Friday, May 28, 2004

Movin'

I haven't posted here much lately since I'm in the middle of moving across the country. I'll be skipping my graduation ceremonies and instead starting my new job in Washington, DC. So in lieu of that, I'll just read this classic graduation speech by Conan O'Brien. (via Dan Drezner).

Friday, May 21, 2004

Dude, here's my post

I never saw the 2000 movie "Dude, Where's my Car?." Both critics and audiences hated it. But it sure had a great title. Michael Moore ripped it off for his bestseller Dude, Where's my Country, and lately I've noticed the "Dude, where's my ___" construction popping up in various places. I think my favorite is "Dude, Where's My Neo-Reaganite Foreign Policy?"

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Talkin' baseball oddities

Power pitcher Randy Johnson just became the first 40-year-old player to throw a perfect game. Bill James has found that power pitchers tend to age better than finesse pitchers, with the notable exception of pitchers who specialize in that odd pitch, the knuckleball.

I've always wondered why there aren't more knucklball pitchers in the major leagues. There may soon be more, according to this Ben McGrath piece in The New Yorker. (See also this accompanying interview.) I've always been a fan of knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, and I'm rooting for him to keep pitching until he's 50.

And if that isn't odd enough for you, here's a story about outfielder Moises Alou peeing on his hands.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Dumb Republicans?

Perhaps you've recently seen a chart showing that the average IQ of people in states that voted for Gore in 2000 is generally higher than in states that went for Bush. The chart was linked by many bloggers, including Matthew Yglesias. Apparently it even makes it into this week's edition of The Economist.

The chart is a hoax. It's pretty obvious if you think about it--the range of average IQs is much too large, and the low states are much too low, especially states like South Dakota and Utah which actually do fairly well on standardized tests. There is much more information debunking the hoax at Steve Sailer's blog, here. There is also an extremely lame "apology" from The American Assembler.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Some good news from Iraq

According to the website that tracks coalition casualties, the rate of American military fatalities in Iraq seems to have fallen off from the very high level seen throughout most of April. In the last week or so there have been around one or two a day, instead of four or five. Hopefully this trend will continue (or improve).

UPDATE: I may have spoken too soon...

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The agency formerly known as the INS

The word "Kafkaesque" comes to mind upon reading this Dahlia Lithwick piece in Slate about the arbitrary tyranny of U.S. immigration officials. Reading about this kind of thing makes me feel angry and powerless. I'm just glad I'm not subjected to it myself. Excerpt:
[A]t least 15 journalists from friendly countries being forcibly detained, interrogated, fingerprinted, and held in cells overnight, with most denied access to phones, pens, lawyers, or their consular officials. Their friendly welcome at the detention center included lights that shone all night long and video surveillance of the entire cell, often including toilets. David James Smith of the Times of London described being denied a blanket, coffee, or a pen during his overnight detention last March...
The INS (now known as Citizenship and Immigration Services) has a long, proud tradition of marrying limitless government discretion to obscure Byzantine rules that cannot be understood through ordinary inquiry. Virtually anyone in this country on a visa is in violation of some regulation, although any attempt to understand or clarify one's status is systematically thwarted by an agency that cannot be reached by telephone and cannot be visited in under seven hours. The INS has for years contributed to widespread ignorance and punished it after the fact.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Not so junky after all.

This article on the Nature website discusses so called "junk DNA," sections of the genome that do not code for any protein. Apparently there are several such sections that are 100% identical among virtually all vertebrates. The lack of variations indicates that this apparent junk actually has some as-yet-unknown but important purpose.

Molecular biology is pretty cool.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Unplugged

Frank Levy has what might be a good idea for an internet addict such as myself:
"For me, one day a week is unplugged," said Levy, who has a doctorate in computer science from Stanford University and who, before moving to Seattle three years ago, was a researcher for 15 years at the Palo Alto Research Center....

Because he is an observant Jew (and his wife is a rabbi), his unplugged day is the Sabbath. From sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday, Levy does not use e-mail, the Internet, the telephone or the television. Instead, there is candlelighting, a dinner with friends and services on Saturday morning.

Off his case?

I was quite surprised when I read the quote from Dick Cheney regarding Rumsfeld that "people ought to get off his case." This phrasing seems more befitting a sullen teenager ("Mom, get off my case!") than the vice president of the USA. Now I see that I wasn't the only one bothered by it. From this E. J. Dionne column:
Let's see. A couple of congressional committees get roughly a half-day each to ask Rumsfeld about one the most appalling moral disasters in our military's history, at the Abu Ghraib prison, and now they should shut up. Cheney knows Rumsfeld is the best. That should be enough.

This was too much for Sen. Lindsey Graham, a conservative Republican from South Carolina. Last week's Senate hearing, Graham said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," was not about "being on Secretary Rumsfeld's back. . . . The Congress has an independent duty to find out what happened in that prison. It affects us all."

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Evil designs in the hearts of conspiring men

How do they design slot machines so addictive that grandma will want to sit there and gamble away your entire inheritance? Find out in this New York Times Magazine article. (The writing is unfortunately sloppy and sensationalistic, but the subject is so interesting it's worth it.)

Friday, May 07, 2004

Meta-metacritic

I've long been a fan of the Internet Movie Database. (I think it might be the very first site I bookmarked when I first started using the web back in back in 1995, using a text-based browser!) If you like that, you should check out the metacritic site . It's especially good if you know you want to go to a movie but you're not sure what you want to see.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Hollywood whines

These two pieces in USA Today report on "ClearPlay," one of a number of new technologies and services (mostly coming out of Utah) that remove objectionable content from DVD movies.

The Directors' Guild of America is complaining that this violates the rights of the "artists," and they are suing ClearPlay and others for copyright infringement. What a bunch of whiners. (And where have they been for the last 30 years while their movies were edited for TV and airplanes?)

Fortunately, I think they'll lose in the courts. Plus, congress is threatening to get involved. I think ClearPlay is here to stay.

I don't know much about art, but....

would you pay $104 million for this painting?

Terribly sorry

The New Republic has recently published two separate pieces about apologies: Jacob Levy argues that President Bush never apologizes for anything, while Chris Strohm analyzes recent public apologies for the events at Abu Ghraib, and finds most of them lacking.

This reminds me of the debate a few years ago about whether the U.S. government should apologize for slavery. My opinion was that we should just read Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, which is much more eloquent than anything current speechwriters are likely to come up with. (It's especially poignant when you read it engraved in the wall of the Lincoln memorial.) Excerpt:

Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
Unfortunately this doesn't meet the New Republic standards for apologies because it doesn't include the words "I'm Sorry."

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Friendly Iranians

From today's Nicholas Kristof column, "Those Friendly Iranians":
Finally, I've found a pro-American country.

Everywhere I've gone in Iran, with one exception, people have been exceptionally friendly and fulsome in their praise for the United States, and often for President Bush as well....

Oh, that one instance when I was treated inhospitably? That was in a teahouse near the Isfahan bazaar, where I was interviewing religious conservatives. They were warm and friendly, but a group of people two tables away went out of their way to be rude, yelling at me for being an American propagandist. So I finally encountered hostility in Iran — from a table full of young Europeans.

The whole column is worth reading.

"Gore Plans To Launch New Cable TV Network"

The headline says it all: internet-inventor Al Gore will now turn his hand to re-inventing cable television. Soon the country will have a failing liberal TV network to go with it's failing liberal radio network.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Speaking of fatty foods...

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Ralph Nader spinoff group, used to make headlines every few months by publishing the horrible fat content of some kind of restaurant food. I remember seeing a report on TV a few years ago where they had just tested the "cheese-fries with ranch dressing" (at Black Angus, I think), and found it had over 200 grams of fat. The CSPI representative had a stunned look on her face as she reported "it's the worst thing we've ever analyzed!"

This CSPI page includes a "Hall of Shame" of the worst restaurant foods they have tested.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Regularsize Me!

Earlier this year, McDonald's announced that it would phase out the "Supersize" option on it's McValue meals. They claim that this was not done in response to the new award-winning film 'Super Size Me', in which filmmaker Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days and documents his increasing girth and declining health. Critics point out that he didn't just eat McDonald's food, he ate a lot of McDonald's food.

One such critic is filmmaker Sosa Whaley, who is making her own documentary in response to Spurlock. She also ate every meal at McDonald's for 30 days, but while attempting to lose weight. She recently finished her 30 days and reports that she achieved her goal of losing 10 pounds. Her online diary can be found here.

I'm sympathetic to the point she is trying to make, and I agree that McDonald's is unfairly singled out. I doubt their food is much less healthy than the food at more expensive restaurants (many of which do not publish their nutrition information). Still, obesity is a real problem, and McDonald's isn't' doing much to help. I'm not sorry to see the Supersize option go away...I never understood how someone could eat that many fries anyway.

Worst...songs...ever

Blender magazine counts down the 50 worst songs ever (here's part 2). It's a pretty entertaining read, even when they pick songs that I kind of like even though I have to admit they're a little embarrassing, such as “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm” by Crash Test Dummies. And I heartily agree with their pick for number 1.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

I'm going to Dinosaur Adventure Land!

After thanking Jesus for helping him win the Super Bowl, today's young Christian athlete might consider skipping Disney World and going to the theme park described here:
Robert and Schön Passmore took their children to Disney World last fall and left bitterly disappointed. As Christians who reject evolutionary theory, the family scoffed at the park's dinosaur attractions, which date the apatosaurus, brachiosaurus and the like to prehistoric times....

So this week, the Passmores sought out a lower-profile Florida attraction: Dinosaur Adventure Land, a creationist theme park and museum here that beckons children to "find out the truth about dinosaurs" with games that roll science and religion into one big funfest with the message that Genesis, not science, tells the real story of the creation.

(via Crescat Sententia)

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Roughed Justice

They say a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged. If so, get ready for an ideological shift on the supreme court: Justice David Souter was assaulted by a group of young men while he was out jogging Friday evening. Fortunately he suffered only "minor injuries" and was not robbed.