Monday, April 30, 2007

Richard Winger mentions 4 candidates for the Libertarian 2008 presidential nomination. Doug Stanhope and Wayne Root, Michael Jingozian (seems like a crank) and
Daniel Imperato.
Currently I know nothing about any of them - I can add to this post as I find out more. So far they seem like lighweights but I would lean toward Stanhope,as not taking himself too seriously.

Update: well that didn't last long:
Doug Stanhope, who had been planning to announce that he is seeking the Libertarian presidential nomination, dropped out on May 1. He is a professional comedian. He said, “Federal Election Commission rules would not allow me to campaign at paid gigs while also retaining a personal income from those shows.”

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I had a day to wander around Kalamazoo. Stopped into a bar. The bartender turned me on to Dana Owens singing, in an ella fitzgerald bluesy style, California Dreaming.
Owens is better known as Queen Latifah. Amazon had sound bites. The album, The Dana Owens Album, also has "lush life" which is a song, but also is a movie about the guy who wrote the song, who was black and gay and out and a lush, a drunk, and played with Duke Ellington.

"Earthlike" planet discovered.. well not exactly. Ok, at 5 times earth's mass, this isn't somewhere you'd want to go fro a vacation. And we are guessing at best, in calling it earthlike. But, having a planet of this sort only 20 light years away(rather than a jovian gas ball) provides a pretty strong reason to build better instruments that call tell us more about this planet and its system. I heard a bit about this at wheaton's blog but marginal revolution had the details. I don't know what the current planet count is..230?... anyway. Slashdot. Wikipedia.

5 star jails. NYT article. This might actual work in Indianapolis, which has problems with overcrowding and problems with unconstitutional living conditions in its jails.
Via Marginal Revolution's markets in everything category.

Ironic list of sites blocked by the filter where I'm computing from.
urbandictionary.com reason: reference
stripcreator.com reason: funny.
flickr reason: open
There will be more; I've been running into lots of these but am only now tracking them.

word for the day: floordrobe. via althouse, with a nice essay on words and the men who love them too much.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm in Michigan doing a medical study. One of the women here is using her study money to buy a Savanna kitten. Wikipedia. A Savanna is a cross between a serval and a domestic cat.

The cross looks like a wild cat, is bigger than a domestic cat, is smart and friendly, sort of like a dog. Right now these are rare, only a few hundred exist. The serval is a rare, not quite endangered species, of African wild cat.

The breed was started in 1980. The males are sterile to the 5th generation, but the females breed.
My concern, which I don't see addressed any where - haven't finished looking, is what are the ecological consequences when these critters go feral. Domestic cats are vicious killers and have a lot to do with the decline of many species of songbirds, although habitat loss and chemicals are bigger factors. I live with three of them, my roommates', but I don't like them and wouldn't keep a carnivorous pet, outside of the carrying capacity of the local environment.

Friday, April 27, 2007

What I'm reading:
Virtual Light, William Gibson. Wiki
A Holiday for Murder, Agatha Christie.
Wild Talent, Wilson 'Bob" Tucker.
The doc here at the study noticed I had some books, and, joking, asked for book reports, so I pointed him here to my blog,and he's checked it out. So maybe I should update the "what i'm reading" category. He's also offered to buy the Murrow bio.

Virtual Light is one of Gibson's earlier novels, after Neuromancer had nearly singlehandedly created the mirrorshades/cyberpunk genre. Neuromancer had an impact sort of like Snow Crash. I can't think of a representative first book of the "New Wave" 1960s trend in SF. Some people would point to Bug Jack Barron. Also I'm not saying Neuromancer was the first, only that it has the reputation of being that sort of a book. Virtual Light is solidly within the cyberpunk genre. Some of Gibson's later work is less so. I liked, and blogged last year about, Pattern Recognition, but it's less distinctively cyberpunk.
This isn't my first read of Virtual Light, it's just the first time I've owned a copy. Back a few years ago when I had both time and money, I used to go about once a month to a club in Muncie owned by my friend Mistress Moth. It was a Stand and Model club (S&M) where a lot of the time, but not all of the time, there wasn't much happening, so often I'd borrow the copy of Virtual Light that was for sale and read another chapter. I don't remember at the moment if I ever got all the way to the ending. My current copy is hardback; the one at the club was illustrated, semi-graphic novel style.
The book itself? Plot: Girl steals something, goons look for her, told alternative her perspective and that of one of the goons. But it's more about setting: a dystopian SF (San Francisco) in which the rich got richer and the poor got poorer, and both sets live interesting lives. The significance of the book is the cleverness of the description of the social changes resulting from the technology changes. The writing is also good - that is, some people would argue it's not about what happens, it's about how he tells it. But I think it's about the world he's created as a setting for the story.

Another book I'm reading, but seem to have left at home, is an Agatha Cristie murder mystery, where I can't quite remember if I've read it before. She wrote 80 66 of those, selling literally a billion copies, making her second only to Shakespeare, and they are somewhat similar, but this one seems a little too familiar, but less so than it should be for a book if I've read it before. My memory isn't what I'd like it to be.
Cristie, like Gibson, is known, not so much for the cleverness of the solutions to the mysteries, as for the setting. English county houses, retired colonels, the sort also found in Sayers and Waugh and Wodehouse. To most of us, this world is as alien as Gibson's SF SF. I'm on the invitation list to one annual weekend house party at horse farm in Kentucky, where one of the beds is the other of the pair of the one Markie Post is infamous for jumping on in the Lincoln Bedroom of the Clinton White House. And I have a friend who was raised by his uncles, one of whom was the butler to an English gentleman at his country house. The other "uncle" was the gentleman in question. I knew one of them slightly and the other quite well, both are dead now and so, mostly, is the world they lived in. But if a billion copies of her books have been sold, this world has a second life, in the minds of the people who've read her stories.

I was reading it a few days ago, when I came up here to interview for the study. They had told me my labs and physical would be Tuesday, but when I got here they said the physical would be Wednesday, so I had a day of nothing to do and nowhere to do it, so I explored Kalamazoo a little bit, reading the Christie at a coffee shop, then at Rice King, where my order was taken by a 5th grader, Joey, the kind who is smarter than the average contestant on "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?", the new Jeff Foxworthy game show. I may update this post if I remember the title of the Cristie.
Ah, "A Holiday for Murder" better known as Hercule Poirot's Christmas. 1939.
When multi-millionaire Simeon Lee unexpectedly invites his family to gather at his home for Christmas, the gesture is met with suspicion by many of the guests. Simeon is intent on playing a deadly and sadistic game with his family. In the post above, I mention the three cats I live with.
One of them is named Hercule, and there's a Francesca,and I forget the third. Hercule can probably solve locked room mysteries, he just doesn't share the answer, just strokes his whiskers.
Wilson Tucker is a fairly minor science fiction author. This book is pretty good, for an SF book from 1954, pleasant light reading. As far as I know he's never won a Hugo,{oops - fan fiction Hugo, 1970} his books aren't soon to be a major motion picture. But when I used to go to science fiction conventions in the midwest, Bob was treated like a god, pretty girls on both arms who were wearing bodypaint and not much else, a bottle of jack daniels in his hand, a song in his heart. It was the heart that got to him - last I heard he was on doctors orders to slow down a bit,and that was long enough ago he's probably dead by now. [yup: 1914-2006.]The usual process is that I know science fiction authors by their books,and maybe later meet them in person, where Bob is someone I'd met and only later caught up with his books. This one, Wild Talent, is about a boy, later a man, who finds he can read minds, and becomes involved in cold war espionage drama. It's ok. He starts off as a movie projectionist before being drafted. Tucker worked as a movie projectionist while writing 20 novels, numerous short stories, innumerable fan letters,and attending lots of cons over 60 years. http://www.printsations.com/WTucker.htm

Monday, April 23, 2007

Story. aka Volokhitorial.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Supreme Court yesterday (or the day before?) upheld a federal law banning partial birth abortions. Where I am at the moment there is one computer between 12 of us so I'm just now getting around to reading the opinion via scotusblog.

It's a sharply divided court.
Both sides make strong arguments.
The majority, Kennedy and the 4 (relatively) conservatives, builds on and distingusiehs existing precedents and defers to congress, in a way that's a lot like McConnell v FEC. Little mention of privacy, little discussion of a standard of review.
The minority, Ginsburg for the 4 (relatively)liberals, point out how this decision doesn't save any babies, and thus doesn't do much about furthering state interests, defers to congress where it is factual wrong, and endangers both the health and autonomy of (childbearing)women.
Thomas, joined by Scalia, concurrs that the constitution doesn't protect abortion,
but that he might have entertained a commerce clause argument if the question had been raised.
(In drafting cert petitions and questions presented, one should always leave room for an argument directed precisely to Justice Thomas - sometimes, as here, you need that 5th vote.)
One of the most troubling points in the decision is the majority's attack on facial challenges. The Roberts court wants to see as-applied challenges in discete (not discreet) cases. So we'll have cases brought by the estates of dead women dragging on for years, instead of prompt resolutions. States can play that kind of waiting game. Sure, the abortion lobby can and will find the resources to litigate such cases, but it's a trend away from being able to look to courts for redress of (possible) rights violations,and a license to legislatures to pass popular but unconstitutional acts.
I personally am agnostic on the abortion issue - it's a decision I leave to others who are more vested.
The majority decision has some colorful language about babies kicking and squirming as their heads are crushed. I think that's helpful to the debate.
But I had though this was a late term procedure - instead, it can apply at the 4th month in pre-viability cases. The case does not outlaw abortion. It outlaws a specifi procedure. What the states will do next, remains to be seen.
This is the decision that liberals had feared in Bush v Gore (the campaign, and the case.) The court appoints a president, the president appoints new justices, and Roe gets rolled back.
I continue to think that a Gore presidency wouldn't have been better - Gore is simply now the devil we don't know.
One possible solution is for congress to revisit the topic, to vote on an amendment for such abortions in limited cases where the health of the mother is genuinely at risk. Bush rarely uses the veto.
One thing this case will do will be to boost fundraising letters on both sides.
All for now.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

It turns out I got a post accepted at slashdot and didn't know about it till now. I'm too used to being rejected to bother to check back.
It's not a very interesting one, just something I noticed that I thought might be slashdot-worthy.

Old Islamic Tile Patterns Show Modern Math Insight
Posted by CowboyNeal on Friday February 23, @04:12AM
from the high-tech-tetris dept.
Math Science
arbitraryaardvark writes "Reuters reports that medieval Muslims made a mega math marvel. Tile patterns on middle eastern mosques display a kind of quasicrystalline effect that was unknown in the west until rediscovered by Penrose in the 1970s. 'Quasicrystalline patterns comprise a set of interlocking units whose pattern never repeats, even when extended infinitely in all directions, and possess a special form of symmetry.' It isn't known if the mosque designers understood the math behind the patterns or not."
[+] alliteration, penrosetiles, math, science (tagging beta)

In the discussion I noticed this from my brother:
by billstewart (78916) FriendFriend of a Friend on Friday February 23, @08:18PM (#18130108)
(http://idiom.com/~wcs | Last Journal: Thursday March 03, @12:08AM)
If you break up the paragraphs where the Protestants and Jews break them up, there are four commandments dealing with Gods (Don't worship other gods, don't make statues of idols, don't use God's name in vain, take Saturdays off), and six dealing with your relationships with other people (honor your parents, don't kill, don't cheat on your spouse, don't steal, don't lie about your neighbors, don't be greedy about your neighbor's stuff.)

The Catholics like to make statues of various figures, so they split up the paragraphs so that the "graven images" bit doesn't get its own number, and coveting your neighbor's wife and you're neighbors other stuff get numbered separately. So for them it's three commandments about Gods and seven about dealing with other people.

By the way, if you look at how the Bush Administration's doing with the 10 commandments, they're not doing very well. Putting up statues of the 10 commandments at courthouses violates the graven-images bit, using religion as a justification for rabid right-wing politics violates #3, lying about weapons of mass destruction as an excuse for a war gets #6 and #9, having a war because you want to steal peoples' oil pretty much covers #8 and #10, and Republican politicians seem to get caught cheating on their wives about as much as Democrats do, even if they don't get impeached about it. But I guess they sometimes take Sunday off, except down at Guantanamo.

Bill Stewart
Rejecting Unitary Executives since 1776....

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Corey at BoingBoing recommends some books.
Vernor Vinge's Rainbow's End
Two from Charlie Stross, who wrote the Lobster novel, Accelerondo. [Not to be confused with Zodiac, Neal Stephenson's lobster novel.]
I trust Corey's taste in books, except that he runs into more good books than I can read.
I have a project to send Heinlein books to Wil Wheaton - I think he'd like them.
So if you have some Heinleins getting dusty on your shelves,and can find an address to send them to Wil, do so, or if you need the address ask me, gtbear at gmail, or send them to me and i'll forward them.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Singularity watch:
IBM learns how to make 3D chips, it's 4th major development this year, keeping Moore's Law running along indefinitely.
December, IBM announced the first 45nm chips using immersion lithography and ultra-low-K interconnect dielectrics.

In January, IBM and Intel separately announced “high-k metal gate,” which substitutes a new material into a critical portion of the transistor that controls its primary on/off switching function. The material provides superior electrical properties, while allowing the size of the transistor to be shrunk beyond limits being reached today.

In February,IBM revealed a first-of-its-kind, on-chip memory technology that features the fastest access times ever recorded in eDRAM (embedded dynamic random access memory).

Then in March, IBM unveiled a prototype optical transceiver chipset capable of reaching speeds at least eight-times faster than optical components available today.

Kurt Vonnegut dead at 84. He was bi-coastal, with homes both here in Indy and in New York. He wrote a blurb for the local alternative weekly, nuvo. At the coffeehouse I go to, they still talk about the time years ago when he came in and did a poetry reading. http://www.alternet.org/story/14919/
A theme of his books - I've read about half - is that we evolved in tribal bands, social animals, and that in modern society we spend much of our time and energy trying to recreate that sense of being socially connected to a group,and that that explains a lot of social behavior of groups that otherwise seems irrational.
A friend of a friend knew him:
My favorite neighbor.. ok after James Earl Jones. but at least he always said hello and asked me what i was reading when I saw him. I know i've blogged several times about my encounters with Kurt on the streets of NYC.

while some looked at him as the writer and voice of our day.. I still can only think of him as sharing drinks with us, squeezing the melons at the Fairway .. and taking the time to always say hello. Amazing what an effect those small acts of kindness from someone who is both so admired and so loathed can have. I'm sitting here with my morning cup of coffee, crying. Once in the mid 80's Kurt tried to commit suicide and failed. I was always worried that one day i'd wake up and find that he succeeded. but 84 is a great age to live to and the fact that his Pall Mels didn't kill him is probably his own personal victory. My last memory of him was sitting at the table next to him at Bagel Nosh on W. 71st street, with spud in a stroller and talking about how gentrified our neighborhood had become.

I can't help but think how he would have loved the irony of his alter-ego, Kilgore Trout dying at age 84 and himself also passing over at 84. Or maybe that fall was on purpose?

... and so it goes ..

Currently watching: Easter Parade (Judy Garland and Fred Astaire - Gene Kelly had broken his ankle so Astaire took the part.) Youtube clip.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

As far as I know, this case is the first applying the Indiana Constitution to free speech on the internet.
INDIANAPOLIS - (AP via Drudge) A judge violated a juvenile's free-speech rights when he placed her on probation for posting an expletive-laden entry on MySpace criticizing a school principal, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.

The three-judge panel on Monday ordered the Putnam Circuit Court to set aside its penalty against the girl, referred to only as A.B. in court records.

"While we have little regard for A.B.'s use of vulgar epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech," Judge Patricia Riley wrote in the 10-page opinion.

In February 2006, Greencastle Middle School Principal Shawn Gobert discovered a Web page on MySpace purportedly created by him. A.B., who did not create the page, made derogatory postings on it concerning the school's policy on body piercings.

The state filed a delinquency petition in March alleging that A.B.'s acts would have been harassment, identity deception and identity theft if committed by an adult. The juvenile court dropped most of the charges but in June found A.B. to be a delinquent child and placed her on nine months of probation. The judge ruled the comments were obscene.

A.B. appealed, arguing that her comments were protected political speech under both the state and federal constitutions because they dealt with school policy.

Of course, the Indiana Law Blog already covered it. And now it's hit slashdot.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Fisking AP:
See if you can spot the error in this story.
My experience has been that AP tends not to to respond to emailed corrections.

PHILADELPHIA - A man who contended that he was not required to pay income tax, and whose case led to an indictment against actor Wesley Snipes, was sentenced Tuesday to 27 months in prison.

Arthur L. Farnsworth, 43, of Sellersville, was also fined $500 and ordered to cooperate with
Internal Revenue Service investigators in documenting his finances and beginning to pay his tax debt of almost $83,000, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on its Web site.

He told the jury that his own research had convinced him that federal tax payments were voluntary. Prosecutors argued that his research was created to cover his political beliefs.

Prosecutors said Farnsworth transferred his money to overseas bank accounts and put it into bogus trusts to try to hide his income. A raid on his home in 2002 found documents detailing some of the trust funds, leading to a nationwide probe of fraudulent trusts. That led to charges against other people, including Snipes, the star of the "Blade Runner" movies.

Snipes, who is awaiting trial, has said he is a scapegoat and was unfairly targeted by prosecutors, and he has suggested he was taken advantage of.
* (What happened to the "Discuss" option?)

Gee, it's early April, and the mainstream media is running stories about jailed tax protestors... coincidence, or conspiracy?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This is cory doctorow winning the 2007 EFF pioneer awards, which are given out at the Computers Freedom and Privacy conferences.

This is the webcomic that inspired the picture.

The 1992 CFP conference was a life-changing experience for me. While my classmates went on to be fairly traditional lawyers, I started living on the internet, thinking I might be able to have some role, as a lawyer, in the struggle for freedom and privacy on the internet. Didn't work out, but I gave it a shot. I've attended CFP's 2,4, 9 and 10. Usually it's far away or I'm busy or broke or I forget. Currently I tend not to travel further than I can drive in a day. Which reminds me, I need to turn off this computer and head up to Waukegan for a week - I have a gig at Abbot Labs a Chicagoland pharmaceutical maker.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Word for the Day: spagnostic.
Via Wil Wheaton.
There's a rumor, just a rumor, that Wil will be speaking at pax, the Penny Arcade convention.

Some of this infovia Brian Fleming's pretty good blog.

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