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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, March 21, 2007

A tortured baby analogy

Best of the Web as an excerpt from Al Gore's testimony:

"The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor. If the doctor says you need to intervene here, you don't say, 'well, I read a science fiction novel that tells me it's not a problem,' " Gore said. "If the crib's on fire, you don't speculate that the baby is flame retardant. You take action."

Wow, that's an incredibly poor analogy. Let me try to rephrase it to accurately reflect the problem of global warming and its proposed solutions.

"If your baby has a fever, first, you see if it's something that will pass naturally. Then, if it doesn't, you see the doctor. The doctor must accurately identify the reason for the fever. If the fever is caused by a brain tumor, then we should consider radiation treatment, something so dangerous it's only done when it's the only way to treat a life-threatening condition. If, however, the fever is a result of an incurable genetic condition, we should focus on making your baby comfortable. Doing the radiation treatment will only hurt your baby, and accomplish nothing."

Here, the baby is the planet, and the fever is global warming. Pass naturally is checking to see if the cause is temporary; just because one year is warm doesn't mean there's global warming. The brain tumor is anthropogenic warming, and radiation treatment is economy-destroying restrictions on energy. The genetic condition is warming not caused by humans, such as increased solar activity or long-term climate cycles. Making the baby comfortable is adapting to the warmer Earth.


Al Gore called out!

Al Gore was a guest of Capitol Hill, saying we're all doomed. But Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) called him out on his hypocrisy, asking him to sign a pledge to reduce his energy consumption to that of the average U.S. household.

Senator Inhofe showed Gore a film frame from “An Inconvenient Truth” where it asks viewers: “Are you ready to change the way you live?”

Here's the pledge:

As a believer:
· that human-caused global warming is a moral, ethical, and spiritual issue affecting our survival;
· that home energy use is a key component of overall energy use;
· that reducing my fossil fuel-based home energy usage will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions; and
· that leaders on moral issues should lead by example;
I pledge to consume no more energy for use in my residence than the average American household by March 21, 2008.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Young musicians, old music

An interesting discovery, courtesy of browsing Billboard magazine...

Tween band Girl Authority has a new album coming out, Road Trip. The first single, Let's Get Together, is twice as old as the band members.

How did this happen? While I don't know how this song came to the attention of the band*, I did learn that this song was written by Vince Clarke, back in his days with Depeche Mode (that's 80-81, for anyone keeping score at home). The song was never recorded with Depeche Mode, but now this early 80's track sees the light of day with a band whose members weren't even born until the 90's.

Here's an article from Side-Line.com. And thanks to the miracle of YouTube, you can see a bit of a very old Top of the Pops broadcast, showing Depeche Mode practicing this very song.

*Actually, I think I have an idea. The band’s current manager is Michael Pagnotta, who was previously manager for George Michael, Morrissey, and the Cure. More relevantly for this band, he was manager for Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. One of the duo’s many direct-to-video releases, Winning London, was set in the namesake city, and had an appropriately European soundtrack. The soundtrack included a cover of the classic Vince Clarke-penned Depeche Mode track, Just Can’t Get Enough, along with a track from his disco side project, Family Fantastic. You may note the keyboard riff from Just Can’t Get Enough in the chorus of the song Let’s Get Together.

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Missing the point

When a few classmates razzed Rebekah Rice about her Mormon upbringing with questions such as, "Do you have 10 moms?" she shot back: "That's so gay."

Those three words landed the high school freshman in the principal's office and resulted in a lawsuit that raises this question: When do playground insults used every day all over America cross the line into hate speech that must be stamped out?

It's really missing the point when two insults are thrown out and only one is considered a problem. If you asked me which is worse, insulting someone over their religion or saying "That's so gay," I would view the first as more in need of punishment.

I can remember us kids using "gay" as an insult long before any of us had any idea what that meant. Well, we knew that gay had two definitions, happy and homosexual, because that was in the dictionary, but at that age, we didn't know what homosexuality meant.

I also found it humorous to catch an unabashed liberal, now a reporter for the Boston Globe, using "that's gay" in a similar manner to the girl above.


Model homes and model hypocrites

Things aren't going well for Al Gore. First came the revelation that his 10,000 square foot home in Tennessee uses more energy in a month than the average American family uses in a year. Sure, he uses energy offsets, but then, it was revealed that the energy offsets came from a company he founded. Finally, we learn that the energy offsets are provided by this company, and bought from another company, at no cost to its employees. Thus, we end up with a former Vice President who demands sacrifice from everyone, but uses far more than his share of energy while paying no personal cost.

It's been said that Al Gore has additional energy needs. For example, there's the Secret Service presence, and he does work from home. But regardless, there's an easy way to test that hypothesis. Check out Al Gore's kitchen.

I live in an area where former cornfields have been converted to new housing, a process that's been ongoing for some years. I can walk to several model homes of different sizes, designed for different consumers, and one recent warm weekend day, I did just that. One can find smaller condominiums and homes of nearly 4,000 square feet, with up to six bedrooms and furnished basements, all within an easy walk.

The latter homes don't simply have more functional space. The kitchens are nicer, with upgraded appliances. They are larger, with a central island and more counter and cabinet space. And it goes beyond the kitchen. The larger houses have formal living and dining rooms, larger bedrooms, and the like. Even without seeing Al Gore's house, I'm going to say it has two ovens in the kitchen, a hallmark of larger houses.

The man is wealthy enough to design a modest and energy-efficient home with enough functional space for the Secret Service and his work needs. If he didn't, he is simply a hypocrite. Alternately, he is concerned about resale value of his home. But shouldn't he be willing to accept this cost in order to save the planet?

I guess it could be worse, like the 40 acre estate with a 25,000 square foot manor house and 15,000 square foot Sports Palace at 1143 West 116th St, Carmel, IN.

For additional fun, check out the carbon offset ideas at the bottom of this issue of Best of the Web.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

New conspiracy theory!

Over at Websurdity, we have a hilarious take on those wacky conspiracy theorists. Check out the summary of the new book Uncomfortable Questions: An Analysis of the Death Star Attack.

1) Why were a handful of rebel fighters able to penetrate the defenses of a battle station that had the capability of destroying an entire planet and the defenses to ward off several fleets of battle ships?

2) Why did Grand Moff Tarkin refuse to deploy the station’s large fleet of TIE Fighters until it was too late? Was he acting on orders from somebody to not shoot down the rebel attack force? If so, who, and why?

And so on. The commenters have added many theories in a similar vein.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Ways to Work

Here's an Associated Press article about Ways to Work, a charity that helps poor families buy used cars, increasing their ability to work.

Let's highlight the good things about this program:

  • Each person looking for a loan is carefuly vetted.
  • Counselors help look for existing charity programs the loan recipient already qualifies for.
  • Counselors also point out expenses that can be cut from the budget. (I wish it were a joke that you can see DirecTV satellite dishes on the sides of Chicago public housing buildings.)
  • It doesn't force groups like banks to do something they wouldn't normally do: make risky and unprofitable loans.
  • The loans aren't going to spinning rims or other ridiculous extravagances.

This program is thematically similar to the microloan programs in the Third World that are effective and cost-effective. We need more good programs like this, and less uncontrolled government largesse!

Great Expectations = Great Results

An incredible academic success can be found in the struggling city of New Haven, Connecticut... and I'm not talking about Yale. I'm talking about a charter school, Achievement First's Amistad Academy, that's exceeding the performance of the rich Connecticut communities with students who are otherwise struggling.

Toll earned a teaching certificate while in law school and taught in New Haven public schools as she finished her degree. While at Yale, she teamed with 31 other students in 1998 to talk about and research charter schools — publicly funded but privately operated institutions that could make their own rules about curriculum and teaching, as long as they performed at a level approved by the state. Could a charter school not mired in the quicksand of status quo help save New Haven children?

"What motivated all of us at the time is that this is a civil rights issue," says Toll, who became principal of Amistad when the middle school opened its doors in 1999 and today is president of Achievement First, the nonprofit organizing body steering its model's expansion in other areas. "In fact, the achievement gap is the civil rights issue of our generation."

Any number of statistics could be used to describe the cavernous gap of educational accomplishment between whites and some minorities, between urban and suburban students: that the average black or Latino 12th-grader now has lower basic skills than the average white eighth-grader; that white children are twice as likely as black children, and three times as likely as Latinos, to earn a college degree.
But the problem isn't race or money, co-founder McCurry says. The problem is that school systems don't expect anything more from urban students, and urban students deliver on those low expectations.

"Five, 10 years ago, people would make that argument," says McCurry, who also was a Morehead Scholar at UNC and joined Amistad a few months before it opened from a job teaching private school in his hometown of Charlotte. "They would list all the reasons why urban kids can't succeed. They'd say, 'It's not the schools. It's just the families are so tough, and the kids are so poor, and the neighborhoods are so bad — and there's a straight correlation between those things and academic performance.'

"None of us believed that framework was right, that no kid in New Haven would ever succeed," adds McCurry, now superintendent of Achievement First schools. "We chose to believe in the kids instead."

But, Toll says, "it couldn't just be a theoretical statement that kids in New Haven could perform as well as a kid from a more privileged background. We had to prove it."

And prove it they did. This charter school receives about 65% of what the New Haven public school students get. Unfortunately, Connecticut's charter school laws limit enrollment, preventing the school's model from being extended to a high school initially. Achievement First also has schools in Brooklyn.

Opponents of school choice should note that entrance into this school is strictly by lottery... there is no cherry-picking of the smartest students. Reading this article makes me wonder why we shouldn't extend this schooling program to the entire student population of New Haven.

These kids can learn. It's a matter of having great expectations... and doing a lot of work.

(The link may not be publicly accessible; if you'd like to see the whole article, contact me.)

The missing side of the Mac vs. PC debate

Hi! I'm Mac.

And I'm PC.

Well, sorry Mac ol' buddy, can't stand around talking--I have a LAN game party to go to. It is going to be a big time frag fest for all.

(Roomies, 11/2/06)

The PC has always been the preeminent platform for business use. Since about 1990, though, the PC has also been the dominant platform for computer games. In the past, games were regularly programmed first for the Apple II, but that was a long time ago.

While the Macintosh commercials are amusing, they don't reflect that the products most people use come out first for the PC.

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