Thursday, July 27, 2017

Pluto is good and communism is bad

In 2007, I wrote an "unholiday letter."  One of the topics I addressed was the reprehensible movement to demote Pluto from its rightful status as a planet to non-planethood.  In the ten years that have passed, it has actually discovered that Pluto has five--rather than three--moons.  That is five times as many moons as Earth! 


Normally, I try to be tolerant and understanding of opinions and perspectives that differ from my own.  There are limits, however, to how far I am willing to go.  Last summer, the disgusting psychopaths finally did it!  Yes, I am talking about the reprehensible decision to demote Pluto from its rightful status as a planet to non-planethood.  You might argue that these bozos—however incompetent they appear to be—were well intentioned, but as former President Dwight D. Eisenhower remarked, “Well, if the driver of your school bus runs into a truck, hits a lamppost, ... You get a new bus driver.”  With Pluto being by far the most eccentric of all the planets, this is a thinly veiled attack on eccentrics.  As an eccentric, I am deeply offended.  As God puts it in a cartoon that sets the record straight, “I could have sworn that I made nine planets!”

      As one of their justifications for their outrageous act, some of the bozos point out that a larger astronomical body has now been found orbiting beyond the orbit of Pluto.  So what?  Why be so stingy?  As I understand it, neither the Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, the Tibetan Book of the Dead,  the Bhagavad Gita, or any other source of religious authority decrees that the number of planets orbiting the sun most be in the single digits.  According to my calculations, the surface area of Pluto is a whopping 17.95 times that of the State of Texas?  Those who consider this “too puny” to be treated as a “serious” planet are now messing with both Pluto and Texas.  By the way, Pluto’s surface is also almost twice that of the entire U.S.!

I am a reasonable guy.  I don’t think this would have been a particularly useful idea, but if the bozos and wanted to demote a pathetic planet such as Mercury—which has no moons—to non-planethood, I could have lived with that.  Wouldn’t that make more sense, especially since, in recent years, it has been determined that Pluto actually has at least three moons instead of just the first one discovered a few decades ago, to sacrifice the more pathetic planet?

If the bozos had come out the idea that Uranus should be demoted because it spins at an untraditional angle, their unmitigated bigotry would have been immediately decried by righteous people around the World.  Why have people been more tolerant of prejudice against an eccentric planet than one that is axially challenged?  Discriminating this way is no more fair than punishing Jupiter for its red spot—or taunting Saturn for harboring an excessive number of moons.  Are the psychos trying to punish their mothers for a bad childhood by forcefully destroying the mnemonic “My very excellent mother just sent us nine pies?”[1]

The one thing I will say in defense of the psychopaths is that they at least waited until after the passing of Clyde Tombaugh, the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930.  Implementing the demotion while he was still alive would have added injury to the insult that he was never awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor that he so richly deserved for his discovery.  Professor Tombaugh’s wife remarked after the announcement of the act of travesty that her husband had come to peace with the situation, philosophically remarking “Whatever it is, it’s out there.”  I have to say that is an exceptionally generous attitude toward those clowns.

Last year was not the first time that the lunatic idea came up.  If it had been, an argument could have been made that the perpetrators acted hastily on a poorly thought out idea.  I remember clearly back to the tremendous sorrow I experienced when the bozos first embarrassed the profession of astronomy by proposing to rob Pluto of its birthright.  I did not realize how many righteous individuals actually shared my perspective and I was deeply touched to hear the righteous indignation that emanated.  I thought the psychos had learned their lesson when the idea was abandoned in the face of the backlash that had resulted.  I had been lulled into a false sense of security.  I simply could not conceive the evil of which those psychos were capable.

The good news, at least, is that the bozos do not have the power to tyrannically impose their misguided perspective on those of us who know better.  Pluto will always be a planet to me, and presumably to the vast majority of good, decent people around the World.

[1] Not having gone to elementary school in an English speaking country, I only learned of this device after the controversy started.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Three hours in the life of Joe Palabee

Joe recently got divorced.  His ex-wife got the vacuum cleaner, so Joe heads to Target to shop for another one.  He does not like the colors of the first several ones he sees, but he eventually finds one he likes.  He picks up some vacuum bags and then finds a package with six light bulbs, a box of paper clips, shoe polish, and a bag of brown rice.  While standing in line to check out, he thinks briefly about whether to buy chewing gum or breath mints.  Before leaving, he withdraws $40 from an ATM machine.  On the way home, he stops for gas and decides to buy a bottle of cold water.  When he arrives home, he checks his mail box and finds several advertisements, one of which is for a sale at a local bicycle shop.  Since Joe already has a bicycle and since it will be more than seven months until his twin nieces' birthday, he is not particularly interested.  Before doing anything else, Joe goes online and fills out the warranty registration for his vacuum cleaner.  He vacuums his office before the living room.

NOTE:  This story is purely fictional and for illustrative purposes only.  Any resemblance to existing individuals is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Potential plots in the next Gilmore Girls followup

For the next follow-up Gilmore Girls series, which of the following developments would you like most?
  1. Headmaster Charleston arranges for Lane to receive a college degree based on life experience and hires her as the Head Music Teacher at Chilton.
  2. Upon the retirement of Headmaster Charleston, Paris becomes headmaster at Chilton and shocks the faculty with the admonition that the curriculum must be made "45 percent tougher so that we can beat those nasty [expletive deleted] at the Oxford Academy."
  3. Taylor persuades a luxury goods factory outlet mall operator to locate a facility in Stars Hollow. Property values go up dramatically, but the locals start complaining about traffic congestion.  Taylor valiantly pushes Luke to offer some "at least reasonably sophisticated fare" in the diner so that mall shoppers can be attracted to visit Downtown.  When Luke resists, Taylor attempts to enlist Emily to plead his case, but Emily takes Luke's side, telling Taylor that "this kind of supercilious snobbery is deplorable and entirely unbecoming."
  4. In order to escape their obligations to visit, Lorelai and Luke persuade Emily to run for the U.S. Senate. After Emily serves three years, she is elected Vice President, and the Governor persuades Lorelai to take over Emily's Senate seat. After Emily and the President find themselves too exhausted to run for re-election, Lorelai is elected President on the Republican ticket.  She serves for two terms and uses her business sense to promote a strong progressive agenda.  Democrats and Republicans all agree that she will go down in history as "a truly great--if not the best--President."  Luke feels uncomfortable in the White House, so he sets up a non-profit organization that that sells hamburgers and fries to tourists, with the proceeds going to programs for returning veterans.
  5. When Rory is nominated to be U.S. ambassador to China, it comes up in her confirmation hearings that she has been serving as an undercover agent for the CIA since shortly after graduating from Yale.
  6. Miss Patty has an affair with Headmaster Charles, and when they are exposed, a major scandal erupts. Lorelai brokers an agreement with concerned parents that Headmaster Charles will take a one year sabbatical for counseling and "deep and intense soul searching," after which he will be allowed to return. Tristan is tapped to be Acting Headmaster.  Unfortunately, Tristan has a major disagreement with the football coach on strategy, and when the coach has to go on medical leave after being punched out, Tristan hires Kirk as acting coach.  Although many of the players and a large number of fans have serious doubts about the acting coach's strategy, the team goes on to have its best ever season.
  7. A famous actress named Lauren Graham moves to Stars Hollow.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Moon missions

Wikipedia indicates that the manned U.S. flights to the Moon all took place from 1969-1972. First of all, it really is very politically incorrect that we refer to "manned" missions.  Even though it happened that all the astronauts who went to the Moon were men, the term "personned" really would have been much more enlightened. I had been under the impression that there were something like 2-3 trips; apparently, there were six. I believed that the Soviets had landed on the Moon several times, but apparently, they never did. It seems a bit perplexing that so many missions were done in such a short time period with none to follow afterward.  Wouldn't NASA have wanted to spend more time between missions to make improvements based on what had been learned on previous trips and technological advances that had taken place?  Please don't get me wrong--I am not suggesting another personned Moon trip now or in the near future; there probably isn't all that much that could be gained for such an expensive endeavor, but it really seems a bit wasteful to run six missions so close in time.

In July of 1975, the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project took place--a trip that involved some cooperation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union with simultaneous space missions.  I had thought this was a Moon mission--at the time, when I was something like eleven years old, I probably could not have imagined any other reason for going up into space.  I certainly would not have understood the idea of going into orbit of the Earth or any other body.  I could not understand why so many people seemed to be so excited about another Moon trip since we had been there before. It all seemed rather routine. And it turned out that they had actually been excited about something even less eventful!  How pathetic!  In any event, this may be why I thought the Soviets had landed on the Moon.

Sadly, this is not the first time my beliefs about astronomy have proven erroneous.  At one point, I believed that aside from the Sun, the star closest to the Earth was some twenty-six light years away.  The closest one is actually "only" 4.22 light years away.  Fortunately, I don't teach astronomy, and I hope my students have not lost too much confidence in me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bozozity and delusion

Is the bozo completely clueless as to the consequences of his stiffing of suppliers, tax avoidance, insulting of the disabled and war heroes, unrepentant philandering, misappropriation of funds, treasonous encouragement of enemy nations to hack into U.S. computer systems, abuse of bankruptcy laws, deceptive advertising and misrepresentation, unmitigated use of profanity, and general lack of any meaningful element of conscience on the destination to which he will be headed when he passes away? Sadly, I would not be surprised if he has deluded himself that he will be in the number of that saints when they come marching in--and that he is owed the privilege of skipping the march and arriving in an air conditioned limousine. He will probably not be very happy with the climate control in place where he is headed. If he is dependent on ice skating for his happiness, he will be in real trouble.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Would Your Grandma Make The Youth Pastor Spread Rumors About Your Neighbor's Ex-Mother-in-Law If She Did Not Get Paid to Do So? Some Juicy Considerations in Theory of Mind and Social Relationships

Strictly speaking, this question only involves first order theory of mind: Separate but related questions about one's grandmother's thinking and the questioner's basis for the question.  The inquiry might lead one to suspect that the questioner believes that the grandmother in question may be rather greedy and/or that she is mean-spirited.  There could, of course, be socially redeeming reasons for bringing about this gossip--if, for example, the mother-in-law in question is engaging in socially destructive behavior in the community and could be driven out by the damage inflicted on her reputation.  But that is probably not what would come to mind at first glance.

Despite the first order nature of the question, however, the question does raise some interesting issues about social relationships:

  1. The questioner seems to presume some insight into the grandmother's motivations.
  2. The questioner appears to believe that the questionee has the background--based on knowledge of the characters involved--to figure out this rather complicated potential chain of events.
  3. There are assumptions that: (a) the grandmother has some power--whether by way or blackmail or otherwise--over the youth pastor; (b) the youth pastor might be unwilling to spread the rumors on his or her own initiative; (c) the youth pastor would be able to carry out this mission successfully; (d) some unidentified individual may be motivated to pay the grandmother for her efforts; and (e) it is clear from the context or otherwise (i) which youth pastor is implicated, (ii) which neighbor is implicated; and (iii) that either (1) the neighbor in question only has one ex-mother-in-law, (2) the relevant one is clearly implied, or (3) it is not particularly critical which of possible multiple ex-mothers-in-law is targeted--with the possibility that more than one might be targeted, either simultaneously or sequentially.  This is really getting complicated!
There are some thorny issues left unstated in this question, although the questionee might have some potential insight:
  1.  What is the motivation of the questioner?  Is he or she genuinely looking for information or is he or she possibly trying to embarrass the quetionee about his or her grandmother's potentially flawed character--or perhaps to instill pride either in (a) the greed of the grandmother, (b) her apparent evil nature, or (c) her willingness to "do the right thing"--if this is how the compulsion to spread gossip is seen--without being paid?  If the questioner is asking purely for information, is he or she potentially a cheapskate looking to have the rumors spread and wondering if he or she can get away with not paying the grandmother for her potentially valuable services?
  2. Is there any relevance to the fact that the ex-mother-in-law is that of a neighbor, or is that just a way in which she is identified?  How would the neighbor feel about the situation?  He or she may view the rumor attempts favorably as misfortune that a potentially disliked individual deserves to suffer; or, quite possibly, the neighbor may still have some loyalty to a former in-law and could potentially be the real target of a potential conspiracy to injure.  Or it could be that someone is trying to injure both the ex-mother-in-law and the neighbor at the same time.  If the attempt is to injure the ex-mother-in-law, does the individual seeking to accomplish this care one way or the other about any possible impact on the neighbor?
  3. Does the neighbor have a current non-ex-mother-in-law?  How would this potentially affect his or her views about the questions above?
  4. Does the questionee care one way or the other about the fate of the ex-mother-in-law?
  5. Does the questioner care one way or the other?  
  6. Although it is assumed above that the grandmother has some power over the youth pastor, is the choice of this individual as the sub-agent based on the appearance that the agent (the grandmother) has an especially high degree of power over this individual or is the assumption that the youth pastor would be a particularly effective sub-agent?
  7. Would spreading rumors be especially objectionable for a person of the cloth?  In particular, does the youth pastor's charge to minister to the needs of impressionable youth make spreading these rumors even more objectionable than it would be have been if done by other clerics?  Perhaps one might argue that it would have been at least as objectionable for the head pastor to spread the rumors but that the youth pastor's behavior would be more problematic than that of other subordinate ministers.
  8. Could all of the above potentially involve a plot by enemies of the grandmother to find a way to disgrace her, making the ex-mother-in-law merely a potential object of collateral damage?
Of course, these questions could become a whole lot more complicated if we added in issues about parking spot assignments.

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Silly laws

A society clearly needs to draw a balance between the necessity of maintaining some laws that make an advanced civilization possible and the danger of imposing overly burdensome laws that seriously threaten the liberty of individuals.  In particular, I am skeptical of local laws.  To some extent, individuals do have a choice as to where they wan to live, and there may be some merit to the idea that individuals can choose a state whose laws best reflects his or her positions.  It is much more difficult, however, to defend many laws enacted at the city or county level.  To some extent, variations may genuinely represent differences in the values of the residents, but I suspect that a lot of the variation really is the result of the idiosyncrasies of local elected officials rather than overall differences in opinions of local residents.  As a business school professor, I see the appalling waste that results  variations in local laws and regulations burden businesses without any significant benefit to residents.

Some clearly outdated laws remain on the books in some locations.  It is, of course, highly unlikely that local officials would seek to enforce them, but one wonders that ever motivated local jurisdictions to impose them and to what extent these laws could be abused if selectively enforced.  Sometimes, it is possible to see that silly laws could potentially have offered a small to modest benefit to the community based on the values of the time, but one wonders why the specific issue addressed by the law should get such a priority over other issues and why officials created a very specific ordinance rather than making the issue part of a more general law that would better reflect a coherent set of underlying values.

The Town of Wilbur, Washington, apparently still has on its books a law making it illegal to "ride an ugly horse."  Ironically, the Town Council might see this quaint ordinance as a potential boost for tourism and find it potentially economically disadvantageous to repeal it despite the law's obvious
obsolescence. What gave rise to this law in the first place?  To what extent had the town experienced or anticipated serious repercussions of unsightly horses being ridden?  Why confine protective measures of a potentially serious threat to such a narrow scope?  Yes, I get the point that few individuals, in practice, would find occasion to ride mules, rhinoes, donkeys, zebras, and giraffes, but why not focus more generally on aesthetic threats to the local environment rather than merely tackling  the cases where the threat is brought about by animals of burden?

But even under a limited scope, one question is whether the law was intended to as apply as narrowly as it was literally written.  Was this measure intended only to prohibit riding such a horse, but not to use it to draw a carriage or otherwise bring it into public view?

I can think of two potential reasons--albeit not particularly good ones--why the ban might be intended to apply exclusively to riding. One concern could be that having a horse to ride was a privilege only available to the more socially prominent residents.  Thus, a rider on an ugly horse could impugn the dignity of the upper class.  Another possibility could be that although an ugly horse used as part of a carriage could, to some extent, threaten the public decorum, the horse individually ridden would be so much more visible and thus, in practice, represent a greater felt intrusion.

There could potentially be several reasons for a law that would either selectively ban riding the ugly horse or more generally ban bringing such a horse into public view in the town, whether as part of a carriage or other arrangement:
  1. A general concern about the demoralizing impact of seeing the ugly horse on persons present.  Even if people did not experience great distress, the sight could be a bit of a "downer" and slightly depress mood, perhaps to the extent that civic pride could be threatened.
  2. Local merchants, restaurateurs, and hoteliers could have worried that the presence of such animals could demean the neighborhood, reducing the attractiveness of  offerings of local businesses, in return both depressing profits and property values.
  3. The concern might have been specifically about horses that take only an ugly appearance as a result of abuse.  Although ugliness is a subjective matter, it could potentially be easier to prove that the horse was "ugly" than that any disfigurements had actually resulted from abuse. In addition, in past centuries, many tended to hold a belief that as man held dominion over animals--who were supposed to serve man--forbidding the owners from abusing animals did not constitute a legitimate governmental objective, thus threatening the validity of a law with such a purpose.  (Yes, this reasoning sounds preposterous today, but many people used to believe that garbage.)
  4. One politically individual--or a group of powerful persons--were seeking to disadvantage one specific adversary whose only horse could be deemed ugly. It may have been possible to selectively enforce the law only when the disfavored individual tried to enter town and greet a convoy of exceptionally unsightly horses advancing with impunity into town with complete indifference.
When push comes to shove, one wonders how much controversy the ordinance generated in its time.  With the advancement of technology, a contemporary ban on the driving of "an ugly truck" would almost certainly engender the wrath of the "hicker" element of society, with emotional and indignant rallies and demonstrations rambunctiously demanding an immediate repeal.

Ultimately, if this type of law really had merit--for one of the above reasons or for entirely different ones--why did it not gain traction more widely?  Would it have helped if local officials, proud of their effective measure to set things right, could have communicated their visions to over local officials over the Internet?