Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We wish to be less influential

The New York Times will shortly lock its op-eds and archives behind a paywall.

OK, then

Bush is doing something I didn't expect from him. He's learning.

Monday, September 12, 2005

First, do no good

The other day it was mentioned to me and my lovely spouse that all professions, not just medical doctors, ought to take a kind of Hippocratic Oath. In that case it was a college professor wondering if he ought to vow to "first, do no harm," but logically, we all agreed that the oath could as fruitfully be uttered by dental assistants, auto mechanics, and furniture salesmen.

Apparently now we must add the police to the list of oath-takers. Now I am aware of the average American socialist's penchant for rabble-rousing exaggeration, but apparently this latest outrage from the Man does contain a kernel of truth. Strange days.

Friday, September 09, 2005

From the Dept. of Misanthropy

"The second message is about the Y chromosome - what in the human
species determines gender. For a long time (centuries perhaps?)
the Y chromosome has been decaying. It has lost many of its
genes, and become much less healthy. If this continues, it will
go away. And if it goes away, there will be no men. And of
course, with no men, there are no women either. Delightful book."

(John Matlock, "Gunny," reviewing Bryan Sykes's Adam's Curse

Monday, September 05, 2005

Fire them all. He shall know His own

What did they know and when did they know it?

FEMA knew last year.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Modern evil

I am so angry I can hardly think straight enough to post.

I just saw a body – a dead body, an American, in America – on the national news. NBC, actually. Whoever it was sat in the sun for five days until they died. No help. No food. No water. Elsewhere a man sick with cancer died for lack of oxygen. He and his wife were two of the obstinate ones who refused to leave – they simply refused to have a car, refused to be healthy enough to move.

An old lady died waiting. Yes, that's a dead woman in the chair. Maybe it's a Photoshop job. It illustrates the reality.

So this is it! Welcome to a renewed, strengthened America, with no safety net, no hope for you in a disaster. The money that could have saved these people was spent in Iraq. And isn't it just the breaks, that the hurricane hit before everyone's assistance checks arrived on the first of the month? Ah, well, nothing to be done.

In other news:
WASHINGTON — It makes no sense to spend billions of dollars to rebuild a city that's 7 feet under sea level, House Speaker Dennis Hastert said of federal assistance for hurricane-devastated New Orleans. AP/Seattle Times

If the President came up to me, I would spit on him. He should pay politically, for this, but racism is too embedded in our culture to pillory a good ol' boy over the misfortune of some irresponsible poor black people.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Reality-based reality

From an article in Salon - oh, sure, Liberal Media - but I'm betting these figures are more or less correct.
A year ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposed to study how New Orleans could be protected from a catastrophic hurricane, but the Bush administration ordered that the research not be undertaken. After a flood killed six people in 1995, Congress created the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, in which the Corps of Engineers strengthened and renovated levees and pumping stations. In early 2001, the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued a report stating that a hurricane striking New Orleans was one of the three most likely disasters in the U.S., including a terrorist attack on New York City. But by 2003 the federal funding for the flood control project essentially dried up as it was drained into the Iraq war. In 2004, the Bush administration cut funding requested by the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for holding back the waters of Lake Pontchartrain by more than 80 percent. Additional cuts at the beginning of this year (for a total reduction in funding of 44.2 percent since 2001) forced the New Orleans district of the Corps to impose a hiring freeze. The Senate had debated adding funds for fixing New Orleans' levees, but it was too late.

All based on the best science, we're told. What does the Corps know about this kind of thing, anyway? Emphasis mine. Good thing our National Guard is healthy, energized, numerous and ready to help.

Why the Dock works

In the planning document for Gnome 3.0, Geert Schuring writes
The current generation of desktops really suck hard imho... why on earth does an app need a notification place when it allready has a icon placed in my menu? It would be really simple to use an icon both for starting the app and for notifications. This way my mail client could even tell me that i should start him because there is mail waiting for me.

There you have it. Emphasis mine. UI experts tear their hair out over the Dock, the triple-duty monstrousness of it. But these kinds of interfaces are everywhere. A basic example is a car's tachometer, useful for telling if your car is running - useful in a smooth, modern, insulated luxury car - as well as the engine's speed. Nobody needs or wants an idiot light telling them that Your Car is On.

Not just him, not just me: Tim Bray takes note of the Dock's exasperating perfectly-OKness.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

[ I | you ] [ am | are ] what [ I | you ] [ am | are ]

Ye sexes, oft warring. A civil debate (what kind of old-schoolers are these?) between Steven Pinker and Elizabeth Spelke. Let's get ready to rumble! I'm afraid I am with Pinker, as I am usually: the existence of individuals, though rare, who were re-sexed at a young age, raised with a clear gender role yet feel "trapped in the body" of their new sex tends to place the decisive role in our initial makeup. But then wait, think. The debate isn't about gender roles generally, but about female underrepresentation in hard-science professorships. Isn't there a lot of socialization going on before one defends one's PhD?

Anyway, this nature/nurture analogue once again brought to mind the people who claim that homosexuality is a choice, despite the overwhelming testimony of homosexual people, where most of whom who are asked say pretty clearly that they were always homosexual. My personal belief is that those people who say "homosexuality is a choice" may deploying a cypher for "I am bisexual." As for those folks who agree that the queerness is born-in, yet decry the "choice" of sexual activity as evil, well, in addition to some tribalism and mild sociopathy happening, there's just a wee pit of picking and choosing, no? Let none wearing a summer blend speak ill, I say. You have bigger problems.