Saturday, August 21, 2010

Farewell, Farewell, Fellow Stargazer!

Jack Horkheimer 1938 - 2010

This guy taught me all I know about being an unapologetic nerd. I wish I'd watched his show more, and learned more of what he had to teach.

Tonight, snowflakes are dancing in the heavens.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Fuck You, Democracy!

Several friends have hailed today's 9th Circuit ruling against Californias Proposition 8 - banning half the population from marrying Tom Cruise (which is kind of a blessing, but that's beside the point) - as a victory for democracy.

It is, in fact, the exact opposite. It is a victory for those of us who think democracy needs strict limits. Sure, 150,000,001 out of 300,000,000 should be able to get their way on basic stuff that it's really their business. Like, dunno, saying that you can't kill people, or should pay taxes. But in California's case, 7,001,084 out of 13,402,566 decided that they'd allow some people to have a chance to marry Nicole Kidman, but not others. And marriage isn't just about two people who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together. Marriage determines tax benefits, inheritance, who gets to make medical decisions, and even who can bring their mate into the country.

It's a big deal. And democracy decided to screw over a bunch of people the voters didn't like.

Fuck you, Democracy, how about a little CONSTITUTION on your ass? That's right, it's the 14th Amendment. Whatcha gonna do about that, bitch?

Seriously, democracy is good. It's way better than autocracy (yeah, fuck you too, Plato). But we need to get over the idea that just because a bunch of us think something's a good idea, that we should be allowed to make that decision for everybody, unless there's a serious group need, and 'God sed gheys is teh suck' is not a serious group need.

Fuck you, Voters!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Everybody do the time warp.

42 years after Loving v Virginia, Keith Bardwell, a Justice of the Peace in Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, has refused to grant a marriage license to a couple because they are not of the same race. "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way," said the racist. Bardwell's objection stemmed from the possibility of such unions producing mixed-race children, such as President Obama and golf legend Tiger Woods. "I think those children suffer and I won't help put them through it."

In a pathetic display of self-delusion, he attempted to whitewash the stain on his soul, saying "I have piles and piles of black friends." Without a trace of irony, dug the hole deeper. "They come to my home, I marry them*, they use my bathroom." (emphasis added)

"I treat them just like everyone else," he lied.

The year 1959 released a statement on the matter, saying that it had misplaced this individual, but didn't want him back.

* to other black people, not to white people.

hat tip, Ali.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

One Nation...

Because the webs love me, and I love you,

On nation, under Cthulhu...


Be sure to check out the mouseover text of every tiny bit of symbolism.

Hat tip to the innominate one (née biologist).

Meditations on Guidos

The inimitable dhex waxes fascistic on the final solution to the boom-car menace.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Women's suffrage was good for something!

No, really! When the US mint decided to make a silver dollar commemorating women's suffragist Susan B. Anthony, the result was one of the most sublime statements of duality known to man. The coin is roundly derided as the lamest dollar in US history, and yet on the flip side (literally) it is the awesomest coin ever minted in the United States.

Dig it, yo.

Happy Moon Landing Day, everybody!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Happy Birthday, Tank Guy!

Hope you made it to see the 20th anniversary of the ballsiest move in civil protest in my short lifetime.

Monday, March 30, 2009

How to f**k over Mexico's violent drug lords

Mexico is making headlines again, but not the good kind of headlines, like you want. They're not even making headlines because they're taking American jobs (although in this case they kinda are, but more on that later).

No, Mexico is all over the news and the Secretary of State's lips because of violence. And a good portion of that violence is concentrated right up next to our border, and sometimes spills across it.

Secretary Clinton blames this violence on America's insatiable demand for illegal drugs. But it isn't the insatiable demand that causes the violence. America has an insatiable demand for lots of things, but they rarely lead to violence. America's annual demand for illegal drugs has been estimated at $40-$55 billion in recent years. America's demand for legal drugs is ten times that amount or more. America's demand for beer, wine, and liquor also outstrips its demand for illegal drugs. Tobacco, also consistently outperforms the illegal drug industry in annual sales.

I know some people in the pharmaceuticals industry, and none of them worries about a rival from Pfizer planting a bomb in their car. Anheiser-Busch has never tortured anyone to death. So what's different about cocaine, heroin, and marijuana?

The answer, of course, is that Anheiser-Busch and Pfizer are allowed to operate legally. As such, there are tremendous disadvantages to violence. If they were to resort to violence, everything they have would be taken away. But these narco-traffickers are already underground. If the mere existence of their business comes to light, they will be arrested. So a murder to keep that a secret or to maintain their control over a market is not at all unthinkable.

It is not America's demand for drugs that fuels the violence. It is America's attempts to squash all legal attempts to meet that demand. These narco-traffickers would be put quickly out of business by efficient and honest purveyors in a free market. Mexico's best bet is to legalize the production and wholeselling of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. It would likely lead to a terrible increase in drug addiction in the country, but taxation of drug profits could fund treatment centers. Far more devastating would be America's likely trade reaction, as self-righteous Congressmen attempt to embargo Mexican goods to retaliate for their defiance of American drug policy. But even so, I think it would be good for Mexico. And good for America to see some defiance to our drug-war imperialism.

For more reading, check out this editorial in The Economist, or this one by the late William F. Buckley in National Review. Anti-establishment agitators indeed.

UPDATE: These guys say it better (hat tip, H&R).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This deal is getting worse all the time

I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further.

In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration.

Dammit. I voted for Obama knowing full well that he'd be terrible on the economy. So I can forgive panicky and poorly thought-out 'stimulus' packages. I don't like them, but I knew what I was getting into. The reason I made this bargain was for a reversal of some of the sickening abuses of government power propagated by the Bush administration. Obama's first steps were positive, but there are some troubling elements.

Several WoT detainees filed suit with a Boeing logistics and airlift subsidiary, Jeppesen Dataplan, charging them with transporting detainees to other countries for the purposes of torture. They allege that Jeppesen Dataplan provided the transport services for the "extraordinary rendition" program. Essentially, Bush lawyers argued that some of the things they did were so secret that we couldn't even begin to discuss them in court without jeopardizing national security. That effectively removes huge swaths of government activity from any form of oversight.

Extraordinary rendition has been one of the blackest spots on America's reputation. If the Obama administration is going to continue to invoke un-reviewable state-secret justifications to prevent investigations of wrongdoing on the part of the government, then he's not living up to the standards he needs to. He'll find his support among civil libertarians waning if he gets up to too much of these kinds of shenanigans.

Hat Tip, Radley Balko.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Today is the Day

To discuss what I find to be an error in generally accepted spelling practices.

Today's problem, suffixes. Specifically, when to drop trailing 'e's from a word before adding a suffix. The general rule is that if the 'e' is silent, you drop it.

However, there is an exception. If the suffix begins with a consonant, and the 'e' is necessary to the correct pronunciation of the word, it should not be dropped.

For instance, 'judge' + 'ment' should not be 'judgment', since the 'g' cannot be soft without a trailing 'i' or 'e'. The preferred spelling in most dictionaries drops the 'e'. This is, of course, crazy talk.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Checking out my spam folder

Just got the odd idea to look through my spam folder before zotzing its contents. There are some winners in there.

Best subject lines:

"In Canadian chemists we trust!" - Beauty, eh?
"Wish you act like Herculesus in bed?" - this I want to see on Spamusement.
"Join biggest success of the human successful men"
"Be the only one ladies hunt for" - Also a good spamusement candidate.

Interesting sender names:

"Normal Sexual" is selling viagra.
"con ethelbert" seems to think I can read cyrillic. Any takers on translating "Большие буфера скачать"?

Monday, September 08, 2008

I'll Show You Improper

I just want to state for the record that whatever jerk it was who gave fractions greater than one the name 'improper fraction' should be kicked square in the nuts.

I was trying to help Jack subtract some compound numbers (compound numbers being things like one-and-three-quarters and seven-and-five-eighths and so forth). If, for example, you are subtracting one and five-eights from two and one-fourth, it's helpful to convert both numbers into fractions before subtracting.

The easiest way to do this is to convert 2 1/4 to 9/4, and 1 5/8 to 13/8, then convert 9/4 to 18/8, then subtract 13/8 from 18/8. The result is 5/8. Simple, right?

However, Jack was very reluctant to do that because he'd been taught, and taught well, that you couldn't write a fraction as nine fourths. That was improper. So every time we got to a point where you'd have a 18/8 or 9/4, he would say that he couldn't do that because that was an improper fraction, and convert it back to a compound number.

This an unfortunate side-effect of elementary education. They wanted to have an easy way to tell kids not to write their fractions upside down, so they called them 'improper'. But there's no fundamental mathematical reason for banning fractions larger than one. Fractions, after all, are just another way of writing a division problem. So rather than teach that, we've generated a rule that's fundamentally incorrect to keep kids from making a simple mistake, and then having to un-learn that rule later.

Monday, August 11, 2008

If y'all could leave me out of your war, I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

About Wednesday of last week, I got a request from a coworker in our Paris office to build a terrain dataset for a trial of our microwave network planning tool. It didn't have any clear labelling, and it wasn't clear where the data was for when I put it together. I finally got it built on Friday morning, as the news was talking about the Russian offensive really heating up, and I was recoginizing some of the terrain in the maps as disturbingly familiar.

This dataset I was working on was for the Russian Caucasus, and includes Chechnya, North Ossetia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. There aren't any significant expansions of the data into Azerbaijan or other parts of Georgia. It's kind of creepy. And the cherry on top of this creepy-coincidence-sundae is that the coworker who made this request is named Mikhail.

I really hope somebody is just planning to build a nice, non-violent telecomunications network using this data. 8-(

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hillary and Misogyny

Over at reason, Kerry Howley makes a pretty convincing case that even though Hillary didn't lose because of sexism (she lost because Obama did a better job of courting the electorate), there was still too damn much sexism aimed at her campaign.

And Malkin et al aren't exactly doing much to allay fears of racism against the Obama campaign, either.

I have faith that America can push through both its sexism and racism and could elect a good candidate of any personal background (although there are still to many anti-gay neanderthals to make me hopeful on that front for a good while). But that doesn't mean we should tolerate either racism or sexism in the meantime.