Monday, June 30, 2008

The hazards of auto-replace

No, it's not The Onion. It's reality. Here's The Carpetbagger Report telling us what happened when the American Family Association's auto-replace policy had a little blooper:
The far-right fundamentalist group replaces the word “gay” in the articles with the word “homosexual.” I’m not entirely sure why, but it seems to make the AFA happy. The group is, after all, pretty far out there.

The problem, of course, is that “gay” does not always mean what the AFA wants it to mean. My friend Kyle reported this morning that sprinter Tyson Gay won the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials over the weekend. The AFA ran the story, but only after the auto-correct had “fixed” the article.

That means — you guessed it — the track star was renamed “Tyson Homosexual.” The headline on the piece read, “Homosexual eases into 100 final at Olympic trials.” Readers learned:

Tyson Homosexual easily won his semifinal for the 100 meters at the U.S. Olympic track and field trials and seemed to save something for the final later Sunday.

His wind-aided 9.85 seconds was a fairly cut-and-dry performance compared to what happened a day earlier. On Saturday, Homosexual misjudged the finish in his opening heat and had to scramble to finish fourth, then in his quarterfinal a couple of hours later, ran 9.77 to break the American record that had stood since 1999. […]

Homosexual didn’t get off to a particularly strong start in the first semifinal, but by the halfway mark he had established a comfortable lead. He slowed somewhat over the final 10 meters-nothing like the way-too-soon complete shutdown that almost cost him Saturday. Asked how he felt, Homosexual said: “A little fatigued.”

Reminds me of the whole "Medireview" thing.

And the Associated Press has gotten much more persnickety about its intellectual property rights recently. I wonder how they feel about having text in their articles auto-replaced like this.

Maybe if they amend the constitution, they'll be able to defend their own marriages

Sometimes the Republicans make it too easy. They're re-introducing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. It's called the "Marriage Protection Amendment". Guess who's on the list of co-sponsors? David Vitter and Larry Craig:
Yes, two of the principal sponsors of a constitutional amendment to “protect” marriage include one far-right Republican who hired prostitutes [Vitter] and another far-right Republican who was arrested for soliciting gay sex an airport men’s room [Craig].
Bwah hwa hwa hwa. I know right-wingers can be strangely blind to enormous ironies. But this does take the cake. Of course, maybe they feel that if such an amendment had been part of our constitution, Messrs. Craig and Vitter would have been able to resist the prostitutes and the urge to solicit gay sex. I can empathize. Sometimes, I'm faced with an almost overwhelming temptation to impose a poll tax on somebody. But then I remember the 24th Amendment, and its presence bolsters my moral resolve significantly.

McCain is doomed

McCain doesn't remember the last time he pumped his own gas (and he's not been stuck in Oregon or New Jersey, where make-work laws require someone else to do it for you), and doesn't remember the price, and doesn't think it matters. Orange County Register:
[OC Register] When was the last time you pumped your own gas and how much did it cost?

[McCain] Oh, I don’t remember. Now there’s Secret Service protection. But I’ve done it for many, many years. I don’t recall and frankly, I don’t see how it matters.
Now, I don't think candidates should necessarily be required to be experts in every aspect of working class life. I think you can still be president of the United States and not know how much it costs to take the bus in your hometown or (as Giuliani was asked) how much a loaf of bread costs. (I buy bread frequently but I can't remember how much it costs. $4.50?) But gas prices are a huge national issue with enormous economic, environmental, and geopolitical consequences (not all of them negative). Would it have killed McCain to let on that he knew gas was over $4 a gallon right now? And that it was a matter of some concern?

Another thing: McCain's wife's trust has forgotten to pay taxes on one of their family's seven houses...for the past four years. (The McCain family assets are held by Cindy McCain, which makes it harder to figure out what John McCain's financial interests are.)

Any Republican charges about someone being "elitist" or "out of touch" will now be considered with the above facts in mind.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Blizzard announces Diablo III


Diablo III has been announced. No word on when it's coming out. I'm surprised its taking them so long. Given the success of the previous versions, I'd think Diablo III would be a no-brainer. I hope my computer will be able to run it.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Diablo series, it's the ultimate "kill monsters-take their stuff-make your character more powerful" experience. Yes, sometimes it devolves into a mindless click-fest, but few games have been as good at holding the player's attention and enticing them on to ever greater rewards.

Obama at 65% on Intrade

I just wanted to do a reality check on my Obama optimism. Intrade currently has Obama at 65.3%, and McCain at 30.8%. So the people putting money on this are heavily favoring Obama. Intrade is not a crystal ball, but it can be a good check to make sure you're not deluding yourself by reading only pro-Obama blogs.

Obama's campaign manager lays out the situation

...and asks for money, of course.

Mr. Plouffe, if you're going to use your laptop's webcam, please don't sit with your back to a bright window. The auto-brightness function makes it hard to see your face.

Summary for those who don't want to watch the whole six and a half minutes:
  • McCain's going to have trouble taking any of the states Kerry won in 2004
  • Obama's got all kinds of possibilities to win states Bush won in 2004, including some unusual places like Georgia, Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota.
  • Even in places Obama is unlikely to win, the campaign is spending resources to build the party and help Democrats in local races.
  • But the Republican National Committee has almost $50 million more than the Democratic National Committee.
  • So please give Obama some money.
OK, Mr. Plouffe, I'll give Obama some money. But I would have given more if he had taken a strong stance against retroactive immunity for telcos that spied on us illegally. I understand that under our system, the more liberal candidate will tack right during a general election. But I don't think Obama would have lost much politically by standing up for our rights against a bunch of phone companies (does anyone actually like phone companies?) and the Bush administration (even less liked than phone companies). And the netroots left would have loved him. As it is, we're somewhat annoyed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

I think I'll try Yahoo maps for this one

This set of Google Maps directions from Sydney to Los Angeles contains the greatest travel direction of all time:
6. Kayak across the Pacific Ocean
Entering United States (Washington)

12,724 km
I can't figure out why you're supposed to Kayak up to Seattle to go to LA, though. Is Seattle the only place on the West Coast a kayak can dock?

Friday, June 27, 2008

21% of atheists believe in god

...according to the Pew Religious Landscape survey, as reported by Steven Waldman. As Inigo Montoya famously said in Princess Bride:
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Waldman's explanation:
What this means is that Atheism has become a cultural designation, rather than a theological statement. Some are likely declaring themselves atheists as a statement of hostility to organized religion, rather than to God. This might help explain polls showing rising numbers of Atheists.
Oh great. I suppose I should be happy that the term "atheist" is losing its stigma enough that people who clearly don't know what it means want to identify with it. But the discussion of religion is already marred by enough imprecise language. If the Pew study had been a qualitative study, it would have been fascinating to ask these folks what atheism meant to them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Irrelevant political identity trivia


Apparently, Obama is a Dylan fan:
Wonder shares room on Obama’s iPod with "everything from Howlin’ Wolf to Yo-Yo Ma to Sheryl Crow," he says. "And I have probably 30 Dylan songs on my iPod." Though he’s partial to 1975’s Blood on the Tracks, "Maggie’s Farm" is "one of my favorites during the political season," says Obama. "It speaks to me as I listen to some of the political rhetoric."
Liking the same music is not a reason to vote for someone. But I do get a thrill when thinking that the probable future president of the United States likes some of the same music. Blood on the Tracks is an excellent album. In my guitar playing days, I could play and sing every song on that record (yes, including the long ones like "Tangled Up in Blue", "Idiot Wind", and "Lily Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts"). One of the most touching things an ex-girlfriend ever said to me was that after we broke up, she had to go buy a copy of Blood on the Tracks because I wasn't around to sing those songs any more.

What would be even more cool than liking Dylan would be filibustering retroactive telcom immunity, supporting gay marriage, and going to a mosque to talk about America and Islam.

Quote of the Day

"This whole thing about which operating system somebody uses is a pretty silly thing versus issues involving starvation or death."

-Bill Gates in Newsweek, on his transition away from Microsoft and to full-time work at his philanthropic foundation.

Housing rebound will take a while to arrive

Washington Post reports on a Harvard study:
Record foreclosures and limited access to credit will make it harder than usual to rebound from this U.S. housing market slump, the worst at least since World War Two, according to a Harvard University study on Monday.

A two-year home price drop is eating into housing wealth, curbing consumer spending and slicing away economic growth. This is unlikely to change until potential home buyers are convinced that prices have stopped tumbling, the study found.

The downturn has room to run.

Of course, being a potential home buyer, it is in my interest to use Internal Monologue to jawbone prices downward.

Lefty will win the Whitehouse

Left-handed person, that is:
Both major party candidates are southpaws, contributing to a largely unexplained phenomenon that has vexed researchers and historians — and drawn notice from a federal judge destined for the Supreme Court. Though left-handers comprise just 10% of the population, they are dominating presidential politics.

Their recent success transcends ideology. Since 1974, presidents Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton have all favored their left hands, while President Carter and the current President Bush are righties. The trait is also not exclusive to winning candidates: Vice President Gore is left-handed, as are past presidential contenders Robert Dole, John Edwards, Bill Bradley, and Ross Perot. A prominent New Yorker who flirted with a White House bid, Mayor Bloomberg, is a lefty.
And here's something I didn't know:
A scientist at the National Cancer Institute, Amar Klar, has found another, more novel trait that may distinguish left-handers from right-handers: hair growth. "Handedness is related to the way the hair spins on the back of your head," he said in an interview.

His research shows that the whorl for right-handers curls clockwise in 92% of cases. In left-handers, the distribution is random, with half exhibiting a clockwise whorl and the other half spinning counterclockwise. Mr. Klar said he could spot a counterclockwise whorl from seeing Mr. McCain and Mr. Clinton on television and looking at the way they appear to comb their hair.

McCain is doomed

Been a while since I've posted, but here's more McCain pessimism for you. He's tied with Obama in frickin' Indiana of all places (behind by 1%, but well within the margin of error):
In an election today in Indiana, Barack Obama takes 48% of the vote, John McCain 47% of the vote -- a statistical tie -- according to this latest SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for WHAS-TV Louisville and WCPO-TV Cincinnati. Obama's 1-point lead is within the survey's 4 percentage point margin of sampling error, and these results should be reported as a tie.
Kos:
Holy f'in crap!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Status of Forces Agreement not similar to ones with Germany, et al.

This Yglesias post has some interesting commentary on the Status of Forces Agreement the Bush administration is trying to force on Iraq:
I heard part of a conference call the National Security Network organized yesterday about the negotiations for a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq. Skip Gnehm, who's been ambassador to Kuwait, Australia, and Jordan as well as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and a number of other prominent positions made a couple of provocative points. One, he points out that "in all of my experience, there are no SOFA agreements that authorize military action." In other words, we have agreements with Germany, Italy, South Korea, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other countries governing the presence of U.S. military forces in those countries, but none of them authorize the use of military force inside the host country or against the host country's citizens. Analogies between the SOFA the Bush administration is putting together with Iraq and standard alliance relationships are, in other words, totally invalid.

Atrios et. al. on Democratic FISA capitulation

Atrios:
As I've written before, Democrats will regret embracing the expansion of executive power because a President Obama will find his administration undone by an "abuse of power" scandal. All of those powers which were necessary to prevent the instant destruction of the country will instantly become impeachable offenses. If you can't imagine how such a pivot can take place then you haven't been paying attention.
Hunter on DailyKos:
This petty, stinking issue of granting retroactive immunity to companies that violated the law, such that they need not even say how they violated the law, or when they violated the law, or how often, or against who, and the whole thing started before 9/11 so it is clear that terrorism wasn't even a prime factor for doing it -- that whole mess is now absolved, no lawsuits, no discovery, no evidence allowed to be presented?

No, that one is indefensible. It is indefensible because it requires not just passive acceptance of a corrupt administration performing illegal acts, but legislators actively condoning those acts with the stroke of a pen. The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes, then absolving them; there should be nothing but contempt for such acts.

John Cole:
For no reason that I can fathom Steny Hoyer has decided to capitulate entirely on government eavesdropping and amnesty for the telecoms who assisted them. What was the overwhelming political pressure? Somebody spell this out for me.
Not a proud time to be a Democrat. And Obama was pretty much MIA. Of course, many Democrats voted against this, and they deserve our support. But when it comes time to fund primary challengers in 2010, this is a vote the netroots will remember.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ice on Mars

Pretty cool. The lander has found little chunks of ice. They can tell it's ice because it sublimated (went from solid to gas) away over the course of a few days.

Term of the Day: Nuking the Fridge

I wouldn't mind if "Jumping the Shark" got replaced by "Nuking the Fridge":
Nuking the Fridge is a colloquialism used by U.S. Cinema critics and fans and has a meaning similar to jumping the shark. It is used to denote the point in a movie or movie series at which the characters or plot veer into a ridiculous, out-of-the-ordinary storyline. Films that have "nuked the fridge" are typically deemed to have passed their peak, since they have undergone too many changes to retain their initial appeal, and after this point critical fans often sense a noticeable decline in their quality. It is considered as the movie equivalent of what Jumping the shark means for television.

The term is an allusion to a scene in the 2008 film Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull of the Indiana Jones series, when the title character Indiana Jones is literally hit by a atomic bomb blast while hiding inside a refrigerator in a desperate attempt to escape a nuclear test facility. The fridge is hurled several miles through the sky, and tumbles hard to the ground. The scene was considered so preposterous that many believed it to be an attempt at outdoing the over-the-top action of the classic introduction sequence of the series.

Yes, that moment in Crystal Skull was ridiculous, but I enjoyed the movie more than many of the people bashing it seem to have. Maybe my expectations were lower. Or maybe I'm just so pleased when I get an opportunity to see any movie in a theater these days that I turn off my critical faculties a bit in order to enhance my enjoyment of a precious and rare might at the cinema.

Why is the Democratic Congress letting Bush violate our rights?

Yo Democrats, it's stuff like this that lends credence to the "Democrats aren't worth fighting for" meme. Knock it off. Greenwald:
CQ reports (sub. req.) that "a final deal has been reached" on FISA and telecom amnesty and "the House is likely to take up the legislation Friday." I've now just read a copy of the final "compromise" bill. It's even worse than expected. When you read it, it's actually hard to believe that the Congress is about to make this into our law. Then again, this is the same Congress that abolished habeas corpus with the Military Commissions Act, and legalized George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program with the "Protect America Act," so it shouldn't be hard to believe at all.
This isn't an issue I've been actively blogging on. But I am paying attention. And I don't like how this is going. Why is the Democratic Congress giving an incredibly unpopular president authority to eavesdrop on us?

Obama, where are you?

Here's Kos on the subject:

When we started this "netroots" thing, we worked to get "more and better Democrats" elected. At first, we focused on the "more" part. This year, we're focusing a bit more on the "better" part. And in 2010, we'll have enough Democrats in the House to exclusively focus on the "better" part.

That means primary challenges. And as we decide who to take on, let it be known that this FISA vote will loom large. Voting to give telecommunication companies retroactive immunity may not guarantee a primary challenge, but it will definitely loom large.

We kicked Joe Lieberman out of the caucus. We got rid of Al Wynn this year. Those were test runs, so to speak. We've got a lot more of that ready to unleash in 2010.

There is no key voting bloc

It annoys me whenever political pundits say things like "McCain needs to improve his appeal to women" or "Obama needs to do better among working class white people in Appalachia." No, they don't. A vote is a vote is a vote is a vote. It doesn't matter where they come from.

Yes, any candidate would do better if more of a certain demographic voted for them. But that doesn't mean they should automatically target that demographic. Maybe they'd be better off increasing turnout among demographics they're already strong in. Or targeting demographics where the voters are most persuadable. Or targeting demographics that can be appealed to with messages that don't jeopardize the candidates standing with other groups.

Yglesias says something similar here:
...[T]he accompanying analysis says "Barack Obama's appeal to younger voters and John McCain's support among older voters may have created a situation where the outcome will turn on the preferences of middle-aged voters -- particularly those in their 40s." You see analysis of this sort all the time, but it's all based on a mistake -- there's not a demographic electoral college where "winning" particular sub-samples of the population is the key to victory and therefore it's important to focus attention on the most evenly divided demographic groups. If John McCain persuades an Obama-supporting 25 year-old to switch to his camp, that has just as big an impact as one 45 year-old one 65 year-old or one 85 year-old.

Beyond that, if you do want to label any particular group as key (for the sake of deciding which TV shows to advertise on, for example) the reasonable approach isn't to look for closely divided groups, it's to look for groups with lots of people who haven't stated a preference on the theory that those people might be easier to persuade. Voters over sixty have a marked predilection for John McCain, but there are also a lot of undecided voters in this bloc that might be worth going after. For either campaign, who "wins" seniors is irrelevant, you just go after persuadable voters, and it's arguably among seniors where the biggest group of persuadables is.

You hear pundits making this kind of mistake all the time. They decide the soccer moms, or NASCAR dads, or turnout of young people, or whatever is the key to everything. In a close race, they'll pick one particular subgroup and claim it's responsible for the out come. No, it's not. Everything contributes.

This comes up a lot with the 2000 election with Nader pulling votes from Gore. Certainly, Nader was a factor, but there are a zillion other things that could have compensated but didn't. A 0.5% increase in Hispanic women supporting Gore in Florida might have swung the outcome the other way. But no one blames Hispanic Floridian women, or any other demographic group, for Gore not getting enough votes to prevent the Supreme Court from intervening and awarding the state to Bush.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Renegade vs. Phoenix

Apparently, "Renegade" is Barack Obama's secret service codename, and "Phoenix" is McCain. Michelle Obama is "Renaissance". No word on Cindy McCain, it probably starts with "P" as well. I guess it's a secret service tradition that husbands and wives have codenames that start with the same letter. (This info is from Ambinder.) I think it's cool that you get to pick your own codename. I remember there was a West Wing episode in which various staff members found out their secret service codenames, and CJ was annoyed that hers was "Flamingo". Maybe that episode prompted the secret service shift their policy and allow people to pick their own.

Here's the thing, though: if everyone knows the codename (and now that it's on Internal Monologue, the whole world will know!), what's the point of having a codename at all? Why don't they just call people by their names? Maybe there's a secret service codename for public consumption, and then one that actually gets used.

What would my secret service codename be, should I ever come under their protection? Here are some ideas:
  • Pac-man (in college I was sometimes referred to as Zac-Man or Z-Man (or ZD))
  • Rynthal (my D&D character)
  • Maniak (my wanna-be computer pirate name from the early to mid 80's)

McCain is doomed

If Obama is competitive in Alaska, ahead in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, and pulling away from McCain in Wisconsin, McCain is in big trouble.

Yes, the election is a long ways away. There's going to be a lot of attacks coming Obama's way. But so far he's shown he can take it and hit back. This is one of the benefits of a long, hard-fought primary. I think it toughened up the Obama campaign, brought out the Reverend Wright stuff early, and showed he could defeat a powerful opponent.

(I still think the Revered Wright stuff was probably overblown: criticizing America in biblical language is a stable of preachers both black and white, left and right. The only difference is what they say Americans have done to piss off The Almighty. I am glad that since Obama had to disown Wright, there was more scrutiny of the folks like Hagee who were in McCain's camp. Maybe in the future, politicians will be more wary of theological entanglements.)

Illusionary speed bumps


Cool. Of course, people may soon figure out that they're illusory and stop slowing down. That's when you replace them with real speed bumps. MOOHAHAHAHAH!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy California Marriage Day!

5:01 pm this afternoon is when gender-neutral marriage begins in California.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Just like in the primaries, the popular vote isn't what counts.

Time to start looking at the Electoral College map again. Right now it has Obama winning 304 to 221. But it's a long way to November.

Friday, June 13, 2008

4th Edition interactive PDF character sheet

Here's a link to a 4th Edition PDF interactive character sheet that does some of the basic math for you. It's not super great, but it's nice to be able to save character sheets in this format for later editing. You'll need a separate PDF form filler app like CutePDF if you want to be able to save (there's an evaluation version there that's free).

I participated in the World Wide Game Day on June 7th. I ended up DMing, because one of the DM's didn't show up. I like the system, especially the things they've done to make DMing easier, but there are things I miss about 3.5, too. I'm still playing 3.5 in both my Berkeley campaign and my old transcontinental realms campaign. I'll have more to say as I get more experience.

Things I like about 4th edition:
  • Minions! They have 1 hp! They inflict constant amounts of damage, so you don't have to roll another die! They are super simple to run! Now you can throw 20 goblins at the party and things are still manageable!
  • Everyone gets cool powers! Cool powers are my favorite things, and every class gets 'em.
  • Skills are broader: Instead of Swim, Climb, and Jump, you have Athletics. Instead of Search, Spot, and Listen, you have perception. This is nice. Also, you don't have to spend a lot of time spending ranks: either you're trained in it, or not. If you want to be super good, spend a feat (you've got a lot more).
  • Super convenient encounter format: Everything you need to run an encounter on a 2-page spread in the module! Yay! Encounter statistics, setup, map, features, treasure, tactics... it's all in one place without flipping around to a zillion different pages and books! Hooray!
  • No dead levels! Every level, you get a feat or a power!
  • Strong start: One hit from a regular orc is not going to drop your 1st level wizard anymore. A first level character isn't so wimpy compared to the amount of damage that low level monsters throw around.
  • Your race matters: Races give cool powers. Did I tell you I like cool powers? They also allow you to access race-restricted feats.
Things I would miss about 3.5:
  • Poring over lists of zillions of spells, looking for just the right one!
  • Familiars, summoned monsters, and animal companions: OK, as a player I might miss these, as a DM I welcome the simplification their absence enables
  • Finding cool, brokenly powerful combos of things: I'm sure I'll be able to do so in 4th Edition once I know it better.
  • The rich panoply of resource material available: D&D 3.5 is probably the most supported RPG system ever, and I have a big library of 3.5 stuff. But I'm sure Wizards of the Coast and 3rd party publishers will soon supply a parade of supplements to part me from my gaming dollars.
  • I haven't yet figured out a way to capture the essence of my favorite character (Rynthal Cormaeril, an Invoker/Priest of Thoth) in 4th Edition. Conversion is much harder, as things have a different feel.
Some 4th Edition optimizations I have seen or figured out:
  • Wizards can take a feat to become proficient in leather armor, and thus get a +2 AC bonus for one feat. No more arcane spell failure chance. Not bad for 1 feat. Of course, Wizards should be avoiding melee combat anyway, so maybe that's not so optimal.
  • The multiclass feats are often a good deal: they give you training in a skill (which would normally take a feat in its own right, though your choice of skills with the multiclass feat is often more limited), and allow you limited access to a feature of the other class. They also open up feats that let you swap your power for the power of another class. Spending a feat to do so is costly, but I bet you could really expand the role of your character if you wanted to.

McCain is doomed

Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. But this can't be good news for Mr. Lets Be in Iraq Forever:
In the latest NBC/WSJ poll, Obama leads McCain by six points (47%-41%) among registered voters. While polls can't accurately gauge an election five months out -- after all, so much can still happen -- it's worth putting Obama's lead into this perspective: Bush never trailed Kerry in the 2004 NBC/WSJ polls that measured registered voters' preference for Bush, Kerry, and Nader. And Bush's lead was never bigger than four points.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

McCain admits to computer illiteracy

Um, dude, I'm like, totally not OK with the president of the United States being a computer illiterate. I certainly wasn't going to vote for him anyway, but jeez. How can you expect to lead the United States from 2009-2013 if you're computer illiterate? C'mon. Atrios feels the same way:
I think in 2008 computer use and understanding of the internet should be part of the basic skill set we expect from people in positions of prominent public leadership. It's pretty much impossible to have any kind of understanding of how people in the modern world go about their lives and work without that. The internet is not a fad or the playground for 17 year olds.

I don't mean it's important for someone running for president to spend his/her days on Facebook or becoming immersed in all of the various internet subcultures. But how can you have any genuine sense of contemporary life unless you at least have some clue?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Depressing thought of the day

From Slacktivist:

Selling a candidate is, in some ways, a lot easier than selling a new TV show. The USA Network has to do more than trick viewers into pulling a lever or checking a box. They can saturate their airwaves (cable-wires?) with ads that spin their show any way they like, but that's not going to keep viewers tuning in to a show that turns out to be nothing like the one they're selling. Those viewers will sit through half the show, realize it doesn't resemble the advertised product, and -- click -- they'll go back to watching The Ghost Whisperer instead.

Political campaigns don't have to worry about that. They don't have to worry about whether their actual candidates correspond in any way to the re-edited, re-imagined candidates their ads are selling. Voters, unlike viewers, don't need to be tricked every week, they only need to be tricked once every four years. Political campaigns can advertise anything at all -- "compassionate conservative," "fiscal responsibility," "national security," "we do not torture" -- and they only have to worry about maintaining the ruse up through election day. Once voters leave the booth they've bought the product and they're stuck with it for the next four years.

One more reason that selling a candidate is easier than selling a TV show: No reviews. Here's metacritic's page for In Plain Sight. You could watch a year's worth of the Sunday morning political talk shows and everything that cable news has to offer by way of campaign coverage and you'd rarely encounter the degree of thoughtful, skeptical scrutiny that even a summer-fill-in show on basic cable faces from TV critics.

Banana morphology as evidence of theism

I renounce my atheistic ways. The evidence of God is overwhelming:

My favorite part is when he uses his mouth to show how well a banana fits in.

So: spoof or not?

Kucinich introduces articles of impeachment

I wholeheartedly support this. Not only must Republicans be defeated electorally. They must be held accountable. If they have committed crimes, they should be punished. Otherwise, the next time they come to power, we can expect more of the same unaccountability.

Of course, right now I'm excited about building momentum behind Obama. But that doesn't change the fact that authorizing torture is a crime and and outrage.

Get your Obama bumper sticker


MoveOn.org is giving Obama bumper stickers away for free. And you don't have to join a Facebook group or anything. I ordered 10 for $5, but you can get a single one for free.

Meta MMORGS!

Term of the Day: Wilhelm Scream

The Wilhelm Scream is a high-pitched male scream sound effect. It was first used in the 1951 film Distant Drums. It has since become something of a sound effects cliche/inside joke, having appeared in about a zillion movies since then (including the latest Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean movies). Now that I know what it sounds like, I'll listen for it future movies. And now you can, too. Of course, there's a YouTube video that explains everything ever so nicely, and samples the scream repeatedly.

(HT: Grishnash via email)

Monday, June 09, 2008

Emotiv in Sunday NYT business section

There's a big article on Emotiv Systems in Sunday's New York Times (business section, page 3). I'm not mentioned in it, but the picture shows the Game Developer Conference demo which I worked on.

Let's hope solar panels get cheaper

I just got back from a Church event celebrating the installation of our solar panels. That reminded me of this Ray Kurzweil prediction:
Within 5 years the exponential progress in nanoengineering will make Solar power cost-competitive with fossil fuels.
Of course, solar is getting an assist here from rising fossil fuel costs. But cost-efficient solar will be very cool. With GM's plug-in hybrid, the Chevy Volt, coming out in a few years, we should be well on our way to getting away from fossil fuels. Not a moment too soon. I assume other companies have plug-in hybrids on the way as well.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Is Google Earth the next Second Life?

Question of the day:
Is Google Earth the next Second Life?
Follow up question:
If Google Earth does turn out to bethe next Second Life, should they rename it Third Life?
This reminds me of something one of my computer science professors said to me back in college: "Let the world be its own model." This means that you shouldn't expend a lot of energy building up elaborate mental representations (or computational representations) of the world, when it's so much easier just to look at the world.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Why Obama will be able to get us out of Iraq

Not only do Americans want to get out, the Iraqis want us out, too. Yglesias:
A huge proportion of the people I talk to seem to feel that following through on promises to withdraw troops will prove incredibly politically problematic for Obama come January/February of 2009. It seems to me that this neglects Iraqi dynamics. All he needs to do is to take advantage of the fact that the American presence in Iraq is wildly unpopular to negotiate some kind of timetable for withdrawal with Iraqi political leaders that will then be jointly announced and celebrated in both countries. The Bush administration has not only consistently battled anti-war political forces in the United States, it's also expended an enormous amount of energy in preventing anti-occupation sentiment in Iraq from coming to dominate Baghdad politics. But an American president who wants our troops to leave will be in line with both U.S. and Iraqi public opinion, and should have little difficulty finding Iraqi politicians willing to embrace his vision. Hawks, meanwhile, would be left looking incredibly foolish condemning a withdrawal schedule jointly approved by the American and Iraqi governments.
Let the Iraqis vote us out. Seems easy enough.

Daily Show on Obama's win

The stuff about Senator Clinton's speech is less timely now that she's signaled she'll concede, but the segments showing the pundits talking about Clinton's inevitability are a riot.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Clinton to concede and endorse Obama

The end. Thank you, Senator Clinton. Let's all kick some Republican ass together!

Here's the song that came to mind:

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

McCain rightly penalized for his weird backdrop


One thing about using a bright green background for your speech is that it makes chroma-keying you into porn movies so much easier.

Give money to Obama now

I have upheld my pledge not to give money to Democratic presidential candidates until there's a clear nominee. Now that the winner is clear (well, it was clear in early March for anyone with eyes in their head and a calculator, but now Obama's actually clinched it), I've just made a contribution to Obama's campaign. I want my money fighting against Republicans, not spent by one Democrat against another.

Now would be a good time to give money to Obama's campaign. One of my favorite things about Obama's campaign is that it is funded mainly by small donors. This makes him less beholden to narrow moneyed interests, and it also lets him spend more time campaigning and less time schmoozing for dollars.

Giving money early in a campaign is so much more productive than giving later in the campaign. Late money just goes into ad buys that aren't terribly useful; people are sick of ads by then. Early money goes to build campaign infrastructure, hire staff, do planning, and generate buzz. Your dollar will go much further now than later in the campaign.

I would also point out that there are other progressive candidates who need money. ActBlue is a good place to find them. Obama's going to get a lot of money, and there are other races that are important, too.

Obama clinches nomination

Obama LOLcat from Morgan X on DailyKos

According to most news outlets, and more importantly, according to Grishnash, Internal Monologue's expert delegate tracker, Obama has clinched the Democratic nomination.

I heard some of Clinton's very weird non-concession speech in the car on the way home. I hope she climbs on board. Now I'm looking for video of Obama's St. Paul speech.

Is this a preview of the Obama-McCain matchup? Let's hope so:
MORT KONDRACKE: Well, John McCain had better start working on his speechmaking and learn how to use a teleprompter. I mean, the gap, the rhetorical gap between this speech and...Oratorical gap between this speech and John McCain's was vast. John McCain sounded old. This sounded fresh and new and exciting and visionary. And he was enlisting the country to join him in a great cause. This is our moment, all of that.
Sullivan is of course on cloud nine. And had a similar opinion of the Obama-McCain rhetorical matchup:
[Obama's speech] was also rhetorically more powerful than McCain - not by a small amount but by a mile. Put McCain's speech against Obama's - and this was a wipe-out. Not a victory. A wipe-out. Rhetorically, they are simply not in the same league. And if the contrast tonight between McCain and Obama holds for the rest of the campaign, McCain is facing a defeat of historic proportions.
Here it is:

I think McCain trying to be the change candidate is going to be a tough sell. I can't be anything near objective in judging these speeches, but it does seem to me that Obama is in another league as far as the set political speech is concerned.

Democratic primary over?

Is it over, or do I sense some hedging here:
Hillary Rodham Clinton will concede Tuesday night that Barack Obama has the delegates to secure the Democratic nomination, campaign officials said, effectively ending her bid to be the nation's first female president.

The former first lady was not ready to formally suspend or end her race in a speech Tuesday night in New York City. But if Obama gets to the magic number of delegates, 2,118, she was prepared to acknowledge that milestone, according to aides who declined to be identified.

Obama effectively secured the magic number Tuesday, based on a tally of pledged delegates, superdelegates who have declared their preference, and another 15 superdelegates who have confirmed their intentions to The Associated Press.

Different sources have different delegate tallies, so it may take a while before all outlets agree.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Democratic primary could be officially over Tuesday or Wednesday

Bo Diddley 1928-2008


I have a pet theory that rock 'n' roll is really autism made infectious. It brings you to a place where repetition leads to ecstasy, and the only possible physical response is to surrender oneself to the rhythm. No one exemplifies this for me better than Bo Diddley. He is most famous for his unique super-charged rhythmic riffs that carry the entire song. The vocals are often just accents. The fact that many of his songs contain his own name seems to add a child-like weirdness to his act. Here he is, singing his trademark song, "Bo Diddley":

Yes, it's almost idiotically repetitive. But so is sex, and no one complains about the repetitiveness there.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Now gay marriage has the wedding industry on its side

Don't underestimate the power of having moneyed interests at your back. If the California anti-gay marriage amendment makes it onto the November ballot, you can bet the wedding industry will be fighting tooth-and-nail against it. They're getting a big boom in business, and I doubt they'll want to kiss all that money goodbye:
By some estimates, weddings and commitment ceremonies for same-sex couples generate $1 billion a year in revenue.

PlanetOut, a media and entertainment company that conducts surveys about gay and lesbian consumers, says gay consumers earn 20% more than their straight counterparts, on average, and spend about 10% more on nuptials.
It is likely to be a close fight, and having the wedding industry on our side could be what tips the balance. Of course, there's no reason gay couples couldn't spend lots of money on commitment ceremonies that don't have a legal marriage to go with them. But having it be fully legal (at least in California) does seem to encourage people to have a more lavish ceremony.

It's sad that in our political system, such financial considerations matter. But they do. And the wedding industry is crazy, getting people to spend far more than they need to in order to have a celebration. But this is an area where I think the wedding industry is on the right side of things. And if they can use their marketing savvy and dream-selling wiles to help the cause of marriage equality, I'm willing to forgive them their encouragement of over-consumption. Spending ridiculous amounts of money on temporary floral arrangements is a foolishness that should not be restricted to heterosexuals.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Rules and Bylaws Committee summary

Best liveblog seems to be Ambinder. Here's what happened; it's pretty much what people expected would happen: Florida delegation seated as-is, but each delegate only gets half a vote. Michigan delegation seated with 69 Clinton delegates, 59 Obama delegates, but each delegate only gets half a vote.

Clinton nets +24 delegates for the day. Which of course means she's still going to lose. (Intrade has Obama at 91.3%, Clinton at 8.8%).

Clinton advisor Harold Ickes (who initially voted to strip Michigan and Florida of all their delegates) mentions that the Clinton campaign reserves the right to appeal to the credentials committee.

An example of how Clinton supporters have been annoying me:
7:16: Some Clinton supporters begin to shout: "McCain, McCain, McCain."
Knock it off. This is hardly the way to endear yourself to the Democratic party. If you want the rules bent in a way that favors you, show some respect for the party. If Clinton somehow wins this, I'm not going to vote for a Republican. I think it was very classy of Obama to discourage is supporters from protesting the meeting and creating a ruckus.

Confess your neuroses

Share your weird-ass neuroticisms with the world on this blog. Some examples:

stuffed animals

When I was little, I would apologize to my stuffed animals if I dropped them or something, so they wouldn’t kill me in my sleep. I also tried to evenly divide my attention among them so no one got lonely or jealous, and tried to kill me in my sleep.

end on the right foot

I always try to land on my right foot when walking down stairs. To this end, for every set of stairs I regularly use, I memorize whether I need to start out on my left foot or right. Similar thing for going up - I take two stairs at a time, and if I have to take an extra step, I have it at the beginning rather than the end.

adding time = number i like

This one is a doozy and I can’t quite believe I’m airing this out in public. So, until the age of about 15, I had numbers that I “liked” and “disliked” (I don’t even remember the reasoning behind that). When I woke up in the mornings, the first thing I’d do would be to add up all the numbers in the time, and I wouldn’t get out of bed until they added up to a number that I “liked.” Yeah. I know.

Starburst

When I eat Starburst, I can only eat them in the following order: yellow, orange, pink and red. I stop eating once I’ve run out of enough candies to complete the pattern.
I'm thankful that I'm relatively free of this sort of thing. But I probably have some of these; I just can't bring them to consciousness.