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10.31.2003

Ideological consistency? Who needs it? 

Peter Beinart of The New Republic offers a very detailed description of the relationship between partisan politics and foreign policy.

Ignorance of the law blah blah 

So while driving home from the grocery store, I got honked at for failing to make a left turn onto a one-way street at a red light. (The oncoming traffic was stopped as well.)

Massachusetts General Law stipulates the following:



Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 89, Section 8:
"At any intersection on ways, as defined in section one of chapter ninety, in which vehicular traffic is facing a steady red indication in a traffic control signal, the driver of a vehicle which is stopped as close as practicable at the entrance to the crosswalk or the near side of the intersections or, if none, then at the entrance to the intersection in obedience to such red or stop signal, may make either (1) a right turn or (2) if on a one-way street may make a left turn to another one-way street, but shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other traffic proceeding as directed by the signal at said intersection, except that a city or town, subject to section two of chapter eighty-five, by rules, orders, ordinances, or by-laws, and the department of highways on state highways or on ways at their intersections with a state highway, may prohibit any such turns against a red or stop signal at any such intersection, and such prohibition shall be effective when a sign is erected at such intersection giving notice thereof. Any person who violates the provisions of this paragraph shall be punished by a fine of not less than thirty-five dollars."



In other words:



"After stopping, it is legal to turn left from a one-way street onto another one-way street on red, unless it's prohibited by a sign."



Anyway, since I was on a two-way street, I was right not to make a left turn at the red light, even though I wasn't really sure of it at the time.

God, Massachusetts is annoying. Drivers, pedestrians, street layouts, traffic laws, you name it.

Say it ain't so, Sergey and Larry 

Google is apparently considering a merger with Microsoft.

Torture under the Saddam regime 

I guess the antiwar crowd thought that the people of Iraq were better off when stuff like this was happening.

UPDATE: Okay, so this may not have been the most rigorously thought out thing I've ever posted. I'm not erasing it though, because I think that's a shady blogging practice. The post above is an accurate reflection of what I was thinking about at the moment it was posted.

Still, I stand by the essential point that opponents of the war in Iraq never offered a solution to the human rights disaster during Saddam's reign. All the jousting with the UN was completely focused in Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction (and for the record, I believe it was a huge PR mistake for Bush to focus so much on the WMDs at the expense of the atrocities of the Ba'ath regime).

The only arguments I have heard in response to my argument have been of the "we were the ones who armed Saddam in the 1980s" variety, the "we respect Iraq's national sovereignty" variety, or the "other nations are just as bad as Iraq, why are they being singled out" variety.

Responding to these arguments in order, I would say (1) so what? If we created the monster, it's doubly our responsibility to slay it; (2) Saddam's 100% vote total in his last election and the obligatory "death to America" quotes from "random" Iraqis on the street in news articles notwithstanding, Gallup research suggests that most Iraqis (at least in the former Ba'ath stronghold of Baghdad, where they took the poll) are happy that Saddam is gone; (3) we're allowed to pick and choose our spots according to strategic concerns. Iraq was probably No. 2 on the human rights abuses list before North Korea. Iraq was relatively low-hanging fruit, whereas North Korea's huge military and its continued material and financial support from China and South Korea might make it worthwhile to hold off on military action for the moment.

Flame away.

Heresy 

ABC is going to show a news item on Monday suggesting that Mary Magdalene was Jesus's wife, based upon claims that appear in the novel "The Da Vinci Code".

Can somebody remind me what the textual evidence (from the Bible or from any other contemporary text) is for this claim? Accusing the early church fathers of being a chauvinistic patriarchy and using that as justification for the hypothesis that Jesus's marriage is the subject of a massive cover-up is not textual evidence.

I'll provide a bit of evidence that Mary Magdalene was not Jesus's wife: In John 20:13-16, Mary Magdalene visits Jesus's tomb after the crucifixion and meets the risen Jesus, but she does not recognize him at first:



And they said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him." When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?" Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (which means, Teacher).



This anecdote is not recorded in the other three gospels, but neither is it contradicted; there's a lot of material in John's gospel that also does not appear in the synoptic gospels.

Note that Mary Magdalene did not recognize Jesus at first. This is completely different from the disciples' initial reaction to Jesus, as recorded in Luke 24:33-43:



And they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, saying, "The Lord has really risen and has appeared to Simon." They began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. While they were telling these things, (6) He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be to you." But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? "See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, "Have you anything here to eat?" They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them.



When the disciples first see the risen Jesus, they clearly recognize him; they just think they're seeing a vision or a ghost. We are forced to conclude that Mary Magdalene wasn't as familiar with the physical person of Jesus as were the disciples, casting doubt on the theory that Mary and Jesus were married.

10.30.2003

Hallelujah 

The Senate has reversed course and decided that the $18.4 billion reconstruction package for Iraq will be in the form of an outright grant, instead of half grant and half loans.

And they did it with Bono not having to get on anyone's case. (In fact, I wonder if he's been paying much attention to Iraq at all.)

Are the Red Sox trying to unload Manny Ramirez on the Yankees? 

Who else might possibly be able or willing to pick up the balance of Ramirez's contract -- $104 million for five years?

10.29.2003

But can it tell if the author is gay? 

This little gadget claims to be able to identify the gender of the author of any piece of writing.

I don't think I've ever written an article of 500 words (not counting math papers) since I graduated from college. But according to this sample, I am female, whereas according to this sample, I am male.

Methinks the algorithm needs a little tweaking.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan doesn't seem to think that the gender genie will function as a reliable gaydar, either. Here's a link explaining the logic behind the algorithm.

Overheard in class yesterday 

Me: "So this shows that the internal covariant derivative is the projection of the covariant derivative from the ambient manifold."
(pause)
Student #1: "I'm going to go home and think about this."
Student #2: "I'm going to go home and watch TV."

10.28.2003

If they'd replaced "Playboy centerfold" with "Chippendales dancer", I might have dropped off my resume 

Grady Little will not return as the manager for the Boston Red Sox next year.

I'm not quite sure what to say about this. True, Little was a little lacking in the tactical department; hanging Pedro Martinez out to dry in the eighth inning of Game 7 and ordering three consecutive hit-and-runs that led to strikeout-throwout double plays in the ALCS were just the most recent and/or egregious errors he's made over his career. But everyone knows that clubhouse harmony and the lack of focus and intensity required to plow through a 162-game season and advance to the playoffs (the time of year when having a master tactician/stathead is more valuable) have been the biggest problems with the Sox over the last several years, and Little was able to correct these problems the last two years.

Here's a quote from the article linked above:



Now we turn to the idea of who's next. What is clear is that there's not a human with all the attributes necessary to fulfill the requirements the Sox have established. They are in search of a guy who can please Bill James and Manny Ramirez. They want a man who can satisfy stat geek owner John Henry while still commanding the respect of the players. They need a guy who can work with young Theo and his seamheads, while keeping Pedro happy by sending him home to the Dominican every couple of weeks.

You'd better also be ready to answer to a demanding Lucchino and a wanting-to-be-more-involved Tom Werner (it was the late PA announcer, Sherm Feller, who once said, "We got so many owners, I don't know who to be nice to anymore.") Oh, and let's not forget the scrutiny of fans and media. It was Little who last week reminded us that, in Boston, anything less than winning a World Series now counts as failure.

Yesterday, Boston talk radio master Jay Severin listened to the Sox' job requirements and said, "That's like looking for the Playboy centerfold who also holds a degree from MIT and loves to cook."

Innumeracy, again 

In today's Washington Post there's a news feature on Lorne Craner, the head of the State Department's democracy and human rights office and one of the guys charged with planting the seeds of democracy in countries in the Middle East. Here's what he has to say about funding the project (italics mine):



The State Department will spend upwards of $245 million this year and next on education and economic and political reform in the Middle East. This is less than 10 percent of what Egypt alone receives each year in assistance from the United States, but a significant increase for civil society projects across the region.

"People in the Middle East say, 'You can't be serious. You only put in X million dollars last year.' I say it will progress logarithmically as you found political parties. Give us something to invest in and we'll invest,' " Craner said. "I think it would be a mistake to invest $3 billion in the Middle East when there's not much to invest in."


Negotiating with Kim Jong Il won't work 

Read about it here. (Link via Incestuous Amplification.)

South Park, the new voice of the Right? 

Apparently so.

In case there were any doubts 

For those of you who have wondered what the agenda of International ANSWER ("Act Now to Stop War and End Racism", those nutjobs who hold end-the-occupation rallies every month) is, here you go. Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the pointer.

10.27.2003

Euthanasia 

Some lady in France helped her suffering son take his own life and faces criminal charges as a result.

As I understand it, executing a convicted, unrepentant murder by lethal injection is considered more barbaric than forcing a quadriplegic who has lost four of his five senses to live. Hmm.

10.26.2003

The fix is in 

Obviously the winner at this year's Rock-Paper-Scissors World Championships cheated, because as we all know, NOTHING BEATS ROCK!

UPDATE: Eugene Volokh agrees that nothing beats rock.

How to save North Korea 

If the option of military action is absolutely being taken off the table (I'm not sure that's too wise), then this bill had absolutely better pass.

How Islamofascist terrorists celebrate Ramadan 

How else?

10.25.2003

"Players don't win championships; organizations win championships." 

Why do Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL present their championship trophies to the owners of the winning teams? It reminds me of a ludicrous quote by Jerry Krause, displayed above. Krause of course said this during the 1997-1998 NBA season when it was all but certain that the mighty Chicago Bulls dynasty was going to be dismantled.

At least the NHL knows what's up.

On another note, it just occurred to me that the MVP of the 2003 World Series is a year younger than I am. Makes me wonder what the hell happened to my athletic career...

UPDATE: Jim Caple writes:



With their series-clinching 2-0 win in Game 6, the Florida Marlins became the first visiting team to celebrate a championship at Yankee Stadium since Roger Clemens was in college, and they didn't waste the occasion. As midnight passed and Saturday dissolved into Sunday, hundreds of players, family, friends and fans covered the field, grabbing handfuls of grass, drinking champagne, taking photos and generally partying as if they had just liberated Baghdad.



Wow.

About Koreans who hate Japanese athletes 

This entry from Incestuous Amplification is priceless. (Feel free to ignore the part where the author slags off the Barenaked Ladies.)

The state of California redeems itself! 

The state of California prevails in court over some spam-producing firm.

Warning: using chopsticks can be harmful to your health 

Read about it here.

Chopsticks are not one of the most ingenious inventions of mankind.

God bless the man who invented the fork. Have you ever tried to eat a steak with chopsticks?

Why number theory is the worship of the devil 

Well, being a specialist in geometry, I already knew that.

Further confirmation comes from the fact that phi(666) = 6 * 6 * 6. (phi denotes the Euler totient function, which counts the number of integers between 1 and n inclusive that have no nontrivial common factors with n. So phi(1) = 1, phi(2) = 1, phi(3) = 2, phi(4) = 2, phi(5) = 4, phi(6) = 2, etc. It's a very natural function in mathematics.)

I did a Google search for phi 666 and turned up this website which lists many more arithmetic properties of the number of the beast.

I suppose one could conclude that it's our base 10 counting system, not number theory itself, that is the root of this evil. Maybe our society should switch to base 8. Base 8 is just like base 10, really...if you're missing two fingers.

The number one thing I hate about Boston 

Tomorrow, when Daylight Savings Time ends, the sun will set over Boston at around 4:47 PM local time. It's just depressing to get out of the office and see that the sun has already gone down. (I think the sun sets at around 4:20 or so during the winter solstice.) Even during the summer, the sun sets too early -- I'm always playing in summer league Ultimate Frisbee games that have to be cut short because of daylight. Maybe the east coast should adopt a 8-to-4 workday.

The ridiculously early sunsets are one consequence of Boston being located on the eastern edge of a ridiculously large time zone. The other consequence is that sunrise during the summer, when DST is in effect, happens at around 5:30 AM local time. I don't particularly need birds waking me up that early.

I grew up in West Bloomfield, MI, which is about 13 degrees of longitude west of Boston, so sunset and sunrise there is 52 minutes later than it is in Boston. I like the fact that the sun sets at around 9:15 during the summer in Michigan.

Wild cards in baseball 

Some folks thinks that wild card teams in the baseball playoffs should be penalized for not having finished first in their respective divisions. A popular proposal is to have two wild cards per league and force them to play one game to determine who advances to the playoffs. The theory is that it would force both teams to consider using their aces, thus handicapping them in the first round of the proper playoffs.

To this I saw the following: bollocks. Everyone knows that the strength of the divisions in each league is uneven; wildcard teams don't deserve to be punished if they happen to be stuck in a stacked division. Despite having to play the Yankees nineteen times during the regular season, Boston ended up with 95 wins, five more than the Twins and one fewer than the Oakland A's, who they beat in the divisional series. Likewise, in the National League Florida was stuck behind the mighty Atlanta Braves but racked up more wins than the NL Central champions, the Chicago Cubs. They then beat the Cubs in the league championship series. Maybe these wild card teams really are that good, hmm?

10.24.2003

A ray of hope for the AIDS-stricken Third World 

According to the BBC, some companies have agreed to provide drugs for people in developing countries at a reduced cost.

Good news, indeed. However, I do have to take exception to the following comment:



Profits from drugs used for other ailments not related to Aids can also used to offset the cost of providing cheaper Aids treatments. In addition, already existing drugs do not have the burden of large research and development expenses.

The high cost of anti-retroviral drugs is a big issue in poor countries, with campaigners often arguing that drug companies' profit margins are too large.



Uh, I thought the reason drug manufacturers set their desired profit margins so high was to fund future research and development.

A reader also sent this reply to the BBC:



It's doubtful this will help because of the vast amount of corruption in African governments. The governments will seize control of the drugs and then sell them for higher prices and the poorest of the poor will never get them.



And of course, it doesn't help that many Africans still believe that having sex with a virgin will cure AIDS and that the Catholic church is propagating lies about the effectiveness of condoms.

Album review of the month: Belle & Sebastian, "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" 

Belle & Sebastian's intricate instrumental and vocal arrangements and use of horns, wind instruments and strings are vaguely reminiscent of baroque music, but they demonstrate a '60s Britpop sensibility with their rhythms driven by bright, chimey guitars, whence the label "chamber pop". What doesn't neatly fit a particular label is Stuart Murdoch's lyric, whimsical and dreamy yet down-to-earth at the same.

On "Dear Catastrophe Waitress", B&S's trademark chamber pop is out in abundance, as evidenced by dressed-up yet irresistibly catchy tracks like "If She Wants Me", "Asleep On A Sunbeam" and "I'm A Cuckoo" and melancholy ballads such as the title track and "Piazza, New York Catcher". One of the chorus verses on "I'm a Cuckoo" consists of the following lines: "Breaking off is misery / I see a wilderness for you and me / Punctuated by philosophy / And a wondering how things could've been". Unfortunately, this verse shares a melody with another chorus verse: "I'd rather be in Tokyo / I'd rather listen to Thin Lizzy-oh." Guess which one is going to stick in your head.

Lush, orchestrated pop isn't all that B&S can perform, though, as tracks featuring a number of different styles also appear on the album: the recorder-adorned (or maybe panpipes?) "Step Into My Office", featuring a beautiful polyphonic choral arrangement in the bridge; funky, groove-based tracks "Wrapped Up In Books" and "Roy Walker"; "Stay Loose", perhaps the strongest track on the album, which because of its synthesizers and tape echoes sounds like it might belong on the Beatles' "Revolver". All in all, "Dear Catastrophe Waitress" is quite an accomplished album.

10.23.2003

Statistically challenged 

During Game 5 of the World Series, Fox aired a quick graphic claiming that over the history of the World Series, the winners of Game 5 have gone on to win 66% of the series.

Sounds impressive, except for the fact that if you assume that each game is a 50-50 proposition, the winner of Game 5 should go on to win 75% of the series.

What you won't find here 

According to my sitemeter log, some tool apparently stumbled across this blog while doing a Google search for "adidas women world cup naked". It's entirely possible that that person was looking for a news article about the two female streakers who briefly disrupted the Women's World Cup, but for some reason I think not.

A Roman historian in Zambia 

Tacitus has posted a particularly eloquent travelogue entry from Zambia.

10.22.2003

Dumbass fans, again 

Flashbulbs were going off like the northern lights after Roger Clemens's final pitches of Game 4 of the World Series in Florida. Most of the owners of these cameras were evidently unaware of the following facts:

1. Ordinary camera flashbulbs are useless beyond 15 feet.

2. Flashes are incredibly distracting to hitters.

Critical thinking 

Donald Rumsfeld challenges the Department of Defense to find new ideas for prosecuting the war on terrorism in a memo leaked to USA Today, of all places.

10.21.2003

Abortion 

The Senate has passed a bill banning partial-birth abortion, so it's just a matter of time before President Bush signs it into law.

While I personally believe that 99.99% of abortions are morally wrong, I don't believe it's the federal government's place to legislate abortion. This statement is, of course, a double-edged sword. I claim that on the one hand, the Supreme Court arbitrarily decided in the Roe v. Wade decision that a first-trimester fetus is not worth anything and thereby manufactured a constitutional right to a first-trimester abortion. On the other hand, I don't see anything in the constitution that gives Congress the authority to pass laws protecting or regulating abortion either. The question should be left to the individual states. The only way there should be a federal statute protecting or regulating abortion is if 75% of the voters in 75% of the states vote to amend the Constitution.

Some folks argue that first- and second-trimester abortions must be constitutionally protected because the only arguments for outlawing them are based on religion on principles. I disagree for two reasons. First, it is not necessarily an establishment of religion for the states or Congress to pass laws that are informed by religious principles; if it were, we probably wouldn't have laws against consensual incest between adults or laws against selling liquor on Sundays. Second, it can be argued on purely secular grounds that first- or second-trimester abortions are immoral. For example, one can argue that the defining characteristic of human life is not viability outside the womb or detectable brainwave activity (both of which begin around the end of the second trimester) but rather the genetic information that controls the development of the fetus (which exists at the time of conception).

I do see one sticky point with implementing the pro-life position, however. Presumably abortions would still be allowed in cases of rape. But how exactly is the state supposed to decide whether a woman is eligible to claim this exception? How much evidence does the woman have to present to the state in order to be allowed to have an abortion? Does the state have to prosecute an alleged rape victim before the woman is due in order for the woman to be allowed an abortion? Is it possible for a woman to pretend to have been raped for this purpose? I haven't seen these questions discussed anywhere.

Therapy for Red Sox fans 

(1), (2), (3)

I'm not rooting against the Yankees in the World Series. It's pointless. It won't erase the events of Black Thursday.

10.20.2003

A brief history of Kim Jong Il 

From the New York Times. Thanks to Chris Beaumont for the pointer.

10.19.2003

Tuesday Morning Quarterback sacked from the blind side 

Gregg Easterbrook was abruptly fired from ESPN, possibly because of the fallout surrounding his criticism of Kill Bill and the Jewish executives of Disney and Miramax, Michael Eisner and Harvey Weinstein.

This is a terrible, terrible move. Easterbrook apologized earnestly for any misunderstandings, and anyone who's read Easterbrook consistently knows that he is not an anti-Semite.

Here's the controversial paragraph from Easterbrook's piece:



Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice. But history is hardly the only concern. Films made in Hollywood are now shown all over the world, to audiences that may not understand the dialogue or even look at the subtitles, but can't possibly miss the message--now Disney's message--that hearing the screams of the innocent is a really fun way to express yourself.



If you read the sentence fragment "Jewish executives to worship money above all else," yes, it sounds like Easterbrook is promoting the old stereotype of the greedy Jew. But I don't think that's what he's doing. If you read the entire paragraph, you may be convinced, as am I, that he's slathering all movie executives as greedy (Easterbrook does like to overgeneralize) and that he's singling out two individual Jewish executives by calling them to reject mammonism and use their moral judgment. I can see how that one sentence could be construed as anti-Semitic, but the paragraph as a whole expresses a different idea (which may itself be unfair -- embracing tokenism by holding Eisner and Weinstein to a higher moral standard than the rest of society because they're Jewish -- but that doesn't seem to be the source of much of the outrage).

If you click on Tuesday Morning Quarterback in the left column, you'll see links to archived TMQ articles. If you click on those links, you'll get error messages, as if ESPN is trying to whitewash Easterbrook.

You can contact ESPN here.

Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the pointer.

U2 CCM tribute album 

Sparrow Records is releasing a U2 tribute album in January 2004 to benefit the DATA project (Debt, AIDS, Trade in Africa) sponsored by Bono. The roster for the album includes Sixpence, Audio Adrenaline, Switchfoot, and a bunch of other groups I've never heard of. The track listing is as follows:



1. Mysterious Ways
2. Grace
3. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
4. Love Is Blindness
5. Beautiful Day
6. Gloria
7. All I Want Is You
8. Where The Streets Have No Name
9. Sunday Bloody Sunday
10. With Or Without You
11. When Love Comes To Town



My thoughts: U2's music is very difficult to cover because of the Edge's intricately layered and delayed guitar lines.

When Love Comes To Town, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Gloria and Beautiful Day might not be too hard to cover.

It's very hard to get Where The Streets Have No Name and Pride to sound right -- on both of these tracks there's a rhythmic muted-strumming guitar track and a lead guitar track, both of which go through a delay unit.

With Or Without You is pretty much impossible to cover -- the Edge invented the Infinite Guitar (a guitar that feeds back into itself) to record this track. Similar guitars and devices like the Fernandes Sustainer and the EBow (both of which the Edge has used live) have been invented based on the same principle, but neither of them sounds quite as intense or as haunting as the original.

And how on earth could they leave off I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and Walk On? The last verse of ISHFWILF is perhaps Bono's most concise expression of his faith -- a faith in the redemption of Christ, but also a recognition that the decision to accept Christ is not the end, but the beginning of life's struggles. Meanwhile, Walk On is a beautiful two-themed poem. The first theme is Aung San Suu Kyi, who left her family and life of freedom in England to fight for human rights in her native Myanmar. The second theme is the Christian's longing for heaven. Both of these songs are among the finest rock and roll songs of all time.

UPDATE: On a related note, Bono and a bunch of other artists are going to be performing at a concert in South Africa on November 29 in an effort to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. The other artists include Queen's Brian May and Roger Taylor, Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, Beyonce, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Britney Spears, Pink and 50 Cent. Quite a motley crew.

Consider this 

If you are a Christian, consider this question posed by Randy Harris: do you believe in the Living Lord because of the resurrection, or do you believe in the resurrection because of the Living Lord? The answer probably indicates whether your faith is more rational or experiential.

Thanks to Wade Hodges for the pointer.

10.18.2003

Harvard math professor makes it to the front page of CNN.com 

That would be Dick Gross, perhaps better known as the Dean of Undergraduate Education at Harvard University, briefly announcing an investigation of alcohol abuse by undergraduates.

Ticket scalpers 

Scalpers are just like market makers, keeping the prices of tickets stable. Or so says this article. Thanks to Deadly Mantis for the pointer.

It'll be pretty amusing to watch the fire sale on Yankees-Marlins tickets on eBay.

Isn't technology amazing 

I thought my new camera phone was top of the line, but check this out.

10.17.2003

Partisan sniping at its finest 

The Senate has decided to saddle Iraq with $10 billion in loans. Specifically, they voted to amend Bush's aid package to Iraq by converting $10 billion of what was to be $20 billion in grant money into a loan. All of the Democrats save four voted for the amendment. Eight Republicans defied Bush and voted for it as well. Absolutely terrible. As countless other voices in the blogosphere have noted, these loans will only succeed in convincing other Arab countries that we're in Iraq to plunder their oil revenues and in making it harder to convince Germany, Russia and France to forgive Iraq's odious debts incurred under Saddam Hussein.

For those of you keeping score, Senators Edwards and Kerry voted for the loans, while Lieberman abstained. In the House, Kucinich voted no while Gephardt abstained.

Size (or rather, height) matters 

Tall people make more money than short people.

And of course, at the end of the article there's some untestable conjecture from the pseudo-scientific field of evolutionary psychology.

Blog Iran 

For some reason I received an invitation to join Blog Iran. Here's the text of the email I received:



Dear Edward,

Just visited your blog and thought you may want to join
the BLOG-IRAN Grassroots Campaign. If you're interested --
definitely visit http://www.activistchat.com/blogiran and email us
back. Lets unite to help those who are struggling and dying for
freedom and take down the Islamic Fanatic Regime!

Keep Bloggin! :)



While I'm all for freedom and getting rid of the mullahocracy in Iran, I'm not sure why I received this invitation, since I haven't made a peep about Iran on this blog (until now). And I'm rather amazed that this blog has attracted attention from random people after less than a month. (I was kind of hoping that would happen eventually though -- this is one reason why this blog is on blogspot and not on Xanga.)

Anyway, the link is above if you're interested.

Almost as exciting as whitehouse.com 

Though I think it's been around for a while, I just discovered blogpsot dot com (I'm not going to link to it -- type it in yourself if you're curious), having incorrectly typed blogspot.com into my IE window. It's home to a treasure trove of information furnished by some nutjob fundamentalists. (No, seriously -- they call the Roman Catholic Church a cult.)

Damn. 

Damn, damn, damn.

There's no easy way to say it, kids...God hates us.

Leaving Pedro Martinez in for the eighth inning (and perhaps even the seventh, with Ronan Tynan once again disgracing the memory of the victims of 9/11) was clearly the wrong move, especially with Alan Embree and Mike Timlin pitching so well in the series. True, Martinez was still hitting mid-90s with his heater, but his pitch count was up around 110 and his pitch placement and movement started to suffer. Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui all punished Martinez for leaving pitches over the plate. Martinez wasn't going to come out of the game of his own volition -- Grady Little should have taken him out of the game kicking and screaming. You don't become a Hall of Fame pitcher by admitting that you want out.

And thanks to Google's advertising software, the banner ad at the top of this page might be advertising Sox World Series tickets. Go figger.

10.16.2003

A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying...hell if I know. 

North Korea claims to be ready to unveil its 'nuclear deterrent.'

I don't understand the point of all these proclamations that stop just short of announcing "we've got the bomb." If they do have a bomb, why don't they publicly test it and blackmail the United States? If they haven't finished it yet, why do they want to increase the likelihood that the US will launch preemptive strikes against their nuclear facilities?

Why teaching evaluations suck 

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:


Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and Amy Parker, one of his students, found that attractive professors consistently outscore their less comely colleagues by a significant margin on student evaluations of teaching. The findings, they say, raise serious questions about the use of student evaluations as a valid measure of teaching quality.

In their study, Mr. Hamermesh and Ms. Parker asked students to look at photographs of 94 professors and rate their beauty. Then they compared those ratings to the average student evaluation scores for the courses taught by those professors. The two found that the professors who had been rated among the most beautiful scored a point higher than those rated least beautiful (that's a substantial difference, since student evaluations don't generally vary by much).


The students who rated the professors' attractiveness weren't the same ones who wrote the evaluations, but still the result is disturbing (though not surprising). I can honestly say that I've known attractive instructors who were lousy teachers, and not-as-attractive instructors who were excellent teachers.

Not that I have anything to worry about, though.

(Thanks to InstaPundit for the pointer.)

The 100 greatest novels of all time, according to The Guardian 

Um...seven down, 93 to go. Here's the list.

10.15.2003

Hell yeah 

Sox take Game 6, 9-6.

Actually I was secretly wishing that New York would score two in the bottom of the ninth. That way the following things would have happened:

(1) Tim Wakefield would have entered the game to get the save;

(2) I'd be telling everyone that Joe Torre cost his team the game by sending Gabe White instead of Mariano Rivera to pitch while down 7-6 with a man on second and one out in the top of the ninth. (White promptly served up a gopher ball to Trot Nixon.)

The rule about only using your closer to protect a lead is dumb, dumb, dumb. When you're at home and the game is in the ninth or later inning, you can't use your closer to protect a lead, because if you get a lead, you win. So instead of having him sit around scratching himself, use him to get out of a jam in the top of the inning if you're tied or down by only a run or two. Take him out after one batter or one inning if you must save him for the next game, but you're not paying him the big bucks to not pitch.

Stupid fan 

If I had front-row seats for a playoff game and a ball that looked even remotely playable by my team came my way, I'd retreat 25 rows into the stands.

Of course, such seats cost more money than I'm likely to see in my lifetime, so I'll crawl back into my little hole now.

UPDATE: Just saw a replay of Hideki Matsui throwing one away during Yankees-Red Sox Game 6, allowing Nomar Garciaparra to score from third. A fan catches the errant throw and starts celebrating. Terrible. More fans should be like the Wrigley Field bleacher creatures.

UPDATE: That guy speaks!

That's really sweet of him to apologize, but he's still a moron. He's got front-row seats and it doesn't occur to him that any ball that comes his way might still be playable? Oy gevalt.

UPDATE: The Cubs are in more trouble than I thought.

10.14.2003

Form letters from soldiers in Iraq 

The New York Times has a sober report about the letters, while the BBC is up in arms about it.

Rooting for the Yankees is like... 

A Google search turns up the following comparisons:


Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Microsoft.
Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for US Steel.
Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Brad Pitt to get the girl.
Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for General Motors.
Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Germany against Poland in 1939.
Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the IRS.
Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Goliath.


A recent addition by Jim Caple is


Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Ticketmaster, only with better T-shirts.


I humbly submit this addition to the collection:


Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the lions against the Christians.


And of course the final insult is: rooting for the Yankees is soooooooooooo Republican.

It's true. They have a payroll that is 55% higher than the second-highest payroll in MLB. They have a near monopoly on pitching, a scarce commodity. Three of their top four starting pitchers are free-agent pickups. It's all there for you.

UPDATE: Turns out I'm not the first to come up with the "rooting for the lions" bit. Back to the drawing board.

UPDATE: I don't see this anywhere:



Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for anthrax.


10.13.2003

Haiwenism of the day 

For all (both?) of the Ross readers:

Trying to hit a knuckleball is like trying to screw in a lightbulb with a wet fish.

Apparently it'll be Wells vs. Lowe and Pettitte vs. Burkett in Games 5 and 6. It's too late for the Yankees to switch up the slots, but this is better for the Sox than if it were Wells vs. Burkett and Pettitte vs. Lowe. If your pitchers are stronger across the board, you want to match them up evenly, whereas if your pitchers are weaker across the board, you want to arrange a relative mismatch, as is the case now.

(Yes, I know that in a fit of unbridled optimism I said I liked Burkett's chances against Wells. Burkett's not that bad, really. It was just a couple years ago that he posted an ERA of around 3 for the season.)

Another candidate for Funniest 30 Seconds On Television 

Gregg Easterbrook savages Quentin Tarantino's entire body of work.

Unfortunately for him, his point was captured much more succintly and humorously on an Itchy and Scratchy episode in The Simpsons. (Scroll down to Act Three of the quotes and scene summary.)

Even more on Game 3 

A member of the peanut gallery at Tacitus writes this (supposedly it appeared in today's NY Daily News, but I can't find it on the web):



"But seeing and hearing the reaction of Sox players in the aftermath of Saturday's fourth inning, it's become clear they now feel that if they win, it will be in spite of Pedro. In the midst of the melee, Sox pitchers Mike Timlin and Todd Jones, according to Yankee sources, apologized for Martinez's actions.

"This isn't the way we play the game," they supposedly said. Meanwhile, other Yankee sources said that, in the seventh, when Sox DH David Ortiz was on third, he pointed into the Yankee dugout at Don Zimmer and gave him a "thumbs-up" gesture."


If this story is true, then I can't agree with Timlin, Jones and Ortiz's actions at all. I don't care how big of an asshole you think Pedro Martinez is, you don't show up a teammate like that during a game when you still need him to win. Wait until after the game, or preferably until after the series is over. Your job is not to ease tensions between the two teams. Your job is to win, and undermining a teammate takes away from that.

Of course, the only sources for the quotes are anonymous Yankees; maybe they're trying to create further dissension in the Boston clubhouse.

UPDATE: Here's the article.

UPDATE: Pedro speaks! Here's what he says about pointing to his temple while yelling at Jorge Posada:



Martinez later was asked about him pointing to his head during a heated exchange with Yanks catcher Jorge Posada as the benches cleared.

"I just said to him I remember everything he said, that's what I said to Posada," Martinez said. "I remember what you're saying to me. I don't want to express what he said. ... If you want to know what he said, go ask him."



I await confirmation or repudiation of this claim from someone who can read lips. I initially thought Martinez might have been saying something like "yo, I'm in your head," then changed my mind and decided that he was saying "punk, don't make me hit you in the head for real."

Martinez ended up retiring the next eleven batters he faced, not what you'd expect if he really had blown his stack.

Anyway, this'll probably be the last post on the fourth inning of Game 3.

And in other sporting news... 

Boston's Ultimate Frisbee club teams Death or Glory and Boss Hogg are headed to nationals (or more properly, the UPA club championships, since Canadian teams are eligible). A whole bunch of young guys are playing for Boss Hogg this year, including Harvard sophomore Will Chen, Tufts senior Ariel Santos, and MIT grad student Tom Liptay, who crushed my knee in a summer league game this year (not intentionally).

Death or Glory qualified by winning Northeast Regionals, held in a freezing downpour. Boss Hogg won the elimination bracket game 15-12 over GOAT, a combo team from Ottawa and Toronto.

I saw and played against Boss Hogg earlier in the season when they were trying out a lot of new guys and I thought they wouldn't be very good this year. They have certainly made me eat my words.

10.12.2003

Pure brilliance 

Which idiot first came up with the idea of celebrating a wedding by firing rounds into the air?

What to do about North Korea 

There's an excellent discussion over at Tacitus.

Ouch 

Lousy Roger Clemens. After being a total hothead for his entire career, last night he decides to settle down and pitch.

I haven't seen a recent replay of Pedro Martinez's pitch to Karim Garcia, but I don't buy the accusation that Martinez was headhunting. Garcia ducked slightly, and the pitch hit him just above the numbers, exactly where you're supposed to aim if you feel you must hit someone.

Whether Martinez intentionally hit Garcia is perhaps open to question as well, though it definitely looks like it was intentional. But if it was on purpose, then Martinez loaded the bases with no outs and Alfonso Soriano, a more dangerous hitter, on deck. (Yeah, I know first base was open and Soriano hit into a double play, but that's hardly something you would count on.)

I'm not defending what Martinez did, but I don't think it was as horrific as it is being made out to be.

I guess it wasn't until after the fourth-inning fracas last night that Pedro Martinez decided that he needed to pull out his best stuff. Unfortunately by then it was too late.

Still, the talking heads who say the Red Sox have already lost the series are a bit early. I have to like John Burkett's chances against David Wells. If the Sox can finesse another win out of Wakefield (he's going against Mussina again, who hasn't been good this postseason), they'll be in good shape.

UPDATE: Somehow I missed this bit of news about the California recall.

UPDATE: Here's a really deep article about everyone's favorite Korean baseball headcase, BH Kim.

UPDATE: Sunday's game is a washout; Game 4 is Monday, Mussina vs. Wakefield. Game 5 is Tuesday, Wells vs. either Burkett or Derek Lowe.

10.11.2003

Anyway, as part of Krusty's plea bargain, he has a new court-ordered sidekick, Ms. No-Means-No! 

Gregg Easterbrook ponders the ambiguity of the word.

10.10.2003

A breakthrough 

I finally managed to figure out the quintic equation defining this mysterious Calabi-Yau threefold that I've been studying for my dissertation.

And there was much rejoicing. (Yay.)

10.09.2003

PETA has reached a new low 

PETA faxed a letter to Roy Horn's hospital room. Excerpts from the article:



"Perhaps Friday's frightening incident will make you realize that a brightly lit stage with pounding music and a screaming audience is not the natural habitat for tigers, lions, or any other exotic animals," PETA Vice President Dan Mathews wrote.

"The only natural thing that happened on that stage was that this majestic animal lashed out against a captor who was beating him with a microphone because he wouldn't do a trick," Mathews continued. "No matter how much you say that you love the wild animals whom you have confined continents away from their natural homes, you are still the men who have subjugated their wills and natures to further your own careers."



But without beer, prohibition doesn't work! 

The Massachusetts House of Representatives is considering scrapping the blue laws that prohibit sales of alcohol on Sunday.

10.08.2003

Lies 

It's rather embarrassing that the Catholic church has to resort to telling lies to discourage promiscuity.

It's perfectly fine for the church to be preaching abstinence to the parts of Africa where AIDS is rampant (I've never understood why liberals have been so opposed to it -- abstinence does, after all, offer 100% protection from AIDS), but this is ridiculous.

And in more substantial news 

Nobel prizes were awarded yesterday.

The physics prize was awarded to three guys who worked on superconductivity and superfluidity.

I always thought it strange that some years the Prize might be awarded for work that's only a few years old (Ketterle et. al for Bose-Einstein condensation) while some years it might be awarded for work that's decades old (Chandrasekhar for his work in astrophysics and general relativity).

Hoo boy 

I think I'm going to die of laughter.

Well, what else can I say. It's funny because I don't live there.

10.07.2003

A preemptive "Yankees Suck" 


10.06.2003

"I see a baby out there. Is that real?" 

The Tweeter Center in Mansfield, MA bites for a couple of reasons:

(1) because it's an open-air pavilion, it's not tremendously loud, even from one of the front sections. I didn't leave the REM concert on Sunday with the familiar ringing sensation in my ears.

(2) because it's an open-air pavilion, it's f*@cking cold at night.

Still, REM put on an excellent show last night, the first one I've ever seen. Here's the setlist:

Begin The Begin
So Fast So Numb
These Days
Drive
Animal
Fall On Me
All The Way To Reno
Bad Day
The One I Love
Daysleeper
Electrolite
Don't Go Back To Rockville (Mike Mills sang, of course)
Orange Crush (with megaphone)
Losing My Religion
At My Most Beautiful
She Just Wants To Live
Walk Unafraid
Man On The Moon

(encore)
Life And How To Live It
Exhuming McCarthy (Stipe held up a tape recording of the Army-McCarthy hearings to the mike. Didn't work too well, unfortunately)
Final Straw
Imitation Of Life
Permanent Vacation
It's The End Of The World As We Know It

Roo. It's what's for dinner 

Well, the USA got hammered by Germany in the World Cup, but there was at least one entertaining moment:



Two naked women ran onto the field in the 57th minute with signs that read, ''Boycot Adidas'' and ''Adidas Kills Kangaroos.''

Both were taken off the field by security. Adidas is the World Cup sponsor and the protest by a California-based animal rights group was aimed at the use of kangaroo skin in athletic shoes.


10.04.2003

Tuesday Morning Quarterback, now seven days a week 

Gregg Easterbrook, also known as the Tuesday Morning Quarterback, has posted some good material on his New Republic blog over the weekend. First, a reflection on the Kay report on Iraq's alleged WMD programs. He concludes with this paragraph:



Set aside the question of whether the United States should have invaded Iraq in 2003; history may still judge this decision favorably, as a liberation of the oppressed. But if most of the Iraq atomic weapons program stopped in 1998, as Kay concludes, then Clinton administration policy on Iraq was far more effective than once assumed; then the WMD case for invasion this year was even weaker than now assumed; and then the case for airstrikes to halt the North Korean nuclear-weapons program may be stronger than now assumed.



I'd have to say that the case for preemptive airstrikes against North Korea's budding nuclear weapons programs looks pretty darn good right now. It seems that without nukes, the collapse of the Communist regime in North Korea is inevitable, whereas if North Korea does develop functional nukes, they can either (1) blackmail us into giving them fuel and food aid for as long as they want or (2) keep us on the sidelines while they invade South Korea.

Here's another selection from Easterbrook, this time about Rush Limbaugh's comments about Donovan McNabb. I will simply say that this piece manages to include a couple of lines from Hamlet.

Read this 

Tales of the atrocities that occur in North Korea, and the harrowing struggles of those who attempt to escape are starting to make it into the mainstream press.

Pitching 

So apparently Pedro Martinez will be saved for Game 5. Derek Lowe will start Game 3 and John Burkett will start Game 4.

Hard to argue with that -- the Sox need to win all three games, and Martinez threw 130 pitches in Game 1.

HOWEVER:

If the Sox get into a major jam anytime during Game 3, I fully expect Martinez to enter the game in relief, even if it's just for an inning.

After last year's Giants-Angels World Series, I ranted for a long time about the Giants' folly in not inserting closer Robb Nen into Game 7 when they were in a big jam (I think it was the third or fourth inning; the Angels ended up scoring a bunch of runs, including the winning run, in that inning). I guess they were holding Nen back for a save situation in Game 8.

Back in 1995, Randy Johnson won three elimination games in seven days for the Mariners (he started a one-game playoff at the end of the regular season, started Game 3, and won Game 5 by pitching the 10th and 11th innings, I think). That's the stuff heroes are made of.

10.03.2003

History 101 

From yesterday's Kansas City Star (registration required):


Match offers glimpse across international divide
By Mechelle Voepel
The Kansas City Star

COLUMBUS, Ohio — They seem a bit like phantoms, these North Korean women's soccer players.

The last few weeks, they have competed in the United States, a nation that generations of North Koreans have been raised to loathe and fear.

Sunday in chilly Crew Stadium, they fell 3-0 to the Americans and failed to advance to the next round of the Women's World Cup. Now, they will return to their isolated country and again be nearly invisible to outsiders.

What will they take with them?

Memories of kindness — from the New Jersey restaurant owner who cooked for them, the Pennsylvania state senator who helped with arrangements, the church members who gave them transportation? New insights?

The truth is, no one knows. It's not just the language barrier; this team that rarely plays outside Asia has been inaccessible to the U.S. media, fans and almost everyone else.

“They don't talk on the field or when shaking hands, even. They're just very quiet,” American player Joy Fawcett said. “We don't know them at all.”

North Korea did not expect to be in the United States this year. The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome in June convinced soccer's international governing body, FIFA, to move this tournament from China to the United States.

So in the midst of near rock-bottom diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea — the country's official news agency on Saturday referred to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a “psychopath”— the women's soccer teams from the two nations faced off.

There was no sign of hostility toward the North Koreans from the crowd of 22,828 in Columbus. Pockets of Korean-American fans banged on makeshift drums, rang bells and cheered for the North Koreans.


Inny Kim, a 47-year-old who works in research for Bayer, said he made the drive from his home in Cincinnati to support both the North Korean and American teams.

Kim is a native South Korean, from Seoul, and has lived in the United States 15 years. He said there is a heartfelt desire among all Koreans to see their country — split at the 38th parallel for more than a half century — reunited.

“We don't know much about North Korea, except that they have struggled so much, with famine and hard times,” Kim said, explaining that the societal gap between the Koreas still is very wide. “I feel so sorry about that. My wish is to find a way to help that.”

North Korea has a population of about 22 million, though the number of citizens who have died from famine since the mid-1990s is conjecture.

The North Koreans, who long denied any deaths, now acknowledge at least 200,000. Outside sources have estimated that from 500,000 to 3 million people have died.

Kim said that Koreans draw hope for reunification from what happened with Germany.

“In spite of the politics, I believe we're closer,” Kim said. “Will I live to see it? I really don't know. I think both sides can learn to trust each other. Maybe it's like it was here in the United States, after the Civil War.”

The United States is seeking to end North Korea's alleged buildup of nuclear weapons, but talks between U.S. and North Korean officials in China last month and in April have not yielded tangible results.

Because of those tensions, and all the unknowns about North Korea, American reporters covering this tournament have been especially intrigued by the North Korean players.

Their dark hair is cut the same style and length, and they often seem to be wearing uniform facial expressions. They range in age from 18 to 28, and most are students or teachers. They play in an organized league in North Korea when not competing on the national team.

And that is about all the American media know. Questions to the team's interpreter about whether the players have done much sightseeing or television viewing have been shrugged off.

After the team's 1-0 loss to Sweden on Thursday, one North Korean team official complained about practice-field conditions and officiating.

On Sunday, North Korean coach Ri Song Gun reiterated the officiating complaint, but said of the team's stay in this country, “We didn't have any inconveniences.”

The only other glimpse into the team came from Ha Chung Tae, a South Korean who works for FIFA as the liaison for the North Korean team. He said that he heard no discussion of politics among the players, but that they were definitely noticing their surroundings.

“They are very interested in diversity, culture, race,” Ha said. “Most of them are very young, with very limited international experience. A lot of them, they've never seen African-Americans or people with, uh, unique hairstyles…They'll point at people and say, ‘Look!'”

As is the case in China, sports success has great political value. North Koreans haven't had much internationally. When they do, they credit Kim Jong Il, known as a dictator to the Western world but as “the dear leader” to North Koreans.

Fawcett said that, by far, the North Koreans are the biggest mystery to the American players — more so even than China.

“The Chinese are very friendly; they love to talk and love kids. I bring my kids, and they all gravitate toward them,” said Fawcett, a mother of three. “The North Koreans…we haven't had the chance to hang out with them. With China, we built the bonds over the years going over there. But the North Koreans don't come out, and we don't go in.”

Can an event such as the World Cup in any way bring North Korea closer to the rest of the world?

“I think they see a different side; they're young people, and they'll have an impact in their society later,” Fawcett said.

“So hopefully they've had a positive experience while they are here and have met some nice people and can take that back with them.

“You can only hope it will change.”


What the hell do they learn in history class in South Korea?

This Kim fella who was interviewed for this article compares the prospects for a reunification of the Koreas with that of East and West Germany and that of the Union and Confederacy.

News flash: West and East Germany only reunited because the Soviet Union and Communism collapsed. The North and South only reunited because the South lost a war that lasted four years.

Am I being unfair by projecting this guy's sentiments on an entire nation? I don't think so. From what I've read and heard, the pro-unification crowd in South Korea genuinely believes that through increased dialogue, the two sides can erase their misconceptions of each other; resolve their differences; achieve reunification; and live happily ever after, if only the belligerent United States would keep its beak out of such business.

What these people fail to realize is a simple fact: Kim Jong Il and his cronies are tyrants. They brainwash the populace. They drag political dissidents off to the gulags by the millions. Even if you proffer the dubious argument that Kim's regime is not responsible for the starvation of his people, it is clear from the previous points that the mission of the regime is not to govern the people justly and fairly. The mission of the regime is to ensure its own survival. Therefore, the regime will not gracefully step aside and allow the people of a united Korea to live in peace and harmony. While Kim or one of his ilk is in power, the best result that can be achieved is a (possibly short-lived) nonaggression pact that prevents a war but keeps the people of North Korea in poverty and misery. (Maybe that's what South Korea really wants? Sounds like a typical paranoid leftist rant to me...but it fits the data.) A positive reunification can be achieved only if Kim is forced out of power (either by military means or by the internal collapse of the regime).

And just as a parting shot -- I didn't see the USA - North Korea match, but if any Koreans (or anyone else, for that matter) were waving a DPRK flag in the stands, they should be dragged out into the street and shot.

(Thanks to freenorthkorea.net for the pointer.)

Drop the debt 

Here's a website for a campaign to get creditor countries to cancel any debts run up by Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule.

You don't suppose the prospect of the new Iraq defaulting on its loans had anything to do with France, Germany and Russia's opposition to the war, do you?

Once the sun burns out, our planet is doomed. You're just making sure we spend the rest of our days using inferior products 

Russia is hemming and hawing about ratifying the Kyoto treaty on limiting the emission of greenhouse gases. Without Russia's signature, the Kyoto treaty is dead.

We definitely should minimize the amount of fossil fuels we consume, because



but not necessarily because of the greenhouse effect. Recent research has suggested that the global warming trend of the last 50 years or so, thought to be the result of burning fossil fuels, is rather mild compared to longer-term variations in the Earth's temperature over the last 1000 years or so. In fact, the popular claim that the ten highest recorded temperatures in history occurred over the last 20 years is revealed to be a red herring without any sophisticated research -- recorded temperatures only go back 150 years or so.

In fact, it's questionable whether the greenhouse effect contributes to global warming at all -- data gathered from NASA satellites fail to show the predicted increase in temperature in the lower atmosphere that one would expect from the greenhouse effect.

Studying climate change and weather is no simple matter; just ask Edward Lorenz, who famously ran a simple three-variable simulation of the weather many years ago at MIT and inadvertently discovered chaos theory.

(Lots of links forthcoming, once Google starts working again I get rid of the qhosts virus on my machine and I'm able to dig them up.)

10.02.2003

The pledge of allegiance does not end with "Hail Saddam" 

Over at the BBC, there's an article on the overhaul of the Iraqi educational system. This paragraph struck me:



Teaching methods may also be different.

Hundreds of teachers are being retrained by the US, encouraged to change from traditional rote learning to a more Western interactive style.

Children will no longer have to start the school day chanting Saddam Hussein's praises.



Um...rote learning is an incredibly effective way of getting people to remember something, whether they be a multiplication table, a list of vocabulary words, or unquestioning obedience to a tyrant.

(In case it's not clear, this post is not intended to be a praise of the Ba'ath regime; it's intended to be a critique of trends in Western education.)

Actually, I meant the Harvard ESL Institute in South Korea 

Over at Deadly Mantis, Noah laments the inevitability of conversations coming to a grinding halt once one is forced to say the words "Harvard" or "mathematics".

Fortunately for me, in about a year I'll be able to introduce myself as a researcher for a hedge fund, or a cryptographer, or a bartender, or a street sweeper, or something else.

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