Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year's Wishes

Here's to hoping that 2005 will establish a more pleasant setting for a "normal" year. So go forth, indulge in your intoxicant of choice (cigars and good whiskey for me), and be sure to tip your designated driver a couple of extra shots when he/she gets home.

Deliberately Obtuse

Yes, blogs have done wonderful things in spreading reports from people who are enbedded in the events of the day. Certainly my betters have done some investigations that put broadcast media to shame. Somehow, that last issue didn't seem all that praise worthy in ABC's decision to name bloggers People of the Year. So they think that Trent Lott was the big story that best defines the blogging phenomenom?

I suppose I could give them a break. I mean, it would be a really tough thing to admit that your personal bull is getting gored. ABC is really trying to be the nice guys by throwing this bone while not admitting that it was one Dan Rather shot out of his own foot.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tragedy Seen from Above

A pair of satellite photos showing a very stark before and after of the city of Banda Aceh. The city is gone. It is worse than any footage or direct experience I have had with earthquakes. I don't pray much, but in the face of something like this, there is little else to do.

Economic Enivronmentalism

It has been a truism for the anti-free-trade position that opening markets world wide will cause multi-national corporations to farm out their polluting processes to countries too poor to make much of a fuss. A Tech Central Station article by Radley Balko points out data that indicates that this is not happening, however. The "Race to the Bottom" described above is running into a new phenomenom named the "Green Ceiling".

The Race to the Bottom implies that the cost of moving the facility, retraining workers, and transporting materials and finished goods will be offset by the lower wages and savings on environmental technologies. While the salaries being paid are, to many people in the developed world, unacceptably low, they are still an increase in wealth to those getting the jobs. What has been seen in many instances though, is that polluting companies are not leaving developed nations.

The reason for this is that the costs are not offset as well as the figuring would accomplish. Not only are environmental technologies not too costly for large corporations, but the option of doing business in areas that are politically unstable is a particular turn off. Nothing like having the winners of the next coup decide that it would be a good idea to nationalize your industry.

The Green Ceiling is where the wealth of the citizenry has risen high enough to meet survival needs and luxuries become affordable. The Race to the Bottom correctly points out that environmental controls are such a concern. The changes don't even need to be regulations on business. The increase in wealth in Mexico has lead to more people being able to afford better engineered cars with catalytic converters and cleaner burning gasoline. If the industries are hit with new regulations, then the decision has to be made again as to the costs/benefits of yet another move. Sooner or later, the bottom has to be reached as to the last place on earth without environmental regulations, or the wage difference between the pittance and pittance just isn't effective.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Is That What Bile Looks Like?

If this column doesn't make Nick Coleman* of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune out to be the epitome of main stream media elitism, then nothing will. Nothing really shows a writer's professionalism like making snide comments about the other side's endowments:

The lads behind Powerline are a bank vice president named Scott Johnson and a lawyer named John Hinderaker. If you read Powerline, you know them better by their fantasy names, Big Trunk (that's Johnson) and Hind Rocket (Hinderaker). I will leave it to the appropriate professionals to determine what they are compensating for, but they have received enormous attention from the despised Mainstream Media and deserve more.

Interesting that Mr. Coleman concludes that the Powerline guys should be getting more attention from mainstream media, presumably in order to uncover just who pulls the bloggers' strings. At least I think that is what he meant. The sloppy use of the pronoun "they" would make it seem it is replacing the antecedant "appropriate professionals". Then again, I'm just an engineer and not a professional writer.

Back to my point about Powerline getting more attention from the main stream media. I think that it would be a good thing for a reporter or columnist to do research into a story on these guys. Most especially if they do the research before they write the column. I tried to find one fact or snippet beyond mere innuendo that indicates that Powerline got marching orders from anyone. What say you Mr. Coleman? Are you ready to do a little reportage of the pick-up-the-phone-and-call-them variety? Explore the site even slightly (oh, no, work!) and you can find the phone numbers of these gentlemen.

*sorry about the registration requirement. I usually make it a point not to link to such sites, but it is almost worth the hassle of coming up with a fake name and a pre-designated junk e-mail address to take a look at this piece of work.

Been Looking Forward to a Good Headrollin'

Some quick initial reactions on the removal of the CIA Deputy for Analysis.

1. In cases such as the systemic failures that had occurred in the CIA, it is appropriate to fire both the manager and the team.

2. The lady had a hard job, being essentially the only department that actually collected and analyzed data. The other branches, operations and human intelligence, where so hamstrung by congressional and media tsk-tsk'ers that they were reduced to virtually nothing.

3. Anybody who puts out a report that essentially says, "Maybe they do and maybe they don't," should get out of the business in favor of someone who could write a report like that (like me) for a lot less money.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

The Count is Now: 120

Talk about ingratitude. I would be curious as to how much the home country of Jan Egeland, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, gives in those causes. Calling the United States and other wealthy nations stingy hardly seems the diplomatic way of putting things. I wonder if he was looking only at the monies given by the governments or included private giving? I'll take a chance and say the former, which would indicate a true redistributionist mindset at the highest levels of the UN.

I personally think that the truly downtrodden parts of the world would be better off in the long term with less "aid" being sucked up by the corrupt regimes that keep said people downtrodden. Better to have smaller charities dishing the help directly to the people rather than governments blindly air dropping the goods to whomever is strong enough to take it. With the recent track record of the UN with respect to humanitarian causes, I don't think that Mr. Egeland is in a position to talk.

History of The Count below. Looking back at it, it seems that the "Bush voter = stupid" meme has had at least a year to get started.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Maybe the Last Addition to the Storage Locker This Year

Dave Barry's Year in Review with a little equal opportunity slam dancing. Case in point:

Meanwhile, in another blow to the U.S.-led coalition effort in Iraq, Spain withdraws its troop, Sgt. Juan Hernandez. As violence in Iraq escalates, critics of the Bush administration charge that there are not enough U.S. soldiers over there. Administration officials heatedly deny this, arguing that the real problem is that there are too many Iraqis over there.

In the words of one high-level official (who is not identified in press reports because of the difficulties involved in spelling "Condoleezza"), the administration "may have to relocate the Iraqis to a safer area, such as Ecuador." John Kerry calls this "a ridiculous idea," adding, "I wholeheartedly endorse it."

Embrace the absurd: it will be there anyway, so you might as well get used to it.

Link Via The Daily Dish

The Tail of The Power Curve

Welcome to the shallow end of the Blogosphere Power Curve, or as I like to refer to it, the primordial ooze. The latest attention-grabbing idea is The Long Tail, where the trailing portion of the power curve approaches zero but never quite gets there. The article from Wired examines the effect of making the long tail of the popularity curve available to the people whose taste makes them occupants of the tail, but because of scarcity of transportation and retail space were SOL.

Take books: The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are (see "Anatomy of the Long Tail"). In other words, the potential book market may be twice as big as it appears to be, if only we can get over the economics of scarcity. Venture capitalist and former music industry consultant Kevin Laws puts it this way: "The biggest money is in the smallest sales."

Or as I sometimes put it: He who becomes the wealthiest does so in the smallest possible increments.

Blogs are the production aspect of the argument that Wired makes in its article. I hope that I have found a few like minded souls out there who enjoy my work. Maybe someday I'll pop out a post that because of its insight is carried on by some of you and into the positive feedback loop of more and more people saying, "this is a good idea, please take a look at it."

That would be nice. I'm not holding my breath for it, though. Sometimes you're the brilliant idea, most of the time you're the feedback loop. What is really important in the quest for new ideas is that someone, somewhere, is having a great new idea. If they have a blog, even better, because then someone might read the idea and agree. If that person has a blog and advances the idea, then there are two sets of preferably non-identical readerships that are now exposed to the idea. And they'll tell two friends, and they'll tell two friends, and you get the idea. Where the article talks about pulling consumers down the tail of the power curve, eventually the ideas created in the tail (aka primordial soup) tend upwards. As it goes, the idea is challenged and refined, and ultimately may break out of the 'sphere entirely.

Not a bad outcome for the lone voice in the wilderness. Then again, in the wild west of the blogosphere, you are never really alone.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Good Idea, but Not All That Useful

I am going to need a bit more context to justify my first impression of this article where Mr. Waverley Person suggests that the death toll was so high because the affected nations did not have early warning systems that might have given the victims time to escape.

"Most of those people could have been saved if they had had a tsunami warning system in place or tide gauges," he said yesterday.

"And I think this will be a lesson to them," he said, referring to the governments of the devastated countries.

The context that I would need is the ability to spread information across those regions and the mobility of the inhabitants. I can see this happening in areas where people just don't have the access to information to know even if they need to evacuate. I would be surprised if a majority of them even knew there had been an earthquake if they hadn't felt it themselves. Secondly, what was the area of devastation? Was it a relatively thin ribbon along hundreds of miles of coastline, or was it a shorter front with deeper penetration? In the first case, it would only have been a short run inland to avoid the inundation, and any warning would have been useful. If it was the second case, then a lead time of only "20 minutes to 2 hours" would only serve to catch people on the road.

One last point, this quote, also from Mr. Person:

"People along the Japanese coasts, along the coasts of California - people are taught to move away from the coasts. But a lot of these people in the area where this occurred - they probably had no kind of lessons or any knowledge of tsunamis because they are so rare." Emphasis mine

I have lived in California my entire life, most of it in spitting distance of the San Andreas Fault. I have never heard anything in all of my voluminous education regarding earthquakes about moving away from the shoreline out of concern for tsunamis. Having tried to get out of the Dodger Stadium parking lot after the July 4 fireworks, I know that my fellow Californians do not really grasp the idea of an orderly exit. I shudder to think what it would look like if the word came down that the Big One would hit the next day, and the image of evacuating the coastline inside of an hour is absurd to the point of tragic.

Link via Instapundit.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Ho Ho Frickin' Ho

I wrote before about running out of gas for the holidays. The only thing I really have left is my sense of humor. In hoping that you still have yours, I offer a couple of pilfered links. Did I mention that I'm sick of shopping too?

Prof. Instapundit gets to the true meaning of Festivus with a New York Times article:The New York Times > Fashion & Style > Fooey to the World: Festivus Is Come. I can see where the airing of grievances can lead to the wrestling.

Michele at A Small Victory makes a seasonal offering in her own particular idiom: Weird Al Yankovic's The Night Santa Went Crazy. Sorry about the link chain, if I knew how to link directly to MP3's I would have stolen it outright. Lord knows I'm going to think twice about leaving my flue open tomorrow night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

An Off Kilter Holiday Season

I'm just not feeling it this year. With the drama of my Dad's trip to the hospital and some other personal goings on, it seems that too much of the down side of life has been piling on to really get into the spirit. I feel for my sister who hosted her first Thanksgiving dinner. Making time to visit Dad, then starting dinner late without our parents there kind of dampened the whole event. With trypto-coma setting in at 9:00 pm, no one was really in a mood to stick around for pie.

There's another way that can throw off the holiday spirit. That's getting your presents early. The allure of a massively commercialized day of celebration based on a religious observance scheduled to pre-empt an older religious observance, neither of which really holding much reverence for me, is currently nill now that I've already gotten the two things that are really important to me. The first is my Dad back, at home and a fair distance down the road to recovery. The second is a strong dose of self-respect in the form of a job that I have been training for for years.

Christmas 2004? Been there, done that.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Mandatory Vacations for Reporters

Their is one thing that I really don't like about this time of the year. It isn't the over commercialization or the berserk crowds at the malls. I mean, who needs the Ultimate Fighting Championships when there is only one I-Pod left in the store?

No, my problem are the news stories that wouldn't be stories if not for the fact that the holidays (starting with Thanksgiving) are slow news days. Elian Gonzalez, the day after Thanksgiving. Laci Peterson, Christmas Eve. Jon-Benet Ramsey, the day after Christmas. News reports were dominated for months for each of these stories.

So what say we all pitch in and buy vacations for all of the news divisions, CNN and Foxnews? I'm sure we could all use the break.

Tone Down the Hype, Please

I really don't like the way the Daily Dish clumps its posts together. It makes it difficult to set a decent permalink, but I'll work around it for this post.

The news that Google is digitizing the contents of five major libraries strikes me as a good thing. More people with more access to information is the key to a greater rate of innovation.

Much like prognostications of the power of the internet pre-tech stock crash, however, the characterization of the impact is reaching ludicrous proportions. I mean, comparing a Googlized library to "the Mind of God"? Intimating that level of power to this information under his control can backfire. I've already been hearing of conspiracy theories of what is to come. Because the digital format is so malleable with no proper way to identify changes, it will be too easy to alter the data that people see, a la Winston Smith of 1984. And much like Big Brother, that type of information will be used to control the people.

I don't buy it. It is precisely because people already know that data can be changed in a blink online that makes the blogosphere a very sensitive bullshit detector. Whatever particularly useful texts that exist in these libraries will also exist in countless copies elsewhere either online or physically. If changes are made, it will inevitably cross paths with someone familiar with the original. The fact that it is Google and renowned libraries only gives the enterprise a starting reputation. If that power is abused, then the bubble reputation will burst.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Channeling Nelson Munz

You know, the bully from The Simpsons. I just couldn't help but feel the "Ha Ha" coming out of me when I read about Spammers ordered to pay $1 billion. I know, it was in absentia, but if you could put a price tag on all of the aggravation endured, then I think we could all agree that any money coming to that one ISP should be divied up. Haven't we all felt that pain?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

How Did I Miss That?

Yesterday was my First Blogiversary! The one thing I've noticed about my writing, concise is good.

Blog of the Year? Works for Me.

Congrats to Power Line for having won the inaugural Time Magazine Blog of the Year.

I don't believe that the blogosphere meritted Person of the Year, but this new award, appropriate for a new thing, is just right. It is major attention brought to the table, but not as The Big Thing with which the curious might come to and be disapointed. Kind of like a movie that all of your friends have raved about, but when you see it all it does for you is, "Eh." This award lets blogs be blogs, not some earth shattering event that comes up short of the hype.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Hot Damn!

I have been unemployed for the past several months. My major is something of an obscure field. I could have taken a hint when I graduated from UCLA when there were 250 electrical engineers, 250 computer scientists, and 14 materials engineers. Then again, that was in '97 and before the tech sector collapse.

That condition has ended. I have found a position with a materials testing firm. Its just what I need at this point, both professionally and personally. WaHoo!!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Press Start and Tune Out

We've all done it. Tuning out of reality while engrossed in a book or a tv show or a video game. There may be some advantage to that. A study has shown that kids allowed to play Game Boy immediately prior to surgical anesthesia experienced less anxiety prior to surgery than those who received tranquilizers or the comfort of a parent.

It reminded me of an article in Scientific American that reported on the effectiveness of virtual reality in theraputic settings. The article described some of the well known applications of VR in treating phobias. The instance I am more interested in is its use as an escape from sensation. Precisely, it was a study of children's experience of pain as they underwent cleanings of severe burn injuries. The process is normally incredibly painful, but subjects reported far less pain when they immersed themselves in an virtual environment where they had snowball fights with snowmen. In general, the more immersive (3D vs. flat screen, playing with friends and family vs. solo) the greater the pain dulling effect. I also think that the cold theme also helped them to separate from the sensations resulting from a hot connotation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Boy's Not Right

I firmly believe that great ideas come from the combination of two or more ideas that seem to have nothing in common. In some cases, however, the results can be disturbing. Such as, who on earth would wonder about the skeletal structures of cartoon characters, and then go through the process of drawing them. I guess its a hobby that keeps him off the streets.

Link via Farm Accident Digest

A Ranom Bit of Philosophy

Its always something. When something happens there's no use getting worked up over it. Obviously getting worked up did nothing to prevent something from happening. Save your dander for the important stuff.

This post was brought to you by the guy who almost put his fist through the monitor after Blogspot ate this entry the first time through.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Real Meaning of Free Speech

Doc in the Box has a few parting thoughts as he leaves the Mojave Desert enroute ultimately to his new assignment in Iraq. Perhaps his best point is about freedom of speech and the need for mutual respect for it to really work. I thought I'd add my two cents.

I'm of the opinion that the Founding Fathers weren't all that into noise pollution or having once-read pamplets littering the streets. That's all speech is without one critical addition: a receptive mind to consider the content. It was that part of the equation that was the focus of the 1st Amendment, not the producer, but the consumer. How can I as a citizen make the best possible choices for myself when I don't know what all of the options are? I can decide for myself what is worthwhile once I have heard it. Everytime you see a speech by someone unpopular get disrupted by protesters, consider that it was the right to decide whether the speaker had a point or not was violated for every member of the audience.

Of course we have freedom to speak (or write). It would all be so much noise, however, without the other person's right to hear it and maybe be swayed by it. That is what the protester fears.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Peterson's Punishment

This is California. The sentencing phase wasn't so much as to whether Scot Peterson should live or die, but whether he would spend the rest of his life in prison or spend the rest of his life in prison waiting to be executed. Given that California has 600+ people on Death Row, and that the state manages to execute them at about one a year, I somehow doubt that Peterson is really going to be waiting around for that date.

Remember, if capital punishment had been legal when he was sentenced, Charles Manson would still be waiting for the needle.

A Fine Way to Get the Dander Up

I mean, really. How can you put up a nativity scene with Posh Spice as the Virgin (ahem) Mary and not expect people to get upset about it. That it was vandalized strikes me as not a good move. What this strikes me as is a situation where some people take this too seriously (the vandal) and some not seriously enough (Madame Tussaud's). Kylie Minogue as an angel? Please.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

A Continuing Metaphor

The metaphor being news services acting as public sector intelligence agencies. Instapundit kicks over a couple of links regarding the CBS internal investigation. It seems that some people at the network are fighting against full public release of the report.

There is a certain order that happens when the CIA has investigations like this. Someone even thinks that a report given to the public is incomplete, and eventually the full version is leaked. Ultimately, I have faith that CBS is going to get another lesson in how they have lost control over the flow of information.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Pure Ideas Seldom Work

Andrew Sullivan gives a quick tally of expanding marriage rights around the world. His post touches on how the canadian developments are happening without judicial interference, and he takes on David Frum about whether their process is "democratic". Andrew concedes that sometimes good things happen in ways that are not democratic, ie Brown vs. Board of Education.

To say that something is good only if it was decided democratically is dangerous. It places the definition of good onto the process as opposed to the result. As Andrew implies, school desegregation was a good thing, yet it might not have happened to this day had the Supreme Court stepped in said that it was unconstitutional.

A couple of years ago I was a regular haunter of The Fray message boards over at Slate, where I used the screen name of Synthesist. I got into a running argument over whether the make-it-up-as-you-go-along culture of Los Angeles was a good thing or beneath disdain. I took the pro, and another guy took the con. His argument was that LA's "culture" was so mutagenic that nothing was kept long enough for authenticity to develop. I took the position that the lack of a deep history allowed LA to be a true cultural laboratory where ideas that didn't work could be discarded without the inertia of tradition.

Toward the end of the argument he went ad hominem and pointed to my screen name as proof of my disdain for any lasting value, that I prefered the synthetic to the authentic. He missed the point I was trying to make of the way I come to ideas, namely Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis. (I think that was Hegel, but I'm not sure. The danger of being a part-time philosopher.) An idea, Thesis, is proposed, and a competing idea or negation, Antithesis, arised to challenge it. Finally, the best parts of both ideas are brought together to create a new idea, Synthesis. The Synthesis, being a new idea becomes the new thesis, and the process begins anew.

The Founding Fathers did not trust pure democracy. Hence we have the representative framework. They also added a touch of autocracy to the process. The Supreme Court was to either say No to an idea in light of the Constitution, or allow it by their silence. I do think that anything beyond a strict interpretation would invite the court to overstep its bounds, and the Court has come up with some real howlers over the years. If the Constitution is a contract between the Government and the People, however, then someone has to arbitrate and keep both sides within its strictures.

Democracy is the voice of the People. But if the People are bound by the Constitution, then their actions may be judged unconstitutional as well. And I wouldn't have it any other way, thank you very much.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Now That's Odd

From his amazingly deep library of vintage advertisements, James Lileks posts a rather candid 1943 tampon ad. I'm sure that someone could come up with a doctoral thesis on gender roles in WWII based on the cartoon of the woman in the munitions factory wearing heels. Nowadays, I'm sure that OSHA would have something to say about that.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Sounds Good, But...

I would like to take this pledge from the ACLU to
join with over 400,000 ACLU members and supporters to help ensure that the President, his administration, and our leaders in Congress fulfill their duty to preserve, protect, and defend our Constitution.

I can't because if I really joined them then I'd be with them on the sidelines when it comes to the Second Amendment. All of it is important.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Cart, Meet Horse

In the New York Times (registration required) David Brooks looks at the Red State/Blue State divide in light of fertility rates. His opinion is that the decision to have a large family is a rejection of materialistic and individualistic values. This was reflected in a very strong correlation in the presidential vote:

You can see surprising political correlations. As Steve Sailer pointed out in The American Conservative, George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates.

The cost/benefit ratio is calculated very differently when one's offspring are involved. The costs that can be handled by adults would be overwhelming for children. Kids are the driving force in the growth of suburbs.

What I am not so certain about is the implication in this line:

Natalists resist the declining fertility trends not because of income, education or other socioeconomic characteristics. It's attitudes. People with larger families tend to attend religious services more often, and tend to have more traditional gender roles.

This construction, decision for a large family then religious affiliation, only works if the individual was the first generation of believer, the one who was not religious prior to the decision for family. Since families are in the business of generations, this falls flat. How then could it characterise those whose parents had made the decision to family, then religion, and raisbed their children to be religious, who then went on to have large families? By nature of the issue, the number of those raised religious will rapidly come to outnumber those of the first generation.

I may be misreading his demographic terminology, but it does read so that it undercuts his final point that the Red States are not wanting to wage cultural "jihad" on the Blue States. Even the final point can be brought into question:

What they cherish, like most Americans, is the self-sacrificial love shown by parents. People who have enough kids for a basketball team are too busy to fight a culture war.

I would think that with that many kids, who has time to monitor their TV, music, and video games as well? Wouldn't it be so much easier if their weren't those things to worry about? If they had moved out to the suburbs so that their kids wouldn't be exposed to that type of thing, then what would be the reaction to discover that those things had followed them?

via Instapundit

Monday, December 06, 2004

Update on the Dad Front

Dad got home on Friday. Still tired and moivng slow, but only what you'd expect. I asked him how he was feeling yesterday, and he said that he felt like a whipped puppy. Given that he had been feeling like a run-over puppy previously, it is an improvement.

Pardonez moi, Monsieur

So let me get this straight, French security officials were testing their bomb-sniffing dogs by slipping explosives into passengers' luggage. It gets even better when said officials have admitted that they have failed to prevent five ounces of explosives from getting on the plane or to recover those explosives. Worst case scenario: upon unpacking, the owner of the luggage feeling lucky that he got through security after forgetting to remove some of his explosives.

In the same vein, Canadian officials are looking into missing uniforms for security officers. Some have even been found on E-bay.

It's almost vindicating to see that others are as incompetent on security as we are. Almost.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Rampant Self-Esteem

Andrew Sullivan leaps to the defense of Prince Charles in his latest article. The incident he writes about is Charles having written a rather politically incorrect memo regarding a wrongful termination and sexual discrimination suit from a former employee. He has run into the problem that many employers run into, namely how can one make necessary distinctions between people when equality must be served above all else.

I'm agreeing with Andrew, and Prince Charles, that Western Culture has gone overboard in the everyone-can-acheive-anything worldview. So long as one does not know one's limits, the danger of setting expectations beyond one's capabilities is ever present. I recall a parody of Madonna's Blonde Ambition tour in which a complete loser on the dance squad talks about the hostility against those with the disability of being unable to dance. I know that no one is ever going to pay me for a drawing, hence, I don't waste my time.

Speaking of wasting my time, the new season of American Idol is starting soon. I only watch the try-out episodes chock full of people desperate for the message that they are not good singers. Simon may seem to be excessively cruel, but no one said that ripping off blinders would be painless.

Friday, December 03, 2004

I Know What I Wrote

I said earlier that blogging would be light this weekend after my father's release from the hospital. This blogging is basicly me in a holding pattern. My mobile phone is sitting next to the computer. [/Final Jeopardy theme]

Oh, The Poor Dears

The BBC is wringing its hands over the new screen saver put out by Lycos Europe that bombards the servers of a select few spammers with hundreds of data requests. Much like Brian Micklethwait I too am confused by the upset tone of the article. It would seem that two of the servers have gone down completely, and a third is struggling to keep up with the hits. From what I have seen of the BBC, they tend to be pretty hostile to business concerns. Maybe its that it is people taking power into their own hands. As to the argument:

"If you do manage to swamp the spammers then you set yourself up for more attacks in return," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at anti-virus firm Sophos.

We all know the love of the BBC for decrying anything that looks "pre-emptive", but that is hardly the case here. The invasion of the inboxes has already occurred. This is nothing more than a massive retaliatory strike. Feels good, doesn't it?

Why Be a Nation When You Are Your Own World?

I took this country quiz at Blue Pyramid. I don't know how they came up with this. I'm wondering how my answers became this, but I'm sure there's some people who would nod their heads and say, "Yep, that's him":

You're Afghanistan!

In the words of Bob Dylan, you "haven't known peace and quiet
in so long [you] don't remember what it's like!"  Sad but true.  Boss
after boss has led you around, using you for their nefarious purposes, and dumping you
when the time was right.  You've hurt and been hurt and now you're just sick and tired.
 When will people leave you alone and let you do your own thing?  But you
don't really even know what you want anymore.

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid

Link via Electric Venom

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Yee Hah!!

Dad is coming home tomorrow. Blogging may be light through the weekend.

But What Will the Idiots Do With It?

I really don't care what happens to idiots when they do idiotic things. The danger of someone darting out into traffic while playing human Pacman causes me more concern for the damage to the car and potential mental trauma to the driver than for the idiot who did the darting. You roll the dice and you take your chances.

Anoter good on the surface idea is airborne taxi service. I'm all for new ideas for getting into town having commuted into Los Angeles. This one stinks. Problem #1: there is no graceful way to pull over should mechanical difficulties arise. I don't worry too much for the driver (pilot?) and passengers, they chose the risk. Commuting is bad enough, commuting with the risk of someone crashing into you from above is a little too much. Get hit from above, and it won't be a fender bender. Problem #2: Are security officials going to be keen on the idea of privately operated aircraft flying into the heart of the city? This service would be shut down with the slightest hiccup of the security level. Lastly, and not really part of risk assesment, $90 each way. I understand that fares would be route dependant and are comparable to ground taxi fares, but at that price, I can see why more people don't take ground taxis.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Jumping on the Ol' Bandwagon

One of the hallmarks of a successful company is that it lets few opportunities pass by. Given that they were the subject of the Final Jeopardy answer that broke Ken Jenning's win streak on Jeopardy at 74 and $2,520,700:

Most of this firm's 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.

H&R Block has announced that they will provide Ken's tax and financial planning services free of charge. Not that he really needs to economize on that, but the publicity is definitely worth more than those fees. Let's see how good H&R Block really is if they can do something about this:

Jennings will probably owe about $1.04 million in federal and Utah taxes on the winnings, Byers said, citing preliminary calculations by H&R Block.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Methodology is Everything

I was somewhat excited when I heard on CNN about a study that purported to show differences in MRI brainscans between liars and truthtellers. Jim Lundgren at The Volokh Conspiracy dug a little deeper into the study and found some serious flaws. From the section quoted in his article:

Faro and colleagues tested 10 volunteers. Six of them were asked to shoot a toy gun and then lie and say they didn't do it. Three others who watched told the truth about what happened. One volunteer dropped out of the study.

Aside from the sample size, the issue Mr. Lundgren makes is that there are more than one variable in this arrangement. Those who are lying are also the ones who performed physical action, two areas where there is a difference from the other group. Therefore, it is impossible to say whether it was the lying or the memory of taking physical action that activates the additional brain regions.

A better set up for the experiment would be to have to groups, a group that is set before hand to lie to a particular question and one that will answer all questions honestly. While in the brain scan, each group will get the same list of questions. While answer all of the others truthfully, the first group will lie when given the key question. That way, comparisons can be made between responses in an unreliable individual's telling lies and truth, and between the unreliable person and the reliable one. In fact, you could have a third group instructed to lie all of the time. However it is done, the experiences of the subject will be functionally identical with respect to brain activity.

Update: Thanks to John of Boffoblog for bringing my attention to the more in depth look the study he took in a couple of posts. Looking at his posts, it is clear that it was the reporting on the subject that was shoddy rather than the study. One of the big issues I have is scientific illiteracy. Reporting like this tends to push the sensational, and the idea of a fool-proof lie detector is gold. It does not help the general issue of people uncertain about the real science. With reporting like this, it becomes all to easy for snake oil to sell and real medicines to be demonized.

WiFi as a Public Utitlity

As much as I like the idea of city-wide wireless internet, I have to stick by my guns and say that I don't like the idea of city or state governments doing the installations. Anytime you see numbers in a story like this, with respect to the project in Philadelphia:

The projected cost for installing antennas across the city's 135 square miles would be $10 million and another $1.5 million annually to maintain it, Neff said.

you will then know that if you double it, you will get a decent estimate of half the final cost.

Of course, this is a funny part:

Plus, the service could help make Philadelphia "hip" enough to stem the outward flow of college graduates, she [Barbara Grant, a spokeswoman for Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street] said.

First, getting widespread wireless coverage will be a temporary edge at best as other cities get networks online. Second, anyone who still uses "hip" has other problems in the cool department.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Update on Dad

He repeated the barium swallow test this morning, aka the quality assurance test for the surgeon. Great news, Dad's stomach is once again functioning as a sealed unit. I don't think that anyone has enjoyed a drink of water as much as he has.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Not What is Meant by "Hot" Toy

I recall the frenzy surrounding Cabbage Patch Dolls. The clashes over Furbies are still seared in the national consciousness. None of that may hold a candle to the possibility that someone used pepper spray in a case of toy rage.

If this is the case, forget the toys, its the parents how are really teaching kids the idea of dispute mitigation through violence. I would like to end this post on a witty bon mot, but I'm drawing a blank. Feel free to supply your own.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Time For Definitions

This story about putting warning labels on science books is almost too silly for words. Evidently those doing the labeling know very little about science, as well as seeming to be proud of the fact.

The problem is a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between facts and theories. Facts are incontrovertible. For that reason it takes a lot to get to that level. Nothing beyond single observations can truly be called fact, and even those might not be if the observation methodology is challenged, but that's another post. A theory, on the other hand, is an attempt to apply an organizing principle to facts. It is said that theories destroy facts. I prefer the analogy that theories consume facts.

For instance, if you have observed that a bus has stopped at a given spot at 10:00 am, 10:20 am, 10:40 am, and 11:00 am, you can say that a bus stops at the spot at 20 minute intervals. The specific observations of times are facts, while the statement of the twenty minute interval is a theory. You could test the theory by observing if a bus arrives at 11:20 am. All future facts within the scope of the theory must fit for the theory to remain valid. This is why it is often said that theories are of a higher order than facts, like "book" being of a higher order than "page". If the bus does not arrive until 11:30 am, then the theory must be ammended. (Assuming of course that the busses run on time, a tall stretch in virtually any town.) A theory can be simple (20 minute intervals) or complicated (20 minute intervals until 11:00 am, whereupon the busses run on 30 minute intervals).

So, strictly speaking, my assertion that the people that want stickers on science books are proud of their scientific illiteracy may be incorrect. That people want to put stickers on science books is a fact. That they are proud of their scientific illiteracy is a theory. I would welcome further facts to test my theory.

Friday, November 26, 2004

May I, Mr. Overlord, Sir?

I'd buy one of these Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanies, but my programming from the Orbital Mind-Control Lasers won't let me. If you will excuse me, I must now go and listen to Avril Levigne's new album as penance for even mentioning the Conspiracy.

Link via Instapundit.

Good Luck With That

We all know how long it took for video phones to become widespread features of people's homes. Oh, wait, they haven't yet. And the fact that I am currently bleary-eyed, fright-wigged, and, yes, pajama-wearing, kind of guarantees that it won't be happening around here.

So, in a way, I really have to admire the guys who are trying to market a hologram phone. Imagine, that telemarketer could determine just how big that zit on your forehead is while interrupting your dinner. Hope springs eternal, nonetheless:

It's also pricey. One cylinder costs 10 million yen ($97,100) although Tachi and Endo expect that to fall if the gadget is ever mass-produced.

Get it down to $150 and I might consider it. Considered, and No.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Sometimes its the Right One

I have been posting updates of my Dad's condition over the past couple of weeks. Latest news is a worry that the infection has drastically slowed the healing from the operation. That should only be a delay, however, and not a permanent setback.

Anyway, one of the pairs of eyeballs that came along this site belong to my uncle, my Dad's brother, with whom we've lost touch over the years. I figure, have to ask him, that he was Googling my Dad's name and up popped the blog. Kind of a scary way to find out that type of information about a loved one. Even with the names, my Uncle was able to put together enough clues (vis my tendancy toward injury) to make enough of a guess to drop his e-mail in the comments. Dropping that my injuries were orthopedic in nature closed the deal. He made contact with my Mom before I saw the comments and she told me how he found us.

One of the really cool things about blogging is that I can reach out to interested people all around the world. Today I had a visitor from Hungary, how cool is that? But some of those who come by are valuable for being closer to home, or at least should be.

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggeddy Jig

Just got home from a job interview in the San Fransciso Bay Area. Driving nearly a thousand miles in three days is just so much fun (/sarcasm). A couple shots of Jim Beam and I am just about ready for bed.

I also note that I picked up 55 visits while I was away. Including hits directly to some pretty old stuff. Thanks for the eyeballs, but is this telling me that I should be spending more time away from the keyboard? I'm writing this late wednesday, so if anyone reads this on thursday, ask yourself if your time isn't better spent looking at a turkey or football or something.

Bonus Geek Points to the first person to identify the reference in the title. Double if you are geeky enough to be reading this post on Thanksgiving. I sure won't.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Status Report and Itinerary

Great news, Dad went off the ventilator yesterday and is now breathing unassisted. Today, delayed diagnostics to check the surgeon's work from the operation that got all of this started.

I will be catching up on delayed matters as well. I'm headed up to the San Francisco Bay Area this morning for a meeting and will come back home on Wednesday. I won't be here on Thursday, like anyone else would be on Thanksgiving, and blogging shall resume on Friday.

Catch you all later.

Did Anyone Consider the Symbolism?

Donald Trump's casino group is yet again filing for bankruptcy. Among the casinos involved is the Trump Taj Mahal.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the real Taj Mahal a tomb?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Marketing is Off to a Good Start

Oliver Willis has started a topic with the idea of creating a Brand Democrat. I couldn't help but nod my head to a few of these points. I particularly like the "What happens in your bedroom, stays in your bedroom," one.

Of course, this marketing campaign is potentially in danger of skewing off into territory that Democrats decry of corporate marketing, namely saying what sounds good rather than what the product delivers. The quotation ads are where it is the most obvious. From the JFK quote, as part of the hallmarks of a liberal:

Someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions...

Or the FDR qutoe about freedom of speech. There have been enough stories about hostility on college campuses and vandalism of Republican offices during the election, both to deafening silence from Democratic leadership, to show that the Democratic Party has fallen prey to ideosclerosis (hardening of the ideology) just as much as Republicans have.

Via Atrios

Friday, November 19, 2004

Nice Acceleration

From zero to 1,000 hits: approx 8 1/2 months.

1,000 - 2,000 hits: 8 weeks.

Thanks, Everyone.

Maybe I'm Missing Something...

But isn't the purpose of a limit to limit? What value is there to a spending limit when it can be raised when the powers that be feel like it? Please, there has to be some Republicans in Congress who, when they cast their vote, felt some qualm of conscience. I know, they are politicians, but hope springs eternal.

At some point, someone is going to have to realize that we can't afford all of this compassionate conservatism.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Check the Methodology

Via A Small Victory

There are two types of experiments that a scientist can perform. The first is to change one condition of the status quo and observe the results. A key element of this type of experiment is that one must know the status quo in order to know what is an outcome attribrutable to the change.

Therefore it often required to have experiments of the second type, like CHEERS, Children's Environmental Exposure Research Study, where as many details of the status quo are noted with as little change to the system as possible. In this case, the goal is to measure the chemicals that children absorb from their environment. The thrust of the experiment is made very clear on the website, the goal is to measure the effects of normal life, as shown by the following question and response:

Is there any risk to me and my family?

No. You and your child will not experience any risks from participating in this study.
o We will not ask any parent to apply pesticides in their home to be a part of this study.
o You are not required to change any of your regular household routines.

One last time, this is a passive experiment. Any changes in the environment of these children would nullify the value of any data gathered. There are no lab rats here.

BTW, this Gamer is in no way associated with Gamersnook.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Quantum Economics

This is an idea that has been kicking around in my head for a while, and I think it is time to let it out.

Idea #1: Oftentimes in physiscs there are particles that do not have strictly defined characteristics. In these instances, all of the possible configurations of the particles have to be taken into account. Essentially, the particle is in all of the possible states it could occupy until the time at which it collapses into a single state.

Idea #2: A post I wrote way back when discussed economic flow a la Adam Smith. It sought to explain how a free market creates wealth. What stuck with me was how value increased in one direction while money flowed in the other.

Combining the two, I get the idea that money is value in an indeterminant state. It can be converted into other forms of wealth that may be more useful to the buyer while that form is more difficult to exchange for other types of wealth. In fact, the easiest way to convert wealth is to use the medium of money. In post-apocalyptic fiction the point is often made that cash becomes little more than kindling since it has little value aside from the agreed upon. Or another example, when people win the lottery they talk about what they are going to buy with the money as opposed to enjoying the cashiness of it. Okay, personally, I'd take out $200,000 in hundreds and roll around in them for a while, but they would still eventually get spent. The only value money has is that it can be converted into any another form of value, but none actually in and of itself.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

A Million Times Better

The phone call never came. In fact, when my sister called to check on my Dad, the nurse told her that he was awake enough to weakly nod or shrug his shoulders when asked questions. When Mom and I arrived, we saw for ourselves that his blood pressure had raised to a respectible level and, better yet, was stable rather than going through thirty point swings. His fever has all but disappeared. By the time we left, he was trying to communicate with a letter board, but it was obviously frustrating him.

I'd go and see him today, but I have a cold now, and that is the last thing they want walking around a Critical Care Unit. Compared to what my Dad has been through, this ought to be a snap.

Sunday, November 14, 2004


I wrote below about my Dad's surgery. It was a complete esophagectomy to remove a number of pre-cancerous growths that resulted from years of acid reflux. The initial surgery itself went very well. He was even up and walking around a very little bit.

When my Mom got to the hospital to see him yesterday, things had changed. During the night he had trouble breathing, and that morning they took him into surgery to drain the fluid off of his lungs. It happened so fast that there wasn't time to call the family. The pneumonia turned to sepsis and that infection sent his body into shock. The last thirty-six hours have been a fight to keep his blood pressure up and bring his fever down while a machine takes over the burden of breathing. In the meantime, Mom, sister, brother and I are just waiting. Getting Mom away from the hospital has been tough, she and I slept in the waiting room last night. I'll be sleeping with an ear open for the phone to ring while praying it won't.

I suppose that part of growing up is coming to grips with mortality, your own and that of loved ones. I can't count the number of times my Dad tended my wounds, and believe me, there were a lot of them. If less than all of them had happened away from home, we would have had Children's Services going over our lives with a microscope. A few of those times included stays in the hospital. All of those times Dad was in the chair next to the bed all night, reassuring me that everything would be all right. This time is my turn. I can't tell if he can hear me, but I say them anyway. My Mom is more scared than I've ever seen her. Thank God that we have each other because we have been taking turns comforting one another.

Those of you who pray, please remember my father, Winston L. "Larry" Wade. On behalf of the rest of the family, I thank you.

Winston E. "Ted" Wade
aka Gamer

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Fun With Teasers

I finally found the photo at Michelle Malkin's site.

I was watching the local news last night and they kept teasing the story attached to this photo. The teaser left me to my own devices to fill in the blanks. Those who know me know that my devices are some strange, unnatural things, so here are the first two responses:

1. Sneaking into a party in the cake is so passé.

2. A kid in desperate need of a suger rush needs no stinking bats.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Gee, Thanks, Dude

So we should be thanking Yasser Arafat for all the security hoops and the fact that we must not say the word "bomb" in an airport.

It is quite the struggle being a good christian and not taking (too much) glee in someone's death, but this really makes it tough.

Who Makes the Hard Calls?

Via Atrios

This story is particularly tragic. Thirteen year-old Lauren Rainey has a multitude of medical problems, including an airway defect that leaves her very vulnerable to suffocation. She is also dependant on Medicare benefits that have been cut off.

Obviously this isn't just. That despite the rules that were created to be even handed, it leaves the decision in the hands of someone who is, by those very rules, separated from the impact. This is what happens when decisions are made by those distant, whether by location or emotion, from the case. So who makes the hard calls? Certainly neither the HMO's nor Medicare (an HMO people don't have the ability to opt out of) will deliver just results so long as people are just account numbers.

Any ideas?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Some Things Just Take Precedence

I haven't gotten particularly personal on this blog, but today is the exception.

Last march my father started undergoing tests to examine the tissue that had grown into his esophagus after years of acid reflux. The tests showed patches of high-grade dysplasia. For the medically illiterate like myself, it is cancer without the kill-all-neighboring-cells attitude. Today he had surgery to have his esophagus removed.

According to the surgeon, the prognosis is excellent. Catching this in a very early stage made it so that all of the dysplasia could be removed, and there was no sign of any cancer outside of the esophagus. Everything looks like he'll make the full recovery in a couple of months that the doctor promised.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

County By County Breakdown

Just finished looking at an electoral map put out by Princeton. A couple of thoughts.

1. When it comes to colors, this map could only be worse if it were red and green. (Christmas would be much happier for me if they would just change the color scheme) I can't keep track of one color to compare it with another. Is Los Angeles County as blue as the San Francisco Bay area?

2. Damn, some of those counties back east are tiny. Then again, some of the states back east are tiny. San Bernardino County could hold Vermont and most of New Hampshire.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Viva La Third Party

Michele Catalano once again takes on a commenter who claims that Bush's victory is a mandate for moral righteousness and that those who produced vulgarity shall feel their wrath. What gets me about that point of view is that the commenter, in using Bush's majority vote, is using Michele's vote in a way that she has been emphatic to disavow. There were a lot of one issue voters out there, yet the commenter failed to realize that there are a lot of "one issues" as well, and that everyone who voted for Bush was not choosing the same one issue.

I was tempted to vote for Bush. I believe that the war is of paramount importance, that Iraq, based on best intelligence of the time, merited "serious consequences", while believing that the Bush Administration has done less than necessary to achieve the best possible result-to-point thus far in that country. Meanwhile, I had zero confidence in Kerry's plan, whatever it was, to do what Bush had not. It was entirely too vague and was undercut by vocal unwillingness from our "allies" in Europe.

Regardless, if I had voted for Bush, it would not have been for any reason involving morals inside of our borders. I have written before about my preference for the government staying out of my moral decision making. The key reason that I did not cast a futile vote for Bush as a protest to Kerry is that I knew my vote in the popular number would be read as positive support for all of Bush's platform, which it most emphatically was not.

I voted for Badnarik. If my vote was going to be counted as an all or nothing Kool-Aid quaff, then I voted for having my vote misrepresented the least.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The Beauty of Democracy...

Is that there's always a next election. Not only is it the next chance for the party of the short end to make a comeback, but it keeps the incumbents honest. The Democratic Party is in a very low point right now, much like the Republicans were in Clinton's second term. The comparison that I like to make is to the midterm election in Clinton's first term. That was the year we had Newt Gingrich coming out with his "Contract for America" and riding voter unrest into a Republican majority in Congress. The big reason for that was a combination of the Clinton Administration trying to do too much too fast (Pushing for removing the ban on homosexuals in the military) and the Democrats in Congress fighting amongst themselves as to whose agenda had top priority.

If the federal government rushes too far to the right, expect a major backlash in 2006.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

I'd Like to Thank the Engineers, and NOT the Gorvernment

The Mars Rovers are living well beyond their projected lifespans. In fact, there have been a few times where their power has increased. The biggest factor limiting the lifetime of the rovers is the ability of their solar panels to receive enough light through the inevitable dust and grime. The only explanation for the increases in power is that the panels are somehow getting cleaner at some points. Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, believes it is little green men with squegees. Possibly, but that would mean the rovers would have to have a stack of the local equivalent of dollar bills. So, JPL, what's the deal?

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Politics in an Analog World

Two things are happening in the blogosphere currently. One is trying to figure out what happened and why. (Link via Instapundit) The other is the intra-party bickering of who is truly loyal.

The roots of both of these debates are the urge to shoe horn people into categories, and just what those categories mean. The first article is about people trying to define others and not doing a particularly good job about it. The other is about people trying to define themselves and their erstwhile allies. The criticisms in both pieces turn on the fallacy that the votes for either side are monolithic, that on a chart they could be represented by a plane with a straight line dividing the two sides. The election would then be seen as the two sides trying to push the line deeper into the other side's territory.

I don't agree with that model because it reduces all of the points on the plane as very simple, deterministic units. If we use as our plane a model such as the Nolan Chart then each point represents a distinct political position, and in a population as large as a presidential election, each point will be populated by at least one voter. If you were to color each point by which side the voter in that position ultimately chooses, then conventional wisdom would have it that one side of the chart would be red, for the sake of argument, and the other side would be blue, with a straight line separating the two.

I don't like that image because it implies that it would be fairly easy to decide which of the polarities one belongs to, nor does it allow for the small yet consistent presence of third parties.

There is a fractal image (scroll down to the bottom of the page, upper left picture) that is created using a pendulum suspended over three magnets arranged in an equilateral triangle. The color of each point is determined by which magnet captures the pendulum when the pendulum starts at that point. The magnets are located inside the largest regions of their color. Note how the plane is not cut into neat thirds but instead has intricately folded seams of colors, even where another color is closer.

I've been pondering this image as a metaphor for politics for quite a while. The problem has been that it is a three part system with each part aquiring a third of the total, even if it is impossible to determine before hand all of the points that would be part of those thirds. The political arena, however, is dominated by two groups, while not completely extinguishing third parties, that can alter their total share of the electorate. Fortunately, I found the site linked above and its alteration of the trial to include variation of the strengths of the magnets. Scroll down and look at the bottom left image. Now we have two of the three magnets dominating the field while the third almost, but not entirely, disappears. Too bad it was the blue one that ended up disappearing rather than the green. It would have been easier on the eyes and made the comparison to politics more dramatic.

Pulling the analogy together: each of the magnets represents a candidate and his platform. The large blobs around each magnet are those whose choice of grape or cherry Kool-Aid was already set. Those who had to agonize over their decision, like this fellow, reside in the outlying regions. The ability of altering the strength of the magnets then represents the impact of campaigning and world events. I have a theory that a straight line drawn from the starting point to the candidate/magnet and the length in anyone one color is relative to the time spent by the pendulum in that region/voter in a camp before moving on to the next region/camp, but I have yet to see any information on that. The variation of attractive force can perturb the distribution of points on the plane and cause an unequal division of the points/voters.

This explains how there can be atheistic Pro-choicers for Bush and individualistic anti-regulators for Kerry. Fortunately, we only had chaos in who voted for whom, not in what the result would be.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

A Call to Sanity

The Backseat Philosopher has an excellent post-mortem and prescription to his fellow Democrats regarding this past election. I found myself nodding to most of his points. This one really rang a bell:

Many Democrats think that our patience and understanding are our weakness. "We don't know how to fight like the Republicans," we all told ourselves after Florida 2000. "We have to be more like them: tougher, meaner." "We have to energize our base more."

Actually, no. Our error is that we Democrats are far less understanding than we think we are. Our version of understanding the other side is to look at them from a psychological point of view while being completely unwilling to take their arguments seriously.

I have no emotional investment in George Bush. If anything, the guy turns me off a little bit for his unwillingness to concede imperfection. Only a little bit, however, not nearly enough to build up into an automatic grimace of distate if his name should come up. That is why I was not persuaded by any of the "arguments" put forward by John Kerry and his Democratic backers. The bulk of their arguments was that anything would be better than Bush, and I didn't agree with that, so what did they have to follow up? Nothing.

Everything that Bush did was held up as being wrong in anyway anyone might find it to be wrong, and very little else was said. This failed in two ways. First, it failed to establish that Kerry's way, whatever it would be, would be better. Second, the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach told me nothing about what Kerry valued. The everything is wrong approach creates the appearance that Kerry was everything Bush was not. It would have worked if there was only one option for being not-Bush, but there are near infinite variations of not-something. Kerry failed to define his values, and thus himself, as anything positive. He counted on enough voters filling in the blanks for him, or not caring what he was so long as it was not-Bush, to carry him into the White House. And it almost worked.

An aside to Bush and the Republican Party: you don't have much to hang your hat on in this election either. Bush is the incumbent, and yet he had practically nothing positive to say about his four years thus far. You have really hurt yourselves by only being conservative in ways that limit freedom and choice. Stop spending our money like sailors on shore leave. On second thought, I take that back, I'm familiar at least one sailor, and I wouldn't want to impugn his thrift. Anyway, the Republican President and the Republican Congress have done very little to inspire my faith. The only reason I didn't vote for the other guy was that he failed to show me that he would be better.

I voted Libertarian, for Badnarik. When the world is crazy, vote for the wacko closest to your opinion.

Best Wishes to Mrs. Edwards

CNN is reporting that John Edward's wife has been diagnosed with breast cancer. If anything should be bridge the partisan gap, it should be news like this.

Good News Already

Hoping and praying that the rumors of John Ashcroft potential resignation are true. I have heard a lot of talk about how Dick Cheney is the deal breaker when it comes to supporting the Bush Administration, but for me, Ashcroft has always been the lurking menace. Somehow I always had the feeling that he was too enamored with the power of federal law enforcement. At the very least I hold him responsible for misuses of the Patriot Act.

Be ready for a lot of "election conservative" bloggers to be showing their more libertarian colors with this story as well.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

The Federalist Solution

I like federalism, the idea that one can experience different modes of living without having to go through the hassle of re-naturalizing. It gets tricky trying to explain the appeal to others, however. How do you explain the idea that a person, while living in America, can have one set of rights in one state, while being denied many of the same rights in others? Andrew Sullivan addresses the issue of a looming culture war given Bush's re-election based heavily on support from the staunchly religious. Proposals to ban same sex marriage have passed in every state that considered the issue. How do we handle the divide?

Andrew's answer is almost exactly my own, federalism. Let each state and the majority in those states decide how they shall live. With fifty different options, there is bound to be somewhere that will meet your needs. Immediate question: "What about those in the minority who will have their lives disrupted?" I have yet to come up with a diplomatic answer for that. The core of the answer is that each individual or family will have to decide if the right they are being denied to them in one state is worth the disruption of going to another state. The Declaration of Independence says that we have the right to pursue happiness. Nowhere does it say that the pursuit would keep you where you were. This idea cuts both ways, if California's permissiveness is too much for you, you can take your family to where the neighbors will be more to your liking. Head on down South, I'm sure that there will be a gay couple down there looking to sell.

America can handle divisions. As Andrew said:

Forcing California and Mississippi into one model is a recipe for disaster.

Amen, brother.

Time For a Breather

The election is over, finally. Kerry has conceded, and Bush has made his victory speech.

Everyone around me is pretty bummed right now. California is the classic democrat bubble. One of my friends is convinced that Kerry should be fighting for the Ohio provisional ballots, hoping against hope that the apocalypse of a second Bush term does not come to be.

I have never had much passion for either candidate. Where I put my passion was the debate. I fought for objectivity, that the world is as the world is, regardless of how I felt about it. Too often I have seen previously respected thinkers make their decisions and then perform mental gymnastics to contort new data to fit their position. What I wanted was that if two back flips and one and a half twists was appropriate for their analysis, then it was good for the other guy's. Logic is objective, or it had damned well better be. Both sides lost track of what things were in their rush to set what those things mean.

I, for one, am very glad that this election is over, and perhaps I was a little quick about announcing the death of the concession call. What will please me all the more will be the blogosphere reverting back to a more diverse form where everyone pursues their individual causes as opposed to the constraining dichotomy of Kerry v. Bush.

I know I'm already feeling a load taken off.

I'm Sure They Would Have Preferred Florida

Really, would you choose to be in Florida or Ohio for the whole month of November? I'm sure that's what a whole mess of lawyers (I'm pretty sure that's the proper group name for lawyers) are thinking right now. So the issue is going to be how many provisional ballots are to be counted. I hope that the reason for why a person was casting provisional was listed, because I would prefer to keep it limited to those who were off the rolls due to honest error. But since lawyers are involved, the definition of "honest" will certainly get misplaced. If it is because the person just showed up at the wrong polling place, well too bad, so sad. In California, the sample ballots sent out weeks before the election tell you where to go, even if they are of limited usefulness. I looked on it as a small test of perseverence.

It does seem, however, that one of my earlier predictions has borne out. Too bad.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

This Seems a Little Too Familiar

Watching the first reports from after the close of the polls on the east, and I am recognizing a certain pattern. The sheer repetition of very little information reminds me of the news reports five minutes after an earthquake. There is no preparation for an earthquake coming, so no story is written yet. So far, all we have is how CNN is not going to make the same mistakes they made in 2000.

Wake me when it's over.

Polling Issues

God love the people who open up their homes, or at least their garages, to act as polling places. It must be a serious inconvenience, and I for one am grateful.

It does get a little problematic, however, when said garage is at the end of a culdesac in a housing tract. Even Map Quest didn't do a good job of providing directions. If anyone out there reading this is voting on Arrowhead Court, you need to look for Falcon St. (Ave. Ct. whatever) as that curves around to become Arrowhead. Your map may not include that bit of info.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Another Look at the Bin Ladin Tape

Has anyone else noticed that it seems like Osama was speaking from a studio? A podium, clean clothes (those whites really sparkled), a fabric backdrop. There was nothing rustic about that setting. The backdrop was clean, no wrinkles from having been folded up in a sack or backpack and carried for miles over rough terrain. Unlike previous videos, we don't see any stone, or clothes that look traveled in. My read is that he has new shelter somewhere civilized.

I would like to here some new ideas on how to hunt this guy down. It is a screaming travesty that we haven't found him yet, but just putting more boots on the ground in Tora Bora ain't gonna cut it. Let's here it, CIA, what have you got going? Isn't information, like someone's whereabouts, your line of work?

My Last Words on the Election, Hopefully

Virginia Postrel offers up her decision making on whom to vote for for president in "How Can You Vote for a Guy Like That?". She has a good point that kind of sums up why I am so bemused by the vitriol this election is creating. Virginia, like myself, never invested the emotion, positive or negative, into Bush that many other people have. Her closing paragraph:

Voting is an expressive activity, but it need not be emotional. Andrew Sullivan's invocation of "The deep emotional bond so many of us formed with the president back then" does not apply to me. Bush leaves me cold and always has. I never wanted to hang out with him, so I don't take our policy differences personally. I never idolized his leadership, so I don't feel he's failed me. He gets my vote in part because I don't identify with him. He's just a hired hand, and he's better than the alternative.

Over this past year, I have often jumped into a political fray on the side of Bush. Not that I am particularly enamored with the guy or his positions. Largely it is because of the lack of any philosophical consistency on the part of the opposition. The tactic seems to be to throw everything that anyone can find objectionable about Bush at him and hope it stains him in the eyes of at least a few people. The criticisms tell me nothing about what the opposition, namely Kerry and the DNC, finds truly objectionable.

As someone who knows that his candidate, Libertarian Michael Badnarik, is going to lose, I have been allowed a certain distance. And because I am not voting for Bush, I think that I make it clear that I am not pro-Bush in my defenses of him. I am, instead, anti-anti-Bush. My arguments are for searching for consistency in what a candidate and a voter wants this election. I want that to be a positive (My guy is good because...) rather than a negative (Anybody but...).

Neither side is evil.

Everything Has a Purpose

Everyone is familiar with pain. Or at least almost everyone. The article is about a young girl with a rare genetic disease that prevented the nerve cells that detect pain and temperature extremes from developing. I know pain having broken my arm a couple of times. There was nothing I wouldn't have done to stop the pain. Even the thought of trying to flex that arm caused a new stab. But that was the point. Any further movement would have set the healing process back to zero. So remember, pain is nature's way of saying, "Hey! Knock that off!"

Saturday, October 30, 2004

That's Just Freaking Cruel

Doc in the Box links to a photo puzzle from Germany. For those who speak German, the instructions are to find three differences.

Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Local Take on the Osama Tape

My boss/best friend, who believes that Bush is 180 degrees wrong in how the country is going, lost a brother-in-law in the World Trade Center. His thoughts on the reappearance of Osama Bin Ladin is, "Why the fuck is this guy still alive?" The boss is very much against the war in Iraq and sees it as a tremedous distraction in the war on OBL.

My thought is that Iraq was necessary in that it attacked the spectre of WMD armed terrorists from the other angle. If OBL would have been a cunsumer of WMD, then it looked to all the world that Saddam would have been the supplier. OBL: the Will, Saddam: the Way. If you can look at the terrain of Tora Bora, one chain of mountains endlessly after another, one should be able to see that we could have sent in the entire Army, Marine Corp, Navy, and had the Air Force doing air recon, and we would still be looking for him while fighting every militia in the area.

Then again, and the boss and I are in complete agreement on this one, is that if you took down the back dropp behind Bin Ladin, you would have seen the swimming pool and back yard of the Pakistani Presidential Palace.

Halloween on Today

So the cast of the Today Show came out in their Halloween costumes this morning. Here's the video (Internet Explorer required). Check out Katie Couric (second after Anne Currie's Tina Turner). Obviously she was going for Donald Trump. Personally, I think she ended up a lot closer to Ted Koppel.

A Funny Thing, Language

George Carlin has always been one of my favorite comedians. Odd that it took a CNN article to figure out why. I am an engineer by training, but the misuse of words is a pet peeve of mine. Perhaps because as an engineer I need things to do their jobs, and arbitrarily assigning meanings to words breaks that. I think it bothers George too:

"Middle-aged" has become "pre-elderly," he writes, suggesting that perhaps "elderly" should become "pre-dead."

Euphemism is Geroge's main target. My biggest gripe is word inflation, using words to describe situations that don't quite make the cut. Things like describing Guantanamo Bay as an "atrocity". The way that "fascist" gets thrown around is particularly irksome.

One last thing: Wal-Mart, please grow a spine.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

For Truth, Turn to Comedy

I make it a point not to listen to pundits on TV. Some of them slam Bush for saying what he says regardless of what really happens. Of course, they are the ones who invented the art. In troubled times, it is good to find that I am not a lone voice in the world. Sadly, however, my brother in arms in this matter is Triumph the Insult Comedy Dog. In a world where it takes Jon Stewart to speak the truth to Crossfire, I don't suppose that I could really ask for better.

Let Me Introduce You to Reality

Sometimes you read something and think, "Dear Lord, please let him be kidding." Now, I am a single guy, and I can tell you why this guy is a bachelor as well. It is just too hard to carry on a long distance relationship from different realities. Could it be that her liking you was not the reason she continued to beat you past unconsciousness? Who knows, maybe she'll answer the ad and want to recreate your first date.

link via Radley Balko

An Experiment in HTML

A Small Victory

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

This is NOT Covered by the 1st Amendment

You can put a candidate's sticker on your bumper, but you should not try to put a candidate on your bumper. This story just adds to my certainty that this election cycle is going to bring out hordes of lone wackos. It just warms the cockles of my heart that this scholar is relying on his knowledge of the Bill of Rights. (/sarcasm)

End of a Tradition

Another in my line of pessimistic projections for this coming election cycle:

The tradition of the concessionary telephone call on election night is as dead as dodos. Anything above state representative, especially for federal office, is going to have arguments and challenges loaded and waiting for court filing the next day. Any concession call will be avoided because, well, it might actually be taken as a concession.

Thoughts While Watching CNN

1. The commercials are more entertaining.
2. Yet another reason that I'll be glad that this election is over will be that "I approve this message" as a humorous tag line for non-political messages will go the way of "Where's the Beef?"
3. It is a strange statement about baby boomers when E-Trade uses a '60's protest song to advertise its stock brokerage. Just who are they protesting again?
4. I agree with William Bennett that everyone is pretty sick and F'ing tired with this election. (obliqe use of the "F" word is the author's - ed)

Monday, October 25, 2004

On a Lovecraftian Riff

Via The Agitator:

They say that some buildings are just bad. Either it was built on desecrated ground, or else a great tragedy occurred there. Or else it was built in the heedless lust of ego. One such building is The Ryugyong Hotel. If the name were not Korean, it would surely be counted among the inane babblings of Azathoth. Those who know of it, if they could be found, for its existence is denied, say thus:

The Ryugyong Hotel looms over Pyongyang like some kind of slumbering bat. Something deep inside my brain tells me that the 75° angle of the hotel's outer walls is exactly the wrong angle; it says sinister, it says creepy, it says get away.

Off course the angles are wrong. The profane geometries of those beyond time can not be comprehended by mortal minds. Once the final angle was installed nothing could stand in the way of the planes of existence being torn away and the descent of all minds into madness.

This was no hotel. It was the ultimate WMD, and Kim Jong Il is the gate keeper.

Alright, enough weirding myself out. Here's me signing off for the night with early wishes to you all for a Happy Halloween, and a brief political message:

Cthulu for President: Why Choose the LESSER of Two Evils?

This Week in Religion

Piggy backing off Scott Burgess at The Daily Ablution, I present a few thoughts at points of religion in the news:

The Payallup School District in Washington state has banned school Halloween parties out of an effort not to be offensive to Wiccans. I bet the Werewolf Defamation League and Parents and Friends of Vampires and the Undead had their hands in this as well.

The British Royal Navy has granted a satanist sailor permission to practice his beliefs on board ship. I guess this gives new meaning to the expression: Caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea.

Evidently Jesus was black and made his appearance on a top 100 list of black icons about a dozen spots ahead of Michael Jackson. I have heard this rumor before, but I don't believe it. There is no way on earth the Michael Jackson is black.

Hey, if you can't blaspheme among friends, where can you?

Saturday, October 23, 2004

The Advantage of Religion

I have just come off of Jinderella's post on a genetic basis of God-belief. I haven't read the book that she is referring to, but her post has added a new dimension to something I've already given some thought to.

I approached the discussion of religion from the evolution of the concept (meme) "Religion". I started with the rough observation that the regions where day-to-day survival was the most difficult tended to produce the religions that were the most restrictive of individual freedom and the more focused on afterlife reward/punishment. The primary survival advantage that humans have is our cooperative social structure. As the demands placed upon the tribe by the environment increase, the need for tight functioning as a group increases. Often times this would require some individuals to gain less than they might feel they deserve. To take what they want would be detrimental to the group. This is where I envision the meme "Sin" developing. The individual could be placated with the idea that small sacrifice now would be more than offset with a greater reward later, even if the reward is delayed until after death. Too much "Sin" could change the reward into punishment. Essentially this is the old argument that it is better to for go the small pleasure of sin now in favor of the bliss of heaven than to take the small pleasure now and face the eternal torment of hell.

If this process has been active long enough to register on the genetic evolution scale, then I could easily see that additional reinforcement in the genes is possible. Instinct, I believe, is an artifact of the reality producing functions of the brain.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Financing is NOT Available

I have just picked my jaw up off of the floor after seeing this in the catalog: the child-size Mercedes 500 SL from FAO Schwartz.

A few thoughts that have crossed my mind so far about this:
1. I've never paid that much for a real car.
2. Anyone who could buy this for their kid had better be ready for the little darling begging for a real one when they turn 16.
3. Do you really need four-wheel disk brakes when the top speed is 15 mph?
4. I sure hope a lot of people are employed making those things.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A Note to Red Sox Fans

All that has happened is that your team has won a championship. That is hardly a reason to be tearing your town apart. Who do you think you are, Laker fans?

So please, try not to act like you've never been there before. Oh, never mind.

My Take on the Ashley Photo

Sometimes I seem to miss th obvious point that most people take from a photograph. For instance, I didn't get all that worked up over the Elian Gonzalez photo were he had been hidden in a closet and the SWAT officer was removing him. (I can't seem to find a link to the photo in question, if anyone has a link, please drop me a line) Much was made of the picture in that it supposedly revealed the jack boot of government action trampling on the dream of freedom. Aside from that whole business being a mess from the get-go, I just didn't see that interpretation. The officer had one hand off the weapon, and the barrel was not pointed in the same direction as the officer was looking. If anything, that was as non-threatening as that officer could be, given the body armor.

I am coming off the same type of situation with respect to the photo of President Bush and Ashley. The detail that really gets to me are President Bush's eyes and expression. His eyes are focused on the camera, and his expression reads to me that "this would make a great photo" was not entirely absent from his mind. All told, I don't think that that one photo is the political slam dunk for Bush that a lot of people feel it to be.

As a whole, I tend to be leery of photographs as opposed to video. I think it stems from the fact that I don't think that I photograph well at all. Hence why I don't have one posted here. A photo is just one split instant, image without the context of time. Too much can be read into the vacancy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Umm, Guys?

I just saw a segment on CNN that has me scratching my head. It was on phantom ads, ads that are never aired on payed timed but see the light of day because news outlets like CNN and Fox deem them to be "news". In the course of the report, they showed a number of ads that fit that profile. The tone of the report was that the news outlets are being manipulated into giving the candidates free air time. The only thing that I can say it that the airtime is yours, oh noble reporters. Control your time.

The Reality of Ferrets

So a scientist decides to set up an experiment on how a brain processes visual information. Test subjects: ferrets. Dr. Michael Weliky studied the brains of ferrets as they were subjected to three different sets of stimuli: a dark room, white noise static, and repeated viewings of The Matrix. Personally, I can't think of a better movie for testing how reality is percieved. The experiments came up with some interesting conclusions:

1. Adult brains operate at 80% functionality as an idling state even when in a dark room, recieving no visual input. It is thought that this might be the state at which conceptions of reality are formed. It might also explain why infant brains, which do not run this background functionality, find peek-a-boo so endlessly fascinating.

2. That at least this one scientist has a sense of irony for selecting a brain twisting movie about the reality of reality to test perception of reality.

Via Virginia Postrel

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Do Something

A reader at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish explains why the military mindset results in overwhelming support for Bush over Kerry. It comes down to, as a friend tells me, It is better to do something than nothing. Or as the author puts it, "It is an old military maxim that blunders can be forgiven, but a lack of boldness cannot." He goes on to say:

One thing the Marine Corps taught me is that a 70% solution acted on immediately and violently is better than a perfect solution acted on later. My experience has proven this true time and again. The sad fact is however, that a 70% solution is a 30% mistake. And those mistakes can be hard to take. In WWII for example, 700 soldiers drowned in a training accident in preparation for D-Day (that is about how many combat deaths we've experienced so far in Iraq).

Bush is making mistakes, absolutely he is. And I think that he is making a greater one by not owning up to them. When it comes down to the final tally, I think that his actions are creating more good than harm in the long run. From what I have seen of Kerry's foreign policy, it is more of the same old "anything but taking a risk of messing up" that characterized much of the past thirty years.

Unforseen Consequences

I don't really have a dog left in the fight for the World Series. Both of the local teams, the Dodgers and the Angels, got themselves eliminated in the first round. It does seem that the American League Championship Series is taking its toll on Red Sox and Yankees fans back east. If your stock trades seem to be going in a little slow this week, you know why: Your trader has been up all night for the last four nights watching baseball. This could be huge, imagine what type of consequences not getting your trade executed in a timely matter might just do to the whole market?

Fortunately, I don't have any stock, so I don't wrack myself with guilt over it.