Monday, October 31, 2005

Yeah, He's Divisive

I'll use the roundup at Michelle Malkin for the links to opinions on the selection of Alito for the Supreme Court.

My take on the choice: There will be disagreement between Reps and Dems on this one. About freaking time there was some difference between the two in the Senate. Now if we can accomplish that on legislation.

OH, and Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 28, 2005

So You Say You Want a Singularity

Apologies to John Lennon.

Peggy Noonan has a piece regarding a supposed sense that the world is on the edge of falling apart. Numerous commentators at Protein Wisdom observe that there always prophets of doom, that cycles have down turns, or that it is a matter of reacting differently this time around.

I'm with those who see cycles, not only in nature but in society. Consider it a continuation of the gene/meme analogy. One of those cycles, a Giant Red Spot in the sea of variables that make up human history, is the United States of America. Using this image, I do get a sense that the cycle may be broken in the mid-term, if not short-term. Perhaps I should tighten down my vocabulary here: I think the government of the United States of America is going to be breaking down in a history relative short term in a manner very similar to that described in the Bruce Sterling book Distraction.
It's the year 2044, and America has gone to hell. A disenfranchised U.S. Air Force base has turned to highway robbery in order to pay the bills. Vast chunks of the population live nomadic lives fueled by cheap transportation and even cheaper computer power. Warfare has shifted from the battlefield to the global networks, and China holds the information edge over all comers. Global warming is raising sea level, which in turn is drowning coastal cities. And the U.S. government has become nearly meaningless.

The most telling part of what is coming is that last part. I think we are already seeing it. From Noonan's piece:
Roiling history, daily dangers, big demands; a government that is itself too big and rolling in too much money and ever needing more to do the latest important, necessary, crucial thing.
Everyone was laughing. Then, writes Mr. Lawford, Teddy [Kennedy] "took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. 'I'm glad I'm not going to be around when you guys are my age.' I asked him why, and he said, 'Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.' "

Right now, we have cycles that have happened before and things on the horizon that haven't, and we don't know what cycles are going to survive the changes, the government and nation of the United States of America included. I can't say whether my feeling (and yes I say "feel" as opposed to "think", a distinction I make very conciously) is accurate, because the whole point of a singularity is that it is the breakdown of causality. What happens immediately after a historical singularity is unpredictable because all patterns had been wiped clean for new ones to form. Maybe not wiped clean utterly, but it would certainly be the end of the world as we know it.

I think one sign of the singularity will be a critical mass of the population will realize that the Federal Government as we know it has become impotent and unimportant. Hurricane Katrina showed the impotence of all of the applicable levels. Hurricane Wilma in Florida showed that even an experienced and capable government can only do so much. Some signs point to the fact that people are learning that they need to provide their own security in addition to food and water after a disaster.

I will be the end of the world as we know it. We don't know what it will be afterward. Sometimes, I wonder if it would be better?

Thus endeth the ramble.

Link via Protein Wisdom

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Definition: Judicial Activism

I'm sure that you have come across this definition implicitly in many other places, but I propose to make the definition of "Judicial Activism" explicit.
Judicial Activism: The interpretation of the law, or the Constitution, so that a particular social or political result is obtained.
If the objectives are of a base nature, then this is also a good definition of judicial corruption, and it certainly rips off the blindfold. A good way of phrasing the separation of powers is that the Judiciary is concerned with method, the Executive with acting, and the Legislature with planning. It is the job of the Legislature to make law with the goal of creating the society we live within, the Judiciary is to ensure that no one's rights are trampled in the process.

Flush This Idea

Report: Ford plant clamping down on bathroom breaks.

The link from the CNN front page read "Paper: Ford to collect data on potty breaks". Does anyone else read that as studying the habits of its customers on long trips?

Anyway, the article says that employees get 48 minutes per shift. Sounds pretty generous to me. While there may be an issue with employees doing some overtime in the can, I can't see how it could be a significant factor in a company losing $191 million a year.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Strategy Revealed

One of the key elements to any game is to ge the opposition to reveal their strategy. That is necessary in order to establish a strategy of one's own, either setting a solid defense or launching a crushing attack before the opponent's defense is up.

Can there now be any question whatsoever as to Iran's key strategic goal? What should be our response to it? Israel almost certainly has its plans, either a pre-emptive strike or a MAD policy. Someone is going to lose here, and I don't see anyway to keep it from becoming a complete negative sum game.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

How Far They Have Come

I doubt that the ancient Romans would have had much problem with the fraternity ritual of swallowing live goldfish. While the new law in Rome doesn't mention swallowing per se., they have banned the use of goldfish bowls. Has anyone done a study of fish lifespans, which I imagine would be the only measurable quantity impacted by cruelty?

Then again, as the old saw goes, don't goldfish have such short memories that each lap is a new and exciting experience? Either way, it would sure beat getting eaten.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Why These Targets?

Maybe the "insurgents" in Iraq are getting wise to the fact that Western reporters in that country seldom leave their hotels. Then again, there is the symbolic value of the location as well.
The bombs went off near the Palestine Hotel and another hotel, which overlook Firdos Square, where Iraqis and U.S. troops pulled down a statue of Saddam Hussein after the April 2003, U.S.-led invasion.

Then again, that was a big story largely because it was in eyesight of the hotels as well.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Advances in Molecular Transport


How to move atoms from point A to point B.

How you ask? By nanoscale vehicles, of course. I'd be curious to see how it would be steered. Perhaps you simply allow for the cars to act as resistance reducers, thereby letting the atoms travel more freely, and let random brownian motion get the components to where they will naturally adhere.

No word yet on the International Brotherhood of Teamsters reaction to this breakthrough.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Rat 1, Scientists 0

I don't like fishing. I find the thought that I am matching wits with a fish and losing to be tremendously depressing.

So imagine the chagrin (word bill: $0.50) of scientists when they could not hunt down one rat with a radio collar.

Then again, at least it was a mammal that beat them.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Demand Your Right to Free Hearing

I've long thought of the First Amendment to be that directional, less about the speaker and more about the listener. I want to hear non-mainstream, non-approved political messages. That is the only way for me to know if there is a better way according to my principles or whether my principles need re-examining. Jeff Goldstein has yet another brilliant post on the necessity of meaning being set by the speaker of words than making the meaning contingent on the listener.

Here comes the Lone Libertarian: I have no responsibility not to speak offensively. I may speak offensively if I wish, and I would then accept that people will be offended and that they may react in accordance to the offense. So long as that reaction remains within their own power, is within the power of other individuals who hear of the incident, and does not involve the power of the state to levy punishment, then all is good. Please note the distinction: Joe Blow may take offense and act upon it by shunning, but Dean Joe Blow of Public University may not act with his power as Dean to punish the speach.

I choose not to offend, because I value the respect of those with whom I speak over whatever value may come from uttering offensive words. Hence, I seldom use profanity on this blog. Whatever virtue reflects upon me, whatever respect comes from my civil language, would be entirely nullified under a speach code. Yet another way that the current culture devalues language.

One last thing: the practice of current post-modernism places primacy in the receiver of words, thereby making the words change to the world view of the listener. By doing so, the practitioner of post-modernism consigns their pupil to an intellectual stasis. Words can have no impact if they may only go "Splat" upon a closed mind.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Statistical Heresy

From what I recall of statistics (read: not much) a wager is considered worth while if the buy-in multiplied by the pay-out is greater than the odds against winning. So, when they say that
Ticket buyers played their kids' birthdays, their wedding anniversaries, even a set of numbers taken straight from the TV show "Lost," in hopes of winning $340 million Wednesday in the second-biggest lottery jackpot in U.S. history.

The odds of hitting all six numbers were 1 in 146 million.

mean that for once the lottery is actually a worthwhile bet? By a factor of 2+? Of course that does assume that one gets all of it, and takes into account that the value would be even less if taken as a lump sum.

Update: Shows you what I knew about the math. Corrected to multiply

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Coming Out and Saying It

It has been said that the Republicans have been spending money like drunken sailors. Let's put that old saw to rest as many sailors are taking offense to it. A Mallard Fillmore cartoon put it more succinctly by describing the Republicans as spending like drunken Democrats. (Insert Ted Kennedy joke here)

Now I am writing it: I am against George W. Bush for his domestic policies. Foreign affairs are another matter, but that can only take someone so far, and Bush has crossed that line. Just who is President Bush for? Between the excesses of compassionate conservatism to the nomination of the stealthiest of stealth candidates for the Supreme Court, the President has pissed off just about everyone who call themselves Republican. I don't, and I still think that I made the right decision not voting for Kerry, and doubly glad of not voting for Bush.

This has been a seat of the pants presidency, and it has finaly worn thin.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Pre-Paid Minutes as Currency?

That seems to be one of the odder outcomes of the explosion in cell phone usage in Africa.
Prepaid air minutes are the preferred means of usage and have created their own $2 billion-a-year industry of small-time vendors, the Celtel chief says. Air minutes have even become a form of currency, transactable from phone to phone by text message, he says.

This is particularly useful in Africa, where transferring small amounts of money through banks is costly.

Or other uses of cell phones themselves.
Wildlife researchers in Kenya and South Africa have put no-frills cell phones in weatherproof cases on a collar that goes around an elephant's neck. The phone sends a message every hour, revealing the animal's whereabouts.

It cuts the cost of tracking wildlife by up to 60 percent, said Professor Wouter van Hoven of the University of Pretoria's Center for Wildlife Management.

Comparing social evolution to biological evolution is old hat. Still, this is such a clear example of unforseeable memetic evolution that it deserves to be added to any arsenal of cases.

In any evolution, however, there are parasites.
On the downside, however, bus passengers on cross-country journeys have to turn off their cell phones because criminals are known to use them to coordinate highway robberies.

If anything, this outcome is even greater reinforcement of the concept of social evolution being highly similar to biological evolution.

Friday, October 14, 2005

For the Sake of Clarity

I am in no way related to Ted Rall, he of the juvenile cartoons and whatever-word-means-the-opposite-of-astute political commentary. That I shared my nickname with both him and Ted Kennedy always gave me a chill of unease. So, in the meantime, and in pursuit of a career writing, I've gone over to my professional, legal name.

New label, same content, take it for what its worth.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Not The Desired Synergy

Can I be the only one who sees the potential for technology that would allow the new Apple Video I-Pod and Digital Video Recorders (TiVo et al.) to develop in the very near future? While Apple may promise pristine downloads of the videos, that is the same promise that digital cable companies and satellite providers make. Commercial free? I doubt that the I-Pod would lack the ability to fast forward.

DVR's already offer the ability to download to video tape. Combine that with existent digital conversion tools, save it to the format (which will be the first hack someone would have to come up with for this scheme to work if the I-Pod uses a proprietary format) on which the I-Pod saves video.

Of course, this is all going to take a bunch of savvy that the average person who will buy the I-Pod would possess. But that's the beauty of the internet, it allows you to partake in someone else's genius.

Update: Point made, take a look at the first comment. I had forgotten about the PSP playing recorded video. Any word on how the pictures compare? Would it be more worthwhile for someone who already has an I-Pod to shell out for the video model or to get the PSP and play games to boot?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Long, Strange Trip

That I will not go into here.

Let's just say that I have had some time to do some deep reflection on the path that I have taken thus far in my life, have found said life wanting, decided to continue contemplation on a new direction, and leave it at that.

The one thing that I am certain of is that I will be devoting more time to writing, either here, or at my fiction site Two-Fisted Tales of Magic. Check it out, and drop me a line with constructive criticism.

Oh, and I'm sorry that I wasn't here to make a big deal out of my 5,000th hit. The pace at which visitors are coming here continues to increase, and for that I have all of you to thank.

So see you all around here later. Or maybe over at Two-Fisted Tales of Magic.