Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Yes, Your Cellphone Will Crash The Plane

Apparently the people who design avionics don't bother to do things like insulate their circuits from outside interference. Which used to be a reasonable move, probably - when you're six miles from anything else, insulated circuits are not a priority. This study says that the emissions from portable electronics really are problematic.

Guess I Gotta Keep Putting In That Toddler Time

Fortunately it's a joy and a delight.

Trivializing Rape

Diversity sucks. (Politically-informed diversity, not the different-people-getting-along-nicely kind.) But it doesn't rise to the level of rape, not even rhetorically. "Ideas" like this one are simply counterproductive. (H/T The Corner).

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bring Out Your Dead...

Languages, that is. An idea to preserve the human linguistic heritage.

I've never been one to get weepy that a language dies out - people find something better and they work with it, usually. But this is a great idea, for scholarly and cultural purposes.

Microsoft Developing Ultraportable PC

This report is rather vague, but I hope it's true. I've never had a laptop that does what I want in a portable device. They're all too big and clumsy. But PDAs are underpowered and too small.

My ideal portable computer would be about 6" by 8" x 1". It could be a clamshell, but it would be better if it was just a block with the screen taking up the whole 48 square inches. A stylus/touchscreen for primary entry, and a connectible separate keyboard for serious text work. Built-in DVD/CD drive. Wireless connectivity, hard drive, a long battery life, and a real operating system would round out the package.

Something like that, I could sit with in a car or a plane and get surfing and light work done, and when I got where I was going I could pull the keyboard out of the suitcase, plug it in, and get down to work.

If Microsoft is thinking along the same lines, they'll have at least one customer.

And yes, I AM supposed to be working. Shut up.

More Fun Lefty Self-Consumption

Over at my friend Amp's blog, we have flavor #2452 of the lefty self-immolation circus: Feminists Fighting The Patriarchy by tearing each other to shreds.

Dogs Doing Math

Interesting stuff. Gentle readers, I now officially have more stuff to do than time to do it in, so blogging will be light ("as opposed to the steady deluge of novels you've been gracing us with?" comes the sarcastic call from the gallery) for the next few days.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Is Our Potato Chips Learning?

Pringles prints educational trivia questions on some of its chips now. Cute, and fun (we really did ask each other the questions.)

Of course, it would be helpful if the person writing the questions spoke ENGLISH.

Shopping With Stephanie

Took Stephanie (above, collapsing) to the grocery store today. When I was putting her in her carseat in the garage, she said "I can do it! I can do it!" So I let her go, and she clambered up onto the bench and then up into her carseat, just like a little monkey. First time she's done that.

(and the cat's in the cradle...)

At the store she walked along beside me, pointing things out ("this is a purple box!") and chattering away. Which is a joy, frankly. I went down the list and asked her for each item, "should we go get [whatever] now?" and she said "yes, let's go!" And off we'd go to the next aisle.

(...and the silver spoon...)

When we finished our shopping I told her, "OK, now you pick which way to go." She marched up to the front of the cart and started choosing directions like Napoleon. "We go this way!" At each intersection, she said "I'm choosing the paths!" Then she would look back at me and inquire "I still the leader girl?" as I reassured her that yes, she was in charge. And she'd take us up and down another aisle.

(...little boy blue and the man on the moon...)

At the checkout stand she turned to the guy behind us and just BEAMED with pride while she told him "I was the leader girl! I chose the paths!"

I'll be spending the rest of the week sobbing, just so you know.

I Need Me Some Of This

Secret passageways! Hidden rooms! My inner D&D geek is slavering.

H/T Bill Peschel.

PC Pricing: A Blast From the Past

Bill over at PlanetPeschel runs across a 15-year old ad for a PC. Check out these specs:

20-MHz 386 processor
1 MB of RAM
40-meg hard drive
Windows 3.0

The price: $1688, without a monitor.

Frightening but true: my Dad bought this system, or one very like it, from Tandy around that time. It was a decent machine.

That really brings it home, doesn't it? I spent a similar amount last year and got:

3.4 GHz Pentium IV processor (four generations more advanced, 170 times the clock speed)
2 GB physical RAM (2000 times as much)
80-gig hard drive (2000 times as much)
Windows XP

Calling a generation of CPUs a doubling in raw power, which is roughly fair, and ignoring the fact that $1700 was worth more in 1991 than it is today, we're looking at performance/capacity improvements of 1500-2000 fold.

That Moore guy apparently knew something.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Don Knotts and Darren McGavin, RIP

TV stars Don Knotts (81) and Darren McGavin (83) have both died.

McGavin I barely remember but Don Knotts is one of the underappreciated comedic actors of the 20th century. He was really good, and managed to make you forget just how good he was - too busy laughing. RIP.

(H/T Althouse.)

Interesting Futurist Blog

I have no idea who writes it, but the Futurist blog is just two months old and has been compellingly interesting since I started reading it. Wonky and detail-oriented - like all great blogs!

Abortion Rights Supporters Eat Their Own

A couple of interesting discussions over at Pandagon, where well-meaning pro-choicers are having their hats handed to them by the more, ahem, purist pro-choicers.

In the first thread linked, Traven and later Bill (both pro-choicers) make the case that perhaps abortion-rights campaigners would get better practical results if they focused on the early and mid-term abortions, the right to which command strong popular support, instead of defending hypothetical 9th-month abortions that never really happen anyway. Traven and Bill are met with invitations to expand their description of the strategy and to lay out how this could work to bolster the cause for abortion rights in the long term. (Pause for laughter.) No, of course not; Traven and Bill are traitors to the cause who must DIE.

In the second thread, about whether or not progressives should boycott South Dakota, Sarah gets the love treatment for her temerity in agreeing with the poster, but having the wrong attitude, or something.

There has to be a way to get Amanda Marcotte put in charge of the entire progressive movement.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Red Ken Suspended

"Red" Ken Livingstone, the hard-left mayor of London, has been suspended for four weeks because of offensive and insensitive comments made to a journalist.

As much as it gives me to joy to watch a leftist squirm under the hate-speech-type laws that their ilk so often foment, this is (yet another) example of why freedom of speech is important - and why our system of inalienable constitutional rights is vastly superior to the European model of rights granted by government.

Livingstone is reported to have said "This decision strikes at the heart of democracy. Elected politicians should only be able to be removed by the voters or for breaking the law."

The heart of democracy is the freedom of speech of the citizen, Ken. It isn't your specially privileged job that should give you the right to be a loudmouth jerk - it's your citizenship.

Mom Fights Off 700-Pound Polar Bear


One suspects that this mom will receive less lip from her teenage children than many other moms do.

The Man Who Saved Your Life

Odds are that you've never heard of Stanislav Petrov, the man who saved your life. Let's change that!

(H/T Vodkapundit, who I presume is up late tending babies. I'm up tending websites.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Don't Cry, Mr. Dell

Chinese PC manufacturer announces line of low-price US machines.

I don't know anything about this company or its PC line; I've never even heard of 'em, although they're the third-largest manufacturer in the world, apparently. (Me, out of the loop? Nah.)

Nonetheless, I boldly predict: failure.

Why? Simple - support.

PCs don't work. It's just that straightforward. There's so many options, so many configurations, so many different things that can break or fail to cooperate or just not work right in the first place. Support is critical even for the home market - to say nothing of the small-business, no-IT-department consumers that this Chinese company is specifically targeting. No support, no sale.

The machines start in the $350 range. How do you fit a decent machine and enough margin to cover a reasonable support operation in that price? Easy. You don't. So support is going to suck.

And word will get out. Word always gets out. And sales will head south, and this company will draw back a bloody stump.

Stephanie Has a Larry Summers Moment

(Originally posted last February; re-posted in honor of Mr. Summers' departure from Harvard.)

Last night while taking a bath, gender studies theorist Stephanie Hayes (Stanford 2024) found herself agreeing with Larry Summers. Examining the two helicopters which have joined Mr. Whale, the dawfin, the boat, and the ducks as her bathtub toys, she turned to me, held out the copters, and said, quite firmly:

"Mama helicopter, baby helicopter."

"Stephanie," I chided. "Helicopters have no gender roles, other than the identities imposed on them by our patriarchal culture. That the larger helicopter is of the female sex does not automatically make her a mother."

She frowned, and had the mama helicopter feed the baby helicopter for a moment. Then an alternative dichotomization of family roles occurred to her.

"Mama helicopter, daddy helicopter!"

"No, Stephanie. All helicopters are equal, except for the Apache AH-64, which is quite a bird. They do not divide their nurturing duties in accordance with male supremacist norms oriented around cultural suppression of women's sexual being. Accordingly, 'mama' and 'daddy' are inappropriate, and indeed offensive, terms."

Unable to refute the self-evident logic of this (and irritated at my racist use of 'Apache' and 'oriented'), she had the helicopters visit Mr. Whale for a few moments while I rinsed the shampoo out of her hair. Finally, she made a multigenerational leap of family dynamics.

"Nona helicopter, Stephanie helicopter!" she crowed triumphantly, and the Nona helicopter brought the Stephanie helicopter presents and food.

And thus we see the pernicious effects of the patriarchy. Female helicopters are forever doomed to subordinate themselves to males, bear young, and feed the offspring of subsequent generations. My best efforts at gender neutralization have failed. If she wants a Nona helicopter, a Nona helicopter she shall have.

Mystickal Blog Renter

My current renter is a part-business, part-personal blog that seems to look at art, writing, and culture. Check her out!

Well, it Makes Software Testing Easier, I Guess

A quantum computer that produces the best result when it doesn't actually run. (H/T the Corner.)

We Have to Make it Work...

in the Middle East. People like this can't die for nothing.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Microsoft's Visual Web Developer

Microsoft has a new development tool out called Visual Web Developer. It's basically a mini-server, a mini-SQL installation, and an IDE for doing ASP and ASP.NET websites. As an enthusiastic ASP tinkerer, I immediately downloaded it - it's free.

Here's my semi-live review.

Installed it, let the run-me icon sit on my desktop for a week, double-clicked it. Up pops a somewhat familiar Windowsy IDE; nice readable text in the left column says "There are no usable controls in this group." Oh, an ominous feeling that this will be a frequently seen message. How optimistic in tone. This may be Microsoft's "Welcome to Hell" product. I don't know. I'm going in blind. Saints be with us.

An ominous little popup in the lower-right, in the "look at me! look at me!" section of the UI. "Help us make it better! Click here to sign..." Oh help me God. They just gave me the thing and already they want my help on making it better. No, thanks, little dialog, go away.

Another. "You have 4 days left to register!" OK. Thank you. That actually is a message I don't mind seeing - if I never see it again. The reviewer bestows a happy face, contingent on that condition. "Click here." No thanks, you information omnivore. (Later - the message keeps coming back. Happy face withdrawn.)

Now I have a nice start page here with recent projects, a window that says "getting started" and has links on how-to topics. Nice. Thank you! One more happy face - assuming I can eventually send this box away. (Later - Yes, I can, with no trouble.)

Can I put up an active server page with this tool in, say, 30 minutes? Let's find out.

Click Create Web Site. Select "ASP Web Site". Hourglassing. Big HTMLy editor.

Messy interface, not intuitive. Showing me some ugly code. OK, let's cheat and read the instructions. Loading tutorial.

OK, figured out a few things. My test site will just post this review text from a text file. Simple, easy, obvious. About ready to hit "Go" on it.

Seven minutes left. Not quite there.

OK, to heck with looking at the tutorial, I'm just writing straight VB. It's their darn job to make the stuff run.

It works! Very nice.

Until we hit the Gigantic Brick Wall of Death. I've written the mini-site (which does nothing interesting), it compiles and runs on my machine using my little pretend servers. OK, I have a couple different domains where I can run ASP applications. Let's upload it there. No go - it crashes with useless "configuration file is wrong" errors. Check the help - pretty much bupkis on how to sync this up to a live site somewhere.

Look, Microsoft, being able to run on my local machine is wonderful. It's what made this product attractive in the first place. But that's worthless without a simple and transparent way to put it up on the real web. The editor I currently use for writing ASP bites for that purpose - but it has one-button freakin' publishing, which makes up for a lot of deficits.

Add a "publish me" wizard (or even a difficult-to-configure one-time setup process) so that I can develop an ASP site locally and then hit "publish" to send it live, transparently and without a lot of futzing around, and you've got a major winner here, Microsoft. Until that happens, this goes right into the round file. I just don't have the time.

UPDATE: There is a publishing tool...it's just not available in the "Express" edition which is free. OK, you thieving bastiches, how do I get my hot little hands on the non-Express version? From the looks of things, I have to get Visual Studio. $300. To heck with that!

Unnatural Monkey Puppy Love


Stolen without remorse from this guy's blog.

Record Lottery Win Split by Factory Workers

Eight workers at a Nebraska meat processing plant won a $365 million Powerball jackpot on Wednesday. The eight are apparently friends at work and bought the ticket jointly. They will each get around $15.5 million after taxes.

The names of the workers: Robert Stewart, Quang Dao, David Gehle, Alain Maboussou, Chasity Rutjens, Michael Terpstra, Dung Tran, and Eric Zornes.

God bless America. Look at that list of names and tell me this isn't the greatest country on earth and I'll call you a lying communist.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Walk Away, Google

Google has the chance to walk away from its bad China deal, according to Blogger News Network contributor Lonnie Hodges. Hodges reports that Google lacks a critical piece of documentation, and that Chinese government agencies are looking into the matter.

Google should take this opportunity to walk away from its censorship arrangement with the Chinese. Say "we're sorry, we have to straighten out the paperwork, we'll be back with you in just a First Amendment or so on your part."

Come on, Google. It's a bad deal. Walk away from it. Don't be evil. Don't be evil. Don't be evil.

Ulch, That Hit Was Tainted

(Bonus geek points for getting the reference.)

Trolling through referral logs for Blogger News Network, I see we're getting hits for this story from Godhatesfags dot com (damned if I'm giving them a link), which I assume is associated with Fred Phelps.

I am not a loving and forgiving person by nature. I have to try to be, because Jesus asks me to. But MAN does this guy make it hard. Could we just beat his ass a little, and then be loving and forgiving and stuff?

Mississippi to Shame Rapists

There's nothing wrong with this Mississippi plan to publicize the name and face of men who get teenage girls pregnant, but when I first saw the story headline, I thought it was an attempt to protect women from non-statutory rapists by putting their names and faces on billboards.

Which, it seems to me, would (also) be a good idea.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Tourist-Focused Spaceport in UAE

I'd rather it were in Colorado Springs, but the location for this tourism-centered suborbital spaceport makes more business sense. (We've got the altitude and the infrastructure, but they've got the millionaire idlers and the equatorial bulge.)

NOTE: Corrected Dubai to UAE. D'oh.

Watching TV Has No Negative Effect on Kids

I knew it. Now my plan to tend Stephanie by creating an infinite-loop of Dora episodes and parking her in front of the tube with a gallon of juice and a potty chair is perfectly fine.

Friday, February 17, 2006

On The Road Again

Heading to Californ-i-yay to see the kids. Light or no posting. Back Monday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Stephanie's Quote for the Day

While watching "Diego", some festering jungle animal or another was in peril (again) and Diego had to rescue it. Pretty much on parent-autopilot, I asked Stephanie "are you going to help rescue the papa marmoset?"

"OK, but I have to eat my breakfast first."

UPDATE: Prior to taking a walk, she requested some medicine for her stuffy nose. There's an ill-tasting syrup of some variety, and there are also little dissolving tabs which apparently taste like candy.

"I need medicine please. Give me the good stuff."

Lefties For Prudent Government Spending

Well, good on 'em. CrookedTimber takes a stand against wasting government money. (Via Vodkapundit.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Renter of the Week

is my old acquaintance Lonnie Hodge of OneManBandwidth. Lonnie is an English professor and Internet entrepreneur working in China and always has something interesting to say. Go and pay him a visit!

(And if you have a $100,000 SEO project kicking around your offices, he could use the work.)

Quiet Valentine's Day

Chocolate and flowers for the beloved wife; pretty velvet-covered box for the infant. Sleeping-in and back-tickling for daddy; score!

Happy Valentine's Day to all.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney's Accident Report

The official document from Texas Parks & Wildlife. Compelling!

OK, not so much.

Ooh, Gimme

It's been a long time since I bought a comic book. Looks like that'll be changing.

More 4D Ultrasound

Philips (who makes some of the imaging equipment) has some great in-the-womb movies here, ranging from 12 to 31 weeks.

Stephanie's Face at 25 Weeks

This is my daughter Stephanie, imaged in the womb at around the 25th week. That's her hand in her mouth.

Reposting this as part of a discussion in the comments at Feministe.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Saturday, February 11, 2006

"I Don't Know What To Do To Make My Dreams Come True"

That's the plaint of a California student suing the state (with others) for its imposition of a standardized test as a prerequisite to graduation. The student has a 3.8 GPA but - somehow - cannot pass the English potion of the test because it requires her to "find the major themes of poems or articles".

Here's a thought on how to make your dream come true: learn how to find the major themes of poems or articles.

Pwease Can I Have a Tweat?


Oh Dear

It's the Blasphemy Dance. Via Vodkapundit. Burn down HIS ISP! Not mine!

Friday, February 10, 2006

If You Remove the Thought Balloons...

Garfield becomes surrealist genius. Via INDC.

I For One Welcome Our New Parasite Overlords

Interesting story about the ability of parasitic microorganisms to influence their host's behavior - possibly including humans.

Bring the 1970s Back to Life

...with this unique timewaster.

Young on Friedan

Cathy Young has written a fair, mostly positive overview of the life and work of the late Betty Friedan.

Good Thing I Don't Work for the Mayor

Jeepers. Seems a little harsh.

Via Althouse.

Which Sci-Fi Series Are You?

I will not post my result, because I am ashamed.

But feel free to take the test yourself! Via Vodkapundit.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

How To Clear Your Sinuses

Presented for your edification, following our household's weeklong Cold of Death (which appears to be receding, thank heavens): a method for clearing your head entirely of the icky goo, at least temporarily.

Take a Sudafed or other snot-eradicator of your preference. (I read a chapter of "Atlas Shrugged" aloud while beating a Democrat. Stops the sniveling every time!)

Wait about ten minutes for it to start to kick in.

Eat two huge bowls of really really hot chicken soup. (Or take a long, hot shower.) This liquifies all the snot in your system.

Have one absolutely enormous nose-blow session. Bring lots of Kleenex.

Result: Dry sinuses, snot all gone, two or three hours of blissful unclogged respiration.


Just, wow. Intense true story. Go, read.


From the Livejournal of a feminist who will remain nameless:
Any time someone suggests that a woman is reacting emotionally rather than intellectually, they really ought to be prepared for rage.
Yeah, OK. Noted.

Toilet Seat Up, or Toilet Seat Down?

It depends on what you're trying to optimize, of course.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Very First Big Fat Carnival...

is up over at Alas.

Let's Boost Those Numbers!

Sometimes people writing advertisements really need to take a step back and review what they're actually saying.

Does Making a Site Google-Friendly Bring in More Traffic?

Yes. (We switched to a Blogspot-based system around 1/12.)

Craigslist Sued for Housing Discrimination

Popular ad site Craigslist is being sued by a Chicago activist group for permitting discriminatory ads to run on the housing section of the web site. Among the ads cited by the group in their suit are some which requested housing applicants be of particular racial or religious backgrounds.

Print newspapers are required to review all ads for housing to ensure that they do not violate the federal Fair Housing Act, which bars discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex, family status or national origin. Rather than having official editors review each posting, Craigslist relies on its community of millions of users. When a reader sees an ad which is offensive, illegal, misclassified, or otherwise objectionable, they click a link on the site to "flag" the ad for review by one of Craigslist's 19 paid staffers. Ads which violate the rules or the law are typically quickly flagged and removed.

The crux of the case against Craigslist will be whether the online site is a "publisher" in the same sense that a newspaper. The activist group's spokeswoman, Laurie Wardell, acknowledged that the conventional wisdom is that online sites do not have the same legal responsibilities as print publications, noting that advertisers wishing to discriminate "just shift to the Internet".

Print newspapers are losing enormous quantities of their lucrative classified ad businesses to Craigslist and to other sites, largely because the online sites are faster, have larger user bases, and are often free. (Analysts estimate that newspapers in the San Francisco area alone lose between $50 and $65 million. This lawsuit is in essence an attempt to rein in the Internet, to require it to follow the same standards as the print publications.

The activist group in question, Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, released a press release announcing their suit. The release focused on why housing discrimination is bad, and did not advance a theory as to why an online community site should be held to the same standard as an old-media print publication.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

New Tenant

I have a new blog renter; looks like an interesting mix of the political and the personal, leavened with some wit. Check it out!

The Importance of Tradition

Had an interesting conversation over at Feministe regarding tradition, in the specific context of whether people should carry forward the naming conventions of their parents. One comment I wrote, in response to a question, is germane on its own:

Why is it wrong to throw away something with no inherent value just because many people in the past have not done so?

Short version: because we often aren’t smart enough to know whether something has inherent value or not, and because as a species we don’t generally employ a time horizon long enough in our cognition to think intelligently about multigenerational things.

Long version: Societies evolve, just as species do. Things that work reproduce themselves; things that don’t, die off. The experimentation with new things is a necessary part of progress, but it can be a very expensive one. What’s more, we often don’t know what the real function of social traditions are. Our ancestors didn’t know, either. But by being really careful about rejecting the wisdom of past generations - or their stupidities - we can preserve the implicit knowledge and experience passed on by tradition. The Jews didn’t eat pork, and it wasn’t because they knew about bacterial infection in pig crap in Mosaic Egypt. It was because their parents didn’t eat pork, and told them to do the same. And it turns out that, absent modern sanitation, not eating pork is a damn smart thing to do. Someone figures something out empirically - even if they can’t back it up with a peer-reviewed study - and because it is right, it works out, and they have more surviving kids than the idiots across the creek who eat pig every day. And over time “don’t eat pork” becomes a tradition - passed along blindly, with no recognizable “inherent value” to it among people not possessed of epidemiology or the ability to ascertain the reasons for variable death rates among different tribes. The Jews also didn’t wear mixed-fiber clothing, and it turns out that there’s no non-religious reason at all for that one - that we can figure out. It’s a crapshoot. But it doesn’t kill us not to eat pig, and it doesn’t kill us not to do a kicky cotton-nylon blend…so what harm?

To use a different example - your appendix has no inherent value. Why don’t we do surgery on every five year old and just cut the darn things out? Better yet, why not engineer the genome and set it up so that nobody ever has an appendix again? The answer, of course, is that we don’t KNOW. There are known costs to doing surgery on everybody - it would cost a lot of money, and a few kids would die each year - and there are known benefits - no more appendectomies at inconvenient stages of later life, and a few adults would live each year that currently die because of undiagnosed appendicitis. But we don’t know for sure what the long-term consequences would be. Maybe we rejigger the genome, and then the 2000-year life cycle of the Subterranean Face Eating Virus recurs - the virus that the appendix specifically evolved to fight - and we all die, faceless and in agony. Bummer.

A basic respect for tradition, moderated to a degree by reason and science, is, in essence, an acknowledgement of the limits to our knowledge, and a recognition that we don’t have every answer figured out just quite yet.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Even if you're post-menopausal. Even if you're a MAN. This will make you release eggs and become fertile.

Michael Jackson May Sing Late Pope's Prayers

Sounds like the music company involved is being a little (wait for it) tone-deaf.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What's That Sunday?

This "Superbowl" thing...that's football, right?

Recovering From a Cold

Everyone here is sick. Sniff.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Identity Politics and the Islamic Crisis

Jeff Goldstein is the best, at whatever it is he's doing. Worth reading.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006