May 25, 2006
speaking of feeling fine, skilling and lay found guilty of fraud, conspiracy, and a bit of insider trading.
June 18, 2005
June 15, 2005
In most arenas, I'll take Cal over Stanford any day. However, I have noticed that Stanford sometimes scores a decent commencement speaker. Minus one style point each for (a) the Horatio Alger rehash and (b) the "oh poor billionaire" pity ploy, but plus ten points for implicitly telling a crowd of exiting stanfordites they may have just wasted fours years of their life and thousands of dollars.
May 23, 2005
May 04, 2005
April 21, 2005
checks and balances
In the wake of the Terry Shiavo story (aka our springboard for judicial "reform"), I've recently been hearing politicians attribute things to the American Founding Fathers that strike a slap in the face to what I was taught in my American History courses. How they can do so without the media ripping them to shreds frightens me more than any individual display of willful ignorance. (Not that I have high expectations of the mainstream media, but for some reason I still have ideals...)
Needless to say, I'm getting so sick of politicians on all sides of the aisle who let evidence, expertise, and record take a back seat to ideology. When the folks engaging in such relativist enterprises then claim to be serving a singular source of truth, the scent is all the more putrid. Not that this is a new phenomenon, but it's about time we made it regular practice to start calling them on it... preferably in highly uncomfortable, highly public situations.
Read the extended entry to see what some Founding Fathers really had to say.
The following quotes were taken from Daily Kos. To be fair, I have not verified them myself.
"Creeds have been the bane of the Christian church...made of Christendon a slaughter-house."-
"The truth is, that the greatest enemies of the doctrine of Jesus are those calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them to the structure of a system of fancy, absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in his genuine words. And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classified with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter."
"Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise."
"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon than the Word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind."
"I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church."
"My country is the world, and my religion is to do good."
Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society. George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792; from George Seldes, ed., The Great Quotations, Secaucus, New Jersey: Citadel Press, 1983, p. 726]
The American Revolution, the Virginia Statute on Religious Liberty, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights were fought for explicitly to uproot the traces in American soil of ecclesiastical power in government, which the Founders to a man regarded with horror, revulsion and foreboding.
The Founders were the ultimate representatives of the Enlightenment. They were not anti-religious, though few if any of them were orthodox or pious. Washington never took Communion and refused to enter the church, while his wife did so. Benjamin Franklin believed that all organized religion was suspect. James Madison thought that established religion did as much harm to religion as it did to free government, twisting the word of God to fit political expediency, thereby throwing religion into the political cauldron. And Thomas Jefferson, allied with his great collaborator Madison, conducted decades of sustained and intense political warfare against the existing and would-be clerisy. His words, engraved on the Jefferson Memorial, are a direct reference to established religion: "I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
But now Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay threatens the federal judiciary, saying, "The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them." And Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will participate through a telecast in a rally on April 24 in which he will say that Democrats who refuse to rubber-stamp Bush's judicial nominees and uphold the filibuster are "against people of faith."
But what would Madison say?
This is what Madison wrote in 1785: "What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just Government instituted to secure & perpetuate it needs them not."
What would John Adams say? This is what he wrote Jefferson in 1815: "The question before the human race is, whether the God of nature shall govern the world by his own laws, or whether priests and kings shall rule it by fictitious miracles?"
Benjamin Franklin? "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason."
And Jefferson, in "Notes on Virginia," written in 1782: "It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as public reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desireable? No more than of face and stature. Introduce the bed of Procrustes then, and as there is danger that the large men may beat the small, make us all of a size, by lopping the former and stretching the latter. Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth."
The Republican Party was founded in the mid-19th century partly as a party of religious liberty. It supported public common schools, not church schools, and public land-grant universities independent of any denominational affiliation. The Republicans, moreover, were adamant in their opposition to the use of any public funds for any religious purpose, especially involving schools.
A century later, in 1960, there was still such a considerable suspicion of Catholics in government that the Democratic candidate for president, John F. Kennedy, felt compelled to address the issue directly in his famous speech before the Houston Ministerial Association on Sept. 12.
What did Kennedy say? "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference ... I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish -- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source -- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials."
When men of God mistake their articles of devotion with political platforms, they will inevitably stand exposed in the political arena. When politicians mistake themselves for men of God, their religion, however sincere, will inevitably be seen as contrivance.
February 21, 2005
web graffiti and greasemonkey
I had recently been thinking about the need for "web graffiti" - ways to either enhance or deface (depending on your perspective) various web sites... whether changing visual design elements, logos, appropriately replacing targeted pieces of text, redirecting links, or maybe just removing all the extraneous clutter sites throw at you. Maybe something along the lines of letting Adbusters loose on the web. The thought was tending in the direction of a browser plug-in that for whatever site you were visiting could retrieve the currently available "defacements" and allow you to apply them to the site at hand, dynamically changing the stylesheet, rewriting page elements, and what have you.
Turns out this is already much much further along than my myopic grad-student awareness had realized. Ryan has a fascinating post about Greasemonkey, a firefox plug-in for injecting custom scripts into any webpage, enabling you to change their design or functionality. Examples include changing any URL-like text into a link, removing Google AdWords, and clearing out other advertising and design clutter. Ryan also offers some spot-on points about the ramifications this could have for businesses and the ensuing arms-race.
So I still want the sidebar that will allow me to discover new scripts and "defacements" in situ as I browse around. Coupled, of course, with some mechanism to avoid the malicious scripts that will wreak unwanted havoc upon me. Add to that a visual interface for interacting with and editing a web page's structure--e.g., HTML/DOM elements, stylesheet definitions, etc--and exporting edits to a script... and then supporting derivative works, thereby enabling "defacement dialogues"... the list goes on... there's much fun to be had on the re-appropriated web.
February 02, 2005
visual lies and refreshed eyes
Awaiting my train home last night, I was taken in by the BART map, a visual staple from my daily routine. Typically invisible, its absence would mean more to me than its presence. But due to some random set of neuronal circumstances, I found myself taken aback, recalling the experience of my teenage years, when this map signified so much more.
As teenagers newly liberated with driver's licenses, we would escape the clutches of hometown Stockton, CA and drive west, stopping at the BART station to continue our trek into the city - a city known in name but not in experience. Multi-colored tendrils reaching out of the nexus of Oakland, a rainbow streaming into the heart of San Francisco (appropriate, no?)... they represented more than just the train lines we would ride. They signified freedom, exploration, and overall, a foreign sense of urbanality - the big city, punks, hippies, drugs, clubs, skyscrapers, high-rises, yuppies, money, power, and connections to both the world at large and the myriad worlds within its borders. In short, cultures foreign and enticing to us newly mobile inhabitants of the central valley.
Being a current resident of San Francisco, those connotations are often lost, urbanality reduced to plain banality. I've escaped this habituation at times by stepping into new cities with their unmistakable maps - the geography-bending presentation of the London Underground, the Paris Metro, the Berlin U-Bahn, all decipherable, yet with conventions and topologies different enough to re-instill that sense of wonder. But last night I had that same sense, standing here in the familiar world of Bay Area Rapid Transit. What is it (barring psycho-pharmaceuticals) that allows one to suddenly see the familiar with refreshed eyes? By simply manipulating its conventional signs, to what degree can one transform experiences of BART, and of the Bay Area as a whole?
As I fall down the rabbit hole in search of a ph.d topic, I find myself continually coming back to these notions of visual literacy, authorship, and the interplay brought on by the inherent sociality of shared representation. Visual representations, no matter how iconic, still must be interpreted; they must be read like a text. It is communication, not only between designer and viewer, but among all within its sphere. Our cultural upbringing favors particular signs over others, discourse giving birth to a false sense of naturality. We can (and advertisements routinely do) exploit these systems to motivate, evoke cultural affiliations, and in doing so, even lie outright.
Beneath it all, what can we do to open these representations up to re-appropriation, especially as they become more commonly codified in digital media? To create visual-interactive dialogues and evolved languages, with various flows and sub-cultural eddies?
I am currently lost somewhere in between de Saussure, Barthes, Foucault, Goffman, Gibson, Palmer, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, Tufte, Card, Mackinlay, and Shneiderman. And god knows what I'm still missing. Seems like a lot to be sorting out, but it does look pretty fun---culture jamming brought on by teenage nostalgia.
January 19, 2005
we need better guns
I'm currently reading The Shadow of the Sun, a spellbinding collection of writings about Africa in the post-colonial area by Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski, and came across this passage, one of many in the book I've felt compelled to share:
Abandoned, lonely children gravitate to where troops are garrisoned, where they have their barracks and camps. They help out, work, become part of the army, "sons of the regiment." They are given weapons and quickly undergo a baptism by fire. Their older companions (also children) often laze about, and when a confrontation with the enemy is pending, send the little ones to the front lines, into the thick of battle. These armed encounters between youngsters are particularly fierce and bloody, because a child does not have the instinct for self-preservation, does not feel dread or comprehend death, does not experience the fear that only maturity will evoke.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, as obvious as it may (should?) be... in isolation, usability has absolutely zero moral or ethical value.
August 04, 2004
better brains by booze
thanks to meta for the tip.
July 30, 2004
news round up
So I watched Kerry's speech last night, flipping between multiple news channels as I did so, picking up the spin applied by different networks. Sadly, after listening to William Kristol's knee-jerk diminution, all Fox News had to give me was a discussion of the balloons and confetti, and some talk about how the Democrats had finally caught up to the Republicans in terms of convention organization. (update: I was reading the Chronicle and learned that the convention manager's obsession with balloons and confetti may net CNN an FCC fine). God forbid one actually discusses the issues.
So out of curiousity I thought I would run through the major news outlets this morning to see what the top stories are. Predictably, Salon is running an analysis of Kerry's speech, as is the National Review, each from their respective slants (I think I prefer the "honesty" inherent in openly biased reporting). CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS are all running stories on the Kerry campaign with prominent links to convention highlights. Most are also running prominent stories on Bush's new campaigning efforts in light of the Democratic convention. Fox News, on the other hand, has a giant picture of Bush, and transcripts of a Bush speech, convention links then relatively buried under "related news". So the day after the Republican convention I guess we should all expect a giant picture of Kerry on the campaign trail, no?
And while we work ourselves up over here, across the pond the BBC news headline is about the UN response to the humanitarian tragedy in Darfur, Sudan. The US presidential campaigns get second listing.
July 29, 2004
Bush and Kerry duet (via captain airplane)
A little fun and games amidst the convention excitement, not to mention a nice distraction from work.
July 23, 2004
kidnapping via orkut
I just got a somewhat disturbing message through a friend. Though unsubstantiated, the story is that a college student from a well-to-do family in Sao Paulo, Brazil was kidnapped and police claim that the kidnappers knew just about everything about her - her friends, her appearance, and where she was going to be - by reading her profile on orkut.
I won't repost the messages here (one in English, the other in Portuguese), as they include names and identifying details. Apparently there is an orkut account (now deleted) with a name matching the victim. I don't know if the story is true... for example, I don't know how the police would know that the kidnappers used orkut (correlated evidence perhaps), and I can't find any mention of the story or principals on the web. Still, it is certainly possible that the pseudo-public disclosure people engage in on social networking sites could come back to hurt them. I can imagine location-broadcasting services (e.g. tell me where my friends are), especially in the hands of younger children, causing even bigger problems.
April 09, 2004
For any of you who enjoyed DJ DangerMouse's Grey Album, a brilliant, albeit cease-and-desist generating, mix of the Beatles samples and Jay-Z vocals, here comes its heavy metal cousin... Beatallica is a Beatles cover band who remakes the Fab Four's tunes in the style of fallen metal-gods Metallica. It's all here, in one form or another: A Garage Dayz Nite, Blackened the USSR, The Thing That Should Not Let It Be, and Everybody's Got A Ticket To Ride Except For Me And My Lightning. Fuckin' brilliant.
March 14, 2004
My little bro is on his way to rockstardom. His band, tripdavon, just released their first single on their website. Also, go to the "Bio" section of their site and click on the name "Dave Heer" to watch my bro get down on his bass. Can't wait until they book a show up here in the bay area.
March 01, 2004
Roses are red
Roses are red
Roses are red
February 28, 2004
pixies tour dates
Pixies tour dates have been announced, and it looks like I won't be able to make it :( The tour starts in Canada, then comes to the west coast before heading to Europe. I will be a few days out of the states come April 29. when the Pixies are scheduled to play in Davis. For those of you in the area, get ready to act quick - tickets for the Davis show go on sale Monday, March 1. I could possibly make the shows in Barcelona or the Netherlands, but I'd have to prolong my Europe stay a couple days and do some strategic flight routing. Or maybe I should just schedule another Europe trip altogether, and see the Pixies in Paris on my birthday :). Too cool.
February 24, 2004
if you weren't pissed off enough already
From an SF Chronicle article: Sixty-two of the nation's top scientists, including a dozen Nobel laureates, denounced the Bush administration Wednesday for "misrepresenting and suppressing scientific knowledge for political purposes."
In an unusually harsh critique of White House policy-making, the scientists signed a joint statement accusing the administration of systematically distorting research findings, disbanding scientific advisory panels, ignoring or demoting its own staff experts and misleading the public on issues ranging from lead poisoning to climate change.
More at the Union of Concerned Scientists website.
February 23, 2004
Too cute... riding the subway just got more enjoyable. "Now rounding the elephant's ass... next stop Paddington station"
February 11, 2004
Ever feel this way?
Better to be untethered and open to possibility: living for the exhilaration of meeting someone new, of not knowing what the night will bring.
There is a bittersweet fondness for silence. All those nights alone—they bring insight.
...there is no patience for dating just for the sake of not being alone. We want a miracle. Out of millions, we have to find the one who will understand.
or perhaps you are enamored of Rilke?
If so, you may be a quirkyalone. You can even take the quiz to find out. I scored an 84, which makes me "somewhat quirkyalone" aka "a quirkytogether".... and I had always thought I was just picky. If you score highly, perhaps you can go party with your peers.
January 12, 2004
limbaugh & mcnabb
Fox Sports surprised me yesterday with this hilarious parody of the pill-popping ex-sports commentator. Go to the entry entitled "Frank's Picks: Divisional Playoffs - Jan 11, 2004" (requires Real Video).
January 07, 2004
The Washington Post today ran an article about Iraq's WMDs (or rather, lack thereof), among other things citing a letter by Iraqi official Hossam Amin chronicling possible revelations brought to the U.S. by the 1995 defection of Saddam son-in-law Hussein Kamel.
The most significant point in Amin's letter, U.S. and European experts said, is his unambiguous report that Iraq destroyed its entire inventory of biological weapons. Amin reminded Qusay Hussein of the government's claim that it possessed no such arms after 1990, then wrote that in truth "destruction of the biological weapons agents took place in the summer of 1991."
It was those weapons to which Secretary of State Colin L. Powell referred in the Security Council on Feb. 5 when he said, for example, that Iraq still had an estimated 8,500 to 25,000 liters of anthrax bacteria.
January 04, 2004
who owns what
I'm sitting here with my roommate watching the Sugar Bowl, when one of the announcers made a comment likening LSU to the race horse Seabiscuit, and commented on what a "wonderful family movie" that was. This made me wonder if the announcers were performing implicit advertising for their corporate parents... So I turned to the internet to discover that Seabiscuit was made by Universal Studios, which is owned by Vivendi, which is separate from Disney, the parent company of the Sugar Bowl coverage provider ABC.
So the announcer has been vindicated, and I found a great site in the process. The Columbia Journalism Review has brought us Who Owns What, a website tracing the holdings of all the major media outlets. The results can be staggering, especially for known giants like Disney, Viacom, News Corp (aka Fox, which looks like it controls just about all print journalism in Australia), and, of course, the biggest of all, Time Warner. Please spend some time browsing through this. You will be amazed just how much diverse (and not so diverse) media is owned by so few organizations. Pretty soon they'll own your mama.
the sounds of 2003
If any of you music fans aren't familiar with pitchfork yet, let me introduce you. They have their 2003 year in a review up... check it out:
Let me personally second their inclusion of "Rounds" by Four Tet, "One Word Extinguisher" from Prefuse 73, and (duh) "Hail to the Thief" by Radiohead. The albums from Broken Social Scene, The Shins, and King Geedorah are gaining priority on my wish list.
January 03, 2004
NYTimes is running an article on supposedly recent trends in pop-punk music to combat suicide and other plagues of teenage existence. I'll avoid the extended obligatory bashing of popular musical vehicles, especially in comparison to their musical forbears, but the article did allow the funny thought of middle-aged clinical psychology Ph.D.s penning the words to sneak into my mind...
December 17, 2003
This image has been getting under my skin for days now. Saddam, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin... dictators have such iconic public personas, but when you see them in a state such as Saddam's, haggard and weary, the aura evaporates and it becomes all too clear that this thing, this monster, is human.
At one level this sets off a "Darth Vader" reaction in me, at once both terrifying and pitying. What path did this person's life take, both through external molding and personal decision, to become an embodied harbinger of death, destruction, and misery? And what good still remains? It certainly puts Christian notions of humanity and forgiveness to an extreme test.
At another level, there is a greater hope in that image. No matter what evil men might unleash, they are ultimately still merely men, with all the trappings and weaknesses that entails... and can be defeated, made accountable, and, unlikely as it may be, can still repent.
That being said, the real reasons for releasing these particular images of Saddam seem pretty straightforward - (a) attempt to weaken his image and hold on the Iraqi people by showing him as a defeated fugitive, (b) the visual similarity between a haggard Saddam and Osama bin Laden may quite well be the closest the administration will ever get to proving a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.
December 11, 2003
December 09, 2003
no sex for you
encouraging abstinence is one thing, but discouraging people from the engineering profession altogether is another. (thanks to lederer for the pic)
December 08, 2003
gore on the campaign
Things just got a bit more interesting... Lieberman's gotta be pissed...
December 04, 2003
The extended entry comes close to spoiling The Star's surprise ending, so read the story before reading more here...
The story hits on things almost all people I know in science and technology have thought about at some point in their intellectual development -- where is the place for God in the scientific worldview, especially when contrasting the anthropocentric religions of Earth against the seemingly endless possibilities of the universe? A worthwhile inquiry, certainly, and one that has been discussed for centuries now.
Something bothers me about Clarke's conclusions, though, which seems to ignore a potent aspect of human nature. Clarke paints his protagonist as despondent, at a crisis of faith for what he has discovered. Being an intellectual and scientist as well as a Jesuit, perhaps this is a realistic reaction. What bothers me, however, is the thought of his findings reaching Earth. It would not, I presume, be the death blow to Christianity that Clarke makes it out to be. Rather I see it being taken up as fodder for fundamentalists, reinforcing the anthropocentric view of the cosmos -- proof that God likes us best, that other forms of life can be sacrificied at the altar of humanity.
People regularly impart their own meaning and interpretations on cosmic coincidence, reinforcing their own pre-existing convictions in the process. If Clarke were to sit down and write a sequel, say "Return from the Star", I wonder what he'd have to say to that. In any world, I imagine it wouldn't be pretty.
December 03, 2003
bad job portland po', good job nokia
In most respects it's a beautiful city... saddening that this kind of crap is still being played out.
December 02, 2003
If you were a lying politician (or aide thereof) don't you think you'd pick better battles? Consider Bush cronies' "mile-high lies?" These particular incidents target the Bush administration, but my sentiment knows no party bounds.
what is the meatrix?
The Meatrix: A Tale of Leo and Moopheus, and a whole lot excrement -- environmentalism with character... or is that characters?
November 26, 2003
Take a walk down memory lane and maybe discover some new gems in the process. Largely predictable as you get closer to the top (never forget that pitchfork lays [rightfully] prostrate at the altar of multi-continental binity Pavement y Radiohead), but still oh-so wonderful -- A Tribe Called Quest, Built to Spill, Belle & Sebastian, Pixies, Modest Mouse, Aphex Twin, Blur, Weezer, even Doctors Dre and Octagon. God bless them all.
In case you didn't know, in terms of population California = The Bay + LA, as these visuals make abundantly clear. We've all heard there are lies, damn lies, and statistics, but visual design can sit in a gray area between simultaneous honesty and deceit. It all depends on which aspect you're looking at. (via conley)
November 22, 2003
big game socio-something
Today is the Big Game: Cal v. Stanford. A match up of Bay Area rivals, the struggle for the Axe, a fight for superiority in moving a piece of pigskin up and down a patch of grass -- and sociologically fascinating. People get so worked up about the game out here at Cal it's amazing. The game takes on it's own (slightly-skewed) symbolism amongst the Cal undergraduates here - public vs. private interests, the common man vs. the elite -- the chance to stick it to the man. And just like Christmas, it may not be the event itself but the anticipation thereof that's the most fun. Weeks before the game, students walk around with "Fuck Stanfurd" proudly plastered across their chests, or imagery of a redwood tree performing fellatio on a Golden Bear's campanile-styled member. Oh, and don't forget over a hundred years of pranks.
Warranted or not, it is this undercurrent (along with large doses of inebriation) that contributes to the inevitable violence perpetuated by Cal fans everytime the game is held at Stanford. Though I've observed over the years that the tactics of the Palo Alto PD don't always promote peaceful resolutions, some level of disorder seems unavoidable -- it wouldn't be the big game without it. Water bottles and other associated items flying through the air, bouncing off of cops in riot gear, who are concurrently drenched in a verbal shower of epithets. Meanwhile, the more intoxicated (or just foolish) students, thinking perhaps their action will spark mass revolution, try to harass the po' up close, or worse, try to make it onto the field to topple the true symbol of Stanfordite 'oppression'--the tree, of all things--and then get dragged off and arrested. I learned early on in my undergraduate years that the Cal student body is the most intelligent group of thugs I've ever come to love (being brought up in the central valley wasteland of Stockton, CA I met my share of thugs... just not many intelligent ones). That is to say, without this now-ritualized display of disdain for all things associated with Leland, Jr., I must sadly admit that I'd feel that something was missing.
So fuck you Stanford, fuck you indeed... but maybe my brethren and I could redirect our angst into more socially constructive venues. Or perhaps we should just drink less. Or maybe ponder one simple question: why is it that, in contrast to Cal's obsession, most (but certainly not all) Stanfordites I know simply don't give a rat's ass?
November 19, 2003
when you win, you lose
i just couldn't resist this one... Russian dies after winning vodka-drinking contest
Given the upcoming anniversary of the JFK assassination, last night I caught the last part of the PBS special "The Kennedys", focusing on the Presidential primary race and assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. It was a moving piece that painted RFK in a very inspiring light, as a last ray of hope after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. And then he was shot, right after carrying the primaries here in the Golden State. What shocked me was that the documentary made just about no mention of who was responsible or why they did it.
So of course I went digging for the requisite conspiracies and was not disappointed. One of the better sites turned up by some quick googling is this piece of work from Court TV, of all places: Robert Kennedy Assassination: Revisions and Rewrites. So officially the story is that a Palestinian Arab, Sirhan Sirhan, still in prison to this day, was a lone gunmen... for reasons not made exactly clear... but who knows for sure.
All I know is that if I was alive in that day I'd have been angry beyond words at the level of unchecked political violence. MLK, RFK... people with moral bearing and momentum cut short. People you could believe in? Perhaps it's just nostalgia for a time I never knew, but it feels like a far cry from today's i-did-not-have-relations we're-going-to-smoke-them-out-of-their-holes era.
"We've had difficult times in the past. We will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder."
November 09, 2003
... does not seem like such a fantasy after all. Check out some of these amazing videos of urban acrobats, captured in a stylistic cross between Kung-Fu movies and skateboard videos: Le Parkour: The Art of Movement. Can a super-hero training program be far behind? (via BoingBoing, with a heads up from Scott)
November 03, 2003
Thought I'd share this quote, for those of you who haven't seen it...
Trying to eliminate Saddam...would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible.... We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq.... there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.
-- George Herbert Walker Bush, from his memoir, A World Transformed (1998)
(I pilfered the quote from John Perry Barlow's e-mail signature after reading his mini-rant on Burning Man and the California recall)
October 31, 2003
end of the world
Here's a fun distraction for you all on Halloween. WTF, mates?
(passed on to me by the Rookie)
October 28, 2003
October 24, 2003
danah boyd has written an interesting UbiComp "intimate computing" workshop paper on some of the social phenomena and implications surrounding friendster. While reading it, it occurred to me that the true threat to privacy posed by an unchecked networked society and ubiquitous computing may not be the politico-economic threat of an Orwellian "Big Brother", but a cultural-spiritual death that comes from complete social exposure. If any move you make can be visible to the world, the resulting self-censorship due to purely social factors could be stifling, even in the absence of any threat to liberty or economic livelihood. What if my friends, my mom, my ex-lover, or any gorgeous, fascinating woman I'd like to get to know better might have access to any particular activity I'm undertaking? At this point many people might cite sci-fi author David Brin's The Transparent Society, in which privacy is eradicated, but the equalized erosion of privacy across all strata of society ensures liberty. In such a situation would social norms erode, allowing socio-cultural liberty to emerge? Or would full personal exposure homogenize thinking and action, pushing towards a hive mind?
I don't know... I'm just a socially-interested computer scientist in the continual process of overcoming my crass ignorance, but of the two options above I suspect the latter is the more likely. Scarily, it also seems to me that it's one or the other extreme, with little room for compromise. Notice that the physical world has wonderful things such as caves, secluded forests, and walls, floors, and ceilings, all of which provide not just physical, but social security. As such, I suspect that truly successful networked-living requires hiding spots, secret practices, control over information disclosure, and varied levels of anonymity. It is this type of control that makes true intimacy possible.
So bravo to all you socio-technical scientists out there trying to figure these things out. At some point, I may get out of my armchair and join you.
October 21, 2003
October 08, 2003
And so it has come to pass... All hail Staatfuhrer Schwarzenegger. We'll see what happens... In spite of my own pessimism, I hope Arnold does well for California, and following his own rhetoric, does what is right for the people. I certainly think he is capable of standing up against the Republican establishment at times if he chooses to do so, and I hope to see that play out. Hopefully also the large voter turnout and celebrity governor will keep more Californians involved in politics (even if I disagree with them). With over a hundred candidates involved, this recall election has also solidified for me a strong interest in instant run-off voting.
At the end of this whole spectacle, at least I can say I don't feel that impending sense of doom that I (sadly accurately) felt after the 2000 presidential election.
Also, I got to cast my vote using the computerized Diebold voting machines that have lately been the subject of much controversy. And let me tell you, while it certainly could have been much worse, the UI sucks!! I doubt there was much of a user-centered design process in play for this most important of interfaces.
October 07, 2003
vote, damn you
If you live in California and you haven't voted yet, get off your butt, take a break from work, or whatever, just go do it ... and save our state from termination.
September 29, 2003
1. Why do I get the feeling that this will fail to rise to a higher importance level than presidential sexual habits?
September 25, 2003
back to my lozenge
The Chronicle declared war on my department today, claiming my home on campus the worst eye-sore perpetrated on the local neighborhood.
Looking at this houselike building with creamy stucco and pitched roofs and deep-set wooden windows, you sense that Cal is trying to atone for past sins -- understandably so. The Goldman School sits above Hearst Avenue, a historic dividing line between campus and the Northside neighborhood that has been blurred by a murderer's row of oversize mistakes. The worst is Soda Hall at Hearst and Le Roy avenues, looking to all the world like a four-story pile of bilious green lozenges.
I'm not claming the building is beautiful (many friends have claimed it looks like a very high-class bathroom), but this is overkill. So in response I'm calling for a jihad against this reporter.
But go ahead and judge for yourself...
September 24, 2003
we'll see how effective this actually turns out to be...
September 19, 2003
In response to Clark's entry into the potentio-presidential parade, a nice little article at Slate reviews the history of "4 star" American presidents.
phishing for kids?
... the courts didn't think so.
September 18, 2003
Came across this blog entry detailing what kind of smear campaigns may be run against Wesley Clark, some of which, according to the post, have already been deployed by Rush Limbaugh.
September 16, 2003
clark says yes
Interesting. I just hope Democratic in-fighting doesn't create a mess that rolls over into the main election.
September 12, 2003
It's happening. I'm so excited I just soiled myself. Apparently pigs do fly afterall.
The Pixies. Are back. Together. Music is saved. Lovers of rock, unite and cheer. This is going to truly own.
How much is 87 bill-ion (raise pinky to mouth), the sum Bush is requesting for continued action in Iraq? TOMPAINE.com - What Can $87 Billion Buy? I think we owe the people of Iraq for what we have done, and so would like to see us honor the commitment we've entered into by virtue of invading, but it is always useful to have a little perspective on the costs.
A friend pointed me towards this craigslist entry. Oy vey.
rip johnny cash
I awoke to tragic news this morning.
September 11, 2003
how rich are you?
... find out at the Global Rich List. Turns out that at my former job, I was pulling in enough to be the 46,777,565th richest person in the world (go ahead and infer my former salary from that...). A little playing around found that if you pull in $868 a year, you are in the middle of the pack. How do they determine the numbers? Look here for the answer.
A story on Salon today pointed my attention to a month-old story about the toxic fallout of the WTC collapse. Most frightening is the EPA's initial report that no one was in danger, without having performed the requisite testing. Conscious companies ran their own tests and found differently, forcing the EPA to retest and change their results. This string of affairs has enraged numerous New Yorkers, and is motivating Hillary's stalling of the new EPA nomination. Apparently, all post 9/11 communications from the EPA had to be routed through the National Security Council, casting shadows on the White House's role.
While there is certainly a lot of interesting politics at work here, my biggest hope is that the people of New York City get the attention, care, and prevention that they need.
Here are some excerpts for my own reference:
For months after the attacks, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency insisted that the dust contained few contaminants and posed little health risk to anyone but those caught in the initial plume from the towers' collapse. "Everything we've tested for, which includes asbestos, lead, and volatile organic compounds, have been below any level of concern for the general public health," Christine Todd Whitman, then the Bush administration's EPA chief, told PBS "NewsHour" in April 2002. Even last December, assistant regional EPA administrator Kathleen Callahan reiterated that assessment before the New York City Council: "I think the results that we're getting back show that there isn't contamination everywhere."
But Deutsche Bank's owners, curious to know the extent of their liability and to properly evaluate the potential danger to their own employees, privately conducted their own extensive tests. The findings: Astronomical levels of asbestos and a long list of toxic ingredients that pose a significant risk of cancer, birth defects, nerve damage and other ominous health problems.
The cloud of pulverized debris was a virtual soup of toxic substances: Cancer-causing asbestos. PCBs -- one of the most toxic and dangerous industrial chemicals -- from a giant electrical transformer and waste oil. Mercury, which can cause nerve damage and birth defects, from the thousands of laptop computer screens that were atomized that day. Thousands of tons of pulverized concrete, which can sear the soft membrane of the lungs. Dioxin, which can damage the central nervous system and cause birth defects. The EPA's final report on air quality released in January 2003 called the Trade Center collapse the largest single release of dioxin in world history -- more than enough, on its own, to establish lower Manhattan as a federal Superfund site.
Immediately after the towers collapsed, and as fires burned for days afterward, that cloud filtered its way through window seals and ventilation ducts of thousands of buildings, even those thought to be undamaged and safe. It accumulated in the corners of homes, behind bookcases and under beds. Even today, it is in the carpeting of schools and on the desktops of offices, in the ventilation systems of many buildings that have not been cleaned.
Under fire from residents, businesses and local officials, the EPA finally reversed its position in May 2002 and launched an effort to clean 6,000 residences. But the program was voluntary, outreach was dismal, and it addressed dust issues in less than 20 percent of the apartments in lower Manhattan. It did nothing to ensure that the thousands of offices, stores, restaurants and other business spaces in the district were safe for human occupation. Even the EPA's in-house inspector general, in a draft of a report due out next month, slammed the agency for erroneously reassuring residents and workers that all was well in the days after the attacks. Citing information from a high-ranking EPA official, the draft report said agency statements in the days after the terrorist attacks were "heavily influenced" by environmental advisors in Bush's White House.
September 08, 2003
I fear for the children. Moreover I fear for myself, surrounded in a world of such children.
September 03, 2003
Just read this interesting article: The Post-Modern President: Deception, Denial, and Relativism: what the Bush administration learned from the French. Read the extended entry for some excerpts from the article.
The article also links to an amusing report measuring the "Mendacity Index", or how much and what severity of falsehood emanated from the last four presidents. Their rankings (in order of the biggest to smallest liar) are: G. W. Bush, Reagan, Bush Sr., and then Clinton. Perhaps Clinton went for the quantity over quality approach....
Excerpts from the post-modern president:
If you're a revisionist - someone pushing for radically changing the status quo - you're apt to see "the experts" not just as people who may be standing in your way, but whose minds have been corrupted by a wrongheaded ideology whose arguments can therefore be ignored. To many in the Bush administration, 'the experts' look like so many liberals wedded to a philosophy of big government, the welfare state, over-regulation and a pussyfooting role for the nation abroad.
...In that simple, totalizing assumption we find the kernel of almost every problem the administration has faced over recent months--and a foretaste of the troubles the nation may confront in coming years. By disregarding the advice of experts, by shunting aside the cadres of career professionals with on-the-ground experience in these various countries, the administration's hawks cut themselves off from the practical know-how which would have given them some chance of implementing their plans successfully. In a real sense, they cut themselves off from reality.
...Everyone is compromised by bias, agendas, and ideology. But at the heart of the revisionist mindset is the belief that there is really nothing more than that. Ideology isn't just the prism through which we see world, or a pervasive tilt in the way a person understands a given set of facts. Ideology is really all there is. For an administration that has been awfully hard on the French, that mindset is...well, rather French. They are like deconstructionists and post-modernists who say that everything is political or that everything is ideology. That mindset makes it easy to ignore the facts or brush them aside because "the facts" aren't really facts, at least not as most of us understand them. If they come from people who don't agree with you, they're just the other side's argument dressed up in a mantle of facticity. And if that's all the facts are, it's really not so difficult to go out and find a new set of them. The fruitful and dynamic tension between political goals and disinterested expert analysis becomes impossible.
August 21, 2003
what a way to go
Apparently nocturnal laughing is dangerous, too, though certainly less a threat than elevators. I really would like to know what was so funny.
August 20, 2003
the nerd vote
If you read this blog, you've probably seen this already, but Berkeley EECS' finest gubernatorial candidate is well on her way to locking in the nerd vote. Roll on you Bears...
August 19, 2003
earl warren? pretty dope
"It is the spirit and not the form of law that keeps justice alive."
Despite his unfortunate, and later profoundly regretted, role in the immoral internment of Japanese-American citizens during WWII, Earl Warren, California governor turned Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was a pretty interesting dude. Despite that particularly grievous blemish on his gubernatorial record, he did go on to lead the highest court in the land through a series of profound decisions promoting civil rights, including the landmark Brown v. Board of Education.
I've been told that my grandfather (who was head attorney for General Mills), used to play Bridge (and take down some drinks) with ol' Earl, so he always peaked my interest. Describing this to someone else, I remembered that Warren somehow 'weaseled' his way into the Chief Justice seat. Searching for the forgotten details led me to this passage:
"Warren's successor as governor, Goodwin J. Knight, was to relate in later years that Eisenhower had promised Warren the first vacancy on the Supreme Court in return for delivering the California vote to him, but intended to renege when the first vacancy turned out to be in the office of chief justice. The court's leader, Fred M. Vinson, died on Sept. 8, 1953. Warren had the Viking spirit; he was ready to fight.
As Knight (the lieutenant governor under Warren) recounted it, Warren gave the president an ultimatum: appoint him to the first vacancy, as promised, or he would resign as governor and stomp the nation, denouncing the president as a liar. The following month, Ike nominated Warren to the nation's highest judicial office. Warren won easy Senate confirmation."
How bad ass is that? Ike liberated Europe for Christ's sake, and this man walked all over him. And he also got one of the coolest eulogizing statements I've heard:
A Warren biographer, Jack Harrison Pollack, wrote in 1978:
"High on the facade of the majestic Supreme Court building in Washington, four words are chiseled in stone: 'Equal Justice Under Law.' To a Scandinavian immigrant's son who became an embattled judge, this was no empty phrase nor architect's gimmick. Others — including perhaps the majority of today's Supreme Court — tend to emphasize the word 'Law.' Earl Warren stressed 'Equal Justice.' "
This is horrible. Your bad day doesn't seem so bad now, does it? So be careful... "Elevators and escalators kill about 30 and injure about 17,100 people each year in the United States, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission." Our mechanized stair replacements are a much bigger public health hazard than both vending machines and shark attacks. Good news for us diving folk. Bad news for you high-risers and mall rats.
In what little free surfing time I've had as of late (I even had to pass up a day at the horse races for work, much to the dismay of my seabiscuit-enamored friends), I came across an article on Michael Moore at kuro5hin, attempting to rebut an earlier article denouncing the film Bowling for Columbine as a series of lies, misrepresentations, and intentional deception through the use of "brilliant" editing. This in turn is followed by a somewhat coarse rebuttal to the rebuttal.
I found these all to be interesting reads, having greatly, albeit skeptically, enjoyed the film. Of course the film is biased (it makes no secret of that), and possibly even lopsided in its facts, and though there is plenty I could say in the matter, I think it's really not worth the trouble, so I will make my remarks quick.
Reading these articles is painful, because there are valid points being made on both sides that are sadly drowned in a sea of animosity and righteousness. In some areas of social discourse, it seems increasingly impossible to maintain a rational exchange. Nowhere is this more true than politics. Opposing sides quickly devolve into hateful, war-mongering bigots and weak, unpatriotic, treasonous worms (or whatever other pejoratives are currently in vogue). Engaging in a battle against people of this mindset with the goal of enlightening them is largely a fool's errand. The best one can hope to do is reach those open minds who may be listening to the argument. Winning these people over is the only true victory of such debates... all the more so since it often seems that closed minds and big mouths tend to be highly correlated. But if this conversion of opinion is achieved sheerly through emotional identification and/or manipulation, it is a hollow victory, waiting to be replaced by the next savvy speaker. I'm not so naive to deny the importance of anecdote, hyperbole, etc... we often want speakers and leaders to sway our emotions, to inspire and lead, but to do so on a foundation of persuasive logic, insight, and planning.
Where am I going with all this? I'm not quite sure. It's late, I've been working way too much, and I fear I may be degrading into rant-mode. But let me leave with this: truth is elusive, but at best we can seek it honestly, without half-heartedly pursuing it as a tool to stab our opponents. It would be wonderful if more public figures, and those who wish to comment on them, perpetuated that attitude.
August 12, 2003
While it seems that no one likes Gray Davis, a recent article on Salon provides a little perspective, reiterating some commonly known facts that so far have been strangely missing from much of the recall media coverage. Here are some quotes:
"Was Davis responsible for manufacturing spikes in energy prices that nearly bankrupted the state? Of course not -- but he took the political hit when the lights went out. It's a safe bet that Schwarzenegger and the other Republicans running will offer not a word of criticism of Vice President Dick Cheney's infamous meetings with top energy executives that excluded consumer representatives."
"Davis erred in paying too much to get the lights back on, but I dare any of the Republican candidates to step forward and say they would not have bailed out PG&E and Southern California Edison. They will not because they have no real solutions to the energy problems or any other problems the state faces. Certainly they will not curtail the heavy influence of the prison guards and other law-enforcement unions that are milking the state budget and that form Davis' most reliable base of support. Clearly Davis' fundraising is obscenely obsessive, but it's minor compared with Bush's nonstop money machine."
"If you think politics is all a joke anyway, then vote for whichever opportunist makes you laugh the most. But if you think that meaningful representative democracy requires the scrutiny of the serious primary and election process that Davis has twice weathered, then for a small "d" democrat, a "no" vote on the recall is an obligation."
August 08, 2003
speech: al gore
Al Gore recently gave an interesting speech. He has plenty of tough criticism for the Bush administration, but his thesis runs deeper than that, focusing on the lack of thorough debate, both in Congress and in the media, on contemporary political and economic issues. These passages summarize it quite well:
"It seems obvious that big and important issues like the Bush economic policy and the first Pre-emptive War in U.S. history should have been debated more thoroughly in the Congress, covered more extensively in the news media, and better presented to the American people before our nation made such fateful choices. But that didn't happen, and in both cases, reality is turning out to be very different from the impression that was given when the votes -- and the die -- were cast."
" Earlier, I mentioned the feeling many have that something basic has gone wrong. Whatever it is, I think it has a lot to do with the way we seek the truth and try in good faith to use facts as the basis for debates about our future -- allowing for the unavoidable tendency we all have to get swept up in our enthusiasms.
That last point is worth highlighting. Robust debate in a democracy will almost always involve occasional rhetorical excesses and leaps of faith, and we're all used to that. I've even been guilty of it myself on occasion. But there is a big difference between that and a systematic effort to manipulate facts in service to a totalistic ideology that is felt to be more important than the mandates of basic honesty. "
Thanks to Joe Conason's Journal for the link.
August 06, 2003
Arnold's going to run for Governor. Waiting in line to be terminated are Gary "what you talkin' about Willis" Coleman, Larry "the smut peddler who cares" Flynt, Arianna "the recovering Republican" Huffington, Darrell "but I paid for this!" Issa, Georgy "check out my thong" Russell, and that weird weasel guy. I think Conley may be on the right track. Perhaps we can turn this into a reality TV show, and put it on PayPerView. Then, as with any good circus, the rest of the world will have to pay to watch, and this stupid recall might fund itself, rather than coming out of the already empty state treasury.
In any case, hang on, fellow Californians. It's going to be a wild ride.
August 05, 2003
georgy for gov?
Ah, California and its ridiculous recall. For only $3500 plus a petition signed by 65 qualified voters, you too can be a gubernatorial candidate. And people are answering the call, from Larry Flynt to Arianna Huffington. And while we wait for Arnold to make up his mind, the latest candidate of interest is fellow UC Berkeley Computer Science graduate, 26-year-old Georgina "Georgy" Russell. Her website, www.georgyforgov.com includes her platform (including clean energy, a balanced budget, and gay marriages), her blog (concerning both political commentary and obscure geeky license plates), and her merchandise (which ranges from t-shirts to thong underwear). She's even been picking up a little press recently.
Sadly, I have not had the honor of meeting the esteemed Mz. Russell, though rumor has it she graduated 2 years before me, and even received tutoring from a certain honor society I was once president of (did I mention that I am a dork?). Still, I wish her all the best and sincerely hope she meets her fundraising goals and pulls in more votes than Darrell "I could never win an actual state-wide election so will try to buy one instead" Issa. Though if push came to shove, I think my top left-field choice for governor would be metamanda. She could be both the first female governor and the first governor to give the state-of-the-state address in combat boots and a sex pistols shirt. Take that, stiff east coast types.
stop piracy now!
Last night on television I saw my first anti-piracy commercial. My roommate and I almost laughed our asses off. Almost I say, because the commercial was just too painfully banal to be taken jovially. According to our esteemed friends at the RIAA and MPAA, music and video piracy is a leech on our proud capitalist society, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people, not just the artists (because it's the job of these corporations to rip off the artists, and we're encroaching on their turf), but all the staff behind the scenes: from producers, to tech support, to the stage hands. Now don't you feel bad for the misery you've incurred? Just like that one time you bought an eighth of weed and unwittingly funded the 9/11 tragedy? Give me a break.
It has become cliche now, but these are the same people who initially violently opposed VCRs, not realizing home video would become their greatest revenue stream. Commercials are all well and good, but when legislation passes that unfairly sacrifices personal rights for those of copyright holders, it is a whole other issue. If you have some spare cash, think about giving it to the EFF before handing it over to these wankers.
After receiving a clearly propagandizing e-mail about Hillary Clinton's alleged defense of murderous Black Panther members during her Yale Law School days, I decided to look a little bit deeper. I'm not a big fan of Mrs. Clinton, but the e-mail was way too vociferous to be believable. A little googling revealed (in addition to an apparent advertising google bomb of sorts around the story's keywords) both this article at about.com and this report at snopes.com, confirming my skeptical intuition. Snopes.com is particularly cool, featuring a large archive examining different urban legends. It has a nice treatment of a similar e-mail regarding Jane Fonda's involvement with the North Vietnamese, and it doesn't speak well for Jane. What I really appreciate at this site (and of all good journalists and researchers) is the one thing that is missing from all the e-mail propaganda: the list of sources and attributions at the end.
The thought of the political powers that be using misinforming e-mails like this to influence the populace seems both alarming and quite probable. But it is just another brick in the wall of our current climate of misinformation, ranging from Fox News ("fair and balanced" my ass) through factually-challenged pundits and wanna-be journalists/historians like (the still admittedly enjoyable) Michael Moore and (the unabashedly false) Ann Coulter. Is it any wonder that level-headed Americans may be turning to British broadcasting for their news? But even underneath the skin of the most ardent skeptic, we must admit: we tend to believe that which agrees with us.
July 29, 2003
comedies of all sorts
Which is funnier, fact or fiction? Since they exist in a continuous feedback loop with each other, I suppose the answer is: yes. But I'll spare you any further theorizing and let you be the judge...
Governor calls tax hike a Christian duty
July 26, 2003
movies i must see
Two movies I recently discovered that I must see soon:
Masked and Anonymous - Bob Dylan as an old troubador in a dark parallel universe in which the United States is run by a dictatorial President? Plus it's directed by regular Curb Your Enthusiasm (only the funniest show currently on TV) director Larry Charles, and also stars John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, ... for those of you who still need to know more, here's the Salon review.
Revolution OS - A documentary on the Open Source movement, including interviews with Linus Torvalds (of linux fame), Brian Behlendorf (of the Apache project), Rob Malda (of Slashdot) and Ricahrd Stallman (of GNU / Free Software Foundation). I don't know how the film ranks in terms of quality, but I'll probably pre-emptively purchase it anyway.
July 19, 2003
Must we really toy with someone's brain chemistry just to prevent them from calling for that set of Ginsu knives? I have a skeptical take on modern anti-depressants (or more accurately, on the motives of the pharmaceutical companies which produce them), and though I do understand and support their use when people are truly clinically depressed, this particular example seems ridiculous. I'd love to hear Aldous Huxley's take on this.
The hyped-intelligence story continues to gain drama. British weapons advisor David Kelly disappeared Thursday and his dead body was discovered within a mile of his home on Friday. Police have confirmed that he died of a slit wrist, suggesting suicide (or, at least, the desired appearance of a suicide). This is after Kelly testified before Parliament and was identified as a possible media informant claiming that the British government hyped up its intelligence on Iraq to make war more attractive (Kelly had denied this). This is truly sad if an innocent man was driven to the edge by all this clamor. Still, feel free to post your own conspiracy theories...
UPDATE (7/21): The BBC has admitted that David Kelly was its source. There are still accusations, however, that BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan may have exaggerated Kelly's comments. The BBC and Andrew Gilligan deny this, of course. Not surprisingly, the BBC is running a host of stories on the issue. Meanwhile, Tony Blair has made it clear he will not be resigning in response to the tragedy.
UPDATE (9/18): Finally, Andrew Gilligan has admitted to hyping the story, and for unduly fingering Kelly as his source.
don't tread on me
A very inspiring Metallica hoax... if I can patent a I-IV-V progression, I'll be a millionaire within days.
The story even made it's way over to CNN.
July 18, 2003
A new Salon article has more about the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), about whom I inquired earlier. The article claims they are made up of over 30 retired intelligence analysts, some highly decorated, from both the military and civilian sectors.
Read the article here.
Another interesting tidbit is the assertion by CIA director George Tenet that he was urged by the White House to include the questionable intelligence on a potential purchase of Nigerian uranium by Iraq. From the article: "On Thursday MSNBC quoted an anonymous source saying that Tenet "reluctantly" fingered National Security Council member Robert Joseph during the hearing. "
July 16, 2003
engrish as a second language
so bad it is good: www.engrish.com
and there's plenty more where this came from.
Will Ferrell's commencement speech at Harvard. Lucky stiffs. For my commencement at Berkeley, we got Janet Reno. Though to be fair, she was much funnier than you'd expect. But self-deprecation is easy when you're Janet Reno.
The Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity have written an open letter to President Bush about the faulty/forged intelligence used to convince Congress to allow the invasion of Iraq. In particular, they make strong accusations against Vice President Cheney and call for his ouster. Interesting.
So who are the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity? They are cited as "a coast-to-coast enterprise; mostly intelligence officers from analysis side of CIA". I'm unable to find a web page for them, although they have written open letters to the President in the past. See the February 2003 memorandum written right after Powell's presentation to the UN, in which they agree that Iraq clearly violated UN resolution 1441, but claim that the probability of Iraq conducting an attack on the U.S. or selling weapons to terrorists is quite low. They seem to be all over progressive websites (Mother Jones, etc) today. And I'm sure Bush will be writing back to them promptly.
July 14, 2003
from the "i'll believe it when i see it" dept...
though Francis suffers from none-too-surprising doubts: "I do dream about the Pixies reunion... It's like those schoolboy dreams when you don't do your homework and you don't study for the test, but I'm at the gig and we're hanging out, but it's an utter failure and I don't know the songs, and hardly anyone turns up for the gig and people walk out. That's what I'm afraid of, that it'd be a big, big failure."
if these doubts are conquered, this could be better than an eighteen minute orgasm. but if it does happen, then i say to you Messr. Black et al, with nothing but the sincerest love and respect, please please please do not mess this up.
howard and me
Of all the web hype regarding Howard Dean as of late, I found this article from Salon well worth the read. It describes Howard Dean's ideology and the demographic it resonates most strongly with. In the end, it draws parallels between Dean's campaign and the 1972 campaign of George McGovern, effectively labeling both as progressives ahead of their time - candidates who will decidedly lose the election, but whose platform and legacy will eventually go on the greater successes.
Interesting, sure, but what really got me was the description of Dean's favored demographic (paragraphs 4-6). This may be nothing new to many of you, but they really got my number. I've never seen my own (seemingly independently-reached) ideology and societal niche so precisely articulated and pigeon-holed. I guess I'm just one of the 15%. :) But if so, America's future may be a little brighter than I might have otherwise thought.