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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Conservative comics

City Journal profiles two comic strips with a conservative bent, Mallard Fillmore and Prickly City. The article also mentions the popular Web comic Day By Day.

I haven't read many Web comic strips that are overtly political, though I'm sure there are some out there. It sticks out when one shows the story from a distinctly conservative perspective. This chapter of Better Days (which is not a strip for kids) is very funny; it hammers a typical liberal schoolteacher and her class's indoctrination.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Daylight come...

There will be no federal hearing to discuss where the boundary between Eastern and Central time zones will fall in Indiana. Instead, individual counties will have to petition if they want to be moved to the Central time zone. While I think people would have been happier with such a hearing, I'm happy with the ultimate result: EDT next year!

Safety tip

Don't egg cars in Indiana.

Carnival of the Vanities

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is up at Pratie Place.

Pratie asks an interesting question in conjunction with hosting the Carnival.

Do YOU, personally, actually look at any of these entries? Or are these Carnivals like the poetry readings where everybody leaves after submitting their own poem?

I treat the Carnival just like any other blog, any other blog post, any news site, any listing of columnists. I read the summaries, and follow links that interest me. I'll probably only read a handful of the submissions. Other readers will read their own handful. Overall, however, everyone will get a few visits, and their writing will be exposed to a larger audience. And that's the whole point of the Carnival.

Comics Curmudgeon

Joel at Not That points out The Comics Curmudgeon (Joshua Fruhlinger), who humorously comments on the largely lame offerings that infect the comics pages today.

That's why I read Web comics... with the number that are out there, they're at least some that are more interesting. And if they suck, you don't have to face them every day, monopolizing scarce newsprint, while thinking that there are hundreds of better comic strips out there.

Monday, July 25, 2005

What a waste...

The US highway that runs near my home is being resurfaced. It's normal maintenance, but it strikes me as an odd time to do it. The plan is for this road to be converted (soon) into a limited access highway all the way from the Michigan border to Interstate 465. This new pavement, then, will be torn out in the next couple of years.

Such a waste.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Lessons from Family Guy

In a recent episode of the cartoon Family Guy ("Petarded"; aired June 19 2005), Peter Griffin is so convinced that he's a genius, he takes an IQ test, to find that he is actually mildly retarded. In typical Family Guy style, the world ridiculously overreacts, treating Peter as if he were severely retarded, and incapable of living independently.

Peter then gets in an accident with Tom Tucker, the newscaster, who recognizes Peter as that retarded guy, and so Tom excuses the accident. Thus, Peter realizes that he can get away with a lot of inappropriate behavior, just by saying he's retarded. One scene shows him methodically kicking in the stall doors in a women's bathroom, each time saying "Retarded," and each woman excusing the behavior.

Keep that episode in mind the next time you hear lawyers and pundits arguing that a convicted murderer should be spared the death penalty because the results of an IQ test show he's mildly retarded.

It doesn't take much intelligence to understand the concept that killing people is wrong. There are a lot of dumb people in the world, but they don't go around killing. About the only excuse I accept to exempt someone from the system of justice is serious mental illness (the person doesn't realize they're killing someone) or serious retardation (the person is incapable of realizing the consequence of their action). In each case, such a person should be institutionalized for life.

If you interact with a person and he doesn't strike you as retarded, then he probably has the capability of knowing killing is wrong, and low intelligence is no excuse. It may be funny within the mild mischief of a cartoon, but it's a deadly serious issue in real life.

John Roberts

A surprise choice, without a large paper trail, highly intelligent, and viewed as confirmable.

That didn't go so well for the former President Bush when the candidate was David Souter.

Fortunately, several commentators far more knowledgeable than I think he's the real thing. See Manuel Miranda and Beldar, for example.

Remember, liberals: Seven of the nine Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican presidents. You have no reason to complain about the makeup of the court.

I never thought I'd get this album....

While listening to the music program on a plane, I heard a song I liked very much, so much that I wanted to find it when I got home. I wrote down the lyrics to the chorus:

It's not the way that I want it
It's just the way that I need it
Day after day

Before I got around to looking up the song, I saw that synthpop label/retailer A Different Drum was stocking the latest single and album from Kelly Osbourne, because their style was very 80's synth-driven. So I listened to the album on AOL, and what do you know? That song I liked was the Kelly Osbourne single One Word. It was described as similar to Fade to Grey by Visage, which was an accurate description. (Another song reminds me, of all things, of Ministry's Effigy (I'm Not A...))

So I picked up the album, and like it a lot. If you had asked me, when Kelly Osbourne started her recording career with a cover of Papa Don't Preach, if I thought I'd ever have one of her albums, I'd have laughed. But I'm not going to argue with this new style of hers.

The album is largely the work of Linda Perry, who is everywhere these days. She's a great surprise of the music industry. Certainly, back in 1993, I didn't think the lead singer of one-hit wonder 4 Non Blondes would surface again, certainly not as a top producer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Explaining the gender differences in top levels of math

Click the link - you won't regret it! There's a fascinating discussion on male/female differences in mathematical ability, particularly in how it relates to the very best in the world: Fields medalists, Putnam competition winners, even professors at the top research universities.

The premise of the article is that it's simple statistics. With a slightly higher mean and higher variance, when you select people in the far far right tail of the distribution, those with mathematical abilities that far outstrip mine, they are much more likely to be part of the group with the greater variance.

An example that might be clearer to the casual reader is to compare state lotteries with the Big Game or Powerball multistate lotteries. (Apply a factor to the state lottery so that you start with the same minimum prize.) Both lotteries have the one huge prize that's difficult to win. But even so, the state lotteries have less variation, because they don't attract the jackpot-multiplying craze of a huge Powerball jackpot. If you find the percentage of jackpots that exceed $100 million, then increase the threshold, the percentage of those jackpots that are from the big games will increase.

(Via Dave Justus and The Corner)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Root causes

Jeff Goldstein has a plan to address the root causes of terrorism.

(Via VodkaPundit)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

M&Ms at such great heights!

I was surprised to hear an acoustic version of "Such Great Heights" by the Postal Service (actually performed by Iron & Wine, but available on the Such Great Heights EP) used in an M&M's commercial. It's the one that goes:

I, I'm thinking it's a sign
that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images
and when we kiss they're perfectly aligned

when multicolored M&M's are displayed on the screen.

Not only is The Postal Service not that popular (very popular for a synthesizer-based band, but hardly burning up the charts), they're a relatively new band. I'm impressed their music made it into a commercial so quickly!

Harry Potter discussion

I'm finished with the sixth Harry Potter novel, and....

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

So, the review is posted here.

Spoiler-free comments from the blogosphere:

Then again, this may be the point of the whole novel. It's really nothing more than a set-up to the final book. Why give us in two chapters what you can drag into a 600 page book that will sell millions? For the next three years we'll be debating minor plot points, and placing our book orders in advance. On the bright side, however, Ms. Rowling can now roll around in a brand new pile of money, since her old one must be smelling a bit rank by now.

Interesting commentary on the Actuarial Outpost forum, in this thread.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

An interesting take on Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Back when I first learned of the ridiculous "Republicans for Voldemort" T-shirt, I thought about it, and realized how foolish the comparison was. Voldemort's planned overthrow of the wizarding world isn't conservative in the least. My thought was that Voldemort was much more like Stalin.

Jonathan Last of the Weekly Standard put much more thought into it than I had, and reached a brilliant conclusion: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was an allegory to the English response to the rise of Adolph Hitler. Albus Dumbledore is Winston Churchill, one of the few to immediately recognize the danger of the new Voldemort. Cornelius Fudge is Neville Chamberlain, more concerned about Dumbledore's threat to his position as Minister of Magic than to the threat of Voldemort to the entire wizarding world. He concludes Harry Potter is like America, which will rise to the challenge and tilt the balance in this war.

Interestingly, do you remember the (as of Book 5 seemingly) ineffective character in House Gryffindor? Neville is his name.

Voldemort is a good stand-in for either Hitler or Stalin, and though I still like my comment that he's like Stalin because of all of his followers that later claimed, no, we didn't really support him, Mr. Last's argument is better in whole.

Read it all!

Update: Galley Slaves, the blog of three members of the Weekly Standard staff (including Last), linked to the post, and said "I'm just waiting for the hate mail."

Harry Potter thoughts

I just got back from the midnight sale. No, I haven't finished the book yet. I'm going to leave it untouched until after getting a good night's sleep.

I love the series and love the universe. I just wish there was more to it! Back when the first book became a hit and movie rights were announced, I saw the announcement that Hasbro was getting toy rights. Also included in that announcement was the development of card game and role-playing game properties for Hasbro's Wizards of the Coast subsidiary.

If you follow the hobby game industry, you might remember seeing the Harry Potter trading card game, but no role-playing game. Rumor has it that Joanne K. Rowling did not like the idea of a game in which other people could make decisions. "You mean someone could write something where Harry dies?" (I hope she hasn't seen what people do in fanfiction.)

So, there was no role-playing game, no system that could have attracted new fans to the hobby. And I was ready to write a scenario or two in the universe, showing what adventures all the other kids were having.

And with her desire for control over the property, you don't see the expanded universe. Go to a book store, and you'll find countless novels in the Star Wars and Star Trek universes. The rich background of these series are open to the fertile minds of many creative writers, and no one is worried about the fate of the original properties. If Ms. Rowling had a different perspective, there could be more books. How about books told from the perspective of the oft-forgotten Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff houses? Or books set in the two other European schools mentioned in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire? Or that upstart American magic school established in the late 1600's in Massachusetts? What about chronicling the lives of professional Quidditch players or workers in various magical fields?

Sadly, we may very well be left with seven good novels and nothing else to remember Ms. Rowling's fantastic vision.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I read too many blogs!

I found an article in an old copy of USA Today talking about how you can't find romance novels set in Washington, D.C.

My first thought: is Wonkette going to be interviewed?

(She was.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

To each according to his need

While on the canals of St. Petersburg, Russia, this building was pointed out to us:

It's an apartment building, on the surface not too different from any other of Soviet construction, but in a great location. There's some interesting history behind this building.

Note the two statues atop the building, in the center, representing a soldier and a sailor. It turns out these apartments were built just after the Revolution, as housing for those who fought for the victorious Red army.

My thought? "Wow. It sure didn't take long for the Soviet government to take the equality that supposedly underlies Communism and throw it out the window." "To each according to his need?" Somehow, I don't think the people who most needed housing were all part of the army.

In a sign of the victory of capitalism, there is now something else atop this building. At the right is a sign for Megafon, the Russian telecommunications giant.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

You Don't Know Jack

I was in Chicago last month, right around the time when an oldies station switched format to the broader format called "Jack." A local radio station changed from a current country format to the broader country format called "Hank," using the slogan "He plays anything country."

I applaud any radio station that plays a wider variety of songs. Broadcasting has become narrowcasting, and the playlists have been narrowed to a handful of songs that test highest with the audience. Billboard chart guru Fred Bronson has long bemoaned the loss of radio stations he remembered from his youth, that would play rock, R&B, and country... anything popular on the charts.

Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune: "Even great music--including Beatles songs...--cloys after a while.

I would love to have a radio station, just so I could stick the occasional obscure song I like into heavy rotation. Who knows? One of them might even catch on with the listening public!

Nuclear power

A recent editorial in the paper urged the building of new nuclear plants, something I've long supported. What I found interesting was the statistics included, one of which was surprising.

In the aftermath of the Chernobyl meltdown, there were 31 deaths, but there have been only 10 deaths related to thyroid cancer, and no increase in leukemia or other cancers. This, despite 130,000 people receiving exposure to radiation.

In comparison, annual deaths in coal mining are 1,000, and annual deaths from natural gas explosions are 50.

This comparative analysis is refreshing to see. Too often, it's just not done. People are afraid of the risk of something, even though the alternative is far worse. Just today, there have probably been well more than 31 deaths on the roadways of the world.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Happy Birthday!

Just saw in the paper today that it's the birthday of Andrew Fletcher of Depeche Mode. He's 44 years old today. And I want his job.

He doesn't write the songs, he doesn't sing lead, doesn't take much interest in the music. He's more like the manager than a band member. Yet, as an official band member, he presumably gets a share of the band's royalties.

Just desserts

I missed the Kelo decision while on vacation, and not surprisingly I wasn't happy. I oppose both taking private property for non-public use and the effective taking of private property by restricting its use and reducing its value.

The best response is found here. Freestar Media wants to build a hotel on David Souter's home, taking his property for a more productive use in exactly the way the Supreme Court justice supports.

(Via Silflay Hraka)

London bombing

Like all right-minded people, I am sickened by the heinous bombing in London, on the same subway system I was riding just three weeks ago. But since I don't blog during the day, I couldn't post until now... and there's not much more to say that hasn't already been said. Look around the blogosphere for statements of support, poignant tributes, and more. Just don't go to the Democratic Underground.

One interesting report so far is that a person involved in these bombings was a terrorist released from Guantanamo Bay. If true, I hope at least one whining leftist realizes the tragedy of their pressing for the release of these terrorists.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Delicious irony

Ken Summers at Second Breakfast highlights a quote from Jacques Chirac on the eve of the Olympic announcement, badmouthing British food.

"You can't trust people who cook as badly as that. After Finland, it's the country with the worst food."

He mentions a radio report that two of the judges were Finnish.

It's pure coincidence that last month, I was in both England and Finland, and had no problem with the food there. (Granted, I didn't eat mushy peas or pickled herring.)

(Via Instapundit)