Saturday, April 30, 2005


Guess the google

A google image search is performed off a single word. 20 images are returned. You have to guess what the keyword was based on those images.

That's the premise of this rather fun flash game. I got 8/10. (h/t SFSignal)


Lorax Hunting Season

After issuing an unsuccessful ultimatum and discovering that many other bloggers are suffering under the same tree pollen assault, e.g., Spakkadi, Terry Kevin, Insanity, The Audhumlan Conspiracy, Rob Ainbinder, Brian Groce, and Mike, I've decided that we need to escalate the threats against the trees and their spokesman.

No, I'm not suggesting we engage in the retaliation I previously suggested - I tried it and it really doesn't work that well. Plus the neighborhood kids looked at me kind of oddly.

Instead, I suggest we eliminate the spokesman.

Less euphemistically, I want to shoot the Lorax.

Why, you ask (or perhaps more likely you didn't ask, but, please bear with my rhetorical flourishes), not shoot the trees - the actual source of my affliction and my inability to focus for the past week - instead of shooting their messenger?

To which I respond:
1) What? This is supposed to be a rational response?

2) Have you ever shot a tree? Doesn't phase the tree one bit. If a tree's coming at you, that Glock you have has ZERO stopping power. If experience has taught me nothing else (and I see where many of you are in agreement on that point), shooting trees solves nothing. I have somewhat higher expectations for the solutions created by shooting the Lorax.

3) It's traditional to kill the messenger. How do you think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern died?

4) A lever applied from the right place can move worlds. I believe the Lorax is the lever to change the trees behavior and I believe that a fear of death will be the lever to the Lorax.

5) Why not?
So having absolutely no authority whatsoever to issue such a declaration, I propose the following.

Each Spring during the tree pollen season shall be open season on Loraxes (Lorai?).

Now admittedly there are certain problems with this proposal, not least of which is the fact that the Lorax is a fictional character.

First, no state agency, as far as I know, issues licenses for hunting Loraxes. For instance Virginia mentions nothing about hunting Loraxes. Surely this is an oversight.

Second, sufferers from tree allergies hunting an animal that lives in the woods seems problematic at best. Imagine coming out to your tree stand to discover that it's gotten the "golden shower" treatment. Imagine trying to hold your rifle steady as you sneeze, cough, wheeze, and hack.

However, I know that if all of us tree pollen sufferers work together we can eliminate the source of our affliction.


Darth Blogger

Vader has a blog! And underneath that black helmet, he's still the same whiny self-absorbed teenager we last saw in Attack of the Clones!

[Trachea collapsing.... gasping for breath...] err I meant the brilliant technical genius we caught fleeting glimpses of in The Phantom Menace!

Vader's blog tackles such deep subjects as:
Darth dares to love again

Darth reveals his hero

Darth channels Napoleon Dynamite (kinda)

Darth writes about a cherished secret memento

(h/t qando, vikingpundit - who gave his post a title I couldn't hope to compete with - "Luke, I am your blogger...")


Friday, April 29, 2005


New Criterion Contraption.

Blood for Dracula, new at the Criterion Contraption.


Behind the Veil

Publicists are very good at protecting their clients from hostile interviewers. Which is why maybe Tom Cruise should rehire Pat Kingsley. This interview in Der Spiegel goes wildly, wildly off track when Cruise starts getting questioned about Scientology:

SPIEGEL: Do you see it as your job to recruit new followers for Scientology?

Cruise: I'm a helper. For instance, I myself have helped hundreds of people get off drugs. In Scientology, we have the only successful drug rehabilitation program in the world. It's called Narconon.

SPIEGEL: That's not correct. Yours is never mentioned among the recognized detox programs. Independent experts warn against it because it is rooted in pseudo science.

And it gets worse from there. Read the whole thing; it's the kind of informed, accurate questioning that journalists should give to politicians, but don't.

They should also question guests on their television shows; check this clip from the Daily Show out for a particularly eggregious example of broadcast journalism dropping the ball. You saw this a lot on both sides during the election; journalists don't really know the details of their stories, so when one person lies on camera, the best they can do is say, "It's an interesting debate." I much prefer journalists who say, "That's not correct."


Thursday, April 28, 2005


The Best News Ever!!

Beer is good for your brain.
Moderate alcohol consumption over a relatively long period of time can enhance the formation of new nerve cells in the adult brain....

The study, which was carried out on mice, examined alcohol consumption corresponding to that found in normal social situations. The results show that moderate drinking enhances the formation of new cells in the adult brain. The cells survive and develop into nerve cells in the normal manner. No increase in neuronal atrophy, however, could be demonstrated.
While this may seem like an odd finding, it's exactly as a friend of mine, Alex Jamal, expected. His theory was that alcohol kills off the weak neurons, leaving the strong neurons to reproduce. Of course, I think he was kidding, but I imagine that the stress that alcohol introdues to your brain may actually stimulate growth.

Now that being said, the researchers are speculating that this growth of neurons is related to the development of an alcohol dependency.
The new cells could prove important in the development of alcohol dependency and other long-term effects of alcohol on the brain.
To which I say, it's a virtuous cycle! You drink, you grow more brain cells. The new cells cause you to want to drink more. In turn this causes even more brain cell growth, which......

Sure there's a limit to the process. Drink too much and you'll kill too many neurons for the effect to matter. And you might even put on a little beer belly.

But that's ok too! Cause being overweight is good for your health too! [ed - isn't that more likely from muscular in-shape people screwing up the BMI statistic than from people with Buddha bellies? - don't be a buzzkill man]

(Thanks to Christiana for bringing this landmark study to light.)

Related posts
Beer fights aging.
Drink beer, get thin.


The Press Conference

I didn't live blog it (running a fever at the moment), but Dale did - summarizing the President's words in a rather colloquial manner.

My two bits - liked the substance, but twas a press conference and Bush is no Rumsfeld.


From Toronto? Like Star Trek? Then stay away from my kids.

Not that I have kids, mind you. And not that I have anything against Star Trek or people from Toronto.

But it appears that a large fraction of pedophiles in Toronto also have a thing for Star Trek.

Yesterday the LA Times ran this piece on Toronto Sex Crimes Unit.
Their work is a daily sojourn to the underworld. Gillespie has a team of 10 men and six women who spend hours in front of their computers, extracting leads, writing warrants and sifting photos for clues. The payoff is the day they get to kick down a door and take the "bad guy" away. The mood is light and the humor often off-color to ease the horror.

On one wall is a "Star Trek" poster with investigators' faces substituted for the Starship Enterprise crew. But even that alludes to a dark fact of their work: All but one of the offenders they have arrested in the last four years was a hard-core Trekkie.

Det. Constable Warren Bulmer slips on a Klingon sash and shield they confiscated in a recent raid. "It has something to do with a fantasy world where mutants and monsters have power and where the usual rules don't apply," Bulmer reflects. "But beyond that, I can't really explain it."
I had meant to blog about this yesterday, but was reminded about the story by Kaus today. Which is just as well as Kaus pointed me to this blog which says the LAT got their facts wrong. A little.

"[Det. Ian Lamond] claims they were misquoted, or if that figure was given it was done so jokingly. Of course, even if the figure was given jokingly, shouldn't the Times' reporter have clarified something that seems rather odd? Shouldn't her editors have questioned her sources?

Nevertheless, Detective Lamond does claim that a majority of those arrested show "at least a passing interest in Star Trek, if not a strong interest."

They've arrested well over one hundred people over the past four years and Det. Lamond claims they can gauge this interest in Star Trek by the arrestees' "paraphenalia, books, videotapes and DVDs." I asked if this wasn't simply a general interest in science fiction and fantasy, such as Star Wars or Harry Potter or similar. Paraphrasing his answer, he said, while there was sometimes other science fiction and fantasy paraphenalia, Star Trek was the most consistent and when he referred to a majority of the arrestees being Star Trek fans, it was Star Trek specific."

So I guess you should think twice before taking your kids to those Star Trek conventions.


Gerald Allen: Statesman, Writer, Imbecile

Andrew Sullivan points out this CBS News story: Gerald Allen, a state legislator from Alabama, doesn't want state funds spent on books that feature gay characters, or that are by gay authors. At least, that's CBS's spin on the story, and it seems clear from Allen's public statements that that is his intent in crafting the bill. But as is so often the case when a wingnut legislator feeds his wingnut base, the true impact of the bill as-written would be far worse. CBS and others have compiled lists of authors who would be banned: Auden, Wilde, Proust, Whitman. But that's just the tip of the iceberg.

As with all statesmen who suggest that books be destroyed (his specific instructions:"Dig a hole, and dump them in it"), Gerald Allen has a fine-tuned sense of language. (In an interview with the Guardian, he referred to Hamlet as "Hammet," for example). One imagines him sitting by the fire with a snifter of brandy, flipping through his well-worn Norton Anthology of Straight Literature. Given his literary pedigree, you would expect his bill to be well-written and precise. But it isn't. Here's the sentence in the bill, emphasis mine:
No public funds or public facilities shall be used by any state agency, public school, public library, or public college or university for the purchase, production, or promotion of printed or electronic materials or activities that, directly or indirectly, sanction, recognize, foster, or promote a lifestyle or actions prohibited by the sodomy and sexual misconduct laws of the state of Alabama.
Let's look at those sodomy and sexual misconduct laws. They're in Section 13A-6-63-65 (and still on the books, though they look to me like they violate Lawrence v. Texas). The sodomy laws all involve lack of consent; the broadest prohibitions are found in 13A-6-65, emphasis mine:
Sexual misconduct.

(a) A person commits the crime of sexual misconduct if:

(1) Being a male, he engages in sexual intercourse with a female without her consent, under circumstances other than those covered by Sections 13A-6-61 and 13A-6-62; or with her consent where consent was obtained by the use of any fraud or artifice; or

(2) Being a female, she engages in sexual intercourse with a male without his consent; or

(3) He or she engages in deviate sexual intercourse with another person under circumstances other than those covered by Sections 13A-6-63 and 13A-6-64. Consent is no defense to a prosecution under this subdivision.

(b) Sexual misconduct is a Class A misdemeanor.
Section 13A-60 defines "deviate sexual intercourse":

(2) DEVIATE SEXUAL INTERCOURSE. Any act of sexual gratification between persons not married to each other involving the sex organs of one person and the mouth or anus of another.

So Mr. Allen's bill would ban any purchase or performances of works that directly or indirectly sanction, recognize, foster, or promote oral or anal sex between unmarried heterosexuals. Furthermore, any work in which a man convinces a woman to sleep with him through any fraud or artifice is off-limits; that means pretty much no romantic comedy could be shown on a college campus. Because God knows the homosexual agenda includes screenings of You've Got Mail.

It's not surprising that Allen is stupid, or that he's written a bad law, or that he doesn't seem to have even read the criminal code his law references. It is surprising that the MSM has focused on this as "a law to ban gay authors and characters" (which is appalling), and missed the fact that the law as written is really "a law to ban gay authors and characters, unmarried characters who suggest that oral sex may be enjoyable, and male characters who have ever decieved women in order to sleep with them."

The question isn't what books, plays, and movies would be banned from Alabama schools, universities, and libraries. The question is what would be left.

Update: Hello, Andrew Sullivan readers, and welcome to Polyscifi!


The New Libertarian Issue 2

Issue 2 of the New Libertarian is available for download (you need to subscribe for the password - the subscription is free).

There's a good article on Durverger's Law and how it applies to Libertarians and another good article by Jon Henke on the libertarian tendencies of America.


Star Wars Tattoos

Think you're a big Star Wars fan? Are you a big enough fan to ink your fandom on your arm? (h/t boingboing)

(Click picture for a large gallery of images of Star Wars themed tattoos)


Wednesday, April 27, 2005


In which I issue an ultimatum to the Lorax

Every morning I wake to discover that a golden shower of pollen has descended on my car. Pollen.com says there's no relief in sight from this tree pollen offensive.

My nose has been running for 5 days straight and laughs off Sudafed. My voice has dropped a couple octaves due to the mucus buildup on my vocal chords. My body aches from sneezing. Today, I've enhanced my chemical defense lineup to include Claritin-D. But as of yet, it's had no effect.

Mr Lorax: Speak TO the trees. I don't (typically) spread my sperm all over the trees. Surely the trees can limit the amount of tree sperm they spread on me, my car, and my house. Mr Lorax, convince the trees of the error in their way, or I may have to take matters into my own hands - possibly rescinding my "no sperm on the trees" policy.


Geography games

Jonah posted a bunch of rather cool geography games in the Corner today which I enjoyed and thought I would share (all but one from this site which also has pure trivia games as well).

Place the state in the right position (generally pretty easy cept when your first piece is Wyoming)
Place the state in the right position and no other state positions are ever visible (you'll be surprised how hard it is to exactly place Nebraska when you've got nothing else)

Put the country in the right spot (like the first US game)

Put the country in the right spot, cept countries are randomly rotated and the wrong size (I f*d up Belgium alot)

Place the European capitals
(You're scored by how many km you're from the city center. My lowest total was ~380 km, but I had to play a few times, and I know exactly where Bucharest is now at least to the pixel on my screen)

Name the African country (the Seychelles is a little funny, you actually have to click a little bit up and to the right)

Place African countries (I think I finally have a good grasp on my West African geography)

Place missized, rotated African countries (only if you're feeling masochistic)

Asia (The same games are there, I just thought the list was getting a little repetitive)

South/Central America (The same games are there, I just thought the list was getting a little repetitive)


Tuesday, April 26, 2005


New Criterion Contraption.

Actually, two new Criterion Contraptions. This Is Spinal Tap and Dead Ringers.


Home, Home on the Courts

Some days I go in to work and something mildly surprising happens. But nothing like this:

It's a field day for coin designers!

At least not so far. Here's hoping.


An idea for the FDA

Why not have an online resource where you can enter your current prescriptions, supplements, and existing conditiosn and see if there are any known interaction problems. Maybe driven with a bunch of radio buttons.

I think it's such a good idea, that I'm officially offering to create the software for such a service for the same price tag of the new food dodecahedron. (Yes I know that was a USDA project, and FDA is in Health and Human Services, but I figure $2.5 million is a reasonable price.)


Long flights

What's longer than a flight across the Pacific?

A flight across the Pacific that originates in Atlanta.

For a conference occuring a couple weeks from now, I leave Atlanta at 1:00 in the afternoon and arrive at 4:55 in the afternoon in Seoul. Pretty good, ehh? 4 hour flight halfway around the world. Cept I take off on the 11th and land on the 12th and am in the air for 15 hours.

Mmmm.... jet lag.....

For more fun, I'll be almost immediately flying to Michigan for another conference. I'll leave Seoul on the 14th at noon and arrive in Chicago at 10:40 AM on the 14th. And I'll only have to be in the air a mere 12 and half hours for that leg.


Swearing round the world

Mboro yako in Shona
Zakila in Basque
Kotak in Kazakh
Thoto in Punjabi
Türa in Estonian
Kochu in Korean

Find out what these words have in common at the Swearsaurus. (h/t Dean)


Film Oddity

Saw Pride of the Yankees this evening at the Academy. Which was cool, and all, but I also got to hear Ronald Reagan talk about "our great president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt." No kidding. In Beyond the Line of Duty, the 1942 Academy Award winner for live-action two-reeler. Reagan narrated it, and it featured an excerpt from one of Roosevelt's radio addresses. I'm betting it's the only time they worked together. The other short subjects, also from 1942: Speaking of Animals and their Families, a Tex Avery animation + live footage thing; it's not clear from the credits whether he worked on this one but it was part of a series that he brought to Paramount around 1940, when Warner Brothers passed. And Tulips Shall Grow, a George Pal stop motion thing that starts out silly but ends up being about the Nazis (or "the screwballs," cause they're animated ball bearings and screws that goosestep around). Tulips Shall Grow is pretty great, and Beyond the Line of Duty is pretty cheeseball, but where else are you going to hear Reagan praise Roosevelt?

Incidentally, I really wish they'd bring back shorts at the beginning of movies; it's a very nice way to ease the audience into moviegoing mode. I've been enjoying the mini-renaissance shorts have been undergoing thanks to the internet (and animation has been undergoing thanks to the internet and flash). Pixar has made an effort to let their animators test-run stuff with shorts that run in theaters; why not other studios?


Monday, April 25, 2005


Another personal note

For the game theory masochists in the audience, I've got a complete draft of the most theoretical chapter of my dissertation posted here (pdf).

Everything that is starred is an original result (twasn't my intention to do original work in game theory, but I needed more than the literature provided.) I know there's a bunch of typos, inconsistent and broken references, and some grammatical mistakes, but I don't want to look at the chapter for a couple weeks.


A Personal Note

Our offer for this townhouse was accepted today. We'll have to do a lot of work to get our 20 bathrooms installed.


Why, oh why, is the feminist movement more associated with the left?

In response to this post where I cite Jacqueline to argue that women would be safer arming themselves instead of engaging in show marches, Matt (and others) argues that the reason that feminists are leftists is due to the their dislike of some on the right who have made statements that are disagreeable to the feminist position (while somehow ignoring the feminist transgressions of Condit, Kennedy, and Clinton).


If nothing else, this rationale supposes that feminists have a juvenile capacity for reasoning most commonly seen in the teenager rebellion phase.

“Dad/Mom pissed me off when they did X, therefore I’m going to to do Y because my parents would want me to do Z.”

I, however, am willing to believe that feminists are rational. Further, I believe feminists are leftists (and are associated with the left) because ………… they’re leftists.

But let’s not base this belief on mere suppositions. Let’s do some empirical work on the subject. Let’s consider the luminaries of modern feminism - Simone de Beauvoir, Andrea Dworkin, Shulaminth Firestone, Betty Friedan, Catharine MacKinnon, and Gloria Steinem - and see where they fall on the political spectrum. If I’ve left off a modern feminist of approximately equal caliber, let me know, but I don’t believe I have (and good luck convincing me that the less-well-known third wave of feminists didn't start on the Left).

Simone de Beauvoir was a socialist. In fact, her whole feminist theory was predicated on socialism. Writing in 1949’s The Second Sex, de Beauvoir wrote that equality would come, “when the socialist society is realized worldwide, when there would no longer be men and women but only workers equal with one another

Andrea Dworkin was an active protestor of the Vietnam war and was also a socialist thanks to her father’s teachings: "Andrea Dworkin was born into a Jewish family on September 26 1946 at Camden, New Jersey, where she attended a progressive school. Her father, a teacher and a committed socialist, inspired her political leanings. "It would be hard to overstate," she wrote, "how much he taught me about human rights and human dignity, how to talk and how to think."

Shulaminth Firestone’s best known work, Dialectic of Sex (published in 1970) argues that Marx and Engels did not go far enough and pushed for something called “cybernetic socialism

Betty Friedan was an active Marxist in the early 40’s.

Catharine MacKinnon, by virtue of being a radical feminist is by definition on the Left. But she was also far enough to the left that she merits the appellation Stalinist feminist.

Gloria Steinem is an active socialist, specifically a member of the Democratic Socialist Party.

So the luminaries of feminism aren’t just left leaning, they’re socialist/marxists. I think that has a lot to do with feminism’s connection with the Left and not Limbaugh or Schlafly, both of whom came on the national scene long after feminism was already wedded to the Left.

But we were talking explicitly about the “Take Back the Night” marches. These were started in 1978 in San Francisco which says to me a high percentage of leftists involved in the creation. (Note Dworkin gave the kickoff speech and I believe MacKinnon was a big player in the feminist conference against pornography that preceded the 78 San Fran march).

So if we wish to discuss, "Why, oh why, is the feminist movement more associated with the Left?", the position that feminists are Leftists because of bogeymen on the Right is a flawed position from which to begin.

Just a thought, but perhaps feminists are more associated with the Left because the leading feminists are indeed Leftists.


That's Our Phyllis!

In the comments to a post below, Jody leads me to believe he's not familiar with the good work done by Phyllis Schlafly. Another poster links to one of her columns and identifies Schlafly as an "elderly psychopath." Schlafly is elderly, and possibly psychopathic. But it's worth knowing a bit more about her, if you're going to speculate about why feminists are "wedded to the left." She helped kill the ERA, for one thing, which didn't exactly endear her to feminists. She's anathema to virtually all politically involved women, and has been since the late 60's. Just a few things she's said to help bring women into the big tent:

"Sex education classes are like in-home sales parties for abortions."

"It's very healthy for a young girl to be deterred from promiscuity by fear of contracting a painful, incurable disease, or cervical cancer, or sterility, or the likelihood of giving birth to a dead, blind, or brain-damage (sic) baby even ten years later."

And the gold standard:
"Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous women."

Whew, what a nutjob! I'm sure the Republicans have distanced themselves from her in order to attract women voters; only in some alternate universe would they, say, let her write part of the 2004 Republican platform. Right?


Best Shining Reference Ever

John Stewart on the Daily Show:

"This week, a woman stepped forward with a story about a 1994 incident [in which] 'Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman.' Although, to be fair, the hotel they were staying at... was the Overlook."

Video here.


Saturday, April 23, 2005


Chicks with guns

are less likely to be raped or assaulted and marching and beating drums and show demonstrations are largely ineffective. That's Jacqueline's argument:
"If feminists are serious about empowering women against violence and sexual assault, their time and money would be far better spent organizing (and advertising widely!) subsidized defensive handgun classes for women than putting on hostile, exclusionary marches. Unfortunately it appears that the feminist movement is too wedded to the political left -- the main group pushing gun control -- to consider that seriously as a primary strategy."
Now, getting the message out will do a good job of influencing those who are good and reasonable. Unfortunately, and almost by definition, violent criminals are not good and reasonable.

So while marching and pamphleteering college campuses may make women feel good about themselves, it's mostly useless. If you're a woman (or for that matter a man), a gun, taser, or mace (in decreasing order of effectivenes), will go a lot further towards making you safer than asking a violent criminal to please stop.


Friday, April 22, 2005


Who said that?

"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute—where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote—where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference ... I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish—where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source—where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials."

Michael Newdow? Nope. John F. Kennedy. Andrew Sullivan points this quote out and asks what Bill Frith would think of it. Like the man says, those were different times.


More on Wendy's and the finger in the Chile

Earlier polyscifi posted on the a woman finding a finger in her chile at Wendy's and compared it to an episode of South Park.

Since then, the story has taken a bit of a twist.
"The woman [Ayala] who claimed she found a well-manicured finger in her bowl of Wendy's chili last month was arrested Thursday night in Las Vegas, police said."
This was after no one in the Wendy's food chain turned up missing a finger:
"All the employees at the San Jose store were found to have all their fingers, and no suppliers reported any hand or finger injuries, the company said."
While the exact reason for the arrest is on hold until this afternoon, Ayala does have an interesting history:
"Ayala has a litigious history. She has filed claims against several corporations, including a former employer and General Motors, though it is unclear from court records whether she received any money. She said she got $30,000 from El Pollo Loco after her 13-year-old daughter got sick at one of the chain's Las Vegas-area restaurants. El Pollo Loco officials say she did not get a dime."

As a little addendum as to the effect of frivilous lawsuits and false claims:

"Sales have dropped at franchises in Northern California, forcing layoffs and reduced hours, the company said. Wendy's also has hired private investigators, set up a hot line for tips and offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who provides information leading to the finger's original owner."

I'll update this post after the press conference this afternoon.

The charge is apparently grand theft (related to a previous housing deal) and attempted grand theft with relation to the chile incident. Cavuto seemed to think that there was some "CSI-like" work that had gone into determining that the finger was placed in the chile after it was given to Ayala.


More BMI/Fat Industry Silliness

This TCS article (h/t puppyblender) makes the fat industry look even worse.
But in a study released this week by the CDC and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association ("Excess Deaths Associated with Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity"), the public health community has finally owned up to their massive fib by acknowledging that the number of deaths due to obesity in the US is closer to 26,000 not 400,000 as previously reported. This means that if these numbers are correct -- which is questionable -- then obesity goes from being the leading or second leading cause of death to perhaps the seventh leading source of premature mortality.....

Second, for individuals aged 25-59 the risks of premature death from being underweight are substantially greater than those of being overweight and they are also slightly greater than those of being obese. For those aged 60-69 the risk of dying from being underweight is much higher than from being even significantly obese, that is with a BMI > 35. Again, the total number of premature deaths due to obesity is 25, 814, while the mortality attributable to being underweight is 37, 746. If anything this points to an epidemic of not fat but thin caused death.
My comments:

1) I wonder how much this would change if BMI weren't such a lousy statistic

2) I wonder how many of the deaths due to being underweight are symptomatic of other problems, i.e., anorexia is clearly worse for you than being a giant tub of lard (unless you're this big), but there just aren't that many anorexics. So I wonder a little about their methodologies. (I'll try to get the paper this weekend)

3) The low number of deaths due to obesity seems in line with other trends noted in the article of lower incidences of high cholesterol (perhaps thanks to Lipitor?) and no increase in the rate of diabetes.

4) If you're obese (in the traditional fat sense) you should still lose some weight (but don't worry too much about hitting the "normal" range) and get some light exercise (a little cardiovascular exercise goes a long ways).

5) In the meantime, go eat a slice of cheesecake, mastrubate, and get some light exercise.


God Bless America

America is a fine, fine place to live and the exurbs are even better. At least that's how I read this article (h/t Catallarchy). Though I don't think Mother Jones meant the article as a positive.

Some highlights:
Since 1950, the average new house has increased by 1,247 sq. ft. Meanwhile, the average household has shrunk by 1 person.

The National Association of Home Builders’ “showcase home” for 2005 is 5,950 sq. ft. That’s 15% bigger than last year’s model.

More than 50% of exurban lots are 10 acres or larger. Exurban homes account for 80% of residential development since 1994.

In 1950, 1 in 100 homes had 2.5 baths or more. Today, 1 in 2 do. [yeah, but how many have 20?]

14 million households own 4 or more TVs.

1 in 5 new homes is larger than 3,000 sq. ft.—the size at which it becomes unmanageable to clean without hired help. [WTF? 3000 sq ft requires hired help to clean? Now if it was this house...]

Sales of Sub-Zero and other “premium” and “superpremium” refrigerators have been rising by 15% a year.

Since 2001, the number of Americans who have bought second homes has increased by 24%.
In related news, Preethi and I are putting in an offer on this townhouse tomorrow. It's not in the exurbs, but it is on the very edge of suburban Lynchburg.


Thursday, April 21, 2005


BMI, Weight, and Health

A study revealed that if you're a little "overweight," it's good for your health.
"People who are a little overweight are likely to live longer than people who are underweight or obese, a study shows....

BMI of 18.5 to 25 is considered normal. One below 18.5 is considered underweight and 30 or above is considered obese. The researchers found that the people who had BMIs higher than 25 but lower than 30, which meant they were moderately overweight but not obese, did not have a reduced life expectancy.

The people who lived the longest of all were those with BMIs of 25, which lies between the ideal and overweight margins."
I have a different explanation - BMI is a lousy indicator for when someone is fat. Too much fat in your body is what's really bad for you, not your weight. Muscle simply weighs more than fat and being in good anaerobic shape (which is usually accompanied by being in good aerobic shape) automatically makes you overweight by BMI. When BMI indicates that half of the players in the NBA are overweight, there's something wrong with the application of BMI. [when did we become the NBA blog and not the beer blog? -ed The playoffs are coming up and I got too busy to drink...] When BMI fails to predict health (see above), then there's something wrong with the application of BMI.

A far better measure for being unhealthy due to weight is a hihgh body fat percentage for which BMI is a crude measure.

My suggestion: all BMI studies should be taken with a grain of salt, and for your own personal health calcualtions, use a scale that measures body fat, like this one.

As a partial defense of BMI (the inability to differentiate between muscle and fat remains), I wonder if this study was affected by the NIH's 1998 recalibration of an overweight BMI from 27 to 25. This had the effect of reclassifying 30 million Americans as "overweight" who were previously "ideal weight." Perhaps the original classification was correct.


Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Goats for Baal/Jonah

In the Corner, Jonah announced: "And of course as a Baal worshipper I shall bring goats and virgins for everybody [to Atlanta]!" But followed up with: "Alas, I've been informed by the airline that there's a no-carry-on virgin (or goat) rule. So, unless I can pick some up at the Circle K, we'll have to be satisfied with inflatable goats and flan for everybody!"

Well I think I can help out Jonah. This farm just outside of Atlanta offers goats for sale. Then these online classifieds offer goats for sale. While many of the goats in the classifieds are not close to the National Review get together, I'm sure that for the right price, they'll deliver.

However, I'm a little torn over the thought of helping Jonah in his quest for a goat sacrifice to Baal. Previously (spring 2000) I made and put up overnight (with a bunch of friends) some 500 goat activist flyers addressing such topics as (all are pdf's - if you want a copy in Word, email me):
Goat unemployment
Unsafe working environments for goats
Stop goat rape
Goats falling behind in internet usage
Goats lacking Congressional representation
Support a goat
The save the goats campaign (which also included several hundred chalkings chosen to reflect the interests of the building they were put in front of) caused quite a stir on campus, prompting letters to the editor, technical class room discussions (JP had apparently messed up the grammar for a chalking about goat illiteracy in Greek), and an extended two week discussion in a women's studies class that didn't take kindly to the goat rape flyer and chalkings.

But most importantly, Tim Lyon, whose birthday was that day, got hundreds of phone calls from people inquiring about the Save the Goat campaign - most of whom offered to help (I believe the offers were tongue in cheek - I hope).

There almost was a follow up campaign in 2001, focusing on the conflict between Llamabad and Goatistan over the Mohair region, but 9/11 happened and I decided that there would be too many people who wouldn't appreciate the joke.

So as a previous goat activist, I feel a little conflicted over helping along the Goats for Baal effort.

Or not.


Giving Faint Praise to Dell's Service

I've complained about Dell's service before, so I should also mention when they get it (mostly) right.

On Monday, my laptop's LCD went a funny shade of red. I called Dell, we ran some diagnostics for about 20 minutes and then spent another 20 minutes getting the details of a dispatch together. By Tuesday afternoon, I had a new LCD installed by a technician from Unisys.

The tech from unisys also noted the hinges on my screen were busted and said he would put in an order for new hinges for me. I should also point out that even when Dell's service has been lousy, the Unisys techs who do the last leg of the service have been excellent.

On the other hand, I had also told Dell that the buttons on my laptop for controlling sound were busted. Or more specifically, what was busted was the card that sits beneath the piece of plastic that houses the buttons and does the piezo-electric portion of translating a button depression into an electrical signal. The tech and I spent about 5 minutes troubleshooting this (most of which was spent fetching a screwdriver to pry off the piece of plastic), so I thought we were on the same page on this.

However, they sent out the piece of plastic (it's shiny and new - not scratched up like the old one) and not the card. So the buttons still don't work. Which is just as well as the Unisys tech thought the problem was actually with the motherboard and not the little card.

So I'm still of the opinion that Dell makes a lousy laptop (I've now had every part on the laptop fail and be replaced except for the case), but they're doing a little better in the service special olympics as I got the critical part replaced in a day (as opposed to the month last time). Though it does appear that I'll be getting my fifth motherboard in two years.


Pope Jedi?

Has anyone checked Ratzinger's midichlorian count?


Johnny Cochran's Tombstone

Donald Luskin has a "picture" of Cochran's tombstone.


Pipe cleaning

Cleaning your pipes is good for your health: (h/t Jacqueline)
The team concludes that the more men ejaculate between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to develop prostate cancer.

The protective effect is greatest while men are in their twenties: those who had ejaculated more than five times per week in their twenties, for instance, were one-third less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer later in life (BJU International, vol 92, p 211).....

"It's a prostatic stagnation hypothesis," says Giles. "The more you flush the ducts out, the less there is to hang around and damage the cells that line them."

As a large fraction of polyscifi's readership are males in their twenties, I offer the following link for our readers' health. (not work safe, but it's good for your health).

For our female readers, there was a related beneficial process noted in the article:

"His findings suggest an intriguing parallel between prostate cancer and breast cancer, as recent studies indicate that lactating reduces a woman's risk of breast cancer, perhaps because this also flushes out carcinogens."


Tuesday, April 19, 2005


The Leftist and the Olive Tree

Robert Wright makes the case for Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat. I tend to agree with him. I'm a big believer in prosperity as an engine of social and political change. And, like Friedman (!) I think that a social safety net is one way to speed the excellent, positive things that come from globalization while taking the edge off its downside.

UPDATE: In the comments, J.P. linked to this review of the same book, a Mark-Twain-vs.-James-Fenimore-Cooper-style evisceration of Friedman's prose style. It's really, really funny. So I'm moving it to the main page.


Monday, April 18, 2005


Guns, doctors, and death

Via vodkapundit, I learned that guns don't kill people, doctors do, and he's got the statistics to back it up (an accidental death due to an encounter with a doctor is orders of magnitude more likely than an accidental death from a gun).

Outlaw doctors today!

(Side note - I'm rather swamped for the next month. So don't look for anything substantitve until mid-May).

For those who wonder if the poster made up the 120,000 annual deaths due to medical error, here's some links from my very quick tour around google.

(linked article says that ~225,000 people die due to factors introduced by hospital, i.e., errors + side effects + infections).

A lot of that story's info comes from this JAMA paper (need a VT pid).

This Massachussetts Nurses Association article has a lot more about the rate of deaths due to medical error (it's quite high) and says the 120,000 number explicitly comes from a 1993 study.

We can quibble about the exact number, but dying due to a medical error in a hospital is orders of magnitude more likely than dying due to an accidental gun shot.


Wednesday, April 13, 2005


NBA Age LImit

After seeing this on PTI yet again, I felt compelled to add my two bits.

David Stern has floated the idea of setting a minimum age for playing in the NBA of20 which would exclude high school players. Jermaine O'Neal has suggested the reason for this is racism.

That's just stupid on two counts.

First while the proposed rule change would disproportionately affect blacks, that doesn't make the rule racist. Lots of rules/laws affect the races differently when examined statistically- we just have different distributions. If we added a tax to dairy products, would this be racist? Whites consume way more dairy than other races (partially due to a lower incidence of lactose intolerance and partially for cultural reasons). Further, the vast majority of NBA players are black. Any NBA rule change will of course impact more blacks than other races. If players were fined for every technical and flagrant foul, would this be racist? Or would it be a way to improve civility on the court?

Second, it serves to distract from an otherwise good libertarian point (for instance consider the preceding digression). Why should we stop an employer and an employee from entering into a voluntary contract?

Now don't get me wrong, the NBA can legally do whatever the heck they want to. But I don't think the owners are thinking this through or are not very confident in their own abilities ("save me from myself - I'm can't identify talent").

If I was an owner and I thought that drafting highschoolers tended to lower the quality of the league and tended to damage the team that drafted the highschooler, I would want the highschoolers in the draft. Screw it. Allow the drafting of middle schoolers. Cause I figure I'm a smarter owner than the other owners (otherwise why else am I in the business?) and I'll either a) stop my team from drafting highschoolers due to their high variance of performance or b) make certain my team had the best scouts. In either case, the relative performance of my team would improve and I would increase the value of my franchise.

Now I understand why Stern who's not an owner and whose job is to promote the league which includes maintaining the quaility of play has floated the idea. But I believe the owners get to vote on any agreement, and it's in their own selfish interests to vote against an age limit.

Oddly enough, the only party (other than Stern) whose selfish interest is installing an age limit are the players who will increase their own value (and thus pay) by contracting the labor pool (at least temporarily). So by O'Neal's own logic, O'Neal must be racist as not having an age limit limit will take money out of the pockets of current NBA players who are disproportionately black. ;)

Mike makes the case for Stern's involvement in this post.


The Grapes of Wrath

There's another thing the Academy is good for besides screenings like these, and that's digging up old ghosts. I went to their screening of The Grapes of Wrath, and here's who was there:

I'm not sure how they found all these people, or got them all to show up, but like David Carradine said, they were all just looking forward to watching this movie with everybody. It must be pretty great, if you're Dorris Bowden, to be able to see yourself onscreen for a big audience again.

The movie was great; funny, well acted, beautifully photographed. Some "social message" movies from the 40s (all right, most social message moves from the 40s) haven't aged well. But some have, and this is one of them. The politics of the movie are more complicated than you may remember; here's the end of Tom Joad's famous speech:

...and when people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they built - I'll be there, too.

Which sounds a lot like Bush's ownership society. What's deliberately missing from Bush's worldview, and painfully apparent in this movie, is that the game is rigged; if you don't have money or property, good luck getting any. It's easy to subscribe to a bullshit view of the left that says: what they want is for everything to be communal, from each according to his abilities, &c. And that's true on the very fringe, but then by the same token, the right wants fascism and theocracy (combined!). Anyway, more on that when I think about it more; for now the note is it's a great movie.

Also: they showed two newsreels. One was a Christmas Parade down Hollywood Boulevard. You could clearly see the Taft building and the Roosevelt, but of course all the shops are now long gone. And the L. Ron Hubbard's Winter Wonderland display that's my personal favorite thing about the season? Not there; Hubbard was still writing pulp sci-fi. The other newsreel had then-columnist Ed Sullivan presenting Bette Davis and Mickey Rooney crowns as the "King and Queen of Hollywood." So not exactly earth-shaking news in either case.

Last: shorts. Teddy the Rough Rider, which was decent, and A Wild Hare, which was kickass.


The Miracle Worker

Today on Something Awful: Choose Your Own Adventure Books That Never Quite Made it. H/T Screenhead.

Here are two to get you started:


Randomly generated conference papers

I've been spending a lot of time carefully writing up the most theoretical chapter of my dissertation which I'll try to post tonight.

But I'm a fool.

You don't need to do that at all for an acceptable publication. You can have a computer generate random geek speak and get a paper accepted to a conference like these guys did.

WMSCI 2005
(World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics) accepted this paper (pdf) which if you read it and know just a little about the subject, you'll recognize that it's complete gibberish.

Well at least it wasn't a journal, though it does remind me of Atlanta Nights and I am the Very Model of a Modern Major Major, Yossarian.

Link to webpage about the paper is fixed (the "guys" hyperlink). Thanks Rog!


Give us a whole lot more than $1.58, and we'll talk

A couple of days ago, Jody and I were talking about house-buying. Now normally, what happens on the fourth floor of Durham Hall stays on the fourth floor of Durham Hall, but it so happens that during our chat, I was inspired to spend a little time right then playing a game that I hadn't played since I was in the middle of my house search: Rich People House Hunting.

To play this game, you don't actually have to be a rich person. And in the information age, you don't even have to involve a realtor. Just use a realty website - I prefer www.realtor.com. On the front page, you can choose a locality, provide an obscenely high price range (what might constitute "obscene" will depend on your own means, and the locality you choose) and start fantasizing about what you'd do if you had enough money to toss away on something meaningless like a pile of concrete, steel and wood. Who knows, maybe you're this guy. Or this one. (Spoiler Warning: On the second one, if you've never seen it, you're going to have to wait until the end of the clip. If you have seen it, you can either laugh about it right away, or - as I do - watch the whole thing for the umpteen million and twelfth time, and laugh about it as you go.)

Anyway, I normally play this game with three localities: the New River Valley (it's where I live), the environs of New York City (I know how much it costs to eat at a TGIFriday's in Manhattan now, so I just go from there), and Los Angeles (Oh, I hear it's sort-of expensive to live out there).

On this particular run, I found a real beauty. One that got Jody and me talking. I'll let Jade Mills herself (she's the listing agent) wow you with the particular description for this listing. You can read the original listing here, and check out some of the pictures while you're there. (What Jody and I figure to be the screening room is quite sweet, but I still find the prospect of having a statue by my swimming pool to be a little ostentatious.)

Indescribable! Ultimate luxury, quality, and craftsmanship. From the grand entry and the sophisticated formal living and dining rooms to the many additional entertainment rooms and indoor & outdoor pools, this impressive estate appeals to every sense and satisfies every desire. Four stories of sumptuous living including beautiful master, gourmet kitchen and breakfast room, his and her offices, bowling alley, screening room, huge indoor pool & spa, racquetball court, state-of-the art spa & gym, and downstairs guest suite with two bedrooms, bath, and kitchen. Beautifully landscaped grounds with lawns, rose garden, fruit trees, patios, outdoor pool, spas, and full outdoor kitchen and BBQ. Gated, private and secure.
Among the other notable property features: 9 total bedrooms, 20(!) total bathrooms, 3 fireplaces, and marble, stone, and hardwood floors.

You too can be the proud owner of this luxurious property. For $53,000,000. You read that right. Fifty-three miiiiiiiillion dollars.

This figure got Jody and me thinking. First of all, don't get any ideas about buying this beauty, as we've already agreed that we're going halfsies on this house. Our agreement requires me to raise my 26.5 million dollars first. Once I've got my half, he indicated that he'd then chip in his share.

Of course, we're motivated by the fact that you'd have to be a fool to try to finance something like this. Who doesn't buy a house like this and pay cash? But never fear. If you're willing to put down 20 percent (snicker), someone (heh heh) could then lend you the rest. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage near the current average APR (about 5.4 percent) makes this exquisite property yours for the low, low payment of $237,799...a month.

Now in the middle of all of this, I realized that nowhere in the listing is there an indication of how much usable space the house has. You always see this in house listings, with the exception of houses that cover so much ground that it's not unreasonable to get lost in them one day out the month.

But quite undaunted, I decided to do some investigative journalism. I sent an e-mail to Jade Mills with the following inquiry:

Ms. Mills:

Good morning. I was browsing the listing shown above, and sheer curiousity drove me to ask what the measure of usable square footage on this beautiful estate might be. Any reasonably accurate indication that you can give would be appreciated, whether it includes indoor-only space, or whatever outdoor amenities can also be included.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Jason Thweatt
for Polyscifi Blog

You probably couldn't have guessed that I used my "fake" name there.

In any event, it's been my experience that realtors - unlike actors - only thrive on good publicity. This must be especially true of Hollywood realtors, so we'll see what sort of reply I get...


Monday, April 11, 2005


Give us $1.58 and we'll give you the world.

Everybody knows about the Oscars, but the Academy does some other things, too. For example, this series. For $30, you get a pass to all of these movies, all in the Academy's very nice theater, on the best prints in the world. There go my Monday nights for the rest of the summer...


Now this is just cool.

I found my last job, the apartment I'm living in now, and some of my furniture through the wonder that is Craig's List. Which makes me the same as everybody else on the planet. But apartment hunting from their listings involves a lot of looking places up, trying to figure out where they are. And you'd be surprised how many places that show up as being in Silver Lake are actually in Koreatown. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that this is the best new website I've seen in a while.

H/T Boing Boing.



I haven't posted anything about politics for a while. But I think I've found something that even Jody and I can agree on: keeping Tom DeLay as majority leader. The Republicans, like any political party, need someone to represent their public face, their values and goals in their purest form. I think DeLay is right for the job, and I encourage all of you to write your Congressman and tell them to end the witch hunt.

Unfortunately, some elements of the Republican party have gone rogue. For example, here's Chris Shays:

"Tom's conduct is hurting the Republican Party, is hurting this Republican majority and it is hurting any Republican who is up for re-election," Shays told The Associated Press Sunday.

Exactly. And that's why it's so important that Republicans stand as one to defend Mr. DeLay. What's happening to party discipline here? Even Rick Santorum seems to have doubts...

In all seriousness, partisan politics aside, I'm glad to see that there are some levels of corruption that Republicans won't defend. And anything that's bad for autocrats is good for representative democracy. There's really not much difference between "I am the federal government," and "L'etat, c'est moi."


Sunday, April 10, 2005


New Criterion Contraption.

The Long Good Friday, now at The Criterion Contraption.


Saturday, April 09, 2005


Quoted in the Corner

An email of mine was printed in the Corner. The email was in response to this post by Brad Delong which I saw via this post from Jonah which was all kicked off from this Krugman article and this response from Jonah.

If you want to read the whole original email (the tail was cut off in the Corner), click through.

Well I am getting a PhD in electrical engineering so I guess I count.

Possible discounting information: I call myself a conservative libertarian and participate in QandO's neolibertarian alliance. However, I voted for W in 04 and campaigned pretty hard among my friends for W and have never voted for a Democrat in my life (I voted for Browne twice). I did however seriously consider voting for Boucher in 04 before I learned he voted against the ban on partial birth abortions which just appalled me.

1. From libertarians, because the Republicans are really hostile to individual freedom: they want to control people's lives and boss people around.
a) That's what government does. Reps do it; dems do it. The only way you can really avoid it is by limiting the size of government (which the Dems really don't want).
b) Also while I may still be in school, I do remember Tipper leading the charge against offensive lyrics.
c) I recognize that if I'm taxed at 50%, the government is effectively controlling half of my life. Which party wants to raise my taxes and thus gain a greater control of my life?
d) Along the lines of personal freedom (where it really matters), which party is telling me that I'm too incompetent to invest my own income (with an apparent disregard to the fact that I, like millions of Americans, have an IRA and a 401K)?

2. From biologists, because Republican politicians say they don't believe in evolution.

And Democrats don't believe in genetics (see Summers).

3. From chemists and physicists, because Republican politicians pretend to believe that CO2 molecules created by human action have a different radiation-absorption spectrum than other CO2 molecules.

I have no idea where Delong is getting this, but I will point out that Dems aren't able to make intelligent tradeoffs with respect to the environment. Cripple the economy for the possibility of saving a degree? Cripple the nuclear power industry for kicks? Cripple the domestic oil industry to keep from annoying a caribou? Oh and after doing all of this, bitch about the state of the energy economy while wondering where the problems came from.

4. From all corners, because Republican politicians are the tools of lobbyists and do not respect the evidence about anything.

All politicians are the tools of lobbyists. As to the respect for evidence, I'll let your opinion duel posts speak for themselves.

5. From all corners, because Republican politicians don't understand how important investment in education is for the future of America--they have no idea where our current wealth and health really comes from.

What the f*ck is Delong smoking? Our public schools are a mess. Throwing good money after bad is a recipe for disaster and that's the Democrat proposal on education. The best thing that's happened in the school system in years is the accountability that NCLB brought in - and that's a distinctly Republican idea. And even by the metric of money for education (which I think is what Delong is getting at with "investment"), Bush has thrown an insane amount of money at education. As for where current wealth comes from, most of the Dems in Congress are socialists in all but name and would destroy the source of our wealth (the free market) in a heart beat.

Really, if Delong wants to know why students are getting more liberal, he should check out his own university website (http://econ161.berkeley.edu/) where Delong posts excerpts from his political diatribes from his personal website. I find it highly inappropriate for a professor to be so brazenly political on a course website, and I suspect it's an indication of how he teaches his classes.

James Neel

personal academic site: http://www.mprg.org/people/jody/ (Look! No politics! Just academics! It's not hard to keep them separated.)
personal blog: http://www.polyscifi.blogspot.com/ (Politics on this site, but that's the purpose of the site and readers know that going in)


Jody gets Interviewed

Continuing a meme floating around the internet, I've been "interviewed" by Christiana. The rules of the interview meme are:
1. Leave me a comment saying, "Interview me."

2. I will respond by asking you five questions. I get to pick the questions.

3. You will update your livejournal/website with the answers to the questions and provide a link to your answers in the comments.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
Click here to read the interview.

1. Pick your favorite movie (or one of them.) Why do you love it so much?

I think I’ve seen the Holy Grail more times than any other movie (though ConAir is making a run for it as it’s on TV all the time).

It’s just the classic in absurdist humor which is what I really enjoy. Ni!

2. You're stranded on a desert island. Toothbrush or toilet paper?


If push comes to shove, a toothbrush can serve both purposes. Just gotta make certain you get it nice and clean when you’re done.

3. You get to meet anyone in the world (currently alive) and ask them one question. Who is it, and what do you ask?

Dan Rather – “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”

Actually, that’s a lousy question cause I know the answer. WCBS broadcasts on channel 2 which put Rather in the band 54-60 MHz. If Mr. Tager had only asked an electrical engineer, poor Dan could’ve been saved a lot of hassle.

So how about, this: Seth MacFarlane: “Will the new episodes of Family Guy suck as hard as the pilot of American Dad?”

Ok that’s kind of trite and surely I can come up with a better question.

Maybe Stephen Hawking: “Have you thought of applying Sabermetrics to improve the play of the Oxford cricket team?”

Hmmm… that’s no good either. He might get offended. Especially as I probably couldn’t resist asking with a Speak n Spell.

Maybe Jerry Buss so I could ask him what in the world he was thinking trading Shaq away.

In all seriousness, probably Allan Greenspan whom I would ask, “How long do you think the housing bubble will hold up?” Cause purchasing a house is a major event looming in my near future and $300,000-500,000 is not something you want to just throw around.

4. What is the most interesting place you have ever visited?

Well, I’ve run with the bulls in Pamplona, hiked the Grand Canyon, been to the top of the Eiffel tower in both Paris and Vegas (the view from the top of the Stratosphere was much better), been to Stonehenge and Carhenge (that’s in Nebraska), visited every non-postage stamp country in Western Europe outside of Scandanavia and Portugal, visited every state in the US except Oregon, Washington, and Alaska, and will be making trips this year to Korea and to India. So I travel a lot making this a difficult question to answer if you subscribe to the theory put forth in the Paradox of Choice. Fortunately, I think the paradox of choice doesn't apply if you're moderately intelligent and moderately self-aware.

The most interesting (or the most enjoyable) place I've visited is Edinburgh.

I’ve been to Edinburgh twice. Once with my parents (who had a real thing for traveling which seems to have rubbed off some) and once with my brother and a friend as we wasted the summer after my BS (‘99) and wasted quite a bit of money gallivanting about Europe.

The first time I went with my parents I was 11ish and my family was taking a two week summer vacation in Britain. We took the long train ride (~8 hours then though I understand they do it in 5 now) up from London starting in the afternoon and arriving in the late evening, which to my surprise was broad daylight because we were so far north.

If you've never been to Edinburgh, it's a beautiful city. Set in old volcanic fields on the edge of the North Sea, Edinburgh combines breathtaking natural views, stunning architecture, and modern amenities.

Both times I've been there, I've made certain to Edinburgh castle. If you’ve never seen Edinburgh castle it’s quite sweet. Rising above the city on a volcanic outcropping on the coast, this large imposing castle (much more impressive than the Tower of London) is quite breathtaking and quite picture worthy. When I came back in 99, I made certain to stay at Castle Rock Hostel just to be close to the castle.

Leading down from the Castle to Holyrood (which was only ok) is the Royal Mile which again has beautiful old Scottish architecture. Still more or less in the middle of town is King Arthur’s Seat (in Holyrood park) – an even larger volcanic outcropping that overlooks the city and the Firth of Forth.

To add to the fun of Edinburgh, there’s the Eerie pub crawl (which I somehow didn't do when I was 11). The Eerie pub crawl takes you through five pubs spread over Edinburgh (the link says four, but I remember five, maybe one closed. I’ll have to find my t-shirts and check the names) decorated to reflect spooky things from Edinburgh’s history. As part of the crawl, you drink two drinks at each pub and at the end, you get a t-shirt. I liked it so much, I did it twice on two consecutive nights.

My personal favorite pub of the five was Jekyll & Hyde’s which is decorated like a mad scientist’s laboratory. The bar itself has a convoluted mess of glass tubes filled with colored liquors (blue Curacao, Grenadine…) that they tap to make you a mixed drink. There’s skulls on the wall, weird hanging metallic objects, and for the coup de grace, the bathrooms are actually unmarked and hidden behind a bookshelf.

So in Edinburgh, you get the rare juxtaposition of the beauty that man creates and the beauty that God creates. Oh, and alcohol too.

5. There are two kinds of kids, those who like Animaniacs, and those who don't like Animaniacs. Which kind are you?

I currently have a 2 foot ceramic statue of “The Brain” in my living room. At one point I also had a matching Pinky statue before it met an unfortunate accident in the dorms when I wasn't present. I have one t-shirt featuring both with a thought bubble above brain showing “pi” and a thought bubble above pinky showing the a picture of a pie. I have another t-shirt that has most of the cast of the Animaniacs spread over the front and back. Somewhere at my parents’ house I have a poseable rubber Wacko.

So I friggin hate the Animaniacs.


Friday, April 08, 2005


New Criterion Contraption.

Alphaville, now at the Criterion Contraption.


An Introduction to Ultra Wideband Communication Systems

In the mail today, I got my copies of An Introduction to Ultra Wideband Communication Systems. I wrote the bulk of the chapter on simulation of UWB systems (Chapter 8) and did a lot of technical review for the other chapters. If you're a UWB expert, most of the material won't be too new, but I believe my chapter is the first source that advocates using discrete event simulations for pulsed UWB (it adds a little in total system overhead, but saves alot in terms of simulation cycles per pulse.)

The layout of the book generally looks very nice, though there are some presentation issues that my office mate (who wrote parts of three chapters in the book) and I have spotted in the 20 minutes or so we've had the books in our hands.
The quality of the figures is uneven. Some came out exactly as we drew them, others are quite fuzzy. There's no particular discernable pattern as to what caused different certain pictures to come out so badly.

Some tables are split across a couple pages - an editing no-no.

There are three different chapter introduction styles - something I thought I had flagged in the editing process, but which apparently didn't get fixed.
If you're interested, this is actually my third book publication. My earlier books being Software Radio: A Modern Approach to Engineering (chapters 5 and 9) and that timeless classic, I am the Very Model of a Modern Major Major, Yossarrian.


Thursday, April 07, 2005


Some amusing animated shorts

How to Kill a Mockingbird (link)
It's the To Kill a Mockingbird story just as I remember it - complete with the ninjas and pirates that so many more recent interpretations leave out.

Revenge of the Mockingbird (link)
The mockingbird story continues!

Banana Phone (link)
It's cellular, modular, interactive-odular. Bananna phone! (h/t Christiana)

Banana Phone Kills (link)
Now that you've got the banana phone tune in your head, here's what you can look forward to. (h/t Christiana)

Ewok (link)
The little guy gets it in the end... (h/t Adam)

The Yody Years (link)
Even Yoda had to learn the ways of the Force... (h/t Adam)


Super Pope!

Via email from my brother comes El Increible HomoPater!!
Pope John Paul II is being reborn in a Colombian comic book as a superhero battling evil with an anti-Devil cape and special chastity pants...

Like any self-respecting superhero, the Incredible Popeman has a battery of special equipment. Along with his yellow cape and green chastity pants, the muscular super-pontiff wields a faith staff with a cross on top and carries holy water and communion wine.

In the comic book, the pope dies and is reborn with superpowers beyond the infallibility Catholic doctrine gave him on Earth.
Twas rather hard digging up more information on HomoPater, though I did find the home page of the artist - Rodolpho Leon Sanchez and the following pair of images.

(yahoo slideshow)

(R. Leon sketches)


New Criterion Contraption.

High and Low, now at the Criterion Contraption.


Wednesday, April 06, 2005


Pickem League Results

In a stunning comeback, Coin Flippers (Thason) came back to win the NCAA pickem league by correctly picking all 3 games of the final four, just barely edging out Bubblicious (Roger Sarah).

Thason gets his choice of polyscifi art (once I get a working printer at my house again), which I believe from offline discussions is the waterskiing Pope.

Side note: Does anyone else feel that there's a void in their TV-life because there's no college basketball on?


Balancing Principles and Illegal Immigration

A Review of the Illegal Discussion to Date
In the comments to this post, I said I have the following issues with illegal immigration:
1) Illegals inflate tax rates by being a part of the black economy while consuming government services like right there in L.A. (Of course, with a consumption tax, this wouldn't be as much of a problem, no?)

2) It encourages workplace abuses. (Can't complain about your conditions or we'll deport you)

3) It harms security by facilitating the entry of undesirable elements (like al Qaeda).

4) It hurts the assimilation process as the illegals, by necessity, get cut off from the rest of society.

5) It fosters lawlessness (as does any unenforced law).
Matt has responded to these points with the following points (though I am unclear as to whether Matt is advocating maintaining the status quo or open borders - I agree with neither position):
1) Illegals provide cheap labor vital to the economy.

2) Illegals are helping keep social security afloat by paying social security taxes without drawing payments. 1

3) Illegals could provide useful work in the intellectual economy.

Competing Neolibertarian Principles
Now for a conservative libertarian there's conflicting principles in the issue of illegal immigration.

On the plus side of the ledger of illegal immigration, more people working in a market economy always helps.

On the negative side, as I highlighted above, there's the law and order problems, increased taxes, assimilation problems, security problems, and the potential for workplace abuses.

So from my ideological position, the negatives outweigh the positives. So I come down against illegal immigration. This judgement is reinforced by the fact that all the benefits I care about and two of the benefits Matt discusses2 can be achieved through legal immigration and all the problems I've identified go away with legal immigration.

Beyond ideology, illegal immigration also violates my sense of fairness in the same way (but magnified) that someone cutting in line does. Legal immigrants have to go through a process (a process I agree with) and have all sorts of restrictions, but illegals skip the whole thing. It just doesn't sit right in my stomach.

1. In the linked post, Matt appears to making the assertion that an open borders policy would further strengthen social security: "If we really want to "fix" social security, maybe we should open the borders." However, if we open the borders, then the immigrants won't need fake SSNs and we would no longer be unintentionally stealing money from immigrants. So opening the border under the discussed scenario wouldn't help.

If instead, we had enough legal immigration to get us back to the 4-5:1 worker ratio where social security "works," then this would help with short term solvency. However, I don't believe this is the argument Matt was making and it wouldn't change the fact that social security would still be a Ponzi scheme.

2. Matt's social security argument is a net negative for me. One, I don't like the idea of wealth redistribution and taking the illegals' money with no possibility of repayment is not a good thing in my opinion (redistribution is government sanctioned theft and this is a pretty egregious example). Two, illegals using fake SSN contributes to lawlessness and particularly to the identity theft problem which last I checked was a pretty big problem.

And then the one benefit - $6-7 billion extra added annually to social security "coffers" - is like spitting in the ocean (a billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money) as social security pays out $400-500 billion annually. Further what little benefit is there is still towards a program that I'm not too fond of to begin with.


Be a millionaire! Um...just not here...

Having tried and failed to become a millionaire via the TV game show route, another manner of hitting the seven-figure bigtime has come to my attention.

But I am left wondering whether or not, in the history of contests and sweepstakes, a prize sponsor might actively hope that an entire national economy might collapse prior to the awarding of the grand prize.

As it turns out, it's not happening in this case, but it's still an intriguing idea nonetheless.

Taco Bell is sponsoring the "Baja Blast Game," where one Grand Prize winner will receive a cool million...Mexican pesos. The cup that contains my entry code advertises the fact that one million pesos had a value of about USD 88,000 as of 28 January 2005. And that got me wondering, "Are they advertising that information to give the winner an idea of how much money they could win, or is that the actual prize?"

It ends up being the latter. According to the official rules, the grand prize winner will receive USD 88,849.90, taking that to be the official exchange rate on January 28.

But just imagine some Taco Bell executive watching the currency exchange rates the way that I watched mortgage rates two and a half years ago, looking for that fortuitous collapse in the peso that would signal the best time to award the "Grand Prize." I was, in fact, terribly surprised that such a disclaimer was not included in the rules.

Then again, as weak as the ol' Greenback's been lately, it's possible that letting the prize float would actually be a bad thing.

And since we're on the subject, has anyone else seen that Saturday Night Live sketch that featured the dollar, the pound sterling, the euro, and the peso in a musical chronicalling the dollar's latest slide? Was anyone else thinking? "One of these things is not like the other one, one of these things is not the same..."

Okay, maybe it was just me.


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