Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The unadulterated joy of meeting new people who think very much like yourself is the principal export of the blogosphere.

Someone reminded me recently to read Anil Dash's blog, I can't remember who. Anil Dash reminded me about won all the points for these articles on the front page:
1) Going to the Movies: about the inevitable failure of theatres vs. Netflix
2) Minute Fingerprints: about Bruce Schneier 's article on datamining
3) Gamers are Clever Freaks: about how WoW gamers game the Blizzard rewards systems.

I saw "Charlie Wilson's War" tonight, and recommend you Netflix it. (This was Mike Nichols, Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks at their best.)

Merry Sol Invictus to all.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Vladimir Putin is Time Magazine's Man of the Year. I just read a snippet, so I have no idea what the reasoning from Time is, but let's run through a quick laundry list of negatives: emboldens Iran, oppresses free speech and a free press, creates monopolies within his country, arouses suspicions about political killings of opponents.

He did oppose Bush on sanctions of Iran based on his belief that Iran was running a non-weapons based nuclear program, which they were.

What am I missing here? Will someone read the article and report back please?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Why I fear the Democrats

As the token Republican apologist (registered Libertarian though), and noticing a report that Medicare wastes billions with a 'b', I thought it was time to issue a warning against the Democrats taking power in 2009. First off, I will likely vote for Barack Obama if he gains the Democratic Party nomination for President. That caveat aside, one of the main legs of his platform is universal health care, and that scares the crap out of me.

Government, due to its bureaucratic nature, is an extremely inefficient vehicle for providing services to the majority of the population. Below are some statistics as to how the Medicare system has wasted U.S. tax dollars (from the November 30 KC Star):

1. Cost of oxygen tank delivery services, 36 months, from a pharmacy - $3500
Cost of same system, same time allotment, through Medicare - $8200

2. Cost of erection pump online - varies, as low as $108
Cost of same pump through Medicare - $450

3. Cost of walking cane, various outlets - $11
Cost of same cane, through Medicare - $20

4. The cost of Medicare since 1999 is increasing above the inflation rate by 34 percent ($5,522 to $8,568 per beneficiary).

If this is the type of waste that is produced for a benefits system which only helps seniors, imagine the exponential amount of waste that will be produced from a universal benefits system. While the past eight years of President Bush have not been a beacon of fiscal conservatism (quite the opposite), I fear the anti-Bush sentiment which may lead the Democrats to wins in Congress and the White House might be misconstrued by the Dems as a mandate for a blank check to further bloat the federal government. It should be our job to reign in spending if not cut it.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Horror! The Movies

I went to dinner and a movie on a Friday night with my wife, sister, and brother-in-law. Realizing it was Friday night, we thought we would be crafty and go to the 7:20PM showing of Dan in Real Life. If you don't know, its a romantic comedy about a widower advice columnist with three kids who takes his kids up to New England for an extended family get-together. This seemed like the feel good movie with emotional depth that teenagers might pass up.

Not... the... case. My wife turned to me and said "The previews should start any minute now". I was surprised at how quickly time had passed and questioned her for the exact time. I remember 7:17 because that was when the first wave hit. Hordes of mindless driveling pre-adolescents swarmed the theater. It all happened so fast, what was once a serene scene of adults quietly discussing their droll lives was quickly turned into pre-teens yammering on about the latest gossip, and flipping open their mobiles to pass the information on down the line via text message. If I weren't trying to enjoy a movie, the incessant incandescent glow of mobile phone screens lighting up the theater like oversized fireflies might have been construed as beautiful.

Their were so many things that shocked me about the experience, not the least of which was that we were hit by three waves of 15-20 13 year olds between the times of 7:17 and 7:25. I suddenly realized the despair the Germans must have felt in France, for it was much like watching Omaha beach get stormed. I am also beginning to understand why boarding school is so much a part of upper class culture.

About Face?

Apparently, Facebook feels the need to press you the user, into advertising, whether you like it or not.

As I understand it, if you buy a Cormac McCarthy novel off or some new outerwear from L.L. Bean, an ad will pop up on your friend's page with whatever picture of you has been downloaded to Facebook to demonstrate your love of the product to your social network.

This could be okay, as I like to know what things are happening in my friends' lives, but I don't see where the restrictions can be limited. If one of my contributors happens to buy something inappropriate online, I don't need to know about it (or have my imagination run amok with how these "things" might be used).


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Post-MSNBC Dem Debate aftermath

Two thoughts about the Democrats, both from The Kansas City Star. First on the frontrunner, HRC -

Trying to deflect the barbs and focus elsewhere, by debate's end, HRC said "Bush" 25 times, more than her six rivals combined.

Next from my personal favorite (for style and Iraq policy), Biden -

Joe Biden says Giuliani's sentences consist of "a noun, a verb, and 9/11. I mean it sincerely. He is genuinely not qualified to be president".

Poor Hillary is getting whomped on because she did too good of a job early on. People apparently cannot see a difference between her and Obama/Edwards. So the two of them are relegated to attack dog status in an attempt to cut her lead. As for Biden, I always enjoy when intelligent people fall way behind in polls. They ease out of political mode and move directly to saying what they think. Its much more entertaining.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

F'ing Ethanol Again!!!

Food prices are soaring. Cats and dogs sleeping together. The world is probably coming to an end.

I blame Ethanol, as do Becker and Posner this week.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

"Microsoft Launches HealthVault Medical Record Manager" (Lifehacker)

Lifehacker writes:

Today Microsoft unveils new web application HealthVault, a medical records manager that will let users—and their doctors—store and track personal health information online. ... You willing to entrust the big MS with your medical records?

The prevalence of sloppy methodology and biased funding has pushed the current state of medical research somewhere between embarrassing and scandalous.

I'm less worried in the privacy risks, and more excited about the impact on medical research. Maybe a large body of unmanipulated health data such as this one could help open up medical research, making results more easily obtained and verifiable without disgusting amounts of funding for large studies that leaves researchers beholden to corporate interests.

My secret hope:
MS does maintain such a database, and that it does get hacked, and that the hacked information is widely distributed amongst independent researchers around the world.

I know some folks on this blog care more about privacy than me, so maybe there's a debate to be had in the comments?

Saturday, September 22, 2007


I often cannot bring myself to tip poorly, it makes me feel like I’m personally insulting someone who works in an unforgiving industry. Even if I've had terrible service, I usually blame the cook or the other customers before I would turn on my server.

It’s perhaps this flood of guilt that makes me find tipping systems thoroughly disgusting. Some argue that the tipping incentive leads to better service, but accounts from those I know in the food service industry confess it actually leads to triage.

On a busy evening, a server necessarily prioritizes their attention. There’s a customer eating alone in a shabby coat, and there’s a group of couples wearing expensive looking clothes. The guy in the shabby coat gets poor service, regardless of how well he actually tips.

Concerns about prejudice aside, it’s a sleazy way for restaurant owners to hide prices from customers and wages from employees, reminiscent of the most despicable corners of capitalism: used car sales, intro-rate credit cards, bribery of officials, ....

Is there any other field where the manager of the business tells you after you buy the product that you might want to kick in something for the underpaid workforce as well? And if you don’t, you’ll look like a bastard, while the manager doesn’t?

Defenses of tipping in the comments?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hypocrisy Stings!

I know everyone loves Al Gore, but Gregg Easterbrook had some interesting insights into the Live Earth concert stressing conservation (I have copied and pasted the important information below, as it is a small piece of an NFL column on that I assumed most readers would not find interesting):

Madonna, Sting join hands to demand that others do what they will not
In July, numerous pop musicians and celebrities flew in private jets, then rode limos to the Live Earth concerts, where they demanded that others conserve. Some 150 acts performed at the event's various venues. Suppose half the acts flew commercial, half aboard private jets. Flying a private jet a transcontinental distance generates greenhouse gases equivalent to driving a Hummer for a year. So that's 75 Hummer Years of greenhouse gases caused by the Live Earth acts that arrived by private jet. (TMQ proposes that henceforth, environmental hypocrisy be measured in Hummer Years.)

If the other acts flew commercial, assuming the average act has five performers and crew and flies a medium distance, that would translate to about 550 tons of greenhouse gases, which is another 60 Hummer Years of global-warming emissions. Now factor in all the spectators and staff attending the various Live Earth concerts. John Buckley of estimated that around 35,000 tons of greenhouse gases were caused by spectators and logistical support for Live Earth -- converted into HYs, that's about the same as driving a Hummer for 4,000 years. Four thousand years' worth of Hummer emissions for an event demanding conservation! And we're just talking about one day of screeching guitars and slurred lyrics, not about the many pop stars who live the private jet lifestyle the year long. As Marina Hyde of London's Guardian newspaper pointed out, Sting's wife recently charted a helicopter to fly her to an environmental meeting.

Yea Hollywood!

Monday, July 30, 2007

War, films. (But not "war films").

Posner strongly affected my opinion on Iraq today.

Here I was, eager for the September report, hoping it would tell us all our difficulties in Iraq were simply the result of some simple strategic error. Posner made me realize mine's a false species of hope. This was obvious to most of the nation already, but I guess some days I just need to hear an economist break down common knowledge and simple facts for me into fancy language I can understand.

Last time anyone said anything about Iraq that resonated with me, it was ZeFrank (transcript).

So now I'm only listening to economists and internet memes, I need to get some perspective...

Recommended: Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men.
Or at least the first half, all I can vouch for so far. Recommended so much.
Can't wait for the film, there's a trailer up, but I'm waiting to finish the book just in case.

I should probably also mention my excitement for 3:10 to Yuma (trailer), a remake of my favorite classic western, but the post is getting a bit off topic already.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Mixed Curse of Ethanol

I've blogged before about my suspicions about "going yellow," as the interest in ethanol has peaked.

But maybe it's a mixed curse, maybe ethanol is the solution to our national overconsumption of beef and corn syrup.*

(The link above is to a Consumerist story on the way ethanol is bumping corn prices, and affecting the food market. NPR had a story on this months ago on the effect of the impoverished areas of Mexico, which are heavily reliant on the corn tortilla as a staple.)

*Assuming, of course, there is such overconsumption, which seems at least plausible.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Updated Bloc

I made some changes to the Bloc, most of them are aesthetic, but a key change to help promote ourselves in the blogosphere is the ability to "trackback". According to Improbulus of the A Consuming Experience blog:

What's trackback?: for those unfamiliar with it, my own definition of "trackback" is that it's a system which effectively lets you create a link from another blog post that you've written about, back to your own post on your own blog - so that people viewing that other blog post will see an extract from your post (or whatever else you want to say about your own post) on the other blog, plus a link from there to your post.

This is a form of "remote commenting" - you're commenting on another person's blog, but instead of doing that on their blog, you do it by making a post on your own blog, and using trackback to let them (and anyone else reading their blog) know that you've commented on it, so that they can check out what you said if they want to. Trackback seems especially useful if the other blog is more popular than yours!

Feel free to use the trackback option, it is right next to the 'Comments' link at the end of each post.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Upfronts

So Studio 60 and the Black Donnellys get the axe, but we'll get to see an American version of one of my favorite shows: The IT Crowd.1

Feel free to help me build up more info on this over at wikipedia.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


If anybody wants an invite to Joost, drop a comment. (Maybe it's open beta now, and you don't need invites, I'm not sure.)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I may have found my Republican candidate

I am not pandering, I promise.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...

(R) KS - Sam Brownback

Friday, May 11, 2007

News Sources

I have a set of sites I read to keep informed on my various topics. I'll list them here in a moment, but I'm curious where other people go for information. I'm looking around for a technology legal blog to read (Hint: Thomas) or something to widen my horizons on politics (I only have left leaning news sites right now).

Computer/technology sites:
Oldy, but solid stories -
Stories cycle fast, but good stuff -
Opinion and predictions on tech -
Computer hardware reviews -
Various tech stories -

World/nation news sites:
Generic news feed -
Weird off-the-wall stories -

Liberal crazy sites:
O'Reilly considers this part of the liberal media conspiracy -
Shopping info to fight corporations -

Handy site for cool ideas -

And of course movie trailers, where would I be without them.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Moral Dilemma?

So an interesting question, which I thought would be perfect for this board. This relates to personal responsibility in business dealings.

I sell virtual currency to a game on eBay. Through this auction system, I found a person willing to buy directly, skipping eBay as the intermediary. This person routinely spends $90 a week on currency. At one point they mentioned they would have to buy less currency for a few weeks, so they could buy food.

Now here's the interesting issue. In the game there is a gambling system, which the buyer uses the currency in.

So in my mind, effectively, I'm providing currency to a gambling addict. Now granted they seem to at least prioritize their spending for necessities over pleasure, but do I have a responsibility to stop selling to this person?

As an assumption I've made when analyzing the situation is that this person will buy from someone else, if I don't sell to them.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Not hyperbole

I hate my MacBook so much that I am physically shaking.

Friday, May 04, 2007

The RNC Debates

I. Brownback Has Lost Me
Really, I am so embarassed. C'mon Brownback, you're Catholic, didn't you get JP's memo? We believe in evolution!

II. I'm Calling the Debates for Paul (Mainstream Media to spin it for Romney)
MSNBC has this completely unscientific interactive poll, where you could vote on your impressions about the candidates, positive or negative, before and after the debates. Most of the candidates pre- and post-debate had similar ratings, variations of one or two points. Ron Paul jumped up 32 points, from the bottom to the top, all in one night.

Ron Paul apparently pushed a very Goldwater conservativism, not at all Bush II (or so I hear, see III). It's an interesting solution for Republicans, who face a really tough 2008 election (as Bill Lacy recently confessed). How do you distance yourself from a reviled President? Conservativism! A movement that arguably elected this President, a movement which he has arguably abandoned.

UPDATE: More votes are in, and Ron Paul has kept his lead, but it's as if everyone across the board got a big dish of neutral votes. Paul's positives are down to the high 30s, Romney still second with high 20s, now with no change pre- and post-debate.

III. Your Democracy, Copyright MSNBC (et al.)
Third important fact about the debates: you can't watch them. You aren't allowed. MSNBC's copyrights are apparently more important than participatory Democracy. Barack Obama and John Edwards have signed on to a letter from famed copyleftist Larry Lessig advocating open access to the debates, they are joined by a number of politicos from both sides of the aisle.
UPDATE: CNN has freed the debates!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

0 for 3 (getting laid after prom)

I had the fortune of chaperoning a high school prom this past weekend. The high school shall remain nameless, most contributors probably know which one it is. I wanted to speak on Prom because it is a sociologically a large part of American teenage life. I have now experienced this piece of Americana as both a student and hired muscle, and the kids definitely have the better time.

The entire time (3 hours) at Prom as a chaperone is spent making sure students do not do something illegal/immoral in your designated area. Fortunately, having a walkie-talkie handy, I learned that everyone attempting to ensure the safety of these students were having just as bland a time as myself.

There were several parts of Prom(from a sociological perspective) that I wanted to speak about. First, the ease of which it is to pick all the different social groups out: The nerds, jocks, gangsters, gangstas, princesses, and 'women of loose morals', all select eveninig wear that reflect their grouping. I found this interesting because Prom is basically a more strictly regulated Halloween. Why wouldn't these students take the chance to break the mold of what defines them? Possibly they are happy and fully accept the roles that they may have helped defined themselves. The jocks are the least noticeable. They are more or less defined by their Creatine filled sleeves. The nerds typically are noted by their t-shirt tuxedos, ill-fitting clothes, or poor color choices. Gangsters wear the tuxedo, top-hat, and cane (all typically white), and gangstas are bogged down in chains, wearing sunglasses, and sometimes a baseball cap. Princesses are also loosely defined, but generally have a combination of accessories (handbag, giant necklace, tiara, etc). You can imagine what the 'women of loose morals' were wearing (generally very little).

An aspect of prom that I had never noticed before was the collection of special education students. It was touching to see the select few of these students who seemed to be having a very good time. It was severely depressing to see the rest. Maybe they were having a wonderful time and I should mind my own business, but the majority of these students looked to be wandering aimlessly hoping that someone outside their social group might speak with or even acknowledge them.

The sight of the prom king made me realize how cynical and jaded the youth of America have become. Is life really so terribly boring that you vote for your prom king because he is known for eating out of the trash cans at lunch? Really? That's what you want to talk to your high school friends about in 10, 20 years? I understand that these are basically glorified popularity contests, but isn't there a better criteria to measure Prom King abilities than lbs of garbage consumed/week?



Saturday, April 21, 2007

Success is unattainable, let's just smoke pot.

I've long suspected the most popular music is less about talent than it is about collective whim.

Now there's a study to prove it.

Seems likely this extends to other areas as well.


(nod to EconLog, Overcoming Bias, the Sunday New York Times, and everyone else who knew this before me)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Your Internet Radio Just Got Worse

Tim Westergren of Pandora fame has been trying to get anyone to notice the recent Copyright Royalty Board rate hike for streamed music.

(Full disclosure: I am currently a DJ on KJHK.)

UPDATE: some of my previous comments in this post were lies. This place has facts!

Monday, April 16, 2007


I want to pass along recommendations for two upcoming PBS series:

America at a Crossroads: broad program about America's challenges and role in the world
Buying the War: the role of the press in the lead up to the war in Iraq

Seems to go along with a lot of what we talk about.

(Nod to Michael Wizniak, of the KC Bohemians [facebook link]).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Post of Plenty

I had three completely unrelated ideas I wanted to post on this morning, so rather than flood the blog with posts, I decided to post once with a brief comment on each. First, I want to weigh in on the Imus controversy. Primarily I wanted to show the group Meet the Press from April 15 (direct link to transcript was unavailable at time of post). Gwen Ifill and David Brooks, two people I respect immensely as journalists (even though Ifill's delivery is typically more fit for print), act like they don't even want to speak to each other at the end of the discussion.

Next, page 2 of the Kansas City Star, noted that there is a growing group of academics who wish to rebuild the internet. The basic challenge facing this project is "balancing the interests of various constituencies" namely, the public, the providers and business. The main programs:

Stanford program

Carnegie Mellon program

Rutgers program

National Science Foundation's GENI program

Finally, the Kansas City Star also speculated upon the possible demise of No Child Left Behind, the education legislation mandating increased testing of students. Apparently much of the Republican support for the bill in 2001 has melted away. Sam Brownback and Roy Blunt have stated support for a clause allowing states to opt of federally mandating testing. Unfortunately, the demise is not a certainty because Ted Kennedy is among other high ranking Democrats in stating his opposition that repealing the initiative would "turn back the clock on reform". My family's problem with the law has always been consistent: there is no accountability for the primary entities, the students. Students are neither rewarded nor penalized for their scores. The schools and districts are the only entities being held accountable.

Up for debate, a fix for the NCLB initiative I have devised (though I will not claim that it has not been produced before, only that the thought came to me this morning over waffles through no prior research on the concept). Give tax credits to families whose students perform at 'proficient' or 'exemplary'. This avoids direct bribing of students but advances the idea that students that come from high achieving and involved families should be rewarded. There can be a strict state standard, or a sliding scale based off of income. The primary point is that families are not rewarded solely for producing children (current child tax credit), but are rewarded for having children who achieve at high levels (have a greater propensity to produce towards the greater good).


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Search for DVD RAM and other Arthurian tales of conquest!

Maybe I am old-fashioned, but I still find shopping at a store convenient. Check that. I found shopping at stores convenient. Due to my own ignorance it took me about a week to purchase a medium called 'DVD RAM'. My trips to OfficeMax and back, and Best Buy and back were met with the increasing frustration of not being able to find this apparent grail of data storage.

What is the benefit of having a big box store like a Best Buy or OfficeMax? Initially, I thought the stores would have the lowest prices based off of their ability to squeeze wholesalers via the 'Wal-Mart effect'. No, webfronts are cheaper. Well, certainly, the customer service would be better. No and no. I had to flag down a woman in OfficeMax after she looked at me twice and passed me by. Best Buy consisted of three separate clerks passing me as I was the only person waiting in line at... Customer Service. Flexibility with inventory? Also a no. The DVD RAM that were waiting to be purchased at the Lee's Summit and Independence Mall locations were not able to be moved to any of the Kansas locations. So they remained unpurchased by me. What if I had wanted a $10,000 plasma television? Would I had encountered the same problems? Wouldn't that be considered a flaw in the business plan?

With increased internet security for credit use, shopping on the web will become even more prominent than it already is, and will relegate the retail industry into two types: apparel and customer service. People's time has become more valuable than ever and the idea of driving 25 miles to pick up data storage that should be accessible within a mile will become heretical in the very near future.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Easter Bunny looked like a pothead

At first, the thought of visiting the Easter Bunny with my 372 day old seemed like an excellent idea. The collection of parents and children did nothing to dispel that thought (both were well behaved). But as I stood alone (my wife was walking our daughter around because she tends to be impatient) in line somewhere around the 35th minute I began to ask myself 'Why exactly am I here?' It wasn't just the commercialization of THE Christian holiday that annoyed me, it was the irony of the fact that I was attending this function to be with my family, and was standing in line alone. I was going to gain absolutely no value from these overpriced photo sets as we have more photos of my dear daughter than we could possibly use.

So why was I there? Are the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus necessary benchmarks in measuring normalcy? Do fables like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus still have value in the raising of children? Should I be asking any of the readers of this blog?

These are the questions...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

When Tie-Ins Go Bad, or Why Isn't Heroes More Like Lost (Which It's Obviously Copying Anyway?)

Those of you watch Heroes on NBC may know about the free comic books to enhance your "Heroes Experience" (TM).

Some of the books work. Eden's backstory, for instance, told an effective story, and made her character more complex and compelling.

But most of the books fail. On average, the collection is one of the worst examples of graphical storytelling I've ever seen. (Disappointing for a show produced by Jeph God-of-Comics Loeb).

Maybe the low quality supplements are excusable, they're still figuring tihs thing out, and hey, you get what you pay for. Besides, they could do worse.

In fact, they already have. The worst tie-in they've made to date: this little gem, from Hana Gitelman's blog is completely embarassing for everyone involved. (Can someone fire the intern that wrote that, and then the other intern who read it? And anyone else who heard it and didn't stop it?)

Even if the absent quality was somehow forgivable, the way the comics rewrite the motivations of central characters is insulting. In Claire's backstory, we see that she didn't mean to kill her rapist when she sped his car into a wall, she just wanted to scare him a tiny bit. (The fear on her face when she found out he actually lived was just, what, PTSD?). In Nathan Petrelli's comic, we find out that he hasn't actually been in denial about his power at all. Go figure.

Used to be we'd have to wait for a remastered edition to be horrified like this.

All this would still be forgiveable if they hadn't committed the cardinal sin of tie-ins: making them necessary to fully understand the show. I can gripe about The Lost Experience all I want, but in the end, my participation was completely optional (assuming this gets worked into the show sooner or later).

But Heroes has gone farther, they require you to sift through their inane and contrary supplements to fully understand basic plot. At the end of Fallout (episode 11) Sylar has basically escaped from Mr. Bennett. In the following episode, he's back in custody, his recapture saved for the comic, to the complete bewilderment of those not sufferring along at home.

Mandatory external content is bad. Hastily written ad-filled comics are bad. Please, Heroes: save the tie-ins, save the show.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Your Radio Just Got Better

A recent settlement aims to eliminate payola in music broadcasting. This means large recording studios can no longer bribe radios for airplay, getting the same songs pounded into our ears ad nauseum. You might be surprised at how payola has evolved since the 1950s:

Other forms of inducement include lavish prizes meant for listeners that wind up going to station employees; promises by record companies of concerts by well-known artists in exchange for airplay; and payments for promotional expenses and station equipment.
So fewer call-in prizes. But part of the settlement inculdes the agreement to play "8,400 half-hour segments of free airtime for independent record labels and local artists." I think that's a fair trade.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


For those who do not know, I have a strong distaste for the local news. Particularly in Kansas City, the motto for news directors seems to be "If it bleeds, it leads". So my thinly disguised disgust was fully disclosed on February 28, 2007 when, at 9:00PM CST all four major networks (our house does not have cable/satellite) cut to the "dangerous" weather. I checked the KC Star this morning, and on a cursory glance, there were no deaths reported. In the cost of human lives, it apparently was not that dangerous after all. Why is there such an obsession with weather in the Kansas City area?

My guess is that there are two primary factors: our agricultural heritage and the rapid nature by which our severe weather strikes. As I flipped over to KCPT to watch a D-Day documentary, I realized that it was not mandatory to over-report the weather. KCPT had no metro weather map with counties colored for Tornado Watch, Tornado Warning, Flash Flood Warning, Groundhog Day Watch, etc. KCPT (public television) simply had text in the top left corner of the screen that said 'Tornado Warning' and every 10 minutes or so it would send a scroll across the bottom with more information. Honestly if you are still watching television with a tornado warning in your area you either

A) are not affected/are far or safe from the reported storm


B) are ignorant and deserve to die (this only includes those who know a tornado is in the area).

This is all a bit harsh, I know, but someone needs to get across to our local televsion stations, that some things are not to be tampered with... like Lost, which I was unable to see.

Do satellite dishes still "fail" to offer local programming? That would be a failure I could live with.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

New Atheism aside, today is still my favorite holiday.

Happy Ash Wednesday everyb... that's not right.

Doomy Ash Wednesday?

Contemplative Ash Wednesday?

Better suggestions for holiday modifiers in the comments...

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Yahoo Pipes let you take RSS feeds (which 99% of people know nothing about), manipulate them with drag-n-drop pseudo-code (which the other 1% finds insulting), and create a new RSS feed slightly different from the original. The limited options available do an excellent job of suggesting interesting things you could do with Yahoo Pipes, and then promptly denying you the ability.

All the same, in a year or so, this tool will be awesome. The next revolution in the Internet is getting more elements on more pages machine readable. That's what RSS does. It lets the computer tell where things are on a page, so you can write nifty programs to have it give you just the headlines, or just the fourth word of the fifth sentence of every article mentioning "Bush" and "dogs".

In the RSS'ifying of the web, we only need a few tools: the ability to generate threads from periodic content without the original author's involvement is key (scraping, already somewhat available). The other tool is the ability to use basic programming structures to reconfigure and combine the data on the fly. That's exactly what Pipes does, and it tries to do it in a way that is accessible to nonprogrammers, so we can all start mixing up the web however we want, as if we were at the great Mongolian Barbecue of All Human Knowledge.

This project from Yahoo gets 4 out of 5 Googles for being forward thinking, and 1 out of 5 Googles for releasing it as a beta project when it's not actually finished at all. I would also like to praise Google for letting Yahoo do this one, we know they were really behind it, but it's nice to let somebody else enter the spotlight for a bit.

Here's my contribution to the world of Pipes, a mashup of threads from some comics I read.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Everybody Look Busy! (the Dole Institute of Politics is watching)

Get posting on that last topic, the Dole Institute here at the University of Kansas is having an event all about the effect of bloggers on the 2008 election!

More info, but only in pdf. :(


A friend drew my attention to this prophetic headline, and made me realize we're woefully deficient in our coverage of the next Presidential election, I mean, it's already 2007 folks, we might as well wait to discuss candidates until after the election.

I've been anxiously hoping for the Hillary v. Jeb Political Dynastydown 2008. But who makes your 2008 dream team? What's your fantasy showdown?

(Speaking of fantasies... can we set up a fantasy league for the Primaries? How would that work? However it works, it's the next big thing. EP, you're on it.)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl fun facts

In homage to the Super Bowl today, I present you with some interesting facts from Joe Posnanski's February 4th article in the Kansas City Star. The following is the fact with Posnanski's source in parentheticals:

-There are more parties thrown today than New Year's Eve (Hallmark).

-There is more food eaten today than any day except Thanksgiving (American Institute of Food Distribution).

-There are fewer weddings this weekend than any other (Wall Street Journal).

-Also with source unknown (but heard from another source other than the KC Star), there is a "Super Bowl Indicator". If an NFC or original NFL team wins the Super Bowl, the stock market will be bullish that year. If an expansion or AFC team wins, the upcoming market will be bearish. The two teams playing this year are both original NFL teams (Chicago Bears and Baltimore Colts) meaning this will be a good year for investment (the indicator has been correct 33 of 40 Super Bowls for an 83% accuracy rate).

Enjoy your chips and dip.

Conspiracy theory

I was talking recently with a contributor to the blog, and we were talking about the "Barack Obama is an Indonesian trained terrorist" story run by the Fox News Channel. It brought up the old rehashing from my contributor friend of how biased the FNC is, but a more interesting point (and the focus of this entry) is the source the FNC reporter "gave up". I read that FNC attempted to justify the airing of the atrocious Obama terrorist story by citing the source of the information as a member of the Hillary Rodham-Clinton camp. The contributor immediately propositioned that this would be a brilliant idea, thereby shining a negative light on both the FNC and Obama in a single blow. If someone were to bring up the possible conspiracy theory, it could be dismissed out of hand as "absurd". I like a good story, but I likewise dismissed the idea from the contributor out of hand as--absurd.

News came down recently this past week that the airing of the story has earned Fox News the fine of... no more Obama. He apparently is going to try to cut FNC out of the loop. I currently believe that Barack Obama is intellectually and psychologically strong enough to take on the misinformation of any news sources. This is, therefore, a bad idea. FNC may not be universally respected for journalistic integrity, but it serves in providing a key portion of America with their information/misinformation. To cut yourself off from potential voters is never a good idea. There does exist swing voters who watch FNC for their information, and the missed face time could cost him. Granted, the amount of time spent abstaining from FNC has not been quantified (at least to me, at the time of posting) by the Obama camp.

This all leads me back to the introduction: Hillary and her now certain attempt to discredit both Obama and the FNC with one master stroke. It seems like a beautiful piece of work crafted only through years of practice playing Diplomacy (best game ever invented). No, I don't believe Hillary Rodham-Clinton was the second shooter from the grassy knoll, but conspiracy theories are supposed to be just a little but nutty.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


My radio show will be Thursdays, 7pm CT (or Fridays 0100 UTC, if you're into that sort of thing).

You can listen live with the internets.

Or you can just read all about it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Golden Globes Post

The nominations and winners are up for the Golden Globes (and have been for a bit, sorry for the lateness). The Academy Awards are often criticized for being dominated by politics and influence from the biggest (richest) studios. The People's Choice Awards are basically redundant when you could just look at Box Office Gross. By some accounts, that leaves the Golden Globes as the most informative awards of the season.

Some highlights:
Leo DiCaprio was nominated twice in one category, and I think that's fair, since his performance in The Departed was pretty phenomenal. Clint Eastwood was also nominated twice in one category, which is also fair, since he directed one of the best movies of the year in another language. Grey's Anatomy beating out Heroes and Lost is a little disconcerting, but all the same, it's nice to see television get recognition in an era where the best television stands up against the best film.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Religious Wars and Religious Violence

Due to the snowstorm, I didn't get to see Hamilton's discussion of Religious Wars and Violence, so no post this week, but feel free to discuss this topic in the comments.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Watch all the best movies in just 60 seconds!

In Sunday's (1/14) Kansas City Star, the entertainment section was focused on the upcoming film festival. One movie in particular stood out above the rest; I'll post the blurb in its entirety as it is relatively brief:

"Academy": Algorithmic technology has enabled R. Luke DuBois to intelligibly show an entire feature film in just 60 seconds. Here he compresses each movie that won the Oscar for best picture and shows all 75 films in 75 minutes, creating a mind-blowing survey of cinema history.

Is it possible to not want to see this film? It is after all, an entirely novel experience that only takes one hour fifteen minutes of one's life.

Monday, January 08, 2007

More Heresy

The last 15 seconds of this made me excited.

Are Science And Faith Strictly Incompatible?

This week's topic was whether or not Science and contemporary Christianity were strictly incompatible.

Opening Admissions
The minister, Rev. Hamilton, started the sermon saying Genesis 1 & 2 could not be taken as anything more than epic poetry, the world is obviously far more than 6,000 years old, and that evolution is a mechanism which explains how life changes over time.

Hamilton's Account of the Origin of New Atheism
The Reverand also sympathetically explained Dawkins's perspective: Dawkins sees fundamentalist Christians attacking science, even in our schools. Since Dawkins has been backed into a corner, he's naturally going to come out fighting, with what appears to be a crusade of atheism against all the faithful.

Ordinarily, I'd resent depictions of atheists as dogmatic crusaders, but here I think it's pretty explicative. Hamilton was basically admitting that Moderate Christians have been silent on Fundamentalist Christianity for far too long, and that explains a great deal of Harris's and Dawkins's ire over moderate Christianity.

Some Scientific Truths are Compatible with the Existence of God
After the intro, the Pastor explained how some scientific truths are compatible with the influence of a God. For example: Theists can look at the Big Bang and squeeze God in front of it. Theists can look at evolution as a guided process. Hamilton can look at the stars and understand their gaseous makeup, and yet marvel at Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

Hamilton noted that someone with a theistic outlook will see the world as reaffirming God, someone with an atheistic outlook will not.

Some Scientists are Christians
Hamilton noted 6 successful scientist/theists.

That seals it. Even if this group of scientists is in the extreme minority, it proves his unambitious point for this first session: Science and Faith are not strictly incompatible.

(If he were using these scientists to suggest God exists, it would be a fallacious appeal to authority, but God's existence is not the topic for this week, so it's not as intellectually lazy at it might first appear.)

He adopted a very defensible (and somewhat unambitious) position (one which Harris rejects, and I have rejected before). But I now think he's right, and unequivocally so. There are people who have successfully compartmentalized their faith. That's just a fact about the world which happens to be true, though it has little to do with God's actual existence.

In other words, there are Christians who have built bridges, and their bridges have held.

Next week: Religious Wars and Violence

Faith: Once More With Feeling

So I'm going to start another thread on faith and new atheism. Actually, a multi-part series.

I. But, dude, wtf!?
We've had some time to cool off from the last thread on this. Talking about it seems to irritate some people, but not discussing it might condemn me to an eternity in the lake of fire, so I think I have the right of way. If you are ever offended by these threads, I'd like to remind you of the option to avert your eyes, a luxury I won't have once doomed to eternal fiery torment.

II. Alright, but what else is there to talk about?
Well, the Church of the Resurrection (notable for being a megachurch!) has started a multipart series directed at the questions raised by New Atheism (Dennett + Dawkins + Harris). Some of us are attending these services, and those that haven't have wanted to know what we thought. This seems like an excellent place to have these discussions. I'll try to follow their theme of the week, to give us some structure.

This is just an intro thread, I'll start the next thread on this week's topic: "are Science and Faith strictly incompatible?"

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Would You Sell Your Citizenship?

"America's homeless and panhandlers (who are often different people—some homeless don't panhandle and some panhandlers aren't homeless) are actually quite wealthy. Almost all own an asset—their United States citizenship—that is worth several hundred thousand dollars. The problem is that they are denied the right to sell that asset."

-TCS Daily

What do you make of that idea, that citizens be allowed to sell their citizenship on the condition they promise to leave the country?


(nod to EconLog)