Saturday, September 24, 2005


Interesting article on HPPD in wiki.

The scientist in me thinks HPPD is due to a specific flaw in the edge-detection algorithm in the human visual system. Current models of human vision are strongly informed by results in computer science and the use of neural nets for perception. The human brain is an analog computer, but neural nets do a decent job of modeling how that analog processing works. There is a pretty good article on the 6-layer system, and how it relates to the HPPD hypothesis here.

The unrepentant survivor of a misspent youth is merely glad the yellow hexagons have toned themselves down with age and Klonzapem.

Crank Boy

A Scotto eye-view of issues relating to psychoactives.

It reads like something I might have written.

“So this is the Project,” I said.
“Yeah, this is it,” Crank Boy replied.
“Where did you get the energy to do all this?” I asked.
“You have heard there’s a methamphetamine epidemic, right?”

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Graph

While it doesn't say it all, it says alot.


BTW, I disagree with some of the conclusions of the analysis here. I think government works best when it works least, i.e. when it's split between the parties.

Worst Crossovers:the Gathering

Travis is conducting a vote on his worst crossover contest.

Vote early, Vote often.

You Win

Also from Lee

Can This Fruit Be Saved?

No! Not Ricky Martin.

The Banana!

The banana as we know it is on a crash course toward extinction. For scientists, the battle to resuscitate the world’s favorite fruit has begun—a race against time that just may be too late to win.

The Cavendish—as the slogan of Chiquita, the globe’s largest banana producer, declares—is “quite possibly the world’s perfect food.” Bananas are nutritious and convenient; they’re cheap and consistently available. Americans eat more bananas than any other kind of fresh fruit, averaging about 26.2 pounds of them per year, per person (apples are a distant second, at 16.7 pounds). It also turns out that the 100 billion Cavendish bananas consumed annually worldwide are perfect from a genetic standpoint, every single one a duplicate of every other. It doesn’t matter if it comes from Honduras or Thailand, Jamaica or the Canary Islands—each Cavendish is an identical twin to one first found in Southeast Asia, brought to a Caribbean botanic garden in the early part of the 20th century, and put into commercial production about 50 years ago.
That sameness is the banana’s paradox. After 15,000 years of human cultivation, the banana is too perfect, lacking the genetic diversity that is key to species health. What can ail one banana can ail all. A fungus or bacterial disease that infects one plantation could march around the globe and destroy millions of bunches, leaving supermarket shelves empty.

Hat tip to Lee

(dis) Inginuity!

From the TPM. This is a ballsy thing to try to pull off. Make a typo, let people know it's a typo then (wink wink) not fix it.

Oh those Republicans, gosh they sure are clever.

I knew the House Republicans couldn't be trusted managing the federal budget. But I had no idea it was this bad.

To great fanfare a group of House Republicans has announced what they call Operation Offset, an effort to make up for new Katrina spending and save the president's tax cuts by proposing a whole slew of new cuts in the federal budget. As we noted below, a huge amount of the cuts come out of Medicare. And there's also a very timely cut in CDC funding.

But if you go to page 17 of the 'Operation Offset' budget plan they're circulating, you'll see they propose to "eliminate attache positions in the Foreign Agricultural Service." And by this they claim they'll get more than $37 billion of savings just next year. $347 billion over ten years.

Who knew attaches made such high salaries!

If you look down into the explanation section, it notes that the savings are in millions, not billions, on this and the item below on cuts at the Department of Education. Yet, they push this transcription error through the whole document. So about half a trillion dollars worth of savings they claim doesn't even exist.

(ed.note: Special thanks to sharp-eyed TPM Reader TW.)

The Wig is Free, but the Nylons and Lipstick Will Cost A Little Extra

A cynical and ungenerous interpretation of this would be, the White House is still trying to juice the pitch.

From Wonkette:
MIA: Bianca
President Bush reads from the script:

THE PRESIDENT: Bianca. Nobody named Bianca? Well, sorry Bianca's not here. I'll be glad to answer her question.

Q I'll follow up.

THE PRESIDENT: No, that's fine. (Laughter.) Thank you though, appreciate it. Just trying to spread around the joy of asking a question.

Q Mr. President, could we talk more about --

THE PRESIDENT: Are you Bianca?

Q No, I'm not. Anita -- Fox News.


Q Just a quick question --

THE PRESIDENT: Okay. I was looking for Bianca.

I'm sorry.She sounds like a ringer... anyone know what Jeff Gannon looks like in a wig?

President Discusses War on Terror and Hurricane Preparation []
""george , White House , bianca , bush" , press conferences , w.

Looking Backwards Update

Speaking of my project, here's a quick update:
I've had to re-write a lot of the first couple of years because events have overtaken them but I think it's back on track. I also re-wrote a bunch of events in 2010, same outcome, different rationale.
2010-2020 still needs a little work to establish the events in 2020-2024, but the outline is there.
I'm still looking for a good name for the American Catholic Chruch, suggestions welcome.
I worked out the physics of the Chinese cis-lunar station and it works fine. I'm going to do a design soon for the paper.
2020-2030 is still rough but taking shape.
2030-2040 now has some newsworthy events
2040-2090 is still light, although I think I see where to take it
2095-2155 is surprisingly solid. Since I know the ending, I've put a lot of work into it. I got to invent a new term, nanokinesis, and I have a character in the 22nd century around which I can build the story. I've settled on a name: Geronimo Collins

I spent a little time on the graphics and formatting, which is now better, but I still need to engage a professional. I'll probably be ready for that in October.

Ann Coulter at 14m 30s of Her 15 Minutes

As 5th year Bush-fatigue sets in, many folks who have made their money sucking at his popularity, are unsure what to do. Ann has a unique approach, bash Bush!

Bush has already fulfilled all his campaign promises to liberals — and then some! He said he'd be a "compassionate conservative," which liberals interpreted to mean that he would bend to their will, enact massive spending programs, and be nice to liberals. When Bush won the election, that sealed the deal. It meant the Democrats won.

Democrats control Bush.

Just let the roll around in your brain for a moment. Her thesis is that liberal democrats control G.W. Bush.

Wow. If that's not the bottom of the conservative pundit barrell, I don't want to see what comes out next.

Speaking of Ann, I've been thinking about writing her into the Looking Backwards project, maybe in 2008 or so. She's the subject of a best selling on the NYTimes list: How to Fuck Ann Coulter in the Ass, (If You Must).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Geoff's Stock Picks or How I Stopped Worrying And Learned to Love the Markets

A real conversation:

Dad:So what should I buy?
Geo: Well, I think you guys are in a bidding war to buy AOL. Buy some of that...
Dad: [typing heard] Really? I didn't know that.
Geo: Oh Yeah, it's all over the place.
Dad:[typing heard] Really?
Dad:What else?
Geo:Google. You should buy some Google.
Dad: [typing heard] I'm not sure I'm allowed.
Geo:Well, it's going through the roof.
Dad: [typing heard] Okay.
Geo:Well, actually it's gone to 311 today
Geo:Shit. I could have bought it the other day at 303.
Geo:Actually, it's down from 318.
Dad:Oh, well, we're in for 15 now.
Geo: and it's... what???? what did you do??!!!???
Dad:We're in for 15. And 200 AOL.
Dad:You said to buy them, so I did.
Dad:You said to.
Geo: And you choose to listen to me NOW?!!??
Dad:Well, yeah.
Geo:Your making this up.
Dad: No, here's the order (send copy of order)
Geo:Dad! Are you crazy?
Dad: Possibly.
Geo: That's a lot of money.
Dad:Not really. And I'll give you half the profits.
Geo:Buy me an X-box 360
Geo: You'll invest in the markets but not your son?
Dad: As soon as there is a professional Halo team, you've got my backing. Until then....

And so AOL/TWX and GOOG get added to the Horvath Money Bin.

Just Because it's Cool

I'm adding this picture, also from BAGnews, just because it's cool. When I dream(1) of the ocean, it looks a lot like this.

(1) "The quickest way to keep people from listening to you is to say 'Let me tell you about this dream I had...'." - Albert Musial

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Noted by the ever watchful BAGnews. This is John Roberts with Senator Leahy sitting right behind him. It's more than a little errie how she apes him, although I am guessing that whatever is being said is driving two similar but indepenent reactions as opposed to actual telepathy or remote psychic control from Karl Rove [I think his range is actually limited to line of sight unless he is present in either wolf, bat or gaseous forms].

The link is here, but be warned! There is a lot of "Leftist (1,2)" commentary.

1) Consistent with guidelines defined by Travis, Politbureau Chief of the Vast and Bountiful Free Cities Technoanarchy of TJICistan.
2) UL approved

The Half-Blood Prince

I was talking to Geoff about this today and he suggested I blog it.

Since when did Satan have his own ice hockey team?

Dude, I've met him, and he does.

I do not.


Adding Anonymous Comments

I got a note today from one of the folks I talked to yesterday about climate change. He noted that he couldn't add a comment to my post without starting a blog of his own. I went in and flipped a switch in the settings that allows "anyone" to post. I didn't know that wasn't possible before today.

I'm reserving the right to turn this off if I get a lot of spam though.

Thanks Sam for pointing this out.

The Green Flash

I got this link from APOD on the phenomenon of the Green Flash. I've only ever seen it once, in Ptown at Sunset. Cape Cod is the only place on the East coast of the US where you can watch the sun set over water. Last fall during Labor Day, we took a sun set cruise and I got to see it. Simply amazing.

Photo credit: Andrew Young

No More JKF Catholics

Catching up on a few things, I got to read this article by Amy Sullivan on Romney, Mormonism and electability. One thing struck me as true and having some interesting consequences.

All of this leaves Romney in a real pickle. Thus far, he's tried to follow in the tradition of other Massachusetts politicians and "pull a John Kennedy," declaring personal faith irrelevant to his qualifications for office. This is a nonstarter. We live in a political era in which, thanks largely to Republicans, candidates are virtually required to talk openly about their religious views. There is no way a Republican, especially in a GOP primary, can avoid the issue—if for no other reason than the press won't let them.

It's nice to know the spirit of the First Amendment is alive and well on the Right.

Personally I would never vote for or against someone based solely on their religion and never have. They all seem equally foolish to me and a sign that the candidate is subject to the will and judgment of priests, clerics and other ghost chasers.

It does highlight the problem of the Big Tent GOP though. Sullivan says that 30% of the GOP is made up of evangelicals to whom Mormonism isn't even a branch of Christianity. Given Bush fatigue, and other factors at play (the usual corruption, incompetence and spendthriftiness of whatever party is in power), it seems like the Right might have a harder struggle in 2006 and 2008 than they've had the past decade or so. There may be a crop of moderate candidates on the way in the near future, and if the other 70% of the GOP doesn't pick up the pace, those moderates might not be majority Republican.

ThingsThat Begin with the Letter R

As everyone probably knows by now, it's very unusual (but still within the Gaussian) to get to named storms with the letter R in September.

I was talking to some folks in London yesterday and they asked if I thought it was climate change (or global warming, take your pick). I said I'm post a short piece with some references to explain what I was saying in the cab.

The terms climate change and global warming have become fungible in their common use although they do have different meanings. Global warming is a sub-set of the larger term climate change, and the outcome of global warming (what it causes) may be some other area of climate change (e.g. glaciers, "water world" etc.)

The current spate of hurricanes may or may not be a result of climate change (I know that's not real helpful). It turns out that the current models don't predict statistically more named storms, but do predict that that the storms occur will be stronger and more violent. Hurricanes are powered by the temperature of the surface water over which they travel. The warmer the water, the more evaporation, the stronger the storm (the contrapositive of this also appears to be true). If the ocean temperature is increasing due to surface warming, then storms will be stronger.

You won't get more storms because the forces that cause the storms are correlated with a lot of conditions besides ocean temps (wind patterns, weather in the Sahara, the jet stream and the deep ocean circulation pattern). Climate change may or may not cause more storms, it's not clear. The data so far though only suggest a high Gaussian season so far in the Atlantic, the Pacific and Indian areas seem to be closer to the norm, although there too the intensity is up.

Bill Gray does a good job of making the black art of hurricane prediction more approachable. Back in the day I met Dr. Gray at a AAS conference and have been a fan ever since. He's one of the folks that got me thinking about climate change in the first place.

A Note on Climate Change: The Earth's climate is very complex. The entire discipline of Chaos Theory was founded while trying to tease apart the complex, interacting systems of Earth's energy balance and turn it into a set of simple rules. It's not simple by any means and any conclusions based on simple cause and effect are more likely to be wrong than right and if, right, it's almost always by coincidence. It's roughly equivalent to taking digital computer operating systems and applying them to the analog human brain. Conceptually attractive, but denying the basic physics and certainly the wrong approach.

Real climate models predict strange things in response to surface temperature increases, in part based on the cause of those changes. It’s a complex set of interlocked differential equations, with sometimes odd answers. There are also a lot of factors invloved beyond just the surface temperature which could act as "force multipliers" to amplify some effects out of proportion. These amplified effects feed into other systems and the whole climate moves to a new state vector.

There seems to be two stable attractors in the equations; the current Warm Solution which humanity has mostly evolved in and the White Earth Solution. Neither are fully stable and it seems like the Earth lips back-and-forth between at least these two attractors (they may be more).

The point here is this: It’s a hard problem we don’t understand and, the Earth is not guarantee to be, at all times, habitable. At least not to humans. My advice (since I was asked yesterday), be suspicious of simple cause and effect explanations for or against climate change and, keep in mind the stakes are surprisingly high. In the end, there may be nothing at all we can do about it, except adapt.

Update: In the cab I mentioned some reference to the Martian Climate runaway. References here here and here

A Very Unique Pet Peeve

I can't stand it when people use the phrase "very unique" when they really mean "very unusual". Unique means "one of a kind" and therefore cannot take a modifier like very.

I was just listening to NPR and a teacher, a teacher for Christ's sake, talked about her "very unique students" who had gone to Iraq. A teacher!

Someone should wash her mouth out with soap, talking to students like that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The McKeithen's

I'm tired and jet lagged, so this struck me as hilariously funny.

I'm pretty sure this was done over at Lileks at some point, but I'm tired enough that I think I need sleep more than closure.

Love the hair on Aunt Bea there...

All the President's Notes

A bit was made last week of a photo from Rueters which caught the President seeming to ask Condi Rice for permission to go tot he bathroom. It was a non-story but provided some relief from the Roberts non-story and used up some column inches while they prepare the death tolls from Rita.

I got home from London a hour or so ago, caught this, and it made me laugh (mostly becuase it reminded me of this). Your milage may vary.

Grasping at Straws 1 in a suspected series

I didn't quite know what to make of this at first. I thought it might be a joke of some kind:

Recruits Sought for Porn Squad

Let's see; Hunt for OBL?, no luck, theWar on Drugs?, Drugs plentiful, rights compromised, the War on Terror? Budget blasted, world not safe... why would the FBI ...??? The I read this paragraph:

Applicants for the porn squad should therefore have a stomach for the kind of material that tends to be most offensive to local juries. Community standards -- along with a prurient purpose and absence of artistic merit -- define criminal obscenity under current Supreme Court doctrine.

Ah. The President' spoll numbers are down and his looking to increase his popularity among republicans before the mid-term elections.

Here's a suggestion: Find OBL!! You'll be popular with everyone!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I Am Not a MacArthur Genius

I can honestly stay I would never have thought of this:

David Plotz crunched the numbers to find out who is most likely to get the unexpected call announcing the fellowship. The verdict? "All the rules suggest that the perfect MacArthur genius is still out there: a one-named Berkeley professor who choreographs interpretative jazz dances about how genetically modified food will destroy humanity."

I once invented a way to do surface integrals on a Mobius strip, worked out how to keep the North Koreans from cheating on the NTBT using crypto, invented my own non-Euclidean geometry, co-authored a paper on (so-called these days) Horvath-Arabadjis Polynomials and worked with gas-phase fractal chemistry. I have a measured IQ almost a sigma above Weschler genius level. However, I am clearly barking up the wrong trees.
Maybe I could invent a crime-solving cheese-based dessert, or a theory of economics based on the consumption of prunes... ... wait... that's Reagenomics. shit.

A Good Idea

Andrew Sullivan has a good idea that I fully support, noting folk who exhibit some modicom of judgement and recognize that occasioanlly recognizing the flaws on your side of the political spectrum, makes you a more credible advocate, not less. He call it the Yglesias Award. Here's a good example:

"For the crime of noting that the president's speech didn't help his poll numbers, I'm getting battered by e-mailers who suggest, among other things, that I am somehow unmanly because I'm not "supporting" the president enough. I never thought a day would come when I -- the author of a book entitled 'Bush Country: How Dubya Became the First Great Leader of the 21st Century While Driving Liberals Insane' -- would be accused of being a fair-weather supporter of GWB. Let me just try to explain something to my e-mailers. The president gave his speech Thursday night in an effort to reverse the decline in his political fortunes... It appears his effort was unsuccessful, in part (I think) because he sounded like a Big Spender and alienated more Republicans without winning over more Democrats... Bush supporters don't help him or themselves any by pretending his troubles are all due to the MSM. He has, for the moment, lost the country's confidence." - John Podhoretz, National Review Online.

Way to go, Sully. I knew there was a reason to very occasionally look at the National Review.

Speaking of Madonna

Speak the devil's name and she will appear. I am coming back to my hotel tonight and there is a huge crown in Leicester Square. Paparazzi, cameras, fenced off areas, the whole nine yards. I realize with each step that it seems to be centered on my hotel. Not Good. Further, as I pass the theatre nearby I realize they are celebrating the opening of a new movie (on a Tuesday?????). A Guy Ritche movie. Ut-oh. I wave my hotel card, get through security and into the lobby and who is there but… Madonna. Giving a press conference of some kind in the bar where I was planning on having a snack, reading my book and relaxing. Ugh.

I wish that bitch would stop following me around.

The Last Exorcism of Mary Poppins

Last week Travis had a contest for bad cross-over movie/book/comic deals. I put in a few but one of my favorites was (the Nick-amended title) The Last Exorcism of Mary Poppins. I chucked a lot when I wrote it and thought it was my second best attempt (The best, in my mind, being Harry Potter and the Prisoners of Oz [Penitentiary] )

I didn’t realize I would be in London this week when I wrote that and here Mary Poppins is beyond a pop icon and almost a secular saint. As a result, her image is everywhere, even more than Madonna’s. The idea of her being possessed makes a kind of sense given the movie (sliding up banisters, flying, making objects move, speaking in tongues, fucking the devil). So I was so surprised I laughed out loud and have been giggling all morning by something I saw today; A large cut-out of MP in the sidewalk (maybe advertising cell phones or something) with a bishop (or some other dressed up cleric type) standing next to her. I instantly imagined him turning to her, spraying her with Holy Water and saying “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!”.

Well… *I* thought it was funny.

With a Name like ...

I'm not sure what else I would have expected:

The majority of the administration and development team have been forced out of their web site following a series of threats and incidents. The member of the group that had been trusted to handle the finances and servers slowly managed to take over each individual part of the web site's assets, eventually claiming control over the entire group and locking out the majority of staff.
The organisation's founders, Tim Leonard and Ken McKelland, as well as the majority of the organisation's staff and developers (including the main developer of the PeerGuardian2 application, Cory Nelson and the staff members responsible for auditing the PeerGuardian Blocklists) have all been forcibly removed from the servers that were funded from donations given to the organisation by happy users, and from text advertising placed on the web sites forum and project pages.

The money, which was to have been used to help fund the development and hosting costs of the group is now unavailable, stolen by the one who was trusted to keep it.


Here's where I snickered a little:

Adam Hoier, Cory Nelson, Eric Mayuk, Fox Lowe, James Shanelec, Joseph Farthing, Ken McKelland, Steffen Tuzar, Tim Leonard


braindancer, D3F, fox, FuRiOuS1, JFM, KuKIE, method, phrosty, r00ted


Just a reminder, 80% of financial attacks against an IT organization are insider jobs.

"A Great White Canvas

... on which we write all our hopes and all our fears." - Description of the act of reviewing movies I hard once.

Andrew Sullivan has a reasonably sane take on those folks projecting all sorts of their hopes and fears onto "The March of the Penguins"

I want to see it because, well, I havea soft spot for penguins.

Monday, September 19, 2005


I got here late Sunday night, unsuccessfully tried to sleep, got up at 5:30 and hauled my bippy out to Reading for my meeting with HSBC. Sleepless and jet-lagged I still managed to talk to them for more than 3 hours straight on Payment systems, rt market data feeds and web-service based enterprise service buses. Not shabby. The rest of the day was taken up the same meeting although I was not critical to it. Then back here, a light dinner a few calls and then bed.

Today is much less hectic, so I'm hoping I'll get a chance to walk around town and do a few things. London is second only to Amsterdam in my ranking of cities and very easy for an American to along in, despite recent tensions. Some people know have compared visiting the UK to visiting a 52nd state. I completely disagree. I think it's like visiting a foreign country where folks happen to be good at English (if not always understandable). If you treat London as a version of America, well you sort of miss the point altogether.

I'm staying at the St. Martin's Lane hotel, which is right off Trafalgar Square. Convenient to a lot of places, including the office, near theatres and, in general, a great place. I was in London a lot in 2001 when we were raising our C round for Certco and I stayed in this same area. Therefore, falsely confident, I took the Tube back from Paddington yesterday instead of a cab, got off at the wrong stop (Piccadilly Circus) which I thought must be nearby, then wandered around with a full computer bag for an hour seeing lots of things that were familiar, but not near my hotel. oh well. I know I get lost easily and make time for that in most of my plans. Despite the heavy pack, it was fun and I often forget just how beautiful London really is.

Today all my appointments are in the afternoon so I'm going to spend some time this morning wandering around on my way to the office. I should be done by 6:30pm and, barring a last-minute client dinner, I've resolved to go spend some time in a pub tonight.

Home tomorrow evening after another trip to Reading and a speech at some conference.

Note from England

I was reading the Independent and came across an interesting article:

What has happened to Iraq's missing $1bn?

Interesting Bits:

The money, intended to train and equip an Iraqi army capable of bringing security to a country shattered by the US-led invasion and prolonged rebellion, was instead siphoned abroad in cash and has disappeared.


Most of the money was supposedly spent buying arms from Poland and Pakistan. The contracts were peculiar in four ways. According to Mr Allawi, they were awarded without bidding, and were signed with a Baghdad-based company, and not directly with the foreign supplier. The money was paid up front, and, surprisingly for Iraq, it was paid at great speed out of the ministry's account with the Central Bank. Military equipment purchased in Poland included 28-year-old Soviet-made helicopters.


I can start to see why it's taking so long to get a security force in order there.

Illogical Bit:

The writer makes this sort of illogical leap:
The sum missing over an eight-month period in 2004 and 2005 is the equivalent of the $1.8bn that Saddam allegedly received in kick- backs under the UN's oil-for-food programme between 1997 and 2003. The UN was pilloried for not stopping this corruption. The US military is likely to be criticised over the latest scandal because it was far better placed than the UN to monitor corruption.

Actually, the $1.8B isn't illogical (the writer justifies the total), but comparing these two things is highly illogical. The UN program was a bad apple. This is a bad orange. They are not comparable in their badness, only in some coincidental details.

Apart from that its worth a read.