Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Schadenfreude of the Day: 05-30-2007

Have you heard about the governor of Nevada? Man, are all Republican chief executives like this?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The effeminate sheep & other problems with Darwinian sexual selection

The title of this post is actually the subtitle of a fascinating article by Jonah Lehrer, in Seed magazine. It was published about a year ago, so you might have heard something about it.

The article summarizes the theories of Joan Roughgarden, a biology professor at Stanford who wrote a book about homosexuality in the animal kingdom. Her theories are thought out well enough to have merited publication in peer-reviewed journals, although, unsurprisingly, they're controversial, even among other biologists. But she does present a case that seems to answer the question: If Darwin had it right, and you believe being gay is genetic (both views I buy), why didn't this trait get wiped out by thousands of generations of natural selection?

It's an interesting read.

And you know this guy has already read it. Many, many times.

Rick Santorum

(photo credit)

Monday, May 28, 2007

Father Knows Best

I said to my father during my last visit downstate a week or two ago, while we were watching some playoff basketball: "Imagine you're Tony Parker. You're just 25. You're playing point guard for the San Antonio Spurs, close to picking up another NBA championship ring. And come July, you're getting married to Eva Longoria."

KK sez: "Yeah. But is he really happy?"

Say It Ain't So, Yo

Ready for something really scary? How about a story with this headline?

New presidential directive gives Bush dictatorial power
National Security & Homeland Security Presidential Directive establishes "National Continuity Policy"

Man, what a thing to come across right before I go to bed. I haven't looked closely at the text of the directive yet; I'm posting this partly as reminder-to-self.

Once upon a time, in the kinder, gentler days of summer 2004, I had a vision of the election coming out the way it should have. And then I flashed on the White House, come January 2005, imagining George and Dick barricaded inside. This nightmare was relieved only by the image of a crowd beyond counting, all chanting, "Get out! Get out! Get out!" There were heroic troops, disobeying the orders coming from inside, to fire on the crowd. Finally, the most powerful creature in America exited through one of his many secure undisclosed tunnels, and George ran for the nearby helicopter on the White House lawn.

Hat tip for the link: Jinnet. Good to see that someone still has the strength to pay attention.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Fisking Canepa

Nick Canepa recently wrote a column, in which he ran down his list of "The 10 worst things in sports." (Hat tip for the link: King Kaufman.)

Following are my responses to Canepa's list. (Please pardon my self-indulgence. Ahhh, who am I kidding. Blogging is all about self-indulgence!)

1. The Designated Hitter

In an ideal world, I agree. In the real world of baseball in the last thirty years, at least, I don't. Watching MLB pitchers hit is boooooooooring. They can't. Even in the National League, they don't get to take batting practice for fear of injury, and almost none of them can so much as lay down a sacrifice bunt. The "strategy" argument is a yawner -- the idea that a manager might have to … pinch hit for the pitcher! … is not up there on my list of Great Topics for Debate. And the late game double switches that typically accompany the result of such ponderous deliberations just makes scoring the game on the cramped scorecards you get at today's ballparks completely tedious.

2. The NBA Draft Lottery

Maybe. But it seems to me that introducing a little uncertainty into the mix at least possibly cuts down on games thrown at the end of the season by teams racing for the basement and next year's first pick. The NBA's regular season is tediously long in any light, and it must truly suck to pay to support your home team in person when they're consciously trying to play below their worst.

3. Barry Bonds

No argument here. Yeah, I'm white. But Bonds, as I've said before, lacks class. And Henry Aaron was probably my last unsullied hero. In my dreams, Bonds reaches 754, sees the light, and retires.

4. David Stern

The biggest problem I have here is with Canepa's line:

His league is one littered with undisciplined, unschooled, rich, spoiled players, many of them unable to extricate themselves from the world of thugdom.

Let me respond in kind by characterizing Canepa's home town of San Diego: His city is a gated community littered with self-indulgent, narrow-minded, rich, spoiled honkies, many of them unable to extricate themselves from the worship of Ronald Reagan …

Sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it?

Canepa's argument here borders on racism, and is certainly guilty of a viewpoint that generalizes from a few punks to wrongly condemn an entire class of people. There are too many counterexamples to Canepa's thesis for me to list (although I recently noted one). Some of them are even white. And let's not forget how classy Stern was when the canonical media-portrayed thug, Allen Iverson, won the MVP a few years back: the commissioner stood at mid-court and spoke to a sold-out arena when presenting the trophy. He apologized for everything bad he'd said about Iverson before that, and recognized AI as the worthy man that he is.

5. The New York Yankees

If by "Yankees," Canepa means "Steinbrenner," I have almost no argument. But I still think Derek Jeter is The Man, and Willie Randolph and Ron Guidry were my two favorite players in the league when I was first allowed to visit NYC unchaperoned. There are so many problems with baseball that I've pretty much given up following it of late, but the Yankees, even just considering the management, are more a symptom than the problem.

6. Collegiate conference basketball tournaments

Beyond my ken.

7. Polls and the BCS (tie)

I. Don't. Care.

People who fret about college football rankings need lives and to get back on their meds.

[Update]: In a review of this post, I strongly admit to the possible superfluousness of the word rankings.

8. The NHL

I second this emotion. But really, just change the channel. Even better: go watch a college game, if you've got one handy. I hated hockey until I saw it played, live, at Providence College. The key difference between college and the pros: if you fight, you're out of this game and the next. No loopholes. Result? No fights.

9. Equipment

Maybe Canepa has a point here, since he's mostly focusing on tennis. But as a casual viewer, I have to say that baseline rallies are more fun to watch than the serve, rush the net, one volley, point, routine that I remember from the old days.

10. Tiger Woods

To be fair, Canepa only dislikes Woods because he's so good. But really, golf is not a sport. And even if I pretend that it is, Tiger Woods is the only reason I ever watch it for more than one minute.

Line of the Day: 2007-05-27

As one archaeologist described the cave paintings, "Maybe they killed one mammoth and talked about it for a thousand years."

This is from a comment by Dooley posted on the Achenblog, reproduced in Joel's latest post. The whole (quoted) comment and the whole post are both quite good. Keep the seemingly unrelated comment in mind as you read the whole thing. Strangely appropriate.

Reading (and Listening) Recommendations: 2007-05-27

  • The Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle Show
    This one is probably for a certain kind of geek only, but as I am most definitely in that camp, I couldn't resist. Imagine being in a conversation with Niven and Pournelle. Joel Achenbach got that privilege. The only complaints: the post isn't waaaaaay longer, and Achenbach didn't provide an audio link for a surreptitiously taped recording of the entire thing.

  • When Democrats collapse
    The always great Bill Maher outdoes even himself. I was trying to look for the money quote to post here, but the whole column is itself that.

  • Le Show (27 May 2007 edition)
    (Listen) And speaking of always great and outdoing self, Harry Shearer is in top form this week. Perhaps this week's show resonated with me because he takes up one of my new pet peeves -- the creeping inability of the U.S. to ensure the safety of its own food supply -- but I think it's more than that. Harry is always funny, always scarily spot-on with his gleanings of news not on the front page, and always spins really cool music.

  • RadioLab
    (Listen) This link points to the home page for a radio show that I just learned about, courtesy of mention by another of my favorite radio shows, On The Media. The connection is that they are both produced by WNYC, a public radio station that seems to be a bit more independent of NPR than most affiliates. RadioLab is hard to describe satisfactorily. If you must have a pigeonhole, it's a show that focuses mostly on new science. (Wait! Come back!) It is clever, well-written, charmingly hosted, and all of the episodes that I've listened to so far are absolutely fascinating. The show's editing took me a short while to get used to -- it feels a little like it's overly conscious of today's wavering attention spans -- but this is a minor complaint, and in any case, I am at least half sure that this gripe stems from impending geezerhood. I have been jotting notes, toying with writing a full review of it, but I'm not there yet. My four favorite episodes so far: Space, Placebo, Time, and best for last: Musical Language.

    I have to say, this show about has me ready to start contributing to NPR again.

  • 9 Beet Stretch
    (Listen) Inspired by the Time episode on RadioLab, I went in search of something mentioned: a performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, stretched such that it takes twenty-four hours to listen to the whole thing. This isn't like just putting your thumb on the turntable. The pitches are retained, but the durations of the notes are expanded. It's useless to explain further, and better to just check it out for yourself. I know this seems like a weird thing, but give it a few minutes' chance. I find it strangely fascinating, and I've caught a few minutes that are amazingly dynamic. It's sort of like whale songs, I think. It starts to make sense after listening for a while, and then you worry that you'd better turn it off before you get stuck listening to it forever.

    [Tech notes: Assuming you click the audio link on the page I point to, be a little patient -- the site provides the entire thing as a 24/7 stream, so you come in wherever you come in; i.e., almost certainly not at the beginning. So, you may start in a period of silence. I have tried listening to this three or four times, and the worst delay was ten or fifteen seconds. Also, the volume tends to be a little softer than most noise made by your computer, probably again depending on where you come in.]

The last three remind me that I've been hearing some buzz about looming problems for music being streamed over the Internet. It seems that copyright requirements might kill Web radio stations and place a big hurt on NPR's on-line offerings. This has nothing to do with pimply-faced teenagers (for whom the term peer-to-peer is sadly apt) sharing bootlegged songs. It has everything to do with sites that just stream music for your real-time listening pleasure. I haven't looked into the issue in detail yet, but it sure sounds ominous. presents one side of the story. More on this from me, later, maybe.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Another Small Step

Looks like Michael Baroody won't become the new head of the Consumer Product Safety Commission after all. Yay!

In case you missed earlier posts, I spoke about this guy here and here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Deadpan Line of the Day: 2007-05-22

This was actually said a few days ago, after a fourth quarter in which the New Jersey Nets shot 1-for-15 from the field, while the Cleveland Cavaliers went 3-for-17:

Both teams were on fire defensively.
-- Jason Kidd

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thoughts on Impeachment

Gary Kamiya has an interesting article up on Salon, in which he argues that we are all to blame for the lack of effort to impeach George W. Bush.

I don't agree with every point he makes, but it's a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece, and I do buy his overall thrust. I've long believed that the Bush's actions more than merit removal from office (not to mention lengthy punishment, featuring "enhanced" techniques). I agree with Kamiya when he says that letting this president get away with (insert humungously long list of atrocities here) is unjust, a terrible precedent, and therefore bad for the long-term health of our country. But I've never really argued for impeaching Bush. Here's why.

The first problem has always been, if you impeach George, you get Dick. Hard to feel like you'd be better off. Even getting rid of the two of them sometime during their first six years -- as if that would ever have happened -- meant getting Dennis Hastert.

The second problem is that it just would not have worked. It still wouldn't today, even after the most recent elections. Congress was controlled by Republicans until Jan 2007, and the GOP still has sufficient numbers to bog the process down, and to defeat the vote, assuming it made it that far.

Third, as much as I hate for my thinking to be lumped in with what Kamiya belittles as "cautious Beltway wisdom," we're now at the point where it's better -- or at least, less worse -- to play out the hand we have. The impeachment proceedings would paralyze the country and aggravate our divisiveness, and there are the risks of a backlash of sympathy for Bush and a corresponding portrayal of the Democrats as engaging in a "witch hunt." The process would take forever, especially given this White House's tendency to resist all requests for documents, and more generally, to play by the rules, or even obey the law. It seems more responsible, therefore, to concentrate on solving the problems that Bush has caused, rather than to put them aside to focus on an effort to punish him. It also seems more responsible not to decrease the chances of the Republicans being voted out of the White House in 2008.

There's an argument that says we shouldn't view impeachment as draconian, but more along the lines of a parliamentary vote of no confidence. This is another abstract point that I agree with, but the facts of life and history in the U.S. make this one a non-starter. Maybe it shouldn't be this way, but it is.

There's another argument that says that sometimes we just have to put aside practicalities and calculations, and instead, Do The Right Thing. Bush should be held to account and members of Congress should be forced to vote up or down on his criminality. It's time to stop accepting things with an apathetic attitude of "that's just politics." Forget about winning or losing the fight; it's more important to have it. I have no good answers for this argument, only the pragmatic ones listed above.

It's an awful thing to argue for letting Bush get away with what he has done, and Kamiya's piece definitely aggravates my feelings of guilt for feeling as I do. So go read it, and tell me why I'm wrong.


2007-05-23 09:11 EDT

This radio program makes a good case against mine. Here is a preview of the show, from one of the participants in the panel discussion.

The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy Strikes Again!

I was reading an article on Slate about the sudden disappearance of the American Center for Voting Rights, which Slate calls:

… the only prominent nongovernmental organization claiming that voter fraud is a major problem, a problem warranting strict rules such as voter-ID laws …

Besides noting the lack of any of the ACVR representatives at recent meetings and press conferences, Slate says its domain name has expired, and links to a blog post* as a source for this last claim. That post indicates that the domain name is for sale, so I clicked the link.

It appears that some nefarious America-hater has already purchased the link, and set it up to redirect to a site that presents the opposite (i.e., correct) point of view: that the voting fraud "problem" is a red Rovian herring that Republicans toss around, so that they can push for new restrictions that will discourage people on the fringes from voting. These people, obviously, tend overwhelmingly to vote Democratic.

Check it out. See where clicking takes you.

I'd call it one railroad tie's worth of evidence that we might be getting back on track. Finally. But, of course, the fight is not over, even concerning just this issue. The entire Slate article is well worth a read, albeit requiring a strong stomach: the political shenanigans behind the ACVR make sausage manufacturing appealing.

* Update: A look at the author bio at the bottom of the article indicates that the author of the article and the author of the blog post are the same person. The article is evidently a guest piece for Slate -- author Rick Hasen's day job is law professor, and he maintains a blog about election law.

The Fog of War Mission Accomplished

Yesterday's Week in Review Section in the NYT featured this picture by Joao Silva:

Aftermath of a suicide bombing in Iraq, by Joao Silva

To me, it perfectly encapsulates the mess in Iraq. The NYT's caption labels it, in part, "the aftermath of a suicide bombing," but it's pretty clear that they chose it for its powerful symbolic value -- panicked people fleeing from a disaster, with only murkiness ahead. Nice shot.

I asked Dick Cheney what he thought the picture represented, and he said, "Cutting and running."


2007-05-21 22:34 EDT

(Just a little wordsmithing.)

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Joel Achenbach has a good piece in the Sunday WaPo magazine, which I think he wanted to call "The End of Retail Politics," (according to his blog), but which is instead headlined "Land of the Giants."

I have sworn many times not to pay attention to, or comment upon, the 2008 race, given that we're not yet halfway through 2007. But Achenbach's piece is why we have the word exception. It's not at all a horse race story. Instead, it's half a melancholy meditation on the bigger picture, and half a bunch of fun stories from many other campaign trails.

Read it. It's quite good.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Would You Buy a Used Constitution From This Man?

Mitt Romney

I'm glad they're at Guantanamo. I don't want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons. I want them there.

Some people have said, we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantanamo.

--Mitt Romney

(photo source)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Church Membership Drive Gone Horribly Wrong

Or … maybe they're looking to appeal to the flesh-eating zombie community?

Zit Dinner

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Communist Menace

Brando has a good story up on CJSD.

Of course, the economic thinking and mob hysteria he admits is clear evidence of how much he and his thirty friends hate the American Way Of Life. They're probably all already on The Double Extra Secret Watch List, or so we should all hope. Enough people read a dangerous document like this, there's no telling where it could lead.

Just fifty people a day. Can you imagine fifty people a day …?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lede of the Day: 2007-05-16

From Bruce Reed:

These are tough times for the newspaper business, so editors everywhere should be grateful to Slate's parent company, the Washington Post, for an ingenious cost-saving measure--the reusable headline. Saturday's Post carried a story entitled, "Giuliani Tries To Clarify Abortion Stance." No matter how many times Giuliani addresses the subject, it's the only headline any newspaper will ever need.

You should check "The Has*Been" column/blog regularly. Always good. (Or maybe even subscribe to its RSS feed. I think Slate might finally have straightened out their woes in this department. Progress!) Here's a snippet from Reed's previous post:

As he labors to explain his ever-changing heart on choice, Giuliani seems determined to prove that there is no history test, either.

Giuliani is not alone. Mitt Romney doesn't want a religious test or a history test. His about-face on abortion is even less convincing than Giuliani's. Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, and Tom Tancredo, who don't believe in evolution, want to prove there's no science test. All the Republican candidates are supply-siders, hoping to prove there's still no math test.

On an unrelated note, but on the same site, it seems that I'm not the only one annoyed by ABC's seasickness cam. Phew. (You'll have to read down a few paragraphs -- this guy didn't spend all of his time talking about it, unlike some I could name) I also agree with him about some other points; e.g., that Pussycat Dolls "song" thing is giving me lots of exercise -- my mute button is broken, so I lunge for the volume button at every commercial break. But I disagree with the main thrust of the article, that the NBA is lame. Slate's people live in D.C., so it's understandable that they're a little grumpy, but the only thing wrong with the NBA is the guys in charge of producing it on TV.

Damning With Faint Praise --or-- Consider The Source --or-- (Fox + Henhouse)2

Last month, I noted that Bush's nominee to head the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Michael E. Baroody, has for the past decade and a half worked as head lobbyist for NAMBLA NAM, the National Association of Manufacturers. At the time, I said that I hadn't seen much coverage from the MSM on the matter.

The NYT does have a story on the matter today. Here's what William Brock had to say about Baroody:

He has as much intellectual depth and integrity as anyone I've met in government over the decades.

Brock was a labor secretary under Reagan and, like Baroody, a "senior official" of the Republican National Committee, so he should know, right?

They Had Another Debate?

I didn't watch the second Republican candidates' debate, either. Somehow, this tells me all I need to know:

The death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority, prompted a rush of statements from Republican candidates paying tribute to his life …


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

"… and GM hired a hundred new lawyers."

You've probably heard the old joke about the two car companies and their responses to new EPA regulations (the phrase new EPA regulations tells you how old the joke must be). The punchline goes, "So Toyota hired a hundred new engineers …"

Looks like there's a new life for that old joke. is reporting the following [their spelling of "open-souce" corrected by me]:

In an interview with Fortune magazine, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, and Horacio Gutierrez, the company's vice president of intellectual property and licensing, said open-source software, including Linux, violates 235 Microsoft patents. And Microsoft wants distributors and users of open-source software to start paying royalties for these alleged violations.

The Fortune story gives more details and lots of analysis, if you're interested.

Clearly, no self-respecting Linux hacker would even look at MS code, if for no other reason than the (sometimes overdeveloped) loathing for the kludginess therein. And clearly, Microsoft has invented little itself apart from talking paper clips -- their entire user interface is a clunky implementation of a blatant rip-off of Apple's design work, and the underlying logic of the OS was originally based on heavy lifting done by DEC.

But the worrisome thing is, a company with pockets as deep as MS can afford a lot of smart and amoral lawyers, so I'm not ready to just laugh this off out of hand. The information superhighway is littered with roadkill from past encounters with the Redmond SUV.

Just to be safe, better grab your copy of Ubuntu now.

Hitchens/Sharpton debate

Slate has posted the video of the recent debate between Al Sharpton and Christopher Hitchens. I watched it last night. It's pretty good.

This is the debate that caused a one-day furor because of an offhand remark that Sharpton made concerning Mitt Romney being defeated by "real Christians" or something like that. Whatever, it's hardly anything to do with the rest of the debate.

I'd not heard Hitchens speak before. He reminded me a lot of Richard Dawkins. He's clever and has thought out his arguments well. Plus, he has a British accent, which immediately gives him extra credibility and makes his insulting statements sound witty. Well, at least among us hopeless Anglophiles.

Sharpton got in a few good digs, some by recalling Hitchens's stance on the Iraq War, and many others simply by being nimble on his feet. Curiously, he made no effort to defend any particular belief or holy book, and conceded that, yes, people have a long history of doing bad things in the name of God. I'm not completely up on my Protestant sects, but as I understand it, part of what led different branches of Christianity to form and to turn away from Rome was their belief in the ability of the individual to experience and understand God. This may explain Sharpton's point of view -- he is a Pentacostal and was apparently ordained as a minister in his early teens. Another guess is that it may have been merely a debating strategy -- Sharpton seemed solely intent on defending God ("him- or herself" he was careful to say, repeatedly). He also clung to a second major point, that there can be no morality without belief in a higher power. Sharpton said that he'd read Hitchens's new book, and that while he disagreed with it, thought it was good and urged the audience to read it.

As you might expect, there was no "winner." Nor was there much convergence of viewpoints between Hitchens and Sharpton. Almost certainly, you'll finish the debate believing the same thing as you did before. But I found it entertaining, and refreshingly free of the interruptions and general rudeness that characterize most made-for-TV smackdowns these days. It was, in a word, civilized.

On a personal note, I was mostly happy to see another witty and articulate spokesman for the extreme anti-religious point of view. Hitchens did soften his stance a bit at the end. He acknowledged, even defended, the right of others to believe what they will. But he, like me, insists that those beliefs be kept private, and not imposed on him or his children. Also like me, he rejects out of hand the notion that morality requires religious faith, and instead argues that the tendency to behave properly toward others, while perhaps imperfectly developed, is innate in human beings. It is, we believe, a product of evolution, and without it, we wouldn't have lasted as a species. He did not explicitly say, but hinted at, the idea that the altruistic beliefs ascribed to religion must have come from humans themselves. This, to me, seems self-evident. Hitchens made the point most clearly by facetiously wondering if the Jews believed that murder was okay before they received the Ten Commandments.

I know that a lot of people, even some other agnostics and atheists, find the extreme anti-religious point of view offensive, and wish that this point of view would itself be kept quiet. I used to be in that camp, myself. Now, in reaction to the political clout of the other side, I believe it is important to present a firm and vocal disagreement. The philosophy of live and let live is my ideal, but I no longer think that living this way, for the time being, will work.


There is a popular theory, which throws a wrinkle into the hypothesis of global warming, that says that rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet would disrupt the flow of warm ocean water that keeps northern Europe temperate. The result: most of Europe would experience a mini-Ice Age, while the rest of the planet warms. Now, according to a story in the NY Times, the consensus of climatologists is that the theory is wrong.

The really interesting part of the story is that it's fairly long, yet feels no compulsion to present sound bites from the "other side."

Which, no doubt, will buttress the hypothesis of the liberal media.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Another Line of the Day: 2007-05-13

The only sure thing that can be said about the past is that anyone who can remember Santayana's maxim is condemned to repeat it.
-- Walter Isaacson

(Hat tip: KK.)

[Added] See also.

Line of the Day: 2005-05-13

President Bush, who often acts as his own Billy Carter …
-- Peter Sagal

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Seasickness Cam

Have you noticed the camera-on-a-wire that ABC is featuring in the NBA playoffs this year?

I hate it. The only good thing to say about it is that they mostly stop using it after a few minutes into each quarter.

I appreciate the attempt to provide a new look, and sure, everyone likes new toys. I remember this particular toy from the first game of the XFL, which I watched for the first half and then never again. (But I still remember the player whose jersey claimed his name was "He Hate Me.")

Bizarre cameras don't bother me in football. After watching the first round of the basketball playoffs, and now part of the second, I think I've figured out why they bother me so much in basketball. Two words: video games.

This will be irritating to football fans, but for me, football on TV is indistinguishable from the current state of the art in video games. I don't actually play them, but when I see demos, video game football doesn't look appreciably artificial compared to the meat version. Basketball? Computers aren't there yet. Their video game demos still look like cartoons to me. So does the view from camera on the wire.

I remember my attempts to draw action sports figures when I was a kid. Football players were the only ones that came out right. Maybe it's all the equipment, but there's something robotic about football players. There's something fundamentally simple about them, visually. So, if it wasn't impossible for a non-artist to draw them, it makes sense that it's easy for computers to do it, too. Basketball, by contrast, shows the human form almost completely unclothed, and computers rendering this as a bunch of connected polygons doesn't yet cut it.

I don't want the camera moving while I'm watching the ballet -- give me any fixed angle, and my eyes will adjust, and love to watch. If you move the camera, it just looks phony. Even the ball looks weird when it moves, especially away from the camera. It could be, I suppose, partly, the reduced optics that come with making a camera small enough to ride on a wire, and along with that, it's probably that I don't care as much about football that I don't notice the artifacts on the gridiron. Worse, it's a lot harder to follow the flow when the camera is moving, too. It feels like my eyes have to constantly refocus.

Whatever. I hate the camera on a wire for basketball. This is poetry in motion, the most graceful example of human beings ever. Don't phony it up.

Other notes:

Shout out to John Barry, who may be the second person on the planet to rant about flopping. I like to think of myself as the first. I've long irritated KK and others with my arguments that excessive flopping should merit a warning, and then a technical foul. Drawing an offensive foul is a great move, but way too many players try it way too often. I don't blame them. It's the rules. So, change the rules. I'm sick of watching seven-footers sitting on their asses when they should be trying to block shots. The hamming it up away from the ball is just silly. One of the few technical fouls ever called on me in a game was when I advised the ref after a whistle -- on guess who? -- to award my opponent an Emmy. L.A. stories.

Is not Leandro Barbosa the most fun to watch? Speed! When he hunches his shoulders and just blurs to the basket … man.

Okay, Tim Duncan might still be the absolute most. He doesn't make the highlight reels nearly as much as he should. Pity. The rest of the world could learn something about using footwork. And the glass.

And Sean Marion? Despite every shot -- except for his picture-perfect dunks -- looking absolutely wrong to me, I love his game. You don't get to see it as much against the Spurs, because there is no other team that I've ever seen as good at shutting down the high flyers.

Good stuff, when they shut off Seasickness Cam.

Kinsley on Hitchens

Michael Kinsley has a piece in the NYT Book Review, ostensibly on Christopher Hitchens's new book, but more on the author himself. It's quite good.

I grabbed a couple of Kinsley's delightful phrases and pasted them below. They're in a slightly hard-to-read color, because I hesitated to step on his lines -- they're better when you come across them in context. But if you aren't interested in reading the whole thing, just use your mouse to highlight the following couple of centimeters:

… he is a bit too quick to resort to French in search of le mot juste …

… the Hoover Institution or some other nursing home of the mind …

Reminder: you can read excerpts from Hitchens's book on Slate.

Neologism of the Day: 2007-05-12

olvlzl uses a new one to me: the cabloid view.


Lots of pings? Sorry about that.

If you use an RSS/Atom reader to get notified of updates to this blog, I apologize for the recent burst of pings that pointed you to ancient posts. I was fixing links, for reasons passing understanding for most sane people.

Should be all better now. Until my next attack of OCD, anyway.


I came across a new acronym initialization just now. Anyone know what "DFH" stands for, especially in the blogosphere? I'm guessing, from context, that it means "Democrat From Hell." It's not in any of my usual sources for acronyms and their ilk. Please clue me in if you've heard it. Or entertain us all with your best bluff answer.

BTW, the context mentioned above is quite good: a post describing John Brady Kiesling. I vaguely remember hearing about this guy. Now it sounds like I'll have another book or two on my must-read list.

This is how it starts …

Ah, crap. I just made my first edit on Wikipedia. I hope I don't get compulsive.

So many typos. So little time.

Taking unbelievable to the next level

Would you believe that Paris Hilton has been sentenced to 45 days in jail for DUI?

How about that there's an online petition titled "FREE PARIS HILTON?"

Okay, then, how about this as the first paragraph of the petition?

Paris Whitney Hilton is an American celebrity and socialite. She is an heiress to a share of the Hilton Hotel fortune, as well as to the real estate fortune of her father Richard Hilton. She provides hope for young people all over the U.S. and the world. She provides beauty and excitement to (most of) our otherwise mundane lives.


As of post time, 23,466 people have acknowledged their mundane lives. The other billion people on the Internet are evidently hoping for a bad-girls-in-prison video.

(Hat tip: PC Advisor.)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Inadvertently humorous typo of the day: 2007-05-08

Not even by a long short.
-- Ravi, proprietor of "All About Linux"


I was feeling milestone pressure, so I figured I'd just get this one out of the way with some classic images of the Antichrist.

Nice bit of cleverness

I just sorted the messages in my Inbox according to the Subject field. It was a small joy to see that what I had hoped would happen did: the replies to a given subject fell neatly in line with the original message. That is, the subject line of "Very interesting article" and all of the messages with the subject line "Re: Very interesting article" appeared next to each other.

Props to the Thunderbird developers.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Line of the Day: 2007-05-05

Here's Achenbach's take on Romney, et al, and their recent debate:

Having one guy without jowls is what the Republican party leadership calls "diversity."

Runner-up, from the same column: Achenbach quotes John Dickerson, who passes along the following.

I e-mailed a Republican veteran of the last two presidential campaigns whose response to the debate was: "Fred Thompson won."

(Fred wasn't there, if you didn't already know.)


You've probably seen these on wingnutmobiles:

Truth Fish

Here are the first two bullet points on the page whence this image originates (they're selling them for $4.95, in gold or silver):

  • The Darwin Truth Fish auto emblem is very popular these days, especially for those talking about teaching Intelligent Design or Creationism in the classroom.

  • Occassionally [sic] you will see an Evolutionists [sic] version of this bumper sticker, with the Darwin eating the Christian Fish. The fact is that it takes more faith to be an Evolutionists [sic], a religion based on time and chance, slime to life, chaos to order and basic reversal of all the laws of physics. Christians hold to the facts, that the evidence points to Creator, a designer. Not only is there physical evidence of a Creator, but the way we are wired inside proves that we are Created. Otherwise why would trust matter? Who would care who their releatives [sic] are, yet those who are adopted pay big money to trace their birth parents. Why do people hate to see injustice? We are designed with a conscious [sic], a sense of right an [sic] wrong.

I was provoked to Google "truth fish" in reaction to a nice analysis piece in the NYT, which looks a split brewing among conservatives over belief in evolution.

But the argument also exposes tensions within the Republicans’ "big tent," as could be seen Thursday night when the party’s 10 candidates for president were asked during their first debate whether they believed in evolution. Three -- Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas; Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas; and Representative Tom Tancredo of Colorado -- indicated they did not.

I don't know how I feel about this. It is of course discouraging that three semi-plausible candidates for presidential nomination don't believe in evolution. On the other hand, given the state of things in the U.S. in general, and the Republican Party in particular, I suppose I should be happy that only three of ten feel this way.

Ultimately, though, it's comforting to see some seams coming apart in the big tent.

And of course, the only emblem worthy of any thinking person's automobile is this:

Flying Spaghetti Monster

Friday, May 04, 2007

Line of the Day: 2007-05-04

This just in from the nephew, who is remarkably tolerant of his uncle's well-meaning counsel. I had ended up my last missive by suggesting that he blog about the recent loss of the family dog, and the too-soon arrival (his measure) of a new puppy. How nice a way to say "get off my ass, you old fogey" is this?

Yeah I've been working on getting the creative juices flowing...but now I mostly talk amongst friends about my problems. You're probably picking up what I'm putting down, like your friends are the closest thing to blood that you have when you're a teenager.

Man, that Mantra

The surprise is not that Ronald Reagan's name was repeatedly invoked last night at the Republican candidates' debate. The surprise is that they limited themselves to doing so only twenty times.

(I didn't actually count, or even watch. The count comes from the sidebar to a NYT story summarizing the talking points.)

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes Ipsos Custodes?

Here's the lede and some excerpts from a story that probably bears watching:

A federal official whose investigations of waste and corruption in Iraq have repeatedly embarrassed the Bush administration is now being investigated himself by an oversight committee with close links to the White House and by the ranking Republican on the House Government Reform Committee.

The official, Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., runs the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

[T]he investigations are coming to light just a few months after Mr. Bowen’s office narrowly escaped what amounted to a termination clause tucked away in a large military authorization bill by staff members of another Republican congressman. A bipartisan group of lawmakers later managed to reverse that provision, but the latest action has renewed suspicions that Mr. Bowen -- a Republican himself -- has come to be seen as a serious political liability by his own party.

Want some Orwell-speak from the Administration who holds all records in this department? Oh, we got some! The investigation was begun after several of people who worked for Bowen made complaints to the …

President’s Council on Integrity and Excellence, an organization that was specifically created to investigate allegations of misconduct by inspectors general at federal agencies.


2007-05-12 23:26 EDT

Missing comma and hyphen added. Does my obsession have no lower limit?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Answering Jennifer

Following Brando's lead, I am posting my answers to Jennifer's Questions here, instead of in her comments. (I might want to change an answer.) Jennifer, if you prefer comments to linkbacks, I apologize. Next time.

1) Have you ever owned or worn a dashiki?

Hell, yes! I loved them, back when they were just going out of fashion. They were mostly hand-me-downs, from the same brothers who gave me their worn-out platform shoes. And who are no doubt laughing at me to this day.

I also liked collarless dress shirts and skinny ties (not at the same time.)

In my own defense, I never liked Members Only jackets.

2) What was your favorite outfit and why?

Anything, so long as I could wear my cowboy boots with it. Count this as yet another thing that George W. Bush has ruined forever. I haven't gone pointy-toed since mid-1999.

3) What would people find most surprising about you?

That I'm a registered Republican. (But there's a sinister motivation at work here …)

4) Do you have a tail?

No. Worrying about being followed is for paranoiacs. I am a neurotic.

5) If you were a cowboy/cowgirl, what would you name your horse?

Jeez, don't ask me that. I'm still embarrassed about my choice of cat names. Not to mention the plethora of cloying nicknames.

6) What's the first thing you think about upon waking in the morning?

Coffee. No matter how badly I have to pee.

7) Hot or cold?

Hot, of course! Oh, not coffee? Well, I think you can always get warm if you're cold, but not vice versa. Does that answer your question?

8) Literal or lateral?

"Lateral" bugs me, because it is often used to mean not just to the side, but backwards, as well.

9) Rain or shine?

I lived in L.A. for a decade, and grew to hate the incessant nice days. Rain, for sure.

10) What scares you the most?

Well, right now, I am recovering from pulling down plaster ceilings in my new old house, which meant much mouse scat fell upon me. Despite wearing a face mask, I have to say: Hantavirus.

But, ongoing, I also worry that Homeland Security listens in when I make up new nicknames for my cats.

11) Worst moment that turned into a best?

Driving a car in a heavy snowstorm that broke down in the middle of nowhere, with my uber-frail grandmother in the back seat. She, being Irish, worried that the battery had died because she had asked me to run the heat. After falling over a guardrail and rolling down a hill, I came upon a farmhouse, got to use the phone, and a tow truck appeared shortly thereafter. Grandma sat next to the driver, who was about ten years younger than she, and absolutely enchanted him with stories. She told me after we'd secured a rental car: "I wasn't worried about the cold. I have a bottle of scotch in my purse."

12) What you're still grappling with?

Like all dyslexic agnostic insomniacs: I stay up all night wondering whether there really is a dog.

13) Winter, spring, summer or fall?

Fall. Another reason to have moved back east from L.A.

14) Carol King or James Taylor?

(Don't think I didn't get the reference and am now not mad about having that line cycling through my head.) Carol(e) King. I didn't hear as much King after her moment of heavy rotation, but at least I never heard from her suckage like Follow The People, or whatever that song was. I mean, how do you make an album like "Sweet Baby James" and then smother the world with treacle for your next eighty albums? Answer, and a message to the kids: Don't use heroin. But if you do, don't stop. It'll mess you up for sure.

15) Do you look at your mouth when you are brushing your teeth or just look around the room?

Choice (c): I stare bleakly into my eyes.

Well, maybe just forlornly. Or glazedly.

Wait. I want to change an answer. I am still grappling with why my spellchecker underlines "glazedly."

A Quiet Shout-Out

Luol Deng has been announced as the winner of the NBA's Joe Dumars Trophy, an award given for sportsmanship, according to the AP.

I didn't know this until five minutes ago: this is an award for which only the players vote.

Peer recognition, in a category overlooked in too many walks of life. Somehow, it seems like there should be more fanfare.

Congratulations, Mr. Deng.

QuickTime Security Patch

Apple has released a security patch for QuickTime, which you can get on a Mac through Software Update, and on a PC through QuickTime's own Help -> Update Existing Software menu entry.

Brian Krebs has details, if you want them, including links for alternate ways of updating the program.

The download is fairly large, as is usual for this program -- twenty-odd MB on the PC and forty-odd on the Mac.

Further annoyance: when you install the patch on a PC, QuickTime adds shortcuts to your desktop and Quick Launch bar, and adds an icon to the System Tray, irrespective of your previous preferences. You can delete the first two (use the right-click menu on the Quick Launch icon) easily. The System Tray icon can be removed by launching QuickTime and doing Edit -> Preferences -> QuickTime Preferences. Click the Advanced tab and uncheck the box labeled "Install QuickTime icon in System Tray." Then click "OK."

I've said it before and I'll say it again. A patch or other update to a program should not result in change of user preferences. QuickTime continues to get this wrong, and its developers should be punished. I'm thinking mandatory viewing of tonight's debate among Republican presidential hopefuls, followed by the inevitable nine hours of spin on Fox News.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Another argument for citizen journalism

I'm in the minority on this. But if I want you to get all the words for heroin that are out there, I want the ones you know. Not the ones you remember from reading Burroughs in college.
-- Jesse Sheidlower, via Bryan Curtis

The above comes from an article on Slate, about a man who spent thirteen years in prison assembling a slang dictionary. Recommended.

Fun Fact of the Day: 2007-05-01

According to Utility Computing:

Stanford University's Folding@home distributed computing project has seen its capacity more than double in the last month thanks to the addition of idle processor cycles from hundreds of thousands of PlayStation 3 consoles.

Distributed computing is a set-up where a massively complex problem is worked on by many computers. People sign up to help, download a program, and when their computers (and now, PlayStations) are idle, the computers grind away on part of the problem and upload the results. In this case, Stanford is working on "protein folding."

The combined capacity of Folding@home is now about 700 Teraflops (700 trillion floating point operations per second, and the article says that 400 Tflops are being contributed by about 250,000 PlayStations.

It's hard to say whether this indicates that we're not so much a nation of slackers, since a quarter-million PlayStations are sitting idle at any one time. Or, maybe we're such slackers that we can't even summon up the energy to play videogames.

And no, I don't know what "protein folding" is. But it's still a fun fact.


2007-05-12 09:14 EDT

Don't know why I didn't post this when I wrote it. Sorry for the confusion.

Same Old Drill

You can say this much for the Bush Administration: they stick to their principles. Less politely, they stay bought.

In another attempt at something that has been repeatedly rejected:

The Bush administration proposed on Monday leasing out millions of acres along the coasts of Alaska and Virginia to oil and gas drillers, a move that would end a longstanding ban on drilling in those environmentally sensitive areas.

I can hear the spin now: "It's not ANWAR! This is different! It's offshore!"

Of course there are environmental concerns, and of course, there are irritations at what will probably be another sweetheart deal for Big Oil:

If the administration does lease out areas in Alaska, companies may be entitled to a special reprieve from paying royalties to the government.

And, surprise, surprise, there's really not that much to be had. The Interior Department, which you have to figure is being as optimistic as it can get away with, estimates the total reserves as:

… equal to about 16 months of the United States' current oil consumption and about two years of its current consumption of natural gas.

According to the article quoted for this post, Congress has 60 days to object, or else the plan goes into effect. Probably worth making a phone call or two, don't you think?