Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blogger + Opera = Blooper

When I used Opera to post, all the posts on a given day get set to the same time. I dunno why.


Friday, May 30, 2008

I am neurotic

Are you neurotic? I won't tell you which ones, if any, are mine, although I'll cop to this one someone else submitted.

I did not submit my constant anagramming, as I consider that a compulsion rather than a neurosis. I did not submit but you will note in this post my inability to quote someone else's spelling errors without interjecting "(sic)."

I know some of you will read this and wonder how there are so many weird people out there. I also know some of you will read that list and think, "pfft, they think they're neurotic?"

Some that I liked (some excerpted... some not):


Google stock is worthless

The current price is $588.14/share, but the rational, fair-market value is $0. There are two ways of realizing value from a stock. One is for the company to pay out dividends out of its cash flow. The founders have explicitly said they never will do that.

The other way to convert a stock into money is for someone to buy the whole company in order to capture their cash flow. That won't happen with Google. Their current stock price translates to a market capitalization of $184 B. That's what it would cost at current prices to acquire all of the outstanding shares in the company. Nobody can buy Google. Even if GOOG went down to its IPO price of $85, it would still be worth $26 B. There have only been a handful of acquisitions at that level. Would you buy a Google hoping for a buyout, knowing that your share would have to lose 85% of its value for that to happen?

Even if that unlikely occurrence were to happen, it still has to go up against the founders, who have said they have no interest in selling out. Of course, shareholders have rights. When your management acts against the interest of the shareholders, you can overrule them. At least, that's what you can do in normal companies. Not with Google. Larry and Sergey each own about 10% of the company. Eric Schmidt owns another 3% or so. They own Class B shares, which each have 10 votes. Everyone else gets Class A shares, with 1 vote apiece. If you do the math, it turns out that those three guys have about three times as many votes as all the other shareholders put together. You read that right. So you can't overrule them. And you can't buy Class B shares, either, because they turn into 1-vote Class A shares when they're sold.

It's possible for them to change their minds, of course. Why would they, though? Larry and Sergey are each worth something like $18 B each. Even if Google loses 99% of its stock market value, they'd still be fantastically wealthy. It's hard to imagine anyone being able to offer them anything they can't already get. It's only if they lose interest that they might sell, but that doesn't help anything because the remaining founder would hold a dominant number of Class B shares. You'd have to wait for both of them to get bored. When would Larry and Sergey both lose interest in Google? Going by Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, it takes at least 30 years. That's a long time to wait for the possibility that Google will shift policy and pay a dividend or sell out.

To summarize, in other words: Larry, Sergey, and Eric won't give you anything, they won't let anyone else give you anything, and you can't make them, even if you buy up every single Class A share. It's like a piece of paper from a diploma mill.

So what are people paying for when they buy GOOG? As far as I can tell, they're all trading on the assumption that Google stock is worth something, but they haven't really thought about the implications of Google's ownership structure. It's a collective fiction. To be sure, so is the US dollar, but this is one of a whole different sort; people at least acknowledge that the dollar isn't real.

Above, I said there are two ways to realize value from a stock. I omitted one: someone else wants your share. That's the principle that there's always another sucker. It worked for a while in the late 1990s, but then the party ended. Do you want to be the one without a chair when the music stops?

Numbers supplied by Google Finance :-).

Note: this is a discussion just of the stock. The company is obviously very valuable.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bulk buying power

It costs more per ounce to buy the bigger can.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

search engine for ocean containers

Import Genius indexes and searches manifests of shipping containers brought into the United States. That is so cool. I have absolutely no use for that information.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Alternatives to oil look a lot better

Italy makes a voltafaccia regarding nuclear power:

Italy announced Thursday that within five years it planned to resume building nuclear energy plants, two decades after a public referendum resoundingly banned nuclear power and deactivated all its reactors.

Obviously, I think that's a good thing. What's worrisome is how rapid the turnabout was, and in the face of oil prices that really aren't that high. Yes, the dangers of nuclear power are greatly exaggerated, but I don't think this change is due to a rational and deliberate consideration of new arguments and evidence. I think it's all about money.

One of the stated reasons is the carbon-free nature of nuclear power. I'm worried that the Italian government's attachment to that is less strong than they claim. If there are problems with nuclear power, like if the resistance among parts of the Italian population is stronger than they expect, they may find that cheap energy matters more than clean energy, and look to coal. After all, they're already building new coal plants.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

The muted upside of high oil prices

Coal is booming. Economic systems are not static. People aren't going to just stop using oil if there's an inexpensive substitute, and coal is nothing if not cheap. In the short-run, at least. In the long run, coal is much worse for the environment. High oil prices won't have the positive environmental effect that I had hoped for. There is just so much coal out there.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I'm not easily distracted...

I'm wise. I have a "broad attention span." Now what were you saying again?


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Longfellow was sloppy

"Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of William Dawes."

Nope. Doesn't rhyme. What about...

"Of the midnight ride of Samuel Prescott."

Doh. Ok, how about:

"Of the midnight ride of Israel Bissell."

Ok, last try:

"Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere."

There we go. All done.

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The Iraq War funding bill

Somewhere in Fallujah, Iraq, November, 2008:
"Private, the enemy is approaching; why aren't we moving?!?!?"
"Sir, we're out of gas!"
"Private, why didn't you fill up before we left on patrol??!?"
"Sir, I did, but there wasn't any more! 6 months ago Congress cut off funding for the war!"

... in the ensuing firefight ...

"Sergeant, I only have 5 rounds! What should I do?!?"
"Write your Congressman. Now throw some rocks, corporal!"

... as they flee the city ...

"Where's my air support??!"
"Sir, the Air Force dropped their last bomb yesterday in Sadr City. They all flew back to Germany."

Iraq war funding is up for a vote again. The way the war supporters talk about it you'd think voting against it will mean pulling the plug right in the middle of the war. Get real. It's May. The bill is for funding in the next fiscal year, which begins in October. Even if they don't have the money for the war, there's still plenty of money at the Pentagon for an orderly withdrawal.

If they have any semblance of sense at the Pentagon, they already have plans on the books for how to get US troops out of Iraq within 90 days. Hell, I'd bet money they have a plan to get us out in 45 days; they have plans for everything. There are any number of reasons why that could happen, and thus why they should plan it. Political pressure at home could force it. North Korea could invade the South. Iraq could stabilize, or it could get much worse.

In other words, if the funding bill doesn't pass, we can remove our troops in an orderly and safe fashion*. They talk like pulling the plug on the war means stabbing our soldiers in the back. If Congress votes to end (our participation in) the war, we will leave. The only way soldiers would be abandoned is malice or incompetence from the executive branch.

* At least for our guys, if not the Iraqis.

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pictogram headlines

We all own stolen goods

You very likely own stolen goods. The gas in your car, the circuits in your cell phone, the diamond in your ring, the chemicals in your lipstick or shaving cream — even the plastic in your computer may be the product of theft. Americans buy huge quantities of goods every day that are literally stolen from some of the world’s poorest people. These thefts are permitted — indeed encouraged — by an archaic rule of international trade that violates the most fundamental rule of capitalism: to protect property rights.

From a blogger at the Cato Institute, which is quite surprising, but makes a certain perverse sense. I don't think the prescription would work, but it makes for an interesting thought experiment:

Say that China buys $3 billion worth of oil from the regime in Khartoum. The correct response on a property rights approach is for the United States government immediately to announce a Clean Hands Trust for the People of Sudan. This trust is a bank account that the U.S. government will fill until it contains $3 billion. The money to fill the trust will be raised from tariffs on Chinese imports as they enter the United States. The money in this Clean Hands Trust is to be held for the people of Sudan until a minimally decent, unified government is in place. At that point the $3 billion will be turned over to the true owners of the stolen oil: the Sudanese people.

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VP Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon had just turned 40 when he was sworn in as Vice President. Wow. That's young, at least according to conventional measurements*.

* The new biography "Nixonland" by Rick Perlstein describes him as "an old man’s idea of a young man."


We only notice prices that go up

Not the ones that stay the same, or go down. I'm not sure I buy the whole argument, but that little bit of psychology is enough for me to be unconcerned about inflation.


a carbon tax is more complicated than I thought

Very interesting analysis, especially re: non CO2 greenhouse gases and the incredibly difficult problem of figuring out exactly how big the external costs of coal or any other energy source are.

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I and I, bye and bye

I've noticed a trend in people breaking the rule that "I" comes last when using multiple subjects. "I and Uma built a tower, which fell over because of our poor grammar."


Monday, May 19, 2008

AOL social networking

AOL really missed the boat when they didn't turn AOL Instant Messenger into a social network. It would have been so easy for them to buy Friendster in 2003 and marry it to AIM. It could have been huge.

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toilets and the coriolis effect

FYI, water in toilets in the Southern Hemisphere does not actually drain in the opposite direction. Just search for "coriolis toilet" for more.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Most recursive island ever

Barack Obama's VP

The Economist describes the numerous ways in which an Obama/Clinton "dream team" is less than meets the eye. As a loyal reader, I agree with everything. Furthermore, in the person of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius is a much more appealing VP candidate with many of Clinton's advantages and few of her disadvantages. I thought Bill Richardson before, but after seeing Clinton (somehow) sustain her appeal for so long, perhaps Obama would be better off with someone more like her. I don't see any Intrade contracts for her, but I'm sure it's just a matter of time.

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The Next Hillary Clinton, again

The NY Times asks the same question that I asked 3 months ago: if Hillary Clinton isn't going to be the first female president, who will? They named basically the same names that I did. One thing that I noted was this:

That woman will come from the South, or west of the Mississippi. She will be a Democrat who has won in a red state, or a Republican who has emerged from the private sector to run for governor. She will have executive experience, and have served in a job like attorney general, where she will have proven herself to be "a fighter" (a caring one, of course).

I think perhaps the NY Times and I both suffered from a lack of imagination. Who would have guessed 6 years ago that the first black president would be someone like Barack Obama? You know, a first-term US Senator with a white mother who grew up overseas and in Hawaii... I would have guessed someone like Harold Ford: the scion of a political family from the South with a dozen years in the House, as well as having having a bit more of a national profile over that time. So I figure we could easily be wrong here, too.


Friday, May 16, 2008

neighbor names

According to the Social Security Administration, the #445 and #446 names on the top 1000 for 2007 were Kelvin and Melvin.


Can we boycott the Saudis? Please?

What it's like to be an unmarried girl in Saudi Arabia. Cruel, stupid, and just plain sad.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Arlen Specter is a waste of space

A United State Senator getting involved in a scandal in football about some coach breaking a rule that shouldn't exist in the first place*? Yeah, because it's not like we have any real problems to solve that he might be pertinent to. Maybe it's for the best considering how utterly useless he was as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where he blew a lot of hot air about illegal wiretapping. If he got involved in any real issues, what little progress we might expect the Senator to make would get reversed.

* You can use a video camera on the field, and you can look at signals, and you can write things down, but you can't record signals? The genius who thought of that is probably the same guy who thought up DRM.

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Our Hardy Heron

Google Video finally got their act together.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

intimidation tip

"The Senior Partner does not share your optimism." I am convinced that slightly modified Darth Vader quotes are a badly under leveraged asset. I have been using them, and I think with good effect.

I recently found The Sardonic Memoirs of a Private Equity Professional. I quite enjoy it. Your mileage may vary, depending on how mean you are and whether you have a subscription to "The Economist." She thinks Guy Kawasaki is a tool, so points for that.

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Pasadena and Pasadena

Pasadena, TX, is #161 on the list of largest American cities. Pasadena, CA, is #162.


Florida and Michigan

Even though Obama will win the Democratic nomination, he won't win by much. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton's attempt to count delegates from Florida and Michigan is clearly a non-starter. I'm guessing that's just a strategy.

What would be fairest would be to run the primaries in Florida and Michigan again, on the grounds that the race is too close to give a clear mandate, so every state's Democrats should have their say, while also recognizing that the primaries that already happened were invalidated for a good reason. I don't know how hard it is to have a snap primary, though, logistically speaking.

It would be unfortunate to have the nominee with such a scant majority of the support of Democratic voters, but that is not at all something one can blame Hillary Clinton. She has many faults and weaknesses as a candidate, but the West Virginia results clearly show that a significant number of voters want her.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

chicka chicka boom boom

I dropped the chick off this morning at the Wildlife Rescue. It seemed no worse for its wear, though the volunteer discovered some flies had planted eggs on it. Ick. I was going to post a little video of it squirming in an empty mushroom box, but Google is being uncooperative. I don't think I got any recording of it peeping. It peeped in the car with me on the way over. I don't think it'll miss me.

Update: coincidentally, I just installed Ubuntu "Hardy Heron" on my work laptop.


bandwidth booth (tm?)

We switched to slower DSL because it was cheaper. It makes uploading videos so sloooooow. For everything else it's fine. I think there's a market opportunity there. Customers can come, plug in, and get access to a super fast connection. Charges would be either by the minute or by the megabyte. You could use it for either upload or download. Put them in grocery stores, Kinko's, libraries, or whatever. They could be basically completely automated. In a lot of ways, it's similar to an Internet cafe, but the modes of use would be different.

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Gun Barrel City

There's a Gun Barrel City, TX.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Attempting a rescue


When I came home from work, the chick was still alive. I called Wildlife Rescue. They told me to keep it warm, and to bring it in tomorrow. If it was the wind that knocked it out, it's survived for two days; I hope it makes it through tonight. It's on a heating pad wrapped up in a towel. They told me not to feed it.

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two dead chicks

The strong winds we've had recently appear to have blown one egg out of each of the Yellow-Crowned Night Heron nests in our front yard. It's hard to tell whether the chicks had hatched already; the egg shells were on the ground as well as the chicks. One was dead, the other soon to be so. Its futile struggles were disturbingly similar to the weak, random movements of a young infant. I sure hope there are more in the nest. Wikipedia claims there are usually 3-5 eggs.

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super-lame company party

The medical practice I patronize is having a company party this month. You have to pay $5 to buy tickets to attend. How obnoxious is that?


Nobody makes you mad like your kids

Especially if that kid is 3 years old. I think I figured out why. With everyone else, you can always say, "screw this," and leave. You have no escape from your kids. I have learned a huge amount of sympathy for single parents.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

So many pockets

Friday, May 9, 2008

kudos for the pun

The collapse of an underground salt dome earlier this week is starting to eat away at Daisetta, TX. Some residents have begun calling it "the Sinkhole de Mayo." Whoever came up with that deserves the Nobel Prize, or at least the Medal of Freedom. Never mind that it didn't happen exactly on May 5th.

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NY Times review of "Speed Racer"

I liked this bit:

Not only does it surpass the grinding tedium of "The Matrix Revolutions," but it does so with far less excuse. Back in the early years of this century, it was possible to pretend that the grim-faced expository noodling of the later "Matrix" movies was the vehicle for profound insights into — well, something. Go look it up on Wikipedia.

the midnight golfer

Back when "MadTV" was funny (really, it happened), they aired this classic skit:

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Blogger move

I realized should just put the Blogger-driven weblog in place of the old one, and move the old one to a new sub-domain. So I did. Please let me know if anything seems flaky.


optimizing children's sleep schedules

Adjusting Uma's schedule earlier by 45 minutes has made a big difference. She seems happier, rarely wakes up at night (knock wood), and goes to sleep more easily, both for her nap and at night. She still sleeps about the same amount; it just appears that waking up at 7:30am and going to bed a little after 8pm work better for her rhythms than waking up at 8:15am and going to bed a little before 9pm. Waking her up at 7:30am seems like a pretty good way to encourage her to keep her napping in the afternoon, which is pretty important with a baby in the house.

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Don't use words you don't understand

"If you go to Google Trends and track the number of times it is mentioned, the curve is almost algorithmic from a year and a half ago."

Emphasis mine. I guess his ignorance will keep him from being embarrassed by it. I'd be pretty embarrassed. But I'd like to think I wouldn't try so hard to sound smart, either. I'd probably just say "very steep."

Hey, there's another dumb thing in the article: "A steampunk fantasy game, Edge of Twilight, will be introduced by Xbox 360 and PlayStation next year."


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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

a brillant firewall

Bank of America won't let me see the picture in this comment: "The requested URL belongs to the following category: Illegal Drugs." What? It's a picture. It's not like I can get a doobie out of my CD tray. That would be pretty freakin' cool, if only from a technical level.


deposit systems

Austin is likely to ban plastic bags sometime in the not-too-distant future. That's a dumb idea. Plastic bags aren't good, but sometimes they're the best thing. They're great for trash cans. Nor are the alternatives cost-free, either in terms of energy, environmental impact, or convenience.

I do recognize that they've got some real negatives, though I have no idea how bad those negatives are. 1 billion bags per year in the US? Sounds like a lot, but they're pretty flimsy. 4.3 million gallons of crude oil sounds like a lot, but this is a country of 300 million. Everything is going to sound like a lot. 1400 tons in Austin landfills? Is that a lot? Maybe it's just a drop in the bucket. How big are the landfills? Does it really matter to me whether it takes 1000 years for them to break down? I figure once it's more than 100 years, it's basically all the same to me. 100,000 marine mammals sounds like a lot, but maybe the Port of Houston kills that many every day. I have no context for any of these numbers. Nor should I be expected to. But one thing I can definitely be counted on the pay attention to is money.

This is a classic case of misunderstanding the problem. The problem isn't that plastic bags exist. It isn't even that producing them uses energy and oil. The problem is that we throw too many of them away. That means more space in landfills and needing to use more energy and oil to make more.

That's where recycling comes in. My completely uninformed guess is that in the history of the world, we've produced enough plastic bags to go for another century if we just keep reusing and recycling what we already have, instead of producing new ones. Of course, we can recycle them now, but people don't. Then there's the litter problem; there are ugly plastic bags stuck in trees all around my neighborhood.

Up in Vermont, we had a deposit system for beverage bottles and cans. You paid 5¢ extra, and then got that back when you brought the bottles and cans in. Anyone who sold them had to take them back. When other houses in our neighborhood were being built around us, I'd go around to the construction sites and pick up all the bottles and cans that the workers just threw on the ground. It was a little dirty, but no big deal. I'd collect a few dollars worth in a half hour of walking around. Hey, free money. It worked so well to inoculate me against throwing out recyclable products that even now I cringe when I see someone throw a crushed aluminum can in the trash.

Deposit systems work a lot better than outright bans. People who need plastic bags could still get them. I could still use them as trash bags, though having a price on them would make me consider whether there was a superior alternative. We as a society would recycle a lot more. People like recycling, as long as they don't have to expend much effort. On the other hand, if they effectively got paid to recycle, they'd be a lot more motivated. Right now you have to expend extra time and effort to do the right thing. A deposit system means that people pay themselves to do the right thing. There would be a financial incentive to avoid litter, and for poor people to pick up litter. I'm startled that there aren't more deposit systems in operation. They seem as close to a perfect solution as you can get.

We could use a lot more deposit systems. At minimum, I'd like to see:

  • Plastic bags - 5¢ each.

  • Glass bottles - 10¢ each.

  • Plastic bottles - 10¢ each.

  • Beverage cans - 5¢ each.

  • Cigarette butts - 3¢ each. This is the big one for me; they're not recyclable, but they're littered all over the place. Saying "Don't Mess With Texas" isn't enough.

  • Batteries - $5 for car batteries, $2 for power tool batteries, 25¢ for D, C, B, A, AA, and AAA ones, 15¢ for watch batteries and the like. Even ones that aren't recyclable need to be disposed of properly.

  • Fluorescent lights - $2 for big tubes, $1 for small tubes, and 50¢ for CFLs.

  • Fast food containers - 50¢?

Those amounts are just suggestions. It would make sense to let the operator of the collection facility get some of the money to pay for the overhead of collection. Maybe you'd pay 7¢ per paper bag, and collect 5¢ when you recycle it.

I don't think we need deposit systems for food cans, as people generally use them only at home, making curbside recycling sufficient. Ditto for shampoo bottles, yogurt tubs, etc. Computers could use it, but there are too many different kinds of parts for a standardized system.

I expect the more suitable items are those that are often consumed outside the home (and thus frequently littered, like cigarette butts), ones that are especially hazardous (batteries), or are impractical for curbside recycling (plastic bags blow away). They'd also have to be items that have a sufficient impact to justify a widespread retail collection campaign; obscure niche items need some other system. Perhaps I am being too limited in my thinking.

What other common items that could use a deposit system? Used motor oil? Leftover paint? Bullet and shell casings (this IS Texas)? Leftover cooking oil?

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008


A bird-feeder with a twist: when it detects the weight of a squirrel, a motor starts it a-spinnin':

Things didn't go quite as planned, though. They learned to hang on, and they liked it:

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Gas isn't too expensive

Recently observed behaviors:

If you would rather wait 3 minutes for a closer parking space instead of walking an extra 100 feet (in pleasant weather, even), gas isn't too expensive.

If you're sitting in your Ford Expedition with the engine running while your kid plays soccer, gas isn't too expensive.

If you pass someone as you're both approaching a red light (as in switching lanes, accelerating, and switching back), gas isn't too expensive.

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One more for Eight Belles

One more thing from the article about horse-racing brutality. The article said of the trainer of Eight Belles:

He also refused to concede the point that horse racing is an extremely dangerous sport, saying that these types of injuries occur in any sport.

Except the most important thing of all: the participants in other sports are all human, and they all have a choice about whether they can play.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

a silly sequel title

The next James Bond movie is called Quantum of Solace. For realz.


nasty reporting from the Washington Post

In an article summarizing the Kentucky Derby results:

For [trainer Richard] Dutrow, the victory by Big Brown confirmed everything he and jockey Kent Desormeaux believed about their horse. Dutrow, a top New York-based trainer with a checkered history of personal drug use and drug violations in his horses, had insisted no horse in the field had shown the ability to beat Big Brown. He had appeared startlingly boastful of the first horse he would ever run in the Kentucky Derby.

The whole paragraph is obnoxious, with the drug use comment being the cheapest shot in a salvo of cheap shots. I never even heard of Richard Dutrow until yesterday; he could be Stalin for all I know (given he forces horses into danger daily, he's not exactly a nice guy). It's not relevant. It's just plain mean.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

killing animals isn't a sport

Compelling moral analysis of the "sport" of horse-racing. Horses are forced to run, and thus forced into dangerous situations. Obviously, the only humane thing to do in some injuries is euthanasia. If you cause the injury that leads to the euthanasia, isn't that murder? What makes horse-racing less brutal than dog-fighting or bull-fighting? The end result is the same: animals are abused and often killed for human entertainment. As the writer of the piece asks, why does horse-racing get a pass?



Not funny enough, absurd, but often in boring ways, Christopher Buckley's "Boomsday" is a political novel set against the retirement of the Baby Boomers and a crisis in Social Security. The characters are weak, but this is a plot-driven novel; it's about events in a certain milieu. It's all right, as these things go. At least, it would be all right if Buckley wasn't so sloppy.

You can't get a 1585 on your SATs; not only are scores in 10s, they're not even on a 1600 scale anymore. There's no "AP history;" there's European History, US History, World History, and Art History. You can't just delete things off the Internet. The Federal Reserve does not set the prime rate. There are two primaries in New Hampshire, one for each party (this mistake is more by implication, but it's egregious because it's a political novel). Ordinary citizens don't need a permit to film on the Mall in Washington D.C. (hello, First Amendment). "They impounded his computer and found that the cache of his Internet search engine..." Non sense.

There are just too many mistakes. This is not me being a nitpicker. I'm not looking for mistakes; they just jump out when I see them. Suspension of disbelief should not require an active effort to maintain. If you write about someone dropping the puck at the Indianapolis 500, I'm not a nit-picker, you're an idiot. Maybe some of those things are obscure, but I can't just turn off what I know. If you're going to use some real-world fact, you'd better do it right. If you're too lazy to do it right, just make something up. You can't have it both ways.



Friday, May 2, 2008

Opera tab switching

Hold down the right mouse button and use the scroll wheel to switch tabs. It's super handy. I always miss it when I'm stuck in Firefox.

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Kitties forever

Someone, somewhere, sometime in the next 20 years, is going to genetically engineer a cat that never grows up. Kittens are more fun than cats, after all.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

A destructive primary battle?

I don't think the extended primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is destructive. Yeah, maybe it would be nice to have a candidate now, but is it really that bad? Maybe it's because I'm not particularly impressed or inspired by either one of them, but this campaign isn't making me think any less of them. We've seen that Obama can be nasty; that's no surprise because he's human.

Look at how it's benefited them: McCain is hardly in the news. Clinton and Obama have developed organizations in states they would have ignored until later, maybe forever. That's going to make the Democrats more competitive in November, no matter who the candidate is. And they're still getting lots of money, which means they're getting lots of donors whom the eventual nominee will be able to tap for the election. I just don't see it as being that much of a negative for them.

In fact, this is how the system is supposed to work; most people seem to have forgotten that. Do we really want most states' primaries to be exercises in rubber-stamping an already-established nomination? The Democratic establishment needs to stop attacking Hillary because that accepts the premise that an early nominee is better.

Instead, they need to turn this around and proclaim that the system is working. The candidates have been forced to develop sooner, so they're better for it. All the people are getting a say, not just the ones in New Hampshire or Iowa.

They ought to go out and say that this extended contest is the result of having two great candidates, and that the relatively easy contest on the Republican side reflects the paucity of qualified candidates. I don't believe either one Clinton or Obama is a great candidate, but that's what the Democrats should say.


Weasel words from Obama

Re: Jeremiah Wright:

"His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate, and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church," Mr. Obama said, his voice welling with anger. "They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs."

Divisive, destructive, and the succeeding clause all refer to the effects of what he said, not its contents. I don't think he shares Wright's beliefs, but he needs to say that they are wrong and/or stupid. He wants to sound like he's condemning them, but if you read closely, you'll realize he's not.


"I'm outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday," Mr. Obama said. He added: "I find these comments appalling. It contradicts everything that I'm about and who I am."

The strongest thing he says is that he's appalled, but that's a reaction, not a judgment.

And then:

"Whatever relationship I had with Reverend Wright has changed as a consequence of this," Mr. Obama said Tuesday. "I don't think that he showed much concern for me. More importantly, I don't think he showed much concern for what we're trying to do in this campaign and what we're trying to do for the American people."

In other words, whether he's wrong doesn't matter; the problem is that unwilling to shut up for the greater good. That's hardly inspiring.

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But how much?

More Mothers Breast-Feed, in First Months at Least. This hits a pet peeve of mine:

Studies have shown that children who are fed formula have increased risks of ear and respiratory infections, obesity, diabetes and even cancer.

How much of an increase? From what baseline? Did it go from, say, a 2% risk to a 2.1% risk? 0.007% to 0.07%? 0.001% to 50%? The breast is best, but it's not always possible or practical. You cannot make good decisions without knowing the degree of risk you're inflicting on your child. Maybe it's worth it, maybe it isn't. You have no way of knowing from that article.

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