January 2005

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Monday, January 31, 2005

Congratulations Iraqis 

It appears to have been a very successful election. I don't have much to add to what Muhammed and Omar had to say:
The media is reporting only explosions and suicide attacks that killed and injured many Iraqis but this hasn't stopped the Iraqis from marching towards their voting stations with more determination. Iraqis have truly raced the sun.

I walked forward to my station, cast my vote and then headed to the box, where I wanted to stand as long as I could, then I moved to mark my finger with ink, I dipped it deep as if I was poking the eyes of all the world's tyrants.
I put the paper in the box and with it, there were tears that I couldn't hold; I was trembling with joy and I felt like I wanted to hug the box but the supervisor smiled at me and said "brother, would you please move ahead, the people are waiting for their turn".

Yes brothers, proceed and fill the box!
These are stories that will be written on the brightest pages of history.

It was hard for us to leave the center but we were happy because we were sure that we will stand here in front of the box again and again and again.
Today, there's no voice louder than that of freedom.

No more confusion about what the people want, they have said their word and they said it loud and the world has got to respect and support the people's will.

God bless your brave steps sons of Iraq and God bless the defenders of freedom.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Puzzling License Plate 

I was driving behind a vehicle on my way home from work tonight with a license plate that read:


It took me a minute to figure it out, but then it seemed incredibly obvious.

Was it obvious to you?

I'll put the solution in the first comment.

Sooner Or Later 

I read an interesting point today about how different groups seem to take opposite approaches with respect to the Social Security Reform issue and the Global Warming issue.

Those who generally oppose restrictions on economic liberty (like me) tend to think that there's a looming crisis for Social Security and the sooner it is reformed the better; but the Global Warming issue is probably not a real crisis that warrants drastic changes, and we can deal with any potential problems better later. Those who tend to support economic restrictions take exactly the opposite positions.

Some may say that this shows how we are all a bit dishonest when it comes to evaluating the dangers of potential problems, and the urgency of addressing them immediately, depending on how the "problem" fits into our world view; and I suppose we are to some extent.

Of course, that doesn't mean that it's not the case that one side is correct on both of these issues. And, of course, I think that the anti-economic-restrictions side is the correct one.

I may be wrong (but I'm not).

Monday, January 24, 2005

Johnny Carson, RIP 

I will always have fond memories of Johnny Carson.

I remember how great it was to stay up late, as a kid, to watch the Tonight Show. He was funny and charming.

I remember many jokes from the Tonight Show, but two that stand out in my mind are:

When doing Carnac The Magnificent (a psychic) he would hold an envelope to his head, say an answer, and then open the envelope to read the question. The one I remember is when the answer was "Catch-22" and the question was "What would the Dodgers do if you hit them 100 pop flies."

I also remember, when Jaws was first released and many people were frightened of swimming in the ocean, he gave some tips to avoid shark attacks two of which were: "Don't leave Kansas City" and "Use the buddy system. If a shark attacks, give him your buddy!"

I like Jay Leno, too (I saw him perform in Vegas earlier this month), but Johnny had a different kind of charm and wit that was very special.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Tortured Comments 

I've managed to get involved in a debate about the theoretical acceptability of torture (and other possible violations of the non-aggression principle) in the comments of a post over at the hardline libertarian site no-treason.com.

It's getting tiresome for me, but I thought some of you might be interested.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

I'm Losing My Mind 

It's always unnerving to me to forget things I used to know.

This morning, while shaving, I thought about Gilligan's Island (for some unknown reason) and decided to go through the actors' names. I haven't watched the show in about 30 years or so, but I used to watch it a lot as a kid and knew the theme song and the actors' names. To determine the order, I decided to replay (in my mind) the relevant portion of the theme song:

Gilligan: Bob Denver
the skipper too: Alan Hale Jr.
the millionaire: Jim Backus
and his wife: Natalie Schafer
the movie star: Tina Louise
the professor: Russell Johnson
and Mary Ann: ???? complete blank

I had forgotten the name of the actress who played Mary Ann! I used to know it. I was sure that I could pick it out of a list; but I couldn't recall it at will.

That was frustrating. The information was in my brain somewhere but I couldn't get to it easily. I'm a database guy and I tend to think of this kind of thing as being like indexes getting corrupted. I'm sure that the neural structures used with memories are very different from computer database structures, and there are probably many paths to the data that might still be intact if I could figure out how to use them (a hint, perhaps?).

I'm sure you'll be relieved to know that I did remember her name (Dawn Wells) within a few minutes.

But, as I say, it's unnerving to think that I can't remember things that I used to be able to remember. It makes me feel like a different person than I used to be. I know that this is true, in some sense, but I don't want to lose what I had.

Perhaps my brain is optimizing and using resources on recently used links as opposed to older ones; but I'm not finding very much comfort in that thought.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Anti-Human Shields 

This is a great suggestion by Lance Frizzell, a 2nd Lt Medical Platoon Leader now serving in Iraq.

He proposes that those people who wanted to serve as human shields for Saddam's assets come to Iraq now and serve as human shields to protect Iraqis who want to vote in the upcoming elections.

I suspect that there won't be much interest in doing that. And that tells you something about what they really value and what they really oppose.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Penn & Teller & Sock 

I really like Penn & Teller.

I've seen them perform many times (mostly with my son). I suggest that if you ever get a chance to do so, you should take advantage of it.

Their magic shows are cool. The tricks are great, and their irreverence is fun. They're willing to defy conventions by explaining and demonstrating how many tricks are done, while preserving the awe of amazing illusions. One interesting gimmick they do is an "honor system" trick in which you can choose whether or not to watch and see how the trick is done. They also play with many other ideas in their shows like animal rights, miracles, symbolism, mysticism, etc.

I also really like their Showtime show: Bullshit!, in which they debunk lots of popular hoaxes.

They are both very talented and amazing entertainers; but Penn is my favorite. I love to listen to his patter. He's smart and fun to behold. I was also impressed by this interview he did for Reason magazine.

So, I started to read Sock with high expectations...and they were met and exceeded.

It's not a conventional murder mystery. It's really an artfully presented set of philosophical observations with a murder mystery going on in the background. It's quite unconventional. I should say that the gimmick of including lots of pop-culture references (mostly lyrics) in most paragraphs was weird at first, but I began to appreciate it. I don't want to say too much about the content (it ranges all over the board), but I should note that Penn eloquently expresses his passion for reality, and imagination, and keeping those categories straight.

I'm Baaaaack 

I had a great time in Vegas. I even managed to gamble quite a bit and wind up slightly ahead!

I also read Penn Jillette's book: Sock. It was great. I might write more about it later; but for now, I'll just recommend it.

I've got a lot to catch up on. I hope to post again soon.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

I'm on VACATION!!! 

Posting might be lighter than usual for a while because I'm on vacation in Vegas for a week. I do have occasional access to the Internet (obviously), so it's still possible (but I doubt I'll be reading much current stuff that might inspire posts).

I hope you all are having as much fun as I am (but I doubt it).

Thursday, January 06, 2005

All Trust and No Fund 

Rich Tucker has a retirement plan:

I wrote myself an I.O.U.

“Dear Rich: I promise to pay you the sum of $50,000 on Jan. 1, 2018.
(signed) Rich Tucker.”
That piece of paper is now stored in a safe, along with other vital documents (passports, house deed, car title). I’ll do the same thing once a year each year until 2018. This plan should carry me comfortably through 2032.
There. Retirement planned for.
See any problems with my scheme? It really seems flawless. After all, I wouldn’t lie to myself. If I’ve vowed to pay myself $50,000, well, I’m going to do it. No matter how hard or long I have to work in 2018 to earn that retirement money.
This is exactly how the U.S. government is preparing for everyone’s retirement. Social Security is the national retirement plan. But, starting in 2018, there’s nothing there but I.O.U.s.

Nice illustration.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Military Humanitarian Aid 

I seem to recall a lot of people objecting to the US invasion of Iraq by saying that while they agree that Saddam was brutal and terrible, etc., it isn't appropriate to use and risk US military forces for humanitarian missions. That if WMDs didn't really pose an imminent threat to the United States, we had no right using our forces there.

I don't hear many of these people complaining of the military assets used now to help tsunami victims (weakening us elsewhere in the world, and exposing fighters to risks of disease and accidents during hectic operations).

I can only conclude that they didn't really believe that rescuing Iraqis was a genuinely worthwhile humanitarian goal; that helping people hit by a natural disaster is fine, but from a murderous regime is wrong.

It seems to me that many of them honor state power, even the worst sort, because it's something they respect and would like to be held sacred so that they can more easily use it to impose their visions on others.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Happy New Year 

Of course, the disclaimer from David Carr at Samizdata applies.