Monday, July 21, 2008

Emmy Nominations

Sure, all the news stories are telling you the same angle.

Cable has a lot of nominations for Emmys this year. Mad Men, John Adams, blah blah blah.

But Sarah Silverman's Matt Damon song got 2 nominations. How is that not news?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Logarithms, base one

This is hilarious to me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You didn't say the magic word!


A programmer in Pittsburgh has highjacked San Francisco's city computer system.

He changed all the other admin passwords, and is in jail, not revealing his. Straight out of Jurassic Park. Only there aren't dinosaurs loose in San Francisco, and the computers are still working, but he could change that.

I wonder if he's just jealous that he lives in Pittsburgh, and they're in San Francisco.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Title IX for Science!

So, while many women are now professional biologists and doctors and psychologists and sociologists and lawyers and politicians, they don't represent a large percentage of physicists, engineers or computer scientists.

Some are suggesting using Title IX to fix this. On the one hand, Title IX is a law about equity in education. All education, not just sports. And I do believe that computers would be better if more women were in the field. And I believe women are just as able to do physics and math as men are.

But while sexist coworkers are still a problem, it does seem clear that there is a natural difference in interest between women and men. There's anecdotal evidence that testosterone makes math interesting. And left to their own devices, women choose socially relevant fields to the exclusion of computers and physics.

I think quotas are problematic. Some make the argument that it would appear that women are being put into programs they're not capable of getting into without affirmative action, leading to worse sexism and discrimination.

I personally suspect that the problem is one of interest, and we need to change how we teach physics and math and computers to make the applications clearer, and to make the tasks more relevant to life. That's how we make science, all science, and all learning in general, interesting to girls. We haven't done a good job of it yet. We can, and we should.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

High gas prices mean high bus fare

I'm frustrated that bus fare is going up. Yes, diesel costs are higher, so you have to pay for it somewhere.

But we want people to take the bus. It's much better for the environment, it's much better for road congestion, and it's much better for oil prices, if we have buses full of people.

If a bus ticket and driving cost about the same, there's less incentive for people to ride. We should invest tax money in making bus fares cheap, so more people will ride - now more than ever.

But apparently in Oregon there's a law against raising bus subsidy taxes. I think that's a stupid law.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Stupid TV - be less scary

A new book talks about Fear, and what we're afraid of that we don't need to be. I'm glad there's a new one, because the last one I read was 10 years old, and while illuminating, it didn't address lots of current things.

You can take an online quiz about the relative dangers of different things, to see if you're afraid of the right stuff.

As we already knew, TV leads the media pack in sensationalizing dangers, and scaring the crap out of you, because that's what gets people to watch, and people watching equals money. TV is an emotional medium of pictures, not one of reason and ideas. I sometimes wish TV had never been invented. Certainly I'd be willing to lose Twilight Zone and I Love Lucy and the half dozen other great works of TV for the millions of crappy ones.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Poor Orangutans

Apparently the orangutan is severely endangered. As in, will probably be extinct soon.

That's sad.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Disappointed by Obama

There are some who make the case that I shouldn't be disappointed by Obama's centrism. It is what he's talked about endlessly for a long time. He's talked about compromise, and moderation. About common sense ideas that everyone can agree on.

While he opposes the Iraq war, he doesn't oppose all war. While he supports the separation of church and state, he supports churches using government funding for secular programs. He's not anti-conservative, he's anti-stupid. He's not a new FDR, he's a new Bill Clinton. Or maybe Tony Blair - less personal flaws. I hope.


Obama's flip flop on FISA is just plain stupid. Letting the government listen to all international phone calls without any checks and balances is a bad, bad idea. The secret FISA court has refused less than 1% of all warrant requests. Abolishing that court and letting the president spy on anyone he wants is awful. Especially since Obama said he would filibuster the bill he voted FOR.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Taser or Boarding Pass?

The TSA is looking into electronic bracelets as a replacement for a boarding pass. It would be an electronic ID, it would have a GPS locator. Oh, and a built in Taser.

There's no way that it's a good idea to give the government the power to shock and torment an entire airport at the push of a button. As the promotional video for the bracelets says itself, technology is only as good as the people using it.

Yes, we need to keep bad people from blowing up planes. But now that we have the idea in our head, and stronger cockpit doors, it's not going to happen again.

The passengers will revolt, the pilots won't open the door. You don't need to shock everyone on the plane to get it on the ground safely. Unacceptable. I'm glad a right-wing newspaper agrees with me on that.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mashups declared fair use!

You can copy some things. And the Center for Social Media has written up standards for fair use that include some pretty bold uses.

It's interesting. One of their examples of illegal use is using favorite songs as a soundtrack to a wedding video. But if I mix together other copyrighted content to make a point, or convey a message, like a Daily Show montage, I'm totally in the clear. As is the Daily Show, even though they're a for-profit concern.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Yes, Virginia. It really IS torture

So, Christopher Hitchens has seen the light, and realizes that waterboarding is torture.

I'm sick and tired of having been right all along. I thought this war would be a disaster. I thought that torture was wrong. I thought this president would implement awful policies that would kill people.


Katrina, poisoned spinachtomatoesbeef, 4 Supreme Court verdicts in a row that criminals deserve trials, collapsing infrastructure, a disastrous war, illegal wiretapping......

Why did so many people have to die before we could see that Bush and the conservative agenda was massively flawed? Why couldn't we choose the right path to begin with, and fund our government, invest in our infrastructure, create a fair marketplace where criminals are caught and punished and those who play by the rules are enabled to succeed?

I know I have to learn some things for myself - some advice from my parents and grandparents just will be ignored. I guess the nation doesn't have to listen to me, either.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Boys and Subways

This blog post is just charming. A New Yorker's young boys are obsessed with the subway system. To a slightly disturbing, but essentially adorable extent.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Cars and Gas

So, as we all know, high gas prices finally have created less driving. Although I notice that I'm not driving less - but I was already in the lowest mileage category my auto insurance company offers. And I drive a tiny car that gets 35 miles to the gallon.

But sadly, if I wanted to get a hybrid, the tax credits will probably have expired. The government, in its anti-wisdom, said that you can only get a tax credit for hybrids for the first 60,000 cars. So in a year, no more Toyota hybrid tax credit. Honda will last a little longer.

But you can still get a tax credit for a Ford SUV hybrid that gets 20 mpg, instead of the 11 it gets un-hybrid. Which is dumb. (Not to mention the extra carbon impact of the hybrid batteries.)

Congress should extend tax credits for good technology that moves us in the right direction of energy independence. And they should close the bloody loophole that doesn't tax gas guzzlers. (Cars with low mileage are taxed, but trucks and vans aren't.) Because right now, if they closed that loophole, you could pay your guzzler tax with your hybrid tax credit. Which is stupid.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

No more selenium

Well, actually gallium. And indium and hafnium. You see, we're running out of these elements. There's a finite amount on the Earth, and in 10 years we'll use it all up making flat-screen TVs.

We're gonna have to start recycling better. (Not to mention the price of copper and zinc and these other elements will go up, up, up!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Text Messaging Prices

Damn. I thought it was a bit much to charge 10 cents a text, but this blogger puts it in perspective. It's 200 times more expensive to send a text message than to mail a letter. Yes, it's faster, but talking on my cell phone is way cheaper than texting.

And apparently, the price is about to go up. It's going to double at the end of August.

This is why I don't send text messages. And why I get especially pissed off when my phone company does nothing to stop spam texts. Heck, I'd be willing now to rig my phone to block all text messages, but they won't let me.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Microsoft wants to be more evil

Microsoft recently patented a system of digital "manners".

Different locations could have different "rules", and machines would obey these rules. So restaurants and movie theaters could automatically put your phone on vibrate.

And the government could turn off video cameras when they're kidnapping and torturing people. And turn off the cars of people who are fleeing, innocent or no.

This is why I'm not a professional writer. He says it very well. This is a BAD idea. A few of the fringe applications sound neat. But ultimately I don't want corporations limiting what I can and can't do with stuff I own. I can lend a book or a record or a video tape to a friend. And I should be able to do the same with digital objects. That's why I don't own a digital reader - I fear it being too limiting, rather than freeing.

Giving my boss or my teacher the technological power to shut off my phone or my laptop or my e-book so I pay attention in a meeting or class isn't "manners". It's dictatorship. It's Orwellian. Bad Microsoft! Bad corporation!