The Emotional Pumpkin


Monday, November 22, 2004

Take a look at these

simply stunning landscape photos from Brazilian photographer Alex Uchôa. (Via InstaPundit)

I'm not sure

of the impact this will have, but it's very interesting:
The UN staff union, in what officials said was the first vote of its kind in the more than 50-year history of the United Nations, was set to approve a resolution withdrawing its support for the embattled Annan and UN management.

Annan has been in the line of fire over a high-profile series of scandals including controversy about a UN aid programme that investigators say allowed deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to embezzle billions of dollars.

But staffers said the trigger for the no-confidence measure was an announcement this week that Annan had pardoned the UN’s top oversight official, who was facing allegations of favouritism and sexual harassment.

(Via InstaPundit)

Friday, November 19, 2004

So I took a little trip.

I started clicking the "Next Blog" link on the top of blogger/blogspot blogs and thought I would see where it took me. I've looked through a few hundred blogs in the last few days, and most of them are, as I said before, not worth even a few seconds of my time. What I found:
  • A bunch of blogs set up just to advertise stuff. It's the spammer's way of getting high Google rankings. Most of them are just post titles with keywords for the products and links, but here's an interesting one; it has a title for the product it's advertising, then a snippet of what looks like a Greek tragedy (Update 11/19/04: Actually, the Greek tragedy bit is apparently from Shakespeare's Coriolanus, and it seems the rest are random bits from Shakespeare's collected works), and then a link to the product it's trying to sell. Strange.
  • A bunch of foreign-language blogs, mostly in Spanish, though I found some in Portugese, French, Dutch, Italian, Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, and Japanese. There may have been some Polish and Tagalog ones in there, but as I wouldn't know either language written, I can't be sure if that's what they were.
  • A couple of educational blogs; that is, blogs used for classes to toss around assignments, paper proposals, etc. An excellent use of the service.
  • A few exceptionally badly-written blogs.
  • A whole lot of mediocre blogs.
  • And some interesting ones:
    • World Class Cuiscene: a blog with Filipino and other recipes.
    • Jeff Seale: This blog's author was suffering from some kind of cancer, and had started the blog as a way to keep his family and friends up to date on his situation. The last post was dated October 14th, two days after he had surgery to remove some cancerous lymph nodes. I have no idea whether he made a full recovery or not.
    • K.J.R.: The first Japanese blog I came across in my search, this one was started just yesterday. I haven't puzzled through all of the posts yet, but I find it interesting not because of the content, but because it's in Japanese and would be great translation practice for me. Woo!

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I am so easily amused

A little joke:
There are 10 types of people in the world: those who understand binary, and those who don't.

Adam Penenberg's

latest Media Hack column talks about Dow Jones' recent acquisition of MarketWatch and the potential for more such media buyouts.

Stem cell research news

From Wired:
Researchers have identified stem cells in brain cancer tumors that replenish the tumors and keep them growing.

Snuffing out these cancer stem cells could lead to a raft of new treatments for various cancers, according to researchers who published their findings in the Nov. 18 issue of Nature.

Scientists previously identified cancer stem cells in breast cancer tumors, and in leukemia tumors. But no one had found proof of cancer stem cells in other solid tumors until now.

Oh, and speaking of games,

we beat X-Men Legends last weekend. I now have my life back, but am kind of sad that the game is over. Now that the extreme gear is unlocked, though, maybe I'll start over again? But not for a while, though; I've got some serious catching up to do on Netflix.

This one's for you, Matt:

Here is Wired's generally positive review of Jak III.

Are hybrid cars really good for the environment?

Not as much as you'd think, according to this editorial. I'm not sure if this is true, but it certainly seems plausible. (Via The Volokh Conspiracy)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Some in professional journalism do get it

Jay Rosen of PressThink was recently at the Online News Association conference in Hollywood, and he writes in part about how people in the journalism industry are dealing with the fact that "[t]he news, as 'lecture,' is giving way to the news as a 'conversation'" (Curley). In particular, he mentions Tom Curley, President and CEO of the Associated Press, who gave the keynote address at the conference. Curley is taking the AP in a radical new direction to adapt to the profound change that is beginning in news distribution and consumption today, and spoke of the need for all of the journalism industry to do the same. Read it.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

RSS edges into bureaucracy

Wired News has an article about how, increasingly, US government agencies are seeing RSS as a viable information dissemination method and are beginning to offer RSS feeds of their news/information updates. Mentioned in the article is, a blog that tracks the RSS feeds offered by government at all levels. Make sure to check it out; it's a wonderful resource.

CBS does it again

There's a post on the History News Network site denouncing last Sunday's 60 Minutes report on the 1955 killing of Emmett Till as inaccurate and misleading. CBS? Inaccurate? Shocking. Just shocking.

Sarcasm aside, the fact that CBS still believes it has a license to alter the facts it reports to make for "better" TV says to me that they're not getting nearly enough pressure from the public and their peers to shape up. Or, in light of the national outrage and near-round-the-clock coverage from every other major news network during the National Guard memo controversy, maybe they just don't care.

So you may be wondering, as am I: whatever happened to the CBS investigative panel in charge of getting to the bottom of Rathergate? Not much, that's what. Now that the election is over, one would hope that they are in full swing. has much more detail on the issue. (Via The Volokh Conspiracy)

According to the Senate panel

investigating the UN Oil-for-food scandal, Saddam Hussein made $21 billion off the program, more than twice the previous GAO and ISG estimates of $10 billion:
Oil smuggling alone netted Saddam's regime about $9.7 billion, with other funds flowing from switching substandard goods with top-grade ones, as well as exploiting food and medicine shipments to the Kurds in Iraq's north.

Panel investigators also echoed the findings by Duelfer, head of the CIA-led Iraq Survey Group, that Saddam's regime gave lucrative contracts to buy Iraqi oil to high-ranking officials in Russia, France and other nations.

Here's the official record of yesterday's hearings. (Via InstaPundit)

Monday, November 15, 2004

To infinity and beyond!

In September, the European Space Agency launched an ion propulsion spacecraft that today reached the moon successfully and entered orbit. It will now begin a study of the lunar surface. (Via Slashdot)

ABC News is reporting

that Condoleezza Rice will be nominated to be the next Secretary of State, replacing Colin Powell, who resigned this morning.

The things you find on the internet...

I figure it's common knowledge that for every well-reasoned, well-written or just interesting blog out there, there are at least a hundred that are, were they printed on paper, not worth lining your cat's litter box with. VodkaPundit's Will Collier recently found one of them: Irate Savant. No, seriously. I can't tell if this guy is playing an elaborate practical joke and writing inflammatory posts just to get angry comments, or if he is, as one of his commenters says, a "pretentious wanker". My money's on the latter.

Wal-Mart's data collection

The NY Times is carrying a fascinating article about Wal-Mart's enormous consumer buying-habit database and its applications:
By its own count, Wal-Mart has 460 terabytes of data stored on Teradata mainframes, made by NCR, at its Bentonville headquarters. To put that in perspective, the Internet has less than half as much data, according to experts.

I'm torn between concern about possible abuses of this data and admiration for their impressively streamlined operation. Gathering data about the effectiveness of your operation, whatever it is, and then being able to turn around and feed that back into your process almost real-time, to cut costs and improve profits and productivity efficiently, is every CEO's dream. (Via Slashdot)

"Ain't gonna study war no more"

Michael Totten on the Democrats and foreign policy. (Via InstaPundit)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Rural outsourcing is carrying a story about Rural Sourcing, a new firm dedicated to helping big firms looking to outsource, say, product support, to America's rural areas for about the same amount of money, when you take communications and travel expenses into account, as outsourcing the same operation to India. This could be a huge political win for both corporations and regulators alike. It'll be interesting to see what happens. (Via Slashdot)

Panic Software's Audion

has been retired and made freely available. Cabel Sasser, Panic's lead developer, has also written an account of the history of the application and the company itself. Read the whole thing. (Via Slashdot)

It's finally over

A verdict was reached and announced in the Scott Peterson trial: guilty as charged. And I care, not so much because justice was served, but because the news networks will finally stop talking about it now.


This article is cool in so many ways, it'd be a tragedy to miss it:
  • Hawaiian Bobtail Squid would be a good name for a rock band.
  • How often do you get to read the words "Klingon cloaking device" in an article about microbes?
  • The author of the paper has possibly the coolest last name ever: McFall-Ngai.
  • Oh, and the article is actually interesting in and of itself.

The king is dead; long live the king.

But who? Arafat's funeral is over, and now the business of governing Palestine without him will begin in earnest. With Arafat's passing, there is renewed hope that a peace plan to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be implemented, if the new Palestinian president is less of a hard-liner than Arafat was. But for potential peace negotiations to have any hope of succeeding with the Palestinian people, the new president must be elected fairly, and within 60 days, in accordance with the Palestinian constitution. This according to Martin Indyk, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, who was interviewed on last night's broadcast of NPR's All Things Considered. But if, as Glenn Reynolds said, the Palestinian authorities can't even organize a funeral, how are they possibly going to organize a fair election, never mind govern the country after that?

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Martin Peretz really doesn't

like John Kerry. But that's OK; I don't either. (Via InstaPundit)

Giant squid

are taking over the world! (Via Dave Barry)

Max Boot

speaks ill of the dead. (Via InstaPundit)

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Interesting thoughts on why higher education is so lacking in intellectual diversity. (Via InstaPundit)

Michael Moore,

that warrior for all that is right and good, is already getting ready for 2008 by making Fahrenheit 9/11½, because:
Fifty-one percent of the American people lacked information (in this election) and we want to educate and enlighten them. They weren't told the truth. We're communicators and it's up to us to start doing it now. The official mourning period is over today and there is a silver lining -- George W. Bush is prohibited by law from running again.

Read the whole thing, or at least the bit about Moore. (Via InstaPundit)

The SEC has decided

not to press charges after reviewing a study stating that US Senators were receiving an unusual level of profits from stock trading, and which implied that they were doing so with the aid of inside information they received while on the job. This is democracy in action, people. Checks and balances at work. (Via InstaPundit)

Speaking of those

delusional Democrats and their lost election, Arnold Kling offers a hypothesis on just what went wrong for them in this election. (Via InstaPundit)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Pioneer has

developed an ultraviolet laser that can pack up to 20 times more data onto one optical disc than the blue laser, for a total of about 500GB. Neato mosquito. (Via Slashdot)

Google plans to offer

POP3 and virus-scanning services in gmail. Now, if only they committed to IMAP, I would be golden.

Hoooo boy

Leaders of a United States Senate subcommittee investigating allegations of fraud in the oil-for-food program in Iraq have accused Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary general, of obstructing their inquiry.

In a letter sent to Mr. Annan yesterday, the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations charged that the secretary general and a panel he appointed to conduct an independent investigation into the charges of abuses appeared to be "affirmatively preventing" the Senate from getting documents from a former United Nations contractor that inspected goods bought by Iraq.

It's about time Annan stopped his stonewalling. (Again with the InstaPundit)

Martin Peretz on John Kerry:

good riddance. A particularly apt bit:
Oh yes, he helped to re-establish America's relationship with Vietnam. A good thing, but not exactly an issue that affects people's lives or expresses their hopes. In fact, Mr. Kerry's repetitive recitation of this achievement (really shared with John McCain) foretold the narcissism of autobiography in his presidential campaign: A man who came into public life on the infamy of the Vietnam War aspired to crown it by deploying for political purposes his service "in defense of country," the very proposition that he had, after all, denied and sullied for decades. But no one -- save Mr. Kerry himself and his immediate circle -- wanted to revisit Vietnam. It was the country's great nightmare, divisive, tormenting, politically paralyzing. This was the first of his great mistakes, the defining one.

My god, how could the Democrats seriously have thought they could get this guy elected? I as a voter was ripe for their plucking. I was looking for any excuse to vote Democratic, just like I have done in every election I've been old enough to vote in. I was just waiting for them to give me anyone, anyone, I could get behind, even if only on one issue. And they had the gall to offer me this? From beginning to end, the Democrats were so blinded by visions of their own superiority that they thought they could get a piece of dryer lint elected president. And so they decided to go with John Kerry, who maybe wasn't as charismatic, but sure was electable. As James Carville said, Democrats have to come to terms with the fact that they are now the opposition party, and not a very effective one at that. (Via InstaPundit)

At the risk of being called

a "blog triumphalist" (I checked on and triumphalism is, in fact, a word, though one might argue that supporting bloggers/blogging is not precisely a religious creed), I'm linking to this: Doug Kern has written a beautifully snarky response to retired journalist Eric Engberg's opinion piece about bloggers and their lack of checks and balances, etc., etc. Some of the response is a bit too snarky to take to heart, but we've already had this discussion, and Kern rightly keeps the tone light. (Via InstaPundit)

The Ragin' Cajun

has woken up:
James Carville, a Democrat who was an informal adviser to Mr. Kerry's campaign, told reporters that President Bush achieved a "monumental political achievement" in winning despite polls that showed deep concern about the direction of the country and unhappiness with his job performance.

"If this is an election that we couldn't win . . ." Mr. Carville said, his voice trailing off, as he sat next to Mr. Shrum and Mr. Greenberg. "The purpose of a political party is to win elections, and we're not doing that.

"I think we have to come to grips with the fact that we are an opposition party right now and not a particularly effective one. I'm out of denial. Reality has hit."

He seems to be one of the only major party players or pundits who has, though. Most of the rest of them are still in denial, or are spitting accusations about the ignorance of the American populace, especially the fraction thereof that re-elected Pres. Bush. (Via InstaPundit)

This is interesting:

A John F. Kennedy School of Government researcher has cast doubt on the widely held belief that terrorism stems from poverty, finding instead that terrorist violence is related to a nation's level of political freedom.

Associate Professor of Public Policy Alberto Abadie examined data on terrorism and variables such as wealth, political freedom, geography, and ethnic fractionalization for nations that have been targets of terrorist attacks.

The full text of the article can be found here. (Via InstaPundit)

Another blow to

the sneering superiority of the liberal elite: maybe they don't have a corner on the worldliness market?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Today is the

15th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Here's a column written by VodkaPundit's Will Collier on the 10th anniversary thereof, which he happily sees no need to update today.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Daniel Drezner has co-written a

nice article for Foreign Policy magazine regarding the influence of blogs on foreign policy here and abroad. While you're there, take some time to read any of the other excellent articles on the site; it's worth it. (This is where I would credit the blog where I found the link, but I can't for the life of me remember where, and my RSS reader has pushed the entry off the bottom of the currently valid list. I figure it was probably InstaPundit, but I'm not sure.)

The hardest tech-support job on earth

Wired has a piece on our troops' live tech-support; where getting it right really matters. (Via Slashdot)

Pixar does it again

I saw The Incredibles this weekend, and even though I'm used to Pixar outdoing themselves with every film they make, I was still shocked that they did it again. I loved it. Here's Wired News' review.

Apple has officially kicked off

its Dashboard Widget contest. Submissions must be in by Nov. 30, 2004.

So you may have been wondering

why there has been such a dearth of blogging lately. Well, there are two reasons:
  • Work has gotten very busy lately; there is much less downtime for me to do...anything.
  • Outside of work, this is the real reason you're not seeing anything up here.

You can be sure that as soon as I have got more free time (i.e. beat the game), I will be back here and blogging like usual.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


Ballot measures 1A, 59, 60 and 61 passed. Ballot measures 62, 65, 67, 68 and 70 failed.

Also, and more importantly, Hamid Karzai has officially been declared the winner of Afghanistan's first presidential election. Today is a good day for democracy.


Ballot measures 60A, 63, 64, 69 and 71 passed. Ballot measures 66 and 72 failed.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

How I voted (or, Why direct democracy is a baaaaad idea)

You may have seen me mention this before, but I am firmly against direct democracy, government by initiative, or whatever you want to call it. It is hugely inefficient and expensive, and it has left the government of California in a hopeless quagmire of poorly-written and poorly thought out regulations. Initiatives seem to win or lose based directly on how much money is funneled into their campaigns; the fact is that the average person is just not qualified (or in many cases, interested) to govern him/herself. Besides, that's what we pay our elected officials for. Legislators now don't earn their salaries, and indeed seem to delight in causing gridlock in the state senate and assembly. It's like they're trying not to get anything done.

That said, it is a huge responsibility being a voter in the state of California. This November, we have no less than 16 (16!) statewide initiatives on the ballot, and that's not counting the many other local initiatives. There were 3 in my district. Here, briefly, is how I voted on each of the initiatives (I've already discussed my choice on the presidential election to death):
  • Prop 1A - Yes. This proposition gives control of local government revenues back to local government, and not state government, which has been shamelessly raiding local coffers for years.
  • Prop 59 - Yes. I'm all for more transparency in government, but I have to say it seems a bit silly to put restrictions on how the law is interpreted in legislation.
  • Prop 60 - No. Prop 60 was put on the ballot solely to oppose prop 62, the open ballot initiative (more on this later); since they oppose each other, only one or the other (with the highest votes, naturally) can pass. However, it proposes no real change to how primary voting works now, so there's no point in voting for it even if you oppose prop 62, which I do.
  • Prop 60A - No. This is just the type of legislation that has crippled California's government. It will only tie our lawmakers' hands. Allocating revenues and expenditures in the state budget should be left in the hands of the people we hired to do this very thing.
  • Prop 61 - Yes. I know California hardly needs more debt, but this is what bonds are for in the first place.
  • Prop 62 - No. This is, to put it plainly, undemocratic. Allowing only the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, to advance from the primary to the general election is just not fair. Each party should have the right to have a candidate represent it in the general election.
  • Prop 63 - No. This measure unfairly targets a small portion of the tax-paying population for a specific purpose. I agree that mental health programs would be tremendously useful and could even save taxpayers a lot of money in the long run, but the way that they (Prop 63 supporters) are going about implementing them is all wrong. Again, budget allocations should be left to the discretion of our lawmakers. I cannot state this strongly enough. I am against any measure that allocates budget, raises taxes or creates budget allocation restrictions (as this one does) for any one purpose.
  • Prop 64 - No. I don't believe that the general public has the expertise necessary to effectively decide this matter. I agree that frivolous lawsuits are a problem, but if this matter is to be legislated at all (I have some doubt on this; it seems to me to be a fundamentally judicial matter), it should be left in the hands of our expert lawmakers. That's what we pay them for.
  • Prop 65 - No. A weaker version of prop 1A, this was superceded and made obsolete by prop 1A, which I am already voting for. It would be harmful to vote for this one.
  • Prop 66 - Yes. I am no expert on this (which is why I was sorely tempted to vote no, just on principle), but from all I've learned on this subject, a lot of nonviolent multiple offenders are getting life sentences and clogging up our already overloaded jail system. Resentencing such nonviolent offenders to shorter, more reasonable periods of incarceration will reduce the load. Passing this measure promises save the state millions upon millions of taxpayer dollars, for which there are ample other good uses. However, I am very nervous about the consequence of my vote, because of my aforementioned lack fo expertise.
  • Prop 67 - No. Again with the voter-decided budget restrictions. No, no, no. And again, no. Besides, to voice a purely self-interested reason, I think fees are high enough already (although the liberal side of me won't complain (too much) if state government raises taxes for general budgetary purposes); I pay as much (seriously) in fees, surcharges and taxes ($8.00) as I do for my landline phone service ($8.50) each month. That can't be right.
  • Prop 68 - No. Even prop 68's backers (gambling special interests) gave up on it. Gov. Schwarzenegger has already negotiated better deals with Indian tribes than are offered in either proposition 68 or 70 to get money for the state. Besides, and more importantly, Native American tribes are sovereign nations. It is not right (and when you get down to it, useless) for us to be dictating what they do on their land, and how much of a share we should get of their money.
  • Prop 69 - No. This one's a no-brainer. People who are arrested, but not necessarily charged with any crime, should by no means be forced to contribute a DNA sample to a state-wide database. No less should those who are charged but not convicted be forced to do the same. Even if this one passes, I would hope that it would be recognized to be in clear violation of Californians' consitutional right to privacy.
  • Prop 70 - No. See my entry for prop 68.
  • Prop 71 - No. I was really torn on this one. I am a strong supporter of stem cell research, but again, prop 71's backers are going about it all wrong. I would not have opposed a bond to fund the research, although I really do believe that medical research funding is a budgetary matter (yeah, yeah, you've heard me say this before). What clinched it for me is that these guys want to make stem cell research a constitutional right (and prohibit funding of human reproductive cloning research). That is patently ridiculous. We should not be legislating on this issue! This is an issue for the courts.
  • Finally, Prop 72 - Yes. I was again torn on this one. I was at first concerned that this would be cripplingly expensive to small business, until I learned that there is a tiered system of what health benefits employers, depending on size, would need to provide for employees. Although I hesitate to impose such a huge cost on employers, the cost rests better there than on the state, and leaving so many people uninsured is not a viable option. The last thing California needs is more bureaucracy. In the long run, I think this is a good plan. This is another one that I feel I am just not qualified to vote on.

Whew. That took a while. Let me say again that I feel I am severely unqualified to be voting on matters of such importance; on many of these issues, I'd need a law degree to really be able to make an informed decision. And I think I can say with some confidence that I spent more time than a lot of others learning about the issues in this election. That does not make me feel confident about the outcome.

This is why we have a representative democracy (although in this state it can be argued that it is in name only); people in this state, for the most part, have neither the time nor the inclination to learn about everything they should in order to vote informedly and effectively on these ballot measures. There's a reason that governing anything is a full-time job. We should let our lawmakers do the jobs we pay them for; we don't have the time or the qualifications to do it ourselves.