Friday, September 30, 2005

Windows XP

I'm having my first experience using Windows XP. My initial impression is that Microsoft has decided that it is futile for it to challenge Apple on the "ease of use" front, and that it has chosen to lock-in its advantage on the "incomprehensibility of use" dimension instead. E.g., whereas clicking on the little style box in the toolbar in Word formerly dropped down a list of styles from which you could choose, now it presents you with... well, I can't comprehend what.

Good work, Redmond!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chelsea v. Liverpool

Went to see this football match with my friend David last night at a pub. It was action-packed: in only 92 minutes of play, there were three shots on goal! The announcers were an Englishman and a Scotsman. The sort of thing I heard them saying throughout the game was something roughly like this:

E: Well, Chelsea is really putting on the pressure now.
S: Gree, aiy, oon kenny graws by inkly wee doon griscombe.
E: Yes, Angus, as you say, if the Liverpool striker gets another yellow card, they're in deep trouble.
S: Doan mekely a gong tee ave it scummin mee nutmeg.
E: Well put, Angus, well put.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Not for personal use

You see, if you're stationed abroad, witnessing and committing atrocities, you might as well find a way to make it pay. See here.

Bush Stunned

Donald Rumsfeld is giving the president his daily briefing. He concludes by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed by a car bomb."

"OH NO!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president sits, head in hands.

Finally, the President looks up and asks...

"How many is a brazillion?"

(Thanks to Dick the Weasel for passing this on.)

Competitive Gardening

Back in the UK. On the Heathrow Express, the TV showed one of those "interesting little factoid" things, saying that gardening is the most dangerous sport in the UK.

Well, duh, if you're going to treat it as a sport, those rakes, pitchforks, etc. are going to hurt a lot of people.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Scary Natalie Portman...

cut-out doll story.

Wouldn't I Be the First to Know?

Oliver Sacks wrote about a patient who had gone blind from a brain tumor, but didn't know it He apparently continued to "see" things that he made up to go with the sounds, smells, etc. around him.

When the staff in the home he lived in tried to tell him of his condition, he replied, "That's ridiculous -- if I was blind, wouldn't I be the first one to know about it?"

How Many Bushies Does It Take to Change a Light Bulb?


Generate Your Own Fairy Tale


My ring and shoes vanished under the guise of morning.

I saw the devilish look in the serpent's eye as his spiny tongue wrapped around my body. My legs felt as if they were being stabbed with a thousand tiny needles.

After I took the needle from its place, I pryed my father's bones from the floor and put them in my satchel.

As I reached the mountain's top I took my father's bones and held them to the ground. The people of the earth relinquished their skins and flesh taken over the years of people passing over their home. The skins attached the bones and rose, forming into the figure of a man I knew from when I was young.

I saw the familiar clearing with my father’s chopping block and the axe he used for splitting wood on the ground beside it. Home. I ran through the trees, the wind in my ears, my breath leaving my throat in heavy huffs, my feet slapping the earth beneath the trees of these woods, these woods that had stood between myself and my home for so long.

Before I entered my home my brothers came out, and, thinking I was a peddler, asked how much the jade I carried was worth.

The soil on my skin turned into sprinkles of gold dust. The people proclaimed me some kind of god.

The needle from my tongue flung towards the lying man and struck him in the heart. It gave him poison at the place where it would hurt the most, and soon the man became a limp purple figure of stone.

I was offered a place in the palace, but I could not accept. I wanted to be with the mountain; I felt it move under my skin as I knew part of me was in the mountain too.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Kids These Days

Computer lingo permeates the vocabulary of today's children. My kids and their friends "X out" someone from their (non-computer) games for mis-behaving. They "delete" non-digital things -- "Delete the orcs from the woods, and pretend there are trolls instead." The other day, my six-year-old asked me if I had seen her "painting utilities." I finally figured out she meant her brushes and so on, by analogy with the utilities on our Macintosh.

Time Passages

The most recent round of tinkering with daylight savings time seems to me, without having given the matter much thought, to be mostly a nuisance -- all sorts of electronic devices are going to have the time wrong in November and March for years to come. But it reminded me of a complaint I saw in the newspaper during the last round of tinkering.

This fellow wrote a letter to the editor, the gist of which was that God had arranged day and night during Creation, and man shouldn't be fiddling around with God's work. I really couldn't get my mind around what the fellow thought was happening -- did he believe that the US Congress was adjusting the Earth's orbit so as to actually alter day and night? Or, was it that, while creating day and night, God had also decreed that the middle of the first be called "noon," and of the latter "midnight"? Then what about all those people who don't speak English? Are they guilty of some form of temporal sinning?

And that reminds me of a story my wife told me. It was early January, and she was in her office. Her colleague mentioned how cold it was. She said, "Yeah, it is, but at least the days are getting longer."

He looked at her incredulously. "No they're not -- they're getting shorter!"

She was trying to convince him that the days had started getting longer just before Christmas, but to no avail, when a second co-worker joined in, saying, "You know, she's right -- the days are getting longer now, and the nights shorter, but not by the same amount."

Not by the same amount? Where was the difference going?

And that reminds me of a story I hope Woody will post in the comments.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Wittgenstein writes in On Certainty:

"And it would be just the same if the pupil cast doubt on the uniformity of nature, that is to say on the justification of inductive arguments. - The teacher would feel that this was only holding them up, that this way the pupil would only get stuck and make no progress. - And he would be right. It would be as if someone were looking for some object in a room; he opens a drawer and doesn't see it there; then he closes it again, waits, and opens it once more to see if perhaps it isn't there now, and keeps on like that. He has not learned to look for things.

"But imagine people who were never quite certain of these things, but said that they were very probably so, and that it did not pay to doubt them. Such a person, then, would say in my situation: "It is extremely unlikely that I have ever been on the moon", etc., etc. How would the life of these people differ from ours? For there are people who say that it is merely extremely probable that water over a fire will boil and not freeze, and that therefore strictly speaking what we consider impossible is only improbable. What difference does this make in their lives? Isn't it just that they talk rather more about certain things that the rest of us?"

And that is essentially the position of the Popperians: they use induction just like the rest of us do, but they simply insist on talking about it in an obscure and convoluted fashion.

Insect Repellent

What if you spray Off right on a bug? Is it filled with self-loathing?


From (link not worksafe!):

A major research institution (MRI) has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest chemical element yet known to science. The new element has been tentatively named "Govermentium."

Govermentium has 1 neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, and 225 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 313. These 313 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton-like particles called peons.

Since govermentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected as it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of govermentium causes one action to take over 4 days to complete when it would normally take less than a second.

Govermentium has a normal half-life of 2 years; it does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, govermentium's mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes. This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that govermentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass."

Nice Shootin', Tex!

US soldiers, on average, fire 900,000 rounds of ammo to kill one Iraqi insurgent.

Who's the Sovereign?

The Brits storm an Iraqi jail to free two of their soldiers, releasing 150 Iraqi prisoners in the meantime.

So who is the sovereign power in the newly "freed" Iraq? Hobbes would have an easy time with that one.

Eminent Domain

Left-wing interventionists may be sincerely motivated by the desire to help the poor. But, as I pointed out in Economics for Real People, to strengthen the state in the interest of helping the poor is a fool's game. "The powerful" aren't called that for nothin' -- they're going to capture whatever mechanisms of power are put in place and use it for their own ends.

Witness the Kelo decision, where the homes of poorer residents were seized for private development. Wikipedia notes that when the case came before the Supreme Court, "The NAACP, AARP and the late Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference... signed an amicus brief arguing that eminent domain has often been used against politically weak communities with high concentrations of minorities and elderly."

Too late, my friends! If you had stood up for the property right of a restaraunt owner or landlord to reject customers for any reason whatsoever, maybe you would have had a chance in Kelo.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Recent Hurricane Activity in Florida Is Typical of Earlier Periods


Lucky Florida

Records show the AMO was cool from 1900-1925, warm from 1926-1969, cool from 1970-1994 and warm since 1995.
Climatologists look at those dates and realize a generation of Americans is virtually blind to the true threat of hurricanes, having never experienced a major hurricane firsthand, at least until last year's four Florida hurricanes.

"During the time when so few hurricanes hit North America, we as a society framed decisions about land use, construction standards and other aspects of our lives around the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico," wrote FIU's Willoughby last fall. "Built into those plans was the unstated assumption that hurricanes would continue to stay away from our shores as they had for the last third of a century."

Another expert said the hurricane seasons of the 1940s, in the heart of the last AMO warm phase, would stun today's Floridians.

"Imagine variations of 2004 occurring every year for 10 years," said Roger Pielke Jr., a University of Colorado professor who studies risk and has written a book about hurricanes.

Moreover, some researchers say records for the 1940s and earlier may undercount that era's storms because reconnaissance flights and hovering satellites still were in their infancies.

"We don't know what was going on out in the middle of the ocean," Willoughby said.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

American Affluence

Overheard in a Gap store near the campus of Michigan State: "Instead of buying new clothes for tonight, I guess I could just do my laundry."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Important Message from a Reader

Just received this e-mail, coming from an unknown top-level domain:

Dear People of Earth,

We Plutonians are deeply offended by all this blabber about Pluto not really being a planet. Cut it out now, or suffer the consequences.

Sincerely yours,
People of Pluto

Friday, September 16, 2005

Is global warming causing stronger hurricanes?

Dr. William Gray, the world's foremost hurricane expert, says: "And, the people that say that [global warming is increasing hurricane activity] are usually those that know very little about hurricanes."

In an interview, Dr. James O'Brien, hurricane expert at Florida State, was asked "Do you think that global warming has had an affect on the intensity of hurricanes?"

His answer?

"Absolutely not. All of the people who are hurricane scientists or teach about hurricanes at the graduate level that I've talked to agree with me."

Hurricannes were stronger in the late 19th century than today:

Accumlated Cyclone Energy (combines the numbers of systems, how long
they existed and how intense they became) -

1969-2003 1877-1901

1969 158 1877 73
1970 34 1878 181
1971 97 1879 64
1972 28 1880 131
1973 43 1881 59
1974 61 1882 63
1975 73 1883 67
1976 81 1884 72
1977 25 1885 58
1978 62 1886 166
1979 91 1887 182
1980 147 1888 85
1981 93 1889 104
1982 29 1890 33
1983 17 1891 116
1984 71 1892 116
1985 88 1893 231
1986 36 1894 135
1987 34 1895 69
1988 103 1896 136
1989 135 1897 55
1990 91 1898 113
1991 34 1899 150
1992 75 1900 84
1993 39 1901 93
1994 32 1902 33
1995 227 1903 102
1996 166 1904 25
1997 40 1905 28
1998 182 1906 163
1999 177 1907 13
2000 116 1908 95
2001 106 1909 92
2002 66 1910 64
2003 175 1911 36

35y average
86.6 ACE 93.9 ACE

Hat tip to Benny Peiser.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

a whopper

Tom Delay says that all the fat has been trimmed off the budget? That's like accusing Michael Moore of being an anorexic.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's 37 Quite Often

From the Library of Congress:
"To get a rough estimate of the temperature in degrees fahrenheit, count the number of [cricket] chirps in 15 seconds and then add 37. The number you get will be an approximation of the outside temperature."

So whenever you don't hear a cricket chirping, it's roughly 37 degrees!

Gouge This!

All right, everyone repeat: There is no such thing as 'price gouging.' There is no such thing as 'price gouging.'

First of all, what's wrong with asking whatever price strikes one's fancy for a good one owns? If a gas station wants to ask $1,000,000 a gallon for regular, isn't that its right as the owner of the gas?

Secondly, if gas stations or oil compannies or whoever can "ignore supply and demand" and still sell their product at a price set by their whim, then why in the world would they wait for a crisis to raise prices? Why didn't they raise them to $3.40 a year ago, or ten years ago? Are the managers so stupid that they don't realize a crisis is the worst time for them to raise prices, since everyone will shout about gouging?!

The whole concept of gouging is complete rubbish.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Partly on this.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Good Compilation

Somebody assembled a list of all the ways FEMA is hampering the relief effort. The last one is particularly ironic.

Friday, September 09, 2005


featured on Wikipedia.

A quote:
"Somalia has no functioning government, and therefore no regulations or licensing requirements for businesses, and no taxes on businesses or individuals. Those wishing protection from bandits may voluntarily pay warlords or security guards, and private courts resolve disputes. Since the collapse of the government, businesses have been doing much better. Though Somalia continues to be a poor country, the number of individuals living in abject poverty has diminished— surpassing its neighbors in this respect."

Want to help the poor? Get rid of the governnment!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

looking for elian, fed agents were too little too late

I'm here to rescue you!

the fastest way to get the holdouts to leave

Lift the idiotic mandatory evacuation order. As long as the city remains sealed, those people have an excuse to remain in it no matter what is happening. I can't fathom the reasoning Mayor Nagin has for knocking down every door in New Orleans to find 10-15,000 thousand people who wish to remain protecting their property in the city they love. One wonders if he's on a looting expedition himself.

Let the people back in. They will bring out the survivors. They will tell you FASTER where the attics serving as tombs are. They will clean their streets and bring in necessary supplies. What are you afraid of Mayor Nagin? That these 10,000 will vote you out of office? Someday you'll have to let the citizens of New Orleans back in. Let real order return. Let it return now.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Cops...

Up on Housing Project Hill
It's either fortune or fame
You must pick up one or the other
Though neither of them are to be what they claim
If you're lookin' to get silly
You better go back to from where you came
Because the cops don't need you
And man they expect the same
-- Bob Dylan

The 256 Names of...

that Swedish guy.

Need a demonstration of how to put a lid on a garbage can?

jefferson parish moves forward

The fuzz decided to allow Jefferson Parish residents to briefly return to survey their properties. The people had better plans. Today, the authorities admitted that they can't possible arrest all the people who claim they are going to ignore orders to vacate again by Friday. With power and sewer returning, stores began to open and people realized it is time to rebuild. I suspect these New Orleans' suburbs will be the first to fully recover since the people have physically taken back their town. It will be interesting to see how long it takes New Orleans proper to figure out that you don't have a city without citizens and do the same. So long as they keep treating the die-hards as nutcases, I'm afraid the rebuilding of New Orleans will take much, much longer. Once the water is gone, it is in the best interest of the city to allow people back in.

Monday, September 05, 2005

the nagin memorial motor pool

nagin memorial motor pool

the big blow continues

Last week a lot of people were lauding Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin's rant against the federales. Usually when someone in charge is so boisterous about other people's failures, my b.s. detector rings even louder. In this case, the Monday-morning quarterback was also the man who dropped the passes on Sunday. Sure, FEMA royally screwed up rescue and alleviation efforts. I also suspect Baton Rouge has a lot to answer for but this is mostly Ray Nagin's game.
The New Orleans' evacuation plan was at best laughable. That buffoon begged people to go to the Superdome. Fortunately, for the people who could not get there, he didn't think to send city or school buses to rescue them from the poorest neighborhoods. They were safer drowning in their attics anyway. He didn't bother to stock the stadium with adequate supplies nor did he order appropriate security. Nagin felt it was more important to protect Nike sneakers than little boys and girls. Reports are sketchy but it is apparent that people possibly as young as seven were raped and murdered in the shelters. So long as the shelters were controlled by hoodlums, there was absolutely no excuse for Nagin to divert his police force to stopping looters. The people he promised refuge to should have been his most important job. Instead of bitching to Washington he should've been at the convention center with a rifle hunting down the perps. But the best you could get from him was that when buses arrived to haul the damned off to Texas, Nagin had his privileged evacuees from hotels and the like escorted to the front of the line! When the flooding began, he begged more people to leave. Some of those were greeted by the police and promptly had their vehicles confiscated. Who the hell is going to take a chance on escaping when both the thugs and the police are carjacking?!?!

Mayor Nagin, your rant may have sounded good but it was as full of hot air as Katrina herself. If you are going to keep demanding that Washington do the job that was yours anyway, why don't you do the noble thing and resign?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

curious I am

I have absolutely no idea how much $$$ it would have taken to make the New Orleans levee system tolerant of category 5 hurricane. Maybe the money bag that Bush and friends diverted to Iraq would've been enough. Maybe it would have taken several pork barrels. In any case, within a few hours of the public identifying an actual public need, more money than would have been necessary to update the levees rolled into the coffers of various private charities. Unfortunately, that money now has to be used to fix people's lives instead of just an earthen dam.

Still, I wonder. Would the public have donated money to a fund designed to shore up the levees before the catastrophe? Are they also as penny-wise and pound-foolish as the federal government? While the government holds a monopoly on "public goods" I suppose not, but it sure would be neat to find out.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Goethe Had It Right

"What matters to an active man is to do the right thing; whether the right thing comes to pass should not bother him." -- Maxims and Reflections.

This is what Professor Hanson and his ilk ignore. We can never be certain that our actions will produce the result we want; to enter into historical counter-factuals is to wade into an intractable bog. All we can do is act according to the principles of justice: we know it is wrong to slaughter a quarter-of-a-million innocent people, even if we might fear the consequences of our not doing so.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Um, Well, The Relief Workers Didn't Break the Levees!

In the continuing wingnut effort to plumb the depths of stupidity, this one writes: "Here's hoping Johnny Apple isn't sent to cover New Orleans, he might simply declare it a quagmire and then the chorus for a timetable for withdrawal would start up."

Yeah, it would be a good point, if our troops didn't have the role of the hurricane in the Iraq version of this story.

this was not a natural disaster

Make no mistake. When New Orleans appeared out from under Katrina, it was mostly cosmetic damage. Lines down, roof shingles scattered and the normal aftermath of a good sized hurricane. It was annoying but it wasn't a disaster. What happened in the hours AFTER Katrina was a completely man-made catastrophe. It started years ago when people gladly accepted that the government can protect them.

Minarchist libertarians take notice of all this. Government does not keep us protected from the chaos of New Orleans. It's the missing hundreds of thousands of decent citizens that maintained control. The government is STILL operating! Only now you can plainly see it's a paperwork tiger as all government everywhere is. It was only by the mutual understanding of the good people of New Orleans that the city ran. We all live in Anarchy right now. We always have.

How has the government taken care of them besides selling them a weak levee? It stuffed the poor into the lowest parts of the city. It provided them mass transit that in the end could not take them out of harm's way. It prevented good citizens from bringing weapons into the Murderdome to protect themselves. (If the baddies can fabricate weapons in a prison, think of the weapons they can make in the Murderdome.) The people aren't being allowed to leave either. The cops that are left are stopping car thieves on one block while "commandeering" SUVs from citizens attempting to escape on the other. The cops scatter looters from markets only to then "commandeer" the food themselves. Early in the blame game, there are the local politicians that didn't take it upon themselves to ensure that the levees would hold. Further along are the national politicians who shortsightedly sent pork home or to foreign countries instead of spending a few million to make sure the Port of New Orleans would remain operable.

This can spread to any other American city as refugees crowd services elsewhere. The government isn't a thin tissue preventing chaos, it only exaggerates it. In Mississippi where the borders aren't shut down, private citizens have already arrived with ice, water and food. Elsewhere, private citizens have offered their homes and transportation all around the country. It's only by mutual consent that the whole country hasn't erupted into a battlezone in the wake of this national disaster. The government's magical pixie dust works only as long as you believe it does, then you realize it has always been up to you.

Open New Orleans to outsiders and let her people go. Let the free market fix this as rapidly as humanly possible. Let Americans help Americans and tell these bastard politicians to shove off. That's how we'll get New Orleans back in the quickest amount of time. It's the least we can do to truly help.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

this is plain MURDER!

They've stopped taking people out of New Orleans and they won't let people in to pick up their families and friends. They won't let private citizens in to sell or donate food. It's not safe. It's not safe!?!?! People are dropping dead on Interstate 10 and at the Superdome. New Orleans in on fire and the haven't got the sense to obtain one of those aerial figherfighter planes. They seem more worried that the drug dealers are price gouging their crack addict regulars than the safety of anyone.

Right now they should be getting every schoolbus in the state and driving it into New Orleans. Pick people up wherever and depost them elsewhere. They should be making food drops all over the city from airplanes. This is stupid. If the government weren't screwing everything up from the beginning, this hurricane would've taken out maybe a couple of dozen drunks on Bourbon St. Every other corpse was murdered by an incompetent official.

Even removing the threat of hurricanes, New Orleans is/was under threat of flood 365 days a year. This could have happened with a deluge miles up the Mississippi as easily as it did with Katrina. It is painfully obvious, they have never had any implementable plans for floods at all...other than rely on Texas and the Feds. God damn those useless government bastards to the same hell they have created.

Home Study in Austrian Economics

"What I Did During My Summer Vacation."

Four Thumbs Up for 24

I'm sure most of you have at least heard of the TV show 24, which follows government agent Jack Bauer (Keifer Sutherland) around for one hectic day. Well, my wife and I rented the first disc on a lark, and I am somewhat embarrassed to report that when we went to bed last night, we had spent about 15.5 of the previous 26 hours finishing season 1. (I don't know what I'd do if I had a real job.) Here's another recommendation from an LRC writer, with some mild spoilers.

I Defend Gene

When someone verbally attacks Gene, I've got his back. When someone physically attacks him, I try to be an ocean away.

Zeno for the computer age

If you wish to better understand Zeno's worry about the continuum, you could do worse than to consider loops in software. Case 1: You...