April 30, 2007

Watches and Warnings

If you haven't been watching "Planet Earth" on Discovery, you should check it out now that it is in re-runs. My only problem with it is that I keep expecting narrator Sigourney Weaver to say, "I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit." Good stuff.

In other news, the kids have officially been put on Summer School Work Watch. This means conditions are right for the imposition of extra school work during the summer if I see a failing grade in any class. As of June 1, this may become a Summer School Work Warning, meaning extra school work is imminent and you should take cover.

12-year-old C*dy actually had the audacity to say to me in response to his 5th 6-week report card:

C*dy: "But I'm only failing two classes!"

Me: (sputter)

When the hell did the standard slip from A's and B's and try to get into honors classes to "at least I'm passing" to "I'm only failing two classes"? I've warned C*dy and Ashl*y (who loves to blow off classwork and ends up with PILES of unfinished worksheets in her backpack), who are both flunking classes that if their last 6-week report card shows a failing grade for any class during that period or for the semester average, they'll be doing school work in that subject every day this summer in order to earn any privileges like electronics, etc.

Sucks for me because I have to follow through on it (and I did over the Xmas break with C*dy, even though it was a huge headache). They'll be spending their own allowance money on workbooks that I will buy from a teacher supply store, and I'll give them a good hour's worth of work in a subject each day (which they often procrastinate out into 3-4 hours).

Of course, there is always the opportunity to earn extra money by doing any kind of school work (including copying stuff from an encyclopedia or geography atlas, that sort of thing ... I'll even let 'em copy stuff about Pokemon or whatever interests them as handwriting practice as long as it is super-neat), but they generally don't go for it unless they are truly desperate. They have learned over the summer not to sit around complaining of boredom and/or poverty, because they rarely like my proposed solutions to either or both.

We struggle like crazy to get them to do well in school, but there's a fine line between pushing and letting them take responsibility for their own education. I'm not going to do their homework for them, that's for damned sure, but I will help, and I like to think I'm pretty approachable about it. I'm asked for homework help at best once per month (a lot more if I am the one assigning the work, of course, for extra money or to make up for a failing grade).

The thing is, they just aren't aware enough of the consequences of screwing around. We've tried to make them aware. We ran into a cashier at W*l-mart a couple of weeks ago who spotted J*stin's new track/cross country letter jacket. She said, "Oh, hey, I graduated from there!"

This could've made for a perfect teachable moment, but J*stin didn't grasp the significance at all.

Posted by Observer at 10:28 PM | Comments (1)

April 29, 2007

Netflix for Web Sites

I've been killing a fair bit of time with Stumble Upon lately. This browser add-on acts like Netflix. It gets some basic preferences from you for starters, then you hit the "Stumble!" button. If you like what you see, you hit the "thumbs up" button. If you don't care, go to the next. If you don't like it, hit "thumbs down".

Over time, like Netflix, it supposedly gets better at finding the kinds of random sites that you like the stumble across. I've found several cool webcomics this way, and some neat browser games, too. One of my favorite comics is XCKD, and that link points to an extremely rare event in nature: the funny Astronomy cartoon (not counting the Far Side, which had several alien life cartoons but only a few good very good Astronomy cartoons). It would be nice to have a big database of good Astronomy humor instead of all of the Frank and Earnest "eh" level crap I usually see pop up in textbooks, talks and lectures.

Posted by Observer at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2007

Haircuts

One of the reasons I'm so cynical about the media is because I often ask myself questions like this: Why do I know how much John Edwards or Bill Clinton pays to have someone cut their hair while at the same time I've never heard how much Republican candidates pay to have a haircut? (Something of an answer here.)

Just wondering.

Posted by Observer at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2007

Troll Ecology, cont.

There was a time when I would've engaged the kind of idiot troll whose fan mail I posted below. I would've broken down his barely literate tirade point by point and explained how each part was mistaken or rooted in this or that myth, full of links, etc. But I've gotten past the point of wasting my time with such people. Now I just make fun of them. Atrios explains why this is the proper approach:

Probably the most successful kind of internet troll, the kind of troll unaware that it is actually attempting to troll, is the truly stupid person. They attract an immense amount of attention, bringing out all of our inner teachers. We cannot believe they are actually that stupid. We believe that maybe, somehow, if we explain things to them very slowly they will actually have the capacity to learn. But they don't. They are giant honking ignoramuses who don't know anything about anything and likely never will.

It's not that that don't know anything about anything, it's that they DON'T WANT TO KNOW anything about anything. They actively refuse to be taught and instead mock or threaten the teacher. They'll never admit they are wrong about anything and never progress much beyond the "first impression" that turns out to be remarkably accurate.

Still, I often wonder when the amusement wears off just what kind of people these are in reality.

Posted by Observer at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

New Planet

As expected, Astronomy Picture of the Day has coverage today of the new planet that was found, and I've been doing a bit of reading on it. Basically, this is being called a 5-Earth-mass planet, BUT that's a minimum mass. For all we know, the system is tilted with respect to our line of sight by 80 degrees and the true mass of the orbiting planet is closer to the mass of Jupiter than anything else, and that's just not "interesting enough" to merit all of the media coverage.

Statistically speaking, there is about a 65% chance that the planet is somewhere between 5 and 10 Earth masses. That's not good enough. This is a planet that was discovered using very sensitive radial velocity measurements of a wobbling star, and it is in a multi-planet system. So as far as long-term orbital stability (which is crucial for the development of complex life), who knows? It depends on the spacing of the planets.

No, this one is a disappointment. In a few years, the Kepler probe will go up, and it will use the "transit method", which means observing millions of stars and waiting for a few to have that periodic fractional dip in light that indicates a planetary transit. With radial velocity follow-up, we'll be able to get the planet's mass (since the system is edge-on) for sure as well as an estimate of the planet's size (the authors of the Gliese 581 paper can only speculate with little information to go on) based on the magnitude of the dip in the parent star's light and perhaps even a spectrum of the atmosphere if the star is close enough and bright enough.

If you got excited about this, just wait a few years. That's when the really cool stuff will start to happen in the search for extrasolar planets.

Posted by Observer at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2007

Fan Mail

You know, the casual reader of this blog probably wonders why I often take an impatient or angry tone when I'm posting or responding to comments, etc. Often when I'm referring to wingnuts, it sounds over the top. You think maybe I'm constructing some sort of idiotic strawman to criticize.

The thing is, though, these wingnuts are real, and they make up a significant fraction of the population (I would estimate somewhere between 15-20% of people feel this way, though a smaller fraction actually express it publicly). And they are a cancer, because for some reason, politicians can pander to them and get elected when the media does enough "pox on both houses" coverage to split the other 80% of Americans roughly in half. And that means the wingnuts win. That's how we get Congresscreatures like Smoky Joe Barton, Tom DeLay or Bill Frist.

Every once in a while, I get the random wingnut drive-by. They almost never get through the comment filter because they often are posting on ancient posts, like the Stupid Conservative Myth series that they accidentally stumbled across on google. Still, I think it is instructive once a year or so to air out these comments that I get a few times a month, just so you can get a taste of the full meal of mail I get to see. Here's one from yesterday from an IP address in the Bay Area:

libs fuck'n suck.furthermore,fdr,king,and bobby were not liberals by todays standards.do you really believe king,a baptist minister would support fag marriage or baby killing abortion clinics ? if you do then you're truly stupid.you say you've studied history.study roman history moron.they fell because they were decadent like you ignorant liberal scum with you're weak pussy asshole leniancy.i hope there is another civil war in america so we can get rid of you communist fags once and for all.

I'm always fascinated trying to imagine the life of such a pathetic human being. How does one grow up in today's world and hold views such as these? What must this poor guy's parents be like? What did he endure during his childhood?

And what is he capable of doing now?

Posted by Observer at 09:56 AM | Comments (3)

April 24, 2007

Physics Hero

Big storms rumbled through today and knocked out our power at about 2pm or so. It was a really nice thunderstorm, even a tornado almost touched down a couple of miles away. Daniel and I sat in the living room and watched it through the big window. He alternated between telling me stories from his storybook and asking me about all the rain, lightning and thunder. He likes any excuse to get his flashlight out, and the house was pretty close to pitch dark despite it being the middle of the day.

Anyway, after M*chelle got home and the power company told us it would be 930pm or so until the power was back on, we decided to throw the stuff that HAD to stay cold (like the milk) into the big freezer, which fortunately hadn't been defrosted for a while and so had a big reserve of negative thermal energy. Then we went out to Ch*li's for a big supper and to the bookstore to kill time until the power came back. That was much nicer than dealing with five semi-cranky impatient electricity-loving kids until the power came back on in the darkened, stuffy house.

I looked all over that bookstore and couldn't find anything that really struck me as something I want to read right now. I'll be more in a reading mood once I've gotten a little more tired of Heroes V (or Heroes III when I get frustrated by all the Heroes V crashing problems) and once finals week is done and I'm into a month or so of nothing to do. But that killed enough time. We got home about 10 minutes after the power came back on (hooray!!!).

I also tried an experiment today with the backyard that doesn't drain well. The properties on this street are kind of stairstepped down the hill, and we're on about the 5th step from the bottom. Unfortunately, our backyard has a bit of a bowl shape, and the drainage is further inhibited by a driveway that was poured between the backyard and the next house down the hill to one side. So there is a dam there.

When it rains hard enough, water overtops the driveway "dam" and drains out of the backyard, but once the rain ends, there is often an inch or so of standing water over a big swath of the backyard about the size of an average swimming pool. So I picked a couple of places in the yard where I thought the water was deepest and stuck garden hoses in strategically, placing the other end far enough down our driveway so that the siphoned water would drain into the street rather than onto our downhill neighbors, who have similar backyard problems.

It worked great! I mean, aside from choking on a couple of mouthfuls of rainwater from overenthusiastic siphoning. We got three inches of rain (so far) today, and there is no more standing water in the yard at all. I told my wife she should be jumping into the arms of her "Physics hero", but she was not as excited as I was.

Posted by Observer at 08:33 PM | Comments (5)

April 23, 2007

Frustrating

Now that Stargate SG-1 has begun showing seasons 1-5 in sequence on Sci-Fi, we're going to give it another go. I was glad to see in the TV version they cut out the Showtime scene from the pilot. We've now watched the first 10 or so episodes, and about 3-4 of them are good. Most are mediocre.

We just watched "Hathor" tonight, and what a disappointment. I was willing to suspend disbelief and assume Hathor (the goddess of love who controls all the men with some kind of pheromone) is found on Earth at the same time that the Stargate is open and so forth, and it was a very intriguing premise. But every five minutes, I was apalled at how stupidly certain conflicts were resolved, and how stupidly or illogically certain characters were forced to behave (even before they were under control by Hathor) in order to even set up what happened next.

Surely, SURELY, it is not that hard to write a believeable TV show. I'm not saying I could do it, but MY GOD. Why couldn't Joss Whedon have written Stargate? Are there no more writers out there that can put together clever, interesting plots within the confines of a TV show's rules? How does this show go for 10 seasons and Firefly get cancelled after a brilliant first half-season?

Why are all the first seasons of these series so bad before they hit their stride? You would think the writers who pitched these shows would have had some huge inspiration for several shows that would get made first, and then the quality would start to tail off once the original spurt of ideas wears off (like what I understand has happened with "Lost" or what I've seen happen as each season of "24" is worse and more shlocky than the last).

Isn't it possible to create a nice, multi-season continous storyline science fiction series that is better than "eh"? I mean, besides the new Battlestar Galactica?

Posted by Observer at 11:01 PM | Comments (3)

April 22, 2007

Dice Wars

A neat Risk-like game called "Dice Wars" is the latest addictive-for-a-day time-waster browser-based game I've found. You have been warned.

Posted by Observer at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

Faire

We went to the renfest thingy today for the 3rd year in a row, and it was great. A little tiring with two little ones, but the weather was absolutely perfect. Cloudy with a little breeze and about 75 degrees. That made the whole day wonderful, especially after both of us got mild sunburns watching C*dy's soccer game yesterday.

I wonder where some recent ozone measurements are, by the way? I remember being outside for hours as a kid and not getting a sunburn, but yesterday, I was outside for about 90 mins with clouds covering the sun at least half the time (thick cumulus clouds, mind you), and I'm mildly sunburned. And I'm not pale either, thanks in part to a bit of Cherokee blood and the fact that I'm outside a fair bit even on normal days. Weird.

Anyway, as usual, the food was totally overpriced and very yummy, especially the ribs and peasant bread (basically a big, flat fried pastry dipped in melted butter and you sprinkle your own cinnamon and sugar on top ... cheapest and tastiest thing at the faire). I gave the kids a little spending money, and they blew through it like they knew the nuclear war was coming tomorrow.

We were lucky that everyone got to go, because the 3-year-old, Daniel, was complaining last night of ear and mouth aches, and he woke up a little badly today. Still, by the time we had gotten most of the 25-part machine of a day trip moving, he was his old self and had a great time today. We got to spend much of the time with another couple we know who have two kids 12 and 14, just like C*dy and Ashl*y. C*dy is very good friends with their 12-year-old boy, and their 14-year-old has the hots for Ashl*y, who is happy to just have a good friend, I think.

So they had fun, and we got to visit a lot with another couple, which is very rare for us.

In other food-related news, I'm completely addicted to Coke-flavored Slurpees from 7-11. I have to have one just about every day, and I'm to the point where I often crave another one later in the day (but I limit myself to "only" one a day). And we had a turkey feast on Thursday which was very yummy. M*chelle made tetrazinni out of some of the leftovers last night, and that's going to make for awesome leftovers for at least a few days.

Posted by Observer at 08:23 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2007

Idol Talk

You can skip this one if you don't watch Survivor.

Better than American Idol by far is Survivor, where this week at last one of the hidden individual immunity idols came into play. I really thought after last week's vote in which Dreamz stupidly voted off a potential ally instead of his avowed enemy, he was done. And he still has no chance because he's just batshit crazy.

The only time he surprises me is when he DOESN'T change his alliance loyalties according to the latest conversation. The game was down to nine players, and Dreamz thought he was in a solid group of four that could add one more person, but the other five got their shit together and are now in a position to dominate the rest of the game, with five in the alliance and three left on the outside (including Dreamz, who in the end was loyal to the five but is still too crazy to trust).

Right now, there's a core of three people who are very loyal to one another, which is Earl, Yau-man and Cassandra. Connected to them are a couple of outcasts who have lost all of their allies, Boo and Stacy. That's the five currently in control, and if it does stay that way and get whittled down to five, then Earl, Yau-man and Cassandra will be the final three.

I don't see how it could change because even if Boo decided to switch to save himself by aligning with the other three guys now on the outside, it's 4-4 plus Boo would have to trust Dreamz, etc. And even then Boo would be on the outside of the new alliance, so he has to stay put and hope when it gets down to five he can win three immunity challenges in a row to make the final two. And Stacy won't switch because everyone hates her, so she's clinging to this alliance to go as far as she can, probably hoping to get paired up in the final two because she's so hated.

If I had to pick a favorite to win now, it would be Yau-man. He has surprised everyone with his performance in the challenges and earned a lot of respect for a little old guy, plus he's very nice to everyone. Earl is also nice and has the presence of a born leader, but I think if people have to pick one of those two to win, they'll pick Yau-man. I never would've picked Yau-man as a likely winner during the first few weeks, but there is obviously a lot of stuff going on off-camera that we don't get to see. He obviously did a lot of sweet-talking to save himself during that time in the game where the two tribes are just worried about voting off the weak, the old and the females in that order.

Posted by Observer at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)

The Company He Keeps

I remember back during the 2000 election, Bush answered questions about his lack of experience by assuring us that he would surround himself with good people, a brilliant team to help him be a great leader.

Watching a little and reading a lot of Alberto's testimony today made me long for the kind of simple incompetence shown by Donald Rumsfeld or "Heckuvajob" Brownie or the quaint oh-by-the-way corruption of Paul Wolfowitz or any of Jack Abramoff's contacts in the administration. Unfortunately, when incompetence and corruption mix in the Justice Department, the toxic sewage really hurts America.

I think I'm about done being an angry liberal. Now I'm just sad because I know nothing is going to really change until and unless Democrats somehow win the presidency in spite of the many obstacles arrayed against them. I don't care who the nominees are. It is crucial that a Democrat win the presidency. Hell, I'd even give Congress back to the Republicans if I knew we had to in order to get the presidency.

The simple truth is that the Executive Branch needs a top-to-bottom scrubbing. The last six years has been all about loyalty over competence and no oversight. A Democratic Congress has restored some of the oversight, and the FBI seems to be catching up with some of it as well despite the politicization of their top level appointees (two Republican congressmen have resigned their committee posts this week after FBI investigations bore down on them). Two more years of bright light shining on the cockroaches will be good, and ideally, I'd like to see it continue.

Investigations into the last six years of everything wrong are going to take at least another six years. A Democratic administration would help with that simply by removing all the Bush fanatics who are preventing oversight in the Justice department, the Pentagon, the EPA and countless other agencies whose leaders are appointees. We need to replace them with objective, competent prosecutors, judges and other appointees. That by itself would do wonders for the well-being of the country. I have a feeling what we're seeing is only the surface rot, and real bad stuff won't come to light until the Bushies are cleaned out.

You can put me down as a "never vote for McCain" guy, but it's nothing against McCain. For all I know, he's the most harmless of the Republicans trying for the nomination. There's just no fucking way I'd vote for a Republican for any office right now. The party is all about looting the treasury and maintaining their hold on power by any means necessary. The good of the country isn't even on their radar.

I used to think in some limited cases there could be "honorable Republicans". For example, when Dems were really into gun control, I could understand Republicans voting on that single issue. But now Dems have more or less abandoned efforts at gun control, with the leadership giving out a firm "NO" when publicly asked if gun control should be a response to the VT tragedy.

Or abortion, but after 12 years of controlling Congress and no new meaningful federal legislation, surely people see that they're just being strung along. Of course, I could still see a firm pro-lifer voting for a Republican president and Senator just to keep trying to stack the Supreme Court, I suppose, if that's your only issue.

Aside from that, the only thing left is the super-rich voting for Republicans because it makes simple economic sense for them. It's a damned selfish attitude to take, but if they're willing to dodge taxes by putting headquarters offshore or other such tricks, they don't really have the country's best interests at heart anyway, so there's nothing to be done.

I don't see how, out of these very limited groups, you can build a majority back again for Republicans. I mean, stupid people add a lot to both sides, but stupid only gets you 25% on each side. The middle 50% is where you win or lose, and I can't see it. Then again, I couldn't believe the 2000 election was close enough for the Supreme Court to steal it, and I couldn't belive the 2004 election was close enough for Ohio to decide it (and I'm convinced by the statistical evidence there was some funny business with electronic voting that turned it). So what do I know?

Posted by Observer at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2007

Unelectable

The knock on Hillary is that is "unelectable", that too many Americans are dead set against her being president, so there's no way she can please enough of the rest to win the presidency.

Recent polls show that 45% of people would never consider voting for her as a presidential candidate. Quite a high threshold.

Of course, as Greg Sargent helpfully points out, 47% of people would never consider voting for John McCain as a presidential candidate. Huh, I wonder if we'll hear from the traditional media and sensible centrist pundits how "unelectable" McCain is.

Posted by Observer at 04:46 PM | Comments (1)

Get It?

In Michael Moore's next movie on the state of health care in the United States, he takes some of the 9/11 first responders to Cuba. Why? Well, it seems a lot of these first responders have all kinds of ailments caused by breathing in a bunch of toxic crap down there despite the fact that the Bush administration assured them all was well. And now they can't get treatment for it for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that Bush loves to have firefighters in his photo ops but hates paying them living wages or offering them decent benefits.

So to make a point, Moore takes them down to Cuba, where a lot of them get treatments that can't get because they either aren't available or aren't affordable in the United States. The first responders are all very grateful for the help, and Moore makes his point about the sorry state of affairs. Now, I'm sure these people got better health care in Cuba than any Cuban citizen has ever received. Cuba loves propaganda that embarrasses us Yankees, but who the hell cares? If it shames us into fixing the system here, I'm all for it.

Joke Line responds with a blog post that reads, in its entirety: "Michael Moore is a disgrace."

This guy who calls himself a big liberal and wonders why we're all bashing him. Hell, he's never met a Democrat he couldn't bash, but at the same time, he loves to talk about the bold leaders in the Republican party. He frequently makes disparaging references to "the left wing" of the Democratic party, speaking as though reading from a list of the latest right-wing talking points put out by Drudge and Limbaugh.

Anyway, a lot of commenters wondered exactly why Joke Line used such harsh (dare I say "angry"?) language about Moore. What is the big problem? Can't Moore make a point? Is it really fair to reserve the term "disgrace" for someone like Moore with the kind of stuff that's been coming from the Bush administration for six years?

Anyway, Klein went on to explain himself a little further today, saying:

If Moore wanted to demonstrate the sketchiness of the U.S. health care system, why not film the 9/11 victims getting care in Canada? Why Cuba? Cuba is a prison camp, a living demonstration of the evils of communism and the economic failure of socialism.

Among the many good replies was this one:

And yet Cuba still has better health care than America.

Get it?

Do you get it now??

It's easy to understand how pundits like Joke Line miss the point here. They're too busy looking for ways to take cheap shots at liberal icons like Moore or Russ Feingold or Al Gore or Bill Clinton, so they don't bother with analysis. They're just trying to get credibility as "pox on both houses" sensible centrists. And so the political discourse is further degraded while they cash another big paycheck and head to the Hamptons for an early weekend.

Update: Here is a story with some perspective on the French single-payer system, just for some input from someone with experience.

Posted by Observer at 02:46 PM | Comments (5)

Stupid Video

I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking this, but NBC releasing the video of the VT killer is a perfect example of what I've been talking about as the major problem of the traditional media. Instead of acting in the public's interest by turning over the video to the FBI without glorifying this freak and encouraging others to follow him, NBC chose instead to publish something that would interest the public and guarantee ratings.

I'm glad every picture and video of this guy apparently is plastered with the NBC logo. It lets everyone know who is responsible.

Posted by Observer at 07:42 AM | Comments (1)

April 18, 2007

NRA Dream

One of Eric Alterman's letter writers is Army Lt. Col Bob Bateman, who recently returned from duty in Iraq, and he comments on wingnut responses to the Virginia Tech shootings:

I am sick of stories about guns, and how the blessed Founding Fathers wanted every little patriot baby to grow up with a Kentucky long-rifle over the mantle. It is a lie. It is a myth. The very idea is a concoction by people who want to believe something, regardless of the facts, and the fact that the lie has deep roots does not make it any more accurate.

I am sick of stories about people who claim that "guns don't kill people, people kill people." Bullshit. You do not see 70+ people, or even 40, or 20 ... or, (you get the picture) randomly gunned down in any of the countries where the tools of violence are confined to the authorities.

I am sick of idiots with an agenda pretending that what happened at Virginia Tech is not because we have too many damned guns in this country. Muzzle-loading blackpowder rifles, single-shot breech-loading hunting rifles, and single-barrel breech-loading shotguns, and that is about it, are all that should be allowed. Those tools can be used, legitimately, to hunt. You want more, move. Leave the United States to those who know the difference between something that is useful for hunting, and something that replaces the manhood you never attained. If you want more, join the Army. If you can't do that, and if you still want something that reloads quickly and gives you plenty of shots, BUY A DAMNED BOW!

But what really puts me over the top is one particular brand of NRA stupidity. That is the myth of the Wild West. In other words, if I hear one more stupid gun-loving sonuvabitch talk about how, "Well, if they just had allowed all those students to have guns, this lunatic at Virginia Tech wouldn'ta got far," I am going to slap his dumb ass on the first plane smokin' for Iraq, where I would like to personally drop him off, with as many guns as he would like, in Dora (that's a particularly nasty South Baghdad neighborhood with which I am familiar).

Yes, Dora would be perfect. In my mind's eye I am imagining plopping said gun nut off outside the blue-painted major police sub-station, just about six or seven blocks from another walled-in compound which is now a police barracks (or, at least it was, last year.). As a microcosm, Dora should be the NRA's dream town, as it perfectly matches the NRA "Wild West" theory of what is needed in a society: honor is important to the individual; the family is the most important part of society; all of the inhabitants are very religious (except for when they are not); and absolutely everyone has at least one gun.

Posted by Observer at 06:15 PM | Comments (3)

Then and Now

Tom Tomorrow is good this week.

You may think that last panel is something of a comical characature or exaggeration, but it actually closely echoes Jay Carney's comments when he said, "In this case some liberals are seeing broad partisan conspiracies where none likely exist." Carney is the Washington Bureau Chief for Time Magazine. This was after we already knew the basics of the case. Carney has since softened his stance, to be fair, but the initial resistance is standard operating procedure with the traditional media for any Bush scandal.

As Bob Somerby always says, the real scandal these days is not what Fox News and Rush Limbaugh are doing. It's what the traditional so-called "liberal" media is doing. They're the ones who are starting the most harmful narratives about Democratic candidates, the ones who accept a character like Drudge as their leader.

Posted by Observer at 09:55 AM | Comments (0)

Conversations, continued

Me: "Come on! COME ON! Pick a GODDAMNED lane!"

Daniel: "Daddy, what did you say?"

Me: "Uh, I said I was mad at that stupid person."

Daniel: "Daddy, you said a bad thing."

Posted by Observer at 07:54 AM | Comments (2)

April 17, 2007

Progressive Taxes

Long ago, some concern troll commented in my blog as to why I support progressive taxation instead of some mythical "flat" tax in which everyone pays the same percentage of taxable income or, worse, the same dollar amount. I've found a more thorough and well-written response (surprise) that I thought I would share since it says essentially what I was saying back then, just more effectively.

First off, the "flat tax" people like to talk about how easy the system would be, how easy it would be to figure your taxes. Well, no, because what's hard about taxes is not figuring out exactly what percentage of your income goes to the gummint. It's figuring out your taxable income. That's 50+ lines of the tax form right there, and that's without itemizing. Once you've determined your taxable income, it takes about 10 more lines to get your tax thanks to tax credits (which is just a more progressive way of reducing your taxable income).

Anyway, in principle, progressive taxes may seem unfair to people, like a "punishment" for the wealthy, but this article is the best explanation I've seen in a while of why the concept of progressive taxation is the best for America:

Taxes are part of our common wealth, what we all share. Protection and empowerment serve the common good. Because of our common wealth, we are all protected and America's empowering infrastructure is available to all. That is a fundamental America value: The common wealth should serve the common good. It benefits everyone.

Citizens are financially responsible to maintain this common wealth. If we shirked this responsibility, we could not maintain our roads, fund our schools, protect ourselves from military threats, enforce our laws, and so on. Equally importantly, we could not create prosperity for ourselves, because we would have no protection of our intellectual property, no oversight of our markets, no means to enforce our contracts, no way to educate most of our children.

Several main progressive values support the idea of progressive taxation. One is the belief that the common wealth should be used for the common good. Another is responsibility, the responsibility that citizens have to pay for the benefits we receive from our common wealth. And still another is fairness. These values intertwine on the question of progressive taxation.

Few people dispute this responsibility at some level. Disagreements generally arise over the amount and the relative apportionment of the responsibility. Differing concepts of fairness drive this debate. While many progressives say it is only fair that those who earn more pay a higher percentage of their earnings as taxes compared to those who have difficulty making ends meet, conservatives respond by asserting that it is unfair to "punish" the financially successful by making them pay more.

An important point often lost in this debate is an appreciation that the common wealth, which our taxes create and sustain, empowers the wealthy in myriad ways to create their wealth. We call this compound empowerment — the compounded use of the common wealth by corporations, their investors, and other wealthy individuals.

Consider Bill Gates. He started Microsoft as a college dropout and has become the world's richest person. Though he has undoubtedly benefited from his unusual intelligence and business acumen, he could not have created or sustained his personal wealth without the common wealth. The legal system protected Microsoft's intellectual property and contracts. The tax-supported financial infrastructure enabled him to access capital markets and trade his stock in a market in which investors have confidence. He built his company with many employees educated in public schools and universities. Tax-funded research helped develop computer science and the internet. Trade laws negotiated and enforced by the government protect his ability to sell his products abroad. These are but a few of the ways in which Mr. Gates' accumulation of wealth was empowered by the common wealth and by taxation.

As Warren Buffet famously observed, he likely couldn't have achieved his financial success had he been born in Bangladesh instead of the United States, because Bangladesh had no banking system and no stock market.

Ordinary people just drive on the highways; corporations send fleets of trucks. Ordinary people may get a bank loan for their mortgage; corporations borrow money to buy whole companies. Ordinary people rarely use the courts; most of the courts are used for corporate law and contract disputes. Corporations and their investors — those who have accumulated enough money beyond basic needs so they can invest — make much more use, compound use, of the empowering infrastructure provided by everybody's tax money.

The wealthy have made greater use of the common good—they have been empowered by it in creating their wealth—and thus they have a greater moral obligation to sustain it. They are merely paying their debt to society in arrears and investing in future empowerment.

This is the fundamental truth that motivates progressive taxation.

This is something we need to get back to, but I doubt it will happen while the super-rich control the debate. Too many of them, unlike Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, are just looking out for themselves and trying to cut their taxes, move their corporate headquarters offshore, outsource their labor force and so on, all the while waving the flag and calling themselves great American patriots. We should ship 'em out to Nigeria or something and let them enjoy life there for a while.

Thanks to The Sideshow for the link.

Posted by Observer at 10:30 PM | Comments (2)

Narratives

Looks like the official narrative of the traditional media has now been set. Apparently, John Edwards is just a "pretty boy" who likes expensive haircuts, etc. Remember, this isn't Fox News or Rush or Hannity doing this.

This is the Associated Press.

The same Associated Press that happily ignores the $700 haircuts of Laura Bush because it doesn't fit the narrative of the "down-to-earth" Bush family.

Thanks, "liberal" media!

Posted by Observer at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

April 16, 2007

Casualties

It's horrible what happened in Virginia today with that crazy gunman killing 32 people. Of course, if it were Iraq, this would hardly make the front section. Only 32 killed? Hell, in Iraq today, they lost over 50 is various violent incidents, but it hardly merits a blip on the news radar. Larry Johnson has more details.

Mission Accomplished.

Posted by Observer at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2007

Sharpton

Atrios puts his problems with the media and Al Sharpton concisely today:

Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are not the only black people in America, and more than that they do not have the ability to force themselves onto your news shows. There's a pattern here:

1) Bigot eruption somewhere
2) Lots of people condemn it
3) Al Sharpton goes on every teevee program
4) The media people turn around and use Sharpton's past as a distraction/excuse for the current bigot eruption

If Al Sharpton is an imperfect spokesperson for an issue, and you keep putting him on the teevee to be the spokesperson for that issue, then the obvious conclusion is that this is a deliberate strategy.

Posted by Observer at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2007

Tier 4 Schools

Bill Maher had a funny commentary on his show recently about lawyers in the Bush administration, many of whom have graduated from a "Tier 4" law school run by Pat Robertson. Of course, when they get into trouble with the law, do you think any of these high-ranking important lawyers in the administration will hire one of their colleagues? No, they go out and hire REAL lawyers with REAL law degrees.

Their top priority is prosecuting "voter fraud". You know how this works, right? They claim that minorities and illegals are voting en masse to stuff the ballot box for Democrats, so in response, they publicly promise to "crack down" on this horrible problem by installing "poll watchers" and the like. The real purpose here is to scare traditional Democrats (minorities) away from voting, because even when the US Attorneys are going all voter fraud all the time, they manage to find about 100 cases in the entire country, most of which is someone who forgot to file a change of address or some technicality, not the kind of organized mass illegal voting that supposedly goes on all the time.

In fact, correct me if I'm wrong, but has there been an actual case of voter fraud that involved, say, more than a dozen people recently? In federal elections, mind you. I'm not talking about Joe Blow printing up a bunch of fake ballots to win the dogcatcher election in Podunk City.

Republicans know this, but they pretend otherwise so that they have plausible deniability when someone points out that this kind of systematic behavior is, you know, racist. Pretty ironic these guys going around waving their purple fingers to celebrate a big vote in Iraq (things sure got better after THAT, didn't they?) while back here at home trying to keep people from voting in free and fair elections.

Posted by Observer at 10:05 PM | Comments (2)

April 13, 2007

GYWO

Some choice quotes from recent editions of Get Your War On. Some of these may be repeats from the last time I looked at GYWO, but they're still funny to me:

What do you think of the White House's latest constitutional analysis? Did it convince you the NSA wiretaps are legal? Or were you maybe too busy wiping up Thomas Jefferson's ghost-vomit to notice?

--

Guy #1: "Good news, brother! John McCain is giving a speech at Jerry Falwell's university! Jesus must be pumped!"

Guy #2: "Someone should ask McCain if he agrees with Falwell that 9/11 was caused by the ACLU and lesbians. Because it her does, he'll have to support bombing Lilith Fair."

Guy #1: "You know, if you pay attention between now and 2008, you'll actually be able to see McCain turn into a complete fucking joke before your eyes. And then you'll have been tortured."

--

Girl #1: "To tell you the truth, I'm so sick of reading about ups and downs in Iraq I haven't opened a newspaper since February."

Girl #2: "'Ups and downs?' There have been ups?"

--

Here's something I don't get: If God told Bush to invade Iraq, why didn't God stick around and tell him how to handle the postwar situation?

--

I'd be worried about it if I didn't think President Bush's skillful leadership would help resolve the situation peacefully and fairly. Wait ... is that bullshit I taste in my mouth?

--

Too bad the writ of habeus corpus wasn't written in 1990! Because then it would be sixteen years old, and people would be scandalized when politicians starting fucking with it.

--

A Justice Department official refusing to testify ... I like it. It's very Zen. It's like a Department of Transportation official who refuses to use transportation and just walks everywhere.

Posted by Observer at 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2007

Night Out

Looking forward to Saturday. I'm teaching a couple of workshops in the morning (always nice to earn extra money) for the school district, and then we'll take advantage of the nice weather. A campus organization offers free babysitting for faculty once per semester, and we're going to take advantage to go see a little live music outdoors at a place near home.

This has been a busy week, and I'm glad to see it ending. Life should be normal for me (which is to say, very easy) until the end of the semester hits and I have lots of tests and grading in a short time period, plus all of the grade grubbing that goes along with it.

Oh, and if anyone reading this is following Survivor, what you just witnessed tonight from Dreamz was the single dumbest vote in the history of the show. I don't know what the hell that guy was thinking, but he just screwed himself, his allies and ensured that the person in the game he hates the most will go a lot further than himself. And he had the power to get rid of that person. Dumb dumb dumb.

Posted by Observer at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2007

Gigantic Relief

Little Daniel turns four in July, and at long last, it seems like we've broken through and got it into his head that he needs to poop on the potty instead of in his diaper. The conversations leading up to it were very funny.

Things like, "But my poop wants to stay home in my diaper!"

"No, Daniel, poop wants to live in the potty."

"Oh."

After three hours of thinking about it, Daniel agreed that poop would rather swim and live in the potty instead of in his diaper.

Convincing Daniel of anything is a funny kind of challenge. You can't use reality-based logic on the boy. You have to get into his little bizarro world and play by his rules to convince him of something. Want him to eat lunch? Well, his belly says he needs to play trains first, so you have to have a dialogue in which you convince him that his belly would prefer a peanut butter sandwich, etc. It takes a lot of creativity, but it always makes us laugh.

Posted by Observer at 07:27 PM | Comments (5)

Anatomy of a Lie

Eric Boehlert has a great column outlining the whole story of the smear running around on wingnut web sites regarding CNN reporter Michael Ware, who supposedly "heckled" John McCain at a Baghdad press conference last week.

What's funny is not so much how they were completely, embarrassingly, demonstrably crazy wrong (no surprise) but just how non-existent or oh-by-the-way their (sort of) corrections/retractions were. These guys just can't accept being wrong about anything. Even the rare few who followed up didn't wholeheartedly cop to being wrong, and certainly none apologized.

The behavior of the wingnut warbloggers is eerily similar to the way ABC has behaved in response to Glenn Greenwald's research into their horrible treatment of the anthrax attacks back in the day when we were looking for reasons to go to war with Iraq. They trumpet the story for days on end, fitting it all comfortably into their overall worldview and making all kinds of sarcastic points, then when it all blows up, they say, "Oh, uh, this may have been wrong in some way, but on to the next story" at the very end or as a brief aside.

Then when you call them, they either claim they were right all along or that yeah, maybe they were wrong, but hey, they issued a full and complete correction and retraction, so what are you whining about? Uncanny, really, that a once-respected news organization's standards have fallen to "wingnut" level. Sad.

Posted by Observer at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

War Czar

This story really boggled my mind today. Apparently, the Bush administration is looking for a "war czar" to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to direct the Pentagon and the State Department.

As Atrios says, I thought that position was already filled by the Boy King, who wingnuts like to remind us (in response to our treasonous criticisms of the glorious administration) is the COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMED FORCES. Or at the very least, can someone explain to me then what the hell the SECRETARY OF DEFENSE is supposed to do?

Do we also need a Signing Czar who is responsible for reading legislation submitted by Congress and deciding whether or not to sign it into law? How about an Appointments Czar, who is responsible for selecting individuals to be Supreme Court justices or fill other important positions in the federal government?

Vacation Czar? Nah, that's already handled.

Posted by Observer at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2007

From the Ground Up

Joke Line has another spat with Eric Alterman and again comes out looking pretty foolish. His commenters have some good advice for him, though:

See, Joe, the problem you have is that Alterman is just much more credible than you. Thus, his story seems believable, while yours does not.

Sorry to break it to you this way.

--

From Eric: "To put it bluntly, most MSM pundits are lazy, ill informed and in thrall to the specious arguments of the powerful people they are supposed to critique. The punditocracy may not like the blogosphere's diagnosis, but there is really only one way to get it off its collective back: Work harder, do a better job. It's really that simple."

Take it to heart in a professional, not personal manner. Just do your job BETTER!!! Quit being a mouthpiece for Political Hacks, engage in Thoughtful Analysis and learn to incorporate Constructive Criticism into your work. It happens to me every day as a lawyer. We (the normal non-elite working class - I don't get invited to cocktail parties and smooze with Elites down here in Houston) are REQUIRED to do ours or we get FIRED! Just do yours buddy. That is all we ask.

--

Alterman is a political media analyst. He writes about the media as it presents itself. As a professor of mine once drilled "It is the text. The text. The text." I think blogging has been very good for you but when he goes after you it is because he is not looking for your non-text motivations or interests, he's looking at how you present. Your text.

--

Alterman explains that pre-blogosphere, pundits (not to mention journalists) like Klein could get away with even the most non-sensical declarations imaginable because there was no means of disseminating informed critiques of the pundit's nonsense to a wide audience.

Klein assumed that he would be writing his Time column with the same privileges and lack of accountability that columnists had enjoyed in the past -- and was unprepared to deal with the fact that his Beltway based bloviating bullshit was being torn apart in public on a continuing basis.

Klein apparently thought that the blogosphere's reputation for "off the cuff" remarks would allow him to continue to spew nonsense without accountability -- what Joe still doesn't understand is that the reason that the "stars" of the progressive blogosphere achieved and maintain their popularity is because they are reliable, and very seldom say stuff that is completely and transparently moronic. So Joe jumped head-first into Swampland, thinking he could get away with being an idiot.

Unfortunately, the only people who can get away with being idiots in the blogosphere are those that have no readership -- which isn't the case with a group blog that features the original Wonkette and is being put out by Time Magazine. So Joe is still constantly stepping in it (as in Mr. Anonymous trying to stake a claim to intellectual honesty...)

The smart thing for Joe to do would be to go back to being "anonymous" --- write a blog under a pseudonym, and see if anyone thinks he's actually worth reading. My guess is that he'd be quite disappointed with the traffic that he gets, because quite frankly he primary contribution to the blogosphere at this point is to provide the Swampland readership with a constant stream of (at best) pointless and (generally) ill-informed posts to make fun of.

....and there are tens of thousands of wanna-be big shot bloggers out there who are doing that already. [Hello, I'm from Carpe Datum, and I'm here to help you!]

--

Joe said, "when I tried to have a discussion with Eric, he refused".

That SHOULD have been the end of it. But its symptomatic of how the Beltway media works that Joe insisted upon trying to hold a conversation with Alterman.

What makes Alterman such an asset as a media analyst is that he is not part of The 500 -- and has no desire to be part of it. The most pernicious force in the media is the compromises that journalists and columnists make because they are afraid to write honestly about people they will see on the DC social circuit. Klein insistence upon engaging Alterman in conversation was "natural" for Beltway bloviators like him who use social contacts and the pretension of social civility to insulate themselves from criticism.

Thank god for people like Alterman, who refuse to play that game.

--

Oh, for heaven's sake, Joe, GROW UP.

Alterman is an analyst and a critic, not a reporter. His concern is -- and should be -- only with what you say and write publicly. He isn't interested in what you "meant" to say or how well-meaning you are or what a mensch you may be when you're at home. His role is to dissect what you actually did say, what's in the public record.

And honestly, the WHOLE POINT of the growing objection to MSM, and Beltway pundits like you in particular, is that bonding over Springsteen and the Mets between reporters and sources, or analysts and analysands, is exactly what's corroded the whole process. Alterman has been the guy who pinpointed exactly this problem a long time ago, and he was right.

NO WONDER Alterman wasn't interested in your pathetic pleas about all the things you have in common. He doesn't want to be your buddy, Joe.

That's the most striking thing about this story. Klein was trying to exert some sort of social pressure on Alterman, fight Alterman on Klein's own turf (the cocktail party, in front of Klein's peers), but Alterman refused. So Klein complains about how he is mistreated while Alterman tells the story and then goes back to criticizing what Klein writes, which is his JOB. Who's being the grown-up here?

It's easy to pick on Klein, and it is important because (1) he is treated as a "liberal", so if he doesn't start acting and writing like one on a regular basis, he's misrepresenting a huge part of the politically aware population. And (2) I'd like to think Klein is somewhat redeemable, that he might change his ways and be a good (or at least popular) spokesperson for liberal ideas that right now aren't getting much play.

Obviously, Klein isn't the kind of horrific, toxic presence that is Hannity, Coulter or Limbaugh, but those three you can't talk to. They're solidified in their roles of hate and lies, and that's what makes them rich. It's a given that they're a big part of the problem and nothing you say or do directly to them will do anything about it. You have to put pressure on those who publish their crap or broadcast it, hoping they have the sense to be more responsible.

With someone like Klein, you'd like to think you can talk some sense into them. I understand Klein's frustration that he seems to take so much abuse despite agreeing with most of the "liberal" viewpoints on things, but he should be proud that liberals consider him worth the effort. I wouldn't bother with a wingnut troll.

Maybe after a year or two of blogging, he'll come out of this a better pundit, more willing to add something of substance to the political discourse rather than a bunch of "Hillary talks too much" or "Obama seems so inexperienced" or "Gore is an exaggerator, and it's his fault for not correcting that impression" narratives to the news media that the Moron American is exposed to daily.

I like the 4th comment that Klein ought to start an anonymous blog and see how many readers he gets trying to build from the ground up without the imprimateur of "Time" or his name recognition. I doubt he would get anywhere near the kind of popularity and respect as any C-list blogger of any political affiliation. He's not good enough right now.

Posted by Observer at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2007

Ick

Little Ben has herpangina, which is basically a virus that causes sores in his mouth and throat for a few days. Very painful, no real treatment except to try various things to soothe the pain. We have to wait it out three to six days. Today is probably day 3 since he started feeling crappy on Saturday. We're telling ourselves that the worst was yesterday and last night, which was as bad as we had feared.

Posted by Observer at 12:44 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2007

Three Runs

Ranger offense "exploded" for nine runs on Saturday, during the coldest game ever played at the Ballpark in Arlington. Unfortunately, after six games, we're basically averaging only three runs per game. That's not going to get it done under any circumstances, long-term. Oh well, the Double A's are coming to town, which is usually a tonic for any struggling team. I read in the paper today that the Tampa Bay owner claims that with a $24 million payroll and attendance of around 1 million per year that his franchise is losing a lot of money.

Bullshit.

In other news, baby Ben has a bad fever and some kind of infection we're going to get checked out tomorrow. We would've taken him to a Doc in the Box tonight, but nothing was open. Going to be a long night for my sweetie, who is also suffering from some kind of crud or maybe allergies.

Posted by Observer at 10:21 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2007

Supply Side Myth

Bob Somerby helpfully points out that not even the founders of supply-side economics in the 70's, the intellectual brain trust that championed Reagan's initial tax cuts (that Reagan later mostly reversed), claimed that tax cuts increase revenues. He rhetorically wonders why the traditional media never bothers to point out that this claim is completely full of shit.

The answer, of course, is that the pundits, editors and publishers who decide what opinions get aired are all millionaires who benefit the most from Republican tax cuts. So it suits their purposes to just let the Republicans spout off about how tax policy is all about the proverbial free lunch.

Posted by Observer at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

Coerced

From Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle:

Posted by Observer at 06:48 PM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2007

A Win

The home opener for the Rangers was a win, but they've now opened the season with nine runs in four games. This is looking a lot like last year (which is no huge surprise since the roster is mostly the same) when we had average to above-average pitching coupled with bottom-third-of-the-league offense. That's a recipe for mediocrity and boring baseball.

Posted by Observer at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

Mars Warming

By the way, I am aware of recent studies indicating that the global average temperature on Mars has been naturally increasing for at least the past few years due to changes in the reflectivity of the planet (due to increasing dust storms and decreasing ice caps).

For some reason, wingnuts are seeing this story as a reason to magically assert that global warming on Earth is a big liberal fantasy or something. Uh, actually, no one is saying that the Earth doesn't undergo natural climatic fluctuations. What we're talking about is an artifically induced variable that can dramatically alter our climate out of the range normally produced by natural variations, which themselves can be quite significant.

And feedbacks play an important role. For example, one concern we have is that a mild warming caused by increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could be amplified if it causes the reflectivity of the planet to change due to receding ice caps (see first paragraph). Not to mention such a recession of ice, if the ice is land-based, could cause dramatic sea-level rises as depicted in Gore's movie in a timescale as short as the next 100 years.

You may not like what the scientists are saying, and there is always the possibility that the majority of the scientists are wrong. However, that is unlikely. You can try to think of this as another "on the one hand..." issue in which the objective truth is just too difficult to know, but science doesn't work like political debates. Reality can and will intrude, often quite rudely, on people who believe junk science.

You may think Al Gore is "insert wingnut fantasy liberal personality flaw here", but the truth is he is simply relaying the scientific consensus on global warming to the rest of the world. That consensus isn't going to change just because Gore has a big electric bill or whatever other sin you wish to ascribe to him.

Posted by Observer at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

Life Gets More Complicated

Our 11-month-old, Ben, is now officially tall enough to touch the keys on my keyboard as I am trying to type.

Posted by Observer at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2007

IOKIYAR

The same old principle keeps rearing its ugly head in the traditional media coverage of politics: It's OK If You're A Republican.

The latest crazy thing is that, first of all, outlets like CNN (and Fox, of course, but I had higher hopes for CNN) are still acting like Nancy Pelosi is somehow undermining the American government with a trip to Syria. At the same time, these same outlets are ignoring the fact that more than one delegation has come and gone from Syria within the past month (all Republican-led), and at least one WAS AUTHORIZED BY THE PRESIDENT. Yes, the same guy whose press secretary said no one should go over there at all because it gives Assad publicity and credibility. "Full stop."

Why do media outlets not report this obvious hypocrisy? I mean, they're so "liberal" and all, you think they'd be jumping up and down and screaming about it, but somehow Pelosi is being portrayed as either some lonely kook who doesn't know what she's doing or a modern-day Mata Hari out to undermine America for the terrorists.

Even better is Glenn Greenwald's research where he uncovered another Speaker of the House going to visit an adversary, only this time it was 1997 and Newt Gingrich went to China and publicly made several statements undermining stated Clinton administration policies.

You know all those guys today who work for Bush who like to talk about how Congress shouldn't interfere with the workings of the executive branch? The ones who are criticizing Pelosi for her trip to Syria? Yeah, do you suppose any of them were criticizing Newt back then?

Sadly, the only message the Moron American will get is that some upstart woman is on a power trip and wants to play diplomat after she was told "no" by daddy. It's a simple narrative and one the traditional media is not only not fighting back against. No, they're actively pushing the script! What the hell?

Looking back over the past six years, I can honestly say that my opinions on things haven't really changed all that much. Oh sure, sometimes I get new information and hear new arguments and my thinking my evolve a bit on an issue to the left or right, but overall, I'm in about the same place on the political spectrum that I've always been. I think my archives prove it. So why is it that the traditional media seems to me to be getting crazier and crazier?

Posted by Observer at 11:26 PM | Comments (5)

April 04, 2007

Swept

What a crappy way to open the season. Three games on the West Coast, with two starting after 9pm and one in the middle of a workday. I didn't get to see any of them, which is probably a good thing since we got swept by the stupid Anaheim Los Angeles California Angels of Los Angeles and Anaheim. Those guys put together what looks to be a crappy roster on paper every year despite spending a fortune, and yet like the A's, they totally own us.

I'd like to revise my season prediction of 85 wins downward to 72, if there are no objections. What the hell was I thinking, picking this team to finish above .500 for the 2nd time in eight years?

Posted by Observer at 11:10 PM | Comments (3)

April 03, 2007

How Much?

Conversations with our three-year old, part CLXVII:

Me: "How much do you love mommy?"

D*niel: "A lot!"

Me: "How much is a lot?"

D*niel: "Five!"

Posted by Observer at 11:00 PM | Comments (1)

Prospective First Lady

Hey, all you wingnut Fred Thompson fans out there who are so unexcited by Giulani, McCain or Romney that you're willing to back another actor for president: take a look at your future first lady, swallow hard, and pull that Republican lever! Heh.

Posted by Observer at 09:05 PM | Comments (1)

April 02, 2007

The World of PC Gaming

My experience with Heroes V is a case study in why I avoid PC's for gaming. Quite honestly, the graphics and gameplay on this game are great, a nice upgrade from Heroes III. I miss some things about the old system, but this new system is a nice change of pace.

HOWEVER, the stability of the game completely sucks. It WILL crash before you reach the point of 90 minutes of continuous gameplay, more so if you autosave every turn (so you turn off autosave and hope you remember to save at crucial points). And if it crashes, you have to restart to clear all the crap out of the system so the game can run clean again. If you don't, the next crash will be greatly accelerated, and the game will run relatively poorly up to that point. Oh, and you can play it in a window, but only if you go in and manually edit a resource file (not supported, of course).

Most of the crashing probably comes from the superb graphics, which I could honestly live without. I want an option to turn off the rotating 3d view of the city every time I want to move to the city screen because that's a large part of what's eating up the game. Fewer accesses of city screens make the game last a LOT longer before crashing.

This isn't a Mac game. It is a PC game ported over to the Mac for Intel-based Macs only so that it can run mostly as-is inside of a "wrapper" program that translates PC commands into Intel-Mac commands. That means it has all the bugs of the original PC game, plus any extras that might have wormed into the "wrapper" program.

If you are thinking about buying Heroes V, my advice is wait if you can. Wait until they produce a more stable version. Until then, just play Heroes III if you can (Classic environment only, though, so you can't play on the newest Macs). Plus, the longer you wait, the more the Heroes V community will work on designing their own maps to distribute. I've still got a few dozen really good maps to work through on Heroes III that I got from Maphaven.

To be sure, there are some good, stable games for the PC. But there is an ocean of badness out there, and sadly, this one is still mucky. If this is version 1.4 of the game, I would hate to see 1.0!

Posted by Observer at 10:57 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2007

Syria

Apparently, the wingnuts are getting themselves whipped up into a froth over the fact that Nancy Pelosi, acting against White House wishes, has gone to Syria on a diplomatic fact-finding mission. Speaking with the enemy is tantamount to treason, of course.

All of the wingnut news outlets (and news talk shows, which are all dominated by Republicans paired with "journalists" for "balance") blaring all this news out have naturally left out the fact that at the very same time, there is also a Congressional delegation of Republicans visiting Syria for the same reason. Funny how the supposedly ultra-liberal traditional media representatives on these news talk shows always fail to point out how transparently false the wingnut talking points are.

Posted by Observer at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

Mudhole? Slimy? My Backyard This Is!

We got about six inches of rain over the course of 36 hours last week, and we need that to happen about three more times to really break the big drought that we're in and refill area lakes back up to normal. Unfortunately, our backyard is kind of "dammed in" by the new driveway that was poured before we moved in. The water doesn't flow downhill into the neighbor's swampy pit like it used to, so we have standing water in our backyard a good 36 hours after the last rain falls if we get a heavy downpour.

I'm trying to decide now what's the next big home improvement I would prefer. I'm really leaning toward major upgrades of all the windows on the South and West sides of the house, which would probably run us in the neighborhood of $5k. I think the lowered electric bills would pay for it, but it would take several years for that to happen. We probably need to look into our attic insulation and all that, too, if we really want to make the house efficient. I also want to get a big shed for the backyard. I'd prefer a plastic shed, like what they make the Little Tykes outdoor playhouses out of, but the metal sheds are about a factor of five cheaper.

Posted by Observer at 03:31 PM | Comments (4)