incoming nasty debate?
Mood: sick
Posted on 2008-10-07 10:33:00
Tags: politics
Words: 212

Obama is now at 88.5% to win. His national polling numbers (which, yes, don't really matter but are a good summary of the race) are way way way better than Gore's or Kerry's. (or Bush's this close to the election) At least Gallup's national tracking poll seems to have stabilized.

So, things are getting ugly. Palin is attacking, and the results are not pretty:

Worse, Palin's routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric's questions for her "less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media." At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, "Sit down, boy."
You can't blame the candidates for who supports them, but it sure sounds like she's almost inciting the crowd. At a McCain speech, he asked "Who is the real Barack Obama?" and the first shouted answer was "Terrorist!".

McCain has little to lose at this point, so he may go all-out nasty at the debate tonight...

2 comments

folks, this could actually happen!
Mood: giddy
Music: happy happy happy music
Posted on 2008-10-06 12:37:00
Tags: politics
Words: 94

My go-to source fivethirtyeight.com has Obama at 87.4% to win. (and some more good polls came out today, +13 and +10 for Obama in Virginia) McCain is planning an all-out negative offensive, talking about Ayers and other things from Obama's past. Why it probably won't work (look at that graph of favorability!) and why it won't work.

Excited about the debate tomorrow night - I can't tell you what a joy it is to have a candidate to really cheer for as opposed to one I merely like better than the alternative! (see Kerry, John)

0 comments

random whatevers
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-10-03 14:16:00
Tags: links
Words: 766

Feeling a bit on the crappy side today - anyone else's allergies bothering them?

I've heard of Desktop Tower Defense but hadn't tried it until this week. Warning: quite addictive! (there's also now Whiteboard Tower Defense which I haven't tried)

For some Cold War nostalgia (which is a little weird since I wasn't alive/aware during the interesting parts), check out the Wikipedia entry on CONELRAD, precursor of the Emergency Broadcast System which preceded the Emergency Alert System (doesn't the logo for the Emergency Alert System look kind of frightening, like the country's falling apart?) CONELRAD's purpose was to control electromagnetic radiation by shutting down all radio stations except for a few frequencies (a station would stay on the air at one of two designated frequencies for a few minutes, then cycle off and another station would start broadcasting on that frequency) to confuse enemy planes that might try to use the signals to home in on cities. Apparently Japanese planes used a Honolulu radio station to home in on Pearl Harbor.

The British version was the Four minute warning (the estimated time between the detection of a nuclear attack and when it would hit). The announcement is pretty chilling:

This is the Wartime Broadcasting Service. This country has been attacked with nuclear weapons. Communications have been severely disrupted, and the number of casualties and the extent of the damage are not yet known. We shall bring you further information as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay tuned to this wavelength, stay calm and stay in your own homes.

Remember there is nothing to be gained by trying to get away. By leaving your homes you could be exposing yourselves to greater danger.

If you leave, you may find yourself without food, without water, without accommodation and without protection. Radioactive fall-out, which follows a nuclear explosion, is many times more dangerous if you are directly exposed to it in the open. Roofs and walls offer substantial protection. The safest place is indoors.

Make sure gas and other fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished. If mains water is available, this can be used for fire-fighting. You should also refill all your containers for drinking water after the fires have been put out, because the mains water supply may not be available for very long.

Water must not be used for flushing lavatories: until you are told that lavatories may be used again, other toilet arrangements must be made. Use your water only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. Water means life. Don't waste it

Make your food stocks last: ration your supply, because it may have to last for 14 days or more. If you have fresh food in the house, use this first to avoid wasting it: food in tins will keep.

If you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given, stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out. When the immediate danger has passed the sirens will sound a steady note. The "all clear" message will also be given on this wavelength. If you leave the fall-out room to go to the lavatory or replenish food or water supplies, do not remain outside the room for a minute longer than is necessary.

Do not, in any circumstances, go outside the house. Radioactive fall-out can kill. You cannot see it or feel it, but it is there. If you go outside, you will bring danger to your family and you may die. Stay in your fall-out room until you are told it is safe to come out or you hear the "all clear" on the sirens.

Here are the main points again:
Stay in your own homes, and if you live in an area where a fall-out warning has been given stay in your fall-out room, until you are told it is safe to come out. The message that the immediate danger has passed will be given by the sirens and repeated on this wavelength. Make sure that the gas and all fuel supplies are turned off and that all fires are extinguished.

Water must be rationed, and used only for essential drinking and cooking purposes. It must not be used for flushing lavatories. Ration your food supply: it may have to last for 14 days or more.

We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours' time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast.

(here's an article about that nuclear script)

4 comments

vp debate wrap
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-10-03 09:46:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 199

Actually getting a little tired of national politics(!) - here's my quick debate summary:
You can check out my twitters during the debate (that was kinda fun but I'm not sure I'll do it again). Palin did well enough - there were a few awkward silences but certainly nothing like the cringe-worthy Couric interviews. (and she got the wrong name for the commander of our forces in Afghanistan) Biden started out very stiff and unanimated, but by the end he was doing much better - got his shots in at McCain and showed he has a command of the issues.

Most insta-polls show people thought Biden won. Probably the important thing is that Palin didn't falter or hurt herself/McCain. My guess is she'll avoid giving interviews until the election.
Also, McCain pulled out of Michigan yesterday (yay!) and there's a new poll showing him up by one in Minnesota. (boo!)

In its stead: local politics! Lots of local businesses are for Proposition 2, which would Stop Domain Subsidies. The other side is somewhat amusingly named Keep Austin's Word. I'm leaning towards voting yes on Prop 2 but I'm gonna read about it some more first.

Austin's commuter rail starts March 30 - yay!

4 comments

running out of semi-clever politics titles
Mood: good
Posted on 2008-10-02 09:55:00
Tags: politics
Words: 115

The long-awaited clip where Palin can't name any other Supreme Court decision (other than Roe v. Wade) that she disagrees with:

I'm hesitant that tonight's debate will provide any more such moments (since there will be not a lot of time devoted to each answer), but I guess we'll see!

The Senate passed a bailout plan last night with a bunch of extra crap in it. I guess I think it should pass...we've got to do something? (credit markets are freezing up, as I understand it) Still pretty unsure on the economics of it all. A look at how the credit crunch got started a few weeks ago.

Also, I really like this Michigan shirt :-)

1 comment

mildly interesting politics quiz
Posted on 2008-10-01 14:50:00
Tags: quiz politics
Words: 43

You are a

Social Liberal
(80% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(33% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat




Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also : The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Anyone wanna duel me in a fight-to-the-death cage match?

9 comments

palin-tology
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-10-01 11:53:00
Tags: politics
Words: 183

Busy today; some quick videos and such...

Palin can't name a newspaper she reads:

This is just weird - maybe she was just caught off-guard or something? But Couric's technique of asking an easy question, getting a reasonable response, and then following up seems to lead to bad results for Palin.

Palin gets interviewed with McCain:

"gotcha journalism" means asking questions, it seems.

Can't find a video for this one, but here's a transcript:

COURIC: Palin says she makes no apologies for her pro-life views and opposes abortion, even in the case of rape or incest.

Gov. PALIN: I'm saying that personally I would counsel that person to choose life, despite horrific, horrific circumstances that this person would find themselves in. And if you're asking, though, kind of foundationally here should anybody end up in jail for having had an abortion, absolutely not. That's nothing that I would ever support.
Guh? "Opposing" abortion is a bit different than outlawing it, which, unless I've gone crazy here, is the general pro-life position. So...confusing.

Some ridiculously good polls for Obama - the win-o-meter is up to 85.4%!

7 comments

TX voter registration deadline is monday!
Mood: hungry
Posted on 2008-09-30 12:02:00
Tags: politics links
Words: 310

Barack Obama wanted me to remind y'all that the voter registration deadline for Texas is this Monday, October 6. You can register and find more information at voteforchange.com.

"But Greg," I hear you say, "why even bother? It's not like my vote matters here in the Lone Star State!" Good point, hypothetical friend, but here's why you should anyway:


Been reloading fivethirtyeight.com a lot recently - seeing that 83% chance for Obama to win makes my heart sing!

Why is America so religious? - very strong negative correlation between country wealth and importance of religion to that country. We are the great big outlier.

Michael Lewis rents a mansion and ponders why having a big house is so important to people. As someone who recently purchased a bigish house (bigger than the other ones we were looking at, anyway), I found it interesting.

3 comments

Congratulations John McCain!
Mood: amused
Posted on 2008-09-26 11:34:00
Tags: politics
Words: 10

My sincere congratulations to John McCain for winning tonight's debate.

3 comments

debate on
Mood: determined
Posted on 2008-09-26 10:58:00
Tags: politics
Words: 126

CNN reports McCain will be there tonight, so that's good. (apparently if only Obama were there, it would count as a contribution to the Obama campaign so I guess they wouldn't air it or something?)

Washington Mutual basically failed last night, with JPMorgan Chase taking over most of it and the government taking the rest. All deposits are safe (they're FDIC-insured up to $100,000, but it was taken over so even above that they're fine). Slate argues this is the way it should work and it doesn't show the need for a giant bailout. But it'll happen anyway, and if it helps stabilize things, whatever. I'll get out my checkbook...

Also, we're not headed for a depression. So, that's nice.

David Letterman - still mad at McCain.

1 comment

debate? no debate?
Mood: tired
Posted on 2008-09-25 09:55:00
Tags: politics
Words: 326

Wow, what a crazy election cycle!

Yesterday McCain said he would suspend his campaign until a bailout package is passed. He also wants to postpone the first debate which is scheduled for tomorrow. Obama says the debate should go on and it's more important than ever for people to decide who will be leading the country in 40 or so days.

Just like the Palin announcement, this scared me for a bit just because it was pretty unexpected. But this isn't like suspending campaign events for a hurricane or something - this is a man-made disaster that a President would have to handle, even if there were other things going on at the same time. Looks like people aren't thrilled with the idea either. (David Letterman is not impressed) fivethirtyeight.com's Nate Silver thinks it won't work (I remember the Iran-Contra scandals preempting Square One as a kid! I was so mad...)

I don't know what this means for tomorrow's debate - it looks like Democrats have agreed in theory to the $700 billion bailout (with some oversight and executive pay limits) but I doubt they'd be able to pass anything by tomorrow. Maybe Obama will get 90 minutes all to himself? That would be awesome!

McCain then proposed that the first Presidential debate be held in the slot for the VP debate which sure seems like there would be no VP debate then. Wonder if he's worried about Palin's performance...

Kind of a mini-scandal: McCain's campaign manager still a lobbyist despite earlier statements to the contrary.

Yeah, I want this mug. Genius!

Anyway, sorry for the heavy politics lately - it accurately reflects what's on my mind and what I've been reading about. It'll all be over in 40ish days barring something crazy like 2000. I sure hope that doesn't happen... (there's a not unlikely scenario of a 269-269 tie that would throw the election to the House of Representatives...then things get really complicated but Obama would probably win)

4 comments

seriously, guys, $700 billion is a lot of money
Mood: unsure
Posted on 2008-09-24 10:25:00
Tags: politics
Words: 209

This whole bailout thing seems kinda shady. Stanton doesn't think it will work. Kos doesn't like it, neither does Atrios. The plan lacks oversight:

Section 8. Review: Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

It sounds like they're really really really trying to push this through this week, which is like what was done with the PATRIOT Act and should ring alarm bells.

Also, $700 billion is a lot of money, enough for 410 space shuttles, etc. (just multiply by 1.09!) It's $2300 per person. I understand things are bad, but something about giving away $2300 of my money to save Wall Street from their risky decisions makes me want to throw something. From an interview with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT):
For years now, they’ve told us that we can’t afford—that the government providing healthcare to all people is just unimaginable; it can’t be done. We don’t have the money to rebuild our infrastructure. We don’t have the money to wipe out poverty. We can’t do it. But all of a sudden, yeah, we do have $700 billion for a bailout of Wall Street.

6 comments

"heroes" but not about "heroes"
Mood: annoyed
Posted on 2008-09-23 10:01:00
Tags: rant essay
Words: 411

While watching "Heroes" at the Drafthouse last night, two things pissed me off entirely unrelated to the show.

1. KXAN (our NBC affiliate) kept shrinking the screen to warn us that, after October 2 Time Warner customers won't be able to see their station because they won't pay the reasonable price of less than one cent per customer per day (this happened like 10 times over the two hours). Here's KXAN's side of the story. They also (playing hardball) say you can sign up with Dish TV or AT&T U-Verse to ensure that you can still see everything, etc.

One cent per customer per day doesn't sound like much, but if every channel charged that much...let's see, there are around 150-200 channels in the basic Digital package, and that would be $45-$60 a month when the package itself only costs $65. (obviously Time Warner has a lot of infrastructure to pay for, plus they have to make a profit somewhere in there) So that's a little high. Not to mention the fact that KXAN is available for free over-the-air! I can understand a nominal fee to Time Warner, I guess, but asking for more money for something that anyone in the Austin area can get for free seems a little cheeky.

Time Warner's side of the story (yes, they bought thetruthhurtskxan.com on September 17th!) points this out, although that's mostly their only argument other than KXAN is trying to negotiate through the public, etc.

I would imagine that KXAN has more power here - while switching from cable to Dish or something else is a pain and not always possible, there are no substitutes for watching NBC shows (except for viewing them online or illegally downloading them or something) - Time Warner has better substitutes than KXAN does.

In the end, they had better figure this crap out and I better not miss my Heroes and Chuck and 30 Rock.


2. What is it with stupidly-titled shows? Last night we saw a preview for Yes Man which is about a Man who decides to say Yes to everything. There was also Sex Drive which is about a guy who Drives to California to have Sex. It makes me think they started with the title and came up with the lamest, most straightforward interpretation of it and then made a movie. Cut it out! (yeah, yeah, Yes Man is based on a book, but the book has the same stupid and literal title)

6 comments

linkdump
Mood: busy
Posted on 2008-09-22 13:41:00
Tags: 23andme genetics politics links
Words: 146

Busy today - links!

- Rock Band 2 is out for XBox 360 (PS3 version coming soonish) - it looks good (here's the new track list, all downloaded songs are automatically transferred and you can transfer almost all of the Rock Band 1 songs for a one-time $5)

- Really leaning towards getting my genes genotyped by 23andMe.

- Banning gay marriage in California is now losing 55-38. Yaaaay!

- short Bruce Schneier column - if liquids are so dangerous to take on planes, why aren't people arrested for trying to take them on (like guns)? The answer: because they aren't dangerous...there shouldn't be a class of stuff that you can't take on a plane but you don't get in trouble for.

- fairtax.org has what seems to be a pretty reasonable tax proposal.

- wonderjess posted this dialogue between Obama and Jed Bartlett - written by Aaron Sorkin! Oh this makes me miss West Wing...

0 comments

see? no reason to panic
Mood: excited
Posted on 2008-09-19 22:45:00
Tags: politics
Words: 8

Obama now 71.5% to win according to fivethirtyeight.com.

1 comment

interesting things
Mood: bouncy
Posted on 2008-09-17 15:06:00
Tags: video games football politics links
Words: 330

I have a list of tabs open in Firefox mentally filed under "to post about" but I'm only really interested in about half of them - this half!

- GM reveals Chevy Volt design
The Chevy Volt is a plug-in hybrid car that scheduled to be released in 2010/2011. This is a car I could see buying (hopefully I won't need a new car by then!) - it goes 40 miles solely on charge alone, and after that there is a gasoline motor but it's just used to charge the electric battery, not for propelling the wheels (like the Prius does). Downsides - it's going to be expensive ($40Kish?) and only hold four people. Apparently the battery pack takes up room where the middle back seat would be. I've been keeping my eye on this - it would be nice for an America car company to take the lead in green technology for once, and plug-in hybrids are cool!

- Familiar Ground May Be Election's Deciding Factor
Right now, it looks like Obama's easiest path to victory is Kerry states + Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado, which is very doable. fivethirtyeight.com's numbers are favoring McCain now but I'm confident they'll swing back the other direction.

- Federal bank insurance fund dwindling
I don't claim to understand what the hell is going on, but our financial system seems to be going to hell and it's kinda scary. The subprime crisis has the classic hallmarks of a Black Swan in that apparently few thought it was possible, and the amount of money that's been lost is pretty staggering. If there's one thing I learned from "The Black Swan" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, it's that things are more uncertain in Extremistan than we think...

In NCAA 09 news, the U of H Cougars lost to Florida in the Fiesta Bowl 14-6 (sooo close to tying it up at the end...) but finished the season #10 in the nation, and had a good recruiting season. We're about to start season #2!

1 comment

the usual
Mood: blah
Posted on 2008-09-15 10:40:00
Tags: music politics links
Words: 165

Clinton and Palin on SNL:


Once Elected, Palin Hired Friends and Lashed Foes - one of the things I'm most looking forward to the end of is cronyism - hiring friends for the job rather than the most qualified person. It looks like Palin wouldn't be the end of that at all.

Picked up a few new albums yesterday (I looooove me some amazonmp3.com!) - "Appetite for Destruction" by Guns N' Roses and "Speak for Yourself" by Imogen Heap. I didn't know that Guns N's Roses first album had both "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" on it! Interestingly:

According to Rose, the inspiration for the lyrics came from an encounter he and a friend had with a man while they were sleeping in a school yard in Queens. When they were approached by the "little black man", he yelled at them, "You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby; you're gonna die!" This incident inspired the main lyrical declaration for the song.

3 comments

family is OK
Mood: relieved
Posted on 2008-09-13 12:11:00
Tags: hurricane
Words: 45

My family and David's family are OK, although all of them are without power. My dad says the water got closeish to the house but not in. My mom's doing her public health thing, as I see they're telling people to boil water before drinking...

0 comments

Ike
Mood: worried
Posted on 2008-09-12 10:01:00
Tags: hurricane
Words: 34

This:

People sheltering at ground level at Galveston Bay when Hurricane Ike hits face "certain death," the weather service warns.
is a frightening CNN Breaking Alert to see. Hope everyone got out of there...

9 comments

genome hacking redux
Mood: thoughtful
Music: Toadies - "Possum Kingdom"
Posted on 2008-09-10 14:46:00
Tags: 23andme genetics
Words: 71

A few months ago I considered having my genome sequenced. Today 23andMe announced their service just got a lot cheaper, down to $400 (from $1000), and they're analyzing more SNPs now. I'm playing with their free demo (with sample data) and it does look pretty neat. $400 is still a lot of money, but if it came down to this or one of the new 32GB iPod touches I'd take this :-)

0 comments

best TV shows quiz
Mood: happy
Posted on 2008-09-09 10:29:00
Tags: quiz
Words: 142

All right, I'm making a quiz. Here is a list of the "best shows on television" according to various people. Bold the ones you've watched multiple seasons one and italicize the ones you've seen at least a few episodes of.

The Wire - everyone says this is awesome, need to watch at some point.
Lost - ohh yeah
Friday Night Lights - intriguing but haven't gotten around to it, may watch someday.
Deadwood - same
30 Rock - good stuff
The Daily Show - of course
Battlestar Galactica - of course
The Sopranos
Arrested Development - absolutely
Studio 60 - watched the first few episodes, didn't get into it.
South Park - pretty hit or miss, but the hits are good
Veronica Mars
Six Feet Under
Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Dallas Cowboys - wait, really?
The Colbert Report - I'm on notice!
Mad Men - heard good things about it.
The West Wing

18 comments

shorter McCain speech
Mood: calm
Music: old LOST podcasts
Posted on 2008-09-05 14:56:00
Tags: politics
Words: 3



(yay Tom Toles!)

2 comments

I would like to marry The Daily Show
Mood: amused
Posted on 2008-09-04 10:24:00
Tags: video politics
Words: 4


(with thanks to omega697)

8 comments

things that, upon further reflection, really piss me off and have come up recently
Mood: annoyed
Posted on 2008-09-03 15:19:00
Tags: rant essay
Words: 364

Abstinence-only education
This is in the news because Sarah Palin supports it, but it really didn't make me angry until I thought about it for a while. I understand teenagers having sex is bad (in a relative sense) and abstinence is a good thing and all that, but the fact is that around 60% of high school seniors will have had sex at least once before they graduate. (saw this recently, although I can't find a reliable citation at the moment)

If you think condoms are immoral (looking at you, Catholic Church) then I can at least understand the objection here (not that I agree), but imagining that not telling kids anything else except "don't have sex, it's horrible, etc." will make them (teenagers! the most rebellious age group?) just decide not to have sex, despite the fact that hormones are raging.

Not telling these kids about how to protect themselves is irresponsible. Only 15 percent of Americans support only teaching abstinence.

"Traditional" gender roles
This weekend, there were some books and movies and stuff in the beach house we rented, one of which was "Husbands Who Won't Lead and Wives Who Won't Follow". This really grinds my gears (I read like half a page over breakfast and couldn't continue). Firstly, the existence of gay couples is brushed aside with no explanation or anything, which almost makes me more upset than if one were arguing against us directly.

But even beyond that, this is flat out sexism. And what is the justification for this? I know that's the way it was in the past, because men were slightly stronger so they could go kill the mammoths while the women cared for the children, but I don't see anything fundamentally good or bad about that. Why is sex supposed to determine our role, and not personality and the particular relationship we're in or whatever? This is a conservative point of view ("conservative" in the this-is-how-things-were-done-in-the-past-so-we-better-keep-doing-them-because-the-past-was-awesome-compared-to-now) but why is it pushed by religions as well? I know there are a few small examples of this in the Bible ("Wives, be submissive to your husbands") but I just don't get how this fits in with anything else.

13 comments

computer miscellany
Mood: sneezy
Posted on 2008-09-03 10:31:00
Tags: computer
Words: 96

My Linux box is losing time...like a lot of time, over a minute an hour. Is there some battery I can replace on the motherboard or something?

I installed Windows on my Mac laptop last night with the help of Boot Camp. It worked, despite the fact that I did pretty much everything wrong or out of order. I really got into the groove of reading an instruction that contradicted what I had just done :-) Anyway, all the drivers and such work so maybe I have a hope for playing Warhammer Online, or possibly WoW crash-free!

4 comments

Go earlier/later

This backup was done by LJBackup.