Friday, January 11, 2008

Freedom Isn't Free

"What we don’t see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do. "

-Mayor Giuliani

I was in New York during the Giuliani administration I didn't think he was particularly good for the city, especially in the latter parts of his tenure. One of his proposals was to impound the cars of anyone accused of frunk driving and quickly sell them at auction without benefit of trial. His justification? Basically it was that some folsk get aquitted and he *knew* they were guilty so he should sell their cars anyway.

Glenn Greenwald puts it best:

Whenever he found a crusade that triggered his sense of righteousness, legal and even constitutional constraints were of little concern to the mayor. He ended up on the losing end of one court battle after the next, arising from his efforts to stifle private expression that he disliked, including endless campaigns against an art exhibit he deemed blasphemous, bus and subway advertisements he considered offensive, and political protests he found annoying. According to Rachel Morris‘s recent article in The Washington Monthly, Giuliani “lost thirty-five First Amendment cases in court.”

Bill Gate's Last Day

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Things Not to Google, #17*

Lemon Party
Avoid especially Google Images. I promise you, you will know the meaning of "rue".

*brought to you in part by a grant from Geoff Inc. Geoff Inc., building distrust between generations since 1985.

Iron My Shirt

I saw the picture and laughed. I guess I am just a bad person or something, but I thought it was a joke, not a serious commentary.

Don't Try This At Home

Some people might say it's not a very smart idea to throw 6 lighters into a blender. Those people would be right.

Me: I am going to get one of these.
Geoff: Get two.
Me: Why?
Geoff: because otherwise they are going to find you dead in your apartment and the coroner is going to wonder why you choked to death on a smoothie spiked with Brillo pads.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

FSM Hate Mail

Now and them, I dip into the Hate Mail bin over the FSM site just to see what's what. It's often a very illuminating glimpse into the minds of certain kinds of people. Generally the mail comes in one of two flavors, people who have lost even basic credulity and can't recognize an obvious joke:

How can you idiots belive this stupid religion? You idiot taoist won’t believe Christianity because of eternal judgement, but you’ll believe a bunch of crackheads that think a stupid ball of spaghetti with meatballs created the universe? If that’s your logic on this subject, you belong with these moronic crackheads.

I can't figure if they are religious because they just have a low credulity threshold, or if they are credulous because they are religious. Kind of amusing in the way it's amusing to watch global warming denialists wrestle with facts.

The other big grouping centers around people who, for whatever reason, take personal offense. They then, almost always, threaten to use magical powers to invoke sky-father to do various kinds of smiting:

You have caught my attention Bobby Henderson. You know what you’re doing. You don’t believe any of this, but since you’ve decided to make a war against Jesus, then, let it begin. My campaign against you begins now. You aren’t going to remain unopposed any longer.

It would be slightly more honest, although much more revealing, if this poster capitalized the M in "my".

I suppose this is a self-selected group, motivated to write by their limited worldview, leaving the vast majority of folks to chuckle and move on. Still, I find it pretty surprising that so many folks don't get the joke on such a fundamental level.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

I Can See Clearly Now

At 800x600 it's a far cry from the 2400x1600 resolution I am enjoying with my Dell/nvidia 8800 combo, but it's oh so tempting...

Head Mounted Display

The Day Today - War!

from 1994, and yet... so familiar....

Ice, Ice Baby

A decent article on the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

The changes seen in Greenland may turn out to be self-limiting in the short run; surging glaciers can flatten out and slow, for instance. Or they may be a sign that the island’s ice — holding about the same volume of water as the Gulf of Mexico — is poised for a rapid discharge. Scientists are divided on that question, and on whether there is a near-term risk from a Texas-size portion of West Antarctica’s ice sheet that is also showing signs of instability. This split divides those foreseeing a rise in the sea level of a couple of feet this century from water added by Greenland, West Antarctica and mountain glaciers, and a few experts who speak of a couple of yards in that time.


“It’s basically a big lump of ice sitting on this bedrock,” Dr. Alley said in describing Greenland’s behavior in warm conditions. “What it tries to do is snow more in the middle and melt more on the edges. If it pulls its edges back, then there’s less area to melt, and that helps it survive. That’s why you can have a stable ice sheet in a warmer climate.”

There has been a flack lately about the Arctic surface ice, with one side suggesting that record amount has melted and it's a sign of global warming and another side pointing out that there was also a record refreeze so it doesn't' matter. This neatly sidesteps the actual science, but gives folks something to fight about. In reality the amount of surface area that melts is largely irrelevant, its the *volume* of ice that's significant, a measure neither side has any good data on.

It seems pretty clear that the climate is changing, although it's far from clear exactly why or what can be done about it. Historically, it seems to be changing fairly swiftly as these things are measured (usually in thousands of years), but we have no real written records of a major planetary climate change, so although humanity has lived through this before, civilization has not. It's tempting to blame CO2 emissions and, doubtless they have a part, but CO2 isn't a huge contributor to warming, at least compared to other gasses like CH4, so its a good bet there are other processes going on.

In the end, there may not be a lot we can do about this.

The current state of climatology is similar to the state of early 20th century medicine. It's science but on a complicated organism we don't understand and until recently we just shrugged and prayed to sky-father about it. It's my hopes that advances in atmospheric physics and computer modeling will give us a much better idea of how this whole thing is linked up and what, if anything, we could do to make it better. At this point, almost anything we do is effectively random and may or may not have an effect and certainly it wouldn't have the effect we think it will.

Give science some more time with this.

Monday, January 07, 2008

It is the way of the Samauri

Edutainment at it's best.

"which are why some Japanese people's feet smell like vinegar"


Not Immediately Dismissable

Jose Padilla is suing John Yoo for giving the president legal advice which amounted to advice to do something illegal. I thought this would go nowhere due to sovereign immunity, but it seems I was wrong. There is a pretty good rundown in the comments section over at Volokh. This seems to have some legs after all.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Riva Tuner

Awesome tool for monitoring everything about your system. I started using it to monitor the temperature of the nvidia 8800 card I bought, but you can also download a handful of plug-ins that make it even more useful.

If your idea of fun is opening the window to see if you can drop the temperature of your coreDuo by 1 or 2 degrees, or blowing compressed air into your graphics card to watch the fan speed self-adjust, this is the tool for you.

If you like opening and closing various graphics programs to see what they do to the ambient box temperature, switching OpenGL and DirectX packages in and out, or simply enjoy an afternoon coding programs from Graphics Gems III to exercise your PhysX board, you're in for a good time.

FTR, 61 unloaded on the 8800, 51 ambient.