Not only can John Kerry give away an election with ideal conditions stacked in his favor, but it appears he's also capable of blowing an election in which he isn't even running.
He's just made comments that, on the face of it, imply that the troops in Iraq are there because they aren't educated. He claims this was really a botched joke about the president, and you know what, I believe him. But just read the quote in question:
"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
I mean, yes, I can interpret that as being about the president and his policies in Iraq. Granted. But sweet baby donkeys man, come on, that's a suspiciously Freudian slip if there ever was one. And if it weren't bad enough, he's refusing to apologize. It doesn't even require playing dirty to use a statement like that one. Now is not the time to show spine. Now is the time to take your lumps and say that it came out wrong.
It takes a special kind of prowess to lose a race you aren't even running, but leave it to John Kerry. Now if only he'd blow his reelection campaign, we could say goodbye to the miserable prick.
I'm surprised no one thought of this before, but an outfit called "Keep You Safe" is marketing their online safe deposit Boxes (sponsored link). Basically, you can scan copies of important documents like insurance declarations pages, credit cards and statements, mortgages, titles, etc. and they'll store them indefinitely. They've got a free six-month trial, and then it's $3/month after that. It's also backed up in Amsterdam, so the danger of natural disasters is low.
The encryption they claim to use appears pretty good, so security shouldn't be a problem, but if you forget your password, you're in trouble, because they don't know it.
The major drawback here is that you can't store actual documents. So if you're looking for a place to keep your passport or important, deep-storage backup tapes, this isn't a good solution. They're also a little disingenuous about this, featuring pictures of passports etc. on their site, when all you can really do is store copies.
Still, even with that fairly significant proviso, it's a sound idea which I imagine lots of people will find useful.
Money quote: "What happens when a particularly violent movie is released? Answer: Violent crime rates fall. Instantly... [V]iolent criminals prefer violent movies, and as long as they're at the movies, they're not out causing mischief. They'd rather see Hannibal than rob you, but they'd rather rob you than sit through Wallace & Gromit." [I do have to say that in certain cases I would completely understand this. There have been movies to which a life of crime would have been preferable.]
The conclusion is similar to the one regarding internet porn. If you're otherwise... ahem... occupied... you're less likely to be treating women badly in person.
A weakness to the argument is that while the release of a violent movie does indeed cause a momentary reduction in violent crime lasting perhaps 12 hours, the study makes no comment about the cumulative effect that watching dozens of violent movies over the course of a year has on the human psyche.
This is less true of the rape subject. There we're talking about overall reduction in crime rates, not momentary lapses. But just because fewer women are getting raped doesn't mean that the net contribution of pornography to culture is positive. There's any number of ways that a diet of porn can screw you up, so this is hardly a recommendation.
Still, it is a very interesting look at the data.
I don't even want to know the kind of traffic this post will generate for my site, but I don't think there's anything to do about that that doesn't wind up looking really silly.
I'm pretty ambivalent about the upcoming election. Sure, the Republicans are schmucks, doing a bad job, and don't deserve to have control of either house of Congress, let alone both, but nothing I've seen suggests the Democrats are capable of doing a better job, and I've seen plenty that suggests they're godless heathens. Suffice it to say that while I can't bring myself to vote for the Republicans, neither can I bring myself to vote for the other guy. So I'm staying home, as it were.
Here's a humorous take on what would happen should the Democrats actually take control of Congress next week. Personally, I just wonder how Pelosi can make any of her comments with a straight face.
Anyone who has used eBay for any length of time knows of the notorious practice of "sniping", or placing a bit in the last few minutes/seconds of an auction, hoping to secure the price before anyone else has a chance to react. Sniping is variously loved and hated, depending on whether or not you benefit from it or not.
At first, sniping seems to controvert the auction process by making bid prices earlier than a few hours before the end of the auction pretty much useless as far as guessing at the final item price. But in principle, sniping makes a lot of sense, and the marketplace has evolved to accommodate it. There are plenty of high-ticket items that start at $0.01, and no one expects for them to sell at a fraction of their value. Additionally, by only entering one bid very late in the process, one can not only improve one's chances of winning, but reduce the final selling price by keeping bid wars to a minimum.
Now there's an automated auction sniper called "Bidnapper", a service that will, for a fee, automatically snipe auctions of your choosing at your preferred price. Granted, unless you do a pretty decent amount of eBay-ing it's not going to be worth it (a year costs $46.95), but if you do, it looks like a pretty good idea.
The site makes an argument that sellers like auction snipers because they tend to be more serious than people who enter a screwball bid a week before the auction ends. While this may have a certain truth to it, I would imaging that the deflationary pressure snipers exert on the auction system would outweigh any potential benefit in reliability. But ultimately, sniping is the most effective way of participating in an auction and if you use eBay enough, a service like this one makes a lot of sense.
Someone has finally done what should have been patently obvious: written a program that simply loops back audio output through your sound card into an mp3 file. What's the point, you ask? It means that anything that you can play with Windows Media Player can now be converted to an mp3 with little-to-no loss in quality. And because it's simply reading the raw audio signal, not the data in the file, it doesn't matter what the input format is, nor whatever DRM regime may be protecting the content.
It's called "Analog Whole", named after the so-called "analog hole" which has always been the Achilles' heel of content protection. Simply put, as long as it's possible to get the data from a file to your speakers, you could always capture the audio by simply taking a cable, sticking one end in line-out and the other in line-in, and hit "record". Analog Whole skips the cable part, routing the output straight into a file, so there's no loss due to poor connections.
It's only a minor step to make it convert AAC files, so I'm betting that's next.
The great thing is that this is probably entirely legal. It shouldn't violate the DCMA at all, because while it does functionally circumvent copy-protection techniques, technically it's doing nothing of the sort. It isn't cracking any encryption or modifying any files, as "DVD Jon" did with De-CSS. This isn't even circumvention as in the magic marker trick that fooled an ill-conceived Sony scheme. It's just using a computer to do what it always could do: make audio recordings from audio input. So while Sony and Apple will probably have kittens over this, the author hasn't done anything wrong.
Someone has gone and assigned a color value for each digit of pi out to I don't know how far.
It's a little annoying that a lot of extensions don't work with the new version, but that'll come. In the mean time, a lot of things that should have been built in now are, like close boxes built into tabs.
Going along with my previous post, here's a link that describes bad credit loans (sponsored link). I think the site is supposed to be about sub-prime lending, but it winds up being a really good and concise description of how credit reports are generated.
Two interesting points. First, though most derogatory items fall off your credit report after no more than ten years, when applying for a job or for life insurance, credit reporting companies will give them the whole thing, including any such items that would not show up if you were applying for a loan. Second, it is possible to have an "A" credit rating within two or so years of declaring bankruptcy: lenders are far more interested in your current situation than your past, though obviously they take it into account.
This may make me a dork, but I think this stuff is fascinating.
I was planning on going to see Wilco in Chicago next month.
Silly me. The presale started on Wednesday. Both shows are now sold out.
eBay it is then.
www.utopialoans.com (sponsored link) seems to have done for personal loans what eBay did for rummage sales. It's a peer-to-peer lending site where people put up a request for money at a stated interest rate, and lenders then bid to fund the loan, with the lowest interest rate winning.
It sounds sketchy, but it looks legit. They've got everything sorted by credit rating, and potential borrowers must provide debt-to-income information as well as credit history. The interest rates are high - 8.5%-27% - but as the risk of default is real, they're entirely appropriate. They also beat the ever-living tar out of payday loan places (250%-400%).
I'll be looking into this pretty seriously over the next few days.
Just saw Flags of our Fathers last night. Not a terrible movie, not a great one, but it does have an interesting examination into the nature and need for heroes. The battle scenes are confusing, not because battle is inherently confusing, but because they're strung together as memories in such an a-temporal fashion that it's really hard to discern a narrative. The story they tell is less the one of February and March of 1945, but of one man's attempt to deal with his father's legacy.
As I watched, I was struck by the seeming fact that it may be impossible to make a war movie in which the soldiers are not sensitive, emotional, guilt-ridden wrecks. Even Saving Private Ryan has its moments. Yes, war is terrible, No, I don't want to be in one, and Yes, soldiers do terrible things in war, but come on. This is not helping establish the movie's thesis that we need heroes. War movies really seem to be peace movies these days.
I think our culture could use a little Homeric virtue from time to time. Here's to 300.
No matter what the UN says. Of course, I don't believe there are any basic human rights, so that kind of follows, doesn't it?
Trial and error is an annoying way to edit a stylesheet, but it's the only way I know how to do it.
Let me know what you think. Readabilty is important.
The background image is viewable here.
This is a trailer for the upcoming movie 300, an adaptation of Frank Miller's (author of last year's Sin City) graphic novel of the same name. It's about Thermopylae, one of history's most legendary last stands. 300 Spartans fought to the death in a narrow pass against an overwhelming Persian army, and inflicted sufficient casualties that Xerxes was unwilling to prosecute the war after the subsequent defeat at Salamis.
The movie doesn't look that great as such, but for sheer vitality, the story is hard to beat. This seems a much more faithful portrayal of ancient Greece than that other movie.
So I'm re-thinking payperpost. The post I made that they rejected in error has been approved after all, with little extra effort on my part. It took a few extra days, but as the turnaround time for getting paid is a month anyways, this isn't a huge deal. So when I see an opportunity I like, I'll probably just snag it. But I'm probably not going to wind up writing about anything I wouldn't find interesting anyways. Fortunately, I'm interested enough to make that a pretty wide net to cast.
I finally signed up with Technorati.
One of the first things I found is that one of my erstwhile interlocutors in the editorial pages of the ND newspaper has a blog, and has libelled me there. This is quite entertaining. I'd link as evidence, but I won't dignify him with the traffic or any identification. The less anyone knows about him, the better place the world will be.
Real estate agents, like many brick and mortar businesses, have been under increasing pressure from the internet in recent years. With so many sites allowing free access to property listings, the need for many services traditionally provided by an agent or broker is reduced, particularly the previously almost irreplacable one of assembling a list of properties to consider.
The real estate agents do have an advantage though: at the moment, licensed real estate brokers have exclusive access to the Multiple Listing Service, the central database of properties for sale. Information on this is available here. Essentially, it's a database created by a network of licensed real estate agents/brokers, and they're none too keen on sharing their information with discount online dealers. Potential competitors allege anti-competitive practices, and both the FCC and DOJ have taken an interest in the subject, which can't make licensed brokers happy.
But there's one player in the Austin real estate market (sponsored link) that may have found one way of competing with discount brokers. They give half of their commission - usually 1.5% - as a rebate to the buyer. The 3% of commission of the seller is obviously untouched, as they don't have anything to do with that, but it cuts the commission overhead on the sale by up to 25%. This is no bad thing.
It will be interesting to see how this works out.
Sounds about right.
"Using controlled trials to compare different methods of door-to-door fund-raising, professor List's team discovered that it was much more effective to raise funds by selling lottery tickets than it was to raise funds by asking for money. This hardly suggests a world populated by altruists seeking to do the maximum good with their charitable cash.
More effective still was simply to make sure that the fund-raisers were attractive white girls rather than a dowdier assortment of males and females representing all shapes, races, and sizes. This dramatically increased the average contribution, because many more men decided to give money. Altruism?
Two things to say here. First, the article talks about philanthropy and charity as if they were the same thing. But most of the time, "philanthropy" is limited by usage to very large gifts, the kind that only a Carnegie, Ford, Gates, or Buffett can afford. would argue that this differs in kind, not in degree, from the kind of giving that you and I engage in on a regular basis. When someone is giving that kind of money away, they can actually look at solving problems in toto, assuming the problem is capable of being solved. Furthermore, they can found institutions, not merely contribute to them. And when someone is giving $40 billion away, it's hard to say that it's just to make the giver feel better. When the absolute number gets high enough, it's a sacrifice, no matter who is giving it.
Second, the thesis of the article is not entirely contrary to Scripture's view of charity. We do not give of our resources because God needs us to or because we believe that the monies we give will change the world, but because it's good for us to give. That's the reason God gives us commandments, because they bring us closer to him, not because obeying them will usher in the kingdom.
Those things being said, I do think the author is right in that if we really want to be serious about or giving, we should pick a very limited number of beneficiaries. Giving $5 here and $10 there all the time isn't good for anyone, because no only does the charity in question get only marginal benefit out of the gift, but giving at that level isn't any kind of sacrifice. If you know you're going to give $50 away, give it all to one cause. That will drive home the impact of giving far more than dollars and cents will.
That's my record.
ND is on break this week. I'm not really going anywhere, so I've got time on my hands.
This is fantastic. I hate telemarketing.
Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) has just pleaded guilty to charges of bribery.
I'd actually like to see the Democrats win next month. I mean, I think they're a disaster waiting to happen, and can't be trusted to run a business let alone the country, but sometimes the devil you know can't possibly be better than the devil you don't. Even a short-term change for the worse would be an improvement.
It'd at least give Bush some reason to approach the legislature with something like integrity, as they'd be unlikely to give him basically anything he wanted. Come to think of it, he'd probably be pretty unlikely to give them anything they wanted either.
Man, this sounds ideal.
"Promissory estoppel is the whiner's refuge."
Sometimes it's worth going to class early.
The upshot of being at the very western edge of your particular time zone is that the sun stays up pretty late. Of course, the downside is that it also rises really late. One of my profs rescheduled class for 8:00AM this morning, which means that I actually have to leave before the sun comes up. At 7:45. This is not cool. I mean, I've left for work before the sun rose quite a number of times, but that's just too late.
I'm also riding my bike, which should prove interesting.
Under the argument advanced here, any cubic building not used for purposes consistent with Sharia is an affront to Islam.
Actually, that's probably the point.
The video to which I previously linked is not materially different than the tactics of Michael Moore.
Mexico is considering whether or not to bring US plans for a border fence before the UN.
Ooookay. First question, what exactly is the UN going to do? Second question, what exactly makes Mexico think that we're not allowed to do this? As long as we're willing to put up with cardiac hemopheliacs, I don't see what the problem is. There's certainly no legal issue here. We can build a fence on our border if we want to.
The director of the excreable "Scary Movie" franchise has given us this little gem:
It's completely on point, but I was too stunned even to laugh.
Researchers claim to have developed a nanopaste that, when applied directly to tissue, can halt bleeding within a matter of seconds. The implications for both surgery and first aid are remarkable. Not only could surgeries be less invasive, but could take significantly less time, as surgeons currently spend at least half of the time during surgery attempting to control bleeding.
Human trials could begin in as little as three years.
Now it looks as if the DPRK didn't manage a nuclear test yesterday. From the size of the explosion, US officials now doubt that whatever explosion occurred was large enough to have been nuclear, though it certainly could have been an attempt at one. It looks as if a chain reaction of conventional explosives were used, typical of an attempt to set off a plutonium device, but it doesn't look as if the device went off.
The analysis is not yet complete, and will take dozens of lab-hours to process, but right now it could go either way.
I just finished watching, through the wonders of BitTorrent, the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica.
I hereby invoke Herbert's commandment:
"Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man's mind."
This is simply an ethical atrocity with which humanity does not need to deal.
Seasons one and two of Battlestar Galactica had already asserted the series as one of the most powerful cultural commentaries on the realities and challenges of the post-9/11 world. The premiere of the third season absolutely settles the issue. There could not be a more relevant, cogent, serious discussion of the Iraq War and subsequent ongoing occupation. And everybody looks bad.
To make things even more complicated, every time an incredibly cogent ethical argument is put forward by any character on the show, belonging to any faction, one must always remember that while blowing up civilians in Baghdad is morally objectionable on the face of it, blowing up machines is not. But they look human. What are we supposed to do with things that look and act human but manifestly are not human? I'm rapidly reaching the conclusion that many potential biological technologies need to be banned for this reason alone. The ethical and existential problems posed do not present any clear answer, and atrocities stand to be committed either way.
US intelligence has detected what could be a second nuclear test, though the size is small enough to cast some doubt as to whether the disturbance is nuclear or not.
The UN Security Council has just nominated a South Korean to succeed Kofi "Making-Boss-Tweed-Look-Good" Annan as Secretary General. Annan's second five-year term ends at the end of the year.
The timing for this is impeccable.
Now PRK wants props for their nuclear test.
I mean, that's completely insane, but you've got to at least have some respect for the pure, unadulterated megalomania. I mean, it's one thing to be just kind of crazy, but this is taking it to eleven.
No matter how much they may like North Korea's humiliation of the US and Japan, China has absolutely no interest in nuclear-capable North Korea. They have already taken a hard-line stance against yesterday's nuclear test, and are threatening suspension of aid.
Why doesn't China want this? Because if North Korea goes nuclear, both South Korea and Japan will too. I think a reasonable estimate of the time it would take Japan to develop a nuclear device is somewhere between ten and fifteen minutes. South Korea might take half an hour. China does not need an arms race with two powerful, technologically advanced economies. It's trying to urbanize 200 million people. It has other things to think about. Stability in the region would go way down if nations start jumping on the nuclear bandwagon.
It remains to be seen just how much influence Beijing has with Pyongyang, as they criticized the recent North Korean ICBM test. But you can bet that if Beijing decides they cannot adequately influence their client state through diplomatic means, the kid gloves will come off. The worry for China is potential instability caused by the collapse of the Kim Family Regime. If they conclude that there is more instability created by the existence of the KFR, that's gonna be it.
I found what is, for me, probably the only reason not to participate in PayPerPost: it's a pain in the ass. While I may from time to time attempt to make a post for money, I've found, by having two of my four recent posts rejected, that attempting to meet the requirements isn't worth the aggravation. One was rejected because "the submitted date doesn't match the posting date", when it quite clearly did.
So yeah, this isn't something I'm going to be doing on a regular basis.
North Korea has tested a nuclear device. Seismological stations have reported a quake in the neighborhood of 4 on the Richter scale, indicating a yield south of the claimed 20 kilotons, but still pretty damned big.
Now the fun starts.
You tell me.
The link is to Samson Blinded (sponsored), a blog by one Obadiah Shoher (a pseudonym used for security reasons). This is a site I should have known about a while ago. The author is Jewish, and clearly pro-Israel. He's taking an unabashedly realpolitik perspective on the proceedings, and has posts pointing out that if things don't change, Israel will cease to be as a political entity within about 40 years, simply because the resident Arabs will outnumber the Israelis by that point. Israeli politics being what they are, if the Arabs could muster a party that only controlled 33% of the seats in the Knesset, they would have control of parliament. There goes your security fence.
The author has also written a book by the same name:
The site has been removed from AdSense for "advocating against a group", with similar results on Yahoo. Amazon deleted all reviews of the book from their site in an attempt to stop the discussion that was apparently going on there. Censorship at work, people. You can criticize the Israelis all you want, but don't go criticizing suicide mass-murderers.
The demographic most likely to download music is the 13-17 year old group. That group is also the most likely to own an mp3 player. But as that group is least likely to own or have access to a credit card, buying music online is arduous at best. Yes, a parent can buy the music for them, and yes, you can buy gift cards to iTunes at the supermarket. But the former technically violates the terms of service for most online music portals, and the latter violates the whole spirit of the arrangement. It also requires a degree of parental involvement that strikes me as being rather unlikely: parents that are immediately aware of their children's activities online are probably unlikely to allow them to download music anyway. As to the latter point, one of the major selling points of getting music online is that you don't have to leave the house, so the fact that it is theoretically possible to convert cash to downloads doesn't mean that it's a realistic option.
Thus the offering of "legal" mp3 downloads doesn't actually target the group most likely to want them, and the group most likely to find an alternative. As long as people want to download music, they will, and attempting to legally or technically restrict the practice is an exercise in futility. If you thought impeding the drug trade was hard, just try interfering with a "crime" that cannot possibly be violent, doesn't involve leaving the room, and requires no contact with or knowledge of anyone else.
Still messing about with this group that essentially pays for ads on blogs. Some think this is a Bad Thing. I'm not so sure. I view this as a way to get paid to do something I was going to do anyways. People are blogging, and plenty, like me, are scouring the net for interesting bits just to amuse ourselves. All of a sudden there's this list of things that have the potential to be interesting for which you can get paid. I'm not going to write about things that are uninteresting or in which I don't believe, because frankly, they're not paying enough for me to be willing to do that. There's numerous opportunities to advertise for various online gambling sites, and they're frequently the most lucrative, but I'm just not going to do that. Not worth the mental circumlocutions to write about something about which I don't give a flip.
As far as I can tell, this actually sounds like a reasonably viable business model. Internet advertising has gotten a lot of press in the past year, as have blogs, but until this point it doesn't seem like there have been many serious efforts at linking the two aside from Google and other context-driven ads. This has its drawbacks, because not only do the ads take up space on the page, but they're subject to blocking, and only the most highly trafficked blogs will generate enoguh revenue to be worth it. Actually paying bloggers to post not only makes the target content part of the actual blog, but it uses the aggregate power of the whole blogosphere to increase traffic instead of relying on a few premiere sites.
I'm not worried about compromising the integrity of blogging because, well...
So I mucked about with Facade for a bit this afternoon. The production values are spartan, but I don't have any problem with that (See?). The two characters with whom you interact are a married couple that are obviously having problems. And though the potential exists for a really interesting conversational piece, it's... well... it's a glorified Turing test, and computers tend not to be any good at that. There's a reason the only real conversations you can have in games are pre-scripted: conversation is hard for real people to do, and impossible to procedurally generate.
The voice acting in Facade is pretty decent, and the story is that they recorded over five hours of it. It shows. But responding to them doesn't feel like a conversation, it feels like trying to mess about with a rubiks cube with your eyes closed. There's some combination of words that would seem to trigger decent conversational exchanges. Sometimes you can get on a role and have a rather intense few minutes. But say the word "artist" and all of a sudden they think you're coming onto them.
I see this as both a testimony to how excellent the gaming medium could be, and just how far there is to go. Ultimately, attempting to reproduce human interaction virtually is, in my view, impossible. There are simply too many variables, and the variables interact in completely non-intuitive, paradoxical, and contradictory ways. You just can't code something like that.
Developers should stop trying to make this thing procedurally generated and explore the vast, unexplored territory of less-interactive gaming. Books and movies, which those who want to make dramatic games are attempting to emulate, are completely non-interactive. Adventure gaming comes as close to this kind of thing as is likely possible, and it's a genre that's seen some of the greatest games ever made. RPGs can achieve similar results. Let's see if we can fully explore that avenue before branching out into speculative dead-ends.
That's the title of an essay in the latest issue of The Atlantic. It's a look into the fact that while the video game industry can make a consummate analog of the Hollywood action movie, the gaming industry is almost entirely without a drama or comedy genre, two genres which comprise a significant percentage, if not a majority, of all films made.
It also has a link to the concept-piece Facade, which I have just finished downloading and look forward to investigating. It apparently drops you into the middle of an acrimonious dispute between a married couple, the outcome of which depends not only on your actions but the interactions of the characters. Doing the same things twice in a row is not guaranteed to produce the same outcome, or at least that's the rumor. I'll test that soon.
Anyways, if you've got access either online or in print, it's a good read.
Assumming you're into that kind of thing, or at least interested in why even after thirty years and enormous improvements in technology, it's still a lot more common in virtual worlds to shoot someone than talk to them.
It's not cheap, but the Epiphan Systems KVM2USB (sponsored link) gadget is a great idea for anyone who runs videoless computers (web toaster, file toaster, firewall toaster, etc.).
The idea is that you can plug one end of the thing into the USB port on your laptop, and the other into the keyboard, mouse, and video ports on the toaster, and access the toaster with your laptop instead of moving the computer - which is designed to stay where it is - or lugging around a big crash-cart and/or monitor, which is just a pain. I'd much rather bring my laptop and one piece of gear to a situation than a 60 pound monitor, plus input peripherals.
On first blush, this seems to be more useful in a Windows environment than any kind of *nix, as the latter is designed to be completely network transparent, and you can log in to and control any *nix box from just about anywhere. Windows most certainly does not work this way unless you really mess with things.
But in both cases, how do you get the box set up in the first place? You either lug a monitor around, or you use something like KVM2USB. And what if, for some reason, the toaster stops communicating with the network? Can't really log in then. You need to go to the actual computer and access it from there.
Furthermore, as the thing is basically a glorified adapter, it's significantly less likely to fail than a monitor, which is a really complicated and relatively fragile piece of hardware. Though you can probably buy one and a half or two monitors for the price of the KVM2USB, you'll probably need that many.
Here's the little graphic they use to depict the comparison:
By now most people have heard the revolting allegations against Rep. Foley (R-FL), suggesting that he engaged in sexually explicit Internet chats with a minor.
Let me start by saying that I wouldn't be at all surprised if this were true.
That being said, the plot thickens. First, the unredacted IM transcripts were available on ABC's website for a while, before someone found out about them, made them public, and ABC sent them down the memory hole. Turns out the person in question was 18 during most of the conversations, and 17 in some of them. While still morally repulsive, thus far Rep. Foley hasn't done anything illegal. He's a scumbag and should resign, but he's not a criminal. I highly recommend reading the above link, as it's a superb bit of Internet sleuthing. Google is your friend.
Now there are allegations that the conversations were an elaborate prank that, due to the wonder of semi-permenant digital storage, fell into the hands of political types who would just love to make this sort of thing public.
I'm sorry, but I no longer care. Yes of course politicians are corrupt, immoral, deviates. They're just like everyone else. Get over it.
Ever wonder how jet engines really work? Rolls-Royce has a site explaining how most kinds of gas turbines work, with diagrams. It details the major types of currently-viable jet engines, including the original turbojet, the now-common turbofans, the lower-end turboprop, and the helicopter turboshaft.
If you're just needing your mech-e fix for the morning, it's not a bad site to check out. Originally a general engineering and manufacturing firm, the two biggest areas of business for the Rolls-Royce are aircraft engines and cars. It was a Rolls-Royce powerplant that powered the legendary P-51 Mustang. The car and jet divisions split into different companies in the 1970s. A description and history of the company is available here.
Some of it gets borderline conspiracy-theory-esque, but it's an entertaining read.
My objection is that while he's certainly right in his assessment that PKR is a significantly larger threat than Libya, Iraq, and, I would argue, Iran (though that last poses a longer term threat to stability than PKR ever will), it is perhaps this very reason that they need to be handled with kid gloves.
I'm all for cutting off food aid and refusing to deal with childish dictators, but a war on the Korean Peninsula would make Iraq look like the vicar's parish luncheon. The October 2006 Atlantic cover story is entitled "When North Korea Falls", and discusses the possibilities that a catastrophic collapse of the Kim regime would entail. The PKR has one of the largest standing armies on earth, and has large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Even if Saddam had used such weapons against invaders, the worst that could happen is that we'd lose a lot of troops in perhaps the most godforsaken wilderness on the face of the planet. But Seoul is a city of over 20 million people that forms a critical juncture in the world economy, especially that of East Asia. Both China and Japan do a lot of business there, as does the US. Seoul is also within rock-chucking distance of the DMZ, in easy range of PKR artillery. Even a twenty minute barrage could kill untold thousands.
So while simply ganking the PKR bastards and taking out their missile programs preemptively would seem to be the gutsy thing to do, the risks here are significantly greater than lost international goodwill. Any preemptive military action would be predicated on a willingless to sacrifice a city the size of New York. That makes even the hardest hawks a little leery.
Furthermore, ethnic tensions on the Korean peninsula are already pretty high. The Koreans hate the Japanese, and have never really forgiven them for the brutal occupations of the last hundred years. Japan has a massive interest in a stable Korean peninsula (imagine Mexico threatening to lob nukes over the Rio Grande), but the Koreans want no part of Japanese assistance or interference. The Chinese don't either, for similar reasons, though their interests are perhaps as great. And though Russia doesn't have many acute interests there, Korea being a decently long way from anything of interest to the west, it's a sure bet that they'd take the opportunity to assert their international clout.
I think the only realistic military action would be a sudden and overwhelming carpet-bombing of pretty much the entire North. We'd have to use every single B-1B, B-2, B-52, etc. that we could muster, all at once, in attempt to reduce the PKR in the space of about half an hour. Bombers would hit stragetic targets. F-15s would take out tactical targets of opportunity. Artillery would shell the living daylights out of the DMZ, in a probably vain attempt at preventing a million PKR troops from swarming over the border. It'd be costly, but it's probably the only way from preventing Seoul from being completely destroyed.
Barring that, the only options left are basically hoping that China will recognize that its interests in reigning in it's batshit crazy client state outweigh its interests in embarrassing the US and Japan. I'm not entirely pessimistic about this, as the Chinese, while ruthless, are savvy operators. But I'm pretty sure they'll try and foist off as much of the expense as possible.
In short, the PKR does not make me happy, and I'm not sure there's an easy way of doing anything about it.
VoIP is a growing technology that may one day replace regular copper-wire telecom voice services. This summer, while covering the Elizabethtown Area School District, I learned that they'd decided to replace their internal phone network, as it was ageing and become increasingly unreliable. Interestingly, they opted for a VoIP - Voice over Internet Protocol - system instead of a normal switchboard.
There were a couple of reasons for this, but the biggest had to do with money. The actual initial cost of installation was estimated to be around the same price for a new network, but the advantage is that installing new lines and expanding the network is really cheap. It reduces the number of utility lines going into each classroom by one. Instead of ethernet, power, and phone, they now only need ethernet and power. So after an initial installation which winds up being a wash when compared to the traditional option, they stand to save a lot of money in the long run by the expansion flexibility afforded by the new technology.
Were I to find myself in need of a landline in the future, I'd probably go with VoIP. The consumer options tend to be significantly cheaper than normal phone lines. Just limit your BitTorrent downloads while you're on the phone, or stuff can get weird.
So there's this site called PayPerPost, which essentially offers bounties to bloggers who write on requested topics. Compensation is decent, from $2.50-$9.00 per post. This, to me, sounds like a pretty decent way of making money from something I was doing anyways.
So in the interests of full disclosure, I will now periodically be writing for money on a topic selected from those offered for money. I will attempt to subtly notify my readers when this happens, but at the moment there are enough at least marginally interesting topics available that it shouldn't be too much of a break from the norm.
Confessing to a crime is generally not a defense against committing a different crime. So if, for example, you were trying to get out of drug possession charges, it really isn't going to help things if you tell the cops you stole it.
It'd be bad enough with the possession charges, but now he's got larceny too. And no, stealing stolen or illegal goods isn't legal.
I'm wondering how fast you can go with wheels that small. At the same speed as a normal bike they'd achieve 5 times the RPM.
Several school districts in the Indianapolis area are punishing students for things they post on their websites, even if not done in school.
The only problem I have with this is that it is an expansion of the school district's powers. Offensive and/or harmful speech is, in most cases, a civil claim, and when it does rise to the level of a crime, the state as such has prosecutors etc. who deal with that. The school district has no vested interest in bringing tort actions against its students in the interests of third parties, and has no authority to punish students for crimes.
If a person believes they have been libeled, they have the right to bring an action in court, and the fact that the libel took place on the Internet is not going to even resemble a defense. But they need to do so, not a school district. Furthermore, it really looks like a violation of due process to punish behavior not done at school.
If something a person posts online is criminal, the District Attorney's office has ways of dealing with that. But school districts are not law enforcement entities, and should not concern themselves with such matters. Yes, people need to be held accountable for what they post on the Internet, but school districts are the wrong body to do so.