Saturday, October 01, 2005

Best Warning Sticker Ever

Care of Dr. Nick

The Essense of the Problem

I'm probably one of the few remaining people in the country that doesn't think G.W. Bush is stupid. Truely I don't think that. He might have a lot of faults, but you don't get to be where he is if you're a total fool. That's one of the reasons I don't let him off with the "He's too stupid to know better" line, but also why I watch what he does.

The problem I have with him was highlighed today in this article on Yahoo News. I don't think he's stupid, but he sure seems to think I am.

"I'm encouraged by the increasing size and capability of the Iraqi security forces. Today they have more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country, and our commanders report that the Iraqi forces are serving with increasing effectiveness," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

Okay, fine. But...

One of the few measures the Pentagon has offered the public to judge the capabilities of Iraqi security forces has been the number of battalions that can go into combat with insurgents without the help of the U.S. military.
During congressional testimony on Thursday, Gen. George Casey, top U.S. commander in Iraq, and Gen. John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said the number of such battalions had dropped since July to one from three, out of the roughly 100 Iraqi battalions.

Knowing we have dropped from 3 to 1, the President says we have 100.


Space Tourist

This is cool.

Abstractly, I'm glad that capitalism is catching up with space. The price tag is very high though, and so I will never fly. I can't see a scenario where I'm going to have $20M in disposable cash.

I expect the pricetag on the life extention technology will be even higher when it arrives in 2119 (even adjusting for inflation).

RIght and Wrong

Outstanding piece by AS here on the use of torture issue and one officer who is doing the right thing.

There isn't much for me to add, although one snippit I will quote:

When did Al Qaeda become any type of standard by which we measure the morality of the United States? We are America, and our actions should be held to a higher standard, the ideals expressed in documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Fight Terror, Fuck Children

the Associated Press reported last week that "President Bush decided Wednesday to waive any financial sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Washington's closest Arab ally in the war on terrorism, for failing to do enough to stop the modern-day slave trade in prostitutes, child sex workers and forced laborers."

The Either/Or Fallacy. Help us, we'll look the other way, rather than, help us and knock that shit off.

Left, Right or Center, I have no tolerance for this shit.

The Intellectual Integrity of the Right

When you can't win on the power of your ideas... well... cheat! It's what Jesus would do.

Isn't it?

Lara Szent-Gyorgyi said she was returning items Saturday at Wal-Mart in Natick when she noticed someone outside the store gathering names for a separate ballot initiative, one that would allow the sale of wine in supermarkets. Szent-Gyorgyi said she had signed, and had then been asked to sign a few other petitions, but she said she had not been told what they were for. One was the gay-marriage petition.
''It was very misleading," said Szent-Gyorgyi, of Brookline, who contacted The Boston Globe.
Risa Sacks said she experienced something similar at a Price Chopper supermarket in Worcester on Wednesday.
She said that when she signed the wine initiative, a woman who was collecting names told her that she needed to sign somewhere else, too. Only when she pressed, Sacks said, was she told that the second signature was for the gay-marriage question.
''I was so upset about the whole thing," said Sacks, a freelance researcher who lives in Worcester. ''It was completely egregious. It was completely misleading. It was completely incorrect."

I am, of course, making that error where I ascribe the actions of a few to the political philosophy of millions, which is just plain stupid.

But fun, in an intellectually lazy way.

Update: Andrew Sullivan also has something about the this and links to another article.

Well, I signed the Petition to allow alcohol to be sold and asked Mr. Johnson if my name would be made public and was told emphatically, "No, these signatures go directly to the Secretary of State." Interesting... I was then asked if I wanted to sign "the traditional marriage petition." When I said no, He told me that he was being paid $1 a signature and that it would really help him if I could sign!

I thought the point of the bible was that the end didn't justify the means.
Maybe that's why I'm an atheist.


When you don't know, or can't deal with, someone else's motivations, people tend to project their own. Thus, I got a chuckle from this remark:

Being called vindictive and partisan by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog. -- Ronnie Earle

Book Review: Freakonomics

by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

This was a quick read (about 3 hours on the plane on the way back from Redmond) and, in a word I thought it was: good.

Very little (but some) reasoning by analogy and none of the Correlation/Causation Fallacy I couldn't stomach in the Armchair Economist. There are a few ego, puff pieces in between the pages but in general it's well reasoned, well written and thought provoking. I didn't care much for the article on names but the abortion-crime paper is bound to offend anyone with a pulse.

Although it didn't change my view that economics is in it's early phases as a science, it did a lot to show how statistics can be properly used in building an economic case for things like abolishing gun control laws, or how teachers cheat on standardized testing.

I would recommend this book.

Moving to Redmond 17 October

The date is set. They're getting my car on the 13th and then it's into corporate housing.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Also from Media Training 101

Never do this:

"This case is about free inquiry and education, not about a religious agenda," Patrick Gillen, a lawyer for the board said in his opening statement.

I realize this is a lawyer in an opening statement and not, explicitly, a media statement, but I think the rule applies. When in view of the media, it's important to avoid the use of the word "not". It gives airtime us the concept you're trying to kill with only a 3 letter word to negate the whole thing. Best example ever:

Nixon: "I am not a crook"
Public: "Hey! Nixon's a crook!"

On the ID debate, my position is simple. The ID folks are simply disingenuous. They only want "debate" on a few issues which promote their agenda and are not really part of science. ID is a great topic for the forensics club or a religion class or even a philosophy class (do they even have these any more?). Just not science.

Mr. Rothschild said that the board's own documents would show that the board members had initially discussed teaching "creationism" - one former member said he wanted the class time evenly split between creationism and evolution - and that they substituted the words "intelligent design" only when they were made aware by lawyers of the constitutional problems involved.

Innovation Offiste

I'm at the Semiahmoo Resort in Northern Washington State, so close to Canada I can smell it. (It's right there). We've been here for 3 days now, sitting in lectures, labs and exercises in the process of innovation. To my surprise, I've learned shitloads. I was expecting the usual powerpoint comas, dull analysts etc. but it's been very good. This has all been work to get us in shape for Ballmer today and I'm certainly better educated and more thoughful than I was when I walked in.

Interesting bits so far:

1) Innovation can be mapped as a process and learned by almost anyone. Surprising, as I've always viewed it as a dark art and essentially un-teachable.

2) Much of the mathematical formalism I've been working through in the last few months have paid off in spades. Every piece has clicked into place in an amazing way. I was in a lecture yesterday on business and market analysis and I was consistently 3 slides ahead of the presenter based on Gaussian analytics and market analysis. Why is Best-Buy profitable? They got rid of tail-end Gaussian customers that cost them far more than they earned off others. (The math told me this was happening and sure enough, the lecturer told us a few slides what was going on behaviorally with customers).

3) I may have been wrong about some of my pessimism on technology. I have to reluctantly bump up the probabilities of a number of events I thought would take decades. This is good in some ways and bad in others, but it was certainly a surprise.

4) I need to learn to get on the lecture circuit. These folks are making $50,000/hour for these talks. Yes, read that again.

Damn! I gotta get me a slice of that fat money cake.

Very little time for blogging or anything else. I get up at 4:30, work until 7am, meet the group, work with them until 9:00pm, then go catch-up on email and go back to bed.

Still, it's been educational and worth the time.

If He Wears a Sweater and Tells Us to Lower the Thermostat...

The President is telling us to conserve gas.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of conserving resouces, lowering pollution etc.

It just strikes me as ironic that the Right's favorite son is now emulating one of their oldest mockingpoints, democratic strawmen Jimmy Carter.

We're a long way from gas lines, but if they were to form... well... that too would have some interesting karmic consequences.