Archive for July, 2005

2005.07.30

Just Finished Potter Book Six

I’ve literally just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. After the jump are spoilers, so if you haven’t read it yet you might refrain from continuing. I liked the story, though I thought Harry was turning into a bit of a prat. Still, he is Harry Potter, the “Chosen One”…

Read the rest of this entry…

2 Comments | Catergorized: books

2005.07.29

What Did I Hit?

I thought I hit an animal tonight on my way to Ann’s. There’s a part of the highway just before the bridge with very little wiggle room, especially when it’s crowded. Some weirdly floppy thing comes flying along the ground and right in front of my car. I already knew I couldn’t swerve and really I probably couldn’t have avoided it even if tried; there was just no time.

And I heard two sickening thumps on my undercarriage. WTF was that? I thought. It wasn’t a bottle or something solid like that because I distinctly noticed the flopping about. Could an animal have gotten up on the highway? Possibly. The first thing I did when I got to Ann’s was go back out with a flashlight and look. I didn’t see any fur or blood… not that this is an real assurance.

I can only hope that somewhere out there is a little girl crying her eyes out because she lost her little doll. She’ll get over it eventually. Even so, I’m remembering NHK’s story about the possum he named Crash; I’d hate to think there’s a little Thump flattened on the road back before the Bay Bridge. 5 Comments | Catergorized: life

2005.07.25

His Dark Materials

Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials
I’d seen these books on the shelves almost every time I went to a bookstore. Finally I could take it no longer; I bought the series. I’m glad I did.

The books The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass are collectively called His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. That title alone was confusing to me because it implied a negative energy I wasn’t sure I wanted to read. Still, I can only see a book so many times before I decide enough is enough. Mookee can attest to that since he’s done the same with The Man Who Never Missed.

I’m not going to go into the story because I don’t want to give much away, but I haven’t read something that involved so much at once in a long time. It takes into account the many worlds theory and quantum physics, talking bears, diverse cultures across the many worlds, aliens and angels, anbaric technology (which ties in a whole linguistic theme as well!), and a whole religious theme that borders on the Gnostic and probably pissed off a bunch of Christian fundamentalists.

The story revolves around a girl named Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon. Daemons are, in her world, and external manifestation of the soul. It sounds silly but it’s really quite brilliant. While the books are billed as teen fantasy, I think it’s really very adult in scope. Definitely worth picking up. You can learn more about His Dark Materials at the (apparently) official website or at this most excellent resource site.

4 Comments | Catergorized: books

2005.07.23

Welcome Back Patriot Act

Please read that title with a distinct note of sarcasm.

Lawmakers voted 257-171 Thursday to make permanent 14 of the Patriot Act’s 16 sections that are scheduled to expire in December, rejecting the civil liberties concerns of Democrats and some Republicans who wanted to limit several provisions of the anti-terrorism law.

That’s just lovely. First they passed a bill a month after the September 11th attacks. This bill, called the USA PATRIOT Act, was so voluminous that it couldn’t have been drawn up after 911; it was prepared well in advance. Congress passes this law without having time to debate it, let alone read it.

Later it is discovered to have a few rather unsavory parts and many more besides what I have quoted; here is more. Finally a few lawmakers got their heads out of their asses and started paying attention. I was relieved to hear even some Republicans beginning to wonder about the trampling of their freedom this bill allowed (though only 14 had the balls to vote against it).

One of the few reliefs in the Act was that some of the portions would expire over time. We would regain the freedoms the Act took away. Whoops! A few bombs went off in London (and we have great sympathy for London despite our commentary) and Legislators, who are not know for their courage under fire, have voted to make permanent. As I’ve said many times before, we need to get more people in Congress who A) are not lawyers, B) are not rich or who aren’t interested primarily in being rich or maintaining wealth, and C) have an ounce of backbone/spine/guts/courage/whatever you want to call it.

Here is a lot of background on the USA PATRIOT Act, and here was the vote breakdown on the Act that is killing the freedom Bush loves to propagandize (hopefully the link holds).

Comments Off on Welcome Back Patriot Act | Catergorized: grrr  political  rights

2005.07.19

Stellarium

I’ve just discovered an excellent astronomy application called Stellarium. For those of us with a long history of looking up at night but not spending the hours to learn exactly what we were looking at this is a great application. Free and open source for most platforms with nice artwork. It sounds like something Jason would be interested in (assuming he doesn’t have software already) if he ever came back from vacation.

1 Comment | Catergorized: apple  science

2005.07.18

Wounded! Ow, it Hurts

I suffered my first actual surfing mishap while not surfing. Saturday afternoon the water in Bolinas was horrible for surfing but surprisingly warm. I put my board up on the beach and went for a swim. The tide was in and waves were crashing right in the shore. Just my luck while coming in I stepped in a hole of some sort just as a wave hit me from behind throwing me forward.

Now my right foot is cut up and scraped quite nicely. Yesterday I was limping but today, aside from the hot water in the shower, it’s OK. It’s still raw and looks like a shark bit, but I’m getting around. I just can’t wear shoes. Work will be interesting tomorrow…

Comments Off on Wounded! Ow, it Hurts | Catergorized: life  surf

2005.07.16

Newspaper Statistics

Thinking about my last post on the odds of dying in a terrorist attack, I started thinking about how the media harps on and on about things like shark attacks or school shootings than they do about people contracting diabetes or dying from alcohol and/or drug abuse. I know that things like this are not good stories. “Man diagnosed with cancer, news at 10.” Yet this is what is news: information that gives you a clear idea of what is going on in the world. Yet the media needs drama to drive sales. The more outlandish the story, the greater the human interest, the better the income. OK, who am I to deny that?

Wouldn’t it be great, though, if a newspaper had one page -or even one column- devoted to statistics.

Category                   Number            Change Since

International
Population: 6,537,133,558 (one week) +4,863,287
Births: 2,845,897 (yesterday) -12,873
Deaths: 2,109,341 (yesterday) +9,198
Deaths from famine: 596,478 (yesterday) -508
Preventable deaths: 1,209,675 (yesterday) +7,792
Shark Attacks: 1 (one month) +1
Highest Temperature: 113 (yesterday) -3
Lowest Temperature: -48 (yesterday) +9

National
Population: 293,614,955 (one week) +8,187
Births: 83,123 (one week) +943
Deaths: 68,095 (one week) -1,374
Deaths from AIDS: 236 (yesterday) -10
National Debt: $6,736,610,719,431 (yesterday)+$2,721,850,729
Arrests: 909,476 (one week) +9,873
Gallons Gasoline: 827,160,672,478 (one week) +784,371,790
Shark Attacks: 0 (one month) 0
Highest Temperature: 98 (yesterday) -3
Lowest Temperature: 21 (yesterday) -8
NYSE Close: $7403.59 (yesterday) -$5.98

All statistics there, by the way, are made up. You get the idea, though. I realize many of the numbers I’ve chosen are kind of negative but there’s no reason not to include some other positive, funny and/or trivial numbers in there, like the dog population of the USA.

Like I said this wouldn’t be jammed on the front page, but there are a lot of us that would love to have this information. If the right categories were picked you could even start drawing conclusions about the world we live in. The end of the year would be a cinch to set up as a year in review. Many categories would remain the same day by day, but depending on the current “news” many would change to give more information. For example in the above example there was a shark attack in South Africa in the news.

I’m just brain dumping here, but I think it’s not a bad idea. Many of the statistics might even be aggregated from various sources making compiling easier for the editors. Blah blah blah.

UPDATE 2006.10.01: Unfortunately my carefull crafted chart up above lost all of its formatting. Stupid web interface for WordPress…

Comments Off on Newspaper Statistics | Catergorized: media  thoughts

2005.07.15

Who’s Afraid of the Terrorists?

(Please note: this article was originally published here)

Not me. Or at least, I’m not so much afraid of them as I am the obviously insane homeless guy down the street brandishing a stick. I’m more afraid of someone weaving back and forth between lanes on the highway because I know I’m in control of my car, but that guy looks either drunk or stupid (and yes, probably both).

I feel more anxiety from doctors and dentists than from terrorists. I know it’s irrational but let’s face it, how often do you have to go in to see the terrorist? Sharks scare the living hell out of me and I suffered nightmares about them for years and years after seeing Jaws as an impressionable 12 year old yet I still surf.

Read the rest of this entry…

4 Comments | Catergorized: thoughts

2005.07.13

Why Conservatives are Ruling America

Not that this is any new topic. Liberals are lamenting the fact and complaining (typically) about it. The truth is that the Conservatives want to rule America. Badly. They have thought about it and worked on strategies for accomplishing their goal for decades. They are not trying to be nice about it; they want power and control.

Until the Liberals decide they want power and control more than the Conservatives, the Liberals will continue to lose. Until they can play politics viciously and without mercy they will continue to lose. Not immorally but ruthlessly.

1 Comment | Catergorized: political  thoughts

2005.07.04

Happy Birthday America

I spent most of it quietly at Ann’s. We went out near Golden Gate Fields to watch the Berkeley fireworks. Off in the fog we could see colored flashes of San Francisco’s show. Now, at 11PM, small firecrackers and pops are going off in the distance.

I was going to write a rumination about the day and its meaning to me, but I won’t. I love America, the good and the bad, and that’s really all that matters.

Comments Off on Happy Birthday America | Catergorized: life
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