Sunday, October 31

All politics is local

Nevada is a red state, and Northern Nevada even redder. Here in Douglas County, Republican party affiliation runs 2-to-1 over Democrat, and that held up pretty much in our social circle.

Well, we've made some new friends now, starting with the people we met through the Douglas County Democratic Women organization. DCDW is a pretty impressive organization — formed only ten months ago, it has catalyzed a large volunteer base for the Kerry/Edwards campaign. A lot of people getting into political action for the first time (since college, anyway). Thank you, Karl Rove.

Phylis and I have been walking our precinct, making phone calls, even standing on sidewalks waving placards. This is part of the Get Out The Vote (GOTV) "ground war" effort the parties talk about; I don't know how much good it does but I'm pretty sure this is the biggest effort the Democrats have made in Northern Nevada.

Vote! Go Kerry!

Friday, October 22

Sunday, October 17

A Programming Koan

Found this in Algorithms.au which references the original source via this (currently broken) link.
The Koan of Lazy Evaluation

Michel Mauny was giving a guest lecture to new computer science students. After the students were seated, Michel pronounced: "Today's lecture will be about Lazy Evaluation".

He paused for a moment, and then concluded with: "Are there any questions?"


Saturday, October 16

Moronic Convergence

You remember, perhaps, when some years ago the digerati talked about media convergence. I stupidly thought the issue was that traditional media merging with interactive media. As it turns out, the convergence was that news got taken over by entertainment.

It's been noted elsewhere that the way to think about Limbaugh, O'Reilly et.al. is as entertainers (O'Reilly said this of Limbaugh, if not himself). Stupid, annoying entertainers, but annoying is the idea — think commercials. So liberals have been recruiting comedians as their "commentators" (e.g., Al Franken).

When you think about it, the end of TV journalism was an inevitable consequence of deregulation. If the airwaves aren't a resource to be administered as a public trust, then spectrum licensees have no responsibilities to other than their stockholders. Since broadcasters have to find audiences which are, how do you say it, broad, they have use their asset (airtime) to best effect. And, as George Guilder once observed, the only thing we all have in common are our purient interests. QED.

Not that TV journalism was so wonderful in the golden age: self-satisfied, simplistic, biased to the established view. But it was journalism, at least sometimes.

Now for the obligatory compelling link — that's what blog posts are about, right? OK. Many people seem to prefer The Daily Show as their news source (me too), but the really funny part is that the only guy who seems to believe that there could be such a thing as responsible TV news is John Stewart.

There's a nice piece on Media Matters (itself a nice website) which has the transcript and video of Stewart on Crossfire Friday. Stewart is chastising his hosts (Carlson and Begala) for their degraded state, and their defense is tbat he's a pretty poor newsman himself:

CARLSON: When politicians come on...

It's nice to get them to try and answer the
question. And in order to do that, we try
and ask them pointed questions. I want to
contrast our questions with some questions
you asked John Kerry recently.
STEWART: If you want to compare your show to
a comedy show, you're more than welcome to.
CARLSON: No, no, no, here's the point.
STEWART: If that's your goal.
CARLSON: It's not.
STEWART: I wouldn't aim for us. I'd aim for
"Seinfeld." That's a very good show.
[...]
CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and
you sniff his throne and you're accusing us
of partisan hackery?
STEWART: Absolutely.
CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He
comes on...
STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads
into me is puppets making crank phone calls.

I can't even stomach The News Hour anymore. I used to joke that if there was a serial killer on the loose, they'd have a panel with three guys: one who thought that serial killing was an unmitigated evil, another who thought that serial killers had gotten a bad rap, and a third guy who hadn't quite made up his mind.

More realistically, a panel commenting on a creationism story would have one scientist speaking up for evolution, one for creationism, and a historian who is neutral on the subject. This composition would be OK with me if there were nine thousand and two people on the panel: 9000 scientists for evolution balancing the other two guys.

Wednesday, October 6

Beyond Schneier

Bruce Schneier has a new blog. His most recent post is an article he wrote for the International Herald Tribune discussing the Department of Homeland Security's insistence that all passports (US or otherwise) be machine readable using RFID technology:
Normally I am very careful before I ascribe such sinister motives to a government agency. Incompetence is the norm, and malevolence is much rarer. But this seems like a clear case of the Bush administration putting its own interests above the security and privacy of its citizens, and then lying about it.

You gotta love the guy.

Monday, October 4

George W., nuclear proliferation wonk

Poor W. Even when he had something coherent to say in the first debate, he came off as an irritable kook:

KERRY: [...] With respect to North Korea, the real story: We had inspectors and television cameras in the nuclear reactor in North Korea. Secretary Bill Perry negotiated that under President Clinton. And we knew where the fuel rods were. And we knew the limits on their nuclear power. Colin Powell, our secretary of state, announced one day that we were going to continue the dialog of working with the North Koreans. The president reversed it publicly while the president of South Korea was here. [...] While they didn't talk at all, the fuel rods came out, the inspectors were kicked out, the television cameras were kicked out. And today, there are four to seven nuclear weapons in the hands of North Korea.

BUSH: The minute we have bilateral talks, the six-party talks will unwind. That's exactly what Kim Jong Il wants. And by the way, the breach on the agreement was not through plutonium. The breach on the agreement is highly enriched uranium. That's what we caught him doing. That's where he was breaking the agreement.


Sort of like the Odd Couple scene: "it's not spaghetti, it's linguini!" Although it sounded like a silly detail, W's uranium vs. plutonium point was an reasonable one. The reactor that the IAEA had its inspectors and cameras in was for making plutonium. That was the part of the agreement that was verifiable, so the North Korean started producing uranium out of sight of the inspectors.

I could imagine any number of points that W. might have attempted to make with this fact, but apparently the retrieval of this data made his brain overheat.

Right Stuff remains in equilibrium

Mercury Astronaut Gordon Cooper is dead. Famously the best fighter pilot he himself ever saw, Gordo's death leaves only three surviving Mercury program Astronauts: John Glenn, Wally Schirra and Scott Carpenter.

He cleverly arranged to die the same day that Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne made its second sub-orbital space flight, winning the Ansari X prize.