Friday, April 30, 2004

What Do Smarmy Dickheads Read?


A list of classic books is working its way ‘round the blogging classes.  I picked it up from the Oldsmoblogger who picked it up from others.  And now I bring it to the Ministry, because Lord knows we need another reason to think we’re so-damned-smart.

Books actually read are bold; portions only or Cliff’s Notes don’t count.

Forthwith, the list: 

Posted by on 04/30/04 at 06:43 PM
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We’re all C- students

Filthy Lucre

Today in Slate, an argument against individual investment Social Security accounts.

The short version:

Average yearly return of US stock market over last 20 years: 12%
Average yearly return on holdings of individual holders of Vanguard 401(k) accounts: 4%

In general, institutional investors and trustee investors do a good job, Joe and Jane blow do a terrible job.  Of course, this has far greater implications than just it maybe being a good idea to keep the Blows from meddling in their SocSec porfolios, but that’s the hot button issue of the the day, so I’m gonna lean on that button ‘til Buckethead squawks.

Posted by Johno on 04/30/04 at 05:36 PM
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“Friday the 13th, Detroit: Jason vs. Glock”

Darwin Award Contender

Just like in a horror movie. 

The woman is walking from her parked car to her home after work.  She drops something and, as she’s stooped to pick it up, sees the bad guy charging her from the treeline. 

She gets into her house, but can’t bolt the door before he’s upon her.  Muttering obscenities and a chilling monologue, he shoves powerfully against the door.  She ends up on her butt, on her own kitchen floor...just seconds before she’d been just walking toward her house, and suddenly she’s in mortal danger...then he’s in the house, nearly upon her...she sees the gun in his hand....she thinks of her teen daughter, also in the house...terrified, adrenalin racing, she sees his eyes…

Then she pulls her 9mm from her waist and puts 3 rounds in his fucking head.

Real life, not a horror movie.  The incident took place in Detroit, and the lady in question said it was like “Friday the 13th...except it was Tuesday.” Police determined that she had actually fired 6 rounds, but the autopsy showed (probably a very brief autopsy) that cause of death was multiple gunshots to the mellon.

Now, any person who can go from her everyday mundane pattern to immediate mortal danger, be off balance, ambushed, needing just a little more urging to head into panic, yet have it together enough to put 3 rounds in the bad guy’s head is fabulous.  Just fabulous.  That’s the difference training can make, as opposed to just packing to feel safer. 

Opponents of Michigan’s new concealed-carry statute “predicted a large increase in self-defense-type shootings”.  I’m not sure why that’s a bad thing; would those CCW opponents be happier, and feel safer, if this lady and her daughter were dead and this convicted fellon was still marauding about with his unregistered weapon?

She has admitted she has conflicted feelings over all of this.  She knows she did the right thing by defending herself and her daughter, but is not thrilled she had to kill someone.  Personally, I’d rather be alive and feel bad about killing the bad guy than be dead. 

Posted by on 04/30/04 at 01:33 PM
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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Our new robotic masters will be directing traffic

Just So You Know

No, really.  Johno’s post didn’t include a link to the story, so there it is.

Posted by Buckethead on 04/29/04 at 04:47 PM
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Double plus whitening


Norbizness (who I have not linked in some time, to my shame) has a hilarious post up - rap lyrics translated into middle-management speak.  Example:

“Law enforcement officials seem intent on confiscating my current narcotic harvest.”

“Please pass me the amplification device, so that I may extend my present line of discourse. The alliance of particular Californian neighborhoods is a portent of imperilment.”

Fun, fun, fun

Posted by Buckethead on 04/29/04 at 02:48 PM
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They control the horizontal. They control the vertical. Now they control the highways.

Holy Shit!

The University of Nebraska is working on perfecting the most devious and insidious use for robots yet. More invasive yet coddling than the robotic refrigerator, more inconvenient than the Sirius Cybernetics Nutri-Matic, and clearly a harbinger of a coming world where humans are nothing more than meatsacks to be shunted from place to place according to the whim of some malevolent Cray with a Playstation mind.

Reports already suggest our children are more tolerant of authority than their elders, yet mistrustful of politicians and actual individual figures thereof. What better surrogate than the electronic partners they have been weaned on? And what better way to take control than to automate the very sources of inconvenience, delay, and implacable authority, objects that already inspire feelings of helplessness, resignation, and inevitability?

What is this new menace?

What form have they taken?

Why should you arm your automobile with an aluminium bat, a reenforced bumper, and a law-enforcement brakes and steering package?

Posted by Johno on 04/29/04 at 02:09 PM
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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Tech interviews Jack Valenti


The MIT Student Newspaper has an interview with everyone’s favorite music industry pimp, Jack Valenti.  It seems that Jack is not too solid on the whole concept of “Fair use.”

Posted by Buckethead on 04/28/04 at 08:59 PM
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Let’s party like it’s 1789

Partisan Politics

Crazy maverick senator Zell Miller has said, with his face hanging out, that we should no longer directly elect our senators.  The esteemed Georgia senator thinks that the founding Dads had it straight the first time, and that senators should be appointed by the legislatures of the several states.

Now, those of you who are devoted readers of this webthingy will know that I am all about originalism, the genius of the founding fathers and our comparative unwisdom, and in thinking that almost every political development since about 1800 was generally for the worse.  However, I must beg to differ with Democrat in Name Only (DINO) Miller.

Because of the curse of gerrymandering, the vast majority of seats in the People’s House, the House of Representatives, are elected by “safe” districts.  There is, thanks to careful (not to say maniacal) line drawing, absolutely no chance that these seats will ever face a competive election, even when an incumbent steps down.  The only interesting competition you’d see is in the primaries for the dominant party.

Contrariwise, the shark like operatives for both parties have not yet devised a method for gerrymandering whole states.  Senate elections are (aside from Presidential elections) the only place where our votes can truly make any sort of difference in who represents us in Washington.  Of course, this is completely at odds with the intent of the founders.  They envisioned the Senate being the calm, wise, reserved debating soceity that would restrain the whims of the democratic mob in the House.  Instead, we have the mob in the Senate, and party hacks from safe districts in the House. 

Zell’s proposal would remove the one democratic part of the Congress.  And we can’t really afford that.  I would agree to his plan only if we passed an amendment that somehow removed the problem of gerrymandering.  (I have no idea how you might accomplish that, but if you have ideas, please use the comments.)

[wik] Rich Lowry has more on this up at the National Review Online.

Posted by Buckethead on 04/28/04 at 08:46 PM
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Hmmm…Steel or Fiberglass?


Haaretz and The Telegraph are discussing the lack of heavy armor in Iraq and connecting that lack to high casualties in April.  That situation will only continue, because I just read in my newsletter that the 1st Cavalry Division, which is completing its deployment to Iraq and is for all intents and purposes an armored division, left most of its armor in Texas. 

FORSCOM commander General Larry Ellis (under whom I served when he was Colonel Ellis, in his final weeks leading the 1st BDE, 3rd ID and who is a fucking super stud) points out that the improved humvees in service now are the best available solution to the situation.  Until either more Strykers become available or an entirely new vehicle designed and fielded, this is it.  A different option is to go back to the future: another Army officer says he has 700 old M113s that were prepositioned in Kuwait and have been gathering dust.  Why not use them as battle taxis instead of soft humvees, he asks? 

Posted by on 04/28/04 at 07:03 PM


Unmitigated Gall

Practitioners of the religion of peace have once again managed to piss off alot of people.

Last week the Hamtramck, MI City Council gave “initial approval” to allowing city mosques to broadcast calls to prayer over loudspeakers in a decision sure to piss off both infidels in general as well as muslims who might want to sleep in that day. 

Not surprisingly, the council completely caved to muslim demands with a unanimous vote of support.  Don’t want to offend anyone, don’t you know.  Well, except for people who don’t want to hear it, which is the rest of the city.  Final approval was expected at last night’s meeting.

Leaders of the city’s muslims claimed that infringing on their right to make a goddamned racket through loudspeakers was actually infringing on their right to practice their religion, going on to claim that it was in their tradition to do so.  I’m no more an expert on Islam than the next kaafir but as best I understand it, Islam did pretty well for itself through the 13 centuries that passed BEFORE electric amplification.  And don’t try and tell me that none of Hamtramck’s umma has a damned watch to tell him when he’s supposed to get down to some Mecca-facing. 

We know though that the legal issues in question- noise ordinances, rights of religion- are only the mechanism muslim leaders are using to proselytise.  Masud Khan, head of the Al-Islah Islamic Center, initiated this whole loudspeaker business.  Pleased with the council vote, and after the requisite Allah-thanking, he added,

“Hamtramck is going to be a pioneer city for the whole United States.”

Posted by on 04/28/04 at 12:07 PM
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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Call it the “McClellan Doctrine”

Darwin Award Contender

Without presuming to make any assumptions or accusations about the courage of the Bulgarian people and their armed forces, the following quote, from an MSNBC article about the renewed fighting in Fallujah-- including artillery-- struck me funny.

Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov demanded Tuesday that Bulgaria’s 450 troops be moved to safety away from the holy city of Kerbala after his convoy was fired on when he visited them Sunday.

Posted by Johno on 04/27/04 at 07:32 PM
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Let’s build some life!

The Miracle of Science

This really long scientific article talks about some eggheads making DNA blocks or something, and then putting them together to create life.  I was too lazy to read more than the first paragraph, (which I have excerpted below) but I am sure that this technology will in no way effect my day to day life, or the moral or technological underpinnings of it. 

Evolution is a wellspring of creativity; 3.6 billion years of mutation and competition have endowed living things with an impressive range of useful skills. But there is still plenty of room for improvement. Certain microbes can digest the explosive and carcinogenic chemical TNT, for example--but wouldn’t it be handy if they glowed as they did so, highlighting the location of buried land mines or contaminated soil?  ...nature apparently has not deemed such a thing fit enough to survive in the wild.

Posted by Buckethead on 04/27/04 at 05:01 PM
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Cold Fusion: not quite so lamebrained an idea

The Miracle of Science

Technology Review is reporting that the Department of Energy has decided, on the basis of recent research, to look into cold fusion once more.  Fifteen years after Pons and Fleischmann were greeted with awe and then ridicule, some are beginning to take it seriously again. 

Read the article for the details, but the gist of it is this: some of the confusion over other experimenters not being able to reproduce the results lay in the concentration of heavy Hydrogen in the Palladium cells.  If there are more Deuterium atoms than Palladium atoms, then you get extra heat.  With lowered amounts, you get spotty to no results.  Further, new experiments show that fusion byproducts (such as Helium-4) are appearing in amounts appropriate to the level of heat generated.  No one really knows how all this is happening, but:

He [Peter Hagelstein, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, who chaired the tenth International Conference on Cold Fusion in Cambridge last August] suspects the difficulty lies with “a very powerful approximation” at the root of 70 years of nuclear physics—that all nuclear interactions occur between two particles in a vacuum. He thinks that assumption breaks down in cold fusion, where the interacting particles are tightly packed in a metal lattice. His idea is that the deuterium nuclei exchange vibrational energy, or “phonons,” with the surrounding palladium atoms. That exchange could enhance nuclear interactions that would otherwise be vanishingly small, so that the reactions can occur at the rates implied by cold fusion experiments. Hagelstein’s theory is still in development, but is reaching a point where he can start making testable predictions—a vital step toward making cold fusion a credible science. “In time, hopefully, we’ll get more of the puzzle figured out,” he says.

We see effects like this in chemistry - where the presence of one compound acts as a catalyst for the chemical reactions of two or more other compounds.  Is it so unreasonable that there could be catalysts at the subatomic level as well?  Who knows, we might get the fusion powered DeLorean after all…

Posted by Buckethead on 04/27/04 at 04:48 PM
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Science is running out of names for molecules

Just So You Know

People been Crapinon ya?  Have Fucol to do because no one’s Cummingtonite?

Feel like saying Fucitol?  Well this is what it looks like:


From the Ministry of Silly Molecules.

Posted by Buckethead on 04/27/04 at 04:33 PM
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Do not look into laser with remaining eye

The Miracle of Science

This is entirely too cool. 

Posted by Buckethead on 04/27/04 at 04:29 PM
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