The Emotional Pumpkin


Friday, October 29, 2004

Megan McArdle,

libertarian and swing voter extraordinaire (who has, as I have mentioned before, been guestblogging at InstaPundit this week), has finally decided which way to cast her vote next Tuesday. Read the whole thing.

This is surprising:

Germany's largest newspaper, which has the largest circulation of any in Europe, has endorsed George W. Bush for re-election. Considering the rampant anti-Bushism (and in general anti-Americanism) in the Old European media, and in German media in particular, this may seem shocking. After reading some of their reasons--some pragmatic and others plainly self-interested--though, it does not seem as much a surprise. (Via InstaPundit)

Why Zarqawi, not Bin Laden,

is public enemy number one.

Yasser Arafat

has been flown to Paris for treatment; Israel has lifted its travel restrictions on him temporarily, and claims that he will be allowed the right of return. The Economist has a rather blunt assessment of what could happen in the resulting power vacuum if Arafat either dies or becomes incapacitated.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The prank continues

I got another e-mail from the Yes, Bush Can pranksters:
A week ago, we sent you an email asking for help debunking anti-Bush documents. After receiving hundreds of responses, it become clear that all the documents were actually real: the Bush/Cheney DUIs, the Ken Lay letters, and even the bin Laden memo. For more information visit the documents page:

We also received hundreds of emails from concerned bloggers that eloquently expressed the problems with the Bush administration. And as we traveled across America campaigning for Bush, we learned more than we wanted to know about Bush's policies. We came to see that this administration is a catastrophe for most people.

As a result, we are abandoning our support of Bush and officially endorsing John Kerry for President. You can read more at the Yes Bush Can web site:
We deeply regret our misguided support and apologize for our previous email. This will be the last email we will send directly to bloggers. If you want to join us in supporting Kerry, you can find out more here:

Thank you for your understanding,

Yes Bush Can

I guess people must still be falling for it, and this e-mail is the punchline.

Google watch update

They're at it again: MSNBC reports that Google has aquired Keyhole Corp., "a supplier of online satellite maps that allow users to zoom down to street level to specific locations". True to form, Google has not said what it plans to do with the new acquisition, but surely it will be used for Google Local. (Via Slashdot)

In other Google-related news, while driving in Mountain View the other day (which, as you might know, is where Google HQ are located), I happened to be just behind a BMW M3 with "ADSENSE" on the license plate. Considering the expense of the car and the brazen usage of the brand, I surmised that this was no peon developer. It had to be, I thought, one of the higher-ups who had a lot to do with AdSense's inception. Maybe Larry Page or Sergei Brin himself. Hmmm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Conventional wisdom backed up by data

A recent study reports that tired interns are making serious mistakes. Well, duh. But apparently no one in charge of America's hospitals wants to change that. Megan McArdle, guestblogging at InstaPundit this week, notes that "the reason is green, and it folds". While it is true that there is a tradeoff here, that paying for doctors to work more hours (or hiring more doctors) to relieve interns will drive up hospital costs (the hospitals of course pushing those costs onto patients, which will result in a net increase in health care costs for everyone), it seems to me that the increased quality of medical care is worth it. Also, has a numerical analysis been done regarding how interns' increased propensity for sleep-deprivation-induced error affects the frequency of malpractice suits, and therefore the level of malpractice insurance premiums? Maybe there's also a financial benefit to letting interns get more sleep.

As if we needed something else to worry about...

Reuters is reporting that Palestinian president Yasser Arafat is ill, and may be seriously so. He is 75, and his death could have serious and unpredictable consequences in that region. (Via InstaPundit)

Will Wilkinson

talks about voting dogs and democratic fairy dust:
A lot of the coverage, both formal and informal, of the forthcoming apocalypse in Ohio strikes me as implicitly accepting a really quite stupid bit of democratic romanticism: that it is better that 100 illegitimate votes be counted than to let one legitimate vote go uncounted.

The implicit picture is that voting is a sort of magical expression of citizenship that mystically confers "legitimacy" upon democratically decided results. If some citizens vote, but have their votes tossed out, or if some citizens decide it is too much hassle to get to the polls, then each lost vote is a drop drained from the bucket of legitimacy.

This is an utterly bizzare way of looking at democratic legitimacy, but seems to be part of the civics course democracy catechism, about which journalists especially pretend to be devout. This is why we hear cries of lament if there is low voter turnout. How can democracy be the people's authentic voice if the people refuse to speak! How can we frolic in the sparkling waters of democracy if the bucket of legitimacy is but half full?

Bucket of legitimacy: I love it! Read the whole thing. (Via InstaPundit)

So I was watching

VH1 while working out this morning (I usually watch MTV or VH1 because they're just about the only non-news channels that don't have infomercials on at that time of the morning), and I saw this video for a song called "People Have the Power" by a group (consisting entirely of famous musicians) called Vote for Change. As you might imagine, it's one of those celebrity get-out-the-vote campaigns, but it might as well have been called Vote for Kerry, especially since it's affiliated with MoveOnPAC. Listen to the lineup on that stage: Michael Stipe, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder, The Dixie Chicks, John Mellencamp, Bonnie Raitt, Babyface, James Taylor, and those are just the people I recognized. I like most of these musicians, but I'm really not interested in getting political advice from rock stars.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

South Korea is

on high alert after two holes were found in the fence separating it from the North. (Via InstaPundit)

America's new climate of fear

A lot of right-leaning bloggers have been writing of late about the new "climate of fear" in America; that people who are openly Republican or conservative are getting some shameful treatment from the liberals who surround them. Not having heard much from the other side, I just figured that this behavior was one half of the ugly partisanship that is rife nowadays, and which would die down following the election. Now Slate is carrying a report from a journalist who performed a little experiment. He dressed up as a Kerry supporter in a mainly Republican/conservative area, and as a Bush supporter in a mainly Democratic/liberal area. He got a much harder time from people in the liberal areas.

I don't even know what to say. This report, along with all the other reports of Republican campaign offices around the country being vandalized, is just appalling. This kind of behavior, this utter disregard for reason or moderation, is what gives liberals a bad name.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Alien thunder

From Astrobiology Magazine:
The sound of alien thunder, the patter of methane rain and the crunch (or splash) of a landing, all might be heard as Huygens descends to the surface of Titan on 14 January 2005.

What's more, they will be recorded by a microphone on the probe and relayed back so that everyone on Earth can hear the sounds of Titan.

More information at Slashdot.

Google watch update

According to this article on, Google may soon be releasing a Google-branded and customized browser based on Firefox. The article also contains some interesting speculation about what's next. Does this fit in with my crackpot theory? Could be. (Via Slashdot) has

released the first part of a preview of the new Final Fantasy movie. It looks good. (Via Slashdot)

San Francisco

is the latest in a string of cities to announce plans for citywide wi-fi. (Via Slashdot)

Living neural nets

According to this article from Wired News:
Somewhere in Florida, 25,000 disembodied rat neurons are thinking about flying an F-22.

These neurons are growing on top of a multi-electrode array and form a living "brain" that's hooked up to a flight simulator on a desktop computer. When information on the simulated aircraft's horizontal and vertical movements are fed into the brain by stimulating the electrodes, the neurons fire away in patterns that are then used to control its "body" -- the simulated aircraft.


Currently the brain has learned enough to be able to control the pitch and roll of the simulated F-22 fighter jet in weather conditions ranging from blue skies to hurricane-force winds. Initially the aircraft drifted, because the brain hadn't figured out how to control its "body," but over time the neurons learned to stabilize the aircraft to a straight, level flight.

More information can be found here. Aside from the obvious medical implications of this research, the outcome should have a significant effect on AI research. (Via InstaPundit)

It's early yet,

but the AP is reporting that Hamid Karzai is the likely winner of Afghanistan's Oct 9th election, with an estimated 55% of the votes counted thus far (about 95% of the total ballots cast). (Via InstaPundit)

There was no blogging

this weekend because I was out of town. However, here are a couple of cool websites I found this weekend about the origins of common English sayings.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

If only

I know some of you have seen this already, but here's a trailer (the link for the trailer is on the "About the Movie" menu) for a really cool looking Japanese sci-fi movie, Casshern, that was released in theaters there last year. The internet has been abuzz for the last year or so with speculation as to its possible release in the US. The Japanese DVD release is this Saturday, 10.23, and we can only hope that a US release will follow shortly thereafter. Anyway, the trailer is entirely in Japanese, and the only translation that I could find is really not very good. So I decided to translate it myself. I'm not a native speaker by any means, so there are some parts I couldn't make out. They are marked below as unclear, and in some of those cases I had to guess what the meaning was from the part I could make out. However, what results is still, I'd like to think, more accurate than what's available currently.
Koko ni hitotsu no seika wo happyou sasete itadakitai.
Sono na ha shinzou saibou.
Kore ga koko made tsukutta no?
Okusama...gobyouki da to okiki shimashita ga...
Luna ha dou surunda?
Tomodachi ga tatakatteiru no ni, jibun dake konna tokoro ni iru wake ni ha ikanai.
Genin fumei!
Shinzou saibou ha mada kansei saren no ka?
Dou iu koto da?
Gunbu ga ugoiteru to iu koto desu.
Naze hito ha tatakau no ka na?
Anatagata ha nani wo shita no desu ka?
Shi wo osameru aratana shinzou ningen to shoushin*
Ningen wo minagoroshi ni suru
Kodo ni maru roku...hayaku shirou!
Watashi ga omae wo tsukutte miseru**
Kisama ha dare da?
Ore ha mo ningen janainda yo
Tatta hitotsu no inochi wo sutete
Umarekawatta fujimi no karada
Tetsu no akuma wo tataite kudaku
Kyasshan ga yaraneba, dare ga yaru?

I'd like to present a result of my research.
It's called "neo-cell"
You've come this far already?
I've heard your wife is ill...
How is Luna?/What will you do about Luna?+
It's unacceptable that, though all my friends are fighting, I'm the only one in a place like this.
Cause unknown!
Is the neo-cell development still not complete?/Is the neo-cell still not regulated by the government?++
What is it?
The military is making a move.
Why do people fight?
What have you done?
You've been changed into a neo-human, who has the power to govern death.
We will kill all the humans.
Code 206...Hurry up!
I will cure you.
Who are you?
I'm not human anymore!
To throw away just one life
A body reborn, invincible
To crush the iron demons
If Casshern doesn't do it...who will?

* I originally had this line as shio osamuro aratana shinzou ningen to shoushin. See comments below for details, but the gist of it is that there is no such word in Japanese as osamuro. It still sounds like that's what he's saying, but osameru fits much better.
** This line was originally watashi ga omoi wo tsukutte miseru. See comments below for details. In this scene, the man speaking, the biologist who designed the neo-cell (this background information is in the English intro on the Casshern website) is talking to his wife, who is afflicted by a pollution-related disease; his research is entirely motivated by his desire to cure her. I am again a bit doubtful of the updated line, but again it fits better that what was originally there. The word he uses for you in that line of dialogue is omae, which is really a bit rude and not one that husbands generally use when speaking to their wives; kimi or anata is more common. However, it is not out of the question that he would use omae. Also, I was a bit loose in the translation here; tsukutte miseru literally means "I'll build [something] and show you". The word tsukuru means to create or construct (tsukutte is a conjugation thereof), but when you take the context of the sentence and the situation into account, he's probably saying he'll cure her.
+ This depends on context. Either could be true, depending on the rest of the conversation.
++ There are several kanseis in Japanese, and the two likeliest meanings are completion or government regulation. Depending on context, either could be true; without seeing the kanji for the word, I can't be sure.

UPDATE 10/21/04: I tried to do a nice side-by-side translation table, with Japanese on one side and English on the other, so it's easy to see which lines correspond, but Blogger choked on it and it messed up the appearance of my whole blog, so now I've just got the Japanese first and the English following.

UPDATE 10/25/04: Due to the comments below, I've updated the translation and added footnotes where my original guesses were.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A new take

on Kerry's terrorism-as-organized-crime remarks, by Bill Stuntz at TechCentralStation:
By now, everyone in America knows that John Kerry has compared fighting terrorism to prosecuting organized crime figures for gambling and prostitution. The comparison has attracted a lot of criticism. Actually, it's a pretty good analogy -- but it leads to a different lesson than Kerry believes.

(Via InstaPundit)

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Weird, but

cool. Had I the time for this, I'd probably be as obsessive as the players.

I received an interesting comment

on a post below that I'd like to respond to, and since it ties in nicely with something I had planned to post today, I'll put it all together in a new post. First, the comment:
You said in a previous post that you feel that you can abstain and still have performed your civic duty. But isn't abstaining simply a tacit vote for whomever does win the election? If you feel that one of the third party candidates would be a better president, it is your civic duty to vote for them, even if it is hopelessly idealistic to imagine that any third party candidate could win. How do you reconcile this?

(Disclaimer: I'm not voting either. I'm just want to hear your thoughts on the matter.)

Here's my stance: I view civic duty in the case of voting as an intent and not a result. The point is to speak your piece by casting your vote, whether or not it is "heard". The point, and your civic duty in all elections, is to vote for the candidate (a) who most closely aligns with your values and positions on the issues, and (b) whom you feel would make an effective leader. The point is not, not, to vote for the guy you think is likely to win.

A brief sidestep here, to the candidates for this election. I did feel that I should at least consider third-party candidates along with the big two before making my final decision on whether or not to abstain. For my sanity, I had to restrict my consideration of candidates to the following:I think we've already exhaustively discussed why I can't vote for either Bush or Kerry. Nader, to put it diplomatically, is a loon, so he's out. And then there was one: Badnarik. In the course of researching him, which I did just this morning, I found this great website: Project Vote Smart (also linked above), an unbiased collection of information on the candidates and their positions, to help voters make informed decisions. Anyway, according to PVS, Badnarik is just too different from me ideologically to be a viable candidate; he wants to reduce or eliminate federal funding for almost all programs, including medical research and education. Additionally, he's for suspending the federal income tax and deregulating industry and the environment almost entirely. Again, while I'm no tax-and-spend liberal, his positions are just too different from mine to make him an option. So who does that leave me with? Precisely no one.

This is OK. As I said before, the point of voting is to speak your piece. My piece is that none of the candidates available to me in this presidential election is one I can vote for in good conscience. I cannot vote to put my country in any of their hands. I just don't trust them to do the right thing. So by not voting, I am still, in a manner of speaking, making my voice heard. And in the grand scheme of things, that's all I can control. If my abstinence affects a candidate's standing in one way or another, then so be it. Like I said, voting is about intent and not result. So I state my opinion and let the chips fall where they may. I figure I'll be unhappy with whoever gets elected, anyway.

Maybe I am being hopelessly idealistic. But my philosophy on this is that you can't base your decisions, especially your moral ones, on what is or is not likely to happen. You can only control what you do, and thus you should act according to your ideals, your values, your rules. Trust that enough others will do the same such that your desired result will come about. If not, you deal with it. That's what democracy is all about.

Remember the て form song?

I don't much hold with mnemonics; when I need to memorize something, I just repeat it to myself until I remember. That said, there are some mnemonics I remember for their own sake, and not because they helped me remember what they are designed to:
  • If you've never studied Japanese, this won't mean anything to you. The て form song (to the tune of Santa Claus is Coming to Town):
  • Another Japanese one. A long time ago, female ninja(s?) were called kunoichi, and if you take the hiragana character ku (く), the katakana character no (ノ), and the kanji character for the number 1, or ichi (一), and put them together, you get the kanji character for woman, or onna: 女. And if you write each component in the given order, ku-no-ichi, you even get the correct stroke order. Pretty neat, huh?
  • "How I wish I could recollect to places eight" is a mnemonic for remembering the constant pi to 8 decimal places: you count the number of letters in each word, and you get 3.14159265.

Monday, October 18, 2004

I've made

someone else's blogroll! Quite an honor; I am moving up in the world. Thanks for the link!

The Chicago Tribune has

endorsed (breathalyzer test required) George W. Bush for president. I guess this underscores the main difference between Bush and Kerry supporters (cf my foreign policy post below). The former believe that the world is fundamentally a more perilous place than the latter do. And that, along with (a) John Kerry's nonexistent plan for Iraq and (b) his insistence on getting the approval of a coalition of the bribed and coerced before acting, is why for them there's really no contest over who to choose come Nov. 2nd.

As I've said before, I am a moderate liberal, and I'm not going to vote for either Bush or Kerry. You already know why Kerry is not an option. On the foreign policy issue: while I think that the world is much more dangerous than the Democrats would have you believe, and that the UN is ineffectual at best and hopelessly corrupt at worst, I just can't ignore Bush's poor domestic stewardship enough to vote for him (let's face it; he's no Winston Churchill, and no Tony Blair), although I agree he would do a better job than John Kerry in staying the course in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe even doing something about the travesty in Sudan. (Via InstaPundit)

In case you haven't heard about this

already, here's information about Tim Blair's guerrilla insurgency against The Guardian's shameless attempt to allow British citizens to influence the upcoming US election. (Via InstaPundit)

Here's an interesting

discussion on foreign policy between George Soros and Medienkritik's Ray D. One of Ray's more striking points:
Bluntly put: The United Nations Security Council and the five veto powers do not have a monopoly on the terms "multilateral" or "legitimate" nor does acting outside the United Nations necessarily make an action "unilateral" or "illegitimate." That seems to be where we have a fundamental difference of opinion.

Read the whole thing, in conjunction with this speech Tony Blair gave this past March defending his decision to go to war in Iraq, but more importantly outlining the need for a new approach to foreign policy in the post-9/11 world. Unfortunately, Soros has seen fit to remove all traces of this discussion from his blog since InstaPundit linked to it.

This may not be useful to many of you, but

for those of you who are MS Visual Studio .NET programmers, here's a link to a useful suite of tools packaged as an add-in to VS .NET. It includes such things as an interface to Doxygen (a source documentation generator), a tool to generate statistics about a given project or solution, and many others. Very useful.

UPDATE: Wow, could I have used the word "useful" more times in that post? I need to buy a thesaurus. Or at least look at what I'm posting before I post it.

Google watch update

According to this article on, Google's next release in their ever-growing list of products could be an IM client. I have to say that I am powerfully curious as to what they have up their sleeves. All this recent acquiring of key companies, hiring of really smart people, etc., has got to be with some grand plan in mind:
Right or wrong, the guesswork is a seemingly irresistible sport among technology buffs and investors, driving endless speculation about Google's next steps and perpetuating a Wonka-like mystique about the company. Google, founded in 1998, has also been rumoured in the last year to be working on a web browser, a thin-client operating system, and a searchable digital archive of library and reference material, supposedly code-named Project Ocean.

To be sure, it's not a stretch to imagine Google's future. Just look at its past. In six years, the company has gone from a straightforward search engine to a web portal extraordinaire, with an advertising network, comparison shopping service, email and web publishing products.

My (crackpot) theory? They're building a giant, distributed, web-based operating system, accessed from anywhere by thin clients. A global personal computer. You subscribe, and you get data storage, email, IM, whatever; maybe you purchase individual licenses to use various software on your account. In the future, you won't need to take a computer with you anywhere. It'll be everywhere you go. (Via Slashdot)

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Netflix update

Good Bye, Lenin!: 4 stars

The main character's love interest reminded me of the same character in The Man Who Copied.

Lantana: 4 stars

The score was just...fabulous.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

I've been identified

as a conservative blogger! Apparently just because I wrote something critical about CBS during Rathergate, or have been criticizing Kerry of late. Either that, or these people are just going through all even remotely political blogs at blogger/blogspot and sending e-mails to their owners. Here's the text of the e-mail I just received, in its entirety:
RatherGate proved that bloggers are the best fact checkers. That is why we are writing to a few bloggers asking for help.

Yes Bush Can has collected several documents that are clearly suspect. But we need your help to prove they are fake:

Let's spring to action before these documents needlessly tarnish the reputation of our Commander and Chief. You know the drill: analyze the handwriting, search for factual errors, and post your discoveries.

And keep us posted by sending email to

Thanks in advance for your help.


I'm not really sure what to make of this, but my first inclination is to be wary. "Commander and Chief"? Come on.

This just in: Aha! I guess I was right to be wary. This whole thing is apparently a prank, according to this story I found when doing a Google search. These guys are pretending that they are conservative activists and trying to see to what kind of absurd extremes they can get conservatives to go.

If you take a look at this false documents webpage they ask you to go to, it seems hard to believe that anyone would buy this "obviously Bush would never do this, obviously the documents are fake" rhetoric enough to actually go looking for evidence to support their hypothesis. But then again, we've seen this sort of extreme suspension of disbelief time and again from some liberals regarding the Swift Boat Veterans' allegations and the memogate controversy. Why not from their conservative counterparts? There are as many lunatics on the fringe on the right as there are on the left.

This is

just the kind of thing that makes my geeky side go weak in the knees:
A new means of propelling spacecraft being developed at the University of Washington could dramatically cut the time needed for astronauts to travel to and from Mars and could make humans a permanent fixture in space.

In fact, with magnetized-beam plasma propulsion, or mag-beam, quick trips to distant parts of the solar system could become routine[.]

(Via Slashdot)

Jon Stewart was

on CNN's Crossfire yesterday, where he supposedly slammed the media for its coverage of the election. Torrent of the show is available here (more .torrent links here). I'm in the midst of trying to download it myself, so I haven't seen it yet. (Via Slashdot)

UPDATE: Here is a non-torrent link for the video (for which I had to finally give in and install Windows Media Player on my Mac, since none of the .avi files Quicktime could play worked); thanks to Matt--who thinks that Stewart was underhanded in hijacking someone else's show to advance his opinion--for the link. I gotta say, I kind of agree with him; even though I basically agree with Stewart's point of view*, his tactics leave something to be desired.

* About the general category of TV political commentary, at least. I don't watch Crossfire, so I'm not qualified to talk about that.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Microsoft is not going to be happy about this...

Those ever-enterprising developers at Google have released Google for your desktop, a search tool to, you guessed it, help you find stuff on your personal computer. Here's a detailed introduction to it, from O'Reilly. It's unfortunately not available for Macs (yet?), but this ought to make a huge difference in the time I spend at work and at home trying to find files I haven't touched in months but suddenly find a need for again. Especially since the built-in Windows search is so-o-o slow. (Via Slashdot)

I don't know what it is

with the cats in my apartment complex. This is the second time in a few months that one has tried to follow me home because it thought I was its owner. One would think that cats would, on average, be smarter. Maybe they are. Maybe it's just the ones that live near me who are a few teaspoons short of a cup. Cute, but not too bright. Yeesh.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Economist

has an interesting article about McDonald's and its efforts to change its fortunes.

I'm going to pull a

Walt Mossberg here and do some product evaluation, although I don't think anyone'll ever accuse me of being a kingmaker (makress?). Nabisco has just come out with a new snack product called the 100 calorie pack, which is just a little baggie containing exactly 100 calories worth of some popular snack-flavored baked cracker* (Oreo, Chips Ahoy!, Cheese Nips and Wheat Thins, to name a few). Notice I say "flavored". If I had 100 calories of actual Oreo, I'd have like a half a cookie, and it wouldn't be very good for me. These have a pretty low fat content, and they still taste good. And it's a great size for snacking - not too much, but your craving gets satisfied. Good stuff.

* To be perfectly accurate, I think they have fruit snacks as well as flavored crackers.

New addition to the blogroll

I've been reading Stephen Green's VodkaPundit enough of late that I thought it'd make a good addition to my blogroll. Politically independent, articulate, and splendidly--what's the word? ah, yes--snarky, his blog is a worthy addition to anyone's reading list. Also, the site has a really cool design (by Sekimori, who also did InstaPundit's site design).

Today, he's very unhappy with the national Democrats.

Lame license plate update:

IAMACAT. Huh? I wonder how much alcohol was involved in that decision.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

This debate was bo-o-o-o-ring

I have to say I was expecting a more vigorous debate on some serious domestic issues. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of Bob Schieffer. None of the questions broke new ground or brought up topics that would foster vigorous debate.

Aside from that, Kerry was much the same as always. Good form, but he started droning partway through in that tone that makes me want to tune out immediately. Bush was leagues better form-wise than in the previous two debates. He wasn't as fluid or as quick with words as in the second debate, but he was restrained, serious and sincere. His regular-guy-ness is a strong point, and he really showed that tonight.

There weren't enough substantive

questions to ask that Schieffer needs to ask about the women in the candidates' lives?

Again with

the "I respect your faith" business from Kerry.

I gotta say that Bush, while not as smooth as in the last debate, is coming off as serious, sincere and passionate about making things better. Big plus for him.

What does Kerry's

owning a gun have to do with the assault weapons ban? Me manly. Me own gun. Me hunt. Wife gather.

Back-door draft.

What a softball for Kerry! Schieffer is the worst of the three debate moderators.

50% of black

males in NYC are unemployed? That seems like a really high number. Is this one of those funny statistics that include infants, retirees and schoolchildren?

I love

how Kerry just answers whatever question he wants to address before he gets to the question he was actually asked.

I'm not sure

about my own position on illegal immigration, but Bush has an articulate and relatively comprehensive plan to deal with illegal immigration from Mexico. It is shocking, though, that he didn't mention much about illegal immigration from other countries, particularly of terrorists.

1.6 million jobs were lost under Bush.

Did you know that? Apparently Kerry thinks you don't because he KEEPS MENTIONING IT.

Why would

anyone want to preserve Social Security as is?

More on hand gestures

Kerry looks like he's doing an interpretive hula of what he says.

Bush is not

speaking smoothly. He's flubbed a couple of his zingers, but he's better when he's serious anyway. God, these guys are bad speakers.

I've figured out

what bothers me so much about Kerry speaking (other than his unbearably pedantic tone): politician hand gestures. Too practiced. It seems like he's trying to look presidential. Which makes it all the more unconvincing.



They're blinding me

with statistics. Too many and I'm going to tune out. If I hear one more time how Kerry voted to violate budget caps 277 times, I won't be responsible for my actions.

On another note, Bush flagrantly misrepresented the DOMA. It did not just declare that marriage is solely between one man and one woman, it struck down the possibility of civil unions (correct me if I'm wrong). I suppose this will play well with the religious right, but I hope that piece of legislation will never become law.

Shut that loophole

in a nanosecond?

Bush is making a concerted

effort not to make faces while Kerry is talking. Not succeeding 100%, but trying.

A couple of Bush winners:

  • "A plan is not a litany of complaints."
  • The true cost of Kerry's health plan is, (not sure if I remember this right) $2.2 trillion over 10 years.

Holy cow

According to this Yahoo! News story:
A 25-year-old quadriplegic sits in a wheelchair with wires coming out of a bottle-cap-size connector stuck in his skull.

The wires run from 100 tiny sensors implanted in his brain and out to a computer. Using just his thoughts, this former high school football player is playing the computer game Pong.

It is part of a breakthrough trial, the first of its kind, with far-reaching implications. Friday, early results were revealed at the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation annual conference. Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems, the Foxborough-based company behind the technology, told attendees the man can use his thoughts to control a computer well enough to operate a TV, open e-mail and play Pong with 70% accuracy.

Read the whole thing. The implications are truly staggering. (Via Slashdot)

The Republicans have,

predictably, jumped all over John Kerry for his remarks in Sunday's New York Times Magazine article about reducing terrorism to the level of nuisance, like illegal gambling and prostitution. Rudy Giuliani, eloquent as ever, said:
"[H]is comments are kind of extraordinary, particularly since he thinks we used to before September 11 live in a relatively safe world. He says we have to get back to the place we were, where terrorists are not the focus of our lives, but they’re a nuisance.

"I’m wondering exactly when Senator Kerry thought they were just a nuisance. Maybe when they attacked the USS Cole? Or when they attacked the World Trade Center in 1993? Or when they slaughtered the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972? Or killed Leon Klinghoffer by throwing him overboard? Or the innumerable number of terrorist acts that they committed in the 70s, the 80s and the 90s, leading up to September 11?"

And while I see where Kerry is coming from, that he wants to control and constrain terrorism because it's impossible to eradicate it completely, I think he's making a dangeous assumption: that there's a rational enemy. In the cases of illegal gambling, organized crime, prostitution and the drug cartels, you can at least expect your adversaries to act from self-interest. You cannot with terrorists. The former want money or power. The latter want to kill as many people as possible, and don't mind if they die in the process. So while you can battle terrorists by choking off their funding, tightening borders, sharing intelligence, and otherwise making it very difficult for them to operate, you can't assume that those measures will succeed as well as they would with the other forms of organized crime, because the nature of the threat is fundamentally different.

That Kerry doesn't seem to understand this, or didn't think about it before speaking (which, considering the guardedness the Times article's author makes much of, is unlikely), is telling. And the fact that he seems to think there can ever be an acceptable level of terrorism is ludicrous. The goal, like Giuliani says, should be to eradicate terrorism completely, not to bring it to a level of nuisance. If, in that process, terrorism is greatly reduced such that it has very little impact on people's daily lives, that's wonderful, but not good enough.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


This Sunday's Dave Barry column, another session with Mister Language Person, is not his best, but the example of effective language usage sent in by alert reader Sandy Frey had me laughing hysterically into my cereal this morning. You have no idea how long it took me to clean it off my monitor.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The 2004 Nobel Laureates were

announced recently; here is information on each winner:

Journalism needs to investigate itself,

says Kelly McBride in the Poynter Ethics Journal:
I'm waiting for journalists to apply the same level of scrutiny to themselves that they apply to other industries. At what point do we declare a systemic failure and begin looking for the weak links in a profession that is critical to the survival of democracy? When do we stop treating the revelations as unrelated episodes, instead of symptoms of a larger cancer?

(Via InstaPundit)

John O'Sullivan of the NY Post writes

on why the results of last week's Australian elections are important to US (and indeed global) politics. (Via InstaPundit)

Sad news

Christopher Reeve, actor and stem cell research advocate, died last night due to complications following a heart attack. He was 52.

Why honesty is the best policy

Eric Alterman, author of When Presidents Lie: A History of Official Deception and Its Consequences is on KQED's Forum right now.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

My policy on corrections

With all the rhetoric flying around about journalistic ethics, checks and balances, and pajamas (which I am, in fact, wearing right now), I thought I'd notify you, my 2.5 readers, about my corrections policy:
  • The only time you'll see a post changed with no notice is to fix typographical or style errors.
  • Otherwise, you'll see a clearly displayed note on what changed, and why.
Boy, I feel much better now that I have that off my chest.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Debate #2

I'll keep this relatively short. I think both candidates did very well, especially compared to their performances in the last debate. Both were at ease and spoke fluidly and comfortably. Each was also notably more aggressive in attacking the other. My opinions, broken down:
  • Kerry pros:
    • He had good answers on a lot of the staple democratic issues, notably abortion and stem cell research. His answer on abortion was great: I can't legislate for all Americans based on my own belief. He also answered reasonably well on the environment, but see my concerns below.
    • Kerry again beat Bush on form. He stayed calm and collected during his rebuttals, and yet was pretty energetic.
  • Kerry cons:
    • He took too long to get to the point (this is a big surprise). He had a lot of good answers, but I found myself thinking several times that he was missing an opportunity to really go after Bush on policy (especially on the environment), only to have him get to a point I wanted him to mention a minute later.
    • He didn't go after Bush aggressively enough on anything but Iraq. He mentioned Bush's poor record on the environment, but didn't go into any details (another common Kerry failing). He didn't say much at all about Bush's profligate spending since he's come into office, and in fact let Bush have the last word on it. In his defense, that may be because he's proposing a lot of expensive programs (e.g. health care reform). In summary, he didn't bat at some of the humongous softballs that were pitched to him.
    • I realize that Kerry needed to stay away from being too far to the left for the undecided voters, but what was with all that time he spent telling the people who asked about religious and moral issues that he "deeply respects" where they come from?
    • [Added 10/11/2004] Kerry kept saying "I have a plan", but didn't go into any details of any such plans, with the exception of his tax plan, and then only when pressured.
  • Bush pros:
    • Smooth, energetic, confident. He had answers quickly, he went after every Kerry answer (I loved the "you can't win in Iraq if you thought we shouldn't have been there in the first place" bit), and was very much at ease. Much better than last week.
    • Missouri is a swing state that historically votes right. All he needed to do was emphasize his positions on the issues clearly and concisely (illustrating a contrast with his historically long-winded opponent). He did that.
  • Bush cons:
    • Again, he came off as plaintive. Aggressive, yes, but not as collected as he could have been. That plaintiveness detracted from his presidential image.
    • While he was better, as I said above, at staying focused and coming up with answers quickly, he did falter a couple of times, confused Senator Kerry with Senator Kennedy, and otherwise flubbed a couple of his points.
    • [Added 10/11/2004] What was up with the weird jaw twitch?
Although one can expect presidential debates to be tougher on the incumbent, it really seemed that the questions were heavily biased against Bush. I mean, come on. The last question: Mr. Bush, name the three worst mistakes you've made. What a freebie for Kerry!

I'm not going to call for one or the other of the candidates in this one; both the left and the right had their pundits in full spin mode immediately following the debate. We'll see how they're polling in another day or two.

Jay Rosen has

more thoughts on the blogger vs. old media war; he discusses what is possibly the first clear-headed, propaganda-free look at the issue by Chris Satullo of the Philadelphia Inquirer. And by clear-headed, I mean that the piece refrains from (a) calling bloggers jihadists, and (b) calling old media journalists dinosaurs.

The former GATT* chairman writes

about why Kerry's trade policy isn't getting it done. I am not sure that he does a great job in convincing me of his point (there's more rhetoric than fact in the article), even though I already lean towards free-trading by nature. The folks over at The Economist do a better job talking about this stuff, IMO. (Via InstaPundit)

* General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the predecessor to the WTO (World Trade Organization).

The indispensable resource for

seriously argumentative people: the online fallacy finder. (Via The Daily Ablution)

Free Blogger templates!

I finally got my act together and posted all the Blogger templates I've made. Instructions are on the page; enjoy!

For future reference, I've also put a link to the template page on the sidebar.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Ha ha

Today's Foxtrot is pretty funny. Also check out the always excellent Boondocks.

It just keeps getting better

I'm a few days behind on this, but apparently an associate professor at Utah State University posted a report online in which he had concluded that the now discredited CBS Bush National Guard memos could have been typed on a typewriter. Upon closer examination, however, numerous inconsistencies and inaccuracies were found in his report, which subsequently fell apart. Jim Lindgren over at The Volokh Conspiracy has more.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The Times of London

on the UN oil-for-food scandal:
A LEAKED report has exposed the extent of alleged corruption in the United Nations’ oil-for-food scheme in Iraq, identifying up to 200 individuals and companies that made profits running into hundreds of millions of pounds from it.

The report largely implicates France and Russia, whom Saddam Hussein targeted as he sought support on the UN Security Council before the Iraq war. Both countries were influential voices against UN-backed action.

A senior UN official responsible for the scheme is identified as a major beneficiary. The report, marked “highly confidential”, also finds that the private office of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, profited from the cheap oil. Saddam’s regime awarded this oil during the run-up to the war when military action was being discussed at the UN.

(Via InstaPundit)

I got this

really cool homework assignment for Japanese class last week (which is due later today). I was given a Calvin & Hobbes comic without any dialogue, and told to fill it in (in Japanese, of course), complete with sound effects. So, being anal as I am, I looked around on the web for any information I cound find on sound effects used in manga, and found, to my delight, exactly what I was looking for. Armed with this, I am unstoppable. Aww yeah. Now if only I could draw, I could go into the comic book business...

Lame license plate update:

I was driving to work this morning behind a gorgeous gunmetal grey Corvette that had, quite ruining its mystique, a license plate saying "MIT GRAD". Tacky tacky tacky.

The only thing worse than having your or your car's name* on your license plate (or, horror of horrors, both--"DAVES 911") is bragging about yourself on your plates.

*You can get away with this if you are clever, however. I once saw a bright yellow Mustang with the plate "B STANG".

Monday, October 04, 2004

So I had a

bit of a political identity crisis earlier this year. Never one to follow current events, I decided that before the California Democratic primary this March, I should be informed about what--and whom--I was casting my votes for. So I set out to learn. I started following the news. I devoured political commentary from the left and the right, in an effort to really think about my positions on the issues, and why I held them.

After much thought, I came to this conclusion: I am a moderate liberal. I support gay marriage. I believe in a woman's right to choose. I am not a proponent of small government; I believe in using government to solve problems. I believe in fiscal responsibility. I am not opposed to tax hikes when necessary. I'm still feeling out my position on gun control.

Evidently I'm also moderate because I don't unequivocally believe that Republicans are subhuman. I was at a gathering this weekend, and I found myself surrounded by the sort of unreasoning lefty-ism that is regularly derided in conservative (and moderate) circles. I was never more aware of the increasing polarization of American politics--that I had read so much about but never experienced to such a degree personally--until then. Republicans and any conservatives were described as bumpkins, provincial, and just plain stupid (because everyone knows that only stupid people are conservative). Scorn dripped from every word uttered about conservatives and anyone who subscribed to an organized religion.

But yet more scorn was reserved for the conservative political operatives in Washington. Karl Rove is apparently devoid of any shred of morality. Which is evidently ironic, because the Republicans claim they represent morality and all that is right and good. This sounded to me like nothing more than sour grapes. Now, I don't know enough about Rove's history, and nor should anyone who is not personally acquainted with him, to make such a statement, or refute it. What he is, in my opinion, is a skilled and savvy strategist who brought his party to power with enviable efficiency and yes, ruthlessness. He's not called the boy genius for nothing. He's so good, in fact, that he becomes the scapegoat for every Democratic loss, in elections or in the public eye (like the ridiculous notion that he was somehow behind the whole CBS national guard memo fiasco--which, I might add, some liberals were suggesting with perfect seriousness). Had the Democrats someone like that, someone who fought in the trenches, took ruthless advantage of every opening and mobilized the left like Rove mobilized the right in 2000, they'd be crowing about him or her today. It's kind of like Chicago Bulls' fans' attitude toward Dennis Rodman when he joined the team. He was a jerk before, but now he was our jerk. We didn't mind if he threw the occasional elbow, as long as it helped the team win.

Let's get this straight, just for the record. I voted for Gore in 2000. I am no fan of George W. Bush. I fundamentally object to and disagree with nearly every one of his policies, be they foreign or domestic. I do not, however, believe he is the antichrist. And so while I would greatly prefer that he was not our president for the next 4 years, I don't want him out of office enough to vote for John "Facade" Kerry, whose new campaign slogan should be "Frontin'". I am not so virulently anti-Bush that I refuse to see what a poor candidate Kerry is. While I think it largely irrelevant what either candidate did during a 30-year old war, I do not dismiss the Swift Boat veterans' allegations, at least one of which was proved true, out of hand.

But since I recognize that Republicans are people, too, I have to tread carefully among these unreasoning leftists, lest I be suspected of being secretly Republican, or worse, French. I more or less believe in the same things as these people do, but because I'm willing to acknowledge that the other side occasionally has a point, I must be an undercover conservative operative. It's enough to make me pull out my hair.

If the whole Democratic party subscribes to these defeatist views (and I have reason to suspect that at least a significant portion of it does), if the whole party just complains about how the Republicans spin everything out of recognition (again, which they wouldn't be complaining about if they were successful doing the same thing--and they're not, even with most major media outlets shamelessly shilling for them!) and doesn't do anything, basically, but whine about their loss of control of America's agenda, then I am deeply doubtful that they're going to get their act together enough to become a serious political threat before at least 2008. They're going to have to become as desperate as the Republicans were during the Clinton years. Desperate enough that they reorganize from the ground up, get united and get inspired.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Blogger bug

I think I've discovered a bug in Blogger. It's in the timestamping of posts; I'd been noticing something strange for a few days, but I never thought to actually test my hypothesis until now. Any time you write a post at 12:something, instead of the timestamp automatically being set to 12:something when you start your post, it's set to 1:something. As I write, it is 12:23 AM, but the Change Time and Date section was automatically set to 1:22 AM when I created the post. Strange. I shall have to report this.

Did you know

that you can get information about your Netflix account over RSS? I just saw it while I was reordering my queue. You can get your queue, your recent rental activity or (my favorite) recommendations as separate RSS feeds. Cool!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

I've finally finished the

Reimann Hypothesis book. It took me a lot longer than it takes me to read fiction, of course because it was something that really required more thought. Especially in the later chapters of the book, I found myself pausing every few paragraphs to think about why what the author said was true, or flipping back and forth looking for diagrams, formulae, etc. Either way, it was a very well written book, and did a great job of simplifying some very complex mathematics. As someone who has taken more mathematics than is required to understand the book--
I think I have pitched my book to the level of a person who finished high school math satisfactorily and perhaps went on to a couple of college courses. [...] I claim at least this much: I don't believe the Reimann Hypothesis can be explained using math more elementary than I have used here, so if you don't understand the Hypothesis after finishing my book, you can be pretty sure you will never understand it.

--I at times found myself a bit frustrated that, because the author glossed over some of the more complex math (or at least the more complex math that I can claim to understand a bit of), I didn't really understand some assertion or other. I guess this means I'll have to go to some real textbooks to learn about this more in depth.

Next up: The second book in Carol Berg's The Bridge of D'Arnath series. However, since it's been over a year since I finished the first one, I might have to reread that one first. Either way, I'm quite looking forward to it.

Friday, October 01, 2004

This just in:

the five-second rule is not, in fact, true. Also, if you're a bald guy, you may be in violation of several US patents. (Via Dave Barry)

Democratizing everything

If you've been reading any blogs or watching any television news for the last couple of months or so, you've seen or heard stories about how amateurs (bloggers) have been spontaneously self-organizing and outfoxing, outreporting and just plain outthinking the professional media. Now Fast Company is carrying an article contending that the journalism industry is not alone. In many fields, "committed, networked amateurs working to professional standards" are changing the state of things as we know them.

As others have stated before, this hardly means the end of professional groups and industries. Professionals in any field still have the edge over amateurs when it comes to resources, education and expertise; they are the ones who lay the foundations that the amateurs can work from. However, the advent of cheap, readily available technology has allowed armchair journalists, astronomers and others to take an active and vital role in scientific and human progress. (Via Slashdot)

It's official

TiVo & Netflix have signed a deal allowing TiVo subscribers to access Netflix's film library over the internet.
The two companies did not provide very many details about the agreement in a press release Thursday. They are working out with movie studios the details of exactly how the movies will be distributed, said Kathryn Kelly, a TiVo spokeswoman.

TiVo subscribers would be able to visit Netflix's Web site and either stream movies over a broadband connection or download them to their TiVo boxes, Kelly said. The companies are planning to work together on technology that will secure this content, she said.

No time frame for the rollout has been announced, but the service definitely won't be available this year, Kelly said. The deal is not an exclusive one for either company, she said.

Forgive me, but the DRM is not my primary concern; for many, watching DVDs is as much about quality as it is about content delivery. I'm a Netflix subscriber, but until they have some plan to address my concerns, I'm not going to go out and buy a TiVo. I've already got a ReplayTV, anyway. (Via Slashdot)

Martin Peretz

writes in TNR about why Kerry's yo-yoing on Iraq (among other things) isn't going to cut it:
[I]f Bush is lying about Iraq, so is Kerry. It's not just that he has exaggerated what has gone wrong in Iraq. His entire speech was premised on the assumption that there were European troops and Muslim troops and United Nations gendarmes who would have gone to war with us against Saddam had Bush only waited another few days, weeks, months in the spring of 2003. That is a lie. And now, he holds out the same false promise. It is true, he admits, that there is a Security Council resolution calling on U.N. members to provide soldiers and trainers and a special brigade to protect the U.N. mission in Iraq. "Three months later," he admits, "not a single country has answered that call." Of course, Bush is to blame. And what should Bush do? He should "convene a summit meeting of the world's major powers" and "insist that they make good on that U.N. resolution." 

There is something risible in Kerry's faith in these hopeless transactions brokered by Kofi Annan and in the United Nations itself, which is staging yet another tragic, do-nothing performance on Darfur. He surely knows there is no cavalry of Europeans and Arabs about to ride to Iraq's rescue (especially since he intends to withdraw American troops, hardly a move that will give other nations confidence). He surely knows there are no foreign funders willing to bear the financial burden, either. But, if he admits that, then much of his critique of Bush's Iraq policy collapses, and with it his confidence in the honorable community of nations--the kind of phrase of which liberals are fond. Except that the nations to which it refers are neither honorable nor a community nor, in many cases, even nations. Kerry may want to rely on their goodwill, but I don't.

(Via InstaPundit)

Mount St. Helens is

blowing smoke and ash. Here's some local blog coverage. Here's the live VolcanoCam. (Via InstaPundit)