June 28, 2004

Evil, Plans, etc.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:08 PM

Last week's quote (You seem more evil today. Are you evil?) was from this Penny Arcade strip about the difficulty of disguising one's devotion to the Dark Side of the Force.

This week's quote is difficulty: Moderate; 2 points.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:26 PM

The opening of a Michael Moore film in Berkeley is like that of a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings movie anywhere else; most showings this weekend sold out, and when I went on Sunday afternoon I waited in a line that stretched around the corner at Kittredge and down Oxford St. At least two political organizations were handing out flyers (though I didn't see East Bay for Kerry).

The film consists more or less of two sections; the first explores the Bush family's relationship to Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden family, while the second looks at the Bush administration's response to the 9/11 attacks, primarily the war in Afghanistan, the USA PATRIOT Act, and especially the war in Iraq. The first half is the weaker of the two: meandering, sometimes boring, with no real conspiratorial revelations. The thesis seems to be that Bush has such a collosal conflict of interest vis-a-vis Saudi Arabia that he cannot be trusted to take effective action against terrorists, but Moore does not argue this point very well. The second half, particularly the Iraq material, is better, and often very emotionally powerful (when Moore quits talking and just shows the footage). Throughout the film it's clear that Moore's strength is in selecting and arranging images for maximum impact, while his weaknesses are in the audio regime: a tendency to provide superfluous commentary, or cheesy music selections.

I'm not sure Fahrenheit 9/11 will change anybody's mind, and I'm not sure I came away with any new information (the Bush/Saudi stuff is, after all, old news). On the other hand, the Iraq-related footage was valuable as a more emotional and humanized perspective on the war than I get from reading news on the internet. I recommend it for this, if nothing else.

June 27, 2004

The Confusion

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:50 PM

I spent this morning finishing The Confusion, which was extremely good; Stephenson's best since Snow Crash (though I haven't read The Diamond Age). In fact the best reason to read Quicksilver is to have the background necessary to enjoy The Confusion. I suspect the upcoming and final book of the series will have less of the swashbuckling and chaotic action that Stephenson does so well (since the major players are quite a bit older than they were at the start of the saga), but I'm looking forward to it all the same.

June 25, 2004

Earplugs: Pros and Cons

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:35 PM

Mark Kleiman extols the virtues of earplugs, primarily in the context of air travel (which seems like a good idea to me). I keep earplugs on hand at home, because even a small amount of ambient noise (especially if it's irregular) will wake me up, or prevent me from falling asleep. (The range of conditions necessary for me to fall asleep is inconveniently very narrow. Fortunately I am at least immune to the sound of the BART train passing by.)

What Mark doesn't mention is that while earplugs are excellent at reducing broadband, continuous noise--airplane engines, vacuum cleaners, the various pumps used to run a dilution refrigerator--they aren't so good at packets of low-frequency noise: music with lots of bass, barking dogs, and often human voices. Mark advises,

Earplugs also come in handy in hotel rooms with thin walls, and on Saturday night if your neighbors share the widespread belief that the fun level is directly proportional to the noise level.

but in my experience earplugs offer only a little relief in situations like these. (In fact, the barking of the dog across the street from me, which begins every morning at dawn and continues unabated until sometime after I leave for work--or occasionally, as late as midnight--is fairly unattenuated by earplugs, to my infinite annoyance.) Ogged mentions noise-cancelling headphones, which might be better at blocking noise packets; due to the substantial price of such devices, I haven't had occasion to test this.

(Mark also gets decibels wrong; 10 dB is a factor of ten in power and about three in amplitude, but it would be very pedantic for me to point this out.)

June 24, 2004

Notify the ONDCP.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:38 PM
Pleasure Receptor May Hold Key to Mother-Child Bond

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pleasure receptors best known for helping the body respond to morphine and opium may also hold the key to mother-child bonding, scientists reported on Thursday.

The obvious conclusion here is that children are functionally equivalent to heroin and therefore should be banned. I hope to receive full support for this from those politicians dedicated to the War on Drugs.

Direct democracy in action

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:19 PM

Berkeley continues to uphold its status as a world center for Purely Symbolic Government Action:

Berkeley, Calif., residents to vote on legalizing prostitution
Residents of this left-leaning city will have a chance to vote in November on whether they think prostitution should be a crime.

An advocacy group announced Wednesday it had gathered nearly 3,200 signatures, about 1,000 more than needed to get the initiative on the ballot.

The measure would have little more than symbolic value, since it wouldn't undo laws against prostitution. But Robyn Few, head of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, said a win at the polls would send an important message.

I hesitate to make any endorsements related to this measure, as my position could leave me open to smart-ass remarks in the comments. However, since I'm not likely to move to Berkeley before November, I won't have the opportunity to vote on it anyway.

June 22, 2004

Obscure humor linkage (H. P. Lovecraft Edition)

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:11 PM

Via Something Positive, the LiveJournal of an Innsmouth resident.

Inflation strikes the caffeine supply

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:19 PM

As a follow-up to this post, we have more evidence of inflation in Berkeley with the ballooning of the price of a 20 oz. soda from the Evans Hall Coke machine to $1.25. Taking the frequent selling-out of this particular vending machine as evidence that demand exceeded supply, this is perhaps not too surprising.

Some energetic graduate student should consider stocking the Clarke group fridge with soda purchased wholesale...

Macavity nomination

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:31 AM

Via Sarah Weinman, another award nomination for The Night of the Dance. This time it's the Mystery Readers International's awards, the Macavitys; the category is again Best First Novel.

The Night of the Dance is, of course, still available in hardcover; the paperback edition will appear in a few months, and the sequel, Scared Money, is on the way...

June 21, 2004

Crackpot spam!

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:41 PM

One of the joys of membership in the physics community is that one's inbox will occasionally collect unsolicited treatises on Why A Fundamental Element of Modern Physics Is Wrong. Today's installment:


By re-analysing Heisenberg's Gamma-Ray Microscope experiment and the ideal experiment from which the uncertainty principle is derived, it is actually found that the uncertainty principle can not be obtained from them. It is therefore found to be untenable.

The author goes on to explain the problems he perceives with a couple of uncertainty-principle-related gedanken experiments. The sad thing is not that his criticisms are faulty (though they are), but that these thought experiments are just examples used to illustrate the uncertainty principle -- the principle doesn't derive from the examples, but is a mathematical property of solutions to the Schrodinger equation. But I suppose if he understood quantum mechanics, he might be less inclined to spam the Berkeley physics department with objections to it...

June 20, 2004

The quotes just keep coming...

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:47 PM

Last week's quote:

The mind is its own place, and in it self
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n.

was correctly identified as Milton, in Paradise Lost (it's part of Lucifer's "better to rule in hell than serve in heaven" soliloquy). I like the quote so much that I considered leaving it there permanently...

Nevertheless, there is a new quote this week, and it is difficulty: Formidable, 4 points.

Napoleon Dynamite

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:33 PM

Napoleon Dynamite was funny as hell. Go see it! Go!

On an unrelated note, I believe this is a record number of posts for a Sunday.


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:44 PM

Just discovered this new and very much improved RSS reader extension for Mozilla Firefox. If you read a lot of blogs, I highly recommend it.

Price-Earnings Ratios and Me

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 4:35 PM

According to a UCLA economist, Bay Area homes are overvalued:

Leamer calculated the average P/E for homes in several California metro areas by dividing the median price for a single family home by the average annual rent for a 2,000- square-foot apartment in each region. (You can get more and better data for apartments than rental homes, and the two tend to track each other.)

His findings: In the Bay Area, the average P/E for a house shot up to 13. 8 in the first quarter of 2004, compared with 7.2 in 1999 and 2000. Today's ratio is more than a third higher than it was 1989, just before housing prices started a multi-year descent.

My own landlord is attempting to take advantage of this trend by putting the units in my building on the market as condos. Based on his asking price, the P/E ratio for my apartment is 21.3, high even by Bay Area standards*. On the other hand, many of the units have sold already so it can't be as ridiculous as it looks.

The good news in the article is that rents are (still) falling, so when I am forced out of this place in the near future the trend should be in my favor.

(via Matthew Yglesias)

*Assuming this is comparable to the numbers in the article, which in fact does not seem like a strong assumption given my severely limited understanding of economics.

June 19, 2004

Factor of ten in nine months

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:28 PM

Today I went running for three hours and twenty-five minutes, which is a ten-fold improvement over how long I was able to run when I got back into the sport last September. I mention this not to brag (gotta save that for after the marathon) but to note that this aspect of my physical condition was so far below its potential that I was able to make such an enormous improvement with a little bit of dedication. This suggests that other of my seldom-used abilities might be likewise improved with a little practice daily. This, of course, is relevant to the recently-popular topic of self-modification.

The obvious difficulties are identifying those aspects ripe for improvement, and figuring out how to train them effectively. There's a lot more known about how to do this for running than, say, conversational skills...

June 16, 2004

Firefox 0.9

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:23 PM

It's out. The new theme is nice, as is the extension manager. Certain annoyances and oddities of 0.8 may have been fixed, but since they used to appear somewhat randomly I'm not yet sure. They still encourage you to nuke your old profile when upgrading, which is somewhat inconvenient (but this time I remembered to export my bookmarks first).

Change is good?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 12:38 AM

Via Eugene Volokh, some musings on "men and sexy":

And I know a fair number of (good adjectives) single men, but [it's generally] also clear why they're single. They don't listen, and won't; they won't get a real job; they're boring but don't want to acknowlege it or do anything about it. Hey, if that shirt was "in" when they were in high school, no need to see if any ads/mannequins/humans under 60 wear it today.

I don't have a single female friend who hasn't asked herself, "What am I doing wrong?" and been totally open -- often too open, in a self-blame-y way -- to the answer, and to changing the answer, often with great success. But I almost never find that men ask that question, or are even willing to hear the answer, let alone do anything about it. Instead, single men in my experience behave as if the only life possibilities are being the way they are, or acting. The idea of growth and change don't make the radar.

(There's more, but this is the core of it.) I'm less interested (at the moment) in the differences between male and female approaches that are the focus of the piece, than in the idea that one should change oneself to become more attractive.

I'm a great believer in the mutability of personal identity; the alternative for me is despair, because if I don't change who I am on a timescale of five years or so, I anticipate ending up in a very unhealthy situation. So, I consider myself a work in progress, and am in principle dedicated to certain self-modifications, although in practice these often turn out to be very difficult to achieve.

Furthermore I'm unlike "most" single men as this piece would have it* in that I'm fully aware that fundamental aspects of my personality are major factors in keeping me single -- overwhelmingly so. I've blogged about this before, and it all still applies.

So far, so good. But, something's bothering me about all this: Given the circles I travel in, I meet a lot of quirky people. And, in my experience, quirks are not attractive. Most women find quirky guys off-putting. Nevertheless, most if not all of the quirky guys I know feel no need to suppress their idiosyncracies to be more socially acceptable, and my gut feeling is that this is an admirable trait.

Now my gut is an inveterate liar, and therefore I tend to submit gut feelings to a barrage of skepticism. In this case, my viscera defend their intuition as follows: Quirky behavior is valuable because it makes a person unique. The person who takes pride in his quirks is asserting sovereignty over his own identity, whereas the one who suppresses his uniqueness in favor of attractiveness is in effect submitting to majority rule of his personality. So I admire a proudly quirky person because he is his own man.

On the other hand, there's no evidence that the author of the piece quoted by Volokh values uniqueness or individuality, because she does not distinguish between healthy personal growth and conformal to social norms; in effect she is encouraging homogenization. She says, "[t]he idea [sic] of growth and change don't make the radar," but look at what she means by this:

They don't listen, and won't - Classic self-absorption; for a guy to change this would be a good example of growth.

they won't get a real job - There's a whole quagmire awaiting me in the interpretation of "real job"; I am going to avoid it by assuming that the key word is "won't", and this bit is aimed at the guys who live in their parents' basements and are temperamentally opposed to working for a living. If that's what's meant here, then it's another example of room for growth, but it describes a tiny fraction of single guys rather than most guys. Perhaps the author spends too much time at Star Trek conventions?

they're boring but don't want to acknowlege [sic] it or do anything about it. - But this is very different from the previous two items, because boring-ness is not an intrinsic property of a person: it arises from the interaction with an observer. While no one is objectively boring, a guy could have the misfortune of being found boring by the vast majority of single women. This is certainly a problem, but solving it is an issue of homogenization rather than growth, and there are trade-offs. In my case, my line of work is extraordinarily uninteresting to most women, and by leaving physics for something more exciting (for them) I could increase my chances of hooking up. But I like physics, doing physics makes me happy, and doing something else just to get laid doesn't make me a better person, it just means I'm selling out.

Hey, if that shirt was "in" when they were in high school, no need to see if any ads/mannequins/humans under 60 wear it today. - And fashion decisions are just thrown in with the other items as if they all go together. Are we talking about "growth and change", or are we talking about changing my shirt? Is this discussion about character flaws, or being found boring by the general population, or having matching socks? When you say, "single men in my experience behave as if the only life possibilities are being the way they are, or acting," can you explain how I can change my wardrobe in a sincere way as opposed to "acting"? This one sentence makes it very hard to take this piece seriously.

In the end I think this piece fails to acknowledge distinctions in the ways one can change oneself: superficial vs. fundamental, growth vs. conformity. If I make a deep change in who I am just to be more attractive, I lose part of myself in the process - as well as any claim to being my own person.

(Damn, it's been a while since I had a good rant.)

*I have no idea whether the author is correct about this; I hesitate to generalize from my own example, as I'm hardly typical in other ways.

June 15, 2004


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:17 PM

The AP's writing some terrific satire these days:

"I've always said I think it's very important for someone not to try to take the speck out of somebody's else's eye when they may have a log in their own," Bush said, invoking the same biblical passage from the Gospel of St. Matthew that he had used when asked about gay marriage in July 2003.

"In other words, I'm very mindful about saying, you know, 'Oh, vote for me, I'm more religious than my neighbor.'"

Later the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign unveiled their new slogan: "Bush/Cheney: More religious than John Kerry."

June 14, 2004

Last Pledge Case Post?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:28 AM

The Supremes ruled that Michael Newdow doesn't have standing to sue for removal of "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance:

The court held today that the plaintiff, Michael Newdow, did not have standing to bring a suit challenging the pledge as presently worded. Eight justices agreed that Dr. Newdow, a nonpracticing lawyer who is also a physician, cannot qualify as a legal representative of his 10-year-old daughter, on whose behalf he filed suit.

I think this is probably the best outcome, all things considered. If they had ruled the phrase constitutional, we would have to deal with this precedent in the future; whereas if they had correctly declared it unconstitutional, Bush would have this stick to beat atheists with (and by extension, liberal Democrats) in the hope of energizing his base.

Ok, more than just his base, since 90% of Americans think "under God" belongs in the Pledge. I try not to jump to any conclusions about what this number means, because the ones that come to mind will just set me on the path to Dr. No-style supervillainy.

June 13, 2004

Ridiculous-Looking Birds

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:39 PM

Last week's quote was from The West Wing:

CJ: What's your Secret Service code name?
Sam: They just changed them.
CJ: I know. What's yours.
Sam: Princeton.
CJ: Mine's Flamingo.
Sam: That's nice.
CJ: No it's not nice.
Sam: The flamingo's a nice-looking bird.
CJ: The flamingo's a ridiculous-looking bird.
Sam: You're not ridiculous-looking.
CJ: I know I'm not ridiculous-looking.
Sam: Any way for me to get out of this conversation?

This week's difficulty is Hard; 3 points.

June 12, 2004

Contra Costa special election: Pretend you care.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 8:24 PM

I've been neglecting the ever-popular local politics section of this blog by not commenting on the results of last week's special election in Contra Costa County. Briefly, despite my dire predictions for Measure B, both measures passed. Measure B's success was probably due to the intense campaigning involving high school students going door-to-door; presumably they had plenty of extra time for this since the underfunded school district had been forced to close libraries and cancel sports programs. (This is what Measure B is supposed to remedy.)

More interestingly, turnout was high for a special election -- 51% of registered voters -- and this is being attributed to the mail-in format.

Another nice thing about mail-in ballots is that they leave a paper trail...

June 10, 2004

The movie backlog deepens.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 3:33 PM

I was looking forward to The Stepford Wives opening this weekend, but the early reviews aren't looking so good... I'll see it at some point because of where it was filmed, but maybe I'll rent it.

We also have The Chronicles of Riddick, which we've always known will be god-awful. I'll see this one at some point too, because (a) surely it's in "so bad it's good" territory, and (b) it's the follow-up to the excellent Pitch Black.

Therefore the movie at the top of my list this weekend is Napoleon Dynamite. Nunchuck skills, indeed. Watch the trailer and see if it reminds you of anyone... (Thanks to Laugh It Up, Fuzzball for the original tip on this one.)

June 8, 2004

A Physicist Reads the Kerry Blog

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:17 PM

I just can't help it...

In a speech on Sunday, John Kerry shared a magnificent Robert Kennedy quote: “each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

But... don't the ripples of hope also interfere destructively in places, thus plunging some people into despair instead?

Maybe those people are Bush supporters.

June 7, 2004

Jesus as Nutritionist

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:19 PM

With so many in this country advocating the Bible as a replacement for science, it's nice to see some people taking this to one of its logical extremes:

Christians Preach Bible-Inspired Diet

"The healthiest diet is to consume meats, poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables and to consume them in a form the body was designed for," Rubin said. He advises eating foods in their most organic and least-processed forms. Dairy, for instance, should not be pasteurized and defatted and pumped with hormones but rather taken as a yogurt drink derived from raw, fermented milk.

Ironically, by consuming unpasteurized dairy products these religious nutjobs may be providing a demonstration of Darwinism in action. But I'll be on the lookout for efforts to promote a Christian "Intelligent Design" diet in public schools...

Conversational theme

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 9:48 AM

Last week's quote was from The Confusion, in a conversation between Jean Bart and Bonaventure Rossignol:

Bart shrugged. "It is true, monsieur. All the best merchants of Dunkerque were Huguenots, and after 1865---"
"It is precisely because it is true, that you must not come out and state it," said Rossignol.
"Very well then, monsieur, I vow not to say anything true for the remainder of this conversation. Pray continue!"

Due to its somewhat generic quality, I'm rating this week's quote Formidable; 4 points.

June 6, 2004


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:34 PM

Continuing to work through my film backlog, I saw Troy last night. It was very uneven, with some good stuff (mostly combat) and some boring stuff (Another funeral? Get on with it!). Josh had complained to me about the music, and he was exactly right: the composer was stuck in glorious heroic mode all the time, which was jarring in the many scenes that (correctly, IMO) had more of a "pointless waste of lives" view of the war.

Good points: Brad Pitt and Eric Bana captured the essences of Achilles and Hector (respectively) very well. I very much liked the way the movie removed all explicit supernatural elements to the story, while making it clear that many of the characters see the work of Olympus in the war. This led to some interesting dialogue between the more devout characters and the nearly atheistic Achilles.

Bad points: Compressing the war from ten years to about 15 days was detrimental to the story; as I recall much of The Iliad was driven by combatants on both sides being really sick of the war after ten years. Paris was far too sympathetic a character. The writers must be uninterested in sequels, as they killed off certain characters who are key in The Odyssey and the Oresteia. On the other hand, they made a point of setting up The Aeneid...

Clearly what is really needed here is a Koei game based on Homer: "Trojan Warriors" or something. I couldn't help thinking that the jumping stab Achilles kept doing in the movie was obviously his run+square move, and Patroclus' mistake was pressing "x" in the cutscene to accept the duel with Hector; he might have won if he'd fought alongside his (well, Achilles') bodyguards.

June 5, 2004

To honor Reagan's memory, we bring you Sappy Childhood Stories.

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:27 PM

RIP, Ronald Reagan.

I was 10 years old in 1988 and could not recall anyone else having been president. (At the age of 2 I was not quite the political junkie I am now, and thus have no memories of the Carter administration.) A few years earlier I had moved to D.C. with my family. We had taken the White House tour, got the jellybeans, watched Reagan board Marine One (or maybe he was disembarking).

I also remember election night 1984. It was twilight, and I was walking down a Houston sidewalk with my mother, as she explained that she had just cast her ballot. Well, I wanted to vote too, but not having known there was an election until several minutes earlier, I did not have sufficient time to study the issues. Therefore I asked my mother (a) if I could vote and (b) for whom she had voted, displaying a confidence in her political judgements that I was later to abandon. She encouraged me to express my electoral preference by tapping a nearby fire hydrant, which I proudly punched for Reagan, and I've found irrational pleasure in voting ever since (if not in voting Republican).

Today some are discussing Reagan as a man, and some are discussing Reagan's policies as president, but I had no experience of either. So these are my memories of Ronald Reagan.

(Well, these and the hilarious meeting between Reagan and Bobby Shaftoe in Cryptonomicon, but I suppose that doesn't count due to Neal Stephenson making it up.)

Eternal Sunshine

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 10:10 AM

Last night I finally got around to seeing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Very, very good movie. I was in sort of a weird mood at the time which apparently gave me an unusual perspective on the film; glancing through a few reviews, none of them seem to share my opinion that the ending was a near-total disaster for the characters involved.

I found myself strongly identifying with Joel's (Jim Carrey) opening monologue, which is a little disturbing considering where his character is coming from. On the other hand Clementine (Kate Winslet) annoyed the shit out of me, so I stopped identifying with Joel when he was able to tolerate her for more than about two minutes. I think I've met that personality type before...

Fortunately, because the film raises all the issues relevant to the premise and is somewhat open-ended, it's possible to like it even if Clementine annoys you. So go see it.

UPDATE: If you don't fear spoilers, click below for more detailed commentary on the ending.

Continue reading "Eternal Sunshine"

June 4, 2004

Procrastination: Theory and Experiment

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:04 PM

I discovered via Crooked Timber a fascinating essay on structured procrastination. The author prescribes a technique for rendering productive one's procrastinative tendencies:

Structured procrastination means shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits this fact. The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

It turns out that recently I have been unconsciously following this advice; it seems that I do get more things done while maintaining a to-do list even though I'm not actually crossing a whole lot of major items off the list.

Also, I undertook my (approximately) yearly cleaning of my office desk yesterday as a way of not doing more important things, and I am quite pleased with the result. I thus concluded that I should find some important task at home that I can put off by cleaning my apartment. The problem here is that it is in such dire need of cleaning that I can't think of much that could supplant it at the top of the list, apart from, say, paying the PG&E bill after a certain point, but it's difficult to run the vacuum without power, so this could be self-defeating.

Anyone have procrastination techniques to recommend?

Apparently it's "Bash Texas" Week

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 5:01 PM

The Texas Republican Party is revising their platform. I will be anxiously awaiting the results, to find out if they are still supporting such interesting proposals as a return to the gold standard, nullification of Marbury v. Madison, and the seizure of the Panama Canal. (Remember, Texans, if you vote for a Republican for a state office, this is what you're supporting!) The article provides a teaser:

Also in this year's GOP platform, support for legislation allowing the death penalty in cases of forcible rape, restoration of plaques honoring Confederate soldiers at the Texas Supreme Court and adoption of quote, "American English" as the official language of Texas and the United States.

They want to honor participants in an armed rebellion against the United States? That doesn't sound terribly patriotic.

June 3, 2004

Why is Rod Paige still Education Secretary?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:55 PM
Education secretary says 'No Child Left Behind' critics are 'whiners'

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige staunchly defended the No Child Left Behind Act on Thursday against complaints of too little funding and flexibility, labeling the critics "whiners."

"This law is adequately funded," Paige said at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual Mackinac Policy Conference, adding that federal, state and local education spending totaled more than $500 billion last year. "What's underfunded about half a trillion dollars?"

Look! It's a big number with lots of zeroes! How could it not be enough?

Well, "whiners" is better than "terrorists". It's also better than "fraud", which is a good description of the so-called "Houston Miracle" presided over by Paige before he became Education Secretary...

June 2, 2004

And you thought Nader was a lost cause?

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 6:58 PM

A handful of kooks and/or visionaries are picketing the National Spelling Bee in advocacy of English orthography reform:

Spelling bee protesters: "Enuf is enuf!"
Seven members of the American Literacy Society picketed the 77th annual spelling bee, which is sponsored every year by Cincinnati-based Scripps Howard.

The protesters' complaint: English spelling is illogical. And the national spelling bee only reinforces the crazy spellings that lead to dyslexia, high illiteracy, and harder lives for immigrants.

One could ask just how much of an impediment illogical spelling really is to literacy, when a country like Japan, whose writing is almost completely decoupled from phonetics, is able to achieve 99+% literacy rates. Or one could ask how they could hope to get this adopted in the US, when we won't even get on board with the metric system. For that matter, one might wonder whether creating yet more variation in spelling throughout the English-speaking world is a great idea, seeing as different countries already insist on their own favo[u]rite orthography. But one need not wonder why they choose to picket at the National Spelling Bee rather than some more authoritative entity (Merriam-Webster, say): They do it because the journalists are really bored and will cover it.

Avenge the poor grandmothers in California

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 1:48 PM

Via Unfogged, a look at the fine specimens of humanity at Enron:

Enron Traders Caught On Tape

"They're f------g taking all the money back from you guys?" complains an Enron employee on the tapes. "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"

"Yeah, grandma Millie, man"

"Yeah, now she wants her f------g money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her a------ for f------g $250 a megawatt hour."

Aren't these guys in Houston? Maybe I can round up a pitchfork-and-torch-wielding mob next time I visit.

Speculation Abounds

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 11:37 AM

Attempts to understand Bush policy: Matthew Yglesias hypothesizes that Dubya is an Iranian agent, while Timothy Noah blames the pretzel.

June 1, 2004


Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 7:50 PM

Found amongst today's spam: Christian Debt Removers. "Debt Elimination Services Based On Christian Principles."

Maybe I should forward it to these guys:

Boston Plans Biggest U.S. Catholic Church Closing

BOSTON (Reuters) - Boston's Archdiocese said on Tuesday it will shutter nearly a fifth of its parishes in the largest single round of U.S. Roman Catholic Church closings ever as it seeks to overcome a devastating sex abuse scandal.

The church said 60 churches in the Boston area will close in the coming months, saying the move was necessary due to high debts, dwindling numbers of parishioners, the movement of people from cities to suburbs and the fact that more than a third of its parishes were operating in the red.

Kerry/[fill in the blank] '04

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at 2:50 PM

Looking for a summary of potential Kerry running mates? There's a serious one at Slate and a funny one at McSweeney's. I have to wonder where Slate came up with this:

These choices would help whip up liberal Democrats, who are far more animated by Bush-hatred than by Kerry-worship. The most touted name in this category is Dick Gephardt, reportedly a top contender at the moment, whose authentic populism and miles-deep roots with labor unions and other party interest groups make him a fine signifier of liberal passion.

It's hard to see Gephardt as a signifier of any kind of passion. Sure, labor likes him, but I have yet to observe any Bush-hating liberals display the tiniest bit of excitement over the guy. For that matter, the whole premise of this category seems bogus. If liberal Democrats are already "animated" (and we are), why is there a need to whip us up?
Anyway, I like John Edwards but I don't know how strategic a choice he would be.