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Archive for May, 2008

Of note

May 28, 2008 4 comments

I’ve just returned from Jackson, Wyoming. I regret to inform you that the town’s immigrant underclass has not yet overthrown the local government and rescinded the regulation that requires buildings to be in keeping with the village’s rustic aesthetic. Also, I was a traffic jam caused by cattle outside of Ennis. Most of my readership will not find that surprising.

The Bush administration is either as corrupt as I suspect or it consists almost entirely of political opportunists looking to make money off of book sales. Either way we get to make fun of them; we can’t lose. Oh, wait…

LitW’s (relatively) new novelty – a Clinton supporter – is really lazy.

I’m nearly a quarter-century old today. How nice of the government to send me a $600 present. Now, how should I do my part to stimulate the economy? I think I would be breaking my government’s trust if I put it toward my student loans.

Categories: 2008 elections, Montana

Zimbabwe?

May 21, 2008 3 comments

Just like Florida and Michigan:

SUNRISE, FLA. — Desperate to get attention for her cause to seat Florida and Michigan delegates, Hillary Clinton compared the plight of Zimbabweans in their recent fraudulent election to the uncounted votes of Michigan and Florida voters saying it is wrong when “people go through the motions of an election only to have them discarded and disregarded.”

“We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe,” Clinton explained. “Tragically, an election was held, the president lost, they refused to abide by the will of the people,” Clinton told the crowd of senior citizens at a retirement community in south Florida.

That’s, um, insane. It’s something you say when you have zero integrity left. She’s also lying about how she’s ahead in the popular vote. I say lying because she’s not an idiot.

She really could just continue campaigning, attacking McCain, promoting her ideas, etc. She doesn’t have to pull this shit. But she is. It makes me wonder if she had any integrity to start with.

Categories: 2008 elections

Sunday music

May 18, 2008 2 comments

For some reason, I started watching Headbanger’s Ball again over the last few months. Some of it is still painful (there’s no excuse for Cavalera Conspiracy and Demon Hunter), but there are actually good bands on there. They keep playing this Behemoth video, which features the band playing in the middle of burning church (they’re not Norwegian, but still). Pelican’s video for Dead Between Walls (which I can’t find online) also amuses me, as it features a guy wandering around with a microphone, looking for the band.

And finally, I’m not all that impressed with Lasse Hoile’s music video output so far. At least the video for Porcelain Heart is far better than the one for The Grand Conjuration.

Categories: Music

Einstein's letter

May 17, 2008 2 comments

Albert Einstein held some complex views about religion in his time. That hasn’t stopped the religious from trying to use favorable quotes of his to bolster their arguments. Maybe that talking point will go away now:

The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this. These subtilised interpretations are highly manifold according to their nature and have almost nothing to do with the original text. For me the Jewish religion like all other religions is an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.

Sounds a bit like Richard Dawkins, doesn’t he?

The contents of the letter aren’t that surprising, as they don’t really conflict with other quotes of his. He was a pretty vague pantheist, who believed there was a spiritual force of some sort in the universe, which is what drove him to be a scientist: discovering the workings of the universe meant discovering that force. Theism and its incarnations are primitive human inventions. That’s my interpretation, anyway.

What does this all mean? Largely nothing. Quote wars are a sad part of arguments about religion. You shouldn’t believe anything because one smart person said so, nor should you assume an intelligent person holds intelligent views about all subjects. Einstein himself said some pretty stupid things about communism and the Soviet Union. Religion in particular lends itself to compartmentalization; people can require rigorous standards in everyday life and then proudly abandon them when thinking about a higher power. It’s curious, but it’s why our society isn’t overrun to the point of collapse by superstitious nonsense. Religion probably won’t ever go away, but we can make its compartment smaller and smaller.

Categories: Religion, Science

Wait, what?

May 15, 2008 5 comments

I haven’t been paying much attention to Montana’s AG race. I probably should. I missed this, from around a week ago.

One of the Republican candidates runs SETI@home. He’s now being mocked for being an alien hunter.

Seriously? You’re mocking someone for running a program that helps analyze radio signals? This isn’t some guy running around looking for UFOs and touting abduction stories. He’s donating spare computing power to a cause that’s unlikely to succeed, but hardly something to disparage.

Not only that, he’s been doing that since 1999, when the project started. While it hasn’t succeeded in locating an ETI signals, it was a demonstration of a large distributed computing project, the first of its kind. Now we have ones like Folding@home and Einstein@home, which do uncontroversial and useful work using the same or similar architecture as what was developed for SETI@home. They pioneered those kinds of projects, in other words.

I can see thinking SETI is a waste of time, but mocking someone for running SETI@home makes you a moron.

Categories: 2008 elections, Montana, Tech

You people and your talking

May 15, 2008 1 comment

So I was Albertson’s yesterday, going through one of their self-checkout machines. Which, by the way, are quite handy for introverts like me who are happy to minimize superfluous human contact. Anyway, as I was buying my items, a girl walked up to a nearby machine, talking on her cell phone. She continued talking on her phone as she was checking out. At one point, the machine, which rather inexplicably says how much each item you scan costs, was overheard by whomever she was talking to. So, she explains the machine to the other person. Then she finishes, and walks out, all the while barely breaking stride in her conversation.

This bugs me for a few reasons:

1. This clearly wasn’t that important of a conversation, so why the hell is it taking place throughout your shopping trip?
2. If what you’re doing is interrupting to the point that you have to explain the mechanics of the object that interrupted you, isn’t that a sign of something?
3. I can’t remember the last time I spent more than 5 minutes on the phone outside of work.

Obviously, cell phone conversations in public places are becoming commonplace, but it was a little unnerving to hear her explain a self-checkout machine. I question the value of any phone conversation where that becomes necessary.

Categories: Silliness

Go Obama

May 14, 2008 Leave a comment

The Edwards endorsement hopefully will help push Hillary towards withdrawing from the race. Unlikely, I know, but I can dream, right?

My attempt to research and make a post about each of Democratic primary candidates died pretty quickly, so I never got to Obama. That’s who I’ve been leaning towards since early in the race and who I’m fully supporting at this point.

There’s plenty to like about him and his policies. His stance on different technology issues is excellent: government transparency by putting more information online, a CTO for the government, increased funding for scientific research, improving broadband infrastructure, more funding for clean energy research (rather than just emissions caps), etc. It’s solid stuff all around and his campaign has demonstrated that they understand how to use technology to great effect with the fund raising machine they’ve created. On foreign policy he’s not perfect (no candidate is), but he’s pretty close. This is a good assessment of our current situation:

The President would have us believe that every bomb in Baghdad is part of al Qaeda’s war against us, not an Iraqi civil war. He elevates al Qaeda in Iraq — which didn’t exist before our invasion — and overlooks the people who hit us on 9/11, who are training new recruits in Pakistan. He lumps together groups with very different goals: al Qaeda and Iran, Shiite militias and Sunni insurgents. He confuses our mission.

And worse — he is fighting the war the terrorists want us to fight. Bin Ladin and his allies know they cannot defeat us on the field of battle or in a genuine battle of ideas. But they can provoke the reaction we’ve seen in Iraq: a misguided invasion of a Muslim country that sparks new insurgencies, ties down our military, busts our budgets, increases the pool of terrorist recruits, alienates America, gives democracy a bad name, and prompts the American people to question our engagement in the world.

By refusing to end the war in Iraq, President Bush is giving the terrorists what they really want, and what the Congress voted to give them in 2002: a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.

What Obama lists as what he’s going to do are all good steps, but I don’t think they address the real root of al Qaeda’s appeal: American troops in the Middle East. However, his approach is progress and will keep us far safer than the McCain/Bush approach of perpetual war.

That’s my quick brief on why I like him. Obviously, he’s a politician and he’s promised more than he can deliver. Some of his stances are annoying or just fluff. But he’s not just the lesser of two evils, either. I think he’s actually a good candidate.

Categories: 2008 elections
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