Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kashiwa Mystery Cafe

Cabel wrote about Kashiwa Mystery Cafe. It's about a strange experience at a Japanese cafe. It's not very long and has pictures, and is completely worth reading. Please do so now.

Kubrick Interview, 1966

Stanley Kubrick Interviewed by Jeremy Bernstein, 1966 1 hour 16 minutes long.

The White House Goes After Fox News

The White House posted to its blog, Reality Check: Trying to Turn a Point of Pride into a Moment of Shame

"Last night Fox News continued its disregard for the facts in an attempt to smear the Administration's efforts to win the Olympics for the United States"

It goes on to list some lies in a "Rhetoric/Reality" format and then ends with...

"For even more Fox lies, check out the latest "Truth-O-Meter" feature from Politifact that debunks a false claim about a White House staffer that continues to be repeated by Glenn Beck and others on the network."

This could be very good though I'm sure it will start a flame war that Fox will (at least initially) not back down from.

Supreme Court Agrees to Weigh Local Gun Laws

Really good article by the WSJ, Supreme Court Agrees to Weigh Local Gun Laws. It describes the issues well and also describes some of the other cases the Supreme Court has accepted this term

Space Photos

Amazing space photos with understandable descriptions here and here.

Just Take Out Gun Accidents and Auto Accidents

I like to think that I would have done as good a job as dday if I had gotten to this claim first, If You Take Out The People Who Die, Americans Live Forever. From watching the Daily Show I knew the "Are you aware that if you take out gun accidents and auto accidents, that the United States actually is better than those other countries?" claim came from Betsy McCaughey and a Google search found this WSJ blog post. But just read dday's article, saves me work. :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Senate Finance Committe Rejects Public Option

The New York Times reports Senate Panel Rejects Pair of Public Options in Health Plan "After a half-day of animated debate, the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday rejected efforts by liberal Democrats to add a government-run health insurance plan to major health care legislation, dealing the first official setback to an idea that many Democrats, including President Obama, say they support.

All of the other versions of the health care legislation advancing in Congress — a bill approved by the Senate health committee and a trio of bills in the House — include some version of the government-run plan, or public option.

But the Finance Committee chairman, Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana, long ago removed it from his proposal because of stiff opposition from Republicans who call the public plan a step toward ‘socialized medicine.’"

The Democratic Senators who voted against a public option are: Finance Committee chairman Max. Baucus (D-MT) , Thomas R. Carper (D-DE), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Blanche Lincoln (D-AK), and Bill Nelson (D-FL). If you're in one of those states, call your senator and tell them what you think.

Things I Learned Today

40% of Afghanis are illiterate. 25% of Afghani teachers are illiterate.

80% of all refugees (worldwide) are women.

Teddy Roosevelt at times thought that only those willing to hunt should have citizenship. At 24 he went west to kill a buffalo before they went extinct.

The Supreme Court of the US accepts about 1% of cases submitted to it for review (about 80 out of 8,000).

New England Foliage Map

New England Foliage Map.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A brief guide to DNA sequencing

Ars Technica writes A brief guide to DNA sequencing "Understanding technology shouldn't be limited to processors and memory. Developments in DNA sequencing are already changing the face of medicine, and the pace of technology development in the field is staggering. Read on to understand the basics of DNA sequencing."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Gigagalaxy Zooms In On the Milky Way

Gigagalaxy Zoom has a very cool photo of the milky way galactic center. It's annotated so you can see where various famous nebula are and where the large and small Magellanic clouds are (they are nearby small galaxies that will collide with our own). You can also overlay the constellations onto the map.
milkyway_map_color_d 1.jpg

Thursday, September 24, 2009

1 Million Spiders Make Golden Silk for Rare Cloth

Wired wrote 1 Million Spiders Make Golden Silk for Rare Cloth.

"To produce this unique golden cloth, 70 people spent four years collecting golden orb spiders from telephone poles in Madagascar, while another dozen workers carefully extracted about 80 feet of silk filament from each of the arachnids. The resulting 11-foot by 4-foot textile is the only large piece of cloth made from natural spider silk existing in the world today."

"But to make a textile of any significant size, the silk experts had to drastically scale up their project. ‘Fourteen thousand spiders yields about an ounce of silk,’ Godley said, ‘and the textile weighs about 2.6 pounds. The numbers are crazy.’"

"Researchers have long been intrigued by the unique properties of spider silk, which is stronger than steel or Kevlar but far more flexible, stretching up to 40 percent of its normal length without breaking. Unfortunately, spider silk is extremely hard to mass produce: Unlike silk worms, which are easy to raise in captivity, spiders have a habit of chomping off each other’s heads when housed together."

What's an Apology Worth?

What's an Apology Worth? "According to new research, firms that simply say sorry to disgruntled customers fare better than those that offer financial compensation. The ploy works even though the recipient of the apology seldom gets it from the person who made it necessary in the first place."

A world first: Vaccine helps prevent HIV infection

A world first: Vaccine helps prevent HIV infection "The vaccine - a combination of two previously unsuccessful vaccines - cut the risk of becoming infected with HIV by more than 31 percent in the world's largest AIDS vaccine trial of more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, researchers announced Thursday in Bangkok. Even though the benefit is modest, 'it's the first evidence that we could have a safe and effective preventive vaccine,' Col. Jerome Kim told The Associated Press."

It's Official: Water Found on the Moon writes It's Official: Water Found on the Moon though it's probably better to say teeny tiny amounts of water found on the moon...

"Since man first touched the moon and brought pieces of it back to Earth, scientists have thought that the lunar surface was bone dry. But new observations from three different spacecraft have put this notion to rest with what has been called "unambiguous evidence" of water across the surface of the moon.

The new findings, detailed in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Science, come in the wake of further evidence of lunar polar water ice by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and just weeks before the planned lunar impact of NASA's LCROSS satellite, which will hit one of the permanently shadowed craters at the moon's south pole in hope of churning up evidence of water ice deposits in the debris field.

The moon remains drier than any desert on Earth, but the water is said to exist on the moon in very small quantities. One ton of the top layer of the lunar surface would hold about 32 ounces of water, researchers said.  "

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Palin divides international investors in debut speech in Asia

The AFP reportsPalin divides international investors in debut speech in Asia.

"Former US vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin divided an international audience of financial big-hitters at her first speech outside North America on Wednesday with some leaving in disgust."

"Some listeners praised her forthright views on government social and economic intervention but others walked out early citing boredom or disgust."

"CLSA, an arm of French bank Credit Agricole, said it closed Palin's session to the media after she indicated that she would have to adjust her speech if reporters were present."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Great Health Care Article

The September Atlantic has a an article by David Goldhill, How American Health Care Killed My Father. "After the needless death of his father, the author, a business executive, began a personal exploration of a health-care industry that for years has delivered poor service and irregular quality at astonishingly high cost. It is a system, he argues, that is not worth preserving in anything like its current form. And the health-care reform now being contemplated will not fix it. Here’s a radical solution to an agonizing problem."

It's probably the best article I've read on health care reform. He describes how the customer is really insurance companies and Medicare and not patients and how there is absolutely no price transparency in the system. He tried to find the price of an MRI and some hospitals wouldn't tell him until he actually ordered the test, let alone the prices are different for insured vs uninsured patients. And there's no good way for patients to actually measure quality of care beforehand. We're told that technology has raised the cost of medical care but technology has transformed just about every industry and usually provides greater efficiencies at lower prices, so why should health care be different?

It's a fascinating article with radical proposal. I'm not sure I like it, but I want to discuss it. Or more precisely I wish an economist I respect I would discuss it. Paul Krugman are you listening?

Trendsmap - Real-time local Twitter trends

Trendsmap is certainly the prettiest Twitter map I've seen.

Movie Review: The Informant!

The Informant! is a bizarre Steven Soderbergh film staring Matt Damon as a real life whistleblower who took down ADM in the early 1990s.

Mark Whitacre was a senior executive at Archer Daniels Midland. He had a PhD in biochemistry and two law degrees and was the youngest Divisional President in the history of the company. In the early 90s he blamed a problem with lysine production on corporate espionage and the FBI was brought in. After a short while he confessed that ADM was involved in an international price-fixing scheme and spent several years helping them build the case including wearing a wire in meetings hundreds of times. But the story gets stranger than that and I won't go further.

Everyone seems to want to compare this to The Insider and the stories are similar but the films are almost opposites. The Insider is told a serious drama, The Informant! is an unusual dark comedy. The plot is almost incidental to various scenes of Mark going to and from meetings and acting a like a doofus. There's a running narration consisting of him babbling about non sequiturs like ties, polar bears, butterflies, the pronunciation of Porsche and morally questionable Japanese vending machines.

In spite of the fact the film is set in the early 1990s, everything about it screams the late sixties and early seventies. The font is out of Laugh In, the film looks like an episode of Dallas or Dynasty, the music is by Marvin Hamlisch. I assume it's all a metaphor for things not quite being what they seem to be, but it didn't work very well for me.

Maybe it would have pointless to make another movie like The Insider, but I think I would have enjoyed that film more than this one. I laughed out loud quite a few times, mostly at the peculiar voice over, but I was also restless at various times. The beginning goes on too long with him just being strange and there isn't enough time devoted to the plot. It seems like a really good story and Soderbergh just decided to make fun of something, though I'm not sure what; the subjects, the subject matter, or the audience.

PS. Soderbergh seems to like shots of a vehicle approaching and as it passes flipping the screen. He did it in Ocean's 12 with an airplane and I hated it. He does it here with a red Porsche and I hated it just as much. I don't know why.

Health Care Is Hazardous to Poll Numbers for Grassley, Other Senators

Nate Silver writes Health Care Is Hazardous to Poll Numbers for Grassley, Other Senators

"2010, more likely than not, will be a year of some political upheaval. The question is whether that upheaval will be directed at Democrats alone, or rather, incumbents of all stripes. If the former, then Democrats are in for a world of hurt. If the latter, Democrats will still almost certainly lose seats, simply because they have more incumbents running (at least in the House; this is less so in the Senate). But they might be able to knock off a Richard Burr in North Carolina, maybe a Grassley in Iowa (although I wouldn't place money on that one), possibly someone like a Thad McCotter in MI-11, or maybe a Michelle Bachman or Joe Wilson. There are also an unusually high number of cases in which the Democrats would arguably be better off if the incumbent retired: this is almost certianly true, for instance, for Chris Dodd in Virginia and Jon Corzine in New Jersey, and is arguably so for Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and Harry Reid in Nevada. The rash of Republican retirements in the Senate, conversely, may prove to be as much a blessing as a curse, although they are undermined by nominating such insider-y, party line candidates as Roy Blunt (the former Majority Whip) in Missouri and Rob Portman (Bush's former OMB director) in Ohio."

The Constitution Annotated in XML

The Sunlight Foundation wrote 220+ Years Later, It’s Time to Publish the Constitution Annotated Online in XML "Today, the Sunlight Foundation called upon the Government Printing Office to publish the legal treatise The Constitution Annotated online in XML format as it is updated. The Constitution Annotated has been written by the Library of Congress for nearly 100 years, and contains analysis of nearly 8,000 U.S. Supreme Court cases."

In over 4 years of interest in the Constitution I've never even heard of The Constitution Annotated. I suspect I'm going to be spending a lot of time at Cornell's site...

Meet the 2009 MacArthur Foundation Fellows

Meet the 2009 MacArthur Foundation Fellows, these people just won "genius grants".

Monday, September 21, 2009

The St. Elsewhere Universe

I just found out about this yesterday. From Wikipedia...

"Tommy Westphall, portrayed by Chad Allen, is a minor character from the drama television series St. Elsewhere,[1] which ran on NBC from October 26, 1982, to May 25, 1988. Westphall, who is autistic, took on major significance in St. Elsewhere's final episode, 'The Last One,' where the common interpretation of that finale is that the entire St. Elsewhere storyline exists only within Westphall's imagination.[1] As characters from St. Elsewhere have appeared on other television shows and those shows' characters appeared on more shows, a 'Tommy Westphall Universe' hypothesis was developed where a significant amount of fictional episodic television exists within Tommy Westphall's imagined fictional universe."

I was a big fan of St Elsewhere and remember the finale. I had no idea that people had constructed this theory that with some crossovers other shows were also part of Tommy's imagination. I didn't really remember any crossovers but once I read that some of the doctor's had a cameo on Cheers I remembered that. Turns out they were on 12 different series and there was a stronger connection to Homicide.

"280 shows are connected to Homicide: Life on the Street and St. Elsewhere, for a grand total of 282 series. The only non-US shows in the Tommyverse are: The Degrassi shows (Canada),The Office (UK), the Doctor Who shows (UK), and Paris Section Criminelle (France). Paris Section Criminelle is the only show not in English in the Tommyverse. The shows span from 1951 (I Love Lucy) to the present (26 shows are still on the air).

This chart is crazy and this key file ( in text or PDF) describes all the connections. And yeah, some of the connections are due to Thomas Pynchon.

Netflix Awards $1 Million Prize and Starts a New Contest

The New York Times writes, Netflix Awards $1 Million Prize and Starts a New Contest

"But the race was even closer than had been thought, as Netflix’s chief executive, Reed Hastings, explained for the first time at a press conference in New York on Monday. The BellKor team presented its final submission 20 minutes before the deadline, Mr. Hastings said. Then, just before time ran out, The Ensemble made its last entry. The two were a dead tie, mathematically. But under contest rules, when there is a tie, the first team past the post wins. ‘That 20 minutes was worth $1 million,’ Mr. Hastings said."

Why is Mars Red?

Universe Today writes Why is Mars Red? New Study Offers Surprises

"Is Mars red due to rocks being rusted by the water that once flooded the red planet? And is the only explanation for the hematite found by Mars orbiters and studied by the Mars Exploration rovers is that water once was present in volumes on Mars? Not necessarily, says a new study. Research done by Dr. Jonathan Merrison at the Aarhus Mars Simulation Laboratory in Denmark shows that the red dust that covers Mars may be formed by ongoing grinding of surface rocks. Liquid water need not have played any significant role in the red dust formation process."

"In their recent laboratory study, the scientists at the Mars Simulation Laboratory have pioneered a novel technique to simulate the sand transport on Mars. They hermetically sealed sand (quartz) t samples in glass flasks and mechanically ‘tumbled’ them for several months, turning each flask ten million times. After gently tumbling pure quartz sand for seven months, almost 10% of the sand had been reduced to dust. When scientists added powdered magnetite, an iron oxide present in Martian basalt, to the flasks they were surprised to see it getting redder as the flasks were tumbled."

Background in World History

Background in World History for Econ 115 "101 Events and 101 Videos/Pictures" is a nice list.

Why Bipartisanship Matters

Kevin Drum had a great article on Why Bipartisanship Matters.

"If all you want to do is hand out goodies — tax cuts, prescription drugs, defense contracts — life is easy.  Everyone loves goodies.  You don't need help from your opposite numbers to get stuff like that through Congress.

But what if you want to pass something tougher?  Something that takes as well as gives?  If you have bipartisan support, you can do it right: you can stand up to special interests and K Street lobbyists and enact real reform.  But you can only do this if you have political cover and plenty of votes.  If, instead, you have to do it in the face of implacable partisan opposition, then you can't afford to make any more enemies.  Every vote is precious, and that means instead of standing up to special interests, you have to buy them off.  All of them."

We know the Democrats and Republicans are different in how they hold the party line. Matthew Yglesias writes in The Hammer about one particular way that works.

The Atlantic 50

"Think of The Atlantic 50 as our all-star team. These are the most influential commentators in the nation, the columnists and bloggers and broadcast pundits who shape the national debates."

Would have been nice if they provided RSS feeds for each of them.

Here's another, "In conjunction with The Atlantic Wire, National Journal asked its panel of Congressional and Political Insiders to rank, one-through-five, those columnists, bloggers, and television or radio commentators who most help to shape their own opinion or worldview. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman received more points than anyone else, with support from both Democrats and Republicans. But it was rare that any media commentator boasted a significant audience from both sides of the partisan divide."

FCC Backs Net Neutrality

FCC Backs Net Neutrality — And Then Some "FCC chairman Julius Genachowski delivered Monday on President Obama’s promise to back ‘net neutrality.’ But he went much further than merely seeking to expand rules that prohibit ISPs from filtering or blocking net traffic — he proposed that they cover all broadband connections, including data connections for smartphones."

Elections have consequences. Thankfully.

Wall Street's New Shape

Last week's Economist has a good article, Wall Street's new shape: Rearranging the towers of gold. "Wall Street has staged a surprisingly strong recovery from its meltdown a year ago. But it will not return to business as usual." It has more details about the current state of the financial industry than I've seen anywhere else.

Change Congress vs Mike Ross

""Blue Dog" Rep. Mike Ross (D-Arkansas) is feeling the heat for siding with his special-interest contributors over his constituents who want a public health insurance option." Change Congress has produced this ad calling him out on this and is trying to raise $15,000 so they can broadcast it 200 times in Arkansas so his constituents can know he's not representing them. You can donate here.

LA Fire Burn Scar

"The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this false-color image of the Station Fire and its surroundings on September 16, 2009. Using a combination of infrared and visible light to increase the contrast between burned land, and vegetated or bare land, this image shows the scar from the Station Fire, an irregular patch of brownish red. "

LA Fire Scar

Sunday, September 20, 2009

To The Nth Dimension

A few weeks ago New Scientist wrote Beyond space and time: Fractals, hyperspace and more.

"We don't have any trouble coping with three dimensions – or four at a pinch. The 3D world of solid objects and limitless space is something we accept with scarcely a second thought. Time, the fourth dimension, gets a little trickier. But it's when we start to explore worlds that embody more – or indeed fewer – dimensions that things get really tough. These exotic worlds might be daunting, but they matter. String theory, our best guess yet at a theory of everything, doesn't seem to work with fewer than 10 dimensions. Some strange and useful properties of solids, such as superconductivity, are best explained using theories in two, one or even no dimensions at all. Prepare your mind for boggling as we explore the how, why and where of dimensions."

It's several short articles that don't go into much depth but I did learn a few things about what physicists do with higher dimensions.

Who You Friend, Leaks Info About You

Project ‘Gaydar’: An MIT experiment raises new questions about online privacy.

"Two students partnered up to take on the latest Internet fad: the online social networks that were exploding into the mainstream. With people signing up in droves to reconnect with classmates and old crushes from high school, and even becoming online ‘friends’ with their family members, the two wondered what the online masses were unknowingly telling the world about themselves. The pair weren’t interested in the embarrassing photos or overripe profiles that attract so much consternation from parents and potential employers. Instead, they wondered whether the basic currency of interactions on a social network - the simple act of ‘friending’ someone online - might reveal something a person might rather keep hidden.

Using data from the social network Facebook, they made a striking discovery: just by looking at a person’s online friends, they could predict whether the person was gay. They did this with a software program that looked at the gender and sexuality of a person’s friends and, using statistical analysis, made a prediction. "

Mad Men The Fog

A few people have told me they really liked my post a few weeks ago about about an episode of Mad Men, even people who don't watch the show. The next episode was all about parents and children.

Gene was acting irresponsibly with his grandkids even though they liked it. Then he discussed his funeral arrangements with his daughter Betty even though she didn't want to. "I don't understand why you like talking about this when you can see so clearly that it upsets me. It's selfish and morbid. I'm your little girl and I know it must be horrible to be looking at whatever you're looking at but can't you keep it to yourself." And then Betty doesn't do any better with Sally when they found out Gene died.

Don has a few moments of reflection looking at a photo of his parents and then putting Gene's cot away and getting out the crib for his new child.

The office life was about a client's son wanting to irresponsibly invest heavily in jai lai. The guys in the office act like kids in a candy store and only Don acts like a parent, by having a problem with this. In fact he brings in the client (the father) who says the son is a disappointment and has to make his own failures if he's ever going to learn. Don also solves the issue of who's going to direct the ad by treating the employees like children, "I could go on but I shouldn't have to". Don acts like Sal's father giving him confidence to direct his first ad and Sal acts like a nervous child about it with his wife (and there's more going on there).

Peggy is all child in this one, first with her sister and mother and those relationships are screwy and then as the teenager first moving out with trying to find a roommate and having the other kids (her co-workers) tease her and then with Karen the new roommate as she pretends to be someone else so she'll be liked.

This was another episode where every scene easily mapped to a theme and interestingly Don was all parent which I think is a running theme this season. But last week's episode I have more of a problem with, maybe that's why it's titled The Fog.

The best I can come up with is it's about the American Dream and how these characters think of it, but I can't sync everything up with it.

Peggy tells Don he has everything she wants and in great quantities and he says "Yeah I guess I do", but most of the rest of the episode seems to put that in doubt (as if we didn't know that already). His great job that he's so good at is now a pain. He has a penny pinching boss and if he misses half a day of work to have a baby, the whole company stops without him. He tells his British boss to think about the men's morale not just his own, but then Don doesn't really think about Peggy's when she asks for equal pay.

His wife Betty is having their third child, but he tells Dennis the prison guard he already doesn't spend enough time throwing the ball around with his son. Later on he says he probably won't sleep for the next 6 months but in the last scene he doesn't move at all when the baby cries at night (that would be Betty's job). In the opening conversation with the teacher he says he knows that the death of a parent can affect children and later on he says bad parents are no excuse for being a criminal.

Betty while drugged (in a literal fog from the title) says he's never where you think he is and accuses the nurse of having slept with him. In her dreams she's trying to break out of her prison of a life, trapped in a loveless marriage and raising kids she doesn't seem to want, but she captures the caterpillar before it turns into a butterfly and her dead mother tells her to close her mouth before she catches flies (which she does, adorably). He father describes her as a house cat, very important with nothing to do, but she wants more even if she doesn't know what.

Pete and Peggy are wooed by Duck to move firms. Duck seems happy in his new job and Pete and Peggy are shown not to be in theirs. Pete yet again whines that the offer isn't just for him, he seems to have to share everything with others. I've seen some comment that his work storyline showed him being a progressive thinker on race, ahead of his time, but I don't see it that way. He's starring at Admiral TV's flat sales figures but he needs someone else to point out that the cities they're doing well in have large black populations (are great jazz towns). He does take some initiative to turn this into a sales plan but what he calls "his research" is nothing significant. His conversation with the Hollis the black elevator operator was wonderful, but it pointed out his cluelessness about anyone else. Pete was generally interested in getting info from Hollis but was oblivious that Hollis was fearful of his job for just talking to him. Pete brings up the American dream of buying a house, car and TV, but I'm not sure he recognized Hollis' stare as indicating that might be white American dream. Pete is also unsuspecting that Admiral might not want to become a company selling to Negros.

This is 1963 and racial tensions are building in this show. I had to look up Medgar Evers who was referenced a few times. It will be interesting to see how the characters deal with it. Don was disapproving of Roger's blackface routine a couple of shows ago, but he's not championing equality for anyone. We present day viewers might be surprised by Pete's use of the word "Negro", but by having Bert use "Colored" Pete is the progressive. Peggy brings up the "equal pay for equal work" law and this offsets with Betty's role as housewife and what would now be called a horrific child birth experience.

The last significant amount of time was with Don talking with the prison guard. Dennis admits his fears of becoming a parent and they bond for a moment, but when Don passes him in the hallway at the end Dennis looks away. I'm not sure what this means. He was pushing his wife in a wheelchair and there was no baby, but he was smiling beforehand so it didn't seem like they had lost the baby. It just seemed like the connection to Don was over now and I don't really get that.

There were also two scenes with the teacher. The first made sense in the context of Sally dealing with Gene's death and Don and Betty as parents. The second though, she calls the house at night and has a conversation with Don while she's have a drink and her bra strap falls out. In a previous season this would suggest she's another woman coming onto him, but I don't really get that sense. Is this supposed to show Don's growth that he's not interested in her?

Overall, The Fog is probably just Don's life. Previously he was confident in what he was doing, even it wasn't so good. He was good at his job and liked it and had the facade of a family and slept around and drank and partied all the time. Now he's questioning what he wants and doesn't see these things as he used to. Does he want to be a good parent? Does he want to be a good husband? What does he want from work?

There were a number of scenes where Don struck me as being out of character. His British boss said he's not usually this emotional. He doesn't realize his keys are in his hand when Betty says she's in labor. When she comes home he asks Betty if she wants something to eat and while she starts to get up, he says he'll get it. Earlier he's shown cooking a snack for himself and shares it and a moment with Sally. He opens up a bit with Dennis (I have that dream of being in prison) and (after a jarring cut from Betty's dream) is shown shaking the cigarette machine. He tells Betty she looks beautiful in the hospital when she doesn't. He was actually being supportive and then she says she wants to name the child after her father that hated him.

"Everything is going to be fine." Don said this line tonight to Betty, to Dennis, to Sally, to Peggy, and maybe to others. I'm suspecting it won't be.

Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

I liked Inglourious Basterds but found it a little long. I don't think it will be as memorable as Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs.

To all the people that complain that it's not historically accurate, it begins with "Once upon a time..." and the ending should make it clear that accuracy wasn't it's goal. To those that think you shouldn't fictionalize such a serious subject, that eliminates lots of movies.

I think only Quentin Tarantino could come up with a "Jews get revenge on Nazis during WWII" film that is based around a movie and a movie theater. The opening credits used five different fonts, each suggesting a different era of film. The soundtrack seems to consist solely of music from other films. I assume there were tons of character names and scenes that suggest other films; I only got a few of them.

The film is best when showing long conversations with inherent tension and it does this a lot, usually with an SS or Gestapo questioning someone and being all too polite about it. There's some gore but it's quick and not particularly glorified, well except a couple of times when it is, and those are film references. This is all about the tension leading up to the violence.

The characters are not quite caricatures but stretch film archetypes just to the edges of believability and probably a bit beyond. Some films hide the real life figures by just showing the back of their head or suggesting their presence in scenes. Tarantino uses Hitler as just another larger than life character (played by German actor Martin Wuttke). At one point I expected him to start dancing with a balloon globe just to reference Chaplin, but he didn't. Maybe it's more skill to make me think of it without having to explicitly show it.

I also appreciated that the plot is involved, or more precisely that he takes the time to introduce everyone and their backgrounds and see how a lot of different actions connect. Unlike some Tarantino, the story telling is linear and there are even asides to help explain things so you can follow along with the story. When someone mentions that film stock is very flammable, the film cuts to a Samuel L. Jackson narrated scene explaining this, complete with a clip of a Hitchcock film that used this fact as a plot device. It all adds up to long scenes of building tension that all build up to a film climax that goes over the top (while referencing a classic over-the-top scene).

I had some issues with the film. I found it a bit long. Some of the scenes do go on and on and I don't think there are any lines that are as quotable or memorable as most of the lines in Pulp Fiction. Aside from a couple of individual scenes, I liked that most took their time, but to help the overall film, I think a few should have been cut down. Also while there were some interesting shots, there weren't as many as I expected and some were just annoying, particularly one where the camera pans between three people over and over while they're talking. It reminded me of the opening of Dune and that's not a good reference.

I also had issues with some of the casting. Brad Pitt is just wonderfully fun as Lt. Aldo Raine and Christoph Waltz is brilliantly creepy as SS Col. Hans Landa. But there were a couple of choices that weren't in keeping with the rest of the larger than life cast; "Oh look, Mike Myers doing his British voice" and "Hey, it's the guy from The Office".

I had heard a number of friends say this was their second favorite Tarantino film, most with differing first choices. For me, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs are still high above the others and this falls into the pot of the others. For two hours it was a lot of fun and the end was also fun and had a few surprises though I checked my watch twice because some of the earlier scenes ran long. As with Kill Bill and Death Proof some scenes will stand out for me, but there's nothing as indelible as "Stuck in the Middle With You" or most of Pulp Fiction.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

In Pynchon’s tales, music is the backbeat

The Boston Globe writes, In Pynchon’s tales, music is the backbeat "There is one American writer, however, whose fiction is the literary equivalent of a vast box set: a blissful, bizarro anthology of rock, jazz, pop, blues, country, show tunes, novelty numbers, you name it. Thomas Pynchon’s novels are like a giant jukebox just waiting to happen. Some of the songs are real, some are imaginary. All of them Pynchon makes his own. No other American writer has put so much music into his fiction."

I can't say I like reading Pynchon, but I like reading about Pynchon.

Direct evidence of role of sleep in memory formation is uncovered

Direct evidence of role of sleep in memory formation is uncovered "A Rutgers University, Newark and Coll├ęge de France, Paris research team has pinpointed for the first time the mechanism that takes place during sleep that causes learning and memory formation to occur."

Friday, September 18, 2009

Picture From Space for $150

A few MIT students spent just $148 and sent a weather balloon up with a cheap digital camera and got photos from 93,000 feet. Amazing stuff. Check out the Project Icarus home page for details.

Earth from 93,000 feet

Good for You, Barney

James Kwak acknowledges my congressman, Good for You, Barney. "Barney Frank, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, barred Michael Paese, a former committee staff member and now Goldman Sachs lobbyist, from lobbying anyone on the Democratic side of the committee until the end of 2010."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Music Industry Still Cluefree

Gizmodo writes Music Industry Wants Royalties From iTunes 30 Second Samples.

"So here's the bottom line, guys: you're doing it wrong. And you've been doing it wrong for a while. You need to figure out a new way of doing business, and that doesn't mean just shifting fees around and charging where you clearly shouldn't be charging. Earn your paychecks, because unlike the bands you purport to be representing, you're still getting them."

How the Giants of Finance Shrank, Then Grew

The New York Times has a nice infographic How the Giants of Finance Shrank, Then Grew, Under the Financial Crisis.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The White House announces the site,

" is an online storefront for federal agencies to quickly browse and purchase cloud-based IT services, for productivity, collaboration, and efficiency. Cloud computing is the next generation of IT in which data and applications will be housed centrally and accessible anywhere and anytime by a various devices (this is opposed to the current model where applications and most data is housed on individual devices). By consolidating available services, is a one-stop source for cloud services – an innovation that not only can change how IT operates, but also save taxpayer dollars in the process."

The 5 Most Embarrassing Failures in the History of Terrorism

The 5 Most Embarrassing Failures in the History of Terrorism "Terrorism isn't exactly rocket science. It's something pretty much anyone can do. You wake up one day and decide that you'd rather like to explode in the middle of a crowded shopping center, and BAM! There you go. You're a certified terrorist. But, incredibly, people manage to fuck up even that. And if we can't laugh at terrorists, who can we laugh at?"

J. Michael Straczynski at MIT

I can't believe I missed this last May, "The second annual Julius Schwartz Lecture brings J. Michael Straczynski, the creator of the cult science fiction hit Babylon 5." Henry Jenkins recently wrote about the highlights and includes links to the full video of the lecture in three parts.

Three-quarters of doctors support some form of public plan.

Think Progress writes Three-quarters of doctors support some form of public plan. "Nearly three-quarters of doctors want some form of a public plan — 63 percent favor public/private competition while 10 percent want a single-payer system. NPR notes that, ‘when compared to their patients, doctors are bigger supporters of a public option.’ Nevertheless, Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) has taken the public option off the table because he says it ‘cannot pass the Senate.’"

Also on the Baucus plan: "On the eve of the Senate Finance Committee’s release of its much anticipated health care plan, Wendell Potter — the insurance industry whistle blower and former communications director of health insurance giant Cigna — called the Baucus framework “an absolute gift to the industry.”"

From Cinema to Games

MIT Professor Henry Jenkins wrote, From Cinema to Games: Some Fascinating Data. "I received correspondence recently from a French games scholar, Alexis Blanchet, sharing some really fascinating data that has emerged from his research into the flow of intellectual property between the games and film industries"

"For most of the platforms, movie-connected games represented roughly 10 percent of their total output. But for some platforms, they represented a much larger percentage of the total product. They were 22 percent of the titles produced for the Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2001-2006), 20 percent of the Nintendo Wii (2006-2007) and 27 percent of the Nintendo Game Boy Color (1999-2003). He ascribes the centrality of tie-in games to handheld technologies to their greater targeting at younger consumers."

"80 percent of the 134 international films which have made more than 100 million dollars upon release between 1991 and 2008 were adopted into games and of the top 20 money earners during this period, 95 percent were made into games: the holdouts were Titanic and The Dark Knight. And a Dark Knight game is finally on the way."

A Lesson from Human Mortality Rates

Your body wasn’t built to last: a lesson from human mortality rates. "What do you think are the odds that you will die during the next year?  Try to put a number to it — 1 in 100?  1 in 10,000?  Whatever it is, it will be twice as large 8 years from now. This startling fact was first noticed by the British actuary Benjamin Gompertz in 1825 and is now called the ‘Gompertz Law of human mortality.’ "

What's Wrong with Macroeconomics? Go...

Mark Thoma collects lots of articles in the What's Wrong with Macroeconomics? discussion.

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lightning Fields

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Lightning Fields Day "Images from ‘Lightning Fields,’ an exhibition of new photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto on view at Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco from September 10 to October 31, 2009.  Each image is a unique document of an electrical current. Hiroshi Sugimoto uses a 400,000-volt Van De Graaff generator to apply an electrical charge directly onto his film."

US Intelligence Budget Is $75 Billion

Spencer Ackerman writes Obama Intel Chief Reveals Intel Budget Is $75 Billion

"‘We really believe the American people deserve to know about their intelligence enterprise,’ said Blair, who is scheduled to speak tonight to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. To that end, he ordered the creation of an unclassified version of his ‘blueprint to run this 200,000-person, $75 billion national enterprise.’"

"In October, [Director of National Intelligence predecessor, Michael] McConnell revealed that the budget for fiscal 2008 on intelligence had been $47.5 billion. That was a nine percent increase from the previous year."

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cat Can't Figure Out How To Drink Video

Dumb Cat Can't Figure Out How To Drink - Watch more Funny Videos

Big Food vs. Big Insurance

Last week, Michael Pollan wrote a good op-ed in the New York TImes, Big Food vs. Big Insurance.

"We’re spending $147 billion to treat obesity, $116 billion to treat diabetes, and hundreds of billions more to treat cardiovascular disease and the many types of cancer that have been linked to the so-called Western diet. One recent study estimated that 30 percent of the increase in health care spending over the past 20 years could be attributed to the soaring rate of obesity, a condition that now accounts for nearly a tenth of all spending on health care.

The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care. The president has made a few notable allusions to it, and, by planting her vegetable garden on the South Lawn, Michelle Obama has tried to focus our attention on it. Just last month, Mr. Obama talked about putting a farmers’ market in front of the White House, and building new distribution networks to connect local farmers to public schools so that student lunches might offer more fresh produce and fewer Tater Tots. He’s even floated the idea of taxing soda.

But so far, food system reform has not figured in the national conversation about health care reform. And so the government is poised to go on encouraging America’s fast-food diet with its farm policies even as it takes on added responsibilities for covering the medical costs of that diet. To put it more bluntly, the government is putting itself in the uncomfortable position of subsidizing both the costs of treating Type 2 diabetes and the consumption of high-fructose corn syrup."

Little Progress on Judicial Nominees

Jeffery Toobin writes in the New Yorker, Bench Press - Are Obama's judges really liberals?.

"Just eight months into his first term, Obama already has the chance to nominate judges for twenty-one seats on the federal appellate bench—more than ten per cent of the hundred and seventy-nine judges on those courts. At least half a dozen more seats should open in the next few months. There are five vacancies on the Fourth Circuit alone; just by filling those seats, Obama can convert the Fourth Circuit, which has long been known as one of the most conservative courts in the country, into one with a majority of Democratic appointees. On the federal district courts, there are seventy-two vacancies, also about ten per cent of the total; home-state senators of the President’s party generally take the lead in selecting nominees for these seats, but Obama will have influence in these choices as well. Seven appeals and ten district judges have been named so far."

"f Obama’s seven nominees to the circuit courts, six are federal district-court judges. The group includes Gerard Lynch, a former Columbia Law School professor and New York federal prosecutor, and Andre Davis, who was nominated to the Fourth Circuit by Bill Clinton. (At the time, Republicans blocked any vote on Davis.) Two of the seven are African-American; two are women; all but one are in their fifties. (None are openly gay.) The one non-judge is Jane Stranch, who has represented labor unions and other clients at a Nashville law firm and is nominated for the Sixth Circuit. They are conventional, qualified, and undramatic choices, who were named, at least in part, because they were seen as likely to be quickly confirmed."

"Republicans in the Senate have not allowed a vote on any of the other nominees, either. So far, the only Obama nominee who has been confirmed to a lifetime federal judgeship is Sotomayor. The stalemate provides a revealing glimpse of the environment in Washington. Obama advisers (and Democratic Senate sources) aver that all the nominees, even Hamilton, will be confirmed eventually, but contrary to the President’s early hope the struggle for his judges is likely to be long and contentious."

Wall Street, One Year Later

Robert Reich wrote The Continuing Disaster of Wall Street, One Year Later "So will the President succeed on financial reform? I wish I could be optimistic. His milktoast list of proposed reforms is inadequate to the task, even if adopted. The Street's behavior since its bailout should be proof enough that halfway measures won't do"

Simon Johnson writes Where Are We Again? (Pre-G20 Pittsburgh summit) "The collapse of Lehman Brothers in particular and the ensuing financial crisis in particular exposed serious weaknesses in our banks, insurance companies, and financial structures more generally.  We were ‘saved’ by radical central bank action and additional government spending.  Over the past 20 years, crises have become more severe and more expensive to counteract.  We are on a dangerous and slippery slope.

Yet there is no real reform underway or on the table on any issue central to (a) how the banking system operates, or (b) more broadly, how hubris in finance led us into this crisis.  The financial sector lobbies appear stronger than ever.  The administration ducked the early fights that set the tone (credit cards, bankruptcy, even cap and trade); it’s hard to see them making much progress on anything – with the possible exception of healthcare (and even there, the final achievement looks likely to be limited)."

Google - Internet Stats

Google - Internet Stats "This Google resource brings together the latest industry facts and insights. These have been collected from a number of third party sources covering a range of topics from macroscopic economic and media trends to how consumer behaviour and technology are changing over tim"

Friday, September 11, 2009

9 Ways Marketing Will Try to Manipulate You

9 Ways Marketing Weasels Will Try to Manipulate You "Let's take a look at the various excerpts presented in that article, and consider how we can avoid falling into the rut of predictably irrational behavior -- and defend ourselves from those vicious marketing weasels."

Treatment of Alan Turing was “appalling”

Treatment of Alan Turing was “appalling”. "The Prime Minister has released a statement on the Second World War code-breaker, Alan Turing, recognising the “appalling” way he was treated for being gay."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Reactions to the Speech

The New York TImes has Reactions to the Speech: A Health Care Roundtable.

You Lie!

I'm sorry Joe Wilson (R-SC) yelled out "You lie" to Obama last night during the speech. But mostly because it's become the talking point to the detriment of Obama's (very good) message.

Just before, Obama himself used the "lie" word about this distortions the Republicans have been pushing of his healthcare plan. Obama said "lie" so a Republican said "lie". I'm okay with that.

But the complaint being leveled is that it's impolite to call the president a liar while addressing Congress. At least Wilson did it to Obama's face. It also gave us the opportunity to point out that Obama's statement was accurate and Wilson's was factually incorrect. Wilson yelled "You lie" and he looked the fool for it because it was childish and incorrect. He can keep doing that as far as I'm concerned.

I wish someone had said it to Bush while he was talking. Bush usually spoke in carefully constructed sentences that danced around factual statements but there were a few lies he uttered. If someone had yelled "You lie" maybe the media would have called them out as factually incorrect. Though the Democrats were probably afraid Bush would declare them enemy combatants and ship them to Guantanamo to torture them. Let's not forget, Bush actually claimed a legal ability to do that and Obama hasn't changed that.

Rob Miller is running against Joe Wilson, if you want you can donate to him here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Obama's Speech

I thought it was a really good speech. Lots of things we've heard before, some new ideas, and he called the lies, lies. Well done.

The transcript isn't up yet. but there is this... Tell Congress to Support President Obama's Plan for Health Reform.

Here's the letter from Ted Kennedy he mentioned.

There's Gonna Be a Speech Tonight

Robert Reich writes on The Lessons from History on Health Care Reform.

Ezra Klein wrote The Public Plan Is Not the Same Thing as Cost Control.

Mark Thoma comments on it: "He's correct - the options for a public plan that have been proposed do not do much to control costs, and even in this weakened form, there is still considerable opposition to the proposed public plans from the right. The frustration on the left is over why the proposals for a public plan are so limited. Why don't they do more to control costs? Democrats control the White House and Congress, yet they cannot get this legislation passed? That is puzzling to many supporters. The practical realities of enacting legislation are far from the vision that many people had about what would happen after the election. For these people, cost control or lack of it is not the point, this is all about political power and allegiance to the people who put the president and congress in power. They would be far more willing to accept something like the Baucus plan if they felt that the administration had gone down fighting rather than giving in to the wishes of the other side whenever they manage to make a little noise."

And so does Paul Krugman: Why the public option matters.

Roger Collier writes about the trigger for the public option. "I proposed the trigger concept in a piece that ran in THCB back in March. It was clear then that a nationwide public plan faced very considerable political obstacles, and I suggested that a more acceptable approach might be to establish a public plan option that would be implemented only where and when private plans failed to meet predetermined cost control targets. Senator Olympia Snowe proposed the trigger approach to fellow members of Senate Finance some weeks ago, and the NYT reports that the White House—desperate for at least one Republican vote in the Senate—is now analyzing its political feasibility and practicality."

Robert Reich writes The Snowe Job, and Why a "Trigger" for a Public Option is Nonsense. "The problem is twofold. First, it's impossible to design airtight goals for coverage and cost reductions that won't be picked over by five thousand lobbyists and as many lawyers and litigators even if, at the end of the grace period, it's apparent to everyone else that the goals aren't met. Washington is a vast cesspool of well-paid specialists who know how to stop anything resembling a "trigger." Believe me, they will.

Second, any controversial proposal with some powerful support behind it that gets delayed -- for five years or three years or whenever -- is politically dead. Supporters lose interest. Public attention wanders. The media are on to other issues. Right now the public option is very much alive because so many Democrats care deeply about it, with good reason. But put it off for years, and assign it to the lawyers and lobbyists I just mentioned, and you can kiss it goodbye for ever.

If the idea is to have a public option waiting in the wings in case private insurers blow it, why wait for it at all? If it gets lower costs and wider coverage, it should be included right from the start."

Harris Meyer writes No Alternative: An Analysis of the GOP Plan

New Hubble Images Hubble ERO Images

NASA has released the first Images from the Refurbished Hubble.


Images from STS-128

I just never get tired of looking at these, Top 10 (or so) Images from STS-128/

Christer-upside-down-580x396 1.jpg

Stunningly Intricate: Curta Mechanical Calculator

I've never heard of these but Dark Roasted Blend writes about Curta Mechanical Calculators.

"For years Curta calculators enjoyed a cult status among collectors, and as recently as in 2003 they were featured in William Gibson's 'Pattern Recognition' book. However, I daresay, not featured enough. This marvel of mechanical engineering should be given more exposure, especially given the bizarre and spooky circumstances of its origin."

- Entirely mechanical, no electricity or batteries involved.
- Designed by Curt Herzstark in 1938 and perfected inside a concentration camp.
- Considered to be the most efficient portable calculator (until electronic calculators came in the 70s)
- Simply a thing of beauty, stunning piece of engineering art.

This thing is amazing...

KFC Doubles Down and Loses...

A couple of weeks ago, Slashfood wrote about the KFC Double Down Chicken Sandwich.

"the Vancouver Sun estimated that the sandwich -- two chicken fillets sandwiching Swiss and pepper jack cheeses, bacon and 'the Colonel's sauce' -- weighs in at 1,228 calories. Maynard told Slashfood that KFC estimates the sandwich's caloric count at 'just under 600,' though the final nutritional data is not in."

That may sound like the least healthy thing you can eat, but creative minds will stop at nothing. I introduce...Deep...Fried........Butter.

"Gonzales, who has twice won top honors in the State Fair of Texas' annual contest for best new midway food, is back this year with deep-fried butter, a dish that's drawing gasps from even the most hard-arteried eaters. The snack will go up against fried peanut-butter-cup macaroons, deep-fried peaches and cream, fried stuffed peppers and fried pork chips with gravy for the Big Tex crown this Monday. And it comes in four flavors....original, garlic, cherry and grape."

And here's the Deep Fried Butter.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Awesome Photos of Hindu Festival

The Boston Globe posted Recent Hindu festivals and rituals. Go there and look at the pictures.

"Many Hindus throughout India recently celebrated Ganesha Chaturthi, a 10-day festival celebrating the birth of Ganesh, their supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. Hinduism, the predominant religion in India, is rich with traditional festivals and rituals, celebrated in many ways and locations around the world. Collected here are a few photographs from recent Hindu festivals and of Hindu devotees worshipping and practicing ritual ceremonies in India, England, Nepal and Indonesia. (36 photos total)"

Did this Guy Lie or Not?

I'm cleaning up some old saved links. In July, dday wrote Cannot Tell A Lie, about an article about Cheney's last minute efforts to get Scooter Libby a pardon. Fun read.

Seven hours of Feynman lectures online

Seven hours of Feynman lectures online. "Microsoft is presenting a series of lectures on physics by Richard Feynman. The lectures, shown in seven hour-long segments, were recorded by the BBC at Cornell University in 1964." The Silverlight plugin is required.

Robert Reich Public Option Video

This is very clear, concise and short. I hope it's the start of a trend...

I also hope the bill has more in it to bring down costs...

A Fun Visit to the Genius Bar

Mike's written A fun visit to the Genius Bar, one of the best descriptions I've read of what Apple Stores have done right.

Obama's Talk to Students

He's speaking at noon eastern. The White House has posted the speech.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

LA FIres

Here's an amazing time-lapse vidoe of the smoke form the LA fires.

The Origin of Diabetes: Don't Blame Your Genes

This week's Economist wrote The origin of diabetes: Don't blame your genes

"Genes are acquired at conception and carried to the grave. But the same gene can be expressed differently in different people—or at different times during an individual’s life. The differences are the result of what are known as epigenetic marks, chemicals such as methyl groups that are sometimes attached to a gene to tell it to turn out more of a vital protein, or to stop making that protein altogether."

"Many researchers believe epigenetic marks hold the key to understanding, and eventually preventing, a number of diseases—and one whose epigenetic origins they are particularly interested in is type 2, or late-onset, diabetes. Juleen Zierath and her colleagues at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, are trying to find out how people develop insulin resistance, the underlying cause of type 2 diabetes."

Friday, September 04, 2009

Cancer Rates and Unjustified Conclusions

Cancer Rates and Unjustified Conclusions |

"A number of opponents of new health care legislation, most recently our old friend Betsy McCaughey on 'The Daily Show,' have claimed that cancer survival rates are higher in the U.S. than in countries with nationalized health care."

"It’s certainly the case that we have higher survival rates than the United Kingdom and other countries with nationalized health care."

"But survival rates also differ within the United States, between insured and uninsured populations. The American Cancer Society found that the five-year survival rates for colorectal cancer averaged 63 percent for the privately insured but 49 percent for the uninsured. According to the Lancet study, five-year relative survival rates for colorectal cancer were 59.1 percent in the U.S. and 45.3 percent in Europe. Breast cancer survival rates among the uninsured were also similar to Europe – 85 percent survival for those with private insurance, 75 percent for the uninsured, close to the European average. Rates for people on Medicaid were similar to the uninsured."

And it gets more complicated. Then in another post they describe how it's easy to make claims and often more involved to disprove them. " It really is true that a lot of what we do here is to take what appear to be pretty simple claims and show that the reality is far more complicated than it might appear at first glance. Quite often we find ourselves saying things like, "That’s true, but it’s misleading…""

Investigate the Torture Already

corpus delicti is digby quoting Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), two of my favorites. Former prosecutor Whitehouse says there's obviously enough information about torture to begin an investigation and it's their job. Digby concludes with:

'We know what's happening here. Dick Cheney and his Republican allies are saying that if they are investigated they will launch a jihad against this administration once they retake power that will make previous witch hunts look like ring around the rosie. My only question is why anyone thinks they won't do it anyway?"

The Latest on Sarah P.

Kevin Jones gives The Latest on Sarah P.. He reads the Vanity Fair interview with Levi Johnston so you don't have to. McCain was a fool.

How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?

Lengthy Paul Krugman article, How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? is really a lesson in Macroeconomics.

Brad DeLong comments on it here and here.

Obama Will Release White House Visitor Logs

NPR reports Obama Reverses Course, Will Release White House Visitor Logs. "Today, President Obama -- in what his press office described as 'another indication of his commitment to an open and transparent government' -- announced that records of White House visitors will be released, and that each month, records of visitors from the previous 90-120 days will be made available online."

Here's the new policy, and a White House blog post on the matter.

Nice to see him correcting a previous mistake.

Al Franken Talks An Anti-Healthcare-Reform Mob Down

Al Franken talks an anti-healthcare-reform mob down:

I think I recognized all the articles he quoted from. I wonder if he reads Castro's Favorite Color?


The Boston Globe reports The Cushing Academy is one of the first schools in the country to remove the books from its library.

"Tia Alliy, a 16-year-old junior, said she visits the library nearly every day, but only once looked for a book in the stacks. She’s not alone. School officials said when they checked library records one day last spring only 48 books had been checked out, and 30 of those were children’s books."

In contract, here are some photos of Neil Gaiman's personal library. Here's one:


The Gonzales Cantata

Thank you Rachel Maddow for pointing me to The Gonzales Cantata. "A cantata based on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales." It's being performed this weekend in Philly and if I were there I'd be going.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

MO School Bans Band's Evolution T-Shirt

Band shirts hit wrong note with parents "The shirts, which were designed to promote the band’s fall program, are light gray and feature an image of a monkey progressing through stages and eventually emerging as a man. Each figure holds a brass instrument. Several instruments decorate the background and the words ‘Smith-Cotton High School Tiger Pride Marching Band’ and ‘Brass Evolutions 2009’ are emblazoned above and below the image."

"The band debuted the T-shirts when it marched in the Missouri State Fair parade. Summers said he was surprised when he received a direct complaint after the parade. While the shirts don’t directly violate the district’s dress code, Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt said complaints by parents made him take action."


Justice Stevens to Retire?

Yesterday the AP reported Justice Stevens' hiring at high court slows "Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has hired fewer law clerks than usual, generating speculation that the leader of the court's liberals will retire next year."

"Stevens confirmed through a court spokeswoman Tuesday that he has hired only one clerk for the term that begins in October 2010. He is among several justices who typically have hired all four clerks for the following year by now."

"Stevens also is nearing two longevity records. When he joined the court, he replaced the longest-serving justice, William O. Douglas, and would need to serve until mid-July 2012 to top that service record. He would surpass Holmes as the oldest sitting justice if he were to remain on the court until Feb. 24, 2011."

The Blog of Legal Times adds in Justice Stevens: Exiting Next Year?: "'His pattern is fairly consistent to hire a whole slew of clerks by the end of the term,' said former Stevens clerk Joseph Thai, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma. Some justices hire their full allotment of clerks for a future term even if they are thinking of retiring, but Thai thinks that 'Justice Stevens is not that kind of guy. He is very considerate of the personal lives of his clerks, and he would not want to give people the false hope that they will be working for a sitting justice.' That would explain why he would hire one clerk for the 2010 term; retired justices are allowed to hire one clerk instead of four."

Good Novels Don’t Have to Be Hard Work

Good Novels Don’t Have to Be Hard Work.

"This is the future of fiction. The novel is finally waking up from its 100-year carbonite nap. Old hierarchies of taste are collapsing. Genres are hybridizing. The balance of power is swinging from the writer back to the reader, and compromises with the public taste are being struck all over the place. Lyricism is on the wane, and suspense and humor and pacing are shedding their stigmas and taking their place as the core literary technologies of the 21st century."

Google Patents World's Simplest Home Page

Google Patents World's Simplest Home Page

"The home page, in contrast, was split off into a separate application, receiving its design patent for a 'Graphical user interface for a display screen of a communications terminal' just yesterday. The document (see below) is as minimalist as the interface, containing a single illustration of, with the company logo depicted in dotted lines to indicate it is not an integral part of the patent. In other words, subject to how the patent is enforced, Google owns the idea of having a giant search box in the middle of the page, with two big buttons underneath and several small links nearby."

That's just wrong.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Placebos Are Getting More Effective

Interesting article in Wired, Placebos Are Getting More Effective. Drugmakers Are Desperate to Know Why. I know a few of you probably have thoughts on the matter and I'm curious to hear them.

Siracusa on Snow Leopard

A friend described John Siracusa's 23 page Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard review in Ars Technica as "epic" and he's right.

The third page alone on HFS+ compression is worth it.

Then there's this possibility: Snow Leopard Is a Touchscreen Operating System

Roeper: (90) Days of Summer

I still have a few to see but Roeper's picks for summer films. is pretty good.

Movie Review: La Dolce Vita

I saw Fellini's La Dolce Vita tonight. I'd write a review but I think Ebert already said it all in his review. Seriously I think it's the best of his reviews that I've ever read.

For a film that's supposed to be so iconic, I don't think I've ever seen any of the shots in it. If the point is to show that the life of the idle rich is empty, I got the message in the first hour and unlike Sunday night's Mad Men, I don't think anything would have been lost by trimming it down from it's 3 hours. Also, Yvonne Furneaux looked just like Carla Gugino.