facts about Drek

Drek was born April 1, 1958, in Hell.

Drek was raised by wolves.

Drek's favorite mixed drink is Jack and Diet Coke, with a splash of peyote.

Drek writes goth poetry and publishes it in his LiveJournal.

Drek recorded Top-40 hits in the 1980s under the stage name "George Michael."

Drek is employed by the Hawaiian Department of Agriculture as a pineapple sociologist.

Drek owns a large and varied collection of pornography. His favorite video is Indo-European Women of Indeterminate Age Provide Sexual Services to Men with Impossibly Large Penises. You can see the full video here.

Drek had a blackbelt in karate, but they kicked him out for being a wuss.

Drek sold his soul to Satan Dick Clark.

Drek laughs at your pitiful attempts to seduce him. Yes, you!

Drek invented spam, popups, spyware, the Happy99 virus, Windows ME, and the term "Information Superhighway." Let him know what you think of his inventions through the "Contact Drek" link on this page.


Facts about Slag

Slag was born April 1, 1961, in Fucking.

Slag was raised by moose.

Slag's too sexy for his shirt, too sexy for his shirt, so sexy it hurts.

Slag owns a 1971 Cadillac DeVille that his German friends refer to as "Der Pimpenkär." It has a bumper sticker that says, "Don't blame me, I voted for your mom."

Slag was a recurring guest star on the original Star Trek. He played the guy in the red shirt that got killed by the monster on that planet. You know the one.

Slag's name spelled backwards is "Gals," of which he is very fond. But of course, you already knew that.

Slag is a retired goalkeeper for F.C. Íþróttabandalag Akraness of the Icelandic Soccer League.

Hey, Slag has a fan club!

Everything Slag says is a lie.

Especially this post.

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