Intelligent Design meets a broken faucet: A Plumbing Parable.
Be sure to read the comments, too.
Whatever I think of the whole Bush policy in Iraq, I can't help but admire the courage of those Iraqis who came out and voted yesterday. The turnout puts American voting patterns to shame, especially when you consider nobody is blowing up polling booths in the US.
I was heading onto the freeway yesterday afternoon. The on-ramp I took curves right past an old graveyard (next to Aloha Stadium, for those familiar with Hawai'i). The gravestones are nearly buried by unmown grass; the place is obviously completely uncared for. It's a shame.
"In a Disused Graveyard"
Published/Written in 1923
From American Poems.
Human Rights First has a flash video of the reasons all of us should oppose Judge Gonzales. They also suggest text for a letter you can send to your Senators. You can find Senate contact information here.
Human Rights link found at Body and Soul.
That helicopter crash yesterday in Iraq was transporting members of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment, USMC. 27 of the 31 dead were from Kaneohe MCAS, on the windward side of Oahu.
Kaneohe is a pretty small community. Most people who live there are either connected to the base or work "over the hill" in Honolulu. I rarely get to that side of the island, but I can well imagine the shock the town is feeling today.
If you plan to live-blog the Super Bowl, your response to the ads may be more widely read than you anticipated.
Internet research companies plan to measure the "watercooler effect" of Super Bowl XXXIX ads by capturing sentiments as they bubble up within the loose collection of diarylike personal Web sites collectively known as the "blogosphere."
I've been going to the same friend's house for the Super Bowl for the past (at least) 13 years; one of my fellow attendees is a guy who's an exec at one of our local ad agencies. Half the fun (or more, depending on how hotly contested the game actually is) is listening to Buck anticipate and then critique the ads.
Alberto Gonzales doesn't like foreigners much, it appears:
Alberto Gonzales has asserted to the Senate committee weighing his nomination to be attorney general that there's a legal rationale for harsh treatment of foreign prisoners by U.S. forces.
In more than 200 pages of written responses to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who plan to vote Wednesday on his nomination, Gonzales told senators that laws and treaties prohibit torture by any U.S. agent without exception.
But he said the Convention Against Torture treaty, as ratified by the Senate, doesn't prohibit the use of "cruel, inhuman or degrading" tactics on non-U.S. citizens who are captured abroad, in Iraq or elsewhere.
As he did at the hearing, Gonzales said President Bush had ordered that torture not be used by the U.S. military or the CIA. He used the definition of torture in U.S. statutes: an act "specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering."
But he drew a distinction between U.S. anti-torture statutes and the international Convention Against Torture, which calls on nations to prevent acts of "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" that may fall short of torture.
When the Senate ratified the treaty, it defined such treatment as violations of the Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendments. Because of that provision, Gonzales said, the Justice Department decided that the convention applies only to actions under U.S. jurisdiction, not "treatment with respect to aliens overseas."
His attitude seems to be "Torture anybody without a US citizenship. Then it's all legal."
I'm sorry, but torture is not an option for anyone whose job is to act as America's attorney. Why the idea doesn't provoke revulsion in his mind or that of his supporters just shows how out of whack their "moral values" really are.
Write Call your Congressperson. This man shouldn't be Attorney General of the US.
Tom Toles has a nice cartoon about the Administration's sudden dislike of the word "privatization" with respect to Social Security. Funny, it was just fine a few weeks ago.
Solar cells built from lunar dust? Now that's a thought.
Four years ago, Alex Freundlich and his colleagues at the University of Houston in Texas came up with the idea of getting robotic rovers to build solar cells entirely out of lunar dust or "regolith" (New Scientist print edition, 24 June 2000). This fine, grey powder is half silicon dioxide, with the remainder made up of a blend of oxides of 12 metals, including aluminium, magnesium and iron.
The team reasoned that this mix contains all the elements necessary to build a solar panel, and suggested that robots trundling over the lunar surface could melt regolith, refine it and then lay down a glassy substrate on which solar cells could be deposited. The rover - solar-powered, of course - would leave a trail of solar panels in its wake (see graphic).
The researchers then showed that a solar cell deposited on the surface of this sheet by thermal evaporation converts light into electricity.
Amazing. They simulated this regolith in a vacuum chamber. Obviously it could have massive implications for space exploration.
Has anyone ever bought Microsoft software from this outfit or any other discounter? I find I need MS-Office, but I really don't want to pay $300-$400 if I can legitimately get it cheaper elsewhere.
I forgot to mention that the new machine I bought on Tuesday came with a keyboard and a mouse. I also got a mousepad in the shape of an electric guitar for Christmas. Let me know if the content improves with the new equipment.
I remember watching Johnny Carson on an old black and white portable television set with the volume turned way down low back in the 1960s. He expanded on the standard which had been set by Jack Paar and Steve Allen. I personally don't think any of the current crop can hold a candle to the man.
Uh-oh. Adam Felber takes on the Intelligent Design believers (that's Creationism with a smiley face) and finds them wanting. The commenters add insight, scorn, and frivolity.
Women who enjoy a drink of beer or wine daily have sharper minds into old age than women who abstain, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.
The report, based on a study of nearly 12,500 nurses, adds to the apparent benefits of light to moderate drinking, which can also prevent heart disease and stroke.
"Our study suggests that moderate consumption might provide older women some cognitive benefits," said Dr. Francine Grodstein of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, who worked on the study.
Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, Grodstein and colleagues said they found that drinkers aged 70 to 81 were 20 percent less likely to experience a decline in their thinking skills over a two-year period than women who did not drink at all.
On average, the women who quaffed a beer or a glass of wine each day tended to have the mental agility of someone a year and a half younger than abstainers.
To quote my late father, "You do what you think best; I'm sure you'll do the right thing."
After I went to the trouble of reinstalling Gallery a week or so ago, Google has just bought and released a new photo organizing tool called Picasa. What's it do?
Picasa is software that helps you instantly find, edit and share all the pictures on your PC. Every time you open Picasa, it automatically locates all your pictures (even ones you forgot you had) and sorts them into visual albums organized by date with folder names you know. You can drag and drop to arrange your albums and make labels to create new groups. Picasa makes sure your pictures are always organized.
Picasa also makes advanced editing simple by putting one-click fixes and powerful effects at your fingertips. And Picasa makes it a snap to share your pictures – you can email, print at home, make gift CDs, instantly share via Hello™, and even put pictures on your own blog.
There's a nice review of it in the NYT, side-by-side with a review of Apple's new iPhoto5.
It's amazing how much legitimate e-mail can pile up in just two days. Can I come up for air now?
I'll say one thing for this sort of calamity: it helps you decide just how many mailboxes and filters you really need to keep. I'll bet I had 25 from no-longer-extant newsletter publishers. And I suppose I no longer need to worry about dumping stuff from the old in-box, which as I recall had about 3,300 messages in it (The Hunger Site and its partners send out reminders).
I woke up yesterday morning and turned on the computer like always, and I heard what sounded like a London police siren; a two-tone continuous beep and no boot-up. Not a good way to start the day.
Off I went to the local computer clinic to turn it in for examination (in line behind who knows how many others). I got no word on it yesterday, so I called the place this morning and was told "Your motherboard's bad. We've called three suppliers to try to find one that will work with this old Celeron processor, and nobody has one."
After all the discussion last week about adding a new machine, KVM switches, etcetera, I was now faced with buying a new machine and somehow trying to retrieve roughly 4GB of data from the two old disk drives. Well, first things first. I went down to the local Office Depot and got an eMachine with 512mb of memory, a 160GB hard drive, and a 3.0GHZ Pentium 4 processor (for $500). I got it home and started re-installing the mail program, the firewall software, the virus scan software, and the broadband software. Several hours later, I was a going concern again. Phew.
Of course, I still have to reconfigure filters for 236 mailboxes in Eudora, try to recreate my address book, download about a dozen other programs I used to have, and maybe go look at OpenOffice, since I no longer have even old corrupted copies of Word and Excel. This thing came with Works, but no WordPerfect or QuattroPro, which could have done in a pinch. Oh, and then open up the box, cable each of the old drives, and copy the old files to the new drive.
Ah well. Faster processor, lots of disk space, faster memory; I suppose it will be worth all the effort once I'm done.
Anyone who wants mail from me should send me a note so I can swipe the address from it.
These are the final paragraphs of the final speech of Dr. Martin Luther King's life, April 3, 1968.
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get will get to the promised land!
And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!
He was in Memphis to support striking sanitation workers.
Following the assassination, there were riots in several dozen American cities, including Washington DC. I was a senior in high school and a member of a Northern Virginia singing group which was asked to help entertain the National Guardsmen who had been called up to try to keep the peace. We did four shows in one day in various locations around the District. I'm not sure we did any good, and I'm not sure whether we were supposed to be showing the Guardsmen what they were trying to preserve (wholesome clean-cut American suburban kids) or just trying to keep them calm. Whatever our purpose, it was an experience I won't forget.
Here's one of the best explanations of how Social Security came about, why it was (and is) hated by conservatives, and what the merits of its projections have been (pretty good, on average).
The Administration is beginning to remind me of Coca-Cola back in the early 1980s. Remember when the company introduced New Coke and was forced to pull the product after screams of outrage from its customers? Now the Bushies are trying to force changes on the most successful social program the government has ever instituted, and they're using the agency itself to do so.
One internal document obtained by The Times encourages the agency's public affairs specialists to spread the word that "Social Security reform is a presidential priority" and that personal accounts are an essential element of his approach.
Another says agency officials should "insert solvency messages in all Social Security publications" and "look for nontraditional locations to educate people about the current Social Security system, such as outreach events at farmers markets, big-box retail stores, etc."
And the truth be damned.
Look. The system is not in need of major changes. The SSA's own actuaries say it's got enough money in the Trust Fund until 2042 (see paragraph one); the Congressional Budget Office, using slightly less conservative estimates, says it will last till 2052. Even at those points, the agency will continue to collect enough in payroll taxes to cover all those entitled at about 73% of the estimated payouts. The situation is analogous to you having no money left in your savings account and having to meet current expenses solely from your paycheck.
Don't believe the Bushies.
Back in October we bought a new washer/dryer combination. It pains me to report that even brand-new ones can eat socks. What is it with these appliances?
Early raw images from the Cassini-Huygen mission have been released. If you thought the Mars Rover pictures were intriguing (and they are), these will really puzzle you.
"Clearly there is liquid matter flowing on the surface of Titan," said Dr. Martin G. Tomasko of the University of Arizona, an imaging specialist for the mission.
Color pictures are expected tomorrow.
Kevin Drum has a Socratic dialogue about the whole Social Security issue. If you read nothing else to get the basics, read it. It answers most of the general questions the layman (meaning someone other than economists) should have before getting deeply into the details.
I'm nowhere near as focused on Social Security as others are, but it's important to continue to point out that the Bush Administration is lying through its teeth. Brad DeLong finds a report from CBS MarketWatch which does an excellent job of showing up those lies.
As Campaign Desk says, if only the larger media outlets would do this thorough a job.
Josh Marshall writes about SocSec again, using Bush's statement Tuesday that most young people don't think they'll ever get a dime from Social Security as a springboard. He puts himself in the category of the "young people," which seems fair (he says he's 35) from my advanced age.
According to relatively pessimistic forecasts, two government agencies -- one of which is part of a Republican administration and the other under the oversight of a Republican congress -- say I'll get my full benefits for either the first five years of my retirement [2037 - 2042] or the first fifteen years [2037 - 2052]. After that, if nothing changes at all, I'll probably keep drawing three-quarters of my benefits. And even if I'm only drawing that three-quarters it'll still be more than today's retirees draw even in inflation-adjusted dollars.
This disconnect suggests one of three possibilities.
One is that the president has been briefed on certain highly classified budget projections which show a far more dire situation than the government's non-classified budgeting estimates would have us believe. We'll call this the secret evidence hypothesis.
Another possibility is that President Bush believes that the US government will default on the Treasury notes held by the Social Security Administration. Let's call this the Harken Energy hypothesis.
If it's neither of these we can only conclude that as he has done repeatedly before, this president is deceiving the people he has sworn to serve and defend in order to achieve a policy goal he cannot manage by honest means.
And, speaking of the President, Josh goes on: "just as he and his associates did during the build up to the Iraq war, he uses paraphrases, work-arounds and slippery repetitons to communicate the intended falsehood while still providing himself with sufficient wiggle room to evade being tagged as a liar."
Well, I'm not a member of the White House Press Corps, I'm just a lonely blogging voice, and I'll call the President a liar. He and his entire PR machine are liars. What's worse, they know they're lying, just as they did when they scared the American public about Saddam and his ostensible WMD (now shown not to be there). They are the most untrustworthy group of individuals that has ever taken hold of power in this country.
How do junior officers learn to cope in Iraq? From peer-run websites. This is fascinating stuff, and it's certainly not written up in Army Regulations.
If you click the Gallery link over there on the left, you'll (hopefully) be taken to my reconstituted photo section. There are several photos of the whole mob on Christmas morning or thereabouts.
Note: these were all taken with one of the throwaway Kodak cameras, so don't assume that's the best a Canon A-1 can do; I didn't have the flash for the good camera till after Christmas. 'Course, I might not be able to do any better with the good one, either.
Here's the homemade creche Dad made. Note that the figures aren't homemade, just the building.
More photos later, hopefully.
The way that normal, non-hallucinating people of any political persuasion can help the soldiers in the field, the people of Iraq, and, not least of all, themselves, is to appreciate the true situation as best they can, and to demand accountability from our political leaders when the situation is not handled effectively. The true situation is that there is a large and popular insurgency in Iraq, made up of disparate interests, but all drawing their strength from the long-standing popular discontent with the American and coalition occupation, a discontent based on a very understandable dislike of foreign armies, and fueled by the thousands of Iraqis we have killed, intentionally or not, to say nothing of Abu Ghraib - here, 6 months later, almost completely forgotten. This is the reality that was apparent to journalists well outside the "Sunni triangle" last March, as well as to the Marines who first "liberated" Baghdad. True, many soldiers in Iraq have been in places where people were nice and glad to have them, which is great, but misses the main point. Kennedy was shot on a sunny day, but most newspapers didn’t lead with the nice weather.
Digging further into the stacks, I rediscovered early Steely Dan. I'm listening to Countdown to Ecstasy right now. Earlier I played Can't Buy A Thrill. The latter was their first album, and it's pretty pop oriented. The former is more jazzy and very good, although Fagen and Becker still hadn't found the sound they were looking for. They got closer in Pretzel Logic.
Good grief. NPR just told me that Joan Baez turns 64 today and Jimmy Page turns 61. Arrgh!
Mr. Coyote states that on eighty-five separate occasions, he has purchased of the Acme Company (hereinafter, 'Defendant'), through that company's mail order department, certain products which did cause him bodily injury due to defects in manufacture or improper cautionary labeling. Sales slips made out to Mr. Coyote as proof of purchase are at present in the possession of the Court, marked Exhibit A. Such injuries sustained by Mr. Coyote have temporarily restricted his ability to make a living in the profession of predator. Mr. Coyote is self-employed and thus not eligible for Workmen's Compensation.
Heard on Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me today.
I walked past a store today which put these in mind.
Guess the mnemonic:
For extra credit, what kind of store did I pass?
Answers below the fold.
Oh, yeah: it was a music store.
New basic computer prices have fallen to the point where it's become possible to get one (256mb Memory, 60GB, fully loaded with USB ports, Ethernet, etc.) for about $350 after rebates. The current machine has two 3GB drives (C & D), both about 80% full. That's why I'm interested in upgrading. I have a 4-port router. Can I buy a new machine and just plug it into the router?
Ok, I know it's not that easy. Suppose I add a new machine and use the old one primarily for file storage and old Office software, with the ultimate goal of transferring old data to the new machine. How do I ensure that the newer machine is the primary one, and the one whose OS is running? Will there be conflicts between multiple drives called C, D, and Q (CD drive)? What sort of hoops do I have to jump through?
If you were wondering what was really behind this "plan" to "reform" Social Security, wonder no more. A leaked memo has surfaced. The idea is to destroy it, eliminating one of the country's most cherished New Deal programs.
Calling the effort “one of the most important conservative undertakings of modern times,” Peter Wehner, the deputy to White House political director Karl Rove, says in the e-mail message that a battle over Social Security is winnable for the first time in six decades and could transform the political landscape.
The memo's existence has been confirmed by the White House.
There are a whole lot of folks who have been busily rebutting the White House's arguments, starting with Brad DeLong and Max Sawicky. Read them, and read Kevin Drum too; you will soon be disabused of the notion the Bushies are trying to sell. The system is solvent and will remain solvent until at least 2042, using conservative estimates. Using slightly less conservative estimates, it holds up till 2052 before it needs serious changes.
Don't drink the Kool-Aid, folks.
I ran across news of this memo from Josh Marshall, who has some more thoughts on the subject.
As Christine Brennan says in this story, like many others I turned that game off at halftime. Sure, part of it was a perceived need to watch the local 5:00pm news, but there was certainly no question about the outcome. My father graduated from Oklahoma; he'd have been cringing had he watched that.
For those of you wondering who the next victim might be, Southern Cal opens its 2005 season at Hawai'i. Yikes.
Oh my goodness. I started out to get the mail, and the dog was barking madly at the front door. I didn't think much of it, because she doesn't like the mail truck at all. Then I looked at the deck on the other side of the glass. One of these was sitting up sunning itself. I was quite fond of Kipling's Rikki-Tikki-Tavi story, but I don't need the protagonist wandering around my yard!
Startling pictures of the tsunami. These point out how little people understood what was going on; look at the number of spectators. That's not to say I'd have understood it either.
Found at American Street.
That was an interesting experience. Back here I was complaining about my Canon A-1 camera's flash attachment dying. Someone suggested I look for a replacement on eBay, and further to see if it could be found in-state. Lo and behold, there was one! So I bid on it (first time I've ever tried eBay for anything), and after a couple of overbids, I won the thing! It's in mint condition, and works like a charm. Better yet, I arranged to meet the seller and hand him the money directly; no shipping required. Judging from the price the used camera store (second link) suggested, I got a buy at $51.00, too. Whoopee!
It can't always be that simple, can it?
My sister's stove died over Christmas. She's since replaced it, but we decided to have the annual roast beast feast over here, and we did so last night. Yorkshire pudding, fresh spinach, homemade mashed potatoes, and rare prime rib. Replete I am.
In other news, last Christmas I received three Presidential biographies; I'm pleased to report that I finished Theodore Rex a month or so ago, and yesterday I finished John Adams. The remaining bio is one I'm still working up to: Richard Reeves' President Nixon. I feel like I already know a lot about Nixon; after all, I was alive and voting against him when he was running for office. I was in the Navy in Japan when Watergate brought the man down, and after I got back to the States I devoured countless books on that episode; I'm not at all sure what else Reeves can tell me.
McCullough's Adams biography was enlightening; I didn't know much about the subject. I have slightly revised my opinion of Thomas Jefferson after reading this; despite all his claims (and those of his acolytes) he was a politician, and a pretty nasty one. He funded newspaper editors who attacked his opponents, spouted high-minded claptrap about the evils of political parties (then called factions) all the while being as partisan as any member of one, and generally wasn't quite the man history has told us he was.
Adams achieved an awful lot without much notice by the historians; perhaps most importantly, he managed to keep the Revolution financially viable by nearly single-handedly arranging loans from the Dutch during the early 1780s; without that there would have been no army for Washington to command at Yorktown.
The source material McCullough used is mind-boggling; for example, there are some 608 reels of microfilm in the Massachusetts Historical Society. These comprise the full collection of letters, diaries and family papers from 1639 - 1889. Amazing; I doubt if there's a similar collection for another prominent American family anywhere in existence.
I unreservedly recommend reading both the Adams and the Roosevelt biographies. Nixon, we'll see.