Saturday, October 30, 2004

Pat Buchanan endorsing Bush

Pat Buchanan endorses Bush. This is not such a surprise, but I found it interesting to read anyway.

He starts out by saying that Iraq has been "the worst strategic blunder in our lifetime." He spreads the blame for that over not just Bush but also the people who talked him into it. In any case, Iraq is not the only issue on the table. He says, "Bush is right on taxes, judges, sovereignty, and values. Kerry is right on nothing."

That's a legitimate opinion (which I don't share), but the next argument from Buchanan is more interesting.
The only compelling argument for endorsing Kerry is to punish Bush for Iraq.
I think this is a lousy reason, and it puts the decision in the wrong context.

I'm not Bush's dad, and it's not my responsibility to punish him. Bush is my President, and it's my responsibility to decide who I think would be the best President in the next term. If I think Bush would be the best President (in spite of "the worst strategic blunder in our lifetime"), then punishment has nothing to do with it.

Then there's this:
If Kerry wins, leading a party that detests this war, he will be forced to execute an early withdrawal. Should that bring about a debacle, neocons will indict Democrats for losing Iraq. The cakewalk crowd cannot be permitted to get out from under this disaster that easily. They steered Bush into this war and should be made to see it through to the end and to preside over the withdrawal or retreat. Only thus can they be held accountable.
So, let me review the options:
  1. Punish Bush by voting against him.
  2. Hold Bush (er, the neocons) accountable by voting for him.
This again sounds like parenting to me (perhaps because I'm a parent). The argument here is, since Bush messed it up, Bush should clean it up. Have you learned your lesson, young man?

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. I encourage you to read it for yourself.

Sleepless Mac

Shortly after I got my new Mac, I wanted to run it with the lid closed. I figured I'd close it on my desk, protecting the keyboard from dust and youngsters, and connect to it over the network from the office.

By default, it goes to sleep when the lid is closed, and I couldn't find a way to change that. Web searches turned up a kernel extension and also lots of talk about the possibility of the Mac overheating disastrously.

So, I called AppleCare to get an authoritative answer. The response was that a 15" PowerBook can do it, but my 12" PowerBook can't. That wasn't definite, but the rep I talked to found documentation easily about doing what I wanted with PowerBooks other than the one I had and concluded that it probably wasn't a good idea to try it with mine.

Now I leave it on my desk part way closed. It may keep some dust out, but the youngsters could fool around. Some evenings I come home to find that it was closed sometime in the afternoon. Sometimes I just close it myself.

I suppose my next step will be to leave it open but log out or lock the computer some way. That way meddling hands can't hurt it. It'd probably also make me feel more secure if it were ever stolen. Every other computer I've had in the last ten years has had security like that, and they were tangled up on a desk their whole lives, not gallivanting around the state, sleek and wireless.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I'd like to debunk a line of argument I've heard quite a bit. It goes like this.
Enemies of Bush criticize him for [some action], but if he'd [taken some alternative action], they'd criticize him for that too! Therefore, the criticism is invalid.
It's true that there are people who will criticize any action taken by someone they don't like. They see inadequacy first and find the justification for it later. Pointing that out is essentially an ad hominem attack, and it doesn't make their criticisms invalid. The (supposed) irrationality of your opponent doesn't prove your own rationality.

Here's a hypothetical. Bush has a choice between torturing people or not protecting the country. (This is a false dilemma, but pretend it's not, for hypothetical purposes.) I think it's reasonable to criticize him for not protecting the country. I also think it's reasonable to criticize him for torturing people. Answering either of those criticisms is not a matter of pointing out that I'd criticize both choices. To answer the criticism, you have to show that (1) those really were the only options available, and (2) the option selected was the better. In the (simple) hypothetical situation given, even that is hard because the judgment eventually comes down to values (human rights versus national security) on which people can fundamentally disagree.

I think this kind of argument often makes a different mistake as well, and that's taking members of a group as a whole. (I think of this as similar to outgroup homogeneity, a fancy way of saying, "people who are not my friends are all the same.") They see Alice criticize Bush for doing too much. They see Bob criticize Bush for doing too little. They conclude that "Bush's critics" are inconsistent, even though the individual critics may be completely consistent.

I feel better now. Straw man target practice is always comforting.

Azureus: Java BitTorrent Client

I've been using Azureus on my Mac for a while now, and it's been serving me pretty well. I look at once a day (being sure to kill the frames one way or another), slurp up new torrents that I'm interested in, and give them to Azureus to work on.

Things I like about Azureus:
  • I can set a global bandwidth limit and not worry about the individual torrents (before, I'd throttle them individually).
  • I can configure it to stop seeding once the ratio hits 1.0 (or other conditions).
  • I can set high and low priority for individual torrents and the files within the torrents, so I can somewhat control "what comes first" without starting and stopping things.
What I don't like about Azureus:
  • The interface seems sluggish at times.
  • Since it's in Java (and therefore cross platform), it's not very well integrated with Mac OS X.
  • I've had to kill it a few times, and not always because I'd pulled a fast one on it.
All in all, this means I can download entertainment much faster than I can find time to enjoy it all. Such is my hardship, thanks to Azureus.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Gadflyer: Believe

I'd like to laugh at "Why I believe in our President" but the topic still bothers me enough that I can't laugh at it. In any case, I encourage you to read it. The quote below gives the flavor.
I believe the president was right to oppose the formation of the 9/11 Commission, to change his mind but then oppose fully funding it, to change his mind but then oppose granting its request for an extension, to change his mind but refuse to testify for more than an hour, to change his mind but then testify alongside Vice President Dick Cheney so long as transcripts and note-taking were prohibited. I believe the investigation into the Abu Ghraib prison scandal shows it was the fault of a handful of misguided underlings who simply misunderstood a memo signed by the Secretary of Defense which authorized the use of dogs to interrogate prisoners.

My birthday, the Day of the Dead.

Does This Look Infected? this morning tells me that my birthday is the Day of the Dead. In the immortal words of Johnny Carson, "I did not know that."

So, while you're honoring the faithful departed and praying to assist souls from Purgatory to Heaven, perhaps think also of my birthday. I'd like a new President, please. Failing that, there's always my Amazon wish list.

Thank you.

Non-US Forces in Iraq

I keep hearing the candidates talk about the nature of our coalition in Iraq. Bush points out that we have 30 countries there together. Kerry points out that the United States is taking 90% of the casualties. So, I've wondered, how many troops are in Iraq from each of the coalition of the willing?

Recently, I found a nice summary of Non-US Forces in Iraq. Let me summarize the summary:
  • Six countries (besides America) have over 1,000 troops in Iraq.
  • Two countries have between 500 and 1,000 troops in Iraq.
  • Thirteen countries have between 100 and 500 troops in Iraq.
  • Seven countries have fewer than 100 troops in Iraq.
(Alert readers will note, that adds up to 28 countries.)

Norway has ten people there; Moldova has twelve. Those kinds of contributions make me wonder if someone at the White House said to them, "just send some token support, so we can say that another country is contributing." Then again, maybe those countries have hardly any military, and a dozen bodies is a major commitment for them; I really know nothing about their armies.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A diversion.

OMG, my faith in the integrity of pop singers is deeply shaken.

(Note, when I originally made this remark, I referred to "bleachy-haired" pop singers. I'm proud that I didn't know Ashlee Simpson is now brunette.)

"The whole situation was a bummer," said Simpson.

"So you've got to do what you've got to do," said Simpson's father and manager.

We'll now return to my pent up political commentary.

Electoral College reform? Well, no.

If you saw my earlier post about how far from the will of the popular vote the Electoral College can get, you might be thinking this institution has got to go. Many agree with you, but I'm here to tell you it's not to be.

The Electoral College was established for the very purpose of creating the kind of result that my armchair analysis demonstrated. The founding fathers did not want the election controlled directly by the people, and the Electoral College was the indirect method they came up with instead. I've heard also that if elections were a direct vote, candidates could focus their campaigns only on big cities and forget about sparse rural areas, leaving small town folks without a voice.

As a result, the Electoral College gives smaller states not a lot of power compared to the large states, but disproportionate power. Wyoming's 3 electoral votes don't compare to California's 55, but that 3:55 ratio (0.054) is a lot better than the 0.014 ratio of their voting populations.

The only way to remove or change the Electoral College is with a Constitutional Amendment, which must be ratified by a 3/4 majority of the states. See the problem? Taking the extra voting power away from smaller states requires their consent.

It could happen, but only with strong support from people in practically every state, people willing to make their own vote less valuable as a result.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Vasogen's VP025 in the news.

Vasogen is working on VP025, a drug that delays the onset of ALS. Here are two PR stories about it:
  1. Vasogen's VP025 Delays Disease Onset and Prolongs Survival in Preclinical ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) Model
  2. ALS Researchers Deliver Oral Presentation of Vasogen's VP025 at Neuroscience 2004
I'd like to be hopeful about the progress being made on these treatments, but to be honest, my hopes for treatment are much higher than "delay the onset."

Bush administration has used 27 rationales for war in Iraq, study says

Devon Largio wanted to understand why we went to war in Iraq, and so she analyzed 11 months of White House statements and media reporting, looking for rationales used to justify the war. She found that the Bush administration has used 27 rationales for war in Iraq, and she tracked how often certain keywords were used over time. She found that after the State of the Union at the end of January, the administration mentioned Osama bin Laden less and less at the same time they were talking about Saddam Hussein more and more. This is consistent with that not-that-concerned-with-Osama statement Bush made March 13, just six months after the attacks in New York.

The article I linked has a nice summary, and a link to the full 212-page paper in PDF format.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Olfactory bulb stem cells and Lou Gehrig's disease

Olfactory bulb stem cells and Lou Gehrig's disease
Because they are found in a fairly accessible region of the brain and could conceivably be removed from a person's olfactory bulb without causing permanent damage, adult olfactory bulb stem cells are a potential non-embryonic source for cells that could prove useful in replacing nerve cells lost due to injury or diseases like ALS and Parkinson's.

TMDA Ends Spam

I wrote "TMDA Ends Spam" over a year ago. My mail processing has changed a lot since then, but the article is still relevant and accurate. The only thing that's really changed since then is that TMDA is no longer under heavy development (there's a stable version).

TMDA is not for everyone. It's an industrial strength solution for people with heavy duty spam problems. That having been said, I'm still very happy with it after 20 months of usage.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

BarlowFriendz: Exit Strategies

In "Exit Strategies" John Perry Barlow talks to a man in charge of some security contractors in Iraq, and they discuss the situation there. Eventually the talk turns to a couple of interesting exit strategies.
  • Put Saddam back in power (under close supervision) to bring the country back under control.
  • Separate the Kurds from the rest of the country and go hang out with them.
I found these hypothetical solutions to be the most interesting part of the article, but there's a lot of other interesting stuff in there.
Finally he pointed out that history provides a gloomy prognosis. "I can't think of a single case where a popular local guerrilla movement failed to defeat a conventional foreign occupying force," he said. "From the American Revolution through Viet Nam, the guerrillas always win. Usually, it takes them a long time and they suffer most of the casualties, but they win."

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Human spinal cord cells help rats with Lou Gehrig's disease

Human spinal cord cells help rats with Lou Gehrig's disease
The human neuronal stem cells were obtained from embryos by scientists at biotech company Neurostem Inc., transferred to Hopkins and implanted into the lower part of the rats' spinal cords about a month before the animals usually develop muscle control problems characteristic of ALS. The treatment delayed the animals' death by 11 days.

National pride, diminished.

Four years ago, I read "A Minor Political Screed" by David Brin, and it cemented my opinion that Gore was a better candidate than Bush. It's worth rereading today and remembering a time when we made decisions not based on fear of flaming death. Back then, I think people feared the other certainty, taxes.

Recently, I read "Right and Wrong" and I had a similar "yeah, that makes sense" reaction, but on a completely different topic. Four years ago, I thought that Bush would be bad for the country financially and socially. Today I think that Bush has been bad for our country in even less tangible ways.

I've talked about how unpopular the country is with the rest of the world now, and that's aggravating, but it's insignificant compared to how Bush has affected my view of my own country. It's disgraceful, and I feel it personally.

This is cute.

I saw this a while back and thought it was cute.

The other night my daughter touched my nose and said, "you have a big nose." I'm sure I'll be hearing that kind of thing electronically before I know it.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters

I've already forgotten where I first saw "The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters," (PDF) but I see a number of other sites have picked up on it already. There's a quick summary over at Winning Argument, and there's this inflammatorily-named post on Boing Boing, which quotes and links to an article that requires registration. Very briefly, what it says is that most Bush supporters are misinformed and most Kerry supporters are not. Bush supporters get a number of facts wrong about Iraq and the War on Terror, and they're not familiar with their own candidate's positions on certain issues.

When I saw it, I wanted to look for some of the facts they're talking about. It doesn't mention anything that Bush people got right (unless Kerry supporters agree), and it doesn't talk about every issue in the campaign, so I'm assuming that they cherry picked the results for things that made Bush supporters look bad. With that in mind, maybe the stuff they consider facts aren't.

75% believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.
60% believe most experts believe Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.
55% believe the 9-11 report concluded Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda.

This is supposedly contradicted by the 9-11 Commission Report, but "Bush Contradicted On Iraq & al Qaeda? Or not?" on says, "Even the 9-11 commissioners don't agree about whether their staff contradicted the Bush administration."

The evidence I've seen for connections between Iraq and al Qaeda is all pretty light. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and one could argue that the President is privy to information we're not, but my personal inclination is to side with Occam's Razor here.

72% believe Iraq had WMD or a program to develop them.
58% believe the Duelfer report concluded that Iraq had either WMD or a major program to develop them.
56% believe most experts think Iraq had WMD.

The key findings of the Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD (aka "the Duelfer report") says some interesting things about this.
  • Saddam really wanted WMD, but he didn't have any.
  • Saddam really wanted sanctions lifted, and he was close to doing it.
  • Saddam wanted the WMD for Iran.
57% believe that the majority of people in the world would prefer to see Bush reelected.
82% of Bush supporters believed that a world majority either feels better about the US due to its recent foreign policy (37%), or thought views are about evenly divided (45%).

I discussed this earlier. I've seen people argue that the newspapers conducting the polls are themselves biased. The PIPA report refers to another poll I haven't seen. Either way, I've not dived into the methodologies of those polls, but I have no particular reason to doubt them.

Here's a further quote from the PIPA report:
A slim majority of Bush supporters (51%) think a majority of people in the Islamic world favor "US-led efforts to fight terrorism," while 44% think a majority opposes these efforts. Among Kerry supporters, fully three in four (75%) think a majority in the Islamic world opposes US-led efforts to fight terrorism (favors them, 21%).

Between summer 2002 and February 2004, the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Survey polled a number of countries with large Islamic populations?some of them three times?asking whether people favor or oppose "the US-led efforts to fight terrorism." The four countries asked in 2004 (Turkey, Pakistan, Jordan, and Morocco) all had majorities in opposition. Of the nine countries asked in 2003, seven showed majorities opposed to US-led efforts; the exceptions were Kuwait and Nigeria. The results in summer 2002 were quite similar; for details see
There's something that Bush and Kerry supporters agree on, namely that the Bush administration has been pushing some of the ideas above. PIPA polled about perceptions of the administration's messages.

82% of Bush supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying that Iraq had WMD (63%) or a major WMD program (19%).
84% of Kerry supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying Iraq had WMD (73%) or a major program (11%).

75% of Bush supporters think the Bush administration is currently saying Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda (56%) or that it was directly involved in 9/11 (19%).
74% of Kerry supporters perceive the Bush administration as saying Iraq gave al Qaeda substantial support (49%) or was directly involved in 9/11 (25%).

55% of Bush supporters say the Bush administration is currently saying the US has found clear evidence Saddam Hussein was working closely with al Qaeda.
52% of Kerry supporters say the administration is saying clear evidence of a close collaboration has been found.

The majorities of Bush (58%) and Kerry (92%) supporters also agree "If, before the war, US intelligence services had concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and was not providing substantial support to al Qaeda, then the US should not have gone to war." They differ, in that 61% of Bush supporters think that Bush would not have gone to war in that case, but 83% of Kerry supporters think that Bush would have gone to war anyway.

One could argue that intelligence before the war said that there were reasons for going to war. In that case, Bush could be excused for the decision. This may be another difference of opinion between Bush and Kerry camps that the report doesn't address.

So, let me summarize what I think of all this.
  • Everyone agrees that if there were no WMD in Iraq and Iraq wasn't supporting al Qaeda, then we should not have gone to war.
  • The Duelfer report and the 9-11 Commission Report say that we didn't have those reasons to go to war.
  • Everyone agrees that the Bush administration has been saying things that contradict those two reports.
  • The Bush supporters are buying it, but the Kerry supporters (and the rest of the world) aren't.
The PIPA report also talks about the Kyoto treaty and the International Criminal court, but I won't go into all that. I'm less interested in them, and the report itself has a summary of the candidates' positions.

So, will this have an effect on anyone? Kerry supporters will feel smug, I suppose, but I suspect Bush supporters won't care.

Bin Laden is (probably not) in China

I saw "Bin Laden is in China" the other day, hosted on some nameless server with an IP address allocated to a company in Texas.

It says there are secret negotiations to capture Osama in China. It also says where Osama is hiding (broadly). It makes me wonder, has Osama seen this? Have we just told him where the cops are hiding?

I thought it was interesting to read, even though I think it's fiction, so I'm passing it on. Salt to taste.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Daughter talk.

Our daughter has shaped our language. She names things, and we start using those names, even between each other. For instance, before the talking started, we referred to our vehicles by the names the manufacturer gave them. Now, they're "the red car" and "the blue car."

There's the "squares blankie" and the "clouds blankie" and the "blue blankie."

That thing you put over your head to keep it from getting wet in pouring weather? It's a "rainbrella."

We're not the first to do this. My stepfather still calls that compartment in front of the passenger seat the "glove department" after his daughter named it that decades ago.

All in all, I'm glad she's here to give us good solid names for things, and new words to use for things that had become boring otherwise.

How far off can the Electoral College get?

I have a look at the Current Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 from time to time. I stare at the colorful map, and I look over the numbers a little.

It's pretty well known that our Electoral College could elect a President who did not win the popular vote. I wondered this morning how far from the popular vote a candidate could get and still win the election.

So, I grabbed some population data and came up with some wild premises. First, everyone who can vote, does (because I don't have registration data for North Dakota and Wisconsin and also because it simplifies the math, which I'm nevertheless doing with a computer). Second, there are only two candidates, and everyone votes for one or the other. Finally, everyone votes in the way that maximizes the disparity between the popular vote and the winner of the election.

I compute the number of popular votes per electoral vote, and I sort my states by that metric, which is coincidentally approximately by population. In the 40 least populous states, exactly half-plus-one vote for the winner, and the rest for the loser. In the other larger states, everyone votes for the loser.

As a result, the winner gets 273 electoral votes and 45,314,040 popular votes. The loser gets 160,500,960 popular votes. Thusly, we get a President who got only 22% of the popular vote in an election where everyone who could vote, did.

So, that answers that question. A more realistic model is left as an exercise to the reader.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Accidental distress signals

I saw the story about a TV sending a distress signal, and it reminded me of a story about a guy accidentally dialing 911.

It also reminds me of the time a radio station in Peoria was fined for playing the same song over and over (which is considered a distress signal) without even station identification. I wish I could find a reference to this, but it was quite a while ago.

What's wrong with unpopularity.

In the second presidential debate, someone pointed out that we're not very popular in the world right now. The question she asked was, "What is your plan to repair relations with other countries given the current situation?"

Bush's answer was a list of things he's done that have made us unpopular, and he summed up this way: "And so, what I'm telling you is, is that sometimes in this world you make unpopular decisions because you think they're right." He also said, "People love America. Sometimes they don't like the decisions made by America, but I don't think you want a president who tries to become popular and does the wrong thing." He didn't say a word about repairing relations. He basically talked a lot about how popularity is unimportant compared to "doing the right thing." How he justifies his decisions as "the right thing" is left as an exercise to the reader.

When Kerry got his chance to speak, he pointed out how Bush's answer "promises you more of the same over the next four years." Then he went on to talk some more about how he thought Bush had handled the Iraq war badly. Again, no discussion of how to repair relations with anyone, but in Kerry's case, not even any discussion related to the question that he's not answering.

Certainly popularity is no guide to morality. It's also easy to say that unpopularity is the result of a misunderstanding. It's tempting to say that a misunderstanding isn't a real problem, but it is. Unpopularity can have concrete consequences beyond harsh words, even when that unpopularity is not based on anything concrete. If that can be changed with some diplomacy, some communication, some new understanding, there's no excuse for leaving foreign relations in that state.

If it's not a misunderstanding, it may be that we've done something that's in our self-interest but not in the interest of the rest of the world. If it really is important that we do that (and important enough to risk those concrete consequences of unpopularity), then there's nothing to be done. There's no misunderstanding to smooth out, and there's no taking a different course for the sake of popularity.

The last way I think the popularity problem can occur is when there's no misunderstanding, and our self-interest isn't worth the consequences of the unpopularity it generates. That value judgment is the hard part, though.

I think the rest of the world sees well enough what's happened. There's no misunderstanding to clear up. I think there is some justified anger out there over the results of recent United States foreign policy, and I think that will have consequences for us in the future, but I don't really know what those are. I also am unclear on what exactly we gained. I think it will be a long time before we can know for sure whether unpopularity has been "worth it."

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Karma at work: Sun, Kodak, and patents

This entry in Ian Clarke's journal points to an irony.
  1. Sun believes in IP (software patents).
  2. Kodak successfully sues Sun over a patent violated by Java.
  3. Sun still believes in IP (even $92M poorer, owing to a spurious patent).
Patent reform is not enough.

The world likes America but hates Bush.

I read with interest "France's Le Monde Newspaper: America yes, Bush no" over at Kuro5hin since it confirms something I've heard and thought for a while. There is a lot of anti-American sentiment in the world right now, but it's not directed at Americans. It's directed at what the country has done and at President Bush personally.

People sometimes elect lousy leaders. Other countries have done it, they understand, and they're forgiving. I give them credit for that. However, if America, having seen what Bush has done, elects him for a second term, I think the people of the world will then blame the people of America for Bush's first term as well as his second. Voting for Bush tells the world, "yes, we wanted that to happen."

The original poll covered ten countries, only two of which favored Kerry, according to this article in The Guardian.
The only exceptions to this trend are the Israelis - who back Bush 2-1 over Kerry and see the US as their security umbrella - and the Russians who, despite their traditional anti-Americanism, recorded unexpectedly favourable attitudes towards the US in the survey conducted in the immediate aftermath of the Beslan tragedy.
The other eight countries polled:
  • Australia
  • Britain
  • Canada
  • France
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Spain
  • South Korea
I won't be voting any differently based only on the opinions of foreigners (any more than I'll vote based on the opinions of terrorists), but I do think it's worth figuring out what their beef is. Given that so many other people have an opinion different from the people in this country (who seem to be split very evenly), where does that difference come from? Do they know something we don't, or do they merely (and predictably) have different interests? For instance, they didn't get the tax cuts that Americans got. Perhaps it's that they just are not Americans and feel no solidarity with an American leader.

In any case, this election may turn out to be more than the most important anyone in America can remember. The world is watching, waiting to see what their favored Americans do about their unpopular leader.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Custom mouse pads.

I still don't have a mouse pad. This isn't any big deal since my new mouse is optical, so it works fine on the bare desktop. I wouldn't be shopping for a mouse pad except that the bare desktop has a bump in it that throws off my aim every once in a while.

Anyway, I found this place that will let you put any photo on a mouse pad for $15. I haven't bought from them, but I thought I'd share the link.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

The Terrorist vote.

There was a flap a while back about bin Laden favoring Kerry in the coming election. "Who al Queda would vote for" discusses that. He says that al Queda loves Bush, based on their own words, the effects they've seen since Bush has been in office, and the opinion of an anonymous expert. I frankly don't put a lot of stock in any guesses about who the terrorists want to win our election, but it's interesting to speculate.

I heard someone say that we know Bush has done a good job securing the country because there have been no more terrorist attacks. I think this is a lousy argument (regardless of whether the conclusion is true), but it makes me wonder, what would be the effect of an attack right before the election? Would voters rally around Bush, as they did after September 11? Would they suddenly decide that he'd done a lousy job protecting them? Would they throw him out, as voters did in Spain after March 11? Sadly, those two are not the only options. In any case, I doubt The Terrorists can answer this question better than we can, and I doubt that they'll do something to disrupt the election without knowing the effect, but that's just more speculation.

If The Terrorists got on TV and convinced America that the candidate they really can't stand is Nader, would we all suddenly vote for him? Our votes are ours, made on our terms, for our reasons. If you're going to vote the way al Queda says not to, you might as well let the terrorists vote for you.

Saturday, October 16, 2004


I remember my dad saying that he woke up before his alarm every morning. His body got used to waking up at the same time every day and did it automatically.

After my daughter was born, I went without an alarm. She nearly always woke up on her own before I needed to be awake, and that got me up well enough. Recently, she's been sleeping in more, so I've set a feeble alarm, the one built into my watch. I call it feeble since it's easy to sleep through, especially if the watch is placed somewhere hard to hear.

I went to bed last night pretty late, and I figured at the time that I'd be sleeping like the dead until something woke me. This morning, I woke up slowly, on my own, but I was still tired. As I lay there wondering why I was awake, I had a look at my watch. It was 15 seconds before my alarm.

Friday, October 15, 2004

What bin Laden wants.

I don't know Osama bin Laden, and I haven't spent a ton of time researching him. However, I have a few things to say about the guy, based on a few things I've read, mainly as counterpoints to assertions I hear in the press.

First, I think he's dead. His death (or capture) may have been kept secret so that he doesn't become a martyr. I frankly don't think the Bush Administration is noble enough to have done the deed and not take credit for it, but it's a possibility. I think it more likely that he couldn't make it to a necessary dialysis appointment, or he died in some aerial bombardment. In any case, he's uncharacteristically quiet.

What he was really concerned about was Saudi Arabia. He didn't like the fact that US troops were there, and he wanted them to leave. (Note, he got what he wanted.) More broadly, he wanted to unite the Muslim world, which involves overthrowing the various parts of it individually.

I hear a lot of, "they hate freedom, and they hate America." Many of bin Laden's followers likely are that way. I think Osama himself never cared what we did in our own back yard; he just wanted us out of his.

I think The White House would rather we not know what Al-Qaida really wants. If I hadn't heard that Osama wanted our troops out of Saudi Arabia, I might have taken less notice when we gave him what he wanted. As long as I don't know the terrorist's objectives, I can't evaluate their success.

Also, there's no debate over whether they have a point. As a President, which conversation would you rather have?
  1. They hate our freedom? They can go to Hell!
  2. They hate the fact that we're protecting a corrupt government in their land? Well, go figure.
Nobody's going to say that death and destruction is a good way to get the point across. It's easy to say that someone who chooses a mad method of communication is simply mad and has no sane thought at all, no message worth hearing. I can understand that decision, but I prefer to make it myself. Having the President decide for me that there's no depth to the enemy is insulting and deceptive.

Now on my white board.


This is a reference to something going on here in the office. Apparently someone was writing things on the white boards of empty cubes, and this has been discouraged. I had no idea it was happening (and I still don't know what was written), but once I heard about it, it sounded like just the sort of activity I'd like to engage in.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Hot Bush! Flaming pants!

In the debate last night Kerry quoted Bush saying that he was "not that concerned" about Osama bin Laden. Bush said this was an exaggeration. When I heard Kerry say it, I remembered the quote he was talking about. When Bush denied it, I wasn't sure if I remembered wrong or if Bush lied. Luckily, the Internet is here to help.

The first proof that I remembered right, I found on Scott Feldstein's blog. Then I saw a more extensive discussion at Talking Points Memo.

To save you the intolerable labor of clicking through, here's the exchange from last night:
KERRY: Yes. When the president had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, he took his focus off of them, outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, and Osama bin Laden escaped.

Six months after he said Osama bin Laden must be caught dead or alive, this president was asked, "Where is Osama bin Laden?" He said, "I don't know. I don't really think about him very much. I'm not that concerned."

We need a president who stays deadly focused on the real war on terror.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. President?

BUSH: Gosh, I just don't think I ever said I'm not worried about Osama bin Laden. It's kind of one of those exaggerations.
You can find the President's quote in a press conference on March 13, 2002:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.
If you look at the whole context, that really is what President Bush was saying. He no longer cared about catching Osama bin Laden. I'm just hoping our free press takes this opportunity to replay that part of that press conference for the viewers at home, hopefully right before or after a clip of Kerry talking about how Bush took his eye off the ball.

O'Reilly Sexual Harassment Suit

I read through the O'Reilly Sexual Harassment Suit, and two things jumped out at me.
  1. The ads for at the top of the page. Sexual harassment. Dating. Sexual harassment. Dating. Discussion of vibrators over dinner. Woman in pink bathing suit and cowboy hat.
  2. The totally dry descriptions of outrageous events. "Plaintiff informed Defendant in no uncertain terms that she was neither experienced in nor interested in gaining experience in telephone sex. Defendant expressed disbelief." It's almost as if they want the reader to use some imagination.
I'm not a fan of Bill O'Reilly, but that has more to do with the way he spins things while claiming not to spin things. Now there's an all new and exciting reason to dislike him (namely, having phone sex with an unwilling participant).

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Dead Palm now live

The little power light finally extinguished totally, so it was time to charge the little bugger, give it a reset, and give it a try. My first attempt was a failure because I'd forgotten to plug in the USB connector to my Mac. Once that was straightened out, it synced right up!

I first synced to the empty palm, and it correctly picked up all my iCal stuff (which was really all I had). Then I put the SD memory card in and the fun began.

FileZ is a good program, and it's what I used to copy every last bit of Palmy goodness from the Palm to the SD card in the first place. Copying back was a little more difficult because FileZ would copy away happily until it ran into a file that already existed. At that point, it would stop mid-batch. I'd rather it gave me the option of clobbering the file or even if it skipped that file and did all the others. Either way would have been fine. As it was, I had to delete most of the files off the Palm before doing the copy, taking care not to copy any file that I did not delete. Also, some files would just recreate themselves after deletion.

Anyway, on the next sync, the laptop clobbered my hard-earned calendar and address data. After that, I recopied from the SD card just the DB files for things that had been whacked. The third sync was the charm.

I'm pretty happy with the results. One of my goals was to use the native Mac applications (iCal, Address Book) in sync with the Palm, but there are small issues with that. iCal's todo items are categorized the same way the calendar itself. This is not bad, but my Palm's todo categories don't match my iCal calendar categories. Also, the address book categories I had set up on my Palm didn't make it to Address Book at all. I may end up using the Palm Desktop software for the todo list and the address book, something I was hoping to avoid. It's not a big loss, though, since I have to use it for the Memo Pad anyway.

The bottom line is I'm still working out those little kinks, but I already have far more than I did before (under Linux). If this USB death problem crops up too frequently, I'll certainly look into replacing my m505.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Common Antibiotic Saves Damaged Neurons

"Common Antibiotic Saves Damaged Neurons" refers to minocycline, which I think my mom is already taking. The rub here, however, is that the researchers were giving the studied rats 10-20 times the usual dose, and they suggest that if the current clinical trials do not show significant results, perhaps the doses need to be higher.