Archive for August, 2012

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Nerd Fighter World View

31/08/2012

I sometimes feel like nerdfighteria is a kind of echo chamber, because it seems like almost everyone is a liberal/Obama supporter, and people seem to be generally dismissive of any kind of conservative idea.

Of course, I could be totally wrong. 🙂

NotEvenJohn ** minutes ago

Johns commentary and the above comment on the latest Swoodilypoopers video got me thinking…

If I had to guess the average age of Nerdfighteria I would say its between 12 – 21.  This means that most of Nerd Fighters are still in school, be it middle school, high school, college, university, or many other names for it.  By definition school is liberal because its a place of learning and growing about known things, expanding your horizons, and (in my opinion) if done right a place to discover new things.

Before I go on I think I need to define what I mean here by liberal and conservative.  When I say liberal I do not mean Democrat and likewise when I say conservative I do not mean Republican.  To me a person can identify as either conservative or liberal on a per issue basis without the need for further labels.

Having said this there are times when Nerd Fighters will seem confrontational about their specific point of view.  There is nothing wrong with holding a certain opinion or view point or fact but you have to be careful of how you present it. To use myself as an example I have been part of the Nerd Fighter community for about 3-4 years.  When I first started enjoying the Vlogbrothers videos and identifying with the mission to decrease world suck I had very deep seated conservative views.  Upon expressing my opinion on a few topics I was hit hard and fast by some of the more vocal participants in the NF community.  Right after this I became discouraged and didn’t really participate in the forums for some time.  Then I randomly got an e-mail alert from somebody who had commented on that post from a few months ago.  I checked it on a whim and it was a post from somebody who took the time to explain to me the other side of the argument without calling names or treating me like I was sub-human because my views didn’t exactly align with theirs.

Turns out that I still hold the same view I did before (on this particular topic) but, because this person was willing to talk and have a conversation with me it has opened up many other avenues to my thinking and helped my opinions adapt.  Even though I would still largely identify as a conservative in a lot of my views there are certainly opinions I hold that are much more liberal than they used to be.

So I think that Mr. Green has it right.  If dissuading somebody from having a specific view point is the goal then its better to go about it with the idea of trying to gain an ally rather than fight an enemy.  I think we can all agree that fighting does little if anything to decrease world suck.  And no, I don’t think that the majority of Nerd Fighters are over their top in their world view but I do think we could all stand to take a bit of John Green’s advice.

~Peeta

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Rest in Awesome Neil

28/08/2012

There are a handful of people in this world that are truly great. All of us, whether we are presidents or criminals, are by the very nature of being human, flawed. That is why monarchy doesn’t work. That is why there are crimes, why there is greed and so many negative things in the world. Fundamentally, nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes.

Yet there are some who defy this, who rise above the human condition and do something simple and brilliant for the whole of humanity, somebody who we can all be proud of.

Neil Armstrong was one of these men. His bravery knew no bounds, being flung into the reaches of space and landing on an alien world. He was forced to manually pilot the Lunar Lander onto the moon, something that was predicted to result in certain death. Yet when he had done his peace, when he had become the national hero and treasure, he didn’t exploit it. That is the sort of man he was, he just went on.

So I would like to say that I, along with everyone am sad at his passing. There is nothing that I could say to capture the heroism of this man.

That is the fact of it. However, I should answer why. Why in the world would anyone do all of the messing around in space? Why does space matter? I really think Hank captured it well when he said that while it is important that we decrease the amount of worldsuck, it is equally important to increase the amount of awesomeness.

That is what space travel is, it is awesome. Ever since man looked up at the stars he saw that undeniable glint of what could be, what is, and where humanity could go. The faults of ourselves may be written in our stars, in the fallibility of all humans, but glinting right there beside it is what we can be, where we can go.

There have been so many things that sum up why we should go to space, but I am going to leave you with one of my favourites. Watch the speech above, and think about how when we reach for the stars we show just how tall humanity can stand.

Rest In Awesome Neil

~Sean

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwFvJog2dMw

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Law and Reasons

21/08/2012

When should our actions be limited?  When should a country be able to command it’s citizens to never partake in something, or commit an action? These are the simply black-white questions that many people may see them as. There is a very important reason that we vote. Governments have massive amount of power not just to set laws, but set the tones of laws. Take, as an example, the self defence laws. The law states that you must only use force exactly necessary to escape, nothing more. Of course, this law does state that you can fight back in self-defence; however this is in some way countered by a very real chance that you could be help legally liable. Is this right? The government decides.

Almost all of the most justifiable laws are built around what is commonly referred to as the Harm Principle. Basically, if something is harmful to others than it should be illegal, if not, it shouldn’t. So look at things like gay marriage, does it harm people? No, therefore it should be legal. On the other hand, racism hurt people, badly, so it should be illegal. Where this principle does not cover is the issue of the so-called nanny state. Some see the nanny state as good, others as bad.

The principle of the nanny state is simple, although the phrase used to describe it is designed to be negative, so let’s call it the advisor state. Here the state decides that it is in the best interest of the people to do certain actions. It does this because it believes that it has superior information. Drug laws and such fall into this category.  However, it is important to note that these laws are the controversial ones, as note that it is the case that the government must assert, (it is impossible to prove) that it knows better.

The main reason it is important to understand these very quick principles is to begin to understand why each of the laws in any country have been passed. Obviously there is another principle of “I am a dictator, do it” but when looking at the western world you must look at a very real desire for total freedom, which must be respected.

So here lies the problem of internet regulation. There are negative things online, and so the harm principle may come into effect, however at the same time this maasive desire for freedom must be respected. The internet, as Tim Berners-Lee dreamt, is a land of freedom. The problem is as put in TFIOS “in freedom many people find sin.” The internet is a land of freedom, so sin exists. But is what is morally wrong legally wrong. There lie the questions of future generation, and every political divide across every generation.

What do you think, so what is morally wrong or objectively idiotic be illegal? We love your answers and comments.

~Sean

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USFTBA: Immigration

17/08/2012

The subject of immigration is a very debated one here in the US.  There are people one both sides of the debate who are very passionate about their positions.  I am going to give my opinion on this.  Please read the entire article before you comment.  I will try to be as brief as possible.

I find myself in a moral dilemma with this issue and I cannot imagine that I am alone.  On one hand all the undocumented workers are here illegally (this excludes the children born to undocumented workers in this country), in the sense that they did not follow the laws of the United States to enter the country.  On the other hand the vast majority, as I understand it, are a law abiding group that are just here to make a better life the themselves and there families.

In regards to the children born of undocumented workers its another confusing situation.  According to the laws of the US they are not citizens because their parents are not citizens or in the process of becoming citizens of this country.  However their parents in some cases have been here for many years and have not intention of going back and their kids are born on American soil.

So what do we do?  Comprehensive immigration reform is the only answer.

First we have to deal with the people that are here:

  1. All undocumented workers are granted a 7* year amnesty unless they have committed a felony.  If they have committed a felony depending on the class of felony, as determined by the state, they are either a) allowed to begin normal immigration processes while being in the US or b) deported.
  2. All children of undocumented workers are granted automatic citizenship. (this includes both children born here and children who moved here under the age of 18)
  3. All parents that have children are granted automatic citizenship unless the have committed a felony.  Those that have committed a single felony, depending on the felony class, are allowed to begin the normal process for citizenship while remaining in the US.  If they have committed more than one felony, regardless of felony class, they are deported.  They have the choice of their children going with them or not.  Children who do not have at least one biological parent or relative in the US are placed in the care of the state they reside in.
  4. Undocumented people (including people under 18, and have no biological parents in the US, who are here illegally) must report to an immigration center within the 7* year amnesty time frame.
  5. After the 7* year amnesty period if they are found to be here illegally they are deported without question.  If they are found to have a felony they are banned from the US for life.  If not one may begin the normal immigration process.

*seven years is a made up number, it may take longer or less time.  An accurate estimate of how long could only be given by who ever is in charge of US immigration.  A person I do not have the credentials to talk to.

For the folks who are not here yet.

  1. Eliminate immigration quotas.
  2. Get rid of the stupid test they have to take that probably most 8th graders could not pass

Now I understand that these ideas to not encompass everything.  I also understand that it is not 100 percent fair.  The undocumented immigrants are going to be upset that there is only a limited time.  The legalistic crowd will be upset that there is an amnesty period at all.  This is an attempt to find a common ground and reset this countries immigration policy.

So, please feel free to agree or disagree with me.  All I ask is that if you are going to opinionate on this that you think about it and respond respectfully.

~Peeta

P.S.

For those that want to build a fence at the Mexican and Canadian borders (even though this immigration thing is bigger than just those to places) I say no, just no.  Please grow up.  This is not the 1920’s and the US is no longer an isolationist state.  We participate in the world discourse and we need to act like it so a fence is not a viable option.

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DFTBA Sports: NFL Preseason

14/08/2012

When Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning had a setback on his offseason neck surgery in 2011, months after signing a five year, $90 million dollar deal, things did not bode well for the Colts. Since starting as a rookie in 1998, Manning hadn’t missed a single start, leading his team to a Superbowl championship, as well as a record nine consecutive playoff appearances. He carried the team on his back, overcoming a thoroughly average offensive line, below par run game and leaky defence with his extraordinary level of play. Manning eventually missed the entire 2011 season and the Colts performed as you would expect as team missing its Hall of Fame-worthy quarterback to. Indianapolis finished the season with a 2-14 record, making it only the second time since 1998 that the team didn’t win at least 10 games.

Due to the team’s poor performance though, Indianapolis was left with a problem. Following the season, the team had ended up with the first pick in the Draft, which featured Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck as its top prospect. Heralded by many as the best prospect since Peyton, fans of the Browns, Dolphins and Redskins, among others, urged their respective teams for “Suck for Luck” during the season, that is, lose their games so that they would have a better chance of acquiring Luck. By all accounts he was the safest draft pick in years, almost guaranteed to become a top-tier quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately for the Colts however, Peyton Manning appeared to be fully recovered. They had a decision to make: either trade the first pick or get rid of Manning.

In the end, Indianapolis released Peyton Manning, who then signed with the Denver Broncos. It seems almost absurd to him in any jersey other than the white and blue of the Colts, but they decided that the opportunity to move seamlessly from one great quarterback to another who had the potential to be great was too attractive to pass up. Luck was selected first overall in the 2012 Draft by the Colts, and the reins to the offense were officially passed. A three year starter at Stanford who won over 80% of his games, Luck has no gimmicks or issues as a player. He doesn’t rely on utilising his legs as a weapon like Tim Tebow or Terrelle Pryor, and he doesn’t have a history of injuries like Sam Bradford did when he graduated. He’s just really, really good at throwing the football.

This was evidenced in his first game as a Colt; this past week in a preseason matchup against the Rams. Notably, Luck’s first pass as professional quarterback was a 63 yard touchdown. How ‘bout that. It becomes less remarkable though, when you realise that it was less of a missile that travelled half the field in the air and was caught in the endzone, and more of a 3 yard dump off and 60 yard sprint by Donald Brown for the touchdown. His skills were showcase more in his following drives though, as he led the offense for two more touchdowns, showing outstanding accuracy with the ball being placed perfectly on a number of occasions for receivers running deep out routes, a notoriously difficult pass for even experienced quarterbacks to complete. What was even more impressive though, was Luck’s pocket presence. With the horrid offensive line that he has inherited from Manning, it is paramount that he be able to move around in the pocket when it collapses, as it surely will. He showed great footwork in being able to move up when edge pressure was presented to him, as well as scrambling outside when inside pressure was shown. Although he may not have the speed of a Michael Vick or Robert Griffin, he certainly has the quickness to survive today’s blitz-happy NFL.

It is looking more and more likely each gameday that Peyton Manning’s last gift to his beloved Indianapolis Colts was to have to nerves in his neck flare up.

~Liam

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Olympic Legacy

14/08/2012

The Olympics are sadly over. Now begins the questions; How well were the games hosted? How did they compare to previous games? Did your country win as many medals as it hoped, why/why not? How can they win more in the future?

Why do we ask these questions, surely they are redundant in sport. Sport is not about how many fireworks were used, how many people watched, or even the quality of the stadiums. Surely sport is simply about people competing against one another. A 100m race is equally sport regardless of whether it is run on a football pitch or a stadium with an audience of millions. Do we poor hundreds of millions into Olympic sports just to see the look of pride on our athletes’ faces? No, that would be stupid.

Humans are competitive, destructively so. You may have wondered why I wrote on war last week, well I wanted to draw a contrast between this article and that. In that one I question whether it was good to fight and die if it means your enemies fail at their genocidal aims. But there are other ways to win a fight, ones that can be good. America never fought the USSR during the Cold War, but they did compete and USA eventually won. They competed on the surface of the moon, on economies, and on the field’s of sporting prowess.

This concept that a nation that does well in the Olympics is in some way superior did not start in the cold war. Indeed, many know of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where the Nazi’s attempted to show pure Aryan dominance, only to be conclusively beaten by Jesse Owens, who remains a legend to this day. The reason we do this is simple, humanity loves to win, and whether it is in sport or war it is the same to people.

However why would anyone ever host the Olympics, costing billions and not making a large amount, even on the grand scale of the macro economy they are fiscally irresponsible. Unless, that is, you are basically running a long-term marketing campaign for your country. The Beijing Olympics displayed China as a modern superpower, a veneer it had lacked before. Suddenly everyone was talking about how China would usurp the US. London 2012 aimed to display the UK as a modern country that is secure and comfortable in its post-imperial present, something many doubted before the games.

So as we look onto Rio 2016 this is what we must remember, nearly a billion people watch the opening ceremony. A billion people will be watching Brazil as a developing country, can the Rio games change that? Can they show Brazil to be a country that deserves to become one of the elite that the West consider themselves? That is the importance of the Games, the proof that one country is great. It is very significant that in the clash between the strict and lifelong training of the Chinese and the more DIY sports that we believe in in the West, USA came out on top of the medal table, something that will leave the Chinese with many questions.

The Olympics can represent so many clashes, from those of war to those of ideology. And all of the events, all of the ceremonies, are watched by between 1 to 4 billion people, all watching to see exactly what the host country is like.

~Sean

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DFTBA Sports: Olympic Professionals

07/08/2012

I recently watched a video that illustrated the difference in the finishing times of 100-meter dash medallists at the Olympics down through the years, from Thomas Burke’s gold in 1896 to Usain Bolt’s latest victory in London. It featured a distribution graph showing what all of the athletes racing at their best times in a single race would look like, showing the distance they would have finished behind Bolt. It is clear from the graph that times have decreased consistently over the century-plus period of time, at a fairly consistent rate. How then, has it come to be that runners must be a full three seconds faster in order to medal now than they did in 1896?

The Olympic Games are presented as amateur competitions, and they are; athletes are not monetarily compensated by the International Olympic Committee for their performances. They are not, however, competitions for amateur, and there is a key difference. Between endorsement deals and bonuses that are given by sponsors for high finishes, the top tier athletes at the last handful of Olympiads are most definitely professionals, make no mistake about it. Michael Phelps reportedly makes over $6 million a year on endorsement deals from companies as varied as Subway and Head & Shoulders. Less than 24 hours after she won gold in gymnastics, 16 year old Gabby Douglas’s agent brokered a deal with Kellogg’s for her to appear on the box of Corn Flakes.

The fact that athletes are able to support themselves financially through their sports means that they can dedicate their lives to it. Previously, athletics was solely an extra-curricular activity for college students; if you made it to the Olympics, that was great, but you also had to make a career for yourself in some other way. The aforementioned Thomas Burke was a lawyer, and the success of Jesse Owens, the hero of the 1936 Games in Berlin, counted for naught as he went on to work as a gas station attendant. This meant that Olympians couldn’t focus entirely on athletics, lest they be forced to find a job without any qualifications or experience. Nowadays though, the potential to make a living from their athletic prowess results in kids putting massive amounts of effort into sports as early as grade school. In fact, the fastest time set by today’s 15-16 year olds is 10.27, faster than Carl Lewis’ time in Berlin! Therefore, it’s not a surprise that these youngsters go on to destroy the times set by their predecessors. As well as increases in dedication to athletics, improvements in running shoes, training techniques and running track surfaces have also led to faster times.

With superstars LeBron James and Neymar competing in basketball and soccer respectively, it’s more evident this year than ever that the days of amateurs in the Olympics are over, at least among those in the running for medals. One might fear that as the competition level rises with more professionals battling it out, the spirit of the Games is lessened somewhat, that what was was initially a means of locking horns for pride in one’s country is increasingly becoming about individualism, with materialistic gain at stake. However, I have found that any such thoughts are immediately extinguished when you see scenes like Dominican hurdler Felix Sanchez in tears on the podium, or British runner Mo Farrah immediately turning to look back as he crossed the finishing line in first place to see where his friend Galen Rupp finished. Athletics may have been commercialised, but that doesn’t make those involved any less determined to win for their country, or those of us watching at home any less inclined to cheer them on.

~Liam