Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama's "Special Olympics" Remark

Much of the talk about Obama's appearance on The Tonight Show last night is centered on his comment regarding his bowling skills.

The comment came midway through Obama's appearance on the late night comedy show, when host Jay Leno quipped about the president's lack of bowling skills: “I imagine the bowling alley [in the White House] has just been just burned and closed down," Leno said.

“No, no. I have been practicing,” Obama said. “I bowled a 129. It's like — it was like Special Olympics, or something."

Now, I do believe that words are powerful especially when they are coming from someone like the President of the United States. He should apologize for the remark as he did. He should not make comments like this in the future. However...

When are we going to admit that people make jokes like this all of the time? When are going to admit that jokes like this are not always bad? That humor is a vital part of the human condition and helps us grapple with complex issues? I have a black co-worker that I routinely make jokes with about his skin color. He laughs just as hard as I do and jokes about it as well. Should I not do that?

I suppose the difference, though, is that in my case it is on a personal, one-to-one level. My co-worker knows that I don't care what color his skin is and I do not in any way judge him or disparage him for it. When the President or anyone else makes a joke like this in a public forum, not everyone knows that he doesn't actually think less of disabled people. In short, jokes or comments like this are probably fine in a small group when everyone knows everyone and is comfortable with them and not in a public, impersonal setting.

I do hope that we don't hear any more about this after today. Any Republican thinking that they can spin this into any sort of meaningful or effective attack against Obama is going to be sorely mistaken.

I should also take this opportunity to link to a favorite article of mine.

UPDATE: As Joe Klein writes: "Yes, he should apologize, as he has. But we shouldn't belabor this. I'd much rather see Presidents caught in the act of being human than in the promulgation of egomaniacal excess."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Incompetent Bosses

A new study proves what most of us have known all along. You don't have to be competent to become a supervisor.

Social psychologists know that one way to be viewed as a leader in any group is simply to act like one. Speak up, speak well and offer lots of ideas, and before long, people will begin doing what you say. This works well when leaders know what they're talking about, but what if they don't? If someone acts like a boss but thinks like a boob, is that still enough to stay on top?
"Dominant individuals behaved in ways that made them appear competent," the researchers write, "above and beyond their actual competence." Troublingly, group members seemed only too willing to follow these underqualified bosses. An overwhelming 94% of the time, the teams used the first answer anyone shouted out — often giving only perfunctory consideration to others that were offered.

This is how con men work, too. Most people, despite what they may say, are very trusting and take things at face value. If you walk like a duck and talk like a duck, people will point at you and say, "Duck!" even if you are in the middle of a desert.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


New research shows that modafinil (aka Provigil) is not as safe as once thought at least when it comes to addiction.

That was the thinking, at least — but the thinking now turns out to be wrong, according to a new study published on March 17 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The authors say modafinil is not only the latest in a long line of chemical stimulants designed to keep users awake, alert and happy; it's also the latest to go straight to the brain's addiction centers in the process.

"This drug is not safe to use the way people are using it," says Dr. Nora Volkow, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and co-author of the new study. "Not safe at all."

I take Provigil because one of the side-effects of my MS is fatigue whether or not I've done anything to warrant it. I've written about it before, how I usually feel sluggish and out of it by mid-afternoon if I do not take it. On the weekends, I try to not take it and nap instead. My neurologist suggested I do this in order to not build up a tolerance to the drug, but this was before this study came out so there was never a mention of addiction.

I've been taking it for two years now, but I don't feel like I have an addiction. I can quit anytime I want! More seriously, I often don't take one on the weekend, at least not both days. There are also days I forget to take my pill. I don't feel anything other than fatigue when I don't take it.

The growing number of people taking Provigil simply because they want a "pick me up" probably need to re-evaluate their decision. Of course, it's only one small part of our society's decision to take drugs anytime they have a sniffle or just want to feel good. Get high on life, man! *crickets chirp* Well, maybe not that; but when is our society going to realize that we can't avoid all things (aging, common illnesses, emotional woes) that we might like to. A life full of ups would be tedious because there would be nothing to measure the highs against. Day is beautiful because we have night. Life is meaningful because we have death. The human condition is about the awe-inspiring highs and the devastating lows. Attempting to avoid it rather than simply accepting it is a path to madness.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Some people just think they're cool, but they're not.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Men View Scantily Clad Women as Objects

File under the "No Shit" category.

New research shows that, in men, the brain areas associated with handling tools and the intention to perform actions light up when viewing images of women in bikinis.

The research was presented this week by Susan Fiske, professor of psychology at Princeton University, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"This is just the first study which was focused on the idea that men of a certain age view sex as a highly desirable goal, and if you present them with a provocative woman, then that will tend to prime goal-related responses," she told CNN.

Although consistent with conventional wisdom, the way that men may depersonalize sexual images of women is not entirely something they control. In fact, it's a byproduct of human evolution, experts say. The first male humans had an incentive to seek fertile women as the means of spreading their genes.

My favorite line in the article?
"Many men make foolish choices because of sexual attraction."

Ya think?

The Fear Card

Dick Cheney just won't go away. He's making rounds criticizing Obama and playing the fear card, accusing him of making terrorist attacks more likely. This is beyond ludicrous. There is nothing wrong with offering critiques of the President's policies; that's what healthy democracy is all about. Trying to gin up fear, though, by saying stuff like, "President Obama campaigned against it all across the country, and now he is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack," is not cool at all. It crosses the line.

This is how the previous administration worked, of course, but I don't think I'm alone in having hoped that some of this (at least the same faces, anyway) would go away after January 20. Clearly that's not the case. I'm not sure what Cheney's game is here, either. He's not running for office again. He doesn't have a book coming out anytime soon that I know of. I wish he would just crawl back under the bridge he came from.

Weekly Music Video

The greatest song of all time.

Queen - "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Weekly Secret