Geek jam session

Last night, I spent a fun evening playing board games (new: Container!) and engaging in geek talk. Oh, how I love a good intellectual discussion! (You know, like the Salon des Geeks.) I guess it’s the geek version of a jam session; everyone hangs around and throws in their particular views or brings up new themes as the thought strikes them. Here’s what the idea buffet served up last night:

  • According to the latest evidence, Homo sapiens apparently did not evolve from Homo erectus. Both of us, plus Homo habilis, came from a common ancestor — erectus and habilis were different (less successful) offshoots.
  • There’s an anti-aging chemical that reverses effects such as a loss of elasticity in connective tissue which has been doing human studies since 2001 (and shown that it helps with, for example, hardening of arteries). However, the chemical’s patent expired, so it is now in the public domain, and no pharmaceutical company therefore is interested in finishing the (expensive) trials needed to get it FDA-certified.
  • I claimed that irradiated food seems to be unavailable because people are scared of the word “irradiated” and therefore wouldn’t buy it. Others noted that irradiated food can actually have a bad taste, since the irradiation process can damage the “good” proteins in, say, milk, not just the “bad” (bacterial) ones. So there might be a valid taste-reason that irradiated milk is inferior to un-irradiated (bacteria-laden) milk. Also, apparently many people agree with this statement: “If you had some radioactive milk, boiling it would make it safe to drink.”
  • As annoying as shopping is, it can be viewed in a more positive light if you think of it as an act of exercising your financial power. I like that.
  • And to follow up on my comment about carbonated fruit, there is actually a company, Fizzy Fruit, that is marketing it.

  • There was much more, and it got very late, and it was a great evening overall.

    What I learned from the Democratic debates

    Being for “change” is good, as long as it’s change in other people. Actually changing your own opinion is bad. To paraphrase part of the New Hampshire debate on Jan. 5:

    Obama: I’m for change.
    Edwards: Me too!
    Clinton: Obama has changed his position on health care, the Patriot Act, and fifteen other issues in the past 3 years.
    Obama: No, I didn’t. [Maybe he’s not for change?]
    Clinton: Yes, you did. And you said Edwards was “unelectable” because he changed his position on other issues.
    Obama: I never said he was “unelectable”… Anyway, I’m for change. [Maybe he is!]
    Edwards: Me too! The evil forces of the status quo want to stop us.
    Clinton: What do you mean, evil? I’m for change, too!
    Richardson: When did experience become a bad thing?

    Now, inconsistency generally isn’t a good thing, as it lies a little too close to “lying” for most people’s comfort. But I have no problem with a leader changing his or her mind over time, as new information comes to light; in fact, I consider this a good attribute of a leader. Why is no one willing to step up and say, “Yes, I changed my mind on that issue. Here are the reasons.”? Do we really want a static leader with frozen opinions that don’t respond to the current state of the world? Haven’t we had enough of that already?

    In my opinion, one of the major strengths of humanity is our ability to adapt to changing environments and to come up with new strategies and ideas when old ones don’t work.

    And as for the near-hackneyed concept of “change”, it cannot be characterized as an unadulterated good or bad thing. Does it even make sense to say that you’re for “change”? Changing the status quo could result in improvements or in things getting worse. It’s the quality of the proposed change that matters. I would like to see the candidates stop picking on each other for being for or against “change” and simultaneously for “changing too much” (I’m getting confused as to what the real issue is, and I’m sure I’m not the only one). Instead, how about focusing on what kind of changes they each propose?