Friday, October 3, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Disclaimer: I work for an environmental organization. In the past four years, I have worked with a number of NGOs and a government environmental agency on wildlife conservation. Naturally, the opinions expressed here are mine alone and have nothing to do with any of my employers, past, present, or future. This goes for everything you see here!
Disclaimer 2: Big ups to Treehugger, the AP, NWF, and all the other organizations and publications who are covering this news.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a hassle. It’s a great big roadblock in the way of land development, public works projects, new construction. It is often the bane of businesses, especially developers and construction firms.
And that’s precisely the point.
Originally enacted in 1973, the ESA developed a list of species threatened with extinction, rules for modifying the list, and regulations designed to protect listed species. In the last thirty five years, it has been the cornerstone of wildlife conservation law in the
As with any policy that slows development, the ESA has always had its detractors. Since its inception, developers (and their friends in the Capitol and on
Pushback from environmental groups and citizens managed to derail this potentially disastrous amendment.
Anyways, this is a long introduction to the news this week: Seeing that they couldn’t accomplish their goal of de-clawing ESA through Congress, the Bush administration has decided to use technical wiggling to force administrative policy changes through the Department of the Interior to accomplish the same goal.
Read this next part carefully:
They want to take the vetting authority for ESA away from FWS experts and independent scientists and give it to…wait for it… the same federal agencies responsible for completing the questioned public works projects.
Wait, that can’t be right. They can’t be serious. They want to put the oversight role into the hands of the… people we’re supposed to be overseeing? That’s like giving the chief of police the job of investigating corruption in the department. Or, more bluntly, like letting the fox watch the henhouse.
This is not the first time the environmental movement has fought this battle. It will not be the last time. Like any fight, from wildlife to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to climate, it will come up over and over again. We environmentalists have to win EVERY TIME. They only need to win once. Once they drill in ANWR, or nuke the ESA, we can’t undo the damage. Not to be over dramatic, but the worlds environmentalists are the soldiers on the wall, trying to make progress while simultaneously constantly struggling to prevent irreparable backslides.
We need every single vote and voice we can get. Letting them win, letting them do their
permanent damage for some short term economic boost, would be a travesty. It would be the most profane thing we could do to our planet, and our children.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Recently, it was brought to my attention that there exists a Sub-culture devoted to Barrista-ing (bartenders at coffee shops) and coffee tasting/making. People train and study and investigate everything there is to know about coffee and coffee preparation. You might not be so surprised, as Wine has a subculture much older and more acclaimed that is very similar. The point that arises from this is the fact that there is a COFFEE subculture. Peoples lives are devoted to it. People have devoted their lives to something that I will never know almost anyhting about, will likely never be in the news prominently, and will have no massive effect on the future of humanity. Thousands of people will live and die studying coffee, and had I never stumbled across it, or inquired further when it was mentioned in passing, I would have NEVER KNOWN.
Doesn't that make you think? There are some things out there, that some people will devote their entire lives to and you will never know that such a devotion even EXISTED. You know there are people who spend their lives studying law, politics, medicine, art, or literature. These are all given; they are prominent in american society. However, there are things people devote their lives to that you will just never even hear about.
This is going to be a short post simply because I don't HAVE a point. This is just something that caught in my mind like a fish hook with no line. It tugs and bothers me, but has no real affect, I dont know what to make of it, and I can't rid myself of its barbed point. Should I myself find a subculture like this and devote myself to it? Are these identities less important because they are out of the public limelight or don't affect the masses? Are they MORE important because they are the subtlies that contitute freedom and uniqueness? How does one fall into such a culture? Chance? Luck? Fate?
I do know one thing. I am going to spend some time making sure none of these cultures pass me by. Because who knows, perhaps if I dont look hard enough, maybe the one that calls to me will pass me by.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Years ago a Simpsons episode came out in which it is revealed that Homer's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
I thought that was hilarious, so I put the screenname at the top of my AIM buddy list, where it stayed all these years.
Well, the screenname has just come logged on for the FIRST TIME in all of these years... with a profile full of malware download links!
I feel betrayed.
What does this mean for this blog? Aside, of course, from the fact that it apparently receives new posts now? Well, it means that I am an old man who needs to observe the habits of other old men. With that in mind, here's a trend that I find disturbing.
I've been hearing a lot of people say "My knowledge/skill set is important and valid, and yours is trivial." This is a pheonomenon you could call a "skills generation gap". I've seen countless examples, here are a few:
1) "X percent of Americans cannot locate Iraq on a map"
2) "Kids can't spell today because they rely on SpellCheck"
3) "People don't write letters or make phone calls, its all texts and im"
And so on and so forth. The first example is probably the most prominent, and is the one that got me thinking.
Does it matter that some disgustingly high percentage of American schoolchildren can't find Iraq on a map? Or that they don't know the capital of Missouri, or the year the Tet Offensive took place, or the 26th President of the United States?
The common defense of the younger generation is "I don't need to know that, because I can just Google it." This defense is met with eye-rolling and exasperated sighs from the Old Guard. And yet, it is completely accurate.
Between Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey; 1968; and Teddy Roosevelt.
That took me about 20 seconds. Literally.
What is the value of equipping a person with information that he or she can access instantaneously? If I spent years packing my head with facts, figures, and dates just to save myself those 20 seconds, would that be time well spent?
Now I understand what the critics are getting at. The new generation needs to be informed. We need, more than ever, to understand the dynamics of government and international relations. We need to hold our elected officials to a higher standard than the previous generation did. We need to involve ourselves.
What we DON'T need is an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia. We live in a new era of information availability, an era in which the ability to acquire information efficiently is far more valuable than the ability to memorize facts.
Monday, April 7, 2008
I've been asked this question dozens of times over the course of my...short? long? midrange? (at 21 where am I on that scale now? I like to think I am still plenty young, so i'll go with that) life. Normally I answer with a joke or something like "Aristotle as long as he spoke english!! lolz." But often times I say, "I don't know, I'll have to think about it." Well, to all of you who have asked me this question over the years, I finally have my final answer.
The answer finally came to me after finishing Jeff Shaara's latest book, The Rising Tide, a great book about World War II. For those of you that have not read the Shaara books, I highly recommend them, they offer an interesting look into the reality of the greats Wars that our country has fought in and defined itself with. They start with Michael Shaara's masterpiece, The Killer Angels, and span every war America has fought in (save the war of 1812). I guarantee they will spark your interest in history. (Mr. Shaara I know you are reading this and I expect some sort of repayment for the surge of sales you are likely to get from my reader base of three people)
Back to the point, Shaara does a good job of portraying the hardships these great historical figures had to undergo, both mentally and physically, to make the world a better place. So when reviewing the question at hand, I realized something. Who am I to travel back in time and demand a meeting with these people? Who am I to stand in front of Washington, or Aristotle and demand he speak to me so that I may be more enlightened? Frankly, as of now, I am a nobody. I would merely be an oddly dressed fellow claiming to be from the future.
I'll stop dancing around the answer. If I were allowed to talk to one person in history, I would go back and talk to Abraham Lincoln just minutes before he is killed. No, I would not warn him that he is going to be shot. Thats dumb. I am not out to set history a new way or change the world. I would go back and try to assuage one great man's soul.
The conversation would go something like this
"Someone get this lunatic away from me."
"Mr. Lincoln please listen. I am from the future, and only need a minute of your time."
"The future. I am tired, someone help this man...where did you get those clothes?"
"Mr. Lincoln, you may have your enemies now, you may be sick, and tired but hopeful. I just want you to know. Your efforts were not in vain. You were successful, America is not perfect in my time, but we try. And you my friend, go down as the greatest president in history, with only Washington rivaling you. Your courage, bravery, and determination even at your weakest moments are remembered forever."
*Lincoln gives me a strange but contemplative look*
"Good bye Mr. Lincoln"
Now of course, this all sounds a little too perfect. But of course, were I to go back in history I woudl most defiantly have a speech like this planned. I mean it has to sound good right? Don't want to sound like a stuttering fool in front of Lincoln.
So there you have it. All of the other presidents (most of em) who went through adversity, were rewarded. They lived long enough to see their exploits go down as heroics. Jefferson, Washington, Roosevelt (although he knew he ruled due to his constant reelections), and many others. However, Lincoln, possibly the best of them, knew nothing but tribulation. He had his followers, but he was crucified by the majority of his peers for his entire term, and his life was cut tragically short before he could see his place in history solidified. It is this tragic martyrdom that completes his now legendary life in the only way that it could have ended. For me to be able to go back and maybe, even for a brief instant, validate the mans beliefs my one trip to the past would be totally worth it. Even if he had me dragged off, you know he would not forget the words...
Talk of Lincoln brings me to an interesting conclusion. Our country has been blessed. Every time we enter a period of great unrest, or extreme hardship, many may fail, but one or a group of figures rise to the challenge. America seems to be an improbability. From shambles the country is resurrected on the shoulders of seemingly mythological figures. More interestingly, is that our country is so young the lives of these figures are all chronicled in detail. Unlike King Arthur, or Romulus and Remus the glorious moments in our country are hard fact.
Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Washington, Franklin, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Truman, Grant, Pershing, MLK, and countless others, they all stepped up to the challenge and succeeded better than any could have hoped.
So, I ask. Who will rise to the challenge now? America has lost its glorious reputation. Its economy lies a shell of what it once was, we are entrenched in an unwinnable war and it seems we reside in the hands of idiots.
Will this good luck streak continue? Will a figure suddenly reveal himself (or herself) and pull America from the ghost it has become? I like to think so. The great thing about America, is that its essence is such that it nurtures, encourages, and empowers these people, these modern Knights. Will the one be Mr. Obama? Mrs. Clinton? Mr. McCain? An unknown activist like this man, fed up with what has happened and in one instant can inspire millions? Keanu Reeves?...You?
Perhaps none of these people will prove the one, and we will be without a savior for many more years. But I think that person is out there. I think we can still be a generation to inspire and enlighten and teach, no matter how far we have strayed from the course.
Friday, March 21, 2008
I would never consider myself a poker 'pro.' I'm alright I suppose. In tournaments among friends I sometimes win, sometimes lose, but normally place in some way (money back!). I'm good enough to play with good players, but bad enough that I generally learn something important every time I play. For the most part my skill comes from being hard to read.
As an aside, it seems to me that the 'poker' face is entirely bullshit. Many people have complimented me on my difficulty to be read, and it comes not from staring straight faced when I'm bluffing and straight faced when I'm winning. Be RANDOM! Unpredictability makes you so unreadable. Regardless of what you have, bounce your eyebrows, blow kisses at the kid your playing, make funny faces, and tell jokes. Then the next hand, regardless of what you have sit stone faced and staring, refusing to speak except in sepulchral tones. Being random not only throws people off, but it prevents the same tells/ticks/minor habits from occurring. Its difficult to put your hand across your mouth then your hands are balled into white fists of rage on the table in front of you for no apparent reason. Check your cards obsessively. If i check my cards 15 times when I'm ahead and 13 times when I'm bluffing who is going to be able to tell a difference. ANd if they ARE bothering to do that, then they are most likely forming wrong ideas in their head. Then again, maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about.
Back to the point, if there is one at all. Ever since Matt Damon's famous pronouncement "Why does it still seem like gambling to you... Why do you think the same five guys make it to the final table at the World Series of Poker *every single year*?... Its a skill game." the general consensus amongst anyone who plays is that IT IS a skill game, and for the most part I would agree, however, how MUCH skill is actually involved?
I watch these WSoP games, and the more people that play, the more the skill is evening out, and the luck is showing through. It seems that there may be a sort of skill plateau. Once you become as unreadable as you can be, figure out the odds, and know the strategies behind the game, there isn't that far to go. This has become rapidly obvious as the WSoP, requiring only ten thousand dollars to buy in, has grown exponentially in the last few years.
IMDB even has a qualification on Matt Damon's statement: "In the ten years immediately prior to the filming of the movie, only 12 players made it to the final table two or more times. Of those, only two made it three times and no one made it more than that. Only one of those players ever made it to the final table two years in a row."
When Doyle Brunson won his WSoP Main even bracelet, only 53 people played in the event and hold 'em was not nearly as popular or widely played. He has not won the main event since 1977.
Just over 100 people played in the WSoP Main Events that Johnny Chan won. He is considered to be one of the best players in the world. However, if the announcers are to be believed he has not even been IN THE MONEY (gotten his money back, happens when the field is narrows down to somewhere around 20% of the initial amount) in over five years. He last won the main event in 1989.
The "professionals" say that they hate the small buy in. The ten-thousand dollar buy in draws rich kids and celebrities by the bucketful hoping to have a good time, get a few stories and win some money. They claim this large amount of 'ameteurs' makes it difficult for the "professional" players to win. Does this statement seem ridiculous to anyone else? To be a professional, you must be better than the amateurs, thats how you become a professional. Moreover, most of these 'professionals' are simply poker players who using former private successes were able to bankroll wins against crappy players (as demonstrated in the movie Rounders. Skilled players taking money off just friendly players like it was candy). The 'professionals' have EVEN asked the WSOP to make a more EXPENSIVE tournament to keep 'amateurs' out! Never mind the fact some of the most famous professionals are only well known because they were able to buy in to the main event. Yet
Six thousand people played in this last main event. However, the 'professionals' never have to play 6000 people. They play at tables of ten people at a time. All you have to do is beat ten 'amateurs.' Yet I see so many of the former world champions going down early and easily to these guys on the FIRST table. These guys would not have won if the tournament was ten people in size because these are the only people you are up against. In order to get the final table you must only defeat about thirty people.
If you put 6000 random guys with a high school level of basketball knowledge(what I'm classifying as amateurs) one at a time into a 1v1 basketball game against Kevin garnet or Lebron James, all 6000 people would get beaten. It has nothing to do with how many people they play against, they are simply more skilled. Likewise with nearly any other professional athlete. Tom Brady will ALWAYS throw more TD passes than you. Tiger Woods will beat you in 18 holes, Wayne Gretzky will out skate the shit out of you, and David Ortiz will hit more home runs.
So what am I getting at? Poker is a game of skill, no doubt. However, as we see the field diluted every year with new faces, the peak skill seems to be low and the true luck of the game shines through. The scales seem to be tipping, so much that within the upper echelon of Poker players, the skill is actually less important than the luck. I wouldn't stand a chance in that room of players at the main event (unless of course I landed boats every time), however, I am not at the skill level yet. Were I to play with intensity for a year, I could show up in Vegas and play with those guys. Would I win? Doubtful, but I could play with them.
Well great Jared. You've made a blog post about how you think you could play with the big boys of poker. Grats.
There must be something else to this post. Because that it not what I intended. Poker is one of the great equalizers. In a heads up pot its your cards against your opponents. Your life, background, your race, your age all means nothing. That is what so many of these great poker players have touted over the years. Many of these guys have become superstars because of this game and almost immediatly, it has gone to their heads. Suddenly, stubborn stars are demanding a higher buyin because they don't like being beaten by 'amateurs.'
What separates a poker professional from an amateur? Well, one who makes his living playing poker is a professional. However, these guys make their living for most of the year nabbing money of 'fishes,' i.e. shitty players who thing they can play with good players. The sport is unique in that, if 'professionals' went heads up against each other every night, as all other sports professionals do, they would all be flat broke. So, because professionals make their living by beating these 'amateurs' what exactly separates them? Because if these same amateurs knock the professionals out of the WSoP what is going on? Who decides what a professional player is? How can the best be separated from the worst if the professionals already want to separate themselves.
This elitism saddens me. The great equalizer is rapidly becoming the home of the great sore losers.
What a lame closing statement. However, between watching the WS and writing this, it has rapidly become 3 AM, and I am sick. I'm gonna post this and hopefully fix the grammar and crappy wording tomorrow. I don't fully trust this "save now" button.
Why post about poker when most of you are probably bored of it? Well because it was on my mind. And Hold 'Em to me seems to be a micro chasm of society.