13 September 2009

Quick Hits and Tab Clearing

A writer for the Simpsons ruins some anti-TV, Literature post-doc's day. Well done, sir. Well done.

(I also know just how he feels about social situations like that. I regularly remind myself "Don't be a misanthrope," like he does. It usually doesn't work.)



Heads-up displays in contact lenses?! Future here we come. I've fantasized about having a HUD since I played the Comanche flight simulator games back int he 90's. Of course if we want to be really cool we need to bypass the contacts and just jack right into our optic nerves or primary visual cortex.

(Via Peter Suderman)



Thomas Friedman is a dope. I don't relish name calling, but I lack the patience to wade through all the ways he's wrong about Chinese "democracy" being preferable to our brand. I'll let Will Wilkinson do it for me. He's got a great lead:
Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column today would be astonishing in its incoherence if only Friedman hadn’t long ago sapped us of our ability to be astonished by his incoherence.



I mentioned kegerator construction recently, so I'll also post a link to this review of the EdgeStar KC2000SS kegerator. It looks like a pretty good deal at $425. (NB: The review page linked there is work-safe, but note that the site it's posted to has some content that isn't the classiest. Call it a Maxim Magazine level of crudeness.)



Those anti-ObamaCare lunatics sure are a violent bunch. All their dastardly, Brown Shirt tactics are subverting American democracy. Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have whipped them up to a bloody rampage and they're going to ... wait, what's that? Oh, right. Never mind:
In more than 400 [town hall] events: one slap, one shove, three punches, two signs grabbed, one self-inflicted vandalism incident by a liberal, one unsolved vandalism incident, and one serious assault. Despite the left's insistence on the essentially barbaric nature of Obamacare critics, the video, photographic, and police report evidence is fairly clear in showing that 7 of the 10 incidents were perpetrated by Obama supporters and union members on Obama critics. If you add a phoned death threat to Democrat representative Brad Miller of N.C., from an Obama-care critic, the tally is 7 of 11.
Damn facts and figures, getting in the way of a good story all the time.



I posted some art from Atomic Robo yesterday. (NB Writer Brian Clevinger posted a higher res scan of that panel on their official website, and linked it in the comments section. So cool.) Anyway you need to check out Wegener's sketch of a dinosaur flying an F-14. Wicked. (Scroll down on that page.)



Coyote Blog on government accounting practices:
By the way, it is almost impossible for government NOT to subsidize such an entity, in part because of the way government accounting differs from private accounting. Government accounting is on a cash basis, so large up front investments show as a first year loss with no future expense implications. In operation, it means capital spending is pretty much free. And numerous charges that private firms take on, such as liability insurance, are not charged for on government books. I compete with the government a lot, and have investigated this dynamic in depth. Even why my costs are lower, the government, because of the way it accounts for things, often thinks its costs are much lower than mine and they under-price us.
I'm mystified that people believe a publicly-run plan will not be tax subsidized. The best example Obama could come up with was heavily subsidized public universities. We just spent how many billions of dollars bailing out private companies (not to mention Fannie and Freddie) and people still believe a public health insurance plan wouldn't get as much money as it wanted from the coffers? The writing has been on the wall for decades with the USPS, and the Postmaster General just went before congress about two weeks ago to tell them that they were broke and had burned through the special line of credit they were given which was supposed to last for several more years. It was mostly a courtesy call to let them know that the Postal Service didn't actually have any money to make payroll, but that they were going to keep writing checks, and would the Treasury just play along? And Congress shrugged its collective shoulders.



I don't want to just repost everything Warren Meyer does at Coyote Blog, but the dude has been on a roll lately. Here are two more points of his about the economics of ObamaCare (one and two), and a post about the UK forcing Alan Turing to choose between chemical castration and imprisonment for being gay. Turing chose the chemicals, and then killed himself two years later, at the age of 41. On behalf of Computer Scientists, AI researchers, and anybody with human decency, let me give a very sarcastic thanks to Her Majesty's government for screwing the pooch on that one. Really great thinking there, taking one of the best minds of the 20th century and making him so miserable he would rather be dead.



I was downtown in DC Saturday during the big 9/12 tea party/protest/rally, but I was there for a game watch of the ND/Michigan game a mile or so away. (I have exactly nothing to say about the game. Grrrr.) I did see plenty of guys hanging around after the fact with "Don't Tread on Me" flags and talking about flat taxes, but that was all I saw. Matt Welch has a general round up of his impressions from the scene.

I agree with Arnold Kling on this point:

Now, the elitism of President Obama and his supporters has reached in-your-face levels. They have utter contempt for the Tea Party-ers, and the Tea-Party-ers know it.

I wouldn't want the Tea Party-ers at the faculty picnic, either. But my sense of class solidarity with Obama and other educated progressives does not make me want to see them exercise power. If anything, being a member of the educated elite and knowing knowing them as well as I do makes me share the Tea Party-ers' fears.

Like Conor Friedersdorf I think mass protests are almost always a lame idea. I've seen these things in DC for a quarter of a century, and they're almost always about making people feel like they're serious and dedicated rather than actually changing people's minds or influencing events. (With some big exceptions, as Friedersdorf mentions.)



This story about a carrier pigeon in South Africa being faster than an internet download has been making the rounds. That article doesn't mention it, but I believe the transfer in question was 4GB. This is a good time to mention the latency/throughput trade-off.
Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.
— Andrew S. Tanenbaum, Computer Networks, 1996
See also: Sneakernet and IPoAC — "Internet Protocol over Avian Carriers."



Norman Borlaug died earlier today. Reason calls him "The Who Saved More Human Lives Than Any Other." Here is an NYTimes obit. I concur with Don Boudreaux on this aspect:
It’s distressing, I can’t help adding, that dead politicians are often canonized in the popular press while most of humanity will go to their graves never hearing the names of, or learning of the contributions of, genuine heroes of humanity such as Norman Borlaug.

Amen.

Forget protest rallies. Save the world with Science.

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