I'll teach you a lesson

So I’ve been teaching a class for the past week or so and let me tell you…it’s a lot of work. I suppose that a good portion of the work comes from the fact that I’m teaching a class that I’ve never taught in the past which means that my material is created de novo. I wouldn’t characterize it as particularly difficult just time consuming. Also, I don’t want this admission of difficulty to take anything away from my previous statements about that status of education in this country. I still believe that home schooling should be allowed and that public school systems have become largely a breeding ground for mediocrity that slowly but surely weed out the most promising young teachers. In the interest of fair play, I also think that the college level teaching could use an overhaul as well…of course I just talked about that issue. Regardless, trying to convey a message to a group of individuals with such a diverse variety of backgrounds as is found in a classroom is no small challenge. Of course in the end, the difficulty in teaching is proportional to how much you care about the results. While this is true of many professions, in teaching it is pretty easy to skate by and not give a damn about any of it and few people will notice (except your students). I do take some pride in my abilities here and in the effort I put forward in that endeavor. I think I’m a much better instructor in the laboratory than in the classroom and would much prefer that particular arena to the classroom I find myself in now. To make matters worse, my mentor (see my last post for commentary there) has decreed that I shall not use powerpoint whilst performing my professorial duties. Her reason…none. Ok, so I do what I’m told…because I’m spineless like that. It sucks, I could cover so much more and in so much more depth if I wasn’t constantly writing on the board and dealing with overhead slides. I would guess that the lack of powerpoint cuts my classroom productivity by close to 30%. Luckily, after this term I can use powerpoint to my heart’s content. Its just the perfect tool for this sort of thing. In my class last semester I had multimedia (photos, videos, animations) everything was on the slide that they needed to know and at the end of the day I could upload the slide which the students could download. The end result is a focus on paying attention to what I’m saying and on their own comprehension and not with scribbling notes in a book which they might never use. Technology is meant to be used…not ignored. Only two more classes…Patrick OUT!!!

What I’m listening too: Alison Krauss and Union Station


So I am becoming more and more averse to my mentor/advisor/BOSS. I can’t write a whole lot about it here because this is a public forum (which she doesn’t read currently…thank god). I will summarize the idea in a few simple trends.

1.       Likes to ignore/downplay my ideas until someone else proposes the same thing and then she presents it as the second persons ingenuity

2.       An unyielding stubbornness and amazing capacity for snap judgments with a complete lack of ability to see the other side of an argument

·         I know I’ve probably been accused of the same thing because I have strong opinions on lots of issues…the key difference is that I pride myself on knowing the other side of an argument and making a reasoned (usually) choice to believe the way I do. I am also fully willing to change my views if new evidence comes to light that makes my old view foolish or incorrect

·         For instance, we fought about the correct usage and definition of a word…one would think that the dictionary would be the ultimate resource on such matters…I found out that its apparently not the case

3.       Lack of empathy for people around her while simultaneously taking things extraordinarily personally.

4.       Immature and unproductive response to criticism of any sort no matter how well-intentioned

Some of you may be saying…OK, what do you do about it? The answer…not much. I’m fairly spineless in dealing with her and I routinely yield to her on matters like these because the result of me pushing back is NEVER positive. Instead, I work around the ridiculousness and try to get my way within the system hoping she never finds out I did so. I feel better now.

“Thanks for noticing me” - Eeyore

Patrick OUT!!!

What I’m Listening Too: Sarah McLachlan (don’t look at me that way…she is very talented and I’m confident in my sexuality)


On Academia

So we have had a lot of faculty candidates come in to interview and present their work to the department (actually 2 departments for 3 positions). I have had the good fortune to meet with most of them and talk about careers and listen to their stories of how they got where they are now. I have been mostly underwhelmed by the whole experience and really it makes me want to be done being a grad student more than ever. Its not so much that I want to be where they are now but more a sense that I should be where they are now. In all likelihood, a few of these individuals will be hired as full time tenure-track faculty and while that’s nice…I was hoping they would be more outstanding. I wanted to know that there was something to aspire to for the next 2-4 years as I travel down a similar path. These people have essentially solidified the idea that I’m not going to go all that much farther in the next four years, or if I do advance farther it will not necessarily be of much benefit. I seriously hope I’m wrong about the whole thing but after seeing faculty at our university and others who are really kind of clueless, the pedestal of academia has been lowered substantially. That famed ivory tower seems more manageable but not in that good way. I was truly hoping that the idealism would last a bit longer as motivation for long hours, mediocre wages, and little recognition. Instead, I feel myself pulled towards a job in industry as an academic “sell out.” I suppose I’m probably judging things a bit too harshly and that this is all reactionary to some degree but the consistent pull to have a job that is certainly less stressful day to day (unless you risk being fired or your company bought out), and better pay has some degree of appeal. I’m thinking now that a post-doctoral appointment someplace may be the last  foray into academia for me. It’s a shame really because I think I could have been a decent professor but at the same time, I think that academia(especially the sciences) is going in truly the wrong direction for the future. Professors obsess over funding of research and in that pursuit are forced to kill many creative ideas as being too risky to suggest. Instead our major funding agencies look for sure things with immediate relevance when they should be looking for things that are innovative approaches to problems. They are terrified of the unknown instead of being excited by it. Furthermore, the transition of academic culture into an institution of training and a product to be sold is a bit disheartening. While the transition is by my own standards the way things were destined to be; when faced with it day to day…I’m not sure I like it. I guess its all symbolic of the infantilizing of a generation and my own romanticizing of the past. An age past wherein you turned 18 and were a man in your own right who could work, support a family, fight a war, or any combination of those things. Now we have high school part 2 where young men and women can avoid being men and women for 4-6 years while someone else foots the bill. It seems entirely sensible to me that we should abandon the paradigm  that individuals attend college immediately after high school. Rather a system where college is just one of many options presented with no particularly greater or lesser value ascribed to it which might avoid the relegation of a fairly noble institution to a 4 year holding pattern for life. Some students will emerge from their basic primary education and have an earnest curiosity and desire to expand their intellectual pursuits and may go to college or may choose to study on their own and seek out their own individual training in such things. Others may pursue a trade or start a family and may find that college merely gets in the way of those certainly noble goals. And still others may choose to do nothing, indeed, many of those people (the do-nothings) in this day would go to college as only a pre-emption of their continuing to do nothing upon their matriculation into life. Why not just save the money and time and get a head start on life and what’s worthwhile. Furthermore, some jobs for which our society demands a college education…just plain old don’t need one. These are the jobs that were filled for decades by people without a piece of paper saying they sat in classrooms for four years doing crosswords. We need to reevaluate the place of academia in society and for better or for worse, understand that its not for everyone; that is to make it that much better for those who would truly benefit from it. I am a firm believer that no amount of formal education will make a person into a creative, functioning, driven adult and that rather these are purely personal pursuits that no amount of tuition paid will hasten to completion. Maybe I should have trained as a blacksmith or something…Patrick OUT!!!

Just what I've been waiting for



So here it comes…a showdown for the ages. The new “young gun” administration vs. “the lion of the senate.” So it seems, that President Obama is going to render some sort of decision on the fate of “Cape Wind” the proposal to station more than 100 giant wind turbines off of cape cod that would generate electricity for the state. The project is slated to cost close to a billion dollars but could produce enough electricity to supply 75% of cape cods demand at any given time and offset carbon emissions to the tune of 1 million tons annually. So its expensive but it might just be the wave of the future and really it’s a neat trial for the technology. Dear old senator kennedy opposes the plan. Why you ask…well he says its because it it would harm fish and birds that live near the area. So the government commissioned a study and come to find out they determined that the plan was environmentally sound. Hmmm…what else could it be senator. Oh wait, maybe your house on cape cod…is it going to ruin your view? A couple of specks of clean energy generation more than 5 miles off shore. Now, I understand. If he was really concerned about the environment then he would support the plan…not only because of the already mentioned reasons but also because of the reduction in oil that would need to be shipped to the cape cod power station. Over the past 32 years…there have been two incidents that combined spilled close to 8 million gallons of oil off the coast of cape cod which killed thousands of birds and fish and shut down shell fish beds for weeks. Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about those things…but senator ted doesn’t agree. While regular readers will surely know that I am no big fan of governor Patrick…he definitely has it right on this one and I hope he presses Obama to use his considerable clout to push this project through. The state could use a boost to the economy (jobs putting these things up and supporting the crews who do) and it could use the energy too. Come now teddy, its time to look past your mansion’s ocean front view and towards the future of energy independence. Patrick OUT!!!


What I’m Listening Too: Bobby Darin


What...too soon?

So apparently President Obama paid a quick impromptu visit to the press corps area at the white house. When asked a serious questions about the relevance of his ban on lobbyists and his deputy defense secretary’s former work as a defense industry lobbyist…he got a little miffed. Too soon Mr. O? Honeymoon not over? I guess I’m not surprised at his response to the question…it was pretty hard hitting and quite observant on their part which is more surprising given how much they all fawned over him during the election. To be honest, it puts some of my worries aside, mainly the concern that the true role of the press as governmental watchdog was going away as they are all “in the tank” for obama. This is not to say, that we shouldn’t be mindful of media bias…it clearly exists (on both sides). On a side note…I object to the term…mainstream media bias. Because really, in the age of the internet…mainstream media hardly exists or matters anymore. Sure lots of people watch the evening news but lots of people listen to right wing radio…the fact of the matter is that people’s political views aren’t so much determined by the network the watch or the pundit the hear but rather by which arguments make sense to them. There are people on both sides of every issue that believe one thing or another for both good and bad reasons. They are idiots and geniuses that go both ways. So mainstream media doesn’t factor into the equation because idiots don’t change their minds much because they can’t understand the reason for doing so and smarter folk evaluate their sources. Furthermore, people always like to believe that they are in the majority and that its just a small group of stupid people that make it tough for all the sensible ones. Thus people look for news outlets that agree with them on the issues already because then they can avoid conflict. Conservatives listen to the radio and liberals watch Chris Mathews and Keith Olberman. Conservatives read the wall street journal and liberals read the new York times. Sometimes people cross over but its just because they WANT to be appalled. The point of it all is that we have both sides on these issues and as long as that is maintained then media of both persuasions will continue to be a watchdog for the government. In the end, that’s the point…just like we need the police to watch and make sure nobody robs our houses when we go to work…so do we need the reporters to watch the government when no one else will and make sure that they are always accountable to the people. Obama should work on making friends with these people because the honeymoon is going to be over quicker than he things and the times they are a changin’. Patrick OUT!!!


What I’m Listening Too: Bonnie Raitt

Atheist Auto Sales

So as I was driving in to work this morning, I noticed a new sign on the way. In shrewsbury one of the small local auto dealers has changed its name (maybe management too) to “Miracle Car Sales.” Their sign has a small “jesus fish” in the corner which leads me to surmise that we have an auto dealer with a truly Christian bent. I’m not sure I would buy a car from such a place. I think I would rather my auto dealer be either atheist, agnostic, or at the very least apathetic to religion. I mean just imagine buying a car from Miracle Auto Sales…sure they give you a good deal but what if you need repairs. Do they pray about whats wrong with it and hope that god gives them a clue in a jelly donut shaped like your carburetor. If you need a bumper repair, do they send you to a transubstantiation body shop? I, for one, think that the world needs a truly secular auto buying experience. I propose the following. Patrick’s Atheist Auto Sales! I even have a catchy tag line for our cheap TV ads: “Come on down…Sunday Sunday Sunday…its not like we have something better to do.” We would of course be the next evolution in auto sales…if you believe in that sort of thing. Of course, I wouldn’t half ass any of this, we would have a full service auto megaplex here. “We don’t walk on water car washes.” “ Deist Dent and Ding Services with Atheistic Attention to Detail.” “Plus unlike those jesus loving auto dealers…YOU are our number one priority.” I could make millions off the 8% of the public that are non-believers…or maybe not. Patrick OUT!!!


What I’m Listening Too: Ben Folds

A "Trav"esty

So I wonder if this is a recipe for hate mail but I’m going to go after some people today, who in my opinion, are the closest thing we have to actual terrorists in this country right now. They are the biggest threat to national security that I can see and they exist almost entirely uncontested right under the nose of homeland security. Actually its two groups, one big and one small but both with far undue influence. The post is really being spurned on by the death of Jet Travolta, son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston. Now, I’m not one to make a child’s death into a political statement but it does bring to light the issues surrounding scientology. I’m not going to say that scientology played a role in Jet’s death but the community should be mindful of what this church says and where it comes from. A church that for no ideas founded on reason, opposes the use of any sort of drug relating to mental diseases. They purport that all disease is a manifestation of some sort of spiritual upheaval within the person that can be cured with specialized and expensive counsel. I’m going to avoid the usual tack of going after scientology with the old, “it’s a religion made up by an old drugged out second-rate science fiction writer hungry for money and attention.”  Instead, I’m going to say that dianetics and all its associated auditing, thetans, xenu and the like are total and complete bullshit of the first degree. I, for one, have trouble believing much in the way of spiritual things and so I find it even harder to believe that someone could be swayed by the everest sized pile of cow dung that is the modern church of scientology. I can only imagine that people with too much time on their hands and a need for a solution to their problems bite into this, are brainwashed in a cult mentality and at some point become too embarrassed to admit that they fell for it so they instead defend it to the end. Which brings me to group number two. The parents and activists who routinely claim that child hood vaccines and thimersol are linked to autism. I’m going to briefly speak as a scientist here and say: THERE IS NO LINK. There has never been a credible study done to show a link there. Child hood vaccines have saved millions of lives and will continue to do so unless these crazies with no scientific training get their way. It is a classic example of people not understanding what the hell they’re talking about and making a judgment they are not fit to make. In this instance, the judgement has been taken by the media without fact checking as a means for scaring the crap out of new parents for the sake of ratings with the consequence of hysteria. Of course the true consequence is that children may be forsaking vaccines that could potentially save their lives. The risks associated with thimerasol are still only theoretical risks and even with the theoretical (read: not grounded in good science) risks do not even approach the life-saving potential of these miracles of modern medicine. The people that purport these ideas should be put on the same level as those in the religious community that make it their business to preach intolerance and hatred and to incite violence amongst their congregants towards nonbelievers. In short, they should be prosecuted for willfull negligence of the facts and for the same reason that it is illegal to yell fire in a crowded theater; their speech should also be cause for legal recourse. Indeed, in ruling on the limits of free speech Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in his opinion


“The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that the United States Congress has a right to prevent.”


These items CLEARLY fall within the realm of causing a “clear and present danger” to millions of children under the watchful eye of well-meaning but under-informed parents.  Patrick OUT!!!


What I’m Listening Too: Old Crow Medicine Show

Why the Internet was Invented


Shopaholic Dies in Avalanche of Clothing


Yes, you read that right. A woman in the UK was buried alive in a pile of shoes, suitcases, and other items of conspicuous consumption. It is a rare thing in life when something so clearly metaphorical is acted out in reality. I mean this is like a crappy new Yorker cartoon come to life…its astounding.

Patrick OUT!!!


What I’m Listening Too: Bob Dylan

I'm moving there

Bureau of Labor Statistics


So according to the US bureau of labor statistics more than 1% of the population of Montana is employed as a bartender. Wow…that’s a lot of bartenders. I mean seriously, does a state really need one person for every 100 people to be a bartender. Now you might be thinking well that’s not too unreasonable but lets be clear here. Not all of those 100 people are going to be drinking. We can remove people who are not 21 which brings us to about 70 people. We can probably also take out a good number of people below the poverty line because they aren’t going to be drinking in bars much. But conservatively, we can say that half the people in poverty still drink in cheap bars. This still takes away another 7 people from our 100 bringing us down to 63 montanans. Of course 3% of the state is mormon and they don’t drink either so we lose two more there. Down to 61 folks. The bartender isn’t drinking on the job so we can take him out of the mix which makes it 60 people being served. So now we have 1 bartender for every 60 drinkers in a town. That’s a lot of bartenders. I mean lets suppose that a bar might have 6 people at any given moment in the day (sometimes more and sometimes less) but if they average less than that then they probably don’t need a bartender. Lets then say that they all really like their bartender (because not surprisingly he knows them personally) and so they decide to stay for 3 hours at a time, and are responsible and only have two drinks. Lets then say that the bar closes at 2:00 am and opens at 2:00 pm for a nice even 12 hour shift. We’ll be conservative and say the bartender works all 12 hours. Over 12 hours, 24 people will come into our fictitious bar and will have 48 drinks. Which means that in a 7 day week, we are talking about 168 people and 336 drinks. If we then remember that each bartender is only serving on average 60 people in Montana. In the span of a week, each and every eligible and wanting person is being served at least 5-6 drinks by a bartender. Of course, I’m using conservative numbers for the estimation, so in reality there are probably more people needed to keep a bar running because a bar that sells only 336 beers/drinks in a week is probably just barely keeping, the lights on, the kegs full, and a bar keep paid (even assuming minimum wage an owner would need to budget around $2500/month in salaries for his one bartender). So if we take the minimum $2500/ month salary and $1000 month rent plus utilities and $500/month in non beer supplies. The owner needs a margin suitable to cover these $4000/month in expenses.  Moving back to the minimum of 336 drinks/week, they need to make a minimum of about $3/ drink ($4000 / 1344 drinks/month) to break even or sell more than the 5-6 drinks/week/person. So maybe 7-9 drinks/person/ week is more appropriate.  In short, the people of Montana better get busy and start drinking because there must be some suffering bar owners there. I wonder how aspirin sales are in Montana? Patrick OUT!!!


What I’m Listening Too: Blind Boys of Alabama  


So I recently had a bit of a debate about the propriety of having the ten commandments in a US courthouse. In line with my belief that we are and should be a secular nation to as much a degree as possible, I am categorically opposed to the ten commandments being placed in any courthouse in the United States. The argument for having such a document besides say the constitution or the declaration of independence is that it forms the historical basis for our legal system…I say nay. I think for a true discussion of the issue, some of you (especially the heathens out there) may need a refresher on the ten commandments themselves. I will take this from the roman catholic tradition (the commandments are numbered differently depending on your faith).


1.       I am the lord, and thou shalt have no other gods before me and thou shalt not worship false idols

2.       Thou shalt not take the lord’s name in vain

3.       Thou shalt keep holy the Sabbath

4.       Honor thy father and thy mother

5.       Thou shalt not kill

6.       Thou shalt not commit adultery

7.       Thou shalt not steal

8.       Thou shalt not bear false witness

9.       Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife

10.   Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house


So lets just take a look at these and see where our legal code fits in. Of course, we have our own version of numbers 5, 6 and 7 but I would argue that it is really a reflection of an evolutionary required and rationally required law that members of the same species should not kill each other or otherwise subvert each other’s well being. Furthermore, the bible is definitely not the first time such  laws were passed down. In deed the Code of Ur-Nammu, predates dear moses by more than 700 years. Lets take a look at the others. Numbers 1 and 2 are specifically made moot by the 1st amendment that says not only can you worship whoever you want, but you have the freedom to blaspheme  everyone else’s gods too. Number 3 was pretty much done in when people couldn’t even agree which day was the Sabbath. Furthermore, modern grad students have no knowledge of the alleged weekend and thus are unfamiliar with the Sabbath in general. Number 4 is a nice thought, but I would guess that most people pretty easily toss this one aside whenever the situation suits them. Number 8 is pretty good, so I will give that one to the 10 commandments, though I have a feeling that it was probably around before moses. It does remind me though, that should I ever be put on the stand I will need to request another book (besides the bible) to pledge my sacred oath on. I’m thinking I might use the Darwin’s “The Origin of Species.” Something like, “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you Dawkins.” As far as those last two go, I think they are un-American…what are we if not covetous of things…isn’t that why people get credit cards and the divorce rate is greater than 50%. If they were illegal, think about how many of us would be in jail. So in summation, we have exactly 4 commandments that are truly relevant to our legal system…of those, at least three were coined way before moses ever came off the mountain. Even if we take all four that’s only a score of 40% for commandment relevance…that’s not a passing grade.  Keep your commandments out of my court room. Patrick OUT!!!


Chicago Schools Spend $67,000 on cappuccino machines

As an addendum to yesterdays posting on home schooling…I submit the following evidence about the gross mismanagement and corruption that is endemic to public schools in the United States, and why all parents should have the fundamental right to remove their children from such a system should they deem it necessary. We as a country can expect any institution with no stake in its own success (i.e. no intrincit benefit in performing well)  and that opposes all objective measurements of that success to succumb to these sorts of problems. A parent who chooses to send their child to private school (with the help of a voucher) or who chooses to educate their children at home not only has a fundamental right to do so but likely has a moral obligation as such (especially if they live in Chicago). The teachers unions and their school boards regularly fight with one another but they both use the same underhanded scare tactics to coerce parents into voting in overrides on their property taxes so that raises can be given. If a teacher wants a raise they should earn the raise as a qualified individual and the value of a teachers services should be set on the open market. I imagine that the true value of a qualified teacher would reach far beyond what many are paid now. The unfortunate side effect of our educational system is that we are still without means of discerning good from bad. In deed, unless a teacher is accused and found guilty of gross physical misconduct with a student or total disregard of job requirements…they will not be fired. We have created a breeding ground for mediocrity in perhaps the most noble of professions. A move towards privatizing education and true freedom of choice in that education is absolutely essential for the preservation of a free society. Our public schools know for certain that they will always receive a bailout no matter how bad things get. In deed, in my own home state, the brand new newton north highschool is going to receive more than $45,000,000 in state aid to complete the project. So now the rest of the states tax payers will be forced to subsidize this absurdly mismanaged project…to what benefit? A private institution would never receive such aid (unless of course they also made oversized and overpriced cars). We have removed all incentive to perform to standards, to innovate in the way education is delivered and to provide a product worthy of the money that is so often thrown its direction. Its time for a change in the way we think about education in this country. Patrick OUT!!!



Time: California court declares homeschooling illegal


So this article is a little old but I can only read the news from so many sources and stay informed. I would encourage you to read the story but the gist of it is as follows. A Los Angeles district court has declared that all children taught in the state of California must be taught by licensed teachers and thus homeschooling is no longer legal (unless the parents happens to be a licensed teacher). The case is now on its way to the state supreme court on appeal where it will hopefully be overturned. It is absolutely un-American in my mind to say that the children of a family should be forced into school against the wishes of a parent. I certainly agree that all children should receive a quality education, with the tacit understanding that the source might not be a public school. It sets a horrible precedent for the government of any state to decree that state sponsored indoctrination (don’t forget, some states still teach intelligent design) must be followed. In relation to state educational supremacy, the following quote:

Hitler said on 1 May 1937:

"The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled.

The first sentence in the official instructors manual for high schools reads:

"The German school is a part of the National Socialist Educational order. It is its obligation to form the national socialistic personality in cooperation with the other educational powers of the nation, but by its distinctive educational means”


I think we could pretty easily substitute California for German and this would still look just about right. The school system and the state has no vested interest in the success of a child, their only interest is in self-preservation. A parent has an inherent (or should have) interest in the success of their children. The state of California is trying to rob the parents and children of that state of a fundamental right to choose and they should be ashamed. A free society is no place for such absurd claims as the courts of California has made and the citizens of that state (whether sending their children to public education or otherwise) should stand up and resist this on moral and ethical grounds.

Patrick OUT!!!


What I’m listening too: Ennio Morriconne


A Happy Note


So I’ve now been informed by two regular readers of this site that my posts have been too depressing recently. This is not on purpose. I’m not depressed in the slightest, rather I think its more a reflection of what I find interesting and furthermore what I think a reader might find interesting. At this point, a blog is not really a reflection of anything and everything that comes through my head in a day. While my posts tend to be pretty scattered in their topics that is really because I only write when I think something deserves to be read. It’s a bit akin to people who talk constantly without saying much of anything as if silence is something to be avoided. I have always taken the approach of trying only to speak when I have something to say. This is not to gloss over the fact that a lot of my posts are little more than frivolous dribble and ramblings…irregardless of that idea, I usually find them either interesting, funny, topical, or in rare instances insightful on a personal sense. I typically don’t share much in the way of personal news and I guess when I do it comes across as depressing…which I suppose might be cause for concern but I don’t think so. The other posts that might be depressing are those in which I’m critical of someone or something. Of course, the individuals and organizations which I criticize tend to be large, powerful, and famous or more likely infamous. These groups don’t really need any pats on the back from little old me or from any readers and so I tend to focus on the critical. This is definitely, unlike my other posts, a distinct reflection on me and my nature. I’m not usually a down individual or prone to “glumness” but I am very critical. I tend to think of it as a positive character trait (though others may not) and respect it quite a bit when I find it in others. So as we move into the new year, you can expect more of whats already been given; a cultural critique as best I can muster. Patrick OUT!!!


Also for 2009…A new section in each post, what I’m listening too:

This week: Nina Simone

A better team

So I’ve talked a little bit about this before in that the highlight of my midweek is trivia on Wednesday. A bunch of friends play at a restaurant/pub in Cambridge on a team. The make-up of the team changes from week to week as does our performance. We have a more or less core group of people that go (thankfully they are the people that provide most of the answers) and then a large number of people who make cameo appearances. Being that I’m way too competitive…especially with things like this, and because I’ve played on a good number of trivia teams (many through college and then quite a few since then); I think I finally have a grasp on what makes a team successful or not. I’m going to make my guidelines based on a fairly standard format of 4-6 person teams with limited time to answer and no outside resources (i.e. no iPhones blackberries etc…though I think some people cheat at our particular event). Trivia nights all focus around particular categories and a successful  team has keen understanding of those categories. A team full of people who know “trivia” is paradoxically a bad idea. Instead, you need a division of labor approach where individuals have particular expertise. A great team would have the following key strengths in particular players


1.       Pop culture phenom – This is the person that watches too much TV and isn’t too particular to one type of TV. The guy who sits at home watching shark week on the discovery channel all the time isn’t much good here in comparison to the guy who tivos all the prime time dramas and sit-coms from all the major networks. The guy who secretly sits through ryan seacrest’s top40 and reads People magazine like it’s the New York Times. They will be responsible for TV, Music, and Celebrity identification questions. If they can name all the members of the brat pack and the rat pack…you might be set.

2.       The News Junkie – That person who has too much free time and fills it with newspapers, newsweek, time, the economist, and watches CNN headline news. If someone on your team can name members of the council on foreign relations and can name all the member states of the EU…that’s your guy. This person needs to stay up to date on current events. They are actually very similar to the pop culture expert just with different priorities.

3.       The Historian – What was the “bulge” in the battle of the bulge? If know the answer to that…then you might be the historian. A trivia team needs some diversity here too. Being that there is 4000 years of human civilization to cover, questions can never be too specific but the range of possibilities is very high. A history major in college is a good choice, a guy with a PhD in antebellum architecture is not. Both historical but only one is going to get you any place at trivia.

4.       A scientist – Someone to tell the team why degrees Kelvin and degrees Celsius are different. The scientist suffers like all the other categories from being too specific in many cases. While being a scientist myself…I might fit into this category, in reality its probably not my best. The problem stems from being too focused. You need the guy that reads popular science as a hobby and not fungal molecular physiology as a career.

5.       The Sports Nut- the most straightforward but also the most elusive team member. Finding that right mix of sports fan who can not only rattle off baseball stats but can figure out whats going on in a rugby scrum. A knowledge of history is also key here too…players on great teams, recent MVPs and hall of fame inductees are crucial. ESPN watchers are a good start but a student of the game(s) is what’s required.

6.       The Sweeper – The person that picks up the slack with truly useless knowledge. Things that no one should be expected to know are common knowledge to this player. He rattles off that a group of barracudas is called a battery like he just saw it yesterday. This players knowledge is a combination of inspiring and disturbing.


If only my regular teams could have these people all the time. For those of you out there reading…we need a sports nut.

Patrick OUT!!!

The Good Old Days

Reading about the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s choice of the Rev. Rick Warren to lead the invocation at his inauguration, I am struck once again and solidified in my opinion that the United States has an urgent need to address the place of religion in politics. I am quite aware that I am in a minority here in my beliefs…actually more of a minority than I had originally known. A recent study done by the University of Minnesota showed that atheists are perhaps the least trusted or approved of group in the United States. They share a lower standing amongst the majority opinion than Muslims, African-Americans, and homosexuals. I guess that revolution of cultural tolerance hasn’t quite gone far enough. Now, I’m not in the business of telling people what to believe…I have no interest in converting people but I do have an interest in the sanctity of the grand ideals the country was founded on. The text books often cite stories of the pilgrims and their escape from religious intolerance which is all well and good but more important are the people who came those many years later to found a country with a government free of religion. I know the religious right will often claim that our constitution and our founding fathers were a religious bunch who sought to establish a free Christian nation where everyone could practice their faith. That might have been a consequence of their politics but the point originally was to not so much free the people from religious persecution as it was to free the government of religious influence. Read that first amendment again…the same one that protects my rights to rant here also prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another or over non-religion and this purpose has been specifically upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States. Furthermore, our founding fathers who put in place the most brilliant framework for a country in the history of the world were most likely deists if not outright atheists. Why then, almost 250 years later, are we returning to a state where religion has such sway. A place where the only acceptable form of intolerance is that towards non-believers. I’m going to avoid the temptation to list the ills of religious belief and religious intolerance in a society because any cursory inspection of history and role of religion in it will back up my requests for cautioned skepticism. I think that the Obama administration should think carefully about their integration of religion into the Whitehouse. We are leaving behind 8 years of an administration that in my mind has had two great foibles beyond the scope of reason. The first, of course, is sending 3000 young men and women to their deaths in a far off country with an at best nebulous goal in mind and the second is that outrageous integration of religious doctrine into the policy making machinations of the world’s most powerful government. Believe what you want to believe but in the new year a healthy amount of skepticism and a return to the good old days of the founding fathers would do us well. Patrick OUT!!!

A Good Fit

So as I move forward into the new year I am being consistently bombarded both within my own mind and by others to find things that are a good fit. I need a next step in my career that will be a good fit for me. Someplace where I can grow and learn and also feel like I make a contribution to the greater good (don't I sound idealistic now). I also want someplace where I can have fun and do things that are exciting and new. I'm, of course, also looking for new people and more specifically a new person in my life that might be a good fit. I'm not going to list of a profile but let me just say that news of Giselle Bundchen's engagement to Tom Brady was very disheartening...i mean that guys kind of a bum...he hasn't worked in 16 weeks. I guess it just wasn't meant to be...too tall I suppose for me anyways. Which brings me to my last and most attainable goal...clothing that is a good fit. Being a man of less than average verticality but also with less than average circumfrence can make clothing difficult. I know that everyone thinks that nothing good comes in their size when they go look for clothes but I think my problem is a bit different. With men's clothing,to say nothing of women's sizing that is such a rediculously enigmatic thing to me that i'm often left beyond confused in my attempts to understand how a woman's sized can be reduced to a single number that has little if any relationship to any actual dimension...things should be made to measure so it should, in theory, be easy to find suitable shirts and slacks that fit well. Unfortunately, those sizes are all well and good for necks, sleeves, wastes, and inseams but there are crucial other factors that rarely swing in my favor. Most shirts, while fitting fine around the neck and resting nicely along my wrists, have enough extra material in them to supply a team for the Americas Cup. I could never figure out why they did this until I bought a shirt in China (not just made in china, actually marketed to chinese people). It fits great...i can only surmise that it must be due to my exceptional averageness in China. I wasn't the short skinny guy there, rather I was the perfectly proportioned and actually a bit tall gweilo<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gweilo>. Thus the problem lies in the demographics in america that says that a guy my height should be stocky...ugh, the american obesity crisis hits home. Well I'm off to have a donut...it should make my shirts fit better someday. Patrick OUT!!!