Archive for August, 2007

Pepsi Puke

August 28, 2007

Today, I had some Pepsi Summer Mix. And I really mean some: I couldn’t sip more than three distinct sips. I ended up pouring it out it was so awful.

A co-worker had bought a 12 pack on a lark (never having tasted it and displaying questionable judgement) and he suggested that we all have as much of it as we wanted. In fact, he encouraged us to drink the rest after managing to get through one can by himself (there were still 7 left when I tried it). Everyone’s been raving about how foul it was over the last week.

It’s that and so much more. We were speculating as to how this stuff not only made it out of Pepsi’s research department but into the market. My guess was that they had inadvertently melded all the taste-bud-less people from wherever the lab’s located into a single focus group. My co-worker Chris believes that the massive mixing vats were due for cleaning and in scraping out the residue of the year’s production someone had accidentally gotten carbonated water mixed in. Someone was dared to taste it and they realized that they could recover a little bit of money from this otherwise wasted gunk.

I had to concede that that was the most likely explanation. Bottom line: don’t drink it. You’ll thank me.

[UPDATE: I forgot to include a link to my other co-worker‘s opinion.]

Mr. Conservative

August 17, 2007

Last night was the Mr. Conservative screening at the Goldwater Institute and I had an absolute blast!

First, the Goldwater really knows how to put on an event. They had great snacks before the show (including beers, a wide variety of sodas, and bottled water) and movie concession stand snacks for during the show (including bags of popcorn!). For the Q&A after the show, they had the producer of the documentary (and granddaughter of Goldwater) CC Goldwater and Barry Goldwater Jr. The sizable hall was packed as well!

Between the Q&A and the documentary itself, I really got a feel for what was going on back in 1964 as well as what kind of man Barry Goldwater was. There really hasn’t been anyone like him on the political scene since he left it, though some have been pretty close. He spoke his mind and, more importantly, his was a principled political philosophy. Some of the things he said seemed inconceivable (and they probably were then too) but they shouldn’t be. Far too much of politics today is posturing and it truly sickens me.

His son made an excellent point about the seeming contradiction between his conservatism and his late-in-life support of gays in the military, abortion, and the separation of church and state. He said that his father never changed his views, only the agenda changed. If they had been issues in the sixties, he would have came out just as he did. I desperately wanted to ask his son about Goldwater’s statements against the religious right and his views on Ronald Reagan, but I never got the chance.

I met with a few of the Institute people and they were very impressive. These people get the Institute’s message of “limited government, individual responsibility, economic freedom.” They weren’t dismissive of Objectivism and viewed its adherents as fellow travellers at worst. What was most refreshing was their explicit distancing from the religious right. That is what’s needed if we’re ever going to take back the GOP from the neocons and the fundies. That is why the Goldwater Institute has my support. They, like their namesake, are the vanguard of conservatism—I say that only in the Goldwater sense as I prefer to identify myself as a capitalist (or libertarian if I have to).

Money quote from the documentary: “Barry said, ‘If I had won, you wouldn’t have spent those years in a Vietnamese prison.’ I told him, ‘You’re right. It would have been a Chinese prison.'” — John McCain

Bourne Loser

August 8, 2007

Bourne Ultimatum was a big disappointment. One reviewer that I generally enjoy lauded it, so I had some good expectations that it definitely didn’t meet.

Now, let me preface the following by saying that I don’t expect much from mindless action movies. I myself am a big fan of nearly-everything Jackie Chan has done—and it’s often hard to speak of a plot existing in those movies. I enjoyed The Bourne Identity and didn’t care for the second one. I wasn’t looking for anything great, but I wasn’t prepared for how awful it was.

The best word to describe this movie was ridiculous. The plot had gaping holes that required the audience to leave their minds with their ticket stubs. For example, I thought that Bourne was pardoned in one of the previous movies. Why are they still after him in this go-round? And I’m willing to accept that the government sometimes operates in secret shadows that mere mortals such as myself couldn’t comprehend, but since when has the CIA effectively done so? And don’t even get me started about the sophistication of the surveillance equipment they were using.

That was all peripheral complaints though. For me, the worst part of the movie was the cinematography. Whenever any conversation was taking place (and sadly there were quite a few moments of lingering, monosyllabic dialog), the camera got a bad case of the jitters. It was as if the cameraman had Parkinson’s or had just invented a new camera rig called the (Un)Steadicam. I know that steady framing if passé nowadays but that jerkiness is usually reserved for action shots.

And those action shots took the spasms to unprecedented levels. I’m used to action scenes being difficult to follow—it’s an effective way to cover up the stunt work—but this is the first time in my memory where I gave up trying to focus on what was happening. It was as if the director took his visual cues from Looney Tunes fighting. All that was missing was the inexplicable smoke and punctuation marks flying around.

Sadly, the “ultimatum” in the title wasn’t present. The ending left a clear opening for the next sure-to-be-overhyped installment. This is one of the few times when I would have preferred the main character to have died after being shot as he was jumping from a 10-story building into the East River. Note to Universal Pictures: if you must do another sequel, please please please name it Bourne Again. It’s such a bad pun, yes, but it absolutely cracks me up.

An Inconvenient Uncertainty

August 5, 2007

It’s time to make up my mind about global warming. I’m sure that that statement is leaving many of you scratching your heads—most people I know or encounter view global warming as unassailable and cannot fathom how anyone could question such a settled matter. To be honest, I haven’t seriously surveyed the science since 1999 but my position has always been that I was skeptical of the claims for anthropogenic global warming. The time has come for me to re-examine the scientific findings since then and re-acquaint myself with the chief arguments for and against the skeptical position. In the next couple months (or less), I’ll review the links I’ve collected at del.icio.us and the links presented by those links. In the end, I hope to have a much firmer grasp of the issues as they stand today so I can make a decision about what I believe.

For the record, I don’t believe that man has had anything to do with a global increase in mean surface temperature if such a thing has actually happened. That means two things: I’m dubious that surface temperature has increased significantly and I don’t believe that man’s activities on the planet have affected the climate globally. My scientific basis for believing that was quite solid back in 1999 (and earlier) but I’ve really grown out of touch with the current scientific body of evidence one way or the other.

The global warming faithful always have trotted out the fact that 2,500 scientists signed a position for this or that contention or that the entire world (except us) ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Such arguments don’t hold much sway with me and they shouldn’t with anyone, except that the consensus position deserves greater attention. All the scientists in the world can be wrong about something and all of the Third World nations might accept a treaty that adversely affects the United States. There are definite incentives in believing the global warming hype or taking America down a peg; whether they are currently at work remains to be seen.

The modern environmentalist movement espouses what I call a “watermelon” ideology. It’s green on the outside and red on the inside. (I’m not sure where the black seeds fit in to this analogy.) In other words, the environmentalists frequently take positions that Marxists and Communists wouldn’t have a problem with. Carbon reductions will stifle nascent economies and cause substantial displacements in established ones. The United States, with the largest economy in the world, will bear the brunt of environmental restrictions—and there’s a sizable contingent of the green movement that is positively giddy at that thought.

Governments around the world, including those at the state and federal levels in the United States, can see the expediency of using global warming as a pretext for increased economic and social regulation. At the very least, global warming has allowed for greater expenditures and taxation. If people believe that the seas will rise 150 feet over the next century or that the global average temperature will rise 10°, then they’ll accept a lot of internal restructuring of society. Most people will accept a deterioration of rights in return for safety and security.

Those are the reasons for my skepticism at present. They are largely based on the arguments put forth by proponents of global warming and my experience with past movements. At one time, as I mentioned, I could marshal scientific rationales for my positions as well. That made the arguments of the other side seem much more dishonest. Now, though, I’m inclined to think that there might be some merit to the belief that global surface temperatures are rising. My review of the scientific literature will focus on that aspect: I have plenty of questions on the methodology of determining a global surface temperature as well as about the specific mechanisms by which the minor amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere can cause such significant variances.

Once I’ve determined whether or not the basic scientific questions have been answered, then I’ll be in a better position to evaluate the proposed solutions. If the science doesn’t jibe, then the proposed solutions’ motivations will be exposed quite readily. If the science is good, then I’ll look at man’s role in the matter and whether it can be mitigated at this point. I’m quite unsure as to which route my study will take and I will post my findings on this blog once I’ve settled my mind.