Sunday, August 31, 2008

Scant Coverage of Obama Assassination Plot

I hadn't heard of this at all...Scant Coverage of Obama Assassination Plot — Irresponsible Or Cautious? "Was the U.S. media admirably discreet or just plain ineffectual in covering news of the arrest of three men suspected of plotting to assassinate Barack Obama during his acceptance speech at Invesco Field?"

The View from Everest

The View from Everest is a beautiful 360 panorama.

Crazy Palin Conspiracy Theory

Here's the first Palin conspiracy theory
Sarah Palin Is NOT The Mothe post on Daily Kos. "Well, Sarah, I'm calling you a liar. And not even a good one. Trig Paxson Van Palin is not your son. He is your grandson. The sooner you come forward with this revelation to the public, the better."

The argument goes, no one noticed she was pregnant, several of photos at 7+ months showing her pretty trim. At 8 months she was in Dallas, began leaking amniotic fluid, and instead of seeking medical aid, delivered a speech and flew back to Alaska and showed no signs of distress on the flight and then drives 45 mins outside of Anchorage to a medical center near Wasilla. And then returned to work in 3 days. Then they add "Checking with the Anchorage High School that [16 year-old] Bristol Palin attended, reporters were given word that her family had taken Bristol out of school due to contracting infectious mononucleosis. The amount of time Bristol was absent shifts from five to eight months."

I think someone's been watching Mad Men or Desperate Housewives too much. The comments to the article are mostly along the lines of: this is National Enquirer stuff, there's nothing conclusive, we're better than this, Bristol is not fair game, etc.

Some later comments say such rumors popped up right after she announced the pregnancy. Also a Wasilla police notice states Bristol was in a small car accident at what would have been the 5-6 month mark and some claim the street address given is of a medical center. Here's the the Anchorage Daily News story about the Dallas flight.

Should be fun watching this rumor grow.

Wikipedia Edits Forecast VP Picks

Wikipedia Edits Forecast Vice Presidential Picks. "Just hours before McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about her approval rating and husband's employment. Perhaps more tellingly, some of the same users editing her page were almost simultaneously updating McCain's Wiki entry, adding information dealing with accuracy, sources and footnotes to each."

What else could you learn by watching wikipedia edits?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

MSNBC Weekly News Quiz

MSNBC has a Weekly News Quiz . I got 80%.

Obama Answers Science Debate Questions

The Science Debate won't happen, but that doesn't mean the candidates can't answer the 14 policy questions. Obama has answered them and McCain is expected to.

Obama's answers are pretty good though a bit wordy. More money for science research, science education, and even research into science education, etc. Though while saying you'll increase "existing building efficiency by 25 percent over the next decade" is specific, it's not clear how that's possible or even what they'll measure.

Palin on Choice

A mailing I got said "Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest." and cited an article on the Governor debates from 11/3/2006. It wasn't a link but the Anchorage Daily News (which I'm sure is getting more hits than it ever has before) still has the article online:All three candidates support gas line lawsuit. The only thing on Palin on choice was the following:

"The candidates were pressed on their stances on abortion and were even asked what they would do if their own daughters were raped and became pregnant. Palin said she would support abortion only if the mother's life was in danger. When it came to her daughter, she said, 'I would choose life.'"

It's not just the presidential debates that have crappy questions.

Home science under attack

Make Magazine: Home science under attack.

"Victor Deeb, a retired chemist who lives in Marlboro, has finally been allowed to return to his Fremont Street home, after Massachusetts authorities spent three days ransacking his basement lab and making off with its contents.
Deeb is not accused of making methamphetamine or other illegal drugs. He's not accused of aiding terrorists, synthesizing explosives, nor even of making illegal fireworks. Deeb fell afoul of the Massachusetts authorities for ... doing experiments."

McCain Playing the POW Card

Batocchio on Hullabaloo writes McCain POW Bingo about McCain playing the POW card. I missed this exchange from The Tonight Show last week:

"LENO: For a million dollars, how many houses do you have?

McCAIN: Could I just mention to you, Jay, that, in a moment of seriousness, I spent five-and-a-half years in a prison cell. I didn’t have a house. I didn’t have a kitchen table. I didn’t have a table. I didn’t have a chair. And I spent those five-and-a-half years because, not because I wanted to get a house when I got out."

Here's the whole answer, but the above is the beginning.

Preparing Minneapolis With Police Raids

This bodes well for the Republican convention and our nation: Massive police raids on suspected protestors in Minneapolis. I guess we're already in a police state.

"Targeting people with automatic-weapons-carrying SWAT teams and mass raids in their homes, who are suspected of nothing more than planning dissident political protests at a political convention and who have engaged in no illegal activity whatsoever, is about as redolent of the worst tactics of a police state as can be imagined."

[Bruce Nestor, the President of the Minnesota chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild]..."indicated that only 2 or 3 of the 50 individuals who were handcuffed this morning at the 2 houses were actually arrested and charged with a crime, and the crime they were charged with is "conspiracy to commit riot." Nestor, who has practiced law in Minnesota for many years, said that he had never before heard of that statute being used for anything, and that its parameters are so self-evidently vague, designed to allow pre-emeptive arrests of those who are peacefully protesting, that it is almost certainly unconstitutional, though because it had never been invoked (until now), its constitutionality had not been tested."

Other things

Last Tuesday dday wrote What's The Story? about the important things happening in the world that the media wasn't covering.

"And oh by the way: Pakistan's government has collapsed (which is probably as it should be after Musharraf was dumped), Iraq's Prime Minister reaffirms the need for a hard timeline for all US troops to leave Iraq, the Prime Minister has also cut oil deals with China and Russia, the Russians have recognized independence for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and in the wake of yet another airstrike killing dozens of civilians in Afghanistan...Frustrated by the mounting toll of civilian deaths from U.S. and NATO airstrikes in Afghanistan, the government of President Hamid Karzai called Tuesday for a full-scale review of foreign-led military operations in the country."


Kevin Drum writes Palin on the Issues.

Digby calls her The New Nixon and then talked to some friends in Alaska about her.

"Here's the most interesting thing: my brother in law and his girlfriend, both teachers, card carrying NPR listening, Riverdance loving, Jim Lehrer watching diehard liberals .... quite like the woman. They don't like her social conservatism, but it's so prevalent in Alaska that they hardly notice it."

"So, I wouldn't be too smug about Palin. She's got something about her that the people who know her really like. She has an 85% approval rating up there, which includes quite a few liberals. Her western state appeal is an amalgam of right wing populism and libertarianism, something that shouldn't be discounted among swing voters who might also find her to be an attractive working mom who manages to run the state while taking care of her snowmobile champion husband (Arctic NASCAR) and their five kids. (A politically incorrect friend of mine in Alaska called the ticket "The Maverick and the MILF" and it may work better than we think.)"

She is polling better with men than women, but then I would expect that of an ex-beauty queen.

FEMA Still Broken?

Why are the briefings on Hurricane Gustov being done by the military? Moira Whelan: What's wrong with this Hurricane?.

Palin on Global Warming

Palin Speaks to Newsmax:

Question: What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?

Palin: "A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."

John Kerry's Speech

was really very good:

McCain and Ledbetter

Kevin Drum in McCain and Ledbetter answers the question raised by Hillary "Does McCain really oppose equal pay for equal work?" The answer is yes, see the article for the details.

Lobbyists in Denver

I saw Mark Tahibi's report on last night's Bill Maher about private political events in Denver this week. Honestly it was so, "behind this door there's something going on" that I wasn't sure I believed it. Glenn Greenwald had an article on it last monday: AT&T thanks the Blue Dog Democrats with a lavish party.

Welcome To The PalinDrome

There's now a fake Sarah Palin blog: Welcome To The PalinDrome.

Palin on Evolution

Here's an Anchorage Daily News article from October 2006 when Palin ran for governor, 'Creation science' enters the race. She hasn't given it much thought, is the daughter of a science teacher, thinks both evolution and creationism should both be taught in schools and "Asked for her personal views on evolution, Palin said, 'I believe we have a creator.'"

Karl Rove on Picking a VP

Steve Benen found Karl Rove's Brilliant Analysis of a VP pick from a few weeks ago.

"Republican strategist Karl Rove said on Face The Nation Sunday that he expects presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama to choose a running mate based on political calculations, not the person's readiness for the job. "I think he's going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice," Rove said. "He's going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president"

"Rove singled out Virginia governor Tim Kaine, also a Face The Nation guest, as an example of such a pick. "With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished," Rove said. "I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America.""

John McCain Reads Sarah Palin's Name

I love how McCain had to read her name from his notes. The reports seem to be that he met her only once and spoke to her only one other time.

New Zodiac Killer Suspect

If you liked the movie Zodiac or are just into serial killers, you might be interested to know Zodiac Killer's Identity And Weapon Uncovered? "Thursday, the FBI confirmed to CBS13 they are now running laboratory tests on some items that may link a suspect to the killer." The suspect was a man named Jack Tarrance, he died in 2006. His stepson Dennis Kaufman found evidence and even thinks he killed his mother.

Alaska Population

Jon Stewart last night said Alaska's population is about 1/5 of Chicago's. I had to check that. According to wikipedia which claims 2007 data, Alaska's population is 683,478. Chicago's is 2,836,658 so it's closer to 1/4.

As far as cities, Alaska would rank 17th, just above Fort Worth, TX. But I don't think of cities as much as metropolitan areas. As far as them, Alaska would rank 74th, just above the Pioneer Valley around Springfield, MA.

Do Nuclear Decay Rates Depend on Our Distance from the Sun?

Do nuclear decay rates depend on our distance from the sun?

"We think that the decay rates of elements are constant regardless of the ambient conditions (except in a few special cases where beta decay can be influenced by powerful electric fields).

So that makes it hard to explain the curious periodic variations in the decay rates of silicon-32 and radium-226 observed by groups at the Brookhaven National Labs in the US and at the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesandstalt in Germany in the 1980s.

Today, the story gets even more puzzling. Jere Jenkins and pals at Purdue University in Indiana have re-analysed the raw data from these experiments and say that the modulations are synchronised with each other and with Earth’s distance from the sun. (Both groups, in acts of selfless dedication,  measured the decay rates of siliocn-32 and radium-226 over a period of many years.)

In other words, there appears to be an annual variation in the decay rates of these elements."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Explaining the Large Hadron Collider

I'm yet again catching up on The Economist. A few weeks ago in Known and unknown unknowns they gave the best two page overview of what the Large Hadron Collider is looking for I've seen. As usual, they don't dumb it down and yet they make it accessible. Great stuff.

Obama's Aceptance Speech, Visually

by Wordle, click image for more:

The Long Tail of Scientific Journals

The Economist from a few weeks had an article on online journals, Great minds think (too much) alike .

"No more ambling down to the library, searching through the musty stacks and queuing up for the photocopier. Instead, a few clicks of a mouse can bring forth the desired papers and maybe others that the reader did not know of—the “long tail” of information that the web makes available. Well, that is how it is supposed to work, but does it? James Evans, a sociologist at the University of Chicago, decided to investigate. His conclusion, published in this week’s Science, is that the opposite is happening. He has found that as more journals become available online, fewer articles are being cited in the reference lists of the research papers published within them. Moreover, those articles that do get a mention tend to have been recently published themselves. Far from growing longer, the long tail is being docked."

It's based on this paper, conveniently online (but not free).

Why Strawberry Jam is More Regulated than Cigarettes

Why Strawberry Jam is More Regulated than Cigarettes "While jams and other consumer products are strictly regulated and are required to pass stringent tests before they can be sold, tobacco has no restrictions and manufacturers can, and do, add anything they want into the product."

Sarah Palin

She can't say nuclear. (That's not change, that's more of the same!)

McCain's given up the experience argument against Obama. Obama has more experience than Palin who's been governor for just over 1.5 years. Before that, through the 90s, she was on the city council and was mayor of Wasilla, AK; a town of less than 6000 people. This is what McCain wants a heartbeat away from a 72 year-old president.

So now I understand the ads that McCain ran about Hillary, he's trying to win over her supporters with a woman. She's staunchly pro-life and a lifetime member of the NRA. I'm not sure Hillary supporters will jump at that.

She has a 4 month-old child and was back at work 3 days after giving birth with her son and husband. I'm not sure what the family values voters will think of that. Will she campaign with them too?

David Brooks said the decision was made yesterday and McCain and Palin have only met and spoken a couple of times.

Remember the short-lived Commander-in-Chief TV show with Geena Davis? The creator is saying McCain's pick is similar to the fictional scenario that put Davis in the oval office. "Picking a woman is an absolute strategic idea from McCain's point of view. He's not talking about governing right now. The idea of this woman actually facing down [Vladimir] Putin and negotiating with [Dmitry] Medvedev is idiotic."

They've successfully taken over the news cycle after Obama's speech.

I'll give it more time before I figure out if I like her. Her speech next week should be interesting. Jon Stewart should be good tonight.


I was on the Cape at the beginning of this week so wasn't following the convention all that closely. It's not like there were any surprises. I did TiVo it and watch the few speeches NBC felt the need to broadcast. Seriously just 1 hour a night and they felt the need to fill it with 40 minutes of pundits and 20 minutes of speech. My barber told me Fox News managed to show all of Bill's speech.

So I've caught up on TiVo and watched the Daily Show. Kennedy's speech was fine. A 4 day event for one moment has to have some filler. Michelle's speech was good too. Biden did fine. I'd like to see him debate McCain but it looks like he'll be going again Sarah Palin (who's wikipedia page is growing every minute).

I found Hillary's speech to be a bit marginal. I'm bitter that she ever said that McCain had more experience than Obama and that all he'd bring to the position was "a speech he made in 2002" and that now McCain is using that in his ads. For me, she needed to say she was wrong and sorry to say it. She did say she was a proud supporter of Obama and called for party unity but she spent more time talking about herself rather than Obama. I guess she's still bitter. Maybe that was the best way to pull in her supporters?

Bill on the other hand gave a really good speech. "Barack Obama is ready to be President of the United States." He then spent most of the time giving specifics, which really helped.

As expected, Obama's speech was best of all. He did a really good job saying what he'd do (within the constraints of giving a speech) as well as attacking McCain ("It's not because John McCain doesn't care, it's because John McCain doesn't get it", "John McCain likes to say that he'll follow [Osama] bin Laden to the gates of hell, but he won't even go to the cave where he lives", etc.). Perhaps it wasn't as good as his speech on race, but it was a very good start to the final leg of the campaign.

I did read this month's Atlantic and they had a great article, The Front-Runner's Fall about how Hillary blew the campaign. It was a clash in her campaign staff, many of which did not have presidental campaign experience, and her failure to make decisions to deal with the problem. There was also a frightful mismanagement of money. "The campaign wound up raising more than $100 million—but, according to The New York Times, by the time Iowa was lost, $106 million had been spent. The $25 million reserve had vanished, and the campaign was effectively insolvent."

Downward Cycle

Downward Cycle in Pittsburgh City Paper (catchy name) talks about their recycling program. Lots of good stuff in the article, here are some of them:

"Even better, the economics of curbside recycling have cycled Pittsburgh's way. For years, going green meant red ink: It was cheaper to dump garbage in a landfill than to process it for recycling. But with landfill fees rising, the difference between recycling a ton and burying it is $70. In 1992, Pittsburgh paid $31.61 to process a ton of recyclables; now the city earns for $46.46 a ton from its leading purchaser. It's still not a break-even game -- state funds subsidize about half of the city's $1 million-plus program -- but it's headed in the right direction."

"The recycling market is global. The No. 1 U.S. export commodity is now recovered paper, with more than 6 billion metric tons a year bound for fast-growing, deforested China alone. Indeed, unbridled -- and environmentally disastrous -- growth abroad is the big reason recycling pays so well at home."

"And what good is it to fret over a polystyrene clamshell when the hamburger inside ate up so many times more resources? Recycling does little to change how we heat or light our homes and businesses, grow our food, or get from place to place. To focus on recycling may be like fixing a leaky faucet after the reservoir's burst."

Student Isolates Microbe That Lunches On Plastic Bags

This might be the best science fair project ever. Waterloo high school student isolates microbe that lunches on plastic bags.

"Now a Waterloo teenager has found a way to make plastic bags degrade faster -- in three months, he figures. [16 year-old] Daniel Burd's project won the top prize at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Ottawa. He came back with a long list of awards, including a $10,000 prize, a $20,000 scholarship, and recognition that he has found a practical way to help the environment."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saul Bass on Movie Titles

YouTube - bass on titles

McCain's Prickly TIME Interview

McCain's Prickly TIME Interview:

"For years, John McCain's marathon bull sessions with reporters were more than a means of delivering a message; they were the message. McCain proudly, flagrantly refused direction from handlers, rarely dodged tough questions and considered those who did wimps and frauds. "

"Sticking to the old formula seemed like a good idea. But with the press focused on Obama, McCain got attention only when he slipped up during one of his patented freewheeling encounters with reporters. And so in July, the campaign decided to clamp down on the candidate. Open-ended question time was reduced to almost nothing, and the famously unscripted McCain began heeding his talking points, even as his aides maintained he missed the old informality."

"McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured. The McCain on display in the 24-minute interview was prickly, at times abrasive, and determined not to stray off message. An excerpt:"

Roz Savage: Rowing the Pacific!

Roz Savage: Rower, Writer, Speaker.

"In 2005-6 Roz rowed across the Atlantic Ocean as the only solo female competitor in the 3000-mile Atlantic Rowing Race from the Canaries to Antigua. And in Summer 2008 she set out on a  three stage, three year project to row solo across the Pacific – 7600 miles from the United States to Australia."

She's 95 days into it and almost at Hawaii. She rowed to Hawaii! Alone! And is blogging it day by day!

Return of the Muppets?

The Telegraph has an optimistically titled story, Muppet Show to return to TV after 27 years:

"The Jim Henson-created characters may be on their way back thanks to a new Disney Film. In the movie, written by Forgetting Sarah Marshall star and writer Jason Segel, the Muppets reunite to save their studio with one last variety show. Should the film go well, it opens up the possibility of a television programme, also written by 28-year-old Segel. A source said: 'Jason is a massive Muppets fan and is seen as the man to finally bring The Muppet Show back to TV."

Cows Are Compasses

Cows have magnetic sense, Google Earth images indicate. "Studying photographs of 8,510 cattle in 308 herds from around the world, zoologists Sabine Begall and Hynek Burda of the University of Duisburg-Essen and their colleagues found that two out of every three animals in the pictures were oriented in a direction roughly pointing to magnetic north."

Salty Chocolate Cows

Disease Proof writes about a WSJ report on Chocolate Cows, Seriously. "As high fuel prices continue to cut into profits, farmers have resorted to feeding their cattle POTATO CHIPS and M&Ms—it’s cheap. Of course, no one knows the health implications of this junk food diet."

Cows evolved eating grass. In the US we feed them corn (even though it makes them sick) because we're really good at growing a lot of it and federal subsidies make it cheap. But corn prices have gone up (fertilizer is made from natural gas) and it's now expensive. Apparently potato chips and M&Ms are cheap, though they don't seem cheap buying them in a movie theater.

‘Forgot your password?’ may be weakest link

I never really liked how the "I forgot my password" links work on various sites. Just sending a password in clear text in email is a bad idea (it travels across the internet, unencrypted for anyone to intercept. I also never like the questions the site let you choose from. Your favorite pets name, your high school, etc. Now it seems Now it seems that Facebook is making these questions obsolete and insecure.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Why Kubrick used "Daisy" for HAL's death

Apparently it was the first song sung by a computer speech synthesizer in the 60s.

Then there's this 45 minute video on Stanley Kubrick's boxes.

2008 Olympics Closing Ceremony Photos

Great photos from the 2008 Olympics Closing Ceremony.

Joe Biden's pro-RIAA, pro-FBI tech voting record

Declan McCullagh writes about Joe Biden's pro-RIAA, pro-FBI tech voting record: "By choosing Joe Biden as their vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET's Technology Voters' Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP."

Sunday, August 24, 2008

CIA Takes Issue with Suskind

Talking Points Memo describes that the CIA says Suskind Charges are "False" and "Offensive".

"Earlier this month, Ron Suskind reported in an excerpt from his book, The Way of the World, that in September 2003, the White House ordered CIA Director George Tenet to fabricate a letter suggesting a level of collaboration between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that did not exist."

"As E&P notes, Suskind recently responded to denials by posting a portion of one interview on his website. And a Congressional committee has begun an investigation, so we may yet learn more."


I've liked Joe Biden for a while and liked him at the beginning of the primaries. I think he's smart, experienced and I mostly like his policies. His personal backstory is also compelling. He does make more than occasional gaffes and he tends to go on too long, so we'll have to see how that plays out. Now we just need Obama to define just what it is he means by "change".

Some Joe Biden stories:

Steven Benen of the Washington Monthly links to several.

Kathy G. isn't thrilled and does a good job explaining why. It's certainly worth a read.

Was the Oil Price Rise Speculation?

Kevin Drum on Oil Speculation. There was a Commodity Futures Trading Commission report that private Swiss energy conglomerate Vitol which was classified as an oil trader was really a speculator. "at one point in July, the firm held 11 percent of all the oil contracts on the regulated New York Mercantile Exchange." The CFTC "now reports that financial firms speculating for their clients or for themselves account for about 81 percent of the oil contracts on NYMEX, a far bigger share than had previously been stated by the agency."

"This still isn't conclusive evidence one way or the other, but it's certainly suggestive that there have been a few big financial players helping to drive prices up in the past few months. Supply constraints are still the main culprit for long-term price increases, but all the same it's beginning to look like it wouldn't hurt to tighten up the oversight of the oil futures market a wee bit."

Doubts over the anthrax case intensify

Glenn Greenwald has been writing that Doubts over the anthrax case intensify -- except among much of the media.

"The more that is revealed about the FBI's still largely-secret case against Bruce Ivins, the more doubts that are raised about whether their accusations are true. A particularly vivid episode illustrating how shoddy the FBI's case seems to be occurred in the last several days."

And in an interview with Sen Charles Grassley (R-IA), "Sen. Grassley reveals that the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Pat Leahy (of which Grassley is a member), will now hold hearings to investigate the FBI's case against Bruce Ivins. Grassley demands that the FBI send officials who are able and willing to answer all questions, and also calls for full and complete public disclosure of all of the evidence in the FBI's possession regarding its investigation. "

Thinking Ahead to Debates

digby looks at the current state of political debates.


"I recall feeling a bit disoriented at the time by the shock and outrage at the ABC debate, not because it wasn't shocking and outrageous, but because it seemed pretty typical to me. I think I watched all but one of them and I was dumbstruck each time by how horrible they were --- and Russert really was the ringleader. From the very beginning, he and Matthews set a tone that was as illuminating as a dying birthday candle. "

McCain's Veracity

dday in If A Nose Grows In The Forest... goes after the veracity of McCain's "cross in the sand story". Apparently McCain started telling it in 1999 and it's changed a few times. Apparently Aleksander Solzhenitsyn was telling a similar story in the 90s. Hmmm.

Maybe it happened to McCain, maybe not. "That didn't matter in 2000. Al Gore said he invented the Internet and that he found Love Canal and that he and Tipper were the inspiration for Love Story. That's what happened and there was no shaking anyone in the media off of that, and they were going to use those and other nuggets to build a story about Gore's serial exaggerations, and make that character issue far more important than any policy or point of difference between him and George W. Bush."

"I'm focusing on this gross double-standard in the comparison between Gore and McCain because I think it's the most salient example and it shows to what extent their thumbs are on the scale. And when there was a perception on the other side of the aisle that the media was too liberal, they mounted an effort to relentlessly criticize them to make sure their perspective was represented"

Additional Thoughts on WALL*E

From the new Daily Plastic: Additional Thoughts on WALL*E. I found this the most interesting, from WALL*E (and Nemo) director Andrew Stanton:

"'So we watched a Chaplin film and a Keaton film and sometimes a Harold Lloyd film every day at lunch for almost a year and a half, the story crew and the animation crew. And became pretty much familiar with their entire bodies of work. You walk away from that thinking, 'What can't you tell completely visually?' These guys were just… everything seemed possible to convey. And you realized how much of that staging and legwork was actually lost when sound came in. People got lazy and just sort of relied on the dialogue to get stuff across.'"

Why I Will Not Vote for John McCain

You have to read this: Why I Will Not Vote for John McCain "As some of you might know, John McCain is a long-time acquaintance of mine that goes way back to our time together at the U.S. Naval Academy and as Prisoners of War in Vietnam. He is a man I respect and admire in some ways. But there are a number of reasons why I will not vote for him for President of the United States."

"John was a wild man. He was funny, with a quick wit and he was intelligent. But he was intent on breaking every USNA regulation in our 4 inch thick USNA Regulations book. ... In fact he barely managed to graduate, standing 5th from the bottom of his 800 man graduating class. I and many others have speculated that the main reason he did graduate was because his father was an Admiral, and also his grandfather, both U.S. Naval Academy graduates."

"People often ask if I was a Prisoner of War with John McCain. My answer is always "No - John McCain was a POW with me." The reason is I was there for 8 years and John got there 2 ½ years later, so he was a POW for 5 ½ years. And we have our own seniority system, based on time as a POW."

"John McCain served his time as a POW with great courage, loyalty and tenacity. More that 600 of us did the same...I furthermore believe that having been a POW is no special qualification for being President of the United States. The two jobs are not the same, and POW experience is not, in my opinion, something I would look for in a presidential candidate."

"I'm disappointed to see John represent himself politically in ways that are not accurate. He is not a moderate Republican. On some issues he is a maverick. But his voting record is far to the right."

"John is not a religious person, but he has taken every opportunity to ally himself with some really obnoxious and crazy fundamentalist ministers lately. I was also disappointed to see him cozy up to Bush because I know he hates that man."

Jukebox John keeps changing his tune

Here' a nice list of McCain flip-flops.

Ohio Voting Machines Dropped Votes

Diebold is now called Premier Election Solutions. It seems in this case, Premier means that it will drop votes while being electronically transferred. "A voting system used in 34 states contains a critical programming error that can cause votes to be dropped while being electronically transferred from memory cards to a central tallying point, the manufacturer acknowledges."

The error has been there for 10 years. It was first reported in March during Ohio primaries. "Riggall said he was "confident" that elections officials through the years would have realized votes had been dropped when they crosschecked their tallies to certify final elections results and would have reloaded cards so as not to lose votes. Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has said no Ohio votes were lost because the nine Ohio counties that found the problem caught it before primary results were finalized."

Candidates on International Trade

Biden on International Trade" "Here is a useful summary of Joe Biden's votes as Senator on trade barriers and trade subsidies. (Also, here is the same for Barack Obama and John McCain)."

It's a nice site, showing the relevant votes for a period you pick and where they fall on a two dimensional grid. McCain is a free trader, Biden an Interventionist.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Still Waiting

For my text message from Obama telling me his VP choice is Biden.

W5 Nebula in Cassiopeia

The beating heart of W5 Nebula in Cassiopeia captured by the Spritzer Space Telescope in Infrared.
spitzer_w5 1.jpg

"W5 is a nebula, a giant cloud of gas roughly 6000 light years away in the constellation of Cassiopeia. It’s enormous, spanning about 2 x 1.5 degrees of the sky (15 times the size of the full Moon on the sky), and is actively cranking out stars. The valentine-shape is actually an enormous cavern, a hollow carved out of the gas by the winds and fierce ultraviolet light flooding out from massive young stars in its… well, its heart. It’s like these stars are blowing a vast bubble in the middle of the cloud. The stars doing the work can be seen in the image; the bright blue ones are the culprits."

"There’s another way to find those stars: look at the edges of the bubble. See the triangular or finger-like extensions of material pointing into the bubble? Those are light years-long towers of gas being eaten away by the winds and UV light from the hot massive stars, so the fingers point right to those stars."

The article has several more, fascinating and accessible paragraphs.


How is it that diving is still on? I know there's only one 10m platform and participants go one at a time, but I think there's been diving for 2 weeks.

Race walking looks dumb even in TiVo's triple fast forward. USA showed the entire 4 hours of the 50km walk. I think there should be 50km skipping too. Or maybe a 50km triple jump.

Javelin referees have as crappy a job as those guys on the death star who stand next to the superlaser beam.

I had completely forgotten about team handball.

I like how during volleyball timeouts five guys with what look like giant swiffers come out and clean the court.

The Jamaican runners are amazing.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How To Solve The New York Times Crossword Puzzle

How To Solve The New York Times Crossword Puzzle by Will Shortz in 2001.

Online Election Resources

Online election resources "The U.S. presidential race is in full swing, and as usual it has captured the attention of the news media. But where can you go to dig deeper than the headlines? Obviously there are a million news resources, like, where you can go to find news stories, but the Web offers more specialized Web sites that can give you even more insight. Some give you predictions, so you can see who's ahead, others give you facts and figures, so you can check who's doing what, especially regarding money. Still others dig into the beliefs and histories of the candidates so you can gain insight into how they think."

Superman To Be Darker

Superman to Return Again, But Eviler: "In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Warner Bros. Pictures Group President Jeff Robinov indicated the studio intends to explore the darker side of superheroes in future films based on DC Comics properties, also owned by Time Warner. Prompted by the success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman sequel ‘The Dark Knight,’ which he credits to the profoundly grim tone of the film, Robinov told WSJ’s Lauren A.E. Schucker, ‘We're going to try to go dark to the extent that the characters allow it. That goes for the company's Superman franchise as well.’"

Ugh. This is just missing the point. Batman wasn't good because it was dark. It was good because it was good. Yes it was dark, but Batman is dark. He's been called "The Dark Knight" for decades. Superman isn't dark. Making him dark is wrong. In Superman Returns they already made him a deadbeat dad and that was equally wrong. Superman is the boy scout, he's good and is always good. The problem with Superman is that he is too powerful, so conflicts in the stories are difficult. There are lots of classic Batman stories, there really aren't any classic Superman stories. He's good and powerful and therefore a bit boring.

I like the part where they are pursuing "a quiet adoption of Marvel Studios’ strategy of introducing a single comic book character in each film with an eye towards an eventual multi-character epic. “Along those lines, we have been developing every DC character that we own," Robinov said. WSJ reports that movies featuring Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, and Wonder Woman are all in active development, as well as a third Batman film and a new feature to reintroduce Superman."

But really Green Lantern is honorable and fearless, not dark (there have been exceptions but they have always been controversial). Wonder Woman should be interesting but really hasn't been very much. The mythology background is good and for a while she was portrayed as an ambassador from her island which was interesting, but not a lot has stuck with the character. Flash and Green Arrow are little more defined and there's some potential if you can avoid the campiness. GA can be a little dark, but not Flash.

Another problem is that Batman has the best villains. Virtually no other superhero (Marvel or DC) can compare. Spider-Man is probably second. Marvel does better here because they're characters have always been about something more. X-Men villains are other mutants some of which are interesting, but the underlying theme of being outcasts is what adds gravitas. The Fantastic Four were a bickering family and while groundbreaking in the 60s, it made for bad movies and even made Dr. Doom and the Silver Surfer boring. The Hulk is really Frankenstein and I wish the film did more of that (there will be deleted scenes on the DVD). Iron Man worked because of some magic that Downey brought. Also, one (non-comics) friend phrased it well, it was fun to see a regular guy (ok billionaire) have fun with his superpowers instead of dealing with angst.

Watchmen was groundbreaking in that Alan Moore wanted to push comics into doing something more, in that case being dark. He lamented that the effect it had on the 90s was to make comics darker rather than freeing them to explore different things. Seems like DC is making the same mistake again. One of the good things about the Justice League is that different heroes can interact and clash. If they are all dark, it will just be boring.

Olympic Statistics

Freakonomics blog has two interesting articles that use statistics about the Olympics. Teeny, Tiny Gymnasts compares the sizes of the US and Chinese womens gymnastics competitors to the countries population. Yep, those Chinese gymnasts are small. The second, Usain Bolt: It’s Just Not Normal, shows a chart of 200m record times and why Usain Bolt's record was so exceptional. Joe DiMaggio makes an appearance too.

NIST Investigation: Building Fires Caused WTC 7 Collapse

NIST WTC 7 Investigation Finds Building Fires Caused Collapse "The fall of the 47-story World Trade Center building 7 (WTC 7) in New York City late in the afternoon of Sept. 11, 2001, was primarily due to fires, the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today following an extensive, three-year scientific and technical building and fire safety investigation. This was the first known instance of fire causing the total collapse of a tall building, the agency stated as it released for public comment its WTC investigation report and 13 recommendations for improving building and fire safety."

Not that the conspiracy theorists will believe this.

Colbert on Oil Drilling

Ken Burns: going inside the photograph

More than you ever wanted to know about the Ken Burns Effect. Fun stuff. Ken Burns: going inside the photograph.

FCC on Comcast: Bravo!

Apparently the FCC is doing something right. Lawrence Lessig writes FCC on Comcast: Bravo!. They ruled that Comcast can't discriminate against BitTorrent traffic and Lessig says the 34 page ruling "is fantastically well done". I'll have to read it.

Lessig on McCain on Technology

A very good Lawrence Lessig presentation on McCain on Technology. Includes the best simple description of Network Neutrality I've seen.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Astronomy News

Massive New Object Discovered at Edge of the Solar System. "A "minor planet" with the awesomely poetic name 2006 SQ372 is just over two billion miles from Earth, a bit closer than the planet Neptune has been discovered in the inner Oort Cloud. This lump of ice and rock is beginning the return leg of a 22,500-year journey that will take it to a distance of 150 billion miles, nearly 1,600 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun, according to a team of researchers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS-II)." Here's more on it.

Dark Matter is Missing From Cosmic Voids "Cosmic voids really are devoid of matter. Astronomers have found that even the pervasive 'dark matter' which accounts for about 80% of the mass of the universe is not present in these voids, which are areas of vast emptiness in space that can be tens of millions of light-years across. 'Astronomers have wondered for a quarter-century whether these voids were 'too big' or 'too empty' to be explained by gravity alone,' said University of Chicago researcher Jeremy Tinker, who led the new study using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey II (SDSS-II). 'Our analysis shows that the voids in these surveys are exactly as big and as empty as predicted by the 'standard' theory of the universe.'"

Stephenson's Anathem

Wired writes Novelist Neal Stephenson Once Again Proves He's the King of the Worlds. It mentions a bit about his new 960 page novel Anathem, due Sept 9th, inspired by the Millennium Clock.

"Set on a planet called Arbe (pronounced 'arb'), Anathem documents a civilization split between two cultures: an indulgent Saecular general population (hooked on casinos, shopping in megastores, trashing the environment—sound familiar?) and the super-educated cohort known as the avaunt, or 'auts,' who live a monastic existence defined by intellectual activity and circumscribed rituals. Freed from the pressures of pedestrian life, the avaunt view time differently. Their society—the 'mathic' world—is clustered in walled-off areas known as concents built around giant clocks designed to last for centuries. The avaunt are separated into four groups, distinguished by the amount of time they are isolated from the outside world and each other. Unarians stay inside the wall for a year. Decenarians can venture outside only once a decade. Centenarians are locked in for a hundred years, and Millennarians—long-lifespanners who are endowed with Yoda-esque wisdom—emerge only in years ending in triple zeros. Stephenson centers his narrative around a crisis that jars this system—a crisis that allows him to introduce action scenes worthy of Buck Rogers and even a bit of martial arts. It's a rather complicated setup; fortunately, there's a detailed timeline and 20-page glossary to help the reader decode things."

It's Time to Kick Out Some Olympic Sports

I haven't seen synchronized swimming or rhythmic gymnastics yet this Olympics but I agree with Time Magazine, It's Time to Kick Out Some Olympic Sports. Women's boxing would make more sense. I guess we're also finally done with women's beach volleyball. Were those really women cheerleaders for the finals match? And was the rain planned for the bikini-clad event?

On another note, Jamaican Usain Bolt has been amazing in the 100m and 200m running events.

Why Obama Has To Get Mad To Win

Lord help me, but I agree with James Carville, Commentary: Why Obama has to get mad to win.

Why I Didn't Make The Olympic Team

YouTube clip of sports bloopers:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?

Last Friday the New York Times had this wonderful article on The Daily Show: Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?.


Debategraph is web software that hopes to improve the process of interactive debates. It's kind of a twist on threaded discussion groups and wikis.

Olympics Blue Screen of Death

Somehow I missed this during the opening ceremonies, the Olympics Blue Screen of Death.

Lego Beijing Olympics

The Daily Mail writes On your marks, get set, Lego! Welcome to the Olympics where everyone's quick off the blocks. The Hong Kong Lego Users Group recreated the Beijing Olympics in Lego! Here's just one image, see the article for more.
article-1046255-023F16CC00000578-918_468x286 1.jpg

More Election Economics

Paul Krugman describes Whats at stake.

"The Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, which does careful, nonpartisan analysis of tax policy (duh) — the kind of thing the Treasury dept used to do until Bush turned it into a branch of Minitrue — is an invaluable resource. Their new executive summary of the candidates’ tax plans, from which this chart is taken, tells you more, in 6 pages, than you’ll get from a hundred hours of talking heads — mine included."

Key News Audiences

A new Pew Research Poll on News Audiences. Lots of stuff about how Atlantic readers and NPR listeners are well informed and even Limbaugh listeners do ok. Colbert viewers are more informed than Daily Show watchers which are slightly more informed than O'Reilly viewers. Fox News watchers rank at the bottom.

The fact that only 44% of NPR listeners could name the party in control of the House and the Secretary of State and the British Prime Minister is kinda depressing.

Election Polls is a pro-Obama site that tracks lots of polling data. Yesterday they posted Today's Polls, 8/19, "It was another fairly bad polling day for Barack Obama, and we are getting to the point where it would be hard to describe the election as anything other than 'too close to call'."

Questions About the Obama Tax Plan

Paul Krugman pointed to this article from The Tax Foundation, Questions About the Obama Tax Plan.

Fraking TiVo

So I turned on the TV this morning and found a grey screen on all the channels. Well not quite all the channels, I could get NBC and CBS but not in HD and I couldn't get CNN or HBO, etc. Today FiOS was supposed to add about 30 HD channels to my lineup so I figured it was an issue with that.

Rebooted the TiVo, no help. Googled for info about this, no help. Checked the CableCard status and TiVo said "Wrong Card State". I looked at the CableCard menus and it said Wait State though they were still paired. My Set top box in the bedroom was working fine but I rebooted the router they gave me because I know the set top box uses it in an odd way, maybe the cable cards did too? No Help.

I searched on the TiVo support site and didn't find too much that helped and their support line didn't open until 9am ET.

So I figured that in the FiOS channel upgrade something got screwed up with the cable cards. I called FiOS and after a short wait got a nice guy who didn't know much about this stuff. He actually said they see many CableCard users. I said I know, it seems that way. I had to pull out a CableCard to read the serial number on it. He tried a few things as I read stuff from the CableCard menus that TiVo exposes. In the mean time he asked a few questions like "what channels don't you get". Well I subscribe to several hundred, I didn't go through them all. I said I get CBS (4) and NBC (7) but not CNN (80) or NBC-HD (807). He goes through a few things and then we realize that CNN moved to 100 and I get that and that I get HBO on 400 and Starz HD worked on 840. It might have all been working fine and I was just checking channels that were now blank (80 and 807 are now unused). So that was fine but the TiVo still didn't have the right lineup.

I checked for messages but found nothing and before going through guided setup to get a new lineup (a 30+ minute process) I noticed it was now 9:01 so I called TiVo. I got a nice woman and she confirmed that TiVo still had the old channel lineup for Verizon FiOS Burlington. She said it would take 24-48 hours which is annoying. I said I had notice of this change over a month ago and got a paper copy of the new lineup a couple of weeks ago, so TiVo and FiOS had plenty of time to talk. Ugh. Now I see this thread on the TiVo Community forums. We'll see how long this takes. I can manually tune the channels but most all of my season passes are screwed up. Fortunately there isn't too much on this week; Jon Stewart is on vacation and the Olympics I tend to tune manually.

Nice start to the day. Off to a massage.

Onion on Election Demographics

Latest Poll Reveals 430 New Demographics That Will Decide Election

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Organizing Information Non-Alphabetically

More and more I come across information arranged alphabetically and wish it was arranged differently. Wines are usually organized by grape or region or price, not alphabetically. I don't want to see a cheese reference alphabetically by name but organized by type or flavor (or perhaps region).

slide:ology seems to be an interesting site on presentations and the post Organizing Information Is Finite describes the acronym LATCH for: Location, Alphabet, Time, Category, Hierarchy. I'd like to see this catch on and the A be used less.

Rachel Maddow to Replace Dan Abrams on MSNBC

Finally she gets her own show. Rachel Maddow to Replace Dan Abrams on MSNBC.

Help Make a Science Debate Happen

If you use Digg, Digg this. Ignore the Katie Couric part (I know), but it would be good if she would give some network air to the Science Debate topic. It's a bad name, but the 14 questions they want the candidates to answer are good ones. They aren't quizes about science, but rather questions about policies related to science.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Court says copyrights apply even for free software

Court says copyrights apply even for free software "In a crucial win for the free software movement, a federal appeals court has ruled that even software developers who give away the programming code for their works can sue for copyright infringement if someone misappropriates that material."

Could Conflict in Georgia Block US Access to the Space Station?

What a bizarre angle to the Russian/Georgian conflict. Could Conflict in Georgia Block US Access to the Space Station?.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Olympics

Saw some Kayaking. It's a man-made river with concrete sides and tons of white water. As with downhill skiing there gates that you have to go through, though instead of being stuck in the snow, they are hanging above the water with red and green poles hanging down. The green poles are like down hill skiing, you have to navigate through them. The red ones you have to go through them, but heading up river. Imagine some poles in skiing that you had to travel through uphill. Oh and you can't touch the gates.

I miss the scoring system in gymnastics that scaled every event 1-10. Maybe this is more flexible or something but I can't remember if 15 is good in an event or if you want a 17. I miss seeing people get "perfect tens". And is it me or is the mat for floor exercise completely new? Instead of mats, it seems like a spring board or really taut trampoline. That would explain some of the newer, more insane tumbling runs. And I don't find the little hand flourishes they do graceful at all. They seem like needless additions to tumbling runs instead of an integrated element.

For men, I think the most amazing event is rings. The strength moves are unbelievable. They said that one of the moves one of the Chinese men did was considered impossible two years ago. He hung in the air, horizontal and lifted himself, backwards, into a handstand! Slowly! For the women I think it's balance beam that's most impressive. It's basically floor exercise done on a 4" wide piece of wood.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Heckava Job Wendy

McClatchy had an article on Aug 1, Why Pakistan is unlikely to crack down on Islamic militants, despite U.S. pressure that includes this amazing statement:

"'One thing we never understood is that India has always been the major threat for Pakistan,' said former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain, now the president of the Middle East Institute."

Wendy Jean Chamberlin was Ambassador to Pakistan from July 12, 2001 until May 29, 2002. Her credentials actually look pretty good, maybe it's just a bad quote. Then again, it's hard to imagine that statement being uttered by anyone.

Massachusetts Tax Holiday Sat/Sun

MA is having a tax free weekend this Sat and Sun. Sounds like a good day to visit the Apple Store.

Lost Characters as Mii

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics So Far

I watched a fair amount of the games this weekend. The opening ceremonies were amazing. We were in awe at the giant LCD carpet, the synchronized drums and boxes and running the torch around the top of the stadium. Great stuff.

For the games, I've enjoyed the swimming. Both of Michael Phelps races have been amazing. I appreciate that NBC has been showing the competitions and hasn't been doing too many human interest stories on the athletes. I did see a short one on Phelps, all he does is eat, sleep and swim (about 5 hours a day). He tries to eat 8-10,000 calories a day and "can't" get over 200 lbs.

The mens gymnastics qualifiers were impressive too. I think most olympians are mutants of some type or in the case of female gymnasts, prepubescent. But the male gymnasts have the most idealized physiques of all the athletes. Watching the strength moves they do just blows my mind and this year (I guess as always) they're doing moves that just seem impossible.

I'm always impressed with high platform diving. Stand 3 stories high, jump off, twist and turn insanely and when you hit the water, you better not splash. It's crazy. And yet synchronized diving seems even crazier to me. I just don't get it.

Beach volleyball and badminton are sports where I just don't understand how the players manage to cover the entire court. it's very impressive. And Keri Walsh's shoulder patch is pretty crazy too.

I saw some rowing and it's fun, though the thing that most impressed me was that the man-made lake had a finish line in the water. It was made by underwater spigots that made a white water line across the lake. Pretty clever.

I saw the female saber fencing and think that sport needs to be fixed. It should be about (simulated) stabbing your opponent without getting stabbed yourself. Instead it's about stabbing your opponent a microsecond before they stab you. They lunge at each other, hear a beep and both athletes turn to see who scored first.

The Wire Seasons 1-4 for $96

I think I might have to do this. DVDs of the first four seasons of the The Wire for $96. An Amazon Gold Box offer good just for today.

Court Blocks MIT Students From Showing Subway Hack at Defcon

The Associated Press: Court blocks MIT students from showing subway hack "A federal judge ordered three college students to cancel a Sunday presentation at a computer hackers' conference where they planned to show security flaws in the automated fare system used by Boston's subway."

They basically shredded the security system of the Boston (and several other similar) subway systems. They started with unlocked doors, unmonitored computer terminals, and went on to how easy it was to forge tickets and reusable charlie cards.

"If you prevent legitimate researchers from talking about their findings, it's not going to stop people from finding vulnerabilities. It's going to stop the good guys from talking about them and from learning from each other," Granick said. "The bad guys are still going to be looking for the vulnerabilities and still be finding them."

These students weren't the ones that put all these vulnerabilities in the T, they're the ones to publicly shame the T into realizing they might have to do something about it. And that something shouldn't be silencing the critics, let alone suing them.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Maybe We're Not So Ordinary

Solar System Is Pretty Special

"Prevailing theoretical models attempting to explain the formation of the solar system have assumed it to be average in every way. Now a new study by Northwestern University astronomers, using recent data from the 300 exoplanets discovered orbiting other stars, turns that view on its head."

"Using large-scale computer simulations, the Northwestern researchers are the first to model the formation of planetary systems from beginning to end, starting with the generic disk of gas and dust that is left behind after the formation of the central star and ending with a full planetary system."

Madison Square, Before the Garden

The Library of Congress has been posting old photos to flickr. This is Madison Square, NY sometime between 1910-1915.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

HD Olympics and TiVo

I do enjoy watching the Olympics. I like watching gymnastics, track and swimming and other big events, though not so much the team sports (soccer, baseball, basketball). It seems like those get enough air time the rest of the time. I also like the more unusual sports like fencing, judo, archery, table tennis and handball. Mutliple cable channels covering the games make it easier to catch the odd sports and watching in HD is just great.

So tonight I setup my TiVo to record the Beijing Games. I'm traveling this weekend to Brooklyn NY to visit friends (probably not that many blog posts coming) so wanted to record the opening ceremonies (often fun to fast fwd through). Rather than record everything, I created a wishlist that I could scan through what was on and choose what I wanted.

First off, good planning on FiOS' part to upgrade the number of HD channels not on 8/10 as originally planned but on 8/20, just a couple of days before the games are over. As a result it seems like I get the Olympics in HD on only two channels, NBC and UHD (they are also on CNBC HD and USA HD but I don't get those until the 20th). My TiVo Series 3 can hold 32 hours of HD programming (I haven't upgraded the drive). That's also 300 hours of regular TV and it hasn't been a problem at all and I have some movies on there for many months that I haven't gotten too (in some cases well over a year, yeah I'll get to them).

The opening ceremonies are over 4 hours. UHD then has blocks of programming that are 4 and 8 hours long. 8 hours! I appreciate the continuous coverage, but really, could you break up the scheduling into smaller pieces? Even NBC's evening blocks are 4 hours long.

Internet Memes

An interactive Timeline of Internet Memes.

David Pogues Gadget List of 2008

David Pogues Gadget List of 2008 is a refreshingly honest review of the gadgets he actually uses.

Terror, Torture and Television

If I were going to be in Los Angeles on Sept 10th, I'd go to In the Name of God: Terror, Torture and Television.

"Can television narratives influence or frame audience perceptions of good and evil, right and wrong? Did Sleeper Cell help to justify abrogations of civil rights? Has 24 inured us to torture? Did Battlestar Galactica succeed in showing us that "we" could be "them"? Panelists Howard Gordon, executive producer of 24; Dalia Hashad, director of Amnesty International USA’s program focusing on domestic human rights; Ronald D. Moore, executive producer of Battlestar Galactica; and writer Kamran Pasha of Sleeper Cell will join moderator Anthea Butler, visiting professor at Harvard Divinity School, for a conversation on television’s responses to 9/11 and whether they have shaped audience perceptions of good and evil. "

What Will You Be Doing 08/08/08?

I feel like an idiot. I didn't realize the Olympics were scheduled to start on


A friend pointed me at this recent article in the Boston Globe, The best global strategy to contain radical Islam may be the one that won the Cold War.

"Yet what we face today is not wholly novel: It is a war of ideas, mirroring the Cold War. Like the Communists, violent Islamic extremists are trying to spread a worldview that denigrates personal liberty and demands submission to a narrow ideology. And, as with the Cold War, it must be our goal to stop them. The United States should therefore adopt a new version of the policy that served us so well during that last long war: containment."

What they describe as "neocontainment" isn't all that different from the old containment policy, I think the neo part is just for a new (decentralized) enemy. They argue that the Iraq War has hurt our standing in the world and done nothing to increase our security. I agree. They agree with our invasion of Afghanistan.

"In Lebanon's complex political landscape, Iran and Syria support the Islamist Hezbollah party-cum-militia, while the United States backs the secular Lebanese government. Another Islamist movement, Fatah al Islam, enjoys a nebulous connection to Al Qaeda. We should be using our country's massive financial resources to allow the Lebanese government to outspend its competitors by a factor of 10, showering much-needed aid on the Lebanese people, and thus de-legitimizing their opponents and debunking their ideology. Instead, the government cannot meet its basic responsibilities, and extremist movements are increasingly seen as the only institutions capable of bettering lives."

As for Pakistan they say our $5.5 billion in military aid isn't helping as much and that "In the long run, 5,000 secular teachers for Pakistan's middle schools will do more for America's national security than will 50,000 AK-47s for the country's army." I agree, but I'm not sure how we put secular teachers in Pakistan. Bringing in Americans won't work and giving them funds doesn't guarantee the secular part. And I'm not sure how you get them to the tribal lands effectively. Still the sentiment is correct. They also say "Only after a comprehensive Indo/Pakistani border settlement will Pakistan shift its military energy from south to north.", well yeah but good luck with that.

I do agree with this:

"On occasion, extremist governments hostile to the existence of the United States (Hamas in the Gaza Strip) will enjoy broad popular support, but preemptive wars must become a thing of the past. We cannot say that we value freedom and then seek political change through force when the choice of the people produces regimes not to our liking. However, the military can, and must, be used to target individuals bent on terror aimed at American interests. Furthermore, if a nation enables attacks on our homeland, as Afghanistan did under the Taliban, then we must use all necessary means to defend ourselves. On rare occasions, this will require full-out war and post-invasion reconstruction."

Seems like a new name for a common sense policy. Maybe that is a necessary step. I'm not sure if the name "neocontainment" is too much like "neoconservative" to be viewed as different or close enough to be viewed as acceptable.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Larry Gellman: Bush's Worst Legacy

Larry Gellman in the Huffington Post writes : Bush's Worst Legacy -- The Desecration of "Patriotism". He starts off with a pretty good list of Bush's worst failures:

"After all, he is the president who decided to invade Iraq for reasons that all proved to be false and then proceeded to mismanage that war horribly. With the help of a Republican Congress he proceeded to take the country from a budget surplus to a multi-trillion dollar deficit which our children and grandchildren will have to deal with. He shredded the Constitution as he eliminated the rights of habeas corpus and gave himself the right to spy on American citizens in unprecedented ways for any or no reason at all. In addition, he destroyed our reputation and credibility in the world by presiding over agencies that use torture and treat prisoners in ways that Americans never have in the past. Before Bush, we could rightfully claim to be a moral country that refused to torture and demean people in the same ways as those countries we have criticized in the past. No more."

It is a good list but I have some quibbles. Torture doesn't just destroy our reputation, we've violated the Geneva Convention. I'd also list politicizing the government in violation of federal law. It's hard to make the federal government even more dysfunctional, but Bush has done it.

Gellman also mixes up deficit and debt. Bush inherited a $5.7 trillion debt, it's now $9.5 trillion. The latest estimate I've seen for the deficit is from Bush's OMB: "The Federal budget deficit is now estimated to fall to $205 billion in 2007, a reduction of $43 billion or 18 percent from last year." I believe the 2006 deficit number of $248 billion is an actual number (not estimated) number. This was an interesting table National debt by U.S. presidential terms.

Here's a depressing thing I came across: "Both Vice President Gore and Gov. Bush agree that the total surplus will top $4.56 trillion by 2010. Both also agree that some of the surplus should be used to pay off the national debt, some to shore up Social Security, and some given back to us in the form of tax cuts and credits. Mr. Bush says his formula would pay off the national debt by 2016. Mr. Gore says he can pay that debt by 2012."

Getting back to Gellman, instead of the above he argues, "A strong case could be made for each of these damaging missteps to be designated as the worst. But my vote has to go to the way in which Mr. Bush has twisted the meaning of 'patriotism' and turned a powerful important concept into an empty and meaningless slogan." He goes on and makes an interesting case.

Lawrence Lessig on the coming "i-Patriot Act"

Lawrence Lessig on the coming "i-Patriot Act" "Lessig also revealed that he had learned, during a dinner with former government Counter Terrorism Czar Richard Clarke, that there is already in existence a cyber equivalent of the Patriot Act, an ‘i-Patriot Act’ if you will, and that the Justice Department is waiting for a cyber terrorism event in order to implement its provisions."

How sad.

The Sad State of Facebook Applications

Inside Facebook looks at Which Facebook Applications Really Are the Most Engaging?. What a waste of an interesting platform. Turning other people into zombies may be fun (or not) but I think facebook could be so much more.

Given that facebook knows who your friends are and should know how you know them (that is work vs family vs college friends), it should be one of the best sites for providing access control. The classic example that most recent college students should want, is only show my photos to my college friends, not my work colleagues or family.

It's easy to form groups, but you don't get notifications from them. The discussion board doesn't have search and there are no recent group tools like wikis. Kids use its messaging systems to replace email. Add some calendaring stuff and some and replace groupware. Add location stuff and beef up events to take on and and evite. If there's a group for a 5th grade class, it should be easy to make a group of the parents of that class, then it should be easy to schedule events inviting all members of a group or by specifying all the people you know via some organization. It should be easy to specify repeating events and coordinate who brings what or car pools with more than just posts on a wall.

Olympic Medal Count Map

The New York Times has an interesting interactive infographic: Olympic Medal Count Map. "Circles are sized by the number of medals each country won in past summer Olympic Games. Click on a country to display a list of its medal winners."

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

TSA to Allow Laptops to Stay in Approved Bags

If you're planning on buying a laptop bag in the near future, you may want to wait a little bit. TSA to allow laptops to stay in approved bags.

"There's a new option for people annoyed at having to take their laptops out of their bags at airport security. The Transportation Security Administration will now allow travelers to leave their computers inside "checkpoint friendly" cases."

"TSA said it reached out to bag manufacturers this year to design laptop cases that would provide a clear, unobstructed image of the computer as it passed through an X-ray machine. The agency said the new bags will be available for purchase this month."

The Girl in the Window

The girl in the window in The St. Petersburg Times is one of the saddest things I've ever read, and I couldn't stop until I got to the end.

"Three years ago detectives and a social worker arrived at a dilapidated house in Plant City and made a heartbreaking discovery: A tiny girl living in a dark closet."

The FBI's emerging, leaking case against Ivins

Glenn Greenwald examines The FBI's emerging, leaking case against Ivins. Tidbits like:

"Within less than 24 hours, we went from 'a New Jersey mailbox used to send the anthrax was less than 100 yards away from a sorority for which Ivins harbored an intense life-long obsession' to 'the mailbox was near a storage closet used by a sorority that Ivins used to frequent 27 years ago and by a specific chapter that Ivins appeared to have absolutely nothing to do with.'"

Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad

Lord help me, I actually think this is funny. Paris Hilton Responds to McCain Ad:

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

And honestly, her energy policy is the most complete I've heard any candidate state vocally (their web sites have more details), but really, I wish the real candidates could fit as much in a few sentences during the debates.

MA Passes Global Warming Solutions Act

Global Warming Solutions Act Passes the Legislature.

"Late last night [7/31] the State Senate and House gave final approval to the Global Warming Solutions Act, a bill that will make Massachusetts a national leader in implementing global warming solutions and commit the state to making the pollution reductions that scientists say are necessary to avoid the worst impacts of global warming."

"The bill empowers the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to regulate greenhouse gasses from all sources across the Commonwealth, mandates a reduction of 80% below 1990 levels by the year 2050 and instructs the administration to develop a shorter-term goal of between 10% and 25% below 1990 levels by the year 2020 as well as limits for 2030 and 2040."

Monday, August 04, 2008

Innocents in Guantánamo

This is from a month ago, All Together Now: “Torture of Prisoners Is Immoral, Unwise, and Un-American” "Huzaifa Parhat, well into his seventh year at Guantánamo, had a civilian judge review the evidence for his detention for the first time last week. The court ruled that the Pentagon’s Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) declaration that Parhat was an unlawful enemy combatant is ‘invalid.’ They declared that Parhat must be released or given a new hearing."

Don't accept it when the right says that those at Guantánamo are terrorists, or al Qaeda, or even a threat to the US. Some of them are innocents, that we've held and tortured for, in this case, over 6 years.

Inside Professor Obamas Classroom

Last week the New York Times had an article, Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Slightly Apart. They followed up in their blog with Inside Professor Obamas Classroom "We’ve asked four legal experts to take a look at then-Professor Barack Obama’s course materials and offer some insight into what they say about Mr. Obama’s teaching methods, priorities and approach to the Constitution."

Air Force Cracks Software, Carpet Bombs DMCA

Does the US federal government have the right to hack and pirate software of US companies? Apparently the answer is yes. Air Force cracks software, carpet bombs DMCA. You have to read this article, it's not long. The backstory is amazing, "Showing the sort of personal initiative that only gets people into trouble"... "Davenport responded by selling his code to Blueport, which attempted to negotiate a license with the Air Force, which responded by hiring a company to hack the compiled version by deleting the code that enforced the expiration date."

Furthermore, it seems "The United States, as [a] sovereign, 'is immune from suit save as it consents to be sued . . . and the terms of its consent to be sued in any court define that court’s jurisdiction to entertain the suit.'" So, since The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) doesn't state an exception, so no one can sue the US government if they violate it.

I sent this article to my congressman. Copyright is broken, can we please fix it?

Greenwald on Anthrax Story

Last week, Glenn Greenwald wrote extensively about Vital unresolved anthrax questions and ABC News. If the anthrax attack was really from an employee at US government lab involved with out own biological weapons research, then what about all those claims that the anthrax used in the attacks came from Iraq?

"Much more important than the general attempt to link the anthrax to Islamic terrorists, there was a specific intent -- indispensably aided by ABC News -- to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq and Saddam Hussein. In my view, and I've written about this several times and in great detail to no avail, the role played by ABC News in this episode is the single greatest, unresolved media scandal of this decade. News of Ivins' suicide, which means (presumably) that the anthrax attacks originated from Ft. Detrick, adds critical new facts and heightens how scandalous ABC News' conduct continues to be in this matter."

Today he followed up with Additional key facts.

On Stupidity

On Stupidity is interesting and depressing.

McCain Hypocracy

McCain is now going after Obama for being a celebrity. As
digby points out McCain's campaign had to remove a story from its website that included "A political celebrity, McCain is considered a top contender for the nomination." Ugh.

Here's anotherd,, "Sen. John McCain claims to not know anything about, the fact-checking Website run by University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg Public Policy Center, that has cited 11 McCain campaign advertisements since June 20 for false or misleading information. Now it turns out that his own campaign uses the Website when it suits its purposes."


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Between The Folds

Saw this in the Globe today...Between The Folds: A Forthcoming Documentary on the Science and Art of Origami. There are two short films on the site, 6 Artists: On Origami, and Origametria, Using Origami to teach geometry.


Webvet is a new web site that strives to be "an interactive and comprehensive 'whole-pet' platform that addresses both the physical and emotional needs of pets."

Movie Review: Tell No One

Here I had better luck with a French film. Tell No One is based on an American novel and is crime thriller. The writer/director Guillaume Canet is a well-known French actor who starred opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, but this film more than makes up for that one.

Alex Beck is a pediatrician who's wife Margot was murdered 8 years ago at a secluded lake they visited yearly. When two bodies are found that are linked to Margot the police reopen the case. Simultaneously, Alex receives an anonymous email message that suggests Margot might be alive. After not too long, Alex is on the run.

The story is dense and has a lot of twists and turns. At times I felt a little lost but it held together. There's a long denouement and I did struggle with reading subtitles that went on that long and involved so much exposition about other characters. At the end I had only two questions but others in the group I saw it will were able to answer them quickly and I could answer their questions.

Apparently the ending is different from the novel, and the author actually likes the film's version better. The pace is fast and there is a reasonable amount of action A wonderful foot chase compares well to The Bourne Ultimatum, but with an everyday man instead of a super-spy. Crossing a highway is in fact dangerous.

The actors, aside from Kristin Scott Thomas were unfamiliar to me. All did well in their roles, particularly François Cluzet as Alex.

I wish more films were as good as this one. It's well worth seeing.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Lightsaber Chopsticks

These Lightsaber Chopsticks are cool. No one ever thought of this before?
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6 Degrees of MSN Messages

Study confirms 'Kevin Bacon' theory .

"With records of 30 billion electronic conversations among 180 million people from around the world, researchers have concluded that any two people on average are distanced by just 6.6 degrees of separation, meaning that they could be linked by a string of seven or fewer acquaintances. The database covered all of the Microsoft Messenger instant-messaging network in June 2006, or roughly half the world's instant-messaging traffic at that time, researchers said."

Ok, why does MSN save the IMs after they've been delivered?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Blu-Ray from Netflix, Disc or Stream

LG Blu-ray Box to Get Streaming Video from Netflix

"Netflix fans will soon have another new option for watching movies. On Thursday, the company made famous by sending DVDs to consumers via snail mail announced, in conjunction with LG Electronics, the imminent availability of a Blu-ray disc player that will also allow Netflix subscribers to view streaming video of movies and TV shows."

That's right, it streams blu-ray like their roku box does but it will also play blu-ray discs. To stream blu-ray I suspect you'll need a good broadband connection. It is an interesting way to differentiate the box from other blu-ray disc players, this one also streams from Netflix. Not sure about this one.

Customs Policy For Taking Your Laptop

I wrote recently about how Customs Can Take Your Laptop. Bruce Schneier follows up that "The U.S. government has published its policy: they can take you laptop anywhere they want, for as long as they want, and share the information with anyone they want...It's not the policy that's amazing; it's the fact that the government has actually made it public."

Movie Box Office Charts

Here are some interesting and pretty Movie box office charts. "Each page displays trends in the top 25 movies at the box office for each weekend in a year. The color is based on the movie's debut week. Because of that, long-running movies will gradually start to stand out from newer movies with different colors." And they were created using Lisp.

This is the one for 2008 so far (click for bigger with rollovers).

Best Star Wars Costumes at Comic-Con

Comic-Con: Best Star Wars Costumes. Some are very impressive. Pretty in Pink Princess Vader was scary.

Army Lab Anthrax Suspect a Suicide reports Army Lab Anthrax Suspect a Suicide.

"A top U.S. biodefense researcher apparently committed suicide just as the Justice Department was about to file criminal charges against him in the anthrax mailings that traumatized the nation in the weeks following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to a published report.

The scientist, Bruce E. Ivins, 62, who worked for the past 18 years at the government's biodefense labs at Fort Detrick, Md., had been told about the impending prosecution, the Los Angeles Times reported for Friday editions. The laboratory has been at the center of the FBI's investigation of the anthrax attacks, which killed five people."

The Washington Post has some more Md. Anthrax Scientist Dies in Apparent Suicide.

Old Pop Culture Quiz

Someone mailed this quiz to me. It's an odd test. Most are TV or commercial references, but others are just general pop culture. I got 18/20 missing 1 and 13.

Four Movie Reviews

I've fallen way behind on my movie reviews, so let me catch up with some short ones.

Hellboy II - Was a lot of fun. It's not what you think. Sure, it's a superhero fights demon story and it's not quite Buffy, but it is also a romance. Hellboy might look all demony but he's a big lug. And it has the best use of a Barry Manilow song in any film, and I mean that seriously. I thought the early fight scenes were a little weak and it drags a little about 2/3 of the way through, but the end picks up nicely. Guillermo del Toro's visuals are of course magnificent. If Dark Knight is still sold out or if you've seen it a few times and want more superhero stuff, this is the movie to see.

The Wackness - Teenage angst set in NYC. Josh Peck, who I've never heard of but has apparently done lots of things, plays Luke Shapiro, a high school graduate feeling lost before going to college. He makes money selling pot and is trying to sell a lot this summer to help his somewhat dysfunctional family's money problems. One of his big customers is Dr. Squires, a psychiatrist played by Sir Ben Kingsley. He's a bit spacy and dare I say wacky but you can see how this relationship developed as they exchange therapy sessions for drugs. Squires has a daughter in Luke's class named Stephanie and they start hanging out, even as Squires marriage to Stephanie's mom (Famke Janssen) is falling apart. I'm not sure there's much new here, but it's bit darker than the normal kid learns a life lesson film. Alright there is something different, I never would have expected to see Sir Ben Kingsley make out with Mary-Kate Olsen, and I feel a bit scarred for it.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson - I've never been a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson. I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and found the first chapter to be amazing and the rest pretty boring. I didn't know much else about him aside from the various spoofs of his alter ego Raoul Duke in Doonesbury and Transmetropolitan. But this is a documentary by Alex Gibney who also made Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room so I wasn't surprised that it was interesting all the way through. Johnny Depp reads some of his works and various politicians and his colleagues talk about his effect on them. I loved the quote (I think by Pat Robertson) that his reporting on one political event was the most accurate and least factual of all. I'm now curious about Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 and how people believed that Edmund Muskie was addicted to ibogaine. The soundtrack has lots of good 60s/70s music, though some of it repeats a little much.

Rendition - I missed this last year because of the middling reviews but caught it on DVD. Anwar El-Ibrahimi is an Egyptian who's been living the US for years and is married to all american Reese Witherspoon. After a terrorist bombing and a misdialed phone number he's rendered and tortured to find out what he knows. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a CIA analyst who starts to question what is happening but his boss, played by Meryl Streep is too hard line. Witherspoon is working through official channels (that is Peter Sarsgaard) to find out why her husband got on the plane but not off and is not having any success. There's a sub plot following two young Egyptian lovers and a twist but it doesn't quite fit into the film. Maybe I've read too much about this and seen too many documentaries on it but I didn't think the film went far enough. The interviews with people who've had this happen to them describe how it's totally changed their personalities. The effects are devastating and this film has too many white middle class Americans talking how dangerous things are. Eh.