There's battle lines being drawn.
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.
Young people speaking their minds
getting so much resistance from behind

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Come, let's mix where Rockefellers walk with sticks

Received my first stock distribution check, evar! Oh sure, my mutual funds pay out some, but that's all plowed back into buying new shares. Thanks, GW Bush, for the stock crash of 2009. Because companies made record profits, those investments kept paying their dividends (some even increased), but because of the low stock prices, I was able to score quite a few extra shares because of that confluence. Also, hey, thanks TP for forcing the congress to extend the Bush Era Tax Cuts, which lowers capital gains rates. I now won't pay much tax on that check.

Okay, well, it was $13.15. But it's the principle of the thing, right?

Also, as I said on IM this morning, I know for certain that the heath care reform act isn't a government takeover of the health industry, and that the reforms won't drive insurance companies into the dust bin of history, because the stock that paid out was my Wellpoint shares. And in the past two years the stock price has doubled.

Linkee-poo curses Sir Walter Raleigh for being a stupid git

I see that with some of the links from other sites in the past two weeks have increase the traffic numbers on the blog. And I'm also glad to see that some of you have decided to stick around.

Welcome, to all the new people. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the content. Wish I could be a more attentive host, but things are very busy in the real world at the moment, so a lot of what I've got are linkee-poos.

I'm way behind in my reading, so I don't have much to share. I really am trying to wean myself off the politics (not that I won't follow it, but that I won't inflict it upon you as my only set of links).

Since I've been thinking about the Other, here's a post on the hard and soft SF. It's an interesting look at where sex fits within the genre, and the perceptions of sex. Frankly, as a human, I prefer the "body-to-body" type and will take that over the "body-to-computer interface" every single time. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

And thinking of Jay, he adds some to the cancer journey. I have lots of conflicting emotions about this. For myself, I think I would fight as heroically as I could until I knew there were no other option of than throw drug darts at the wall to see if any worked. However, my family has a long history with cancer. And some people just don't have it in them. I don't mean that to be a knock or mean comment. It's just a reality. I think if I were hit with a major disease at this moment I would have difficulty mustering the strength needed to rage against the failing light. Not everybody is our "cultural ideal," and we need to recognize that they have their own struggle that's every bit as courageous and difficult. Fuck cancer.

Jim Hines takes his electronic experiment into the meat space. If you want, you can now get the hard copy and have lulu print it up for you. I know Jim has given some progress reports, but I don't think his experiment has ended (his time schedule) to see the finals. It'll be interesting.

And can we get some congressman who are smarter than we are for a change? 'Cause I'm getting very tired of having those who don't know where the countries are that we are bombing. But I'll give Rep. Tom Marino the benefit of the doubt and say that his error is in thinking that Africa is a country instead of a very large continent.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Linkee-poo watches the dropouts making their own rules

MJ Locke talks a little about the conflict of going with a pseudonym to continue her writing career. It's not a problem for just writers who are female, but I can see where there are some special concerns when it is. Having already been won over to the side of feminism, I still have some blinders of privilege in this case (that is, what I take for granted or unspoken is not what others believe). Also, being married to a PhD, I've seen some of that pain up close.

Completely unusable stock photos. Since I had another link to a stock photo story. Yeah. There's plenty of these in the collections. However, you just never know what request you may get from a client. Seriously. The one that still stands out in my mind was to find an image of "A business consultant in casual clothes fighting a dragon with a briefcase that's actually a sword." Yeah. That was a real request. So while you might think these are crazy, there's someone out there that probably needs that exact photo. (pointed to by John)

Here's an NPR story on the FDA having hearings on food dyes and their possible link to kids behaviors. I'm pointing to it not so much because of the content or the actual argument, but to show some of the limitations of scientific thought I pointed out before, and that the food industry doesn't do what's best for you, but what's cheapest. Especially look at the comments around the Southampton study. One of the problems of that study is that you can't point any cause to a specific dye because the study mixed them all together. It's a blind spot caused by the process. With radiation exposure this translates to "you've have so much radiation exposure over your life, it's hard to draw a conclusion that this one higher than normal exposure was the event that caused your disease." So no direct cause and effect with isolation of other variables. Also see the comments about overseas manufacturers who switched to natural dyes and why US manufacturers haven't.

Also, as relevant to yesterdays links to the hypocrisy pointed out by the Daily Show, there's this. Yes, your GOP rep is struggling on $174,000 a year (from just the congressional pay), but those nasty teachers making $50,000 are sucking us dry and living like kings. Glad we had that clarified.

How not to apologize. Really conservative America, and especially the Republican Party of Dane County, Wisconsin? Really? I feel a little less guilty in my hard line stance against you all. (pointed to by Dan) But then, I don't' expect much when you espouse logic like this.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Linkee-poo is wonders where all the flowers have gone

Plutonium is found on the soil surround the Fukushima nuclear plant. Oops. Don't forget the initial reports about all that was released was radioactive iodine. Hey, don't worry. I've been on this ride before. More than once actually. It gets worse. edit I wrote that yesterday. It's gotten worse. Say, remember the plan to cool the reactors by flooding them with sea water? Just where did you think that sea water was going to go afterward?

Also, Jay Lake points us to another information graphic about radiation.

Another ad agency oops. That's one of the dangers of using stock photography of people (also of signing a model release that isn't specific on use).

Here's an interesting DailyKOS article on Sara Palin. Well, maybe only interesting to conservatives who don't understand what it means to be fighting for everybody's rights. Those of us on the left understand that we're fighting for everybody, the conservatives included.

Fox News exec admits to fabricating the rumor which he now believes. It's a psychological function close to creating your own reality. Say something to yourself enough and eventually you believe it to be true. I believe in self-help circles this is what's called, "Positive affirmation."

Why that William Cronon has become a thorn in the conservative's side. It's terrible when someone not only has a memory, but also has the tools to research the past and the present and can write coherently about what they find. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Today's WTF moment

So, I just realized this afternoon that registration for summer session was open today. The next classes I need to take are Micro or a Speech class. Since Micro is some serious amount of info, I don't think summer would be a good option. Instead I signed up for Interpersonal Communications. Online. I'm taking Interpersonal Communications as an online course.

When I worked at E&Y I had a partner suggest we make the team building exercises a part of the pre-read.

Same mental "WTF?" reaction.

Linkee-poo does not just walk into Mordor

A link to some videos of the Daily Show on class warfare. The first video shows the duplicity of the conservative mindset when it comes to pay and benefits. You really should watch these. (grokked from Jay Lake)

This is a part of the emerging narrative you can read here. There's also some more data points here (note correction to original article they point to, however, it doesn't change the main goal as "lowering wages"). Bill O'Reilly calls himself a "Culture Warrior", but he really means "Class Warrior."

In the past I've linked to some articles showing the income disparities in this country. And I think now we're starting to see the man behind the curtain, or at the very least we're seeing the curtain billowing. While I'm not as reactionary as that Market Watch article above, I do believe he's got a point. The elite wealthy are now stretching their muscles with both their increased wealth (from personal experience I can state that this economic downturn did not really affect the top 15% of the economy) and increased political freedom (Citizens United case and new FEC regulations that allow political actors to hide their funding). And it's all being done to solidify their position by weakening the majority's (because they believe so hard it's a zero sum game, their perception is tilting reality to make it true).

It's a dangerous game they're playing, and it won't end well for anybody. It never has. Sure, individually they might do well until they check out. But there's never been a society in history that has allowed what is currently happening to run for long. The corrections have never been easy, either. What's happening in the Middle East, for the most part is an aberration. It typically looked a lot more like Libya than it looked like Egypt/Tunisia. And while we like to sugar coat what's going on in Libya with talks of "feisty rebels" and all the sanitized versions of the war, you're seeing some cracks, aka the woman who was dragged away from reporters after declaring she had been assaulted and raped by Ghaddafi's soldiers. Expect to learn more relatively shortly. (And you may remember the Egypt conflict wasn't all that pleasant or bloodless)

I had hoped not to have this happen in my lifetime, but I fear it's becoming unavoidable. Ian McKellen as Gandalf delivered the line in the movie adaption of The Fellowship of the Ring, "So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." So, after two years of breathing easier that my internal critic wasn't constantly nagging me with the thought, "Okay, Buchheit, you swore and oath to defend this thing, and just what are you going to do about that, boy?" I'm back to having those dark thoughts.

There's still time to right the ship of state. However, one side has no interest in that argument and the other side is just as complicit, but only because they don't want to upset the gravy train. One side is yelling, "Damn the breakers, we're taking her in," while the other side is meekly whispering, "Maybe we ought to think about this." To make the course correction would be to bring in a tremendous amount of pain (far less than the alternative, but more than the status quo) in a direction not many people are talking about.

To my TP friends, when you would talk about, "We're mad as hell, and we want to take our government back (with implied talk of Revolution," you might remember me saying, "I've been there." Thanks to your actions, I'm back there.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Linkee-poo, three, it's a magic number

Bryan Fischer officially goes from "agitator of stupidity" to "full on troll" by stating that muslims have no First Amendment right (to religion or free speech).

John Stossel jumps the shark by declaring that no group get more government help than the American Indians. John, it's called a bubble and white privilege. You have it. Your mouth is running, you might want to see to that.

For when people try to tell you corporate taxes in the US are too high. The argument is now being sided up with "To high or cut while removing loopholes." I have another idea. Lets make that first statement true by removing the loopholes (without lowering the rates) so those flogging it will actually have a point. Just trying to be helpful.

Noted without comment...

.. except to say, I was giggling for an hour. I'm sure it was unintended humor.

Where I was last night

So, how do you know this was in Ohio? Here's the 10 minute before mark.

Notice how many of those seats are filled. While there were some "fashionably late" people, the majority of people felt they were more of an annoyance than interesting.

Neil deGrasse Tyson gave an excellently rollickingly good speech on the "Ten Things You Should Know About the Universe."

First up, "The Universe has a Shipload of Stars." Dr. Tyson then went on to explain just how large a number you need to use before you can even state the answer.

And then he finished with a Q&A session, which I think the organizers felt went too long, but he seemed to be having fun.

I didn't get to meet him. I tried to rush the stage to get his signature in a book. However, here is a true thing. The very rich people who get to sit up front aren't fast movers. Consider them a triumph of economics over Darwinian philosophies. So I was only halfway across the stage before he was ushered into his limo with police escort. However, an associate did take our books (fortunately I wasn't the only one) which he would sign and then mail back to us. Which I think it very nice of him.

One of the best quotes of the night occurred when he was explaining numbers and got to Billions and used Bill Gates as an example. He then said, "No, you really don't understand how rich that is." He then said one day he was walking down the street and asked himself just what denomination of coin would be sufficient for him to stop and pickup. With his success, his home, car, family, etc. he came to the realization that he'd stop for a dime, but only if he wasn't rushed. A quarter he would stop for no matter what (ensuing jokes of making people await his lecture wait for it). Then he said, "So then I did a quick calculation looking at my wealth compared to Bill to see what the smallest denomination it would take for him to stop and pick up." The answer was $42,000. Anything below that and Bill would just keep walking.

A very good speech. If he comes anywhere near to where you can go see him, you should make the effort.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Find Waldo PSA

Just because I enjoy your envious glares of distain, I'm going to be here tomorrow night. I sure hope Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson wears that vest. I'll be disappointed (but not much) if he doesn't.

Yes, Janiece, I can hear your gnashing of teeth from here.

Linkee-poo drags a comb across it's head

I'm always fond of creating news words and phrases. Here's the latest: PHS, professional hemorrhoid syndrome - a condition resulting from pulling content out of one's ass too many times.

I've been so busy, I almost forgot to remind you about the Judgement Day. (edit they originally said March 21 - I think there's a billboard on I-76 east of Akron with that date, I'll have to check) I set my iCal so I'd have the popcorn ready.

Dean Wesley Smith on traditional vs indie publishing. (Grokked from Jay Lake) The "Eilser Decision" they're talking about (Grokked from John Scalzi).

I love me some information graphics, here's one about theories of consciousness. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

I believe this is the very definition of "whitewash." The new Republican Governor of Maine "requests" the State Department of Labor remove a mural and change the names of their conference rooms. Yeah, this has nothing to do with the move to reduce labor rights and introduce "right to work" legislation in Maine.

Here's an interesting take on politics, a blind taste test of sorts. Remove the names of parties in control and give the statistics, then ask people to pick the A, B, C or D party. Strange how that works. (also grokked from Jay Lake)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Nothing to see, move along

A fireman friend once asked me, "Know how you tell if the fire you're dealing with includes HazMat materials?" The answer is, "You look for the dead cop holding the flare."

Okay. So, again, I've been seeing the meme of about how nuclear energy is really safe with the added twist of how the Japanese disaster proves this case. Really. The argument is outlined over at Tobias Buckell's blog. Or you can look at this report from the World Nuclear Association. See, nuclear power is safe. No, really.

Except, really, it's not. There's a lot of statistics being thrown around. You need to know that you're being asked to compare apples to rockets with many of these.

As an example, from the World Nuclear Association article, "In over 14,000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial operation in 32 countries, there have been only two major accidents to nuclear power plants - Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the latter being of little relevance outside the old Soviet bloc."

We'll forget that "the old Soviet block" he's discounting what was once an area larger than the US, Canada, and Western Europe combined. But that's a lot of time, isn't it? It's almost like we know what we're doing. "14,000 cumulative reactor-years" is just amazing. And understand, I'm not disputing that. As a mean the developed world gets 30% of it's power from nuclear sources (in the US it's 20%, in France it's 80%), Coal and natural gas generation account for many times that run time figure, and so has more chance to kill people. But let's look at the article Tobias links to (regarding death per TWH). This is a little more meaningful in that it smooths out the differences between actual total capacity. And in this circumstance, those numbers look pretty good.

Until you get to statements like this, "The (WHO) study in 2005 indicated that 50 people died… as a direct result of Chernobyl. 4000 people may eventually die earlier as a result of Chernobyl, but those deaths would be more than 20 years after the fact and the cause and effect becomes more tenuous. … there have been 4000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children, but that except for nine deaths, all of them have recovered. 'Otherwise, the team of international experts found no evidence for (increased leukemia and cancer).'" First off, you don't "recover" from thyroid cancer, your survive it (with thyroid replacement therapy for the rest of your life). Chernobyl's population in 1986 was 12,000, just to give you some perspective. Next, understand these thyroid cancers are the cop with the flare types of reactions (the's not including the wider range studies). Also, you'll see that the researcher is discounting those "earlier" deaths because they're indirect (ie. not dead cops holding flares). However, for other statistics (such as coal) he's including indirect deaths (such as those from pollution from generation and lung issues in those who extract the coal, which also normally take years to manifest and are considered "early death"). Notice this article doesn't include deaths from people who both extract uranium, enrich it, and work with the end products, he's only counting those dead cops with the flares in the case of nuclear power.

Begin to see the issues? We can discount those 4000 people who may die early because of their exposure during the Chernobyl incident because 1) they may have gotten cancer anyway or from something else and 2) if we're lucky a bus will hit them before the cancer gets them. With nuclear power (and really every single other pollutant source) you get this "discounting" because there's "no direct correlation." This is another way of saying, "It could have been something else that got them." We can discount those who died earlier than normal because of Three Mile Island with the same excuse. And since we don't have any dead cops with flares in Japan, we all escaped without a scratch.

Except we didn't. Catherine Shaffer does a really good job explaining how radiation hurts you. I linked to that article before, but if you didn't read it, you might want to. There's a couple of things I'd like to clarify in her article, mostly about taking iodine pills to avoid thyroid cancer. There's pretty much only one organ in your body that uses iodine (your thyroid). And iodine can become radioactive pretty easily. What iodine pills are meant to do is flood your system with "clean" iodine and bind up all the receptors, which means that the radioactive forms will be excreted unused. This is the reverse of chemo which fills your body with poison with the hope of killing off more cancer cells than normal cells (odds are in that favor as cancer cells consume more and reproduce faster than your normal cells, all of which means they're big consumers). It's a percentage risk. Most times it works, sometimes it doesn't. Plus, until you excrete the iodine, you still have dangerous radioactive particles in your body doing damage. Also, please note the correlation between radiation exposure levels and time.

XKCD comes in with a goodly chart. And Phil Platt also has a good article covering this topic. Both come to the conclusion that you have nothing to worry about. Except that both expect that you're not looking closely (in both case, I don't believe this is intentional, but it is a scientific/statistics blind spot). In the paragraph (and the linked article) where Phil talks about living in Denver, about how much higher it is and how you'd expect more cancer. Colorado has higher radon concentrations and receives more solar radiation that most of the country. The article he links to discusses how skin cancer rates are higher, as you'd expect, but lung cancer rates are lower (which with higher radon concentrations, you wouldn't expect). Sounds like a wash, doesn't it. Except Colorado's radon exposure isn't that much higher that much of the northern US (and here's a place where you can find your state's radon information). Notice their disclaimers that these lower levels could be attributed to other sources. Well, yeah. They could be (CO is ranked 35th in number of smokers, compared to Ohio which is 13th).

Phil is also a scientist. Understand that limitation (I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but a limitation). If there isn't a study to prove the connection (with discounting all other factors, like the smoking), he won't say there is a connection. Most of the studies I've seen haven't been able to rule out all other factors, which means they're "inconclusive." Which means until it's proven, it's not proven and you go with the default "no connection."

Also, take another look at the chart XKCD put up. It makes you feel better, doesn't it? After all, the extra dosage right next to Fukushima is comparable to, say, a mammogram. Notice closer, that is a 1 day dose (and there were two days of that level). Also keep in mind, radiation damage is a function of dose over time (notice the descriptions on chart include time or instances). For those "yearly maximum" dosages allowed, those are cumulative numbers (the "normal yearly background dose" talks about that a little bit). So all the talk about "you get more radiation from the sun than you would from this reactor" you can see as throwing sand in the eyes. See, you've evolved to handle that dose from the sun and other environmental sources. And you have some tolerance for even higher exposure rates. How much over is still a matter of debate. Also, that background rate may (we say "may" because nobody has been able to show a link) help lead to "normal" cancer rates. That is, the lifetime accumulation of damage from background radiation can contribute to the norm of cancer rates (before you add in other factors like smoking, etc). Don't believe me? Go listen to longevity experts talk about reducing "free radicals."

Just a quick note here. We're all going to die (sorry to break this news to you). Our increasing life expectancy hasn't really lengthened our lives. If you make it to 65, you have the same chance to see 85 as your great grandparents. The difference is that more of us are making it to 65 (which pulls up the average). But if traumatic injury or infectious disease doesn't get us, organ failure or cancer (or the complications from these) will. That's really how we die. So as a matter of living on this planet, cancer is a possibility. And if you live long enough, it's a probability.

Also, if you listen, you'll hear about how radiation dosage limits are "set really low." This is a function of how the dosages have been set lower as more and more data comes in. Here's a little article on epidemiological studies on radiologists and radiologic technicians and their death rates from cancer. If you want, you can just read the abstract (it's the first paragraph). I'll note sentences 3 through 6. Basically it says the stats on hard cancers (organ cancers) aren't consistent (because lung cancer is not pancreatic cancer), however there is an increased risk of leukemia (blood cancer) in practitioners who started before 1950 (this was when acceptable radiation levels were higher). Also, there's a higher risk if you work longer hours early in your career. So, it looks like cancer rates are dropping. Right? Except now read the last sentence. Because we've continually dropped the dosage levels, we haven't been at the current levels long enough to see if there's a real effect (this is also a semi generic scientific statement that means, "we don't have enough data to reach a sound conclusion either way, so we're punting in case anybody calls us on it and our hunches are proven wrong later"). So, yeah, we don't know if those "acceptable dosage levels" are actually "acceptable" or not. So, no, those levels are not "low." Because higher levels have been shown to cause problems. To counter my argument, yes, the numbers are typically cut either in easy fractions (half, quarter) or by factors of ten. So they are big cuts. However, acceptable radiation exposure dosages, in my lifetime, have been cut 3 times that I can remember (the last in the late 90s). Each time because it was found what was a "way too big reduction" actually wasn't enough.

I think I need to wrap this up before it becomes a dissertation (too late!). I'm trying to stay positive. However it's too soon to wipe our brow and say, "Whew, dodged that bullet." Radiation is a slow bullet. Low level radiation sickness can take weeks to present, and months to die from. Even if we stay below those levels there are troublesome signs. Milk and spinach are taken off the market because they've shown up with contamination. Both of these are the result of fallout (notice how nobody is using that word?). Radioactive particles fall into the spinach leaves (remember that you have to wash spinach to keep it from being "granular" - that's dirt) and onto the grass the cows eat (it's how their milk gets radioactive). I'm hoping it's a surface dusting. However, if the fallout was dense enough, this problem isn't going away for decades (the other option for this is the radiation made it to the soil, which the spinach pulled up while forming nutrients, and the grass the cows ate did the same, instead of the particles just being on the surface). Again, my experience with Fernald comes in here. Two decades after the plant stopped all fission activity, there were 3 months (or more) out of the year the local farmers had to dump their milk and crops (because the radiation levels were too high, the rest of the year wasn't much better, but they were below EPA, NRC, and FDA guidelines and could be sold). Mostly this was in the spring and fall. So, I'm hoping it's just a dusting.

At this point you'd expect to see incoming radiation (fallout) hitting the west coast and we're not seeing as much as expected. It's a big ocean out there. It's also where we get a lot of food (especially the Japanese).

But, hopefully, yes, it will all turn out okay. But don't blindly believe everything being pushed in your direction.

edit A late afternoon update, looks like much of the radiation released is radioactive iodine which has a half life of only 8 days. So the resulting long term exposure risks won't be there. On the other hand, the WHO says the food contamination is more wide spread and the crisis is more serious that first thought. If the first report is to be believed, we might end up seeing a lot of kids with goiters in a few years and not much more, which is a good thing (compared to what it might have been).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Object Lessons - Never Delay Payment

As a professional graphic design, I see a lot of people trying to pull a lot of stunts. I've seen my share of attempts to get design for free or at a very reduced level. I wish I could count the number of times I've heard the line, "We're just starting out/cash is tight now/I don't know how good your going to be(ie. this is your audition)... but there's a lot of work we'll need to be done soon/next year/down the road and we'll be able to pay much more/quicker/full freight for it."

To my nieces and nephews, you need to learn this lesson. This is a sucker punch, and they're trying to make you the sucker. This ploy is attempting to play to your greed, and it's being made by someone who believes you're just as greedy as they are (and they are very greedy). I can count on one hand the number of times this deal has actually turned into more work down the road. And that's if I include everybody I know. Unfortunately I would need a slide rule to come up with the times this has lead to either no payment at all or late payment.

Now, I have no problem doing some probono work. I have one job in right now. However, when it comes to this type of work, I do what I love, and I do it on my schedule. I have also done a lot of work for minimal pay, but I've gone into the job knowing this (however, I have been debating my policy of having a basic "job fee" and charging just that level for certain jobs and am thinking I'm going to a straight hourly rate/full quotes).

In this economy, never delay payment to you. Don't ever believe someone when they say they would like a hamburger today and gladly pay you next Tuesday. That is unless you're in the loan business or hold a great deal of leverage. When somebody offers to pay you a small sum now, in exchange for a large sum tomorrow, understand that the sun will not come out tomorrow. The person on the other side of the table has no intention of paying you more, or if they do will probably not be in that same position when the bill comes due. Chances are they're trying to play you for the sucker, will take your hard work and walk away.

In related news, Gov. Kasich's budget includes no money or mechanism to institute or cover merit pay for teachers. Same in Wisconsin. Same in Washington DC. Same in NYC.

Story Bones

Just starting to form in my mind, so this is a little raw. There's been a lot of talk about "smart materials" for both the construction and clothing business. There's also been the discussion of the inclusion of processors within those materials. Now, "smart materials" run the gamut from xenomaterials, transmetals, eletrophoretic cloths, and we have some available currently in the form of temperpedic, and other smart foams (or memory foams) and memory cloth, metals and plastics. Then there's also the inclusion of RFI tags into everything. Mix all this together and in the future you could get products that perform wonderfully, until either their preprogrammed life ends or (and this is where I think the story would be lurking) if you ran afoul of the company or the government. At that point a signal would be sent and the product would break, fail, or even just evaporate into component fibers/dust.

Insidious, no?

Now, add in hacking source codes. A dangerous future indeed.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday at the races

So, back from the wars in Florida. And let me say, Atlanta Hartsfield, I do not like. Also, and I think I mentioned this earlier this week, with this economic downturn, all my flights were packed. As in, all were sold out, there wasn't a free seat open in any of them. And just a casual survey, none of the other flights that people were on had seats open. On one flight I unfortunately had the window seat. Thankfully it was on the shortest leg. I had to sit twisted with my left should in the window well to try and fit. Dear airlines, your seats suck.

And to the lovely woman who sat in front of me, you know, you really probably shouldn't be telling your "friend who is a boy but not your boyfriend" all those things. It made me uncomfortable, and I was just sitting behind you. I could see he felt like he was left twisting in the wind. Also, you might want to chop out about half of your "likes", it'll make the conversation go faster. I would say I would try and fit the conversation into some story I'll write eventually, but to tell the truth, I tried to blank it out of my memory.

So now we're engaged in Libya. Do we feel better? The Arab League is upset that some civilians were caught up in the cross fire. I'm sorry, didn't you know this was going to happen when you endorsed the no-fly zone? And let's see, we have launched 120 some odd Tomahawk Cruise Missiles at an cost of $0.6 Million a piece. That's not including the cost of maintaining the shipborne presence in the Med, delaying the scheduled deployment of the Enterprise to the Indian Ocean to relieve our crews there. And flight operations (sure, the brits and the french are doing most of the combat flying, but guess who is picking up the tab for the air traffic control (at least 3 P3 Orions, probably 5 in total) and keeping the refueling station above the Med operating (probably 3 or 4 KC-135s). All of which would have to put either pulled from combat operations or from those crews that are supposed to be in their home station cycle (not to mention the extra wear and tear on that equipment, most of the KC-135s are older than the crews flying them).

But what the hell, we're helping, right? And hopefully it'll distract everybody when we don't help in Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

And in Japan, we now have contaminated foods and ground water. Fabulous. I know what they're saying, but Japan is screwed. "The dose is the equivalent of a CT scan." Sound innocuous, doesn't it? Except for a couple of things, 1) you shouldn't get a CT scan just for the giggles of it, they're potentially damaging, but it's hoped that what you learn is worth the cost, here you're not learning anything and 2) A CT scan is 15 minutes or so and the radiation doesn't linger in your tissues. Radiation exposure is a function of both dose and time. For those people in that area, it's like getting a CT scan every day. No so good a thing.

Also, that's radiation contamination has shown up in milk, yeah, you're boned. Because it's not that the contamination is in the milk, but in the feed of the cattle (how the milk became contaminated). That's not going away anytime soon (as in, if they're able to stop the contamination right now, they're probably not going to be able to sell milk for three months, and there will be continued low-level contamination in the milk for decades - as someone who worked on one of Fernald's environmental report, that's pretty much the cycle). And it's not like Japan has all this extra land that they can shift production to. Finally, Japan gets a lot of their protein from the sea. Guess where most of the fall out it going. Yep, you betcha. Also, guess where we get a lot of our fish protein from. Dun duhn daaaa!

How long will this stuff persist in the environment? Well, here's a little interesting fact, right now you have several radioactive molecules (strontium and cesium) in your bones that were created and released from Trinity and the various above ground atomic/nuclear explosions from the 40-70s. So will your grandkids.

Expect to see (if you haven't already) many people giving lots of statistics about how many people die because of the use of coal (it's something like 1500 people a year, IIRC), or attempts to minimize what's going on ("we believe there's some water in the storage ponds with the spent fuel rods," means, "It's still too hot - temp and radiation wise - for us to directly observe the situation"). Understand, many people also die mining and refining uranium. Also, if I had to wager money, my guess is most of the technicians who stayed at their stations have gone over their recommended dosage levels. And thank the gods for them sacrificing themselves. It would have been a whole lot worse if they would have abandoned their stations.

I could go on, but I'm sure we're all depressed enough now. So as you say your prayers tonight, or think about the world, or whatever, spare a moment for the people in Japan and the nuclear technicians that have saved many lives by staying at their posts.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Line of Death, we shall cross

So we finally have the approval to go in a impose a no fly zone in Libya, which has no chance of helping the rebels. In some revolutions, the people win, in most they don't. I think we've forgotten that lesson.

First up, if you haven't read Jim Wright's post on the difficulties of imposing such you should go do so (he gets into it halfway through the post).

Now, I'm not willing to say that it's all over but the crying in Libya, but it's pretty close. We're about a week away from having an effective shield in the sky, and that's if we start now.

So, you know that $6 billion we saved by cutting NPR, Planned Parenthood, School Lunch Program, etc, blah blah. Yeah. We just spent it. If it goes longer than a month, the discussion of if we're going to cut $60b or $20b is pretty well moot. Because we're about to piss away that amount.

I also think we've lost our collective minds, quite frankly. See, back at the end of the Cold War (sorry, had to giggle there for a few minutes) there was a lot of discussion about the US, being the "last superpower in the world" (there's that giggling again) should become of the "policeman of the world."

It was a plan so ridiculed that Paul Wolfowitz had to retire from the GW Bush administration. And while we like to say GW lost on his "read my lips" promise, he also lost on the fall out of that plan.

But now we have talking heads that somehow, while they "love this country" and "we can do now wrong" don't understand the basic concept of sovereignty. Part of it is they just want to say President Obama is failing and can't lead. See, we didn't immediately impose a no-fly zone, Obama's failure. Not that we didn't have casus belli and would have become international criminals for becoming the aggressor in the war (now, if our nationals would have been put in danger, we could have been able to go in an extract them). We didn't immediately fly in and control the problem with the reactor in Fukushima, so President Obama is a failure. Not that Japan is a sovereign nation with it's own legitimate government that would have to invite us in first. And they have, but only at the level we've provided. Our ships are off shore to aid in evacuation of our nationals if need be, and to provide the support the Japanese government asked for. As it is, look at the problems we're getting in with Pakistan for our drone attacks. Part of the Yemani uprising is because of our drone attacks (and if you aren't more worried about the Yeman uprising, you really aren't paying attention).

As a side note, I think it's hilarious the focus on "Qatar is going to help out with Libya. It's a Middle East country and they want to help." Um. First, I'll let you go look at a map. Then realize that the Qatar navy is a few rowboats. Also, Qatar isn't exactly a democracy (and it's the home to Al Jazeera). Even after a decade of these wars, people just don't know WTF their talking about.

Now, I do think it's a good thing that we're discussing just whom we should be supporting. But if the naysayers would have their way and we, as the US, would interfere everywhere they think we should, no amount of budget cutting would bring our debt under control. When we say we're spending our "Blood and Treasure" that isn't an empty phrase. This stuff costs money. Lots and lots of money. Not to mention that we would need a military at least twice the size of our current military. And we would be even more reviled he world over.

However, it doesn't stop people from beating their chests and declaring what we should be doing like drunken armchair quarterbacks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Linkee-poo is working it's adenoids to the bones

Working like a mad man down here in Florida. Taking my moments to surface, walk around, and take sips of the internet.

The Ferrett talks about slush reading over at Shimmer.

I have a lot of thoughts regarding both the disasters in Japan (quakes and resulting tsunami) and the ensuing nuclear issues, but not enough time to get them out. If you want some good information and perspective, I suggest Catherine Shaffer's blog. And here I'll end with my two observations earlier today, I'm feeling distinctly like Zaphod Beeblebrox in "Young Zaphod Plays It Safe." (That link, BTW, is copyright infringement) Also, the Japanese are saying this is not a Chernobyl or a Three Mile Island. And their correct. In the future we will call this a "Fukushima." And finally, I think we can pretty well kiss the nuclear power renaissance good night, especially if we end up with a large nuclear fire/explosion (no, it won't go off like an atom bomb, and it won't Chernobyl, but they can't confirm the water level in a spent fuel pond - very bad).

Another way that spending a little, saves a lot. I don't think most people know that Right-To-Life also has platforms on no birth control, no family planning, and no sex education. They know if they pushed it, they would lose a good percentage of their support. Maybe they've over played their hand with this Congress. I doubt it, but I can also hope. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Going out to the country, trying to get away

Went from here

To here

Finally to here

You know, for there being this economic downturn, the airports were awfully busy and both my flights were 100% booked. Joy. And the person sitting next to me on the flight to Tallahassee kept sneezing. Yeah. It's been a fun day. And I had forgotten how different navigating in the South is as compared to the North. Weird city layout. Hello land use planning. I guess it's too late anyway.

So here I be, working my tail feathers to the nubs. What, you thought I was on a real Spring Break. Har! I'm working at a vendor's office this week to do team building (which, after 5 years of management consulting I could do over the phone) and work "that just couldn't be done long distance" (not that I agree, but here I am anyway).

You gotta do what you gotta do.

On the way down I brought David Sidaris' "Squirrel Seeks Chipmonk." Hilarious. Don't let the sweet cover fool you, these are not stories for kids. Just the cussing rules it out. Unfortunately I had forgotten just how fast I can read when I'm not distracted by shiny things or cats that just absolutely have to have attention paid to them or they will kill us in our sleep. I read the book twice. It's the only hard copy book I brought with me (although I have plenty on the Touch, I didn't want to look pretentious). Good news for me, though, is while searching for a grocery (have you seen the insanely small sizes of the waters in hotel vending machines?) I also found a Books-a-Million. So I might be going home with my own souvenir.

Blogging may be sporadic this week.

Once more unto the breech

This morning we're back in airports, seeing if we can make it to the south. The timing is not coincidental as it is spring break at Lakeland.

And just an update, Delta finally turned on their monitors and even though my flight isn't for an hour yet, we're already delayed. Great.

I was about to say that this will be the first spring break (ever) that I've gone someplace. And even though this is for work, at least I'm goin to Florida. Tallahassee, but still Florida. It's strange that at 44, I'm taking my first real spring break. When I was working on my undergraduate at Akron, spring break was a time to work 60 or more hours at my various jobs. I hope to not work that much this week.

So, wish me luck. I also have a quiz when I get back, with the possibility of a test on Wednesday when I return. It's a spring break alright.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Linkee-poo of One, because it's awesome

Well, someone had to go and invent the first laser pistol. I still want my jet pack, damnit. (Grokked from Dan)

Linkee-poo is somewhat of a downer

Sarah Palin. Paging Sarah Palin, Irony is on line two, and the Pot has called about your color scheme.

When cutting money will actually cost you more. Sometimes, as a government, you find that you need to spend money in one direction to save yourself spending multiples of that amount in another direction. (Defunding PPACA, the HCA, will cost more next year than it saves this year)

O'Keefe would lie about the issues surrounding his latest "video gotcha journalism"? Shocked, shocked I am to hear that…

I've written and trashed several attempts at a post surrounding the 60 Minutes report on homeless children that aired last Sunday. Until I can either get out a coherent rage about it, or put some distance from it, I'll merely point to the text of the show. And I'll say that if you ever wanted to know why I take a stand in politics (instead of just going about my life in what would be a happier state I'm sure) or am hitting so hard on the topic of income disparity… this. This is why. Note to those of you who don't know: a short history, I was born in the middle class and lived there until my parents divorced when I was 9. In two years we lost the house and had to live with my grandparents for several years. We were lucky we had that option, and it wasn't easy on any of us. I've spend much of the rest of my life crawling my way back into the middle class. My Mom is still stuck back there (although she now has the house her and my grandmother were able to buy). There are those who have it harder than these kids, and had it harder than me. It doesn't take away the shame and anger I feel.

So, if you ever have to ask yourself why I bang on the toppers like Sarah Palin, fret about what direction our government is going and to whom they bow down to, or that idiot clown wannabes decide to protect their own special interests in trying to preserve their privilege and to beg for crumbs from the tables of the likes of the Koches, listen to those kids stories. I, luckily, don't go to bed hungry anymore. I didn't miss many meals to begin with (thanks to our grandparents and the federal lunch program). And I got to do a lot of things most other people don't (did you know you can get a scholarship to summer camp?). But if you for one moment think that the prospect of going right back there isn't ever present in my mind, you don't know me at all. I've lived on Raman Noodles for months and stolen toilet paper to make ends meet. I never want to go back. And I want all those kids who would think that my earlier life was a step up to have at least a chance of something better.

So, yeah, I'm a bleeding heart liberal. And if you don't get why, bite me.

Good morning

So, this was what greeted me this morning. Much better than an 8.9 earthquake and 10 meter high tsunami. It's all about perspective.

Things look pretty bad in Japan right now. And they had finally clawed their way out of the "Lost Decade." The news continues, as Elizabeth Bear tweets this morning "Poor scientist trying to explain to journalists that real science is not like disaster movie science." Also, the most often retweeted comment "The headline you won't be reading: 'Millions saved in Japan by good engineering and govt building codes'. But it's the truth." Ah, those pesky regulations again, saving people's lives.

And now they're reporting a massive whirlpool off the coast of Japan. I'm assuming it's too early for Godzilla jokes, right?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Linkee-poo warms up by singing "Solidarity Forever"

Fellow VPer Miranda Suri is looking for help titling her book. I seem to remember coming up with a title at VP13, Miranda. It would have a catchy cover, at least, but I'm sure you're going for a different market.

Jay Lake pontificates and elucidates on his writing process in what will be a multi post discussion on the progress of the writer.

I think I ranted a long time ago about the drive to use GPS in everything and how vulnerable that would make us. Well, wait no longer. Yep, a $30 jammer box and things go haywire. Remember how the new air traffic control system uses only GPS? What could go wrong? (Grokked from Dan)

The left seems to be realizing that infographics speak louder than words. That's one comparing the cuts in the house bill (defeated in the Senate) and the cost of the tax breaks given out to the rich. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

I'm truly getting tired of elected politicians going through the "Whoops, I got caught, I'll pay the money back," routine.

And just before I forget to say it, what the Wisconsin Senate did yesterday, stripping out all the budget and financial language in their union busting bill, pretty much gives the lie to that these changes need to be made to get control of expenses/deficits. What happened is they said, "We're tired of this, we'll end the charade (because we're going to take the hard hit anyway)." And, yes, I'm sure this fund raiser has been planned "for a long time" but it certainly does smack of both a victory lap and "thanks for the work, here's your pay."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ben Dover. Now paging, Ben Dover.

The assault on the working class has gone into full swing. I said this before and you may have thought I was engaging in hyperbole. I'm not. Anybody who works for a living, you're about to be screwed. But before we get to all of that, just a few things about our wonderful Senate Bill 5.

Veterans, you're about to be screwed if you want to become a teacher, or go into public service when you leave the Armed Services. SB5 removes a clause that for both salary and retirement, you can have 5 years of your service transfer. Not anymore. Thanks for your service, go to the bottom of the scale. Yep, the party that so recently endorsed the state going into more debt by taking out a large bond issue to give guard members a $2000 bonus for serving in the wars, now is screwing you over. Doesn't it feel good?

Getting closer to the issue, to pass SB 5 (and the Wisconsin bill), Senate rules and laws may have been violated (that's what the line about "Supporters said they don't care how it happened, are just glad it passed and is on track to go up for a full Senate vote," is talking about). See, we have laws and rules about these things. Like when Senate Committees are set (rule, beginning of session, ie. first day, to which the Senate President pretty much responded later, "I'm the Senate President and I make the rules."). About open meetings and hearings (none were held on the committee replacements, which may violate Ohio's open meeting laws on both 24 hours notice and records keeping). There's a couple others, but those are the biggies. (There's a similar problem with what the Wisconsin Senate did as well).

Breaking rules and laws to get this legislation through. Proud yet of what you've wrought, TPers? (I'll note that Senator Seitz was going to vote no because he hadn't read the bill yet and that was a "tea party lesson" he learned).

Now lets get closer to how everybody who works is about to be screwed. While this is going on, there's a lot of talk about the national budget cutting, but very little is being said about what is exactly being cut (except for "discretionary spending" and the defunding of NPR, Planned Parenthood, and some of the other big name things). What you may not have heard was that OSHA, EPA, National Labor Relations Board, and the EEOC's call center among others (including many inspectors offices) were on the list to be zeroed out or have severe cuts. While you may not think the EPA would be protecting you as an employee, you'd be wrong. Many EPA regulations overlap OSHA's responsibilities, but the EPA has stronger enforcement. And if you don't see how defunding OSHA, EEOC's call center, and the NLRB affects you as an employee, you really aren't paying attention (do I really need to walk this argument through here?).

No unions, and no seniority. So the career staff most likely to be able to help you, as someone who wants to go to the government for redress of wrongs, more than likely won't be there for you. And those employees that would normally go to the wall to help you, fighting the political appointees over them, no longer would have job protection for doing that (needless to say, they're also the employees that have the greatest knowledge of how things are supposed to work and are paid the most). Know what it's like being an older person trying to find a job ("older" here is defined as 35+)?

So, removing regulations that protect you, removing inspectors in charge of regulation enforcement, and removing the agencies that you can go to for redress. Begin to see it? That's before we get to the prospect of firing career employees and rigging the hiring process to install ideological/political activists in their place (see previous administrations Justice Department hiring scandals) and instilling the culture of "yes men" (toward the political appointees) in the older career employees.

Having fun yet?

As you may or may not know, unions led the way for workers' rights (starting with the 8 hour workday, 5 day work week, retirement, paid holidays and vacation, higher pay scales, etc). One of the arguments going on right now is "Why should union workers have these things when those in the private sectors don't?" You hear that a lot. It's a crab's mentality, and unfortunately we've seen too much of this. Understand from the union side, we wonder why you don't have these things which won't don't consider "extravagant" but "basic". And we've been willing to fight for you (who aren't in a union) to have them. Without unions and the union's activities and power, how long do you believe you'll have what you have even now? You know all that talk about "being competitive" and we have to do this to be "competitive"? Remember how these same people defended off-shoring jobs to countries that have pay rates expressed in "dollars per day" (typical amounts can be counted to using both hands and if your lucky, maybe a foot or two) and have lax environmental and work place safety rules (as in, employees get sick and die from their working conditions) so our companies would be "competitive"? What else do you think they'll do to get us all "competitive"? You may remember my comment earlier about, "You'll take what you're offered and you'll like it." It's not just going to be public sector employees (heck, with this economy, it's pretty much there already).

Oh, you think they're rational? In Florida the same party is going to expand their managed care pilot program for Medicaid statewide even though both the patients and doctors call the plan a failure. This is the party that keeps hammering "privatization" of government work as a way to control costs and get better service, when after over two decades worth of experimentation shows the exact opposite (do I need to provide links for the IRS collections and customer service, Medicare Advantage and Part D, or the "private contractors" fighting our wars, or the arguments in Ohio about how the privatization of the growth development commission only removes transparency into the agency?). Do they sound rational about this?

Oh, and as a bonus, they weaken the unions and their support of Democratic candidates (unions don't only support Democrats, in case you don't believe me), all while the Citizens United decision fills Republican coffers (to be fair, not all corporations support Republicans). The Supreme Court has previously ruled that money = speech. Guess who is going to be doing most of the speaking from now on? I hope the Koch brothers can sing, 'cause I like a little entertainment in my political theater.

Now, it's not all doom and gloom. All these moves have energized the labor and liberal base. Many union workers are now rethinking their voting and political giving habits (here's the little secret, while union organizations are mostly oriented to the Democratic Party, most union members give to and vote for Republicans, see kerfluffle over the 1969 Democratic Convention and the fall out over Democratic support of Affirmative Action ). This may be a Machiavellian "Do your evil first" philosophy of the conservatives, hoping all the hupla dies down in two years, or that they'll bring in something to redeem themselves down the road, but I don't think it's going to happen. These changes are going to have lasting and continuing effects and ramifications. They're gifts that will keep giving going forward. Unless something very radical happens, I expect the Conservative sweep we saw in the last election cycle to be very short lived and will possibly lead to a few decades of Democratic control of legislatures.

Well deserved rest

Welcome home, Discovery. Thanks.

Memo to Guys

Subject: Urinal Etiquette

In a restroom with three urinals, the middle station should be your last choice. No, I don't care that the one on the right is the little boy's urinal. Use it, if you can't aim down, see a doctor. Middle urinal = last one to be taken. If you need companionship that badly, I suggest a dating site.

Also, please flush when you're done. I'm tired of having to take a pee only to be distracted by the thought, "Wow, that guy has some serious liver problems." I don't mind if you flush while going, or to start going, but add another when you're finished doing your business. Think of the next guy, will ya?

Do not look at me like I strangled your puppy when I flush because you decided to not wait until your call was done, or worse, took the call while voiding. It's not my fault you exposed the people on the other side of the line to your bad habits. I understand that we all get those calls at the last minute, but if that call goes over 15 minutes, I think it was probably planned. If you can't wait an extra 15 minutes, you're doing this wrong.

Finally, wash your hands. No. Really. And use soap. They provide it. If I need to explain aerosols, I will. Bear Grylls may have a habit of distilling his own urine for consumption, but we have bottled water available in the break room. You don't have to. Plus, Bear has other issues.

We could talk about how many shakes, but take whatever you need. Do it right the first time.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Likee-poo knows there can be only one

Buried under work.

Jim Hines is wondering about what is a troll and what isn't. Meanwhile, on the other side of the island, NPR is upping their comment moderation which now includes having to contribute comments to the site a few times without wanting to burn the house down (link grokked from Tobias Buckell). The wild, wild west internet is over. Time to start building churches and roads.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Linkee-poo wakes up, gets out of bed, drags a comb across its head

Radio Daze, an article on a service to talk radio of providing interesting callers. Ah, you always wondered who those people were who call into those radio shows only to be denigrated or make everybody sniffly nosed, or shaking with rage. They may be an actor hired for the part. Whose shows do they call? Well, I'l leave that to your imagination. (Grokked from Jay Lake).

A local newspaper with Michael Moore's appearance at the Madison rally. So this thing has been going on now, what, three weeks with tens of thousands in attendance every day (including last week's snowstorm). This is a movement. The Labor Beast has been finally stirred to motion. Hopefully it won't catch a bad case of the "we're screwed anyways" and keep rolling. Here's the text of Michael's speech. (Grokked from Catherine Schaff-Stump)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Linkee-poo celebrates having a laptop

I'm wasting too much time, must either write or study.

Here's some interesting charts from the Tor's Best of the Decade poll. Hey, "Best EVAR!" anthologists, pay attention. You know those arguments about why you didn't include stories by or about women because you said there weren't any? Yeah, you just got pwned.

John Scalzi takes on the myth that BNAs (big name authors) spend their time keeping all of us newbies out of the business by squashing us like little bugs. Or is that squishing. Or squamous. I keep forgetting. Anyway, yeah, that. "Humans see assholes as damage and route around them."

Here's a popcorn recipe I've been using after attempting to use a microwave popper. Driest. Popcorn. Evar. However, with this recipe the popcorn is pretty good. I keep the lid on while the popcorn is popping though.

Something Finally Goes Mostly Right

This morning's mail brought the new 65W power adapter for the ol' lappy (yes, my laptop is about 12 years old now, it's a Macintosh, in case you needed to ask). And it works. Not only does it work to power the lappy, it's recharging the battery. About half a month ago, the old power charger (obviously started to fail and) stopped charging up the battery.

I worked through that issue with Dan (waves at Dan) and we both thought it might be the charging circuit, which is on a daughter card. Dan gave me some good leads on finding both parts and instructions on how to replace. BTW, if you don't have friends that can help you with these kinds of things, you are missing out. Just saying. Oh, and the old power charger had failed before. Dan's pretty handy with soldering iron and helped me get it working then. He also mentioned that it was a temporary fix and I should start looking for a replacement part (color me chagrined for being too cheap to buy it then).

Then, as you all know, last week the power adapter failed completely. The remaining 4% of battery charge drained out before I could finish ordering the replacement (had to use the iMac). So, since then, no laptop. Bette normally uses the iMac, so I limped along using the iPod Touch, which did pretty well (although no writing occurred then).

So with no laptop, the equation of what to replace it with switched from a laptop replacement to a new laptop. But now we have the laptop, and the new iPad 2 was launched this week. I still feel the need to have a computer's functionality, which you don't get with a tablet. This ol' lappy is showing it's age, though (can't run the latest software, is pretty slow, and 60gigs of hard drive space is very limiting). Decisions, decisions. So right now it'll come down to just how large our tax liability from last year is.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A second linkee-poo (cause I didn't want to hold them until Monday)

Cubelet Engineering Prototypes. Get my geek on. (Grokked from John)

Some more info graphics. These are about the recent decline in the jobless rate (not much, but, hey, most people were expecting a .1% uptick instead). Yeah, John Boehner, it's all about you giving those tax cuts. Not. (Look at the bottom graph when job growth went into the positive). (Grokked from Dan)

Linkee-poo wants to be sedated

Just a note to all my friends, without happing my laptop function, my reading of blogs, etc, has gone way down (as has my own writing). There's been plenty you've written about that I've wanted to comment on, many of you have been ill and I wish you better health, some of you have been doing interesting things with models (physical and business) and travel, and some of you have written exceptionally poignant and witty things. I just haven't had the opportunity to tell you this. Very busy with life, the jobs, classes, etc and my evening "catch up time" is lacking because of the laptop loss. On the plus side, I'm getting really good at Angry Birds on my Touch.

Of interest to writers, the Journal of Universal Rejection. Bwahahaha!

Then I get to have the, "Holy crap, I wrote about something like that already…" moment when Tobias Buckell mentions that Japan offers to help California pay for high speed rail. Granted, we'll buy Japanese trains with that deal. But, shit. I really hope if California goes for that, the result isn't what's in my book, because that would be bad (for those of you who are first readers you know what I'm referring to, everybody else, sorry, I have to be cryptic here).

It's weird when one part of my life overlaps and intrudes on another part. That's an article on how "Storytelling is the Future of the Web" told from the perspective of designer/media marketing. There's some pretty profound stuff in there (for both sides of the story). First is, hopefully, a little more explanation of what brand is and how it (should) function. Also, there's some pretty good charts in there (the carts are very basic in their design, which is disappointing, but the data is very important). Those charts basically overturn the cultural zeitgeist that we're becoming a nation of schizophrenic multi-taskers unable to focus for anything more than a few seconds (book lengths are getting longer, so are movies and TV shows). Now, while some of the conclusions are a bit misleading in the wording they use, it's still pretty good to know. People pay attention to stories. Give them a good one, and they'll stay with it. But, now you've got your chocolate in my peanut butter.

Of a related note, books are doing surprising well. Yes, from all the doom and gloom you've heard, the number of book titles seems healthy, as do their sales numbers, as well as their profits. Armageddon avoided.

I love me some old school letterheads. Yes, I do. And even more letterhead. I'm in geek heaven.

A primer on internet tracking from the marketing standpoint.

Hey look, real voter fraud happening right there! Oh, wait, it's another Republican. Nothing to see here, citizen. Move along.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rabbit hole, down we go (Ohio SB 5)

For our own version of the "Screw the Workers" bill (otherwise known locally as SB 5), it passed last night, after having to remove two republicans from the committee in charge of the bill. Seems it was too radical even in it's amended state for some conservatives (the bill wouldn't have been voted out of committee without the last minute substitutions and reshuffling the committee assignments). Are all my conservative friends proud of the party they helped make the majority yet?

And with all the kerfluffle about SB 5 and the WI bill, conservatives continue to advance their radical social agenda of out lawing abortion, removing rights, dismantling regulations, and generally acting like the entrenched ideologues they are. When do we get to something that will actually help employment? Eh, probably not until summer. Of course, their argument will be that once they remove wage guarantees (like minimum wage), regulations meant to keep workers from dying or being maimed on the job, regulations to ensure those who live around industries won't die a premature death, and reduce benefits to meaningless lip service, well then, we'll all be able to get back to work. I wonder when anybody will point out that many of those regulations keep people off the public doles and out of disability? Probably not until it's a problem, again.

But, it's not all bad news. I just found out last night that another of the staunch libertarians I know switched their party alliance to the Democratic Party (and sent them money). So, while we may have to wade through a few years of this muck, I see a swing away from the conservatives in the coming elections. (I did explain that our side wasn't all that much better, but while we may not do anything to help, we also aren't intent on harming).

From AOL news, "Under SB 5, elected officials at the state and local levels would be given the authority to resolve contract disputes with public employees." Yeah. Negotiations work so much better when the one side has sole authority to resolve conflicts. You know the whole argument about how Unions can campaign to have their chosen officials elected (mostly Democrats) and those are the people they negotiate with, so they're stacking the deck? Yeah, what this says is the people the Unions negotiate with have the final word on any disagreement.

Let me be more crass, that provision is the, "You'll take what we offer and you'll like it" segment of the bill. Again, "binding arbitration" (the previous way disputes were settled) wasn't the Union's idea, it was the elected officials choice. They forced that on the Unions after the cost of defending themselves in court got to high. Well, guess what, those independent arbiters would find for the Unions is the majority of cases (just like how, even with the Labor Relations Board stacked with conservatives, Unions continue to win the majority of their appeals, which is why the current Congress is trying to zero out its budget). Or I can phase it this way, even with the deck stacked against the Unions, they still continued to win their arguments when they're presented to third parties.

Even if you're not in a union, that clause should strike fear into your heart. Don't like how negotiations with your boss are going? Tough. You know those posters in the break room that specify your rights under employment law? Yeah, kiss those goodbye.

And as a final note, in that AOL new article, you'll see that the final bill was some 599 pages long. It was passed out of committee, through the rules committee, and passed the Senate all in a matter of a few hours. So much for the "have you read the bill" crowd.

Again, thanks TP for helping to bring this about.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Linkee-poo is training for the marathon

Of interest to me as a designer. You just don't know how often we get into a project and need high-rez photography only to find that there isn't any. In fact, not even any low-res to place in the layout. Fear no more, place kitten is here. I find this hilarious. I wonder how many times I'll see kittens printed in the oddest places. (Grokked from John)

Advice for the young designer. I've basically given the same advice myself. Also, yes, #2, as #10 states, is the greatest competitive advantage of any career. This list also goes well as "Advice for Young Writers."

In relation to the Tolkein button thing, it was easy to believe the Tolkein Estate was behind it because they do things like this. While I'm sure they're going after this on a defamation of their trademark route… really, we have to do this? I mean, if they really wanted to, half of epic fantasy could be pulled from the shelves as bad pastiches of Tolkein's works. Probably more than half.

And interesting article about a debate on women in fantasy. There's a few undercurrents going on in there, the conservative attack (and possible motives) against fantasy (it's a long, ongoing attack, of which the last major flare up was over Harry Potter), the weak defense put up (see also the comment thread on Jim's post linked to downstream as a connection here), and the fact that the major participants in the fight miss the target entirely because of their own blinders of their privilege. I'll also point to my own transgressions in having not taken on the challenge of writing a strong female lead (a challenge to my own blinders of privilege) and that my personal library has woefully few female authors. (Grokked from Cat Rambo)

Charts help explain things a little better. Here's one (with some commentary) on US expenditures on infrastructure as a percentage of GDP. Remember the phrase, "Build it, and they will come"? Yeah. Don't, and they don't come. Note the difference between this and libertarian ideology that the market will provide. No, there's no evidence they will. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell).

My friend Jim has a few things to say about DADT, ROTC, racism and Irony at Columbia. What he said.

Some truth about this public pension plans and "tax payer money." Don't miss reading all the way down where they talk about the "state making up for deficits in the plan." Gee, politicians (and business executives) not fully living up to their side of the bargain by skipping payments, delaying payments, etc? Why, I'm shocked, shocked to hear…

And why should we let public opinion get in the way here. I mean, who are the legislatures going to listen to anyway? They have their business interests to look out for (you may remember that WI was on the track to a surplus until the new governor passed tax reductions for high-income people and large businesses).

Just as a general comment, in my own little slice of the world, while I haven't heard the word, "Bright-sized" used yet, I have heard the words, "Brain drain" used to describe the aftermath if Ohio passes SB 5 (Ohio's version of the Wisconsin proposal to remove collective bargaining fiasco).

And Fox News gets caught fabricating reality again. Yeah. I've been to Madison. I don't remember any palm trees there either. But at least our friends to the North have won a victory to keep lying out of their media. Hence, Fox News will not be going to Canada.

Finally, as another general thought for my TP/conservative friends, you all talked about revolution and how mad you were, etc. You may remember when I said, I understand, been that way myself, wish you had come in the fight over 8 years ago. Also, please understand when you talk about revolution, I don't think you quite understood the language you used. Labor wasn't just "given" the rights that the neo-conservatives now want to take away. We fought for them. And I don't mean, "we fought at the polls, won elections, etc", I mean armed struggle. Don't believe me? Research "labor unrest" at the end of the 19th and early 20th century. You'll note the word "Massacre" comes up frequently. This is were the Pinkertons made their reputation, hiring out as a private army in the employ of the business owners. When mine owners would roll in gatling guns on rail cars and fire into their workers' town (which was wholly owned by the mine owners, who also owned the store and paid their workers in script which was only accepted at the mine store). When steel plant owners locked out and shot their workers who protested. And the Labor who became the Unions responded back, also with fire power. You want a revolution? Understand there was already one fought and won by the unionists/labor. Do you think they'll just roll over this time? This isn't a threat, this is me observing that history is about to go into repeat mode.

So far the protests have been peaceful and orderly. However, Wisconsin has installed concrete barriers around their capitol. Ohio State Troopers prevented all the protestors who wanted into the state house from getting in, citing "security concerns."

Sure, there will be a brain drain at first. The flight of the best to places that still hold on to the idea that labor is something worth while. As those pockets of sanity decrease, and the result of these actions become clearer, the powder keg will erupt. It may take a year, or ten, but it'll come. Again, you don't really understand the fire you're playing with. You may have marches on Washington, but realize the protests at Madison and Columbus have numbered in the thousands (for Madison, tens of thousands) for over a week.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

think I can, think I can, oops, no I can't

This weekend the little laptop that could, couldn't. She's been slowly failing over the last month. This last insult I believe I can fix (and was an old problem I was just ignoring because I'm a cheap bastard). The wall wart finally gave up the ghost. Since the recharge circuit was gone (three weeks ago), and the battery was on it's last legs, it was a short illness.

However, with a $10 investment, a new wall wart is on its way to me and hopefully will get me back to limping along. Once that's here, if it works, I'll do a new backup (current one it two weeks old), and then try surgery to see if the charging problem is a loose daughter card (heck, even this problem maybe a loose daughter card - yes, my laptop is old enough that we're talking about daughter cards here).

I was really hoping to either finish the book rewrite or have taxes finished before I thought about replacing the laptop. And at this point, without having iPad V2.0 available, it'll probably be another laptop to replace it. Fortunately for me, Apple just refreshed their powerbook line and reduced the price of the low-end 15" powerbook.

But, until that new wall wart arrives and works (crosses fingers, raps wood, throws salt over my shoulder) things will be a little slow here. While I typically post during the day, a lot of the writing gets done at the night side. On the plus side, it may mean more posts that are linkee-poos.