Thursday, April 29

Are Citistates the answer?

Neal Peirce thinks so (Christopher linked him on Collaboratory. Then I searched for his website.)

The way he tells it, Buffalo and Pittsburgh are in a race to see who can merge their city amd county first.

'In Pittsburgh's case, a city-county merger would lift the city from 52nd to an impressive No. 7 in the nation.'

Sounds like a good answer to me.

(But Paul had a caveat in the 2nd Pittsburgh thread that's worth entertaining. Care to say more, Paul?)

Monday, April 26

More on Pittsburgh

The state is near bankrupt and that's affecting municipalities and schools.

This article also mentions Cleveland, Philly, and Buffalo.

Facts (source):
- Pittsburgh owes $1.68 billion in total debt
- Pittsburgh pays $83 million toward its debt every year
- Pittsburgh spent $58 million more on average than it took in
- Pittsburgh cut 64% of its budget for parks and senior-citizen centers over the last decade

The Mayor wants to develop to fix things. (ibid)

Don't they have to cut expenses and balance the budget?

And I still think they need to annex every municipality in the county. It's just an averaged sized county (700 sq miles). They've got 130 municipalities! Are you kidding me?

Gas, gas, GAS!!!

"Adjusted for inflation 1981 gas prices were $2.80 per gallon. In the 1950s the price of gas averaged $1.80 in today's dollars, while the average income was half what it is today."

(via Brad)

For Macon and Paul

Cheating is what Miami does best


Three from USA Today

- An article on Health Savings Accounts (of particular interest to Paul).

- An article on success in Kurdistan. I agree with this quote (penultimate longer-than-a-sentence paragraph):

'The Iraqis are failing themselves.'

However, I also think we're responsible since we're the ones that pre-emptively took their government down.

- Gary Barnett says he's innocent. Maybe, but he's got the totally wrong attitude. He has shown no remorse, admitted no possibilty of bearing some responsibility. He's just defended himself and he's shown himself very insensitive. He's shown no compassion toward these young women who have come forward to ask for justice. That's not to say the women are for-sure being honest. But how much do they really have to gain? They have a lot to lose. Confronting abuse is re-living it. I don't feel sorry for him.

Thoughts on the draft

- I really like what the Vikings did. They drafted defense, which they obviously need. No more of the Denny 'Constitutionally Incapable of Drafting Defense' Green drafts.

- I'm really proud of Iowa-boy Robert Gallery. I hope he tears up the league (even if he did get picked by the Raiders.

- The Eli Manning thing seems pretty ugly to me.

(cross-posted to SpoFi)

Last week

(I must say, for having turned titles on, mine are boring.)

I had a good trip to Youngstown, Ohio. Christine graciously loaned me the copy of 'Emma' on tape that she had checked out for herself. I had read it before, but enjoyed listening to it again, and it sure helped the 20+ hours in the Prizm to pass faster.

I got to stay with my friend, Bryan, which was a great reunion. Also caught up with BJ, Sara, Karen, and Saleem. Got to stop by the Project, which is humming.

I learned that the city of Pittsburgh is broke. It's really hard for me to believe. I'm pretty convinced the just need to annex every little town around them that benefits from them until they can build a proper tax base (that's what Charoltte does). There are more than 100 municipalities in Allegheny County. Isn't that madness?

And a fun, unexpected thing: I picked Bryan up from the Project wednesday night. We were driving home and passing PNC Park I saw the Cubs on the scoreboard. We tuned in and found out the Cubs were there, in the middle of an 8 run top of the first. We parked and walked over and I thoroughly enjoyed the 12-1 Cubs rout. I also called Robbi and Kyle and said 'Guess where I am.' Fun stuff.

Riding my bike

Some of you already know that I've committed to RAGBRAI this summer - the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. It's 490 miles in 7 days the last week of July. I rode 20 miles for the first time yesterday, which is in line with what the sites I've looked at are recommending. I'm hopeful that I will be ready.

Sunday, April 25

Golden cross

Hmm. I was looking at the cruciform windows at church today thinking I didn't really care for the proportions. It got me thinking, I wonder what a cross would look like based on the Golden Rectangle? But where do you set the crossbar? Line AB would be logical, but it could also be at a line x height from the top. I tend to favor long and thin or absolutely square crosses.

This article says most Christian crosses conform to the Golden Ratio. That doesn't surprise me, that someone would have thought of it before me. But, if that's true, then I must not like such Golden Crosses, because I don't tend to like the proportions of most crosses.

Jason is incredibly well read

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

And I'm not suggesting snarkily that he shouldn't have posted the list. It's awesome. I'm glad. I wish I was so well-read. I can't compete.

Worst songs

Thread at MeFi on the worst songs ever. Prompted by a Blender list, but ranging far afield from there. Hilarity ensues. My comments:

- First of all, you don't have to crtique stuff that slipped in before you developed good taste. That's nostalgia. And a lot of the songs on the Blender list fit that bill for me.
- Worst songs on this list: Achy Breaky Heart, From a Distance, I'll Be There for You, Greatest Love of All.
- Songs I like from this list: Everybody Have Fun Tonight, You're The Inspiration (seventh grade dances, what can I say?), Two Princes, Sunglasses at Night, Sunglasses at Night, Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, Shiny Happy People, The Sounds of Silence, I'm Too Sexy.
- The MeFi thread had some pretty funny stuff, including vitriol I don't agree with. jonmc's stuff [beginning] is especially funny.
- Yes, almost everything by Don Henley is very bad, especially including End of the Innocence.
- Barry Manilow has transcended nothing. Man, he really stinks.
- 'Music lover' usually also mean 'music snob'. It's ok, but it can get out of hand.
- I don't think it's bad to like songs on the radio, even Top 40, but you (IMO) still need to be critical about them. Eg, I like Linkin Park and Evanescence but not 3 Doors Down or Matchbox 20.
- 'De gustabus non est disputandum.'
- Good quote:
'I actually didn't like country music until I started listening to a cooperative radio station that was willing to dig into the some of the better Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash tracks. This same radio station also got me turned on other genres that I formerly dispised like electronica and hip hop.

What I basically decided was that it wasn't that I hate country, rap, or electronica, but that I hate music that is carefully selected to accompany the most profitable advertising directed to the most people. Listening to music selected by people who love music is great. Listening to music selected by people who want to sell 30 second blurbs for pepsi, laser eye surgery, and injury law practice is an exercise in frustration for me.'

That's enough, don't you think?

Yeah, what do you think?

Saturday, April 24

Hot Abercrombie Hoax?

Scott posted the link in comments below. Is Hot Abercrombie Chick a hoax? I don't know. The thing that bothers me the most is that the picture of whoever is turned around so that the letters are backwards. A pet peeve of mine.

Great Googley Moogley

Not sure how to spell that, but anyway...

Went to log on to Blogger today and got offered a Gmail account. Do I want it? Heck yeah. I did have trouble deciding what my username should be, though:

shonmeed (sort of in the 'mathowie' school)
xonmhd (where the 'h' stands for eta)

I finally settled on the very boring:

So feel free to drop me a line.

To adapt a quote from Han Solo

(do I have you, Jaq? :-)

'I'm out of it for a little while and everyone gets prolific.'

I'm speaking especially of Jaq himself (now with photo!) and Jason. Jaq is often prolific. Jason is often not. But there's lots of good stuff at those stops.

Monday, April 12

Hot Abercrombie Chick

I'm famous! Amanda of Hot Abercrombie Chick (as seen on Blogdex) fame stopped by and left a comment on the 'Yoshimi...' thread. My reply:


thanks for stopping by 'interact' [] and for leaving a comment. maybe you went and listened to 'Yoshimi...' over at the Flaming Lips. great song. really fun. and now i've taught my 4.5 yo daughter to sing it to, which is even more fun.

Sunday, April 11

Ok, that's it.

See, I can stop anytime.

(Back away from the computer and no one gets hurt.)

I'll be out of town a lot for the next two weeks, so don't look for much in terms of updates (maybe next weekend).

Get your (military) geek on

Man, I haven't linked anything like this in a long time...

How about The Magazine of Future Warfare. I agree with their April article Fighter Mafia Will Degrade US Airpower.

They also link to a March 18th Economist article entitled The next American empire

Saturday, April 10

Two from MeFi

A couple of threads I saw over there, the second of which I actually *gasp* commented in:

A thread on a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan based around an article by the guy who writes on Taiwan for Jane's

A post linking an article on how the left misunderstands Evangelicals and Bush.

While visions of wide receivers danced in their heads...

Note to self: NFL officials have been instructed to more strictly enforce rules limiting contacct with receivers in the coming season. This should mean more potent passing offenses this year, and better production, especially for the big guys. Sounds like another good year to have Randy Moss.

(And I'm safe saying this since no one in my league has the good sense to read my weblog.)

But my new favorite song is...

Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt. 1 by The Flaming Lips (flash) on the album of the same name.

If you go to their site and click the 'Audio' tab then choose the 4th square from the left you can listen to the whole thing.

Her name is Yoshimi. She's a black belt in karate
Working for the city. She has to discipline her body
Cause she knows that it's demanding to defeat these evil machines
I know she can beat them -

Oh Yoshimi
They don't believe me
But you won't let those
Robots eat me
Oh Yoshimi
They don't believe me
But you won't let those
Robots defeat me

Those evil natured robots, they're programmed to destroy us
She's gotta be strong to fight them. So she's taking lots of vitamins
Cause she knows that it'd be tragic if those evil robots win
I know she can beat them

It's pretty and silly at the same time. I love it!

A big thanks to Jonathan S for putting this on a mix CD for me!

(Incidentally, Steve from Blue's Clues worked with some of the Flaming Lips guys on his album (which I can't get to load right bow, but it's out there). We love Steve. (And, incidentally, Paul of Ftrain is Steve's friend and helped him with the website.))

Three from Blogdex

I, Cringely: The Once and Future King:Now the Only Way Microsoft Can Die is by Suicide

Jeffrey Veen: How I stopped buying CDs and started loving music

Electronic version of 'Man of Constant Sorrows' (from 'O Brother Where Are Thou?')

Friday, April 9

Speaking of Brad DeLong

What do you think of his take on outsourcing? His basic position, the way I understand it, is that it's better to outsource white-collar jobs than blue-collar ones.

Am I a stark, raving, mad liberal?

Hmm. I may get accused of that for linking Nathan Newman (via Jaq).

My friend, Diana (Hi, Diane!), accuses me of being a liberal because I've never had an economics class. While it's true I never had such a (college-level or above) class, my rejoinder is that there are economically savvy people who have who are left of conservative. Brad DeLong leaps to mind. Nathan Newman is another one. (There are lots, of course.)

Anyway, enough hemming and hawing. One of the things that caught my eye about Newman is that he is coincidentally the author of the sim from my previous link. That seems like a non-partisan tool he's created to me. That's a good thing, right?

Newman's got a long post on War, Globalism & Sectarianism. Things I like about it:

- he eschews rhetoric and stays away from the extremes.
- his views are not overly simplistic: 'I hate violence but, pragmatically I'm not a pacifist.'
- I think the 'global justive movement' has some merits and that the behavior of the IMF and the World Bank and their constituents needs to be examined.
- 'I side with regular working Americans'
- 'Real Security is Global Justice'. The bumper sticker 'If you want peace, work for justice.' has a lot of truth to it.

I'm less willing to demonize corporate interests than Newman. I 'hope' that many of these dynamics I agree with come from ignorant self-serving as opposed to wilful profitting at the expense of millions of poor people.

Don't forget, I'm not advocating everything Newman says. I'm not commenting on the Let's Beat Bush ads on his site or supporting the comments of those who comment there. But you knew all of that, right?

I balanced the Federal budget!

Cool sim to manage the Federal budget. (via Boing Boing)

Actually, I ended up with a 1.12 B$ surplus. My values:

- actually balance the budget.
- try to not renege on promises to people relative to their future. Therefore, I held Iraq, Veterans and Miliary Retirement, Medicare, and SS without cuts. (nb: I know this is incredibly subjective, but there you have it...)
- almost every other area of the budget had to take a cut.
- I tried to dither less with little lines items.

Spending ($2130.04 billion: cut $162.76 billion)

$319.34 billion .... Military Spending
Cut $79.83 bil. from base of $399.181 bil.(-20%)
$50 billion ........ Iraq War (No Change)
$98.43 billion ..... Veterans and Military Retirement (No Change)
$23.79 billion ..... International affairs (No Change)
$21.15 billion ..... General science, space, and technology
Cut $2.34 bil. from base of $23.500 bil.(-10%)
$0.8 billion ....... Non-Defense Energy Spending
Cut $0.08 bil. from base of $.887 bil.(-10%)
$27.36 billion ..... Natural resources and environment
Cut $3.03 bil. from base of $30.400 bil.(-10%)
$19.03 billion ..... Agriculture
Cut $2.1 bil. from base of $21.139 bil.(-10%)
$57.45 billion ..... Transportation
Cut $6.37 bil. from base of $63.828 bil.(-10%)
$12.25 billion ..... Community and regional development
Cut $1.36 bil. from base of $13.616 bil.(-10%)
$68.8 billion ...... Education, training, employment, and social services
Cut $17.19 bil. from base of $86.002 bil.(-20%)
$222.55 billion .... Non-Medicare Health Spending
Cut $24.72 bil. from base of $247.281 bil.(-10%)
$258.64 billion .... Medicare (No Change)
$93.17 billion ..... Non-SS Retirement & Unemployment Compensation
Cut $10.34 bil. from base of $103.521 bil.(-10%)
$164.25 billion .... Social Welfare Spending
Cut $18.24 bil. from base of $182.500 bil.(-10%)
$498.84 billion .... Social security (No Change)
$34.88 billion ..... Administration of justice
Cut $3.87 bil. from base of $38.756 bil.(-10%)
$18.17 billion ..... General government administration
Cut $2.01 bil. from base of $20.190 bil.(-10%)
$176.4 billion ..... Net interest (No Change)
$-42.92 billion .... Undistributed offsetting receipts
Increased $10.75 bil. from base of $-53.668 bil.(-20%)
$7.66 billion ...... Commerce Promotion
Cut $1.9 bil. from base of $9.575 bil.(-20%)

Tax Expenditures ($786.56 billion: cut $195.36 billion)

$51.5 billion ...... 2001 Tax Cut
Cut $51.49 bil. from base of $103 bil.(-50%)
$55 billion ........ 2003 Tax Cut
Cut $54.99 bil. from base of $110 bil.(-50%)
$34.45 billion ..... Corporate Tax Breaks
Cut $34.43 bil. from base of $68.89 bil.(-50%)
$122.95 billion .... Personal Business & Investment Benefits
Cut $13.65 bil. from base of $136.61 bil.(-10%)
$155.7 billion ..... Pension & Retirement Deductions (No Change)
$108.14 billion .... Employer-paid Health Insurance
Cut $12.01 bil. from base of $120.161 bil.(-10%)
$176 billion ....... Itemized Deductions
Cut $19.54 bil. from base of $195.55 bil.(-10%)
$82.82 billion ..... Other personal tax expenditures
Cut $9.19 bil. from base of $92.02 bil.(-10%)

Stuff I learned/was reminded of:
- you don't get much mileage of of cutting little area. In Federal budget management the big items are Military, Health, Medicare, and SS. The 'cutting' tax expenditures is also a good source of revenue.

Feel free to comment (nicely) on my budget. What I'd really like to see is your budget, either in my comments or on your weblog.

Wednesday, April 7

GoogleFilter 2

Speculations about Google doing IM next (via kottke).

Christopher's back

The urban planner has an interesting post about the suburbs.


Posts (1 2) and screenshots by a Gmail beta-tester.

Have you seen this parody?

I've heard of it before, but apparently Landover Baptist Church is a parody website that's so thoroughgoing they get hate mail from both conservatives and liberals. That's pretty effective.

(I read about it in the guest sidebar at Boing Boing.)

Sone of the stuff is funny. Some of it is way over the line. Apparently it's supposed to be in Iowa.

Tuesday, April 6

Dawn of the Dead (Theories)

Just when you thought the Enlightenment and Modernism were dead and good riddance, people want to reanimate them (over at MeFi and elsewhere).

It's funny to me when I see (naive) people who still want to embrace modernism or go back to it. Have these people read the postmodern critique of modernism? I'm not a believer in where postmodernism goes, but I'm confident that it's critique of modernism is determinative and final.

In that thread the user calling himseld 'The God Complex' is on the right track. It's not that things were better in premodern times. I certainly don't want to go back to times without air conditioning. However, the human condition has not changed. The psychology of being human and the spirituality of being human have not changed.

Then there's some business about science being just a method. Fine, but lots of 'isms' embrace it, including secular humanism (the source article) and naturalism.

Assertion: none of the leading thinkers on this stuff subscribe to 'soft theism' or even humanism. They're out on the edge, like Nietzsche and Derrida. They don't think 'Oh, we people can improve things through science (and getting free from theism).' They think 'We're all on our own, to control if we can (the Ubermensch and Will to Power) or live like we want (limit-experience). The logical conclusions of modernism that N. and D. come to is one good reason to get off that train.

The comments beginning with jfuller, (skip PsychoKick) and continuing with deanc, Stynxno, and jfuller all have merit.


acrobat over at MeFi says that Naomi Klein says that the US is trying to provoke battle in Iraq. I doubt it. A post in the middle of the thread that encapsulates my thinking pretty well.

The Google Operating System

Kottke's got a post about what Google's up to.

I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords (especially if they can replace MicroStink).

Jason's back...

with two new posts. Check em out.

Sunday, April 4


Eric's got an interesting post comparing CEO pay and shareholder value. Short answer: no correlation.

Makes this a good time to highlight that Eric's back 'hanging on'.

Also from Jaq

(I could mothball 'interact' and just comment professionally over there :-)

A post about women looking better in uniforms than men. I don't disagree. I prefer the female form, of course. But, my comment:

i think a lot about how unfair it is to women that the basic uniform for men - the suit - tends to disguise general male out-of-shapeness. but it seems like most of what women have to wear, especially if it's going to be feminine, tends to show off out-of-shapeness.

Happy Birthday, Sesame Street

Jaq reports that Sesame Street is 35 yo. (Note to self to remember: I am 3 years younger than Sesame Street).

My comment over there:

one of my favorite realizations about Sesame St is that it paved the way for our generational ADD which MTV picked up as a market. funny that the creation of that market was publicly funded.

Friday, April 2

Cross posts

Lots of activity between me and Paul these days.

my comment re: the effect of information on citizen participation in government:

information empowers some of us (like well-washed Macon :-) to be better informed. and if the current technology was deployed in such a way we could register our opinions officially (broadly speaking). we could have a pure democracy where people vote in the Internet.

i think that's what McLuhan is saying, that access to information (including the tools to parse it conveniently) should allow informed people to make a bigger impact.

and plenty of netizens are starting to dream in this direction (cf, my comment and link about 'emerging democracy' on Walter's previous post in this vein (the pop thread?) [1] [2]

what about those who aren't wired (or wi-fi wireless)? they're out of luck. what about those who don't use their wires to learn and participate? they're out of luck, too. they don't get counted.

seems like a bad idea.

still, i think there's a good chance that society will move toward post-national compacts (eg, multinationals) and am fascinated by that possibility.

what if some paltry nations were to take in these post-national compacts to give them a geographic address? it wouldn't be that different from tax-havens. the compacts would pay the 'real nation' some agreeable amount of money for them to be 'official citizens' there (maybe never having been there). that's what their passport would say. but they'd do their own thing globally.

off the top of my head new idea flight of fantasy... what do you think?

my comment on MSAs:

this MSA idea sounds like a good one to me, Paul. giving incentives to cut costs is good. also, better free-market operation would be helpful.

we have cadillac care in this country that many people can't afford. and it's just going up. that's my concern. i think basic care for (almost) everyone is more important than cadillac care for some.

the idea i've most heard touted is universal health care a la Canada. that puts some controls in place. i sure would be interested in y'all conservatives' (ie, Paul and Macon) take on that. anybody else, too.

Two from Danny

The limitations of spreadsheets (in the PowerPoint makes you dumb vein)

A guide to OpenOffice styles (mostly for my own memory)