November 26, 2003

Shake it Up!

Ok, we haven't made it past Thanksgiving yet but here is a nifty SnowGlobe. Shake it up.

Via Ghost of a Flea.

Posted by Steve on November 26, 2003

City Photos

Photos from what I think are the two most interesting cities in the United States: New York and San Francisco.

From New York: Signs from 14th Street to 42nd Street. Even if you have never walked the streets of New York these 1000s of signs from what is really a very small area will give you a glimpse of the hopes, dreams and lives of millions. Many of the pictures are accompanied by a bit of historical annotation that, if you allow, will bring the stories to life.

From San Francisco: the Public Library's Historical Photograph Collection. Many of the photo subject here have not yet been digitized but the subject index promises hours of enjoyment. Even Strangers to the city will be intrigued and the familiar will be drawn back.

Via The Scout Report.

Posted by Steve on November 26, 2003

November 25, 2003

Late Night Reading

Mark Kleiman explains why Rush may also take a federal fall for money laundering.

Legal Memo-Random reviews the meaning of 'wial' and the Republican National Committee's new add wherein they lie about what bush said in the State of the Union speech.

Posted by Steve on November 25, 2003

Out of Whack Compensation

This guy was fired for cause and will apparently still make out like a bandit:

Boeing says neither ousted executive will receive severance pay beyond options and share grants that have already vested. Sears, who began working for Boeing's McDonnell Douglas unit in 1969, will receive a pension at age 65 valued at between $672,000 and $840,000 a year, according to a company filing.
Too bad he will have to wait 9 years to start skimming this cream.

NB: I'd love to retire with that kind of income but my 401k won't even have an asset value equal to one years worth of this dude's take home.

Posted by Steve on November 25, 2003

November 24, 2003

Media Takeover by the Right?

Skippy, in fine form, is all over this story (requires free registration).

Posted by Steve on November 24, 2003

Vivendi, Why?

Vivendi owns the archives so they can destroy them if they want.

But it does seem to be an incredibly wanton bit of destruction. There must be some huge hidden cost that Vivendi is escaping from. If there is not then there is no imaginable reason why they would not allow to capture this treasure trove of music, ranging from good to more then terrible.

I think musicians, writers, producers, etc., should be hving second thoughts about including Vivendi in their plans. It is clear Vivendi can not be trusted as a caretaker.

Via The Gamer's Nook.

Posted by Steve on November 24, 2003

November 23, 2003

Chuckle and Yecchh

Charles has a series of "Only In...." pictures that will provide both some chuckles and some groans.

Posted by Steve on November 23, 2003

Getting Better?

I was about to say that I would not wish this bug that has had me down for the past week on anyone.

But, on second thought, realizing how little I've been able or even wanted to do over the past week I might suggest it for a few select groups beginning with the members of the US House and Senate.

Posted by Steve on November 23, 2003

November 21, 2003

Tuesday's Book

It has taken three days, now, to get a usable surge of energy, i.e., to feel a bit better. And, I haven't read any more books since Tuesday.

Normally I read only one novel at a time. I might have 8, 10 or 12 non-fiction books going at once but only one novel and I'm about 180 pages into the current one: Quicksilver.

Tuesday, though, I could hardly keep my head off the pillow and Quicksilver is just too heavy to hold up where a pillow attached set of eyes could read it. So, I grabbed a small paper back instead. One I figured I could read in a day, even a sick day: Card's Seventh Son.

Both books are historical fiction with Quicksilver covering a period about 100 years earlier then Seventh Son. And both are forms of speculative fiction.

Now, it is not 100% obvious that Quicksilver belongs in this category but the ageless Enoch Root is an early and strong assertion by Stephenson that it does fit. I do hope Stephenson answers the puzzle of Root somewhere in this or the next two volumes.

Right from the opening pages there is no question about Seventh Son's fitting in and Card tells us:

This isn't really "alternate history" in the sense that if someone had made a different choice all of history might really have been changed. Here, the "change" is that the magic people believed in actually works—so it's a fantasy rather than an alternate history. Still, I'm having a great deal of fun twisting up American history and yet trying to be true to the great themes and dilemmas that gave shape to our country.
Card has his own Enoch Root. Taleswapper, nee William Blake, wanders from place to place gathering and sharing stories and, like Root takes an interest in brilliant children.

In the case of Seventh Son the brilliant child is Alvin Maker who appears to be Valentine Michael Smith set down in a magical America of 1800. Alvin grows to only 10 years old in this first installment of what is now a 6 volume series with a seventh and final volume on the way. This brief intro to Alvin intrigued me and I'm eager to read more and to find out how he is different from Smith. And, I'm now curious to see whether there is also a Smith analog in Quicksilver.

There are several other items that struck me as interesting. For instance there is more that intertwines Card and Stephenson. Half way through Seventh Son Taleswapper relates this conversation he had with Ben Franklin:

"Then why doesn't the ground dissolve beneath our feet?" asked Taleswapper.

"Because we have managed to persuade it not to let our bodies by. Perhaps it was Sir Isaac Newton. He was such a persuasive fellow. Even if human beings doubt him, the ground does not, and so it endures."p.94

Yes, just what is the nature of reality? Card explores the reality of the church vs a magical reality while Stephenson explores the reality of the church vs the observed realities of Newton, Liebniz, Hooke and others.

Alvin, too, is a prototype Fullerian human, an anti-entropic entity. His battle is against a force that:

...likes to keep itself secret. It's the enemy of everything that exists. All it wants is to break everything into pieces, and break those pieces into pieces, until there's nothing left at all." p. 127
Alvin makes things, brings order into the world and by doing so holds back the tides of entropy.

My energy is running down again so I'll close off with a note from Card for our legal friends:

"...So just promise me you won't stand between him and schooling, if he wants it, and we'll leave it at that."

"Got my word on that," said Makepeace Smith. "And you don't have to write it down. A man who keeps his word doesn't have to read and write. But a man who has to write down his promises, you got to watch him all morning. I know that for a fact. We got lawyers in hatrack these days."

"The curse of civilized man," said Taleswapper. "When a man can't get golks to believe his lies anymore, then he hires him a professional to lie in his place>" P 234

Seventh Son was an enjoyable read. I plan to pick up the next volume or two later today to read over the upcoming holidays (hmmm, sounds like I may preempt Quicksilver some more.

Posted by Steve on November 21, 2003

November 18, 2003

Lite Blogging

Well, I've come down with a nasty cold, URI or some such thing. Started this past weekend and really began hammering last night.

I stayed home from work, slept most of the day and have no voice...

In between sleeps, since I couldn't really move much, I managed to read a book which, if I get another bout of energy a little later, I'll write a bit about.

Posted by Steve on November 18, 2003 | Comments (2)

November 17, 2003

Linking the New York Times

I might start reading the New York Times more frequently again. I had put them way down my list many months ago when they started breaking links to their articles.

Now, new to me, but apparently circulating in some circles since last June is a method for creating links to NYT articles that have some staying power though the process isn't as simple as one might hope and might require a change your preferred Times reading method.

So, thanks to Kevin Drum for this tutorial (Hat tip to Lisa Williams who gave Kevin the pointer).

Via Outside the Beltway.

Update (11/25): Mary at Pacific Views adds this tip:

Aaron Swarz has a site that provides a link generator for NY Times articles after June 23. This utility is quite nice and provides you an easy way to take a standard NYTimes link and create the USERLAND link that will work forever when linked into a blog.
I have not tested this yet.

Posted by Steve on November 17, 2003

bush's gulag

Read all of this Newsday opinion piece:

What is the same in the Guantanamo cases, and those of Hamdi and Padilla, is the president's insistence that he alone has the authority to decide who should be locked up and when, if ever, they will be released.

It's not supposed to work that way in the land of the free.

No, it should not work that way in the land of the free.

Not only should the Golden Rule be operative here but also the simple fact that these detainees are human beings and vested with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness argues for different treatment.

At a minimum these folk should be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. If any of them are to be charged with crimes then it should have been done long ago and they should have been tried in an open court and convicted or released.

Via Talkleft.

Posted by Steve on November 17, 2003

November 15, 2003

Getting Out Sooner

While I have been mostly away from the b'sphere for the last two days there has apparently been quite a discussion going on regarding the idea of just getting out of Iraq.

Avedon Carol tells us:

It's been clear for a long time that when the Bushies said they were going to run America like a business, we really should have said, "Which one?" I mean, the Mafia is, after all, "a business", and so is every con game going. A business that is both corrupt and inefficient isn't really the sort of thing people like to put their pension plans into. But now, apparently, they are running Iraq in much the same way...
The rest of the post is well worth the read and there are links to other well known folks talking about this in depth.

Posted by Steve on November 15, 2003

November 14, 2003

end of the world into the matrix

Here is a weekend appropriate take on the end of the world. It's likely a bit slow via modem and might be best listened to with headphones.

Ok, that was recommended by A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy who also has some interesting discussion of the Matrix movies. There are warning signs for spoilers as needed.

Via Jaquandor.

Posted by Steve on November 14, 2003

Challenging bush in 2004

There are some conservatives (many of a libertarian bent) who are not happy with the bush administration. Those looking to unseat bush would do well to take a look at what these folks are unhappy with and figure out how to integrate some of their concerns into your arguments.

Many good examples of these issues (you won't agree with everything) are detailed in this post by Josh Claybourn who tells us:

But over the past three years - essentially since George W. Bush has taken office - conservatism's role in the party has come into question. I've listened and tried to understand the logic put forth by some in the GOP that Bush's brand of politics is the best option available. After a few years contemplating this predicament I've come to the conclusion that that's just not so. Here is a condensed list of complaints.
Go read'm in the post linked above.

Radley Balko adds another complaint here where he gives you the talking point: Why doesn't bush support the constitution? Sure, you might think it is a good thing that bush signed the campaign finance reform bill, flawed as it was, but if he thought it was unconstitutional what principles led him to break his oath of office?

Posted by Steve on November 14, 2003

Judicial and Congressional Qualifications

Randy Barnett on the senate judicial filibuster and the qualification of judges:

Mr. Schumer is right to raise the issue of judicial philosophy. Republicans have yet to move away from appeals to �qualifications� and �judicial restraint� and take up his challenge. That no judge should ignore the Constitution when doing so suits their ideological agenda is a philosophy all nominees must accept. So must all senators. For they too have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, the whole Constitution, and not just the parts that, for the moment at least, lead to results they happen to like.
Stikes me that following this practice could lead to drastically reducing the size of law libraries which would be a good thing. And with modest tweaking of the constitution we could get rid of a lot more of the sludge that clogs the flow of human interaction.

Via The Volokh Conspiriacy.

Posted by Steve on November 14, 2003

November 13, 2003

Educating Our Kids

At a school district near you:

Due to the projected increase in workload in the coming years due to the new master schedule and the No Child Left Behind Act, the district has decided that it can no longer afford for you to take time out of your busy schedule to go to the restroom.

Instead, to increase teacher efficiency the district has gone to considerable expense to remodel your classroom over the summer to accommodate your restroom needs starting in August.

See classroom layout.

Posted by Steve on November 13, 2003 | Comments (2)


I wonder how soon we can expect this form of freedom in the US?

BAGHDAD, Nov. 11 � American soldiers handcuffed and firmly wrapped masking tape around an Iraqi man's mouth as they arrested him on Tuesday for speaking out against occupation troops.

Asked why the man had been arrested and put into the back of a Humvee vehicle on Tahrir Square, the commanding officer told Reuters at the scene: ''This man has been detained for making anti-coalition statements.''

He refused to say what the man said.

Via Electrolite.

Posted by Steve on November 13, 2003 | Comments (1)

When you love someone

Scientists continue to dissect our most intimate and magical feelings:

There are some differences between love-struck men and women, says Fisher. Women in love show more emotional activity earlier on in a relationship. They also seem to quiz their memory regions as they look at pictures of their partner, perhaps paying more attention to their past experience with them.

For men, perhaps unsurprisingly, love looks a little more like lust, with extra activity in visual areas that mediate sexual arousal.

What's next? Perhaps a handy portable brain activity scanner to test our veracity when we say 'I love you.'

Posted by Steve on November 13, 2003

Technorati Lagging

Regular Technorati users may have noticed it getting increasingly behind.

James Joyner has the scoop including news of an infrastructure upgrade. Hey, given the number of weblogs and links Technorati is tracking I'm amazed it is staying within a couple days:

1,219,785 weblogs watched.

60,013,930 active links.

101,059,393 links tracked.

Posted by Steve on November 13, 2003

Nerd Purity Test

The 100 question Nerd Purity Test takes about 1/100th the time of the shorter 10 question version of the Are you an Austrian quiz exam (my score 77% on the short version...I'll try the long version when I have an hour).

Here is the result of your Nerd Purity Test.
You answered "yes" to 51 of 100 questions, making you 49.0% nerd pure (51.0% nerd corrupt); that is, you are 49.0% pure in the nerd domain (you have 51.0% nerd in you).
Your Weirdness Factor (AKA Uniqueness Factor) is 38%, based on a comparison of your test results with 378675 other submissions for this test.

The average purity for this test is 73.7%.
The first submission for this test was received June 17, 1994.

Via Sisyphus Shrugged on 11/13/ permalink on this entry.

Posted by Steve on November 13, 2003

An Apple a Day

Can keep the moose at play.

Via The Speculist.

Posted by Steve on November 13, 2003

November 12, 2003

Late Night Reading

Mark Kleiman investigates the nature of memes. If you plan to use this word please read Mark's post first.

What's a semantic web, you say? Start with this Clay Shirky essay and then go over to Elizabeth lawley's place for a long list of followups including some disagreement with Shirky so you'll have to do some studying.

Good Night!

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2003

ralls and savage

Ted Rall's veteran's day column Why we Fight (subtitled Iraq From the Other Side) may well reflect the view of some Iraqi citizens.

Rall's is not on my reading list and this is the first Rall's piece I have read so I have no good sense of context and whether this is meant to be an attempt at interpretation which, I think, would be a reasonable thing for someone to do or if this is a support piece that is really advocating for the Iraqi resistance.

Little Green Footballs and the comment thread here take the latter position and argue that Rall's is supporting the Iraqi resistance and advocating the killing of US citizens. If, indeed, this is what Ralls is doing then shame on him.

And I would hope that these folks who condemn Ralls will also condemn michael savage who, on his national broadcast today (11/12), called for the death of US citizens (labeled by savage as leftists and liberal fascists).

Via Wizbang.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2003 | Comments (1)

bush bails out energy companies

In a move that should not surprise anyone the bush administration has saved its energy buddies a bundle:

The Bush administration has dropped enforcement actions against dozens of coal-fired power plants that were under investigation for violating the Clean Air Act and allegedly spewing thousands of tons of illegal pollution into the air, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency said yesterday.
So, the operators will not have large expenses that would end up on their customers bills but the customers will pay it anyway and probably more over the long run as they mitigate all the exernalities related to the care, acid rain, etc.

More in this Open Source Politics article.

Via South Knox Bubba.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2003


Prompted by this satirical look at the new nickel designs The Noble Pundit makes some interesting historical comparisons and provides some great graphics of older coins. In academia the Treasury's work, if left undocumented, would probably be considered plagiarism.

Chris also argues that:

The Romans used their coinage for propaganda which is why they had multiple reverses. While our coinage is a reflection of who we are, it is not a propaganda piece.

Our coinage should reflect a certain dignity.Multiple reverses take away from that dignity. That's why I don't really like the state quarters or the new nickels. They look nice, they're interesting to collect, but I don't really think that they are a good representation of who we are as a nation.

Given what you can buy with a nickel or a quarter these days I'm not sure there is much dignity left to take away and it is not at all clear that US coinage is not also progaganda.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2003 | Comments (1)

bush in the bushes and other loose locations

Spade's series "Where Will You Be When Your Laxative Kicks In?" is now available as a slide show at the bottom of the Hammerdown main page.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2003

Is it real or is it made for TV?

Stephen Ives made:

'Reporting America at War' is a three-hour documentary film that chronicles American journalists who have witnessed and reported news from the battlefield. From San Juan Hill, World War II, Vietnam to the Persian Gulf, filmmaker Stephen Ives tells the dramatic stories and challenges of frontline reporting
In this interview when asked about the coverage of Jessica Lynch he said:
What's significant about Jessica Lynch in terms of the future, is that the Army took their own cameras along the rescue mission. It's not too big a stretch, I Believe, to imagination an ever increasingly sophisticated Pentagon shooting more and more of their own "news." If that happens, it will challenge the media to avoid becoming a mouthpiece for propaganda
It is wise to look for independent verification for anything coming from the bush administration. And, I see no reason not to follow this rule for any future administration no matter whether democrat, republican or?

Via Cursor.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2003 | Comments (1)

Immigration Failure

Current immigration law and enforcement appear to be an utter failure. Jeanne D'Arc points out that:

Between 1994 and 2002, we spent $20 billion militarizing our southern border and trying to keep out or send back immigrants, and it's hard to see that as anything but a complete waste of money.
and looks at an alternative approach to discussing the issue:
I wondered if maybe there was another way to frame the issue: Should we continue to pour massive ammounts of money into a policy that clearly doesn't work (and also kills people)? Should we give up? Or should we spend that money in ways that will improve life for people in Mexico so that they aren't forced to come here to work? What good could we do with $20 billion over the next eight years?
Perhaps money will talk. This same approach is starting to make inroads against the drug wars.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2003

B. Spears on Semiconductors

From the site Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics

Now that the site is more established, I have secondary hopes for it. I would like it to be a useful reference to anyone that wants to know about semiconductor physics of lasers and VCSELs. The strange addition of Britney Spears to the guide has made the web site stand out from the crowd. I hope that Britney does not mind being an ambassador of science and that the fan part of the site promotes her every endeavour in the future .
Via Particles.

Posted by Steve on November 12, 2003

November 11, 2003

Late Night Reading

The Carnival of the Capitalists #5 is up at The Accidental Jedi.

Posted by Steve on November 11, 2003 | Comments (1)

Bad MATRIX Revisited

This program should be quickly thrown in the crapper. Modulator last visited this subject here.

The crapper and findlaw links both via MetaFilter here and here.

Posted by Steve on November 11, 2003

Patriot Act in Action?

Looks like the feds are using the Patriot Act to watch and evaluate you in many ways:

When Rebecca Foster offered to serve on the board of her homeowners association, she figured the biggest sacrifice involved her time.

But because of the requirements of the Patriot Act, the Las Vegas resident feels her volunteerism could come with a steeper price -- her privacy.

Foster first became perturbed two months ago when her association's new bank sent each board member a letter. Community Association Banc, a division of First National Bank of Nevada, had requested the dates of birth and Social Security and driver's license numbers for any board members with check-signing privileges on the account.

The personal information was necessary, the bank said in the Aug. 27 letter, "to look for any derogatory banking information" and "to check them against the government's terrorist list."

Just say no and use cash.

Via Hit and Run.

Posted by Steve on November 11, 2003

Interview with the Patriot Act

Dong Resin interviews the Patriot Act:

DR: Right, yeah. Now, I thought your name was an attempt to sell you as, you know, "good for American citizens", yet another big pander from the current administration, as in"no child left behind." Not the case?

PA: Yeah, a lot of people have taken it that way, but really, if you think about it for even half a second... exactly who needed to be sold? Where was the big scary resistance that I had to push through?

Face it, I could have been named "The Let's Knife-Rape Dakota Fanning For Satan Act", and no one would have twitched. I passed though congress like greased shit through a goose with nary a peep. Nobody really had the stones to open their cry-holes after 9/11, did they.

There is more. Laugh or cry as it suits.

Via Gregory Harris at Planet Swank.

Posted by Steve on November 11, 2003

Everything you need to know about the bush White House

Is here:

The director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, sent an e-mail titled "congressional questions" to majority and minority staff on the House and Senate Appropriations panels. Expressing "the need to add a bit of structure to the Q&A process," he wrote: "Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee."

He said this would limit "duplicate requests" and help answer questions "in a timely fashion."

It would also do another thing: prevent Democrats from getting questions answered without the blessing of the GOP committee chairmen.

I don't doubt that the bush White House gets a lot of questions from those pesky dems. But this sure makes it look like they they have stuff to hide which seems to me to be the wrong message to be sending 12 months before an election.

Via Body and Soul.

Posted by Steve on November 11, 2003

November 10, 2003

Playin' in the Band

The musicians and musician wannabees among you might be interested in the Berklee College of Music's new offering of free music related instructional material.

The offering includes material in areas like Songwriting & Arranging, Bass lessons, Production & Technology and more. I'm not a musician and can not vouch for the material though I'm sure it is no where near the depth and quality that you'd get attending their regular classes.

Chris Lehman speculates as to why they would provide this free material:

Several reasons, I can imagine... one, it only increases Berklee's visibility as it recruits students. Two, many of the lessons are then linked to DVDs that Berklee Press sells, so it will, I am sure, drive their publishing division, which is cool, and three, maybe they actually want to see more people become musicians than they know can come to their school, and this is a way to achieve that goal.

No matter what the reason...this is cool stuff.

Via Professor Lessig.

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2003

Over Paying Jobs?

I've often wondered about this one:

For a 35-hour workweek, orthodontists earn a median $350,000 a year, according to the Journal of Clinical Orthodontics. General dentists, meanwhile, earn about half as much working 39 hours a week on average, in a much dirtier job.

The difference in their training isn't like that of a heart surgeon vs. a family-practice doctor. It's a mere two years, and a vastly rewarding investment if you're among the chosen: U.S. dental schools have long been criticized for keeping orthodontists in artificially low supply to keep their income up.

This isn't brain surgery: Orthodontists simply manipulate teeth in a growing child's mouth -- and often leave adjustment work to assistants whose handiwork they merely sign off on. What makes their windfall egregious is that they stick parents with most of the inflated bill, since orthodontia insurance benefits cover nowhere near as large a percentage as for general dentistry.

From this list of the most overpaid jobs. Your mileage may vary on the accuracy of this list.

Via Barry Briggs.

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2003 | Comments (1)

Questions to be Answered

Mark Kleiman asks a couple questions that I'd also like to see some good answers to. First:

I don't really want to see Rush Limbaugh spend the next twenty-five years of his life in prison, which is what would happen if the laws of the State of Florida were enforced. But I really do want to see the politicians and pundits who support both Limbaugh and the drug war explain why that particular law shouldn't be enforced in this case, and why it shouldn't be repealed.
Now that George W. Bush has expressed his support for democracy in the Middle East, can we expect some indication of concern on his part about the evident intention of his friend Pooty-Poot to put an end to it in Russia?
There is more context for both questions in Mark's posts.

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2003

Words, Logic and Current Debate

Some items that may not be in the OED or the Devil's Dictionary can be found at Ethel the Blog's Wingnut Debate Dictionary.

An example:

O'Reillyus Interruptus (v): being cut off from making a really good point or argument by a radio or cable TV talk show host. Usually involves being loudly shouted down, having one's mic cut (if in a studio), or being "potted down" (if calling in to a radio program). Odds of this happening are greatly increased the closer one gets to the truth
Via the Happy Furry Puppy Story.

Posted by Steve on November 10, 2003

November 9, 2003

Mano a Mano

Some of you may have run across this piece by Kim du Toit.

It has generated a lot of rabid discussion. This long essay by the philosoraptor is both entertaining and a pretty good response. Grab a fresh cup of your favorite beverage before starting to read. It is long and it is worth it.

Via Atrios.

Posted by Steve on November 9, 2003

November 8, 2003

Cut off the Money!

Parapundit argues that the correct strategy to turn back Islamist terrorism is to reduce the demand for oil, that is cut off their funds:

The US economy is over $10 trillion per year. The total cost of the 9/11 attack is in the ballpark of about $100 billion. Another larger attack could cost far more. Isn't it time we started to take some large steps toward developing technologies that will reduce world demand for oil as a way to reduce the amount of money available to the Islamists to make trouble for the rest of the world?
He points out that at current price and production levels $654 billion/year is being spent on oil. About 30% of that flows into the middle east and the middle east has about 55% of the world's known reserves. This is a large number and it will take a long time to reduce it especially if oil prices are driven up by increasing demand from China.

Read the entire post.

NB: I have revised the last paragraph of this post. The original misquoted Parapundit on the size of the dollar flow to the middle east.

Posted by Steve on November 8, 2003 | Comments (2)

Matrix Popcorn

There's been a lot of commentary on on the latest Matrix offering: Revolution. My favorite summary statement so far is Eric Sigmund's at The Fire Ant Gazette which closes:

The movie could have been 20 minutes shorter without losing any of its impact. That may not sound like much, but 20 minutes of boring dialog is a lot, even when it's spread out over 2+ hours.

OTOH, when the movie was good, it wasn't just good, it was wonderful. I'm referring to the sci-fi action scenes, of course, and they surpassed anything I've seen. Man does not live by action scenes alone, but for every "Bruce Almighty" there must be a "Rundown."

In the end -- and I truly hope this was the end -- the overriding perception of this episode, like the previous two, is its utter humorlessness. Would it have killed them to insert a joke...even gallows humor...into the script? (The several scenes where I had to stifle laughter at the dialog don't count.)

Nevertheless, I recommend the movie for anyone looking for an entertaining popcorn-delivery system.

Several other reviews have hoped that this is the last in the series which is not a high recommendation in my mind. On the other hand I plan to buy the largest possible popcorn and expect the noise of the movie to drown out the crunching as opposed to what happened here:
He was a small guy with an armful of snacks -- cans of soda, boxes of candy, a huge container of popcorn. I checked him out with concern before the lights went down, but he turned out to be OK -- a discrete and lowkey spectator. Or he was until Meg Ryan's first sex scene, that is, when he began eating his popcorn faster and faster and faster. And louder and louder. The chomping got so frenzied that I looked over at him in alarm; he was moving popcorn from the tub to his mouth about as fast as a human being could. He clearly wasn't doing this to be funny; it was his way of handling the intensity of the scene.
Maybe I'll pass on the popcorn if I go see In the Cut.

Posted by Steve on November 8, 2003

November 7, 2003

End it Now

Another reason the war on drugs is stupid. And folks like Principal George McCrackin need to be fired:

The school's principal defended the dramatic sweep.

"We received reports from staff members and students that there was a lot of drug activity," said George McCrackin. "Recently we busted a student for having over 300-plus prescription pills. The volume and the amount of marijuana coming into the school is unacceptable."

They did not find any drugs in the raid and made no arrests.

Terrorism in our schools in not acceptable.

Via Talkleft.

Update: Via Catallarchy is this CBS News article and this picture. I'm getting angrier.

Posted by Steve on November 7, 2003 | Comments (3)

ashcroft: once a civil libertarian?

The American Bar Association Journal has an interesting article on Cyber-Libertarians which focuses primarily on EPIC, the Elecronic Privacy Information Center.

I was somewhat surprised by this comment by David Sobel, EPIC's co-founder and general counsel:

�We were actually guardedly optimistic when [Ashcroft] became attorney general,� says Sobel. �As a senator he used some of the most stridently anti-federal-law-enforcement rhetoric I�d seen come out of the Senate�just a step short of calling them �jackbooted thugs.� �
Talk about power corrupting someone. Or maybe he hasn't changed at all and it is ok if they are his 'jackbooted thugs.'

I suspect the latter is the case. In answer to the opening question: probably not.

Via beSpacific.

Posted by Steve on November 7, 2003

November 6, 2003

Legal Issues

Ernie the Attorney has a nifty outline of Law Blawgs.

Posted by Steve on November 6, 2003

Public Behavior

Michael at 2blowhards describes some examples of public behavior that can be both humorous and annoying.

Via Virginia Postrel who quoted the sections of the post that followed this lead in:

When I was a young whippersnapper, the moviegoers I found most annoying were the ones who find it impossible to stay quiet and still during sex scenes and nudity.
Go read Michael's post for a few chuckles and, I suspect, a knowing nod of the head or two.

Posted by Steve on November 6, 2003

November 5, 2003

Luskin's Last Stand

Dwight Meredith divines the true meaning of the Luskin-Atrios joint statement.

Via Talkleft.

Posted by Steve on November 5, 2003

Doing Research

Elizabeth Lawley provides a list of 30 search tips that Mary Ellen Bates presented at the Internet Librarian 2003 conference this week.

Use them!

Via Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution and Brad Delong.

Posted by Steve on November 5, 2003

Death in Iraq

Tbogg has a new hot link called the Nether-Count which takes you to Antiwar.coms Casualties in Iraq page.

The hot link is named after US Senate aspirant George Nethercutt of Washington who recently said, well, you can go read it at Tbogg's place.

Posted by Steve on November 5, 2003

Horror Quiz

I haven't been reading much horror literature over the last few years and this is reflected in my dismal showing in this Guardian quiz.

Via Byzantium's Shores.

Posted by Steve on November 5, 2003 | Comments (2)

November 4, 2003


If you have been watching the Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe on PBS and just won't be able to sleep until you really undertand open and closed strings, membranes, the 11 dimensions of the universe and gravitrons review the material at the Elegant Universe site then head over to Uncertain Principles where Chad Orzel has some cool links for you.

Posted by Steve on November 4, 2003 | Comments (1)


The Lycaeum, in their visionary art section, has an interesting display of 'blotter' art. Some of you may have experienced one or more of these.

Via Sugarfused.

Posted by Steve on November 4, 2003

Senate Approves $87.5 Billion 4-1

Read all of this Newday opinion piece:

What is the same in the Guantanamo cases, and those of Hamdi and Padilla, is the president's insistence that he alone has the authority to decide who should be locked up and when, if ever, they will be released.

It's not supposed to work that way in the land of the free.

No, it should not work that way in the land of the free.

Via Talkleft.

Posted by Steve on November 4, 2003

Protect your Data

Teresa Nielsen Hayden's hard drive failed which is not something to wish on anyone.

However, there are benefits for the rest of us: the comment threads to these two posts which provide lot's of good information on data recovery and backups.

Posted by Steve on November 4, 2003

Iraq Troop Count

Do you visualize the 133,000 troops in Iraq as mostly combat soldiers? Think again. According to this piece from today's New York Times the number is much lower:

Such is the arithmetic of an ultra-modern army. The support echelon is so large that out of the 133,000 American men and women in Iraq, no more than 56,000 are combat-trained troops available for security duties.....And even the finest soldiers must sleep and eat. Thus the number of troops on patrol at any one time is no more than 28,000 � to oversee frontiers terrorists are trying to cross, to patrol rural terrain including vast oil fields, to control inter-city roads, and to protect American and coalition facilities.
No wonder the troops are having problems.

Posted by Steve on November 4, 2003 | Comments (1)

Secret Trials

What is the justice department hiding? It is inconceivable to me that there is anything that justifies completely hiding a legal proceding from public scrutiny:

Yet this seemingly phantom case does exist - and is now headed to the US Supreme Court in what could produce a significant test of a question as old as the Star Chamber, abolished in 17th-century England: How far should a policy of total secrecy extend into a system of justice?
Dan Gilmour argues:
If the Supreme Court rules, as I suspect it will, that the White House is free to tear up the Bill of Rights under the guise of fighting terrorism (or fighting illegal drugs, the pretext that was used to basically destroy the 4th Amendment under previous administrations), then no one is safe from the predations of a rogue government in the future
Hmmmm, what about a rogue government in the present?

Via Secrecy News.

Posted by Steve on November 4, 2003

November 3, 2003

Late Night Reading

The 4th edition of the Carnival of The Capitalists is up at Insults Unpunished.

This new Declaration of Independence is pretty old in blog time but definitely worth a read.

Good Night!

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2003

Reality is what we want it to be....

In contrast to his ad hoc comments bush usually does a good job of reading the prepared material when he is doing a canned presentation.

So, are the bushies now revising the written record on the fly? See this from Josh Marshall and the comments to this post where Atrios says he listened to a replay and what bush said is not what is now written.

Even if the change correctly reflected what was said it is not acceptable to change the written record without some explanation if even a short footnote.

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2003

The Draft?

Salon reports:

The community draft boards that became notorious for sending reluctant young men off to Vietnam have languished sinced the early 1970s, their membership ebbing and their purpose all but lost when the draft was ended. But a few weeks ago, on an obscure federal Web site devoted to the war on terrorism, the Bush administration quietly began a public campaign to bring the draft boards back to life.
What is this about? If the bushies are starting to beef up the draft boards how long do you think it will be before they ask congress to activate a draft?

Will congress roll over and play dead? Oops, I forgot, the republican majority are already on their backs and there is little to suggest from the original Iraq vote and the subsequent funding votes that there will be significant democratic opposition.

How soon will the bushies start publically spinning a set of stories to prep folks for a draft? And will there be special events to support the argument?

Via Not Geniuses. Also see this.

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2003 | Comments (1)


Hopefully most of the stuff for sale here was left attached until the animals died a natural death.

That aside, any person or establishment owner who puts this on their wall is sick (details at site)

Via Mark Morford's Morning Fix.

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2003


A bit of Mad Kane's latest song parady, The Spinning Song:

Thinks he found a religious sign that he's
Meant to rule our country.
He's behind our supreme decline.
We're in a bind. He's lost his mind.
And can't tell what's false from what is real.

Soldiers are dyin' just for Bush.
Spinners lie. Truth is hushed.
Stop all our troubles at the votin' polls.
Time to take George Dubya off the government dole.

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2003

CDR Longevity

If you burn CDRs for work or pleasure this article is a must read.

Posted by Steve on November 3, 2003

November 2, 2003

October Top Referrers

On the right side bar is the updated roll of Modulator's 20 top referrers up from 19 last month. Number 20 produced 12 referrals in the month of October.. Statistics are culled from AWStats running on Modulator's server at Hosting Matters.

6 blogs dropped off and 7 new ones have been added.

Thank you one and all!

Also, I'd like to acknowledge significant referrals from some of the blogosphere's 'service' sites: Technorati,,, MovableType, Blogdex,, Sitemeter, NZ Bear's Ecosystem and Daypop.

All of the blog rolls except the Base Roll are ordered by most recently updated so be sure to ping or to push to the top of the rolls. These are certainly the sites I tend to look at first and visitors will see you at the top of the roll as well.

For a brief discussion of Modulator's blog rolls look here.

Posted by Steve on November 2, 2003

This Weekend

It has been a low volume weekend at Modulator.

We go to our local univesity's football games infrequently but did enjoy the game yesterday along with 70000+ of our neighbors.

Today we are spending time with my Dad and his wife who are visiting from out of town.

Perhaps an entry or two tonight. I do want to update the top referrers for October...just haven't had time to do the counts so watch for that post.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Posted by Steve on November 2, 2003