Wednesday, May 31

Bless the Postal Service

I'm in love again, or some more, or... whatever.

It comes from The Hype List, which this time gave me The Postal Service's Nothing Better (Styrofoam Remix).

Oh, wow.

First, the beautiful. Check this chorus lyric:

Tell me am i right to think that there could be nothing better
Than making you my bride and slowly growing old together?

Also, the melody is gorgeous, and the harmony, the 'oh oh'...

But, to complicate matters, dude's a little obsessive and obstructive:

Will someone please call a surgeon
Who can crack my ribs and repair this broken heart
That you're deserting for better company?
I can't accept that it's over
I will block the door like a goalie tending the net
In the third quarter of a tied-game rivalry

So just say how to make it right
And i swear i'll do my best to comply

Tell me am i right to think that there could be nothing better
Than making you my bride and slowly growing old together

I feel must interject here you're getting carried away feeling sorry for yourself
With these revisions and gaps in history
So let me help you remember.
I've made charts and graphs that should finally make it clear.
I've prepared a lecture on why i have to leave

So please back away and let me go
I can't my darling i love you so...

Tell me am i right to think that there could be nothing better
Than making you my bride and slowly growing old together
Don't you feed me lines about some idealistic future
Your heart won't heal right if you keep tearing out the sutures

I admit that i have made mistakes and i swear
I'll never wrong you again
You've got a lure i can't deny,
But you've had your chance so say goodbye
Say goodbye

(Small baby quibble: if we're talking hockey, which has only 3 periods, it's not a third quarter, right?)

This song quickly evoked for me 'Don't you want me baby'. It's got the broken relationship, the back and forth male and female voices and harmony.


I just put their Give Up album in my Amazon wishlist last night. This song clinches it.

Tuesday, May 30

Belated Memorial Day post

Check out The History Channel's Memorial Day page (via Chirol of Coming Anarchy ). Don't miss the maps.

Honor to those who served their country with honor.

In honor of our veterans, let me pose this question: How do we properly provide Veteran's benefits without feeding the DC monster?

Sunday, May 28

I'm in love - again

My latest internet crush: The Hype Machine. This weekend alone I've listened to The Go-Gos 'Head over heels' (a number of times, including right now!), 3 different versions of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah', Robert Johnson's 'Sweet home Chicago', Pedro the Lion's 'Foregone', Paul Simon's 'I am a rock', 'In a big country', Bessie Smith's 'Hot time in the old town tonight' and more.

I think Walter might especially like The Hype Machine...

PS: Isn't this why we have the Internet? Grocery

Friday, May 26

Iowa sources (and a little Morrissey)

+ Interact correspondent Jason Streed sends in Five terrible fake Morrissey songs with the subject 'Close to too easy'.

+ Even Jason might not be interested in the U of I's Campus Master Plan, but, heck. You never know.

I'm especially interested in the proposed opportunity sites. For example, the whole Old Capitol Mall (site 9) is shown as an opportunity.

The ultimate answer to parking problems 'on' any campus, including the U of SC, which has parking problems, is to make the inner campus pedestrian access and make cars park in satellite lots, busing/biking in if required.

The Iowa River could become the main feature of the campus, even moreso than the Pentacrest. (I see, upon further reading, that they start to trend this way .) I hope they maximize the proposed River Park. They've also got a lot of great access to Clear Creek (if they can work on the water treatment smell problem), and a nice 'open' corridor out Melrose (Finkbine and the 'Hawkeye' campus) and up to Oakdale. (Then they basically say this stuff at the bottom of this page.)

No, I'm not psychic. It's just obvious to those of us with good taste ;-)

Thursday, May 25

Geek on!

Every single item in this post is for geeks. If you don't appreciate such material... Too bad! ;-)

+ Northwest Junior High School, represent! Northwest Junior High eighth-grader Drew Coffin competed Wednesday morning as one of 10 finalists in the 18th annual National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C.

+ Pixar's John Lasseter, now Chief Creative Officer of parent company Disney, really seems to love Disney and its legacy (via kottke). That's got to be a good thing, right?

Girlfriend 6.0 vs. Wife 1.0 is a little funny ;-)

+ The Top 25 X-Men. Lowest appearance by an original is Iceman at #16. followed by (Arch)Angel at 11. 10. Colossus 9. Beast  8. Storm. Check.

All the deaths and rebirths of Jean Grey (6), along with Ultimate Power, make her less interesting to me.

5. Rogue. Said this before: She just doesn't do much for me.

4. Wolverine. Yep. You could make a pretty good argument for putting him #1, depending on your criteria.

3. Kitty Pryde. Yep. I have a Princess Leia-type crush on Kitty Pryde.

2. Professor X. Yep.

and, 1. Cyclops. I can see it with these criteria, but I don't find him all that interesting...

Learned in this article that Marvel has introduced something called Omega mutants (*cough*midi-chlorians*cough*). The subtitle of this article says it all: Do we really want "Omega-class" characters in the Marvel Universe? (cf also, Wikipedia).

Also discovered, in my travels, the Marvel Database Project.

+ The Lonely Island are the new video short darlings of SNL. The best one is Dopple Ganger. Laser Cats is plenty funny. Running a distant third is The Chroni(what?)cles of Narnia.

I do it for you, dear reader ;-)

A little post on Bohemia

Tom's news link about the Czech Republic inspired me to do a little reading on Bohemia.

There are a lot of Czechs in Eastern Iowa. For example, check out (!) The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (oh, I slay myself ;-).

My maternal grandfather was 100% Bohemian (or 'Boheemee' as they say there). By my reckoning, that makes me 1/4 Bohemian. The rough picture of my muttitude/hybridization:

3/8 Irish
1/4 Bohemian
1/8 English
1/8 French
1/8 German

(Christine is 100% German Lutheran all the way back to the old country, so, for those keeping score at home, that makes the twins roughly:

9/16 German
3/16 Irish
1/8   Bohemian
1/16 English
1/16 French

I made up some pie graphs on these, but they're... someplace else from where I am right now ;-). Maybe I'll post them later.)

Though you can hardly count it, I did get to travel through Bohemia when I was 19, riding on a bus from Poland (actually, Auschwitz that day) to Klagenfurt, Austria (via Graz). We got to get out briefly and I have a nice picture (again, somewhere other than where I am right now or I could scan it in for you) of my friends and myself in the 10$ hand-knitted Polish sweaters we bought in Krackow standing in front of a field of prettily green grain.

Monday, May 22

Backing up: data and the Bush Administration

+ Elephant Drive looks like an awesome way to back up your computer online. I expect them to get bought by Google any day now. We don't need it since we just bought an external hard drive to handle these duties. Because, you know, it's not data until it's backed up. ;-)

+ Tom's critique of the Bush Administration in today's column really zings:

The Bush team has gone from crowing, "Who's next?" after Iraq to concentrating today on not losing a series of fights that it readily began in the shadow of 9/11 but now seem unable to close out: most obviously Afghanistan and Iraq but also Iran and Syria, by extension, and even deeply troubled Pakistan - where bin Laden still hangs out - by proxy. Bush's next military intervention? Try the National Guard on the Rio Grande.

The Bush post-presidency began last summer with Hurricane Katrina, as did - to no surprise - the 2008 presidential race. In that domestic disaster, the administration's continuing failures in Iraq were revealed to be part of a comprehensive pattern of poor strategic planning, tone-deaf alliance politics - there, with state governments - and boneheaded crisis management.

Sunday, May 21

Dialoging re: Xianity

I haven't found myself dialoging about and defending Xianity like this since my MetaFilter days. And, frankly it makes me a little anxious, so I'm not up for it very often. Do you remember that, while I love iconoclastic views I am a personal conflict avoider?

I'm fully engaged in the Coming Anarchy Jesus vs. Mohammed thread. My latest of 7 comments is extensive enough that I'll just repost it here:

Elizabeth: you make a good point about Xian protest. however, there really wasn't a culture at all, so far as i'm aware, of protest in the Roman Empire, as you define 'protest'. further, since Xians were persecuted for their faith basically until Constantine, there was no 'opportunity' for protest when mere public practice could result in martyrdom.

while i really appreciate your knowledge of the history and trasitions of Xian practice, today it must take account of 2000 years of history. while we look to the first century and the NT, and before that to Judaism and the OT, we will be faced, obviously, with situations that were not experienced before.

one of those is Xianity in a culture where protest and, further, political action, is possible and does not result in martyrdom. in my view, Xians may engage in political action, broadly construed (and including protest) AS LONG AS IT DOES NOT RESULT IN THE COMPROMISE OF THEIR FAITH. because we Xians believe God is the final judge and we believe in the possibility of miracles, more Machiavellian compromises are not open to us (i scored pretty low on that Machiavelli test from a while back ;-). at the point of compromise, we have to abstain, and then the results are left to God: an unforseen miracle, martyrdom, apparent disaster. God must finally be the one who triumphs through His Church.

(somewhat tangentially, i have concluded, based on the above capitalized premise and the additional premise that politics is compromise and the compromise increases as the domain increases, it's awfully hard for Christians to politic, as such, at a national or international level, and maybe long before that.)

a corrollary here: 'power corrupts…' and Xians, who must above all remain faithful to God, regardless of the consequences, cannot afford any more corruption than what is already found in 'the world, the flesh, and the Devil' (to quote the Apostle Paul). accordingly, i have determined that any Xian use of 'power' must not result in corruption.

finally (still there ? ;-), your last paragraph: you are right that the traditional Xian view sees the world decaying (often called 'premillenial' nowadays, if you know the code), but, again, it need not be and is not the only view. many Xians believe we should do our best to improve the world (still in but not of) until Christ's return.

without putting too fine a point on it, my own participation with Tom Barnett and his vision is, in some small way, a personal outworking of this latter view.

Saturday, May 20

Oil economics (including hydrogen) and Google Video

+ Good quotes from the Financial Times' Michael Wolf by Tom. Tom's lead in: 'This [oil] shock, [Wolf] admits, is size-wise as big as the 1970s version. But the difference in the global economy today is that (quoting an IMF report), because of '

improved monetary frameworks and credibility, the impact on short-term interest rates, growth and inflation has been smaller than before, while deeper financial integration may facilitate the persistence of deficits...

Bless is the borrower, for it keeps the world humming.  When oil-exporting countries are trying to accumulate claims on the rest of the world, as they are now, it is good that the dominant supplier of the desired claims are not uncreditworthy oil-importing developing countries borrowing in foreign currencies, but the US borrowing in its own.  This is a big improvement over the 1970s.  Moreover, because high oil prices must generate higher deficits in oil-importing countries, the sustainable size of US current account deficits and liability accumulations has risen.  The assumption that US deficits need to fall drastically makes less sense in our post-oil shock world.

Yet, if oil exporters, advanced countries (excluding the US) in aggregate and China, the world's most dynamic country, run large current account surpluses over a long period, the accumulation of liabilities by the US will be massive.  The US is the world's most creditworthy--and so most satisfactory--issuer of claims.  For this reason, its role as borrower of last resort has helped explain the absence of any economic downturn this time.  But, as the recent market turmoil suggest, even its back is not infinitely broad.  Other creditworthy countries should share the load.

+ Iowa Co. Hopes to Make Gasoline Obsolete. I thought this would be about ethanol, but it's about hydrogen.

+ I'm playing around with Google Video, a little, finally. Downloaded the new, free Pearl Jam (it's ok) and watched the Colbert roast of President Bush that been all over the place. Also ok.

I'd think it'd be hard to take something like that, non-stop, for 20+ minutes, graciously. The twins looked less than thrilled around the 9-minute mark.

And then, that clip at the end: that wasn't funny.

Now the Bush impersonator, where he's working together with Bush to make fun of himself and the press corps, that's funny.

And they got a standing o. Our president can laugh at himself. That's a good thing.

My final word on Google Video: Dang, TV is slow. Don't expect many more of these reports ;-)

Top heroines of SF, fantasy, and horror

Jaq links the top 75 heroines of SF, fantasy and horror. Cool. I'll weigh in.

The first one on the list that I like is 60. Mina Murray from Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. She's one tough lady.

Interestingly, Rogue is tied for this spot, but Rogue doesn't do much for me (pretty Anna Paquin not withstanding). There are some good Rogue moments, but I'd say they're pretty few and far between.

59: Lucy Pevensie. Nice

56: Wholey Cow! I'd forgotten all about Electra Woman and Dyna Girl!

50: Dorothy Gale and Isis. These old cartoons really worked for me ;-)

36: Don't care about Sarah from Labyrinth, but let's give Jennifer Connelly an honorary mention for her roles in this one, The Rocketeer, and Dark City.

28. Batgirl
- I like Batgirl Year One and Barbara as Oracle.

21. Michelle Yeoh - cool lady

19. Jean Grey - good

18. Eowyn - Awesome

10. Lady Jessica - good

9. Diana Rigg's Emma Peel - never watched it, but she sounds cool.

8. Trinity - yep

7. Xena - Don't care. Never did.

6. Princess Leia . Probably my favorite. She possessed me at about 6 years old. And it wasn't about the titanium thong (as Carrie Fisher calles it), either (although I was pre-adolescent then). My lifelong adoration of the Princess Leia is chaste. It remains a 6 year old adoration. And I like it that way. Jason Myers has a nice tribute over there, with a great close: '
Sometimes you rescue the princess. Sometimes she rescues you.'

5. Sarah Connor. I liked T2 pretty well. I wouldn't place her this high, but...

4. Wonder Woman - not much of an opinion

3. Scully - great

2. Buffy - never watched it, but she seems tough

1. Ripley - I like Ripley. But not in this spot. Rather, somewhere north of Batgirl

Well, there you have it. I hope you are duly edified.

The boys: Sean, Wil, and Mario

Wil's playing Super Maro Sunshine in the other room. Then I hear him yell: I jumped!

I say 'Wil, do you need help?'

'No, I totally know how to do this.'

I say 'I hear ya.'

Then follows more 'I jumped!' and some mumbling.

I'm proud of that boy. Like father like son ;-)

Finally, he accepts my offer.

Then I kill off all of his Marios trying to get through that screen. Not the plan :-(

Oh, well, not even Daddy as Mario can win 'em all...

Thursday, May 18

Nothing much

+ Giants Sweep Astros as Bonds Rests. Dang, it's hard to play everyday when you're that old and off the juice!
+ Need something else to write about... Think I'll change my blogroll...

I think I'll go ahead and remove 'defective yeti' and 'A Whole Lotta Nothing', personalize this thing a little bit. Matthew B just hasn't been that funny lately, or even very productive. And if you like Matt H, you should be reading him on your own by now...

Wednesday, May 17

Drivers, Dilbert, and immigration

+ Miami Tops Auto Club List for Rude Drivers. Can we get some independent confirmation here from the Miamians?

+ Scott Adams turns his wicked (Dilbert) pen to Google.

+ Wow. Mark is passionate about immigration in a vein you just don't see elsewhere:

[T]he root of mass migration - Mexico's unfree and oligarchical society and the desire of Big Business to hold down real wages by flooding the labor pool with mostly uneducated but hardworking illegal immigrants ( who liberals see as potential Democratic voters and clients of big government largesse). In my view neither President Bush nor the Congress nor either Party are the least bit serious about stopping illegal immigration.

What the political elite really wants is to continue the status quo - de facto completely open borders with Mexico. That message won't sell, so both parties are going to attempt to stall and distract - mostly with heated arguments about deportation - hoping that the issue will die down in time. Deportation is irrelevant. Most of the illegals here, outside of the criminal gang element, are not the problem, we can legalize them all as of tomorrow without even noticing a thing, except perhaps some fiscal benefits in terms of moving a large mass of people into the aboveground economy.

The real problem is the illegal immigrants coming over the next twenty years who are not here yet, but will be someday. Why ? Because the elite - our bipartisan ecclesia that exists in the Beltway - have consciously chosen to perpetuate illegal immigration for narrow, selfish, undemocratic, reasons of class interest and political career.

Reasons, that for the last generation and a half, they have consistently put above the good of their country.

Tuesday, May 16


I saw that Gmail and Google Talk have pix for contacts now. Big whoop.

Then I hovered over my own name in Gmail by accident and my picture popped up, though I never uploaded it or set it. Guess Google sucked it out of my Blogger profile and into my Gmail profile (or some such thing). Google knows all ;-)

All that to say, if you use Gmail, and hover over my name, you might get to see my smiling, hirsute mug (which, incidentally, is currently shaven for the summer).

'By the pricking of my thumb...'

...something [scary] this way comes.' [paraphrased ;-)]

Coming Anarchy, that is, the newest blogroll denizen. They're fairly pessimistic about where the world's headed, but really nice guys ;-) Also, their funky Victorian theme and excellent design are worth checking out in themselves.

So, a post from them I've been meaning to link:

Cuba, Saudi Arabia, China and Russia have just won seats on the new U.N. Human Rights Council. The good news: Iran and Venezuela were defeated.

Ay de mi. It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

But it's also a funny world. As I click through later to the comments, I see this hilarious one:

Also, I think Cuba, Russia, China, and Saudia Arabia should have a cage match for who has a worse human rights record. Because singling out any of these countries as particularly atrocious for a well-timed quip is proving difficult.

Man, that sounds like how I surf... ;-)

Can Google save America?

Wow, do I ever like Cringely's latest column, Google-on, and not just the Google stuff. In fact, I kept thinking about it after I read it. I subscribed to his feeds for a while, but lost interest. However, I like this one.

Google, Intel, Microsoft, and Yahoo represent the four pillars of personal computing circa 2006... Intel [is] a proxy for AMD... Microsoft is a proxy for Apple.

He's basically talking about business models with these pillars and proxies.

He goes on to say IBM is dying on the vine.

Then I like this whole section:

Where Microsoft's theory of business is built around the platform and its domination, Google has built a theory of business that is independent of the platform, and therefore their software runs (or can run) on any platform. The issue around "advertising based revenue" isn't really the key differentiator. What counts is that for Microsoft the platform is the PC while for Google the platform is the Internet and nobody can hope to control the Internet -- not Microsoft OR Google.

Given that Google can't practically aspire to control the Internet and Microsoft can't NOT aspire to control it, Google already has a vastly lighter load to carry.

So Microsoft can build software for a handheld or tablet computer, a mobile phone or a TV set-top box and even though the wrapper is different, the feel is always very much the same -- that of a fat PC client. Microsoft can't allow a phone to be a phone because they can't dominate and control a plain old phone unless it is more Windows than phone. That's a problem.

But not for Google, which couldn't care less about the phone OR the content (that's back to Yahoo, again). Google cares about the DATA. There is a key difference here between data and content. Content is stored and retrieved while data is generated. Google is about generating custom data based on applying proprietary algorithms. THAT's their theory of business, no matter how that data is ultimately paid for or by whom.

I'm especially interested in the end of this quote:

Maybe Microsoft's new Internet ad business will turn the tide. Wrong! How many web sites do you visit primarily for the advertising? Not anything from Microsoft to be sure, yet that's essentially what people do with Google - going TO the ads.

And look at those Google ads. Here's the most important key to Google's success: Most Google advertisers don't advertise ANYWHERE else. Its mainly small and medium sized companies whose advertisements the average person would NEVER have seen before the Internet. Google is making a ton of money from people who never advertised before. Heck, Google is making a ton of money from people who never were even in business before. This is not only a fundamental change in how advertising is done; it is a fundamental change in how BUSINESS is done.

I'm counting on Google and eBay to save America.

I think what he's getting at here is, in a globalized economy where so many jobs in manufacturing and service can be outsourced, where we're moving to a post-service or post-white-collar, post-something economy (how's that for profound! ;-) what will we move on to? Or will America, where it costs more to do business, be canibalized by cheaper global labor pools?

Some people are saying we need a rising creative class. I think that's part of it. And I hope this is, too: Technological innovation. 'Generating customized data'.
(Then he has a piece about how Micro$oft could extend it's OS life that I like, but I'm not going to quote it, because it would distract from the Google. You can certainly go read it...)

Then he closes with a caution for Google:

That's a survival strategy for Microsoft. Now here's a failure strategy for Google. While not intending so much to create a platform, Google has done just that. And once you control a platform, the way to best leverage that control is by sharing the platform generously. Google is right now the basis of much Web 2.0 creativity from third-party firms -- every one of which is afraid that they'll be put out of business next month by Google rolling-out its own version of whatever that ISV has built and proved. That's the Microsoft domination model, so why not? Because it poisons the well, that's why not.

It is great for Google to buy-up these little firms making millionaires along the way, but Google's obsession with reinventing the wheel might hurt them over time. I hope they are smart about this, but I fear that they aren't, and that Google's own vertical obsession might hamper their growth.

Meaty stuff to think about.

Monday, May 15

Planning our historical tour

Back to the Southern theater of the Revolutionary War as Christine begins to plan trips for us (checking out a book and the SC tourism  website).

My top choices for visits in terms of the history are the Battle of Cowpens and something with Francis Marion.

The Battle of Cowpens was a great victory for the rebels, owed mostly to General Morgan, who contravened military wisdom on purpose to get the results he wanted, and he was right.

I'm just going to quote from the Wikipedia article, with my own organization:
  • placed his army between the Broad and Pacolet River, thus making escape impossible if the army were routed.
    • His reason for cutting off escape was obvious; to ensure that the untrained militiamen would not, as they had been accustomed to do, turn in flight at the first hint of battle and abandon the regulars
  • Selecting a hill as the center of his position, he placed his Continental infantry on it, deliberately leaving his flanks exposed to his opponent. Morgan reasoned that Tarleton would attack him head on and he made his tactical preparations accordingly.
  • Realizing that poorly trained militia were unreliable in battle, especially when they were under attack from cavalry, Morgan decided to ask the militia to fire two shots and then retreat
    • so he could have them reform under cover of the reserve (cavalry commanded by William Washington and James McCall) behind the third, more experienced line of militia and continentals.
  • The movement of the militia in the second line would unmask the third line to the British.
  • The goal of this strategy was to weaken and disorganize Tarleton's forces (which would be attacking the third line uphill), before in turn attacking and defeating them.
  • Howard's men would not be unnerved by the militia's expected move, and unlike the militia they would be able to stand and hold, especially since the first and second lines, Morgan felt, would have inflicted both physical and psychological attrition on the advancing British before the third line came into action.
  • Furthermore, by placing his men downhill from the advancing British lines, Morgan exploited the British tendency to fire too high in battle.
  • Furthermore, the downhill position of his forces allowed the British forces to be silhouetted against the morning sunlight, providing easy targets for Patriot troops. With a ravine on their right flank and a creek on their left flank, Morgan's forces were protected against British flanking maneuvers at the beginning of the battle.
Morgan insisted, "the whole idea is to lead Benny [Tarleton] into a trap so we can beat his cavalry and infantry as they come up those slopes. When they've been cut down to size by our fire, we'll attack them." In developing his tactics at Cowpens, as historian John Buchanan wrote, Morgan may have been "the only general in the American Revolution, on either side, to produce a significant original tactical thought."

Morgan's victory at the Battle of Cowpens is often compared by historians, to the classic double envelopment of the Romans by the Carthaginian army under Hannibal at Cannae in 216 B.C.

Was Banastre Tarleton the Sherman of his day?

Washington's Fabian strategy devolved to Greene:

Gates was replaced by George Washington's most dependable subordinate, General Nathanael Greene. Greene assigned about 1,000 men to General Daniel Morgan , a superb tactician who crushed Tarleton's troops at the Battle of Cowpens on January 17, 1781. Greene proceeded to wear down his opponents in a series of battles ( Guilford Court House, Hobkirk's Hill, Ninety Six , and Eutaw Springs), each of them tactically a victory for the British, but giving no strategic advantage to the victors. Greene summed up his approach in a motto that would become famous: "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Unable to capture or destroy Greene's army, Cornwallis moved north to to Virginia.

(I quoted this passage last time, but I still love it!)

I've got a theme going here: Washington, Greene, Marion, Fabius, Dowding: All of them could win by not losing. Why is that strategy so attractive to me?

Furthermore, could the jihadists use this strategy against us in Iraq? Are they? We're there. We have to be willing to see it through.

Or, maybe more fantastically, if we can't 'win' outright, is there any way we can turn the tables and use this strategy on them?

Sunday, May 14

Which Star Wars character are you?

The same guys who did the superhero one had this one. Mine:

Your results:
You are Han Solo

Han Solo
Luke Skywalker
Obi-Wan Kenobi
Mace Windu
Jar Jar Binks
Lando Calrissian
Emperor Palpatine
Even though you've been described as
reckless, selfish and cocky, you're the
type of person others love to be around.
People like you because you're a scoundrel.

(This list displays the top 10 results out of a possible 21 characters)

Click here to take the Star Wars Personality Test

Note: Wil loves these. So we're posting some results for him and Bethy over on twinlog.

Friday, May 12

Smart locales, maps (and Google)

+ Interact correspondent Bryan P sends in this article from Kiplinger's on The 50 smartest places to live. The criteria are things like affordable housing, reasonable cost of living, good quality of life, stuff like that.

#2 Minneapolis/St Paul - Aaron, watcha say?

#5 Austin - Macon lives there. It's too hot.

#7 Asheville is beautiful and Hippie Central.

#9 Pittsburgh: this is where BP lives. Great town. Love it.

#10 Iowa City. THE HEAT!

I looked and looked and couldn't find Buffalo, Miami, Greensboro, Turlock, Tulsa, Charlotte, Chicago... or Columbia. ;-)

+ I'm stoked about the new Google Notebook (of course).

+ John Hardy has a cool animation he made of world population trends using maps from Worldmapper.

I tell ya what: you look at the tourism maps over there, that's basically what Europe is: one big destination for and source of tourists.

Oh, yeah: and they export alcohol and cigarettes, too.

One more thought: most everything developed is largely in the global north. The south's pretty thin on that stuff.

Thursday, May 11

Best. Quiz. EVAH!

You are Spider-Man

Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Wonder Woman
You are intelligent, witty, a bit geeky and have great power and responsibility.

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

(In fact, you're such a geek, when you didn't like how this rendered in Blogger, you threw it into an html editor to try to fix it...)

A big thanks to Kellsey for finding and posting this one.

You must take this quiz and tell me how you do! Go!

(And I give up on trying to make this thing render right in Firefox 0.8 (you can guess why I'm running on that). Is the table rendering alright on your browser? If any of you code ninjas want to look at the source and help me, it's much appreciated.)

Travelling - through China, space, and the internets

+ Dan's travelling in China, with lots of great pix.

+ Macon and I are discussing, in order: Sci-Fi/fantasy, FTL/ansible, and AI over at Piebald Life (where he's guest blogging).

+ I found this discussion of how to pick image formats for Internet usage very helpful.

+ Seems like I often mistype 'Bloglines' as 'Blogliens'...

Great idea. I put a lien on your blog, you owe me, sucka! ;-)

Wednesday, May 10

Depressing screed of the week, followed by sermon to self

Mark has a post that addresses historical cycles called Ancient Rome and Globalization. Does the geopolitical success of liberal government undermine itself ('what the Old Marxists might have called the "contradiction of capitalism')?

For my part, I'm concerned that our national, often-head-down pursuit of the American Dream (prosperity for me and greater prosperity for my children) ultimately erodes underpinnings of the American Way.

For example, our politicians seem fairly bankrupt right now. Their goal appears to be more power and money for themselves. There best path thereto is keeping their constituents happy, no matter what's best for the country or the world. Is the system messed up, thus producing bad results? In democracy (loosely defined) you get the government you deserve. We have to put responsibility for the results ultimately on the citizens.

Example 2: Isn't our public education system pretty bad? Ultimate results have to rest with the parents. Public schools are a great resource to be utilized by parents to get their children educated. If parents don't care and engage and follow along, your results will be pretty bad. But are parents more concerned about working two jobs and getting their own satisfaction and seeking prosperity than about the education and character development of their children?

Example 3: The market. Free markets are the worst economic system (except for every other one). Talk about lowest common denominator. You drive up to Charlotte and get nailed by ads for cosmetic surgery. We waste our money on a lot of useless crap, right?

Aren't we tempted to conclude that the masses are asses?

This is usually the time I need to take a break from my frustrated idealism (which naturally produces cynicism). The world is broken. People are broken. Yes, my faith tells me that. Sometimes I get too focused on being frustrated about things not being the way they should be. That's not helping anyone.

Plus, there's plenty of common grace in the world. God sends his rain on the just and the unjust. That's a good thing. There are plenty of things to be grateful for, in the context of a world that shouldn't surprise us by being very screwed up.

Beyond common grace, God is specifically at work in the world, even in my life. I need to remember that. I'm not going to find it in the news very often. That's not what 'the news' is for. But I'll be more even-keeled if I stop to take stock of it. If I start with that perspective before I dive into the news.

It's ok to keep up with current events. It's even important. But don't get sucked into it. It's not the whole game. It doesn't afford much happiness (apart from the small satisfaction of being informed, and that one doesn't keep ya very warm at night). Doesn't mean I can't do my side job (which content is consumed with current events) and enjoy it. In fact, I might enjoy it more with a little detachment. And unexpected good things do happen. The Soviet Union eventually collapsed. We did buy off Germany and Japan with development in the second half of the 20th century.

Too smart is dumb. Keep an eye out for what God might be doing. Be grateful. Serve and enjoy your family. That's a fair-sized chunk of the ballgame right there.

2 little links

+ Matt's got a post where he links a game like 'rock paper scissors' called 'cowboy ninja bear'. I have played a variation of this and I can attest to the fun of the whole body play. It's especially fun if you do an elimination tournament with about 50 people.

+ Interesting article on pre-buying gas at lower prices.

Sunday, May 7

Selling out

While I've checked out MySpace, it's never really attracted me.

Then I discovered that some of my family are hanging over there, and my desire to be connected to them outweighed my inertia.

And I've got some friends over there, too.

My MySpace

Friday, May 5

Dilbert, Jaq, Brad, Curzon, Wil, Mario, and a couple of Toms

+ Just because I haven't tweaked Jaq in awhile, here's a long article on Tom Brady's opinions (eg, veterans are better than rookies) which basically says... nothing. ;-)

+ Tom on the 'gas crisis':

The gas "crisis" reappears for the summer driving season, right on cue. Washington is naturally "shocked" at the obvious market manipulation and price gouging, and politicians stand in line for photo-ops at local gas stations, venting their righteous indignation and ignoring the fact that America has gone out of its way in the past to allow domestic drilling or the building of new oil refineries, so voila! Now they're going to fix it with a rebate or some showy hearings where oil execs are lined up with their right hands raised (the ultimate photo-op).  

It is all just too pathetically predictable to warrant serious comment. Our crisis is nothing more than the piling up of our consumer choices over the past several decades, our willingness to make investments within our own country (especially in refining), and this weird public sense we have that cheap gas is an American right.  

So now the market corrects many of those assumptions with the same level of indifference we've long displayed on the subject. And politicians are going to make this process better somehow? Or are they just likely to confuse the issue, as they so often do?

+ Dilbert is now unemployed and looking for a job online. I know the feeling.

By the way, 56,069 people subscibe to Dilbert on Bloglines. That's the most of any subscription I've seen by far.

+ I didn't know any of this about Cinco de Mayo (via Brad):

Today is Cinco de Mayo, the day when Americans join with Mexicans from Puebla to celebrate the defeat of the French. If it hadn't been for Cinco de Mayo we Californians might have ended up speaking French instead of Spanish. Viva Benito Juarez! :-)

Teaming up with Mexicans to defeat the French? Hooray! Let's do it some more! ;-)

+ Coming Anarchy has a good post on why the Kurds might prefer a loosely federated Iraq to an independent Kurdistan. Makes all kinds of sense, once you think about it...

+ What Wil really needs is an open gaming platform where he can tweak characters and rules to make his own game. He's always mashing up different 'worlds'. My favorite idea he has was Lego Lord of the Rings (like Lego Star Wars). He also came up with Lego Mario Amazing.

I think we're probably getting pretty close to that kind of gaming platform. Some games can be somewhat modded like that. I bet he'll have the whole kit and caboodle for his kids...

Wednesday's lone link

+ LOL: Dogbert's decoy has Bono in a headlock.

Dogbert made a billion dollars selling garage barges to people as ocean real estate. Then Bono tried to get his money (above). Then, yesterday, Dogbert bought Dilbert's company and fired Dilbert. That sets up today.

Thursday, May 4

Cleaning out the old inbox omnibus

So much for inbox zero ;-)

+ Wil really liked watching me play Dungeon Escape. He kept asking me if we (I) could play it until I beat it.

Hello! And welcome to Dungeon Escape, my very silly and very low-budget flash tribute to the classic laserdisc games like Dragon's Lair, Space Ace, and Super Don Quixote (well, that last one's not quite so famous, but it holds fond childhood memories for me). At the moment there are many rooms missing, but I'm constantly adding more, so check back from time to time.

+ Amazing index of Sesame Street video clips on YouTube! (I haven't watched any of these yet.)

File under: thanks, internets!

+ Ian's Shoelace Site. What it sounds like, with unbelieveable depth and breadth. I have taken to tying his Secure Shoelace Knot on my work shoes and have literally not had a lace come untied without my untying it! (And sometimes barely then!)

+ A great site on teaching kids to ride bikes . Bethy's doing great with our blind efforts, but some of the tips here have helped Wil already. Next up: removing his pedals.

+ The best way to level a space for an easy set pool (cuz, believe Christine, it's only easy if you've got level ground). Where else?

The following three links are from kottke:

+ Malcolm Gladwell (The Tipping Point, Blink) says we should run forensic statistical analyses* on alleged record-setters (eg Bonds, FloJo). I think that's a pretty good idea. [ follow up ]

* Like those Steven Leavitt (Freakonomics) ran on Chicago School test cheaters or that the IRS runs on tax returns.

+ Though I am usually in favor of markets, I find the following rationale pretty compelling. What am I missing here?

Greg Saunders has a suggestion for a simple Democratic ad campaign for the midterm elections consisting of three graphs: gas prices, oil company stock prices, and oil company campaign contributions. (also via kottke)

Tuesday, May 2

Iran, pork, Arnold, and

+ Iran threatens Israel if US acts "evil" . That's a rich headline for you. Standard playground retort: takes one to know one.

+ If the glove fits:
Line-Item Veto Draws Sen. Byrd's Scorn

WASHINGTON (AP) - A proposal to restore a scaled-back version of the line-item veto authority for presidents drew withering scorn Tuesday from the dean of the Senate, who called it "an offensive slap at Congress."

That is to say, Congress' addiction to pork is so egregious, it merits an offensive slap in the face. It needs to be slapped and offended.

Parallel headline might be: Congressional porcine pandering draws citizens' scorn.

+ Arnold wants 2 teams for LA. That's a stretch. They can't get their act together for one. Maybe that's ok. I'm torn between loving the NFL, supporting a market approach (if the LA market doesn't want a team that bad...), and not supporting municipal subsidization of professional sports.

+ Disclosure
category: stuff no one is interested in but me

I have to confess, I am back to using, but only to save links. This is because the feed craps out in Bloglines a lot and it's so easy to click through and just save them. Besides, I always liked the interface, and I'm not using my Gmail archive of links as much as I thought I might.

So, new request: is there a way to get Google Desktop to index bookmarks you have on the web as part of it's data base? One possibility

Maps, maps everywhere -

over on Tom's weblog (and tdaxp, and Coming Anarchy, and...), and now here, too.

via Meaningless Musings:

create your own visited countries map

create your own visited states map

A couple of thoughts from Lifehacker

+ My comment re: subconscious:

i'm a big believer in letting stuff percolate, letting the subconscious/intuition/whatever go to work. sometimes i'm just too head down and need to unclench. i definitely have some of my best ideas in the shower. driving is another place/time where my brain unwinds in a good way. exercise and manual labor (mowing the lawn, washing dishes, etc.) are other good activities. w/o being a psychologist, it's like my immediate attention is occupied, but i have enough cycles left over for subconscious or semiconscious stuff to get processed.

of course, one challenge with this kind of processing is: are you prepared to capture the good idea when it comes? part of the nature of these activities is they're not next to pen and paper. i capture important thoughts in the car by leaving myself voice mail. the other situations are more sketchy...
by Sean Meade on 04/28/06 04:30 PM

Something I would add upon further review is that writing/Morning Pages (a la The Artist's Way/journalling can also be a great way to connect with the subconscious/intuition. (For me, I have to be careful not to get too self-absorbed in journalling, but I don't think normal people struggle with that ;-).

+ Interesting post about trying to keep up/stay current , though I don't know that I really agree with any of the suggestions. My secrets are: don't watch it on tv or listen to it on the radio, read it on the web. Reading is much faster.

Foreign policy edition: Iran, Iraq, immigration (and agriculture)

+ Interesting proposal here on Iran: Consortium plus conditions, viewed through the lens of game theory .

+ I also liked this article, linked on Coming Anarchy: Why Al Qaeda Is Retreating From Iraq.

+ Over on my favorite place to comment, Paul has a post where he talks some about immigration and agricultural protectionism . I'll quote a chunk then repost my comment:

A connected event that no one in the media seems to be connecting is the WTO's Doha talks, which, according to an opinion piece yesterday in the WSJ, missed another deadline recently. Those talks are largely about lifting agricultural trade barriers and eliminating farm subsidies. "The World Bank estimates that full liberalization would boost the incomes of developing countries, which comprise two-thirds of the WTO membership, by up to $259 billion by 2015."

So, let's see. The US puts up agricultural trade barriers and subsidizes farming so that developing countries suffer in the one area in which they might otherwise compete with us. That makes people in those countries want to go somewhere else to improve economically, maybe to the US, legally or illegally. We are then called upon to liberalize our immigration laws and continue our lax enforcement, so that the protected industries can get cheap labor. This doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Sorry, Gloria.

(In fairness to the US, let me note that we seem to be on the side of the angels in the Doha talks, but why can't we just liberalize our agricultural policy unilaterally?)

My comment:

'why can't we just liberalize our agricultural policy unilaterally?'

just off the top of my head: 2 senators from each Ag state + representatives in populous states like CA and FL, Cargill, ADM, et al.

plus, though so few of us derive our livings from agriculture any more, this still seems to be an emotionally-fraught area, like we can't touch it without people going beserk.

Tom is wont to say that the DHS is like the D of Ag for the 21st cent. whereas there were two bureaucrats in the DoA for every farmer (exageratedly), there are [some huge number of] bureaucrats in the DHS for every terrorist.

i'm with you, Paul, on Doha: ugh.