Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones ...

... but words will never hurt me. Unless, of course, those words are in one of the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries" as compiled by those fine conservative brains over at HumanEventsOnline.com.

(I use the terms "fine" and "brains" loosely. The panel consisted of 14 conservative men and Phyllis Schlafly. They must've had a real fun time casting those secret ballots, nudge nudge wink wink.)

Of course, the usual suspects are mentioned: Marx & Engels, Darwin, Kinsey, Friedan. But given the current political climate, I think it's a horrible oversite that they failed to single out 1913's Social Insurance or 1934's The Quest for Security, works by my relative, I.M. Rubinow, that were seminal in the Social Security movement.

Be that as it may, can we laugh a little at calling Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and Ralph Nader's Unsafe At Any Speed "harmful books" (they're on the "honorable mention" list)? I suppose if your definition of "harmful" is limited exclusively to major corporations and deliberately exclusive of life forms, well, perhaps it makes sense.

The most ridiculous moment on the list, though, appears in the one-paragraph critique of John Maynard Keynes's General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money:
The book is a recipe for ever-expanding government. When the business cycle threatens a contraction of industry, and thus of jobs, he argued, the government should run up deficits, borrowing and spending money to spur economic activity. FDR adopted the idea as U.S. policy, and the U.S. government now has a $2.6-trillion annual budget and an $8-trillion dollar debt.

For those who haven't been paying attention, the vast majority of the debt was amassed in budgets submitted by Reagan, Bush I and Bush II; that's FDR waaaaay over there on the left in the graphic below. They kinda sorta forgot to mention that part.

Yeah. It's all Keynes's and FDR's fault.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Finally we find evidence of an activist judge, completely ignoring the "Free Exercise" clause of the First Amendment. How come the right-wing judge bashers aren't all over this?

Oh. Yeah. Got it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


a.k.a Thomas Ritchie. A whole lot like me. Late '40s, wife and family, Deadhead, tech job with an online legal publisher, longtime member of Worth1000.com. I knew you a little; I wish I'd known you much better. Rest in peace, friend.

Sigh ...

Thanks, Scarlette. Now I have to display my nerdiness.
The One True Slayer
84 Bites of Slayage

Damn. Not only have you died twice doing what you do, but no one
understands your burden and you find yourself disturbingly attracted to
vampires. You are the ultimate repository of what it takes to be the
Slayer, and no one can tell you otherwise. If you don't own all seven
seasons on DVD, it's cause they haven't been released in your country
yet. I am in total awe of you, and maybe just the tiniest bit creeped

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on bites
Link: The Ultimate Buffy Test written by Iguanita41 on Ok Cupid

Trampoline Continued

Scooter seems to think we're over-protective. And, you know, fair enough. When I was Emma's age I rode my bike all over our Los Angeles neighborhood, and jumped off of the second floor of construction sites into dirt piles that probably contained all sorts of sharp, rusty things. Kristi lived in the country, and did tire rolls in tractor tires, etc. Yeah, we lived dangerously.

On the other hand, I did know kids who were injured doing stupid things. If I remember correctly, a girl around the corner from us broke several bones trying to skateboard down Overland Hill between Palms and Venice -- and that was before they leveled off the top of it. And I seem to remember a kid getting injured/killed in a car-bike collision on our block. Dave will doubtless be able to fill in details on both incidents, and possibly others.

And I can't help the fact that I went to law school. I know what an attractive nuisance is. Believe me, an unsupervised trampoline with overhanging tree branches qualifies. And I know that the proper response to an attractive nuisance by the owner thereof is to make reasonable efforts to impede access to it, not to send out invitations.

What the folks next door do with their trampoline, and how they raise their kids, is their business. But, as I said before, by inviting everybody else's kids to come violate the manufacturer's warnings with them, they're creating problems for every (over-protective) parent around them.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Bouncy Bouncy Bouncy Bouncy Fun Fun Fun Fun Fu -- oh, crap

Saturday, our next-door neighbors assembled a trampoline in their back yard.

These are very nice people, and I don't want to suggest that they've done anything wrong by setting up a trampoline. But still, we have to live with the fallout from it.

On Saturday, the dad assured us that they'd be following the manufacturer's safety warnings (placed clearly on the side of the trampoline), which include admonitions like
  • Only one child at a time allowed
  • No flips
  • Adult supervision at all time

Apparently these are pretty standard rules in the industry, and for good reason.

On Sunday, the mom assured us that no, they'd be following their own rules; two kids at once, and she'd be in the kitchen if anyone needed her.

On Monday, they circulated a flyer to the block, inviting kids to come use the trampoline, even when they're not at home, and restating their own rules: two kids okay, no adult outside is just fine, etc. True, there were some sensible rules: no kids under trampoline while others are jumping, kids waiting to jump must wait away from the trampoline. I saw virtually all of these rules violated today -- while one of the parents was outside "supervising".

Did I mention they set this thing up under a tree? Duh.

So, they've got great liability coverage on their homeowner's insurance, and they're not afraid to use it. Fine for them. But they've put us in the uncomfortable position of having to tell Emma that she has to follow the real rules -- one kid at a time, no flips, etc. -- or she can't use it at all. Emma, of course, will agree to anything we ask of her in order to play over there, but will she actually follow the rules if we're not watching? Once she sees other kids jumping in pairs, other kids tumbling, she's going to want to join in -- and I can't blame her for that.

Maybe I should send a flyer next door suggesting that it'd be just fine with me if their children use my power tools when I'm not home.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I Don't Understand

Governor Pawlenty met with local bloggers, and neither Scooter nor I were invited. (The in-laws are in town, so I'd have had to turn Timmy down anyway.) The meeting was with the "largely conservative Northern Alliance group of bloggers and radio commentators".

Excuse me? Largely conservative? Conservatism is their middle name! It's why they were formed, it defines who they are. Why is the Strib, of all newspapers, masking that fact?
Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said the governor extended the invitation to the group because of an interest in the influence of what has been billed as the landscape of "new media," such as Internet chat rooms and political Web logs, also called blogs. Between 30 and 35 people attended.

"Radio stations and Web-based journalists and editorialists don't have the same opportunity to be around the Capitol and report on what's going on, so it's a chance for the governor to hear from them," McClung said. "We think bloggers are a legitimate source of news and information."

McClung said those invited were culled from groups associated with the local conservative blog Powerline, which received acclaim for its role criticizing CBS' now-debunked report on memos related to President Bush's National Guard service. McClung said there was no intent to exclude local bloggers who might be critical of Pawlenty or have more left-leaning or progressive points of view.

What incredible bullshit. They deliberately invited Northern Alliance bloggers only, ensuring a conservative-only list. They hand-picked bloggers associated with Powerline, insuring they get the most visible, most power-hungry, most aggressively right-wing bunch available. And yet, they claim "there was no intent to exclude ... left-leaning or progressive points of view"? What are they smoking in the Governor's mansion? And why does the Strib repeat the blatant lies without calling them on it?

Friday, May 20, 2005

I'm A Lightweight

I don't really miss my drinking days, but I do miss my ability to enjoy a lot of beer without getting drunk. We took the in-laws out for dinner tonight (actually, they took us out, but that really wasn't the plan, and it's kind of annoying). Italian Pie Shoppe. John and I split a pitcher of Summit Pale Ale. And after half a pitcher, with a stomach full of pizza, I'm really feeling the beer. Sigh.

If you were planning to seduce me, now would be a good time.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide

Kevin has posted his detailed and insightful review of the five-book trilogy.

We saw the movie (finally!) Saturday. Mostly, it left me flat. There was some good, true. (Spoilers ahoy!)
  • I think they handled the "Zaphod has two heads and three arms" thing about as well as one could expect.
  • I liked the way they threaded a romance into the story. (Because what's a movie without a romance? Without a romance, you're left with crap like "Saving Private Ryan" or "To Kill A Mockingbird".)
  • I like the fact that Zaphod sounded disturbingly like a coked-up George Bush.
  • Yay for the cameo appearance by the original Marvin, standing in queue on Vogsphere, and that of Simon Jones, the original Arthur Dent, as the Magrathean hologram.
  • Bill Nighy was excellent as Slartibartfast.
That said, something was seriously wrong, and I have to blame the lead-role casting. Martin Freeman, as Arthur, completely failed to capture the air of righteous British indignation that Simon Jones delivered so perfectly. Instead of a British everyman, he was just an Everyman. Mos Def as Ford really failed to sell a lot of his lines. And Zooey Deschanel, while adorable, was exactly not how I envisioned Trillian (who was a brilliant astrophysicist in the previous incarnations of the story, and here is, um, just this girl Arthur falls for, with no backstory whatsoever, which isn't Zooey's fault, so I'll go back to finding her adorable).

The John Malkovich plotline felt bolted on as filler (which, in fairness, it was).

A Question for Scooter

How big would your chainwheel have to be to bicycle at the speed of light? (I was going to ask how small your sprockets would have to be, but that seems a rather personal and impertinent question.)

Sunday, May 15, 2005


Whatever the hell it is, Ming needs one.

Edited to note that Jen got there first, and that I read it there, and that I then blew out those braincells playing Rocket Mania. Sorry, Jen.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Marbury v. Madison II: Judgment Day

So our beloved Congress has passed, and our esteemed president has signed into law, the RealID Act, which (among other things) is intended to expedite construction of a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. (Where I use the word "expedite", please insert "strip you of everything you hold dear in order to facilitate".)

The section of the bill in question deals with the authority of the Secretary to "waive all laws" he in his sole discretion believes are impeding construction of a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. The bill says:

(c) Waiver-
(1) IN GENERAL- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall have the authority to waive, and shall waive, all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary's sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section.

(2) NO JUDICIAL REVIEW- Notwithstanding any other provision of law (statutory or nonstatutory), no court, administrative agency, or other entity shall have jurisdiction--

(A) to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security pursuant to paragraph (1); or
(B) to order compensatory, declaratory, injunctive, equitable, or any other relief for damage alleged to arise from any such action or decision.

So, what's the big deal? We should make it easy for the DHS to build a wall between us and our neighbors to the south, right? Right?

Regardless of what you might think about the idea of a barrier, the real issue is part (2), in which Congress says -- quite literally -- that the Secretary of Homeland Security can do virtually anything he wants in the name of building this wall, and the courts have no authority whatsoever to act. If the Secretary, in his "sole discretion," thinks that it's necessary to drop Agent Orange over a strip on the border 10 miles wide, if the Secretary thinks it's necessary to hire paid assassins to kill people who just might be trying to impede construction of the wall, if the Secretary really likes your lake house and thinks it'd make a great weekend retreat -- well, tough cookies. According to this law, nobody has any recourse against him.

Okay. That last one might be an exaggeration, since the exemption from judicial review pertains to actions taken "to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads under this section". But the other stuff? Clearly within the purview of the statute.

And if Congress and the administration get away with this -- if they can carve out one area where the courts have no jurisdiction to protect our rights from the executive branch, and the courts acquiesce -- then there's no stopping them. Period.

But thank goodness the Democrats aren't still running the country. Because, you know, they wanted to improve your gas mileage and clean your water and stuff. Can't have that.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

This Is Kinda Fun

"Stretch out with your peelings."

And The Award Goes To ...

For least memorable URL ...


Fair is Fair

My brother would have you think that I'm a cruel man for giving him crappy books to read. It's only right that you should know that, once upon a time, he loaned me -- and recommended -- "Battlefield: Earth" by L. Ron Hubbard. And I vaguely remember him trying to get me started on Hubbard's "Mission Earth" series. So, you know, what goes around comes around.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Orson Scott Card

Mr. Card has pronounced Star Trek dead.

When a sci-fi author with multiple awards to his name says things like this, one feels obligated to listen. However, when he exposes his ignorance, you get to laugh while you listen.
As science fiction, the [original] series was trapped in the 1930s — a throwback to spaceship adventure stories with little regard for science or deeper ideas. It was sci-fi as seen by Hollywood: all spectacle, no substance.
Sure, there was little regard for real science. Can you name me a science-fiction television series that has had a grounding in real science? While I'm waiting for an answer (it may be a while), I'll dispute the notion that Star Trek had little regard for deeper ideas. It wasn't The Twilight Zone, true, but it wasn't exactly Here Come The Brides, either.
The later spinoffs were much better performed, but the content continued to be stuck in Roddenberry's rut.
Hardly fair, either. The later spinoffs were, it's true, better performed -- but the content was also much more mature, including the story arcs that Card elsewhere criticizes the original series for lacking.

Ultimately, Card's point is valid -- Star Trek is probably dead (or at least in need of a decent rest and some retooling). But I think it's pretty funny that the criticism is coming from Card -- who wrote the novella "Ender's Game" in 1978, and has since milked/reworked it for the following novels (including a short story collection):
  • Ender's Game
  • Speaker for the Dead
  • Xenocide
  • Children of the Mind
  • Ender's Shadow
  • Shadow of the Hegemon
  • Shadow Puppets
  • First Meetings: In The Enderverse
Aside from his Ender series, Card has written a bunch of crap (my opinion, and I freely admit to having read little of it). So I suppose he's as qualified as anybody to talk about the lack of originality and ideas in Star Trek as is anyone.

Friday, May 06, 2005


This is one of the most savvy posts about politics that I've read in a while.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Nothing Much

Kristi: still sick. Me: mostly better. Emma: healthy and beastly.

Yesterday's excitement: running a snake 15' down the bathtub drain to find and remove a blockage that Kristi's efforts with Drano had failed to budge. Total cost: under $7.00 for the snake, which really is an investment rather than a cost when you live in an older house.

When that's the highlight of your weekend, you pretty much know things were slow.

My experiment in porting CDFFL to a LAMP environment continues. I'm restricting myself to PHP4 and MySQL4, since later versions of PHP (with better OOP integration) and MySQL (with subselects) don't seem to be widely supported among the low-priced webhosts. What I'm finding is that PHP is a great idea in theory. In execution? Not so much. For one thing: no built-in interactive debugger. (I understand you can debug using third-party commercial or freeware software, but I'm talking about what's lacking in PHP itself.) Another thing: compilation errors tell you almost nothing about what the error was. Which reminds me of perhaps my biggest criticism: no way (at least, none I've found) to force the interpreter to require that you declare variables. Every Perl programmer knows the value of 'use strict;' -- there doesn't seem to be an equivalent feature in PHP.

I don't seem to be alone in my feeling that, as compared to Perl, PHP kinda sucks. Perhaps there are equivalent lists out there about how PHP is far superior to Perl, but I haven't found them. The fact is, I'd drop the whole PHP idea in favor of embPerl right now, if I felt secure that these cheaper hosting sites supported it. In any event, I'm learning something new -- even it is something kind of goofy.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

It's May!

It's snowing.

Is this really necessary?