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Archive for April, 2009

Congress and the stock market

Thursday, April 30th, 2009 by Ari

A lot of people claim that congress is bad for the stock market. Eric Singer decided to test this theory. He discovered that over the last 44 years, when congress is in session the market returns a paltry 0.3%. When congress is not in session, the market returns a far better 16.3%. He then started a mutual fund that would invest based on this theory. (Index funds when congress is out of session, treasury bills when in session). Next time I hear someone complain about government interference in the market, I’ll tell them to put their money where their mouth is. (Of course with expenses running at 2.2%, I don’t think this a good investment, regardless of political beliefs).

Underwater volcano

Monday, April 27th, 2009 by Ari

In March an underwater volcano erupted off the coast of Tonga, shooting ash thousands of feet into the air. The pictures and video footage are just astounding.

Does anyone else get the feeling that every so often [god/mother nature/thor/whatever you believe in] is just trying to remind us who’s really in charge?

Masturbation is outlawed (apparently)

Sunday, April 26th, 2009 by Ari

In Lawrence v. Texas, the supreme court found that Texas’ law against consensual homosexual sex was unconstitutional, and overturned the court’s previous decision, Bowers vs. Hardwick which had upheld as constitutional a similar law in Georgia. In his dissent, justice Scalia lambasted the majority for overturning Bowers, which he claimed was the basis of many state laws relating to morality. He includes the following line:

State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices.

His logic is of course the standard culturally conservative approach which does not differentiate between consenting homosexual sex and bestiality and assumes that they are equivalent in all ways. Although I would disagree, it’s a debate that’s happened before repeatedly, and I have no wish to rehash it yet again.

What did catch my eye though, is the fact that Scalia mentions masturbation in his list of laws which may get overturned. Are there actually states with laws against masturbation? If so I couldn’t find out which ones with Google, and I’m curious to know how they possibly could have come about. (Also how can they possibly be enforced?) Has anyone actually heard of a state which has outlawed the safest sexual practice there is?

How to become smarter

Friday, April 24th, 2009 by Ari

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about the communal paradigms we create within the modern Jewish community, and how they differ depending on what they’re based around – the synagogue, the JCC, the school, the Hillel house, etc. I’ve been feeling some dissatisfaction lately with the paradigm I’ve found myself in which has forced me to do some serious thinking. However that would be a long post that would require a lot of thought and hard work.

Instead I would like to present to you a book that presents a sure fire way to make yourself smarter – How to Raise your IQ by Eating Gifted Children. Now at a bookstore near you. If you can’t find it in the self help section, try the cooking section.

(For the record, if I were a teacher, I would buy this book and make sure I “accidentally” left it somewhere where my students would find it).

snakes on a plane!

Friday, April 17th, 2009 by Ari

Just more evidence of life imitating Hollywood. (Seriously, real life needs some better writers. Can’t they think of something new?)

lighting candles

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 by Ari

In about 10 minutes, I will be performing a Jewish ritual I don’t think I’ve ever done before – I will be lighting the candles on erev chag. Rebecca (who usually does it), is working nights, and I’m not going to shul (because there’s no early minyan and Aliza can’t stay out that late), so I don’t have any of my normal excuses not to. Thankfully the Artscroll siddur was kind enough to provide me with the bracha (as embarassing as it is to have to admit, yes, I actually had to look it up to make sure I wasn’t missing anything).

The flux capacitor works very well thank you

Monday, April 13th, 2009 by Ari

I recently finished A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking. Hawking spends some time talking about the possibility of time travel, and discussing the various models of the universe that allow and don’t allow for it. He also mentions an intriguing thought – if time travel (for bodies larger than a single particle) is possible, then given enough time some human should eventually develop the technology, it would spread, and eventually someone would come back in time and say hi. Carl Sagan suggests that perhaps these space tourists are hiding themselves from us, and while Star Trek has already taught us the value of maintaining a stable time-space continuum, it is inevitable that eventually someone would let the secret slip. Since we haven’t seen any time travelers, two possibilities seem to exist, both extremely plausible:

  1. Time travel is not possible (or at least not possible for objects larger than a single particle).
  2. Long before time travel is developed and used, weapons capable of killing all of humanity are developed and used.

I had nothing to do with this

Friday, April 3rd, 2009 by Ari

Sometimes people say things so completely outlandish that there is really nothing left to say. I submit to you, Joe Klein from TIme Magazine:

Give us drugs, after a certain age — say, 80 — all drugs, any drugs we want. In return, we will give you our driver’s licenses. . . . We’ll let you proceed with your lives — much of which will be spent paying for our retirement, in any case — without having to hear us complain about our every ache and reflux. We’ll be too busy exploring altered states of consciousness. I even have a slogan for the campaign: “Tune in, turn on, drop dead.”

Best pranks ever

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 by Ari

The Huffington post has an article on the greatest practical jokes of all time. Forget what your college buddies did while drunk, or the MIT hacks – these are some serious (and seriously funny) pranks.