Saturday, July 26, 2003

Standing link

Whatever Victor Davis Hansen writes, read it. Here's the most recent that I know of.

Paper ballots

Back when PCs first came out I had to get one. Then I had to figure out a way to make the PC do about anything I had been doing manually, and lamented that I couldn't put one in my pocket. Of course this meant that in addition to desktop PCs I had to have a portable computer (an old Kaypro running CP/M), a laptop (I'm on my 3rd one), and a PDA (my 3rd, and a 4th one could come soon). This has led to some absurd situations and I finally concluded that in fact computers weren't always the best tools for a job.

I'm thinking that that little epiphany has yet to occur to the people behind electronic voting. Good grief, if there's ever been a target for hacking or corruption, that's the one. A few scare stories, combined with public ignorance, would destroy confidence in the system almost immediately.

Glenn Reynolds has a few things to say about the good old fashioned paper ballots here. To that I would add that paper ballots would make it much more difficult to hack an election from overseas. We have enough dishonest voting as it is - I'm willing to suffer the inconvenience of going to a polling place in the US to minimize the possibility of guys like Jacques Chirac or Kim Jong Il influencing our elections on a large scale.

Friday, July 25, 2003

Bottoms up!

A toast to Susanna, whose surgery went well.

Can I write for the Taste Page too?

Here in WSJ Online (the taste page, no less) we hear that cow-pie bingo has invaded Atlantic City. The operator assures us "it can't be fixed".

Hmm. I'm thinking that as soon as it was on a square I liked, I'd set off some firecrackers or make a car backfire.

The latter seemed to work well with pigeons. A guy I knew some years ago assured me that during his 60's cruising days he and his buddies would regularly pass underneath a viaduct full of roosting pigeons. They'd wait until a convertible full of people they didn't like was behind them, then make their car backfire just as they cleared the viaduct. Yecch.

I wonder if this works with the Congress Avenue bats in Austin? You haven't heard of them? These people say watching them take off at sundown is one of the top 10 things to do in Austin.

This post seems to have deviated into the general area of animal defecation. Considering that I hope not to find my way back to this neighborhood for a while, I'll have to work in another anecdote. A relative had built a house on a long-vacant lot and found out that generations of dogs had been trained to relieve themselves there. In volume. He found this frustrating. One time he was outside with a beer bottle in his hand when a dog assumed the position not too far in front of him, as if to taunt him. He wound up and pitched that bottle so it glanced off the top of the dog's head.

Yeah, yeah, that's mean, what if someone did that to you, blah blah... Anyway, what made it funny was the dog's reaction. It attempted to run away without straightening up first, achieving a posture associated with Russian dancers. I guess you just had to be there.

The NWA style manual

It has come to my attention that some of y'all are screwing up in your basic English usage.

That's right, it's y'all. Oh, I still say 'you guys' once in a while, or even 'youse guys' if I'm in the right mood. It comes from living in a lot of different places, and they all say things in a lot of different ways.

Look at this page if you want to see how usage of various expressions varies geographically in the US. Here's an example:
64. What do you call the long sandwich that contains cold cuts, lettuce, and so on?
a. sub (77.15%)
b. grinder (2.87%)
c. hoagie (6.98%)
d. hero (5.18%)
e. poor boy (1.77%)
f. bomber (0.01%)
g. Italian sandwich (0.46%)
h. baguette (0.25%)
i. sarney (0.03%)
j. I have no word for this (0.91%)
k. other (4.41%)
(10708 respondents)
I guess they've never been to Florida, or else somebody would have said a Cuban sandwich. And I'm surprised Dagwood isn't on there somewhere. Anyway, I suppose it's a half-decent way to get an idea where someone comes from.

They left off some good ones though. I thought surely "y'all" would be on there, but I missed it if it was. They were probably too PC to include ethnicity, and too chicken to include anatomical features (some of my favorites are for "perineum").

Stolen from Eric Mulkowsky (must be a Polack or a bohunk) of Max Power.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

"Death penalty"?

Yesterday Drudge pointed to a column entitled "BBC must not be a casualty of war". Fine. Once the idiots who set its contrary editorial policy are shown the door I'm sure everything will be fine.

What is it that gives some people the idea that for some of these things a corporation should be given "the death penalty"? They seem unaware that corporations themselves cannot be harmed, and they have no brains or morals. You can only harm their employees, pensioners, business partners and stockholders, and all of those might well be victims themselves. In any case, they are fluid, and there's no guarantee that the people who are harmed by a bankruptcy or other reverse are the ones who did the wrong or profited from it.

Symbolism can be important of course. I'm thinking that even if the National Socialist German Worker's Party still existed in Germany, no number of subsequent good works would have rehabilitated them. Hopefully some day the same fate will befall socialism and communism. But somehow I'm thinking that MCI WorldCom falls into a different moral category.

Now we have this, where people are questioning whether MCI should have any more federal contracts after the recent corporate shenanigans. They note that Enron and Arthur Anderson were both debarred from govt contracts - why not MCI too?

Well, for one, MCI controls valuable hard assets. Andersen did not, and I think Enron was organized such that hard assets were isolated from the divisions that did the mischief.

For another, it's easy to see if MCI is performing - did the call/data go through? Enron and Andersen OTOH depended on the trust and good will of their clients to stay in business - absent those, there was no reason to do business with them. (In particular, Andersen's business was credibility. The name had a long proud history, and a few years ago when their IT consulting business became a separate firm it tried to keep the Andersen name. Lucky for them they weren't willing to pay what the accountants wanted for use of the name. Goodbye Andersen Consulting, hello Accenture).

IMO the real reason why some are howling against MCI is that the Communications Workers of America want to unionize them. And like any other group dominated by the left, unions fight dirty - remember this? That's funny - I don't recall anyone suggesting that we put the United Food and Commercial Workers out of business even when they did things to endanger customer health so they could blame it on Food Lion.

Smart bandages

How about a bandage that not only covers the wound but tells you the germs on it? Right here on Technology Review.
The smart bandage is a thin sensor made of crystalline silicon and layers of porous silicon. The porous silicon is treated with a liquid that contains probe molecules engineered to bind to fat molecules found on the surface of specific bacteria. When the bandage is placed over an infected area, bacteria from the wound move into the porous silicon and attach themselves to the probe molecules, altering the optical properties of the silicon. Doctors illuminate the bandage with light from a handheld semiconductor laser device, and the bandage luminesces in a color that indicates the kind of bacteria that are present—red for E. coli, for example, or yellow for strep. With the immediate diagnosis of the culprit germs, doctors won’t have to wait for the results of laboratory cultures.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Fascism in reality

Juan Non-Volokh has it right here. Hint - there's nothing right-wing about it.


Anybody for a tongue transplant?

Maybe they'll become more common what with the health complications of tongue-piercing and the even weirder tongue-splitting phenomenon. Go ahead, click this and see pictures.

Monday, July 21, 2003

So you don't like John Derbyshire?

Hey, Derb's alright, I don't care what Andrew Sullivan says. He posted an interesting article on NRO today suggesting that American troops will be provoked into situations like Bloody Sunday.

But if you don't like him, you might enjoy seeing clips of him getting his butt kicked by Bruce Lee in Return of the Dragon. Honest - look right here.

Stolen from Charles Murtaugh, who no doubt must be embarrassed that my blog isn't linked on his sidebar.

Who's bright?

I won't deny that I can be an arrogant SOB at times. But I'm not proud of it. So I couldn't be one of the self-proclaimed "Brights" (I'm best described as what one commenter elsewhere called a "militant agnostic" - I don't know and you don't either).

Lately they've emerged, with the intellectually masturbatory name they granted themselves, claiming to be all but the saviors of society and for all their trouble being oppressed.

Such silliness is to be expected when you look at some of the other stuff they believe. But most troubling is the way many of them fail to understand their own faith - science.

I've written of such things numerous times before (1 2 3 4). The fact is that for all the good we have been able to do with science, we really don't know that much about ourselves, our ecosystem, our solar system, our universe, our history..... And what we do know is based on stretching a little data a long way. The proper reaction from those who love science thus is modesty, not vanity.

Yet we've had Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, two of the most insufferable people of our time, telling us implicitly that anyone who believes in anything supernatural is not "bright".

Based on what? That sliver of information we can derive via observation and logic.

If we had a million years' worth of observations and had fully analyzed them all, that would still only account for about 0.02% of the postulated life of the earth, and even less than that of the universe. And that has all been within that tiny chunk of the universe to which we have any sort of access. And that is via whatever limited means of detection we have - our senses and their extensions like microscopes, radio telescopes et al - to think that we can observe everything that is happening in the universe is an incredible leap of faith.

And logic itself is sorely limited - it appears otherwise only because there is so much work to be done in understanding our universe. Most fundamental of its limitations is that it has to start from some unquestioned postulates. To "prove" them is to use circular reasoning. To propose the wrong ones is to invalidate all that follows from them. Thus proposing them is a huge act of faith that goes unacknowledged by the "Brights" and their sympathizers. They claim "brightness" because they have arbitrarily ruled out some of these possible postulates.

Yet we have "brights" who can't know if they're seeing everything of relevance speaking with remarkable certainty of of "big bangs" requiring conditions never observed anywhere. We have "brights" who mock that which they cannot observe who are nonetheless willing to entertain theories that invoke unobservable "dark matter". We have "brights" who profess to understand science who take umbrage when a scientific theory (which is all science ever offers - there is no scientific "truth") like macroevolution is spoken of as being "just a theory". (That the person saying so is often clueless does not change this fact, and once science claims to produce "truth" it is no longer science.) A New Testament verse describes this perfectly: "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools" (KJV Romans 1:22)

Yet I'm willing to humor them, besotted by hubris as they may be. Maybe, as someone else has suggested, they'll feel better if they have their own symbol to identify themselves with. I humbly propose this: *

Why? To them it will suggest the sun, the brightest object in our sky.

And to the rest of us it suggests a perfect characterization for them.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Which of the angels was the brightest?

What did they expect?

Puerto Ricans protested against Navy exercises at Vieques. The Navy shut them down. What could be wrong with that?

Now the Navy has decided that the nearby Roosevelt Roads facility is no longer needed and will be shut down. So now the Puerto Ricans are bitching about that.

Via Right Wing News.

Will he?

Meet Allan Boyd, sole survivor of his family after 5 suicides.

Ladies: your dream man awaits

He's young, well off, and he's available because he just broke up with his last girl. Here's how he did it.

You want his picture too - look here.

Has Saddam heard about this?

If Saddam Hussein is still alive, I hope he's getting updates from the NY Times. Even now, some of his henchmen may be under torture, screaming "they're wrong - we did try to get the uranium in Africa!"

And I wonder if there have been any mysterious deaths or disappearances in France lately?

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Tonsils - what good are they?

For a while in the middle of the last century it seemed like every kid had their tonsils taken out. I have to wonder what health impact it has had. This man had his objections to it.

Via Medpundit.

Remind me to keep the bathroom door locked

Not that I have anything to fear of course. Anyway, I'll bet this never happened to James Lileks.

Stolen from Daniel Drezner.

Totalitarians and soccer

As told by Harry.

Cooper Black: Behind the Typeface

As an engineer, I usually ask "how". This has me asking "why".

Stolen from Asparagirl.