Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The 30th anniversary of spam

Cognitive Surpluss

There are a lot of wasted brain cycles out there:
So how big is that surplus? So if you take Wikipedia as a kind of unit, all of Wikipedia, the whole project--every page, every edit, every talk page, every line of code, in every language that Wikipedia exists in--that represents something like the cumulation of 100 million hours of human thought. I worked this out with Martin Wattenberg at IBM; it's a back-of-the-envelope calculation, but it's the right order of magnitude, about 100 million hours of thought.

And television watching? Two hundred billion hours, in the U.S. alone, every year. Put another way, now that we have a unit, that's 2,000 Wikipedia projects a year spent watching television. Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, "Where do they find the time?" when they're looking at things like Wikipedia don't understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that's finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

I liked this bit:

I was having dinner with a group of friends about a month ago, and one of them was talking about sitting with his four-year-old daughter watching a DVD. And in the middle of the movie, apropos nothing, she jumps up off the couch and runs around behind the screen. That seems like a cute moment. Maybe she's going back there to see if Dora is really back there or whatever. But that wasn't what she was doing. She started rooting around in the cables. And her dad said, "What you doing?" And she stuck her head out from behind the screen and said, "Looking for the mouse."

Here's another way of putting it:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Yo McCain, hiding your finances behind your wife isn't fooling us

Yes, she has a lot more money than he does. (She's heir to a beer fortune, I think.) But McCain probably does have more than a single checking account. Everything else is in his wife's name.

"Free Tibet" (made in China)

Image from The Adventure Blog

Ah, the ironies made possible by the forces of globalization. Here's BBC News:

Police in southern China have discovered a factory manufacturing Free Tibet flags, media reports say.

The factory in Guangdong had been completing overseas orders for the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Workers said they thought they were just making colourful flags and did not realise their meaning.

But then some of them saw TV images of protesters holding the emblem and they alerted the authorities, according to Hong Kong's Ming Pao newspaper.
I don't know what's funnier: that the people who wanted to make "Free Tibet" flags sent the order to China of all places, or that a Chinese factory was manufacturing pro-Tibetan independence paraphernalia.

The electability argument favors Obama

Take a look at this map. Kos does the math:

Clinton does better than Obama in 6 states totalling 92 electoral votes.

Obama does better than Clinton in 15 states totalling 164 electoral votes.

This map has Minnesota for either Democrat. I thought Minnesota was a swing state; it has a Republican governor. But maybe it isn't. That would be good news. Anyway, I know Obama is polling way better there. One gripe: did the map really need to use the color brown for Obama and pink for Clinton? C'mon. As if their race and gender haven't been emphasized enough.

Anyway, here's something else to consider: the states where Obama does better are states that have important senate races:

Based on what we have seen so far this year, Hillary Clinton will have bigger coattails in the rust belt and Barack Obama will have bigger coattails out West. Only there aren't any contested Senate races in the rust belt and there are several in the West (Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, New Mexico, and Minnesota). This probably puts Schumer in a bind. He is supporting Clinton, but in terms of winning Senate seats, he's better off with Obama.

Since when is Minnesota "the West"? Some of Minnesota isn't even west of the Mississippi.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I want my 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons books

They exist! I want them! EN World has photos of some internal pages:

Two things I can't wait for: the arrival of my 4th Edition D&D books and the end of the Democratic primary.

Glowing review of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

Massawyrm wrote a 3-part glowing review of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons (part 1, part 2, part 3):
Let me just say this upfront. I. Love. 4E. And I didn’t want to. Much like many of you out there, the 3.5 partial reboot just five years ago pissed me off. But we’ve spent 8 years now with the better part of this system. And hell, even 5 years is a long time. But Massawyrm, you’re thinking you don’t know how much I’ve spent on 3.5. No? Here at the Casa de la Wyrm we don’t have a D&D bookshelf. We have a D&D closet. It’s where I keep my boxes of Dwarven Forge Master Maze, my big plastic bins of D&D Minis, and two long shelves of over $1000 in 3.5 books. But just 2 weeks into playing 4E, I boxed up every non-fluff heavy book I owned, drove down to Half Price Books and sold them for as much cash as I could get. I knew I would never, ever, touch them again. Yes. 4E really is that good. It is the XBOX 360 to your XBOX. And it is time to upgrade my friends.
The folks on this thread at Maxminis think Massawyrm is being something of a shill. Here's Shottglazz:
This has got to be the most servile, pandering review of any game product I've ever seen. Hell, I've read reviews by company employees that weren't this glowing, sunshine-out-of-the-butt cheerful. Anyone that I've conversed with on here knows I'm not happy about the changes to the game - but even if I was, this review would have me sceptical. Unless WotC has managed to do the impossible (release a game system with no flaws/bugs) then the reviewer has not IMHO, done his job.
I just want to get my hands on the rules so I can judge for myself!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Note to mainstream media: Clinton is a total longshot

One thing that's pissing me off about mainstream media coverage of the Democratic primary is their depiction of it like some neck-and-neck, down to the wire race. It isn't. Clinton's chances are quite slim. Intrade (which isn't prescient or anything but is a good reflection of the current conventional wisdom) has her at about 17%, to Obama's 81%.

What about her 9% victory in Pennsylvania? It doesn't mean squat. Pennsylvania happened pretty much like people were expecting it to happen. And every time the expected happens, Clinton loses an opportunity to make the astronomical gains she would need to get the nomination. Yes, she "won". But that's like scoring 2 runs in the 8th inning when you're behind 13 to 1: yes, better to get 2 runs than no runs, but in terms of your chances of winning, they've actually gone down. To pull even, you'd need to be scoring an average of 6 runs per inning. Scoring 2 runs in this situation doesn't mean "the momentum as shifted" or any crap like that.

Basically, Clinton is hanging around hoping Obama will be struck by a meteorite or make some gaffe that can be inflated into something huge enough that he can be depicted as unelectable. Her campaign has done a great job at pretending they still have a chance, and has made all sorts of ridiculous claims about what metrics really matter. And from what I can tell, NPR and the New York Times are still taking this bullshit seriously. Stop already. She can't win. And her campaign is annoying the crap out of me with its Rovian baloney.

Is our military being taken over by Christianist assholes?

Stories like this one in today's New York Times have become all too common:
FORT RILEY, Kan. — When Specialist Jeremy Hall held a meeting last July for atheists and freethinkers at Camp Speicher in Iraq, he was excited, he said, to see an officer attending.

But minutes into the talk, the officer, Maj. Freddy J. Welborn, began to berate Specialist Hall and another soldier about atheism, Specialist Hall wrote in a sworn statement. “People like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Welborn said, according to the statement.
Well, I think we must hawk the Loogie of Disrespect(TM) on Maj. Freddy J. Wellborn. What an asshole. And how illegal. And the founding fathers of our country, although certainly from Christian backgrounds, were often deists. They certainly weren't the intolerant bastards that the Christianists make them out to be.

Here was my favorite part of the article:
Since the Air Force Academy scandal began in 2004, Mr. Weinstein said, he has been contacted by more than 5,500 service members and, occasionally, military families about incidents of religious discrimination. He said 96 percent of the complainants were Christians, and the majority of those were Protestants.
Emphasis mine. OK, when even the Protestant Christians are complaining about religious nuts proselytizing in the military, I think you have a problem. Given the recruitment problems that the military is having these days, you'd think they'd crack down on this sort of thing. Enlistees not only have to deal with the headaches involved in supporting the Iranian-backed Shiite militia
we like against the Iranian-backed Shiite militia we don't like, they also have to put up with evangelizing Christianist blowhards telling them what to believe. No wonder they're having difficulty getting people to sign up.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Not only is it fun, it might be good for you, too

At least if you're a guy. BBC News via Sullivan:
Men could reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer through regular masturbation, researchers suggest.

They say cancer-causing chemicals could build up in the prostate if men do not ejaculate regularly.

And they say sexual intercourse may not have the same protective effect because of the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, which could increase men's cancer risk.


The protective effect was greatest while the men were in their 20s.

Men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.

Of course, who knows if it's a causal relationship. Maybe men who don't masturbate are depressed, and thus have less ability to fight off the cancer. There are all kinds of possibilities. Still, I bet a lot of guys will be happy that what they're doing might have long-term benefits in addition to the obvious short-term ones.

Friday, April 25, 2008

"There Can Be Only One!"

The immortal line from the cult classic movie Highlander is on the cover of this week's TIME:

Instead of another debate, Obama and Clinton should fight each other with claymores. Katanas would be OK, too. The victor would decapitate the loser, scream "THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!" and then become the Democratic nominee for president. Then they would sword fight McCain for the presidency. That would be teh awes0m3. But a bit unfair to McCain: due to injuries he suffered during his captivity in Vietnam he can't move his arms properly. Maybe McCain could let Joe Lieberman be his champion or something. (Via rubber hose.)

Shoemakers are not smarter than evolution

The racial version of "A Boy Named Sue"

A white woman has a name typically thought of as black. Via Chaos Theory, from where I swiped the title of this post.

Iraq: Now less popular than Vietnam in 1971

Think Progress via Kevin Drum:

A new USA Today/Gallup poll found that 63 percent of Americans say “the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, a new high mark by one percentage point.” Gallup notes that “majority opposition to the Iraq war is basically cemented.”

Gallup adds, “The new high in Iraq war opposition is also notable because it is the highest ‘mistake’ percentage Gallup has ever measured for an active war involving the United States — surpassing by two points the 61% who said the Vietnam War was a mistake in May 1971.” (HT: Dan Froomkin)

Choose Your Own Adventure: Pong

Remember those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books (Wikipedia entry), where you make decisions, and then turn to a different page depending on those decisions? Someone did one for the great ancestor of video games, Pong. It's called Paper Pong. Here it is.

Here's the website, where you can order a hard copy via (HT: Mad Latinist via email.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Stewart & Colbert on Clinton campaign

I'm not surprised. The Daily Show and The Colbert Report's viewers are likely to be Obama supporters demographically. It's sad that age, gender, and race are playing such a prominent role in the Democratic primary. I like the Daily Show clip in particular:

Helen Thomas asks about torture

Rice the United States

Well, kinda: MarketWatch:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said its Sam's Club wholesale club chain is limiting the sale of some rice to four bags per member visit because of what it described as "supply and demand trends."

Jasmine, basmati and long-grain white rices will be subject to those purchase restrictions, as long as they are allowed by law, in the 594 clubs across the U.S., said Sam's Club spokeswoman Kristy Reed. New Mexico and Idaho are the only two states that forbid such practice, she said.

Reed declined to comment specifically on whether the restriction stemmed from a shortage in imports or a rush among consumers to hoard these commodities. Wal-Mart said at this point, it's not limiting purchases of flour or oil.
Last sentence emphasis mine. Via Marc Ambinder.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another Gygax tribute

This time in the form of an opinion piece by Alvin Monje on Gamasutra:
On closer inspection, however, even this level of recognition is grossly inadequate. In creating Dungeons & Dragons, Gygax and co-creator Dave Arneson didn't just build a blueprint for the digital RPGs to come; they built the progenitor of most contemporary video games, irrespective of genre.
In providing these rules and model of the world, D&D offered a powerful framework for running the first interactive simulations of reality, one in which both the everyday and the extraordinary were possible. For the first time in gaming, you could walk around a world, talk to people, explore towns and cities -- and, yes, dungeons.
The simulations ran on the best computers around: human brains. Armed with common sense knowledge, intuition, and imagination, a person need only hear the word "forest" or "castle" in order to picture one. (This worked out well, since building a convincing digital forest in 1974 was impossible.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Evidence that Cheney is an Iranian mole, part XXVII

rubber hose:
i'm glad that the new york times is finally noting that the u.s. and iran are effectively on the same side in iraq. i just that this is hardly a new phenomenon. for years the iranian government has backed the same iraqi government as the u.s. over a year ago, bush met with the leader of what was then called the SCIRI (now called the ISCI) to pressure them to join the maliki government. the SCIRI/ISCI is one of the most overtly pro-iranian group in iraq. the members of the ISCI's militia, the badr organization, actually draw their pensions from the iranian revolutionary guard. bush was, quite literally, pushing iranian agents to become part of the u.s. supported iraqi government.

the only reason this convergence of interests appears to be so strange now is because the bush administration's anti-iranian rhetoric has become so detached from its action. for the past month, the u.s. has been providing military support to a militia (the badr organization) that's on the iranian government's payroll against a rival shia militia (sadr's mahdi army). sadr's group also has ties to iran, but to a much lesser extent than ISCI because sadr's group is both shia and iraqi nationalist. and yet throughout this recent campaign, the bush administration has been presenting sadr as nothing but an iranian stooge, even as the u.s. has been allied with the real iranian stooges (the ISCI) to fight against sadr. the only "contradiction" is the clash between what the bush administration has been saying and what it has been doing: strengthening iranian interests in iraq while it claims to be combating it.
If the Iranian Supreme Ayatollah had total mind control over the U.S. government, he probably wouldn't have had the U.S. act in such a pro-Iranian fashion as it actually has. Because this mind controlling Ayatollah would be afraid that to do so would make it too obvious that Iran was somehow manipulating U.S. policy. Really, from taking out the Taliban, taking out Saddam Hussein, using "axis of evil" rhetoric to drive the Iranian population into the hands of the hard-liners, refusing to address U.S. oil consumption in any meaningful way, and now backing pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, it's hard to find anything we've done that hasn't played into the hands of the Iranian theocrats.

I got my True Dungeon ticket!

Grishnash, Mad Latinist and I will be doing True Dungeon at GenCon this year, assuming no disasters prevent us from going. The event went on sale yesterday and is probably sold out already. It was almost impossible to get tickets, the website was so slow. Last year we missed out. But in previous years we've done pretty well. Mad Latinist is great at memorizing the charts necessary to get bonuses when casting spells, and Grishnash is great as a two-weapon ranger. (You fight using a shuffleboard-like chip sliding system.) Last year I was a rogue, and managed to disarm about 1/3 of the traps via a task reminiscent of the game Operation. I wasn't all that good at it, but I could fight somewhat decently.

This year, they have two versions: puzzle intensive and combat intensive. We're doing the puzzle intensive. It's overpriced ($38 for an approximately 1 hour experience) and totally dorky, but it is actually pretty damn cool. The lighting is very dark, and you're always fumbling for your "equipment" (wooden poker-chip like things). Solving puzzles under these conditions can be quite difficult, especially when working with people you don't know. Trying to "pick a lock" as a wall actually advances on you can be quite unnerving. And actually trying to escape from a prison cell by tying a string to a crossbow bolt and shooting it at the key ring to drag it back is a lot harder than it sounds.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

If business meetings were run like blog comment threads

This is why I don't spend too much time in the comments section of most blogs. The sketch above is pretty accurate. One of the benefits of having a low traffic blog is that the comments are actually relevant! (I haven't been responding to commenters here as often as I'd like to due to time reasons. But I do read everything people write.)

New Rules: Maher on Obama and bitter Americans

I don't have cable, but thankfully most of the really funny political bits from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Maher end up on Crooks and Liars. Here's a "New Rules" segment from Mahers' Real Time.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

How McCain gets a free ride

Cogitamus via Crooks and Liars:
Do you think if Barack Obama had left his seriously ill wife after having had multiple affairs, had been a member of the "Keating Five," had had a relationship with a much younger lobbyist that his staff felt the need to try and block, had intervened on behalf of the client of said young lobbyist with a federal agency, had denounced then embraced Jerry Falwell, had denounced then embraced the Bush tax cuts, had confused Shiite with Sunni, had confused Al Qaeda in Iraq with the Mahdi Army, had actively sought the endorsement and appeared on stage with a man who denounced the Catholic Church as a whore, and stated that he knew next to nothing about economics -- do you think it's possible that Obama would have been treated differently by the media than John McCain has been? Possible?

Yummy meat without the guilt!

Yum! Soon we'll have vat meat. Much better for the environment, and more humane because you don't have to kill an animal to get it!

TED spread

What's the TED spread? Kevin Drum:
The TED spread is the difference between the interest rate on 3-month treasury bills (safe as houses, um, well, really safe, anyway) and the rate banks charge each other for 3-month loans (the LIBOR rate). I'd never heard of the TED spread until a couple of months ago, but apparently it's a pretty good indication of financial jitters. When the financial markets are calm and happy and everyone is paying their bills, the spread is small. Banks lend to each other for only a small premium above what Uncle Sam charges. When fear takes over (will Bear Stearns really be able to pay back that loan?) banks raise their interest rate and the TED spread increases.
So, what's it look like these days (image from Kevin Drum):

So banks are still pretty jittery.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Obama's take on last night's debate

DNC Chair Howard Dean wants superdelegates to decide now

Dean wants superdelegates to decide now:
An increasingly firm Howard Dean told CNN again Thursday that he needs superdelegates to say who they’re for – and “I need them to say who they’re for starting now.”

“We cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time,” the Democratic National Committee Chairman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “We’ve got to know who our nominee is.”

I agree. The superdelegates have had plenty of time to decide.

P.S.: I didn't see the debate last night, but pretty much the entire lefty blogosphere thinks the ABC moderators (Stephanapoulus and Gibson) were an utter travesty.

One videogame that definitely needs a movie

I'm looking forward to this one. (HT: Al Reed's AIM sig)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Awareness test

Discussion in comments to avoid spoilers.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Baby toads erupt from holes in toad's back

Who needs science fiction when reality is this cool/gross:

Remember, domain names don't have spaces

This can lead to some rather amusing results:

All of these are companies that didn’t spend quite enough time considering how their online names might appear - and be misread…

More here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Carter and Gore to ease Clinton out?

The Scotsman says so:
DEMOCRAT grandees Jimmy Carter and Al Gore are being lined-up to deliver the coup de grâce to Hillary Clinton and end her campaign to become president.
Falling poll numbers and a string of high-profile blunders have convinced party elders that she must now bow out of the primary race.

Former president Carter and former vice-president Gore have already held high-level discussions about delivering the message that she must stand down for the good of the Democrats.

"They're in discussions," a source close to Carter told Scotland on Sunday. "Carter has been talking to Gore. They will act, possibly together, or in sequence."

An appeal by both men for Democrats to unite behind Clinton's rival, Barack Obama, would have a powerful effect, and insiders say it is a question of when, rather than if, they act.
I don't know who their sources are, or how reliable the Scotsman is. Why a Scottish outlet would get this story I don't know. The Scotsman did get the "monster" quote from an Obama staffer that caused her resignation.

Bush is a war criminal

The ACLU has a petition for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to investigate President Bush for various crimes related to torture. I signed it.

Being a hideously awful president is not a crime. But authorizing torture is. It sounds like Bush knew about it and condoned it. He should go to jail.

Will politicize justice deparments for food

A notorious crony whose outrageous claims of amnesia made him an utter laughing stock is looking for work:
Alberto R. Gonzales, like many others recently unemployed, has discovered how difficult it can be to find a new job. Mr. Gonzales, the former attorney general, who was forced to resign last year, has been unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster, Washington lawyers and his associates said in recent interviews.

A fitting memorial

These folks are trying to get an initiative on the San Francisco ballot this November:
"Should the City and County of San Francisco rename the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Facility the George W. Bush Sewage Plant?"

We believe this is an appropriate honor for a truly unique president. If you think so too, join this grassroots movement to rename this important and iconic landmark in his honor.
I heartily endorse this initiative.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

4th Edition D&D: what we know so far

The folks at ENWorld have put together a pdf of everything we know so far about the 4th Edition rules. It's frustrating the the 4th edition books have been done for at least a few weeks now, but that we won't be able to see them until June 6th or so. I've been checking my favorite torrent sites, but nobody's leaked the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons books so far. Major kudos to anyone who does.

Note to Hasbro intellectual property lawyers: I plan to buy the books anyway, and would gladly buy them now if you had a mechanism to deliver them to me. Can I help it if ad hoc illegal distribution networks kick ass over anything you're capable of delivering? It galls me that in 2008, there is information I want and am perfectly willing to pay for, but can't get purely due to logistical reasons. LAME.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Part of you might be your sibling

Are you a genetic chimera? You may be and not know it. Different parts of your body may have different genetic makeups, because you are the result of the fusion of two fraternal twin embryos. This could make finding a matching organ donor somewhat difficult. But that may be when they discover the condition. Of course, your body hasn't rejected the parts of it that are genetically dissimilar, so maybe your body would be better at accepting new organs.

Friday, April 11, 2008


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Dust Storm at Cal State East Bay tomorrow at noon

photo by Christopher Irion

Here's the info:
Actor Zachary Drake will take the stage April 10 in "Dust Storm - Art and Survival in a Time of Paranoia," a one-man play about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, presented free of charge from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the University Theatre, on the northeast side of the Hayward campus.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bread over smack

3D printer can print its own parts

Parts for a 3D printer...printed by that 3D printer
from RepRap website

It can't put itself together, but this is pretty damn cool:
Based in the Waitakeres, in West Auckland, software developer and artist Vik Olliver is part of a team developing an open-source, self-copying 3D printer. The RepRap (Replicating Rapid-prototyper) printer can replicate and update itself. It can print its own parts, including updates, says Olliver, who is one of the core members of the RepRap team.

The 3D printer works by building components up in layers of plastic, mainly polylactic acid (PLA), which is a bio-degradable polymer made from lactic acid. The technology already exists, but commercial machines are very expensive. They also can’t copy themselves, and they can’t be manipulated by users, says Olliver.
This kind of technology will be essential for the Robotrons when they attempt to take over the world.

Hot or Not, according to the bot.

Some guy programmed a computer to detect female attractiveness in photographs:
Amit Kagian, an M.Sc. graduate from the TAU School of Computer Sciences, has successfully “taught” a computer how to interpret attractiveness in women. Kagian published the findings in the scientific journal Vision Research. Co-authors on the work were Kagian’s supervisors Prof. Eytan Ruppin and Prof. Gideon Dror. The study combined the worlds of computer programming and psychology, an example of the multidisciplinary research for which TAU is world-renowned.


In the first step of the study, 30 men and women were presented with 100 different faces of Caucasian women, roughly of the same age, and were asked to judge the beauty of each face. The subjects rated the images on a scale of 1 through 7 and did not explain why they chose certain scores. Kagian and his colleagues then went to the computer and processed and mapped the geometric shape of facial features mathematically.

Additional features such as face symmetry, smoothness of the skin and hair color were fed into the analysis as well. Based on human preferences, the machine "learned" the relation between facial features and attractiveness scores and was then put to the test on a fresh set of faces.

Says Kagian, "The computer produced impressive results its rankings were very similar to the rankings people gave." This is considered a remarkable achievement, believes Kagian, because it’s as though the computer “learned” implicitly how to interpret beauty through processing previous data it had received.

Cool. Soon modeling agencies will be able to sort through thousands of photo submissions quickly, looking for the attractive ones. Webstalkers will be able to program bots to troll myspace and other social networking sites for attractive people to harass. Will wonders never cease?

Atheist gets hectored by Democratic state legislator

Monique Davis to an atheist:
"’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists!"
photo from the Illinois 4-H

Here's audio of Illinois state representative Monique Davis (Democrat-Chicago) going off on an atheist who is testifying before a committee. It's pretty sick. The tirade goes on:
"This is the Land of Lincoln where people believe in God," Davis said. "Get out of that seat . . . You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying! You believe in destroying what this state was built upon."
(via csquared on DailyKos) tempted as I am to go off on Monique Davis, I'll refrain and say only that I highly doubt that the state of Illinois was founded as a Christian theocracy, or that Abraham Lincoln would have supported the mass expulsion of unbelievers from the state he represented. Ms. Davis' views are outside the realm of acceptability for a politician, and I think for an outburst like that her political career should be over. If she had said that about a Catholic or a Jew or a Mormon her career certainly would be over.

Egad, there are plenty of religious ideas I don't like, but I'd never tell someone "they have no right to be here" if they were testifying in front of a government committee. How did Ms. Davis become a state representative with manners like that?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

At last!

Mead Releases New Grad-School-Ruled Notebook

The Onion

Mead Releases New Grad-School-Ruled Notebook

RICHMOND, VA—Company officials say the new notebooks feature lines 3.55 millimeters apart, making them "infinitely more practical" for postgraduate work than the 7.1 millimeter college-ruled notebooks.

The netroots and the Democratic candidates

I found this post about the netroots' relationship with Obama and Clinton to be interesting:
The problem for the netroots - and Progressives in general - is that, despite both being very satisfactory in important ways, both Clinton and Obama reject the Progressive and netroots movement in some important way.

Fundamentally, what the netroots want is a Fighting Progressive. They want an unabashed liberal who will go toe to toe with the Republicans and punch them in the nose.

But what they have is a choice between a Fighting Pragmatist (Hillary Clinton) and a Kumbaya Progressive (Barack Obama).

No matter who wins, their victory represents a rejection of some core element of the Progressive and netroots movement. They will, of course, fall into line with the eventual nominee, but the disconnect with their candidate, and possible President, will be an ongoing vexation for them. In particular, it will create for the netroots a strategic problem. How will the netroots remain relevant and maintain the perception of Party leadership if the leader of their Party is repeatedly and conspicuously rejecting their core demand to either toe the Progressive policy line, or to be a hardened partisan brawler?

I actually don't think Hillary Clinton is so great at fighting Republicans. She's shown great tenacity in her own campaign. But as far as I know in her Senate career she hasn't been known for really laying into Republicans. But Clinton's highly unlikely to be the nominee, so let's talk about Obama.

I do think Obama's inclusive rhetoric rubs the progressive netroots the wrong way. I've commented on this myself before:
However, it is not legitimate to say that those who criticize the president's foreign policy are traitors, or that people with the wrong race or religion are un-American, or that the President is above the law and can imprison and torture anyone anywhere, or that it is more important for a job candidate to have correct political stances than to be able to do the job in question (see Imperial Life in the Emerald City). These are not positions that should be compromised with. They should be discredited. And the Republican party is currently dominated by people who advocate or implement such positions. I don't see how Obama can seriously think he can compromise with people who do not believe in the rule of law.
That's why I was leaning towards Edwards while he was still in the race. I am a kumbaya person up to a point. I think Obama can probably get 55%-70% of the country to "unite", at least enough to get some important things done. But there are some folks who are just very hard to reach, e.g. the 28% who still think Bush is doing a good job. And they are going to scream like banshees through every media outlet they can get their hands on. Maybe Obama can build a big enough coalition that this group can be ignored. But they won't let go of power quietly.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Bloggers who go too far

Don't expect me to do this for Internal Monologue:

SAN FRANCISCO — They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.

A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.

I love my Google Ad revenue as much as the next person (aside: I just broke $100 in my account, so I'll be getting my second payment next month! W00t!), but it's not worth giving yourself a heart attack over.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Intrade: Obama 84.9%, Clinton 13.2%

Intrade's odds on Obama have been moving up recently.

Motivational poster of the day

10 things you should know about McCain e-mailed me a hit piece on McCain. Given that I strongly oppose McCain getting anywhere near the White House, I reproduce it here for your delectation. The media is likely to give McCain a free pass on a lot of things, because they've decided they like him and nobody likes changing their mind. So let me do my part to poke some holes in his image:

1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws.1

2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."2

3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.3

4. McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."4

5. The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.5

6. He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.6

7. Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."7

8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.8

9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult."9

10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year.10

1. "The Complicated History of John McCain and MLK Day," ABC News, April 3, 2008

"McCain Facts,", April 4, 2008

2. "McCain More Hawkish Than Bush on Russia, China, Iraq," Bloomberg News, March 12, 2008

"Buchanan: John McCain 'Will Make Cheney Look Like Gandhi,'" ThinkProgress, February 6, 2008

3. "McCain Sides With Bush On Torture Again, Supports Veto Of Anti-Waterboarding Bill," ThinkProgress, February 20, 2008

4. "McCain says Roe v. Wade should be overturned," MSNBC, February 18, 2007

5. "2007 Children's Defense Fund Action Council® Nonpartisan Congressional Scorecard," February 2008

"McCain: Bush right to veto kids health insurance expansion," CNN, October 3, 2007

6. "Beer Executive Could Be Next First Lady," Associated Press, April 3, 2008

"McCain Says Bank Bailout Should End `Systemic Risk,'" Bloomberg News, March 25, 2008

7. "Will McCain's Temper Be a Liability?," Associated Press, February 16, 2008

"Famed McCain temper is tamed," Boston Globe, January 27, 2008

8. "Black Claims McCain's Campaign Is Above Lobbyist Influence: 'I Don't Know What The Criticism Is,'" ThinkProgress, April 2, 2008

"McCain's Lobbyist Friends Rally 'Round Their Man," ABC News, January 29, 2008

9. "McCain's Spiritual Guide: Destroy Islam," Mother Jones Magazine, March 12, 2008

"Will McCain Specifically 'Repudiate' Hagee's Anti-Gay Comments?," ThinkProgress, March 12, 2008

"McCain 'Very Honored' By Support Of Pastor Preaching 'End-Time Confrontation With Iran,'" ThinkProgress, February 28, 2008

10. "John McCain Gets a Zero Rating for His Environmental Record," Sierra Club, February 28, 2008

Saturday, April 05, 2008

1968 predictions about 2008

This sort of thing is always fun. Via Yglesias. It's interesting that the predictors assume that transportation technology and infrastructure will get totally awesome. It's sad that it hasn't. We're pretty much doing the same thing transit-wise as we were 40 years ago. Lame.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A spiritual defense of scientific understanding

One attack on the materialist philosophical worldview that has always baffled me is the claim that it renders spirituality impossible. In 1908, Jon Burroughs addressed that claim:
It jars upon our sensibilities and disturbs our preconceived notions to be told that the spiritual has its root in the carnal and is as truly its product as the flower is the product of the roots and the stalk of the plant. The conception does not cheapen or degrade the spiritual, it elevates the carnal, the material. To regard the soul and body as one, or to ascribe to consciousness a physiological origin, is not detracting from its divinity, it is rather conferring divinity upon the body. One thing is inevitably linked with another, the higher forms with the lower forms, the butterfly with the grub, the flower with the root, the food we eat with the thought we think, the poem we write, or the picture we paint, with the processes of digestion and nutrition. How science has enlarged and ennobled and purified our conception of the universe; how it has cleaned out the evil spirits that have so long terrified mankind, and justified the verdict of the Creator: "and behold it was good." With its indestructibility of matter, its conservation of energy, its violability of cause and effect, its unity of force and elements throughout sidereal space, it has prepared the way for a conception of man, his origin, his development, and in a measure his destiny, that at last makes him at home in the universe.
I might not use some of this same vocabulary as Burroughs does here. For example, I don't really think it makes sense to think of life as having "higher forms" and "lower forms". We're all cousins. I suppose we could talk about forms of like "more like us" and "less like us"; that would at least put the humano-centrism up front where everyone could see it. But the overall sentiment is one I heartily agree with: that an accurate understanding of our origin and nature should broaden and enhance our spiritual horizons.

Modern products, vintage ads

Via Daily Dish. More here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Why does the Internet turn people into assholes?

Image from Penny Arcade

In this lengthy Gamasutra opinion piece, Bill Fulton examines why so many people who play multiplayer games over the Internet act like total assholes, and offers some insight into what can be done about it:

Are these problems even solvable?

Short answer: yes. Social environments and culture can be designed. Just like good game design creates fun gameplay, good social design creates fun social experiences. Unfortunately, online games seem to have allocated very few resources to designing the social environment.

But honestly, I don't believe that resource constraints are the source of the problem -- I think that most people don’t believe that social problems can be solved. A common belief that I’ve heard used as justification for not addressing the social environment of games is that "jerks will be jerks". Essentially, many people believe that:

    1. Behavior is determined by personality, and

    2. You can’t change people’s personality

While I (mostly) agree with the second point, it is moot because the first point has been consistently contradicted by 60 years of social psychological research. Human behavior is complex and determined by many factors.

Personality is certainly one factor, but it is a surprisingly small factor. The largest determinant of behavior is the perceived social environment. This is the good news, because both the social environment and the perception of it can be controlled.

I had the pleasure of working with Bill Fulton when he was running Microsoft's usability lab back in the late 90's.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lone blogger catches tabulation error, shifting 2 delegates to Obama

Dude, doesn't the Mississippi Democratic party have a spreadsheet?
I just learned from Wuck in the comments below that a lone blogger, voiceofreason, on Democratic Underground spotted the shift last week. Indeed, voiceofreason might have caught an error that no one might have ever caught. And this catch netted Obama two more delegates. A link to this blogger's catch can be found here A big thank you to voiceofreason! Great find.

After dinner, honey, let's go run a maze

Video gaming's first couple sits down to dinner.
(HT: Mad Latinist via email)

Alice Walker Endorses Obama

From The Guardian:

I am a supporter of Barack Obama because I believe he is the right person to lead the United States at this time. He offers a rare opportunity for the country and the world to do better. It is a deep sadness to me that many of my feminist white women friends cannot see him, cannot hear the fresh choices toward movement he offers. That they can believe that millions of Americans choose Obama over Clinton only because he is a man, and black, feels tragic to me.

When I have supported white people, it was because I thought them the best to do the job. If Obama were in any sense mediocre, he would be forgotten by now. He is, in fact, a remarkable human being, not perfect but humanly stunning, like King was and like Mandela is. He is the change America has been trying desperately and for centuries to hide, ignore, kill. The change it must have if we are to convince the rest of the world that we care about people other than our (white) selves.

(HT: Sarah, my wonderful wife)

A Thinking Ape’s Critique of Trans-Simianism

If Ray Kurzweil lived 100,000 years ago, he might have encountered critics like this one:

Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that such a post-simian future is possible or even probable. Is it really a world we should want to strive for, where our very ape nature is stripped away in the name of efficiency? Technologies such as the bow and arrow already desimianize the act of hunting. While our ancestors were able to experience the pure ape feeling of clubbing an animal to death with a rock, we are left with the cold, sterilized bow that kills cleanly and quickly from a safe distance. This separation from basic daily activities is a slippery slope. What would happen if we no longer had to gather fruits and nuts, and they simply grew wherever we wanted them, or had drinking water flow right to our feet instead of wandering in search of streams for days? These seeming conveniences would rob us of what it means to be an ape.

Klomp predicts that through a technology called ‘hygiene’ we could extend the simian lifespan well into the late 20s or possibly 30s. What exactly will the post-simian do with all that time? Do we really want to live in a society populated by geriatric 27- year- olds? In living so long and spending so much time ‘thinking,’ do we not also run the risk of becoming a cold, passionless race incapable of experiencing our two emotions (fear and not fear)? How much of our simianity are we willing to sacrifice for this notion of progress?

(HT: Mad Latinist via email)