Friday, August 20, 2004

Kick your child up a notch 

The General approves of "Louisiana discipline". (Click the pic).
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Thursday, August 19, 2004

"Wake up! Time to die" 

I blame the trial lawyers:

Doctors working for the U.S. military in Iraq collaborated with interrogators in the abuse of detainees at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, profoundly breaching medical ethics and human rights... doctors or medics falsified death certificates to cover up homicides, hid evidence of beatings and revived a prisoner so he could be further tortured.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The Gay to whom you owe most of your doughy, white, quintiple deferment-seeking, other-prioritizing ass!  


Alan Turing (1912-1954) Posted by Hello

During World War II this English cryptologist helped break the "unbreakable" Nazi ENIGMA code variations, a hugely significant achievement that probably shortened the war by at least a year, saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Though it's an exaggeration to say Turing "won" WWII, it's much less of an exaggeration for him than almost anyone else. And as important as the codebreak was, it's by no means the only contribution from this tragic man. Peter Cave summarizes:
On 7 June 1954, Alan Turing, aged 41, ate an apple injected with cyanide. Thus died a man who laid the foundations for computer science... and who founded the artificial intelligence programme, a source for much of today's philosophy of psychology. Nobody can be sure of the exact reason for the suicide, but his homosexuality was key.... in 1952, a Turing sexual affair was exposed to the police. Turing was dismissed from his cryptological post and --to avoid imprisonment-- he submitted to chemical treatment to submerge his sexuality.

Clearly, his sensitive analysis of sensitive intelligence was crucial to the Allied effort against fascistic terror. But these days some conservatives (when not codifying bigotry) deplore using such proven methods against Islamofascist terrorism. One wishes to ask them: "by ridiculing 'sensitive' wartime methods that save lives and shorten conflicts, are we to assume that the current administration actively promotes longer and deadlier wars?"

And since the current administration is fond of hypotheticals, let's ask Cheney and Bush this one (requiring only a simple "yes" or "no" answer): "Would you have supported or opposed the sensitive efforts of a gay man which defeated Nazism?"

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Final political observation: if the Bushies are already this desperate, this early, you better believe these hardc-nts are ready to do absolutely anything to win.
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Update: Zac has a photo of a protester you won't believe.
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"What seems to be the problem?" "Death." 


Enhanced detective-work of the future Posted by Hello

Sony's new TV "lets television viewers manipulate the images broadcast to their screens, allowing them to zoom and pan around the picture as well as sharpen the resolution... [it] can digitally fill in details of the picture to keep the image sharp, and lets users pan that enlarged view, as if they were controlling the video themselves. " (WSJ 8/12/04, B1).

Anyone who has seen Blade Runner understands the crime-solving implications of Sony's technology. All you need is an ESPER machine (pictured above) combined with feigned professionalism and a splash of wry sarcasm... then Presto!-- you're in charge of hunting bad robots. While on their trail, you should collect the polaroid pictures those sentimental robots leave behind, feed them into your new Sony, and enhance them until they yield the clues needed to solve the case. Sure, during your investigation you might become totally overmatched and bludgeoned nearly to death; but never fear, because an ubermenschian robot might have mercy on you at the most propitious time. If not, then you can always reflect on this comforting chestnut:

"The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. And you have burned so very very brightly..."



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Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Nominate your favorite librarian for an award! 

The fourth annual Librarian Awards have arrived! My, how time flies.

So after surveying thousands of bibliotechnicians throughout the country, oyster has somehow narrowed his recommendations for this year down to two highly qualified candidates: either the gal with a snake who reads a lot, or this guy who, um, ...breathes a lot! (Oh, he is also prone to blogging drunk, and over-apologizing.) So go download an award form, fill it out, and mail it today so a proud librarian from the Crescent City can earn a richly deserved plaque, plus a $2500 cash prize which I'm sure they'll elect to donate.

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Note: this post isn't the one referred to previously, where I spoke about a career offering "early retirement".
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Monday, August 16, 2004

Toil and Trouble 

Several reports from investors I know in California claim that their real estate market is rapidly cooling. Inventories of houses for sale have tripled in parts of (formerly) white hot Los Angeles. Days on the Market are increasing; properties that sold in two days for top dollar now take two months to sell at a discount of 5-10%. Obviously, real estate is a tremendously localized and illiquid market, and what happens in Los Angeles does not necessarily have direct bearing on values in Louisiana. However, that said, there has long been talk of a coming "correction" in house prices, and a debate as to how mild or severe the correction will be. With so much refinancing and over-mortgaging in the past few years, it wouldn't take much of a price drop to turn homeowners "upside-down" in their "investments" (meaning they suddenly owe more than the house is worth). So based on these reports, I'll join those who've broadly declared that we're finally entering a new housing cycle, one which will be extraordinarily painful for many overleveraged families living paycheck to paycheck. Prices will be flat to lower on average for the next few years. My contact in Burbank, an experienced investor and mortgage broker, writes:

We are starting to have appraisal problems with purchases for the first time in several years. Also, the report from the trenches is that some escrows are falling apart and the sellers are then reselling at substantially lower prices. Just want to point this out because it's been a long time since we've seen this going on...

I asked 2 different Realtors what's going on these days in the resell market. They both told me the same thing - sales prices are down about 10% right now. Those wanting, or rather needing to sell are having to price below the competition to just get showings.

So, if you're about to buy/sell/refinance you may wish to factor the above observation into your plans. And when you're listening to the panic about expensive oil, remember that there might be deeper problems (read: credit bubble) behind the headlines about gas. This bubble could deflate throughout next year, and another recession would likely result. In that case, I'm intrigued to see who would get blamed: Greenspan, Bush, Clinton, Kerry, Republicans, Banks, Fannie, Freddie...?

Yecch. What a tense, underwhelming decade this is shaping up to be. Next post I'll outline something slightly more hopeful; perhaps an exciting career opportunity where retirement comes quickly.

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Update: July Housing starts were up smartly (8.3%), and so were building permits, a forward-looking indicator.
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Sunday, August 15, 2004

Advice for new Dads 

If necessity demands that you take your colicky infant to the doctor's office by yourself, don't dismiss your wife's inevitable concern over this with a cavalier: "No sweat, dear-- we'll be fine... isn't Mummy a spaz for worrying so much? Yes she is, yes she is!"

Why? Because an unexpected diaper "malfunction" might occur, and after cleaning up the mess you're now way behind schedule. You speed, park illegally, but are still literally running late. The specialist's office is on the hospital's fifth floor, and you're jogging through the lobby, swinging baby to and fro in one of those hand-held carriers. You're sweating and anxious, and looking for any opportunity to save time, when you spy an available crowded elevator going up. While jogging towards it, the doors begin closing... You're late, nothing else is open, what do you do? What do you do?!

Well, the wrong answer is this: Do not-- I mean it-- DO NOT make a break for the closing entrance a la Indiana Jones. Then when it becomes clear that you're not going to make it, PLEASE REFRAIN from lunging the plastic child carrier into closing doors, which slam loudly (Ka Clunk!) on the infant seat before retracting. When those doors finally reopen, you've never seen such a panoply of stunned, horrified faces.

My, that is one intensely awkward elevator ride. Normal elevator silence isn't a comfortable thing, but it's excruciating when you're surrounded by strangers who are all thinking some version of the following: "What kind of a monster shoves his child in between closing elevator doors to save twenty seconds? No wonder this poor kid needs to see a specialist.... oh and now she's crying... big surprise... I swear if this so-called 'father' ever comes near my kid, I'll punch his lights out."

So, don't do that. You're not Indiana Jones, and your kid isn't a trusty whip. Be late, and accept the "I told you so" when you get home.

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