D. Herbert

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Total War on the DLC

Kos declares war on the DLC: (via LGF)
Two more weeks, folks, before we take them on, head on.

No calls for a truce will be brooked. The DLC has used those pauses in the past to bide their time between offensives. Appeals to party unity will fall on deaf ears (it's summer of a non-election year, the perfect time to sort out internal disagreements).

We need to make the DLC radioactive. And we will. With everyone's help, we really can. Stay tuned.
Total war ("[no] truce will be brooked") against a political entity? I am curious as to what this will look like.

Is it just going to be a conventional whiner campaign (criticize every aspect of the DLC, loudly and repeatedly) magnified by the sheer number of Kos's followers? It would be surprising if this wasn't part of the campaign.

But the real question is, what else is there?

Does Kos have some sort of "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" style attack campaign planned, driven by people who have firsthand knowledge of the DLC?

In a similar vein, does Kos have some sort of insider information/scandal that he can use draw the DLC out and then expose them?

Both of those seem doubtful, because they would require people to be organized and secrets to be kept...

So what does Kos have? What can he possibly do to convince ordinary Democrats to abandon the DLC? Whatever it is, he is doing a good job of keeping it secret.

I like Charles' countdown idea, because these "secret plans" have a way of never materializing, but to be fair, Kos said two weeks, not "14 days." So I'll give him 17 days...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Windows Vista, HWR, and Spam

Most of the turing tests used to distinguish between humans and spambots involve reading characters (numbers or letters) from an image that has been distorted.

They work on the principle that computer programs cannot easily recognize distorted characters. OCR (optical character recognition) software is good at reading Times New Roman text off a print page, but isn't so good at recognizing distorted characters (so far as I know).

The upcoming OS Windows Vista will have a Tablet Edition, and this will sport advanced HWR (handwriting recognition software that interprets "ink" drawn on the screen as characters). I think these ink characters are generally more deformed than the printed characters most OCR schemes are designed to identify.

Not only will Vista be better at recognizing characters, but it will make it easier to integrate HWR into applications.

Will it be possible to take advantage of Vista's HWR to automate the process of recognizing the distorted characters from an image? If so, this would go a long way towards defeating that form of turing test. I don't know what sort of test we could use to replace that, if any.

If we can't come up with a new test, we'll have to give up on anonymous comments and instead rely on registration schemes like Blogger's or TypeKey (which are of course already infiltrated by spambots, but they could be taken a step further, for instance by requiring a member in good standing to hand out new registrations, such as with G-Mail)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Google gets Blogging

It wasn't always clear that Google knew what it was doing with blogs. But there's good news:

1) Google uses its blog to correct a mistaken impression in the news. (A more cynical person might say to "spin" the news, but it looks to me like Google is being entirely earnest.) (via THG)

2) Turing tests to comment on blogs. Someone's been generating fake comment spam to draw people to their adwords pages. Google put a stop to that. (A more cynical person might note that Google benefited from the spam because it generated money through Google's own adwords program.)

Neither is novel or of great importance, but they are both positive developments given that Google is running our blogging platform.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Who Will Frame Roger Rabbit?

First, calling the villain "Judge Doom" gives him far too much respect. From here on out, we have to start calling him "Dipper Doom."

We have to relate this story to the city at large, not to any one particular 'toon. We shouldn't even use the rabbit's name.

The big story is not about the rabbit, or Jessica's infidelity, or even Dipper Doom--it's about the turpentine and the freeways. Toxic chemicals, anti-'toon violence, industrial development! Dipper Doom out of 'Toontown!

We can incorporate all of this into the short and simple title: "Who Dipped TrolleyGate?", which conveys and emphasizes the important information. Once we frame this issue properly, there's no way we can lose.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Steve Jobs' Diabolical Scheme

Jobs has done the impossible: he has convinced x86 computer geeks from around the world that running Mac OS X is the coolest thing they could possibly do.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Marijuana: Gateway to the Black Market

Drug warriors often repeat the claim that marijuana is a "gateway drug." While that term has fallen somewhat out of favor (due to overuse?) the logic remains the same: stop kids from using marijuana, and you reduce the chance they will use hard drugs later in life.

But why does early drug use often lead to more serious drug use? Or, to restate: what is it about kids who have used marijuana that makes them different from kids who have not used marijuana, such that they will be more likely use harder drugs?

Is it that the experience of getting high had such an effect on them, or is it that their experience with the black market made them more comfortable making more dangerous purchases?

As the ONDCP notes, most drug dealers are not the stereotypical "pushers." So who is selling drugs? Other kids. They learn how to participate in the black market: the culture, the norms of behavior, what a good deal looks like, how to avoid being ripped off, how to avoid being a victim of violence, etc. Those are all of the things they will need to know in order to participate in the trade of harder drugs--except mistakes there are less forgiving.

They build trust relationships from the ground up around the sale of marijuana (where the stakes are low, because of smaller criminal penalties if something goes wrong), and from there move on to harder forms of criminal activity. Marijuana may or may not be a gateway drug, but it's certainly a gateway to the black market.

I won't claim that legalizing marijuana will fix this, because presumably, like cigarettes and alcohol, marijuana would still be illegal for minors. Which means illegal sales would still take place. I don't think there is any good solution to this problem.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Thoughts on Sitzkrieg

Donklephant has a good post about how the new war is in some ways more dangerous than the cold war--because there is less restraining our enemies (via Instapundit). That got me thinking: if the USSR was still going strong, would there be a conflict between Americans and Muslim extremists, and if so, how would it be different?

The positive:

Hopefully the USSR would be engaged in bloody wars with Muslims in Chechnya and Afghanistan such that the combination of America and the USSR would keep Islamic extremism from becoming a major problem (this sentence is a bit garbled; what I meant was the combined threat from the US and USSR if Muslims attacked us; I know we were helping the Muslims in Afghanistan--ed). I can’t really see China helping Muslim extremists, given its stance towards religion in general and the Uighur people. India is basically at war with the extremists over Kashmir. So all of the major powers in the world would be united against radical Islam (except Europeans and Brazil, which would be happy to sit this fight out).

However, it was the Soviet war in Afghanistan that gave Islamic extremists a place to congregate. So if there were many Muslim-Infidel conflicts around the world, that would mean Muslims everywhere would be pressured to radicalize and there would be many opportunities to network and train for jihad.

The Negative:

MAD without Islamic Terrorists might be preferrable to Islamic Terrorists without MAD, but both are better than Islamic Terrorists and MAD.

What if Muslim extremists exploited MAD? One nuclear explosion could start a nuclear war. With a nuclear bomb in place, they could fake a missile strike:

Fire an empty missile at the site where the nuke is already located so the American military would shoot down the missile; when the nuclear explosion happened anyway we would think it must have been a multiple-warhead missile or something likewise very advanced to survive an anti-missile. We would think only the Soviets were capable of that.

Then the terrorists could launch a few more empty missiles and we would think a full-on nuclear barrage was incoming. It wouldn’t take many missiles to pull off. Would we wait for those missiles to impact before we launched our counter-attack?

(of course they could target the USSR just as easily as they could target us with that scheme)

A nuclear exchange between America and the USSR would be great for Islamic extremists. They would be working very hard to make it happen. They would surprise us with their savage creativity, like they did on 9/11 and at Beslan.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The Boston Globe Reminds You...

That you might have a transsexual baby.

No, really:
...is as misguided as the Gender Mentor Kit's mistaking sex for gender
Thanks, BG, I'll send off emails right now to remind all of the pregnant women I know of this possibility.
Some prochoice advocates argue, as Rutgers law professor Kimberly Mutcherson told Newhouse News Service, ''if you believe women have the right to choose, [selecting sex] is a perfectly legitimate reason."
Under our current law, women can have abortions for any reason, up until the baby is born (limits to cases of "medical necessity" are easily bypassed). So killing babies of a certain sex is perfectly legal. In fact, it's legal to get pregnant just so you can have an abortion.
The right to choose neither includes nor implies a right to design; Roe secures a woman's decision to ''bear and beget a child," not a right to configure its human attributes.
I don't think this is correct. The right to abortion can be used to kill off defective babies (mental retardation, cleft palate, etc.). To that extent, women are allowed to take attributes of their baby into account when making the decision to abort. Since women are allowed to get abortions for any reason, the Boston Globe can't claim that some reasons are not protected by law. Or can they? They're just making up the Constitution as they go along.

Does the Boston Globe want an increased government role in limiting abortion? Do they want a Motives Police to make sure women are pure of heart when they seek their abortions?

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Some thoughts on Discussing Evolution

  1. Don't. It's just not worth it.

  2. A person's beliefs in a particular subject, whether they are anti-evolution, pro-racism, pro-homosexual, anti-communist, Catholic, atheist, etc. don't have any bearing on whether or not that person is educated or intelligent. There are brilliant racists and stupid anti-Communists and everything in between. Someone's religious beliefs don't make them any smarter or dumber.

    And intelligence has nothing to do with whether someone is a decent person.

  3. "Ignorance" is a more complicated subject, and one I'm not so quick to concede. I don't think that everyone who believes in ID or creationism is "ignorant." But I do believe people who post thoughtlessly against evolution without even having read the rebuttals at TalkDesign.org are candidates for being considered "ignorant." If you want to discuss challenges to evolution online, you should at the very least read the main rebuttal to your claims. At the same time, anyone who wants to attack ID should understand it (so a pro-evolution person could be "ignorant" if he attacked ID based on a strawman misrepresentation of what ID theorists are saying--this is the reason I took the time to actually understand Behe's "Irreducible Complexity" argument, by reading the critiques and his writing).

  4. I do believe that trying to teach ID instead of or alongside evolution is to be pushing ignorance, because ID is wrong. Teaching something that is wrong, for bad reasons, is to spread ignorance.
There are a few problems with trying to have a discussion about this controversial subject online, with strangers:
  1. The most obvious is that this is a touchy subject and some people will be more easily offended. This includes people who really were offended, and people who use "offended" a a PC club to beat you with. (I think there's a lot more of the former than the latter.)

  2. Others will deliberately offend. I don't just mean being rough-edged or less than polite, I mean being offensive for the sole point of trolling.

  3. And then there are the hit-and-run posters: they show up, make one opening argument, and then run away. They're not interested in hearing answers, because they can't stand and fight. This by no means includes all persons skeptical of evolution. It doesn't even include all people who show up and then leave. Only the ones who make arrogant assertions before running off.

  4. None of them think, "Gee, I don't know much about this. Maybe I should just ask my question politely instead of asserting that it proves that evolution is a lie."

  5. The "points" they make generally look like "Evolution can't be true because it can't explain X!!!" Aside from the fact that they obviously aren't creative enough to come up with their own explanation (or just don't want to), when you reply with a simple explanation of how X might in fact be possible and fit into the grand scheme of things, they've already moved on. What the Hell do they care? They're not interested in an answer. They just like asking the question.

  6. The other "point" they make is to cite an expert like Behe or Dembski. Then they run away. Again, they're not interested in the answer. Fact is, Behe/Dembski/etc. have been discussed and rebutted over at TalkDesign.org. They won't follow the links back to that page to read about our side of the argument, because they aren't interested in understanding anything.

  7. I'd bet that few people who cite Dembski's "Complex Specified Information" (CSI) theory have any idea whatsoever what it is. Or are there just thousands of math majors floating around the interweb dropping in on random sites to voice their support for CSI anonymously?

    Just challenge these people to explain CSI in their own words and watch their heads explode.

    I'm taking the time to learn it now, and it's not very impressive. TalkOrigins points out some serious flaws, and I'm reading his paper now.

  8. They like the theory so much because it is backed by A Scientist--they are the ones blindly following authority and waving credentials around. The pro-evolution side of the debate doesn't want to wow people with the weight of their credentials (which is indeed massive), it just wants people to understand evolution as part of a balanced liberal arts education.

    Of course, that alone doesn't prove it's wrong. Just because most people don't understand quantum physics (I sure don't!) doesn't make it false. No. To see why it's wrong, you'd have to go to TalkDesign.org. They lay it all out for anyone interested in reading it themselves.

    Why would anyone try to understand the evolution vs. ID debate in a chat room, forum, or comment thread, when there are such powerful resources available? People wrote them just for you.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Thoughts on the Submarine Rescue

This sort of thing is dramatic (high stakes, not much time) and inspiring (highly-skilled individuals and diverse government agencies cooperating to meet the challenge). It's one of the better examples of what humans can accomplish when we work together.

If they do survive, it will be because the sailors on the Kursk did not.

If it were not for the Kursk disaster/tragedy, Putin would not have been so quick to ask for foreign help, especially given the sensitive nature of the underwater detection equipment involved.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Novak Calls It

Carville taunts him as a wuss with something to prove.

What can Novak do?
  1. Shrink back and let Carville talk? If he does this, not only does he get cut off, but it makes Carville "right" that he's a wuss.

  2. Get mad and try to yell over Carville? If he does this, Carville still stops Novak from making his point (because no one will hear anything coherent in the shouting), and Carville's still "right" that Novak has something to prove.

  3. Sock Carville in the Face (for obvious reasons, this is a bad idea, not least of which is that Carville can probably take him)

  4. Walk away.
Note that in none of these options does Novak actually get to make his point. In all of them, he is belittled by Carville. So yes, it was BS, and it's natural for someone to react with anger when confronted with such choices (especially if they were not expecting to hit a dead end like that on national TV). Not that Novak's outburst helped anything any.

Or was Novak just looking for an excuse to book?

Update 8/5 9:45pm: I should add that, like Glenn Reynolds, I was never a fan of Novak, and that I think his outburst was really stupid and juvenile. Also, there is a difference between walking off the set as a guest who is being insulted and as one of the hosts. Sometimes you should just suck it up and accept an insult (especially if you may have (in)advertently exposed a CIA operative's identity... in that case, a bit of humility might be in order)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Childhood Immunity

My generation, along with my parents', grew up bombarded by advertisements. This did not damage us in any way--in fact, it made us more savvy consumers.

So I wonder what the next generation of kids is going to be like, given what they're exposed to: Political Correctness 24/7 on all of their TV shows.

I caught a snippet of the PBS show Arthur the other day. One kid was telling another how he hoped he didn't have to give his presentation last, because that's the hardest. Everyone knows the first is the hardest. Sure, there are reasons to go first--ego reasons, or because the teacher takes into account the difficulty and grades it more easily--but that doesn't make it any less hard. And of course that's not the only example of the heavy-handed political correctness from that show and others like it.

And kids know this. They're not stupid. They're going to know that their TV is lying to them sometimes in order to encourage them to be more politically correct, civic-minded, anti-racist, anti-sexist, academic-oriented, team players, etc. Not that those are bad things. I'm just worried the kids will build up immunity to those ideas.

Are they going to get the idea that all of the do-gooder messages they get from the TV (and society in general) are inherently suspect? And would that be a bad thing?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Why this Matters

John Bolton is going to hurt America's image at the U.N., by offending all of these people:

Kofi Annan will be fuming mad, as soon as he gets done counting his money (which could take a while, because while no one is sure just how much he made off with, we are sure there is a lot of it).

Russia and China will be offended that Bush decided to cheapen the U.N. by making a naked power move in our national interest, instead of doing what's right for the world.

France will find a way to slight us in revenge for this, but we won't know it at the time, because they will disguise it as a slight for something else. And we will feel very slighted. France will continue to gun down unarmed protesters as France is wont to do.

The members of the Commission on Human Rights will be very offended, as soon as they stop committing human rights abuses against people in their own countries, and funding terrorism abroad.

The U.N. peacekeepers will have to take a break from raping children and from taking a break defending safe zones to contemplate how Bush has insulted them.

The U.N. General Assembly will be offended as soon as it gets done issuing a new condemnation of Israel.

Won't Be Missed

King Fahd of Saudi Arabia is dead.

Standby to recieve wisdom from LittleGreenFootballs: I'll bet Charles Johnson will remind us all why the dead guy Fahd won't be missed and his son Abdullah won't be an improvement.

Defining Draconian Down

Pedantic Word Excercise #2

The S.F. Chron. shows poor judgment when it includes this in a straight news article:
But the rush to Israel has many Muslim groups concerned that U.S. law enforcement agents will begin using draconian measures, including religious and ethnic profiling.
Draconian is defined by Dictionary.com to mean:
Exceedingly harsh; very severe
Ethnic profiling might not be pleasant, but how is it "exceedingly harsh" or "very severe"? Using perjorative words like that to describe American and Israeli law enforcement measures is fine--on the editorial page. Not in the news pages. It would be nice if the Chron would separate the two.

From Thesaurus.com, here is the complete list of synonyms for "Draconian":

  1. acrimonious
  2. acute
  3. authoritarian
  4. austere
  5. binding
  6. brick wall
  7. callous
  8. compelling
  9. confining
  10. convincing
  11. cruel
  12. dead set
  13. demanding
  14. disciplinary
  15. dour
  16. drastic
  17. drawing
  18. exacting
  19. extreme
  20. firm
  21. forbidding
  22. forceful
  23. grim
  24. hard
  25. hard-boiled
  26. hard-nosed
  27. harsh
  28. in line
  29. intemperate
  30. intense
  31. iron-fisted
  32. keen
  33. merciless
  34. no-nonsense
  35. oppressive
  36. persnickety
  37. picky
  38. pitiless
  39. poignant
  40. powerful
  41. prudish
  42. punctilious
  43. puritanical
  44. rigid
  45. rigorous
  46. rough
  47. ruthless
  48. savage
  49. scrupulous
  50. set
  51. severe
  52. sharp
  53. square
  54. stern
  55. stickler
  56. stiff
  57. staight
  58. strait-laced
  59. strict
  60. stringent
  61. stuffy
  62. tight
  63. tough
  64. tyrannical
  65. unfeeling
  66. unkind
  67. unmerciful
  68. unpermissive
  69. unsparing
  70. uptight
  71. valid
That's what I mean by "perjorative." The word has intensely negative connotations.