January 21, 2009

Gambling with Your Money

A member of the MIT Blackjack team describes his encounters with the sure-fire, can't-possibly-lose gambling strategy called The Martingale. While a great system in theory, in practice the only thing it guarantees is that you'll lose all your money eventually. Then they make the disturbing observation that the current financial system basically uses this strategy to organize itself. Uh oh....

Posted by thom at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2008

Memories of Bob Dole

When I was at Netscape the company invited the Republican Presidential nominee, Bob Dole, to come speak at the company during his campaign. We were all reminded that it wasn't an ideological thing, it was just they had a slightly more accommodating stance on the company's pet issue which was the export of products that used cryptography. Unfortunately Bob Dole was busy so he sent the VP candidate, Jack Kemp, in his place. I don't remember much about Mr. Kemp aside from his hair and recall absolutely nothing of his speech.

What I do remember is the other politician that spoke that day: Pete Wilson. I remember it was awful and confusing. Just random sentences strung together and uttered without any sort of structure. There was the "tough on crime sentence" followed by the "tax cuts for everyone!" sentence followed by the next. Then I realized he wasn't speaking to us. The news that night would show some 5 or 10 second sound bite so he was just slapping them all together in a big pile and calling it a speech. We were just a prop.

I was reminded of this today when I read a story about Hillary Clinton's campaign stop in West Virginia:

A steep descent brings Clinton's plane to Charleston's hilltop airport. After an appropriate wait, she steps from the plane and pretends to wave to a crowd of supporters; in fact, she is waving to 10 photographers underneath the airplane's wing. She pretends to spot an old friend in the crowd, points and gives another wave; in fact, she is waving at an aide she had been talking with on the plane minutes earlier.

I guess this saves everyone a lot of time so it really makes sense in a sad sort of way.

Posted by thom at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2006

"...on that day we're all murders"

People who want to speed up the rate at which we execute condemmed prisoners might want to watch this.

Posted by thom at 12:51 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2006

Stop Buggin' Me

It is now actually illegal to annoy me without telling me your real name. No, really — it's true. So stop bugging me already. Passed by our corrupt... er, infinitely wise... congress and signed into law by Dear Leader.

Posted by thom at 07:29 AM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2005

Yummy Pork!

The infamous Alaskian "bridges to nowhere" are back in the news. Back in October, with the costs of the hurricane Katrina relief mounting, this $2 billion boondoggle came in for some blistering criticism. In November it was finally killed. But like a Zombie searching for a midnight snack it has risen from the dead and shambles onward.

But fear not, dear Taxpayer, help is on the way:

Senate Republicans, by the narrowest margin yesterday, pushed through a major budget measure that would trim federal spending by nearly $40 billion over five years...

For the record that is a 0.3% reduction in spending. If you round that it is zero percent.

Posted by thom at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2005

Double Secret Probation

Kenneth Tomlinson, the President of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, commissioned Fred Mann, a former GOP consultant and a retired employee of the National Journalism Center, to report on bias on PBS. Yesterday Sen. Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota released that report and today the LA Times said:

Radio host and former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock was listed as “anti-Bush” for saying the military was underpaid.

According to Mr Mann's logic if someone said members of the military were overpaid they would be Pro-Bush. Hmmm. Now that I think about it this makes sense given that the Bush administration tried to cut the pay of service members, so I guess it is a Pro-Bush position.

The Times said that Tomlinson...

[...] commissioned the report without informing the rest of the CPB board in order to learn more about the programming without alarming people in the system.

You know, kinda like Double Secret Probation.

Posted by thom at 07:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2004

The Green Mountain Boy

I went to another Dean2004 Meetup the other day. There weren't as many people there this time, of course, but the ones who did show up were there because they believed that this movement wasn't just about one candidate or one election. At the end of the meeting, Ron, the group's organizer read us something he had heard on The Chris Mathews' Show on MSNBC:

CHRIS MATTHEWS, host: As I've said before on this show, the greatest thing about politics--being in it, covering it, caring about it--is to be out there all alone, then some day be proven right. Maybe I'm a maverick and maverick-lover by nature. I find that there's nothing so ennobling as the leader who risks all to stand for what he or she believes, to speak out when it seems everybody in the world is saying, `You're wrong. Go away. Shut up. Give up.' Say this for Howard Dean, the five-time governor of Vermont, he took a stand that the occupation of Iraq was wrong with American history and wrong with--for America's future. He asked Americans to say so.

I know a lot of people disagree with Dean's tough position, but somewhat smaller numbers still do. They had their say; he's gone from the race. The people I want to talk to here and now are those whose hearts once soared at the very notion of this man, this former governor from one of the original 13 colonies, showing all the passion and ideals of an early American revolutionary, a real Green Mountain boy come out of the Vermont hills to fight the good fight. To those who joined Dean's rebel cause, I salute you. From the time of Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine and, yes, John Brown, and Martin Luther King, the people who have moved this country have not been those marching to the American band, but those gutsy few out ahead. You Dean kids of all ages can now take your place in that proud tradition. You can tell you kids that you were with Dean.

While serving as a foot soldier at Valley Forge, Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet series, The American Crisis, which began with the memorable line, "These are the times that try men's souls." His words still ring true today. I heard a song on the radio today that said, "it's times like these you learn to live again." I am trying — trying so hard to learn.

I also discovered a fun new toy.

Posted by thom at 07:13 PM | Comments (1)

February 24, 2004

Jobs Update

Congressman John D. Dingell has some questions about Gregory Mankiw's proposal to count burger flipping as a manufacturing job.

Dear Dr. Mankiw:

I noticed in the recently released Economic Report of the President that there was some consternation in the defining of manufacturing. It could be inferred from your report that the administration is willing to recognize drink mixing, hamburger garnishing, French/freedom fry cooking, and milk shake mixing to be vital components of our manufacturing sector.

I am sure the 163,000 factory workers who have lost their jobs in Michigan will find it heartening to know that a world of opportunity awaits them in high growth manufacturing careers like spatula operator, napkin restocking, and lunch tray removal. I do have some questions of this new policy and I hope you will help me provide answers for my constituents:

  • Will federal student loans and Trade Adjustment Assistance grants be applied to tuition costs and Burger College?
  • Will the administration commit to allowing the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) the fund cutting edge burger research such as new nugget ingredients or keeping the hot and cold side of burger seperate until consumption?
  • Will special sauce now be counted as a durable good?
  • Do you want fries with that?

Finally, at a speech he gave in Michigan this past September, Secretary Evans announced the creation of a new Assistant Secretary for Manufacturing. While I understand that it takes a while to find the right candidate to fill these positions, I am concerned that five months after the announcement no Assistant Secretary has yet been named. I do, however, know of a public offical who would be perfect for the job. He has over thirty years of administrative and media experience, has a remarkable record of working with diverse constituencies, and is extraordinarily well qualified to understand this emerging manufacturing sector: the Hon. Mayor McCheese.

With every good wish,

Mr Dingell

I'm not sure if Mayor McCheese * is the right guy for the job. I mean he's had the job for over a quarter of a century and the Hamburglar is still roaming the streets. He seems to have a serious conflict of interest that explains everything. Apparently he has a long history of moral lapses.

Posted by thom at 02:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 20, 2004

New Manufacturing Jobs!

I was looking at the want ad section of the paper yesterday and only saw one job listing for computer engineers. Happily I woke up today to discover that the Bush administration is considdering a bold move to create literally millions of new manufacturing jobs:

Is cooking a hamburger patty and inserting the meat, lettuce and ketchup inside a bun a manufacturing job, like assembling automobiles?

That question is posed in the new Economic Report of the President, a thick annual compendium of observations and statistics on the health of the United States economy.

The latest edition, sent to Congress last week, questions whether fast-food restaurants should continue to be counted as part of the service sector or should be reclassified as manufacturers. No answers were offered.

In a speech to Washington economists Tuesday, N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, said that properly classifying such workers was "an important consideration" in setting economic policy.

Two weeks ago the blogger formerly known as Emma posted this as a joke. I guess Tom Tomorrow was right when he observed that the Bush administration had rendered satire obsolete.

(spotted on Eschaton.)

Posted by thom at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2004

Not the 'droids I was looking for

All warfare is based on deception
-- General Sun Tzu, ca. 400BC

If leaders are deceiving the led then who is the war being waged upon?

Posted by thom at 10:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 13, 2003

Lawyers and Politicians and Software, oh my!

Vindicated! A few months ago I blogged about how strong "intellectual property" rights slowed innovation and concluded with this snide remark:

Is the software biz really in trouble? Well, all I can say is that you can tell something is really a problem when even economists start to notice.

Today on Brad Delong's blog I noticed his thoughts about this story in the Wall Street Journal. Quoting the WSJ:

When patents are too easy to get and hold onto, they become a weapon for would-be monopolists and their well-paid lawyers to increase profits rather than a reward for innovation. People get patents who don't deserve them, and then others wield those patents in what is close to legalized extortion. In the computer business, firms that do no research and make no products buy patents to use in lawsuits against companies that do make things. In biotechnology, where each advance builds on the last one and everyone relies on patented research tools, patent holders may be stymieing progress, the FTC cautions.

The WSJ writer notes: "This warning is worth listening to. It comes not from an antibusiness bureaucrat or a Democratic advocate of government industrial policy, but from a Reaganite Republican who prizes property rights, markets and competition as the only sure way to prosperity."

I'll update my snide remark now: You can tell something is really a problem when even economists, and then Republicans, start to notice.

Richard Stallman, thought of by some as a kook, has been talking about this for a while now (sorry, I was trying to find an earlier link). Sometimes (er, well usually) he may take an extreme position but at least he has the force of reason behind him.

Posted by thom at 01:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

You have the Right to Remain Silent...

...anything you say can, and will, be used against you:

In these days of danger, the old divisions of party and ideology have become almost meaningless. There are but two parties now: patriots and traitors. Active opposition to this war is treason, and nothing less. Those who seek to obstruct all just and necessary efforts for the defense of the nation are, thereby, giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

I fully realize that my assertion of this doctrine will set some to screaming about the right of "dissent". Well, as to that, let me say this. The right to "dissent" is the right to remain silent, to disagree, to not participate. That is a natural right which is retained by every single human being under any condition.

A couple of years ago he pledged to join the army if the war ever came. I guess he had "better things to do", that or he just didn't pass the physical.

One of his readers had this reaction:

Adam's right, dissent is treason. We must cut this cancer from our bodies before it's too late!

To start off, we need to hold a nationwide purge of businesses owned by dissenters. It needs a good, catchy name - I was thinking something like "Crystal Night", after the sound of all the glass storefronts breaking.

Then we need to round up all the dissenters and give them a special mark so everybody knows who they are. Something simple but distinctive, that stands out at a distance - how about a yellow star?

Once that's done we can start setting up special camps to put these parasites to work and help us win this terrible war. I'm not sure about a name for this phase - I'm thinking something along the lines of "Ultimate Answer" or maybe "Final Solution".

Anyway, just some thoughts. Let me know what you think, I'm eager to get started with the pogrom, I mean program.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by thom at 01:16 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 04, 2003

My Designated Free Speech Zone

I spotted this article on The Smirking Chimp about George Bush's Free Speech Zones:

Take Brett Bursey, a Columbia, S.C., man who is being prosecuted by U.S. attorneys for protesting an October 2002 visit by the president to his town. State officials dropped their charges soon after arresting Bursey for not moving to the "designated free speech zone"--leading us to believe that wherever the president speaks is not a free-speech zone--but five months later the feds decided to press charges, and Bursey's case went to court in November. A U.S. magistrate is to decide on his case sometime this month.

Something very dark is happening to our republic. America is my Designated Free Speech Zone and I refuse to move from it.

Posted by thom at 10:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 30, 2003

"It was very unusual..."

Maybe I could improve my sex life if I persued a carreer in influence peddling...

The [Neil and Sharon] Bush divorce, completed in April after 23 years of marriage, was prompted in part by Bush's relationship with another woman. He admitted in the deposition that he previously had sex with several other women while on trips to Thailand and Hong Kong at least five years ago.

The women, he said, simply knocked on the door of his hotel room, entered and had sex with him. He said he did not know if they were prostitutes because they never asked for money and he did not pay them.

``Mr Bush, you have to admit it's a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her,'' [Sharon Bush's lawyer, Marshall Davis] Brown said.

``It was very unusual,'' Bush said.

UPDATE: But wait! There's more! Announcing your intent to divorce through e-mail is pretty bad, but it could have been worse.

Posted by thom at 01:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 17, 2003

More Human than Human

Arnold was just sworn in as Governator, er, Governor of California. It reminded me of this story in TheWave magazine where mayoral candidates were given the Voight-Kampff Test from the movie Blade Runner to see if they were really human. Luckily, Arnold is not a replicant - he wasn't even in Blade Runner. I'd insist on the test if Harrison Ford had been elected. In Arnold's case I wish a dog had sniffed him before he was sworn in just to make sure he wasn't really a machine.

Posted by thom at 12:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 01, 2003

A Fair and Balanced Wonderland

This whole Fox News story is has been getting a lot of attention in the blog world. I saw this little quote in the Los Angeles Times today.

Asked whether [former employee Charlie] Reina's quotations were inaccurate or taken out of context [Fox News spokesperson Bob] Zimmerman said, "All we are saying is that these are false accusations."

False but apparently not inaccurate. No spin there. The Fox universe is a very kooky place.

This story has nothing whatsoever to do with Fox but it is pretty funny too

Posted by thom at 04:22 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 16, 2003

Reality Trumps Satire

Seen on Eschaton:

"Bush told his senior aides Tuesday that he 'didn't want to see any stories' quoting unnamed administration officials in the media anymore, and that if he did, there would be consequences, said a senior administration official who asked that his name not be used."

You can read the whole story here. Last night I dreamed I was falling down a rabbit hole. Now I'm wondering if it was really a dream.

Posted by thom at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

September 26, 2003

Argument Clinic

I caught the debates between candidates for California Governor. It was not the right room for an argument - it was just simple contradiction. Oh yeah, and abuse. And carefully rehearsed yet poorly delivered personal attacks. Here's my wrap-up of the fiasco:

Cruz Bustimonte, er, Boostemanti... um, What's-his-name: I saw his lips move but can't remember a word he said. I suspect some form of mind-control technique at work. Accused of being beholden to Indian Gaming Interests.

The Arnold: Refuses to take money from Indian Gaming Interests so they won't influence him. He will take money from other special interests (despite a promise not to) but because he doesn't call them "special interests" he insists he won't be influenced by them - or something like that. His vague, nonspecific answers demonstrated his bold, vague, and nonspecific leadership skills.

Arianna Huffington: She wins the "Most Off-Topic" Award hands down. She came across as shrill and generally irritating - and I like her.

The Other Republican: Generally made a very positive impression on me - um, aside from not having an easy to remember name. His only hope of winning is if The Arnold puts the party's and the state's interests before his own personal ambitions and drops out of the race. Ha ha ha! He's doomed!

The Green Candidate: Is, by far, the least kooky Green Party candidate I have seen to date. I might have other nice things to say about him, but since he doesn't stand a chance of winning it's not worth the effort.

The Porn Star: She wasn't actually invited to the debate as far as I know. Big Mistake.

As I watched the depressing spectacle my eyes glazed over. I really don't care who wins. Anyone with a chance of winning sucks. Anyone who doesn't suck doesn't stand a chance of winning. Californians are screwed. Our only hope is to immediately recall whoever gets elected on the grounds that they suck.

Posted by thom at 01:17 AM | Comments (0)