Monday, December 08, 2008

So, Michael (who works in the Archæology library at UT, I believe) apparently mentioned RFIDing all the books in the library to a guy there, and got a lecture on why he was stupid for even talking about it.

The recap Bryan (and I, being nosy) received was: 'Michael, there are twelve million volumes in the library.'

There are numerous reasons why this is a bad objection:

  1. Firstly, have the publishers do it, or just do it as books are acquired.
  2. Every time a book is checked out, RFID tag it. Now the most popular books, at any rate, have been tagged.
  3. Undergrads are cheap--bordering on free. Unleash them on the stacks.
The benefits are many:
  1. Even if you only get the 20% most popular books (see item two), you've probably covered the vast majority of activity.
  2. You don't even need to sort the books anymore. Better, you can sort them by popularity. (Caveat: being able to browse the physical volumes is a very useful capability--just a list of metadata is frequently insufficient. You usually want to browse by subject, not browse random books.)
  3. If someone fails to return a book, you assemble a strike team and visit its locale. 'Overdue fine? Oh, no, we figure the collateral damage to your apartment during extraction is penalty enough.'
  4. Now you don't need an expensive television to give you cancer. The books can do it too!
I've proposed that we (about twenty Senecans) purchase some twelve million RFID tags and spend a night tagging every volume in the building. Naysayer heed this warning!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A friend of mine just exceeded her lifetime allotment of exclamation marks. She can try purchase more punctuation credits, but exclamation marks are in high demand, especially during the holidays.

Comma credits are volatile, due to the competing forces of texters (who avoid most forms of punctuation) and comma splicers. (This latter force also keeps the cost of semi-colon credits extremely low; frugal consumers make ample use of these under-valued symbols.)

There's a glut on the market for apostrophe credits, thanks again to under-use by the texting community.

If you want a real bargain, try buying bracket or caret credits.

(Potentially relevant link)

The Peace Corps is considered good diplomacy. Send Americans over to help community development and other countries start to like us.

Tommy Thompson wanted to send medical ships around the world to serve as roving hospitals for poor nations. Medical diplomacy.

Kiva, similarly, is about diplomacy. I don't know if donating money that way is as beneficial as donating to PATH (though you have a good chance of getting your Kiva money back to re-donate, which is pretty cool), but if pro-American diplomacy is something you support, that should be another major benefit of Kiva.

How important is it that other countries like us? Seems like if we're decent at doing good things with our foreign policy then our being popular and respected benefits everyone. If we're trying to invade non-aggressive nations based on known-to-be-false evidence, having other nations say 'Get lost'--as France did with Iraq--is a good thing. (Had Britain [and don't forget Poland!] done the same, maybe we wouldn't have gone into Iraq at all.)

For the next four years, at least, I'm guessing we'll be in the former category.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Some time ago, Austin's mayor signed the Urban Environmental Accords and now we seem to have the goal of achieving zero solid waste by 2020. Austin's Solid Waste Services has a list of suggestions (PDF) on how to reduce your waste. It includes:

[at home] Buy in bulk and leave packaging at store
[at your school/business/place of worship] Buy in bulk and ask suppliers to take back packaging

Okay, true that recycling in bulk is more efficient*, but...this is essentially just shifting your waste. Maybe it will convince suppliers to use less packaging?

* I forget what it was, but I was recently looking up the recyclability of something and learned that you have to test it to find out, and it's only worth testing if you have a huge amount to recycle.

I want full scholarships to be a student for the rest of my life. Surely that somehow is a worthwhile investment for society. I'll make insightful comments and ask insightful questions during class, enriching the learning experience for my fellow students.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I just saw an advert on Facebook:

Buy rare Hubble photos
Buy high resolution fine art images printed and framed from rare NASA Hubble Space Telescope archives. Free shipping.

Gee, I'm pretty sure all NASA images (and all Hubble images, obviously) are PUBLIC DOMAIN.

But best of all, the advert has an example image: the Eagle Nebula image, probably most famous and un-rare Hubble image ever.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Oct 31: ICC General Membership Meeting. Hey ya’ll, the meeting is scheduled for Sat Nov. 15th. Be there, or be tagged “uncooperative.” --Jenn from the office

Great! I'll be there. What time? And where?

Nov 12: Get hyped for some ICC charades at the General Membership meeting on November 16th on the deck of Hillel from 2:30-4:30. -- ICC Ed. Coordinator

Great! Where's Hillel? (Google gives the address of a 'Texas Hillel' as 'The Drag', which covers about ten square blocks) And, wait...November 16?

The three things that should always be known about a meeting:
* Who - This has been explained. everyone in ICC. That includes me. Shiny.
* Where - This has been vaguely established.
* When - This is unclear.

My education feels uncoordinated.

UPDATE (before I even posted this): I went to the ICC office for other matters (open on a weekend? Amazing!) and asked the person working there when the meeting was. She told me Sunday, and showed me the flyer posted on the office door. She, however, had no clue at all what or where 'Hillel' was. I told her what I had determined using the magic that is Google, so now at least one member of the ICC staff(-like people) knows where the meeting is.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

So, we're using eSlate, (online demo available! In fact, part of my knowledge of the interface described below [such as write-ins] are derived from the demo, not trying it on the actual ballot) electronic voting with a very stupid interface.

Inputs are:
* A dial.
* An 'enter' key.
* 'Prev' and 'Next' keys.
* A 'Cast Ballot' key.
* A 'Help' button.

You enter your 'access code' ([0-9]{4} or perhaps [1-9][0-9]{3}) by using the dial to scroll through the digits 0-9 and selecting 'enter' for each one'. (Scrolling wraps around, and there's a 'Clear last' button after the 0.) It doesn't reset your position after choosing a digit, which was good for me, because mine ended with '22'.

Dial's are hard to use. They're inconvenient. Why are they better than arrow keys, even just two? Maybe people with palsy can more easily manipulate the dial? Sure is a lot harder for me.

After you enter your access code (hope you didn't need to 'Clear Last' on that last digit--it automatically moves on!) Then it has a page of instructions, and then pages of the ballot. Prev/Next will skip between pages, as will using the dial to scroll off the top or bottom of the page. The dial scrolls through each option of each question on the page, so to get to an option for something on the middle of the first page, you first must either scroll through the first half (President, for one), or go to the next page and scroll back through the last half. Write-ins are done similarly to the access code, but you have 26 letters + clear last + space, you only get eighteen characters max, and you get to manually say 'Accept' when the name is complete. If you do a write-in and then switch to something else, it will blank the name in the write-in box, so if you switch back, you have to re-enter the name. Possibly reduces the risk of people accidentally entering a write-in and then accidentally selecting a non-write-in without realising it.

After you've done all pages, it has two pages showing what you selected for each (good: confirmation!) and then you press 'Cast Ballot' and it says the ballot has been cast and to leave the booth. Also good.

Here's the thing, though: when I first switched to the second page and tried scrolling, it didn't scroll through the options as it should. It went to the next page. I went back to the instruction page, saw that I'm right and they're wrong, and after going back and forth for again, the dial started working.

This is really broken and really bizarre behaviour. As a programming, I can say with confidence that it didn't really happen. It's just user error.

As someone who has read a lot about electronic voting in the US, though, and as the user, I'm a lot less confident.

Lessons of the day:
1. Don't reinvent the UI.
1a. You'll just make it worse.
1b. Familiarity is very valuable, especially for UIs a user will see once for a couple minutes every two years, or (more likely) once for two minutes once.
2. Test your voting equipment thoroughly.
2a. Ensure proper behaviour.
2b. Ensure user error is exceptionally rare and is handled gracefully.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Earlier I heard a car commercial trying to sound old-timey comment on how cars are approaching 5 mpg.

Isn't it great how far we've come since the early days when we got under 5 mpg?

Problem: The Ford Model T got 13-21 mpg, better than some modern vehicles (thought it drove slower, and the exhaust was much, much worse).

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Earlier, I felt tingly, and then cold sweatish and then slight lightheadedness, so I was like, 'Hmmm...I'll be like that moron on Google's Testimonials page who thought she was having a heart attack so she finished walking home, Googled the symptoms, and then called an ambulance'.

So I read the symptom list for heart attacks (which I already knew, but why not?), and was like 'Hmmm, that's me to a large extent' so I mentioned this to Bryan just in case I suddenly passed out. (Actually, a bit before mentioning it to Bryan, I typed 'Gee, I hope I'm not having a heart attack.' into an IRC tab, but didn't send it. 'Luca's passed out! Let's look at what he was writing in IRC. Looks like maybe he was having a heart attack.' See, just in case.)

Anyway, over the next minute or two it got worse and lightheadedness got bad and vision blurred, so Bryan was going to drive me to the hospital (having just Googled where to find such an institution), but 1. oh noes! a bunch of cars parked behind him in the driveway and 2. I didn't make it to the car. So he called the ambulance while I lay on the driveway (where I found myself alone upon awaking) with my feet up on his car, feeling better because, well, I was lying down with my feet raised (clever of me to think to put my feet up, eh? I'm like a doctor or something).

Eventually the ambulance came and checked my blood pressure, which was fine, and my blood sugar, which was fine, and something involving various electrode thingies, which were fine, and said 'You seem fine, but we can do a cardiogram-like-thing (not their term, but something like that) if you want and I was all 'yeah, probably a good idea' so they did and said 'You're not having a heart attack' and I was 'then screw the hospital. I'm actually feeling essentially fine by now anyway!'

Long story short: I'm alive and exceptionally healthy, with the exception of the rare bout of feeling faint and passing out, which hopefully won't happen again because I kind of run a chainsaw for a living right now, and those things can be dangerous, I'm told.

By the way, in the 'gee, I'm having a heart attack' moment, I was actually less concerned with making sure my brother (or someone trustworthy) would have access to my passwords and more concerned with deleting data that should die with me.

The moral of the story is: encrypt what you want to die with you and encrypt with a different key the data that shouldn't.

And Bryan says next time this happens, none of this sitting around Googling. Hospital.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

We got whole wheat tortillas that are labelled as being '98% fat free'. While true, I consider it dishonest because it's intended to be interpreted as significant.

Whole milk is 96.3% fat free.

I recently was buying bug spray and opted against the one that used West Nile Virus scaremongering to market itself.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Premise: I currently lack any health problems associated with too much sugar.

So when determining the healthfulness of cereal for me, sugar content is not much of an issue. What is relevant? Whether it's fortified with loads of vitamins and the like. All too often, the 'healthy' cereal isn't. It's pretty much just wheat (so, some niacin and/or iron + fiber and a little protein). The 'junk cereals', on the other hand, are pretty much always fortified with 25%+ DV of oh so many useful nutrients.

For me, for now, Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops are a healthier choice than Autumn Wheat.

Grape Nuts are an exception, but they're disgusting. Things like Total probably would be acceptable.

Haha. Re: the Svalbard Global Seed Vault: 'Spitsbergen was considered ideal due to its lack of tectonic activity and its permafrost, which will aid preservation.'

Five days before it opened, Svalbard was hit by a 6.2 (Richter scale) quake. (Centred a couple hundred miles southeast, I believe.)

Alles gut. Al Gore wrote about genetic diversity issues in Earth in the Balance. Worth reading. (I, sadly, haven't read the entire book. The copy I was reading is back home in NC.)

When asked to name a country starting with 'D', my first thought is generally 'Dominican Republic'. When asked for another, I think 'Deutschland', then 'Denmark', and then 'Djibouti'. None of these require much thought for me.

It seems, though, that you can safely assume that Americans will think Denmark first. At any rate, there's a fairly wide-spread game thingy that makes that assumption:
'Write down a country starting with "d", then write down an animal that starts with the second letter of that country, and then write down the colour of that animal. [pause] You have a grey elephant from Denmark.'

I first saw this on Zoom season 2 (1990s version), and my first thought was something along the lines of 'Good thing they had Claudio being the GM rather than a player'.

'Cause Claudio is from the Dominican Republic.

Strange none of his friends were influenced by that fact.

(I never think of 'Dominica'. Had I asked for a fifth, I'd have been stuck for a while. 'Democratic Republic of the Congo' probably would have been my next one.)

Sunday, September 07, 2008

(Potentially relevant link)

I love the Economist, but this article is so...I guess not condescending, but just so...not the way they should be. I guess because it's about tech?
* 'a new web browser to rival that of Microsoft, called Internet Explorer (IE)'
* 'when it crushed Netscape, an early browser.'
* 'a rival web browser to IE, called Firefox.'

This isn't so much that they're telling us these things, but the way they say it. 'Microsoft's browser, Internet Explorer' is very different from 'Microsoft's browser, called Internet Explorer'. The former gives information just in case it's needed, whereas the latter makes it sound like readers are assumed to be completely unfamiliar with this entire 'Internet' and 'Computers' thing. I'd rewrite these as:
* 'a new web browser to rival Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE)' (or 'Microsoft's own browser, Internet Explorer (IE)' if necessary.)
* 'when it crushed the previous leading browser, Netscape'
* 'Firefox, IE's chief rival'

I have a friend who does something along these lines all the time in ordinary speech. She'll call the maul, 'that maul thing' or Micah 'That Micah guy'. She's simultaneously demonstrating that she knows the terms, but separates herself from them by mentioning them instead of using them. Well, people familiar with this stuff call that a maul, but not me. Why say things in a roundabout way if the only effect is to make you seem clueless about what you're doing when you're actually not?

Once in Philosophy Club we were doing a 'Worst philosophical argument ever' thing, and one paper put 'reality' and the like in quotes. It's similar to the above, except in this case it was more of a 'people talk about a so-called "reality", but it's all nonsense' thing than a 'Let's treat readers as ignoramuses!' or a 'Let's appear clueless!' thing.

(Yes, Fannie and Freddie are being nationalized and I'm blogging about other stuff. Here's my brief F&F comment: OMFG! It's a bit overwhelming for me to opine right now, and I'll be away for the next ten days.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

You know how recipes first list all the ingredients and then say 'Mix these two, and then add such and such' and the like? if you have sugar and butter, for example, you always mix them together first (or maybe with eggs if that's also an ingredient).

Well, I usually don't get around to reading past the ingredients list until too late. And I don't worry about doing things in an order that makes sense to me, either. I'll think to myself 'I'm probably supposed to do these two together first' or 'don't put the baking soda in too soon!' but then I'll just go ahead and toss the ingredients all in and then mix.

I've watched a lot of Good Eats, so I know better. I'll modify recipes to my liking. (For the cookies I just made, I was going to add salt because you should always put salt in most anything you bake--sadly, I forgot. I do that a lot.)

But I usually don't really think about things much when cooking. It'll work out, I always assume.

Luckily, given enough sugar, cookies still taste okay.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

OMG, I am delighted by how things just went down with the Hobart LX18H, Seneca's dish sanitiser. It's because I'm crazy. You don't care. So here's a related rant to keep you entertained. Or not.

When loading silverware into the dishwasher or sanitiser, always put the pointy ends down. Because people trip and fall and gore themselves on pointed-up utensils and get blood all over the nice clean dishes. Sad. They also cough (covering their mouth) and pick their noses and have colds while/right before taking the clean dishes out. You want them touching the handle of the silverware you're going to use, not the part that goes in your mouth. (Note: if you just picked your nose, wash your hands, and if you have a cold, shunt this job off to someone else, even if the silverware is properly loaded.)

Anyhoo, in addition to this, the small silverware container we use is shaped thusly:

| |__|__|
So I like to sort things. Easier unloading. The big section is for miscellany--sharp knives, spatulas, etc. Then knives go in one of the middle sections, and either forks or spoons in the other middle one, reserving the last two for whichever is more plentiful: forks or spoons.

Usually spoons win after breakfast and forks after lunch. For dinner during interim, it's probably forks, but when meals are prepared it can go either way.

On Friday at lunch, I was a bit insane. We had lots of spoons and a paltry three forks. Things fit properly, but I was saddened by how empty the fork section was. We needed to use some forks! Luckily, Michael used one, which helped slightly.

Today, though! Just now! We had lots and lots of spoons and ZERO forks. All three of those things are filled with spoons spoons and more spoons.

But the tray wasn't full. We had all the silverware we needed, but not enough plates/bowls/cups, a very unusual situation. Usually there are half a dozen to be found.

Anyway, I grabbed some dirty cups and ate a bowl of cereal. Result: an essentially full Hobart tray with three sections of silverware and zero forks

This is big.

Okay, it's not that big.

Okay, so it's totally lame. But I totally own that kitchen, and the Hobart. I make my own excitement on the weekend.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Well, it's official: they've succeeded in replacing a parking lot with eight stories of people who own cars. What could possibly go wrong?

My tiny one-way street now has two layers of cars parked on the far side, and by 'far side', I mean the right lane and the centre lane.

I've never double-parked. It always seemed like something only a complete asshole or someone in an emergency situation would do. You're a college freshman. You can walk one goddamn block.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My response to the title question1 was essentially 'Somewhat, yes', at which point I felt the need to define it as best I could.

Time is a full-sized dimension for which causality, for the most part (as we typically perceive it, and as it causes our perception)2 is uni-directional.

Traditionally I thought of space-time as four dimensions through which we were travelling at a constant speed, and where we would by default be travelling that speed one direction through time. But recognising the causality of perceptions made me realise that's really stupid. (My excuse is that it's from my high school days or earlier. No excuse for not moving well past it years ago. I did kind of move past it, but didn't completely abandon it.) Obviously we're not 'moving through time' (or maybe we are because, well, that's how we define movement), but because my current state is caused by my past state, the past appears to me as, well, the time.

In metaphysics, we discussed timeslices and how this stuff doesn't degrade into nominalism. (My position was that it does and that it's good that it does because nominalism is the view that actually makes sense.)

This newish line of thought lead me to determinism. It always seemed baseless and strange to me what people say that if determinism is true, that Laplace's demon can calculate not only the future, but also the past. Clearly, were determinism true then a given timeslice of the universe could lead only to one outcome, but why could there not be multiple timeslices that can cause a given timeslice? Consider Conway's Game of Life. The blank board, for example, can be caused by:
* The blank board
* The blank board with exactly one cell, located at at 0,0
* The blank board with exactly one cell, located at at 0,1
* The blank board with exactly two cells, located at at 0,0 and 47,42
* And so on.

This doesn't only apply to the blank board, of course. Any board causes by board X can also be caused by board X with one lone cell added apart from all the others.

Clearly, the universe is not governed by the rules of Conway's Game of Life, but it seems as if the principle should be similar. (I suppose my examples should have been selected to agree with the conservation of matter and energy, but that's more complicated. Still entirely doable, though.)

As I wrote this, though, something I missed earlier struck me: the verificationist would claim that 1. the claim that those vanishing cells exist/existed is meaningless and more importantly (because 1. is addressed by my comment in my previous parenthetical) 2. the claim that a given timeslice that could cause our current one existed and that another potential causing timeslice didn't is meaningless.

I have a lot of sympathy for verificationist. But they're so very annoying, don't you agree?

1 Not that anyone asked it. It just popped into my mind.
2 Initially I went with 'for normal matter', but I didn't like that at all.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Last interim, every night before bed I would think to myself, 'Oh! We have a mouse!' So I would dash downstairs and put away all the loose food on the island counter. Then I'd wipe it off. Then I'd sweep.

Then I'd go to bed.

Unhappily, all this occurred around 9pm, long before the rest of the house slept, so every morning when I awoke, I'd find chips on the floor. Plates of crumbs on the counter. Perhaps an open loaf of bread. And every morning I'd spot a mouse fleeing the scene up, the exhaust vent or dashing away behind the microwave. 'Curses! Foiled once again!' I'd exclaim, being sure to use plenty of exclamation marks.

You see, I had a dream, last interim. I had a dream that one morning I would come downstairs to hear our little mousekins bemoaning the state of our kitchen. 'Oy vey!' he'd grouse. 'There's never any food around that I can get my furry little paws on. I guess I'll just move next door.' Then the following evening I'd come home to find Michael on the orange couch complaining that mice have mysteriously appeared in New Guild's kitchen.

Alas, this dream never came true, because I go to bed at a ridiculously early hour, leaving plenty of time for messiness to abound.

Rumours have it that another interim is nigh, and I've resumed my futile nocturnal cleaning ritual, but it will merely be another dismal failure should food magically appear after I head off to bed. This morning I had, among other things, half a bagel for breakfast, as it was sitting out on the counter. For my plate I used one I found also on the counter, covered in crumbs. (The other plate I found, filled with veggies, was allowed to stay out for our rodent friend. I'm not entirely heartless, after all.)

Forget to wash your dishes--it happens; no matter. Eat all the yoghurt leaving me with naught but half a stale bagel for breakfast. But please, starve this cute little mouse. Why should he eat like a king whilst my ribs still show.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

I just saw The Dark Knight at the IMAX. It was good. Afterwards, I was tempted to be a complete asshole and shout to all the people in line for the next showing 'Hey, Bruce Wayne is Batman!' Completely spoil the movie for them. But I didn't. I'm too nice.

Anyway, this isn't much of a blog post, but I needed to post it. Trying to make sure I get a full 12 dollars of utility from that ticket.

I probably did. Good film. Mediocre blog post. Answer other than 'washed dishes' for when people ask me if I did anything fun over the weekend.

I don't know why some people think washing dishes isn't fun.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Yesterday Bush declared that the economy is 'strong and growing'. It took my friend Michael several minutes before he could stop laughing.

But that Bush is insane is nothing new, and neither is his ability to make us laugh whilst dooming us to the grave. I'm here to talk about something else.

Senator Jim Bunning is insane. This might be news to you because who the heck has heard of Sen. Bunning? He's the guy who had this to say about the proposed Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac buyout option:

When I picked up my newspaper yesterday, I thought I woke up in France. But no, it turned out it was socialism here in the United States of America and very well, going well. The Treasury secretary is now asking for a blank check to buy as much Fannie and Freddie debt or equity as he wants. The Fed purchase of Bear Stearns assets was amateur socialism compared to this.

I'm very glad we have Senators protecting us from the Red Menace, but perhaps there's a different sort of red menace facing us than there was thirty years ago. If Frannie and Feddie go down, it's not just people who signed mortgages they can't support who get screwed. We all go down with the economy.

The economy is, contrary to what certain lunatics claim, not strong and growing. It's weak and getting weaker. Losing F&F would be a major blow to a thriving economy. To one shedding jobs at >50 000 per month, inflation soaring, and--oh, yeah--housing prices dropping and foreclosures exploding and mortgage lenders barely alive, it's just not an option. (And that doesn't mean 'let's not think about it and hope it doesn't happen'. It means 'Let's do something to prevent it.')

Someone--probably Bunning, but I'm unsure--pointed out out that the request for authority caused a drop in share prices of the two companies.

Duh. The request signified the Treasury Secretary's lack of confidence, which would obviously prompt lack of investor confidence. But insisting the economy is 'strong and growing' will not give any sane person confidence. What does is saying 'Oh, yeah, we see the big glaring problem right in front of us and we're preparing to deal with it', and in the long run (if the preparations aren't blocked by Commie-fearing morons) will strengthen investor confidence and possibly even make it unnecessary to follow through.

Other options should be thoroughly explored, but ranting about the fact that we're daring to consider doing what could end up necessary is stupid. Refuse to sign the 'blank cheque' if you must--I'm rarely a fan of giving Bush more authority, after all--but signify support with at least a limited amount, perhaps with only contingent authority.

Though if we do let the dollar completely die, it would show those damn Commie investors in China. Prop up our economy for us, will you? Well all your investments in us are now worthless, so there!

Friday, July 11, 2008

A few weeks ago, I finally joined MyBarackObama just so I could join the 'Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right' group. I muchly favour Obama over McCain and Hillary. I figured I'd also donate a bit of money to him iff he got it right.

Apparently, somehow the registering failed and I didn't join the group. Fail. But at least my fail wasn't epic. Obama's was.

If you live in the US, you should be aware that Obama said that he 'unequivocally opposes giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies' and that he would 'not be among those voting to end the filibuster'. And he didn't vote to end the filibuster--he was absent from the vote, even though he 'supports a filibuster of this bill, and strongly urges others to do the same'--but he did vote FOR the FISA Amendment Act, a bill giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies. Gee, that phrase seems familiar.

Voting for the FAA would have done next to nothing to directly harm popular opinion of Obama. It would signify that he's not a rightwing nutjob, but most people had figured that out. Fewer than 40% of Americans (or even 40% of conservatives!) supported telecom immunity. The 30-something% who support it probably aren't too keen on Obama anyway, so he wouldn't be losing their support. Presumably he's hoping for a big payout from the telecom industry. Or maybe he thinks he needs the support of Democratic politicians, who are apparently more rightwing than the average Republican voter (probably they get their money from the telecoms, wherewas the voters don't). But those guys will support him anyway because 1) he's their candidate and 2) they want to hitch a ride on his coattails into office.

Telecom immunity isn't the most important thing in the world, to me. I care more about the government telling companies to violate our rights than companies saying 'Okay. Sounds like fun!' But it's still a big deal. Even bigger, though, is saying repeatedly and specifically that you will strongly oppose telecom immunity and then voting in favour of it.

It's sensible that Obama is moving to the centre. The standard winning move is to appeal to your base in the primaries and move to centre for the general election, and I'm completely fine with him doing that. Sure, his supporters are liberal, but the change Obama has been promising is that he's the un-Rove, and that's what we care about the most--being centrist is good.

The left-to-centre shift, however, cannot rightly be done by making specific promises to appeal to the base and then switching to the opposite position. Work out a compromise (which the FISA Amendment Act was absolutely not) and throw a bone to the right/centre where you wisely avoided making specific promises. Don't reverse on earlier promises, especially those that are both specific and important to your base.

I still favour Obama over McCain (it's the economy, stupid), but we don't win by getting someone from the Democratic Party elected. We win by forcing that person to do what was promised. Most of his supports seem to have already let him slide on one major, major issue (campaign finance). We'd have to be pretty pathetic to let him continue to lie to us over and over again. Supporters of Obama should be the first and most vocal critics when he breaks his promises, because those promises were made to us to get our support, not to McCain and his supporters.

I guess one of my fails was epic. I failed to notice that 'change' is a synonym for 'flip-flop'. Obama, it's a shame you're not getting any public financing, 'cause you won't be getting any of my money either, and you won't get my vote either if you don't get your act together.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Last week, I was unfortunate enough to watch a bit of Fox News. It was immediately following McCain's energy speech, and they had BIll Richardson give a brief response. Basically, he kept saying McCain offered only 'gimmicks' while Obama had real energy policies.

Of course, this was a short talking point, not a real argument, so he didn't really explain himself. One central thing was McCain's prize:

McCain wants to offer a 300 000 000USD prize for a better battery for hybrid vehicles. This, says Richardson, is a useless gimmick, not a sound policy. Darn tootin'!

There are three problems with researching new technology:
* It takes a long time. (So no payout until success years off in the future)
* Your research might hit a dead-end, or another company might beat you to it. (So a possibility of no payout ever.)
* You might not be able to commercialise the resulting technology well. (So a possibility of only a small payout even if you eventually succeed.)

A large cash reward like the X-Prize, the newer NASA (+Google) Moon Landing prize, and McCain's proposed prize address only the third problem. They provide a big pay-off after you succeed IFF you succeed (and no one beats you to it). They DO NOT address the first two problems.

But an improved battery for hybrid vehicles doesn't suffer from the third problem.. You get a significantly better battery for hybrid vehicles and YOU'RE BLOODY RICH, 'prize' or not.

But it sure sounds nice. A quick 'gimmick' to sound like you're doing something while not actually addressing the problems. Take that 300 000 000USD and use it to fund the long-term, high-risk battery research that investors avoid. That addresses the problems with hybrid vehicle battery research. As it so happens, that's what Obama supports.

Rather than pushing an ineffective liberal spend-money-ineffectively energy policy, McCain should be pushing either Obama's liberal spend-money-effectively policy or--here's a bizarre idea--pushing a conservative DON'T-spend-money policy. Be a smart liberal or be a conservative--don't be a stupid liberal.

(I suspect that one of the other policies was the incredibly stupid Gas Tax Holiday, which--as every economist in the world will tell you--is too stupid and useless for words. McCain's fails economics every time he opens his mouth (autoplaying video warning).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

'Do you agree with the statement "Everything happens for a reason"?'

Usually this question is religious in nature, and I disagree with it in terms of religious reasons, so 'no'.

But obviously things have causes, so 'yes'. I don't want sciency people interpreters taking my answer to mean I'm not sciency.

But quantum mechanics suggests things happen without causes, right? So 'no'.

Yes => I sound religious, and therefore unsciency.
No => I sound unreligious, and therefore sciency, but also unclassicalsciency. Will the sciency people interpreting my answer think to consider quantum mechanics?

By the way, 'karma' literally means 'cause and effect' (or perhaps just 'cause'), which I strongly believe in, and my friend's daughter is named Karma, whom I also am fairly certain exists. So do I believe in karma? I think there are causes, yes. I don't think there are mystical connections wherein doing bad causes bad things to happen to you, especially seeing as I am a nominalist and don't buy into wide content.

These questions seem simple to you simple-minded people, but they're not.

Monday, May 05, 2008

People at work were recently saying that they'd never donate sperm or eggs because there'd be a child with their genetics out there that they didn't know about. Upon my inquiring why that would matter, they essentially proclaimed that anyone who doesn't consider such a thing important is a bad parent. 'You came from my seed, but it doesn't matter.' == Bad parent.

This has some obvious logical consequences: I know of families where one child was born to them and one was adopted. They do not favour one child over the other. Therefore, ceteris paribus, they do not care that Child A has their genetics, and therefore these people are bad parents.

My conclusion is slightly different: I've observed that these people are good parents, and therefore, the people I work with are wrong (because, like most people, they've bought into the whole 'bloodline' idiocy we were supposed to have abandoned when we left the hereditary monarchy in favour of meritocracy). Genetics are a medical matter. It's the social aspects (IE, who raised you) that should matter to us socially.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I just saw a line of birds flying, but I saw them through some branches, and my first thought was 'COSMIC STRING!' But then the entire solar system wasn't immediately destroyed.

So in retrospect, this is one time when I'm glad I was wrong.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

I've been making calzone (and sometimes just bread, though it's a bit sweet) using this recipe for some time now. Yesterday, I actually used it for pizza, of all things. The best part about pizza (or calzone) is that you can use random toppings/fillings and they'll taste pretty good.

Staples for pizza are baby spinach, mushrooms, and perhaps onions, but there's plenty more to try. Black beans are a bit unusual, but quite good on pizza, it turns out. Today I'm trying adding some ricotta cheese (part with mozarella, part as the only cheese--if you don't hate ricotta cheese, TRY THIS). Green bell peppers, of course, are always an option. Tomato works. (Yes, I know there's already tomato sauce.) Extra garlic on top is a good idea.

Perhaps the best pizza I ever had included artichoke hearts. Sadly, I don't have those.

What should I try next? Sprouts? Corns and peas? Curry powder? Chili powder? Cottage cheese? Potato? (Oooh, potato! Probably a bit flavourless, though.)

Pineapple does not belong on pizza. Nor do carrots. Sweet = bad unless it's a pizzert.

Monday, April 07, 2008

When you see a cat, you can pet it. It might be timid, or possibly even hostile, but the owner won't mind the least bit if you try to pet their cat, or even pick it up (so long as the cat doesn't mind). Cat owners tend to be sane, or at least not insane in the way dog owners sometimes are.

On the other hand, many dog owners apparently object strenuously to people petting their dogs without asking. They'll even claim it's like going up to a strangers' child and hugging him/her.

If this is a seeing eye dog, this makes sense. (Not the child analogy, but the 'no touchy!' rule.) Otherwise, however, these people are insane.

I'm sure there are nutty cat ladies who are the same way about their cats, but I don't think I've ever met one.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You know how if you can't cook then you're too stupid to live?

I was afraid I might be like that earlier today, but turns out I'm not.

I made cinnamon rolls. But there are twenty people living here, so I doubled the recipe. Except:
* I used two packets of yeast, probably making 2 or 4 tbsp instead of six.
* I rolled the thing out in a messy non-rectangle.
* I used Smart Balance instead of butter/margarine.
* I put the Smart Balance directly into the filling, rather than spreading and sprinkling. Then I added extra sugar because it wasn't spreading evenly and needed more filler.
* I used a pan that was not 9"*9" or 9"*18", but something rectangular.
* I put them in the over and forgot to note when I put them in.
* I got out the powered sugar for the topping and then put in table sugar without thinking. Then I added water because I didn't want milk.
* Then I added powdered sugar anyway. And more water.

But they came out great. Everyone loved them. 'Everyone' being about five people who were here. Nearly everyone was away today.

But, see, this merely emphasises my point from August. Even if you don't follow the recipe, things usually turn out fine. Cooking's easy. Don't leave meat raw and what can go wrong?

(You know how on Food Network people comment how baking requires precise measurements? LIES!)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

People are often complaining about the 'anti-science' attitude so prevalent in the US, but let's look at some scientific 'facts' and see how they stand up against basic common sense or simple tests:

Spherical Earth

Obviously false. I set out walking in a straight line, for more than an hour, and I didn't return to where I started. Additionally, I have friends who have been to the so-called 'Southern Hemisphere' and they told me people walked on the ground, feet down, just like here.

Wave-particle duality

I don't even need to go into this. It's simply absurd. I mean, come on!

Consistency in the speed of light

Again, WTF?


I can bloody well see the Sun going around the Earth.

Atomic theory

You're telling me I just stubbed my toe on a rock that's mostly empty space? Bull. Crap.


Things bend. Space is not a thing. It's where things are. And time is time.

Quantum Mechanics

Atomic theory on crack. In Vegas.

Rocks and feathers falling at the same distance in a vacuum

Hello! One's heavier than the other!

It's no wonder science isn't trusted. They don't even try to come up with half-way plausible claims.

Friday, February 01, 2008

(This is what blog posts are supposed to look like. Stupid ramblings about my day.)

This morning, I superglued my fingers together. I was trying to repair my earplugs, but the glue wasn't coming out, so I squeezed really hard, and it all shot out. Apparently the way superglue works is to heat way up and then rapidly cool down and stick. For fingers, this means blisters from the heat followed by a painful pulling apart of the stuck digits.

On the way home, I had to run to the bus for my transfer, 'cause it was about a block ahead of the 27 instead of the usual block behind. Sadly, I somehow dropped my bus pass. I considered going back to look for it, but by the time it occurred to me, I'd already paid the 0.50USD fare, and it was going to expire in a week. (It's 10USD for a month pass.) But! Morgan from ECorps saw me drop it and she got off, found it, and brought it to my house for me. Nice to know I'm not the only person this cheap. :-)

The middle of the day was hours of using mattocks to clear trench along a path at Southwest Key. Tired now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Upon waking this morning, I glanced at my watch. '07:15am'. Oh, gevalt! I overslept by more than an HOUR!

So I quickly, got dressed, grabbed a bag of banana and a cereal for breakfast and lunch, and ran out to the bus stop, where I brushed my hair and ate a banana as I waited for the bus.

Where's the bus? Glance my watch: 07:15am. I should call them to say I might be late, but there's no payphone and I haven't a Handy.

Glance my watch: 07:20am. Ah, good, it's supposed to be here in three minutes. Some people from work drive by and shout my name. 'Hey, I could use a ride!' But they're gone. Curses!

Glance my watch: 7:25am. Where's the bus? It's late. Pace. The Night Owl bus shows up. Strange that it's running at 7:30am, but it goes where I need to go, so I board. The clock up front is flashing '1:30'. Ha, I wish. No one there from whom I can borrow a Handy to say I'm going to be late. Just two homeless guys.

Glance at my watch: 7:40am. Wait...for the past six years I've had my watch set to UTC (essentially Greenwich Mean Time). 7:40am in England is 1:40am here. It suddenly dawns on me what a colossal idiot I am.

So I get off the bus and walk thirteen blocks home. I'm not going back to bed and oversleeping for real. At least I went to bed early, so I got half a night's sleep.

Good thing I didn't have a Handy. Would've left some interesting messages.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I just finished clean up for dinner at Seneca Falls.

I'd been sceptical about the claim that dinner clean up is a four hour job (two people for two hours), and usually it wouldn't be--yesterday's I think would have been about one hour total. But today they made a mess. I've helped do dinner clean up for groups of 70+ people, and this meal for ~20 impressed me. There just kept being more stuff.

Two pots still have burnt stuff on the bottom. One is mostly clean, and the other Michael suggests leaving for the person who burnt whatever it was.