Friday, October 31, 2008

Five Years on Mars, Sun at 8

On Sunday, 8pm ET, the National Geographic Channel has a show Five Years on Mars about the Mars rovers. They were originally planned to operate 90 days and are now going on 5 years. Nice job NASA.

Judge Rejects Motion to Keep Bin Laden Driver Locked Up

The Wall Street Journal reports Judge Rejects Motion to Keep Bin Laden Driver Locked Up.

"A military judge rejected a Bush administration move to that could have kept Osama bin Laden's former driver locked up for an additional five years. In August, a military jury sentenced the former driver, Salim Hamdan, to just five months plus time served, rather than the 30 years prosecutors sought."

Here's the amazing part: "Although Mr. Hamdan's punishment is slated to end by January, the government maintains it may continue to detain him indefinitely thereafter, on grounds that he remains an "enemy combatant" who could take up arms against U.S. forces. The administration has not disclosed its plans for Mr. Hamdan."

This is what's wrong with the Bush administration.

Palin Doesn't Understand the First Amendment

ABC News reports Palin Fears Media Threaten Her First Amendment Rights.

"In a conservative radio interview that aired in Washington, D.C. Friday morning, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by 'attacks' from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama.

'If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations,' Palin told host Chris Plante, 'then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media.'"

The first amendment is only 45 words long, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Her comments are moron as It protects the people and press from the government, not the other way around.

1. She is not protected from criticism from the press
2. The press is protected to say anything they want, particularly about government officials
3. NAACP v. Alabama interpreted the constitution to include a freedom to associate based on the first amendment rights of speech, assembly and petition (I had to bring it up in discussion of McCain's nomination acceptance speech). I wonder if Palin as an elected governor could be violating Obama's right of association?

This woman is not even qualified for her current government position, let alone that of Vice President.

Bush's Last Push To Deregulate

The Washington Post reports A Last Push To Deregulate.

"The White House is working to enact a wide array of federal regulations, many of which would weaken government rules aimed at protecting consumers and the environment, before President Bush leaves office in January.

The new rules would be among the most controversial deregulatory steps of the Bush era and could be difficult for his successor to undo. Some would ease or lift constraints on private industry, including power plants, mines and farms.

Those and other regulations would help clear obstacles to some commercial ocean-fishing activities, ease controls on emissions of pollutants that contribute to global warming, relax drinking-water standards and lift a key restriction on mountaintop coal mining.

Once such rules take effect, they typically can be undone only through a laborious new regulatory proceeding, including lengthy periods of public comment, drafting and mandated reanalysis."

It's not uncommon for presidents to push through many of these before leaving office. Apparently Clinton did this too, but his administration procrastinated and many didn't get done in time or were still in process. Bush's first day, many of Clinton's proposals were stopped. So Bush is not making the same mistaking and is trying to get stuff through by tomorrow. There are 60 and 30 day congressional review periods for some of these so Nov 20th and Dec 20th are some deadlines on them.

I find the following unbelievable...

"One rule, being pursued over some opposition within the Environmental Protection Agency, would allow current emissions at a power plant to match the highest levels produced by that plant, overturning a rule that more strictly limits such emission increases. According to the EPA's estimate, it would allow millions of tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually, worsening global warming. A related regulation would ease limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants near national parks. A third rule would allow increased emissions from oil refineries, chemical factories and other industrial plants with complex manufacturing operations."

Let's just make sure we kill the planet before we get out of office.

Antarctica Is Melting Too

"Antarctica, which seemed to have largely escaped the global warming affecting the rest of the planet, is melting too, according to a study."

"Rather than covering the entire Arctic and Antarctic regions, as previous studies have done, they focused only on the grid points where precise measurements have been taken. This made their climate models more accurate, and showed that observed changes in temperatures over the 20th century could only have occurred if the impact of industrial greenhouse gas emissions, and upper atmosphere ozone depletion, are taken into account. "

Heath Ledger?

Given the name of this blog I get a lot of hits for people looking for some celebrities favorite something. Of the last 500 hits to this blog, 228 came from people searching googling for something. A good one today was "darth vader's favorite food". Seems like an odd thing to search for but if you do, google that, this blog gets the number one hit! For the record, 5 visitors were looking for John McCain's favorite color and 3 were looking for Barack Obama's.

What really surprises me is that 24 of those 228 searches were looking for something about Heath Ledger; his favorite food, color, things to do, sport, etc. Why is Ledger still so popular?

Obama And Maddow

tristero does a pretty good job describing the Obama Interview by Rachel Maddow last night.

Bill Kristol on The Daily Show

Jon Steward had Bill Kristol on The Daily Show last night and it was their typical interview. It's pretty good though Kristol started out going for the jokes and didn't say much he believed. At the end he started suggesting that all the stuff that the medias talks about (and that he's brought up) isn't a reason to vote for either candidate and that neither is as bad as the other side makes them out and "it's just an election". At the end Jon said this and I loved it:

"I have great fondness and affection for John McCain. I would have voted for him if he had made it, against Gore, quite frankly, in 2000. The guy I see right now putting air quotes around women's health and doing all the things that he does, I don't know what that is. And if that's a strategy that's disingenuous from how he really thinks, then my opinion of him is even lower. And that's my bigger concern you seem to be saying look Obama's not a radical, he's not a socialist, we're just calling him that to trick people so that they get scared and then they'll do it. That's the thing I get saddest about."

Here's the whole interview:

and if you're worried if Jon will remain funny in an Obama administration, this segment should allay your fears.

Updated: Why did the chicken cross the road?

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either for us or against us. There is no middle road here.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

SARAH PALIN: Where's MY gun? That chicken's got no choice! "

More here.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another Crazy Dubai Building Going Up

"Anar the tower will have 125 floors and will reach a height of about 700 meters...The tower will be marked by gardens in height every 27 floors. These gardens will be located on a large platform that will unite the two nuclei of the tower around the shaft. The tower will be topped by a large empty circle, in the center of which is located a glass capsule sustained by 3 arms and giving the appearance of being a large wind turbine. That capsule will contain a restaurant with panoramic views over the Sheik Zayed Road, the most important avenue of Dubai."
Anara1 1.jpg

Chickens, Hatching, Counting

Kevin Drum writes about Transitions. "The best-kept secret in Washington is that Barack Obama has the largest and most disciplined presidential transition team anyone can recall. Headed by John Podesta, former chief of staff in Bill Clinton's White House, it started work well before the financial meltdown hit in September but has been swamped by its implications ever since."

And the AP reports that Rep Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) is up for chief of staff.

The Battle Over CA Prop 5

I hadn't heard anything about this before, but Arianna Huffington's The Battle Over CA Prop 5: Special Interests Overwhelming the Public Interest is an eye-opening story. Just how is it that the prison guard union "holds the key to the California statehouse"?

Wine Flavor Visualization

Wine Flavor Visualization "What is the relationship between wine varieties and flavor components? This visualization attempts to show the strength of these relationships. I culled descriptive flavor words from over 5,000 published wine tasting notes written between 1995-2000 in a major Australian wine magazine"

Appeals Courts Pushed to Right by Bush Choices

One of the reasons liberals use to describe the importance of this election and why independents should choose Obama is to keep balance on the Supreme Court. That's certainly true and the Supreme Court gets most of the attention of the press and this blog, but it's not the only important court.

The New York Times reported Appeals Courts Pushed to Right by Bush Choices.

"Republican-appointed judges, most of them conservatives, are projected to make up about 62 percent of the bench next Inauguration Day, up from 50 percent when Mr. Bush took office. They control 10 of the 13 circuits, while judges appointed by Democrats have a dwindling majority on just one circuit." W. appointed 61 judges, Clinton 65. The federal courts are even more important since the Supreme Court is only taking about 75 cases a year, about half as many as it used to. Roberts talked about increasing that number but it hasn't happened yet.

The story that leads off the article makes the point perfectly:

"After a group of doctors challenged a South Dakota law forcing them to inform women that abortions “terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being” — using exactly that language — President Bush’s appointees to the federal appeals courts took control. A federal trial judge, stating that whether a fetus is human life is a matter of debate, had blocked the state from enforcing the 2005 law as a likely violation of doctors’ First Amendment rights. And an appeals court panel had upheld the injunction. But this past June, the full United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit voted 7 to 4 to overrule those decisions and allow the statute to take immediate effect. The majority argued that it is objectively true that human life begins at conception, and that the state can force doctors to say so."

"In the case of the 2005 South Dakota abortion law, the dissenters — including two Democratic appointees, a Reagan appointee, and a Bush appointee — portrayed the court’s decision as a sharp change in direction. The majority, they contended, had not only bypassed “important principles of constitutional law laid down by the Supreme Court” but also violated the appeals court’s established standards for issuing preliminary injunctions."

"Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, has promised to appoint judges in the same ideological mold as Mr. Bush did, while Senator Barack Obama, a Democrat, has said he will select judges with greater “empathy” for the disadvantaged."

"An Obama victory could roll back the Republican advantage on the appeals courts and even create a Democratic majority by 2013, according to a study of potential vacancies by Russell Wheeler of the Brookings Institution. But if Mr. McCain wins, Republicans could achieve commanding majorities on all 13 circuits."

Christian Science Monitor to End Daily Publication

When I started this sabbatical I restarted my Boston Globe subscription, the paper kind. I was hopping to use it to find things to do around town. That didn't really happen. My brain is so trained to skip over the ads I missed a lot. And looking through the calendar section was painful, too many listings to find just the good stuff. The articles were ok, but as you might have guessed, I get a lot of news by reading blogs and seeing links to articles. What I found in the paper was yesterday's news. About the only thing I regularly did was the sudoku and I still like it better on paper than any of the software versions I've seen (taking notes in the boxes is too cumbersome in most).

So last friday was my last issue and of course that's the day they did a new design of the paper. Nope, I didn't change my mind, even with the color comics every day (it only took about 100 years for this to happen). And of course I can still read it online, though I find scanning a newspaper's site for interesting articles, harder than scanning a paper page. Today I sent them email about all the issues I have with the design of their front page (among other things, why are obituaries above national and world news?)

The news Tuesday was that the Christian Science Monitor will end daily publication of their paper edition and exist solely online, well they'll have a weekend paper edition, I wonder how long that will last. It only makes sense that we start delivering information via the internet instead of dripping ink on dead trees each day and trucking them around. The hard part is figuring out the business model for reporting. NPR's On Point did a good episode on the topic yesterday.

We need reporters covering local things and some covering national things and some doing investigative work. We don't need a movie reviewer at every paper though we need people covering local arts events. Local sports coverage too (that's schools and the local pro teams), but how many need to cover national events like tennis, golf, etc. Ideally I'd like to see something like the Huffington Post where different people post on different topics and over time some build up good reputations. But I want a site that's easy to navigate, to find new things that I'm interested in and weed out the stuff I'm not, that means good metadata and good ways to use it. It still annoys me that there's no easy way to say read everything in this blog except the political stuff. I also want this on event sites. I don't want to see just music, I want to see everything but music, or more precisely lots of things but none of the bands playing at college bars and clubs that fill up all the listings.

Hmmm, I guess this needs more design...

... every second

so many a second is a cool visualization of "mondial statistics" and while I can't find out what that means (someone tell me please), I think it's events that happen per second. The animation can show 9 computers sold a second, or 1.6 cars produced per second or 3 supernovas per second, all by showing small icons of these things falling down the screen. Pretty cool.

Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth

Magnetic Portals Connect Sun and Earth.

"During the time it takes you to read this article, something will happen high overhead that until recently many scientists didn't believe in. A magnetic portal will open, linking Earth to the sun 93 million miles away. Tons of high-energy particles may flow through the opening before it closes again, around the time you reach the end of the page.

'It's called a flux transfer event or 'FTE,'' says space physicist David Sibeck of the Goddard Space Flight Center. 'Ten years ago I was pretty sure they didn't exist, but now the evidence is incontrovertible.'

Indeed, today Sibeck is telling an international assembly of space physicists at the 2008 Plasma Workshop in Huntsville, Alabama, that FTEs are not just common, but possibly twice as common as anyone had ever imagined."

Apparently they appear every 8 minutes. Huh.

Economist Endorses Obama

The Economist writes Barack Obama should be the next president of America. Given their extreme focus on free trade, I thought they might go McCain.

"For all the shortcomings of the campaign, both John McCain and Barack Obama offer hope of national redemption. Now America has to choose between them. The Economist does not have a vote, but if it did, it would cast it for Mr Obama. We do so wholeheartedly: the Democratic candidate has clearly shown that he offers the better chance of restoring America’s self-confidence. But we acknowledge it is a gamble. Given Mr Obama’s inexperience, the lack of clarity about some of his beliefs and the prospect of a stridently Democratic Congress, voting for him is a risk. Yet it is one America should take, given the steep road ahead."

Here are their past endorsements.

Court Greatly Limits Software And Business Method Patents

Techdirt reports, Court Greatly Limits Software And Business Method Patents:

"The summary is that the court has said that there's a two-pronged test to determine whether a software of business method process patent is valid: (1) it is tied to a particular machine or apparatus, or (2) it transforms a particular article into a different state or thing. In other words, pure software or business method patents that are neither tied to a specific machine nor change something into a different state are not patentable. That means a significant number of software and business method patents are about to disappear, freeing up many industries to be much more innovative -- at a time when that's desperately needed."

This sounds like really good news as the software world was getting buried with crazy, not particularly innovative patents.

Two Quick Scary Movie Reviews

Seen on cable this week:

I Am Legend is the Will Smith remake of Omega Man from last December. The reviews were right. It started off very good, painting a really nice view of this lonely last man on earth existence while flashing back to how it all happened. Then it turned not very good after the ... well you'll know the event when it happens. I think the problem is that this kind of film can only end two different ways. Well three if you count how Children of Men did it. So setting the atmosphere is the good part and the ending isn't.

Splinter is something different. While I don't usually go for horror films, this was getting good reviews and had a free screening on HDNET before it's release next week. This is really well done man vs. monster story. It's set up intelligently, has lots of tension and squirmy moments with an appropriate amount of blood. This isn't torture porn, it's closer to The Thing with people held up at a rural gas station with a creature trying to kill them. No one does anything stupid and it really worked. At this point, this film would probably just make my top ten list for the year.

McCain Campaign is Age Profiling Supporters

Another reason to not vote for McCain. His staffers believe its okay to pre-emtively throw out supporters from a campaign event based on how they look to untrained staffers. Imagine how much worse your airport experience will be in a McCain administration. Pre-emptive ejection: Audience members removed at McCain rally in Cedar Falls.

"‘When I started talking to them, it kind of became clear that they were kind of just telling people to leave that they thought maybe would be disruptive, but based on what? Based on how they looked,’ Elborno said. ‘It was pretty much all young people, the college demographic.’

Elborno said even McCain supporters were among those being asked to leave.

‘I saw a couple that had been escorted out and they were confused as well, and the girl was crying, so I said ‘Why are you crying? and she said ‘I already voted for McCain, I’m a Republican, and they said we had to leave because we didn’t look right,’’ Elborno said. ‘They were handpicking these people and they had nothing to go off of, besides the way the people looked.’

50 Best Inventions 2008

Time has The 50 Best Inventions 2008.

Hubble Working Again

5CE8976F-1468-4A49-BC4E-ECC53130711E.jpg"NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is back in business. Just a couple of days after the orbiting observatory was brought back online, Hubble aimed its prime working camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), at a particularly intriguing target, a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147. The image demonstrated that the camera is working exactly as it was before going offline, thereby scoring a 'perfect 10' both for performance and beauty."

The Simpsons Spoof The Mad Men Intro

It's official, I can't wait for this years Treehouse of Horror episode. The Simpsons Spoof The Mad Men Intro.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Alarming Sex Assault Rate Found Among Vets

CBS Evening News reports Records Show 1 In 7 Female Iraq And Afghanistan Veterans Treated By The VA Suffered Sexual Trauma

"'Women serving in the military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than to be killed by enemy fire in Iraq,' [Rep. Jane Harman, D-CA] said. And women who suffer sexual trauma are more likely to develop medical and mental problems. Studies show it ranks high - or higher - than combat as a cause of post-traumatic stress disorder. "

Obama's Great New Ad

How To Vote

The first time I voted in MA in 1988 I was surprised by the antiquated punch card machines. Previously in NY and PA I had used lever voting machines. In fact I probably would have been confused by the punch cards if the previous week's episode of LA Law hadn't included a segment teaching Benny how to vote with one. Yes, Benny taught me how to vote in MA.

Now there are all kinds of machines but they might not be the problem you face when trying to vote. With election day less than a week away, it's time to cover some of the basics about voting in these modern times.

FindLaw wrote: Eight Years After Bush v. Gore, Why is There Still So Much Election Litigation and What Does This Mean for Voter Confidence in the Electoral Process?

"We haven't made some important changes in election laws that should have been made soon after Florida 2000, and some of the post-2000 changes that were put into place have actually made things worse. Add to that some very heated partisan rhetoric about voter suppression and voter fraud, and we have the recipe for continued legal battles over election administration. These battles are troubling, as they undermine voter confidence in the process, and pose a small, but serious, risk of election meltdown in the case of a close election."

What follows has some interesting figures but I'm not sure about his brief suggestions. I don't know how a standardized federal ballot would help. It would only apply for president since even for congress each state would need it's own candidates listed. I would like to see easier registration and standardized voting systems.

So in spite of all the GOP hype about ACORN it's really not a voter fraud problem. Yes, they paid low wages to help get people registered and some of their employees decided to cheat by trying to register lots of fake names. The thing is, it's unlikely that Mickey Mouse will try to vote on November 4th, so it won't change the election and therefore isn't voter fraud.

But the Republicans aren't stopping with complaining about ACORN. In order to limit voter turnout, they are working to purge voters from registrations for technicalities like slight misspellings of names or addresses or the presence or absence of middle initials (which often are the result of typing mistakes). The problem is, people who have been registered for years might not know they were purged and come to the polls and not be allowed to vote. Daily Kos reported that 13 million voters have been purged.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast explain this extensively in Block the Vote. A lot of this is based on yet another law whose name is the opposite of what it does, in this case the Help America Vote Act (HAVA):

"But from the start, HAVA was corrupted by the involvement of Republican superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, who worked to cram the bill with favors for his clients. (Both Abramoff and a primary author of HAVA, former Rep. Bob Ney, were imprisoned for their role in the conspiracy.) In practice, many of the "reforms" created by HAVA have actually made it harder for citizens to cast a ballot and have their vote counted. In case after case, Republican election officials at the local and state level have used the rules to give GOP candidates an edge on Election Day by creating new barriers to registration, purging legitimate names from voter rolls, challenging voters at the polls and discarding valid ballots."

"To justify this battery of new voting impediments, Republicans cite an alleged upsurge in voting fraud. Indeed, the U.S.-attorney scandal that resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales began when the White House fired federal prosecutors who resisted political pressure to drum up nonexistent cases of voting fraud against Democrats. "They wanted some splashy pre-election indictments that would scare these alleged hordes of illegal voters away," says David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney for New Mexico who was fired in December 2006. "We took over 100 complaints and investigated for almost two years — but I didn't find one prosecutable case of voter fraud in the entire state of New Mexico.""

Next Tuesday if someone tells you can't vote, what are you supposed to do? Use your cellphone to call 1-866-OUR-VOTE right from the polling site. They have trained volunteers ready to help. Don't accept a provisional ballot unless you have no other choice since they often aren't counted.

There's also Video the Vote. They have volunteers ready to go and video voting problems reported to them to document issues and raise awareness. They already have many videos including this demo of a WV voting machine that was malfunctioning even during the demo.

Desktop Factory: 3D Printer for $5,000!

Desktop Factory will soon ship a 3D printer for $5,000. 3D printers create a physical model of an object from a software model. They're great for prototypes of parts. The "ink" will apparently cost $1/inch3 and the printer can print a model up to 5 inches cubed.

iPhone Gets Free Wi-Fi from AT&T

"FREE AT&T Wi-Fi access is now available for Apple iPhone at thousands of hotspots nationwide, including Starbucks."

I guess they need to do whatever they can to get people off their fledgling 3G network.

And just last week I got a starbucks card to set this up under the old system.

Short Films by Nacho Vigalondo

Odd coincidences. Yesterday I was talking to a loyal reader about good French films and remembered Timecrimes which I inexcusably haven't reviewed yet even though I saw it in March and loved it. What's worse, it's not French as I remember but Spanish and it's not been released here (I saw it as part of the IFF Boston) and it's not on DVD yet.

Today, without prompting, another loyal reader, who I happened to see Timecrimes with, pointed me at 7:35 de la manana on YouTube, a short by the same director, Nacho Vigalondo. Watching it I remembered seeing this short before. It was nominated for a Best Live Action Short oscar and in my quest to see all nominated films, I must have seen this one. It's really effective and worth a watch:

Now I have to make it through his other shorts on YouTube which are conveniently also on YouTube and linked from the above. Enjoy.

Update: So not all have english subtitles. Here's one that does: Choque. He's really great at creating odd misunderstood tension.

Mars Phoenix Losing an Arm, Going On Life Support

Gizmodo reports on a space tragedy, Mars Phoenix Losing an Arm, Going On Life Support

"The Mars Phoenix, as planned, is shutting down major systems to offset its diminished solar power collection during the Martian winter. The little robot, which - nay, who — has been making monumental discoveries on the Red Planet for nearly six months is not expected to wake up come Spring."

"Also according to plan, the Phoenix is diligently Twittering its last days, adding a poignant, cinematic element to the whole ordeal. To the Phoenix, I say we're right there with you, buddy. To NASA, I say STOP PERSONIFYING YOUR ROBOTS, IT ONLY LEADS TO PAIN."

The article has several of the recent tweets which I've been following on Twitter.

Google and NASA Working on an Interplanetary Internet

I knew Vint Cerf was working on bringing the Internet to space. Universe Today, Google and NASA are Working on an Interplanetary Internet, has some info about it, though I wouldn't call it details.

"The Interplanetary Internet project is primarily about developing a set of communication standards and technical specifications to support rich networking in space environments,' Cerf added. This all sounds very interesting, but the challenges with building such a system require some novel techniques. How do you deal with the limitation of the speed of light? After all, it can take light 40 minutes to travel to-and-from Mars, and up to 12 hours to Pluto and back. How do you cater for planetary rotation? The transmitters/receivers won't always be on the correct side of the planet. What happens if a satellite signal is blocked by a planet, the Sun or a moon? Vint Cerf says the disruption of data transmission has to be confronted with a delay- and disruption-tolerant networking system, otherwise known as DTN."

In a semi-related story, apparently we're getting really good at satellite communications. Physorg reports Satellites approach the Shannon limit. "Satellites are achieving unparalleled efficiency with a new protocol, DVB-S2. The performance of DVB-S2 satellite systems is very close to the theoretical maximum, defined by the Shannon Limit. That efficiency could be pushed even further by network optimisation tools and equipment recently developed by European researchers."

Christopher Nolan Analyzes His Favorite Dark Knight Scene

Christopher Nolan revisits and analyzes his favorite scene in 'Dark Knight'. It's the interrogation scene between Joker and Batman and yeah it was great.

Palin Pipeline Terms Curbed Bids

The AP reports Palin pipeline terms curbed bids. "Gov. Sarah Palin's signature accomplishment — a contract to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48 — emerged from a flawed bidding process that narrowed the field to a company with ties to her administration, an Associated Press investigation shows."

Yep, most qualified person to be VP and definitely a Maverick and energy expert.

People in the Middle for Obama by Errol Morris

Documentary film great Errol Morris put together People in the Middle for Obama. "Between the far right and extreme left are people in the 'middle' –
common-sense Americans, of all political affiliations, who are more
concerned with the issues facing our Country than strict partisan
ideology. In this election, like most others, it's these people who will
ultimately choose our next leader. 'People in the Middle for Obama', a grass-roots campaign that launches today, gives these people a voice."

Synchronized Presidential Debating

Synchronized Presidential Debating is a compilation of lines that the candidates said multiple times in the debates. Some are taking it as proof as all the debates were the same. It's good that their statistics stayed the same and it shouldn't count when they are saying a proper name of an organization; but I still think this is pretty funny...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Palin Effect

Talking Points Memo's The Palin Effect is an interactive graphic showing conservative pundits and newspapers that have endorsed Obama, listing the pick of Palin as VP as reason. "Of the 70 odd conservative politicians, pundits and newspapers that have turned from McCain to endorse Obama this fall, 38 of them have cited Palin as a significant contributor to the decision. Hover over for quotes, and click on the pictures for links."

The New Alaska Senator Is...

So say convicted felon Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) wins his reelection next week but has to go to prison and can't serve his term. It would be up to the governor of Alaska to appoint a replacement Senator. Assuming Obama wins, would Palin appoint herself? Back in July, the New York Times speculated on just this happening.

Obama Interview

Here's a really good Obama Interview from a few days ago. He even read Michael Pollan's Oct 9th article in the New York Times on how to improve our food system.

Astronauts To Vote From Space

Astronauts To Vote From Space. Apparently a 1997 Texas law lets Texas resident astronauts (most live in Houston) vote from space.

"A secure electronic ballot, generated by the Harris and Brazoria County Clerk's office, is uplinked by NASA's Johnson Space Center Mission Control Center. An e-mail with crew member-specific credentials is sent from the County Clerk to the crew member. These credentials allow the crew member to access the secure ballot. The astronauts will cast their votes and a secure completed ballot is downlinked and delivered back to the County Clerk’s Office by e-mail to be officially recorded. "

Court Rules Computer Hashes are Searches

No this isn't a court screwing up the distinction between two software concepts. This is about using software hashes to conduct a legal search that would need a warrant.

The Volokh Conspiracy writes District Court Holds that Running Hash Values on Computer Is A Search. It goes into details of how the search process happened. Agents made hashes of all the files and then compared them to hashes of known child porn and found a match. The argument is, since they didn't look at the files it wasn't a search.

It's an interesting case but it seems rather simple to me. First off, to create a hash they (or rather software) had to read the file. But really I think this is missing forest for the trees. They went through a process, before the process they didn't know what was on the computer, after the process they knew something about what was on the computer. That's a search.

Credit Default Swaps in 11 Minutes

Untangling credit default swaps

"Marketplace Senior Editor Paddy Hirsch is back with the second of his Crisis Explainer videos. This time he goes to the whiteboard to make the complicated world of credit default swaps easier to understand."

Microsoft to Compete with Google Docs

Microsoft to Extend Office to the Browser: "As part of the next release of Office, we’re announcing that Microsoft will deliver Office Web applications - lightweight versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote - through a browser. With these new applications, people can use a browser to create, edit, and collaborate on Office documents. What’s great is that this provides a consistent Office experience when and where our customers want it, regardless of whether they are accessing their Office documents through the PC, phone, or browser."

3D Images of Mars

If you have 3D glasses here are a collection of 3D images from the Mars Lander.

Today Only: Free CrossOver for Mac/Linux

CodeWeavers makes commercialized versions of Wine, a free software project that allows Windows software to be run on Mac/Linux. From wikipedia:

"In July 2008, CodeWeavers launched the Great American Lame Duck Presidential Challenge to encourage President Bush to make the most of his remaining days in office by accomplishing a major economic or political goal by January 20, 2009. The goals focused on President Bush making specific positive accomplishments in areas such as the economy, home values, the stock market, the war on terror and other key issues. Specifically, one goal called for President Bush to help bring down average gasoline prices in the Twin Cities to $2.79 a gallon. On Monday, October 14, gas prices in Minneapolis and St. Paul did just that. Codeweavers were true to their word, and on October 28 a combination of Slashdot and Digg took down their website as people rushed to get the free software. According to Codeweavers, "You will be able to unlock your serial number that was emailed to you for an extended time, (an additional 48 hours), due to this downtime. We will simply stop giving out new serial numbers at 23:59 (Midnight) Central Standard Time."

Download the softare here. I've never used it so I don't know anything about it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

How We Made Our Face Recognizer 25x Faster

How We Made Our Face Recognizer 25x Faster is an interesting post on optimizing loops to avoid cache bottlenecks.

How This Bear Market Compares

Nice interactive NY TImes graphic on How This Bear Market Compares.

"Joe the Plumber" Database Snooping Under Investigation

Welcome to 1984: "Joe the Plumber" database snooping under investigation.

"In the days following the debate, The Columbus Dispatch reported this weekend, Wurzelbacher's file at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles was accessed three times. The information requests came from accounts associated with the office of the state attorney general, the Toledo Police Department, and the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency. The attorney general's office has said, however, that the request did not come from their office, but from a 'test account' used by their IT division and shared with other law enforcement agencies."

McCain officials were quick to blame Obama supporters, I assume by just making stuff up.

"Earlier this year, the passport records of Obama, McCain, and several other prominent public officials were improperly accessed by State Department employees and contractors. While two were fired over the incident, investigators appear to have concluded that the improper queries were the result of prurient curiosity rather than any effort to mount a political attack."

Another Mad Men Q & A

Here's another interesting Matthew Weiner Q & A about Mad Men season two. The finale was last night and it was great.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Watch the election results with Bruce Schneier

I don't really know how this will work but Making Light blog will have Bruce Schneier on election night, blogging about the results as they come in. Schneier is a security expert and cryptographer.

Whedon on Dollhouse

What happened when the lights went out is Joss Whedon's (of Buffy and Firefly) description of the state of his upcoming series Dollhouse. I'm skeptically hopeful.

Beyond the Dow

The Boston Globe today had an article explaining some market indexes beyond the Dow, like the TED, VIX and BDI.

Anchorage Daily News For Obama

The Anchorage Daily News Endorses Obama.

"Gov. Palin's nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency -- but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation. Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand. The same cannot be said of Sen. McCain."

But this is as good an explanation as I've seen:

"Sen. McCain describes himself as a maverick, by which he seems to mean that he spent 25 years trying unsuccessfully to persuade his own party to follow his bipartisan, centrist lead. Sadly, maverick John McCain didn't show up for the campaign. Instead we have candidate McCain, who embraces the extreme Republican orthodoxy he once resisted and cynically asks Americans to buy for another four years. It is Sen. Obama who truly promises fundamental change in Washington. You need look no further than the guilt-by-association lies and sound-bite distortions of the degenerating McCain campaign to see how readily he embraces the divisive, fear-mongering tactics of Karl Rove. And while Sen. McCain points to the fragile success of the troop surge in stabilizing conditions in Iraq, it is also plain that he was fundamentally wrong about the more crucial early decisions. Contrary to his assurances, we were not greeted as liberators; it was not a short, easy war; and Americans -- not Iraqi oil -- have had to pay for it. It was Sen. Obama who more clearly saw the danger ahead."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stephen Hawking to Retire From Prestigious Post

Stephen Hawking to retire from prestigious post.

"Cosmologist Stephen Hawking will retire from his prestigious post at Cambridge University next year, but intends to continue his exploration of time and space. Hawking, 66, is Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, a title once held by the great 18th century physicist Isaac Newton. The university said Friday that he would step down at the end of the academic year in September, but would continue working as Emeritus Lucasian Professor of Mathematics. "

The reason seems to be university imposed mandatory retirement from the post at 67. He's been in the position since 1979, that will be 30 years long.

John McCain Lying About Social Security

In Social Security Alt.Universe Josh Marshall rips apart McCain's comments to Wolf Blitzer about social security as being completely fabricated. Paul Krugman as a little more on the matter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Movie Review: W.

I saw Oliver Stone's W. last Sunday. Avoid this film, it's 2 hours and 11 minutes you won't get back and won't get much out of. It's real problem is that it can't figure out what it wants to be. It's a speculative biography, with actors who look very much like their real life counterparts but who speak in cliched lines sprinkled with quotes you've heard them say in other contexts. They're imitations not portrayals. It's not a parody and it's not particularly funny. It's not an attack piece as you might expect; it's actually pretty tame.

Bush is shown as incompetent at most things and a horrible leader of people who has no clue what's happening in his administration. He just assume things are fine until he finds out they aren't. Given that you only see the other characters in scenes with W. you never get the sense that they're particularly competent either. I mean Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rove are evil-masterminds right? They've systematically come up with ways that unraveled our nation. You only ever see them placating Bush.

Ebert's totally wrong on this one. It's not worth watching it for free on cable.

US Drops Charges Against Five Detainees, Keeps Them in Prison

This is strange. Here's an AP story from 2 days ago by Andrew O. Selsky, US Drops Charges Against Five Detainees. It starts as follows:

"The Pentagon said Tuesday it has dropped war-crimes charges against five Guantanamo Bay detainees after the former prosecutor in their cases complained that the military was withholding evidence helpful to the defense.

None of the men will be freed, and the military said it could reinstate charges later.

America's first war-crimes trials since the close of World War II have come under persistent criticism, including from officers appointed to prosecute them. Some of the harshest words came this month from the very man who was to prosecute the five men against whom charges were dropped.

Army Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld said during a pretrial hearing for a sixth detainee this month that the war-crimes trials are unfair. Vandeveld said the military was withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense in that case, and was doing so in others. He resigned over his concerns.

But the chief Guantanamo prosecutor, Army Col. Lawrence Morris, said Tuesday's announcement was unrelated to Vandeveld's accusations. He said the charges were dismissed because evidence "is being more thoroughly analyzed." He would not elaborate on the nature of the evidence but said the review began before Vandeveld's testimony.

"Rather than refine the current charges, it was more efficient and more just to have them dismissed and charge them anew," he told The Associated Press.

In addition, dismissing the charges allows to Pentagon to avoid deadlines set by the Military Commissions Act to bring the men to trial.

"The way to stop the clock and get a new clock is to dismiss the charges and start again," said Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor who quit in October and later testified about alleged political interference in the military trials."

Ok, it's enough to say that this is sickeningly Kafkaesque. But I first saw article from a post by digby. As is often the case, I follow the link and don't just trust the quoted text, though digby is usually reliable, in this case I was looking for more info. But instead I found less info, here's the article she points to, also by Andrew O. Selsky from two days ago; but notice the text is now quite different, with a different beginning and no statements about "restarting the clock". It's also here at google's AP site. Did the AP change this article after it was published? Why?!?!

Sharpies Are Reusable For Marking Surgery Sites

Here's something different, X marks the spot: Sharpies get thumbs-up for marking surgery sites.

"It's standard practice for the surgeon or their designate, (in consultation with the patient when possible), to mark the operative/invasive site using a marking pen before an operation, a precaution to ensure surgeons cut the correct spot. But there was concern that germs would be spread from one patient to the next, so it has also become common procedure to throw away the marker each time, costing thousands of dollars a year."

"After recapping the markers and letting them sit for 24 hours, Burton and Forgie found that the sterile, one-use marker, which has a non-alcohol-base ink, was still contaminated. But the Sharpies® were not."

It turns out the Sharpies' ink has an alcohol base that probably keeps it sterile.

7 Wii Tricks Nintendo Doesn't Tell You

7 Wii Tricks Nintendo Doesn't Tell You isn't anything amazing, but a few were kinda interesting.

NYT Endorses Obama

The New York Times writes Barack Obama for President. Shocker I know.

"Mr. Obama has met challenge after challenge, growing as a leader and putting real flesh on his early promises of hope and change. He has shown a cool head and sound judgment. We believe he has the will and the ability to forge the broad political consensus that is essential to finding solutions to this nation’s problems.

In the same time, Senator John McCain of Arizona has retreated farther and farther to the fringe of American politics, running a campaign on partisan division, class warfare and even hints of racism. His policies and worldview are mired in the past. His choice of a running mate so evidently unfit for the office was a final act of opportunism and bad judgment that eclipsed the accomplishments of 26 years in Congress."

One Wasillian's Opinion of Sarah Palin...Pretty Accurate

Back on Sep 3 I wrote One Wasillian's Opinion of Sarah Palin pointing to a letter by Anne Kilkenny. It became very popular and was sent all around these Internets. Now has given their take on her accuracy. It's pretty good.

"Overall, Kilkenny's facts are more right than not, and we found no real whoppers. Still, we feel obliged to remind our readers that, as we've warned previously, chain e-mails are almost always replete with deceptions. This one, which is both more accurate and less sensational than most, is an exception."

The Map of GOP Sleaze

TPM has The Map of GOP Sleaze. "John McCain is running a sleaze-fest of a campaign. The symptoms include (but are not limited to) robocalls saying Obama 'worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers,' (ringing in at least 9 states) and mailers proclaiming it's 'shocking, but true' that Obama is against medical care for babies born in botched abortions. ... We bring you the state by state on GOP robocalls and mailers."

D O T S iPhone Gloves

Interesting idea.... D O T S "Perfect for winter usage and keeping touchscreen devices smudge-free, New York-made Dots Gloves offers simple affordable gloves adorned with metal dots enabling use of iPhone, iPod and other touchscreen phones and devices without direct finger contact. The dots' smooth curved surface provides safe scratchless use."

Ron Howard Wants You To Vote Obama

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die

What If The Whole World Could Vote

The Economist has set up a site where anyone in the world can cast a Vote for Obama or McCain. They've setup a Global Electoral College giving each country a number of electorial votes. It's currently a landslide, 8,954 for Obama and just 180 for McCain. Only 5 countries are voting for McCain: Cuba, Sudan, Congo, Macedonia, and Georgia.

PodCast Awards

Didn't know about the PodCastAwards. I've only listened to 3 of them and only heard of 2 more. Looks like a list of interesting stuff to try.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Iqua Vizor SUN

I saw the Iqua Vizor SUN in a package at the Apple Store today.

VizorSUN_big 1.jpg

It seems like a pretty clever product. It's handsfree bluetooth phone kit for a car. I assume it works with an iPhone or with any compatible bluetooth phone, as a cordless headset, allowing handsfree talk via speaker phone and voice dialing. Well it needs a phone that can do voice dialing for that and the iPhone doesn't. And there are buttons to push to answer, end, and reject a call, as well as for redial and volume so that's not really "handsfree" but still.

The clever part is that it clips to your car sun visor and works off solar power. No batteries and no cord running to a cigarette lighter. Well there is a corded charger and it's needed for the first charge and when the battery is empty, but other than that, the solar charging should work and give unlimited talk time.

It's about $100 and is new enough that I don't see any reviews other than this announcement from smartplanet.

Battlestar Galactica - New Season Intro?

Let's hope this isn't the infro to the new season...

Hollywood Director Attack Ads

The third one is the best...

John Woo (I think), Kevin Smith, Wes Anderson,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My Current Desktop Wallpaper

From Astronomy Picture of the Day August 25, 2006, Blue Lagoon.

lagoon_croman_stars 1.jpg

More good images can be found here.

Bush Punts on Guantánamo

The New York Times reports Bush Decides to Keep Guantánamo Open. "Despite his stated desire to close the American prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, President Bush has decided not to do so, and never considered proposals drafted in the State Department and the Pentagon that outlined options for transferring the detainees elsewhere, according to senior administration officials."

Palin Still Doesn't Know What VP Does

Palin Claims The Vice President Is 'In Charge Of The U.S. Senate'

Daily Show: Understanding Real America in Wasilla

In last night's Daily Show, Jon Stewart was seething about Palin's recent comments about how small town America is the real America. He's commented on this before, really we're all part of America. I recommend watching the whole show but my favorite part was Jason Jones' segment: Understanding Real America in Wasilla:

McCain Defends His Campaign Robocalls Again

YouTube - McCain Defends His Campaign Robocalls Again

Is it too much to ask that a journalist reply to McCain's continuous statements that his robocalls asking about Obama and Ayers are completely true by asking:

"He's already described the relationship, even to your face in the third debate, what more do you want? It's clear you're implying he's involved with terrorists and Sen. Obama's robocalls do nothing so sleazy. Mr Ayer's actions were in the 70s and he's now a distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Chicago's 1997 Citizen of the Year and Obama served on a board with him 3 years after that. Independent investigations by various media groups have found no close relationship. Do you have some reason to doubts the facts as presented or are you merely spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt in order to scare voters?"

Monday, October 20, 2008

Can a President Tame the Business Cycle?

The New York TImes asks Can a President Tame the Business Cycle? with a very nice interactive graphic showing 7 economic indicators for all the post-war presidents.

Obama Campaign Suspended Thu-Fri

The Associated Press reports Obama leaving campaign trail to visit grandmother.

"Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama is canceling nearly all his campaign events Thursday and Friday to fly to Hawaii to visit his suddenly ill 85-year-old grandmother, his spokesman said. Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday that Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Payne Dunham, who helped raise him, was released from the hospital late last week. But he said her health had deteriorated 'to the point where her situation is very serious.' Obama was expected to resume campaigning on Saturday, though Gibbs was unsure where."

Bush Breaking Down Church-State Separation

The New York TImes reported on Friday, Bush Aides Say Religious Hiring Doesn't Bar Aid

"In a newly disclosed legal memorandum, the Bush administration says it can bypass laws that forbid giving taxpayer money to religious groups that hire only staff members who share their faith.

The administration, which has sought to lower barriers between church and state through its religion-based initiative offices, made the claim in a 2007 Justice Department memorandum from the Office of Legal Counsel. It was quietly posted on the department’s Web site this week."

The Washington Post has more in, Opinion Casts Light on Secretive Justice Dept. Office.

The Best Cities for Riding Out a Recession

BusinessWeek lists The Best Cities for Riding Out a Recession: Where the Jobs Are. Boston is number six.

The Supreme Court and the Election: What's at Stake

Herman Schwartz in the Nation writes The Supreme Court and the Election: What's at Stake:

National security
Church-state separation
Gay rights
Affirmative action
Electoral issues
First Amendment protection

"Some commentators have suggested that a large Democratic majority in the new Senate could block an extreme nominee. That is wishful thinking. No Supreme Court nominees have been rejected since the bitter fight over Robert Bork in 1987, and Democrats don't want to go through that kind of battle again. Moreover, it is very difficult to block someone solely on ideological grounds, as the Alito and Roberts nominations showed, particularly if the nominee is otherwise qualified and is a smooth performer, like Roberts, at the confirmation hearing. It will be especially difficult to block a female nominee, given the scarcity of women on the Court, and there are many far-right women on the federal courts and elsewhere from which to choose."

Help Change Congress

Lawrence Lessig of Change Congress asks Preparing for CHANGE: Please help "And so I'm asking again: please help us get Members and candidates to take a stand. You can join our 'pester' campaign by clicking here, and we'll make it extremely easy for you to write, or call, or email members or candidates who have not yet taken a stand." My congressman already has.

Apple's Response to MS Commercials

Apple's newest ad, Bean Counter, is all about Microsoft's new commercials. Perhaps unfair, but very funny. See all their ads here.

On Colin Powell Endorsing Barack Obama

On Meet the Press on Sunday Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama.

If you can see the video or don't have time, Daily Kos summed up the points and added "Powell didn't just decimate the McCain campaign rationale, however. Powell also offered up an endorsement of Barack Obama in the strongest possible terms, saying that Obama would be an "exceptional president" and that he had the capacity to be 'transformational'."

Most notable though was Powell making this point on McCain's campaign:

"I'm also troubled by, not what Sen. McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said such things as: "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is: he is not a Muslim. He's a Christian. He's always been a Christian. But the really right answer is: What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer is: No, that's not America. Is there something wrong with some 7-year-old Muslim-American kid believing he or she can be President? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion: he's a Muslim, and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America."

Glenn Greenwald write more on this in Colin Powell condemns the ugliness of the Republican Party

Brad DeLong collected various quotes by John McCain on Colin Powell such as "Well, Colin Powell's one of the most honest men that I've ever known and I admire and respect him enormously, and so obviously I'd take his word for it." He further points out "When the people you say you admire the most--people like John Lewis and Colin Powell--say that your campaign is a sleazy disgrace, it is time to hang it up and drop out."

Chris Wallace Gets Real With McCain

Chris Wallace interviewed John McCain. Here's a clip:

Andrew Sullivan comments on this in Chris Wallace Gets Real.

"Does McCain even understand the insinuations he is putting out there? Or does he understand all too well and want to win anyway? If he wins this way, he will be unable to be president of all Americans. He is delegitimizing his own presidency in advance."

More TED Talks

Now that I'm using a larger monitor it's easier to make my way through TED Talks. Here are two I just listened to. I wasn't that interested in the topics, but the talks are very interesting and the presentation skills demonstrated are tremendous.

Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity. "Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity."

Majora Carter: Greening the ghetto. "In an emotionally charged talk, MacArthur-winning activist Majora Carter details her fight for environmental justice in the South Bronx -- and shows how minority neighborhood suffer most from flawed urban policy."

Financial Crisis for Beginners

The Baseline Scenario is a blog about the financial crisis. They have a good post, the Financial Crisis for Beginners.

"We believe that everyone should be able to understand how the financial crisis came about, what it means for all of us, and what our options are for getting out of it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of all writing about the crisis - including this blog - assumes some familiarity with the world of mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations, credit default swaps, and so on. You’ve probably heard dozens of journalists use these terms without explaining what they means. If you’re confused, this page is for you. Over time, we will be adding more explanations and more links to external sources, so check back for updates. (Some of the explanations on this page are simplified and not 100% accurate; their goal is to explain the key concepts to a general audience.)"

Eight-month delay for LHC

Nature News reported on the accident at the Large Hadron Collider, Eight-month delay for LHC. What strikes me is how enormously huge this project is. When you read about it, it seems like you can grasp what's going on, but as you read further it just gets huger and huger. Here are three paragraphs from the story, with my commentary:

"Officials at CERN, Europe's particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, say that the time is needed to overhaul a sector of the 27-kilometre-long machine, after an electrical failure on 19 September caused some 6 tonnes of ultra-cold liquid helium to leak into its tunnel. A preliminary report issued on 16 October says that as many as 29 of the nearly 10,000 magnets used to guide the accelerator's proton beam will need to be replaced. Further magnets may need to be removed and inspected, and modifications must also be made to prevent future accidents. 'It's a serious incident,' says James Gillies, a spokesman for the laboratory.'

So, 6 tonnes of liquid helium sounds like a big deal. 29 out of 10,000 magnets doesn't sound too bad. Then you read...

"Still, CERN is confident it has the resources to make the repairs. No more than 24 dipole magnets and 5 quadrupole magnets were damaged; CERN has 30 dipole magnets — each weighing 35 tonnes — in reserve, as well as sufficient quadrupoles, says Gillies. Replacement magnets are already being tested in a facility above the buried accelerator tunnel. Nevertheless, Gillies says that the damage will take all of CERN's winter shutdown period to repair. Not including labour and the spares, the work will cost an estimated 100,000 Swiss francs (US$90,000), he says."

Each "magnet" weighs 35 tonnes, which is a metric tonne. So these are just over 77,000 lbs each! Ok, that could take a while to replace. Still I'm picturing these giant cranes lifting these huge magnets and then try to imagine all this happening underground. But then...

"The LHC's superconducting magnets generate enormous fields by circulating huge electrical currents with virtually no resistance. To work correctly, they must be immersed in liquid helium and kept at a temperature of just 1.9 kelvin. During the 19 September test, the accident report says, a weld in a superconducting wire connecting two magnets heated above its operating temperature. That in effect turned the wire into a resistor — causing a massive 8.7 kiloamps of power to arc through the liquid helium and puncture into the surrounding vacuum vessel."

These 77,000 lbs magnets are each immersed in liquid helium at -456.25 degrees Fahrenheit. And the LHC has 10,000 of these!

Adventuring Party Politics

somehedgehog wrote Adventuring Party Politics: The Campaign is Getting Ugly. It's a pretty funny dialog with the presidential campaigners as role-playing (as in D&D) campaigners.

The Ecnomist on the US Election 2008

The Oct 2nd issue of the Economist had a 24 page briefing on the US Election 2008: The battle of hope and experience.

"Will America choose the old hero who favours tax cuts for business and the rich and backed George Bush’s wars? Or the young man who promises health care for all, a swift exit from Iraq and more money for the average worker? As America’s financial system buckles, this ought to be an unlosable election for the Democrats. But it isn’t"

I learned a lot about both candidates.

The Economist will give their endorsement on Nov 1st.

Mccain Evolved From Reluctant Warrior To Interventionist

McClatchy does some of the best political reporting around and does it again in McCain evolved from reluctant warrior to interventionist.

"McCain's apparently ideological shift began after Haiti. His conversion coincided with his becoming president of the New Citizenship Project, a neoconservative advocacy group that was founded in 1994 by columnist Bill Kristol.

The group initiated the Project for A New American Century, led by Kristol and Robert Kagan, a former State Department official who now advises McCain's campaign.

It was a leading voice of neoconservative security policy and an advocate of using force to topple Saddam's and other anti-U.S. regimes. Its founding members included Vice President Cheney, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and other key Bush administration officials who pushed the Iraq invasion.

The committee, whose directors included Randy Scheunemann, now McCain's top foreign-policy adviser, was a key advocate for the 1998 Iraq Liberation Act, which McCain co-sponsored. The act funneled millions of dollars in U.S. aid to Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and other opposition groups, and made "regime change" the U.S. policy"

Jon Stewart to Sarah Palin: 'Fuck You.'

The neo-con Weekly Standard writes Jon Stewart to Sarah Palin: '[Expletive] You.'.

"Speaking to a college audience in Boston, Mass. Friday, "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart used his stand-up routine to respond to Sarah Palin's comments about "pro-America" parts of the country, shedding the profanity restrictions that govern his Comedy Central show. "She said that small towns, that's the part of the country she really likes going to because that's the pro-America part of the country. You know, I just want to say to her, just very quickly: [expletive] you," Stewart said to raucous applause."

I wish I knew he was performing here.

Studying the Weakening Heliosphere

I didn't really understand what the Heliosphere was but it's pretty interesting. The solar wind emanating from the sun forms a bubble around the solar system before it dissipates. This bubble protects us from galactic radiation that exists in the interstellar medium (the space between stars in the galaxy).


Unfortunately, "new data has revealed that the heliosphere, ... has weakened by 25% over the past decade and is now at it lowest level since the space race began 50 years ago [when measurements started]."

"Measurements made by the Ulysses deep space probe, which was launched in 1990 to orbit the sun, have shown that the pressure created inside the heliosphere by the solar wind has been decreasing."

Sunday, the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) was launched to study the heliosphere. "The ottoman-sized probe was strapped to a rocket that was strapped to the belly of an airplane, which carried it to 40,000 feet. From there, the rocket fired up and took IBEX to an orbit about 200,000 miles up."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Catch Frontline's The Choice 2008

As usually Frontline provides the best overview of the two candiates in their recent episode The Choice 2008.

Palin's Failin'

Peggy Noonan on Sarah Palin. "In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It's no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism."

The Best Foreign Books You've Never Heard Of

NPR has a storyThe Best Foreign Books You've Never Heard Of. Yep.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Who's Been More Negative?

Andrew Sullivan comments on Who's Been More Negative?:

"Looking at the tone of all of McCain’s advertising from June 4 to October 4, we found that 47 percent of the McCain spots were negative (completely focused on Obama), 26 percent were positive (completely focusing on his own personal story or on his issues or proposals) and 27 percent were contrast ads (a mix of positive and negative messages). What about Obama? Our analysis reveals that 39 percent of all general election Obama TV ads have been positive (solely about his record, positions or personal story), 35 percent have been negative (solely focused on McCain) and 25 percent have been contrast ads - mixing a bit of both. So, on a proportional basis, the McCain campaign is and has been more negative than Obama."

So on positive-negative-mixed it's:
McCain 26-47-27
Obama 39-35-25

So about a 10% swing between them of positive to negative. Not nearly as much as I expected. Not living in a competitive state I don't see the TV ads (let alone having a TiVo) but I just see a few in the blogosphere. Yep, a skewed view.

Online Streaming of Television

The New York Times reports Online Streaming Adds Millions of Viewers for ‘Heroes,’ ‘The Office’.

"While the piecemeal approach to measuring multi-platform views leaves much to be desired, the data persuasively shows that free Internet streaming is the most popular alternative to traditional television viewing. Next to streaming, paid downloads, video on demand and mobile viewing all account for only a tiny share of the total viewing."

If only Heroes had improved this season. After Monday I deleted my season pass. The characters' actions are too arbitrary, the plot too convoluted and repetitive. Does every plot have to be motivated with visions of the future? If you have the power to get visions, why not use it more. If someone is using your unharmable daughter as a human shield, shoot through her.

Car Break-ins Around Harvard Square

The City of Cambridge Police Department issued the following Community Advisory - Harvard Square & Peabody. "During the month of September, the Harvard Sq. and Peabody neighborhoods experienced a rash of break-ins to motor vehicles centered around the Cambridge Common and Garden St. areas.  These incidents have occurred during both the day-time and early evening hours.  The crimes involve someone breaking a car window very quickly and removing small items usually a GPS unit, portable laptop computer or other similar items.  "

Inspired Reading

Goodness Blog has a post on Inspired Reading. "Please recommend a book that you have found particularly inspiring or meaningful to your development as a creative person? The one restriction: Please no books on graphic design."

Letterman Confronts McCain on Liddy

Steve Benen writes Letterman Confronts McCain on Liddy.

"Liddy is, of course, a convicted felon who has "acknowledged preparing to kill someone during the Ellsberg break-in 'if necessary'; plotting to murder journalist Jack Anderson; plotting with a 'gangland figure' to murder Howard Hunt to stop him from cooperating with investigators; plotting to firebomb the Brookings Institution; and plotting to kidnap 'leftist guerillas' at the 1972 Republican National Convention -- a plan he outlined to the Nixon administration using terminology borrowed from the Nazis." Liddy also once famously gave his supporters advice on how best to kill federal officials (he recommended shooting them in the head because they might be wearing flak jackets). Despite this scandalous past, McCain has accepted thousands of dollars in contributions from Liddy, attended a fundraiser in his honor at Liddy's home, and told Liddy that he's "proud of" him."

It's a nice point. The Obama/Ayers relationship is analogous to McCain/Liddy; can we please stop paying attention to either? Well done Dave.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Palin As President

PalinAsPresident is a pretty amusing flash simulation.

Best Microscopic Images of 2008

National Geographic has the Best Microscopic Images of 2008

1_nikonsmallworld_461 1.jpg

McCain's Deceitful Calls

The McCain campaign is despicable: "Hello. I'm calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayres, whose organization bombed the U.S. capitol, the Pentagon, a judge's home and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202-863-8500."

More on McCain's negative campaign.

Joe The Plumber

Here's all the info about the Joe the Plumber. He's not a licensed plumber, which could be a problem for him now. He also has never served an apprenticeship and does not belong to the union.

He makes no where near $250,000, more like $40,000 and he thinks "social security is a joke". Also he didn't pay $1,183 in personal income taxes he owed. He also owes St. Charles Mercy Hospital $1,261. Maybe he should rethink his complaint against Obama's healthcare plan as socialism.

He's not independent, but a registered Republican, but his registration has a misspelling of his name and plans by the Republicans which they say is to prevent voter fraud, may prevent him from being able to vote. More on that effort here.

Oh and Joe is his middle name, his first name is Samuel.

What I really don't get is why people that make $40,000 don't realize that they'll do better monetarily under Democrats than Republicans.

As Andrew Sullivan points out: "Joe the Plumber has now had more press conferences than Sarah Palin". Roland S. Martin points out: "Tina Fey has actually done more interviews about playing Sarah Palin than Sarah Palin has done about being Sarah Palin!" And some within the McCain campaign are calling her pick, "a total disaster".


Paul Krugman wrote Nixonland. "There are all sorts of connections between the Nixon administration and the Bush administration. But here’s one I didn’t know about: Hank Paulson was John Ehrlichman’s assistant in 1972 and 1973."

Americans Living Beyond Their Means

Robert Reich writes, Post-Meltdown Mythologies (I): Americans Have Been Living Beyond Their Means

"The "living beyond our means" argument, with its thinly-veiled suggestion of moral terpitude, is technically correct. Over the last fifteen years, average household debt has soared to record levels, and the typical American family has taken on more of debt than it can safely manage. That became crystal clear when the housing bubble burst and home prices fell, eliminating easy home equity loans and refinancings. But this story leaves out one very important fact. Since the year 2000, median family income has been dropping, adjusted for inflation. One of the main reasons the typical family has taken on more debt has been to maintain its living standards in the face of these declining real incomes."

McCain Transition Chief Aided Saddam In Lobbying Effort

I don't care too much about this except in that maybe it can be used to get him to shut up about Ayers (which I also don't care about), oh and it shows poor vetting skills on McCains part just like his Sarah Palin pick. McCain Transition Chief Aided Saddam In Lobbying Effort.

"William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist who John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.

The two lobbyists who Timmons worked closely with over a five year period on the lobbying campaign later either pleaded guilty to or were convicted of federal criminal charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam Hussein's government.

During the same period beginning in 1992, Timmons worked closely with the two lobbyists, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, on a previously unreported prospective deal with the Iraqis in which they hoped to be awarded a contract to purchase and resell Iraqi oil. Timmons, Vincent, and Park stood to share at least $45 million if the business deal went through."

FactChecking Debate No. 3 FactChecking Debate No. 3

Great World Wide Star Count

The Great World Wide Star Count "encourages everyone to go outside, look skywards after dark, count the stars they see in certain constellations, and report what they see online.  This Windows to the Universe Citizen Science Event is designed to encourage learning in astronomy!"

The second annual event is October 20 - November 3, 2008.

Debunking ACORN

Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker writes Voter-Fraud Fraud. It's a good debunking of the ACORN "scandal". It ends with:

"Sounds suspicious—unless you know that despite all the hysteria, from 2002 to 2005, only twenty people in the entire United States of America were found guilty of voting while ineligible and only five of voting more than once. By contrast, consider the lede on this story, published a week ago today:

Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times."

iPhone Case: iSkin solo

I'm thinking of getting the iSkin solo case for my iPhone 3G. Here's the iLounge review. Anyone have any experience with it or other cases they recommend?

The Bradley Effect - Selective Memory

The Bradley Effect is the notion that polls won't be accurate in a racial contest because people will tell the pollsters one thing and vote another way because they don't want to admit to being racist. It was mentioned when Obama ran in the primary but dismissed when he won. It's been brought up again for the general election where it's been thought to have a bigger effect than with just Democrats.

It's named after Tom Bradley who ran for governor of California in 1982 and 1986 and lost despite being ahead in some polls. Now V. Lance Tarrance Jr., the pollster for the winner of that gubernatorial contest writes The Bradley Effect - Selective Memory, in which he dismisses the effect as bad polling.

The Onion Analyses The HBO Presidential Debate

This from The Onion: Was There Too Much Sex And Profanity In The HBO Presidential Debate?

Cost of Prescriptions Varies Widely

The Pittsburge Post-Gazette reports Cost of prescriptions varies widely

"What Ray Catalano wants to know is: Why did the same prescription cost him $46 at one pharmacy and $557 at another? And why doesn't his insurer -- which ultimately pays 80 percent of the bill -- seem to care?"

"Mr. Catalano, a retired California University of Pennsylvania biology and environmental sciences professor, paid $557 in December at Rite Aid in Canonsburg for a month's supply of Zofran, an anti-nausea drug, following his hospitalization for a heart attack....So he shopped around and was surprised at what he learned: CVS was charging about $420 for 30 four-milligram generic Zofran tablets; Walgreens' cost was $410; and Wal-Mart charged $110. Then he tried Jeffreys Drug Store, an independent pharmacy in Canonsburg. The cost to fill his generic Zofran prescription at Jeffreys: $46.58."