Monday, December 27, 2010

OK, still waiting...

Well, here we are and this silly blog is still not being updated. You can blame a number of companies-who-don't-give-a-rat's-ass about their customers. More on this when I have calmed down and am able to coherently deliver an update. (But, those companies will not like what I have to say, you can rest assured..!!!)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Still on hold...

OK, apologies - life is crazy, v. little time to attend to my baby. Will be back asap.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Still gonna be awhile...

...but getting there!!! Lots of stuff in the news, wish I had the time to post, but it just ain't happening right now. Other priorities and all that...   ;-)   ;-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Heads up...

...I'm gonna be offline for awhile, taking care of some changes. I will be posting again asap.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Viva! pop opera - an unashamed plug

My very dear friend, Colin, is, amongst other things, a theatrical producer. We have known each other since the tender age of 11, which means we've been friends for ~45 years!!! He is currently producing a show in Bangkok - Viva!

Viva! is a pop opera group that Colin has put together, and they are doing their debut show in Bangkok, then moving on to tour South Africa. He has sent me samples of their work, and I have to say that I am utterly blown away by it. And, trust me, my opinion is not biased in any way; they really are very talented.

You can take a look at their website here. (And, pending Colin's permission, I hope to add a sample or two of their work.)

Here's their commercial, which will give you a taste:

Quick hits

No time for commentary today, so I'll just point to some very interesting articles, all courtesy of the Huffington Post:
  • It seems our old friend George W. Bush lifted (plagiarized?) large parts of his new book from adviser's notes. We always knew he never had an original thought!
  • More on the Bush book: Joe Wilson, who you may remember from the scandal concerning Valerie Plame and Niger, has this to say about it.
  • Glenn Beck has truly gone beyond the pale this time - I have to agree with this column, where it is clear that Beck really is a disgusting, hideous person. Like we didn't know that already...
  • And here we get to see how Sarah Palin believes that Obama is "the most pro-abortion president ever."
Bush, Bush again, Beck, Palin ... and the list goes on. It's disturbing, to say the least.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lisa Murkowski, Alaska's write-in candidate

If you've been following the story of the infamous electoral battle between Joe Miller (Rep.) and Lisa Murkowski (Ind.), it's interesting to note that Miller appears to be getting desperate.

Briefly: Lisa Murkowski ended up being a write-in challenger, which is an incredibly difficult hurdle to overcome. Voters have to fill in the little circle, as well as write the name of the candidate. Because there was concern about the (apparent) difficulty of spelling her name correctly, the Murkowski campaign aggressively tried to educate voters how to go about doing it correctly.

Now, the write-in votes are being inspected (Murkowski, leading, has 40%, Miller 35%), and the Miller campaign is challenging votes like the ones in the picture - all of them are spelled correctly, and the liitle circle has been filled in, so it's hard to discern exactly why they are challenging these votes. An act of desperation perhaps? Follow the ongoing story here! And some fun pictures here.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

America - piss-poor sense of humor

Never mind my opinion - take a good look at this, courtesy of the Huffington Post. Sad, isn't it?

Strange dates

Nope, not the kind you take out to dinner and then, well ... whatever!

I'm talking about the way we measure the rotation of the earth. You wanna see today's date in 280 different languages, most of them pretty obscure? Check it out here! A sampling of today's date is on the right.

This is from Curious Notions, a website with some pretty arcane and interesting stuff! For example, we all know about Roman numerals, but what about Roman fractions? It's both convoluted and fascinating...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bafflegab at its best

Oh boy. This has to be the worst press release ever (nah, prob'ly not). Besides the grammar problems, just what is it they're trying to sell?!?! (Don't bother clicking through to their website, it doesn't exist.) A prior press release from them seems rather redundant... If you can figure it out, let me know - please!

What is odd about this?

I sincerely hope that Douglas R. Hofstadter doesn't mind me quoting his entire essay below, but it's kinda important that I do it this way. Full credit: it's his copyright, and you can reference it here (but don't look yet!).

What is unusual about this essay?

(Clue: Read the first and last sentences carefully. There are a few other clues sprinkled around, mostly near the end of the essay. Not to mention the title of this post...) The answer appears near the bottom of the sidebar so as not to make it obvious to my faithful readers.

Bonus: It's a portrait of his life, fascinating reading regardless of the embedded puzzle.
Autoportrait with Constraint
Vita in Form of a Lipogram
Autumn, MMVIII

I was born in midtown Manhattan right as World War Two was drawing to a, uhmm... to a conclusion. My Dad was a physics prof at an august institution roughly an hour south by train, and until I was two or so, my Dad did "wrong-way commuting" to work and back. Finally our family found a flat and had a short stint living in that most Ivy of Ivy towns, but around my fifth birthday, my Dad got an alluring invitation to work way out in California, and so my folks, my baby sis Laura, and I all got into our car, took off on a cross-country jaunt, and soon wound up at Stanford. I did most of my growing-up on campus, going to junior high and high school in Palo Alto, and so it was natural that I should go to Stanford (as did most of my cohorts, in fact).

Our folks' third and last child, Molly, born in Palo Alto, was, sadly, not what anybody had thought. By four or so, Molly was visibly abnormal - not saying any words at all, nor absorbing any. It wasn’t autism; it was a profound brain malfunction, probably dating from birth or prior to birth, but what was wrong, nobody could say - no diagnosis. Molly just didn't pick up any words, who knows why, and our Mom and Dad had such anguish for so long on Molly's account, as did Laura and I. What bad luck.

I, loving math from childhood, took as much of it as I could at Stanford (calculus, groups, topology, and such topics), but I also got into studying Italian, Latin, Spanish, Hindi, bits of Russian and Tamil, and so on - but most of all, I must say, a strong and idiomatic command of français was my goal. Our family’s prior Swiss sabbatical, during which I was in "third form" in a British-run school (similar to ninth in a junior high) and had a fun francophonic pal (our voisin), did a lot toward bringing this about. Although I found linguistics intriguing from afar, upon actually taking a class in it at Stanford, I found it too formalistic and artificial, but luckily, that didn't diminish my captivation with words, sounds, grammars, and symbols, which still had a fantastic magic, pushing and pulling my young mind to its limits. I was curious about how brains (or minds, if you will!) think, and thus I found symbolic logic's rigid simulacrum of cognition fascinating; programming, too, was an important part of my multifarious mind-pursuits.

Though constantly musing about all sorts of abstract topics, I wasn’t just a lump on a log — not by a long shot. In fact, I did sports — in fact, "sports of all sorts" (as Lucky says in Waiting for Godot): running, jumping, vaulting, tossing, bowling, swimming, skating, skiing, ping-ponging, mini-golfing (plus a bit of maxi-golfing), occasional hoop-shooting, and loads of biking. Oh - how could I omit this? - a droll local adaptation of that cutthroat British sport of hitting colorful wood balls through hoops on lawns, and knocking your rivals as far away as you can. Most jolly! Of all things, though, I'd say music was my most constant companion - Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, and on and on - plus lots of old jazz - Louis, Bix, Hoagy, Fats, Zutty... Also, I did a bit of piano-playing, but not a lot - mostly just absorbing music off of spinning vinyl, coming to know so many works.

As is probably obvious, I had a highly romantic soul, but sad to say, I struck out with girls; that was always a puzzling, troubling fact. Looking back at it all now, I think that Stanford's pitifully low girl/boy ratio was probably a big part of it. (It's fifty–fifty nowadays, but fat lot of good that'll do for yours truly!) Also, I was a bit young to go to Stanford - a nontrivial handicap. Anyway, my major at Stanford was math and I had basically no difficulty with it, pulling down mostly A's and also making lots of original findings. Blazing my own idiosyncratic pathways, though of minor import and mostly just in quaint, oldish nooks of math, was wildly intoxicating.

My Dad, at forty-six, won a fantastic physics award, as grand an award as our world knows, involving a trip for all our family to Stockholm in wintry snow, donning formal tails and chic gowns, strolling through classic palatial halls, hobnobbing with royalty (tricky protocol!), chit-chatting with many world-class minds, and savoring our VIP status. It was all much as in a fairy story, practically magical. And I got to bask in my Dad’s honor, not just vanish in his shadow, as many might think. Ah, glory days!

Although unlucky with girls, I had many pals at Stanford from many lands, not just my own - India, Britain, South Africa, Italy, and so on - and for many vacations, a handful of my pals and I would go up with Laura and my folks to our family's ranch in Flournoy, in north California, not far from Corning, in softly rolling hills with lots of oaks. Laura had fun riding Chico, my folks had fun rounding up and branding cows and bulls, and all of us had fun chatting, hiking, skipping rocks, playing darts and "foot carroms", arranging and lighting kindling and logs, fixing roofs, tossing hay to always-hungry cows, and so on. Ski trips to Mount Shasta would also start out in crack-of-dawn dark and finish up in post-sundown dark at our cozy ranch. I miss all of that today - such nostalgia...

But from our cows, back now to our moutons. Post-graduation, I took a long vacation from school: four months in London plus a six-month stint in Scandinavia (half in Lund, half in Stockholm). Lots of longing for a fair young flickvän, but no such luck - and oh, such angst! Anyway, following that Nordic saga, back in my old stomping grounds, I took up grad school in math at Stanford's traditional cross-Bay rival, Cal. Although I thought I would do a bang-up job, I soon saw I was wrong - in fact, math grad school was a crushing fiasco. All that fancy-shmancy ultra-abstract stuff was just too arid and confining, affording my highly visual mind nothing at all to grab onto. ¡Ay ay ay! I had hit a tough crossroads. What to do?

At this point, I was practicing piano many hours a day (contrapuntal intricacy, Slavic poignancy, Gallic sublimity, a touch of polytonality, but nothing atonal!), and also I was composing a bit, imitating my idols, and so I naturally thought of music - composition in particular - as a pathway I might follow, but by light of day, that was just too iffy. My only option, so I thought, was to drop out of math and jump into physics - a daring foray, as I had found physics horribly difficult, though inspiring, at Stanford. And, in fact, studying physics in grad school (U of O in "Duckburg", as it was known, up north) was no picnic, to put it mildly. At first I found it thrilling, I admit, but bit by bit it got turgid and confusing, and finally I wound up finding it as ugly as sin. My spirits sank low, low, low. I'd blown it in math; was I now going to fail in physics, too?

Pausing for a short bit in my mostly chronological narration, I'll talk just a tad about what kinds of non-physics things I was doing during my days of physics turmoil. Still tons of music, first of all - playing piano on a daily basis, plus lots of small piano compositions, of which I was proud. Also, studying Russian (but I didn't go far). And lastly, political activism.

Having grown up with a highly political Mom and Dad (hardly right-wing, mind you!), I wound up political, too, highly conscious of moral topics. A typical outgrowth of that is this: during my grad-school days, on a trip to Italy with our folks, my sis Laura and I both put a halt to our carnivorous habits, as it was too troubling to us to play any part in killing animals, and I still hold to that philosophy today. Also during my grad-school days, with inspiration coming from such pacifistic paragons as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. M. L. King, I did political work to aid folk not as lucky as I was. Awful assassinations - JFK, RFK, MLK - had crucial impacts, strongly sparking my political and social activism, including such things as fighting starvation in Biafra, organizing boycotts in support of a farm-labor union, participating in day camps for minority kids, saving wild parts of our national parks from mining, crusading against atomic arms, opposing that insanity known as "Star Wars", plus working towards linguistic and social parity for woman and man. I thank my family for this all-important gift of altruism.

Gplot (click it!)
But back to my physics turmoil. As it turns out, although down, I wasn't out. I stuck with it, hanging onto this wildly bucking Brahma bull, and at last, truly by luck, I hit a glorious jackpot, stumbling across a rich topic during a six-month stay in Bavaria with my Swiss doctoral advisor (during which I taught - schön!). Thus at thirty, I got my Ph.D. thanks to "Gplot", a stunning graph I'd found, involving rational and irrational Bloch/Landau functions in a crystal. Gplot had, in fact, a fractal form (zooming in on any part of it, you'll find a small copy of it, again and again, ad infinitum) - a first in physics! This visually amazing diagram was so intriguing to so many physicists that, frankly, I was probably a shoo-in for a physics faculty slot at almost any top-notch school, had I sought such a job, but I didn't.

Ironically, by that point I had truly had it with physics and its always-growing list of disappointing, arbitrary complications, such as quarks and gluons (too many "colors" and "flavors"); "charm" (distinctly uncharming); a most grungy rabbit-out-of-a-hat trick by Higgs and company (making mass from nothing); plus that Cabibbo-Kobayashi-Maskawa quark-mixing matrix (its long, gawky CaKo-phonic tag hints at my discomfort). In a word, I was so off-put that I quit, going out in Gplot's small, happy flash of fractal glory.

Luckily, though, my mind, always curious about its surroundings, rapidly found stimulation in grappling with minds, brains, souls, computation, AI, and that loopy conundrum of what an "I" is - all still abstract stuff, no doubt, but not so much so as physics or math. In fact, soon I was busy writing a highly idiosyncratic book which I thought of as my own way of "braiding" that odd batch of far-flung topics about mind into a natural unity.

At thirty-two, with my book on its way but still not out, I took a job at Indiana U. in Bloomington, thanks in part to its famous music school, and also to its florid, woodsy campus, but most of all to its warmth and cordiality. "Go for folks who go for you!", was my Dad's simplistic but catchy motto (I'm paraphrasing his words to adapt to this situation, naturally, but that was its gist) - and I took his tip, for though it was corny, it was sagacious, too.

At IU, my goal was to work in AI, most of all trying to mimic faithfully, in programs, how thought actually works. Crucial to my philosophy of computationally mimicking a mind was my constant focus on how humans think - which is to say, fluidly but also fallibly - that is, not logically, but analogically. Also, I was scrambling madly to finish up my big book - a most unusual book, flip-flopping back and forth from fanciful contrapuntal dialogs - canonical and fugal - to fairly straightforward monographical writings, and also chock-full of mind-twisting prints by an almost unknown paradox-loving Dutch graphic artist. Upon publication, my book was a surprisingly big hit and won a major national book award, assuring my job stability. I was thirty-four (or so), and still high and dry.

But I'd had a hunch that IU was promising in that most chancy of all domains, and in fact, I was right. I was oh-so-lucky to bump fortuitously into Carol Ann Brush in an auditorium lobby during a film. Carol was an Italian and art-history major doing grad work in librarianship. My oh my! Although our liaison had a bit of a bumpy start, Carol and I had a lot in common and soon hit it off in grand fashion. Thus, at long last - at thirty-six - I had a most happy romantic affair. What a turning point!

Soon I got an invitation to go to Michigan - so good that I couldn't turn it down, actually - and thus I sadly forsook Bloomington for Ann Arbor. It was in that unflappably tooting-its-own-horn town, in fact, that Carol and I wound up marrying (Carol was thirty-four, yours truly was forty); it was in Ann Arbor, too, that Carol and I took a ballroom dancing class, and that our first child, Danny, was born. Slowly, slowly, I was adapting to Michigan, but Indiana was hoping I still had a soft spot for it, and in fact I did. Upon our old school's making an outstanding job proposal, Carol and I found it most fitting to go back to IU. This was a big joy for us - no ifs, ands, or buts.

D.R.H. ambigram (flip this pic 180°)
My job back in Bloomington was, shall I say, "cushy", to put it slightly slangily. That is to say, I had no particular disciplinary affiliation (a fantastic luxury!), and thus could work on all sorts of things, ranging from AI to ambigrams (an odd kind of ambiguous calligraphy), from translation to triangular math (both passions), and also Mandarin (I was gung-ho (ho ho!)). And to top it all off, Monica, our baby girl, was born in Bloomington. Rich days! Carol and I ran a lot in Bryan Park, saw many films, on occasion had lunch chatting it up in Italian, and, whilst comparing two translations from Russian, got caught up in Pushkin's magically lilting, rhythmic, rhyming writings. All was going smoothly for our family of four.

But alas, on our first sabbatical away from IU, in an idyllic mountain-clad town in Italy's far north, as Christmas was drawing nigh, Carol was struck without any warning by a malignant brain tumor, and in but a day or two was in a profound coma. Our kids and I lost Carol that awful month. In a flash, Danny (still shy of six) and Monica (just two-and-a-half) and I had to adjust to living without a woman in our midst, without a Mom. It was tragic for Carol, and cataclysmic for our small family, now just a trio. But this ill wind notwithstanding, I didn't abort our sabbatical, as Carol had had such high aspirations for what it could bring us all. Many kind Italian folks, knowing our plight, warmly took our family in, adopting Danny and Monica with amazing compassion, most of all at Cognola's asilo (that is, school for tots). This was our salvation.

Post-sabbatical, back in Bloomington, my kids and I didn't curtail our habit of talking Italian, thanks in part to a long string of wondrous and caring Italian au-pair girls - six in all! That was a fantastic boon for us in all ways, not just linguistic. And today, in fact, Italian is still our family's standard way of communicating, still part of our daily fabric - and thus a posthumous fashion of honoring Carol. Danny and Monica did primary school primarily in Bloomington but also a bit in California, and at that point (just short of 2002) our family took off for a sabbatical in Bologna, Italy (a non-touristy town that Carol was so fond of), during which both kids got to swim nonstop in Italian. What lucky dogs, growing up bilingual!

Today Danny is as tall as I am, has a sporty Audi TT (wow!), and is majoring in biology and Italian at IU. His fascination is big cats - lions, jaguars, cougars, and such - scary, but who am I to worry about it? Monica, too, has grown as tall as I (Carol wasn't tall, nor am I a giant, so this is a curious twist!), and is finishing up high school and planning on working in fashion, concocting wild, flashy, and dashing things to don. Also, Danny snowboards with gusto and Monica skis with flair. I'm a bit gray, sad to say, but I won't complain - still got my hair! Anyway, I'm in fairly good form, and I still run and do sporadic skiing and biking (plus almost-daily chinups and/or pushups). Lastly, our gold and shaggy dog Olly (sorry for using a "y", but I had to!), now six (or forty-two in dog units), is a darling. If only Carol could know all this!

As for my own focus nowadays, it is, as always, broad and a bit wild and woolly, including translating (I did an anglicization of Pushkin's most famous book, a lugubrious story told wholly in sparkling rhyming stanzas), studying human cognition through various colorful windows (such as analogy-making, linguistic slips, and bon mots), musing philosophically (what is this "I"-thing, anyway?), stubbornly going back and banging my skull against math and physics (think of a moth drawn to a flaming torch), dipping and diving into many forms of art (such as ambigrams, gridfonts, and jazz-scribbling - of which a crowning point, anno domini MIIIM, was my solo show at IU's Art School, lasting for two months), critiquing today's ubiquitous cool mantra "you guys" and its unconsciously macho halo (which I abhor - but that's a long story, not for now), writing down my sundry thoughts, and particularly savoring doing so with unusual constraints on form - tough hoops to jump through, as I am wont to say - such as crafting lipograms that flow naturally (if you catch my drift, although not too many folks do), and God knows what-all. It's kind of a crazy quilt, I must admit. But that's how I am.

I'd say that that about sums it up. And so now, as I draw to a mildly humorous conclusion, I shall at last bid my tight linguistic constraint - and also you, my forgiving companions - a warm and at last unbound good-bye!
So there it is - have you spotted the anomaly yet? If not, read all about it here! And, if you still want the challenge, you can find another one here. This link, too, is interesting.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


It's been awhile since the topic of Dan Savage vs former Senator Rick (the Dick) Santorum (R‑Pa.) came up, but I think it's time to resurrect it.

The links here will tell you the complete story, but I'm just gonna give you the good part. My favorite sex advice columnist, Dan Savage, created a neologism for the word "Santorum" and came up with this incredible definition: "The frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter that is sometimes the byproduct of anal sex." He created a (now dormant) website devoted to the topic, and it's well worth a read.

Savage's website, a section in The Stranger, the paper he writes for, is filled with excellent sex advice and his writing is both humorous and cogent. Again, I highly recommend you take a look - in fact, you will notice that I have a permanent link to his website in my Links I like box in the sidebar. The Wikipedia articles (here, here and here) about him give more insight into the santorum story.

In a response to a reader, Savage recently said: "...while you fingered O'Donnelled his girlfriend...". He denies trying to create another neologism, but I dunno - I like the idea!

Spring forward, fall back

It's that time again, when we all have to reset our clocks - a useless, outdated practice that wastes more time (!) and energy than it saves. But, it got me to thinking about unusual clocks. I remember once purchasing a ballbearing clock (right) for about $30 - cheap enough - but dropped it on the way home. I ended up with 32 ballbearings and a pile of plastic pieces. I never bought another, although I would dearly love to own one (hint hint!). The action is mesmerizing - a bit like staring at an aquarium. Using it as a timepiece is secondary to the fun of seeing those balls dropping!

The 'net has an amazing array of fascinating clocks. For example, go to Google Images and search for [clock]. If you search for [clock ballbearing] you will find pictures of some truly incredible clocks, including the one at left which will write the time on a piece of paper for you! It costs a mere $350,000 - more info, plus a video demonstrating it in action, is here. Classic Rube Goldberg. Which reminds me - for a beautiful Rube Goldbergian device, take a look at this commercial. (It loads slowly, but be patient - it's worth the wait.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Knowledge of science

As my regular readers know, I despair about the lack of decent education in this country. Science is one topic that is under intense scrutiny, and here is a test, conducted by Pew Research that speaks volumes. It is a (relatively) simple 12-question quiz, and shows how you fare compared to other demographic groups. Give it a shot, and see how you do. I found the results very interesting, and the section which breaks down the percentage of correct answers by age really supports my hypothesis about the idiocy of the younger generation. Fascinating stuff, yet depressing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

I don't understand...

As I type this, there is a story making headlines about a Qantas* flight (Airbus A380) that lost an engine over Singapore. No-one on board was injured, and (thus far) there have been no reports of the debris hurting anyone on land. The plane landed safely.

In 1987, I was on a SAA flight (Boeing 747) from Johannesburg to London. Shortly after refueling at Ilha do Sal, one of the Cape Verde islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, we lost an engine - same circumstances as the Qantas flight. I was sitting at a window seat over the wing that lost the engine, so not only did I get an earful of the explosion, I saw the damage as well. After dumping the fuel, we landed safely back on the island. No injuries, although a change of pants was in order for a few passengers!

Here's what I don't understand. This happenstance did not hit the news in any way, shape or form! So, what is it about today's occurrence that deems it newsworthy? Is it because, 23 years later, we live in a world so hungry for anything, we're now happy to unquestioningly accept non-news?

Interesting aside: The day we spent on the island while waiting for another plane to come and pick us up was fascinating. Ilha do Sal primarily exists to support its large international airport, used by SAA in the days of apartheid when South Africa was not allowed to fly over Africa. The airport stood out in solitary splendor, with nothing but salt flats all around. Our arrival significantly increased the population that day, and the hospitality we received was truly amazing. We were bussed to the Morabeza Hotel (which, judging by its website has changed a lot!), and were mightily entertained through the day and night. A lobster and crawfish barbeque was hurriedly put together, a local band rushed down to the hotel to entertain us, we danced the night away at the hotel's disco - in all, a very memorable 24 hours. The next day, British Airways sent a jumbo jet to rescue us. Because communication from the island was somewhat primitive - no phones, only shortwave radio to reach the outside world - we had no way of letting friends know what had happened. (The island is almost on the equator; their 10 ft. TV satellite dishes point straight up, a strange sight.)

A friend of mine, Bonnie, was going to pick us up at SFO. She got to the airport, and nobody was able to tell her anything - because we were connecting to a different airline in London to fly to SFO, there was no continuity in terms of knowledge about our arrival. Coincidentally, that same day, a different SAA flight had crashed in the Indian Ocean, killing 159 people. At the airport, Bonnie picked up the paper, and saw a headline that said something like "South African Airways flight crashes; 159 dead." You can imagine what that did to her heart rate...

* So just how does one pronounce Qantas? There's no 'u,' which makes pronunciation of the 'q' a hard 'c', not the usual 'cw' as in "The queen is quite queer." Al Qa'ida has the same problem, and there we use the hard 'c'. Not to mention Iraq, Qatar, Compaq, Nasdaq, and qwerty (as in keyboard). That said, is Qantas pronounced cunt-ass?!?! Wikipedia seems to agree...!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Midterm election results

Well, it turned out as expected - the GOP got the house, while the Dems retained the senate. On the surface, many see the house takeover as a bad thing, but I'm not sure that's true - for too long, Republicans have had zero incentive to step up to the plate and actually take some responsibility. Instead, they've been sitting on the sidelines, refusing to get involved - in essence, just wailing "No, no, no!" like whiny children. Now, however, they can no longer do this. Hopefully this will usher in an era of cooperation with the Democrats, and maybe - just maybe - we'll see some progress. As always, time will tell.

For great election coverage, it's hard to beat the NYTimes. Here's their main page for election coverage, and make sure to explore the links - particularly the two maps at the top, which will take you to great interactive views of what's happening where. No doubt I'll be posting some cynical, snarky items in the days to come...!

As I find interesting/thoughtful/funny articles through the day, I will add them here:
  • Huffington Post - Bush did the damage, Obama underestimated its extent, and didn't fix it, at least not quickly enough. (I would argue that the devastation was so extensive that it needs more than two years to fix, but still - Obama should have made that clear.)
  • Huffington Post again - How well the polls worked, with an interesting breakdown by polling organization.
  • PolitiFact - How you were lied to in e-mails during this campaign. All the "Pants on Fire!" ratings that stemmed from spam. (I guess this shit must work, else why would they do it? It astonishes me how easily people can be scammed by spam.)
  • Us Magazine - Bristol Palin forgot to vote!!!!!
  • Huffington Post - A Norman Lear piece about how we've had enough of politicians using the phrase "the American people." Here's a quote: "Our experiment in democracy depends, the founders told us at the beginning, on an informed citizenry. Fat chance, American people!" (Boldfaced emphasis mine.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election results

As I post this, it's early - results are starting to trickle in, but it looks like the predictions seem spot-on. The GOP will likely take over the house, while the Dems will probably keep the senate (although it looks tight - the lead will probably be only one or two seats). For a thorough, realtime, interactive look at results, these NYTimes pages are pretty good: House. Senate. Looks like it's going to be a long and very interesting night!

Palin the hypocrite

Here's a fun one: Sarah Palin criticizes the use of anonymous sources - using an anonymous source!!!

I quote: "'For Washington consultants to sit around and personally disparage the Governor anonymously to reporters is unfortunate and counterproductive and frankly immature,' the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, continued." Also, see this.

Public funding for TV around the world

I came across some interesting statistics a few days ago when I was doing the story about the NPR brouhaha. This is from the Huffington Post, and focuses on the proposed bill by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) and Sarah Palin to rescind all public funding for NPR. What caught my eye was this:

BBC Television Center in London
"The call for funding cuts is particularly galling because the United States already has one of the lowest levels of federal funding of public media in the developed world - at just $1.43 per capita. By comparison, Canada spends $22 per capita, and England spends $80. If you're wondering why we don't have anything like the BBC, that's the biggest reason.

"If the United States spent the same per capita on public media and journalism subsidies as Sweden and Norway, which rank 1 and 2, we would be spending as much as $30 billion a year on public media instead of $440 million. It's no coincidence that these same countries rank near the top of The Economist magazine's annual Democracy Index, which evaluates nations on the basis of the functioning of government, civic participation and civil liberties. On that list, the United States ranks 18th.

"Yet instead of debating how to build a better public media system, we're stuck with a rotting commercial one that would rather help the likes of Palin whip up a frenzy and play up the false divide between left and right. And why not? It worked with the takedown of ACORN, with the smearing of Shirley Sherrod, and with all the other bogus controversies we're told to swallow as news."

CountrySpending per capita per year
United Kingdom$80.00
United States$1.43

And now DeMint and Palin want to take that piddly $1.43 away! Say what?!

This bolsters my argument about the apparent "demise" of TV in general, which I discussed in my post on Sunday.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pants on fire!!!

Two days to go to the election, so it's time to visit PolitiFact and see what they have to say about the campaign. Here's a very interesting article about the "truthiness" of it all.

Being non-partisan, PolitiFact is very careful to avoid pointing out which side of the political fence most of the bullshit is coming from - but take a look for yourself, I have no doubt you will see a pattern here!

Gotta go - Bill Maher is on, and I missed most of it on Friday... (UPDATE: I just watched it - a really good episode!)

The future - never certain

A good friend sent this to me recently, but its author is unknown. Enjoy - and let me have your thoughts too! (One thing does strike me right off the bat - this is a U.S.-centric view, and it doesn't really hold water when looked at in a global context. Like it or not, we do live in an ever-shrinking world, so I think it's important to bear that in mind while reading this.)

[Italicized notes in square brackets are my bafflegabbed, peanut gallery comments.]
British GPO logo
1. The Post Office. Get ready to imagine a world without the post office. They are so deeply in financial trouble that there is probably no way to sustain it long term. Email, FedEx, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office alive. Most of your mail every day is junk mail and bills. [Maybe true for the U.S., not necessarily so in other countries, particularly those where the Post Office is state-run, handles business other than delivering mail, and can run at a loss because it is subsidized. And, in the U.S., what about people who aren't online, including those who would love to be but cannot because they live in rural areas? Not even FedEx and UPS serve them - only the USPS does! Additionally, there are those who simply cannot afford to be online. Will the U.S. Gov't subsidize the rural and the poor? I think not...]

Check that purchased Alaska
2. The Check. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. Plastic cards and online transactions will lead to the eventual demise of the check. This plays right into the death of the post office. If you never paid your bills by mail and never received them by mail, the post office would absolutely go out of business. [The payment system model is changing rapidly and radically - I think that even plastic will soon be history. But, as is often the case, this is a much larger topic that needs to be reserved for a different time. Update Nov. 2: Coincidentally, this appeared in Monday's edition of the S.F. Chronicle, discussing the problem of reluctance by banks in the U.S. to move to newer technology - again, giving me ammo for my view that this author was being very U.S.-centric in his/her essay.]

3. The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn't read the newspaper. They certainly don't subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That may go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. As for reading the paper online, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers has caused all the newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance. They have met with Apple, Amazon, and the major cell phone companies to develop a model for paid subscription services. [I really don't think newspapers have much of a chance setting up paywalls at this stage of the game - that train left the station a long time ago. I despair for the future of decent journalism. Sure, the likes of the NYTimes will survive, but most of them, I fear, will be joining the horse-and-buggy set soon.]

Mmm ... paper!
4. The Book. You say you will never give up the physical book that you hold in your hand and turn the literal pages. I said the same thing about downloading music from iTunes. I wanted my hard copy CD. But I quickly changed my mind when I discovered that I could get albums for half the price without ever leaving home to get the latest music. The same thing will happen with books. You can browse a bookstore online and even read a preview chapter before you buy. And the price is less than half that of a real book. [Not true - in fact, there's a debate raging right now about the fact that the likes of Amazon are now charging more for e-books than their printed counterparts. This is being forced on e-booksellers by the publishers.] And think of the convenience! Once you start flicking your fingers on the screen instead of the book, you find that you are lost in the story, can't wait to see what happens next, and you forget that you're holding a gadget instead of a book. [This is a slightly naïve view - distribution and sale of content in all its forms is undergoing a sea-change. The primary issue in my mind is the lack of permanence when it comes to electronic storage; this, however, is an issue that goes way beyond the scope of this discussion.]

Who remembers how to use that
twirly thing on the front?!
5. The Land Line Telephone. Unless you have a large family and make a lot of local calls, you don't need it anymore. Most people keep it simply because they're [sic] always had it. But you are paying double charges for that extra service. All the cell phone companies will let you call customers using the same cell provider for no charge against your minutes. [In most countries, mobile phones are already way in the majority and, indeed, many developing countries have skipped landline technology and gone directly to mobile, giving them a huge advantage (no maintenance of an aging infrastructure is necessary). In some respects, there are connections here to my post a few days ago about centralized vs distributed organisms.]

6. Music. This is one of the saddest parts of the change story. The music industry is dying a slow death. Not just because of illegal downloading. It's the lack of innovative new music being given a chance to get to the people who would like to hear it. Greed and corruption is the problem. The record labels and the radio conglomerates simply self-destruction. [That's not a sentence - where's the verb?] Over 40% of the music purchased today is "catalog items," meaning traditional music that the public is familiar with. Older established artists. This is also true on the live concert circuit. To explore this fascinating and disturbing topic further, check out the book, "Appetite for Self-Destruction" by Steve Knopper, and the video documentary, "Before the Music Dies." [Here, I think I agree; I say "think" because the point is hard to discern. It goes back to the lack of permanence I mentioned in #4 above, as well as the DMCA takedown actions of late.]

7. Television. Revenues to the networks are down dramatically. Not just because of the economy. People are watching TV and movies streamed from their computers. And they're playing games and doing all lots of other things that take up the time that used to be spent watching TV. Prime time shows have degenerated down to lower than the lowest common denominator. Cable rates are skyrocketing and commercials run about every 4 minutes and 30 seconds. I say good riddance to most of it It's time for the cable companies to be put out of our misery. Let the people choose what they want to watch online and through Netflix. [This is a pipe dream - while I would dearly love to see more intelligent TV content in this country, it ain't gonna happen, because that's what pays the bills. And TV, quite simply, is not going to go away, at least not for a l-o-n-g time. Believe it or not, TV is a valuable cultural phenomenon elsewhere. See this post.]

Storm clouds!
8. The "Things" That You Own. Many of the very possessions that we used to own are still in our lives, but we may not actually own them in the future. They may simply reside in "the cloud." Today your computer has a hard drive and you store your pictures, music, movies, and documents. Your software is on a CD or DVD, and you can always re-install it if need be. But all of that is changing. Apple, Microsoft, and Google are all finishing up their latest "cloud services." That means that when you turn on a computer, the Internet will be built into the operating system. So, Windows, Google, and the Mac OS will be tied straight into the Internet. If you click an icon, it will open something in the Internet cloud. If you save something, it will be saved to the cloud. And you may pay a monthly subscription fee to the cloud provider. [Again, see here.]

In this virtual world, you can access your music or your books, or your whatever from any laptop or handheld device. That's the good news. But, will you actually own any of this "stuff" or will it all be able to disappear at any moment in a big "Poof?" Will most of the things in our lives be disposable and whimsical? It makes you want to run to the closet and pull out that photo album, grab a book from the shelf, or open up a CD case and pull out the insert.

[And there you have it - we do agree, after all! Why on earth did it take this long for the author to make his/her point?!]

Little brother is watching
9. Privacy. If there ever was a concept that we can look back on nostalgically, it would be privacy. That's gone. It's been gone for a long time anyway. There are cameras on the street, in most of the buildings, and even built into your computer and cell phone. But you can be sure that 24/7 "They" know who you are and where you are, right down to the GPS coordinates, and the Google Street View. If you buy something, your habit is put into a zillion profiles, and your ads will change to reflect those habits. And "They" will try to get you to buy something else. Again and again. [ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY!]


Friday, October 29, 2010

Mumbai mansion

Once again, I have to take a break from the insanity. Politics. Terrorism. Yuck.

Here's an interesting story from the NYTimes. This newly-built home in Mumbai is designed to accommodate a family of five. Yes, five! It is 27 storeys tall, with six parking levels. There are nine elevators, three helipads, numerous terraces, ballroom*, a 50-seat theatre, "airborne" swimming pools, and hanging gardens. No word on the number of bathrooms, but nine elevators for a family of five? The building is the new home of Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in India.

Reportedly, the residential space is somewhere between 60,000 and 400,000 ft². Judging by the picture above, I'm guessing the lower end of that range is more realistic - but still.

And this in Mumbai - a city where, reportedly, >60% of the population live in slums.

Update: I found this page, which provides pictures of the interior as well as close-up views of the exterior. The mystery of the nine elevators is now solved: "Two are designated for parking lots, two for the Ambani family, two for service and three for all the guest quarters." And there are more interesting factoids. The sheer extravagance of this place both horrifies and intrigues me. Scroll through this pic - looks like my square footage guesstimate above was a little on the low side!

* Which reminds me: What do a tight pair of trousers and the Royal Albert Hall have in common? No ballroom.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

That Christine O'Donnell - she's just so damn irresistible

I'm sorry, but you cannot blame me for pointing this little story out. Thank you, Gawker!

It involves a drunken Christine wanting to use a stranger's bathroom to change into her ladybug costume for Halloween, and the two of them end up in bed. Titillated enough yet to click through? I hope so!   ;-)   Damn, I hate emoticons. Where did that one come from?

Yes, I realize that she has become a joke, and that the right wing is, at this point, just using her to deflect real criticism of their dirty, low-down tactics. I guess she's the scapegoat candidate. Or trophy candidate? It's all very Palin-esque, which makes it extra-special!

Update 1: It seems that a number of people (including, of course, Christine) have gotten their tits in a tangle about this story. One would hope that people who read Gawker are smart enough to understand that it is a fluffy, gossipy, entertainment site - nothing more, nothing less. Context is everything!

Update 2: In Christine's response to this story, she says, "From Secretary Clinton, to Governor Palin, to soon-to-be Governor Haley, Christine's political opponents have been willing to engage in appalling and baseless attacks — all with the aim of distracting the press from covering the real issues in this race." Read that sentence carefully. While Clinton is clearly an opponent, I very much doubt that Palin and Haley are!!! Seems that copy editors truly are a dying breed. (And, I think the assumption that Haley is a soon-to-be governor is just a tad presumptuous, not to mention likely incorrect, given current polls!)

2010 midterm campaign - hard to believe, and now barely true!

Let's face it - the level of discourse in the current political campaign has turned into nothing more than a mud-slinging match. Now, my old friend, has, for the first time, given a rating of "Barely True" to the entire campaign! is a non-partisan group that analyzes statements made by people in the public eye and comes up with a rating on their Truth-O-Meter™. These ratings are, in my view, both novel and clever. The list: True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True, and (my personal favorite) Pants on Fire! Check 'em out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Centralized vs distributed organisms

This article from Techdirt contemplates the nature of centralized vs distributed organisms, in the context of Wikileak's recent exposures of the U.S. Government's behavior in Iraq. Regardless of one's opinion of this particular situation, it's worth reading because it provides food for thought about what our future may look like.

This is a topic that, through my life, I have thought about in different, specific, contexts - not least of which is how the pendulum has swung over the years with regard to the pros and cons of server- and client-side computing. Central came first with mainframes and dumb terminals. Then minicomputers came on the scene, reducing the cost - which led to "microcomputers" (who among us remembers that term?), aka PCs. And now the pendulum is swinging back, with all our data (and intelligence) in the "cloud."

Perhaps a good illustration of the way this works is the Microsoft/Google analogy. Microsoft built its empire on the notion of putting the smarts into PCs by having you buy their software, and then locking you into occasional "upgrades" - the distributed model. Google came along later, and realized that a centralized model made more sense. So now, Microsoft is in the sad position of having to release updates of its software (e.g. Outlook) on a periodic basis. Otoh, Google, by virtue of the fact that its software (e.g. Gmail) is in the cloud, is in the much happier position of being able to control updates centrally, as and when they want or need to. If you're a user of Google's products, you will notice how they "push" subtle changes to you on a regular basis. Microsoft wishes they had the ability to do this. But that's not really what this post is about, and I happily recognize that I've elided over many points that make the computing example much more complicated.

Back to centralized vs distributed organisms... Beyond computing, where else does this occur?

Well, there's the Cold War, where the enemies were easy to define: sovereign nations. With the Cold War behind us, we now have global terrorism to worry about. Now, the enemy is much harder to define, because instead of countries with clear boundaries, we find ourselves battling ideologies. Small cells of trouble can pop up anywhere, and vanish just as quickly. So: Cold War - centralized. Terrorism - distributed. Is it any wonder the coalition forces going up against the likes of Al Qa'ida are having so much difficulty? We still model our defense forces on the old, centralized model, yet we're fighting a distributed "war." It needs an entirely new approach, one that will not come easily or quickly.

Another example is that of governments. Why is China gaining ground on the U.S. in oh-so-many aspects, not least of which are their respective economies? China uses an autonomous, centralized model. The U.S. has a federal system, which devolves much of the power to individual states - a distributed model. When China wants to achieve something, they simply do it, declaring it as a fait accompli. In the U.S., however, it's a much more complex process - eternal wrangling over, for example, whether to spend or save. The consequence, of course, is that very little gets accomplished here with any alacrity.

So there you have three examples: computing, war, government. I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide which is preferable in each case: centralized or distributed organism? And to what other situations can we apply this? Comments, as always, welcome!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kissin' cousins

Well, well, well! The genealogy service tells us that President Obama and Sarah Palin are 10th cousins, and Obama and Rush Limbaugh are 10th cousins once removed. Apparently, the chances of this happening are slimmer than you think. Maybe Sarah and Rush oughta stop dissin' and instead start kissin' my guy. Read about it here!

Interesting hypothesis

While this theory was advanced in the '08 Presidential election, I think it's certainly worth re-hashing. This article discusses a trip to a Sarah Palin Teabagger rally in Phoenix, and ends with the following:

"I think the pollsters might be very wrong about the upcoming election. And that's because they are polling the people I saw at this rally - the people with land lines. I wonder how many of the pollsters are polling younger people, or working people with cell phones.

"The people I saw today were the fearful middle-aged white people who have been outsourced, laid off, and "victimized" by diversity. They looked as if they had been outrun by the pace of change, in every area of their lives. They were familiar, like Rotarians. They clearly want things to go back to the past - one man came riding a horse, and the Minutemen were there. Everyone talked about bringing it back to how it used to be and taking it back. Everyone prayed and talked about Christ, and recited the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the National Anthem. It was the old days of baseball games and hot dogs, horses and guns, and the Greatest Generation. I didn't hear anything about taxes; in fact I heard very little political content, except from the local guys.

"I was probably the only geek in the place. And that says it all."

And it says it all for me as well!

Talk about ignorance!

I was doing some research for a friend concerning GLSEN, a gay advocacy group. They are selling a kit for schools that includes posters and bumper stickers which, in essence, tell schoolkids that they're in a "safe space." (No such thing, but we won't go there today.)

Here's the bit that got me. There is a page of testimonials about the kit, where one of the teachers says, "I will put up the safe zone sticker on my door to do something...most of my coworkers will not know what this means.....but those kids who need me to keep them safe will." (Boldface emphasis mine.)

The other teachers won't know what the stickers mean?!?! Well, if they don't know, then how in hell are the kids supposed to figure it out?

Perhaps there's a deeper problem here, one that is going to take a lot more than a kit of posters and stickers...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Joys of the NY subway

Apropos of pretty much nothing, I just find this cartoon charming. It comes from today's special Subway issue of the NYTimes.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fun with the First Amendment

When Christine O'Donnell had her recent meltdown, she tried to deflect the situation by asking her opponent, Chris Coons, to name the five freedoms contained in the First Amendment. This was clearly unfair - after all, it was out of context, came totally out of the blue, and obviously was designed to distract Coons. [Note to Christine: It's a debate, not a pop quiz!] Who of us, even those who know what the five freedoms are, could answer a question like that under those circumstances?

Very few, I'll bet. And now we read that most Americans don't even know what they are, which, while not surprising, is still shocking. So, I figure that a bit of help might be necessary. First, the answer - it's freedom of:
- Speech
- Religion
- Press
- Assembly
- Grievances (i.e. the right to Petition the government, but that would be another P).

Let's see if we can come up with a mnemonic with those initial letters. How about:

Amendment Gives Republicans Speaking Point. No good? Well, that's off the top of my head - if you can come up with something better, by all means let me know and I'll update this post.

Maybe we just need to come up with a list that we can easily remember, again using the initials. And, since I'm doing this in honor of Republicans, how about a list of well-known ones (famous or infamous)? Let's see, we have...
- Steele (as in Michael)
- Reagan (or Roosevelt or Romney)
- Poindexter
- Armey (as in Richard - remember all the Dick Army jokes?)
- Grant (or Garfield)

The G, of course, could also be for GOP (By the way, did you know that the Know-nothing Party was a predecessor of the GOP?!)

Of course, if you, erm, grasp the idea of using the initials ... need I say more?


Even as emoticons are rapidly going out of style (I hope...), I have to admit that there are some pretty inventive ones out there. Take a look at this page - I especially like Marge Simpson, as well as Homer.

Or, for image-based ones, just search Google Images.

Yes, silly post. It's Saturday. Gimme a break.   ;-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Finally - I get to criticize the left

As my regular readers know, I try to keep this blog as balanced as I can, but with all the idiocy demonstrated by the right wing these days, I'm hard-pressed to find anything that could point out weakness on the left.

Even this story is not the best example, because it really is more about how silly political correctness has become; but since being PC has been co-opted by the left ... well, there you go. It's also not directly related to the current political nonsense, but in that case the Republicans truly have the edge on stupid - no contest there!

TV commentator Juan Williams, who worked for NPR as well as Faux Fox News, apparently made a boo-boo on Faux [damn, I keep doing that, dunno why] Fox the other day. He mentioned that he has a visceral reaction when he sees Muslims, dressed in traditional garb, at an airport gate, about to board the same plane as he is. He said the reaction is one of nervousness, and passes as quickly as it comes. Later in the segment, he made the point this is not because of any problem he has with Muslims, it's merely one of those gut reactions that we all have at certain moments in our lives.

Well, this got his superiors over at NPR in a froth - and they booted his ass. Talk about making a fuss over nothing! To make matters worse, one of their spokespeople (!), in an interview yesterday, said that this sort of posturing has no place on public TV (even though he said it on Faux Fox, not NPR), and that he should be taking this matter up with his "psychiatrist or publicist, take your pick." (NPR has subsequently apologized for this slip.)

Tempest in a teapot? Fersure. Of course, this is now a major story, hardly a surprise in the U.S., and - again of course - the right is making hay out of it. Faux Fox News is chortling, and leading every hour so far today with this story, spending a large, disproportionate amount of time on it.

Not only that, but now Senator Jim DeMint (R-South Carolina) is proposing a bill that would remove the vestiges of public funding that NPR gets. A whole 2% of their budget - shock, horror! But, again, this is all part of their glee over the fact that those damn liberal, politically correct lefties made a boo-boo.

The only reason this is a story is because it isn't. I never cease to be amazed at the very low level of discourse that passes for news in this country.

There has to be a backstory here: My guess is that NPR has been unhappy with Williams' affiliation with Faux Fox News for some time, and that they (prematurely?) leapt on this to get rid of him. But, NPR is the one that ended up with egg on its face. Score one for Juan - especially now that Faux Fox has given him a new $2 million contract!!!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Link colors - admin note

Cool fractal, huh?
A quick bit of administrivia: I've changed the link and the visited-link colors to more pleasing shades of blue. The hover color remains red.

My usual request: If this is a problem on your monitor, please let me know - it's hard to judge without feedback! Thanks. (There are lots of other color changes, but it's the links I'm concerned about because those are the ones that you, dear reader, need to see to be able to click 'em.)

In all fairness to Christine...

OK, so there's been an argument about exactly what Christine O'Donnell meant with her self-inflicted flub about separation of church and state, and its presence (or lack thereof) in the Constitution. (My earlier post.)

Here's the thing: She is trying to downplay this, by saying that she (originally) said the specific phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear. This is true, but c'mon - why on earth would someone even bother to ask about how an idea is exactly worded when the real issue is its significance? Clearly, she is trying to shift the focus.

Trying to be fair, I have done some research, and it is apparent that Christine and her attendants are busy exercising damage control. Here, from Slate, is a good, objective explanation of what went down. Take a look for yourself, and make your own decision.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's like shooting fish in a barrel

Christine O'Donnell and her minions apparently have trouble spelling her name. As I write this, the error is still on her website, despite the comments from a number of people online! UPDATE: They finally fixed it!

They make it so easy - who could resist pointing this gaffe out? Not I, certainly!

And to those of you who say "who cares?" I say I do. When an error like this is allowed to be published, it tells me that they truly have a don't-care-just-send-money attitude. And the really sad part is that her followers probably are incapable of picking up on this.

How the Teabaggers get it wrong

I came across this thoughtful, well-written, objective essay in Newsweek, discussing how the Teabaggers use the Constitution as their "bible" to get their message across, and how incredibly misguided and just plain wrong this notion is. Yet another must-read.

I also feel compelled to show you this sign from them - what the hell do they think Medicare is?!

(I'm finding so many "must-reads" these days, where the articles in question speak for themselves and really need no comment from me. Consequently, I'm now adding a box in the sidebar which will change as necessary, and will contain links that I think are important.)