Okay Okay, I can't help it: A pure capitalist solution to the insurance mandate

I recently heard Missouri voters rejected the insurance mandate in the new federal health care act. Perhaps the mandate is unconstitutional, but if that is the case, the right-leaning Supreme Court will overturn it. This got me to thinking however, maybe libertarianism might be the solution after all, we'd just need to make some adjustments to some of our cultural values. 

So here goes: 

Regarding the Break-in at Ravenclaw

To the editors, Hogwarts Today Alumni Magazine I am surprised at the indignation going around about how students from Slitherin managed to "break into" Ravenclaw without having someone tell them the answer to the Ravenclaw riddle ("Dark Magic in Ravenclaw, Slitherin students fess up" Daily Prophet, 19 September 2011). 

I was going to write something...

Oh, it seemed so clever, but as soon as I got my computer up and running, the thought fell right out of my head. So here's the query: do you know what it was?

Hot Cocoa versus Hot Chocolate: Abomination vs. Life-Giving Tonic

I detest all hot "cocoa" mixes that only require hot water. I was reading the ingredients of one such mix the other day. They are quite interesting: sugar, modified whey, non-fat dry talcum powder, essence of cocoa (observed), vermiculite, partially hydrogenated conceptual art, carriage bolts, and artificial limbs. The sugar-free variety came with an "FDA Drug Facts" sheet. These hot cocoa "treats" are convenient at church social hours and ski lodges where providing a percolator with hot water is much easier than having to provide hot milk.

Gluten Free for the Holidays

When people first think of gluten-free foods they think of dishes that would have gluten-based grain, but have had it substituted with epoxy or gypsum. Or they think of rice porridge with a raisin (maybe two). Or perhaps they think of some exotic dish that makes you choke because it is made of puree of okra with xanthan gum, adzuki beans and durian wrapped in oak leaves. (And stored under the deck for 3 weeks in August). Served on a nest of undercooked quinoa.

A response to a housemate inquiry

When we are advertising for new renters at our house we get some interesting submissions (happily we are at capacity right now). These messages are always from scammers, but responding to them has become a form of artistic expression for me. I am not exactly sure why anyone would ever buy into this. Of course,  greed and lust are pretty good intoxicants.... 

Hi Lisa,

The Odds

Consider this bit of trivia: the average salary of an actor is comparable to the average salary of an accountant; however, few if any accountants are unemployed in their line of work, but few make 6 figure incomes. Almost none make 7 figures. Compare this to actors.

Suggestions to Microsoft for Windows 8

(I originally posted this on Facebook for Windows 7, same rules apply) Microsoft is preparing to release their next version of Windows Operating system this fall. Given the insufficient number of versions available for Windows Vista, I thought I might make some suggestions for more configurations. Everyone loves choice, so we should have more choices! This is partly inspired by the new Windows Basic edition which will purportedly restrict the number of apps one can run to 6 or something.

Is Thai Food Healthy for Me?

Yes. Thai food is healthy for you. It has all the flavonoids, antoxidants, and prevents The Cancer. It is the best for you to eat. It replenishes your vital bodily fluids and improves the purity of your esssence.  

MEMO: Federation Dress Requirements Update

Per the United Federation of Planet's Starfleet Quartermaster Report 2369.623 new uniforms for crew will be issued over the next 6 Earth months and destributed to all star bases for retrieval for starships on mission. Starships will retrieve the new uniforms during the regular resupply schedule. The uniforms, in conforming with the styles for crew identifying as female, standard work uniforms for men shall be short shorts with the following dimensions:

Star Trek: Return to Tomorrow

Kirk and Mulhall are about to kiss.

Brilliant, but bodyless beings speak as through reverb. They take over the bodies of Kirk, Spock, and Dr. Ann Mulhall. Will Kirk and Ann kiss? Will the reverb continue throughout the show? Will the captain be murdered? Can disembodied minds survive in human bodies without kissing. Specifically the bodies of Kirk and Mulhall? Will we learn of the theatrical notion of Deus ex machina? Tune in on Friday at 7 PM, Channel 5

Star Trek: And the Children Shall Lead

Boy with many freckles and a little girl

Friday, 7 PM, Channel 5

The late King Hamlet of Denmark has mind control over children from United Colors of Benetton. The oldest boy is Tommy, who has many freckles. Kirk, who isn’t dead after all, discovers that Tommy has a lot of freckles. Really, it’s like his face is orange. You’ve got to see this kid. Anyway the kids are all orphans because Hamlet, Sr. caused their parents to kill themselves from generalized anxiety disorder.  The children are some of the best actors in the series. Tommy has freckles.

Star Trek: Arena

The Gorn capitain somewhere in the California desert

Federation outpost Cestus III has been destroyed. Kirk, Bones, McCoy and three other guys of no consequence beam down on the planet. Spock identifies cold-blooded life forms. Kirk and Spock use blue bocce balls as improvised grenades. A lone survivor, covered in silly putty, relates the story of the attack on the outpost. Has the Enterprise been drawn into a trap? This episode explores deep questions such as What makes humans unique? What is the Gorn? What can't latext do?

Star Trek: A Private Little War

Kirk and plush toy fight

Friday, 7PM, Channel 5

Klingons have introduced flintlock rifles to the peaceful humanoids of Neural, most of whom wear ridiculous wigs. Kirk battles a giant plush toy with poison fangs. A sexy woman seduces Kirk with herbs. Will Spock recover from a pierced liver?

Star Trek: The Immunity Syndrome

The Enterprise enters a red goopy field that represents the amoeba

Friday, 7 PM. Channel 5. 

An enormous single-celled organism threatens the crew and possibly the galaxy. Will Kirk pull a clever solution out of his butt at the last minute?  Will Scotty protest that the ship can't handle it? Will Spock risk his life for logical reasons that annoy Dr. McCoy? Tune in to find out. 

Star Trek: The Paradise Syndrome

A white actress portrays a Native American woman. William Shatner looks on.

7 PM Friday, Channel 5

Kirk, McCoy, and Spock beam down in Northern California. They need to deflect an asteroid or something. Dr. McCoy continues to shout during even normal conversation. Kirk is murdered by peaceful natives, who do not appear to have command of their own language. A Federation inquest determines that sending the most valuable members of the command crew on away teams is a very bad idea. Will Kirk be killed more?

Star Trek: Bread and Circuses

Spock and McCoy in a jail cell

Friday, 7 PM, Channel 5

Kirk, McCoy and Spock land on a planet almost identical to the Earth, save for the Roman Empire remained in power into the 20th century. Will the sexual tension between McCoy and Spock finally be resolved? Will there be an awkward reference to Christianity? Tune in to find out!

Star Trek: The Gamesters of Triskelion

Kirk stands next to alien slave woman he later kisses.

Friday, 7 PM, Channel 5

Kirk, Uhura, and Chekov are kidnapped into slavery by multicolored disembodied brains who like to gamble on gadiatorial games. A creepy fellow who has a built-in reverb speaks instructions from the brains in stilted English. Kirk proves to the brains that they have confused humans with chimpanzees. Kirk kisses a silver bikini-clad slave woman.

A review: Shogun, By James Clavell

Excuse me so much, but John Blackthorne is large in his endowment. So sorry.
I beg your pardon, sir, but there is much discussion of pillowing. So sorry. 
I very much ask your forgiveness, but everyone wants to commit Sepuku, it would be a matter of honor.
So sorry, but I am going to elaborate extensively on historical facts in casual conversation. All day.
It is honto, so sorry.

Ad ignorantiam ad nauseam

There is a logical fallacy called the argumentum ad ignorantiam or the argument from ignorance. The essence of this fallacy is that because we don't know something to be definitively false, it must therefore be true. A good example relates to concern about the dangers of electromagnetic frequencies.

Ode to Allen Ginsberg

I don't cry for you.
I'm tired.
I have corns,
and the unbecoming putty is showing in the gloaming of the
streetlight understudy.
Your understudies!
Your streetlights!


Medicine that Works...

I was at the drug store today to pick up some vitamin D. Living in the dark, cold north requires a bit of extra vitamin D. My levels are particularly low. The label said that any claims on the vitamins had not been evaluated by the FDA for efficacy in the treatment, prevention, or amelioration of any disease. Most of the vitamins on the shelf had doses that were ridiculously high. Being a relatively unregulated market, how does one determine whether the pills will do anything at all or worse, do something bad to you.

When diet and exercise aren't enough...

I think this is of the most cruelly deceptive phrases in modern advertising. Firstly, no one wants to change their diet. Secondly, exercise takes time and effort and, at least at first, is quite unpleasant. Taking a pill is ridiculously easy to do.  So essentially this advertising phrase applies to everyone with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, adult-onset diabetes or other "lifestyle-related" diseases for which there are profitable pharmaceuticals (or "alternative" treatments, for that matter). It should really be "when diet and exercise don't seem appealing...".

Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery Care

After studying this issue over time I have compiled a list of dos and don'ts for maximizing the life and use of your lithium ion battery in your phone, tablet or laptop:

17 Sure-Fire Treatments for Strep Throat

Each of these remedies offer a 99% guarantee that your strep throat will be gone within 5-7 days.

No side effects—no effects!

I saw a box of tablets at the coop check-out the other day. The "active ingredient" was at a level less than the equivalent of one molecule in Lake Superior. The box proudly proclaimed: "no side effects!" How amazing! A drug that treats exactly and only the ailment for which it was indicated. This means there is a drug out there that is more effective than the immune system itself.  When you have a cold much of the drowsy, low energy feeling you get is due to your immune system combatting the illness. The virus does not cause that feeling itself, your immune system does.

Entrance Exams

I wonder if entrance exams with their "one right answer" design tend to have a negative effect on academic research. Do they tend select for people who believe there is one right answer to any question?  Do people who prefer certainty over ambiguity do better on such exams? Much of the research at the academy is also based on winning grant money. What kind of effect on the quality of research might this have?

Freedom from Responsibility

A recent letter to the editor in the Pioneer Press decried the proposed seatbelt law in Minnesota that would allow police to ticket someone solely on the grounds of not wearing a seatbelt as a grave assault on our liberty. The problem with this "freedom from restraint" is it doesn't take into account the responsibilities that come with freedom. 

Proposed NPR Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle

Take the first and last names of two famous football players. Swap the second letter of each player's first and last name (i.e. Joe Namath would become Jae Nomath). Then swap the last letter of each player's first and last names with the last letter of the other player's first and last name. Now take the latin species name of a common songbird of the north eastern US. Add the middle three letters of the bird's species name to the last names of the football players. You should have a total of four words in two pairs. Select one of the name pairs and drop the other.

An Etymological Curiosity: The Shark

So I have come across an interesting word in English: "Shark." All the (highly reputable) etymological resources I have available to me say that the origin is unknown. Perhaps this isn’t such a mystery as they would claim. As sharks are not common in the North Sea or waters around the UK, the first recorded use of the word “shark” in English was that of adventurer John Hawkins displaying the carcass of one in London in 1565 after his journey to South America. Interestingly, the secondary meaning of the word, to indicate a swindler, appears in print as early as 1599.

A proposal for how to say the word "primer"

English has stupid spelling rules. I say this as someone who has never had much trouble with spelling. What would be nice is if we made sure to honor those words that actually follow the basic rules. The most glaring example is primer. In the United States we prefer to say PRIM-mer. Perhaps this is the result of American feelings of inadequacy at being a rough and wild outpost of the British Empire some 200 years ago, so we thought PRIM-mer sounded more erudite. Well, despite their frequent mutilation of the language (i.e.