Sunday, September 30, 2007

A request to support orphans in China

(email I received from a friend)
Jenny Bowen, founder of Half the Sky and famous in
the China adoption community for her work supporting children living in China's orphanages, is campaigning to carry the Olympic torch along with 8
children currently living in China's orphanage system. Bringing her work
and the lives of China's orphans to the public eye would be an amazing
benefit to the children living in China without forever families as well as
all children adopted from China. And best of all, it bring would glory and
honor to 8 special children!
Please take a quick minute to vote for Jenny and the kids by clicking on the
title link. We'd appreciate it if you could forward this
link to others as well. Like Jenny says, they need a LOT of votes.
Half the Sky was created in order to enrich the lives and enhance the
prospects for orphaned children in China. We establish and operate infant
nurture and preschool programs, provide personalized learning for older
children and establish loving permanent family care and guidance for
children with disabilities. It is our goal to ensure that every orphaned
child has a caring adult in her life and a chance at a bright future.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hey! The price of grain went up!

Of course, as it's a global market and the dollar is shrinking, this is expected. What's surprising to me* is that the WSJ mentions the housing bubble, but only to say it's also hurting the economy, not that it wiped out great swaths of farmland.

* -- in the "I find it surprising you failed to take your muddy shoes off before walking across the carpet" sense

Melissa is coming

This is where the hurricanes that threaten Manhattan tend to start. No mention of adverse shear or other mitigating factor, and every identified tropical cyclone so far has turned into a named storm. So, this may be a problem.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hillary's enemies turn up the heat

Al Gore is not stepping in to take the Democratic nomination. I think realization of that is seeping in. Obama has reportedly been seeming deflated, Edwards has for some reason been ignored by the media and Richardson, who seems to be large, square-headed and male -- presidential -- is apparently too poorly connected to rate a mention in most headlines about polls. The other Democratic candidates seem too willing to confront the root iniquities that make this country what it is to seem credible.

Hillary's taking the nomination, and the Democrat is taking the White House. She's a juggernaut. Can no one stop her?

One person can. One person can step in to the race in December or even February, take the nomination and win the 2008 presidential election. And the levers of power are being worked to see that this happens.

President Pelosi is taking the stage. We're heard a lot of folderol from the Democratic Congress about why they're not pursuing impeachment. The Army's broken, the justice department is in disarray, we have a humiliating failure to address climate change, armed bands are wreaking havoc in our protectorates with and without our sponsorship, the dollar is evaporating, the chicanery underlying our economic expansion is collapsing and this is all due to the fact that Bush 43 has the presidency. Every moment that man gets to call his shuttle Marine One, further disasters befall us. If the Constitutional Congress had foreseen Congress' inaction in this case, they wouldn't have bothered to mention impeachment at all. The Democrats can't do it, though, because they're beholden to the Clintons and the Democratic Leadership Committee ne'er-do-wells, and they don't want to threaten the former first lady's ascension.

Since the Downing Street Memo has apparently been forgotten, a Spanish version was released a few days ago. Here's the press gaggle:

Q If I can change topics, there's a -- about the history of the Iraq war here. There's a transcript in the Spanish newspaper, El País, that was said to be from a meeting between the President and the Spanish Prime Minister back in February 2003, in which, according to the tapes of this transcript of the conversations, Saddam Hussein offered to step down and go into exile one month before the invasion, and the President seemed to think that that was a realistic possibility at that time. Do you believe that this is an accurate transcript?

MS. PERINO: ...[I]f you think back to that time, there were a lot of rumors. There were a lot of people floating ideas around about what may or may not happen.

I was tempted to ellipsate 'If I can change topics,' but I suspect it might become famous as a phrase. That's the exchange. "Can you confirm the validity of this transcript?" "There were a lot of rumors floating around." The headline might read "White House Lets Stand Transcript of President Opting for Occupation of Iraq." The transcript goes on to mention the White House at the time was reassuring Americans that we were still hoping for a peaceful outcome.

Not impeaching Dubya is becoming less and less tenable for this Congress. Congressmen who oppose it are being scandalized and imprisoned. If Hillary doesn't cave to some secret interest's demands and soon, Nancy Pelosi will win this election and probably the next one. She may be President when the constitution is suspended as part of our response to climate change, so it may well be permanent.

We'll have to see.

Success in Iraq: Ruben Bolling with another great idea

Tom the Dancing Bug exhorts citizens, US officials, the media and regular Iraqis to secretly conspire to convince President Bush he succeeded in Iraq and can withdraw. If the President does not read the comic, which is likely, this has a chance of working.

We didn't fail in Iraq. What were our goals?
(1) To help the GOP in the 2002 mid-term elections. Check, with some very good results in 2004 (from a Republican perspecitve) to boot; and
(2) Funnel enormous amounts of public money to corporate interests friendly to the Bush family and its various networks. Double check.

The occupation, judged on its own standard, has been an astounding success. We really should just pat our dear leader on his back and let him know it's time to rest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Great investment ideas

There probably is a fund that invests in large scale geoengineering climate change projects. I think that's where I should put my money.
"If we can generate 100 ideas, and 97 are bad and we land up with 3 good ones, then the whole thing will have been worthwhile; so I applaud Lovelock and Rapley for thinking along these lines."
If you send an email to 10,000 people and ask them to send you $100, and 9700 people fail to, you still get $30,000.

I guess it's pessimistic of me to not believe in technological fixes, but I don't. I don't think we can deploy them quickly enough to stop permanent changes in our geophysical dynamics, and I believe the ones that will come out on top in any bidding process will be provided by politically connected incompetent engineering companies.

And this is a quote from An Inconvenient Truth on this blog:
Temperature tracks CO2 almost exactly, with a several-decade lag. Those large fluctuations? Those were the six ice ages we've had over the past 600,000 years. CO2 in the atmosphere goes up and so does the temperature, the CO2 trapping the sun's radiation inside our planet, where it heats the Earth.

These huge fluctuations are the difference between ice ages and where we are today. Then Gore shows the most recent trajectory of CO2: straight up, more than doubled.
So, we feel the amount of CO2 now decades from now. And, that'll kill most of us. But, if we do deploy carbon-sucking robots or massive silicate bombs hither and yon, they'd better be pretty well-tuned to return us to 1800 levels of CO2, or whatever goal we set. Or, we go to Snowball Earth, which while different from 'Fogball Earth,' or whatever you want to call our future stable globally averaged surface temperature state, is not necessarily better.

That decades-long lag is an important thing to keep in mind. Our glaciers are disappearing and we're seeing a number of other effects from, say, 1960 levels of CO2. But, it's not 1960 anymore. Irrespective of any bobbing pipe deployment, it's going to get a lot, lot worse before it gets better.

Am I counselling despair? No! Perish the thought, along with most of humanity. I just think we should be directing our energies to two things:

(1) Figuring out how a tiny elite can survive and prosper in the inevitable apocalypse, and
(2) Getting me into that elite.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I'm just thinking out loud here

But, there are 423-thousand-odd K-6 students in New York. So, let's call that 60,000 Fourth Graders. And, if we give each one of them an XO Laptop, and send another overseas, that would probably have all sorts of wonderful effects.

It'd cost $24M. Which is a big bake sale, but a small chunk of the $16.8B the New York Schools consume. Of course, everything is. We could fight for almost three weeks in Iraq with the amount of money we waste on educating children in this city.

Maybe just one really wealthy guy. Anybody got twenty-five million dollars? You have until November 26th to pony it up.

update: What are the odds that the Gates Foundation will pay for Linux laptops? It's got Warren Buffett and Carlos Slim's money tied up.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Democrats are waking up to the fact that their legislators aren't on their side

Glenn Greenwald at looks at Dianne Feinstein in the Senate today, and gives some perspective on why the Democratic Congress passes FISA, doesn't pursue impeachment (despite the March deadline I gave them) and continues to not act on Climate Change, among many, many other failures which might have surprised registered Democrats.
By very stark contrast [to Congressional Republicans], most (though certainly not all) Democrats in Congress -- particularly the most influential and longest-serving ones in the Senate like Feinstein -- have contempt for their base and share virtually none of their values. In March of last year, I had an e-mail exchange with the spokesperson for a key Democratic Senator on the Intelligence Committee regarding how bloggers and their readers could work more closely with Democratic Senators to highlight the need for the NSA lawbreaking scandal to be investigated and taken more seriously. Ultimately, they made clear that they wanted nothing to do with actual citizens who were eager to bring that situation about, as I was told.

Greenspan's Comedic Genius

When Alan Greenspan denied supporting the Bush tax cuts, I wanted to make a blog post tying it to various appointees coming out over the last few months decrying decisions they were supposedly mostly responsible for, topping it with the President's own criticism of the decision to disband the Iraqi army. But, I have this problem with laziness. So, I'm just linking to Tom Tomorrow's Greenspan Revue.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

That's not common

Tropical cyclone formation in the Gulf of Mexico. Has this happened before?

Genes speak louder

'Rionn' is a Welsh, or really Gaelic name. 'Fears' is Irish, and I'm about a quarter Scott Irish. As far as 'Malechem' goes, go ahead and Google it. I'm the first nine hits. It's not a super popular name. I know it sounds vaguely semitic, but if I had to guess I would say it's a vowelized spelling of Mlgm, which is again Gaelic, as far as I know.

I'm really only a quarter Welsh. But, when I went to Wales on Saturday, the girls were incredibly cute; not the World Cup Groupies, but the girls working in the shops, museums and restaurants. I've been to places renowned for cute girls before -- Tokyo, Bali, Somali neighborhoods of Nairobi, Santiago, Providence, Prague -- but I think I'm genetically programmed to like Welsh girls.

update [Mom chimes in]:Based on Grandparents surnames, you are 2/8 Welsh (Jones ), 3/8
English, Hosford, Taylor, Bardwell) and 3/8 Scotch-Irish (Malechem,
Kinney, Millin). Love, Mom

Remington Steele and Two Supermen

I saw Pierce Brosnan in Skiathos. He loaded two young boys, who I assume were his children, into a taxi just across the sidewalk from our boat. Nobody pointed out that he looked just like me. Well, 61 % like me. Which is why we have computers.

In order to compass the controversy I wrote about last night, I had to look through some old blog posts. And this one caught my eye, so I wondered, what would a 4 1/2 year old picture of me look like now? Pierce Brosnan was the answer, followed by Tom Welling and Christopher Reeve.

I know that my overwhelming charisma makes you suspect that you think I'm more handsome than I really am. But, no, I'm 54 - 55 % Man of Steel.

This is what DC Comics' heroes look like these days, however.

The best investment I made this year...

Was taking out too much money from a British ATM the day before the Fed cut the prime rate. The Saudis, according to the linked story, did not cut their prime rate as well, suggesting they no longer want to be pegged to the dollar. That story's linked to a review of recent Chinese monetary threats.

We need massive inflation to correct the housing bubble, as people really don't want to nominally lose money when the sell. So take enormous fixed-rate loans and use them to invest overseas. Now, capital flight is bad for the country, so you should discourage everyone else from doing this, but look out for Number One.

Well, this hole's pretty deep, but if we keep digging, I'm sure we'll get out eventually.

We had an economy built on a housing bubble set to deflate. This brings us to about 2001. But, the Administration reached out for criminal, nonsensical and deceitful ways to keep a rosy glow about the economy's cheeks. So, it reduced what regulations it could -- letting securitization take hold -- stopped enforcing what regulations it did have -- allowing liar loans and the like -- and signalled to mortgage lenders that interest only loans with balloon payments and 125 % mortgages would be totally OK with them.

So, housing prices continued to run away, and if the balloon payments had been more than five years, they would have run further. I can only hope that the desire here is to create a permanent depression with a persistent underclass that are willing to sell their bodies to the government, as the Pentagon has forecasted a massive alien invasion and we need a cyborg army to combat it. That's the only charitable reading I can see.

The houses aren't increasing in underlying value. People will just pay as much as they can borrow. Say you, I and a guy we don't like are on an airplane that's going down, and there are two parachutes -- as a quick tip, the important thing is to watch the lines, and keep them from getting tangled. I'm not telling him that. So, they retail for about $450, but they're in a vending machine run by eBay. We have to bid for them. So, we will be on the phone with our banks, financial advisors and accountants trying to put together a package that's larger than he can. I would totally loan you another $500,000, but I have kids in school (hypothetically.) Houses are more or less the same thing. If we used the cash in our pockets, I might win with $12.35 and a tenth of an ounce of lint. But, the more money he's lent, the more money I'll borrow.
A critical issue is whether Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, government-sponsored enterprises, should be allowed to purchase mortgages above the current $417,000 conforming loan limit.... This issue is crucial because the market for jumbo mortgages has seized up, and a lack of funding for these more expensive loans could have a major impact on housing values in large U.S cities. There is strong pressure in Congress to loosen the reins on Fannie and Freddie even more in the current housing downturn.
"There is little question that allowing the GSEs [government-sponsored enterprises] to securitize jumbo mortgages would give a short-term lift," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is expected to tell the House Financial Services Committee at a hearing today, according to prepared remarks. He is expected to say, however, that it would be "unreasonable and irresponsible" to expand their businesses without addressing their regulatory problems.... Mr. Bernanke [said] Monday ... that if Congress is inclined to raise the limit it should consider doing so in a way "that makes the change explicitly temporary as well as promptly implemented." Mr. Bernanke stopped short of endorsing the idea.
In another sign of an administration shift, the regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight, agreed to relax restrictions on the mortgage-finance companies' investment holdings. Ofheo's new policy allows ... the companies to add a combined $40 billion in mortgages to their portfolios by the end of March. In making the changes, Ofheo cited recent progress by both companies in repairing internal controls, though it pointed out that neither company had returned to timely filing of financial statements from past accounting scandals.

Fannie Mae called on the regulator to allow bigger increases. "We still believe the more effective response, given the extent of the market disruption, would be to raise our portfolio cap by at least 10%," Fannie Mae spokesman Brian Faith said.

What's with the SEC?

Requiring companies to disclose their climate risk? Keeping an eye out for insider trading at hedge funds? Why are they doing all this work all of a sudden?

What's prison for, anyway?

Daniel Biechele, 30... the manager of Great White... who lighted the pyrotechnics that caused a fire that killed 100 people in a Rhode Island nightclub [, the Station, in West Warwick] in 2003 was granted parole on Wednesday. He will have served less than half his term.
Boy meets band, boy manages band, boy inadvertently slaughters a century of fans, boy goes to prison. I don't know a lot about him, but I imagine Mr. Biechele killed all those people out of negligence, rather than malice. And he was sentenced to four years in prison, but will have served two when he is released in March.

Why do we send people to prison? Is it to rehabilitate them?
In prison, Mr. Biechele, of Winter Haven, Fla., was a bookkeeper for an organization in Woonsocket that helps disabled children and adults.
But, what if you're a nice guy to begin with, you make an error in judgment, and something very bad happens? You're accountable, you go to prison. But, all it can do is clarify to you why you were already staying out of prison. So, why would you ever qualify for parole? You'd think if that were the goal of gaol*, the sentencing judge would be able to set a time period when you started.

Is it to reduce the risk to society by interrupting your pattern of pyrotechnic band managing? How do they know that that's accomplished? Is it to hide you from vigilante actions by your victims' families, or merely to punish you? Again, I'm not sure I see the logic of parole. If we just let you go once you start loving Big Brother, I don't see what we'd do to people who love Big Brother going in. If we're supposed to be warning other band managers from negligently handling pyrotechnics, well, this sends the wrong message.

I'd like some clarity on why we imprison people.

* -- sorry, just had to work 'goal of gaol' in..

The Old Adventures of God Man

So, seriously? Ruben Bolling lets me see the new covenant in a way I'd never tried before. In the Old Testament, we were in service to God. He exists, we worship him, and He gives us helpful things like laws to live by. If we forget to worship Him consistently, He'll destroy our cities. If we fail to snap to when He delivers instruction, He'll have us swallowed by Leviathan. If we falter in a second hand command, He'll turn us into pillars of salt. There is a God, and you do what He says or He will make of you an illustrative case. Job is the great exemplar of piety -- keep believing, keep worshiping, it won't necessarily do anything for you.

But, the New Testament, the transformational power of a personal relationship wiith Jesus Christ, the stress on the Golden Rule, the 'he whoever believes in me' and 'whenever two or more are gathered in my name' are deals God is striking with you*. Now, some people read the concept of an afterlife into the Bible, and you're getting all this other stuff, so why not? So, the New Testament lays out a lot of advantages to believing in God, whereas the Old Testament you just had a structure of reality.

Maybe it was increased competition?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Maybe the census bureau should add some income levels?

I was comparing myself against other 35-39-year-old white men who work year-round at the Census Bureau site. So, there are about 6,730,000 of us, 6,725,000 of whom had income -- 5000 worked for free, which was mighty white of them. 311,000 made between $20K and $22.5K -- that's the biggest bin below $30Kpa -- and 435,000 made between $40K and $42.5K, which is the largest bin.

1,016,000 35-39-year-old men made over $100K. That's bigger than any of the bins. I don't have a conspiracy theory for this -- it's not like it's in anyone's interest to obfuscate incremental structural changes in income distribution -- but it seems like bad data management to have 15 % of your data in the 'everybody else' bin. I know I've got a high-earning race and age, and one would expect that year-round workers earn more, but even for 'all sexes, all ages' 2.6 % of the data is in $100K+.

Ingrid's picking back up

I don't want to say "I told you so," but you might plan to not be in Manhattan on, say, October 4th.
I guess it's worth being explicit about what I believe is going on here, which is that the models used to predict cyclone development and track, and even the distinction between tropical cyclones and run-of-the-mill storms, are based on the Ocean-Atmosphere interface behaving like it has for the past few hundred years. As a civilization, we have a lot of experience with the Atlantic, and we feel like we pretty much know how it responds to stimuli.

But we changed it.

The mixed layer's different, the gulf stream's different, the injection of fresh water and the freezing of salt water, they're all different. So, we no longer have a system with familiar response characteristics. But, admitting that we changed it, and taking that into account when we predict what's going to happen with any particular storm, is a very political move.

This is what's so fascinating about the story of X. Bill Proenza, which I'm starting to think would make a good opera. X complains about the stupid Mars lander, and his staff denounces him. They were siding with the funding priorities of the administration. And they may also be resisting the influence of climate change on hurricane formation. There are political fish to fry at the NHC.

Here's an example from a New York Times story about the scientific debate regarding whether climate change is increasing the general badness of storms:

But when Christopher W. Landsea analyzed historical records of hurricane activity, he concluded that satellite observations and other new techniques had increased scientists’ ability to detect major storms, skewing the frequency data. Dr. Landsea, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center, reported this conclusion this month in EOS, an electronic publication of the American Geophysical Union.

This kind of he-said-he-said debate often leads people to dismiss a subject as one about which nothing will ever be known with confidence. In fact, the give and take is an example of the way scientists tug and haul at their own and others’ findings until a consensus takes shape.

No. Introducing uncertainty into a conclusion that we're pretty sure is true is how corporatists deter collective action in the Rovian era. This 'debate' that's going on? The NHC is the only organ on the skeptics side quoted in the article. And this brings us directly to William Gray, the Edward Teller of Climate Change*, who creates a safe zone for meteorologists who choose through political expediency to not believe the climate change is worsening Atlantic storms.

William Gray, OK, did a lot of good for his country, and deserved his position as king of all hurricane forecasters. This guy, really, is a pillar of the hurricane forecasting community. And he doesn't believe in significant global warming, much less that it's affecting the hurricane seasons. This is from Wikipedia:
William M. Gray, Professor of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University: "This small warming is likely a result of the natural alterations in global ocean currents which are driven by ocean salinity variations. Ocean circulation variations are as yet little understood. Human kind has little or nothing to do with the recent temperature changes. We are not that influential."[26]) "I am of the opinion that [global warming] is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American people." [27]) "So many people have a vested interest in this global-warming thing—all these big labs and research and stuff. The idea is to frighten the public, to get money to study it more."[28])
Dr. Gray has a lot of adherents among government hurricane forecasters. They probably wouldn't go so far as to publicly doubt anthropogenic global climate change, but they'll make the softer case that its not affecting hurricane formation. And so the models are still good. And so everything we're seeing is inexplicable.

On the one hand, my point will be strengthened if Ingrid does do a little wall formation and mosey up the coast. On the other, I'd prefer that she die out as a rainy patch in the Caribbean. The great thing about betting on trouble is that you're either right or better off.

* -- in the sense that Edward Teller chose political advantage over integrity, in creating the Hydrogen Bomb, in testifying against Oppenheimer, and in promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative. He's like the bogeyman of 20th Century American Science.

I care a lot about authority, not so much about harm

The New York Times is now free for the reading, so go ahead and follow that link! They've given me free crossword puzzles through the end of the year to make up for the fact that I'm getting a freeeee riiiiide, when I've already paid. Not that I would ever abuse my subscriber status to give you free crosswords on the DL, but I don't do them.

I took the moral foundation quiz mentioned in the linked article. The green moral foundations are mine.

Except for the harm score -- whether people are harmed weighs rather less on my moral judgments than on either liberals or conservatives -- I'm in the happy middle ground. So, if you were thinking I were something other than a middle-of-the-road moderate, very large computers at the University of Virginia are disagreeing with you.

update: Except for gambling, liberals tend to fall somewhere between me and conservatives on the actual issues test. So, my moderation can be reasonably questioned.

Europeans drop liquid ban on flights

The House adopted a resolution... on the restrictions imposed by the EU on liquids that passengers can take on board aeroplanes... to review urgently and -- if no further conclusive facts are brought forward -- to repeal.
Oh, please let our House do the same!

Another Bush Administration Breathtaking in its repugnance

We actually have reeducation facilities.
The U.S. military has introduced "religious enlightenment" and other education programs for Iraqi detainees... Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, the commander of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq, said yesterday... such efforts... are part of waging war in what he called "the battlefield of the mind."

Some people get surprised pretty easily

The Securities and Exchange Commission ... has sent hedge funds and private equity firms a detailed list of questions intended to ferret out employees and clients who would be in a position to acquire and pass along inside corporate information to managers of the investment vehicles.
Nora Jordan, a lawyer who advises hedge funds at Davis Polk & Wardwell, said the inquiry is unlikely to bear fruit, especially for large funds who have a reputation to uphold. "It would surprise me if they found some big smoking gun on this," she said.
Anybody else?

All the action's in the Gulf


Apparently, there's so much energy stored in the tropical ocean that hurricanes are just forming in the Western extent of the Atlantic and slamming into Florida, Texas, Mexico and other places where I don't live. So, everything's hunky dory.

I've still got a bad feeling about those Ingrid remnants, but we may slide through the end of the season scot free. Now, when do you think the end of the season will be? I'll put 100 shares of special non-voting decorative shares of 'Fears and Frets' on Valentine's Day.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I saw the TAOS production of the Mikado Tonight

When I sat down, I noticed that the audience for the Taunton Amateur Operatic Society was in their 60s, 70s and 80s, which was a little weird until the show started, and the Gentlemen of Japan were in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Except for Nanki Poo, who was 17. I thought he was 14, as he was so much shorter than everyone else, but apparently he's starting college next month. I, um, respect his courage in singing a part that was far too difficult for him. And for being the only male actor in Act I under 50 (the Mikado himself, who doesn't show up until Act II, I would estimate at around 40.) So often you'll see a production of something where a woman is supposed to be clearly too old to marry the hero, and you -- coming from a culture where women can start thinking about having children in their 40s -- don't buy it. Katisha here, though, really sold it.

It was fun! Except for the tiny, youthful lead, whom I found a little disorienting, I got and enjoyed what I expected, which as a community theater production of the Mikado, which I believe was my first G&S production (I played Pooh Bah, which my mother feels distills my character well.) And, you know? I agree with Yum Yum:

Yes, I am indeed beautiful! Sometimes I sit and wonder, in my artless [American] way, why it is that I am so much more attractive than anybody else in the whole world. Can this be vanity? No! Nature is lovely and rejoices in her loveliness. I am a child of Nature, and take after my mother.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Essential Desirability

I'm back to the email interface, but now because of some problem with Google.

This interview of Maureen Down by Ellen Kelleher in the Financial Times came out about two years ago, and I found it incredibly heartening.

[T]he more superficial generation of females... want[s]... sexy, funny and smart men who empty dishwashers

And I totally do. Since reading this, I consider my self the archetype of feminine desire. Just thought I'd share.

Yahoo! oneSearch: Finally, mobile search that gives answers, not web links.

Bicycle transportation and the Bush League

So, on PBS' News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said,

The last highway bill that was passed, in the summer of 2005, contained ... $24 billion [in Congressional earmarks, which was] almost a tenth of the bill.... There are [bike paths, trails, and] museums that are being built with that money, [which is being used as well in] repairing lighthouses... as opposed to our infrastructure.


[T]here's about probably some 10 percent to 20 percent of the current spending that is going to projects that really are not transportation, directly transportation-related. Some of that money is being spent on things, as I said earlier, like bike paths or trails.

I could see some kind of car nazi thinking bicycles weren't transportation, but lighthouses? How more infrastructury can you get? You may require extremely poor planning to lose your GPS, and Loran, but you'd want those lighthouses there. What is transportation infrastructure, anyway, if it doesn't include bike paths and lighthouses?

The Federal Highway Administration creates a distinction called Nonmotorized Transportation Infrastructure. I haven't seen one called Nonterrestrial Transportation Infrastructure. As numerous other sources have pointed out, being nonmotorized doesn't make transportation any less real. Here's Andy Clark, Executive Director of the LAB, for instance,

Your statement that bicycle trails and paths are not "transportation-related" or "infrastructure" is baffling.... Tens of millions of bicyclists and pedestrians in communities across the country use trails to get to work, school, shops, and to visit friends and family.... I find it astonishing that, almost 20 years after the groundbreaking ISTEA legislation that created flexibility and allowed greater local input over Federal transportation funding, you would single out bicycle trails in this way. At a time when individuals, communities and as a nation we are battling congestion, obesity, energy consumption, global warming, and air quality issues, projects and programs to help people use alternatives to driving are a wise investment.... Secretary Peters, as Federal Highway Administrator you delivered remarks at the 2002 National Bike Summit ... "[B]icyclists are an integral part of our nation's transportation system and we all need to work together to develop a better more balanced transportation system that provides facilities and programs for bicyclists on a routine basis."
Isn't Bush 43 the Bicycle President? Mr. President! You know I've always stood by you. Please ask for this woman's resignation.

What they will do is stagger along until there's a major incident and then suddenly say, 'Oh, my God, shouldn't we be organized to deal with this?'

I'm going to stick for a minute with these 64 % of Americans who don't believe that Bush 43 should be impeached, as they are holding their own country's head in a toilet and giving it swirlies. Even if you accept what we've just learned, which is that conservatives are 'persistent in judgment', and what we already knew, that conservatives couldn't handle integrative complexity.

It's really hard to believe supporters of the occupation are being honest. Even when there were many more of them, they never seemed to be arguing in good faith. When Jerry Bremer gave the pre-9/11 title quote about the Administration's failure to take terrorism seriously as a threat or Richard Bruce Cheney said occupying Iraq was going to be a quagmire not worth very many dead Americans, it wasn't out of context, or a compromise statement, or unintentional overspeaking, which is what you see when you dig into Bush League apologists' attempts to rewrite the 90s.

Really, to respond to George Miller's defense of the Democratic leadership's failure to pursue impeachment, what they need to be doing is getting the GOP representatives to say, one by one, "Good governance is more important to the country than a permanent Republican majority. I have reviewed these deceits and crimes, and believe they pass the constitutional test for impeachment." I know that sounds hard, but they're supposed to be able to do hard things, and this is essentially what the GOP did when impeaching Clinton. It's as if they, themselves, have no conception of their own ability to enroll opposing legislators, possibly because of the systemic bad faith suspicions outlined above.

Specter, Hagel, even Norm Coleman were among 7 sentors who switched sides to vote for no confidence in Alberto Gonzales back in June. So, there's proven flexibity among legislators in the President's party, which I don't get the sense that Pelosi and Reid are taking advantage of. I know a lot of this kind of activity has to go on behind the scenes, but I'd like to see more evidence of it.

Test Email Post

T-Mobile's 'Web 'n' Walk' prevents me from posting directly, so I'm trying blogger's "mail to."
With a link.

update: The content lock seems to be off again. I don't know if it should be off, and is incorrectly turning on (interfering with my legitimate needs,) or if it should be on, and is incorrectly turning off (putting the youth of England at risk.) Either way, it's pretty annoying.

Friday, September 14, 2007


New York wasn't threatened at all last year, and Ingrid's really the first tropical cyclone to have a chance of hitting it in 2007. That said, the forecasters to date have been pretty negative about it's chances.

But, still. One the one hand, the forecast discussion reads

And on the other, the actual forecast probabilities are
, which is to say Ingrid dissipating -- which doesn't affect our daily lives -- is only three times as large as Ingrid becoming a Category 1 Hurricane, which could be the path to a lot of badness and is itself well within the 95 % confidence level we supposedly use to determine whether or not to worry about stuff.

Do you remember 2005? How depression after depression were supposed to snuff themselves out, but instead became roaring storms? Have we changed our models since then? The storms this year seem to generally be forming in the West and smashing themselves against foreign countries like Mexico and Texas. Ingrid, I fear, represents, if you will, a sea change.

Ingrid's on track for New York City

So, I think we have, of 2007, the first hurricane* primed to destroy New York City. Now, I know what you're thinking. There's no trick to it, you just think very predictable things. I don't know if there's anything you can do about it. But, I wouldn't worry. It helps you desire more readily available goods and services. But, to your question,
If Ingrid was Tropical Depression #8 for the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season, why when it gets named does that name start with 'I', the 9th letter of the alphabet?
Well, let's see. There have been Andrew, Barry, Chantal (remember Chantal?), Dean, Erin, Felix, Gabrielle, Humberto and now Ingrid. But, the ordering of the names is independent of the ordering of the numbers! So, Humberto grew out of Tropical Depression #9 before Ingrid grew out of TD8, even though TD8 formed before TD9.

Can I just point out that every tropical depression's been named so far?

* -- well, yes. It's a tropical storm now.

I'm still waiting to Ask George

You'll recall that I'd been doing smashingly well in the Community Counts polling to get Representative George Miller to answer my questions. But, I've been holding at Number Three for a while. Actually, I'm doing better than that, as I expect (given his answers to date) that Representative Miller will dismiss numbers 1 and 2 pretty perfunctorily.

I guess there's a Summer vacation? His office hasn't released any videos for a month.

His last video addressed the impeachment question. Clearly, the constitution offers impeachment for just this sort of situation, but we're not doing it, in some strategy that makes sense to the Democratic senators and most of the Congressmen, but not to Americans. Impeachment had 36 % support in a USA Today/Gallup poll in July, when the president was almost three months less disastrous. Since somewhat less that 36 % of Americans have any idea what's going on, that's essentially everyone. So, when the last AskGeorge video said, "We don't think impeachment's doable," it sort of set expectations for the answers to the first two questions:
1. Why don't we let Iraqis themselves throw us out with a referendum? [projected answer: They're an occupied people, and they don't set policy any more than Americans do.]
2. Please let the administration know that you're not going to give them any more money for the Iraq war. [projected answer: The reason we funded the occupation last time had nothing to do with the fact that suddenly withdrawing financial support was less tenable than not-suddenly withdrawing financial support. That was just something the Democratic leadership said. You have to learn to take those things with a grain of salt.]

So, he may as well just skip to me.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Funny spoof conflating some sports thing with warrantless wiretaps

Still, Goodell was forced to admit that no terrorist attacks have occurred on American soil since the Patriots have begun winning Super Bowls.
Thanks to Bruce Schneier for the link.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stupidest Idea Ever

So ... 6 1/2 years after the internet bubble, that's a mighty claim. And, I've poo-pooed some successful ideas before; for example, I didn't think any of ICQ's competitors would get anywhere, but their lock-in ideas more or less succeeded. But, Ben Way, who made his name developing a search technology called Waysearch, which later became a business-to-business product called Pulsar [and] went bust during the crash, has bilked his presumed elderly lovers* out of enough money to start another company.

The core technology -- and I think I need a derisive portmanteau word like 'spinovation' -- is POIP, post over the internet. Now, I know I've just separated you into two camps -- those who thought 'Isn't that the same as email?' and those who thought "Isn't that the same as digital faxing?" And I'll let you fight out amongst yourselves who has better points. But, the point is that it -- the practice of having local printers print out your documents and mail them on -- is an idea whose time will never come, because it's stupid.

I'm stuck reading British newspapers when I go out, and I saw a laud to Viapost (as well as a column by disgraced American journalist Judith Miller) in today's Daily Telegraph. So, maybe we don't have the most credulous media establishment in the world. Do you see how broadening travel is?

* -- hey, I've seen The Producers

Monday, September 10, 2007

Things you intuitively know to be true

I had another new travel experience last night, enjoying some English country charm. I called my guest house at 11 PM, letting them know that my bus from Heathrow would be rolling into town at 2:30 AM or a little later, and I'd be over directly. After an hour of ringing their bell for 4 seconds every minute (I'm susceptible to repetitive tasks) I found a payphone, and called them every so often. At 4:30, after two hours, a woman walked out and asked if I were her cab.

She was checking out! She hadn't slept in her second bed! She let me use her room for the remainder of the night! So, that was unusual. I guess all that work on my charisma is paying off.

This wasn't a huge risk for her, and was essentially no expense. But, it was very useful for me, and another thing that hadn't happened to me before. It's no wonder I'm not jaded -- I keep having these new experiences.

So, I eventually got ensconced in my assigned room. The same room I had when I stayed here in January. And there was a Maxim in the bed side table. I vaguely remembered leaving some soft porn for the next guest last time I was here, so I checked the date -- it was October 2007, so I hadn't left it, and either
  1. Some other guest had this same impulse, or
  2. The guest house remembered me, and is attempting to meet my needs. Which it could better do by having someone here when I've arranged to arrive.
In paging through, I found a 'wire item:'
A study by scientists has revealed that staring at women's boobs is actually good for a man's health -- and it cuts the risk of a heart attack by approximately half! Doctors recommend at least 20 minutes of female-chest ogling a day. Hooray for boob science!
Now, of course you feel younger and more relaxed when looking at a woman's naked bosom. It's better than seeing them in photos or video, but not as good as feeling them. This is probably what drove the practice of drawing nudes in medieval Europe when there were no photographic machines and viewing the opposite sex's naked body could be rare, depending on your location and station.

So, it seems like a waste of public resources to validate something we all already know. However! It's an effect which could really use some quantification. How much breast-gazing would it take to negate the effect of a cigarette, for instance? Not that I'm thinking of taking smoking back up, I just need a unit.

Unfortunately, my point was a little undercut when I tried to locate the study itself. Maxim's Fact Checkers are apparently just as good as you'd think they'd be. From

If the story seems to smack of tabloid journalism, it's because that's precisely what it is. It began circulating via email in March or April 2000, not long after a similar article appeared in the consistently misinformative Weekly World News
If you click on the WWN link, you'll see some bad news. The Weekly World News is over. The September 10 issue of the World's Only Reliable Newspaper is the last one. Now, that I would check their site as they published their last issue seems like quite a coincidence, and they are big liars, so this might not be true. But, we can reminisce a little.

My friend Spliff and I were taking a week's ski vacation in the Poconos around the time True Stories came out. And we went into a convenience store in a quiet mountain town, and started chuckling at the tabloids. And the clerk agreed with us that the Star, and the Globe and the Enquirer were all trash, but insisted quite heatedly "everything in the Weekly World News is based on fact."

That's quite a level for a news organization to rise to. Which sort of brings us to the point, as it's not a level Fox News rises to.

In 1997 [Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson] began work on a story about bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto Corporation. ... Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story. When they refused and threatened to report Fox's actions to the FCC, they were both fired....

[T]he Florida Second District Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the settlement awarded to Akre. The Court held that Akre’s threat to report the station’s actions to the FCC did not deserve protection under Florida’s whistle blower statute, because Florida’s whistle blower law states that an employer must violate an adopted “law, rule, or regulation." ... [T]he Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news ... was simply a "policy." Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.
How to validate that the news reported is true does seem to open us up for government censorship. However, in a case like this where it can be shown that particular executives were fomenting falsehood and retributing against whistleblowers, we should be protected. We have to acknowledge there's a real danger to democracy in punishing media outlets for lying, but this seems to fall within any reasonable guidelines.

More-on conservatives

The fundamental reason that I have a blog is that stuff used to occur to me, or pique my interest, and I'd choose an acquaintance or family member pretty much at random and send them an impromptu essay. In order to save my loved ones from the vicissitudes of my musings, I just decided to make them public. I realized I had a problem when I sent out a mass email regarding the Berkeley study that conservatives couldn't handle integrative complexity, which played into a theory I was developing that they simply couldn't see feedback loops and systemic effects.

Following up on that:
Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because ... their brains work.
Well, OK. The ellipses should read 'of how.' But, still.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

More on X. Bill Proenza

When we last left our hero, X. Bill Proenza was being cast by the media as a victim of political retribution by the Bush Administration. You'll recall we were initially confused as to what was up, as his staff seemed not to like him even though he looked like a reasonable choice for the position doing a credible job. He seemed to remind one of the scene in Hope and Glory when the family returns from holiday to London during the blitz, and finds their house had burned. But, it hadn't been a rocket, just a fire. The fireman said, "Even in wartime, they happen."

So, by analogy, it seemed like politically inept bosses with inadequate management skills could be put in position without undue political interference in an atmosphere of pervasive politicization of federal offices, just like houses can burn down without being hit by rockets in wartime.

Dr. Proenza is officially out as of September 6th. His replacement, former deputy director Ed Rappaport, who was in turn replaced by Bill Read, a NWS chief from Texas. While Texas sources an unusual number of slime-ridden appointees, a NWS chief superficially seems like a reasonable choice.

So, the leadership of the NHC -- which, as we've seen again and again this year, is a pretty vital federal agency -- seems more of less competent. Let's see if
  1. Rappaport makes any noises about budget cuts
  2. Proenza's claim of whistle blower status goes anywhere.

Sort of a new experience

Thursday night, I was in Milina, on the Bay of Volos, at a bar called Ostria. Well, I was in Μιλινα on the bay of Βόλος, at a bar called Οστρια. A friend was using the single internet station inside -- one of the two in the town -- and I was just hanging out on the sidewalk cafe drinking ouzo. I went inside to get a second shot, and a man playing backgammon with my ostensible waitress pressed me to order a Greek grape liquer, like a pisco or grappa, called tsipouro. So, OK. I sit down and the nominal waitress begrudingly brings me a glass of ouzo. This is the last time she gets up.

The curious thing was, the man spoke very animatedly for a short time, then went back to the game. And, I found an inner store of ability to watch backgammon that held out for four games, but eventually I got up to wander back to the shoreline.

The man was very upset.

He really wanted me to sit at the table and watch him play backgammon with the waitress. This was just odd. He regarded me barely at all once we'd had our first minute or two of struggling Greek & English conversation, but really felt that I should continue sitting there and watch him play. Was he showing off? She didn't seem that hard to beat, although τάβλι did seem to have some subtle differences from backgammon. Did he feel like he was being a good host? Was he concerned that some other tavern owner might suck me into watching a more interesting board game if I wandered too far?

I've certainly sat around doing essentially nothing for long stretches with people with whom I shared no language. But, I don't think their attention has ever been so fixated on something else while I was in the process. I didn't get the sense that we were bonding.

Okeedo. Just wanted to share.