Monday, March 31, 2008

Attack of the Unscrupulators!

Via the same somebody else as before, it appears that Iceland is under attack by "unscrupulous" financiers. This hits very close to home, since one of my best friends from Cornell during my MEng year was from Iceland, and he's a financial engineer to boot. Siggy, if you're reading this, get to shelter, fast!

All joking aside, this is actually a pretty interesting case study in just how rich some people are really getting. Icelanders, per capita, are fairly rich, but there's only about 300,000 of them, and the entire country has a GDP of 12 billion USD. To put that into perspective, according to Forbes there are 19 Americans who are each richer than the entire yearly economic output of Iceland. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet top out the list at $50 billion, whereas myself, a meager analyst saddled with debt and just a year or two out of college, have a net worth of about $50,000 when you include the $100K life insurance policy that I have on myself. For these guys, $1MM is worth less than $1 is to me. Yowzas.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Whoops

Apparently 8PM to 9PM on Saturday March 29th was Earth Hour, where everybody is supposed to turn off their lights. I wish someone had told me, because I spent it with my laptop playing songs, baking a lasagna, and half-watching Bridget Jones on the tv.

Google, however, did their part:

Garfield without the Garfield

Via somebody else, an extremely good site that shows what the comic strip Garfield would be without the actual fatcat. It's actually pretty funny.

Anyone who knows me knows that this is probably the one I identify with the most. Viva la resistance!

A Bleg

"Bleg", for those of you who might not know, is shorthand for "blog beg". Typically it's used when a blog author wants advice from his readers. Of course, the number of readers that I have can be counted on one hand, but that's more readers than can be counted on one finger, which is what I had before (hi sis!)

Anyway, my question to you: are online dating services one of mankind's greatest inventions or the root of all evil? Leave your answers in the comments, which have conveniently been opened to all.

Oh How the Mighty...

Have fallen.

It's Saturday night. And I am now reduced to drinking a gin & tonic and watching the Power Rangers Movie off of Comcast Free Movies on Demand. What an exciting way to spend the evening.

However, there is a silver lining. The nerd, Billy, has bigger muscles than the jock, Tommy. Somehow, I find that satisfying.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Movie Reviewer

*sigh ... why are the pretty ones always so dumb?

And no, I am not a pedophile.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

White House "Disappears" More Emails

Seriously, this is now starting to creep into the realm of criminal negligence. On Thursday, the White House disclosed that it destroyed thousands of computer hard drives which may have contained old email records that the courts are ordering it to turn over. Money quote:
Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005.

The White House revealed new information about how it handles its computers in an effort to persuade a federal magistrate it would be fruitless to undertake an e-mail recovery plan that the court proposed.

Apparently the White House recycles 1/3 of its hard drives every year or so, and any hard drives which may have contained the missing emails that the court is seeking are long since gone.

Now, taken by itself, this really wouldn't be too out of place. As anyone who works for a large organization knows, IT support is a disaster, and it's usually easier to just get a new computer than it is to fix the old one. That being said, it's awfully convenien, isn't it? For those who may be unfamiliar with the chain of events:

In late 2006, several federal prosecutors (USAs for short) were unexpectedly asked to resign, despite extremely successful careers and spotless reputations. One of them didn't go quietly, and accused White House political advisor Karl Rove of meddling for political purposes. Some intrepid reporters started digging, and uncovered an avalanche of circumstancial evidence, along with quite a few personal accounts, that the USAs were forced out because they refused to file trumped up felony charges against Democratic incumbents a month or two before the election. If true, that would have been a felony with MAJOR jail time. Here's where it starts to get interesting:

Even after almost a year and a half, we STILL don't know who first put the names of those USAs on the firing list. The person who took the fall was a low-level political appointee who broke down in tears when she "confessed"; the idea that she single-handedly chose and implemented the firings of prosecutors who report directly to the Attorney General is ludicrous, and a federal court ordered the White House to turn over any emails to, from, or copied to Karl Rove that related to the firings of the USAs.

First, the White House tried to claim executive priviledge on the grounds that anything said by anyone who has talked to the president at anytime is secret. That backfired when we learned that the White House was actually using Republican National Committee servers (an exlicitly purely political group) to help send emails.

Second, the RNC tried to claim that they couldn't turn over the emails because the president had ordered them not to. When a federal judge threatened to revoke the RNC's tax exempt status, the story suddenly changed, and it appeared that somehow all traces of the offending emails had been removed from each and every server in the RNC network, which is, from an IT perspective, a rather incredible claim.

Third, after the RNC route was exhausted, the courts turned back to the White House itself. The emails first had to go through White House servers before they hit the RNC servers, so the court instructed the White House to look at them. By miraculous coincidence, those servers had been wiped as well, and any emails from Karl Rove from 2003 to 2005 weren't in them anymore. Huh, imagine that!

Fourth: The White House is required, by federal law, to have physical backup copies of each and every email that's sent. Under the Clinton administration, a procedure to record, backup, and archive all correspondence on physical tape was implemented, and as far as anyone knew, was still operational. Well, actually, it wasn't. The White House, in its infinite wisdom, decided to "upgrade" the system, and replaced it with one that, by their own admission, doesn't work (which, incidentally, is still in use today). And, would you believe it, it wasn't capturing Karl Rove's emails during that time either!

So finally, we come to the court's fifth and final attempt: the actual computers themselves, which brings us full circle to the story just reported on this week, that the machines have been destroyed.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

A Pony for Emmet

Red hair and all that...

Finnish Disco Set to Different Music

Awesome

Teh Bloggy Superpost!

Long time no blog! Time to empty my would-be-interesting-to-blog-about folder!

The Body Odd talks to us about farting!

Eeek! The ugliest website ever!

Take a closer look at those stains on your airplane seat...

Doggy!!!!

You've Got to be Kidding

If this is what now counts as a "gotcha", it's going to be an excrutiatingly long campaign season. Via The Corner, Clive Davis crows:
"I might as well remind Barack Obama that the war in Iraq hasn't lasted longer than WW2. There were, in fact, some isolated outbreaks of fighting before Pearl Harbour."

Call me old-fashioned, but I really don't think that a war length defined by the declaration war and the following peace treaty is a particularly non-conformist definition. And besides, even if we were to use Davis' definition, wouldn't that then count the decade-plus of bombings, air raids, and sanctions that the US and UK performed?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Annoying TV

Maybe it's just because I'm watching more tv now than a few years ago, but there are a lot more lawsuit commercials on than what I remember. "If you've been injured in an accident...", "Some SUVs are more prone to rolling over than others...", "If you experienced heart failure and/or death after being treated with a drug called...". Geez.

Also, according to blogger, this is my 101st post! Absolutely amazing!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Radioactive Cat Blogging

If you look really closely, you can see the outline of a cat in the light. She's actually not radioactive, she just likes the sun.

Happy Pi Day

Today is 3.14, Pi Day! Do something circular!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Interesting Neighbors

Tonight when I walked down to get my mail, one of my neighbors was outside on his porch. With a two-way radio. And having a very interesting conversation. His side of it went something like this:

"Yeah, I just saw this great commercial."
"It was about the airport. You know how they have those metal detectors at the airport?"
"Yeah, well here's my idea for my commercial. You know they've got those metal detectors? What they need is a sin detector."
"Yeah, I'm gonna have a sin detector at my church. Cause at my church, all sins are welcome."

Now, go back and reread that, but in a really REALLY strong southern drawl, and inserting an annoyingly loud *BEBEEP* in front of each phrase.

Feel Good Story of the Day

Bottlenose dolphin rescues stranded whales.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Monday, March 10, 2008

Grrr...

There's some famous phrase about judging a society by the way it treats its least fortunate. This doesn't just mean humans, though, it means everybody. Last Friday, while driving from one of our complexes to the other, I encountered this on the road:


Now, I'm not a vegetarian, I will continue to eat chicken, and a coworker pointed out this morning that the US is actually quite humane (chickane?) in its treatment of animals, but seeing this still made me kinda mad. It was cold, windy, sheeting rain, and those poor animals were packed into the back of that truck exposed to it all, on their way to be killed. Hmph.

Adulterous Weekend Cat Blogging

This weekend, I cheated on Lucy with another cat. Shhhhh, don't tell!

The 7 Deadly Sins, Version 2.0

It appears that the Vatican has updated a list of behaviors that the Catholic church considers sinful.

My first reaction to reading the headline was "oh good, I could use a laugh". Upon further examination it appears a lot more reasonable than I was expecting, although I reserve judgement until I find a specific detailed list, which I haven't.

The general gist is that the church recognizes that globalization has produced a much more integrated and interdependent humanity than what existed even a few decades ago, and that a sin which affects humanity as a whole in an ambiguous nature is as grievous as a sin that affects one person in a specific nature. Thus, hot-topic areas like global warming, social equality, and genetic manipulation are now front and center in the Vatican's never-ending quest to see humanity better itself.

I am, to put it mildly, not a Catholic. There are parts of the Catholic religion that I find offensive, and also parts that I find kinda creepy. And I am uniformly opposed to seeing Catholic morality legislated into law. And yet, every once in a while the church surprises me by putting its (rather impressive) might behind a surprisingly modern and progressive agenda.

When I find the list, I'll put it up.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Random Business Tip

If you are a candidate for a job, and the company that you're interviewing for is nice enough to provide dinner, please pick a food that you can eat cleanly and politely. If, for example, you cannot eat chicken wings without keeping your mouth completely open or dropping the bones on the floor, don't eat chicken wings.

That is all.

4 Challenges for Clinton

In the interest of fairness, an Obama post deserves a Clinton post. 4 tough challenges for Clinton:

1) Release the damn tax returns already. Either there's nothing embarrassing in them, or there is, in which case don't you think we ought to know? What's in there now that won't be there in August if you become the nominee? There is simply no good reason for refusing to release tax returns for the past several years.

2) Stop trying to change the rules. The Nevada at-large caucuses were legal. The Michigan and Florida primaries do not count towards delegate count. Those are the rules, and you agreed to them, even if it was a bad idea in retrospect.

3) Enough with the made-for-McCain lines. There is a fine line between campaigning why you would be a good president versus why Obama would be a bad one, and lines like "McCain and I have crossed the national security threshold, but you'll have to ask Senator Obama with regards to his campaign" cross the line. If you want to make the case that you'd be better than Obama on national security, do it in a way that McCain can't repeat verbatim in the fall.

4) Sit down, take a deep breath, and seriously think this through. Barring a complete and utter Obama collapse (unlikely) there is no way that you will be the Democratic nominee. Are you doing anything besides giving the McCain campaign fodder for the fall?

Seriously, Enough!

Ok, the last Obamaniac rant for a while, I swear.

But seriously people, enough already. You are embarrassing yourselves.

Rally attendees are faintin in his presence. People are weeping with joy after watching the youtube movie. Celebrities swear that they would get down on their hands and knees and clear litter from his path. Political commentators wake up in cold sweats at 3AM because Clinton won the Texas and Ohio primaries. The audience goes wild when he blows his nose.

Seriously, are these people for real?

Japanese Traffic Experiments

Japanese researchers, for the first time ever, have recreated the infamous Shockwave Traffic Jam in a labratory setting. Check it out!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Suugn-p5C1M

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What would YOU leave behind?

An interesting thought experiment:

If there was some sort of cataclysmic event that involved fire and earthquakes, and everything you know was tossed around and burnt to a crisp and covered in 20 feet of ash, what would future archeologists find among the ruins, and what would they conclude from it?

Since plastics and rubbers burn and ceramics are fragile, the only stuff that would survive the fire and the years would be mostly metal. I have some furniture frames that are metal, and even though a lot of them would be bent out of recognition, the future wanderers could probably conclude that we liked to build frames for things, a sure sign of intelligence.

A lot of silverware and cookware would survive, but precious few dishes or glasses. Nailclippers would make it, but not toothbrushes. Clothes would be gone, but some pins and buttons and zippers would survive.

A particularly interesting one would be locks and keys. All you have to do is stop by the local hardware store to see that there would be a huge number of different specimens for the future to evaluate and study and draw conclusions from. It's actually quite fascinating if you step back and think about it. We, as a species, have invented literally millions of ways to keep our possessions away from everybody else and there are billions, possibly trillions, of instances in existence. Pull out your keyring and look. There's probably one or two house keys, one or two car keys, maybe a padlock or luggage key, the key to a parent or friend's house, the key to a business, etc. There are combination locks and deadbolts and slidekeys and safes and vaults. Would an alien race or future evolution of species look at these, and believe that humanity had a fundamentally distrusting nature? For that matter, do we have a fundamentally distrusting nature? Some would say we're cautious or that we prepare for risks, but caution and risks rely on not knowing the outcome, which means we can't be sure of the outcome, which means we don't trust it. Have we fallen into a self-reinforcing pattern of distrust?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Obamaniacal!

Yesterday somebody asked me whether I hated Obama, and I realized that I probably don't do a good enough job of explaining the nuances of my positions, either in conversation or in text, so let me take a quick stab:

Of course I don't hate Obama. Barring some kind of head injury that rearranges my wiring, I'll be supporting him 100% in the general election against McCain. Obama is a fine candidate who takes pretty much all the right positions. I have some quibbles with him here and there, just like I do with Clinton. My Clinton quibbles are a bit less quibbly than my Obama quibbles, so I picked the lesser of two quibbles and chose to support Clinton over Obama.

(rant warning)
What really drives me crazy though, are some of the more unhinged Clinton bashers. These are the people for whom everything, EVERYTHING, becomes an example of Clinton's evilness or Obama's sainthood. There really are a lot of people out there who simply lose the ability to think rationally whenever they hear the name "Clinton".

There's Ann Althouse, who thinks that the Clinton campaign put the subliminal message "NIG", with obvious racial overtones, in one of their campaign ads.

















There's Andrew Sullivan, who liveblogged an entire 2 hour debate without mentioning either Obama or Edwards for the first 40 minutes:
9.10 pm: Did Robert L. Johnson actually say he was "out of bounds" in bringing up Obama's past drug use? That's what Clinton just said. Did she just make that up?

(Update: if you read Johnson's press release, you can see that Clinton was lying to maintain good relations with Johnson. She lied when she said that ayone who did such a thing would be disowned. She hasn't disowned someone who both smeared Obama, then lied about it, then refused to back away from it. So that's two lies. If it were her opponent, you can be sure she'd be taking notes. I'm holding her to the same standards she applies to others.)

9.20 pm: Clinton again said that she doesn't want to inject the gender issue into this race. Again, this is easily disproved by any number of statements she has made over the last several months. She's not as bad as her husband, but she reflexively makes stuff up.

9.30 pm: Just like Bush, she cannot talk about her own weaknesses. In her eyes, her weakness is being too aggressive for change! And then she pivots to exploit Obama's own confession of his personal disorganization. The more you see her, the more calculating she is.

9.40 pm. Obama's showing some sense of humor, which has been lacking in his campaign. Both Clinton and Obama look exhausted.



And then just today there's Daily Kos and AmericaBlog (not exactly right wing) who suspect that the Clinton campaign is deliberately tinting videos to make Obama seem blacker:

No Longer Leeking

Phew, glad that's over with! Actually, the leek soup diet has been over for about 48 hours now, and trust me, there is absolutely zero chance of it ever coming back. None. What. So. Ever. Nada. Zilch. It was THAT bad.

Not only are leeks a lot stringier when cooked than you'd expect, but the only real effect that I saw was having a miserable headache for two days. Blech.

On the plus side, though, I have been doing a lot better at controlling portion sizes, picking healthy foods, going to the gym, etc. We'll see what the year brings!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The 3.5th Circle of Hell...

Better known as the Leek Soup Diet!

My sister, annoying brat that she is, has decreed that this weekend I will be on the Leek Soup Diet, which is something that she found in the book French Women Don't Get Fat. Basically, your weekend is as follows. You find some leeks. You boil them. You eat nothing except the boiled leeks and the water you boiled them in the entire weekend. Ugh.

All kidding aside, I do need to lose weight, and this seemed as good a way to kick-start as any, so this morning I got up early (8AM is early for the weekend) and set about trying to find some leeks.

First I walked over to the Ukrops by my apartment, which didn't have any leeks, but DID have a doughnut special going on, with all sorts of fresh doughnuts displayed as soon as you walked in. I got out of there as soon as I could.

Second, I drove across Broad to Kroger. They didn't have any leeks either, but apparently their Saturday special was fried chicken, the smell of which filled the store.

So, leekless and even more hungry than ever, I drove to the other Ukrops up by Short Pump, where I finally found some leeks. And since the produce section is right next to the deli, prepared foods and bakery sections in that particular Ukrops, I also found even more temptations. But, I remained strong!

So now, after braving doughnuts, fried chicken, fresh bread, sauteed onions with sausgage, a Panera Bread and 3 Starbucks along the drive, I'm finally back home, and my leeks are on the stove boiling away. In about 10 minutes they'll be done, and I get to have my first ever (but certainly not last) taste of leek flavored water.

I imagine I'll probably be giving a running chronical of my misery this weekend, check back if you're interested.