Thursday, July 28, 2005


"The IRA has formally ordered an end to its armed campaign and says it will pursue exclusively peaceful means." — BBC.

This is nothing short of ground-breaking and historical.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

better than those damned cookies

[josh@localhost src]$ fortune
program, n.:
        A magic spell cast over a computer allowing it to turn one's input
        into error messages.  tr.v. To engage in a pastime similar to banging
        one's head against a wall, but with fewer opportunities for reward.

And that was my afternoon. How was yours?

Friday, July 22, 2005

AIM Fight … to the death

So, AOL has come out with AIM Fight, finally settling any questions about popularity online.

I handily beat a certain anti-social ex of mine, and I'm narrowly beaten by Nick. Brandon has an even larger lead on me.

The real news, however, is Colin. According to AOL, he's in the top five percent of AIM users. How about that?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

John G. Who?

There are reasons to celebrate and reasons for concern. Judge Roberts is obviously qualified and doesn't strike anybody as a hack like several others on the short list. He's argued against abortion rights and flag burning and in favor of prayer at public school graduations. He's 0 for 3 there (by both my count and that of the Supreme Court), but he argued all of those cases while working for the first Bush administration. Then again, he wouldn't've taken the job had he not agreed with most of their positions.

Ultimately, it's now up to the Senate to figure out what he really thinks. Beyond that, we can only hope that the infamous "french-fry case" is mentioned as much as possible.

You might be wondering what other people think about Judge Roberts. Well, here's what some editorial boards have had to say:

Justice O'Connor has gone on record about Judge Roberts's nomination in this article in the Spokesman-Review.

Most importantly, however, one should note that Ann Coulter opposes Judge Roberts. That's almost enough to make him alright in my book.

The most frightening thing about Judge Roberts — worse than his views on abortion rights or the seperation between church and state — is a few words from Hedgepeth v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, the "french-fry case."

Judge Roberts wrote the opinion of the court in that unanimous ruling. In it, the court declared that it was not an "unreasonable" seizure under the Fourth Amendment for a 12-year-old girl to be taken away in cuffs for eating a single french fry in a D.C. Metro station. The girl had broken the law, and the law stated that minors breaking that law must be arrested. Nothing unreasonable there yet (except for the law itself, of course, but that's the legislative branch's fault).

But Judge Roberts didn't stop there. He then went on to say that that mandatory arrest policy was constitutional because it wouldn't have been "regarded as an unlawful search or seizure under the common law when the Amendment was framed." In case you didn't know, that would be in the year 1791.

That sounds suspiciously to me like Judge Bork's "original intent" theory of jurisprudence that was his undoing in the Senate after his nomination to the Supreme Court by President Reagan.

Constitutional law cannot be frozen as it was in the eighteenth century. Any kid who's had a class in civics knows that the beauty of the Constitution lies in its flexibility. It is a breathing, living document readily able to take on situations and cases the Framers could never have imagined.

If Judge Roberts believes we should roll back the clock on Constitutional law over 200 years, then abortion rights will be among the least of our worries, for he'll have eliminated all federal law on worker's rights and the environment and more important issues than you can fathom.

If not, though, then he'll be a good man for the job, much better than several others on the short list. Then, Democrats can only sit back and hope for Judge Roberts to be another Justice Souter.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

my tech school can frag your tech school

The following is an e-mail sent to all students of Drexel's College of Arts and Sciences. It is real. I couldn't make this stuff up.

Drexel Unreal Tournament 2004 Players:

There will be a gathering at noon tomorrow (Wednesday July 20) on the EduFrag server, which is currently available on the Internet in UT2004.I will take the group on a little tour of some of the rooms of the map, part of which is based on organic chemistry knowledge (alkynes). CHEM 241 is not a pre-requisite for joining us, but would be helpful.

You can download the map and textures automatically by clicking on the map but it is much quicker to download directly from the DrexelCoAS001 post here:

Please hold your fire till 12:15 so that I can give the tour peacefully.

RSVP to if you are coming or have questions.

Jean-Claude Bradley, Ph. D.

E-Learning Coordinator for the College of Arts and Sciences
Associate Professor
Department of Chemistry
Drexel University

In other news, President Bush will announce his nominee to Supreme Court tonight at 9 p.m. Expect a blood-curdling cry from North Hall around 9:15 p.m.

Friday, July 15, 2005

fat, conniving bastard

This is not the first time Mr. Rove has been linked to a leak reported by Mr. Novak. In 1992, Mr. Rove was fired from the Texas campaign to re-elect the first President Bush because of suspicions that he had leaked information to Mr. Novak about shortfalls in the Texas organization's fund-raising. Both Mr. Rove and Mr. Novak have denied that Mr. Rove had been the source.


Just thought you'd like to know this isn't the first time he's done this.

There's one more thing I think you should know. The name of the covert CIA agent who was identified is not Valerie Plame. That is her maiden name, and she prefers to be called her married name, Valerie Wilson. I've noticed that AP, Wired and several other media outlets have completely neglected that fact. You'd think that at some point while writing or fact-checking a story on the topic, you'd call up Ms. Wilson or the CIA for comment and ask something like, "How do you spell that name?" at which point you'd be informed of her preferred name. The New York Times and (usually) even The Triangle gets that. What's AP's excuse?

You're probably thinking that this is pretty petty — and it is — but I fear that it's indicative of a larger problem. Does anyone else get the eerie feeling that rather than much journalism going on, many news organizations are just reporting what each other says? Maybe it's just because the truth is (arguably) the same on any given story, so reporters have little choice to deviate from the norm; however, the fear of media parroting is healthy. Also, it likely stems from the pursuit not to be outdone and the vast use of wire reports.

It just really bothers me when I feel that I'm only receiving one view of a story. Isn't that the death of democracy? But media ownership policy is more difficult than I can imagine. You know why? Because there's virtually no little guy. Even a small local station is dealing with tens of millions of dollars. No one except for bloggers, of course ;-)

Getting back to Mr. Rove, there's something I'm having immense trouble fathoming. The charge against him from Democrats is that he leaked Ms. Wilson's covert identity to Mr. Novak in an attempt to attack Mr. Wilson and his contention that Iraq had not, as President Bush had claimed in a State of the Union address, attempted to procure yellowcake uranium from Niger.

And before you say, "But Rove didn't mention the agent by name," just shut up. Times reporter Matthew Cooper said Mr. Rove told him that "Wilson's wife, who apparently works at the agency on wmd [weapons of mass destruction] issues," authorized Mr. Wilson's trip to Africa.

As Representative Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) said, "Well, unless Joe Wilson was a polygamist, we knew exactly who he was talking about."

I also don't buy the argument that Mr. Rove didn't know Ms. Wilson was a covert agent, so that makes it all okay. That might squeak by in criminal court, but that's certainly not good enough for me. What the hell was Mr. Rove, a domestic policy advisor, doing talking about CIA agents? I think this leads to a larger question of "Why do we give domestic policy advisors security clearance for such things?" but that's not what really puzzles me.

What I can't wrap my head around is this: How could it possibly discredit Mr. Wilson to say that his wife not only worked for the CIA, but also specialized in WMDs? Wouldn't you be inclined to trust someone more about something his wife is an expert in?

The Times tried to explain this in an editorial. The following is an excerpt:

Before that happened, Mr. Rove gave Mr. Cooper a "big warning" not to "get too far out on Wilson." Mr. Rove said the origins of Mr. Wilson's mission were "flawed and suspect" because, according to Mr. Rove, Mr. Wilson had been sent to Niger at the suggestion of his wife, who works for the Central Intelligence Agency. To understand why Mr. Rove thought that was a black mark, remember that the White House considers dissenters enemies and that the C.I.A. had cast doubt on the administration's apocalyptic vision of Iraq's weapons programs.

That editorial board did their best to explain it, but I still don't get it. Was Mr. Rove trying to say that, "The C.I.A. can't be trusted on intelligence, because they disagree with us on Iraq's WMDs, and Wilson can't be trusted either, because his wife works for them."?

Don't try to make a syllogism out of that, because blood will shoot out your nose. It's the Central Intelligence Agency, for chrissakes. Not only is it an intelligence agency — it's the central one! What on earth made the Bush administration think they couldn't trust the Central Intelligence Agency on intelligence? What's more, why does Mr. Rove believe Mr. Cooper and Time's readers shouldn't trust the Central Intelligence Agency on intelligence?

Logic, reason, truth — these are all ideas far removed from present-day politics thanks to Mr. Rove and his ilk. Loss of job and imprisonment are far too good for Mr. Rove. In addition to those, he deserves to be driven absolutely crazy by irrationality and unreason, as I am almost every time I pick up a newspaper.

Oh, and did I also mention that he should rot in hell for uncovering a covert C.I.A. agent?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

availability heuristic

Worried about shark attacks at the beach this summer? Well, you should be more worried about the drive there, as you're more likely to die on the way there in an automobile accident. If you really want something to worry about at the beach, worry about being injured by jellyfish, stingrays and poisonous catfish, because they're much more likely to harm beachgoers.

What's more likely to bite you than a shark? A domesticated pig. There is some good news, however. You're more likely to win the lottery than get bitten by a shark.

What's more likely to kill you than a shark? A dog, tornado, bicycle accident, snake, bee, aligator, mountain lion, deer, falling coconut and eating peanuts.

Cause of death Lifetime odds
Shark attack 1 in 3,700,000
Amusement-park ride 1 in 920,000
West Nile virus 1 in 520,000
Bear attack 1 in 410,000
Plague 1 in 240,000
Fireworks 1 in 230,000
Hurricane 1 in 220,000
Asteroid impact 1 in 200,000
Dog attack 1 in 147,717
Earthquake 1 in 131,890
Snake, bee or other venomous bite or sting 1 in 100,000
Lightning strike 1 in 83,930
Tornado 1 in 60,000
Legal execution 1 in 58,618
Flood 1 in 30,000
Airplane accident 1 in 20,000
Lightning 1 in 39,000
Drowning in a bathtub 1 in 11,000
Pregnancy and childbirth 1 in 9,900
Electrocution 1 in 5,000
Being killed by an intimate partner 1 in 1,800
Flu 1 in 1,700
Fire or smoke 1 in 1,116
Falling down 1 in 246
Homicide 1 in 240
Suicide 1 in 121
Automobile accident 1 in 88
Pneumonia 1 in 57
Diabetes 1 in 53
Stroke 1 in 23
All cancers 1 in 7
Heart disease 1 in 4

Sources: National Center for Health Statistics, CDC; American Cancer Society; National Safety Council; International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; World Health Organization; USGS; Clark Chapman, SwRI; David Morrison, NASA; Michael Paine, Planetary Society Australian Volunteers; Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You by David Ropeik and George Gray (Houghton Mifflin, 2002).