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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, November 30, 2005

Help out a blogger with a reasonable request

Help out Patterico. All he wants is to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Being nominated isn't a big deal, as there are no requirements to get nominated.

Patterico has been shining the light of truth on a corrupt California institution, bringing hope to an oppressed minority group (conservatives). That's more than many nominees can claim.

A tale of two movies

I saw two movies this past weekend.

First was the latest blockbuster, Harry Potter and the Gobs of Cash... er, Goblet of Fire. Like the other movies in the series, it was enjoyable. Due to the length of the book, it's not surprising that so much was cut from the movie, but overall it hit the important parts. Now to reread the book.

That same day, I had the misfortune of watching the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds. Three unlikable characters run from aliens with unbelievable technology but no antibiotics. You know how the book ends, so you know how the movie ends. And I couldn't wait for the movie to end. It wasn't satisfying watching gratuitous destruction, since the main characters didn't get destroyed.

That's one of the things I like about Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series. The invading aliens aren't so powerful that a human victory stretches plausibility. Their technology is about 50 years ahead of humans.

Sucks to be you!

From a news article on AOL:

TMZ has learned exclusively that before Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson got married, he not only asked his future bride to sign a prenup, he actually had the papers drawn up, but Jessica refused to sign.

When the couple married in October 2002, Nick was financially better off than his better half. The former 98 Degrees boy bander was concerned enough about his financial security to take legal measures to protect himself.

During their marriage, the financial tables turned drastically when Jessica rocketed past Nick in earning power. Her endorsements, along with appearances and other revenues, earned Jessica $35 million in 2004 alone.

Under California law, since the couple did not sign a prenup, earnings during the marriage are divided 50/50. If the couple doesn't settle out of court, Nick would be entitled to tens of millions of Jessica's earnings during their three years of wedlock.

If I were Nick, I wouldn't care if the split became acrimonious. I'd say, "Tough. You had your chance to agree to protect our individual wealth and income, and you didn't take it. If the situation were reversed, you wouldn't give me the lion's share of the wealth, so I feel no shame in dividing our marriage earnings according to California law."

He'd better do this, since his future earnings are pretty close to nil.

Canada's liberal government falls!

Give a tip of the hat to Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters. When the free press-hating Canadians tried to keep a lid on the Gomery report, Ed was shining a light, providing the Canadian people the truth about the corruption in their government. Now, with a vote of no confidence, the government has fallen, and there will be new elections in January.

It's another demonstration of the power of bloggers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Best new saying

From Jonah Goldberg's post to the Corner on the subject of when torture might be necessary (the "ticking time bomb" scenario):

Indeed, it becomes difficult to come up with a scenario where the torture of an innocent might be required. An innocent person with knowledge of where the bomb is would surely volunteer it without coercion. And an innocent person who refuses to divulge the information is almost by definition no longer an innocent but an accomplice. Of course, one can come up with Hollywoodish scenarios where innocents are blackmailed into silence for noble reasons (a kidnapped child or some such). But if Ramesh already thinks the ticking bomb is a red herring, it seems silly to gild the herring even more.

That's it! "Gild the herring" should become the world's newest catchphrase!

Cartoon dads

I think I've figured out why I don't like the other two Fox Sunday night cartoons (Family Guy and American Dad) as well as standby The Simpsons. It's the dads. Homer Simpson is delightfully stupid. Peter Griffin and Stan Smith are maliciously stupid.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cartoon equality

Here's a sign of equality of the sexes!

Half of the cartoons on 4Kids TV (Fox) Saturday morning this season are primarily targeted towards girls!

Magical DoReMi (the anime Ojamajou Doremi)
Mew Mew Power (the anime Tokyo Mew Mew)
Winx Club (I think it's an Italian import)

I don't remember cartoons in the 80's ever being targeted towards girls. I grew up with shows like The Smurfs, with all of one or two female characters (depending on the season) and plenty of other shows with two or three token girls.

Now, one of those shows isn't continuing, though....

"X" marks the bias

The Political Teen has video of CNN superimposing a large black X over Vice President Cheney's face, flashing this image every 20 frames in the manner of a subliminal message. This X isn't a random glitch, but shaped perfectly like an X that would be part of a large sign.

The Democrats once complained about a Republican ad that "stamped" words on the screen, because at one point only the last four letters of Democrats were shown on the screen. Will their outrage be as great over this alleged glitch?

(Via Instapundit)


I've watched the first two episodes of the Boondocks cartoon on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. The first episode showed a bunch of rich whites who wouldn't listen to Huey, instead focusing on how well he spoke.

That sounds like a good representation of many trust-fund liberals. But not me.

The second episode guest-starred Adam West as a lawyer who gets R. Kelly off from charges related to a sex video with a minor. "Not every black man who gets arrested is Nelson Mandela."

The character of Ruckus (which I think is a creation for the cartoon): are there really self-loathers like that? It seems so ridiculous, but then again, there are a lot of whites who hate white culture.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Albion on Turtledove

Check out the discussion of Harry Turtledove's TL-191 series at Albion's Seedlings. The writer makes a convincing case that Turtledove's setup (the United States in opposition versus the Confederate States, Britain, and France through World War I and World War II) wouldn't be the most likely scenario. He makes a convincing argument that the posited setup wouldn't last.

Aeon Flux

A live action movie of Aeon Flux is coming out December 2!

What took them so long? I remember watching Aeon Flux as an animated short, part of MTV's Liquid Television, in the early 90's.

Vaccine protection

Legislation that would pour billions of dollars into the production of vaccines against avian flu and other pandemic diseases is threatened by the trial lawyers' lobby, which objects to proposed limits onlawsuits against drug manufacturers.

Republican congressional leaders, acting at the urging of President Bush, hope to approve a measure soon that would appropriate about $7 billion to pay for vaccines that would combat a flu epidemic and biological attacks by terrorists. The bill could begin moving on Capitol Hill this week.

But the Association of Trial Lawyers of America and some of its Democratic allies in Congress are working to scuttle or drastically transform the effort, asserting that anti-lawsuit language in the bill would so broadly indemnify pharmaceutical companies against suits that consumers' rights would be denied.

I agree that protection against frivolous lawsuits (ones for reasons other than willful misconduct) is needed, to eliminate very legitimate fears of lawsuits. (Consider those who claim thimersol in vaccines causes autism, when study after study shows increasing diagnoses of autism after thimersol was banned.) It's sad that no good deed goes unpunished.

For example, I'd like to see restaurants and food services give their leftover food to homeless shelters, so that this food wouldn't go to waste.

Contrary to ATLA's assertions, Call said the wording under discussion would affect only companies that manufacture vaccines that counter pandemics officially declared national emergencies.

Here's where it's readily apparent that I'm not a politician. If the ATLA thinks that the protection for vaccine manufacturers is a ploy to protect companies in a more broad manner, here's what they should do:

1. Publish the language currently in the law.
2. Demonstrate (with references to settled case law) that the language would be used to prevent more lawsuits than the Republicans claim.
3. Provide revised language that corrects the problem.

I put the onus on the ATLA to prove its case with the steps outlined above. If they fail to do so, I will be forced to conclude that they are stretching the truth, at best.

(Via Instapundit)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Theory of Insurance

I think people would better understand the complicated topic of insurance if they learned a little more about it. For example, why do people get insurance? Here's a brief summary on the theory of insurance.

Insurance is there to protect against unexpected large losses. For example, homeowner's insurance protects against loss from fire, wind damage, and theft. You don't use homeowner's insurance to protect against the food in your refrigerator going bad... it's a trivial loss. And you don't use homeowner's insurance to pay for repainting your house. Though it is quite expensive, it's not an unanticipated cost. Through insurance, you replace an uncertain large loss with certain smaller losses.

How is insurance priced? There's the net premium, which covers the cost of the expected loss. For example, if you had a 0.1% chance of having a $100,000 loss tomorrow, the net premium would be $100. However, you wouldn't be able to purchase this insurance for $100, as the insurance company has its own expenses, overhead, and profit requirements. The gross premium, which is higher, accounts for that.

Despite the fact that you're paying more for insurance than the expected value of your loss, it's still an advantageous transaction for both parties. The reason for this situation is a concept called utility of wealth. Your first dollars are the most important to you, as they provide food, clothing, and shelter. Beyond that, the money purchases less and less important things. You're willing to give $120 out of the last, least important dollars in order to protect you against a loss that would take away your important first dollars. In other words, you are risk-averse. If you have a net worth of $100,000, you would not be willing to bet $100,000 on the flip of a coin, as the benefit of another $100,000 isn't as large as the penalty of losing $100,000. The person with a net worth in the billions of dollars, however, might bet that amount on a visit to the casino, on less than even odds.

If you think to the insurance you have, you might see some coverage for non-insurable events. A yearly checkup at the doctors, or semiannual teeth cleaning at the dentist, really aren't insurable events, as they're anticipated. Roughly speaking, you could pay on your own two $50 dentist bills a year and pay $100 less for your dental insurance.

That's not to say it's bad for insurance to offer these types of coverage. For one, it's a selling point for the insurance product. (Independent agents tend to drive what features get put in companies' products, by demanding these features in companies' next generation products.) Consider a product targeted to seniors; if it offers a "free" MedicAlert (a.k.a. "I've fallen, and I can't get up!") subscription, it would possibly have a competitive advantage. And benefits such as these might be expected to lower costs. Preventative care, like an annual checkup, can lead to finding diseases early, when they are easier, safer, and cheaper to treat. (Before you nod your head in agreement, note that it's also a theory on how HMOs reduce costs. Weigh that fact when you try to decide how big the impact really is.)

Update: A couple of other points I'd like to make:

First, you don't "waste your money" if you buy insurance and don't need to file a claim. That would be like betting red in roulette, and complaining that you wasted your money every time the ball landed on black or green. Your premium purchases insurance protection, which is of value in and of itself, even if subsequently ending coverage gives you no money in return.

Second, the local newspaper (like many others) has an anonymous comment column, where readers contribute brief comments. It's remarkable how many of them juxtapose their health insurance premiums and executive pay. "My premium is going up 12%, and the CEO is getting a $20 million bonus." These two items have nothing to do with each other! Health insurance premium rates are reviewed by the state, and are adjusted based on a combination of actual experience and trend.

One kind of insurance, long term care insurance, had premium levels regulated by the lifetime loss ratio (the present value of claims divided by the present value of premiums), with the ability to raise rates if the lifetime loss ratio exceeded the standard set by state regulation. You will note that overhead does not factor into that equation. A company could give each of its employees a $20 million bonus, and that would not allow the company to justify a rate increase.

And, do check the comments for a nice addition from The Probligo.

Blogging has been light....

For some reason, November is always a big month for travel, and before this month is out, I will have traveled to airports in eight states. Compounding the normal weekend trips was an additional trip I got back from yesterday: the annual meeting for the Society of Actuaries. All in all, I expect to be out of town for parts of 19 days this month.

I left an unusually warm day in New York and returned to an unwelcome visitor from Canada, the first winter weather of the season. It was snowing, although the light and fluffy flakes weren't accumulating on the ground. No more than eight days earlier, it was sunny, and warm enough to go outside without a jacket. Only four more months, and I can put away my heavy jacket. (I know it's four months. I wore the jacket for the first time today, and discovered a receipt from late March still in the pocket.)

That's two reasons to hate Canada: terrorists, and weather.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thank you for being a friend

Have you seen the commercial for the PS2 game Ratchet Deadlocked? Is that music familiar?

Thank you for being a friend
Traveled down the road and back again
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant.

And if you threw a party
Invited everyone you ever knew
You would see the biggest gift would be from me
And the card attached would say thank you for being a friend.

That's the theme for the Golden Girls. No, really!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Nothing says "thank you" like...

If you think of all the things a political party would send you in thanks for donations, the last thing you'd think of is generic greeting cards.

Just a note to cheer you
Hope you're feeling better soon


A simple act of kindness has a beauty all its own
Thank you

Hallmark they aren't!

Don't screw with engineers

Perhaps you have heard of a tenured professor (in one field) writing to the advisor of a Ph.D. candidate (in another field), due to some political comments in a blog (on a topic not part of either field)? Protein Wisdom has a rundown of the situation.

In the comments, one of the members of Obsidian Wings came up with the following response:

Dear Dr. Martin:

If you do not instruct Dr. Wallace Hettle (seriously: “Wallace Hettle”? Are you kidding me?) to cease and desist in his attempts to fuck with Purdue Ph.D candidate Paul Deignan, Purdue University will, with a minimum of effort, reduce your pathetic third-tier academic program to rapidly expanding plasma.

It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature, but it takes a damn fool to screw with engineers bearing a grudge.

Sincerely, Slart. E. Bartfast


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

No, I didn't want to be on your mailing list!

A year ago, I sent a letter to this restaurant, criticizing them for celebrating the 1900's, using the manner liberals prefer. I noted at the time:

I highly anticipate receiving nothing more than an automated response.

I in fact heard nothing, at least until now. I recently got a coupon in the mail from the restaurant. It was addressed to me specifically, not even with a "or current resident" tag. Thus, I have to conclude they got my address from my letter.

What kind of business adds its critics to its mailing list?

Let's give credit to President Bush!

Gas prices have dropped by a third since the end of August. I saw one station with regular unleaded gas at $2.109 yesterday. I expect everyone who blamed President Bush for rising gas prices to give him exclusive credit for falling gas prices.

Of course, he deserves neither blame nor credit with regards to gas prices.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The War at Home

The only reason I've watched this show is because it's on between The Simpsons and Family Guy. It's bound to be one of the season's early cancellations.

One of the episodes featured the father of the daughter's boyfriend say that the daughter has it made because he's attractive and white. Now, that strikes me as an offensive, personally.

And in today's society, I think attractiveness is more important than race.

Hypocrisy identified

John Leo has an excellent column on how the ACLU is protecting the boundaries of church and state. But only Christian churches. Quite clearly, it's hypocrisy at work. If the symbol of one religion can't appear on a city seal, then neither should the symbols of any religion.

This time around, the folks with the magnifying glasses are leaning on the village of Tijeras, New Mexico, whose seal contains a Conquistador’s helmet and sword, a scroll, a desert plant, a fairly large religious symbol (the native American zia) and a quite small Christian cross. “Tiny cross” inspectors are not permitted to fret about large non-Christian religious symbols, only undersized Christian ones, so the ACLU filed suit to get the cross removed.
Last year the ACLU demanded that Los Angeles County eliminate from its seal a microscopic cross representing the missions that settled the state of California. Under threat of expensive litigation, the county complied. The cross was about one-sixth the size, of a not-very-big image, of a cow tucked away on the lower right segment of the seal, and maybe one one-hundredth the size of a pagan god (Pomona, Goddess of Fruit) who dominated the seal. Pomona survived the religious purge. She is not the sort of god that the ACLU worries about, whereas the flyspeck-sized cross was a threat to unravel separation of church and state, as we know it. What will happen if the ACLU learns that Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Sacramento, San Francisco, St. Louis and Corpus Christi actually have religious names? We shudder to think.