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Saturday, April 15, 2006


Avoiding the Perils of the Internet

I don't think it's an understatement to say that the Internet is as much a revolution in human communications as television, radio, or the printing press were when they were first introduced. The Internet puts the entire wealth of accumulated human knowledge at your fingertips. No previous generation had such immediate access to so much information. And the poplarity of the World Wide Web, combined with the proliferation of blogs, homepages, etc. truly makes free speech real for the entire population. In principle, anyone can publish anything they want on the Web and have it potentially be read by everyone else.

OK, that's the rosey, naive utopian vision of the Internet. The unfortunate reality is that the Internet is equal parts amazing universal knowledge database, cess pool of lies and misinformation, welcoming communities for people to find other people with similar interests, outlet for still other people to exercise their worst anti-social impulses anonymously, forum to debate and discuss important issues, and platform to spew the most vile propaganda and smear campaigns.

The truth is the fact that the Internet makes free speech real is both its greatest strength and its greatest weakness. You can't blindly trust every web page you visit or every email you receive. To make the most of the Internet, you have to put a bit of work into making sure the information you're getting is accurate.

So, in the interest of helping my fellow web surfers, here are some sites that I think are trustworthy and can help you avoid getting sucked into the cess pool:
One thing all these sites have in common is that they provide external references so that the interested reader can check their facts independently. This is a pretty good indicator as to whether the site is actually trying to provide good information. In contrast, many sites that try to spread false information or distort facts will make intentionallly vague statements that are difficult to verify, and provide no references to back up their position. This is not a perfect test of a site's veracity, but it is a good starting point. In general, it's always a good idea to remain skeptical of anything you see online that can't be easily independently verified.

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Friday, April 14, 2006


What Kind of Flame Warrior Are You?

You may have seen this already, but I just discovered a great website that describes the many types of flame warriors on the Internet. If you've ever hung out on a newsgroup, bulletin board, message board, online forum, or comment thread on a blog, you've probably encountered many of these types of personalities. Among the more antagonistic types you may encounter are the Troller, Troglodyte, Ferrous Cranus, Evil Clown, and Ideologue.

Looking at myself, I think I'm a composite of a few different warriors:
Hopefully, I'll continue to be reasonable and I won't turn into a Jekyl and Hyde in the future. If you do detect a personality shift in my posts here, please let me know before it's too late!


Thursday, April 13, 2006


Those Huddled Masses Still Yearn To Breathe Free

I recently discovered (via PZ Myers' Pharyngula) Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's blog, La Queen Sucia, and this post about facts vs. myths regarding illegal immigration. I can't confirm all the details and statistics she cites, but it is certainly worth a read to put the issue into perspective.

Reading her post reminded me of a Simpsons episode that addressed this very issue (that originally aired almost 10 years ago, on May 5, 1996). In the episode, Much Apu About Nothing, Springfield's Mayor Quimby needs as issue to distract the voters from his administration's financial mismanagement. He picks, rather arbitrarily, illegal immigration:
[An angry crowd has gathered outside Mayor Quimby's office to complain about the recent tax hike. Quimby and his aides are discussing the problem behind closed doors.]

Quimby: Are these morons getting dumber or just louder?
Assistant: [checks his clipboard] Dumber, sir. They won't give up the bear patrol, but they won't pay taxes for it either.
Quimby: [thoughtfully] Ducking this issue calls for real leadership.

[The mayor exits his office to address the angry crowd of citizens.]

Quimby: People! Your taxes are high because of illegal immigrants! That's right, illegal immigrants! We need to get rid of them!

[The angry crowd calms a bit and starts muttering.]

Moe the Bartender: Immigants! [sic] I knew it was them! Even when it was the bears, I knew it was them!
Helen Lovejoy, wife of the pastor: [hysterically] Ohhh, won't somebody *please* think of the children!

Quimby: In one week the town will vote on a special referendum whether or not to deport all illegal immigrants from Springfield. It shall be known as Proposition 24.

[The crowd (including Mayor Quimby) erupts into cheers]

Now, I'm not trying to claim that illegal immigration is a non-problem, or that we don't have problems with the current immigration laws in the US. But what I do see as pretty blatant is that we have some politicians using illegal immigration as a wedge issue to distract voters from the bigger problems in our government (coincidentally caused by the policies of those same politicians). Additionally, I see the immigration issue being used as a scapegoat for all US economic problems. That Simpsons episode demonstrates and satirizes these tactics quite nicely.

I think it's pretty unrealistic to think that we can build a magic wall around the US to keep "undesirables" out, or that immigrants (legal or illegal) of today are somehow of a different breed than those of previous generations, and that they don't contribute to America like previous waves of immigrants did.

I don't claim to be very knowledgeable about this issue, so I'll point you to journalist David Neiwert's blog and a recent post about proposed solutions to US illegal immigration problems. I think he provides a more reasonable approach than what is being offered by our politicians. Also, check out a short comment that Andrew Sullivan recently made on the topic.

As a nation that is mostly composed of the descendants of immigrants, we should be smarter about welcoming and incorporating new arrivals and helping to put them on the path towards citizenship.

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Saturday, April 08, 2006


Blog Distractions

Since my posting frequency has been quite pitiful, I figure I can at least provide some lame ass excuses as to what I'm doing with my time instead of blogging.

So as you can see, I'm wasting far too much time on pointless entertainment when I should be wasting time writing blog entires for a nonexistant audience. And clearly I watch too much TV. I should probably add my DVR to the list of distractions. It's completely changed the way I watch TV, and I think I'm watching *twice* as much as I did before (my poor brain cells).

There just aren't enough hours in the day! By the way, stuff like family and work already get top priority before all this other stuff, so I'm not neglecting them! Hopefully I'll get to writing a real blog post this week. Cross your fingers!

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Personality "Tests"

I found a site that has several online quizes that "test" whether or not you belong in a particular category. So here are my scores from the tests I took:

I am 20% Idiot.
Friggin Genius
I am not annoying at all. In fact most people come to me for advice. Of course they annoy the hell out of me. But what can I do? I am smarter than most people.
I am 25% Geek.
Geek? Yes, but at least I got social skills.
You probably work in computers, or a history deptartment at a college. You never really fit in with the "normal" crowd. But you have friends, and this is a good thing.
I am 34% Internet Addict.
Slight Internet Addict.
I could go either way. Deep into the madness of nights filled with coding CGI-Scripts and online role playing games, or I could become a normal user. Good luck!
I am 60% Video Game Addict.
I have a Video Game Problem
Video games are a big portion of my life, maybe too big of a portion. They are not a means of social interaction, despite what I might think. I should just go outside.

I'm a bit disappointed in my geek and Internet addict score. Even my video game addict score is barely passing, and I've been playing video games for 25 years. I guess I'm just not hardcore. Just for fun, I also took a couple of tests that don't exactly apply to my demographic. Those results are particularly amusing:

I am 11% Metrosexual.
Metro-What? Git Off My Lawn!
I need some advice. I need to STOP BUYING MY CLOTHS AT WAL-MART!!!! I will never land a decent woman unless I shave this nasty facial hair, and spend more then $5 on a haircut.
I am 5% White Trash.
Not at all White Trashy!
I, my friend, have class. I am so not white trash. . I am more than likely Democrat, and my place is neat, and there is a good chance I may never drink wine from a box.

Apparently I'm not classy enough to be a metrosexual, but I'm not lowbrow enough to be white trash (well, I'm also black, so that might put me out of the running anyway).