Saturday, February 28, 2004


South Korea's third-largest credit card issuer fired a quarter of its workforce (161 people) with mobile phone text messages yesterday... giving them 24 hours (from the time the message was sent) to arrange a voluntary retirement package, if they chose to.

"The layoff date is February 28," the message said, according to a member of the union. "We will receive applications for voluntary retirement package until February 28."

In the company's (admittedly meager) defense, those fired were on strike, with "marathon negotiations" having just failed, and the company claims that other means of contact would not have been successful at reaching the majority of the employees so quickly. While I can understand that (only because I have accepted a priori the dehumanizing forces in the workplace), there's going to be some former employees who have extremely unresolved hostilities... it wouldn't surprise me if we hear of this company again, when a former employee returns to express their displeasure with the way things turned out.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Gays being married from sea to shining sea

Jason West, the 26-year old mayor of the village of New Paltz, New York, married 21 gay couples on the steps of the village hall yesterday. That's the east coast, the west coast is already working on it, now if some of you states in the middle would throw out one or two bigoted laws this whole thing could blow over and people would see that it isn't the end of the world for us heteros. Of course, it only took minutes for the fear-and-hate machine to get fired up:

As the ceremonies by Mayor West were ending, the state Health Department asked the attorney general to seek an injunction "to prevent further illegal conduct by the mayor," a department spokesman said.

I find it interesting that almost every time I've seen photos of these happenings, there are throngs of peaceful supporters, many of whom are carrying signs stating that they are straight and supportive, and a few bent out of shape twisted-looking hateful people. I mean really, I think if you want to be heard, you have to take some responsibility for how strongly you conform to your group's stereotypes, and the protesters I've seen on the news look like trailer-park denizens who couldn't get tickets to be in the audience of Jerry Springer that day, so they decided to go protest these marriages instead.

The scene that sticks out the most in my mind: at the Town Hall in SF, one heckler was walking up and down the line berating the gay couples who were waiting to be married. This guy was very confrontational, and kept turning around and slapping his butt saying "you want some of this? You know you do... but you can't have it, cause I'm not a faggot". This, in turn, reminded me of an ex-co-worker who was very upset with the very idea of gay men, because he thought that they all wanted to fuck him. I politely refrained from commenting on this... if he couldn't see the obvious ironies in his thinking, it seemed highly unlikely that he'd be capable of having a rational discussion on the issue.

BTW, I just checked back at Flowers for Al and Don, and they've collected $13,000, in part because an AP article ran in the New York Times and the Guardian. So many people are approaching this issue with good will, and so many other (primarily politicians and lobbyists, from the look of it) are approaching it with fear and hatred.

Another image stuck in my brain: a woman with a face that looks like it is stuck that way from so many years of scowling, carrying a sign that says "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". So, what she's saying basically is that the prejudices of some goatherders who have been dead for 3000 years and the assumed prejudices of her Big Imaginary Friend override common courtesy, kindness to others, and the concept of keeping your fucking nose out of other people's business. Yet somehow, she feels like her way of life is being attacked. It's sad, really.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

In which the perils of posting while under the effects of sleeping pills are made clear

I get comments about my 'liberal' position on this blog every once in awhile, which surprises me, since I think the liberals suck too. In fact, I think that anyone who can sum up their relationship to life's intricately complex issues with only one or two words is not doing their job as a human, let alone as an American. I tend to decide how I feel about an issue, then go educate myself further on that issue and see if my initial viewpoint changes... and sometimes it does change. As a result, I don't fit nicely into any convenient box like "republican vs democrat" or "conservative vs liberal", and I'm pretty suspicious of people who describe their position in any such shallow and meaningless terms.

When I first saw Andrew Sullivan's website, certain buzzwords led me to classify him as a member of the conservative right... but I was in error, as his point of view is quite unorthodox and even though I disagree with him at times, I always respect his willingness to explore an issue, to challenge lazy thinking and look problems straight in the face. If everyone took their role as an American (or even as a human) as seriously as Sullivan, the world would be a very different place. (I don't know if it would be better because we'd have worked out many of humanity's issues, or because we'd have killed each other off.)

Some examples: his take on Michael Moore's new book...

I just got through Larissa MacFarquhar's obsequious and fawning piece on Michael Moore in the New Yorker. What was remarkable about the piece is that it documented dozens and dozens of clear falsehoods uttered by Moore and yet was never quite able to call them exactly that. It documented astonishing hypocrisy, human cruelty, and the most grotesque slandering of the United States and Americans in general in front of foreign audiences in a time of war, and yet couldn't even bring itself to be shocked, let alone to criticize...

...and then, along comes Sean Hannity, whose new book has the following obscene title: "Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism and Liberalism." Why obscene? It is obscene for Hannity to purloin a sentence from the Lord's Prayer in order to advance his partisan political views. And yes, it is also obscene to equate terrorism and despotism with liberalism. Hannity isn't worthy to speak the word "liberalism," a long and complicated and deeply Western political tradition that is the only reason he can actually publish a book like this and face only criticism. To place it in the same context as "terrorism" reveals that this man has no understanding of what this war is about. It's a war in defense of liberalism, in defense of pluralism, in defense of the various peaceful Western political traditions that Islamo-fascism would snuff out in an instant.

Sullivan surprised me by sharing my viewpoint regarding commutative moral relevance:

"This moral equivalence is as disgusting when it appears on the right as it is when it appears on the left. So why is the right so quiet when it is displayed by one of their own?"

And then, of course, the real reason for me to visit his sit today - to see his comments on the constititutional amendment that threatens to set the US back about a hundred years:

The president launched a war today against the civil rights of gay citizens and their families. And just as importantly, he launched a war to defile the most sacred document in the land. Rather than allow the contentious and difficult issue of equal marriage rights to be fought over in the states, rather than let politics and the law take their course, rather than keep the Constitution out of the culture wars, this president wants to drag the very founding document into his re-election campaign. He is proposing to remove civil rights from one group of American citizens - and do so in the Constitution itself. The message could not be plainer: these citizens do not fully belong in America. Their relationships must be stigmatized in the very Constitution itself. The document that should be uniting the country will now be used to divide it, to single out a group of people for discrimination itself, and to do so for narrow electoral purposes. Not since the horrifying legacy of Constitutional racial discrimination in this country has such a goal been even thought of, let alone pursued. Those of us who supported this president in 2000, who have backed him whole-heartedly during the war, who have endured scorn from our peers as a result, who trusted that this president was indeed a uniter rather than a divider, now know the truth.

Now, you can argue this point, if you wish, and claim that we were merely guessing, but I recall pretty clearly that among my peers, not a soul trusted this president or his spawn of hell father. The joy we should be feeling at having been right about the soullessness of Bush & Co isn't there; in its stead is a fear and loathing. There are some things it just doesn't pay to be right on... it's a lose lose situation. My only hope is that this country finds some alternate course that doesn't involve us becoming the 4th Reich.

I apologize if this post is rambling... I'll clean it up when a majority of conscious brain cells has gathered.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Postcards to Mary

Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of Dick Cheney, is in a bit of a rough spot. Daddy is a fat good-ole-boy despot with a Bible up his ass and plenty of mean and nasty things to say about the perversities commited by gays, and he's supporting amendments to the Constitution (I'm not sure why... the way he and Bush constantly defy the Constitution, you'd think he'd be a little more jaded... oh, I forgot, they want everyone else to follow the rules, but as privileged white guys they can do what they please) to make his prejudices become federal law. Mary is not just sitting idly by while this happens... she is actually being paid to run daddy's re-election campaign. What a fucked up position for a person to be in.

I doubt it will help, but somebody started, a site where you can send a postcard expressing support for Mary or begging her to intercede with her hellspawned father on behalf of the rest of the country. You can leave a note of your own, or view the notes other people have written, or go read up on why the website exists and make up your own mind about what to do.

Remember back in the dark ages, when the republicans were always yapping about state's rights? This administration has routinely taken away the state's ability to make their own laws. Medicinal marijuana? Not gonna happen. Run your school system any way other than "No child left behind"? Not gonna happen. Decide whether or not gays can be legally married in your state? Not gonna happen. Do you think these guys are just going to suddenly grow a conscience and stop fucking the country? Not gonna happen.

Sixty-eight guns

Do you remember 'The Alarm'? They cranked out a lot of good music in the 80's, but I hadn't heard anything recent from them. Turns out they are still around, though, and they've still got some fighting spirit.

Last week the NME's UK single's chart featured 'The Poppy Fields', a teenage boy-band with an edge whose single '45 Rpm' jumped onto the charts out of nowhere. It turns out The Poppyfields are actually The Alarm, who dubbed the video of the teenage band over the soundtrack of one of their own songs.

Singer Mike Peters told BBC news the release was to show that image was important in today's musical climate.

He commented: "We decided we would do something where it was judged purely on its own musical value. The Alarm as an entity have been going for 20-odd years and history can go against you - we wanted to break the barrier down. We wanted the song to be judged on its merits and stir up the water a little bit, break the mould."

Looks like they did just that.

A real fan of democracy

pResident Bush is disappointed in the outcome of Iraq's elections:

"I join many in Iran and around the world in condemning the Iranian regime's efforts to stifle freedom of expression, including the closing of two leading reformist newspapers in the run-up to the elections. Such measures undermine the rule of law and are clear attempts to deny the Iranian people's desire to freely choose their leaders," Bush said.

He said Washington supports the Iranian people's aspirations "to live in freedom, enjoy their God-given rights and determine their own destiny."

It warms my heart to know that this man has such strong dedication to democracy in Iraq. I only wish he had a similar dedication to democracy and the rights of the people in his own country.

Pornographer unrepentant, news at 11

Larry Flynt is alive and well, and still pissing people off left and right. His website, however, is surprisingly inoffensive (well, perhaps 'not obscene' is a better description than 'inoffensive'), safe for work, and politically aware:

"I've been accused by some readers of favoring the political Left in HUSTLER. I don't believe that's true; I simply take aim at assholes when I see them, and these days, there seems to be a lot of them on the Right. But since it's assholes I despise, it really doesn't matter to me what side of the political fence they sit on. Gephardt and Lieberman are assholes too, for my money."

Flynt is a pretty complex guy, sure to offend everyone on some issue or another; some people will be offended by everything about him. The last time I heard anything about him was when the Oliver Stone film was out... until yesterday's interview in the Independent, which was as heretical as I'd expect it to be:

At 40,000ft, the editor of Hustler looked down the cabin and had a vision of "a guy with sandals on, and an old man with a beard. I took it to be them," says Flynt, referring to God and Saint Paul.

Deeply affected by the appearance of his distinguished fellow-passengers, he began making changes to his magazine. The cartoon strip "Chester the Molester" became "Chester the Protector - Guardian of Young Girls". Hustler, Flynt promised, "will no longer demean women."

If you take a look at the "Asian" section of the Hustler website (you might begin with "Noy", a young woman who explains how surprised and thankful she was to discover that US servicemen have larger penises than the humble Vietnamese) you'll notice there's been something of a rethink on this front.

"What happened to fighting for Jesus?"

"What happened was, I went to a psychiatrist. And he diagnosed me as being bipolar."

"And that's why you saw God?"

"Right. If only all of those born-again converts would take a little lithium, like I did, they'd be fine."

Some part of me has great respect for anyone who is so unflinchingly obdurate in his heresy.

Prepare to meet the lubricated rubber glove of government-sponsored religion

A republican congressman from Alabama has introduced "The Constitution Restoration Act", a bill requiring that federal courts strive to maintain the historical levels of ignorance and prejudice that our country was born with.

"Federal courts prohibiting the acknowledgment of God is a denial of the very source of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness which our founding fathers specifically recognized in the Declaration of Independence," said Congressman Aderholt. "Our founding fathers acknowledged this as an unalienable right given by God. Prohibiting public officials from recognizing God violates the Constitution's Tenth and First Amendments."

"Today, you'll find the recognition of God by state and federal authorities in oaths, mottos, documents, prayers, and monuments; and it is the duty of the Congress, under Article III, to regulate the appellate jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts. This is a check on the Judicial Branch to prevent it from exceeding its jurisdiction. The Constitution Restoration Act would preserve and restore the acknowledgment of God to our law and government," added Congressman Aderholt.

"Therefore, whether it is a public display of the Ten Commandments, the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom, or a nativity scene at Christmas, all would be protected since it is in essence the acknowledgment of God."

Something just locks up in my head when I read news items like this one... where someone's walk and talk are so ridiculously out of phase, yet they don't seem to see any problem. It's a 'Through the looking glass' level of absurdity:

"There is no use trying," said Alice; "one can't believe impossible things".

"I dare say you haven't had much practice", said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

It's easy to see why they fight so hard to defend their position, however... they need to maintain a certain level of ignorance and fearfulness or their demographic will disappear. It's the same reason the church only let priests read for so long, and history shows that they were right: as soon as people started reading on their own, instead of being read to by the priests, they started thinking on their own as well... which took away the priest's mojo.

Well, it looks like the grey and faceless men want their mojo back... and the current batch of republicans is willing to stoop so low as to take advantage of the climate of fear and intolerance they've fostered these past few years to give it to them. Turning back the clock seems to be a common theme of this administration... 4 years forward, 40 years back.

The thing that scares me the most is the possibility that this is the administration we deserve.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

fight the *real* enemy...

...the National Education Association. Or so says Education Secretary Rod Paige, who called the NEA "a terrorist organization" because they had the gall to question the efficacy of pResident Bushs' "No Child Left Behind" act, which has been shown to be a sham anyway.

I found it particularly enlightening hearing the Republican governors support Paige, basically saying that groups like the NEA (who have sinister mandates like "actually educate American kids") deserve some flack for not toeing the line like good little fascists. The Bush administration will not tolerate dissent...

This is looking more and more like a fascist dictatorship every day. I still can't decide if Bush is fundamentally evil, or fundamentally stupid. My gut tells me he's evil, but face it, any time you see him speak, he makes a pretty clear case for stupidity.

Fighting for Truth, Justice, and the Male White Privileged Heterosexual Way

Bush finally figured out that he needs to appease his campaign contributors, this being an election year and all, so he's steamrolling ahead with a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

"After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization," the president said in urging Congress to approve such an amendment. "Their action has created confusion on an issue that requires clarity."

This guy's knowledge of 'American jurisprudence' doesn't seem to extend much farther than knowing that buying judges pays off in the long run... speaking of which, he just circumvented the Senate again (second time in two months), installing Alabama Attorney General William Pryor (who last year filed a Supreme Court brief comparing homosexuality to "prostitution, adultery, necrophilia, bestiality, possession of child pornography and even incest and pedophilia") to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Looks like Bush is hoping the old "have hand-picked judges in a Florida court during an election year" trick will work again.

As for "the most fundamental institution of civilization", I suspect that would be "mate with whomever you can work out an equitable arrangement with, as often as possible". Politically, it seems like the people who are most 'supportive' of 'traditional family values' (whatever the fuck those are) are conservative white guys, who stand to lose the most if they can't maintain their illusory powerbase. Women, you have the ability to change the world: DON'T SLEEP WITH CONSERVATIVE WHITE GUYS. Breed them right the fuck out of the genepool. They're ideological dinosaurs, they've had their reign, it's time for them to step aside.

Gay marriage doesn't threaten any necessary establishments, and isn't the result of some quirk or defect of law. In fact, the right for two people to marry each other, regardless of gender, is necessary as a direct result of our other laws. Many laws respecting inheritance, property transactions, and child custody explicitly require the parties involved to be legally married. Think about power of attorney - as an adult, surely you should be able to choose who is granted power of attorney to in the event that something happens to you. Or think about hospitalization - if you were hospitalized, surely you would wish to be visited by your partner. But as it stands, in many states those two wishes are explicitly denied to anyone who isn't 'family' through marriage or birth. If such basic human situations make marriage a prerequisite, then legal marriage is, in effect, a purely functional arrangement that has more to do with property transactions than with any particular belief in the sanctity of marriage.

For my part, I don't feel like what other people wish to do with their lives is any of my fucking business, as long as it doesn't harm me, and despite becoming quite jaded by my country I've managed to maintain the belief that 'freedom' implies that everyone should have the same rights. This is NOT the same as saying that everyone should have the same entitlements... I just feel that nobody should be specifically prevented from bettering themselves. Bush and pals seem to feel very threatened by the thought that The Others (be they people from Other nations, Other races, Other genders, Other political parties, or Other ideologies) might enjoy the same freedoms that they themselves do. The part I've never been able to understand is why do 'We the People' support assholes like Bush, when they are so clearly only interested in maintaining their power base? I suspect that some of that old flag-waving brainwashing stuck, and the commoners will support such elitism as long as they believe that the slightest chance remains that they can join the elite themselves. That's pretty sad, if you ask me.

Virtual healing

Here's a news topic close to my heart... or at least close to my overworked pain neuroreceptors. A burn-unit doctor at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle is helping to reduce the amount of pain his patients must endure during treatment by immersing the patient in virtual reality. Wearing a VR helmet that provides stereo vision and surround sound, the patient is shown a virtual world filled with glaciers and ice caves, where they can interact with penguins and snowmen. His patients say it works.

"Pain requires conscious attention. Humans have a limited amount of this and it's hard to do two things at once," Dr Hunter Hoffman said.

"In this case, we try to lure attention away from the pain signals by drawing the spotlight of attention into the virtual environment leaving less available to process incoming pain signals."

As a techno-nerd who is in chronic pain, I find the idea of using VR to help manage pain to be very appealing. Anything that distracts me from the pain is welcome... often the weariness caused by chronic pain is more of a burden than the pain itself.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Never, Ever Leave Home Without Duct Tape

The EETimes has an article with the details of what caused the Spirit rover to breakdown, and how they went about debugging and repairing the problem. I've read some criticisms of NASA based on the 'failures' of previous missions and the bugs in the current one, and as an engineer I can state fairly authoritatively that the critics have got a severe perspective problem. This lack of perspective is shared by a majority of people who just take for granted the miraculous things that happen around them every day, without acknowledging that behind the scenes there are some very brilliant people working against astronomical (literally, in this case) odds to find solutions to problems that would have been science fiction just a few years ago.

Remember that scene in Apollo 13 where the project lead dumped a bunch of stuff (like socks, plastic bags, duct tape, and notebooks) on the table and told the engineers to design a solution that would allow the CO2 scrubbers from the damaged command module to work in the landing module, where the astronauts were in danger of CO2 poisoning? Fortunately the stakes aren't always that high, but engineers are always being handed projects that are similarly urgent, critical, and absurdly constrained. The one thing NASA engineers had going for them is motivation: if they failed, people died. For the average engineer, failure just means that some overpaid managers get smaller bonuses this year.

Thirty years ago computers were large unwieldy machines, and debugging a program might involve making new punch cards or paper tapes. (In the really early days of mechanical relays and electrical valves, debugging might actually involve removing an insect from the guts of the hardware.) Just three decades later, scientists basically performed an operating system upgrade on a computer sitting inside a robot that had just completed a three-hundred million mile trip to a foreign planet. I see no failure there... I see a triumph of human ingenuity. So qwitcherbitchen.

Friday, February 20, 2004

If you're going to San Francisco...

Somebody called up a San Francisco florist, and ordered flowers to be delivered to any random couple standing in line to get married in what will probably be a brief period of legal gay/lesbian marriage before the conservative hammer falls.

He called a florist and they agreed to do it. He told them to deliver to any couple -- it didn't matter who -- standing in line to get married, with his blessing. The card will read simply "With love, from Minneapolis, Minnesota."

Once they understood, they were very touched and thought it was a great idea.

He told another co-worker who did the same thing. And now we want to start a movement. Wouldn't that be cool if people from all over the country, gay, straight and otherwise, started sending flowers to the people waiting in line to get married.

BoingBoing picked up the story, and reader Darren Barefoot got the idea that someone should organize an effort to save on the monumental shipping fees and allow people to pitch in less than the $47US that bouquets are going for in SF. A few hours later he figured out that he was that someone, and the result is Flowers for Al and Don, which collected over $900 in about four hours last night.

Meanwhile, the city of San Francisco is suing the state of California to challenge the three parts of the state constitution that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, churches in SF are following City Hall's lead in granting same-sex marriage licenses, Der Governator is sticking to the conservative line, and Sandoval County, New Mexico, has started issuing same-sex licenses as well, saying it has nothing to do with "politics or morals" - New Mexico law defines marriage as a civil contract between contracting parties, without mentioning gender. pResident Bush said he was "troubled" by same-sex weddings in SF and by legal decisions in Massachusetts that could clear the way for same-sex marriage, but characteristically declined to grow a spine and make a declarative statement... election years are soooo tricky.

I'm gonna make a fortune selling tin-foil hats

Remember all of a few weeks ago when pResident Bush boldly spoke of leading America into space, with a base on the moon and a manned mission to Mars, and some of us said this was just a thin layer of flag-waving stretched over Reagan's ideas about militarizing space? An Air Force report from last November makes militarization of space a priority for the Pentagon, to ensure that America can 'never be challenged in orbit'. And how do we go about making sure nobody puts weapons in space? Easy: put our own weapons up there, for our own safety. The resulting "capability to strike ground targets anywhere in the world from space" mentioned in the report is probably just a lucky side effect of that, I guess, and not the whole fucking reason for the space program like some conspiracy theorists believe.

Read the report... and this other one where Herr Rumsfeld warns of an impending 'space Pearl Harbor'. Also, see your tax dollars at work, as the Air Force develops a blimp, 25 times the size of the Goodyear blimp, that hauls around a giant mirror so the military can bounce ground-based lasers down onto our enemies. Are you starting to clue into the fact that these people are fucking insane?

Personally, I'd feel a lot better about Bush and his friends boldly leading us forward... if we weren't standing before the brink of destruction.

More human than human

In a University of Calgary experiment nerve cells grown on a microchip were found to be capable of processing signals from the silicon, forming memory, and transmitting signals back to the silicon. The theoretical implications of this are quite fantastic - mind-machine interaction, holographic memory, perhaps even a true 'cyberspace'. Practically, however, there's such a long way to go before any of those things happen that you and I don't need be too concerned with this development - in the near term we might perhaps see better artificial-limb control, and some advances in biological computing research (for example, instead of modelling insect behavior in a computer, we could just graft silicon right onto the bugs themselves... and be free of concerns about the accuracy of our system model), but the ability to coherently affect human perception would require a level of complexity that far exceeds anything we can even imagine right now.

Essentially, computer chips are 2-dimensional devices. The surface of the silicon is etched and doped and coated to create a complex system, but these systems are still best represented by 2-dimensional maps. Looking at the logic that the chip represents, this architecture makes sense... silicon computation usually involves digital signals that go from point A to point B through logic gates, and a specific subcircuit encodes a specific idea: on or off, true or false, the state of each gate has a meaning that is recognizably relevant to the overall computation. The topology of our brains, however, is much more complicated, both spatially and logically. Each signal connects to thousands or millions of other signals, with varying strengths of connections and threshold responses. The signals themselves are analog. And most importantly, computation is so intricately distributed throughout the brain that the state of a specific neuron or group of neurons rarely has a specific meaning. (Obvious exceptions being neurons that control physical processes, which is why artificial-limb control will be one of the first areas to benefit from this technology.) This severely complicates the task of connecting silicon to actual living nerves in a meaningful way.

That won't stop anyone from trying, however. While the Matrix-like ability to directly download knowledge ("I know kung fu") is just a fantasy, the dream of such technology is very seductive, and is likely to engage the sciences for years to come. A later generation than my own will have to determine whether these technologies are used to make machines more like people, or people more like machines.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

The punctuation of the law

San Francisco's same-sex marriage spree has gotten a lotta people's panties in a bunch, as it should: the mayor singlehandedly defied the law he has sworn to uphold. The fact that he did it for well-intentioned reasons - favoring the 'spirit' of the law over the 'letter' of the law - isn't going to save him in the near term - someone will get an injunction, and will smugly declare that they have restored the sanctity of marriage.


In the last few years there's been a lot of precedence set for such maverick political behavior, with the White House itself leading the pack in defying both the law and the will of the people. But Mayor Newsom's actions, while defying the law, do not defy the will of ALL of the people... only those people who think they have a right to force their lifestyle on others. By tomorrow over 3000 marriages will have been performed, with people coming from all over the world to take advantage of this loophole while it lasts. And so far, society hasn't crumbled as a result. *Whew*.

The Sacramento Bee reports that:

San Francisco's newly elected mayor, no radical, wrote a letter to the county clerk last week asserting that his obligation to uphold the constitution led him to declare that marriage, in his city, would be for any two people, regardless of gender. While Proposition 22 might have outlawed it, Newsom wrote, that measure violated the constitutional provision guaranteeing each California citizen equal protection under the law.

The problem with this, in my opinion, is that a law is only 'fair' if it makes as much sense if it were reversed. So, to pick a recent example: pre-emptive bombing of another country shows the world that you're just fine with the idea of pre-emptive bombing... which opens the door for someone else to do it to us. And you might not recall, given the politics of the past few years, that theoretically the law is supposed to reflect the will of the people... so having a maverick SF Mayor interpret law on his own is just as bad, in a purely legal sense, as having Jeb Bush declare that people with names or birthdays similar to those of felons should be denied the right to vote. It's supposed to be the Golden Rule, right? Not the 'Fuck Them While You Can' Rule. I have a specific interest in this area because history has shown that the conservatives have developed the 'Fuck Them While You Can' Rule into a science of its own.

Meanwhile, support for legal gay marriage is turning up in the most unlikely places. Holly Mullen's article in the Salt Lake Tribune, a publication certainly not known for liberal leanings, had this to say: will happen because recognizing gays and lesbians as full human beings, with a right to equal protection under the Constitution, is just and fair and decent. When a whole class of people is systematically denied the perks of marriage -- inheritance rights and Social Security and military survivors benefits to name a few -- simply because the majority finds its lifestyle abhorrent or something to fear, it's high time for a makeover.

Makeovers are what this society does. This is a country strong enough to absorb change and to promote justice. If not, blacks would still be picking cotton. Wives would still be their husbands' property.

My point, if I have one, is that it is none of my fucking business who marries who. But it is my business to work towards a 'fair' system of laws, which I do by voting my conscience and complaining a lot.

The best part of this current SF thing is that the court had to throw out an injunction blocking gay marriages... because of a misused semi-colon. San Francisco Superior Court Judge James Warren has shown the conservatives that if they are so eager to promote the letter of the law at the expense of the spirit of the law, they damn well better pay attention to the punctuation of the law. I wish I could have seen their faces :)

The science of the times

Wired is running an article about how the Bush administration is messing with the sciences:

The statement and the report both accuse the Bush administration of distorting and suppressing findings that contradict administration policies, stacking panels with like-minded and underqualified scientists with ties to industry, and eliminating some advisory committees altogether...

For example, the panel that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on lead poisoning was recently planning to strengthen the lead poisoning regulations, in response to science showing that smaller amounts than previously understood could cause brain damage in children, Knobloch said.

Before the panel could act, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson rejected the recommendation and replaced two members of the panel with individuals tied to the lead industry.

Anyone surprised? This administration seems to have a 'leave no stone unturned' approach to selling the country out from under us. I am surprised, however, at how much it still upsets me. Four years forward, forty years back... I'm getting tired of being ashamed of this country.

Ye Puritan Times

It amazes me that something as complex as our country can be brought to a screeching halt by the mere sight of a woman's breast. Dodging the bullet, President Bush went out of his way to tell reporters that he had fallen asleep before the Nipplegate incident during the Super Bowl halftime. (For being the leader of the free world, this guy seems to have a lot of spare time.) Hunter Thompson thinks this strategy isn't good enough:

This is no time for the "leader of the free world" to be falling asleep at massively-popular sporting events. He is already trailing heavily in polls among football fans and young males who would do anything to see a naked female nipple during halftime at the Super Bowl.

That is a hell of a lot of eligible voters to insult when your chances of living in the White House this time next year are less than 50-50.

Was he drunk? Does he fear the sight of an uncovered nipple? Was he lying? Does he believe in his heart that there are more evangelical Christians in this country than football fans and sex-crazed yoyos with unstable minds? Is he really as dumb as he looks and acts?

Given the overwhelming evidence, I'll assume that last question is rhetorical.

Lenny the Bruce

Lenny Bruce pushed the edge of comedy a little too hard, and it cut him. If you haven't read his autobiography or seen the Dustin Hoffman movie, you may still recall his name because last December Governor Pataki posthumously pardoned Lenny for his 1964 "Giving an Obscene Performance" conviction. A new book and CD about Lenny is out now, and the website has sample recordings (Windows Media .wma, unfortunately) of the authors interviews of George Carlin, Margaret Cho, and Paul Krassner, as well as some transcripts. You can also get transcripts of his trial, which are pretty funny on their own.

I've always thought of Lenny when I've seen television shows that bleep out a word, or very obviously replace it... they claim to be doing it for 'decency', but in reality it just engages your brain more than it would if they had just said the word. When Lenny was in court for obscenity he pointed this out with regard to the nightly news:

Newscaster: "Lenny Bruce was arrested for saying a certain 12-letter word."

Average American: "hrmmm, twelve letters, eh? Lessee... cocksucker? No, that's 10 letters... umm... how about motherfucker? Yup, that's twelve, hrmmm, he probably said motherfucker".

All over the country, people figuring out the 'offending' word like it was a crossword puzzle or something... Lenny saw it clearly, and tried to point it out... but a lot of America didn't get it.

I miss the motherfucker.

Heartless bitches...

As long as you're surfing the web instead of doing your fucking job, go visit Heartless Bitches International. Try not to get too bent out of shape... and if you do get bent out of shape when you go there, try to figure out why.

Ramble on

I couldn't figure out what the hell this page was about, but regardless of how nonsensical it is, someone must have put quite a bit of energy into it. The author appears to have started out developing a complex sort of role-playing game, then lost his mind. Here's a bit from the middle, with the original (lack of) punctuation:

I prefer to write new ideas on top of old ideas; but, what's considered normal way of writing, you're supposed to put new ideas after old ideas, giving the reader window on how the ideas are developed (as the normal way of writing). BUT, IF I WERE TO DO THAT, ALL OF MY MOST interesting ideas would be @ the end & be left unread, as most have tendency to give up understanding my rpg HYBRID after the first few pages, when the most interesting stuff is @ the end, at least that's how it's supposed to be (if I were to write in a normal manner) that being the most developed rules would be @ the end, if I were to follow the rules of proper rules of grammar, but maybe I'll more proper grammar in my next update, maybe next year in my 2004 update, by which time, hopefully, my grammar will have improved somewhat. But, since the rest of the human race puts the introduction 1st & the conclusion @ the end, well, I decided adjust or evolve (not that I believe "fully" or "completely" in Darwin's Evolution, since the choices life-forms make plays a part in how the kaleidoscope of different evolutionary paths, "but that's getting beside myself" (I think that latter part or the quote is from a professor @ CIT or California Institute of Technology where he took part in PBS series "The Mechanical Universe" (my 2nd favorite television series, right after 'Dr Who', though the 1st tv program that I really enjoyed as a child was, well, (I forget the name), it was sponsored by 'Mutual of Omaha' on the animal kingdom, as I'm a great fan of National Geographic, but not much of an outdoor person, as I'm not much of a rugged person, but, again, "I'm getting besides myself", again.

At the top of the page, the author starts by asserting that the thoery of relativity derives from Hamlet. In the middle, he figures out that many strange political and cosmological forces have their roots in Mormonism. (I think he's probably right about that.) Somewhere toward the bottom of the 500 or so pages of strange musings and equations, in which the author asserts many times that various plot devices in movies and television shows were stolen from his work, he somehow deduces that inflation is caused by feminists, although he concedes that it may have something to do with limited resources and supply & demand as well.

Varför? Darför.

I just found some great guerrilla art being done in Sweden... I particularly enjoyed the Albano project, where graffiti was used as ephemeral real-time commentary on a doomed neighborhood, and the Interaction project, where malleable art invited public participation. It's nice to see creative things happening in the world every once in awhile.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Lies, forgery, and the American way

Is anyone surprised that the Republican smear campaign denouncing Kerry for speaking at an anti-war rally with Jane Fonda turned out to be based on a doctored photo? I haven't decided who I am going to vote for, so you don't need to send any hate mail, thanks, but has everyone forgotten that the war in Vietnam was a fucking travesty that irreparably damaged this country and is nothing to be proud of? Being opposed to that war is a pretty clear indication of sanity and humanity, if you ask me.

I'd be much more willing to listen to the republicans get all upset over Vietnam if any of them had actually fought over there... as it is I think the way that they use the war as a platform issue (and continue to recklessly throw away lives fighting unnecessary dishonorable wars) is disrespectful to the veterans who actually fought the goddam war.

UPDATE: Adding irony to absurdity, Kerry fought in Vietnam (winning several decorations including three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, and a Bronze Star), yet supporters of Bush (who weaseled his way out of the war) tried to portray Kerry as some kind of pinko. After returning from Vietnam, Kerry, who you might argue has more of a right to comment on Vietnam than Bush has, worked with the organisation Vietnam Veterans Against the War. (If you want to know what *they* think about the current political scene, go here.) In a speech that should be required reading for every American schoolkid, Kerry once spoke to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about the atrocities committed in Vietnam:

In our opinion and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.

The idea that the Republicans would try to tackle Kerry on issues like patriotism is fucking absurd... which makes it fit in well with the rest of their platform. It's true that the Democrats also have absurdities in their platform, but in general their absurdities don't involve killing foreigners and letting Americans get killed needlessly.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Iraqi music

Before they became a pawn for the western powers to play with, Iraq actually had a culture and everything. I've been listening to some Iraqi music online - everything from maqaams recorded in the 1920s to some modern stuff. It's pretty interesting to hear the similarities between this music and Spanish music, for instance... the Moorish influence on Spain is clearly visible in the music. (Errr... audible?) They've got MP3s to download, and some interesting info on their culture and music.

pictures from the edge

The Hubble has looked almost all the way across the known universe (and therefore almost all the way back in time, according to current theories) to image the farthest known object from Earth. Gravitational lensing helped magnify the faint galaxy, which is 50 times smaller than our own, and believed to be seen as it was when the universe was just 750 million years old (our universe is currently believed to be 13.7 billion years old)... here is a good demonstration to show you how that works. Enjoy the discoveries while you can - Hubble's days are numbered.

Personally, I'd like to see more research done in this area... we know so little about our universe, and it's only been in my lifetime that we've had the ability to get more useful information. With more data, we can speed up the process of refining our theories, some of which will most assuredly be thrown out eventually, although we (like every generation) believe we have it all figured out already.

Where's the beef?

Scientists are reporting that the December discovery of mad-cow disease in Washington State involves a previously unknown strain of prion, suggesting that bovine spongiform encephalopathy, like viruses and the sheep prion disease scrapie, may have a number of variants, which makes fighting the disease that much harder. I don't eat meat, but if I did I sure as fuck wouldn't eat meat that had been through the American meat-processing system. I'm hoping that this disease might make people more willing to give up the minor convenience of the drive-through and support their local farmers and ranchers.

Listen up, deaf people

The US Department of Education, unhappy that they weren't getting enough action in Bush's rape-and-pillage tour of the US, set up an anonymous 5-person panel of censors to make sure that tax dollars are not being used to (among other things) promote 'witchcraft'. To that end, they have released a list of shows that will no longer be close-captioned, stating that only 'educational, news or informational' shows will be alter-abled. This sort of 'star-chamber' lawmaking completely disregarded federal rulemaking processes requiring that the public have input on such issues.

The list of over 200 shows includes everything from Pokemon and the Powerpuff Girls to NASCAR and PGA golf. Personally, I think they should not just cut the captioning, I think they should cut the video and audio as well, for those shows and almost all of the rest of them, but selectively choosing to deny captioning to the deaf without any input from the public just has a sort of "taking candy from babies" feel to it... not that it looks out of place in this administration. This sort of disregard for the will of the people is right up Bush's street... i.e. it's twisted, and narrow, and only one-way.

The National Association of the Deaf and the National Council on Disability feel that this is censorship that removes parents rights to make informed decisions on appropriate programming for their children... hrmmm, that sounds like those 'family values' Bush is always yammering about.

Do you know where your children are?

A 17 year old surfing a "missing children" website was surprised to see his own picture listed. Turns out his mother objected to the custody ruling 14 years ago, and left Canada with her son to hide out from the father. The teen just had his whole reality ripped out from underneath him... his mother is in jail, and he understandably isn't sure what to do about suddenly gaining a father.

When I was 8, I lived in southern California with my mother, seeing my father on the weekends and a bit more in the summer. My mother remarried and got keen on Jesus, so we left California and moved to Utah... but my mother didn't tell anyone where she was going. My father, mostly at the urging of his own parents, hired a detective to find out where I was - this was back before you could just look on the web - and the guy tracked us down. I'd been in Utah maybe 4 or 5 years before I saw my father again, and in a way I never saw him again, since my role as a pawn in the post-divorce old-wounds game was more valuable to both my parents than my role as their son. Some things you just can't put back together again.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

I, for one, welcome our new nanotech masters

Douglas Mulhall, author of 'Our Molecular Future', is concerned that the directons being taken in our quest for nanotechnology are overlooking some important issues:

Yet each time that I suggest building such features into nanotechnology from the start, the reply is: "We've got other things to worry about such as how to build the darn assembler and keep it militarily secured, and besides that it might be hard to achieve such perfection with early versions."

This is disturbingly reminiscent of "nuclear power will give us clean limitless energy, and don't worry, we'll deal with the byproducts later because we'll have the tools by then.'

However, we can avoid such risks from the start by using "self-regulating assembly" and "disassembly."

It's a simple idea, really: if you are going to use nanotechnology to build incredibly tiny, complex, 'intelligent', and functional devices, it makes more sense (and indeed may be a moral requirement) to make one of their functions cause them to breakdown into their component elements, which can be recycled or even blow away in the breeze for that matter.

I don't have much doubt that the human race is going to kill itself off through greed and stupidty; I think it is a foregone conclusion that this will be the case. The chance that our nanotech creations will hook up with our genetic algorithm ideas and create something new and completely uncontrollable seem pretty high to me, and the simple expediency of building a time-to-die (doesn't anybody remember "Blade Runner"?) into the device would go a long way to hold off our inevitable doom a bit longer.

Digitial pimping, eBay style

It's good to see that good old fashioned ingenuity is helping people through these difficult economic times. A chap on Ebay came up with a good business plan: for the winning bidder, he would provide faked-up love letters and make two phone calls to their friends to confirm that yes, the winning bidder had indeed slept with him, a reasonably attractive published author. The bidding was open to males or females, and while the final bid was only $21.50, the capital outlay and actual time spent on the transaction is next to nothing, so the guy made $20 for a half-hour of reasonably enjoyable deceit.

I wonder if there's a similar market for people like me, a reclusive near-death brilliant depressed technonerd. For $50 I'll tell all your friends I fixed your computer, or helped you with your math homework or something. Or for $20, I'll tell them you *don't* know me, wouldn't come near me.

china, my china

I learned some interesting things over at the Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization: the military technologies of the middle imperial period, the tombs of the ancient period, and the 4500 year timeline of the spread of their very robust culture. I learned more in an hour on that site than I did in my entire schooling. I found the development of Buddhist art and calligraphy in the early imperial period to be particularly interesting. These people had a thriving civilization back when my european ancestors were living in huts made of wattle and daub. This is worth reading for the sense of perspective alone.

Other ways of looking at things

Awhile back I posted a link to MusicPlasma, a relational database of bands that shows you what other bands are near the band of interest in some sort of ideological/genre/vibe dimension. This method of data presentation has apparently come of age; I've seen two more examples (both useful) recently.

Kartoo is a 'metasearch engine' with an interactive visual display interface... type in a search term, and you are shown a Flash diagram of the area of infospace local to your term. While their interface is far from optimal, I think it is a step in the right direction... the linear and stratified methods we use to access data right now are pretty archaic when you think about the immensity of the exponential growth in online formation... the tools aren't keeping up with the reality of the situation, which is that data has a multidimensional aspect that can't be efficiently described by the Google-like set-theory algorithms, i.e. if (search) is a member of the same set as (document), put (document) in search results. This is much too limiting for things as simple as cataloguing my CD collection, let alone tracking the sum total of published digital information.

The Visual Thesaurus uses a similar paradigm, generating graph diagrams to show relationships between words based on affinity to the search term or many other relationships: antonyms, is a participle of, pertains to, is a type of, is a member of, etc. The interface is clean and efficient, and I think it will become a regualr tool for me.


You're not your job. You're not how much money you have in the bank. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not your fucking khakis. You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

Grow, grow, grow

Wow... I actually managed to waste about 3 hours last night fucking around with this Shockwave Flash game-thingy. Placing different items on in different orders changes the animations... took awhile, but I finally figured out the 'solution' that completes the entire animation: cube, ladder, egg, ball, hills, pipe, propeller, tornado, gear, dish, rocket (looks like a gear on-edge), video screen. My life is sad.

I'm going to be an astronaut when I grow up

Wow, a non-rant. Enjoy.

The 'vomit comet', a NASA airplane that simulates zero-gravity through parabolic flight, was used to perform some fluid dynamics experiments involving water balloons. (Why don't *I* have that job?) Popping the balloons in zero-G, the experimenters were able to observe resonance waves bouncing back and forth through the blob of fluid. There are a few videos (Quicktime and MPEG) that are worth checking out... I like the one where a guy blows an airbubble into the center of the blob with a straw, and everyone is so entranced that they forget to 'bag' the water before the gravity got turned back on.

what a friend we have in jesus

A rape victim who was given a prescription for a "morning-after" pill was denied the prescription by three pharmacists on 'religious grounds'. The pharmacists, who seemed to think that their personal philosophies gave them the right to pick and choose which drugs they dispensed, have a history of this sort of thing, but felt they did nothing wrong, saying "we prayed about it". The pharmacists were fired... I think they should have their licenses revoked. (Actually my first thought would be the stockades, but unfortunately we don't have that recourse anymore).

Suppose you went to a McDonald's and ordered a burger, and the guy at the window wouldn't sell it to you because he was a vegetarian? Or the video clerk wouldn't let you rent "Schindler's List" because he believes the holocaust never happened? How is it that people's minds have been poisoned to the point that they actually perceive their hateful acts as being well-intentioned, and how is it that the people around them have been so fucking lobotimized that they accept this sort of behavior?

I'm ready to wake up from this nightmare now

What kind of alternate universe do you need to live in to believe that a weak dollar is good for the country?

Treasury Secretary John Snow has tacitly but unmistakably abandoned Washington's longstanding support for a strong dollar in favor of a weak dollar that is getting weaker, though he continues to insist there has been no change in policy.

Stripped of the code words and elliptical references to "excessive volatility" in exchange rates, the message that Snow delivered over the weekend to finance ministers from Europe and Japan was that the dollar's plunge against the euro is just fine and that the dollar should now decline more rapidly against Asian currencies as well.

It's going to be *very* fucking interesting in this country when all of the smug fuckers who think we're on top of the world finally realize that Bush sold the country out from under us.

On the bright side, once we become an economic backwater there will be jobs again, when all of the other countries open sweat shops here to take advantage of the cheap labor.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Another religious wacko takes control of our airplanes

An American Airlines pilot asked Christians on his flight to raise their hands to identify themselves, and suggested the non-Christians discuss the faith with them:

"Well, you have a choice, you can make this trip worthwhile or you can sit back relax, read a book or watch a movie."

After the pilot called non-Christians "crazy", some of the passengers felt threatened and were worried they were on their last flight and started calling relatives on their cellphones to make their peace.

That's all. You can go back to being afraid of the towel-heads now.

look around amsterdam

Here's some maps of Amsterdam with a twist: click just about anywhere, and you're shown a 360° picture taken at that location. They've got a map of greater Amsterdam and a more detailed map of the old city center, or you can choose what you want to see from a list of locations.

under pressure

If you're not opening email attachments from people you don't know, and you run a good antivirus system that you update frequently, you might think you're safe from all harm. Of course, the tricky little buggers who write virii and the script kiddies who want to hax0r your machine are always trying to find thinking-outside-of-the-box tricks to get around existing computer defenses. It turns out that some seemingly innocuous technologies like file compression can be used to harm a system in ways you'd never expect.

An example: when an email arrives at its destination, it is usually scanned for virii. Of course, a virus could attempt to evade the virus scanner by hiding in a zipped file, so modern scanners open up compressed files and scan the contents. Since there are limits to the size of emails that can reasonably be sent, the computational cost of this scanning usually has an upper bound that is reasonable. The weak spot lies in the ability of compression algorithms to compress extremely large amounts of data into a zip file... bzip2 can reduce a (selectively chosen) 100GB data file to 220 bytes.

When the target computer attempts to scan these files, they balloon in size, filling memory and swap space while consuming cycles and finally choking the system. This can be used as a trojan payload for a DOS, or malicious code can be inserted at the end of the file to take advantage of buffer overruns, or a virus could use this method to disable your antivirus system before implanting itself in your system. Antivirus programs are moderately hip to this attack, and you wouldn't intentionally open a zip file of unknown provenance (would you?), so there isn't much of a risk to end users... there's a bit higher risk for mail servers, which could be taken down as part of a DOS attack.

Web browsers can be affected by this as well, since pictures and gzip'ed HTML are compressed too (a suitably chosen file that can be transferred in a few KB can take up 1GB in memory), which can slow or even stop the machine. This is more of an annoyance than a risk... it's just interesting to note how a simple technology can have such unexpected behaviors.

suspicious minds

The CIA, I kid you not, has put up a handy secure online form for their "Iraqi Awards Program". Now the search for Weapons of Mass Destruction can bring you ca$h and prizes!!! If you know something the highest funded black ops organization in the world doesn't, go fill out their little form and help them make the world safe... or something.

They would also like to know where the bad guys are, where some of our missing guys are, and where you can get a good pizza in Tikrit.

Actually, compared to the FBI, the CIA's approach to world domination is fairly passive. But then again, the FBI is closer to home, so they get to ride the wave of fear that holds America together nowadays. Like when someone saw Marc Schultz, a bearded man that looks like he could be vaguely sort of middle-eastern-ish, reading an article titled "Weapons of Mass Stupidity" in the line at Starshmucks... and reported his ass to the FBI as a possible terrorist. Ironically enough, if you are still capable of discerning irony in these absurd times, the article was about how the media has hyped the average dumbass American into a state of abject sphincter-clenching fear and paranoia.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Personal Update, 11 February 2004

Well, it's been a week since I had my radio-frequency oblation procedure done - they burned three nerves, right at the spine. For a couple of days I was in less pain, but the last three days have been the worst days I've had, painwise, in this whole four year ordeal. I'm taking a lot of meds and trying not to move too much. The pain was changed somehow by the procedure... I'm not really sure how, I just know that the various things that provided me any relief no longer work, and I hurt in places where I didn't even know I had places.

In the adding-insult-to-injury department, I came down with strep throat a few days ago, which is interfering with my baseline misery. I'm having a hard time remembering what comes next: is it the plague of locusts, or does famine come first? Locusts? I think it's the locusts. Bring 'em on.

The house proceeds slowly; I've only been able to make it upstairs once in the last two weeks. Anne-Marie has been spackling up the sheetrock. I rarely leave the bed, so as much as I would like our home to be finished I'm not real excited about the prospect of moving into our upstairs bedroom... stairs are bad, mmkay. Anne-Marie found some sucker to take the huge rhody out of the front yard, so we now have A Hole there instead, but I can tell AM is getting geared up for her spring gardening so that won't last long.

We spend a lot of time lying in bed watching movies. We just watched a bunch of surprisingly good movies: some of the Ken Burns Jazz documentary, American Splendor, Lantana, and Lost In Translation (which I thought had the best soundtrack since Donnie Darko). I think we finally finished the last of the Buster Keaton films, though I still watch "The General" and "The Playhouse" a couple of times a week... the guy was brilliant.

I've been remarkably slack in returning emails... I got a joyous unexpected email from an old friend (hi Stefene) and in addition to replying to that, I need to write Rick and Lisa and Ann and Caitlin and Paige and I owe Julie something like a book worth of letters by now. I promise that as soon as I have enough non-complaint things to justify the energy of typing, I'll write. Until then, you get this ghetto update.

I've been reading about paper-folding, doing some photomanipulation of the pictures coming from NASA (I found color and displacement maps of Mars, so in addition to doing 3D bump-map rendering I can use the displacement maps to see what Mars would look like if it had water on the surface... I'll post these when I am done), and I wrote a program to explore iterated function systems (ditto on the pictures soon). I think a bit slower medded up, but then again I've got nothing but time and not too much to prove, so I'll just continue with these things at my slow speed.

To stupidity, and beyond

Americans, as far as space is concerned you've just inherited your president's lack of vision: the Hubble will definitely be retired by 2007, and will get progressively worse until then since the maintenance trips have been cancelled.

Bush really will leave a lasting legacy... it's not one I'll be proud of, however.

Step 1: Destroy America's entire space program
Step 2: ?
Step 3: People on Mars, and a permanent base on the moon

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Pinkos on the frontlines

How is it that so many Americans support this administration's war in Iraq, when even the soldiers on the frontlines oppose the effort?

"What I want to say as my final statement to America is 'Stop letting your proud men and women die so senselessly. If we are going to die for our country let it be for something we can really be proud of. I just don't see us making the US any safer from terrorists because of what we are doing in Iraq. Bring us back home so we can defend the US from real threats to our shores.'"

"Yeah, I pretty much agree with that. I am proud to serve my country and even die for it. I know the risks of putting on the uniform and accepting command. But damn it, if we are going to die, make it for something that really is helping to defend the US. I agree that we are dying senselessly for an idea of democracy in Iraq that the US government will never really let happen. I just want to be able to look back on my service with total pride and that is not really what I feel right now. I hate the ones in power that have made me question my sense of duty and honor."

It amazes me that people can continue to wave their fucking flags when the bill of rights has been dismantled by the 'Patriot Act', the presidency was handed to a fucking idiot by his daddy's friends in the Supreme Court, and (among many other violations and reductions of freedom) the government is collecting data on anti-war activists. It's getting harder and harder to keep from making comparisons to Nazi Germany... and the way things are going, it might soon be a crime to do so. Is this the America we've been working for? Is this the Grand Experiment? It looks like the same old despotic bullshit to me.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to JPL

JPL has an online resource called The Basics of Space Flight that provides an excellent introduction to challenges involved in spaceflight. The website covers background information about the solar system, the science that goes into developing a mission, and the operational challenges faced once a project is airborne.

JPL describes this site as being of 'broad scope, but limited depth', but for the average mortal I think the depth is probably more than sufficient... I think everyone will get something useful out of this. You might be surprised at how much human knowledge of our solar system has changed since you were in elementary school, how many of the 'facts' we were taught turned out to be mistaken.

Monday, February 02, 2004

If it's that faulty is it still 'intelligence'?

Is anyone else saddened by pResident Bush's probe of 'faulty intelligence' that led to the Iraq war? It disgusts me that the man won't just admit what he has done, but it disgusts me more that the country isn't upset about the fact that a lying idiot is our president.

The only faulty intelligence I can see is in Bush's head. There's plenty of corruption and lies, but I doubt the probe will result in the ouster of Rove, Cheney, and Bush... the probe is clearly a farce. I suspect some relatively innocent scapegoat will be found and put out to pasture, allowing legions of unthinking Americans to continue believing their president isn't evil. Your tax dollars are paying for this charade - well, actually, given Bush's fiscal irresponsibility, your children's and grandchildren's and great-grandchildren's taxes will pay for it.

Friends don't let friends listen to disco

Check out the CBGB photo album for great photos of musicians that didn't suck.

It's like deja vu all over again

Fucking hell, it really is Groundhog Day. I mean, today is Groundhog Day everywhere else... it's always Groundhog Day here at WitL.