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Political views mediated by an uncompromisingly calm attitude.



Updated: 2018-03-06T10:46:14.098-08:00

 



This isn't science...

2011-06-22T23:51:11.426-07:00

Little bits at a time, I make my way through Gore's 'article'. It's hard to keep my lunch down.

Comparing skepticism in his beliefs/opinions/'facts' to racism...what is this, amateur hour? Encouraging people who know nothing to be abrasive and/or abusive in every day life? Thanks a lot.
The entire *problem* of 'global warming' is that people who don't know what the heck they're talking about express their opinions as fact.
This is a question for legislators, not a question for activists. We have a *representative* democracy for this very purpose.
If I have a problem that's difficult to understand (effects of pollution on climate *definitely* fits here), I convince lawmakers. If I can't convince them myself, I find scientists those lawmakers trust (who *can* understand the issues) and have those scientists convince the lawmakers.

I *don't* take my case to the ignorant public, because then I'm just attempting to manipulate the public (who has *no* way to evaluate for themselves whether I'm right) into serving my purpose.

At *no* time should scientists (of which Gore admittedly isn't one, but he seems to like playing one on TV) suggest that people stop thinking for themselves. That is exactly the opposite of science.


It's guys like Gore who get students in my class to fish for statements from me supporting global warming. When I tell them that I had reviewed what their physics textbook says about the matter and that I agree with everything said there and would say no more ... they shake their heads in disbelief and disappointment. Why would they do this?????? Maybe the textbook is a little to honest about it, but this isn't religion. It's a regime of thought which is completely orthogonal to faith. In science we require publicly provable evidence and reject ideas which are not openly and reproducibly falsifiable.

I honestly don't feel competent to give an opinion on whether global warming is man made.
I'm not even sure I know enough to be anything other than 'lay-scientist skeptical'.
I've reviewed a lot of what people have said, but my niche was laser-plasma interactions, not atmospheric sciences.
I could spend probably less than a year reviewing literature and come up with an informed opinion on the subject, but only if I dedicated a serious amount of time to it.
I'm completely floored by the sacred cow that global warming has become.

It's just incredible that people would follow Gore's advice here. Yet they do. It's not science, it's bullying.


So how can we make it happen? How can we as individuals make a difference? In five basic ways:
First, become a committed advocate for solving the crisis. You can start with something simple: Speak up whenever the subject of climate arises. When a friend or acquaintance expresses doubt that the crisis is real, or that it's some sort of hoax, don't let the opportunity pass to put down your personal marker. The civil rights revolution may have been driven by activists who put their lives on the line, but it was partly won by average Americans who began to challenge racist comments in everyday conversations.



Osama Bin Laden, Rest In Peace

2011-05-02T11:50:04.212-07:00

America eliminated an enormous threat today with the killing of Osama Bin Laden, who was perhaps the most vile person to live since Adolf Hitler.

We really don't know his story, past, present, or future, or what really turned him to his evil path.
We don't really celebrate his death but we celebrate a new freedom from fear.
Perhaps we shouldn't have been fearful, but outside that ideal world, we really were afraid.
Bin Laden's death doesn't completely remove that fear, but it greatly lessens it, and that is reason to celebrate.

Perhaps if I'd lost family members in 9/11, this would be titled "Osama Bin Laden, Rot In Hell", but I would hope not.

The best part of this, is that my children and their generation will not have to deal with the spectre of Osama haunting the world from dark places.

Osama said it himself in distinguishing his fanatics from people of the west: "They love life, we love death."

Roughly translated, "Al Qaeda" means "The Base". As such, this quote will never be more apropos: "All your base are belong to us."



obamacare

2010-10-05T22:55:22.860-07:00



Ricardo:
Because it hasn’t in any other developed country in the world?Interestingly, Americans spend less than many other countries on durable medical supplies like eyeglasses, contact lenses, wheelchairs and other such things so I was a bit imprecise in saying the increases were across the board.Long-term care is another big exception.This blog series is essential reading for people who want to understand U.S. health care costs better.  



I read through the blog series. An effective statement that we have a higher ratio of health care spending to GDP than Europe + South Korea (this is an accurate portrayal of the data presented?) Talks about some of the difference in costs, but leaves a region of approximately 60% or so of the difference between the US and the EU unexplained. I was personally glad to see medical malpractice addressed.

Over all, I agree, but why? I think much of this is because a) we have shifting priorities food+shelter --> health and b) we consider health care 'free'.
Had a kid recently. Did we shop around for a best fit in price and reputation of hospitals? No. We went to the best one in the area. Why? Because employer-provided health insurance covered it.

In both socialized and private-insurance healthcare systems, there is a disconnect between those most directly paying for the goods and services and those consuming. This throws market forces completely out of whack as no individuals are being asked to see how spending hits the bottom line.

This is further exacerbated by not even making a consumer directly pay for the health insurance (which is paying for the goods and services), so consumers are removed from decision-making by multiple indirections.

If Obamacare shifted employer health insurance tax benefits to the consumer while trying to solve the insurance availability issue in some other way, I'd probably be more supportive. At least then, even though insurers don't really care about the costs of goods and services (they can often pass it along so long as there's enough regulation preventing competition), at least the consumer cares about the cost of the insurance. Right now, how much people pay for health insurance gets decided by some HR exec and actual consumers can only see it *extremely* indirectly as a hit or bonus to his/her salary.

In this case, we're trying to invoke the 'hidden hand' by gouging our own eyes out and saying "I can't see the hand, therefore it must be hidden"



things you wouldn't see on LGF two years ago

2010-09-22T11:18:19.657-07:00

"Al Qaeda and their fellow travelers, on the other hand, may be able to commit mass murder, but they do not have the capability to pose a serious threat to America’s existence."

Umm... this is in the context of discussing a nuclear terrorist attack on US soil.
I think that is an existential threat whether we like it or not.
There may be Americans who survive nuclear terrorism, but the U.S.A. may not.



Mexico vs. Iraq

2010-06-16T09:17:31.620-07:00

23,000 claimed killed in government-vs-drug-cartel violence since 'late 2006'.
A quick run through icasualies.org number gives 30,000 killed since Oct. 2006.

The difference is, 2007 was the high water mark for violence in Iraq.

Going to Mexico? Might as well be vacationing in Iraq.

http://apnews.myway.com/article/20100616/D9GCAVCO0.html



The False Economics of Child Care

2010-05-13T01:46:59.440-07:00

What is child care?
The delegation of responsibility of raising your child to another.

When is child care good?
- When provided by a grandparent, aunt or uncle on a limited time basis.
- When provided by a quality babysitter on a *very* limited time basis.

Where is the false economy?
Dad works full time, pulls in $70K/year. With an additional $50K/year, the family could move to a larger house which better suits the needs of the children. Mom's salary, $70K/year, minus child care costs of $20K/year, leaves the extra $50K/year needed to get that house.

But are children better suited to day-care and the bigger or better house?
How is that $20K/year for child care costs arrived at?
- Economies of scale. Instead of one mom watching three children, one pseudo-mom watches 5, 10, or 20 children.
- Does a child need more than 1/5th of a pseudo-mom at all times?

Economic model validating stay-at-home parent:
- How much would it cost for a 1:3 care/child ratio per annum, which would at least provide adult/child ratios equal to stay-at-home parent?
- What is the cost of motivating a child care employee to provide attention approximating that of a parent?
- Why spend so much of your life seeking the spouse who will properly help raise your children if you're just going to send that person out to plow the fields and subcontract out the child raising anyways?
- Why should your spouse have gone to university and achieved degrees and whatever professional accomplishments if those are not primarily purposed to rear your children in your spouse's likeness?
- I spent all this time and trouble to marry a brilliant spouse with an advanced degree, and then I'll hire a GED or AA graduate to teach my children the skills they need?

Day care makes absolutely no sense!
Drop the second job!
Get the smaller house!
Buy the domestic car!
Live in the mainstream school district!
Eat the chuck roast instead of the NY strip!
Guests can stay on the couch, they don't *need* their own room!
Keep your kids close!



Apple's silliness.

2010-04-29T09:09:54.529-07:00

Dunno... I read Jobs' letter... basically he lays it out as being to Apple's competitive advantage not to allow 3rd party software development tools on their platform.
I don't know why he bothered to write the letter, because that's what all the pundits are saying already.


The best part:

Flash was designed for PCs using mice, not for touch screens using fingers. For example, many Flash websites rely on "rollovers", which pop up menus or other elements when the mouse arrow hovers over a specific spot. Apple's revolutionary multi-touch interface doesn't use a mouse, and there is no concept of a rollover. Most Flash websites will need to be rewritten to support touch-based devices. If developers need to rewrite their Flash websites, why not use modern technologies like HTML5, CSS and JavaScript?

Yes indeed, People's Commissar Jobs. I see no reason why developers shouldn't rewrite all their flash programs in HTML5/CSS/JavaScript either! The Committee has decided that your "mouse drawback" requires the forfeiture of all 3rd party software development tools. It is good of you to begin enforcement of this on behalf of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Cupertino.

Seriously... I can't see how he can expect anybody to buy this crap as though it's some sort of objective opinion. We may all agree that HTML5/CSS/JavaScript *is* better than flash (I think I agree with that at least), but on platforms outside of Apple there is room for a difference of opinion on what's the best way to develop software.

I guess I really dislike it when somebody writes an article from a supposedly objective viewpoint even though he/she has an *enormous* conflict of interest. And it still annoys me even when they acknowledge the conflict of interest (which Jobs doesn't). If Apple needed the market share, Flash would be on the iPhone tomorrow. Jobs should just shut up and let the other people write the opinion crap.

Anybody wanna start writing an objective C compiler/engine for android? Put that out and I'm guessing there will be a convenient new clause added to the Apple developer license. :)

http://news.cnet.com/8301-30685_3-20003742-264.html



please step away from the calculator

2010-04-16T11:31:11.422-07:00

More nonsense statistics hoping to prove something useless. My problem with this comes in the bar graph... which displays what appears to be a shocking difference in IQ between those who are religious and those who are not.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/201004/why-atheists-are-more-intelligent-the-religious

... but then I think... why is the y-axis for this graph chosen at '96-104'?

... well, it captures the data I guess... and the claimed error bars...
but why not start at '97'? that would make the difference look even more magnified in the graph.

From a brief look on our internets... one standard deviation in IQ is approximated by about 16 IQ points.... so now we need to envision this data plotted on a y-axis of *at least* 80-120 to get any sense of the scope of differentiation the data is actually meant to convey. Now place normal distributions on top of each data point with a standard deviation of 16... and bang, any differentiation is completely washed out in any reasonably scientific data analysis.

"there are lies... damn lies... and then statistics..." as they say.


UPDATE:
Sorry... I just couldn't help it...
(image)



health care (incomplete)

2010-02-27T10:09:20.571-08:00

While this whole health insurance babble keeps getting more and more heated, I don't really understand what the issue is.
I'm going to take the 'insurance' part out of this, because the root of high cost of 'insurance' is the high cost of provision.
Insurance basically just smooths over the differences between people, so instead of one person paying nothing for health care his whole life because he's healthy and another paying $10M because he's not, we combine accounts and divvy things up so the expenditure per person is less 'peaky'.

Either way, insurance cost is generally driven by cost of provisioning. If it's not, then we have something completely different that's screwed up.

So health care costs have been going up. Health care expenses have been taking an increasing portion of people's incomes.
Some are going bankrupt due to having too much money to qualify for poverty care and not enough money to afford the insurance they would prefer. But this is a social problem, not an economic or government problem.

As a society, we are placing a higher and higher value on our health as we become more affluent and are less concerned with the normal trappings of life such as providing food and shelter. How important really is our health when people spend less on health insurance than they do on their car or housing? Whether health insurance is 'affordable' really depends on a) how modern you want your health care to be, b)



does ATT hold time depend on function?

2010-01-25T12:31:44.501-08:00

Hmm.. average hold time... ten minutes.. I'm waiting on 25 minutes... is this because I told the automated guy that I am planning on disconnecting?



Google v. China

2010-01-19T11:52:21.408-08:00

I kinda disagree with this article.... but I kinda disagree with the Bush/Clinton line that trade will just magically open up China.
I would put it more as a matter of trade being like handing China the rope with which it will hang itself.

I'm sure I've harassed you before with my personal opinion that trade with China will develop a domestic bubble there that will put all our bubbles to shame...

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/e9306da0-0461-11df-8603-00144feabdc0.html

*but*... leading China's government to hang itself isn't done by endorsing their policies of repression, such as what Google and Yahoo have previously been doing. Buy their cheap stuff... outsource outsource... that's all fine... but none of us should have a direct hand in their repression like Google. We need to keep a degree of separation between our economic interests and the chinese government's repression of its people.

yes... buying "Made in China" does indirectly support the regime, but the level of indirection is acceptable... This isn't arbitrary... buying "Made in China" helps the chinese people demand more freedom. Censoring the internet in china does the opposite, and provides a bad example of how companies should interface with totalitarian regimes.

My opinion is that the more we directly assist the chinese government in oppressing its people, the more violent the eventual change of regime.



these toes may need a stepping on

2010-01-14T18:59:17.196-08:00

"If the US participates in an attack on Al Qaeda within Yemen, we'll side with Al Qaeda." that's what these muslim religious leaders are really saying.
They're wrapping it up as a "no foreigners" message, but many of these Al Qaeda people they don't particularly mind having in Yemen are indeed foreigners.
It is a pretty inescapable conclusion from this that these muslim leaders believe Al Qaeda is a legitimate islamic movement. If they didn't, having Al Qaeda operating in Yemen would be pretty much indistinguishable from having US forces in Yemen.
At this point, I think it behooves us to pick a fight with these guys ... *while they're still in Yemen*.

These guys *do* have every right to participate in their local governance without our interference. But they do not have the right to play host to terrorists who are attacking the US from within their borders.

This really isn't about the Yemeni government and the US, this is about the people of Yemen and the US.

It may still make sense to keep our actual soldiers out of it, if the government there really can deal with the situation fairly. But if they're going to go on some murderous Saddam-style purge of their political opponents with our assistance, I'd rather have our forces in there doing the work right.

I think these clerics are really trying to implicitly support Al Qaeda, while attempting to appear mainstream. They've got toes that need to be stepped on right now, so that they mobilize all the idiots that might one day come after us, while they're all still in Yemen and we can bring our military strength to bear on them.

It is my hope that if US forces were necessary in the Yemen conflict, that the people of Yemen would see them for the assistance in driving out Al Qaeda that they are, and ignore the calls of these asinine 'clerics' to fight them.

But I guess the point is, if there is a threat "we're going to attack you", we should act like any rational actor in attempting to preserve ourselves... ie, press our advantage(s) while we still have them. If our massive military technology advantage is outdone by some new technology next year or next decade, we'll be at the mercy of those we could have stopped if we had acted. This isn't a matter of "take it because you can", it's a matter of "take it because its stated objective and intent is to kill you".

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE60D12620100114



some people are just so far out to lunch

2009-12-29T12:03:26.428-08:00

You see, the problem of Iranian nukes needs a concerted diplomatic effort backed up by the threat of sanctions.
This guy is just so high on crack I can't see how he can possibly write full sentences.
There is absolutely no way China and Russia are going to support meaningful sanctions (stopping oil) on Iran.
And even if they did, the financial incentives are so enormous that black market deals would be almost guaranteed to render the whole effort useless, like it was with Saddam.
The 'West' has gone the 'diplomacy and sanctions' route for 10+ years now and gotten absolutely nowhere. This route is merely the 'wait until they get the bomb' route with added western complaining.... nothing more.
If there was a will to stop this travesty from happening, it would've been done ten years ago.
I can't believe this trash gets to print, even from a brittish MP.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/6907848/There-is-still-time-to-foil-Irans-bomb-plot.html



An idea whose time will come

2009-10-08T18:01:31.651-07:00

Our current conflicts have two problems (among others) which require solutions:1) We need a better capability of tracking our enemies, whether they are massing for an assault, or simply skulking around planting IEDs for later use against our forces.2) Our public needs to be involved and support our military in winning these conflicts.While these two disparate requirements appear far apart, there is a mechanism which could link them together.One of the most miserable failures in the Iraq war was the inability of the Bush administration to keep the American public on the side of winning the war. Our troops were unparalleled. Our equipment outshone anything in history. Our missions were successful. Yet in the public opinion, we were losing the war right up to the day we won it. How can we reconcile such a dichotomy?Unfortunately the people of America were never enfranchised into participating in the war to any degree larger than: "support the troops", "continue to consume and pay taxes", and "reelect tough-speaking legislators". The options for someone who wanted to actively and directly help win the war were very few and stiff. You could quit your job and volunteer for the military, but the military wasn't really pleading for help and the administration continuously stated that there were more than enough troops already available.What we needed in Iraq (and in Afghanistan... and even in Vietnam) was a way for the layperson to assist in actively prosecuting the war. In World War II and prior conflicts, this psychological/social need was provided through a war time economy requiring every worker to 'pitch in' and work long hours to keep tanks and planes rolling off assembly lines. Conflicts including Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are or were completely lacking a link between average Americans and their every day lives and the successful prosecution of war. It is quite obvious that a public which takes no serious part in executing a war, will quickly tire and turn against it. There is nothing directly and individually invested, so there is nothing lost by defeat. This is readily heard in groups from both sides of the political spectrum decrying each conflict as "This is President X's war!" They are right in some sense, because they haven't directly invested anything into a war, and thus have nothing personally on the line that would be threatened by failure.Modern peer-to-peer tools have created the opportunity to fix this.With a network of 24/7 UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that can be deployed to provide an overview of vast areas of potentially hostile territory, our military is running a deficit in the capability of handling the quantities of data available.Using modern tools, video coverage provided by UAVs, ULVs, and other reconnaissance tools can be integrated in real time and segmented into tiles for analysis by the lay person, at home, on their computers or TV screens.As an example, Baghdad is roughly 81 square miles in area. If UAV coverage of Baghdad were universal and tiled appropriately, that 2 billion sq. ft. could be broken down into areas of some 20,000 sq. ft., with each section being streamed to 100,000+ personal computers, at which normal civilians would 'contribute' to the effort by monitoring an extra window on their PC or TV for activity which might look like either massing of forces for an attack, smuggling of weapons, or planting of IEDs.Some immediate concerns:- How can enemy agents be prevented from participating and providing false positives or negatives?This concern is exactly analogous to proofing of peer-to-peer networks against poisoning by false content and stopping email spam. Rating systems, Bayesian filters, feedback mechanis[...]



more fun with healthcare!

2009-08-31T16:02:01.473-07:00

It's hubris for a president to attempt to rebuild a middle eastern country as a democracy... but it's not for a president to attempt to rebuild the some 1/3 of our economy devoted to health care via government fiat?


I had this odd discussion with a girl who thought that obamacare was necessary because it is 'just sad' that the world's most successful country "can't provide basic health care to its people". After it blew my crazy-fuse, I asked "so you don't think capitalism is a good way to run the health care industry?"... "Oh gosh, no I don't!"... "Well this is something we will not agree upon obviously."


This whole discussion is silly... the goal of socialized health care is *not* to provide better health care to the poor... it's to prevent rich people from getting *better* health care than poor people by account simply of their being rich. I guess this isn't really obvious, but it becomes pretty obvious once you start asking people to provide a definition for 'basic health care'.



I wonder if the only difference between the US military and the military forces of Europe is *exactly* socialized medicine.




tips for housebreaking puppies

2009-08-20T17:44:45.098-07:00

1) punishment has unpredictable results... even if you catch them in the act.
2) corrective actions work *very* well... for example, puppy looks like it will need to pee... take it outside or put it on pee pad.
3) crate crate crate - for the first 3-5 months.. puppies need to *always* be in crates unless it's been less than about 20 minutes since they last did the full double potty duty.... that's *zero* minutes if they've recently eaten. Puppies don't want to pee in their crates (provided the crates are small enough that they can only turn around).
4) puppies have to go *constantly*... and the trick is to always anticipate when they will need to pee and *always* get them where they need to be to pee by the time they need to...

the rest is just magic... consistently getting them to where they need to potty shows them how to do it.. and once they learn to do it.. they don't want to do it any other way.



The infamous XML attribute

2009-08-18T15:42:47.828-07:00

Rules for using attributes in XML:
- never use an attribute for anything but a terminal leaf data node in a tree structure
- never use an attribute if you may require multiple nodes with the same name
- never use an attribute for any indistinct data which may require a context markup or status flag
- never use an attribute for string data requiring a lot of escaping <>" etc..
- always use an attribute instead of a text node!



why the focus on exact correctness in computing?

2009-08-18T14:35:38.809-07:00

I think a lot of people are missing the point on correct vs. probably correct computing.
In an interview with Google, I was asked to compile a 'top-1-million' most frequently found strings from terabytes of data.
I really wanted to poll the data at random until I had a sufficient accuracy to say that I knew what the top 1-million strings were. There was an obsession on counting each and every string, beyond mathematical necessity.
Really we should be looking for an accuracy on the order of the probability of computation error.

A probabilistic method could be both faster *and* more accurate. Try telling that to a brick wall called Google.



Health care too important to have 'cost control'

2009-08-15T10:36:24.237-07:00

I'm getting tired of this stupid point: "I don't want my health care rationed... and that's what will come of this plan." "This plan will not ration health care.." "Let's not play games... the government will have to choose allocation schemes for limited health care funds." "Okay fine... but we're already doing that... it's just up to private insurers right now!" I've heard this refrain many times now... but currently our health care is only 'rationed' in the same sense that food or housing are rationed. Yes.. you pay for it. If this isn't the opposite of 'rationing', then I really don't know what is. I was ambivalent about the proffered massive health care reorganization before.. but now I'm back to square one with "show me it's broke before you tell me yer gonna fix it." I now believe this is an attempt at a 20th century solution to a 21st century problem. Health care is now closing in on *the* top priority of Americans. Most people have housing and food... and with those factors above subsistence levels for most people, our health now becomes a priority. Unfortunately we currently spend a very small fraction of our income on health care, and people are already whining about it. Sell your house.. or your extra house... or your weekend boat... to pay for that operation... the housing market will go down, the health care market will go up... and before long, the markets will reflect where the priorities of Americans truly lie. "But I don't want to have to sell my boat or move in with my children just because I got sick and need an expensive treatment." ... then don't get the treatment... reduce the value of health care by sapping demand... and increase the value of houses and boats by opting for these things in preference to life extending health care treatments. The point of "health care costs are causing bankruptcies" should be answered with "What is more important than health care such that bankruptcies should be caused by something else? Why is housing allowed to be a leading cause of bankruptcies without nationalization but not health care?" The crux of the matter is that our society is beyond the basic needs of food and shelter... we can get it for really cheap... it just might not taste too good as food or be really cramped as housing. This rearranges our priorities, as before, who really cared about their health care when a) doctors couldn't really do much anyways, and b) extending life through medicine doesn't make sense when the next war or famine will likely kill you anyways. People now place much more emphasis on health care, and as a result, anybody attempting or expecting 'cost control' while we're spending more on housing, cars, food, and leisure items, is just deluding themselves.... and that's really the scariest point of this movement.[...]



no more LGF

2009-08-13T19:50:02.267-07:00


This LGF post is causing me to no longer frequent the site.

It's been trending this way for some time. I'm not a die-hard conservative, but I feel there's a lot of room out there for compassion that the site has been missing. I'm not sure whether there's something about the author's personal life that's pushing things in this way, but I guess it doesn't matter.

I don't think it's appropriate to criticize someone for talking about their child who grew up with cerebral palsy. I don't think it matters what the context is, even if there are suspicions that the timing of it is a ploy. People with a strong sense of empathy, who can really put themselves into the shoes of someone who struggled to raise a child with CP, would know that it's not appropriate the criticize those comments, even if it means letting the parent 'get away with' a massive distraction. Refocusing on the issue at hand, and not commenting on the issue of a person's CP child (explicitly if necessary), is the appropriate and compassionate course of action.

There has been this slight, consistent drift going on within LGF tilting towards less useful and more acerbic commentary. Gone are the days of identifying the problems extremist islam is causing for the world, and in its place is the elevation of 'creationists', 'creationist agendas', 'abortion killers' and 'right wing extremists' to the 'big boogeyman status'. It rings hollow for me, as I see the threat of right wing extremism in america absolutely dwarfed by more important problems both domestic and foreign.

Which is the greater problem:
1) Whether Sarah Palin's characterization of Obama's health care reform is accurate, or
2) Whether Obama's health care reform is something we should endorse or oppose?

I'll opt for #2 time and again, and #1 is just a distraction.



maybe it's time to post some more

2009-08-31T16:10:53.512-07:00

... since nobody noticed a few years of hiatus.

Recently S. Palin made a comment about "Obama death panels" in reference to her son Trig who has Down Syndrome.
My experience is limited. I grew up with a handicapped sibling and observed the parents of many other handicapped children who were much worse off. It does not surprise me at all that a mother would take very negatively to the imposition of a nationalized health care system. Many of these parents have had to fight insurers for benefits. While that is a reasonable task against a private insurance company, fighting a government bureaucracy for those same benefits would be daunting to most people.
While fighting insurance companies can end up in some cases with going to the press and shaming an insurance company into following through on their obligations, no amount of public shaming should influence the decisions of a government panel. Nationalizing the health insurance economy we currently have will effectively remove one step of possible appeal against the decision of a bureaucracy... which certainly may eventually end up looking like a 'death panel', even if it isn't intended that way.
I'm not characterizing what the final status of a government run health industry would look like in America, I'm just suggesting that the parent of a handicapped child would very reasonably see it as ominous as a 'death panel'.



Tempering chocolate

2010-02-10T21:21:00.778-08:00

(image) (image)










I'm following up on comments related to this thread.
http://www.cookingforengineers.com/article/155/Tempering-Chocolate

Turns out tempering chocolate is non-trivial... at the same time, it's not too difficult either.
Melt (people recommend 105F), stir, keep occasionally adding diced bits of properly tempered chocolate (small bits of chocolate that you didn't melt), keep stirring... stir until it's under 88 degrees Fahrenheit... I'd keep going until you're afraid it's too thick to mold.... *then* pour/paste into the mold.

The difference is noted here. Two pictures, one has shiny, brittle chocolate that looks/feels like you'd expect from a molded chocolate whatever... the other is flat dull, has the consistency of a paste of hardened frosting, and does not really hold a shape at all.

I melted by turning my oven on 'bake' with the temperature gauge on 'off'. Then I slowly turned the gauge up until I heard the very first 'click', at which point I knew the oven was on. My estimate from a thermometer in the oven was that it would go from 100F to 150F... neither of which is really too hot to melt chocolate. I put a big pizza stone in the oven with it to hopefully help regulate the heat cycles (or at least increase their amplitude).




How severely has Al Qaeda been disrupted?

2007-05-23T09:10:09.849-07:00

Obviously this guy seriously knows his stuff...
http://www.amconmag.com/2007/2007_05_21/article1.html


Yet at the same time, I think he's grasping at straws to make our impact on Al Qaeda smaller than it probably is.
I also think he's making a much broader distinction than is warranted between Al Qaeda insurgent forces and terror attack forces. I've never seen anything suggesting Al Qaeda has that sophisticated of a management structure, nor do I think such a structure would be anything but an impediment to them. I think they run their business like Mullah Omar ran his Taliban government... cash kept in boxes under the bed. Okay.. lots of cash.. but still, not sophisticated management.
I absolutely agree with his analysis that they tend to retreat to a safe haven (in this case pakistani border regions) to return later to 'bloody up' whatever they're planning on taking or re-taking.
This is how it's worked for them in Afghanistan (in the 80's), Chechnya, Somalia, and Iraq.
Except that the four above were immediate responses, not some '7 year plan' as this author claims. He doesn't cite any evidence suggesting that Al Qaeda, as an institution, has that kind of patience for inactivity when it comes to their territory being seized. Certainly they have some patience regarding terror plots (KSM supposedly came up with the 9/11 idea soon after the first WTC bombing).

I also think this guy also believes that Bin Laden/Al Qaeda knew that 9/11 would take the WTC down. I'm pretty confident they were surprised by this, as statements recorded by Bin Laden when it happened suggest. Until the first one started to fall, I really would've thought it impossible myself. The point is, that without actually taking the WTC *down*, we would not likely have removed the Taliban from Afghanistan. So making it out as though Al Qaeda transferred all its assets out of Afghanistan because they knew the US would oust the Taliban is... well... I'd like to see at least some minuscule amount of proof on that one. There is definitely some evidence that Bin Laden and his immediate group moved the night before, and that the move was motivated by the attacks themselves, but that's not much.

One other missing point, is how severely has Al Qaeda's recruitment/movement been disrupted by US military action?

I certainly don't want to underestimate Al Qaeda, but significantly overestimating them could do a bit of damage as well in terms of not allocating precious resources properly.



Still on hiatus... Iraq@Home

2007-04-15T10:45:43.851-07:00

One thing I think the US should have done in Iraq, was 1) setup a massive, secure wireless network, 2) plant security cameras just absolutely everywhere, and 3) provide a screensaver client to allow americans to help monitor what the hell is going on over there and report suspicious activities.

Considering the size of our military budget, there's no reason this isn't feasible, even accounting for sophisticated AI and re-validation of reports. One of the side benefits of this, would be to give americans an opportunity to be more invested in the effort. I have no doubt there have been a lot of americans sitting at home at night wishing they could help. Instead we get this kind of attitude that the war in Iraq is "the administration"'s cross to bear alone... and we get that message both from democrats and republicans, right and left.

There are obviously many details involved.. like identifying false positives, avoiding hostile spam reporting (false positives or burying), attacks on monitoring cameras, hiding coalition troop movements, and others. But all these details have known fixes.


Ideally a massive security camera network could also be used to traceback attackers, including suicide bombers, to their point of origin by meshing together this network and allowing it to be effectively rolled back in time.

Worst case scenario, car-bomb factories end up only churning out one car bomb per location.


I don't think this technology would be easy, but if they threw even $100M at it (chump change in this effort), it'd be pretty easily accomplished. $1B (still kinda chump change) would get it done skunkworks style in a jiffy.



we all knew it wasn't going to last...

2007-02-20T16:11:16.417-08:00

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6378679.stm

No mention of 'islamists', they probably don't want to be tainted by 'islamophobitry' accusations.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/4566842.html

and of course, neither would chron.


They mention that the insurgency occurred after ethiopean-backed forces drove out the islamic courts group, but are being very careful to portray these 'insurgents' as some sort of mystery group. Here's one that *almost* claims the former islamic government is responsible for the attacks on government positions...
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/africa/article1413036.ece

It's a pattern the same as Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Philippines, Thailand and anywhere else where islam is on the rise. The formula is pretty simple, but not necessarily in this order:
- establish islamic state
- when pushed out, retreat
- when not in power, turn the place into a bloody hell hole
- when in power, ruthlessly beat down any opposition or violence
- convince everybody that only Islam can provide peace

It's as transparent as a freakin children's comic book, but nobody cares.