Archive for the Random Category

DIIIIIIIRDS!!!

Posted in Random on December 6, 2013 by brendanbourdage

All of what follows was inspired by a friend sending me a link to this website: Dirds. I scrolled through the pictures, I chuckled, gave in to a moment of amusement imagining other pairings. Then I got to the comments section, and, out of boredom, read the first few.

Wow. The conversation was dominated by two people – one a self-identified evolutionist, and the other a creationist. There are three things I can say for certain about both:

1. Their beliefs are very strong.

2. They take themselves way too seriously.

3. They probably spend a lot of time in the comments section on random websites.

The first two I’m sure of, the last one is just conjecture, based on my own nascent science of intellectual profiling. I.e. if you say certain things, in a certain forum, in a certain way, I’m going to assume you’re an idiot.

Although, is it really their fault?

They were certainly provoked, first by the flamboyantly incendiary nature of the website, which only showed those mash up pictures of dog heads photo-shopped onto bird bodies (and vice-versa) with an eye towards making a statement about the intersection of natural history and religion.

I mean, it certainly wasn’t just a bored graphic design artist killing time between the (apparently irresistible) new episodes of The Voice and The X Factor. Yes, I know they don’t air on the same night – let me have my snarky fun, OK?

But that brings me right to my point. These are People Who Are Taking Themselves Too Seriously. All caps because it should have a catchy acronym that I can use to start my own website. (PWATTTS) Hmmm…I might be able to work with that.

Anyways, you know you’re one of the PWATTTS when you decide to argue about evolution/creationism in the comments of a post about Dirds. I can’t really state it more simply than that. I mean, just look at the word. Dirds. Ha!

This is the comment that got it all started, phrased in the passive-aggressive way that is the hallmark of these types of internet heroes.

PWATTS 1: “It’s funny, because this is what evolutionists will actually have you believe.” But clearly, as we find out later, Ken does NOT find it funny.

PWATTS 2 then responds with an obvious point about how evolutionists would NOT have you believe that, because if they would, where are the Dirds (Ha!), etc. He also adds his own element of passive-aggressiveness, inviting PWATTTS 1 to write back when he returns from church, but then implying that he DOESN’T want PWATTTS 1 to reply by crossing out a word in his post! Ahahaha! I get it! Because if you don’t believe in Dirds (Ha!), you must go to church a lot! Nice!

The conversation evolves/devolves from there. (Side note, what if Dirds are just an example of evolution going the wrong way, like evolution’s evil brother, a la Jet Li in The One? Did Darwin have to fight an evil Darwin from the future aboard the HMS Beagle for evolutionary supremacy? Is the account of this battle not in his notebooks because he didn’t feel like he could do without the 300th drawing of a ladybug?)

Anyways, as the conversation continues, we find out that PWATTTS 2 calls into question the logic of a God that killed the dinosaurs, clearly latching onto the most obvious argument against a divine being, and even manages to bring Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park novels into the equation.

PWATTTS 1 counters irresistibly with “I know you are but what am I”. OK, that’s not actually what he said, but it was along the lines of “If you’ve never seen God, how do you know what He’s capable of?”

Good Lord. (he said un-ironically).

There are only two thing more certain of failure than trying to out-argue someone about creationism/evolution in the comments section. One is getting into a land war in Asia. The other (you guessed it) is matching wits with a Sicilian when death is on the line. Although, given the outcome of the latter scene, perhaps PWATTTS 1 and 2 are into second place. Have we learned nothing from The Princess Bride???

And, having nicely wrapped up a discussion of dog-headed birds with a reference to the last movie Cary Elwes made that anybody watched, I will close. (Although, as I wrote that line, it occurred to me that the choice of dog heads on birds may not have been totally accidental)

Dog is my copilot.

Cheers.

Guns, Germs, and (clever use of word that rhymes with “steel”)

Posted in Random on December 1, 2013 by brendanbourdage

Interesting book – Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel. The purpose of the book is to examine the development of humankind, and offer an explanation for the dominance of cultures based in the Fertile Crescent and Europe. In essence, why did Europeans cross the Atlantic and dominate the Americas, rather than the other way around?

GGS

Diamond’s conclusion is that the peoples of the Fertile Crescent and Europe were far ahead in the development of weapons, immunity to disease, and metal (which really comes full circle to the discussion of weapons again).

These are what Diamond refers to as “ultimate causes”, but the most interesting discussion is what he calls the “proximate causes”, or the things that led to the ultimate causes. It’s not as complex, in the big picture, as I imagined.

Essentially, everything can be distilled down to variance in food production and animal domestication. Perhaps the book should have been called Corn and Cattle. That’s not tremendously clever. I apologize.

If we assume various pockets of human population around 10,000 B.C., the really interesting part of the book is the role played by geography. I suppose we have moved from ultimate to proximate to sub-proximate causes at this point.

The areas of the Fertile Crescent, and the European plains, broadly shared a similar climate (latitude and elevation), lay along a mostly horizontal axis, and there were few geographic barriers to the diffusion of crops, agricultural techniques, and people/animals. Contrast with the Americas, where advanced civilizations were established in South America, but whose technology and organization never spread to the rest of the continents.

The main reasons for this were the vast deserts of the southern U.S. and northern Mexico, the natural chokepoint of Mesoamerica, and the differences in latitude and elevation between areas where the Mayan culture thrived and small pockets of hunter-gatherers on the eastern seaboard of North America, for instance.

It seems rather obvious when you look at it, but fascinating nonetheless. How easy it is to assume that traits like intelligence, ambition, ingenuity, and personal courage are the driving factors behind the way history has unfolded. How easy to assume (especially hundreds of years ago) that the superiority of one culture’s technology and “advanced” society is based on an innate superiority of the people therein. Hmmmm, did I say hundreds of years ago??

But for an accident of tectonic shifting, and a mountain range here or there, the world could have been dominated by the aboriginal peoples of Australia. Not that we would likely see much of a difference in the overall shape of human development, I don’t imagine, but it is interesting.

The discussion of why people behave towards each other like they do is probably a topic for another day…

some things on my mind

Posted in Random on March 30, 2013 by brendanbourdage

Namely, the thing on my mind is that someone needs to combat the two-sentence, post-a-picture-of-every-meal-I-eat-and-every-small-child-I-know/fathered/mothered/saw-on-someone-else’s-facebook trend. The internet is for serious, insightful discourse, dammit. And videos of people getting hit in the nuts and/or falling down.

Seriously, I can’t get enough of that stuff.

So, what do you talk about when your (purported) audience is spending (according to unverifiable statistics, mostly from my head) 83% of their internet time looking at the things I mentioned above, and reading the occasional rant from someone getting angry about a dog pooping on their lawn, or some such nonsense?

As it is March, and the madness is upon us, let’s start with that. Irrespective of the success/failure of my bracket (failure), the NCAA tournament is a fascinating animal. Entirely unpredictable results on the court, painfully predictable commentary and insight off the court.

The biggest disappointment, I think, is the new, “serious analyst guy with highlighter at the ready” Charles Barkley. His analysis used to be shallow, simplistic, and sprinkled with misnomers and instances of derailed trains of thought that made it pretty funny. Now we just have to watch him struggling to think of something to say after Ernie Brown and Kenny Smith have covered the most obvious points.

Please, Dr. Brown and Dr. Smith, tell me again how a team down by 20 at half needs to shoot better in the second half to have a chance. Or how those guys from FGCU are playing basketball for the joy of it. Well, everyone is playing for joy when they’re winning. How many care-free alley-oop attempts were we treated to as Florida became the first team in the tournament to actually defend the Eagles in the second half? FGCU was successful because teams don’t work hard at defending, not because they are joyful offensive savants.

Finally, can we now officially agree that next year, when Gonzaga inevitably wins 28-30 games by beating up on my alma mater Santa Clara (CBI Finalist, yo!), LMU, and USF, they are NOT a #1 seed? If we keep making teams like that #1 seeds, a #16 seed will eventually win a game..

Oh, and one more thing. When you beat a team in the First Four, you have not won an NCAA Tournament Game. Congratulations on being the 67th team to get into a 64-team tournament, but please, let’s maintain some integrity here. If every team doesn’t have the opportunity to play in the First Round, then it’s not the first round. It’s a play-in round.

Thank you for your time.

Cheers.

Dostoevsky is pretty awesome

Posted in Random on September 4, 2012 by brendanbourdage

Yes, I know it’s a bit of an understatement, and I’m certainly not the first to appreciate his writing. But I’m currently reading The Idiot, and find a couple things about it very interesting, and even amazing.

1. The facility with which he slides between Russian and French, and the fact that high society in Russia during the time he was writing had that same capability. How many people do you know that can seamlessly incorporate relevant phrases in another language into their conversation, simply because another language helps them to more precisely express their thoughts? The whole concept of a privileged nobility gaining their position by heredity seems pretty silly to me, but these people were educated.

2. I was really struck by the poignant nature of Dostoevsky’s description of a man sentenced to death and granted a last-minute reprieve. I thought, “how could he dig so deeply into the emotions at play?” Then I read his biography, and discovered that he had lived that scenario before being exiled to Siberia in the 1850s. What a fascinating man. Everything he writes is based on not only careful observation, but intimate experience with the emotions and situations he describes. How lucky are we that he had these experiences, and was a brilliant writer on top of it all?

3. There are almost too many characters to keep track of in his novels, and yet each has a very specific purpose, and tells a unique and interesting story through their development throughout the novel. The intricacy of the interplay between his characters is nothing short of brilliant.

Knowing more about him, I now plan to read a detailed biography, and revisit his other works that I read, enjoying them now through a different lens. Can’t wait.

 

 

 

Re-releasing myself into the wild…

Posted in Random on October 6, 2011 by brendanbourdage

Ok, so “Old School” references are a bit out of date.

I’m still trying to organize my blog into something that may entertain me, but figured I should get something new in here as a start.

Random stuff that makes the world a better place:

This poor kitten was exploited just to make me laugh so hard I wet my pants...what a shame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makes me want a kitten, though. That and the fact that there are few things more entertaining than sliding a cat across a hardwood floor. Before you get all excited – I’m pretty sure they enjoy it. Maybe.

And in the same vein:

He's so skeptical it hurts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I want him to be bitch-slapped by the kitten. Also, how do I know that Skeptical Dog is a guy? Not sure.

So that’s all for my re-entry into the blogoshpere. I will blow your minds with references to arcane literature and unpopular films at a later date.

B