Monday, January 30, 2006

Dogbert catches car

Scott Adams is not only funny but makes a good point when he
predicts that Hamas' policies will change now that they are in power:

I have to think it will be difficult for Hamas to reconcile the whole “destroy Israel” platform with “We’ll all be at the Parliament building at noon talking about how to do it.”

Should we be running like hell?

I live near the gulf coast, so the idea of rising sea levels and
hurricanes of increasing in intensity makes me think I should
maybe be moving to Missouri or someplace.

from PJM
"Natural systems are resilient and bounce back," said Susan Cutter, a geographer with the University of South Carolina. "The problem is when we try to control nature, rather than letting her do what she does."

The seas are rising, the planet is getting hotter and commercial and residential development is snowballing. Add those factors to a predicted increase in nasty hurricanes and what results is a recipe for potentially serious natural degradation, some say.

"It may bring about a situation (in which) the change is so rapid, it's something that's very different from what the ecosystem experienced over the last three, four thousand years," said Kam-biu Liu, a Louisiana State University professor and hurricane paleoscientist. "We may be losing part of our beaches, we may lose our coastal wetlands, and our coastal forests may change permanently to a different kind of ecosystem."

Since no one is even mentioning moving to higher ground or emptying
cities near sea level like New York or Galveston, maybe sea levels aren't
rising. Just saying the earth is warming and seas are rising is part of the
mantra. "George Bush broke the environment, sea levels are rising, the
earth is warming, ommmmm"

It often seems like the objective is to scare us to vote for someone other
than Bush. If anyone actually believes sea levels are rising enough to change
geography, it's time to move. No one is saying that though.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Walking blues

Doesn't it suck when you're super busy at work, but feeling
so depressed that all I really feel like doing is sliding across
the street to Big John's Icehouse across the street and tipping
back about 15 beers. Instead I'll sit here trying to keep various
balls juggled in the air, if too many fall and crash I'll ease on
out with the walkin blues.

Walking Blues

I woke
    up this mornin'
    feelin' round for my shoes
Know 'bout 'at I got these
    old walkin' blues, woke
Up this mornin'
    feelin' round
    oh, for my shoes
But you knoe 'bout 'at I
    got these old walkin; blues
Lord I,
    feel like blowin' my
    woh-old lonesome home
Got up this mornin', my little Ber-
    nice was gone, Lord
I feel like
    my lonesome home
Well, I got up this mornin'
    woh-all I had was gone


    leave this morn' if I have to
    woh, ride the blind, ah,
I've feel mistreated and I
    dont' mind dyin'
Leavin' this morn', ah
    I have to ride a blind
Babe, I been mistreated
    baby, and I don't mind dyin'
    some people tell me that the worried
    blues ain't bad
Worst old feelin' I most
    ever had, some
people tell me that these
    old worried
    old blues ain't bad
It's the worst old feelin'
    I most ever had
She got a
    Elgin movement from her head down
    to her toes
Break in on a dollar most any-
    where she goes, ooo ooooooooo
To her head down to her toes
    spoken: Oh, honey
Lord, she break in on a dollar
    most anywhere she goes

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

I'm not chocolate - The T Shirt

"It's time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans. And I don't care what people are saying in Uptown or wherever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have it no other way."

New Orleans Mayor - C. Ray Nagin

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The other side of Porkbusters, the people who need pork

Here in Alaska the governor is discussing a PR campaign
would attempt to tell the rest of the US that Alaska is not just
a consumer of Federal money, and it would "tell Alaska's story":
(from a column by Beth Bragg)

The governor wants to "tell Alaska's story" to the Lower 48 so folks down there have a better idea of what it's like up here.

The goal is to end the ridicule we've been so good at inspiring lately, what with our bridges to you-know-where and our desire to drill for oil in a wildlife refuge.

The thinking goes like this: If we can educate the critics with pictures of a desolate ANWR and defuse the comedians with pictures of a serene and congenial Ted Stevens, then we can move on to our ultimate goal, which is building bridges to you-know-where and drilling for oil in a wildlife refuge.

Or as the Governor actually said:

"Alaska does not just take. We give, and we have the capacity to give much, much more -- if permitted to do so," Murkowski said in his State of the State Address last week.
On another page of the paper, the 'nobodies' who live at the end of the proposed Bridge to Nowhere are upset and think that $328 million
is not too much to pay to connect them to their airport. That money was
cut from the proposed projects, but given to Alaska to decide what to do
with it.

Now the 'Nobodies' have to convince the Alaska legislature to give them their

Bridge opponents within Alaska abound. However, many of Ketchikan's residents see the link to the sparsely populated Gravina Island as necessary to grow their economy and connect them to their airport.

The project has been on the back burner for 30 years, and they bristle at being the "nowhere" in that hated moniker now that there's a chance a bridge will finally be built.

So one person's pork is another person's vital bridge. I wouldn't be so quick
to ridicule the idea if the residents of the island were saying what alternatives
there are and how much they would cost. With only 13000 residents, $328 million
dollars works out to $25,000 per person. Maybe it would be cheaper to buy
1000 cars and park them on the other side of the channel and run a personnel
ferry to bring residents to their shared cars.

Or invest $100 million and use the proceeds to pay for a Car ferry, along with
a $1000/year inconvenience check. I think there are much cheaper alternatives,
to this bridge, and the people of Ketchican are not doing a very good sales job.
If people want their pork, they should be ready with some economic analysis to
show why spending the pork is cheaper or better somehow in the long run.

There are times that spending the big money is cheaper in the long run, when it's not
cheaper, then it's pork. In times like these, critical thinking and economic
analysis are some of the tools that will get us to a 'best' solution, and this needs
to be applied more and more, instead of hysteria and arm waving.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Liveblogging a volcano

It seems like everywhere I've gone in the past six months has had a disaster of some kind. Hurricanes in New Olreans, Houston, barbados and mexico. Bombs in London.

Now I'm in Alaska and there is a volcano erupting. The Augustine volcano is down at the southern end of the Cook Inlet. I'm up at the
northeastern end of the cook inlet in anchorage.
Plenty far away.

The best coverage seems to be at the
alaska volcano observatory, with maps and a webcam. Here in Anchorage the sun is just coming up (9:40 am local time), so if any ash is visible I should be able to see it soon.

Luckily the ash is moving East, and not Northeast towards anchorage, because the safety equipment our office is issuing is a dusk mask and a plastic bag. The bag goes on your computer,
the mask is for your face. Or vice versa.

Ashfall is the only real risk, unless the volcano collapses and
makes a tsunamit that will wash away Homer (doh!).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Come back to New Orleans

Well. I tried my best. I really did. I attempted to drink a beer
in every bar that is open on Bourbon Street. I only made it from Canal
to about St. Peter, before I staggered back and put down roots and
stayed in the Green Door lounge. Apparently New Orleans is coming
back to life, because right now I feel like I was shot at and missed, shit at and hit.

There were several really good bands playing, one at the green door, and
one at a new place, formerly a nudie bar that wasn't good enough to remember
the name of. The Green Door had maybe ten people in it, when pre-Katrina it
was hard to get in the door, and they were running 3 for one beer specials,
before they would have sold a cup of beer for 6 dollars. Really great band playing
covers. The former nudie bar had a four man blues group with a fantastic
lead guitarist playing BB King style blues.

So the city is coming back. The suburbs are swinging busy as everyone rebuilds,
all that is needed is some leadership from the City and the State. If you want
a job there are jobs available all over the place. Oh yeah, and some hotels need
to reopen. If I had a million dollars, I'd open a new hotel in New Orleans. The only reason I
stayed down here last night was there was not a single hotel room in Metairie
or Kenner or anywhere else in the 'burbs. Every hotel that is open is packed full.

The city will come back, but it is going to be different. Every third person working
here is latino. I'd bet they are going to stay too. The New New Orleans will
be 50% white, 25% black and 25% latino. Fortunes will be made here, and others
spent. I think leadership is called for, and real changes made to the city organization,
otherwise the city will drift into a giant sprawling ghetto filled with illegal immigrants.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

State of Fear while climate changes, as it always has.

An economist article makes some good points about climate change, and it sounds very even handed as you'd expect from one of the few good news magazines in the world, but one troubling aspect was the chart of temperatures:

It has the typical hockey stick aspect, but I knew I'd seen it before
at, which is a fantastic site and should be required
reading of anyone that discusses statistics. I saw this same graph
here in numberwatch's discussion of chartmanship,

(go read the whole thing)

Let us take some raw data that you wish to present to the lay public, say a plot
of temperature against time:
Now, it is fairly clear that the graph shows
two flattish periods and two rising periods. Let us also suppose, for the sake
of argument, that in order to satisfy your paymasters you need to emphasise the
importance of the second rise, while diminishing that of the first. There are
three techniques that help. The first is to put in a base line at the most
helpful level, which is at the beginning of the period you wish to emphasise.
The second is to chop off the first plateau, which reinforces the illusion that
the second is a natural level. The third is to make use of colour. By perception
and tradition the hot colour is red and the cold colour is blue. The result is a
form of the same chart, but one which gives a completely different impression to
the non-mathematician:

The chart that the economist is using is slightly disingenuous, since
it places the centerline where it wants to back in the happy times of the
50's and 60's instead of the medieval warm period. why aren't we screaming
about global warming that happened in the 1800's?

Anyway. The economist article mentions the only positive development
in all the political attacks, which is that President Bush has started a
program to get more data from all around the world.

Numberwatch's number of the month article even points to a speech
last november by Micheal Chrighton. Which is a much better response
to global warming then State of Fear, which I thought sucked.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Days of Infamy

One of the books I've been reading this week is
"Days of Infamy" by Harry Turtledove. Harry is
the "Master of If", almost all of his novels are alternate
histories and he cranks out about 1000 pages of quality
writing per year.

"Days of Infamy" posits what would have happened if the
Japanese had followed up the pearl harbor strike with
an invasion. A really good book, very believable history
that shows how close we came to losing our ass in the pacific,
and also how brutal the Japanese were to civilians and
soldiers who surrendered.

While I was reading this book, I also happened to catch a
show on PBS about the railroad that crossed the bridge over
the river kwai, and how it was constructed by POW's, many
of whom were worked to death. It really drove home that
the brutality portrayed in the "Days of Infamy" was probably

The show also interviewed a japanese engineer who wouldn't
admit that he did anything wrong, and kept smiling like the
cat that ate a canary. If I had been making this show, I'd have
paid some big green beret type to dress up in WWII era fatigues
and step out of the jungle mid interview. Instead of a thin scarecrow
that he could beat with impunity the japanese dickhead could face
a healthy armed soldier who could deliver a nice rifle buttstroke
right to the middle of his squinty laughing eyes.

[The bastard who ran the worst camp that killed the most POW's
died just a few years ago as an honored professor of engineering.
He was shown on video telling students that the reason so many GI's
died was they weren't used to eating rice.]