Wikipedia member perks

Being a member of Wikipedia has a few advantages that (I think) often get overlooked. I just (re)noticed them today.

Left column selection

The picture above is found on the left column of any Wikipedia page when you are logged in. The two that caught my attention were “Create a book” and “Download as PDF.” The latter seems self-explanatory. The former, upon clicking on it, yields this:

Wikipedia's Create a book

As seen, you can collect any assortment of Wikipedia pages and then put them together as, say, PDF files.

Just something interesting that came up today.


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Almost all?

I’ve been enduring my way through a book called “The Science of Influence” by Kevin Hogan. It’s on how the psychology of sales, which I don’t care much about, but I am reading it because “psychology of sales” = “psychology of influence.” And “psychology of” anything is about people, and that makes me happy.

I recently ran across something the author wrote that just did not make sense when the reader thinks it through:

“Have you ever seen a news story where a man raced into a burning building to save a young child? Not only is that an altruistic act, it is part of most people’s genetic programming… Almost all people are preprogrammed to act in the best interests of:

The family.
The group.

What gets my attention are the words “most” (in “it is part of most people’s…”) and “almost all” (in “Almost all people are…”). This section is about “genetic programming;” if I am not mistaken, that would also be known as “human nature.” The nature versus nurture debate says there are two possible sources for personality – human nature and environment, particularly during upbringing (most psychologists, sociologists, etc. believe it is a combination of the two, the debate is how much of each). If something is “part of most people’s [human nature],” then it is part of all people’s human nature, by definition. Similarly, if “almost all people are preprogrammed to act…,” then all are, again by definition.

I am also not sure where the list came from or if it is in any sort of order. Presumably the highest priority is last and the lowest priority is first. I presume that because shortly before the list it says, “Not only is that an altruistic act…” That statement seems to place altruism as a very high priority, which would place, at the very least, family and society above the individual. It is interesting that introducing this list is where “almost all people” shows up. Almost all people, but clearly not everyone, have been preprogrammed to prioritize: God, society, group, family, self (sounds almost like Unit, Corps, God, Country). Why most and not others? Perhaps all of this can be cleared up by changing “preprogrammed” to “conditioned” and “genetic programming” to “socially conditioned.” In which case it is in the domain of nurture, not nature. Or just remove “most” and “almost all” and sound more authoritative.

In the end, I am wondering about the author’s credentials. Sure, a person can deliver talks, hold seminars, and write books. But what training does he have in psychology if he does not seem to understand the difference between human nature and social nurturing? This is covered in Psychology 101; it does not exactly require advanced learning in psychology to know this.

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Thoughts Part II

I love this line from Ken Levine, a writer from the shows M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Frasier: “Barack Obama’s speech was stirring and (I’m not used to this from a U.S. President) articulate.” (Original post: ) Yes, Bush may have ruined any expectation of a Presidential speech being articulate. I actually will miss the Bushisms.


I think, even if McCain won, we would still be in much better shape than Bush going for Term #3.


I don’t think I’ver seen as much of a positive international reaction to the U.S. Presidential election. Or at least, our media has never shown it. Here is what someone from Europe said: “We’re pretty excited about [Obama] here in Europe… Right and left!” And Kenya, where Obama’s family is located, has declared a national holiday.


McCain and Bush both impressed me in how they reacted to Obama’s win. McCain’s speech was gracious and forward-looking. Bush made the obligatory calls to McCain and Obama, but then he also invited Obama’s family to the White House. Yes, the President Elect visits the White House shortly after winning, and the family generally goes, but the President doesn’t always make it a point to invite the family. I think if Bush handled his entire eight years the way he’s handled the last few months, he might leave office somewhat well-liked. When will the discussion start that Bush’s eight years cost McCain the election? I think it’s true (except for maybe choosing Palin as VP, that was the other major factor). More on that later.


I’m not quite sure about the Republican complaints about Obama ruining the country. First, let’s face it, no President really ruins the country, they arguably don’t have enough power to do it. Anything he signs into law first went through Congress (except Executive Orders, but Congress has power there too, I think), the Supreme Court can overturn, and the PEOPLE can repeal, not that we would. We, the People, are too lazy and self-centered to bother. Besides, Obama nearly had the election won after Ohio, Penn, Maryland, NJ, New York, and New England were counted (because from the beginning they should have given Obama California’s 55 votes and McCain Texas’s 34 votes). Maybe Republicans and McCain should have spent more time in New England. (Has Massachusetts EVER voted Republican? That’s my current research project. Even in 1972 when the Democrats won only one state, it was MA.)


One of the biggest things I’ve heard from Obama detractors is that he will make the country socialist. What exactly is wrong with socialism, again? I think I missed that part of the argument. From that great text, Wikipedia (the Socialism page) : “Socialists mainly share the belief that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and creates an unequal society. All socialists advocate the creation of an egalitarian society, in which wealth and power are distributed more evenly…” Let’s see. “[C]apitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth…”. Yep, it does that. If you don’t think so, talk to someone who is a member of a minority group who can’t seem to work their way out of their socioeconomic situation. “[Capitalism] creates an unequal society.” Ibid. Again, talk to someone who tries their best to work to a better socioeconomic situation and can’t do it. Studies are done time and time again that show racism and discrimination are alive and well in the U.S. I particularly enjoy the undercover camera experiments done with renting apartments. Members of minority groups are told rooms are not available when they are, they are quoted higher prices, more paperwork, etc. There’s a particular video with this study, I can get info on it from one of my professors if someone wants to see it. And why would “wealth and power [being] distributed more evenly” be a bad thing? Is that too idealistic for people? Or do people who currently horde wealth and power fear what may happen if they learned to share?


Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention impressed many people. But not me. All I heard was, essentially, “You know Barack the politician, let me tell you about Barack the man.” Yes, every First Lady and First Lady hopeful says that (well, usually they don’t tout Barack Obama). Hopefully she’ll drop that part after Jan 20. Alright, I just read the transcript of her speech and it was better than I remembered. And she never actually said “You know Barack…”. I stand corrected, but I’m still not convinced she’ll be an amazing First Lady. Let’s see how the first year goes.


I will never understand how Christianity has two extremes in politics – many I’ve heard from hate that Obama won and think it’s the end of the country. They tend to be, from what I can tell, from the suburbs, middle to upper middle class and voted based on one or two social issues (or according to party). I also love how many of them are in Arizona where, unbelievably, the state actually became a battleground. McCain had trouble winning his own state. Oops! On the other hand, I’m quite positive that many Christians in the cities (in particular) and who are often members of minority groups are thrilled that Obama won. Evidence? How about the celebration at Rev. Bernice King’s church on election night. Oh, and “King” would be as in Martin Luther King, Jr. She is MLK’s youngest child. Two very different reactions. Both reactions are from Christians. Eh?


Other than a short period of time from Jan. 20, 1993 until Congress changed in the, I believe, 1994 elections, the President, the House, and the Senate have not all been of the same party since Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s. I’ve seen enough Presidential terms to know that nothing happens when the President and Congress are different parties. If the Senate and House agree with each other, sometimes they can overturn a veto, but that’s it. At the very least, we’ll see some changes and that will bear out either Obama supporters saying Obama is a great choice or Obama detractors saying he is a bad choice.


Of course one of the big topics of discussion today is the role race played in the election. Being as far from being a member of minority groups as you can get, I can say that race played no role whatsoever in my voting for Obama. To me, McCain’s choice of Palin backfired. If he selected Guiliani, for example, I may have voted for McCain (not that I’m a fan of Guiliani either, but he would be better than Palin, I think). Again, though, not that my vote would matter in Arizona; if McCain is worth electing, he is guaranteed to win his own state. I looked into this yesterday, but I can’t find the page now, it’s somewhere in the Wikipedia universe. Since 1940, no one has lost their state of residence and gone on to win the Presidency. In other words, if McCain lost Arizona (polls on Monday had him up only 3% and he in fact won by only 9% according to CNN, they have him up by just ~161,000 votes), there was no chance of him winning the election. Back to race, though. I was aware of Obama’s race making history, just as I was aware that Palin’s gender would make history (not that she is the first female VP pick, third-parties do it all the time, in fact the Green Party this year had a female Presidential candidate, and the Democrats had a female on the Mondale ticket in 1984). I didn’t even vote Obama because I think he’s better qualified than McCain. I agree with Obama on more issues, but that doesn’t make him more qualified. I voted for Obama because I don’t want Palin in Washington. And because I loved the idea of McCain losing Arizona so my vote for Obama might actually count for something. So for the fourth Presidential election in a row, I voted against a candidate, not for a candidate. There may be something wrong with approaching monumental decisions based on what’s funniest, such as McCain losing Arizona, but come on, of course I would do it that way!


Ah, and then the age vote and how Bush ruined McCain’s chances. On election night, CNN cited that the older the age group, the higher percentage of votes McCain received. They are now talking about how the “young vote” (in pure numbers, not whom they voted for) may have exceeded 2004, which was already in record numbers, if I recall. I believe the “young vote” is 18-25 year olds. Sometimes they talk about 18-35 year olds. Overwhelmingly, younger voters went with Obama. Maybe because, all in all, younger people are tired of Bush and feel society marginalizes younger people? This is a common problem, it happens all the time. And there is a lot of truth to it. The younger generation is usually marginalized by society. No one cares what 18-year-olds think. No one thinks a 19-year-old can change the world. I think, perhaps bolstered by the Internet, the younger generation feels more empowered than previous younger generations and they are tired of the status quo of older generations making the decisions for them. And this time the younger generation came out to the polls in strong enough numbers to overcome other generations. I suspect it was as much a pro-Obama vote as it was an anti-Bush and anti-Republican Party vote (and maybe the Republicans can learn something from that rather than just demonize the Democrats, humility is not overrated). The majority of college students I know don’t understand how people voted Bush into the second term, when, in their opinion, he already did enough damage in the first.


For the record, I am registered Independent. I hate both parties with equal spite. I vote third-party when my vote will not make any difference whatsoever (in other words, what should have occurred in Arizona), when all four candidates are equal (usually equally mediocre) in my opinion, or when a third-party candidate has a legitimate chance to at least make a nice showing, such as 15-20% of the vote. Ross Perot received 18.9% of the popular vote in 1992 (but no electoral votes), so it does happen. Side note, in 1992, Clinton won 32 states and D.C., H.W. Bush won 18 states. Clinton had 370 votes; Bush, Sr., 168. At the moment, with not every state counted, CNN has Obama at 28 states plus D.C., I think, and McCain at 22 states. Obama has 349 votes to McCain’s 163. The result are still not complete, but it’s looking close to the 1992 results.


P.S. The CNN holograms were pretty neat! (and fairly useless when it comes to the goal of reporting news, but still neat)

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Thoughts on the U.S. election

Sure, like so many others, I’m glad it’s Election Day. Tomorrow the ads end, today is a bit like the political Super Bowl Sunday (speaking of which, the Washington Redskins were beaten soundly last night, that means Obama will win (quite possibly in a landslide) according to NFL-Presidential Election history). So here are a few things I’ve noticed.

I have to agree with Jay Leno who noted last night the 8-14% who were still undecided on the Presidential vote as of Monday. Who are these people who have STILL not decided? Haven’t they at least reached the point of voting according to party rather than candidate? This is one of the most covered elections, certainly of the last few decades, wouldn’t you decide at least a couple of weeks before the election this time?

I’m watching Sarah Palin speak after voting in AK. She noted that in Alaska she “cleaned up corruption.” Weren’t her actions just found to be unethical, but not illegal? (Specifically, “Investigator Steve Branchflower ruled that [Palin] had violated state ethics rules for public officials” – Sky News.) To me, that’s still in the domain of corruption.

Does anyone actually vote for the candidate from their state out of state pride? Isn’t that a bit silly? Nearly every candidate in history has won their home state, with at least one notable exception of McGovern in ’72 (he was from South Dakota and only won Massachusetts; his opponent? Nixon. You bet that MA people said “I told you so” after Watergate). How many times, though, has winning the home state been the result of people just wanting to boast that the President is from their state?

I heard from a friend earlier that someone took a personal letter from the mail as a form of identification to the polls. I’ve moved to a different state before, sometimes you have to use personal mail as your identification when setting up accounts with utilities, etc. But that shouldn’t count as ID for voting.

Does anyone really think much will change no matter who wins? Didn’t people think that when Clinton won or the current Bush won the first time (or about their opponents)? For me, here’s how it works. Many changes from the President affect either minority groups (which I’m all for, but those don’t directly affect me most of the time) or business owners/economy. I don’t own a business, I don’t care to own a business, nor do I own a house or stocks. So those changes don’t have much to do with me. Minimum wage is the only one I can think of that would have an effect on me (and I’ll be done undergraduate work in May, there goes any reforms on tuition affecting me; those reforms would be on undergraduate, not graduate, most likely).

Here are a list of things I am aware of in my daily life which I can, and often do, attribute directly to a President: Kennedy established the Peace Corps, which I’ve thought of joining; Clinton established AmeriCorps, I’ve talked to AmeriCorps a few times about working with them (contrary to popular belief, Carter didn’t start Habitat for Humanity, he became their biggest proponent, and Clinton did not establish Teach for America, it was started in 1990). That’s it. Peace Corps and AmeriCorps. I’m quite sure Presidents have done other things that affect my daily life, but the public relations department didn’t do a very good job of getting the public to associate the change with the President.

I suppose you could add the Bush Wars to the list. A few people from my family were sent to the first war and I know of people who have been sent to Iraq/Afghanistan this time around. But, so far, everyone has come home safely. If I were to be incredibly selfish about it, I could point out that I personally have not been sent overseas. In that sense, I have not been affected by either war.

At some point in time, I really don’t know when, I became disillusioned with the idea of voting for a candidate based on just one or two issues. If I’m not mistaken, especially in the case of the President, they work on many issues and, at least in theory, have an influence on all areas of our lives. So if I strongly disagree with a candidate on immigration policies but agree with the candidate on everything else, should I really elevate immigration to the level of being the deciding factor? Of course, there are plenty of other issues to put in immigration’s place, and two or three are quite obvious, but I think the principle stands. The President does more than deal with laws and situations on one or two issues, why not vote based on the entire person and their stance on a variety of issues?

I was also told a story about surveys done on the candidates and their policy statements. Apparently, once people thought the survey was all about one candidate, as in the candidate they wanted to vote for, they blindly attributed every statement to their candidate. The story also got into racial aspects of this (it was specifically African American voters in cities being asked about Obama, from what I recall). This is either ignorance of what the candidates really said or blind allegiance to a candidate. Just assume it’s your candidate without really listening to what the person giving the survey says. (I can’t find a story on it online, so I’m sure my details are off, but the conclusion is still spot-on, it’s what we talked about when I was told the story.)

And finally, from watching so much coverage, I’ve found I like McCain in many ways. He seems personable, he might actually care about the state I currently live in, and he’s more than willing to make fun of himself as seen multiple times on Saturday Night Live. Seems like good qualities to me! I took a quiz at ABC News where you answer questions and it tells you which candidate you agree with. It only offered McCain and Obama. On the economy, I agreed with McCain, on everything else I either agreed with Obama or when it said I agreed with McCain, I noticed that I agreed with both and something small caused me to favor McCain’s position (ie. Obama wants to reduce greenhouse gases 80% by 2050 while McCain wants to reduce it 60% by then; I felt McCain was more gradual and realistic but Obama’s 80% would be terrific, besides, it’s not like either one will have any influence on the issue beyond 2020). The reason I just couldn’t get myself to vote for McCain at the end of the day was because of his VP pick. I couldn’t find the side-by-side video of Couric/Palin and Poehler/Fey, but search YouTube for Couric’s interview of Palin. You’ll find the parts that get laughter in SNL are often exact quotes from the Couric interview. Here’s the SNL one:

It’s a bit scary how Palin/Fey’s answer to the question about the bailout is pretty much an exact quote from the real interview. When I first saw it, I had to find the Couric interview to check how much SNL changed. Not very much is the answer.


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Reading list

Every so often I am asked how many books I’m reading, which ones I’m reading, and suchlike. Here is a list of the books I consider myself currently reading, not including books for classes. Granted, a few of them I may not have read in over a year, but I still have it bookmarked and I remember the story well enough to not backtrack very much (maybe the beginning of the chapter) to get back into it.

Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder
Mission To The Headhunters – Frank & Marie Drown
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee – Dee Brown
Prism – Jonathan & Eugene Bliss
Primary Colors – Anonymous (Joe Klein)
Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
Daughter Of The Blood – Anne Bishop
Smoke & Mirrors – Neil Gaiman
The Mummy – Anne Rice
The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
Le Morte D’Arthur (The Death of [King] Arthur) – Sir Thomas Malory
History Of Scotland – P. Hume Brown
Japan: A Short History – Mikiso Hane
Tao Te Ching – Lao Tsu
The Templars – Piers Paul Read
Angels & Demons – Dan Brown
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov
Analects – Confucius
Irish Folk Stories And Fairy Tales – W. B. Yeats
Tales Of The Elders Of Ireland – Ann Dooley & Harry Roe

And I just finished Christopher Paolini’s “Eldest,” the second Eragon novel. I’m sure there are about another dozen books, I just don’t see them at the moment.

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Finally (again)

And so it begins. Hide now if you want, I won’t blame you if you do. I plan to make this my primary blog. I’ll still use the other sites, though, for specific audiences.

There isn’t a whole lot to say at this point. If you know me, you know the sort of experience that can be like (I’m not really sorry, you’re the one who still chooses to be my friend even after you know what that entails). If you don’t know me, good luck figuring it out. I’m me, really. If I had to give, say, six words or short phrases to describe myself (because limiting it to single words is, well, limiting), hm… random, enigmatic, compassionate, a devotee of the arts (whether theater, opera, music in general, books, film, poetry, etc.), completely in love with life and all it has to offer (especially people), and a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn.

Originally I was thinking to make this blog more writing oriented, but screw that, who knows where this will go. The writing is there, the website that is listed somewhere around here has what I’ve written, but I’m too me-ish to stick to only one subject.

Anyway, this is plenty long enough to commence my commencement with, so off I go to my own little world.


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