Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Studying for the GRE

(why? I'm not going to grad school yet. So, I have no idea, other than, it's a good idea to do. And it's kind of fun. Yeah, I'm a nerd. That's going to be a theme.)

So, I'm sitting at work and I'm realizing what a nerd I am. I've bought a GRE study book and I'm reading through it.
Um, this sounds like fun.
It's on the computer, and it's long. But, the benefit of it being on the computer is that the questions are different for each person. So, if you get the questions right, they keep getting harder. They eventually want to find the level where you get fifty percent right.
So, the test gets harder as I do better. Isn't that kind of cool?
Also, I haven't gotten very far into it, but I have yet to get a practice question wrong (about fifty of them so far), and I've only needed to look up four words for specific definitions. And they told me not to waste my time doing that. I'm assuming that they're stupid, like all people who write tests, so I'm ignoring that advice. I'm sure that if I did follow their advice, my general impression of the word would be enough. But, that's not good enough.
'Cause, I'm a nerd.

My one complaint is that in the section that teaches us how to do the verbal section, they're making an all out effort to use the "special" "GRE words." And they're doing it badly. "Roots are an efficacious place to begin (studying vocabulary)" Can you tell which word is the one they're trying to point out to us? And, once you figure that out, you'll see they're using it only in a generally right sense. It's not the right word to use. In fact, to use their methods of vocabulary, using these words in such a stylistically incoherent way is not so efficacious for us trying to study. It distracts us and gives us the slightly wrong impression of the words they're trying to teach us.

Boo for them.

UPDATE: I got a study question wrong. I'm supposed to be working backwards on the analogies. An interesting and valuable idea, I think. They don't give us the stem words, just the five options for completing the analogy. We're supposed to pick the right choice by eliminating the others. It came down to a fifty-fifty guess between two that couldn't be eliminated. I choose poorly.

UPDATE II: this is a scary thought about the GRE. Since this book is written for the people who take the GRE and plan to go to grad school in whatever, why do I feel like the book is written at a 7'thish grade textbook? I can see keeping it simple so that it won't be tough to study, but complexity adds depth and makes the studying and practice better. And, if I'm wrong and this book is written at the level that it should be, well, what does that say about the relative intelligence/reading level of people going to grad school?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Trouble in Burma

This is presented as a "ha-ha" story - one where the dumb thieving teenagers kind of get what they deserve - but there's an elephant in the room. The country know as Myanmar is really Burma, and it's ruled by a dictatorship that has an iron fist which crushes dissenters. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that these "thieves" were actually people acting out against the government. Copper wire is pretty useful, especially in making bombs and distributing power. And, if the dissenters steal it from the government, it's almost like two strikes for the price of one. Of course, we have to trust the authorities, both in "Myanmar" and at Reuters when they tell us that these are simple teen-aged thieves, out to cause trouble and earn a dishonest dollar.


I don't get it. Why are so many people giving him money? I've been following his campaign, somewhat, and I haven't really seen anything that distinguishes him. Yes, he's not Hilary, his name is not John, and he's not visibly crazy. Yes, he's a personable politician - maybe even more so than other politicians. But, those things aren't really points in his favor, just points that aren't strikes against him.

I don't understand why people love the guy so much - we have no idea what his policy prescriptions are, and he doesn't have experience running large organizations. He hasn't even been a Senator that long, and he hasn't done much in the Senate.

Can someone explain this to me?

Addendum: As much as I don't like the feeling, I think Hilary or Biden are the best choices from the Democrat's side. And, none of the current "front-runners" 0n the Republican side would get my vote. Not Romney, Guiliani, nor McCain - Thompson might get it, if he announces, and if I feel comfortable that he'll get the right people around him. But right now, I'm looking at voting for a democrat, but, unless the campaign can change my opinion, it won't be for Obama. He's just not vocal enough about his ideas to overcome his lack of experience.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

I agree with the artist.

If I am ever hung, it will be for my love of puns. The one at the link is a good one.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dangerous Animals

I'm adding fish to the watchlist, where they'll sit right next to the squirrels.

HuffPo Train Wreck


So now we're six and a half years into Bush and everyone from Helen Thomas on down is declaring him the worst president ever. What no one is saying is the one overarching reason he's the worst: the Bush administration is the first that doesn't even mean well.


The guy who wrote that is saying that every other world leader is better than Bush, no matter what they did, because at least they said they thought they were doing the right thing to make things better. And, Bush obviously doesn't want that, so he's the worst world leader ever.

Um. Ok.

Go read the piece for your enjoyment, if not for your edification.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Ron Paul

He's a fool. Why is he still wasting his money with a campaign? He has absolutely no chance at winning the nomination - that much was clear after he said we caused 9/11 ourselves in the GOP debates. Whether or not that's true (I think you can make an argument that our actions pissed people off enough that they would want to attack us - I don't buy that, because it's not that simple, but there is an argument to be made), it was a stupid thing to say during the debates, and it proves that he won't win. If that wasn't enough (which any poll will show that it was), it shows that he doesn't have enough awareness as a candidate to know how to phrase his viewpoints in a way that will convince red-meat republicans to vote for him.

However, I lied a bit above. Not just any poll will tell you that his candidacy is over. Ron Paul is currently tied with Fred Thompson on the Pajamas Media Straw Poll. In fact, Ron Paul does very well on internet polls - just, not at all well on national telephone polls. Internet polls are far from accurate, compared to the telephone polls, so, he probably is getting inflated support on the internet. My question is: How? Does he just have the support of a large number of extremely internet savvy people, and almost no regular people? (Is his campaign cheating?) And, the follow up question, Why? What does he think to gain from winning the online polls? They don't get widely reported in the mainstream press - in part because they are so obviously flawed, as proved by the fact that Ron Paul does so well in them. They don't change people's minds...and the number of people who actually look at them is extremely limited. So, why bother?

I think the two most interesting campaigns this cycle are the Ron Paul campaign, for it's strength in the face of obvious eventual defeat, and it's use of the internet, and the Fred Thompson Campaign, which has a chance largely because of the effective use of new media. In fact, you could say that it only has a chance because of the internet and the new ways to disseminate information.

We'll have to wait and see what happens, but at least we have these interesting campaign structure questions to keep us occupied - otherwise I might fall asleep until November 2008, and wake up not knowing who to vote for, or having missed the vote entirely. I know, small chance that will happen. But then again, look at the candidates...can I really stand another 16-17 months with these fools? I hope we get a better option.

Update: A Ron Paul supporter showed up in the comments, will he stick around? Also, will a Thompsonite show up to talk about what's happening with their side of the campaign? One can only hope.


I'm getting lazy in my old age and summer status. There's stuff to chat about, but to be honest, I'm thinking more about life at the moment, so my brain is firing on all cylinders, but they're the wrong ones to create really blog-able thoughts.
So, sorry bout that...not that anyone probably checks this very often anymore. So, as a heads up, I'm going to get back into blogging as soon as my schedule stabilizes.

In the meantime, watch the Fred Thompson for president campaign. Since there are no candidates who appear worthy of my support at the moment, I'm limited to watching how people are campaigning. Most are doing the same old, boring, tried and true, polls-well method of campaigning - even the "fresh-face" of Obama. Everyone, that is, except Fred Thompson. I think he might be a bit to rash for me, but I like the way he's running his campaign. I'll post more about this after I string some good sentances together. Until then, keep your own eyes open...feel free to comment here if you see anyting particularly interesting.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I hate taxes...

But I do like the idea of a gas-tax. I think it would be a good way to discourage driving, and encourage efficient cars without silly CAFE standards.

Trust the intelligent readers of the Economist Blog, Free Exchange to give me another reason to be ok with a gas tax -
"The costs of driving should show up in gas prices. These costs include road maintenance, medical costs from accidents, traffic law enforcement, and a number of other things. One study I read in the 1990's suggested that it would take a $9/gallon gas tax to cover these costs. If you phased that in over 10 years, you would see a big change.

I would have no problem transferring some or all of the costs of driving to the gas pump and removing that portion from income or property taxes. This would allow market forces to discourage driving. It would also create a more honest debate about the cost/benefits of mass transit relative to personal cars."

Good points, all. I like having my own car, but it's also nice to have the metro in a big city. I don't think I would have complained so much about how much it cost when I was in DC if I was comparing the cost of a metro trip to the real cost of driving.

It also just makes sense to have the people who use the roads more (and thus buy more gas) to pay a larger part of the cost of upkeep for the roads. It makes sense to allow market forces to work. (That last sentence was a trueism)

This point "I realize the logistics of such tax systems {editor's note: such as a pay per pound of waste collected by a garbage truck} are not simple, but a move in that direction would encourage environmentally responsible behavior and make research into greener technologies more profitable." is also granted, but I think it's worth it. We have the technology to do stuff like this, and I think we should.

Anyway, I hate taxes, but I think people should pay for the goods they use...and public goods need to be paid for, and negative environmental externalities need to be accounted for, so a tax should be paid. That tax should be as related as possible to the good purchased, however - not the income of the consumer or the value of their house.

The "War on Terror" isn't only happening abroad

(Crazy) People willing to commit violent acts for the purpose of a political show (Otherwise known as terrorists) live in America, too. And they aren't all religious, and they don't all look so different from "us."

I'm glad we come down hard on them too, even if some of their stuff doesn't seem as violent as a car bomb, both because we need to keep ourselves safe here, and because we need to keep our own yard clean. Every time a "homegrown" terrorist does something (even a small thing) in America, it helps create an propaganda atmosphere that promotes terrorism as a legitimate political tool.

In my opinion, using the political tatic of terrorism (causing fear in a target population for a political/ideological purpose, read this for more of my thoughts on the nature of terrorism) is almost (though not quite) as the violence that usually results. The violence isn't really the point of the terrorism; it's a tool used to cause people to feel fear and then give in to whatever political cause the terrorist believes. Anyone willing to use this tactic has completely discredited themselves, and having one of them on your side actaully weakens your position (in my opinion). So, the good cause of environmentalism is degraded by these idiots who think it's ok to start fires for the good of Mother Nature!

In America, we need to find and stop these fools so that we can have a legitimate political sphere (which we do, for the most part) and also so that we can be an example to other democracies and countries where violence is an acceptable part of the political process (Russia). It may seem like a small thing, but I think it's important.

Oh, and yeah, I'm back.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Very True

Check this out from Tiger Hawk. Key Phrase (comes at the end):

Is there anything more fun than buried treasure?"

Answer: no.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Yay, the Economist!

Even Sweden allows for school choice. Why are we left in the dark ages? Why don't we care about the wellbeing and education of Our Children! Give in to the market! It makes better decisions in your best interest than any and all politicians! All the time!

The strongest evidence against this criticism comes from Sweden, where parents are freer than those in almost any other country to spend as they wish the money the government allocates to educating their children. Sweeping education reforms in 1992 not only relaxed enrolment rules in the state sector, allowing students to attend schools outside their own municipality, but also let them take their state funding to private schools, including religious ones and those operating for profit. The only real restrictions imposed on private schools were that they must run their admissions on a first-come-first-served basis and promise not to charge top-up fees (most American voucher schemes impose similar conditions).

The result has been burgeoning variety and a breakneck expansion of the private sector. At the time of the reforms only around 1% of Swedish students were educated privately; now 10% are, and growth in private schooling continues unabated.

Anders Hultin of Kunskapsskolan, a chain of 26 Swedish schools founded by a venture capitalist in 1999 and now running at a profit, says its schools only rarely have to invoke the first-come-first-served rule—the chain has responded to demand by expanding so fast that parents keen to send their children to its schools usually get a place. So the private sector, by increasing the total number of places available, can ease the mad scramble for the best schools in the state sector (bureaucrats, by contrast, dislike paying for extra places in popular schools if there are vacancies in bad ones).


It's been a while, and it's going to be a bit longer before I return full time. I'm dealing with a pretty tough semester, both academically and extracurricularly, but there are only a couple weeks left. And, this summer, I intend to be blogging everyday.

However, I couldn't pass this up. One of my old Professor's blogs (good for him) and brought my attention to this. There are so many good things about this that I'm not sure where to start. Well, of course, we start with the fact that a 1/4 billion less people are living lives of abject poverty since the 1990's. After that, I gotta go with, "the Economist sure is an awesome magazine - I wish I could get it before it was out of date!"

And with that, I return you to the static page - but only 'cause I have too much work to get done. By the way, if you want to see some of what I've been doing, I'm moonlighting over at this blog/website - except I'm not blogging for them, I'm considered a "journalist!" Heh! - I sure fooled them!

Thursday, March 22, 2007


My blog is considered too dangerous to be available in China. Good for me, bad for Chinese citizens.
Do you qualify?

Thanks to Curmudgeonly and Skeptical for the link.

I'm not kidding, this is pretty exciting. I make the cut, but the Daily Kos does not. How awesome is that?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Away for a while, and a question

I'll be out for mid-terms and spring break. So, I might not post something soon. Go read Consul for lots of good stuff today.

Also, does anyone have a suggestion of a good documentary about the Iraq war? We've got some leftists planing a film festival, but since they're my friends, they're open to allowing a bit of truth to enter into the spectrum. It should be a fun experience, but since I don't often watch documentaries (they rarely show the truth) I don't know of any good ones.

So, anyone out there got any suggestions?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I'm running for President of my student government this week, so I've been pretty busy. Too busy to come up with something worthy of posting, anyway.

I have, however, been able to read a bit. I want to take a moment to give Dean, of Dean's World, some props about his line in the sand. It's easier to have a discussion about what is to be done that includes all sides when one side refrains from directly insulting the other, without cause. It makes me ashamed that it was my own side that was using uninformed slurs. Anyway, go check out this post, and watch the video. It's another thing that bugs me, especially while living in the environment that I do live in.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

I've got a Press Pass

And, finally, a published article. I know I haven't been blogging as much lately, and this is one of the reasons. Here's the note as it ended up:
Going Greener | March 01, 2007
Colby students this week found hundreds of new travel mugs in the dining halls, allowing them to grab one to keep their coffee, tea, and cocoa warm on their way to class. When they bring the mugs back to a dining hall the next day, the staff washes them for reuse. The program allows Dining Services to stop providing disposable paper cups and is one of many green initiatives at Colby.

and here's what I sent to my editor:

Colby Students had a pleasant surprise when they arrived at breakfast on Tuesday
morning and found hundreds of new travel mugs waiting for them. Now, students can grab
a travel mug to keep their coffee or tea warm on their way to class, and then bring
the mug back to any dining hall at the next meal to be washed. Using the travel mugs
allows Sodexo to stop providing disposable paper cups. This is all part of Colby?s
Green campaign and Sodexo?s continueing efforts to reduce waste.

So, you can see that there's a lot of differences...

But, it's cool none the less.

P.S. Blogging should return to normal somewhat soon, but right now I'll be busy for another few weeks. I'm acting in a play that goes up tonight (we'll do three performances over the next three days), and I'm also doing something else that I can't talk about in such a public location (at least, not until monday), so, I'll be out of it for a little bit longer. Sorry, remember, Free Ice-Cream.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


This post is interesting for me to read. What do you all think?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

You know,

The real reason Britain is pulling out of Iraq is that we're getting the upper hand there, especially in the provinces where the Brits had a presence. And, now that they won't be busy with terrorists in Iraq, they'll have a freer hand to deal with terrorists in Iran.

UPDATE: Also, they can send some much needed troops to deal with Afghanistan. The fact that countries can get credit for sending troops, and then not allow them to be used at all (Italy) is slightly disheartening, though to be expected when dealing in a post-cold war NATO environment. The Brits and Austrailians are doing an excellent job in Afghanistan, as are we and the rest of the allies. Of course, there is much work to be done.

I still think that the primary good thing about the Brits pulling out of Iraq (aside from the fact that it implies that things aren't horrible there) is that now "we" (the allies) have a few extra troops that can be credibly used to threaten Iran. I'm not saying we should use them without a lot more provocation, but I think that a credible threat could be useful. If we can bully Iran into cooperating (carrots don't seem to be working, cause they apparently don't like the taste), then our job in Iraq and Afghanistan gets a heck of a lot easier.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

"It's not a big truck! It's, it's a series of tubes!"

He's back at it...though, I actually have to say that people might get more work done in the library without facebook. Make sure you watch the video as well.


Methinks these guys are faking it.

But, beards are still cool. And, they get an A+ for location.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The scenario that scares me most

There are a lot of terrorist attacks that are scary. We have lots to pick from. About a week ago, we were reminded of the threat of a dirty bomb exploding in our cities when a man was arrested for smuggling 80 grams of 90% enriched radioactive material. Then, they could load up tractor trailers with fertilizer and run them into buildings, like the guy who couldn't speak english well and had no interest in learning how to drive the truck backwards evidently wanted to do.

But the thing that scares me most is a coordinated campaign of these. It's extremely easy to pull off, and extremely hard to prevent without restricting civil liberties to a level that I refuse to go to. I'm just glad that this one seems to be a solo act, and that an off duty cop was able to respond quickly enough to keep even more people from dying.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Something to Cheer about

"So, we have 6 al Qaeda leaders captured, and possibly dozens more killed. All in the last 48 hours."

- as reported by My Pet Jawa. However, I do need to take issue with one assumtion they made to get at that number:

"But four is such a lonely number. A facilitator of foreign fighters was captured by the Iarqi Army on the Syrian border. And foreign fighters tend to mean al Qaeda. "

Foreign Fighters don't have to mean al Qaeda. They could also mean Iranian agents that we don't want to talk about.

So, perhaps the number should be 5 al Qaeda leaders captured, plus one of unknown identity. All in the last 48 hours.

Cold War with Russia?

Are us Americans trying to revive the cold war with russia?
Come again?
Yes, but the Jewish Lobby has taken control of Washington, so it's not really our fault.
Why would we want to?
No free polls

Read this article for some context.

There are some quotes that are gems:
""This surely is the beginning of an arms race in some sense," he said. "Which is all the more unjustified given that Russia has never, not on a single issue, expressed an intention to confront the U.S. or to deter it.""
Iraq? Iran? Well, I guess they haven't said that they want to confront us...but they certainly haven't been even tacitly supporting us on those issues, either.

"We should be aware that Russia has been placed in the group of targeted nations," - Gleb Pavlovsky
He says this to remind us that Russia has increasingly been placed on the lists of "unfree" nations (on many different issues) which the State Department makes. I say, perhaps you're being targeted. Perhaps you're on those lists cause you make stupid decisions. Like, not to elect governors to your territories so that Putin can appoint them himself.
"It is not as much about the [George W.] Bush Administration's self-promotion to boost ratings as it is about [creating] a system of ideological and political pressure on Russia and its allies," - Vasily Likhachev
This quote only makes sense from a Russian propaganda perspective. They know that Bush is unpopular at home, so in their minds that means that whatever he does is done to increase that approval rating. However, it doesn't make sense to me, because I haven't heard the Bush Administration crowing much about it's missile defense system expansions. And, I'm not even sure that would get him many popularity points in our country.

"Ivashov warned that unless it takes countermeasures to neutralize the U.S. threat, the country could be in for a bleak future. "Russia may end up cornered in the north, and it will become a tiny Nordic country.""

Yeah. That might happen.

Propaganda is so much fun, when you can immediately see through it. However, I have to keep reminding myself that to the Russians reading this article, it's the truth because they don't have a baseline to judge against. So, it's not very funny after all.

Whole Foods Changes Rules

So, I like lobsters, and I like the idea of a Whole Foods-like store, even if I would never spend the extra money to buy stuff from there.

However, I'm not sure I understand their reasoning in this decision. I'll wait for you to go read it and check it out.

Ok, so they seem to object to the fact that lobsters are shipped in boxes with other lobsters. Hmm...well, lobsters have hard shells, so they don't get hurt by this. Being pilled up doesn't seem to hurt them much, since it's been done for decades. It's also possible to find them this way in the wild...
The lobsters sold at the Whole Foods Store in Portland, ME, will come from a company based in New Hampshire. After the lobsters are caught in Vinalhaven, they get put in comfortable individual boxes. Well, that's after they get piled up in traps for a couple days in the ocean, waiting for the lobstermen to come pull them out of the water. After they get put in the boxes, I assume they just get shipped out...but do they go to NH before they get shipped to Portland? Cause that just seems like a waste.

The whole process reminds me of the "Last cigarette and meal before an execution." Why bother? I mean, the lobsters don't really care enough to talk to us about it, do they? And if it's been good enough for so long, why bother to worry about it now?

I like that Whole Foods is a company with Morals, I just don't understand them in this particular case. Especially since there are plenty of lobstermen in Portland who could work for them and put lobsters in individual boxes without shipping them around the North East. Then, the company might actually be able to sell a few of their lobsters in Portland, and they could support the local workers. (I've been reading too much Marx lately.)

So, does anyone understand this better than I? Cause I'd appreciate some 'splaining.

By the way

I think this would be a good time (what with the 5000'th visitor and all) to restate my thoughts about commenting.

I'm a big believer in taking credit/responsibility for what you think. You are free to think/say anything you want on this site (of course), especially if you can back it up with real arguments. (Cause then it would be a fun discussion, instead of just me making fun of you) However, I can't tell one "anonymous" person from another "anonymous" person.

I like it when people pick a screen name. I actually use my own name (minus the capital letter), and I don't think you should avoid it either. But, if you choose not to, it's easier for the rest of us to talk if you pick an anonymous name that we can follow through a discussion, and hopefully even from post to post.

Thanks. I know this is boring, but it is kind of a pet-peeve of mine. Sorry. Wait, who am I apologizing to? It is my blog...heh.


So, I'm pretty upset about something that's going on at my school. Evidently someone is placing Christian tracts in the books in our library. The worst part is that they're evidently singling out Jewish history/study books to place them in. Now, there are two sides to this.

First, the library shouldn't be upset because it doesn't destroy the books and it's not really hard to take the piece of paper out and throw it away. This idea has merit, but I don't agree. Perhaps you figured that out, because I put it first. I'll explain why I don't buy it later.

Second, the library is right to get pissed because this is defacement of private property. Well, I'm not sure it's actually defacement, cause no permanent damage is done to the books, but it's certainly annoying and people have a right to use books from a secular library without feeling pressure to change religions.

Those are both valid sides of the debate, though I lean more to the second side. This is despite the fact that I'm one of the leaders of our (rather) active Christian fellowship on campus. My opposition to this practice stems from a different cause. First, it's ineffectual. It's crap. No one will ever be converted because of a tract they picked up in a book at a library while they were trying to do research in college. They're too busy to read the stupid thing, but not busy enough not to get offended. People who read books that have been targeted in this fashion just get annoyed and get mad at the Christians who did it. That's all Christians, in their minds.

I know that the organized Christian group on campus was not responsible. However, I also know that we're the ones who will be held responsible in the minds of the campus. I am very upset that our valid, effective, and helpful ministries will be undermined by the foolish actions of people who probably don't even go to my school.

The worst part is, if I explain this to anyone who was affected by it on campus, they won't believe that we didn't have anything to do with it...cause of course we wouldn't take credit for it!

So, thanks a lot, whoever you are. You just made life more difficult for the Christians on my campus. That would be acceptable if you were to reach even one person, but I doubt that that happened. Sorry.

So, I repeat. Fools.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tell me what you think!

You may have noticed the new Pajamas Media banner flying at my site. This is just a way for you to do a straw poll about the 2008 elections, as you have already figured out. It's not really an endorsement of Pajamas Media, though if they want to add me to their advertising stream, I won't turn them down.

I do want to know what you think about the elections. So if you don't mind participating through here, I'll give some updates and analysis as the results come in. So far, the one vote cast seems to mimic my current thoughts. I wonder how that happened? Hmm....


I just went up over 5000 visitors! That's pretty good for a little over a year of blogging, I think. Thanks for all the visits, and I hope you keep coming back 'cause you enjoy the experience.

I'm big on de-briefing, so why don't we take this time for some feedback? Can you post a comment with what you like and dislike about this blog? If you've been around a while, tell me what keeps you coming back. If you just got here, let me know what caught your eye. Thanks!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Today's Reading

Global Warming (And a beautiful photo) - Althouse.

This is for the textually challenged readers. It is a commercial, presented without further comment: Sweet Mother of Awesome! - Surviving Grady.

Some great political analysis from Red - They call me Red.
I was going to write this post today, but then I found this, and realized that I didn't have to. It's a good thing, because I just started spring semester classes today, and I'm kind of busy. Enjoy the reading.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Friday, January 26, 2007

Drive by BDS

Heh. I love it... Someone came and left this comment to an old post:
Anonymous said...

Beacause it is a fact, worse. president. ever.

Does that sentence even make sense? No, no it doesn't. Does it relate to the post? No. no, not really. My question was not why do the T-shirts in question exist, but rather, why do they think that they'll get money by advertising said T-Shirts on my website?

In any case. I love the commenter, and I hope that the person sticks around to drop more pearls of wisdom in my direction...


Why is Greece getting hit by terrorists all of a sudden? What has changed in the past several months?

If anyone knows/has a theory, please share. I'll look into the issue more and get back to you all.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Picture of the Day (after a long hiatus)

These pictures are beautiful: (Click the pic., slick)

You can go here too.

Recommended Reading (of the normally Humorous variety)

Go read Frank J.'s surprisingly serious (and well put) column on one-issue conservative crybabies. (The title is "The Main Challenge Facing Conservatives Today Is for Them to Stop Being a Bunch of Hysterical Little Girls") It's great. I'm just disappointed that he sacrificed his usual high level of humor content to make a valid and excellent but serious point.

And then go read the Dilbert blog's post on "Flip-flopper Season." That one's funny, but I don't agree with it as much. I think you'll see why after you read it. If you don't see why and you still care, ask me to explain more.

Terror-Free Oil

This list is depressing. It's a list of companies that don't use oil from the middle-east, which this group says makes them "terror-free." The only two companies that don't use any oil from the middle east are the Hess Corp and Yukos. The listing for Hess has a note which says they do get oil from Algeria (the home of the GSPC which just allied itself with Al Qaida International and refreshed it's declaration of Jihad on France) and Yukos is a Russian oil company that is increasingly being controlled by the Russian government (and isn't available in North America anyway). WHoo-hooo.

So, basically, there are no good oil companies to buy from. This has long been a problem. However, I take issue with their definition of "terror-free." I haven't found a long defense of their definition, so perhaps I'm missing something, but not all states in the Middle East support and encourage terrorism, and not all states outside that area are blameless.

There are no good places to get oil from. The more people realize this, the more acceptable alternative energy will be. The only oil company I'm willing to boycott is Citgo, because of Chavez. Though lately I've been thinking that this boycott might actually succeed in kicking him out of power, at which point I would miss his frequent and hilarious outbursts. I'm currently trying to weigh the benefits of a Chavezless Venezuela to us and them against the costs of my personal enjoyment. I'm sure I won't buy gas from them soon, but I will miss his press releases if we ever kick him out.

Some baseball longing

I love baseball, and every year right around now (now being the day after the patriots are out of the patriots) I start longing for spring training.

So, here's a baseball themed post.

One of my favorite Red Sox players, Trot Nixon, is no longer with us. Boo. He was a hard player, and he came up through the Red Sox farm system as well. He was never a superstar, perhaps, but he did give his all everyday, which is maybe why he ended up on the DL so often. Now he plays for the Indians. I guess we did owe them something for Manny.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I like chicago, by the way

Here's something from the Chicago Boys blog...good stuff, good point.

Stupid Pimps

Not a good video to watch. Here's the reference.

Monday, January 15, 2007

This is Torture

His legs were beaten by planks of wood. A drill had been used to bore holes into all of his ribs, his elbows, his knees, and into his head. Doctors estimated the man endured this torture for days. Apparently when the fun was over, or they’d extracted what they needed, or the terrorists were worried about being discovered, or they had another victim waiting for their attentions, they shot him.
From Michael Yon.

And, a look at the contrast between our troops and theirs:

But for those who are truly fighting, this is a brutal death match where every mistake can get them killed, or make worldwide headlines. Yet when the enemy drills out eyes or tortures people with acid, it never resonates.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

best dilbert I've read so far in a while


And, this is a good close second.

If the Economist says it...

It must be true. And I repeat it cause I want to hear it!


Go read Yon's embeded piece. Him and Bill Roggio are always worth a read.

The Washpo and the Minimum Wage

Please, read this and let me complain about it. The first comment is that it's a public interest story about a serious issue. That practically guarantees that the story is going to be distorted. As it turns out, I wasn't disappointed. Well, I was, but I was right that the story would be distorted.

Quote: "Passage is expected, with Senate approval soon to follow, and if President Bush signs the resulting bill into law, as he indicated he would, the U.S. minimum wage would rise for the first time since 1997, ending a debate about whether such a raise would be good or bad for the economy."

(Me:) The last part of that quote is stupid. I mean technically it would end the debate, it just wouldn't resolve it. It would end the debate in the senate, I guess. But that's not the point.

Quote: At the store where he got the money order, the worries are about Wal-Mart, which not only supports an increase but also built a Supercenter on the edge of town that has been sucking up customers since it opened three years ago.

(Me:) Go Washpo! Way to distort the relationship between Walmart and the rest of the world! Good work!

Quote: "As for Iles -- who keeps $70 out of every paycheck to cover two weeks' worth of food and gas and in a matter of minutes was already down to $26.54 -- his worry was as basic as how fast to drive home."

(Me:) If he keeps 70 dollars out of every paycheck, at 7.25, then he's getting paid of ten hours of work. If the washpost wants to imply that 70 hours of his work is getting taken by the government, I'm all for it. However, what they're really saying is that he's made choices that force him to spend 400 dollars a month on a brand new car, along with the car insurance necessary for that brand new car.
He does lives with his parents, which this confuses the issue for everyone.
It's very true that raising the minimum wage would buy a teenager more chimichangas and gas.
And, since that person would also be me, I'm all for it...however, I don't really think it's a good idea.

(note: they later explain what he spends his money on, but that's fishy for other reasons that I'll deal with then.)

Quote: "The debate about the minimum wage usually comes down to jobs. If Congress approves the increase, it will result in raises for an estimated 13 million Americans, or about 9 percent of the total workforce."

(My friend says:) I just can't believe how people think it's a magic formula, like money just comes out of nowhere or out of the pockets of the greedy capitalists.
(Me:) 9 percent of the workforce does not get paid the minimum wage, they must be thinking that people just above the 7.25 line will get paid more too...

(note: they later explained that the 9% figure also included people who were paid around the minimum wage. Which is around 7 million jobs out of the 12 million they were citing. Warning: I really estimated the numbers here. They are close enough)

Quote: "At the store where Iles works, for instance, the owner thinks the minimum wage should be increased as a moral issue but worries about which employees' hours he will have to cut to compensate.
At the store where he bought the chimichangas, the cashier who makes $6.25 worries that a raise will force her out of her subsidized apartment and onto the street.
At the convenience store where he bought gas, the owner worries that he will have to either raise prices, angering his customers, or make less money, "and why would I want to make less money?""

(My friend:) Yeah, oh, I love that.
(me:) Read that last part, especially. Could they try to make the "capitalist" look bad in a more blatant way? The first part is good... and the second part is proof that the government should stay out of welfare programs - if that girl were living in an apartment provided by the church or the rotary club, or the progressive party or whatever, then she wouldn't get forced out until she could support herself.
(My friend:) Right, which they (the charity) would know because they're actually there on the ground.

Quote: "A onetime Wal-Mart vice president, Bower moved back to Atchison several years ago to teach and ended up buying the old J.C. Penney store, and now runs a business where the meaning of a dollar is displayed on shelf after shelf. The jar of Peter Piper's Hot Dog Relish? That's what a dollar is worth. The Wolfgang Puck Odor Eliminator that a customer was looking at as she said to a friend, "I just don't know how I'm ever going to make it. My ex-husband's not paying his child support"? That's a dollar, too, as is the home pregnancy test, the most shoplifted item in the store."

Comment: Presented without comment.

Quote:"Soon after, he bought his car, a used 2005 Dodge Neon, and just about every workday since then he has spent his lunch break in the driver's seat, eating a bologna sandwich with the engine off to save gas, even in winter."

(me:) shouldn't he be doing that anyway, to keep us all from dying from global warming?

Quote:"Bill Murphy, who said that if he had the chance to talk to new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he would ask one question. "Where does she think the money will come from? And that is the question," he said. "My wages are going to go up 10 percent.""
"Employees at $7.25 will want $8.25. Those at $8.25 will want $9.25. Economists classify such workers as the ones who would be indirectly affected by a minimum-wage increase. Of the estimated 13 million workers expected to get raises, 7.4 million are in that category. "

(me:)Good work Bill! And this is where they explain the nine percent thing. With 300 million people in this country, why are we making life hard for everyone to benefit 13 million? Especially since the jury is far from unanimous that it would actually help those people.
(my friend:) I like how the broke entrepreneur is going to be even worse off after they do this

Quote: "And yet he will pay it, he said, and compensate with price increases, which he worries will be inflationary, even though most economists say that won't happen. He will raise prices, he continued, because the only other option would be to earn less money, which he doesn't want to do because he owes $1.5 million on his businesses and wouldn't want to default."

(Me:) Bingo, my friend.
At this point, my friend went into spasms and used words inappropraite for the context of this blog. However, I am here to sumarize his points. He said: "We should just raise the Earned income tax credit! That's exactly like giving a raise to everyone who falls under the poverty level, doesn't cost our employers any more, and doesn't really cost the government that much money. What little it costs (because people in that tax bracket pay precious little in taxes already, in fact, the EITC is a negative tax for some, meaning they always get a refund.) would be offset by the savings in welfare because less people would need it." And then he said:
(my friend:) AND FIX OUR SCHOOLS!!

(me:) but that concept is too difficult to explain to people. On a related mater, I would like the washpo to explain to me how most economists think that a minimum wage hike will not cause inflation... at least an inflation like effect on the people affected by the wage hike. Though this inflationary affect would only exist for the short term, the rise in prices and decline in real wages would be permanent.
(My friend:) So, the thing people do to try to help actually ends up hurting the people it was supposed to help. Who could have see that coming?

Quote: "Wal-Mart won't say how many of those workers earn less than what the new minimum wage would be, but if the Atchison store is an example, starting pay is $6 an hour. Nonetheless, in October 2005, Wal-Mart chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr. said in a speech that the "U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade, and we believe it is out of date with the times." He went on to say, "Our customers simply don't have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks.""

(Me:) A whole decade! The minimum wage hasn't been raised in a whole decade! I didn't realize it was so out of date! Now I agree with raising it! We should put it at 10 dollars! It's been ten years!

Quote: "When it comes to Wal-Mart, however, just about any announcement that affects public policy is greeted with suspicion, and that has been the case with the minimum wage. Some have said that Wal-Mart, in need of good publicity, is supporting an increase for public relations reasons; others have declared it an attempt to drive small, independently owned stores out of business."

(Me:) That translates from lefty-talk to: Wal-mart is evil, even when they agree with me...

Quote (Out of order): "Seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour equals $15,080 per year, and out of that comes $313 for the car loan and $100 for car insurance, Iles said, going over his monthly bills. An additional $90 for the 1995 car with 135,000 miles on it that he is buying from a friend for his mother, $150 for the family phone bills, $35 on his credit card, $100 for gas, $100 toward the mortgage on the trailer. "That's about it. Oh yeah, $20 in doctors' bills," he said, and totaled it up on fingers scarred by surgical stitches. Nine hundred and eight dollars. "I bring home 900 a month," he said. "So I very rarely have any money for myself.""

(me:) This is where they explain what he spends his money one. And, by the way, even though he didn't have insurance, he seems to have gotten a good deal on paying for his doctor's bills. He owes 8000, which at 20 dollars a month will take him 33 years to pay it off without interest, which is how long he is supposed to pay for it. Sounds like he got a good deal.

(me:) This situation is hardly generic, or representative.
(My friend:) All of this is an argument for charity, not for poorly thought-out gov't interventions

The closing quote: "Life at $7.25. Should that be the minimum wage? "Yes," Iles said. Even if it hurts job opportunities for people like him, as Dennis Garrett had suggested? "Yes." Or causes price increases, as Bill Murphy had suggested? "Yes." Or damages businesses such as Always Low Prices? "I mean, it's tough for me, and I'm already making $7.25 an hour." Or causes Jack Bower to reduce hours for one of his employees? Perhaps for Iles himself? "It's just so hard for people. I mean, it's hard," Iles said, and then he went to work."

(me:) Well, I guess that seals the deal! We should do it based on the advice of an undereducated person working for the minimum wage! I could also comment on why I think this family came to the country illegally - strike that, use "without documents" instead - because they aren't getting welfare for an obviously disabled family member, but I don't think I will. Because this one young man is supporting a family of three while getting paid the minimum wage. It's not exactly pretty, but it works. And, he's young and will only get raises.

Note - The illegal angle could be a big deal here, but it's these types of people that I'm ok with welcoming to my country. He should have waited for the papers, but he's obviously willing to work hard and overcome serious hurdles to succeed. There are many born-here-as-citizens Americans that would give up and start taking welfare long before they were in this situation. And I think that makes him someone to be admired, not kicked.

Best Story of the day

Because of the last line. I know it makes us look kind of stupid to the rest of the world, but it is high-larious.

Chavez is an Idiot, No. 31783

Yet another reason to not buy gas at Citgo...

Does anyone else know of companies that are owned by the Venezuelan government that I could avoid as easily as Citgo?

I'm an evil person

I guess. Because I can't think of anything to say to this story, except "Cool. Maybe he'll die and we can start to fix things in Burma."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


It bothers me to no end that I have adds to "anti-bush t-shirts" on my site. I don't pick them, but they show up based on what I'm posting. Am I doing something wrong? I mean, Bush isn't my favorite president (that would be Teddy Roosevelt), but neither do I think he's totally screwed the whole world up. How, exactly, do those Google word algorithms that figure out which adds to sell for my site pick their topics?

So, I repeat the question, am I doing something wrong?

Thoughts on Islam

These are spawned by the comments on this post over at Althouse. She's still on the old blogger, so it's slow going and hard to post comments. But whatever, I still like the site.

So, I posted a comment over there saying that I thought it would be ok for Muslims to use the old mosque in Cordoba to pray if they want to...I'm assuming that some moderates are making this request, and someone rightly called me on the assumption. PatCA, if you're reading this, I assume that there are moderates making the request because most Muslims in the world don't want to kill everyone who disagrees with them, which makes them moderates. This not wanting to kill everyone strain of Islam is very prevalent (in many parts of the world) in Spain. So, while there may be some radicals making the same request, there are probably more moderates, just because of the way numbers and percentages work. I have no proof of this, so I could easily be wrong. However, I'm probably not. Thanks for getting my tag-name right. I know it's just a copy-paste thing, but others in the comments over there were not so perceptive.

Others say that since the building is owned by the Catholic Church, they have the right to not allow others to use the property. Very true. I'm not disputing that. However, I do think that since the Church wants to open dialog with the Muslims, there is no reason they can't take a first step like allowing some Muslims to use the mosque on Friday, when it's probably usually closed, given the Spanish tourist schedules (which are strange, I know). If they decide not to, that is within their right, however, it's also within my rights to disagree with that decision, and I do.

The building is HUGE! and most of it is still in the same form as it was when the Christians moved in. The place where the building was built used to be a place where Roman's made sacrifices to their gods. In fact, the rocks they used to build that site were lying around the area when the Muslims went to build their stuff, so they used a lot of it. I think that's cool. The ground underneath the building changed hands many times before the existing structure was raised while the Muslims controlled Spain and called it Al-Andalus. It got expanded many times, and now is big enough to have over 1000 columns, spaced 'bout ten feet apart (note the bad grammar to go along with the most likely bad estimation), which should give you some idea of about how big it is.

Actually, you should add about 150 columns and space for them in the middle, because when the Christians legitimately reconquered the territory that the mosque stood on, they took out those columns and built a Church Cathedral type "nave" in the middle. We should thank ourselves for this, because it probably added to the structural integrity of the whole building. However, there is much, much mosque space located around the Cathedral space in the middle. It's beautiful to look at, walk around in, and pray in, but it's not used much during the Saturday/Sunday service, to my knowledge. (I'm a protestant, and since I can't really take mass with catholics, I didn't go to services at Catholic Churches while I was in Spain.).

My point is, there is plenty of space for everyone. The Christian religion wants to be known as the one of tolerance, and I think they could make an exception to their (good) rules about allowing other faiths to hold services in their cathedrals in this instance. If they wanted to nit-pick, only the area in the middle is really a Catholic Church, and the area around it just happens to work well for Muslims services - Something to think about.

To the people who brought up the Haggia Sophia - I lament this loss, as you do. When the Muslims took over this chapel, they changed many of the decorations and ruined lots of the mosaics. Then they used it as a mosque for a long time. This is too bad. However, it is no longer used explicitly as a mosque, and is instead a museum, where all faiths are welcome. This is good, and I really, really want to go there.

I think it would be nice if the Muslims learned from our example and opened up their holy sites to visitors where that would be appropriate and desirable for all involved. For example, there is no need to open up mecca - the pagans that revered that site don't really exist anymore, so it's pretty exclusively the Muslims territory. The dome of the rock is built on the territory of the Ancient Temple, and while it would be nice if Jews could visit, you can't really say that it is the old Temple, as is the case in Cordoba. That's a much thornier issue, and not really parallel to this one.

However, in general, the commenter's over there are rather disturbing. I mean, they're legitimate opinions, I guess, just not ones I would subscribe to. Most of the commenters that I read (I read most, but not all, of the nearly 100ish comments) seemed to think that there was no hope for a peaceful co-existence with Islam. Now, I'm second to none in my belief that we have to be extremely careful of radical Islam, and that it's possible that co-existence with them is impossible. However, they are far from a majority. There are many sects that could be classified as "radical" and worthy of watching, but Islam, at it's roots, is not evil.

I take it for granted that most people would like to find the moderate Muslims and work with them...we don't have to look that hard, mostly just around the corner. But we have to make sure we're not confuse ourselves that the version of Islam that the media alludes to most often is the version of Islam that is most prevalent. It may be the loudest (with the biggest BOOMing voices, perhaps), but it's not the biggest.

It disappoints me that the people calling for Muslims to be more tolerant and not blow stuff up are not willing to give most Muslims the benefit of the doubt themselves.

You are of course welcome to disagree with me, and I welcome the comments below that I can argue with.

UPDATE: There is, of course, a benefit to allowing Muslims to hold services in this particular Mosque/Cathedral Hybrid, alongside Christians, and as long as they don't interfere with the Christian worship that happens inside. The Catholic Church, as the owners of the property, would have tremendous influence over which Imam's get to preach inside their property. The Imam who teaches at this particular Mosque (one of the biggest in the world) would recieve tremendous publicity and influence, just because they taught at the only Mosque in the world that shared a physical space with a Christian Cathedral. Not all of this publicity would be approving, but the message would get out. This is an excellent way to find the "moderate" Muslims and give them a voice and a platform. I think this plan is a win/win for the Christian Faith and moderate Muslims...

We get two

Some good news in the terrorism world. Two down, but many still to go...

And Chavez is still a jerk.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A poem

I want to share this poem that I found in my Russian Lit class...

Velimir Khlevnikov -

We chant and enchant,
Oh charming enchantment!
No raving, no ranting,
No canting enchantment!
This ranting enchantress
Has cast her enchantment -
We see what her chant meant!
Here rant! There cant!
You charming enchanter,
Cast out her enchantment,
Uncast it, uncant it,
Discast it, Discant it,
DescantL Decant! Recant!
He can't. She can't.
Why can't she recant?
Why can't he uncant?
Ranting chanting,
No recanting.
Discant, descant.

The poet who wrote it was trying to cast off the chains of the artists and poets who had come before him...and in this poem he's rejecting the idea of a "Muse"
I just want to say that I won't be following the advice from this line "No raving, no ranting," but I think we bloggers can adapt it as a rejection of the old MSM and it's rigid structure of providing opinions to the masses. So there, descant yourself, CNN!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


When are they going to learn? And why don't we have an Israel in the area that can bomb their stuff back to the stone age?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I'm intrigued by this post at Free Exchange, a blog from the Economist, and the comment there.

The post mentions that the Stern Report on Global Warming uses a 0% discount for future human lives when calculating the costs and benefits of a particular action. Normally, an economist decides that when calculating benefits accruing in the future, a discount is used because of the uncertainty of the situation. It's possible that something unrelated will happen and the benefits will disappear, or the effect of our action will be different from what we expected.

However, this is kind of a moral dilemma for actions that would end up to be a close call. For example, should we ignore global warming now and cause huge costs to future generations, or should we sacrifice a huge amount of our current wealth/production capability, to make sure that those people don't have to pay the far higher costs?
Even if we need to pay half of what we produce every year to fix global warming forever, that cost is still far less than the price paid by our descendants if we do nothing. However, because we're the one paying the price, we dither about it.

I think that's not a good idea, and we should spend the money now to fix the problem for later. However, not enough people listen to me. It's not even that we'd have to spend all that much, really, if everyone made their efforts. And, the sooner we start, the less work we have to do, which will be spread out over a greater time span. Everything is better if we don't procrastinate (and please don't let my teachers ever hear that I said that)

But whatever. That's not really the point of the post over there, though it is interesting, and necessary background.

The point is that, if we refuse to discount the cost/benefits to future humans for global warming, we should do it for other social issues as well. Such as, the deficit. Cleaning up the Middle East and Africa. Solving AIDS (have I hit everything yet? No). And, abortion.

The minimum cost to the mother of carrying out the pregnancy is 9ish months of her life spent carrying a fetus in her belly, which is awkward, and probably costs more for food, plus a bit for lost work. Remember, the mother could always give up the child immediately after birth, so we shouldn't count costs of child rearing in this. The benefits of going through all this are those of being a mother, which is a questionable benefit (evidently) to some people. The cost of an abortion (at least early on) is pretty small, and the benefits are not having to go through with the pregnancy. However, if we include the costs and benefits that accrue to the potential human at a zero discount, they almost certainly outweigh the costs to the mother. Being alive, at any price, is better than not being alive.

So, I think I like this zero-discounting for human lives...and it should not be selectively enforced. However, I'm not sure if the guy who commented has a valid point or not. I think he's trying to worm his way out of the inevitable conclusion in terms of abortion, but he might be right about this individual case.

He says that using a 0% discount for a bunch of people is ok, but you can't use it to predict cost/benefits for individuals. In a general sense, it works, but individuals are too complicated to analyze like that, so we need to discount for probability, or even just use a different method to weigh our options.

I'm not sure this is valid. I think that the cost/benefits that we are doing (where alive = better than dead, either from and abortion or death caused by global warming) can be used in the case of individuals, so it works for this point. Does anyone agree with him, or understand him better than I do?

Update: There are now lots of comments. I'm talking about the one by

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I just wanted to share...

That I still want Condi to run. Can you see anyone else worth voting for? I don't want to make the mistake the democrats did in 2004 and vote for someone I think will be "electable." I'm still young and idealist, so I want to vote for someone I can be excited about. Hence, go Condi. Boo everyone else. Mostly.

Short Answer: YES!

From a commenter over at C and S (one of the new blog's I blogrolled):

is this another example of why we win?

i honestly feel, this plastic pig could be a better US SENATOR than Rodham, Schumer, Boxer, Leahy, Kennedy, Kerry, Dodd, Reid, Biden, etc...

that's honestly feel(sic)...

Here's the link.

Finally, ben Wakes Up

So, I've been busy the past few weeks. I think I made up for it by updating the blog. I've added a bunch of links and moved a few things around. Let me know how you feel about it, if you'd like to.

Also, I've been remiss in posting the rest of my paper. I do this because I don't think it's working out as a series of blog posts. If you think differently, let me know. If you'd just like to read the whole thing, here it is.

Has anyone ever used google doc's before? I'd like some reviews if you have...