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.