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25 January, 2013

Flu Cough

Vitamin C magnified, by Rudolf Bauer.

Eventually, even a house to ludditic as to have no cable, satellite or broadcast TV, no twitter account or even an RSS feed, not even a contemporary culturally literate person in residence, even that house learns that there is flu around. Worse than last year, maybe.

But that does not mean that the denizen of said house gets a flu shot. Said householder is not a militant anti-medicator, not a conscientious objector to the vaccine regime. No, he (me) just places his bets with evolution. Having bred already, he could drop off the face of the earth today and not lose the  evolution game. 

But the flu is unlikely to kill me. I don't spend much time swapping germs with the populace, and I feel like a bout of flu might slow me down a bit, but not enough to hospitalize me, much less threaten the survival of me or my genome. 

So I eat garlic, and chomp down on those delicious Vitamin C tabs I have. I wash my hands a lot, and don't lick people. Maybe I'll get the flu anyway, but then again maybe I would even if I took the shot, which is not completely effective and carries a small risk of causing the disease it aims to prevent. 

In evolution I trust.

24 January, 2013

The Fractal American Moiety

From the Olympia Co-op Blog, a beautifully colored American small-scale moiety.
I'm out of my depth when it comes to anthropological theory, but this is just a blog and on this blog I've thrown around the term "moiety," so much so that it has it's own label. Here I go again, so maybe it's time to explain my loose use of the word.

In old school anthropology (and maybe today for all I know), students were taught about "moiety" in context of kinship. It means a society divided into two--not one or many, but two--kin groups. The US cannot be divided into two kin groups, but if you replace physical procreation with cultural and political affinities, you can see a dichotomous framework that looks like a moiety, right down to the use of identifying symbols. Is your state Red of Blue? Is your totem the Donkey or the Elephant?*

In our moiety system, Americans do allow for a third group of unaffiliated folks like the "independent voters" who may bend one way or the other with the winds of change, but we do not tend to abide true Third Ways. In the political dimension, for example, third parties remain too small to be important and persistent; they don't even hold the coalition-building power that small parties enjoy in some democracies. The American moiety does allow individuals to switch groups, the "convert" is a well-known character--admired by the new group and apostate among the others--but usually a more powerful figure than the iconoclast or would-be leader of a third group.

So why the pie chart depicting a vote within the Olympia Food Co-op? Aren't they Deep Blue, the Donkey's left flank? I'm not insinuating that there is an NRA sleeper cell in this august progressive co-operative, am I?


I'm realizing that the American moiety may behave like a fractal. Specifically, it has the quality of self-similarity, meaning that the pattern repeats at any scale. On a national level, we may be red or blue. Washington state replicates that divide (blue has dominated for a while--nothing requires a moiety to be equal), even if our hues differ a little from the national average. Locally, as this graph so beautifully represents, even a liberal community can find itself divided (about evenly, assuming the "medium cost" group does not come down too far one way or another) along a dipole framework with "any cost" at one end and "no cost" at the other.

The national divorce rate suggests that a group of two experiences difficulty maintaining a functioning analog to a moiety, although it does happen. Between a group of two and a nation of 300 million or so, the affinal moiety shows up again and again.

* DISCLAIMER: Of course I don't hold that the moiety is total, or that it is even useful for all anthropological-ish musings. Like many theoretical concepts, it typically dissolves under serious examination, it can be simplistic and absurd. In other words, perfect for a blog.

19 January, 2013

Another Sign Post

Here are some signs from a trip to Eastern Washington a few months ago. Nothing urgent, obviously, and I don't have much to say. Truth is, I just cannot stand seeing the NRA logo when the blog comes up.

Anyway, you may recognize these signs from the Kettle Falls area. The first one is the sign for that town. I didn't learn who the grouch was, but did find a nice brewpub called Northern Ales. 1641 people may not seem like a lot in Pugetopolis, but it's bigger than some places over there, like Rice, for instance, where cattle lounge in city limits:

This next one worried me a bit, until I remembered that Hunters is the name of a town, and noticed a complete lack of banjo music (but I stuck assiduously to the speed limit, just to be safe):

I shouldn't poke fun, but driving for hours and knowing that the trip home was only beginning had me loopy already. Then I saw this sign when I stopped by Lake Roosevelt somewhere to use a fancy federal outhouse:

Literate people see this sign and learn that there must be artifacts nearby. Illiterate people assume it is a warning to educated but senseless people not to try digging in the paved parking lot. Regardless of their reading ability, looters don't slow down because of a sign. Hell, full knowledge of federal penalties barely makes them think twice. If instead of signs, there were sudden ferocious crackdowns (no warnings, no signs) by tribal, state, and federal archaeologists, fighting mad and ready to turn potholes into shallow looter graves, then the problem would stop, but don't look for that to happen anytime soon. 

18 January, 2013

National RIFLE Association Logo

What's in a logo?

Not just a poorly-drawn eagle. 

The spangled shield and date tell a creation story. Half a dozen years after the Civil War, veteran Union officers founded the NRA to "promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis," according to the website's history. That's a damn sight better than the organization founded by Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, but then the KKK has stuck to it's crazed cracker roots a bit more than the NRA, which has become lobbyist extradordinaire for the arms and private security industries, an extremely active political actor in the affairs of our nation. 

One of three words on the logo is "RIFLE," and a couple of iconic rifles appear as well. Once, this was the central reason for the NRA's existence. Train people to use rifles properly, accurately, and safely. The NRA still participates in training, but it also lobbies extensively on behalf of handguns and "sports rifles" that bear no resemblance to the clipless bolt-action firearms chosen for the logo.

Were the NRA to get back to its roots, support might erode among it's loudest and most rabid gun-rights membership (and the quieter but richer support of assault weapon manufacturers). But more Americans would support an organization promoting scientific shooting than one which demands absolute fealty from politicians and seems intent on proposing extremism.

An NRA that focused on the RIFLE would be something even a blue-state peacenik could live with. I have no trouble with people owning what are--Civil Wars aside--tools for hunting, maybe shootin' varmints. But the inaccuracy of most handguns and the sprays of high-velocity flesh-insulting bullets from assault weapons renders these tools most useful as fashion accessories, means of intimidation, and in all too many cases, maimers and killers. If the NRA (Not just Rifles Anymore) were really here to protect my right to wield a muzzle loader like in those oft-used pics of Heston, or even the plain old rifles in their logo, I could believe that they love my country.

As it is, the logo is a shameless sham. If the NRA wanted to protect the Constitution, they'd give a whit about the "general welfare" and "domestic tranquility," values that the Founding Fathers put right up front. Instead, they focus on an extreme interpretation of a single amendment, and demand that the rest of our law take a back seat. 

It's time to either get in line with your logo, NRA, or change it to reflect your actual mission. Shrink the eagle, form a star with Bushmasters, add a few hundred handguns and thousands of rounds of ammo. Or maybe a modern militia man with an AK-47, firing rounds of rolled-up dollars at the Constitution (the 2nd Amendment remaining unscathed, of course). 

Railing against any restriction at all, suggesting that the only solution to gun violence is more guns makes the NRA more ridiculous every day, and they are on their way to becoming Not Relevant Anymore. Not to worry, though. The NRA is ready for the post-gun world with a back-up plan:

16 January, 2013

Waiting to Inhale

A Blue State Capitol Takes a Big Ol' Bong-hit.

We the People passed a law legalizing marijuana, and not just for 'medicinal' purposes, but for fun. Like alcohol, or football, or other brain-damaging pursuits. But unlike gun rights (the other cause celebree of NW libertarians), said populace must wait up to a year to satisfy their consumptive urges. That's how long the powers that be have to come up with a way for people to legally buy the demon weed. As if it weren't everywhere already.

15 January, 2013

Hitched to the Wrong Star

The White House rejected the citizen petition to build a Death Star. Really, look here.

Yep, in a galaxy not far away and right now, petitions against gun violence and poverty languish, while a proposal to build a Death Star capable of wiping out planets got the requisite 25,000 citizen signatures in the blink of an eye. Turns out that Americans know all about Martian Sharia Law, and intend to do something about it. Or, they fear good-hearted freedom fighters. Depends on your point of view.

My point of view is that we will have a Death Star only when Darth Cheney comes back, and he sure as hell won't be doing it on the basis of a citizen petition. Unless said citizens sit on the boards of defense contractors. 

The current adminstration, which is allegedly part of the 'liberal' Democratic Party, is unlikely to go for a Death Star. Dems tend to be Star TREK fans, not Star WARS. Like Captain Kirk and his ilk, they profess to live by a Prime Directive that forbids senseless slaughter, but like Captain Cook, they tend to resort to expediency. Ergo the Revenge of the Drones, if you'll excuse the cross-platform punnery. We already have phasers, and word has it that Obama has green-lighted the photon torpedo project,...I've said too much. 

Personally, I wish we'd ditch the overt Star worship, and pattern our defense contracts after the Planet of the Apes. Think of the money we'd save if instead of Starships and Death Stars, we invested in horses and of courses the Crudely Woven Net

05 January, 2013

Your Team is Called What?!


I don't think I've ever blogged about sports, and I guess I'm not really doing so now, but the upcoming NFL playoff game between the two Washingtons does get me thinking about teams, mascots, and logos.

Seattle's logo, according to a history thereof (here) was borrowed from Kwakiutl style artists representation of the osprey, or seahawk. It does not completely follow orthodox Kwakiutl style, and has even less to do with Duwamish or other tribes local to Seattle, but it's pretty recognizable as indigenous-ish Northwest style. Ospreys do live here, and although I don't believe any local tribes helped with the design (or collect royalties), the worst you could say is that the Seahawks football team appropriated the style. On the other hand, you could say that imitation is flattery.

But it's hard to find something good to say about the other Washington's team. Sure, the image of the Native American is not too obviously racist-looking. But the name? You may have noticed that none of the other teams are named for racist slurs. I checked, the Browns have an alibi and the Vikings logo is merely ridiculous. 

I know that NFL team owners are not the type of politically correct guys to go changing a name because it's offensive, but geez. I mean, when DC was the murder capital of the country, the basketball team changed from Bullets to Wizards. Football fans love tradition, maybe, but I'm guessing they'd still root for their team if they weren't known by an insulting name.