Wednesday, August 30, 2006

If you haven't already heard, there's a new Frank Lloyd Wright house going up. It's based on one of his hundreds of unused designs. Should be interesting.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

At this moment, Jewel is riveted. Why? Because somehow a frog managed to climb up two stories of chimney, and is hanging out in our fireplace. Now I've got to figure out how to get it out of the fireplace without turning it loose in the living room.

Here's a close up of the poor little fella.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Important Safety Tip
This is the sort of thing that pops up in after dinner conversations with metallurgists. I'm sure this is old news to all of you, but it's apparently important to clean up your grinding wheel (and the surrounding area) between grinding different types of metal, particularly between aluminum and anything ferrous. See, if you mix aluminum dust with iron oxide (which is what iron or steel dust turns into in the presence of even a little bit of moisture), you get Thermite, which can then ignite with a spark from the grinding wheel, which can then cause a giant fireball of nastiness.
Christie's heading out of town for a few days, which means it's going to be just you and me for a while. Who else, I wonder, will appreciate this story from the Chicago Tribune? Chicago, you might have heard, banned foie gras. The ban took effect yesterday, and pretty much every restaurant in Chicago added foie gras to its menu out of protest. They mentioned foie gras pizza, but no word on foie gras Chicago dogs.

So they try to ban it, and the end result is that more people have tried it than ever would have if they just left well enough alone.

Friday, August 18, 2006

I just had an idea while talking to a friends at work. He's sick of going into businesses (mostly restaurants) with Fox News on the TV and being forced to listen to their crap. Do you think there's a place for a nationwide campaign to not patronize businesses that play Fox News in their public areas? Or is that flirting with censorship?
Quote of the Day: "There is considerable overlap between the intelligence of the smartest bears and the dumbest tourists."
More Flickr fun: photos tagged with "crazy house".

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Craig Murray knows enough to make educated guesses about what's going on behind the curtain with the UK terrorism arrests, and he's skeptical.
There really is a web page for everyone: Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Something else Christie will never let me do. But Karl, I think I found a use for the bus!
Election season is coming up, so I've been trying to find a bumper sticker that sums up how I feel about New Orleans, the Republicans, and all that jazz. There are a bunch that come close, but I think this is the one. This one's a close second. And I'm considering getting this t-shirt for Mary.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Since Christie and I were arguing the merits of various programming languages this weekend, I present The Hierarchy of Programmers, styled after the Geek Hierarchy.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Christie wants a pop-up, but I think I'll see if I can talk my way into building a teardrop camper before we buy one.
I've been trying to come up with somethign smart to say about the latest security steps taken by TSA, and, as usual, Yglesias beats me to it. There's a small chance that this will actually make us safer, but the odds are huge that it won't. But there's a 100% chance that many people will simply stop flying. I know that I won't be volunteering for any business trips any time soon, and if there's another way to get there, I'll drive, ride the train, or whatever. Flying is just too much of a pain in the ass with our airport security regulations being secret, arbitrary, and politicized.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I love tilt-shift photography, which takes real-world landscapes and makes them look like models. Now that people are figuring out how to do it in Photoshop, there's a Flickr Pool devoted to the phenomenon. Much fun browsing.
Here's an interesting article on immigration in rural Delaware, some of which probably applies to the midwest as well. For instance, according to the article, the reason the chicken processing industry is dominated by Hispanics isn't because the jobs are low paying, or dangerous, or anything like that. It's about retention and attrition: "Two decades ago, a plant would lose 10 to 15 percent of its workers per month--that is, at any given moment, most of the workers in a plant would have been hired in the past four or five months. This is how immigrants wound up dominating the poultry industry. It is not that corporations sought to unload their local workers wholesale and replace them with cheaper and harder-working ones. It is that every time a local worker quit, he was replaced by a Guatemalan who didn't".

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Over at TAPPED, Alec Oveis is arguing that the Lieberman loss is bad news because all the effort that went into kicking Lieberman out of the party could have gone to defeating actual Republicans.

Look, I agree that the Republican party is the biggest problem facing our country right now, but I also think that the Democratic party is a close second. While the Republicans were dragging us into an elective war that did nobody any good unless they owned stock in Halliburton, the Democrats pursued a bizarre strategy of capitulation and triangulation that made it much harder to get the truth out there in the media. The leadership of the Democratic Party needs to understand that they can be fired for their incompetence. Call me an optimist, but I think firing Lieberman sends that message loud and clear.

The fact that he himself is refusing to hear that message and is instead planning to run as an independent this fall just drives home why he needed firing in the first place.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

If I ever find myself in Beijing, I'll have to remember that my usual travel strategy of just wandering around until I see something interesting is not necessarily a good idea in totalitarian countries.
Just had a watercooler chat with Lena that sort of blew my mind. At the very least, she gave me something to think about for the rest of the day. Possibly the rest of the week.

Islam was started about 600 years after Christianity. What was Christendom up to 600 years ago (roughly)? A Dark Age coupled with a violent crusade against an economically and technologically superior empire. But then came the Reformation and the Renaissance, which led to an increasingly secular political structure, which led to greater peace, prosperity, and diversity.

Basically, Lena suggested that religions go through a period of early religious ascendancy, then a decline, then a period of reform and rebirth that is also a decline, as secularism takes hold, and then they kind of chill out and become more about tradition and custom than about dogma and metaphysics.

I'm not sure I buy the idea that religions have a natural lifecycle. For one thing, religions have a very high infant mortality rate, so very few survive more than a few hundred years. And the written historical record is spotty at best when it comes to the early lives of most of our extant religions. And then there are the differences between types of religions. Maybe only monotheistic religions go through these sorts of violent conflicts. How important are the various geopolitical factors surrounding the faith?

This is one of those ideas that bring up more questions than answers, but they're terribly interesting questions.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Christie and I both are looking forward to the new movie, Idlewild, but I was sort of hoping it was set in Idlewild, Michigan, which was an all-black resort town from the 1910s until the Civil Rights Era. No such luck. Ah, well.

Friday, August 04, 2006

From the Department of Guarded Optimism:
Ed tech scores Senate victory. The House voted to zero out funding for educational technology, but the Senate Appropriations Committee has voted to restore it. It still has to go before the full Senate, and then to a conference committee, but this is a very good sign. If you have a Senator on the Appropriations Committee, thank them, and if your Senator isn't, this would be a good time to let them know how you feel about it.

And from the Department of Giving Credit Where It's Due, Kit Bond is on the Committee and voted to restore funding. It's a very unusual feeling, being grateful to Kit Bond, but, hey, he did good.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Somewhere between talking with my father-in-law about engineering challenges, talking about a conservative friend about war in the Middle East, and reading a batch of P. J. O'Rourke quotes, it occurs to me that not enough people understand the difference between managing a problem and fixing it.

It's easy to attack Clinton, for example, because he held a series of peace talks which ultimately fell apart and did not, in fact, result in a lasting peace in the Middle East. That ignores, however, the fact that in the lead up to the peace talks there was posturing and hope and rhetoric being thrown around, and then during the talks there was more of the same, and for a while after the talks even more, and that the throwing around of rhetoric is infinitely preferable to throwing bombs and such. And that about the time that the bomb throwing was starting up again, another rounds of talks would be announced, and the posturing would begin anew.

When a problem can't be fixed, it needs to be managed, which can either minimize the harm or, at least, prevent it from growing.

Like the Middle East, government is a problem to be managed. Most of us vote once every four years or so for the same party, and we imagine we've actually accomplished something. Right now, the Republicans are running things, and they're doing it with a mixture of incompetence and corruption that leaves me with my head in my hands. We absolutely need to kick them to the curb. But if all we do is replace the "Bad Guys" with the "Good Guys", we're not really solving the problem. Corruption is an inevitable consequence of power, and history makes it pretty obvious that Democrats are not immune. We're in for a world of hurt if we think kicking the Republicans out of office means that we're done.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Problematic Technical Documentation
For one thing, it's not that easy to roll your cat up in a newspaper. And don't even get me started on step 6, which is apparently being done by Zaphod Beeblebrox.
I find it a little sad that I actually understood all of this.