Saturday, May 17 2003

Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

As disgusted as I am by the behavior of the administrators and school board in response to this incident, it made me feel good to read the story, because the parents didn’t just roll over and let their kid get screwed.

It’s not quite as obscene as the 12-year-old in Florida who was taken away in handcuffs for the crime of splashing in puddles at school, but in both cases you have allegedly-sane adults willing to claim the actions were appropriate.

I think I know who really deserves to be removed from the public schools, and it isn’t the children.

Monday, July 14 2003

By their threats shall ye know them

Hey, what’s a web site without fraudulent threats of legal action? There’s a guy out there who has bullied and blustered his way into a business running pay web sites for Playboy models under various names, primarily “Alpha Interactive” (no links provided; after all, my goal here is to convince you to spend your money elsewhere).

This is old news, but I couldn’t resist the urge to yank his chain by reposting his threats and explaining his motive in making them.

(Continued on Page 132)

Wednesday, July 23 2003

Mass walkout in progress?

This afternoon, I was harassed and verbally abused by a total stranger who called me at home. Since the Caller-ID info identified him as a telemarketer, the only reason I’d picked up the phone in the first place was to chant the familiar litany, “please place me on your do-not-call list.”

I never got the chance. He refused to identify himself, refused to tell me the purpose of his call, called me offensive names, and gleefully repeated my responses to the other people working at his call center. I could hear them in the background, saying similar things to other people.

Then I said, “you know, this phone has caller-id, and I know where you’re calling from.”

*click*

I’m currently waiting on a callback from his manager.

Pacesetter Corp, 916-364-3900. Apparently they sell window coverings and other home-improvement products.

Tuesday, July 29 2003

“How could you not know?”

As airport-restaurant dinners go, it should have been one of the best. I was sharing a table with three friends, two of whom were former Playboy centerfold models. Good people. Reasonable food. Interesting conversation.

Then the topic turned to astrology.

(Continued on Page 1491)

Friday, August 15 2003

“Almost fair and balanced”

I was all set to participate in Fair and Balanced Day, until I reached the site that’s collecting contributions and saw this:

before you know it, the entire left side of the blog world is gonna be fair & balanced

Since I’m no more a leftist than I am a right-winger, I immediately lost all enthusiasm for the game. Sorry, kids, but you don’t have to be on the Left to poke fun at an obviously frivolous lawsuit, even if it happens to be coming from the Right.

Post-Coulter Bliss

I just spent two hours reading articles by Ann Coulter. It’s an odd experience. On the one hand, she flames like a veteran Usenetter cherry-picking her facts, which is always fun to read, and she has excellent taste in enemies. On the other hand, she has a screw loose.

No, that understates it; she has a lot of screws loose.

For a long time, I was convinced that she was outrageous for the same reason anyone in the entertainment business is: it sells. After a concentrated dose of the stuff, though, I think she’s dead serious. About everything. Disturbing, that.

The worst part was realizing, round about the twelfth rant, that I was starting to understand her thought processes. Must shower now.

Sunday, August 17 2003

Clues for the candidates, part 1

While browsing the list of potential California governors, I decided to take a quick peek at their web sites, and since they’re in alphabetical order, one of the first ones I hit was Brooke Adams.

Summary: she’s young, pretty, not a socialist, not a member of the Religious Right, and seems to grasp the major tax-and-spend problems in California. If she weren’t clueless on the subject of gun control, I’d be willing to back her.

(Continued on Page 1527)

Monday, August 18 2003

If it saves just one life…

Earlier, I mentioned that the common claims about a kids-and-guns “crisis” are largely based on baldfaced lies, particularly when they talk about small children finding a gun and shooting themselves or a playmate. California activists used this myth to pass safe-storage laws mandating trigger locks, lock-boxes, gun safes, safety testing for buyers, and safety testing for all handguns sold in the state, and every year they ask for more.

Unfortunately, the number of children aged 0-14 who died in gun accidents in California in 1999 was… one (source: National Center for Health Statistics; total gun-accident deaths were 47). Note that this is the same year that all those “safety” laws were passed, which gun-control advocates promised would protect children.

Protect them from what, exactly?

Wednesday, August 20 2003

Who stole what?

You know, I’d be more receptive to claims that a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy™ somehow Stole The Election™ if there weren’t so much obvious whining by unpopular politicians like Gray Davis.

“The Republicans behind the recall say they want you to vote me out because of past mistakes.”

…and many moderates and Democrats agree, Gray; how do you think they got all those signatures on the recall petition?

Personally, I’m more concerned about his present and future mistakes. Right now he’s running around like a headless chicken, making hollow promises and signing any bill that might keep him in office, no matter how much he’s opposed it in the past.

Wasn’t it the Republicans who were supposed to be willing to do anything to stay in power?

Update: now it’s claimed that 58% of the possible voters favor the recall. No doubt Davis thinks this is evidence that the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy™ altered the numbers to hide his well-known popularity.

Friday, August 22 2003

sauce for the goose…

I knew they were shameless, but it’s nice to see the proof. PETA, who adores violent crime and vandalism when it furthers their goals, runs squealing to the cops when someone uses the same tactics against them.

I think those tactics are always wrong, but if you choose to use them yourself, you should expect them in return.

Monday, August 25 2003

“Gee, what are you going to do with these?”

One of my pet peeves is the store clerk who examines your purchases and tries to figure out how they’re related to each other. There’s one at the local Borders who’s done this to me twice recently, first when I bought a pair of O’Reilly books with Schneier’s Practical Cryptography, and again when I went in looking for the new edition of The Chicago Manual of Style and ended up grabbing a new dictionary/thesaurus and a bunch of gun magazines. I keep picturing him working at a grocery store:

“Cool-whip, bananas, and toilet paper? Big plans for tonight, eh?”

I understand that he’s trying to be friendly and start conversations with the customers, which is certainly not the worst behavior I’ve experienced in a bookstore, but if I wanted to chat about the books I was buying, I’d have said something first. Take my money, give me my change, and let me get the hell out of your store, okay?

Maybe it’s part of the transformation of bookstores into social hangouts, aided and abetted by built-in coffee shops and comfy chairs. Fine in their place, but I think they change people’s behavior in all parts of the store. A ten-minute conversation by the magazine rack that can be heard clearly from more than twenty feet away? A business call on your cell-phone that a dozen people are forced to listen to if they want to keep shopping?

Mother taught me a word for this sort of behavior: rude.

She did not consider it a compliment.

Saturday, August 30 2003

Robert Green Ingersoll

Goodness he talks purty. I must remember to look up his writings to see what else he had to say.

Copied from the always-useful James Randi:

(Continued on Page 1558)

Wednesday, September 3 2003

A hard-on for queers

I like Clayton Cramer. We disagree on almost everything except guns, but since we first corresponded eleven years ago, I’ve respected his scholarship and reasoned thinking. I stop by his site every few days, and learn something about as often as I find something to argue about.

When it comes to The Pink Menace, though, I can’t follow him. Reason and reference are replaced by anecdote and Coulterish “lumping”. A German cannibal self-identifies as gay, and this is taken as evidence that gays are a danger to society?

Or try this one on for size:

“Now, I can understand why the left is so interested in doing so. Once these ideas are no longer relevant, the left thinks that one of the big obstacles to the leftist agenda–bestiality, child molestation, same sex marriage–will be out of the way.”

I like Clayton, but I won’t reference any of his excellent gun-law articles in debate, because his rabid anti-gay rhetoric seriously undermines his credibility with the sort of people who most need persuading on the subject of gun control.

Queers and Lefties are welcome to join me at the range any time. I promise, all the bullets will be going downrange. Friendly, safe, fun.

Update: After a few thoughtful emails, I thought I’d clarify my position a bit. Currently, I think the moderate position in American politics is “slightly pro-gay, slightly anti-gun”; that is, they view gays as ordinary people who are unfairly discriminated against because of their choice of partners, and private gun ownership as a contributing factor in violent crime. My goal is to convince them that the latter view is not supported by the evidence, while not getting sidetracked by potential conflict on the former.

In fact, I’m probably more pro-gay than the average moderate, but Clayton, a useful source of information on the gun debate, is so strongly opposed that there’s a real risk of guilt-by-association. Gun control supporters are for the most part using emotional rather than statistical, legal, or historical arguments, and are often quick to judge their opponents by what else they believe.

So, if Clayton is strongly pro-gun and strongly anti-gay, and I point them to one of his pro-gun articles, they may assume that gun owners as a group are prone to be anti-gay, which ain’t so.

Thursday, September 11 2003

Low-hanging chads

A while back, the folks at Making Light recoiled in horror when I casually commented that I thought Bush had been legitimately elected. Several of them hijacked the discussion to focus on what was, to me, much smaller than the issue being discussed. Because they seemed to be otherwise reasonable people, I promised to give a fair hearing to any comprehensive references they were willing to point me to on the subject.

It was like pulling teeth to get those references, and the ones I got needed to be filtered for obvious bias, but heat eventually gave way to light. Sadly, I suspect that when they hear I have not embraced their position 100%, they will conclude that I never took their arguments seriously, and write me off as some sort of Bush-loving “freeper”, “looter”, or “theocrat”. I guess they’d rather be righteous and wrong than accept that someone can be a reasonable human being without passionately despising the President.

What do I think now about the 2000 elections, particularly in Florida?

(Continued on Page 1583)

Tuesday, September 16 2003

Courting Davis

The Democrats of the “selected, not elected” crowd were extremely unhappy about the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. Democrat Gray Davis has just been saved (temporarily) from those nasty election-stealing Republicans (not to mention the rest of us) by the 9th Circuit Court, who cited Bush v. Gore as precedent.

Apparently, the best way to protect voters from the heartbreak of hanging chads is to stop them from voting at all…

“Only Democrats and Dictators are afraid of elections.” — James D. Hudnall

Thursday, September 18 2003

Please, Mr. Darwin, take them away

I think this guy has demonstrated his lack of fitness for membership in the gene pool; he just failed the IQ test. His girlfriend should be put on probation for five years as well.

  1. become a youth pastor.
  2. acquire a sixteen-year-old girlfriend (you’re thirty).
  3. videotape yourself having sex with her.
  4. put sex tapes in trunk of car.
  5. put girlfriend in trunk of car.
  6. drive across international border, failing to declare smuggled underage girlfriend.

Under other circumstances, I might be willing to believe that a sixteen-year-old is mature enough to be dating a much older man. Our laws on the subject are pretty arbitrary, after all, using date of birth as a convenient proxy for physical and emotional maturity. Many sixteen-year-olds are adults, and should be treated as such. Many people over eighteen, on the other hand, shouldn’t be trusted with wet matches.

These two? Not a chance. “Hey, sweetheart, now that we’ve been dating for a while, let’s take a road trip from Illinois to Alaska, and I’ll hide you in the trunk of the car to keep the Canadian border guards from getting suspicious.” “Gosh, Michael, what a swell idea. You’re sure the rest of the youth group won’t miss us?”

Still, nothing can top the bass player from Phish coaxing the 9-year-old daughter of a Hell’s Angel out to a deserted boathouse at 1am for “art photos”. Now that’s stupid.

Saturday, September 20 2003

What a country

Yesterday, a man sliced open my eyeballs, fried them with a laser, and took $3,700 out of my wallet.

And I am immensely grateful.

Courtesy of CustomVue LASIK and the Friedman Eye Center, my vision is the best it’s ever been, and it’s supposed to get even better over the next few weeks. I’m temporarily a bit farsighted, and I’ve got a touch of spherical aberration that makes it look like I’m viewing the world through an old portrait lens, but it’s still pretty darn amazing.

Twenty-two years of glasses, fixed with five minutes of surgery.

Monday, October 6 2003

‘Yes’ on recall, ‘Yes’ on Arnold

I didn’t need much coaxing on the first part; it’s been obvious for a long time that Gray Davis is no friend to California citizens, and his recent determination to screw things up so badly that nobody can fix them was just icing on the cake.

Who to vote for was trickier. McClintock has a few gotchas, but he’s otherwise palatable. Unfortunately, he simply can’t win. Bustamonte’s pandering to the Hispanic community is most clearly demonstrated by his refusal to make even a token effort to distance himself from his racist ties. Most of the rest are in it just for the cheap publicity, and have nothing to offer a local school board, much less an entire state.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of voting for Georgy. She’s a little too fond of Clinton for my tastes, and she’d be eaten alive in office, but a strong showing would have made a few pros sweat about their habit of ignoring the tech community. Not gonna happen now, though.

In the end, what pushed me toward Arnold was the coordinated media smear campaign. He’s been in the public eye forever, and the worst dirt they can dig up is a handful of bald-faced lies (quickly disproven) and unsupported allegations of “groping”? That makes him one of the cleanest politicians in the country.

Oh, and for the record, it’ll be a ‘Yes’ on 53 and 54, too. Infrastructure is one of the few legitimate uses of tax money, and diverting it from other, “social” programs is a good thing. And since the racial data that would be banned by 54 is often used to fund some of those other programs…

Tuesday, October 7 2003

Chad about town

It was a pleasant three-quarter-mile walk to my neighborhood polling station, and I’m delighted to report that my chad-cutter performed perfectly. If all of the other dangerously obsolete voting machines perform as well as mine did, and people actually follow the instructions on the ballot, there will be no excuse for a Florida-style clusterfuck.

Win or lose, though, I’ll bet $20 that the mostly-anonymous accusations made against Schwarzenegger will be quickly forgotten, even by the obviously-biased LA Times. Because nobody’s actually interested in whether he did those things or not; they were just convenient dirt.

Friday, October 10 2003

Iraq report

If this is a quagmire, can someone please mire some quags in California? Soon? Pretty please?

Sunday, October 19 2003

Who’s in it for the money, again?

The Senate’s vote to turn the aid to Iraq into loans is being spun as part of the Bush Junta’s evil plot, but who actually voted for it? Mostly Democrats.

I guess it’s okay when they’re in it for the oil money.

gun bans work, eh?

One of the most common excuses used to explain why the 10,000+ gun-control laws in the US never deliver what they promise is “leaky borders.” Because there exists some other city/state/country “nearby” that has less restrictive laws, criminals will just travel there to get guns. They never explain why criminals aren’t using guns more often in that other, less-evolved place, but that’s a side issue.

Enter England, a nearly perfect test case for gun control. Physically isolated from all those bad gun-loving countries, and they never had the quantity of guns the US had, or the violent crime. Over the past eighty years they’ve gradually eliminated virtually all gun ownership from society. Paradise Island, yes?

No. Crime in general, and with-gun crime in particular, has been increasing steadily since 1920, and the near-total ban on handguns has only accelerated the problem. Meanwhile, the violent crime rate in the US has been dropping steadily for years, with the murder rate down 45% since 1980.

Is there still more murder in the US? Yes, if you’re a young black man living in the worst parts of our major cities. You know, those places where it’s illegal to own a gun? Where the concept of calling 911 for help is openly mocked?

I never bought Lott’s argument that increasing gun ownership reduces crime, but it’s quite clear that reducing or eliminating it doesn’t help, either. Could it be because law-abiding citizens with guns aren’t career criminals? Sounds obvious, I know, but somehow legislators keep overlooking it.

Monday, October 20 2003

Nice try…

“I’m not a telemarketer, I’m just doing some cold calls.”

5 Star Mortgage, 831-757-3691

The best part was that he admitted that he knew I was on the do-not-call list.

Tuesday, October 28 2003

Bandits, one-armed

Just went through a twenty-minute phone survey on a California ballot measure to tax indian casinos and allow card parlors to install slot machines. As usual, there were several questions I couldn’t give a completely honest answer to, and the guy asking the questions shared my amusement at my “unclassifiable” responses. The bit from the opposition about how the eeeeeevil pornographers would benefit just made me laugh out loud, but all he could record was “would not convince me to oppose the measure”.

On the whole, it was a fairly balanced survey, asking you four times about your support for the measure, first after hearing a basic summary, then after hearing pro arguments, then con, and finally “if Arnold supported it, would you be more likely to support it?”. There were also questions related to how you voted in the recall, the last general election, the last presidential election, and if you were determined to vote in the next presidential election. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the results.

I did think it was interesting that the measure allowed existing card parlors to install up to 30,000 slot machines statewide, but also prohibited opening new card parlors. That was the item that most reduced my interest in supporting this measure. If you’re going to expand gambling in California, don’t play favorites.

This makes two good phone surveys I’ve participated in in my lifetime. The last one was about 15 years ago, on the subject of mayonnaise.

[Disclaimer: I like slot machines, especially since I’ve always ended up coming out ahead by hundreds of dollars, but I’ll continue to play them exclusively in Vegas. I’m not really a gambler, I just enjoy hanging out in casinos and watching the pretty women go by. I suspect California card/slot parlors won’t have the same caliber of scenery.]

Thursday, October 30 2003

Halloween Porn

As my contribution to Bush’s newly-declared Protection From Pornography Week (no, seriously), I hereby commit to visiting J-List and purchasing issues of Bejean, Urecco, and Japanese Penthouse, as well as at least one lesbian-schoolgirl DVD, a hentai game, and a Hello Kitty “Shoulder Massager” (for a friend). That should keep them out of the hands of children.

No bukkake videos, though; ick.

I’ll do something more elaborate next year. Probably involving pictures of Jenna.

Friday, October 31 2003

Halloween tally

I live in a suburb densely populated with families, most of which have children of trick-or-treating age. As an old campaigner myself, I feel a natural sympathy for the kids, and so I pass out double handfuls of candy that weigh, on average, half a pound.

Unfortunately, despite the ever-increasing safety of our streets, it looks like post-9/11 fears are driving the celebrations indoors, to shopping malls and community centers. I don’t know what it’s like at those events, because I stay home and pass out candy. I hope the kids are getting a good haul.

2001 was my first Halloween at the new house, and I was pleasantly surprised at how many kids turned up. I got maybe half as much traffic last year, and had enough leftover candy to feed the office for months.

This year, I cheaped out and only bought about 25 pounds of candy, so the 42 kids I’ve seen so far have made a serious dent in it. If I get a late rush, my fallback plan is to start passing out dollar bills; I’ve got thirty of them, which should satisfy another 15 little monsters.

Unfortunately, my cul-de-sac doesn’t look terribly inviting. More than half of the houses are dark, so I’ve gone out of my way to make it obvious that I’m in the game. The normally-garaged car is in the driveway, all the lights are on, the door is partially open, and the new teaser trailer from Alien vs Predator is blasting out of an upstairs window in a continuous loop. Seems to be working.

Oh, and the pizza driver was deeply confused about the $10 tip. Guess most people don’t think of Halloween as a major tipping holiday.

Tuesday, November 4 2003

Today’s I’m-not-a-telemarketer call

“You realize I’m on the do-not call list?”

“We’re not trying to sell you anything, we’re just offering you a low interest rate.”

The Lending Company. Typical mortgage broker, apparently operating out of Scottsdale, AZ. They did not supply any caller-id.

Tuesday, November 11 2003

For want of a brain cell…

The nominal subject in this news report isn’t terribly important: soldier brings home souvenir, gives it to friend, friend throws it away, kids find it and use it for a toy. What’s interesting are the “man on the street” quotes:

“That’s pretty bad. I don’t think the security is as good as it should be, at least over here, because there are too many people running in and out [of the precinct] too easily,” said one father who lives in the neighborhood. “That’s precious blood. That’s right around the corner where my daughter goes, and security could be better.”
“It’s scary because I live here and my kids are here, if it’s going to start happening again,” said another area resident. “I don’t understand who would do something like that.”

Did someone forget to tell them that the object in question was completely harmless? The reporter at least mentioned this fact before he went looking for a spin. And what planet did that “security isn’t as good as it should be” line come from?

Wednesday, December 3 2003

Bush’s Thanksgiving

This comment on Electrolite strikes me as the core of pretty much every left-leaning blogger’s response to what might be called Operation “Bite Me, Liberals”:

“I basically think that if someone else had done it, it would have been a great thing to do.”

In other words, if someone you despise does an admirable thing, it not only ceases to be an admirable thing, it makes the person even more despicable.

As much as I disagree with many of the actions this administration has taken, it keeps getting harder for me to take Bush’s political opposition seriously. Certainly none of them are giving me any coherent reasons to vote him out.

Update: The folks at Snopes say this letter is legit. I think the Democrats are going to have some trouble winning the military vote…

Friday, December 5 2003

And people think Bush is a petty dictator?

He’s not even on the charts compared to local school boards enforcing zero-tolerance policies. My favorite part? If they had actually found the cigarettes that were the goal of their search, she’d have merely been suspended, but since they found Advil, a drug with no known recreational use, she was expelled for a year.

I hope the parents decide to sue. School board elections are a farce, and these clowns obviously have no shame, so the only alternatives are lawsuits and bullets.

Sunday, December 14 2003

No anti-gun bias here, nosirree!

Found this news story on Fark, with the coveted “dumbass” label. Intrigued, I read the whole thing. In order, the facts presented are:

  1. In a small Appalachian town,
  2. a dozen federal agents raided a local business,
  3. which had recently (2001) been declared “Business of the Year”.
  4. They seized 170+ guns from the Army Surplus and Variety Store,
  5. and arrested the owner on charges of illegal gun sales in three states.
  6. They later raided his home, and seized another 30+ guns.
  7. They also charged someone else, who was already in custody for parole violations, as a conspirator.
  8. The other guy had prior arrests (but not, apparently, convictions) for allegedly operating a meth lab.
  9. Multiple “men on the street” are then quoted, carefully selected to give a mostly negative impression of the owner’s character.
  10. Finally, it’s mentioned that the store is a federally-licensed firearms dealer, and that the guns in question were prominently displayed, as one person puts it, “like a museum”.

In other words, after carefully constructing the story to give the impression that more than 200 crime guns were seized from a dangerous lunatic with ties to illegal drug labs, the reporter ’fesses up that they were just grabbing his public inventory and personal collection. This is a legitimate action given the charges, but it’s not evidence of guilt.

Is he a criminal? I haven’t the slightest idea. That’s for the jury to decide, not some spin-happy hack journalist.

Monday, December 15 2003

John Rhys-Davies

I knew there was a reason I liked John Rhys-Davies. I mean, apart from the fact that he’s a damn good actor who livens up anything he chooses to appear in.

Quoting…

(Continued on Page 1674)

Wednesday, December 24 2003

Epicenter imagery

Quote from someone who ran a business in the Paso Robles building that collapsed during the recent quake:

“My roof basically jumped onto the street and landed on cars with people in them.”

Friday, December 26 2003

Not holding my breath…

It’s hard to take terrorists seriously when they’re reduced to sending out threats by email:

A London-based Arab magazine said on Friday that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has vowed to launch a “back-breaking attack” on the United States by February, confirming an earlier message by the militant network.
The weekly al-Majalla said it received an e-mail from Abu Mohammed al-Ablaj, a little known al Qaeda member, saying bin Laden would release a video tape in which he affirms his group’s determination to fight the United States.

If they were actually in a position to release such a tape, you’d think they’d just do it. Hell, just post the video to a warez site and tell everyone it’s Paris Hilton’s latest orgy. A million people will see it, and while half the viewers will complain about the poor lighting, the other half will be amazed that bin Laden managed to nail her.

Tuesday, January 6 2004

I made the list!

It’s not a very exclusive list, seeing as the FBI bullied every hotel in Vegas into handing over data on who had reservations for New Years Eve, but it gives me a warm glow to be one of the 300,000 new entries in the “suspected terrorist” database.

I’m guessing that the hotel that made the token effort to resist turning over their guest list was The Palms, which is the current hot celebrity hangout. What agent could resist checking out Britney’s travel/marriage/annulment schedule?

Friday, January 9 2004

Save the varmints!

The city of Boulder is dealing with an overabundance of urban prairie dogs by paying to have them trapped and relocated (presumably to some location that has so far managed to remain free of this infestation). Cretins rejoice:

“I think there’s absolutely no reason to exterminate one more prairie dog,” he said. “I don’t think a good reason can be given. I believe we are faced with a moral imperative to save every last remaining animal.”

My favorite part is that this clown actually thinks prairie dogs could become an endangered species unless steps are taken to protect them. Protect as in “prevent future land development by humans”. Apparently he hasn’t managed to figure out how these cuddly little rodents managed to take over Boulder’s open spaces in the first place…

Monday, January 12 2004

Western Union misses the boat

I recently had a reason to ask a stranger for a favor. There was this Mac game I was interested in that was about to be released in Japan. There are lots of companies who import Japanese console games, a few who import PC games, and even one or two who buy up the rights to make translated versions of hardcore sex “dating sims”. But nobody seems to be interested in the Mac games.

I was able to find it on amazon.co.jp, and they even support a mostly-English UI for people whose Japanese is less than perfect (or, in my case, barely there). Unfortunately, they won’t ship certain products overseas. Books, music, movies, no problem; computer games and consumer electronics, not a chance.

Given how Silicon Valley works, I figured the odds were good that one of my friends knew someone who was currently in Japan, and I wasn’t disappointed. Zane and I exchanged email, I had the game shipped to his place, and he reshipped the package to my house. Neat, simple, and it took about a week and a half, start to finish.

Except for reimbursing Zane for the shipping costs. I’ve had good luck with Western Union in the past, so I went to their site and sent him the money, and emailed a link to their list of places he could pick it up.

A few days later, he wrote back, telling me that Western Union had apparently contracted with the smallest bank in Japan, which only had branches in the Tokyo area. He’s in Hiroshima, which is, shall we say, “not close”.

He had two basic choices: open an account with the tiny bank by mail and then ask them to mail him a check, which would take about three weeks, or travel to the nearest bank branch, which was roughly equivalent to taking the train from San Diego to San Francisco.

After many days and more than half a dozen toll-free phone calls, I managed to get someone at Western Union to look at a map of Japan, at which point they refunded my money. I then went back to amazon, pulled up Zane’s wishlist, and bought enough stuff to pay him back.

Oh, the game? Mahoromatic Adventure, with the limited-edition scented hand towel (currently hanging on my office wall). :-)

Wednesday, January 14 2004

Citi wants me, and they’re not alone

I have a mortgage with CitiBank. I have a home equity loan with CitiBank. I have a Platinum MasterCard with CitiBank. Apparently, this isn’t good enough for them.

Today’s mail contained pre-approved offers for a Citi Platinum Select MasterCard, a Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard, and a Citi Diamond Preferred Rewards MasterCard.

Would it surprise you to learn that the basic Platinum Select has the best interest rate of the three?

But those are just amusing. The real excitement in today’s mail was the postcard announcing my selection as an honest-to-gosh Nielsen Family. I have arrived.

Sadly, I don’t think their logbook has a space for “watched six anime DVDs and a full season of Babylon 5 over the weekend”.

Monday, January 19 2004

Slot wars

Back in October, I participated in a phone survey about proposed legislation to expand gambling in California. I rather liked the structure of the survey, and made a mental note to keep an eye out for the results.

I’m guessing the results didn’t match the expectations of the group who commissioned it, because this recent news story not only fails to mention a survey, it leaves out several of the facts that were presented to me in the questions.

It doesn’t mention that the Indian Gaming Association’s arguments against allowing card parlors to install slot machines included “Larry Flynt and other pornographers will profit from this” (how? They didn’t say). It doesn’t mention the ban on opening new card parlors, a “more for me and none for thee” trick from the sponsors.

The indian casinos are right about one thing: if slot addicts can get their fix in San Jose, they won’t drive the “two hours” to Jackson Rancheria. Of course, if Jackson’s billboards mentioned the fact that alcohol is prohibited on the premises, nobody would drive there anyway.

Tuesday, January 20 2004

Scam and spam

Somehow this garbage made it past Mail.app’s generally quite effective spam filters. Once. Email addresses and paypal payment information deleted to avoid inadvertently helping this fraud (I forwarded it to Paypal first, of course…).

It’s an amusing, imaginary, tale of woe, combining equal parts bad parenting, bad storytelling, and bad English. And why does a poor father in Chile have an email address at a Russian ISP, anyway?

(Continued on Page 1717)

Saturday, January 24 2004

Bowling for Bullshit

Michael Moore has apparently infested a new generation of “documentary” makers, including this schmuck who documented the alleged effects of eating only at McDonald’s for thirty days.

Given the obvious bias that he went into the project with, is it any surprise that his results were negative, or that he’s become the darling of the entertainment media for presenting this dreck at Sundance?

Hey, I’ve got a great idea! Let’s document the effects of only eating raw organic produce for thirty days. Surely our test subject will emerge as a paragon of health and virtue!

Or dead from malnutrition. It depends on exactly which of those “healthy” foods he eats, and in what proportions and quantities. If he demonstrates the same sort of intelligent decision-making that Morgan Spurlock did at McDonald’s, my bet’s on malnutrition.

Update: I no longer think it’s sufficient to use scare-quotes when referring to deliberately-misleading documentaries of the sort produced by Moore and imitators like Spurlock. Since he term mockumentary is already taken, I hereby propose documockery, which I think has the right ring to it.

Update: His girlfriend is a vegan chef. Care to guess how much meat protein he was consuming before his little “test”? I’m surprised he didn’t get sick sooner; habitual veggies aren’t known for their meat tolerance.

Objective nonsense

Take a good look at the way Time/AOL has framed the questions in this “objective” comparison of presidential candidates. Fair and balanced, they ain’t.

Monday, February 2 2004

If it saves one bird…

Propagandists for various causes are fond of taking an annual statistic and dividing it by the number of days/hours/minutes in a year to create A Scary Statistic. I have a new one for them:

Every second, 32 birds are murdered in the US by plate-glass windows.

Kinda puts that whole silent-spring, DDT-egg-thinning flap into perspective, don’t ya think?

Saturday, February 7 2004

Spammers For Jesus

Apparently that ends-justifies-the-means thing isn’t just for sinners any more. Actually, now that I think about it, spam-witnesses are less annoying than the ones who show up at my door with vacant stares, carrying logic-free tracts that proclaim “science textbooks are for burning.”

Update: and another one! Apparently spam-witnessing is sufficiently different that it evades my Bayesian spam filtering. A bit more of this tripe, though, and I’m sure it will decide that “Jesus”, “church”, and “Bible” are just as spammy as “penis” and “Viagra”. If that’s what they want, I don’t mind.

By the way, if God is actually stupid enough to want mindless prayers like the one this clown promises will save me, I’d rather be damned. And a hearty “nyah, nyah” to the twerps who get all warm and fuzzy from the thought that they’ve accomplished something with this email masturbation. If their cause was worthwhile, they’d be pursuing it honestly.

(Continued on Page 1752)

Tuesday, February 24 2004

Trudeau opens mouth, inserts foot, shoots self in foot

As the evidence piles up that George W. Bush’s military service record was completely satisfactory, with no irregularities (certainly nothing on the scale of John Kerry awarding himself a medal for beaching his boat and abandoning his crew to chase down a wounded enemy soldier), Garry Trudeau offers to pay ten grand to anyone who can confirm the President’s service.

The only question I have is, will he give ten grand to each person who has already come forward? You know, all the folks that this hip, sophisticated media critic hasn’t managed to notice?

Global Warming and Intelligent Design: Separated At Birth?

This commentary in The Washington Times struck me as being precisely the right approach to take when biblical literalists attempt to force their beliefs into the science classroom.

Actually, if you could count on the existence of quality science teachers in the public schools, I’d be delighted to see “Intelligent Design” brought up in class, as an object lesson in how to distinguish between scientific theories and religion.

This article might be useful as well, applied to both types of hot air.

Dear Terry McAuliffe,

I’m writing today to thank you for your recent pre-approved offer for The NEW Democratic Party VISA Card, and to explain why I won’t be applying for one.

It’s not that I dislike the “five attractive card designs,” although as a former Boy Scout I find it a bit offensive to swipe a flag through a card reader.

It’s not that I find the 11.99% interest rate too high, although it’s higher than any other credit card offer I’ve received in the past two years. For that matter, even though the 19.99% cash advance rate is higher than I’ve seen from any non-sucker offer, that’s not it, either. Nor is it the 3% balance transfer fee.

It’s not even the optional “donate my 1% rebate to the Democratic National Committee” feature, even though I never have, and never will, donate money directly to any national political party.

No, it’s the fact that I plan to vote for George W. Bush in the upcoming presidential election.

Why? Because, while I strongly disagree with many of the Bush administration’s domestic policies, I believe that American liberty is safer in the hands of John Ashcroft than American lives are in the hands of Johns Kerry or Edwards.

Thursday, February 26 2004

Smoking gun on obesity?

While reading the entertaining (if occasionally credulous) book Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization, I was struck by the repeated mention of nicotine’s role as an appetite suppressant. As a non-smoker, I was vaguely aware of this trait, and the problem many people experience with weight gain when they attempt to quit, but I hadn’t thought to tie it to the current hysterical claims of an obesity “epidemic”.

Some of the available data argues against this connection, but other sources are rather coy about weight gain by former smokers. It’s pretty hard to accept the NIDDK’s simplistic approach to the subject after they admit that 10% of former smokers gain 30 pounds or more.

Do I think the anti-smoking movement has a causal relationship with the obesity “epidemic” (which, by the way, is also plagued by sins of omission when it comes to data quality)? No, not really. It’s simply one of the many lifestyle changes that took place during the same period, all of which undermine the simplistic cause-and-effect scenarios put forth by greedy lawyers, nitwit busybodies, and activists with thinly-veiled agendas.

But it does make me wonder, especially since so much of the data on both subjects is based on self-reports over long periods, rather than actual measurement. The nicest thing I can say about them is that the claims aren’t as far-fetched as the ones made for second-hand smoke, red meat, carbs, fat, grilling, butter, salt, etc.

Tuesday, March 2 2004

Chad me harder, baby!

So, after all the fuss about how the dangerously obsolete mechanical voting machines would corrupt the special election held to kick out Davis and elect Arnold, what did I find at my local polling station this morning? The same darn chad-cutters I used last time.

Good thing, too, as reports come in about the problems with the first live test of the new electronic voting machines. Not to mention their complete lack of accountability.

“The chad is great!” (the movie sucked, though)

Monday, March 8 2004

Oh, that’s gotta hurt…

From the English translation of the new Iraq Constitution:

This government shall be constituted in accordance with a process of extensive deliberations and consultations with cross-sections of the Iraqi people conducted by the Governing Council and the Coalition Provisional Authority and possibly in consultation with the United Nations.

Emphasis added.

On the other hand, it doesn’t give the people much room to insist on their new rights if the government turns sour:

It shall not be permitted to possess, bear, buy, or sell arms except on licensure issued in accordance with the law.

One might argue that this is a necessary temporary measure until freedom really takes hold in Iraq and the majority of the remaining terrorists have been eliminated, but I have a sneaky suspicion that the government is unlikely to ever believe that such a day has arrived.

Tuesday, March 16 2004

How Newsom’s publicity stunt may backfire…

Latest fallout, emphasis added:

The Social Security Administration has said it would not accept any marriage licenses from San Francisco as proof of marriage until the legal dispute was resolved.

So now straight couples in San Francisco can’t really get married, either, and any who did so recently are in “gay-wedding limbo”. Somehow I don’t think that will increase their support for gay rights.

Wednesday, March 17 2004

Above and beyond…

Now this is an example of good citizenship. Not only did this guy spot a suspected killer in a bar, but when the FBI didn’t take him seriously, he went back to the bar, gathered physical evidence, and then drove around the area until he found the guy’s car at a motel. Thank you, Conrad Malsom.

Thursday, March 25 2004

Howard Stern, freedom fighter?

Found this on a “maybe just a tiny bit slanted” site called Buzzflash:

“As soon as I came out against Bush, that’s when my rights to free speech were taken away. It had nothing to do with indecency,” Howard Stern said on March 19, 2004.

On the surface, this statement is absurd, since being kicked off of half a dozen radio stations run by a private corporation has nothing to do with one’s “rights to free speech,” but in the current batch of far-Left conspiracy theories, Clear Channel is part of the Bush administration, due to their well-known membership in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. So it’s still government censorship, and a First Amendment issue, right?

But it doesn’t actually silence him, because the VRWC apparently hasn’t consolidated its hold on the media. Not only is he still on the air in every major market, the claim that he’s being suppressed has been widely reported! No doubt the underling who allowed the truth to get out will soon be quietly executed.

Personally, I think Stern’s motives more closely resemble Larry Flynt’s than those of any honest free-speech advocate, and I look forward to the day when he really is off the air. Not through government censorship, but due to a sudden outbreak of intelligence and good taste among the general public.

Sunday, March 28 2004

Corporate fat cats

Why does this sound like a really bad idea? Sprint apparently deliberately designed their new corporate headquarters to force people to do a lot of walking and stair-climbing. For their own good, of course.

Sprint built the car parks a 10-minute walk from the office buildings. So much for getting to meetings on time when you’re running late. And, oh, by the way, this is in Kansas, not Southern California, so they have actual seasons:

“It’s not bad, unless it’s 110 degrees outside or below freezing and raining and cold.”

The campus I work on wasn’t deliberately designed to encourage exercise, as far as I know, but the five two-story buildings are spaced out sufficiently that you will do some walking if you need to go anywhere. And it’s built right next to the Stevens Creek trail, which a lot of people use for exercise and one-on-one meetings with their managers.

Hmm, come to think of it, the internal signage in the buildings is so bad that it’s almost impossible to find conference rooms or offices you’ve never been to before, so maybe they did design it to encourage extra walking. Hey, Sprint, I’ve got another idea for you!

Oh, by the way, less than two weeks after we moved into this campus, there were dozens of those little folding scooters around, and electric golf carts in use by the Facilities group. I suspect similar things happen at Sprint, but it didn’t fit the spin of the story, so it’s not mentioned.

Update: interesting comment from someone at Fark:

What this article neglected to mention is that the major ring road for the campus is BETWEEN the parking garages and the offices, so just as the largest number of people are walking to/from the offices, the largest number of people are also trying to navigate their cars to the garages. Apparently Sprint was too cheap to pay for the skywalks over the ring road.

Wednesday, March 31 2004

Poker women

Darn it, kids today just have it too easy. Do you know how hard we had to work in college to get women to play poker? Okay, we were actually trying to get them to play strip poker, but still.

Some of the reactions suggest that it may be a short-lived fad, but judging from the spring-break crowds in Vegas this year, it’s a big one.

“It is crazy on campus,” said Rachel Dorfman, a University of Georgia sophomore who often plays poker for hours with her Sigma Delta Tau sisters. “It is absolutely the thing to do right now.”

I can’t complain, though. I feel sorry for the Vegas old-timers who had to suffer through the days when there might be only one woman in the entire room. The only downside to this trend is that women tend to be very good at reading men, giving them a distinct advantage at the table. I don’t even like to think about the advantage that pretty women have…

Of course, no story that mixed college and gambling would be complete without the twin specters of targeting students and addiction. I love this quote:

The 18- to 24-year-old age group has some of the highest rates of gambling addictions, said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling.

Good luck finding actual statistics on the NCPG web site, though, and you’ll find even less about the differences (both psychological and financial) between different types of gambling. Not surprising, since they’re hardly the bias-free concerned-citizen watchdog group that the story presents them as. A quick Google reveals that NCPG recently got nailed for antitrust violations for trying to monopolize the lucrative problem-gambling treatment market.

Citi really, really wants me

I thought it was amusing back in January when CitiBank sent me three credit-card offers in one day, all basically identical to the card I already had with them. Today, a knock on my door announced the arrival of an unsolicited Instant Rate Modification offer from CitiMortgage, complete with pen and return next-day air envelope.

They want to lower my interest rate from 4.25% to 4.0%, effective immediately, for the low price of $250. Since it would save me $43 a month, on the surface it looks like a good deal. But the offer is good for one week only, which makes me look at the fine print. As expected, it resets the fixed period on my 3/1 ARM, locking me into this rate until 2007.

I think it’s time to shop around and see what sort of refinancing deals other banks will offer me.

Tuesday, April 6 2004

Poppy Honey and Daisy Boo?

Okay, I was originally just going to post a link to the story about The Naked Chef burning his penis while trying to cook naked, but then I read it, and discovered that he and his wife named their two daughters ‘Poppy Honey’ and ‘Daisy Boo’. And he’s getting ready to pack up the family and move to the US.

If those are indeed their legal names (and with a mother named ‘Jools’ it’s likely they are), I suspect they’re in for a fair amount of abuse in American schools. At the very least, I see them starting each school year with grim determination, desperate to keep the teacher from reading their names aloud while taking attendance. Much like my school friend Augustus MacLeod Freeman III, who managed to make it all the way to ninth grade with everyone convinced his name was actually ‘Sandy’.

Wednesday, April 7 2004

Solutions in search of problems

Actually, in this case, even the people responsible for installing this speeder-detecting traffic light seem to find it easier to come up with problems that it will create than any that it could possibly solve.

Friday, April 9 2004

Dreams

I usually don’t remember my dreams, but Thursday morning I woke up with an incredibly vivid recollection of my old apartment, including the landlord, the odd arrangement of parking spaces, little details about my old motorcycle, a visit from my parents, even how much I was paying for rent.

When I woke up, it was a good ten minutes before I was confident that none of it was true. I had to actually review the length of time that I know I lived at each apartment in California and Ohio to make sure that I wasn’t missing one, and it took almost as long to convince myself that I have in fact never owned a motorcycle.

The whole experience makes me a touch more sympathetic to people who become convinced of past-life regressions, suppressed childhood abuse, alien abductions, divine revelations, and other false memories. It was so real that even now, listening to the recording I made while the dream was fresh, I feel the urge to dig through my financial records looking for rent receipts and motorcycle-maintenance bills.

Friday, April 16 2004

What political caricature are you?

Short poll at Harvard to chart your politics in comparison to current college students. Based on the short list of questions (at least two of which merited a “yes, but not the way you mean it”), I’m a Secular Centrist.

Basically this is a less-reliable version of the “What ‘Buffy’ character are you?” quiz.

What political caricature are you?
You are a Secular Centrist. Secular centrists like you tend to be:
  • Strongly supportive of gay rights.
  • Believe strongly in the separation of church and state.
  • Less supportive of affirmative action than most college students.
  • Less likely to be concerned about the environment than most college students.
  • Less likely to believe in basic health insurance as a right than most college students.

Monday, April 19 2004

“And I don’t mean good musicians, I mean jazz musicians.”

A short history of drug prohibition in America, with choice quotes from the legislative literature. Fun reading, and it should ring a few bells for people familiar with the criminalization of alcohol use and firearm ownership.

What is Western Civilization good for, anyway?

I think this graph gives a pretty good answer:

female life expectancy, 1840 to present

More personally, US-specific data suggests that if I’d lived 100 years ago, I could have expected only another nine years of life. Instead, the odds are good that I’ll be around for another forty. Or more; the funny thing about progress is that it keeps progressing.

Tuesday, April 20 2004

Special privileges for special people

A US Representative on his way back to DC was stopped and politely questioned as to why he was carrying a handgun in his briefcase as he passed through airport security.

According to his press secretary:

“He was asked a couple of simple questions. They just wanted to verify that he wasn’t going to do anybody any harm.”

I see two reasonable responses: treat this negligent asshole the same way anyone else would be treated, which is pronounced “felony conviction,” or treat the rest of us the way they treated him. Sadly, the reality is that we get worse treatment for packing nail clippers than this clown got for packing a piece.

Note to Indiana residents: he’s up for re-election this year.

Update: he’s been cited for a misdemeanor with a fine of $500 (and the slim-to-none chance of up to a year in jail), but no federal felony charges have been filed. Oddly enough, this might still be enough to permanently revoke his right to own a firearm.

And, yes, it was not only loaded, it was one of those eeeeeevil plastic pistols that the gun-control lobby insists are designed to be smuggled through airport security.

Wednesday, April 21 2004

Food addiction: “Nothing to see here, move along”

Here’s the news media’s latest attempt to spin the over-hyped obesity “epidemic” as an addiction. In a study of 12 people who were forced to fast for a day, exposure to food increased metabolism “in the whole brain” by 24 percent. The specific areas of the brain that were most stimulated were “associated” with addiction.

Gee, I wonder what their brains would look like if you deprived them of oxygen for three minutes and then offered them a chance to breathe.

Thursday, April 29 2004

“Boy beats off angry bear”

No, not that way. This way.

There are a lot of things I could say about parents who ship “troubled teens” off to special camps where trained professionals promise to supply some actual parenting, but that’s way out there in After-School Special Land, and I don’t want to go there.

No, I want to question the incredible idiocy of schlepping a bunch of suburban teens around for six weeks in bear country in Alaska (redundant, I know) without so much as a goddamn cap pistol. Nothing but pepper spray and a flare gun, with who knows how many kids under their “protection”. Blech.

Not livin’ the lifestyle

Food magazines are usually about food. Gun magazines are usually about guns. Computer magazines are usually about computers. Some of them creep over into “lifestyle” territory, but not as far as many car or motorcycle magazines. Mags like Cigar Aficionado are clearly about the lifestyle its readers would like to be living, making only a token effort to actually discuss cigars.

What brought this on? Yesterday, my mailbox included a stiff brown envelope containing the latest issue of Lexus, a free magazine sent to Lexus owners. The contents are equal parts lifestyle and advertorial: organic oysters in Scotland, what to do in the Maldives, concept Lexi, titanium bicycles, overpriced gadget “reviews”, wine-making classes, etc.

But the best part was a non-ad for one of the cooler features in new Lexi: the backup camera. Since they already had a color LCD display in most of the new models for the GPS navigation system, they went ahead and added a small digicam just above the rear license plate, to transmit video to the dash when the car’s in reverse. Very handy for getting in and out of parking spaces.

But how do they lead into the “story”?

Anyone who’s ever backed up over a hand-made Italian racing bike left casually in a driveway knows that awful crunchy sound, and equally awful feeling.

Just in case the table of contents had left me with any doubts, this confirms that I am not in their target demographic. I’m not sure which aspect of their opinion of their readers is worse: that they’re prone to conspicuous consumption, or that they’re stupid enough to leave a “hand-made Italian racing bike” behind a parked car.

Thursday, May 6 2004

Living with toxic waste

This list of Superfund reports covering the somewhat unpleasant contents of the Powell Road Landfill in Huber Heights, Ohio will not be of interest to many people, but it does matter to me.

Y’see, the landfill is located at 4060 Powell Road, and I spent the first seven years of my life living at 3970, approximately 200 yards away. I wasn’t surprised to hear that it was a Superfund site; one of the former owners quietly admitted to having received “suggestions” from obvious Mob types on what sort of dumping to allow. Since he had grandchildren, he kept his mouth shut and sold the place as soon as possible.

Coincidentally, this happened at about the same time that he encouraged us to move.

Investigating Abu Ghraib

A quick note to the folks who are pointing at the prisoner abuse scandal as proof that America is no better than Saddam Hussein: when his people did these things (and far, far worse), they were doing their master’s bidding; when some of our soldiers do it, they’re investigated, as high up the chain of command as the rot goes. Then they’re punished.

That is, Hussein ordered torture for punishment, while we order punishment for torture. Big difference.

Update: timeline of events surrounding the incidents.

Saturday, May 8 2004

The sort of Christians I can’t stand…

I’m a generally live-and-let-pray kind of guy. I have no personal interest in worship, but if you do, great. As long as you don’t burn science textbooks, blow up people, or show up at my front door to save me, we’re cool.

Unless you say things like this:

The first seminary class graduated in 2002. “They walked down the aisle in their rented caps and gowns, and their families cried,” Cain says. “One mother came to me and said, ‘I can’t understand my emotions. My son came to prison and found Jesus, and he’s graduated from seminary. He had to do this terrible crime to get to here.’ I told her maybe the victim didn’t die in vain.

No, of course not. He didn’t die in vain, he died in fear and pain so some vicious thug could become a minister. I feel so much better now. I’m sure the victim’s family does, too.

Sunday, May 9 2004

Another opinion poll

So I got a call at home today, asking me how I felt about Bush, Arnold, illegal immigration, and, in particular, driver’s licenses and health care for illegal immigrants.

As usual, there were some questions I couldn’t answer honestly, due to the phrasing. As usual, some of the benefits claimed by supporters of the current bill were either borderline lies or outright fantasy. Fortunately, one of the options was “I think this statement is not true”. I used that one a lot.

Most interesting was the very short list, by comparison, of reasons to oppose the bill. Either the opposition thinks they’ve got a slam-dunk and don’t need to give a long list of justifications, or the folks who commissioned the survey were stacking the deck in their favor. Personally, I didn’t find their list particularly persuasive, but I didn’t notice any obvious lies.

The final question was freeform, and asked how you think the illegal immigration issue should be handled. My answer was, more or less, “expand legal immigration instead; we need the workers, they want to come here, so do it right”.

There’s a giant lettuce field three blocks from my house. I drive by several more every day, and I know perfectly well that most of the people working on those farms are in California illegally. I don’t want to throw them out, I don’t want to turn them away at the border, but I also don’t want them to become accustomed to breaking any law that gets in the way of how they want to work and live. Giving them driver’s licenses simply rewards them for breaking the law.

I want to see them coming across the border openly, officially, with a clear legal status in both countries, good documentation, and a set of well-understood rules on what will get them sent home. And I want those rules to be enforced consistently and fairly, on employers and immigrants both, something I don’t think is the case today.

One interesting note in the survey. I was asked my opinion of three groups of people: legal immigrants, illegal immigrants, and “undocumented workers”. I asked him to define the third term. He had not been provided with a definition, and had to guess.

Tuesday, May 18 2004

“In the past week…”

“…how many times have you accessed the Internet, other than for email?”

Yup, another phone survey, this time asking me about local newspapers, radio, television stations, restaurants, and shopping malls, and use of the Internet for shopping and information. I racked up a pretty impressive string of “no” answers for old media, along with a few “they have a shopping district there?”.

My answer to the title question? “Two, maybe three hundred.” Her stunned silence lasted so long that I didn’t have the heart to tell her that my answer would have been much higher if I’d used the definition of “accessed” they probably intended.

Muslim extremists get some tongue

I’m not a big fan of Gene Simmons as a person, but then I only see him when he’s surrounded by groupies, and our only personal interaction consisted of him leaning over my shoulder making faces at one of my models. My interest in KISS is limited to Destroyer and the original Marvel graphic novel.

But the guy definitely isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Oversimplifies the issues a tad, like most celebrities, but at least he knows which side he’s on.

Tuesday, May 25 2004

You just can’t make this stuff up…

I present to you Organic homeopathic personal lubricant (menopause formula). I’m guessing that the less you use, the more effective it is, or something like that.

You really can’t make this stuff up…

Spanky The Clown arrested for kiddie porn.

Saturday, May 29 2004

So, it’s just about the freebies, then?

You know, I’d be a lot more comfortable with people who argue for the legality and ethical purity of sharing your CDs with thousands of anonymous strangers, if they didn’t also think it was cool to scam free copies at Kinko’s. Guess that EFF gig doesn’t pay much…

Wednesday, June 2 2004

Hey, at least they used a real number in their lie…

Number Watch has a real howler this month, with this scary quote from The Times:

The average 11-year-old girl now has a waist that is 2 inches bigger than that of a typical adult women 60 years ago.

The goal, of course, is to support a ban on junk-food ads in the UK, as part of the War on The Concept of Personal Responsibility Obesity. The problem?

2004 - 60 = 1944

Yes, it’s true. Families in the UK today are not faced with the severe food rationing of World War II, so their children will not grow up scrawny and malnourished. Hey, some of them might even be fat, but at least they can be, now.

Friday, June 4 2004

When guns are outlawed…

…screwed-up high school students will attack their peers with crossbows and Molotov cocktails.

So why isn’t he a “dozerman”?

Okay, this guy is a nut. Armor-plating your bulldozer and trying to demolish your home town over a zoning dispute is, well, just a touch beyond the acceptably eccentric.

Despite the fact that most of his preparations involved welding armor to his vehicle and methodically wiping out half a town with it, the fact that he was also “exchanging gunfire” with the police makes him a gunman. Yes, that’s the headline:

Gunman goes on bulldozer rampage

I’m thinking of printing up a new CNN t-shirt with the slogan “Got bias?”.

Update: The headline on the updated story now reads “Bulldozer rampage gunman dead”. No mention of anyone being injured by a single bullet during his property-destruction spree (in fact, another account mentions that he seemed to be deliberately trying to avoid injuring people), but he’s not a dozerman or an outraged small-business owner, or even just a nutcase. No, the partisan hacks at CNN see him first and foremost as a gunman.

Fox? “Crazed Man on Bulldozer Rampage Found Dead.” Their version also includes a lot more honest-to-gosh facts about the incident. Maybe there’s something to that “fair and balanced” slogan after all…

Update: a number of non-CNN accounts now cast doubt on the claims that he ever shot at the police who were trying to stop him, and have pretty much debunked the early claim that he had fired at propane tanks in an effort to trigger an explosion. Even the BBC, no stranger to “sexing-up” their reporting on the evils of guns, makes no mention of him shooting at anyone but himself. Nonetheless, it will be forever enshrined in CNN’s archives that he was a gunman, who just happened to damage a few buildings with a bulldozer.

Sunday, June 6 2004

“Look, everybody, I found Atlantis!”

“See, see, here it is!”

“No, we haven’t done any digging there, or carbon-dated any remains. Actually, we’ve never been there at all; it’s inside of a national park, you know. But if you interpret these satellite photos just right, it matches Plato’s description exactly!”

“Okay, we have to assume that Plato either deliberately understated the size of the city or that everyone has misinterpreted his era’s units of measurement by 20% or so, and that those goofy translators wrote ‘island’ where Plato meant ‘coastline,’ but these are trivial issues.”

“Well, trivial compared to the chance for me to get major publicity and a chance at serious funding, anyway.”

Your homework today is to decide how many of the seven warning signs of junk science this article demonstrates.

Tuesday, June 8 2004

Tort reform

[ah, the joys of arguing with friends; this little anecdote was originally composed for a mailing list of the friends I play card and board games with on weekends, one of whom described tort reform as “crippling the justice system”]

A few years back, I was foreman on a jury in the civil suit that came out of a car accident. A commercial driver ran a red light and hit some woman’s car, causing damage and injury. The insurance companies had already settled the car damage, the company and their driver openly took full responsibility, and the woman wasn’t seriously injured.

We nitpicked every line-item of her medical bills, knocking out some of the physical therapy and correcting their arithmetic. And then we gave her $20,000 for pain and suffering.

Personally, I thought that the number should have been $0, because they never disputed their responsibility or tried to evade paying for her legitimate medical bills. Maybe I’d have given her money for legal fees and other expenses if they’d tried to avoid paying, but they didn’t; their driver made a mistake, and they handled it properly.

I know I tend to have a somewhat… forceful personality, so I carefully hid my feelings on the subject and asked the rest of the jury if they thought she deserved any money for pain and suffering. Everyone said yes, and I asked if $1,000 was the right amount. By the time I got up to $5,000, I think three people agreed, but it wasn’t until I hit $20,000 that everyone was convinced it was enough.

I then asked if anyone thought $20,000 was excessive. No one spoke up. The immigrant-owned small business didn’t have great insurance, or they wouldn’t have been the defendants. They didn’t have much cash, or they’d probably have settled out of court. But we didn’t talk about the impact our decision would have on them; we talked about our own experiences with injuries and accidents, and how it feels to recover from them.

And that’s what I think about when someone mentions tort reform. There’s a good chance we crippled that small business, and no one even thought about it.

How many times does this happen every day, and how many times is it worse? By an order of magnitude or more? If we’d been dealing with the representative of a deep-pockets insurance company, would we have given her even more? How much more?

Thursday, June 10 2004

Okay, I can respect that

Richard Simmons never struck me as the sort of person who’d respond to criticism with physical violence, but when a burly 6-foot biker and cage fighter started making fun of his exercise videos at an autograph signing, he did.

Burly. 6-foot. Biker. Cage fighter. Richard Simmons. Smackdown.

The world is stranger than we imagine.

Friday, June 18 2004

Where have all the FoundViews gone?

Someone forwarded the story of the “lone Chernobyl motorcyclist” to Steven Den Beste, which naturally resulted in a lengthy and interesting article that has very little to do with Chernobyl, motorcycles, or the common Internet tendency to share wonderful, unlikely things with everyone you know.

I’m going to go in a different direction.

(Continued on Page 1993)

Thursday, June 24 2004

When Captain America is outlawed…

…only outlaws will have Captain America, I suppose. Cartoonist Scott Kurtz just discovered the hard way that a lot of the Left-leaning people who’ve been accused of hating America really do hate America. Even Captain America.

Last night, after the day started to wind down I logged into my favorite virtual world for some escape time. The City of Heroes game has been my online diversion of choice as of late. I really enjoy the game a lot.
I’ve tried just about every character type and I’m settling on my favorites. Last night, for fun, I decided to make myself a Captain America type hero…you know, go the whole patriotic route.

The typical reaction when his red, white, and blue hero appeared in public? “Ugh. I hate our country.” “How can you wave a flag of a country that kills other countries for oil we already have.” “Bush is an idiot.”

Kurtz’s response? A series of macros to quickly counter the reflexive anti-Americanism he’s running into. My favorite?

“I defeated Hitler’s reanimated body to defend your freedom to say that.”

Monday, June 28 2004

A song for the times

Got dragged into an argument by some frothing Lefties who reached multiple orgasms during Michael Moore’s new propaganda flick, and found a song running through my head:

999 shells filled with mustard gas,
999 known WMDs,
put one down, into the ground,
998 shells filled with mustard gas.

Thursday, July 1 2004

Saddam on trial

It occurs to me that Saddam Hussein can’t lose. Oh, he can lose the case, and maybe even his life, but in the Court of World Opinion, anything he says can and will be used against Bush.

Saddam says, “We had no WMDs,” and the press shouts “Bush lied!”

Saddam says, “Yes, we were continuing to develop WMDs to use and sell,” and the press orgasmically cries “Brainwashed by his American jailers!”

Okay, that’s the Western press; the Arab press is more likely to blame it on the Jews, Bush’s secret masters.

Michael Moore will blame it on the people who wrote critical reviews of his magnum opus, FearAndHate 911.

Saturday, July 3 2004

It’s just so… French

This story leaves me gasping for breath:

Norwegian authorities have fined a French tour guide nearly $1,500 for shooting a curious polar bear in the foot.

Officials later had to kill the animal, part of a protected species, the newspaper Aftenposten said.

The drama took place last month when the tour guide and her group of six tourists were waiting for a boat to pick them up at Van Mijenfjord after a land excursion.

A male polar bear suddenly appeared and started roaming toward them. The guide urged her group to run toward a nearby wooden structure but the bear followed.

The guide feared she would not have time to reload after a warning shot, so she wounded the bear in the foot. He hobbled away. Officials said she should have used emergency flares or other devices available to her to scare off the bear.

She was fined $1,436.

I’m surprised she didn’t surrender. Okay, cheap shot. What I’m really surprised about is that the moron survived. Let’s have a pop quiz. You’ve just been confronted by a giant carnivore that does not appear actively hostile. Do you: A) kill the bear, B) back away slowly and calmly while preparing to kill the bear if it charges, C) fire a warning shot to scare the bear away, D) panic and run, E) shoot the bear in the foot, or F) both D and E.

Perhaps the most curious line from the story is this one: The guide feared she would not have time to reload after a warning shot. So, she either had the wrong weapon for bear country or simply wasn’t competent with the right one, and because of this, she chose to wound a goddamn polar bear. Forget fining the nitwit, just ship her to grizzly country and let Ma Nature finish her off.

What’s Left if you’re not all Right

Another attempt to define where people sit on the political spectrum. Some of the questions are written in a way that makes an honest answer impossible, and like a lot of broken surveys they don’t offer a “neutral” response, but the results are still amusing.

(Continued on Page 2019)

Thursday, July 8 2004

Lileks on f911

I’m not generally a Read The Whole Thing kind of guy, but go read the whole thing.

Lots of good points, but I think this is my favorite:

Wait until France gets a hard shot in the nose. Wait until France reacts with some nasty work. They’ll get a golf-clap from the chattering class over here and a you-go-girl from Red America. France could nuke an Algerian terrorist camp and the rest of the world would tut-tut for a day, then ask if the missiles France used were for sale. And of course the answer would be oui.

Monday, July 12 2004

Your brother is dead, but you’re a moron

An Australian surfer died recently after being mauled by a shark. So what’s his brother’s reponse?

“I don’t believe that the shark should be killed just for the sake of what’s happened in this situation. I don’t believe that Brad can be revenged by killing a shark.”

Hate to break it to you, Steve, but the local authorities aren’t planning to kill it for “revenge.” They’re planning to kill it (if, and only if, they can conclusively identify the shark responsible) because carnivores that attack humans tend to repeat the act in the future, having discovered that humans are not only easy prey, but pretty darn tasty. Our place at the top of the food chain is not a result of animals recognizing our natural superiority; indeed, as ably chronicled in The Man-Eaters of Tsavo and other books, there are always a few predators who violently disagree with our position on that subject. I think that it’s in our best interests as a species to continue to press our claim.

I should note that the head curator at the Aquarium of Western Australia isn’t much brighter:

“If you hunt him, so what? A day later another one cannot come and kill someone else?”

Tuesday, July 13 2004

Reason’s “Ten Reasons To Fire George W. Bush”

Just for fun, and coming off of a weekend surrounded by true-red Lefties, I decided to see how Reason’s reasons affected my voting decision.

(Continued on Page 2031)

Wednesday, July 14 2004

CNN: all the news we like, we print

CNN has two stories today (here and here) on the Butler report of the investigation into British intelligence related to the war in Iraq. Neither story, not even the one headlined “Summary of conclusions,” includes any reference to yellowcake. Why not? Maybe it’s because the report said this:

We conclude that, on the basis of the intelligence assessments at the time, covering both Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the statements on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa in the Government’s dossier, and by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, were well-founded. By extension, we conclude also that the statement in President Bush’s State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that: “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” was well-founded.

But you can’t have people finding out that Bush’s famous “sixteen words” were true, or they might not vote for Kerry.

Saturday, July 17 2004

Elton John: censorship in the US is soooo much worse now than in the Sixties

Dear Elton, with reference to your recent statement that, unlike in the Sixties where people like Pete Seeger were out there speaking truth to power, entertainers today are “frightened by the administration’s bullying tactics,” I call to your attention the documentary Smothered — The Censorship Struggles of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

Note that unlike current entertainers such as Michael Moore, the producers of this enlightening film actually made an honest documentary.

By the way, where do you buy your drugs, or is this the result of giving them up?

“There was a moment about a year ago when you couldn’t say a word about anything in this country for fear of your career being shot down by people saying you are un-American.”

Wednesday, July 21 2004

I bet she voted for Gore

“She said someone should shoot you for defending the officer and lying to the public [and] that I should be hanging from a tree”

What was this caller angry about? The fact that agents of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shot and killed a runaway tiger. Apparently, she’s not the only Gore fan in the area, as the agency has received at least five death threats for their actions.

Because, as we all know, tigers are our friends, and want nothing more than peaceful coexistence with their human neighbors. Really, they’re just overgrown kittycats who would never dream of harming a human being. Just ask Roy.

Tough cops

Two police officers sent out to help stranded motorists deal with a flash flood were stuck by lightning. How did they respond? They got up off the ground and continued with the job, later driving themselves to a hospital to be checked out.

Tip for the day: never argue with a cop in eastern New Mexico.

Wednesday, July 28 2004

Smash fisks the Democrat platform

so you don’t have to. Great fun.

And, yes, I’m sure the Republican platform is at least as deserving, but this week it should be the Democrat’s turn, especially with the not-quite-front-page news about that suspected al-Qaeda operative sneaking into the US from Mexico.

Hey, didn’t Gray Davis, our man for giving driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, just speak at the Democratic convention?

Tuesday, August 3 2004

Got sleeping pills? Need some?

The iTunes Music Store has put up free audiobooks of the DNC speeches. Knock yourself out.

No, really.

If it saves twenty-five lives? Or is it fifteen? Or maybe none?

Okay, this story claims, without providing any of the details, that “safe gun storage” laws cut the teen suicide rates since their adoption in 1989. That is, the news report claims this, while the research paper (published in JAMA) simply says they may have cut suicide rates.

But by how much? First, they mention 300 less suicides between 1989 and 2001 for the 14-17 age group, and then they segue into a discussion of the number of suicides in the 14-20 age group. Sloppy reading on the reporter’s part, or is this a reflection of the actual research? And where are the rates that are mentioned in the headline? All I see are raw numbers.

Looking for real data, I found that the with-gun suicide rate for teens age 14-19 (and for other groups) has been declining for a while, but it peaked in 1994, five years after the “safe storage” laws in question. Interestingly enough, suffocation seems to be taking up the slack, although it’s not enough to stop the overall decline. It is enough to possibly account for the “prevented” with-gun suicides…

Wednesday, August 4 2004

Um, how was that again?

“…it offers a nonpartisan analysis of the PR-driven deception that has come to define George W. Bush’s presidency…”

Yup, that’s how you describe your new book when you want people to believe it’s (cough) fair and balanced.

Wednesday, August 18 2004

Free software? Good. Free speech? Only for the Left.

I guess you’d call these folks Geeks Against Democracy:

“We want to bombard (the Republican sites) with so much traffic that nobody can get in”

Wednesday, August 25 2004

Thank goodness for gun control!

Just think, if it weren’t for their tough gun control laws, Canadian criminals would have access to dangerous weapons. Oh, wait:

Inside the van, police found 15 guns and as much as 135 kilograms of explosives. The firearms included automatic weapons, semi-automatic machine guns and handguns.

Extra credit to the ignorant or malicious reporter who wrote the absurd phrase “semi-automatic machine guns”.

Note that they don’t say why they think the van belonged to an organized crime group rather than, say, terrorists. It’s not like it was parked next to embassies or anything like that.

Oh, wait.

Thursday, August 26 2004

“I’m going to dance at them”

John Perry Barlow on how to freak out Republicans attending the Convention:

Along with fifty or sixty others, I’m going to dance at them. Dividing ourselves into several platoons of guerrilla dancers disguised as ordinary pedestrians, we are going to roam the sidewalks in Republican rich zones, periodically erupting into wild and inexplicable explosions of dancing. We will sustain these for a few minutes before melting back into the crowd and heading off to strike someplace else. I believe this will throw them off their game just slightly, since most of them don’t or won’t dance and are unsettled by those who do.

Emphasis added. Can you be a little more clueless, Johnny?

Update: Al Franken’s even dimmer, not that this should have surprised anyone. He wants people to respond to Bush’s convention speech with, well, primal scream therapy, and he honestly seems to think that people like him are a clear majority:

On September 2nd, 2004, at approximately 10 pm, George W. Bush will appear on television screens nationwide. For some of our fellow citizens, this will be a moment of joy. But for most of us, it will be the low point of an incredibly exasperating week.

The more I see this sort of nonsense, the more I expect a landslide victory for Bush. Not that the Left will accept the results as legitimate, of course.

Monday, August 30 2004

Vote Kerry: your inner child will thank you

Assault, resisting arrest, prank calls to 911, arson, and lobbing piss balloons at cops. Michael Moore and Jesse Jackson just melted right into this crowd of thoughtful adults peacefully exercising their right to interfere with someone else’s free speech.

Thanks for reminding everyone that the Left is filled with angry children who throw tantrums when the grown-ups don’t let them do whatever they want. Now if only they’d all take their balls and go home.

Hmm, that didn’t come out quite right…

Update: …and it continues. More arson, more violence, more anti-war activists attacking people who disagree with them, and, yes, all cops are once again pigs. Oink, oink.

Maybe they should have asked the firefighters to help out with the security. Their service on 9/11 seems to have rendered them relatively immune to the typical Leftist contempt for authority, and in a pinch they could really bring back the old days by turning the hoses on these clowns.

Update: As for how the mainstream media is covering this compared to the web, I’m reminded of this scene from MIB:

Agent K on believing what you read

Thursday, September 2 2004

“acts of civil disobedience,” you say?

Ahem:

Police said that among items confiscated from protesters were gas masks, homemade forearm pads and other types of protective gear, marbles, spray paint and razors and jagged-edged wooden poles.

Stalking the Norwegian Moonbat with gun and camera…

Coming soon from a socialist state near you: “Sugar is just as dangerous as tobacco.”

Me, I’m, as they say, koo-koo for Cocoa Puffs. Or maybe Honeycomb.

Wednesday, September 8 2004

Reasons to vote for Bush, #347

Dateline, France:

If the world could cast a vote in the United States presidential election, John Kerry would beat George W. Bush by a landslide, according to a poll released on Wednesday that is described as the largest sample of global opinion on the race.

Some of Kerry’s biggest supporters? France, Germany, and Mexico. They apparently didn’t poll North Korea, Syria, or Iran, likely because Kerry would have gotten 117% of the vote in each. No fair making things too obvious for the readers…

Thursday, September 9 2004

Why is this news? Either part?

Today’s tempest in a teapot is the publication of recently-discovered memos that appear to demonstrate that a young George W. Bush slacked off in his last year of National Guard service, and the not-terribly-convincing claim that these memos are obvious forgeries created using the default settings in Microsoft Word.

It strikes me that both sides of this little newsblip are remarkably silly things to stake your credibility on. It’s not news that young W was a slacker, it’s part of his official biography. As for the forgery claims, they’re filled with misconceptions about typewriters (“no proportional fonts in 1973!”) and typography (“look at the kerning!”), and surrounded with a glow of “bloggers kick the mainstream media’s arrogant asses again, boo-yah!.”

One of the few cautious commenters on LGF got to the heart of it: the people dancing in their cubicles over this amateur sleuthing would absolutely crucify a Leftie who tried to bash a pro-Bush document with the same flimsy evidence. Why should it surprise anyone that the default template in Word is set up to resemble a good typewriter, with one of the most common fonts in the world?

The question for Right-bloggers to ask is not “how foolish can we make the Boston Globe and CBS look?” but “how foolish will we look if it’s not a fake, and CBS’ original holds up to inspection?”. It’s already been claimed that new copies of the documents have been provided by the White House after the AP made an FOIA request, although no one has provided a direct link to the new copies.

As for the Globe and CBS, the question is “Will anyone actually care about this, or will it just keep the focus on Vietnam, where Kerry already has plenty of problems?”.

Update: Belatedly, it occurs to me that the memo can be both authentic and word-processed. If Killian was working on his memoirs before his death in the Eighties, he may well have had someone transcribe his old hand-written memos.

Update: The most convincing argument for fraud, I think, is not Charles’ recreation of the memo in Word, but CBS’ inability to defend their source or their verification process. Even if they were caught flat-footed yesterday, they should have been able to respond today, even if their response was to say “your experts are looking at a scanned fax, and ours have the original.” They haven’t done that, instead issuing a CYA memo of their own, promising an investigation into the allegations.

There’s still a lot of misinformation floating around among the pro-forgery crowd that makes them look a bit foolish. Many of them have finally discovered that proportional type was not a creation of the digital age, although some still have using it confused with the difficulty of justifying type on a typewriter. Quite a few are still laboring under the delusion that kerning is somehow part of the smoking-gun proof, despite the fact that kerning is turned off by default in Word, and is completely irrelevant even if they’re forgeries. And there’s the poor expert whose statements were so garbled by INDC that he sounds like a complete buffoon who thinks that only digital-era Times New Roman has a “4” with a closed top and no foot, or, worse, that Times itself is somehow a new font.

In the end, I still can’t find much reason to care about this story. The biggest impact it has on me is slowing down popular web sites by flooding them with traffic.

Update: Apparently, Dan Rather has personally staked his credibility, integrity, and career on this story by going on CNN and defending the memos. CBS News is backing him up and insisting that earlier reports of an internal investigation were false. They’ve raised the stakes, but their opponents don’t have to take the same risk to stay in the game. Not smart, unless they’ve really, really got a secret weapon.

Saturday, September 11 2004

As mostly pointless, rarely enforced laws go…

…I’d have to say that this one is pretty inoffensive. It is now illegal in California to have sex with corpses. Multi-millionaires who haven’t quite kicked off yet are still fair game, to the relief of gold-diggers and their prey.

I was going to say that this was a law “I could get behind,” but that just sounds wrong somehow.

[technically, this one falls into the “Reasons to keep an eye on JWZ’s LiveJournal” category, but consistency gobbles the mind’s little hobs, or some such.]

Tuesday, September 14 2004

“What if Bush wins”…

I’m still reading, but so far, I think every single member of this panel of experts assembled by Washington Monthly is, um, smoking crack. With a side order of rabies.

Wednesday, September 15 2004

Pushing back the Borders…

I figure the best response to this, whether it reflects widespread Borders employee opinion or not, is to ride down there tonight, walk in wearing my motorcycle jacket and Call of Cthulhu Elder Sign t-shirt, and buy copies of Unfit for Command, Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man, a few gun magazines, a copy of Playboy, a red-meat-oriented cookbook, the latest issue of The Skeptical Enquirer, and a pile of translated manga.

That ought to confuse them.

As for the predictable outrage at discovering that chain bookstore employees tend to be virulently Leftie college students, I can only ask, “…and this surprises you how, exactly?”.

Of course, used bookstore employees lean to the Left in my experience as well, but at least they tend to be older and more well-rounded in their opinions. Like the guy who bored me stiff at ConQuest talking about San Francisco politics and the editorials he writes for a local communist paper, but who was happy to shift the topic to “guns that are fun to shoot” when my lack of interest in the Commies and Greens became obvious. Oh, and I hope he didn’t burn off too much hair lighting that cigarette; at our age, it doesn’t come back as easily.

Thursday, September 16 2004

Out with the chad, in with the pencil

Just received the bilingual instructions for how to vote in Monterey County in the November elections. Apparently we’re abandoning the aging punch-card machines in favor of an optical scan system that requires you to draw a line completing an arrow that points to your choice.

They’re also encouraging everyone to apply for absentee ballots to avoid long lines due to the projected record-high turnout.

Wednesday, September 22 2004

“Obedience to the law is freedom”

In their continuing efforts to ban all forms of discrimination except anti-Americanism, the EU Commission has ruled that it’s illegal to reject potential roommates and tenants based on their gender, even if you’re, say, a battered women’s shelter.

It’s claimed the new ruling would also prevent insurance companies from offering lower rates to women, despite their longer lives and lower car-accident rates. ’Cause that’s sex-based discrimination, y’see, and any sort of discrimination is always wrong.

Coming soon, new laws prohibiting discrimination against ugly people who want to be cover models, fat people who want to be runway models, infants who want to drive backhoes, and grade-school dropouts who want to be doctors. Or at least EU commissioners.

It’s time for a movement to decriminalize “discrimination”. It is not inherently a dirty word, despite decades of negative associations. I discriminate dozens of times every day, and I’m damn proud of it. I discriminate against the restaurants that have given me food poisoning, against bad drivers when they suddenly realize they need to merge into my lane, against any store whose prices are too high or whose employees are rude, and, in my most shocking admission, I cheerfully discriminate against unattractive women when girl-watching or chatting up potential models.

I discriminate quite viciously when buying groceries. Not just by getting my steaks at Costco (the only place that cuts them nice and thick), my cocktail sausages at Dorothy McNett’s Place, or my bagels at the Safeway on Shoreline (where they don’t overbake them, and still have a decent selection at 11pm), but by spending most of my money at Nob Hill. Because they don’t use those stupid customer-tracking “savings” cards.

Okay, they also have the best-looking female employees, at least in my neighborhood. But I even discriminate against most of them when they offer to push my cart full of groceries out to my car. Only Danielle gets to do that…

Thursday, September 23 2004

Oh, the humanity…

Today’s musical question is “How Berkeley Can You Be?

In between the Commies, the America Last Coalition, the all-purpose wackos, and the people who think “bush” puns are actually funny, the true answer is revealed: Klingon cat-girls (no, I’m not going to host a copy of this picture here…). Says it all for me.

Sunday, September 26 2004

Any questions?

How UN inspectors helped Iraqis:

Adnan Abdul Karim Enad’s relatives were shocked to see him clambering into a UN inspector’s jeep on January 25 clutching a notebook and screaming “Save me! Save me!” in Arabic. A UN inspector sat motionless in the front seat as Iraqi guards pulled the 29-year-old man out of the car and carried him away by his arms and legs.

How US troops helped Iraqis:

Amnesty International has learned that ‘Adnan ‘Abdul Karim Enad is safe and free. He and other detainees were said to have escaped from a prison in al-Ramadi, about 80 miles from Baghdad, after it was abandoned by prison guards in mid-April.

Friday, October 1 2004

On the finding of weapons of mass destruction

Sometimes, it takes a hurricane or three to uncover leftover bombs. Left over from World War II, that is.

Thursday, October 21 2004

Mock election mocks Kerry

LGF links to the mock election held by Channel One (a satellite broadcaster targeting 12,000 middle/junior/high schools in the US). Their last two mock elections have apparently matched the actual results pretty well, so who did they pick for president? The picture says it all:

Teen Bush Landslide

That’s 73% of the electoral votes for Bush, 27% for Kerry. Personally, I’ve been betting on 60/40, but can you imagine how the wackier Lefties would respond to these results?

Wednesday, October 27 2004

I’ve seen worse political quizzes

This one isn’t bad. It correctly divines that while no one truly represents me (“ideal theoretical candidate”, 100%), I’d generally be inclined to vote Libertarian (Badnarik, 69%), if it weren’t for my compelling interest in the survival of western civilization (Bush, 63%).

It puts Kerry at 44% for me, but it’s not clear how recently they’ve checked his positions on the issues. I’ll have to try again tomorrow and see if the same answers produce different results…

Thursday, October 28 2004

Snowball, Infernal, Improved Chances Thereof

What appears to be an op-ed in Germany’s largest newspaper is getting a lot of attention for endorsing Bush, and laying out the reasons he’s a better choice than Kerry.

My German is far too shaky for me to tell if this is the paper’s official endorsement or “the opinion of one of our columnists,” but either way I can see heads exploding on both sides of the Atlantic. This site appears to have an accurate translation of the reasons given in the article. It’s, um, refreshing reading, and far more sane than the hallway conversation I had today at work.

Friday, October 29 2004

October Surprise

So if the new moveon.org ad bin Laden video is real, and current, and says what is claimed, then I think it is the most persuasive pro-Bush argument that has been made in the last six months. The only way it could possibly be positive for Kerry is if he can prove that it was written, directed, and produced by Karl Rove, with Bush working the camera and Cheney running the teleprompter.

I’m much more concerned with how much candy to buy for Halloween, though. Last year’s depressing turnout left me wondering whether I should go light and risk running out, or stock up and take any leftovers to the office.

And then I remembered The Bush Tax Cut, and stocked up. I’ve got about fifty pounds of assorted goodies in my big Igloo cooler, and I may run out to Costco tomorrow to buy some more.

Remember: Osama bin Laden is dedicated to the destruction of a society so decadent that it not only has four different kinds of Snickers bar (standard, Cruncher, Almond, and Marathon), but allows you to purchase them from an unmarried young woman who bares her face in public and knows how to read and write.

And he’s for Kerry.

Update: Walter Cronkite announced in a Larry King interview that he sincerely believes that Karl Rove “probably set up bin Laden to this thing”. I guess now we know what kind of smoke that whole “smoking gun” thing refers to.

Saturday, October 30 2004

Dear terrorists,

When claiming credit for kidnapping and murdering an American citizen in Iraq on your propaganda websites, try not to pick a victim who is alive and well and living in Detroit, and who would be very interested to learn how you got her name and an old driver’s license photo.

Monday, November 1 2004

All the other kids are doing it…

My official endorsement for President: Bush.

Why? Because the small percentage of his enemies, foreign and domestic, who are not already batshit insane will become so should he win decisively.

There are all sorts of things I dislike about Bush, particularly his domestic policies and the over-hyped but still real abuses committed in the name of “Homeland Security” (even though Gore would have done exactly the same had he won), but when it comes to foreign policy, there’s no contest. Bush has one, Kerry has none.

Tuesday, November 2 2004

I love the suburbs

Just got back from voting. I had a 45-minute wait as the 30 or so people ahead of me in line deciphered the new connect-the-arrows ballots, but that gave me plenty of time to look over my fellow citizens, and I liked what I saw. Blue collar. Veterans. Parents.

And not a single parasitic “observer”. Just us citizens, exercising the franchise.

Wednesday, November 3 2004

Kerry in Ohio?

Kerry and Edwards are determined to go down swinging, but down they’re going. Setting aside the inevitable frivolous lawsuits, their hopes are pinned on winning Ohio’s electoral votes, because they’ve already lost the popular vote.

Unfortunately, as of 5:09 AM EST, the vote stands at 2,791,912 for Bush and 2,653,046 for Kerry. That’s a lead of 138,866, with a projected 175,000 provisional ballots that won’t be counted until 11 days from now. Assuming that all of those ballots survive the inevitable challenge, Kerry needs to win 156,933 of them to tie in Ohio. That’s 90% of the expected new voters, just to muddy the results enough to make for a plausible lawsuit, and only if they’re all upheld as valid (which is highly unlikely).

Update: he’s toast. The official count of provisional ballots issued is 135,149, which is smaller than Bush’s final lead. It’s over, and the winner has a clear majority in both the popular and electoral votes.

Update: Highest nationwide voter turnout since 1968, first candidate to win a majority of the popular vote since 1988, and otherwise rational people are still saying things like “225 years is a pretty good run for a republic, historically speaking”. And that’s one of the saner sore losers I’ve seen today.

Poll nonsense

Despite the manifest failure of the pollsters to predict the result of yesterday’s election with any accuracy, today’s news is still filled with poll-fueled “explanations” of Bush’s victory.

I was never polled. There were no exit pollsters present at my designated voting location. There were also no monitors, observers, challengers, organizers, protesters, reporters, etc, etc. Just voters.

So, before you start believing the conclusions of the same pundits who were dead wrong yesterday, consider this Bush voter:

  • Native Ohioan, current Californian.
  • Age 37.
  • Single.
  • Straight.
  • Atheist.
  • Vaguely white (Native American, but never cared enough to fill out the required paperwork; also Polish, French, German, English, Irish, etc).
  • Speaks some French and German, currently learning Japanese, lives in largely Spanish-speaking community.
  • College-educated.
  • Employed, earning over $100,000/year.
  • Rode out the tech bubble just fine, thanks.
  • Fiscally conservative.
  • Believes in absolute equality of opportunity for all.
  • Strongly supports war in Iraq.
  • Strongly opposed previous war in Iraq.
  • Frequent Libertarian voter.
  • Voted for Schwarzenegger.
  • Homeowner.
  • Telecommuter.
  • Pro-gay.
  • Pro-gun.
  • Pro-choice.
  • Pro-drug-legalization.
  • Pro-America.
  • Pro-immigrant.
  • Pro-diversity.
  • Pro-environment.
  • Anti-ecoterrorist.
  • Pro-animal.
  • Anti-PETA.
  • Pro-hunting.
  • Non-hunter.
  • Passionately despises cigarette smoke.
  • Pro-smoker’s-rights.
  • Pro-tort-reform.
  • Motorcycle rider.
  • Pin-up photographer.
  • Adult products consumer.
  • Habitual reader.
  • SF fan.
  • Anime fan.
  • Comics fan.
  • Music fan.
  • Music purchaser.
  • iPod owner.
  • Mac user.
  • PC user.
  • Gamer.
  • Poker player.
  • Casino gambler.
  • Dislikes beer and wine.
  • Collects single-malt scotch.
  • Enjoys cooking.
  • Eats red meat.
  • Dislikes organized sports.
  • Hosts Superbowl party every year.
  • Always carries a pocket knife.
  • Always carries a Zippo.
  • Has been on Internet since the Eighties.
  • Goes barefoot or wears sandals whenever possible.
  • Does not own a suit.
  • Has not worn a suit in twelve years.
  • Has shared breakfast with Hugh Hefner, at the Playboy Mansion.
  • Doesn’t much care for kids, but gives away Halloween candy by the half-pound to every little monster who stops by.
  • Will drive 1,000 miles in a single day rather than take a plane, out of disgust for current airport “security” policies.

Kerry/Edwards never had a chance at my vote.

Now, Zell on the other hand…

Saturday, November 6 2004

Yours for honest political cartography

The red-blue map is deceptive. The shades-of-purple map is actively counterproductive. The area-adjusted-for-population (“cartogram”) shades-of-purple map is simply absurd.

  1. Human beings are good at comparing shades of gray.
  2. Human beings are poor at comparing shades of color.
  3. Common forms of color-blindness render “shades of purple” indistinguishable.
  4. Human beings are good at comparing lengths.
  5. Human beings are poor at comparing areas.
  6. Human beings are even worse at comparing volumes, so don’t even think of going there.

What to do? Produce two maps: one in which percentage of support for Bush is represented from 0% (white) to 100% (black), and another in which the same is done for Kerry. When the data becomes available, do this at the precinct level.

If you really feel the urge to adjust for population, then on both maps, project each county/precinct up by the number of residents who voted for that candidate, and publish the results as a true 3-D map (QuickTime VR, VRML, whatever) that can be rotated and zoomed. Resist the urge to project the opposition candidate’s areas down; comparing the length of lines going in different directions isn’t a good idea either.

Update: Source of and links to a bunch of deceptive El-04 maps here.

Update: this one is much closer to useful than the rest, although the perspective makes it difficult to fairly compare populations (give me a 3-D walkthrough!). Thanks, Bill.

county-level El-04 results with population on the Z axis

Tuesday, November 9 2004

Um, “what he said”

Dean Esmay answers John Perry Barlow. Personally, I gave up about halfway through the original, bored to tears by Barlow’s frankly one-dimensional characterization of the people he’s trying to “understand”.

Friday, November 12 2004

Headline of the day

Heck, I could have told them this years ago:

Leaders pay tribute to Arafat

Oh, wait, they’re using the other definition of “pay tribute”.

Thursday, November 25 2004

Before you move to France to escape Bush’s tyranny…

…make sure you know what civil rights you’re giving up:

France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network. French anti-terrorism prosecutors and investigators are among the most powerful in Europe, backed by laws that allow them to interrogate suspects for days without interference from defense attorneys.

Sunday, December 12 2004

Snake-oil alert!

I’m sorry, but Matsushita lost my battery business right here:

Reporters were also shown audio players powered by a regular battery vs. Oxyride. The one with Oxyride delivered a stronger, deeper bass, and Matsushita officials said some music experts express a preference for Oxyride.

Yes, not only does their battery last significantly longer in portable devices, it makes them sound better, too. I’m surprised they didn’t also claim that it improves the contrast on your digital camera.

Wednesday, December 15 2004

Hey, Fark, ya mistagged this one!

The government of the city of San Francisco wants to ban all private possession of handguns. Oddly, Fark tagged it as Misc. I’d have gone with Asinine or Dumbass, myself.

Money quote:

Barnes said the initiative is a response to San Francisco’s skyrocketing homicide rate, as well as other social ills.

Yes, their response to a “skyrocketing homicide rate” is to make sure that only people who disobey the law have guns. And government agents, of course. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise to the four remaining gun owners in SF, of course; the city hounded the gun-shop owners out years ago, and if there’s one thing they can’t stand in San Francisco, it’s people who don’t conform.

Friday, December 17 2004

AP phone poll

Got an amusing phone poll tonight, by some company called Ipsos, on behalf of the AP. They led off by asking about approval of Bush and Congress, then asked if I liked NASCAR racing, then a series of questions about ice cream as a comfort food and “relationship bonding” tool, then New Years resolutions about diet/lifestyle, then pizza delivery chains, then specifically about Dominos Pizza, then about Dominos’ sponsorship of NASCAR, then buying prescription drugs from Canada and Mexico, then whether I was some variety of born-again or evangelical Christian, and finally the usual demographics.

Each segue was accompanied by the words “now on an unrelated topic”. Unrelated, my ass; they were definitely trying to tie things together to support a predetermined conclusion. About the only thing they left out was the gay-rights issue.

I’m quite certain that my answers won’t fit their spin. :-)

Monday, January 31 2005

The index finger is for the terrorists…

…the middle finger is for Michael Moore.

V for Victory

Monday, March 14 2005

Thank goodness he wasn’t allowed to own a gun, eh?

…shame none of the witnesses were, either: man beheaded with axe on London street.

Sadly, it sounds like the witnesses weren’t the sort who’d have done anything even if they’d had the means. At least half a dozen people stood there and watched for several minutes, and all they did was politely ask him to stop chopping up his victim.

Monday, March 21 2005

Apparently I’m supposed to have an opinion…

…about Terry Schiavo. It seems to be one of the most important issues in the country, judging from the amount of ink, pixels, and heat that it’s generating.

After reading up on the facts of the case (well-referenced and presented with a refreshing lack of bias), I think the key point is that the medical experts agree that her brain scans consistently show that there is little or nothing remaining of her cerebral cortex. That is, the portions of the brain responsible for everything we associate with a functional living being are just plain gone (sorry, Rachel, but your analogy fell apart the moment your arthritic dog licked himself).

The only debate between the doctors is whether she has a small amount of isolated living tissue in her cerebral cortex or whether she has no living tissue in her cerebral cortex.

I’m not familiar with any existing or promised medical procedure that promises to grow a new brain, and even if one existed, that person would have little or nothing in common with the previous occupant of that body. Unless you believe in miracles, Terry Schiavo can never wake up, because she’s not there any more.

Since I don’t think the courts have any business basing their decisions on the likelihood of a miracle occurring, they must balance the medical testimony against the emotional appeal of the family. The judge chose medicine, which sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

I don’t actually care if the family manages to win the right to keep her body running on life support for another fifteen years. I think it’s a pretty morbid way of coping with loss, but they’ve apparently got the money to do it, so who am I to interfere?

I do care about politicians and pundits suddenly pretending to care about her. It reminds me of the old VH-1 Earth Day commercial “we’re not doing it because everyone is doing it, we’re doing it until everyone is doing it”, one of the more blatant lies in the history of environmental activism.

Update: The American Council on Science and Health speaks up.

Tuesday, April 12 2005

Drat those domain squatters!

Alleged cat-lovers in Wisconsin are up in arms over a proposed law to allow hunting of feral cats. The web site for their campaign is dontshootthecat.com.

Sadly, shootthecat.com is a slow-loading artist’s site that has no connection to this issue, and doesn’t even seem to have any pictures of cats. Pity. Maybe some bird-lovers should buy the domain from him and highlight some of the unrealistic arguments being made against the legislation.

Personally, I’ve had run-ins with feral cats, and they ain’t the family pet Fluffy. They’re carnivorous wild animals, which makes them at least as big a pest as the gophers and skunks that are already legal to shoot in Wisconsin. More so, probably; I don’t think Wisconsin’s skunks are killing tens of millions of songbirds each year.

I love their support for “trap, neuter, and release”, by the way. If the estimate of two million feral cats in Wisconsin is even vaguely correct, the best they can hope for is weeding out the stupid ones, leaving only the cleverest cats running loose to breed. That’ll fix things for sure!

[Disclaimer: I like cats, enjoy seeing them roaming through the jungle that is my back yard, and once adopted a semi-feral cat who was in danger of being shot by a local farm-owner. I still think it’s stupid and irresponsible to allow them to roam free without a collar or neutering, so I have no sympathy for people who do so.]

Thursday, April 14 2005

Dear IRS,

No, I’m not going to send you an additional $35,000 dollars for my 2003 taxes. Do you people even grasp the concept of stock option sales? Did you forget that we just went through this for 2002, and you didn’t get the money that time, either?

Love, J

[kind of makes me glad none of my options were worth selling in 2004…]

Sunday, April 17 2005

Can we get signs like this for people?

California Rattlesnakes

The state of California insists that rattlesnakes have a right to self-defense. What a pity they don’t extend that same right to law-abiding citizens. Perhaps we’re not considered “important members of the community”. (via lgf, etc)

Friday, July 8 2005

“Chickenhawk”: childish name-calling or disingenious debating tactic?

Based on these comments over at Cold Fury, I’m going to have to say “both”. It’s not just a baseless insult, it’s a way to avoid discussing the issues by insisting that your opponent is not allowed to disagree with you.

Conveniently, if your opponent has served in a war, you can dodge the debate again by calling him a “baby-killer”. Both are about as productive as Ann Coulter calling everyone to her Left a “traitor”.

In the spirit of chicken-labeling, though, I decided to see how the argument held up when applied to other contentious public policy issues:

  • If you support gay marriage without sucking dick yourself, you’re a chickencock.
  • If you oppose privatizing Social Security without relying on it as your sole method of retirement planning, you’re a chickenstock.
  • If you insist that organic agriculture should replace conventional without saving your own waste products for fertilizer, you’re a chickenshit.
  • If you insist that violence is always wrong but call the cops when someone mugs you, you’re a chickenpacifist.
  • If you oppose legal abortion without adopting, you’re a chickenparent.

I could go on, but I can’t come up with a single example that isn’t trivial, silly, or dishonest. Just like the original.

Sunday, July 17 2005

Dogpile on the creationist

I’m afraid I’ve lost patience with Joe’s sophistry over at the usually-enlightening Cold Fury. I didn’t expect anyone’s responses to change his mind; nearly two decades on Usenet convinced me that the best you can hope for is that you’ll give the audience something to chew on for a bit. Still, he’s so ignorant about science, and so convinced that he understands it, that you just have to slow down as you drive by and check the accident scene for bodies.

[In truth, I didn’t actually have much patience with him when I initially jumped in, because reading the previous responses made it clear that he wasn’t actually engaged in honest debate on the subject. And it amused me that the forces of science and reason were so ably represented by an old friend and new co-worker.]

Thursday, August 4 2005

“Intelligent Design” vs. science

With Bush’s latest wishy-washy statement on the subject getting a lot of attention, I thought I’d repost my comment from the creationist “debate” over at Cold Fury:

Joe said: I see a building, and I can recognize that it was created by some intelligence, for some purpose. I may not know how it was built, or for what purpose, but the form and symmetry and structure (the sides are plumb and level, etc.) tell me it was created by intelligent design, and not a random occurance of stone and glass.

I answered: Setting aside the strawman nature of this analogy, imagine two men confronted with this building. One devotes his life to methodically studying what it’s made of and how it was built. The other guy sacrifices a goat in front of it once a month.

If you went to these men and asked them what they knew about the building, the first guy would show you his notes, explain his methods, and present the evidence for his claims. The second guy would ask if you had any spare goats.

Intelligent Design is what you get when the second guy pretends to adopt the methods and terminology of the first in order to talk you out of your goats.

The lesson that Jeff and I took away from this experience can be summed up as follows:

(Continued on Page 2366)

Thursday, August 18 2005

Rural wilding

[Update: Cox & Forkum agree…]

What could possibly go wrong?

Scientists are proposing reintroducing large mammals such as elephants, lions, cheetahs and wild horses to North America to replace populations lost 13,000 years ago.

My favorite line is this one, which tells me that they’re shoveling elephant dung disguised as “science”:

Reintroducing the modern relatives of the Late Pleistocene losers to North America could spark fresh interest in conservation, contribute to biodiversity and begin to put right some of the wrongs caused by human activities.

No mention of the fact that elephants are incredibly destructive to the environment, and that their populations are exploding in parts of Africa that forbid hunting.

No, wait, I lied. This is my favorite line:

“Free-roaming, managed cheetahs in the southwestern United States…”

Sounds like they’re really trying to manage the ecotourist population. :-)

Saturday, August 27 2005

History is written by the winners moonbats

While in the book store last week, I picked up A History of Japan, by Conrad Totman. I didn’t make it past the preface before the bullshit was too deep to wade through. Quoting:

Today we find ourselves at a point where the level of human exploitation of the ecosystem appears to be throwing the entire global biome into crisis. The Earth is now home to well over six billion people, but in fact this small planet’s current biological production is not remotely capable of sustaining those people in the manner to which they are accustomed, much less the manner to which they aspire.

This, he says, is why he decided to write a book about Japanese history. Skimming ahead and checking the reviews, it appears his “ecological” approach to history taints the contents from cover to cover, coloring both which facts he chooses to include, and how he interprets them.

I have rarely felt the urge to return a book to the store based on its content, but a historian who so thoroughly injects his personal politics into the material simply isn’t worth reading.

Friday, September 2 2005

Adventures in pop culture

Last night, I stopped at the Valley Fair mall in San Jose on the way home. It’s a common Silicon Valley shopping destination. You can find all sorts of high tech toys there, and there are large Apple and Sony stores. They even have a kiosk that sells the Rosetta Stone language software I’m fond of. I had an iPod Shuffle clipped to my shirt, and a shiny new Sony Playstation Portable sticking out of a bag.

In a nearby store, the clerk looked at my Shuffle and asked what it was. She said she’d seen two others recently, and hadn’t asked their owners. I said “iPod Shuffle”. She said “what’s an iPod?”. I explained. She thought it sounded difficult to use, since she’s just getting started on that “Internet” thing. I told her how easy it was to set up, and pointed her to the large Apple store for free demonstrations.

As we finished this discussion, the next customer in line noticed my PSP. Recognizing the logo, he asked if it was “some kind of Playstation”. I explained, and his eyes widened at the concept of a portable Playstation. I pointed him to the large Sony store for free demonstrations.

Then I escaped to the security of my car, before someone asked about my cellphone…

[note that both of these people were under the age of 35]

Saturday, November 19 2005

A new low in gaming lawsuits

I’m sorry, but this is bullshit so raw that even a Democratic presidential hopeful wouldn’t touch it:

The parents filed a suit against Blizzard Entertainment on Wednesday, saying their son jumped to his death while reenacting a scene from the game, the report said.

What scene would that be? The one where you deliberately send your character off the edge of a cliff, knowing that he’ll die when he hits the ground? Or did he leave a note saying that he was going to teleport to the top of the Twin Colossals and try out that cool new Parachute Cloak he picked up at the Auction House in Gadgetzan? Or did these loving parents just not pay enough attention to their kid to notice that he was suicidally depressed?

If this cash-grab fails, no doubt they’ll turn up a witness who claims that the kid was shouting “Accio Firebolt!” on the way down, and sue J.K. Rowling next.

Wednesday, November 23 2005

Thank you, University of Kansas

I’m delighted to see Intelligent Design being given the serious attention it deserves:

A course being offered next semester by the university religious studies department is titled “Special Topics in Religion: Intelligent Design, Creationism and other Religious Mythologies.”

Wednesday, December 14 2005

Yeah, what he said

I love the Internet. Whenever someone writes about how a certain group of people behave, inevitably commenters will prove his point by example. Either they’re not reading past the first paragraph, or they’re so self-absorbed that they simply can’t recognize themselves in his words.

The third possibility is that they’re just drive-by commenters who don’t even bother to read the words of someone who disagrees with them, and just regurgitate reflexively.

Saturday, December 17 2005

A busy month


12/7/2005
Oral final exam for Japanese 1. Get fitted for a tux.
12/9/2005
Fly to Las Vegas, to…
12/10/2005
Walk my sister down the aisle for her wedding.
12/11/2005
Turn 39, then fly home for…
12/12/2005
Written final for Japanese 1.
12/13/2005
Buy my first suit.
12/14/2005
Last class for Japanese 1, deliver small gifts to the teacher and her two assistants. While this could be interpreted as oseibo, in truth two of the gifts were an excuse for the third. I’m quite taken with the youngest one.
12/15/2005
Three-hour flight to Minneapolis, three-hour layover, two more hours to Dayton, Ohio, in order to be…
12/17/2005
Best man at my brother’s wedding.
12/21/2005
Flying home to sleep it off.

I’m a bit fuzzy on just how many brothers and sisters I’ve acquired in the past week, a lively mix of Canadians and Ukrainians.

PS: my mother did not in fact die from the shock of seeing me dress formally twice in the same century.

Saturday, February 18 2006

A Republican Victory in 2008…

Here’s a nice demonstration of how the Republican Party started winning national elections, and why it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future:

The Littlest Democrat

In addition to winning hearts and minds, one must also acquire a clue.

Thursday, March 23 2006

Speaking truth to moonbats, Bad Haiku Edition

Driving in this morning, I reflected on yesterday’s sighting of the usual group of “9/11 was a Republican plot!” nutcases on University Avenue, and felt inspired.

“Chickenhawk,” you say,
to silence your opponents.
Get a job, hippie.

Friday, June 23 2006

Okay, I’m stumped

The Internet has failed me. Or, at least, my search-engine skills have failed to turn up the nugget of information I’m currently interested in.

Wednesday afternoon, in preparation for my upcoming vacation in Japan, I applied for a passport. The man at the downtown post office who took my picture and processed my application was really cool, and when he found out where I was going, said “man, I haven’t been to Japan since 1964, as part of the Olympic volleyball team”.

I didn’t hear his name clearly at the time, and I was in a rush to get to a doctor’s appointment, so I didn’t hang around and talk more with this former Olympian.

But I’m curious. And my web search has failed to answer the question “who was on the US Men’s Olympic Volleyball Team in 1964?”. I might have to go to a library and look it up in a book made out of dead trees.

Or call the passport office and just ask him. That’d work, too.

Wednesday, August 9 2006

First they hit, then they run

Driving home from class tonight, someone hit my car. His lane was closed ahead due to construction, and I guess he decided that he’d rather merge in front of me than behind me. Sadly, he ended up trying to merge through me at about 75-80 MPH, and then decided to run for it. I caught up to him long enough to get his license plate number, and then he was gone (making a fast exit from 101 South to 85 South, then running a red light to turn onto Central Expressway South).

Worse news for him: a witness pulled over and stayed to make a statement to the police, and his memory of the incident was a good match for mine.

The damage? Several deep, long scratches along the driver’s side, from about the side mirror forward to the front of the wheel well, with the finish scraped off of the tire rim in several places. The witness said my car was pushed to the right about a foot and a half by the impact, and he was surprised that I wasn’t hurt. No apparent mechanical damage, and it drove home fine.

I’m fine, and I have excellent insurance, so even if the sorry bastard is uninsured, all will be well. It could have been a lot worse. In the cop’s experience, an impact like that at that speed could have easily caused my front tires to lose traction with the road, sending my car rolling sideways down the highway. He figured that the relative size and mass (my “small” SUV versus his smallish hatchback/whatever) are what saved me.

The (surprisingly small) damage. Aside from the scratches, the door rubs a bit when you open and close it:

car damage

[update 10/11/2006: My insurance company ran the license plate number and came up with a 2000 four-door Volkswagen in Sunnyvale, color unknown. Given the location of the accident, that suggests that I got the number right.]

Monday, August 14 2006

“…where were you going in such a hurry?”

17 Egyptian exchange students, all headed to Bozeman, Montana. Six show up as scheduled, the rest are eventually located in: Richmond, Virginia; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Manville, New Jersey; Dundalk, Maryland; O’Hare International Airport; and Des Moines, Iowa.

Money quote:

“None of the students is considered a terrorism risk.”

I’d feel a little more confident about this statement if they’d been found in, say, a Las Vegas casino hotel in a room filled with booze and strippers.

So where’s Dundalk, anyway? Why, it’s the home of the Dundalk Marine Terminal, whose major clients include the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia. Lots of bulk cargo coming in through there, from all over the world.

Manville just seems to be a wide spot in the road that’s half an hour away from the Newark Liberty International Airport and McGuire Air Force Base, the sort of neighborhood where one death every two-three years changes the murder rate from 0.0 to 9.7.

I’d like to think that there’s an innocent explanation for all this. I just can’t think of one.

Tuesday, August 29 2006

Pedestrian On Pavement

I got a ticket yesterday. More precisely, I got a fake ticket yesterday, because it was the only way for the cops to get the crazy angry person to shut up and go away.

I had a little work project that was kind of important. Namely, I needed to get over half a million dollars worth of servers packed up and loaded onto a truck (the same ones that were supposed to be shipped out on Friday). To do that, we needed to park the truck. Unfortunately, just as we were pulling into the commercial loading zone that we’d been patiently waiting for for twenty minutes, some clown in an SUV whips around the truck and starts backing into it.

I stepped out into the street and waved him off. He kept coming, until his bumper was about three inches from my body. Then he jumped out and furiously accused me of trying to steal his parking space, shouted at everyone within reach (including a completely unrelated moving company that was working across the street), and then ran off claiming he was going to find a cop to take care of me, leaving his car blocking both the parking spot and the street.

We found a cop first. When he returned with his dry-cleaning (he later claimed he really was making a commercial delivery, but that box never left the back of his SUV, and the cop saw him picking up the suit…), she was already writing up his ticket, and informing him that he was two minutes away from being towed.

He shouted at her. He shouted at us. He shouted at her sergeant, when he showed up. He harangued the bums on the sidewalk, telling them what horrible people and criminals we were. He tried to get the cop to give my truck driver a ticket for blocking the road. He tried to get the cop to give me a ticket for illegally attempting to reserve a parking space.

He got several tickets, which he’ll have to pay for. To shut him up, they wrote out a phony ticket for me, which will be dismissed when the cop deliberately fails to appear in court (her exact words: “this is bullshit, don’t pay it”). He tried to get my name so he could go after me personally, and the cop patiently explained that he had no right to that information.

And to think that this was actually better than my day Friday, which involved the world’s most carelessly ambitious contract Unix sysadmin trying to get me to let him work unsupervised as root on a production server that I’m responsible for (“Hi, Mark!”).

Friday, September 8 2006

Accident update

Just got a status update from my insurance agent on my car accident. They reached the owner of the vehicle responsible for the hit-and-run, and got the following information:

  1. He’s insured.
  2. That night, the car had been borrowed by a friend who was visiting from out of the country.
  3. The friend claimed the car was damaged in a hit-and-run.

#1 is the most important, of course. #2 is amusing, because the person driving the vehicle made a quick escape from 101 to 85 to Central, not something you’d expect from someone who didn’t live in, say, Sunnyvale, where the car is registered.

#3 is true, from a certain point of view… :-)

Wednesday, September 13 2006

Unhappy homecoming

So, work took me to Kirkland, WA for a week. Not so bad, even if the fact that my work was critical to the company failed to motivate IT to prioritize my tasks above whatever else it was they were doing.

[but I, having promised my manager that I wouldn’t Speak Truth To The Peter Principled At High Volume With Expletives Not Deleted, was a shimmering fountain of sweet reasonableness]

The flight up was packed, but on time, and I got through security in less than five minutes. My map to the hotel proved useless, since they’d changed their name a few months back, and it wasn’t until I called the front desk that I found out that the Doubletree Bellevue was now the Hilton Bellevue … with really horrible wireless Internet access provided by a company called Waypoint. They’ve promised to refund my $10 eventually.

I put in about 65 hours resurrecting our build service, eventually giving up on the last two brand-new servers that were supposed to have been configured and ready before I arrived. Perhaps someone will get to them this week. Or next. Hey, it’s not like they’re needed to, oh I don’t know, PRODUCE OUR ONLY MONEY-MAKING PRODUCT.

[but I, having mostly mastered the art of Not Caring Because They’re Laying Me Off At The End Of The Year, made no fuss, worked around their limitations, and got the hell out of Dodge]

The flight home was uneventful. $50 got me upgraded to first class, and I had a nice limo ride home from the airport, expecting to relax, have a nice meal, go pick up my car from the body shop, and relax some more.

Naturally, I was greeted by the stench of a broken refrigerator filled with spoiled food. Yummy. And very relaxing.

Tuesday night was spent attempting to clean the damn thing, and then surfing the Sears web site when it became clear that the smell couldn’t be removed without more labor than it was worth, assuming it could be fixed in the first place.

Wednesday morning found me waiting patiently for Sears to open, and then dropping $1600 on a new fridge (Kenmore Elite Trio, by the way), to be delivered Friday. Then I spent half a day at work starting the break-in process of one of our replacements, with much more to come on Thursday.

[Nice lady, who’s coming to realize she’s in over her head. I wish her well, but expect she’s doomed. We’re busy keeping things running, so whenever she gets time with us, the knowledge transfer process is a lot like drinking from a fire hose. And she also needs to pick the brain of someone who’s already left, and is available for only a few expensive hours a week. Worse, she needs to rely on the folks in Kirkland once we’re gone…]

Friday, I will rest. Saturday, I will fill up my new fridge. And rest some more.

Sometime soon, I get to figure out why everything I’ve got that can read certain ClarisWorks 4JP documents can edit and print the Japanese text in some of my teacher’s old documents just fine, but nothing can export them to Word as anything but garbage. I’m pretty sure I got it to work once before, but now her ClarisWorks install is refusing to export to Word (with error messages in Japanese), and everything else spits garbage.

It’s particularly annoying that the OS X-native AppleWorks 6 reads them fine, but exports garbage, even via cut-and-paste.

[update: if I export from AppleWorks 6 as RTF, and then run textutil -inputencoding X-MAC-JAPANESE -encoding UTF-8 -convert rtf foo.rtf on the output, everything works fine. I still shouldn’t need to do this, but unless I can coax another copy of ClarisWorks 4JP to export directly to Word, I think it’s the best I can get.]

Tuesday, October 10 2006

Hans

Just for the record: I believe that my friend Hans Reiser did not commit murder, a crime he’s currently suspected of. I hope that his wife is found alive and well, and that their children are not forced to grow up without parents.

[Update: formally charged. I agree with the defense attorney that the police seem to be aggressively feeding the press. They’d constructed a compellingly sinister narrative and handed it out to reporters before charges were even filed. Sorry, guys; it’s supposed to be “trail by jury”, not “trial by a pack of j-school hacks”.]

Monday, October 23 2006

“Don’t let the door hit you in the…”

I hope that this book sells really, really well, and that the target audience follows its instructions before the 2008 election. Because if they really think this way, they don’t deserve the freedoms they think they’ve already lost:

Now that habeas corpus and other basic rights, including the right not to be tortured while interrogated, have now been deemed unnecessary, more Americans than ever have been thinking of getting out the door while they still can.

Tuesday, October 31 2006

What’s the difference between…

…John Kerry and Arnold J. Rimmer?

Based on the frantic spin surrounding today’s juicy soundbite, I’d say Rimmer was the likeable one. He also honestly admired the military, despite his failure to achieve the rank he felt he deserved.

Arnold J. Rimmer
“Well, if you’ll just bear with me, I think I’ve devised a fair and equitable system of choosing who should survive. It’s based on age, rank, seniority, usefulness… to cut a long story short it’s me. I was as stunned as you are, which is why I demanded a recount. But blow me! It didn’t come out of me again!”

[Update: I like the way the Leftie horde has descended on the major sites discussing this, insisting that no one could honestly interpret his comment “that way”, and that’s it’s all just a VRWC smear-job. In fact, it’s all too easy to believe that a Democrat would feel that way.]

Tuesday, December 26 2006

So, he’s saying “Go Bush!”?

I think the Iranian president’s got JC’s number here. He’d totally go jihadi on the UN leadership and rulers of most Middle-East states, as well as their loyal followers:

If Jesus Christ (peace be upon Him) was present today, he would order an encounter against those who would propagate corruption, obscenity and perversion, and try to nullify and exterminate the merits and the rights of women and diminish their position – a position that virgin Mary (peace be upon Her) – is their role model and sample.

Oh, wait; perhaps he’s using different definitions of “corruption”, “obscenity”, “perversion”, and “rights of women”. My mistake.

Saturday, January 13 2007

How to convert the US to the metric system

Following this fairly typical “why are you so backward” post on Slashdot, I propose a simple solution that would wean consumers off of imperial units in less than ten years:

Get Wal-Mart to require it from their suppliers

Monday, January 22 2007

Now “astroturf” means “anyone I don’t like”…

The often amusing, usually gullible technophiles at BoingBoing have struck again, with Cory Doctorow’s stunned discovery that an organization that’s been attacking PETA for years receives funding from frequent PETA targets.

Never mind the factual truth of their claims about PETA and other lifestyle lobbies, or that PETA itself is about as “grassroots” as a concrete driveway; Cory Doctorow has done a “little digging”, and determined that The Center for Consumer Freedom has (gasp!) industry ties (oh noes!), and therefore must be a tool of The Man, spouting nothing but lies.

Welcome to 1997, Mr. Doctorow. Here, have a 30,000-calorie sandwich and a clue.

Starting anew…

About six months ago, The Former Employer With Whom I Signed A Non-Disparagement Agreement decided to close their field offices and consolidate everything at the main office in Kirkland. Some folks were asked to relocate, some were laid off immediately, and a Lucky Few were asked to stay around for a while to manage the transition.

I fell into the third group, with the promise of a reasonable quantity of extra cash should I complete my tasks to their satisfaction. This cash was in fact received on schedule, so I have no immediate plans to test their tolerance for disparagement.

We said our goodbyes at the end of 2006, and I spent the first week of 2007 in Las Vegas, courtesy of a “three-free-nights” offer at the Luxor. While I was out there, Ooma, the company many former co-workers had already fled to, called me up to arrange interviews. I went in on the 10th, went back to meet the CEO on the 15th, accepted their offer on the 16th, flew home to Ohio to quickly see my family on the 19th, and started work today.

What do we do at Ooma? Can’t tell you. Ask again in (can’t tell you).

Thursday, January 25 2007

Men are from Porn, women are from Cuddle

Via Marginal Revolution, The Wall Street Journal discusses a recent survey of multi-millionaires:

Fully 63% of rich men said wealth gave them “better sex,” which they defined as having more-frequent sex with more partners. That compares to 88% of women who said more money gave them better sex, which they defined as “higher quality” sex.

I particularly like the way the WSJ article uses quotation marks in this paragraph…

Friday, February 16 2007

Free as in “until we take it away from you”

Just to be clear, I think the “One Laptop Per Child” project is doomed to failure. That is, if the goal is “educating children”, I don’t think it’s going to produce a statistically significant improvement that justifies the expense. Perhaps that’s because all of the press accounts I’ve seen have allowed the sponsors to handwave away the quite serious issues of how they’ll be used.

To date, I have seen only one piece of software that provided significant educational value for children: Rocky’s Boots. I’m sure there have been a few others, but educational software is a tough market to succeed in commercially, and it has characteristics that make it “less than attractive” for the typical open-source developer.

Given the target demographic for OBPC, there simply won’t be a software market; they’ll get whatever open-source stuff is ported, plus whatever is commissioned by the local government educrats.

And that local government will have the power to brick each and every one of those laptops at any time (section 8.19):

We provide such a service for interested countries to enable on the laptops. It works by running, as a privileged process that cannot be disabled or terminated even by the root user, an anti-theft daemon which detects Internet access, and performs a call-home request – no more than once a day – to the country’s anti-theft servers. In so doing, it is able to securely use NTP to set the machine RTC to the current time, and then obtain a cryptographic lease to keep running for some amount of time, e.g. 21 days. The lease duration is controlled by each country.



To address the case where a stolen machine is used as a personal computer but not connected to the Internet, the anti-theft daemon will shut down and lock the machine if its cryptographic lease ever expires. In other words, if the country operates with 21-day leases, a normal, non-stolen laptop will get the lease extended by 21 days each day it connects to the Internet. But if the machine does not connect to the Internet for 21 days, it will shut down and lock.

[Update: I just spent half an hour browsing the OLPC web site and wiki, and all I could find about the actual educational toolsmithing for the project was words to the effect of “we’re Papert-izing the world!”, which tells me precisely dick.]

Tuesday, May 22 2007

Who knew?

Back in August, my car was damaged in a hit-and-run. I got the guy’s license plate before he escaped, and filed a police report that included a statement from a witness. I paid my deductible and my insurance company paid the rest.

Last week, I received a letter from my insurance company announcing that they’d lost in arbitration, and since the other insurance company hadn’t paid up, I wasn’t going to be getting my deductible back. I have, in theory, really good insurance, such that if I hadn’t gotten the plate number or the other driver hadn’t been insured at all, they’d have paid. I called my agent and asked “WTF?”.

Today, they explained why the arbitration failed: because my insurance company didn’t submit a recorded witness statement. This was less interesting to me than why I wasn’t getting my money back, so of course they made sure to deliver it through a neutral third party who couldn’t give me anyone higher up to contact.

So I’ve gone back to my agent, and suggested he find someone to give me a damn good explanation, before I find a new company to insure my house, car, and motorcycle. Farmers is no longer my friend.

Sunday, September 9 2007

Lousy timing

This morning, one of our executives sent email that her laptop crashed, and then refused to boot, asking for the original install media. Ordinarily, this would mean looking at it on Monday morning.

Unfortunately, she was at the airport, getting onto a plane for New York, for Very Important Business. So she took the dead laptop with her, and asked us to FedEx her the install CDs. That really wouldn’t have worked out very well for her, so we’re sending another laptop out there ASAP.

At least, we’re trying. It seems that no amount of money on our part will get any shipping company to let us use their same-day service. We’re not TSA-approved for such things, and having an established account doesn’t matter. The only way we could get it to her before Tuesday morning is to buy a ticket and fly it out there ourselves. Grrrr.

[yes, the dead machine is a Sony, but it’s not one of the BXs that have been causing us trouble.]

[Update: finally got details from her. It’s not dead dead, it’s giving up during the Windows startup, complaining about a missing or corrupt DLL, which it would be happy to retrieve from any Windows XP disc. So, we’re not looking at a major hardware failure, at least.]

Wednesday, September 12 2007

Spare the rod, spoil the EU

The English are once again free to use English units of measure.

(via Kim du Toit)

Sunday, September 23 2007

WTF?

Two guys working alone in an electronics factory at 1:30am, and one of them falls into an open vat of sulfuric acid?

It’s nice to hear that OSHA is investigating, but I can’t help but think that a company that lets unsupervised 18-year-olds work around a waist-deep vat of acid in the middle of the night should have been shut down a long time ago.

Thursday, December 6 2007

Uncle Darwin says…

“Thank you for removing yourself from the gene pool.”

There are two possibilities in this story: either he was one of the dumbest people on the face of the Earth, or he was making a “goodbye cruel world” call on his cellphone as he ignored the flashing lights, walked around the lowered crossing gates, and stepped in front of a moving train.

Sunday, January 13 2008

There’s some stupid in my neighborhood

I mean, serious stupid.

…firefighters learned the woman’s boyfriend had given the children a jar of mercury as a gift about a month ago.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that mercury is fun to play with, and I can state from personal experience that it doesn’t taste like any other metal, but we were teenagers at the time, not little kids, and they managed to clean up the classroom without involving a hazmat team.

Thursday, February 7 2008

Laptop scrubbing

When I went to Japan last year, I scrubbed my laptop of non-essential data and encrypted my home directory, to avoid any hassle if it got stolen. It sounds like I should have been more concerned about the boys working Customs.

Or perhaps not, since they just waved me through in both countries, without even a cursory inspection.

It’s obvious that the behavior described in the article can’t be extended to more than a tiny fraction of travelers, but without clear guidelines explaining what they can examine and for how long, I can understand why businesses would be very leery of allowing employees to take laptops across the border. I pity the fool who tries to separate Lucy from a laptop, though…

While a lot of folks are busy crying “police state”, I’m thinking more along the lines of “poorly-trained flunkies with no oversight”. Which is more dangerous, but less scary.

Tuesday, February 19 2008

The world changes

Toshiba has abandoned HD-DVD, and Castro has stepped down. I wonder which one of these will get more attention over the next week.

Friday, March 21 2008

Holiday Inn Express

Over the past few years, the best hotel experiences I’ve had have come from Holiday Inn Express. Well-appointed rooms, comfortable beds with pillows in an assortment of firmnesses, towels that haven’t had all the softness laundered out of them, a desk I can work at, decent cable tv and a DVD player, and solid, free high-speed Internet access. Some of them also have a decent free breakfast.

Last weekend, I decided to spend Saturday up in San Francisco, before heading to a friend’s house in Campbell on Sunday, so I booked a room in Redwood City for two nights. I’ve stayed in that particular HIE before, and gotten good service.

Unfortunately, Saturday morning, there was no hot water anywhere in the hotel. They were sorry about it, and had it fixed by mid-day, but by that time I was already up in SF, enjoying the taiko drumming in SF Japantown (part of a film and cultural festival I hadn’t known about). [side note: pretty girls banging on big drums appeals to me…]

Last night, my mailbox contained a Starbucks gift card, the hotel manager’s business card, and a humble apology for their failure to provide perfect service.

[oh, and the Holiday Inn membership rewards system feeds directly into the JAL membership rewards system, building up miles for a seat upgrade on a future trip to Japan]

Thursday, April 10 2008

Passing the torch…

After being passed the Olympic flame, Majora Carter pulled out a small Tibetan flag that she had hidden in her shirt sleeve.

“The Chinese security and cops were on me like white on rice”

(via ESPN)

Thursday, May 1 2008

Um, but…

A frustrated fan of post-racial Democrat candidate Obama says:

“Hillary Clinton would not even still be in the race if Obama was a white man.”

If Obama had been a white man, he wouldn’t have been in the race at all, because he’d have made John Edwards look too good.

Friday, June 20 2008

Juxtaposition…

A friend just called to tell me I might not want to start my drive home just yet, since there’s a big fire near Watsonville. Checking in with Google News, I see these headlines:

Fireworks sales OK in Watsonville despite fire danger
Watsonville Fire Grows To 1000 Acres
Blaze Closes 6-Mile Stretch of Highway 1

[Update: over a thousand acres burned, smoke you can smell from 101, and some nitwit down the street from me is setting off fireworks.]

Tuesday, June 24 2008

“Back off, man, I’m a scientist”

Way to bolster your credibility, Hansen:

James Hansen, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, will today call for the chief executives of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming in the same way that tobacco companies blurred the links between smoking and cancer.

Actually, I’d like to see this happen, because the defense teams would quickly subpoena the source code for all of the computer models being used to project future climate conditions, opening their assumptions up to real independent investigation. You know, “science”.

I spent too much time working in a university computer science department to have too much faith in the results of highly-tweakable computer models. Between twiddling the knobs to get what you want and simply leaving out variables that are inconvenient or too difficult to model, I suspect most sophisticated models could be replaced with:

10  PRINT "WORLD ENDING, PLEASE FUND MY RESEARCH"
20  GOTO 10

Wednesday, June 25 2008

Supremes Gone Wild!

Quoting:

“The death penalty is not a proportional punishment for the rape of a child”

I agree, but only in the sense that hanging’s too good for him, not, as this court has decreed, that it is cruel and unusual punishment incompatible with “the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society”.

Feh. They’d better rule against the Second Amendment in Heller, if they want to keep themselves safe from parents everywhere.

Friday, June 27 2008

Ah, Chicago

Now that the Supreme Court has unambiguously ruled on the only “right of the people” ever to be considered “the right of state governments”, the Chicago Tribune has come out of the closet: “repeal it!”, say the guardians of freedom.

We’re just not sure whose freedom they’re guarding.

Saturday, June 28 2008

Not spam, scam

While flipping through my “couldn’t possibly ever be non-spam” folder (which occasionally reveals what real companies try to discover email addresses for their customers by correlating with spammer databases, and I mean you, Calumet Photo, Lexus, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond), I found a message that wasn’t offering viagra, penis enlargement, breast enlargement, free downloads that would add me to a botnet, or the opportunity to help some nice Nigerian take over my identity.

No, today’s offer is “help some Russians launder money stolen from other suckers”, as a Transactions Group Specialist.

(Continued on Page 3032)

Tuesday, July 8 2008

I was wrong

When my friend Hans Reiser was charged with the murder of his wife, I based my belief in his innocence on three factors: his character, his long-standing inability to carry out even simple plans, and the astonishing series of prejudicial leaks that somehow kept coming out in the months before the trial. The fact that the kids (key witnesses) were taken out of the country and not returned in time for initial testimony also smelled peculiar.

Lacking a body or any strong evidence, they tried to build a case where he both killed her in the heat of passion and also planned it meticulously in advance. The former is possible for anyone, the latter was obviously absurd to anyone who ever spent an hour in a room with Hans.

My argument against the former was simply that the person I’ve known since 1993 might kill in the heat of the moment, but had the character to own up to it after. Obviously I was wrong.

Dear Prius Driver,

Just a helpful tip: when you find yourself being passed on the right by a dump truck that’s barely able to do the speed limit, you’re in the wrong lane.

Also, when you finally change lanes to allow the person behind you to pass, wait until the other four people behind him pass before you pull back into the left lane. You’ll live longer.

Wednesday, July 9 2008

How’s that working out for you?

Got this in my change from lunch today:

(Continued on Page 3046)

Friday, July 11 2008

Of course, they’re LARPers!

Commenting on the common fantasy that America is a repressive police state, Steven says:

It’s almost like LARPing for them, with the added benefit that they can feel “besieged and persecuted”, and feel like they’re part of a revolutionary movement, without actually risking anything important. Because what they’re doing is about as dangerous as going to a slasher movie.

Indeed. Leftist Activist Repression and Persecution: a new game from the makers of Emo: The Whimpering.

Friday, July 18 2008

“Germans?” “Forget it, he’s rolling.”

Barack Obama, July 16, 2008, as seen on CNN:

Throughout our history, America’s confronted constantly evolving danger, from the oppression of an empire, to the lawlessness of the frontier, from the bomb that fell on Pearl Harbor, to the threat of nuclear annihilation. Americans have adapted to the threats posed by an ever-changing world.

Monday, July 28 2008

Crime will go down if the victims are too starved to run away

It’s times like this that I’m glad I don’t follow local politics. Also that I have three cops living on my street.

Dennis Donohue, mayor of Salinas, an agricultural community dubbed America’s salad bowl and the birthplace of the Nobel Laureate, John Steinbeck, appealed to the community to participate in a week-long Fasting for Peace campaign.



“Make no mistake, a single fast or city flower or group of grandmas alone won’t reduce violence in the streets,” the paper stated. “But combined, they inject positive thinking into a city so desperate for some, and represent another chance for Salinas to come together over a community problem.”

And why is this news in the UK? Because the Great Nanny has made this sort of wishful thinking their last remaining hope for crime control.

Nice to see not all of my neighbors are as deluded as the mayor, though:

“Fasting will accomplish NOTHING with regard to the gang violence problem. It is your typical liberal form-over-substance response to a serious problem that needs serious action, not new-age hullabaloo.”

Wednesday, July 30 2008

This is how the world ends…

The trailers for Hellboy 2 may or may not be advertising a good action flick. One thing they’re definitely advertising is the creeping doom that is political correctness.

Take a good look at this frame:

(Continued on Page 3074)

Monday, September 1 2008

Way to stay classy, leftists

From Instapundit at the Republican convention:

His bus was attacked by protesters who dropped sandbags from an overpass, but he was unscathed.

[Update: Really winning the hearts and minds out there, gang. And I do mean “gang”:

Protesters smashed windows, punctured car tires and threw bottles Monday during an anti-war march to the site of the Republican National Convention.

I hope you brought plenty of bail money. Excuse me, I hope your parents brought plenty of bail money. Or not, preferably. Rot in jail for a while.]

Friday, September 26 2008

Bubbles!

While sorting through old paperwork (pronounced “shredding the bills and pitching the rest”), I found a double-sided glossy color flier from the peak of the local housing bubble about 2.5 years ago, advertising my next-door neighbor’s house for the sweet price of only $815,000. The realtor even registered a domain name for it and everything. Not that he expected me to buy it, of course. He was letting me know it was a seller’s market, and time for me to jump in!

No, it didn’t sell. Not even when he brought in an entire freakin’ tour bus full of potential buyers (which blocked my driveway for about an hour).

It finally sold two months ago, for $429,000. I don’t know what he bought it for, but I’d guess that my neighbor lost at least $150,000. I’d feel worse for him if he hadn’t asked me a few years ago if I had any good ideas for investing half a million dollars.

Amusing thing I hadn’t noticed before: the ad says “large yard - space for RV or boat”. This is a bald-faced lie, and the realtor should be bitch-slapped for making this claim and backing it up with a deceptive photo. Without a cargo helicopter, the only way to get an RV into his back yard would be to knock down the fence, pave over about six feet of my front lawn, relocate the utility box at the curb, and then very, very carefully squeeze it along the side of his house. Which would be illegal, because it would be visible from the street.

You might be able to get a small boat back there by only paving a few feet of my lawn, but you’d have a helluva time getting it back out again.

Sunday, October 12 2008

Mercury ticker

It is currently 34 degrees Fahrenheit in my neighborhood. At 8:30am. In central California.

Apparently global warming is tied to the stock market.

Tuesday, October 21 2008

“Imagine a boot…”

Here’s what the election comes down to, says The New Yorker in a current piece labeled as humor:

To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

Now I really want Obama to lose, so his followers will choke to death on their own hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.

Friday, October 24 2008

’nuff said

“Hey, kid, say hi to Joe the Plumber for me…”

(Continued on Page 3155)

Wednesday, October 29 2008

What’s good for Malaysian religious authorities…

…is bad for Malaysians. Last week they outlawed women in pants, this week it’s yoga. Yoga because it could “damage their faith” (perhaps physical flexibility leads to the mental kind), but pants and other “tomboyish” behavior because they could lead to lesbian sex.

It would be hilarious if these ’tards weren’t deadly serious. I hope the two Malaysian women I met in Japan aren’t caught up in this mess; they were very Westernized, spoke decent English, and, yes, looked great in pants. If they haven’t already left the homeland for good, I recommend America. West Coast, perhaps the San Jose area…

Malaysian tourists at Lake Ashi

Tuesday, November 4 2008

Reaction 2008…

As a taxpayer, I fear for my wallet. As a believer in the limits imposed by the Constitution, I fear for the quality of next year’s laws. As a cynic, I don’t think anyone in government will even pretend to seriously investigate the rampant corruption, fraud, and violent felonies committed by supporters of Obama’s campaign.

As an American, eh, we’ve had worse. He seems like an intelligent guy, so if he actually pays attention during his national security briefings, he won’t do anything incredibly stupid abroad, and if he doesn’t try to pay off all of his far-Left nutjob backers at once, he won’t do too much damage domestically before the next round of elections has a chance to trim the Democrat majorities in Congress.

Will he try to mend fences, and take responsibility for the vile racism, sexism, bigotry, and thuggery committed in his name? I hope so, otherwise his campaign promises will be worse than empty. It would be nice to actually see some solid answers to the questions he’s been dodging all year, too.

PS: “the rest of the world” hating and fearing America? Yeah, that ain’t gonna stop. It had nothing to do with Bush. He didn’t “steal the election” or cause 9/11, either, so hopefully all those hate-filled irrational morons will finally shut the fuck up.

PPS: it would be nice to hear a few grudging apologies from all of the people who insisted that a sitting governor wasn’t even qualified to give handjobs to hobos. Way to show your class, Democrats.

Monday, December 1 2008

You don’t know them

If you hang out with fans long enough, eventually you’ll hear something like this:

“I think we ‘know’ our idols better than their casual friends do.”

This doesn’t just come from creepy stalkers, although it’s certainly how they get their start (“Hi, Mike! Been thrown in jail again yet, or have you finally stopped projecting madonna/whore complexes onto total strangers whose albums you buy?”). It may be most common with celebrities whose careers are built on selling an image, but every field has fans who feel a personal connection to the creator of the works they idolize. With multimedia idols, though, it’s much more pervasive; fans have watched them on stage, fooling around backstage, getting annoyed in interviews, breaking down in tears, getting flustered by personal questions, etc, etc, all contributing to a feeling that they’re able to see through the editing to The Real Person.

(Continued on Page 3180)

Wednesday, January 28 2009

Protection Money

Social conservatives are expressing (possibly-authentic) surprise that the Democrats’ current stimulus bill includes funding for contraception. I’m not sure why they didn’t expect it. After all, Congress has been spending our money like drunken whores for decades, so of course they associate condoms with cash payouts.

Tuesday, February 3 2009

How socialism works

(from Duke, via Marginal Revolution)

For most of us, it is hard to fathom the rationale for a market in burnt-out light bulbs. But in the scarcity-driven Soviet economy, the market was entirely reasonable. Light bulbs were rarely available to individual consumers, but were obtainable for state-sponsored activities. Thus, it would be difficult to purchase a light bulb for a new lamp in one’s home, while burnt-out bulbs in state-run offices or factories were routinely replaced. So if someone purchased a new lamp and needed a bulb, he would buy a used light bulb for a small fee and replace a functioning bulb at work with the dud. He would then take the functioning bulb home for the new lamp, while the burnt-out bulb at the office/factory would be replaced with a new functioning bulb. Meanwhile, the maintenance person at the office/factory would take the used bulb and sell it on the used light bulb market.

Friday, February 27 2009

Dear Reuters,

When reporting that a popular scholar has been detained by the Chinese government, it doesn’t sound good to suddenly switch to the past tense in the last two paragraphs:

He was a popular commentator in the Japanese media and appeared at panels and a symposium on Sino-Japanese relations.

Jin was from Yanji, an ethnically Korean area near China’s border with North Korea.

I can’t decide if it’s a simple editing mistake, or a sudden outbreak of honest reporting.

Tuesday, March 10 2009

How could they leave out Titanic?

[Update: yup, they’re region 1 NTSC!]

List of (most likely region 1 NTSC) DVDs presented to the British Prime Minister, according to those crack journalists at MTV. Dear ghod, I hope they’re kidding.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Casablanca
  • Chinatown
  • Citizen Kane
  • City Lights
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • On the Waterfront
  • Psycho
  • Raging Bull
  • Schindler’s List
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Star Wars: Episode IV
  • Sunset Boulevard
  • The General
  • The Godfather
  • The Graduate
  • The Grapes of Wrath
  • The Searchers
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Vertigo

Pardon me, but Lawrence of Arabia? Never mind how stupid and thoughtless the gift is in the first place, but Lawrence of Arabia? What, didn’t anyone think that Brown might already be vaguely familiar with this insanely famous and critically acclaimed British film?

Monday, March 30 2009

Ah, evolution…

Pirates who attacked a ship off the coast of Somalia got more than they bargained for when it turned out to be a naval vessel - from an international force against piracy, Nato said.

The pirates apparently mistook the FGS Spessart for a commercial merchant ship when they targeted it in the Gulf of Aden, between Somalia and Yemen.

(via The Daily Express)

It’s not a new idea, but it would be nice if they sent a few more merchant-ish naval vessels into the area, to thin the herd.

Wednesday, April 15 2009

“…you never get rid of the Dane”

From CNN, a little something for the folks who insist that paying tribute to pirates is a perfectly sensible economic transaction, and one that the recipients deserve for the hardships the West has inflicted upon them:

Piracy accelerated after the fall of the Somali government in the early 1990s and began to flourish after shipping companies started paying ransoms. Those payments started out being in the tens of thousands of dollars and have since climbed into the millions.

Oh, and yesterday they opened fire on the US-flagged food-aid ship that was transporting the American captain who had been held hostage by that other group of deprived, honest fishermen (who didn’t get the millions of dollars they politely requested at gunpoint).

[update 4/26: two recent data points worth noting]

Earlier Sunday, Kenyan maritime groups said Somali pirates had released another Yemeni freighter and its 15 crew members. The ship was seized in January with a cargo of petroleum products.



Separately Sunday, the captain of an Italian cruise ship said his security staff fought off a pirate attack in the region Saturday with pistols and a water hose. Commander Ciro Pinto told Italian media the ensuing gunfight damaged the ship, but the 1,500 passengers were unhurt.

Monday, April 27 2009

We’re FERCed

Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, “Earth Day” 2009:

I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism. Baseload capacity really used to only mean in an economic dispatch, which you dispatch first, what would be the cheapest thing to do. Well, ultimately wind’s going to be the cheapest thing to do, so you’ll dispatch that first. People talk about, ‘Oh, we need baseload.’ It’s like people saying we need more computing power, we need mainframes. We don’t need mainframes, we have distributed computing.

(via The National Review)

Monday, June 8 2009

Riddle me this…

So, in a story about a well-placed State Department official on trial for spending the last 30 years spying for Cuba, what sort of direct quote do they lead off with?

“We were all appalled by the Bush years”

Because, y’know, that puts everything in perspective. If proven guilty, what we have here is someone who turned traitor because he started hating America during the Carter administration, but somehow, it’s still all about Bush. Fits the established narrative better, y’see.

Tuesday, June 16 2009

Sigh

This is just… sad.

Not so much because there’s a cartoonist who’d draw it, as because I’m seeing it linked approvingly by people who have access to wet matches, with which they can obviously no longer be trusted.

Sunday, August 23 2009

Nice curve ball ya got there…

…making her the latest spectacular victim of the bad debt crisis and nationwide recession

After 18 paragraphs that demonstrate that photographer Annie Liebovitz spends money (her own and other peoples’) like water, including the $24 million she hocked her work for less than a year ago, this is how the writer spins her: a victim of recession and “the bad debt crisis”. No hint that she actually lost money due to investments collapsing under the weight of someone else’s bad debt, mind you, just a firm deflection of responsibility.

The interesting question is what, precisely, she hocked, her work or her copyrights. Given that the lender (possibly slimed here as “a high-end pawn broker”) specializes in high-dollar art, probably the latter, which would pretty much cut her off from any future revenue. And with Goldman Sachs also asking for a piece of the pie, she’ll likely lose her home and equipment as well, leaving her dependent on new clients. Not fun.

Thursday, August 27 2009

Do Berkeley next, please

Fight global warming with wolves!

“We urge Senators Udall and McCain to take immediate action to restore wolves to Rocky Mountain National Park, as part of their climate change initiative”

Friday, October 9 2009

Dear Nobel Committee,

Sloppiest. Blow job. Ever.

Tuesday, November 17 2009

I do not recognize this place

Something about this story just seems a bit, shall we say, “over-hyped”:

In the space of 11 days this year, seven people were murdered in Salinas. Each killing, like the record 25 homicides the previous year, spilled from the gang warfare that this summer pushed the homicide rate in the city of 140,000 to three times that of Los Angeles. Residents retreated indoors at night, and Mayor Dennis Donohue affirmed his decision to seek help from an unlikely source: the U.S. military.



“Obviously, there are restrictions,” said Salinas Deputy Police Chief Kelly McMillin. “Not only the constitutional part of it, but just the idea we are going to have choppers fast-roping onto Alisal Street.”

As far as I can tell, it boils down to: “not many jobs right now for young male unskilled workers who don’t speak much English, so joining a gang seems like a good idea; at least, until you get used as cannon fodder in a fight against another gang”.

And, of course, when the total number of homicides is so low, it’s easy for one or two serious incidents to dramatically alter the rate, creating a dramatic “worse than LA” comparison.

Not to imply that there are no problems. It’s quite clear from the statistical data that, taken as a whole, the Salinas SMSA has crime rates comparable to much larger cities; it’s just highly concentrated geographically. The warzone they paint in the article is nothing like the kid-friendly neighborhood where I handed out big handfuls of candy on Halloween night to roving bands of (often unescorted) little monsters.

[Update: a quick bit of math to show the rate swing: in 2006, the homicide rate was only 82% of the national average (4.7 versus 5.7), while in 2008 it was three times higher (17.4 versus 5.8). Since these are numbers per 100,000, and the current population is 148,350, that’s a difference of 11 homicides. The rate was also significantly lower than the national average from 1987 to 1991, which happens to be a period with low unemployment and lots of construction.]

Wednesday, November 25 2009

“Just load the tapes, kid”

Many years ago, my college roommate had a job in the Physics department as a tape monkey. The department had a Large Grant to process data from Fermilab. Each run filled a 9-track tape, and the analysis required roughly 11 hours of uninterrupted runtime on their Vaxen. The average uptime on the server was a hair over 11 hours, and with very little slack in their schedule, someone had to be available any time day or night to make sure their delivery date didn’t slip.

My friend was a biochemistry major, and appreciated the importance of delivering high-quality analysis of experimental data, so he was a bit concerned by the fact that the programs used to perform that analysis were in a constant state of flux, a mess of Fortran hacked on by an ever-changing team of grad students. Not wanting to waste precious time, he got into the habit of running it on a small test dataset each day, to make sure it still worked before kicking off an 11-hour run.

The test output was frequently different, in ways that it shouldn’t have been. Ways that very well could have made all of their analysis completely useless to Fermilab. Ways that no one planned, expected, or kept track of. When he raised his concerns, well, their exact words are lost to time, but I remember them sounding an awful lot like, “just load the tapes, kid”.

I think of those words whenever I hear about a computer model that proves something significant that’s tied to the modeler’s funding. And I think that’s all that I need to say about the rapidly-unfolding saga of ClimateGate.

Friday, November 27 2009

Words of wisdom…

Wednesday, December 16 2009

Yeah, they’re in it for the science, I can tell

Yesterday, a massive, peaceful protest of 100,000 people – the largest demonstration for climate justice in world history – was met with a heavy-handed response by the Danish police.

Emphasis mine. 100,000 concerned activists can’t be wrong, say the folks at itsgettinghotinhere.org.

If the reporting is more honest than the science, it does sound like these assclowns were badly mistreated, but perhaps a few of them will reevaluate their religious beliefs after being “forced to sit in rows for hours, as the temperatures dipped below freezing”.

Wednesday, January 13 2010

Haiti

All I can do to help is send money, which I have. Fortunately, one of the few things the American government reliably does well is disaster relief.

I’ll refrain from partisan sniping, unless some jackass tries to use this as justification for passing the healthcare bill…

Update: this is what I’m talking about:

…Four large Coast Guard ships—a 210-foot Reliance-class cutter and three 270-foot medium Endurance-class cutters—left Miami today, bound for Haiti….

…A C-130 cargo airplane also flew into Haiti from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater in Florida….

…Next to arrive will be urban rescue teams from Florida, Virginia and California…

…The crew of the Comfort, one of the Navy’s two 894-foot-long hospital ships, is now rushing to the ship, ported in Baltimore, to sail for Haiti.

The Navy hospital ship will be joined in Haiti by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson. The carrier’s crew of more than 3000 had been at sea for just hours, leaving Norfolk, Va., for its new home port in San Diego, when the call came to reroute to Haiti. The massive craft can launch helicopters loaded with supplies, make and deliver fresh water and, if need be, augment hospital space by pitching aid tents on its flight deck.

Monday, January 18 2010

There’s tone-deaf…

…and then there’s Chris Van Hollen. Here’s the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on why he expects the voters to agree that Martha Coakley should take Teddy Kennedy’s place in the Senate:

“Why would you hand the keys to the car back to the same guys whose policies drove the economy into the ditch and then walked away from the scene of the accident?”

No, seriously.

Wednesday, January 20 2010

Mr. Brown goes to Washington

My condolences to US Senator Scott Brown and his family. After last night’s stunning victory, millions will be spent over the next three years in efforts to destroy him, both personally and professionally.

Thursday, February 4 2010

Today’s mail: scam, fraud, and cash

I had three entertaining items in the mail today:

  1. an equity loan offer with highly deceptive terms, from a company with an important-sounding name that was obviously made up for the occasion.
  2. a transparently fraudulent “loan modification” offer pretending to be from the bank that holds my mortgage.
  3. a report that really was from my bank, informing me that my escrow account is so healthy that not only are they cutting my mortgage payment by $150/month, but also that they’re legally required to refund the excess money that’s accumulated, so here’s a check for $1,500.

So, one out of three for the day. Not bad.

Friday, February 12 2010

Um, isn’t California kinda broke?

Trains. They fix everything.

Underground tunnels, elevated tracks and even “stacked trains” running through Palo Alto are all options still on the table for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, the agency charged with building a $42.6 billion high-speed-rail line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Monday, February 15 2010

Cambridge Mass. Suicide

This story about the “Cambridge Climate Congress” would be hilarious satire if it weren’t dead-serious social engineering. Click through to read the PDF about the “climate emergency” and the quest for “environmental justice”. Count the fluff-headed buzzwords scattered throughout. Picture their future, and when you’re through throwing up, bitch-slap a socialist.

Friday, February 26 2010

“Sorry about all those childhood diseases I helped bring back. My bad.”

Jenny McCarthy, outspoken anti-vaccination activist, is now furiously beck-pedaling thanks to the discovery that her child is not autistic, and likely never was.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled herd immunity.

…unless Jenny and the gang already killed you, of course.

Monday, March 22 2010

Dear Piggy Bank,

It was nice knowing you. If you wonder why you’re empty now, Nancy and Harry and Barry took it all for their big-pig friends.

This little piggy has no market,
This little piggy has no home,
This little piggy eats dog food,
This little piggy lost a job.
And Big Nancy Piggy says “let them eat pork”, all the way home.

Oh, and if you see Nancy, could you ask her what’s in the bill? She promised to tell us once it passed, and I’m simply dying to know how much my taxes will go up while I start paying more for worse health care.

Update! A performance artist on the streets of Mumbai has done an excellent impression of the future of the US economy and health-care system.

(Continued on Page 3527)

Wednesday, March 24 2010

Updated Truths, #61b

“Congress interprets democracy as damage and routes around it.”

(with vaguely-sincere apologies to John Gilmore)

Monday, March 29 2010

Solution: don’t let the dumbasses graduate

Problem: a few students at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, are upset that the date on the school’s diplomas is written as In the Year of Our Lord…. Seriously.

Refund their money and send them back to grade school; I don’t think a college has any courses remedial enough for this crew.

Thursday, April 1 2010

Dodd-ering Fool

Senator Chris Dodd (D-Corrupt) has proposed a 120-day waiting period on investing in brand-new startup companies. This is not an April Fool’s joke.

Thursday, April 29 2010

“It’s the End Of The World!”

…at least, that’s what the usual suspects are screaming about Arizona at the moment, for having the temerity to claim that existing laws governing illegal immigration should be treated as if they were, well, laws.

There are people making careful, reasoned arguments about the constitutionality of duplicating federal laws at the state level, some quite cogent, but they’re not driving the argument. Indeed, they’re not even allowed onto the bus, as the headlines shriek “racist!” and “police state!”, pretending that border control is a Republican invention not practiced anywhere else in the world.

It reminds me a great deal of the hysteria over shall-issue concealed-carry legislation. There, it was “gun-nuts blowing away anyone who cuts in line at the grocery!”; here, it’s “racist nazi cops going after everyone brown!”. I expect the long-term results to be pretty much the same: little or no abuse of the new laws, less crime, no loss of civil rights, and more states jumping on the bandwagon as they observe the results.

The hysterics labeled Florida “the gunshine state” for passing CCW reform. It didn’t happen. Now they’re calling Arizona the new Nazi Germany, and that’s not going to happen, either.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Arizona, which has always had open carry with no need for a license, and which quickly adopted shall-issue carry with reciprocity, recently went to concealed carry with no need for a license. Allowing any adult to carry a concealed handgun doesn’t square up with the “papers, please” future promised by the pro-illegal pundits, not that they’ll notice.

[Note: any comments attempting to equate “immigration” and “illegal immigration” will be deleted unread; they’re quite different things, and opposition to one has nothing whatsoever to do with opinions on the other]

Wednesday, May 5 2010

Student loans

Let me see if I understand the current situation:

  1. Tuition has risen dramatically in recent years, pretty much everywhere, and at a rate far higher than can be explained by an increase in the cost of providing the services.
  2. Many degrees can never produce income sufficient to keep up payments on the loans required to get them, even at relatively cheap public universities.
  3. The loan companies have successfully lobbied to stack the deck against students, making it very easy to accrue penalties that can double the principal of the loan, and offering no way out, not even death or bankruptcy. If you ever fall behind after your deferment ends, you’re screwed.
  4. There is immense social pressure to go to college and do something, to the point that you’re considered a failure if you don’t, and many allegedly-intelligent adults insist that college is a right.
  5. Many employers require Bachelors/Masters degrees as checkbox items that are completely unrelated to job duties (“you must be this tall to ride the roller coaster”), as an alternative to the sort of applicant testing that gets them sued.
  6. Self-esteem-based public-school education has resulted in millions of teenagers who believe that “following your dream” is a valid career plan.
  7. A lot of 18-year-olds are signing off on $30,000/year loans to major in Underwater Basketweaving, etc, despite the demonstrated lack of demand for such skills.
  8. The percentage of students defaulting on their loans is going up fast.
  9. The loans in question are a mix of federal, state, and private, making it very difficult for any single goverment agency to simply “fix” them (or even find them), very much like bad mortgages.

A lot of people are writing to Obama begging him to solve this problem. “Cut the interest rate to 1%”, “abolish the penalties”, “let us declare bankruptcy”, or simply “forgive all student loans, period”. They look at the massive bailouts of mismanaged corporations, and ask where their bailout is.

I can sympathize with a laid-off engineer struggling to make payments on $30,000 in loans, or a single mom who got an accounting degree in night school and fell behind on payments because her kid had a big medical bill. I have no sympathy at all for someone who racked up over $100,000 in loans in order to get a low-paying “dream job” in Manhattan:

“I chose to go to a private school and I chose to work in a field where the starting salaries are low. Does that mean that I chose to live a life of struggle, wondering how I am going to pay my rent, afford the basics of living and still stay in my chosen career field…all while putting up with high interest rates and an amount of debt that brings me to tears?”

The above list includes some serious problems, and taken together they’ve created an awful mess, but it’s not one that can be wished away with a stroke of the presidential pen, even if Obama were interested. Solving the student-loan problem has a lot in common with trying to manage health-care costs and resolve the mortgage crisis, including the mis-regulation that created the problems and the mis-regulation that failed to solve them.

Saturday, May 22 2010

Martin Gardner, RIP

[Update: an old interview with Gardner has been reclaimed from the dust.]

Age 95. If you don’t already have his books, go buy some. Somewhere, I think I still have a large pile of xeroxed copies of his old Scientific American columns…

If you have any interest in games, magic, recreational mathematics, or a reality unencumbered by pseudoscience, you should already know how much he’ll be missed.

Sunday, May 30 2010

The knee, it jerks

So I bought a book on the opening of Japan. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but the author leads off by explaining that Pearl Harbor was a healthy psychological reaction to the deep wounds inflicted by Commodore Perry’s black ships and the arrogant American imperialism they represented.

I’m dying to see how he explains Perry’s culpability in the conquest of Korea, the invasion of China, the germ warfare, the comfort women, and all the other “healthy reactions” of poor, traumatized Imperial Japan.

Now it’s certainly possible that the rest of the book is an even-handed treatment of the events on both sides, well supported by the historical record, but somehow I doubt it.

Friday, June 11 2010

How to motivate soldiers

[Update: Bumped to the top (more precisely, recreated, since bumping hoses the navigation links), since the original videos disappeared almost immediately, and I just found another source for the show they came from. No short clips, and their embedding code doesn’t seem to let you specify the starting offset, but their simple link code does.]

South Korea has nothing to fear from the North. Not so long as their army knows what they’re fighting for…

[Broken Youtube link replaced with dailymotion; starts at 4:50]

Bonus clip of Yoona being a little too embarrassed to do a sexy solo dance routine, until the entire audience begs for more.

(Continued on Page 3576)

Saturday, September 11 2010

Advantage: Bing

It ain’t just the thought that counts. Especially when it’s an afterthought.

(Continued on Page 3620)

Tuesday, September 28 2010

“If you’re not familiar with that company…”

“…then how do you know who the hell we are?”

These were the words I just heard from a telemarketer after I politely asked her to repeat the name of the company she identified herself as representing and then said that I had never heard of them. Then she hung up on me.

Apparently she came pre-abused, so I didn’t even have to abuse her. It was a little early in the day to be completely burned out from cold-calling random strangers, though; I’m thinking she doesn’t have a future in the business. She didn’t really sound like a “Michelle”, either; she sounded like someone from India who was trying to hide that fact, and the resulting overcompensation made her even harder to understand.

(blocked caller-id and a generic-sounding financial-services-company name, so of course I wouldn’t have taken their offer, whatever it was going to be, but I didn’t even get the chance to shoot it down)

Thursday, October 21 2010

Diversity of everything except opinion

SF writer Elizabeth Moon has been removed as Guest of Honor at Wiscon, for the crime of stating an opinion that disagrees with the proper view on the subject.

[Update: The Brickmuppet weighs in, with thoughtful and linky goodness, including a Wiscon review. Honestly, after reading the review, I have to think that the only reason they originally invited her was for a chance to hate.]

Friday, December 3 2010

Dear California high-speed rail supporters,

Go ahead, explain the benefit we’re getting from this. And then start running.

Tar. Feathers. Some assembly required.

Monday, December 13 2010

Red Light Revenue

How well do those red-light auto-ticketing cameras work? This well (emphasis added):

“On top of this, many tickets are never paid, partly because failure to do so does not result in a suspension of license but also because 67 percent of tickets were mailed to people making legal right turns on red.”

Friday, December 17 2010

Will he demand the bail money back now?

[Update: Not true. So the only thing that was really news in those leaked cables turns out to be no news, hopefully hastening the day when both Assange and Moore fade into well-deserved obscurity.]

Best Wikileaks exposure yet: even Cuba thinks Michael Moore writes bad propaganda.

Perhaps I should have titled this one “When attention whores attack…each other!”.

Friday, January 7 2011

Spam that is not spam

Looking through the messages that were trapped by my spam filters, I found an odd one today. At first glance, it was very spammy:

  1. Sent to username johngreely at my domain jgreely.com, something I have never, ever used.
  2. Supposedly from a travel agency in the UK.
  3. Booking a room at a Four Seasons Country Club in Portugal, 2 adults, no children, checkin date today.
  4. Listing a home address for me in Ireland.
  5. With a “click here to complete your payment” link at the bottom of the invoice.

Except, the agency seems to really exist, and all of the links in the message went to their site, and there really is a Jigginstown in Naas, County Kildare. To ice the cake, a search of the Irish Times family notices page turns up engagements for both the son and the daughter of John and June Greely, of Jigginstown, Naas.

So, enjoy your vacation, folks, and I hope the misdirected email didn’t screw up your booking.

Thursday, February 3 2011

Design is not engineering, lesson 692

Words fail me. Windmills. Solar panels. Greenhouses. Only people with advanced degrees could come up with such a stupid bridge design.

Eco-Bridge of Doom

(via Gizmodo, whose writer seems to be about as technically adept as the designers themselves)

Wednesday, March 9 2011

Dear Wisconsin Democrats,

This is not “what democracy looks like”, this is what a temper tantrum looks like. If you wanted democracy, you should have spent the last three weeks hounding your senators to stop hiding out in hotels and go back to their jobs.

Tuesday, March 15 2011

Disaster porn

We hates it.

Worse than we hates the mindless anti-nuke activists going “see? see?” and the morons from Left, Right, Center, and Alpha Centauri grinding their favorite axe and babbling about why Japan “deserved” this. Not that I plan to forget who signed their names to hatred that would shame a paid union agitator, I’m just busy reviling the news media hysteria peddlers at the moment.

Monday, March 21 2011

“Run for the foothills!”

I honestly don’t know what to think about the Foothill College email newsletter leading off with a reassurance from the Santa Clara County Health Officer that there is currently no health threat from nuclear fallout here.

It is of course so artlessly phrased as to imply that Japan is now full of radioactive mutants wading knee-deep in the stuff.

[Update: Geiger counters have sold out in Paris. No, seriously.]

Sunday, April 3 2011

Idiots Everywhere

This is supposed to be a news story?!?

Japan’s Red Cross has collected more than $1 billion in the first three weeks after the massive earthquake and tsunami but has yet to distribute any funds directly to victims

It would never have occurred to me that some people would expect the primary use of that money to be cash handouts (their words), and that this would be so important that it would be the leading complaint in a story that goes on to mention the 12,000 dead, 15,000 missing, and 160,000 living in temporary shelters.

Silly me, I thought you’d want to spend that money in an organized fashion on things like food, water, shelter, portable generators, medical care, search and rescue, etc. The Red Cross does give out cash, but that isn’t all they do, and it isn’t what they do first. Apparently media foolishness is not limited to hysterical screeds about nuclear armageddon.

(Now, I have no objection to money being given to the folks whose homes, lives, and families were destroyed. If that’s the best way to help them right now, then by all means give them the money. But how much does a journalist in LA know about helping people?)

Tuesday, April 5 2011

Dear Comcast,

Now, I’m not saying that the “Xfinity” thing hasn’t persuaded consumers into thinking you’re all shiny and new again, but if you wanted to do one tiny little thing that would show everyone a commitment to quality in one component of your “triple play” deals, perhaps you could pick up the May 2011 issue of C_ns_m_r R_p_rts.

And then pick up the company they rated as the best in that category.

Just a, y’know, suggestion.

Wednesday, April 6 2011

Interior Design: if it saves just one life…

“By not allowing interior designers to be specialists and focus on the things they do, what you’re basically doing is contributing to 88,000 deaths every year.”

Yes, it’s true. This person is actually a licensed interior designer, testifying to the Florida legislature about the dangers of allowing just anyone to choose fabrics.

There are more juicy quotes from people who both teach and study this and other life-or-death professions, and who are desperate to keep just anyone from engaging in pillow-selection, hair-braiding, fundraising, water-cooler vending, dance instruction, furniture moving, etc.

Thursday, April 7 2011

7.1-magnitude quake near Sendai

Nothing like last month’s monster, but bigger than all but 5 of the aftershocks in the week that followed it. The USGS report gives an epicenter just a few miles offshore, and other reports say the accompanying tsunami is expected to top out at 2 meters.

Monday, May 2 2011

From now on…

…May Day celebrations will feature an entirely different crowd.

Sunday, May 15 2011

Change

…the other three were of a breed Verkan Vall had learned to recognize on any time-line — the arrogant, cocksure, ambitious, leftist politician, who knows what is best for everybody better than anybody else does, and who is convinced that he is inescapably right and that whoever differs with him is not only an ignoramus but a venal scoundrel as well.
Last Enemy, H. Beam Piper, August, 1950

Tuesday, May 17 2011

Reasons to stay out of New York City, #551

Being arrested because a cop thought you might be carrying a pocket knife. Not brandishing it, not openly using a clearly-illegal type of knife, but having a slight bulge in your front pocket suggesting that there’s a knife clipped there.

All part of an ambitious District Attorney’s plan to crack down on the scourge of modern pocket knives purchased at major retailers by law-abiding citizens. Because if it looks scarier than a butter knife, it must be a criminal tool that no normal person would own. This may sound familiar to anyone who’s seen the laundry list of cosmetic features used to define “assault weapons”.

Personally, I carry a 555 and a 710, so no Big Apple for me!

Now for the real question. Is this District Attorney:

A. running for re-election.
B. pretending to be “tough on crime”.
C. raising revenue with easy arrests.
D. improving cops’ personal knife collections.
E. ruining lives with bullshit convictions.
F. diverting police resources from actual crime.
G. all of the above

Tuesday, May 31 2011

Rules for Recreational Vehicles, #6

If an actual house passes you on the highway, you’re driving too slow.

Wednesday, June 8 2011

Resolving the student loan crisis…

Unless there’s a whole helluva lot missing from this story, there are a lot of people who need to be fined, fired, and jailed:

The U.S. Department of Education issued the search and called in the S.W.A.T for his wife’s defaulted student loans.

An early-morning no-knock raid by heavily-armed federal agents, over student loans. And they locked three children in the back of a patrol car while they spent hours searching the house for a woman who wasn’t there. What exactly were they looking for, a secret stash of hundred-dollar bills they could seize to pay off the loans? What were they afraid he’d flush if they executed a normal search warrant at a normal hour, his checkbook?

[Update: and the additional explanation, as provided by the actual search warrant, is that they believed the woman who didn’t live there had fraudulently filed student-loan paperwork, possibly in volume. The kitchen-sink list of items they wanted to be able to seize (and the judge’s refusal to allow them to go fishing for unrelated crimes) suggests that it would have been impossible for someone to destroy it all during a normal search, so there’s no excuse at all for an armed raid. One or two feds, with a local officer for support, could have politely knocked and executed a normal search.]

Friday, June 24 2011

The push for “medical” marijuana

You know, if people came out and said, “legalize marijuana so we can get high”, I’d likely vote for that. The social impact of their drug of choice compares favorably with tobacco and alcohol, and I’ve yet to hear a pro-prohibitionist argument that’s sturdier than tissue paper. I find the smell vile, even worse than stale cigarette smoke, but I also can’t stand thick perfume or strong BO, which are at least as common in public places today.

But don’t try to bullshit me. Yes, there are medicinal applications for marijuana and THC, but when I drive down the highway in San Jose and see a billboard advertising medical marijuana evaluations at sj420.com, it’s about as “medical” as a prescription for Lucky Strikes and Coors.

[ditto last year’s trip to Las Vegas, where the billboard was for DrReefer.com]

Wednesday, June 29 2011

California budget follies

In a move that will surprise no one but the California Legislature, the $200 million dollars that California expected to get out of Amazon will instead give the state precisely $0 to waste. As they’ve done every other time a state has redefined “nexus”, Amazon has ended their Affiliate program in California, effective immediately. Brown signed it, and Amazon sent out the termination notices.

With luck, this will leave the latest phony-baloney budget enough out of balance that the legislature will continue to go without pay.

Thursday, June 30 2011

“Irradiating organic food would save lives”

I cannot improve on the original headline. All I can do is imagine the tens of thousands of Certified Organic head explosions around the world.

Friday, July 8 2011

And this is why we can’t have nice things

From the Denver Post:

A Colorado teen is recovering from serious burns he suffered when the fireworks he was attempting to mix in a coffee grinder exploded. … the teen had read online about how larger fireworks could be made from smaller ones

Perhaps he should have stuck to online tutorials about how to smoke at home without getting busted?

Thursday, July 14 2011

Old School

Obviously, he’s headed off to meet up with the Cat Planet Cuties…

Then again, with a name like Alan Shepard, perhaps he’d be more interested in Jens…

[Updated with a static image after I discovered that Life Magazine has removed it from their archives. Pity, since you could buy a nice print from them.]

Thursday, August 25 2011

There are worse places to be bitten…

…but I can now state from experience that a mosquito bite on the eyelid is quite annoying.

Also, unrelated, never run an application that’s located on an NFS file server at the other end of an OpenVPN tunnel. That hurts, too.

Sunday, September 11 2011

False equivalence

Saw a “news” article yesterday where someone attempted to prove his moral cleverness by showing the lack of a significant national response on the 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, and that what was written about Japan at the time was largely concerned with building up our peaceful relationship. Apparently he not only doesn’t understand the difference between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, he’s managed to overlook all the ways that we still, to this day, remember World War 2.

Friday, September 23 2011

Shorter Elizabeth Warren quote

“Bend over, taxpayer.”

Tuesday, September 27 2011

Dear San Francisco Asian Art Museum,

What tone-deaf idiot wrote this?

A Brand New Brand
We’ve been eager to share something exciting with you, and now it’s time:

Your Asian Art Museum sports a new vision, a new brand promise, and a new logo unveiled this week. We’re reinventing ourselves to engage a broader audience.

Our Vision is to spark connections across cultures and through time, and our brand promises to: Awaken the Past, Inspire the Next. We’ll use art to unlock the past and bring it to life, and act as a catalyst for new art, new creativity, and new thinking. We’ll feature more contemporary art, often drawing connections to historic art in our collection. We invite you to experience the beauty and depth of Asian art and cultures, and to be inspired.

Our new logo reflects our Vision. It says we have a new perspective. It’s bold and confident. And, it invites all to engage. (Did you know an upside-down A is a mathematic symbol for for all?)

Come see how we’re starting to live our new brand.

It honestly reads like a letter to shareholders after a corporate takeover, not a museum newsletter sent to members and patrons. And the logo itself? Eh. Not bad if you’re making add-ons for Adobe products, I suppose.

Friday, October 7 2011

Hipster street cred

1. Occupy Wall Street (read: “skip classes; someone else is paying for it anyway”).

2. Select generic slogan that would be just as meaningful applied to Congress, unions, or any local school board (“no more corruption”).

3. Use Google Translate to convert idiomatic English into ungrammatical Chinese that means something entirely different (“not corrupted any more”), and scrawl the resulting Hanzi characters onto a poster with a marker.

4. Feel proud of this dubious accomplishment.

Thursday, October 27 2011

OWS, the gift that keeps on giving…

…unless you’re, y’know, actually homeless, instead of being a contributor to the new society:

The Occupy Wall Street volunteer kitchen staff launched a “counter” revolution yesterday – because they’re angry about working 18-hour days to provide food for “professional homeless” people and ex-cons masquerading as protesters.

For three days beginning tomorrow, the cooks will serve only brown rice and other spartan grub instead of the usual menu of organic chicken and vegetables, spaghetti bolognese, and roasted beet and sheep’s-milk-cheese salad.

Wednesday, December 28 2011

Our Best And Brightest

Or, well, not:

“You know, this is what happens with communism. It’s a great concept. On paper it makes perfect sense. But once you put a human being in power, it shifts. We saw it in Russia, we’ve seen it all around the world. It’s nuts. But, I keep my fingers crossed.”

– Whoopi Goldberg, lamenting that the late Kim Jong-il’s legacy was just an implementation problem

Saturday, December 31 2011

Shortest JW visit ever

There are frequent discussions online about how to end an unwanted visit by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The general consensus is that the sure-fire “stop bugging me forever” technique is to quietly, sincerely say, “I’m sorry, I’ve been disfellowshipped”, which means you’ve been kicked out of the Witnesses, and talking to you can send them to hell, too.

I seem to have found an even better way. I was working from home on Thursday, when I got the knock on my door. I answered it to find a stunning young hispanic woman leading a troop of Watchtower-holders, whose face fell the moment she saw me.

In halting English, she asked, “do you know if your neighbors speak Spanish?”

Friday, February 3 2012

Obama’s greatest weakness

People like Will Shetterly:

“I have no regrets for voting for Nader twice, and I’m a little sorry I voted for Obama. I knew he was a neoliberal, but I thought it would feel better than it did to finally be able to vote for a black prez.”

They only had to prove they weren’t racists once. With that achievement unlocked, they’re free to vote for the candidates they actually approve of.

Tuesday, April 24 2012

Obama’s race war heats up

Here’s one thing he can’t try to pin on Bush!

Sunday, May 6 2012

Extremism in defense of Occupy is…

unsurprising.

Wednesday, May 30 2012

Linguistic faux pas”?

Nice cover work there:

Obama on Tuesday labeled the Nazi facility used to process Jews for extermination as a “Polish death camp.” The White House later said the president “misspoke” and expressed “regret”.

The linguistic faux pas overshadowed Obama’s posthumous award of the highest US civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to Jan Karski, a former Polish underground officer who provided early eyewitness accounts of Nazi Germany’s genocide of European Jews.

Seriously, when can we just admit that his speechwriters are a pack of ignorant fools and Obama just reads whatever the teleprompter says, regardless of its content? He’s capable of delivering a well-rehearsed speech, but since the election he doesn’t take the time to rehearse, even for significant events.

Friday, June 22 2012

You have to be really smart to do something this stupid…

Another own-goal from the Obama campaign.

Got a birthday, anniversary, or wedding coming up?

Let your friends know how important this election is to you—register with Obama 2012, and ask for a donation in lieu of a gift. It’s a great way to support the President on your big day. Plus, it’s a gift that we can all appreciate—and goes a lot further than a gravy bowl.

I’d file it as “humor”, but this is an official statement from the campaign site, which henceforth shall be known as Clowncar 2012.

Wednesday, August 1 2012

“Nice shooting, Tex”

Judging from the backlash, I’m guessing that the assault on Chick-fil-A just set back the gay-rights movement about five years.

Judging from the responses to the backlash, they plan to keep digging.

Pro tip: when framing your opponents as intolerant hate-filled bigots, try not to showcase your own hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.

Thursday, August 9 2012

Stimulus and Austerity

From the recently-released Modern Bushido by Toshishiro Obata:

Uesugi Yōzan (1751–1822) was the second son of the daimyō of the modest Akizuki clan; when he married into the larger, related Yonezawa-han, he eventually succeeded the clan leader as the ninth-generation head. When he came to power, however, he inherited an ailing and destitute clan — the Yonezawa-han was deeply indebted and nearly bankrupt, and lacked the means to reverse its fortune.

Yōzan therefore proposed sweeping reforms in civics and industry within the clan, which met fierce opposition from seven obdurate retainers. Not to be stymied in fulfilling his leadership duties, Yōzan had these retainers promptly executed, and quickly set his plan into motion.

His plan was threefold: revitalize the economy, develop new industry, and reform the people’s education and thinking. He prioritized economization and saving for the future, reducing his retainers’ salaries and managing the clan’s expenses frugally; in this, he led by example, reducing his own salary from 1,500 to 209 ryō, trimming his personal attendants from 50 to 9, and relinquishing luxuries like costly food or fine clothes in favor of simpler necessities.

He created many new industries for the clan, such as koi farming, benibana [safflower] farming, silkworm farming, and yonezawa-ori [high-quality woven silk] production. Yōzan also improved the infrastructure of the clan domain, building roads, clearing land for rice fields, cultivating millions of trees for paper production, and so on. Yōzan renovated social policy, instituting the principles of jijo (self-help and self-reliance), gojo (cooperation and mutual aid), and fujo (government aid and support), as well as fukushi (welfare for the elderly).

During the Tenmei famine, the success of Yōzan’s efforts was shown in vivid relief; neighboring clans suffered severe casualties due to disease and starvation, but the Yonezawa, though similarly surviving off of very few resources, experienced no casualties, and no one abandoned the han out of desperation, as was occuring in other clans.

The shogunate later declared Yonezawa a model of excellent governance. To this day, Uesugi Yōzan is considered one of the greatest leaders in history for his use of chi [wisdom] to save his clan.

Friday, August 17 2012

Silicon Valley Employment Success Tip

How to make money at a Steve Perlman company: be Steve Perlman.

How to get screwed at a Steve Perlman company: not be Steve Perlman.

The now-former employees of OnLive are the latest to learn this lesson.

[Update: this explains a lot: “If you’ve got 8,000 servers and 1,600 users, how could we ever get to cash flow positive, right?”]

Friday, August 31 2012

Liberal reactions to Clint Eastwood’s speech

Monday, September 17 2012

Swordplay

Note to self: when planning to spend 5 hours a day for 3 days swinging a sword and shouting, in an indifferently-ventilated garage where the air approaches body temperature, remember that water, iced tea, and cheeseburgers are inefficient methods of restoring electrolyte balance.

Wednesday, October 17 2012

Homework matters, presidential debate edition

Um, wow.

Romney: “When the president took office, the price of gasoline here in Nassau County was about $1.86 a gallon. Now, it’s $4.00 a gallon.”

Obama: “Well, think about what the governor – think about what the governor just said. He said when I took office, the price of gasoline was $1.80, $1.86. Why is that? Because the economy was on the verge of collapse, because we were about to go through the worst recession since the Great Depression, as a consequence of some of the same policies that Governor Romney’s now promoting. So, it’s conceivable that Governor Romney could bring down gas prices because with his policies, we might be back in that same mess.”

Tuesday, October 30 2012

Dear Jerry Brown,

Crawl back under your rock, you slimy little worm.

From: Jerry Brown
Subject: Let’s not let Arizona bandits steal our democracy

Dear John,

In just a few days, Californians will decide whether to vote yes or no on Proposition 30. A no vote means a shortened school year, laid-off teachers, crowded classrooms, and higher tuition. A yes vote means we can avoid all those things. It seems like a no-brainer to me, yet we find ourselves in a very close race.

The problem is, there are some anti-tax zealots out there who are so rich they think they can buy this vote. They’ve sunk tens of millions of dollars of their personal fortunes into a shameless propaganda campaign to defeat Prop 30.

Last week, we found out something even worse. Someone’s been using a phony non-profit in Arizona to funnel money from unnamed donors into our state. Under California law, you have a right to know who’s spending money to influence our state’s elections.

Who are these guys? Are they foreigners? That’s illegal. Are they Californians using Arizona to hide from their own state’s sunshine laws? Also illegal. The situation appears so suspicious that the Fair Political Practices Commission has filed a lawsuit to make them give up their names.

But that’s going to take a while, and our schools need saving now.

Let’s not let Arizona bandits steal our democracy.

Let’s step up and meet these masked men, dollar for dollar, and keep spreading the truth about Proposition 30.

[donation URLs deleted, because these lying SOBs don’t deserve another fucking dime of taxpayer money]

Yours truly,

Jerry Brown

Tuesday, November 6 2012

My vote doesn’t count,…

…but I cast it anyway. To register my disapproval of the virulent hatred, bigotry, contempt, and racism that dominates modern politics, I voted against the Democrats again.

Also, Benghazi. Obama deserves to spend the rest of his life explaining why he was more interested in trying to keep his job than in doing it. The bodies weren’t even cold before he was back on the campaign trail, lying about what happened.

[Update: driving home tonight, it was so foggy that I couldn’t see the exit sign. #economymetaphor

Also, about the only nice thing I can say about the California election results is that Prop 37 seems to have been soundly defeated. This may be the only real sign of intelligent life in the state.]

Sunday, December 23 2012

Holiday driving

I was not killed on the way home tonight.

A pack of drunken assholes made the effort, though. They were doing about 25 MPH over the speed limit and apparently had no depth perception, or they wouldn’t have come so close to ramming me from behind on a clear stretch of highway.

Thursday, January 10 2013

Quote of the day

On the current round of Democrat grandstanding, Walter Hudson says:

“The third little pig was the obstructionist in the family.”

Monday, January 21 2013

Turnabout

The global warming social engineers have been pretty successful at marginalizing anyone who dares to question their ever-changing definition of The End Of The World, so I think it’s only fair that we adopt their methods and refer to gun-control supporters as Civil Rights Denialists.

The fact that warmologers and gun-grabbers tend to flock together just makes it all the more appropriate.

Friday, January 25 2013

Crazy, but like a fox?

A) Feinstein isn’t stupid.

B) Pushing for significant increases in gun control is likely to push the Senate into the hands of the Republicans in 2014.

C) She’s too old to run for President in 2016.

D) She’s a big Hillary supporter.

E) The media quite fawningly accused the nasty evil extremist Republicans of picking on poor little Hillary after she finally lied through her teeth testified about Benghazi.

Is it all just a game to make Hillary the “persecuted underdog” for 2016?

PS: I like the suggestion that the way the House can defeat any gun-control proposal is to attach a budget to it; Harry Reid will never let it come to a vote.

Friday, February 15 2013

Bonnie Parker cosplay

In a bold choice, this young historical cosplayer has chosen to dress up as a gangster’s moll and terrorize a room full of innocent people with an automatic weapon.

(moved below the fold because I’m tired of looking at her…)

(Continued on Page 4171)

Wednesday, March 13 2013

Twice is enemy action…

Thursday I had my car at the dealer’s for a slightly-belated 60,000 mile major service, and while they were at it, they replaced the wheel bearings on the right rear tire, which had been making some noise. All under warranty, no big deal. I drove back to the office, parked on the side of the building, and all was well.

Saturday morning, while waiting for our instructor to show up at the dojo, another student noticed the head of a 3-inch nail sticking out of the right rear tire. He figured vandalism, because it went in nice and straight, as if pounded with a hammer.

This morning, when I went out to the car, I happened to check the new tires, and found this:

tire vandalism

Same tire, same kind of nail, pounded in nice and straight. Guess where I parked yesterday? Guess which side of the office building has no lights, no windows, and isn’t covered by our security cameras?

Grrrr.

Friday, June 21 2013

Google HR solves for x, by brute force

Google doesn’t just take anyone’s word for it that wheels should be round; they try every other possible shape first.

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time. How many golf balls can you fit into an airplane? How many gas stations in Manhattan? A complete waste of time. They don’t predict anything. They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart.

Instead, what works well are structured behavioral interviews, where you have a consistent rubric for how you assess people, rather than having each interviewer just make stuff up.

Along the way, though, they did discover a few things that many corporate HR folks still don’t accept:

One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless – no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.

Saturday, June 22 2013

Picking up on the clues…

This boingboing article attempts an in-depth analysis of the recent flap about a Kickstarter campaign for pick-up artists that contained some controversial–and in some cases unsavory– advice for men who can’t manage to score any other way.

It jumps the shark the moment the author uses the word “cisgender”. You don’t need to read anything past that point to predict everything he says.

Tuesday, June 25 2013

Learned helplessness

Via Althouse comes this Berkeley headline:

Firefighters use lid to put out kitchen pot fire in Berkeley

Sunday, July 14 2013

If you’re allergic to stupid…

…stay away from any unmoderated forums or comments for the next few days weeks.

I mean, damn.

[Update: also forums moderated by “diversity of everything except opinion” Leftists (redundant, I know); I’ve read several lengthy threads where not a single person participating has even a passing familiarity with what was presented in the courtroom. Their bigotry has left them filled with hatred over “facts” that the prosecution was unable to provide even a shred of evidence for.

Of course, these are the same folks still carrying a grudge over Bush “stealing two elections”, so law and reason were never their strengths…]

Wednesday, July 31 2013

Touchstones

  • George W. Bush was legitimately elected President. Twice.
  • Vaccines save lives, and do not cause autism.
  • There is no such thing as a “climate-change denier”, just people who think that Global Warming is 99% social engineering and 1% climate science.
  • George Zimmerman did not get away with murder, and the verdict, which did not depend on “standing his ground”, would likely have been the same in 48 other states (and possibly even in Ohio).

Tuesday, August 27 2013

Why did Bradley Manning suddenly become Chelsea?

Why make a big fuss about announcing what everyone knew well before the trial started? Because Leavenworth is an all-male prison. This makes it look less like a courageous stance by a transgender individual, and more like a cynical ploy to avoid spending the next 7-35 years in Leavenworth.

(cynical quotes around certain words in the previous paragraph have been omitted to avoid discussing the general issue of gender as a fluid concept disconnected from biology)

Friday, September 6 2013

Yeah, that’ll show ’em

Lowell Observatory’s Putnam wants to name asteroid for Trayvon Martin

The victims of media-instigated “justice for trayvon” attacks will be required to time-share a small rock tentatively named “Fuck You Whitey”.

Thursday, November 14 2013

Smoke ’em if you got ’em

Volcano edition:

Mt Etna blows smoke rings

(via Volcano Discovery)

Friday, December 6 2013

Truths…

Waking up with frost on my lemons (not a euphemism), a warm breeze comes from Lion.

Monday, December 9 2013

US education system hits bottom, digs

Lots of press about the “Hour of Code” campaign recently, which has the goal of briefly exposing children to computer programming. Money down the drain, since most school curriculums still don’t include Hour of Basic Logic, Hour of Problem-Solving, or Hour of You Are Not A Precious Snowflake.

[Update: a number of the discussions of this are linking to Jeff Atwood’s Please Don’t Learn to Code, and wow did that attract hundreds of comments from people who completely missed his point. I agree completely with Jeff, and a lot of the reason is that I remember exactly what it was like when we did this back in the Eighties: put a bunch of kids in a room and try to teach them to program, and 60% will pretend interest and parrot what they’re told, 30% will be too bored to pretend, 9% will be actively hostile, and 1% will be excited about the opportunity until the other kids bully them into doing all the work. Bottom line, if the school curriculum included critical thinking skills in all courses, an “hour of code” would be as necessary as giving floating lessons to ducks. No offense to any ducks among my readers…]

[12/13 Update: apparently the folks at code.org think being exposed to computer science is like being exposed to radiation: “More students have participated in computer science in U.S. schools in the last three days than in the last 100 years”. They are so completely full of shit that I’m surprised my browser didn’t turn brown.]

Tuesday, December 31 2013

Dec 31st a UPS holiday?

Wish I’d known that before I paid for next-day-air delivery yesterday. Now it’s sitting in a depot a few miles away, taunting me with the knowledge that I won’t have it for my day off tomorrow.

Sunday, January 5 2014

The crazy, it burns…

Self-mocking feminism detected. And here I used to think that Mark Ethan Smith was an outlier…

Best comment: “People like this are the reason we have to put instructions on shampoo bottles.”

Tuesday, March 18 2014

Fortunately, we’re not hiring proofreaders…

Dear student looking for a summer internship,

When one of the prominent credits on your thin résumé is “Perfect SAT Score in Math & English”, you really ought to have caught the howler in “I have learned how to diffuse confrontations…”.

And, yes, I know you’re an undergrad, so there’s not much to fill the page with, but the sidebar labeled Strengths has 2 lines of technical ability (repeated from the main text), and 32 lines of Precious Stanford Snowflake back-patting; this does nothing to endear you to me before the interview.

P.S. I know it’s not your fault that modern college admissions forces you to play up bulllshit like Presidential Community Service Awards. Just show up prepared to talk about problem-solving and putting your technical skills to practical use, and you’ll do fine.

Friday, March 28 2014

Triggers and Trolls

“Don’t say these terrible things that wound me psychologically,” we say. “I’m going out of town for a week and keeping my door unlocked. Please don’t rob my house,” is what the troll hears.

(via)

Sunday, April 6 2014

Saturday Morning rape culture

The academic feminists who view everything through the lens of usually-imaginary oppression would surely not tolerate something like this if it happened to a girl:

A single woman over the age of thirty promises a young boy a ride in her beautiful boat, in order to get her hands on his magic flute.

Wednesday, April 9 2014

“We wuz tricked!”

Noted scientist Kate Mulgrew and several actual scientists are horrified to discover that they’re starring in a quack-science movie (no relation to actual Quack Science, as practiced by all right-thinking ducks). For more fun, the person behind the movie is a Holocaust denier and frothing anti-semite.

But this is the best part (emphasis added):

Following confusion as to why Mulgrew, a life-long Democrat, chose to narrate the film scientists have described as “garbage”, the actress posted a statement on her Facebook page denying she was a geocentrist or “in any way a proponent of geocentrism”.

So, the author of this piece apparently believes “Democrat” is synonymous with “scientifically literate” and “possesses critical thinking skills”.

Tuesday, April 22 2014

Fixed

The answer to Pixy’s question is obvious, but I felt that the Hillaryganda poster needed something a little stronger than her name to get the point across:

(moved under the fold, because Hillary)

(Continued on Page 4406)

Tuesday, April 29 2014

Dear intern candidates,

Interviewing you for half an hour does not make you a professional contact on LinkedIn. Stop with the invites.

Saturday, May 3 2014

Headlines from The Crazy Years

I missed this a few days ago:

Cuba accuses UK of being anti-capitalist over plain packaging plans

Ah, those evil seductive tobacco labels. When this nonsense comes to the US, they will of course insist that colorful cigar boxes must be banned because they appeal to children.

Wednesday, May 14 2014

Tuesday, July 8 2014

Cargo Cult Science revisited

Jason Mitchell, professor of Social Psychology at Harvard, vigorously demonstrates Richard Feynman’s point about pseudosciences that adopt the appearance of science without the substance. By aiming the gun at his own feet:

“Because experiments can be undermined by a vast number of practical mistakes, the likeliest explanation for any failed replication will always be that the replicator bungled something along the way. Unless direct replications are conducted by flawless experimenters, nothing interesting can be learned from them.”

Tuesday, July 29 2014

Man bites dog

In a shocking turn of events, a police officer who shot a family’s dog for no good reason actually got fired for it.

Saturday, August 30 2014

I find this argument oddly compelling…

Brian Cates has a healthy dialogue about modern feminism. Only work-safe if everyone around you admires the sight of Sofia Vergara in very little clothing.

I wish they’d run reruns of Fuera de Serie sometime; while the main attraction was Sofia’s amazing body, it was actually a fun little travel show, even if you don’t speak any Spanish.

Wednesday, September 3 2014

Not your typical celebrity car accident

One K-pop singer dead, another one in critical condition, and a third hospitalized, because:

“Around 1:30 AM in Suwon, an issue occured with the car’s back wheel coming off. With the rainy road and wheel coming off, the vehicle spun several times, hitting a guardrail.”