Monthly Archives: July 2010

Internet Witch Hunts

I was skimming an article today and I saw this:

According to a recent survey by Microsoft, 75 percent of U.S. recruiters and human-resource professionals report that their companies require them to do online research about candidates, and many use a range of sites when scrutinizing applicants — including search engines, social-networking sites, photo- and video-sharing sites, personal Web sites and blogs, Twitter and online-gaming sites. Seventy percent of U.S. recruiters report that they have rejected candidates because of information found online, like photos and discussion-board conversations and membership in controversial groups.

NY Times

I imagine this could potentially negatively effect a lot of people in the long run. It will certainly be interesting when we have political candidates get their facebooks searched from when they were in college or high school or someone tracks down political or religious opinions posed by them on the internet that are deemed controversial.

In a way, the internet trails we leave lead people to be ready to judge us and brand us; although it has empowered many to express themselves to a larger group of people it has also resulted in people to be punished for that very expression.

I think people are entitled to their opinions and entitled to not be judged by photos of them drunk 5 years ago. I respect people with opinions and who do not feel the need to carefully put all of their skeletons in their closets…

I just do not believe people should be forced to hide their opinions or assume completely different identities when posting on the internet. I believe it is petty and low for companies to do this.

When you break it down, everyone has a controversial opinion and has done things that are regrettable; turning the employment process into an internet witch hunt is pretty lame.

NASA: An Outreach Organization?

I found this to be vaguely amusing…

Former NASA Director Says Muslim Outreach Push ‘Deeply Flawed’

The former head of NASA on Tuesday described as “deeply flawed” the idea that the space exploration agency’s priority should be outreach to Muslim countries, after current Administrator Charles Bolden made that assertion in an interview last month.

“NASA … represents the best of America. Its purpose is not to inspire Muslims or any other cultural entity,” Michael Griffin, who served as NASA administrator during the latter half of the Bush administration, told FoxNews.com.

Bolden created a firestorm after telling Al Jazeera last month that President Obama told him before he took the job that he wanted him to do three things: inspire children to learn math and science, expand international relationships and “perhaps foremost, he wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science … and math and engineering.”

Fox

I was unaware that NASA’s mission would be to inspire children and to even try to inspire foreign, Muslim cultures. I thought there was a very real, tangible effort to develop technology and conduct meaningful exploration and utilization of space.

Of course, inspiring others is one thing, but the notion that NASA would become a tool to fulfill these goals is silly.

Muslims themselves can easily look at history and take note of some brilliant Muslim minds like Averroes and al-Biruni who revolutionized the way that a lot of us view space. The fact that we are supposed to be the ones doing that is condescending and patronizing.

Using NASA as some sort of mouthpiece like that just seems like more and more posturing without any potential, real results.

Obama should just save it for his speeches when he goes to Islamic countries.

The Word ‘Inhumane’

I dislike the word ‘inhumane’ when I sit and think about it.

If you really look at most of history, it isn’t that un-human like to ride a horse across the countryside with a band of raiders massacring different ethnic groups; it is not that strange for humans, as well, who are “civilized,” to go and enslave a different population.

We’ve also managed to defeat slavery by simply going to the most terrible places on Earth to make factories so the wages we pay them for hard work become irrelevant in modern times; we’ve also managed to largely be observers to events like the Rwanda genocide and the whole of the history of the DPRK.

Humans, of course, have done a lot of great things. However, we’ve also had a society comprised primarily of literate, modern Europeans whom once were listening to jazz music and reading Karl Marx massacre millions of helpless people.

I am guessing the word ‘inhumane’ was invented by a European who thought civilization was spreading far and wide to heal the world and was aimed at describing non-European treatment of one another.

Or I imagine it was created relatively recently, after WWII, when we thought the whole world would somehow be healed and we’d never have to see what was about to happen in Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Afghanistan, etc.

It’s just a funny word.

I think one could just as easily say it is ‘inhumane’ to donate money to a charity as it is to kill.

Humans have both great capacity for good and great capacity for evil, and it seems that it is seldom dependent on our upbringing but more dependent on the current conditions that we perceive.

Lk 7:31-48 Is Interesting

I found this passage to be very interesting:

Quote:

” 31″To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
” ‘We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’ 33For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ 35But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”
Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman
36Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”
“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41″Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[d] and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

48Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The first half implies something important: the Prophet who comes with a rigid, strong moral code and an unbending will is a demon; the Prophet who comes and is merry is a glutton and a drunkard.

This plays well off of the idea of people ‘though seeing they do not see, though hearing they do not hear.’ (Luke 8:10). This implies the obvious: they see something great and reject it as unearthly and inhuman (demonic) or they see something as overly earthly and indulgent (gluttony & drunkard).

They are literally incapable of conceiving Goodness in any form because they will distort it.

I found it to be poignant by demonstrating that one can be Holy through extreme fasting and devotion as John, yet also there is a Holiness that was also embodied by a man as Christ who both ate and drank.

The last part that caught my eye was: “47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.””

It comes after an illustration of a woman who was a sinner making a big display of herself as repenting, and I think it is hard to easily and fully wrap my head around the idea that he who has been forgiven little loves little.

I think the implication would be this:

It is the self-righteous who count their sins as few; it is the humble who will always count their shortcomings as many.

When push comes to shove, Christ and His closest followers literally sold all of their belongings; early Christians lived not far off from Utopian socialists who valued essentially nothing other than their brotherhood and Christ.

It is hard to not fall short of that mark, drastically, and it is hard for someone I imagine who has even done something like that to still be well aware of the demons they wrestle with.

These passages merely caught my eye and I thought they were interesting and although not paid much attention to (in my experience) have a lot of ramifications in Christian thought.

Seoul In The Summer

Seoul in the summer is all about walking five minutes to the subway and becoming sweaty in the humid, impossible heat;  then you sit on a subway for 45 minutes and your sweat freezes, causing you to become cold. You unthaw within 3 minutes of going outside and search for a bathroom so you can apply your portable spray-on deodorant for the 2nd time.

The streets sometimes smell of rotting kimchi if you live in a nice area; if you live in a poor area, they always smell of rotting kimchi and you have to keep all your windows open and your fans on. Red, rusted iron algea spits up from your shower drain once or twice a day and makes your room smell like a sewer while you spend the day in your bath robe because you cannot cool your house down enough to wear clothes and your neighbors live with windows facing yours.

When you are poor the greatest thing is the cheap ice cream at corner stores and the cheapest way to pass a Saturday afternoon is in a park with some mates drinking beer and soju that becomes warm before you can properly enjoy it. Sometimes you go to soccer or baseball games or sit out by the river, awkwardly staring at it.

If you are lucky, you will become partially nocturnal to avoid the heat.

I find myself yearning, already, for the Fall. Korea is most beautiful in the Fall — the trees really light up and the mountains are beautiful to climb in. The scenery can be breathtaking and after the great, wet, hot summer there is nothing better than the cool breezes of October. Some might say Spring is more beautiful because of the cherry blossoms but, really, it is harder to find a cherry blossom tree just chilling in any, old neighborhood.

But it’s not so bad — Korean women have little modesty when it comes to their legs and we can see this in all of its glory each time we venture onto the streets.

But more than that, the most important thing is just the cold, cold beer on a summer afternoon and that really slow, dilapidated feeling you get when you are buzzing just right in a euphoric state while you can smell the pork cooking.

The summer heat is an extreme and there is something great about finding out ways to balance that extreme and to use that extreme to your advantage.

It isn’t so bad.

Morning Coffee, Evening Vodka

I just saw some pictures of Laos; I think that it would be nice to end your life there. In the tropical heat, a nice chair in a stinky, sweaty city to sit on and drink your morning coffee. Vodka in the evening, coffee in the morning; heat, heat, heat all day to make you sweat and lubricate your thoughts that slip in and out of your mind.

Or a nice beach in Vietnam or Thailand or maybe France or Norway or, hell, Vladivostok or Cote D’Ivoire or Mexico or South Carolina. Just beaches, waves crashing sometimes and waves gently lapping the sand sometimes. Just thoughts, thoughts, thoughts and morning coffee and evening vodka.

I am drunk all the time. There are three modes: Verv working to get money so he can get drunk, Verv getting drunk and drunken Verv. This is not a sin and this is not negative. This is just philosophy. This is the brain loosened and massaged into a state where everything slips out smoothly and falls out of my fingers onto the computer screen.  People do not understand this and perhaps I do not understand it, and perhaps I am wrong right now, but that is also irrelevent.

I’d like to be a writer. I get drunk every night so every morning my thoughts unfurl and unfold with little to no effort. Ave Maria on the computer (just like right now). (If a brain has juice, I bet it would be a lot like the juice that spills off of a steak and I bet a brain would be very delicious to eat if you didn’t know it was a brain but the texture would still not be that good, maybe, and nothing is as good as beef).

I want to plant my seed in a woman and watch it grow because I think coming full circle in life is reproduction. I also think my Dad was a pretty good philosopher, and I am a good philosopher, and dads should be philosophers. Philosophy, love of knowledge, isn’t that the greatest gift to give?

If you have philosophy then even when you suffer you can enjoy it and treat it as a lesson. If you have philosophy you can smile widely when you are in Hell. Hell is others. Philosophy is self.

The greatest gift, then, is knowledge. But maybe music is better. Maybe we can all agree: the greatest gift, then, is knowledgable music contained in a case with a really nice, aesthetically pleasing cover.

Now I drink morning coffee, evening soju. One day, I want to not work so I can drink liquor in my morning coffee. Perpetual state of buzzing and thinking.

Yesterday someone I really enjoy and admire told me I drink too much and was concerned that I would die young. It put some things in perspective. Perhaps I won’t live to have my reward.

But for now, we do not have to worry about that. We’ll worry about it later.

Now, we will just think about the Ocean, the morning coffee, the evening vodka, the music and the philosophy.

Everything else is irrelevent.

Dutch Ships Disallowed

This shows how bureaucrats can essentially ruin the nation by being so rigid. The Dutch could have helped us and averted a huge catastrophe.

Where was Obama on this? One would think that this shrewd, clever President would have allowed for such a thing to occur.

This reminds me of a discussion that I had with Adam Torson about how bureaucracies become tools, machines in their own right that end up creating this sort of problem.

Some are attuned to the possibility of looming catastrophe and know how to head it off. Others are unprepared for risk and even unable to get their priorities straight when risk turns to reality.

The Dutch fall into the first group. Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. “Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour,” Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn’t capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana’s marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.

The Dutch know how to handle maritime emergencies. In the event of an oil spill, The Netherlands government, which owns its own ships and high-tech skimmers, gives an oil company 12 hours to demonstrate it has the spill in hand. If the company shows signs of unpreparedness, the government dispatches its own ships at the oil company’s expense. “If there’s a country that’s experienced with building dikes and managing water, it’s the Netherlands,” says Geert Visser, the Dutch consul general in Houston.

In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with “Thanks but no thanks,” remarked Visser, despite BP’s desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer –the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment –unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.

Why does neither the U.S. government nor U.S. energy companies have on hand the cleanup technology available in Europe? Ironically, the superior European technology runs afoul of U.S. environmental rules. The voracious Dutch vessels, for example, continuously suck up vast quantities of oily water, extract most of the oil and then spit overboard vast quantities of nearly oil-free water. Nearly oil-free isn’t good enough for the U.S. regulators, who have a standard of 15 parts per million — if water isn’t at least 99.9985% pure, it may not be returned to the Gulf of Mexico.

When ships in U.S. waters take in oil-contaminated water, they are forced to store it. As U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad Allen, the official in charge of the clean-up operation, explained in a press briefing on June 11, “We have skimmed, to date, about 18 million gallons of oily water–the oil has to be decanted from that [and] our yield is usually somewhere around 10% or 15% on that.” In other words, U.S. ships have mostly been removing water from the Gulf, requiring them to make up to 10 times as many trips to storage facilities where they off-load their oil-water mixture, an approach Koops calls “crazy.”

Financial Post