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Messages - Sawyer

I ... how ... you know that ...

Have you been listening to the same podcast I have for the last 971 episodes?  You know that people in this community have probably put MILLIONS of person-hours into trying to solve this problem at this point, right?

Recipes / Re: banana bread
February 13, 2024, 04:50:51 PM
Quote from: daniel1948 on February 13, 2024, 04:40:34 PMI don't know why this is called banana bread. It's actually cake.

Someday I will offer up a long rant here about how maybe rural American moms are all secretly trying to kill their husbands with type 2 diabetes.  I am half joking about this ... but ONLY half joking.

But I'm currently feeling positive about my relationship with my parents and with my overall experience living in the Midwest, so I'm not going to jinx it by getting worked up over this today.   :smiley:
Books / Re: Rate the last book you just read
February 13, 2024, 10:38:55 AM
Doppleganger is very, very good.  It will come as no surprise to many here that the best way to dissect conspiracy culture, anti-vaxxers, and the crippling loneliness of modern society is not from some ivory tower of apolitical skepticism, but from an emotionally charged critique of capitalism and a deep desire to create new political movements based on solidarity and equality.  Klein has written a book that both tears to shreds the most vile aspects of far right nutjob culture while acknowledging the aspects of it that are imbedded within all of us.  I thought there was no way she'd pull this off with such a thin premise to the book - literally just "some folks think I'm Naomi Wolf" - but it works extremely well.  Be warned that if you're like me, your to-read list is going to drastically expand from all the topics Klein explores.

There is one specific passage in this book (regarding Wolf's political vision of the world and the draw of 'diagonalism') that I'd like to make required reading for two or three people on this forum, but the window of opportunity for serious learning is years past. 

And yes I absolutely picked up this book after reading a Naomi Oreskes book for an extra dose irony.
Books / Re: Rate the last book you just read
January 31, 2024, 10:16:39 PM
Plate Tectonics by (editor) Naomi Oreskes - 5/10

It has reigned for several years but The Golden Holocaust (an incredibly detailed history of tobacco research) has finally been dethroned from its position as the best bad science book I've ever read.  Or worst great science book?  That's a better description. 

If you want to appreciate one of the most amazing revolutions in the history of human knowledge, you'd be hard pressed to find a better example than the acceptance of plate tectonic theory.  And if you want details from actual experts, instead of some glossed up version by a pop science writer, this book certainly delivers, with essays written by probably half of the preeminent scientists from 1960s geology and geophysics.  The only issue is unless you are dedicated to becoming an actual expert, most of the details are mind-numbingly boring.  As soon as you lose track of why the thickness of the crust has to be some specific number or why a slip-strike fault won't accommodate paleomagnetic data in the Pacific, everything just turns into word salad.  There would be individual paragraphs with the most insightful descriptions of how science is supposed to work and how it *does* work in practice, followed by ten pages of info-dump.

The number one reason to read this book though is the "crank" chapter.  Gordon Macdonald, who was a highly respected geophysicist lays out a very simple model of the Earth's crust and mantle that make it seem impossible that the continents possess the mobility required by plate tectonic theory.  He's almost certainly incorrect - there's just no way that the hundreds of other experts, with dozens of independent lines of evidence, have so thoroughly botched their work - but if you've taken introductory solid mechanics classes you can easily get sucked in to his way of thinking.  And somehow the guy later became a climate scientist who WASN'T a contrarian asshole global warming denier?

Glad I read it.  Won't force anyone else to.  If you can't make it through a John McPhee book, you won't make it through this one.
Recipes / Re: Split Pea Soup & Other Soup
January 31, 2024, 06:39:24 PM
Daniel your take on split pea and squash based soups being tasty is 100% the correct one.  I've started experimenting with acorn squash and now a Georgia roaster squash and don't know why I waited this long in life to make soups that don't come from a Campbell's can.

I also do not know what compels people to proudly announce that they maintain the same narrow food preferences they had when they were 8, because it comes off as obnoxious and spiteful.  Keep your barf comments to yourself and let the rest of us enjoy talking about tasty meals.
Snowy weather and a(nother) broken elliptical machine forced me to shell out for a gym membership.  Luckily the local community college gym lets you pay to only use the indoor running track on a punch card system, which based on my use will end up being about half the cost of a normal membership.

And the real upside to this is after struggling to maintain decent mile times in freezing weather, I can finally work my way up to a decent pace again.  Started out at an 8 minute mile on a short run two weeks ago, and I'm already down to 7:30 on a full 10 mile run.  Might try to get it down to 7 minutes on a 5k?  Plus it's all old dudes on the track (students clearly prefer lifting weights and treadmills), so regardless of my pace I get to feel like Usain Bolt.
For a second there I thought he said Lis Smith, in which case I was going to give the rest of you grief for thinking a Woody Allen movie was the least reliable source.

The fact that Carb has selected THIS topic to disagree about - something that is at this point completely devoid of any political utility, not at all tied to any forum members' personal values, and is very well understood by those who have applied real scrutiny to the historical record - makes it very clear that he just likes being a contrarian blowhard.  Like several of our more explicitly right-leaning members, annoying people here has become the number one priority.  No one would waste time on this shit if that wasn't the emotional hook.

Maybe Belg should follow Elon's model and start charging certain forum members $8 a month. :grin:  Much as they claim to hate the petty bickering, I'm quite sure they would blow half their life savings just to maintain a sense of faux intellectual superiority.   
Hey now, don't discourage him too much.  I've come to appreciate when people post nearly word-for-word regurgitations of what we'd have seen 10 years ago from a 9/11 truther or colloidal silver enthusiast.  Saves the rest of us a lot of time.
Books / Re: Favorites Books of 2023
December 28, 2023, 09:22:36 PM
I'm going to amend my list with War and Peace.  Actually turned out to be the perfect follow-up to House of Spirits, with far more probing look at the lives of aristocrats, deluded nationalists, and their (mostly) charming spouses.  Go look up what smarter critics than me say about Tolstoy's work.  It is unbelievable that a single human being can have so much STUFF in his head, and somehow get it all down onto the printed page.
Books / Favorites Books of 2023
December 14, 2023, 11:17:50 PM
I haven't been contributing much to our review thread so I'll throw all the good stuff in here.  Any must-read books you've discovered in the past year?  Here's most of my 5 star picks from the last 12 months:

Sawyer's Terrifying Tour of Post-Reconstruction America
Freedom's Dominion - Jefferson Cowie
Wilmington's Lie - David Zucchino
How the Word is Passed - Clint Smith

New-To-Me Fiction Authors
The Doll Master - Joyce Carol Oates
Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Marukami
All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
The House of the Spirits - Isabel Allende

Old Favorite Authors
Great Bridge - David McCullough
The Big Myth - Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway
Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut

Honorable mention to Sound and the Fury, which went from being perhaps the worst book I've ever read to extremely entertaining by the Jason chapter.  Would have been my favorite fictional asshole of the year until reading Allende.   :cool:

And the Towles book has tricked me into reading Tolstoy over the holidays.  Nobody ever took me up on my challenge to lose their mind reading Reconstruction books with me, so here's a 2nd opportunity.  Just a mere 1200 pages of War and Peace ...
Gotta love it.  I didn't elaborate enough in my previous post, but the reason I cited that ALAB episode is because I thought it was emblematic of the entire "hey we have to be cold hard rationalists about this even if it offends people, and not be afraid to 'keep an eye on' potential sources of danger" attitude that emerged mostly after 9/11.  But the idea that this impulse manifests into something even marginally intelligent (let alone legal, morally respectable, or capable of making anyone safer) was disproven a thousand times by all the actual outcomes of widespread suspicions of Muslims.  If you're a person within the government or with any substantial power that goes down this road, you end up inflicting harm on others and running a steamroller over everyone's civil liberties.  If you don't have that kind of power and you're just some random guy on the internet ... well perhaps the magnitude of harm you've generated is far less, but so is your ability to accomplish anything positive from this obsession.  It is, best case scenario, a quest to become a xenophobic Encyclopedia Brown.  There is no special "3rd way" that people who identify as skeptics get to take, or did take, on this issue.

Seriously, run through your little thought experiment to completion - what you are going to DO WITH a belief that Islam is X% more "dangerous" than another religion?  For all the skeptics that became obsessed with this, and how certain they were that this belief was because they were immune to fantastical thinking, they never seem to have reckoned with just how childish the resulting narrative becomes when they take it to its inevitable conclusion.
Okay I swear I'm not trying to pick fights here, but while we're on the subject, there are literally hundreds of popular books that you can pick up that completely demolish creationism.  There are a handful of them that are dreadfully boring, but with the exception of aforementioned Gould, I have never found an author who I feel truly stands alone as absolute "must read" on the topic.  People put WAAAAAAY too much emphasis on a handful of skeptic super-stars who were in the right place at the right time and had a really good relationship with a publisher.
The straw that finally broke the camels back for me on this (although I was effectively over 95% of the Islam obsession of the New Atheist movement for years at this point)  was listening to the ALAB episodes on the US government's crusade against the Holy Land Foundation.  There is no possible way for any person with a functioning frontal lobe to listen to this case and to come away with the conclusion that the grand intellectual or moral sin of Western civilization/skeptics in the 21st century is that we've somehow gotten too SOFT on how we deal with and think about Muslims, too afraid of being called a bad word in our pursuit of the truth.  Heck I doubt there are many words or phrases within our current political lexicon that offer a MORE precise diagnosis of a real, discrete phenomena than "Islamophobia".  The idea that using this term is some kind of weaselly cheater's move that is somehow eroding our overall understanding of the nature of religion, terrorism, violence, etc. is complete bullshit.  It's the people that scoff at it who are living in their own personal fantasy world, unable to cope with the cold hard facts.

So long as Quetz keeps bringing stuff like this up, I will continue to believe that this idiotic anti-woke circus show IS Richard Dawkins only real legacy.  So congratulations for helping me completely erase any real scientific work this guy ever did from my memory.
General Discussion / Re: Elon Musk, love him or hate him
November 23, 2023, 11:52:58 AM
Quote from: Harry Black on November 23, 2023, 09:37:40 AMI dont think many people realise just HOW bad he is.
I honestly did not expect this degree of negligence at Space X.

When I did a business plan competition in college I thought it was giving me a nice little preview of the level of incompetency and arrogance that existed within STEM startups and Silicon Valley culture, but yeah, I honestly had no idea that it could possibly be THIS bad.  It's as if everyone conspired to let the worst participant in that competition be declared the winner, given them ten thousand times the expected prize money, and all agreed to a sort of Truman Show scenario that where we'd build an entirely fabricated world around them to keep them from having a complete mental breakdown.

And all agreed to certain threshold of literal Nazi stuff we were willing to nod along with.