Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Where the hell is Horvath?

The next six weeks. Not So Good

August 25-27 :Cartagena, Columbia
August 28-29: Boston
August 30-31: Detroit
September 1-2 Boston
September 3-9 Copenhagen, Denmark
September 10-11 Cape Cod
September 12-15 New York
September 16-17 Boston
September 18-21 London, UK
September 22-25 Boston
September 26 -> Redmond(Ballmer)
October 1 -> Move to Corporate Housing.

I'm thinking I might move to corporate housing on the 15th of October instead of the first. I still need to pack my delicates!

The Road to Cartagena

I'm off to Cartagena tomorrow at 4am and, it should be noted for the record, I'm doing it over Jim's express objections. Jim is not the kind of person to object to this kind of thing lightly and I had to pause for a few minutes when he said, "you look terrible". At the height of the brain worms, when I could bearly string a noun and verb together and forgot to bathe for 3 days he said I was "fine". I almost cancelled but:

1) I am no longer contagious
2) I feel better than I did this morning
3) no new infections have opened
4) some of the open ones are no longer oozing puss
5) I promised my colleagues I would do this.

conclusion: I am still on this hook for this. The goal line for this is low. At a minimum I need to do a 30 minute presentation I have done before. If I meet the chairman of the central bank for dinner tomorrow, it's bonus. Breakfast with Banco Azteca? Double bonus! Other meeting, double, secret bonus! If I truly feel ill, I will cancel everything but the talk, however I really think the zithromax is kicking in and should be fine.

What could go wrong?

Gritty Reality

The Impetigo problem is not going well. A bunch of new spots hung out their shingles and are open for the business of misery last night. My face looks red, greasy (from the ointments) and is covered in a fine, gritty sandlike substance that lends a "day at the beach" quality to my day.

Tomorrow at 4am I need to get up and get on a plane for Cartagena. The good news is, I'm not contageous any more. The bad news is, well, 12 hours on a plane.


Philadelphia Random Walk

Wherein it's revealed that Geoff's mother is, in fact, an actual mother:

Geoff:Things that used to terrify me now are nothing. The other day I went for a walk at about 1130pm and just walked around downtown and came back about 130am. Not really having anywhere to go, but just wanting to get out of the room for awhile. I walk through whatever Penn calls that park that borders Walnut st late at night too, usually after a movie or getting ice cream with friends. Just for fun I went from my place, to 42nd St, down a few blocks and back, again just to get out. Its pretty nice down there, mostly because its UPenns campus and they can afford to take care of things, but it also borders West Philly which isnt such a nice place in the daytime.

Becky: Ok... let me understand this..... You INTENTIONALLY go out at night to places that aren't "exactly" on my list of Places You May Go in Philadelphia?!?!?!?!? Son, is this like the "Well, I jumped out of the moving car and I didn't get hurt so I'll try a moving train next time" approach to life or what??? You want your mom to have stomach ulcers and gray hair??? I'm very glad that you are adjusting to Philadelphia life, but you gotta remember the rules....

1. ALWAYS cross with the little blinky guy. No matter what. 2. And walk in groups of 20. (It used to be
2, but like gasoline prices, everything is going up). Note that you do NOT need to hold hands crossing the street anymore, it tends to get you beat up.
3. Don't look like a tourist. (Learned this one from years in NY with your Aunt Debbie)
4. Always change your underwear......


A site for posting, you guessed it, things overheard in New York.

I thought this one was funny.

Gift Giving Season

This is an excellent blog on quirky, unusual items for purchase. It's definately made my Christmas shopping easier this year.

For example, I can get TJIC out of the way now! And maybe Geoff.

Speak English!

I thought this was very funny.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

In Praise of Atheism

Last post before I head to bed (and hopefully the healing embrace of Zithromax). I found something I want read at my funeral:

For nearly as long as there have been villages, there have been village atheists, the hypervigilant debunkers who lovingly detail the many contradictions, fallacies, and absurdities that flow from belief in holy writ. As a strictly intellectual proposition, atheism would seem, on the face of things, to have wiped the floor with the believing opposition.

Still, village atheists are as numerous, and as shrill, as they’ve ever been, for the simple reason that the successive revolutions in thought that have furthered their cause—the Enlightenment and Darwinism—have been popular busts. As the secular mind loses mass allegiance, it becomes skittish and reclusive, succumbing to the seductive fancy that its special brand of wisdom is too nuanced, too unblinkingly harsh for the weak-minded Christer, ultraorthodox scold, or wooly pagan.

The faithful, meanwhile, take some understandable offense at this broad caricature of their mental capacity and ability to face life’s harder truths. So each side retreats to its corner, more convinced than ever that the other is trafficking in pure, self-infatuated delusion for the basest of reasons: Believers accuse skeptics and unbelievers of thoughtless hedonism and nihilism; the secular set accuses the believoisie of superstition and antiscientific senselessness.

Finally, I have an Opinion

Alert the media!

Seriously, I have not really had an opinion on the Judith Miller case but, if true, this forces my hand. Surprisingly I come out against the government. Reason Magazine has the scoop.

Testimonial privileges require a court to weigh the government's evidence as to why they need her testimony. Yet Judith Miller was tried, convicted and sentenced to prison based exclusively upon written evidence from witnesses whose identities and testimony were kept secret from her and her lawyers. They were given no opportunity to defend her against, question, or rebut the secret evidence the courts relied upon exclusively in convicting her. Indeed, a full eight pages of the D.C. Court of Appeals decision discussing and analyzing this secret evidence was redacted from the published opinion.

Judith Miler is unique, the first American ever to be sent to jail based on facts she never saw and a federal appellate opinion she was not permitted to read. She won't be the last. Make no mistake: This will happen again and again whenever a case involves "national security,""the war on terror," or any combination thereof. This is too big a weapon for the executive branch to ignore, especially since it was fashioned by the most prestigious of the U.S. Courts of Appeals and approved by the Supreme Court. Let's face it. If they can do it to a reporter for The New York Times, they sure as hell can do it to anyone else.

Okay, I now think Judith Miller should go free. Any trial that involves secret witnesses isn't actually a trial.

I'm starting to get the sense that, generations from now, people will be looking at our current governement in the same way we now look at the Italian governement of the 30's and 40's. A warning which is best heeded sooner rather than later.

Department of Why Didn't I Think of That

I need to get me some of these.

Bill Moyer, 73, wears a "Bullshit Protector" flap over his ear while President George W. Bush addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

I know the First Amendment recognizes my freedom of speech, but does it recognize my freedom from speech?


Yesterday I woke up with a little scratch on my face. It was a little tichy, and it seemed like it was in one or two small area. I scratched a little, but not too much and thought it was a strange little rash.

Today it was all over the side of my face and kept oozing a clear fluid, which then crusted to form a honey-like substance. Not good.

So, I called a professional thia morning, went and saw him and got a diagnosis. "You've got Impetigo, it's a type of staph infection." Eek! "Good thing you came in. Staph infections do awful things to diabetics".
Result: cream and Zithromax (the pills they usually give me when I need a root canal or pneumonia)

Worse news: it won't effect my trip to Columbia on Thursday. Damn!

World's Best Knife Holder

Egad! Buy them here. Hat tip to Lee

Supporting the Troops

Agent X: I have *so* had a successful plan
Mark: Name one
Agent X: What about my plan to send movies to the troops overseas?
Mark: That's not so much a plan as it is piracy
Agent X: Well, a) it's not piracy and b)... yes.

EMH: Mathematical History

This is excellent, go read it. It's now on my list of "Things You Need to have Read Before you talk to me about Economics"

Christianity is a Religion of Love

(refrain) Christianity is a Religion of Love
repeat until exhaustion.

Robertson urges U.S. to kill Chavez

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson called Monday for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, labeling him a "terrific danger" to the United States.Robertson, founder of the Christian Coalition of America and a former presidential candidate, said on "The 700 Club" that the U.S. must not let Chavez make Venezuela a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism."

Chavez has emerged as one of the most outspoken critics of President Bush, accusing the U.S. of conspiring to topple his government and possibly backing plots to assassinate him. U.S. officials have called the accusations ridiculous."You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson said. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... and I don't think any oil shipments will stop."

Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the United States.

Robertson said the U.S. failed to act when Chavez was briefly overthrown in 2002, and added:"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Attempts to reach a Robertson spokeswoman were unsuccessful Monday evening.

Those wacky Christians. When dialouge doesn't work, lets just murder our opponents.

Iraq Constitution Draft online

This is what we went to war for???

1. Islam is a main source for legislation.
-- a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

-- b. No law may contradict democratic standards.
-- c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.
2. This constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the Iraqi people and guarantees all religious rights; all persons are free within their ideology and the practice of their ideological practices.
3. Iraq is part of the Islamic world, and the Arabs are part of the Arab nation.

This is big trouble. I'm no fan of the war, but Jesus McFuck, don't pull out until this nonsense gets fixed. If we leave with this as our last word, we'll regret it for generations. We will have created a fully-compliant, wholly owned subsidiary of Iran.

Andrew Sullivan

I finally got to meet AS last weekend in p-town. He had to be pointed out to me at Spiritus as a) he didn't quite look like what I was expecting and b) he was 3 sheets to the wind (and enjoying himself immensely). We did not talk about politics.

I mention this only becuase, on his site today, is the other half of the story:

Monday, August 22, 2005
APOLOGIES: The wonderful idea of celebrating my last weekend of bloggatical got, well, a little out of hand the last two nights, and I'm a little too hung over today to write anything too coherent. Sorry. I don't know why I leave the big blow-out to the last two days of a vacation but ... there you are. See you in the morning ... fresh as a wilted daisy.

Nuclear Arms

On a more serious topic:

Before the Iraq invasion in 2003, I had conversations with pro-war folks, notably Travis and Geoff, about the possibility that Iraq had nuclear weapons. I went on record as saying I thought there was zero chance, largely because I've talked to a number of Iraqi scientists and weapons inspectors and they all said the same thing, i.e. they were faking progress on weapons to keep Saddam happy and their families alive. Very similar to what Hiezenburg did during WWII. I believed them. The pro-war crowd implied they were lying to us not Saddam and "do you really want to take that risk". I did, but we didn't.

2 years later: there were no nuclear WMD, Iraqi scientists were faking results.

New prediction:
From the NYT today:
EARLIER this month Bush administration officials leaked to the press what they said was a new official estimate of when Iran might be able to build a nuclear weapon. Speaking anonymously, they told reporters that American intelligence agencies now believe it would take at least 6 and maybe as many as 10 years before that fateful day arrives.

I don't buy this for the same reasons I didn't buy the Iraqi story. Building a bomb isn't that hard and enriching the uranium, while tedious, isn’t' that hard either. Also, the Iranian students/scientists I knew were all working hard, getting good grades and had every intention of going back to Iran and building weapons. Hell, there were 2 Iranians in my nuclear weapons design class at Penn State in 1985. They got A's. The scientists I talked to in 2001 were sober, serious, and seemed to think they were going to need nukes soon.

Personally, I think they already have some and are not far from building arbitrary quantities of more.

My concern now is that the army is stretched thin, exhausted from the Iraq war, and the american appitite for taking war to other countries is gone. I think Iran thinks we are too wasted from this to go after them, and they now have a free pass. Our credibility with the rest of the world on this issue is for shit. Far from detering Iran, I think the Iraq War has emboldened them.

Confession Update

I got a handful of notes from folks on the confession thread last week, all of them saying essentailly the same thing; most mainstream religions have the tradition of a memberconfiding in a priest/shaman, but other than Catholicism and Scientology, no one else requires it's members to do so.

not even, oddly enough, Satanism.


A Failure of Education

There is a good editorial today in the NYT about the depths of time and how 14 billion years play out in cosmology and in evolution. This quote struck me as a truism:

Much has been made of a 2004 poll showing that some 45 percent of Americans believe that the Earth - and humans with it - was created as described in the book of Genesis, and within the past 10,000 years. This isn't a triumph of faith. It's a failure of education.

And that's really the way I see it. People ask me all the time, "what have you got against religion?". The answer is largely, every religion asks me to give up my freewill to their chosen representatives of their god and, usually soon afterward, the de-education begins.

Find me a religion where I can keep my scientific skepticism, keep my free will, keep meddlesome priests and shamans out of the line between me and the gods, and leaves me free to strongly hold the possibility that the gods don't exist at all, and maybe I would think about it.

So far, only free thinking allows me those choices.

Monday, August 22, 2005


goes off his meds. Or I have. Or maybe both of us, I dunno. All I do know is that he's saying what I'm saying and it scares me (but only just a little).

It's time for us conservatives to face facts. George W. Bush has pissed away the conservative moment by pursuing a war of choice via policies that border on the criminally incompetent. We control the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and (more-or-less) the judiciary for one of the few times in my nearly 5 decades, but what have we really accomplished? Is government smaller? Have we hacked away at the nanny state? Are the unborn any more protected? Have we really set the stage for a durable conservative majority?

Meanwhile, Bush continues to insult our intelligence with tripe like
"Our troops know that they're fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy," Bush said in his weekly radio address. {Ed: Full text
"They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war," he said.

I guess that's all he has left. After all, if Iraq's alleged WMD programs were the casus belli, why aren't we at war with Iran and North Korea? Not to mention Pakistan, which remains the odds-on favorite to supply the Islamofascists with a working nuke. If Saddam's cruelty to his own people was the casus belli, why aren't we taking out Kim Jong Il or any number of other nasty dictators? Indeed, what happened to the W of 2000, who correctly proclaimed nation building a failed cause and an inappropriate use of American military might? And why are we apparently
going to allow the Islamists to write a more significant role for Islamic law into the new Iraqi constitution? If throwing a scare into the Saudis was the policy, so as to get them to rethink their deals with the jihadists, which has always struck me as the best rationale for the war, have things really improved on that front?

Chaotic Attractor in the Markets

One of the members of Long Term Capital Management, Myron Scholes (of Black-Scholes fame) was a student of Eugene Fama, author of the Efficient Markets Hypothesis in 1965. LTCM worked well for many years when the markets were steady and predictable, but failed when a number of 4 or 5 sigma events hit, destabilized their models and sent the whole thing to hell in a hand basket. In Scholes defense, the 4 sigma events should have happened only once in 5000 years, so he made a pretty good bet. That said, there were anomalies in their data which should not have occurred in the history of the universe if the Central Limit Theorem held. One might conclude then that the CLT does not hold and only the weak-EMH holds (if at all).

However, with a lot of non-linear dynamics and fractal math behind me, I can't help but see these kind of high-sigma events not so much as a refutation of the EMH (which it obviously is), but as evidence that there is a low-order chaotic attractor in the markets. With some knowledge of what that attractor looks like, one might be able to do a little better than the EMH in building a model that works in the stable times and squeaks loudly when it sees the influence of an attractor. It obviously wouldn't work *during* the phase change, but it would let you know quite a bit beforehand that the part of the phase space the market was entering was known to be chaotic. It also would not tell you if, during a particular week, the change was going to happen or it was going to miss, i.e. is it really unstable or merely soon-to-be unstable, but it would be better than what currently exists.

Fama's refutation of the critiques of the EMH is here and worth a read, in part because it's not persuasive. Basically he says that EMH is the best we have, so it must me right. I think it's only partly right and it's possible to do better.

I am also, BTW, certain someone else has looked for the attractor in the markets, but I want to see how far I get before going to look up the answer.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Iraqi Constituition: What's The F-ing Problem?

What the hell is the problem with the Iraqi constitution? How hard can this be? Take the US Constitution, do a search and replace on United States with Iraq and presto! Democracy!

What the hell is their problem over there? I'll give them a copy of Office 2003!

Here, I'll even get them started:

We the People of Iraq, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for Iraq.
Article. I.
Section 1.
All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of Iraq, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section. 2.

Clause 1: The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

Clause 2: No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of Iraq, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

Clause 3: Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. (See Note 2) The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of Iraq, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative;

Clause 4: When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.

Clause 5: The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section. 3.
Clause 1: The Senate of Iraq shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, (See Note 3) for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Clause 2: Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies. (See Note 4)

Clause 3: No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of Iraq, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.

Clause 4: The Vice President of Iraq shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.

etc. and so forth.

The hang up seems to be that they are trying to set up an Islamic government, which they better not 'cause I don't think that's what we had in mind...

$200,000,000,000 for another Islamofacist haven? No way! Now I'm ready to invade the place and knock some sense into them.