Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Exploring Chicago, Part One

The beginning of an on-going series.

Halsted Street in Lincoln Park (specifically, between Fullerton and Armitage) is where you send all your female friends who have too much money to go buy overpriced clothing they can't afford. And there's an occasional bar there, too.

Which came first, Kenmore the avenue or Kenmore the Sears appliance house brand?

There are reasons why the NFT updates annually - stores close. At least I found a cool game shop around the corner from the site of a former bookstore I tried to find.

I now live a few scant blocks from the first apartment my parents had right after they got married. Not coincidentally, my world has now shrunk a bit.

Apparently, when I'm wandering semi-aimlessly I still look enough like a local that people ask me for directions. I follow in my father's footsteps in this - he was able to pull this off in London.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I'm Not Sure What to Say

Other than that this webcomic is both profound and disturbing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gingerbread Masonry

Via my UIUC LAS Alumni email comes word that a grad student made a gingerbread house replica of Lincoln Hall.

Of course, the replica had better structural integrity than the building it was patterned after...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Sad State of Illinois Politics

I've long said that citizens of Illinois are disappointed, but never surprised, when we find out that yet another of our politicians is corrupt. But still...damn, a sitting governor arrested for trying to sell Barack Obama's former senate seat, among a long list of charges.

I'm not surprised at the corruption, just that the man's that stupid.

At least we'll have an open Democratic primary in 2010.

EDIT: Subject-verb agreement is a good thing.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Pro Forma Announcement

While all of the seven regular readers of my blog already know this, I feel that I should announce anyway that I will be moving to Chicago this month to attend DePaul's Masters Entry to Nursing Practice program. I've signed for a place in Edgewater near Loyola and look forward to taking the Red Line to classes. I intend to keep blogging here, and will keep the coloring scheme - Orange and Blue at least technically follows the Rule of Tincture, while Red and Blue blatantly does not.

Monday, November 17, 2008

If I Were a Fangirl, I'd Squee

The new Star Trek movie trailer is up here. (You'll want to click on Trailer 2.)

UPDATE: Here's an official-looking YouTube video of the trailer.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Edify Yourself

Devilstower at DailyKos has a long but informative post up about credit default swaps and how they made the financial markets explode, spawned by the current GOP spin trying to pin the crisis on anyone but themselves. Go read it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Read It and Weep

Chancellor Herman writes to the DI to say that, try as hard as they can, Students for Chief Illiniwek's antics won't bring back the Chief:

I want to clarify and add background to a recent announcement by the Registered Student Organization (RSO) "Students for Chief Illiniwek." The RSO plans to rent the Assembly Hall on November 15 to promote its cause at an event called, "Students for Chief Illiniwek Presents: The Next Dance."

The campus does not support and is not sponsoring this rally and, as long as the group does not exclude any fellow students from participating, the organization is free to express within the law the beliefs and perspectives of its members.

On February 21, 2007, the University at Urbana-Champaign retired the Chief Illiniwek tradition. The campus also ended the production of Chief merchandise, except through the Collegiate Licensing Company's "Vault" program, which is used for retired logos.

We will not reinstate the Chief Illiniwek tradition.

However, we will never prevent people from expressing themselves on our campus. The RSO system at the University allows groups of students to create organizations that represent many different viewpoints. While the University will not always condone those views, we will allow students to form a RSO, as long as they meet clear and existing guidelines. Those guidelines include adhering to all federal and state nondiscrimination and equal opportunity laws, orders, and regulations.

All RSOs have certain rights, including the right to reserve/rent certain campus spaces for their events. The Assembly Hall is one of the venues available for such events.

The University works very hard to create an inclusive campus community. Free speech and the ability to express ideas is a core value of this great institution. Without this freedom, students do not have exposure to ideas nor the ability to test the veracity of those ideas.

This is a tradition we will always honor.

Richard Herman,
Chancellor
As I've said many times before, retiring the Chief was an irreversible decision by the Board of Trustees. The nature of our former "symbol"/mascot is so toxic that, were the board to reinstate it, the university's reputation as an enlightened institution of higher learning would be shot. That's why it's best not to have these big displays, and best not to cling on to things like yelling "Chief" during the Three-in-One at Halftime (two-thirds of which I'd also like to go see the way of our well-maligned mascot). The more people keep deluding themselves that it will come back, the longer it will take for the community as a whole to move on.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Hate Pervasive Disney Advertising

I now understand why some people have fancy covers for their facial tissue boxes. In my case, at least, I would not have it to coordinate with my decoration scheme (which would require me to have one in the first place). Instead it would be to cover up the fact that it was not until I got home that I realized that, on the middle box of the three-pack of Kleenex I just bought, Hannah Montana's face was rictus-grinning back at me.

I'm not sure what to do with this box at the moment. Suggestions are appreciated.

Thank God

Gov. Blagojevich (D-Idiot) is "not interested" in appointing himself to Obama's soon-to-be-vacant senate seat:

What the governor says he's looking for: someone who shares many of the Democratic ideals he and Obama share, including health care expansion, creating jobs, cutting taxes for working class people.

The governor said he hopes to have a decision made by New Year's, but there is no timeline.

Names being bandied about Illinois political circles include Democratic Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr., Luis Gutierrez, Jan Schakowsky and Danny Davis, Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, Comptroller Dan Hynes and Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who is close to Obama. Some are promoting themselves while others are mentioned due to the offices they hold and the political landscape in 2010, when Democrats must defend the seat.

Another name mentioned is real estate executive Valerie Jarrett, a close Obama friend and top adviser, who could help Blagojevich with blacks, women and the White House if he seeks re-election. Yet another: Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who narrowly lost a congressional bid and now serves as Blagojevich's Department of Veterans' Affairs director.
I've read elsewhere (don't remember where, though, else I'd link it) that Mayor Daley would like nothing more than to kick Rep. Jessie Jackson Jr. into the Senate, since Jackson's been making noises about being Mayor of Chicago himself - the hope being that he'd like his new job too much to come back to Chicago and challenge Daley. If that's true, then I wouldn't be surprised to see it happen. What Daley wants, Daley gets.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Late Election Roundup

Hi there, paltry readership.

I spent my afternoon and evening as a Poll Watcher at Cunningham 5 at PAR, and then watched the returns come in at Matt's place. And, though it's been said many times already - Yay Obama!

So far, it looks like the Constitutional Convention is losing, as is the School Sales Tax - both "yay"s for me. Sadly, the City of Champaign referendum to fund general assistance did not pass.

I'm gonna vegetate for a bit, then head to bed. I may have something more profound to say later. If not, Yay!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama Wins Dixville Notch, NH

15 votes to 6.

(No link, I watched it on the teevee.)

Election Day is Tomorrow!

In case any of my seven readers are first-time voters, you need to bring a government-issued ID (like your I-card) and a piece of mail, i.e. a bill, listing your current address. Even if you're not a first-time voter, having these along to smack down the Republican poll watcher with is never a bad idea.

Myself, I plan to vote early, and maybe end up as a poll watcher myself at some point tomorrow. We'll see how things go.

Also, if you live in Champaign County, go find and print out your specimen ballot before you go to the polls. If you fill that out ahead of time, all you need do once you hit the polling booth is copy your ovals to the official ballot. If lots of people do that, voting will go a lot smoother.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Viral Election Funness

Via Aaron Williams, the guy who draws Nodwick (if you have to ask, you're not a gamer), comes a link to this YouTube video synchronizing the three 2008 Presidential Debates.

Of course, these guys were helped immensely by the fact that the second debate was a complete retread of the first. Can we do away with the "Town Hall" format, please? We never get anything new out of it.

...But This One Goes to Eleven

Official word has come through the BBC that David Tennant will be leaving Doctor Who at the end of the 2009 series of four one-hour specials.

Cue rampant speculation on who the Eleventh Doctor will be. Since Russel T. Davies is also bowing out, stage right, we likely won't be seeing Sigourney Weaver wielding the sonic screwdriver. (However, if Steven Moffat is open to an American running the TARDIS, both Matt and I would like to see Mos Def take the role. He's already proven himself in another Douglas Adams-linked acting gig as Ford Prefect, so getting a handle on the Doctor should not be terribly hard for him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Because Everyone Needs a Laugh

Your daily dose of humor, courtesy of a CNN.com story on Windows 7:

Addressing another complaint about Vista, Microsoft said Windows 7 will be faster and need less memory to run.
You may now resume your regularly scheduled web browsing.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Attention Forum Posters

Punctuation is a good thing. Ellipses do not properly end a sentence. Paragraphs are also good, especially ones that have logical internal structures.

I mean, for a message board that's geared towards people obtaining or possessing college educations, I have to wonder how so many of you passed high school English.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

About Bloody Time

The Chicago Tribune has endorsed the hometown favorite, Sen. Barack Obama, for President. From the endorsement:

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for president.

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause--the Republican Party. The Tribune's first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

With that in mind, in 1872 we endorsed Horace Greeley, who ran as an independent against the corrupt administration of Republican President Ulysses S. Grant. (Greeley was later endorsed by the Democrats.) In 1912 we endorsed Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as the Progressive Party candidate against Republican President William Howard Taft.

The Tribune's decisions then were driven by outrage at inept and corrupt business and political leaders.

We see parallels today.

The Republican Party, the party of limited government, has lost its way. The government ran a $237 billion surplus in 2000, the year before Bush took office -- and recorded a $455 billion deficit in 2008. The Republicans lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in 2006 because, as we said at the time, they gave the nation rampant spending and Capitol Hill corruption. They abandoned their principles. They paid the price.

We might have counted on John McCain to correct his party's course. We like McCain. We endorsed him in the Republican primary in Illinois. In part because of his persuasion and resolve, the U.S. stands to win an unconditional victory in Iraq.

It is, though, hard to figure John McCain these days. He argued that President Bush's tax cuts were fiscally irresponsible, but he now supports them. He promises a balanced budget by the end of his first term, but his tax cut plan would add an estimated $4.2 trillion in debt over 10 years. He has responded to the economic crisis with an angry, populist message and a misguided, $300 billion proposal to buy up bad mortgages.

McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country.
Coming from the Tribune, that's rather damning. Combined with Secretary Colin Powell endorsing Obama this morning, this has to be a bad start to the week's news cycle for McCain.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Sillier Side of the Election

Weebl, of Weebl and Bob, was initially swayed by Oldy McDodderington's choice of running mate, but Bob, with the help of one of Hopey McChange-Pants's rallies, was able to bring Weebl around. Go watch and be amused.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Using and Abusing Advertising Tropes

Via SusanG at DailyKos comes this video from MoveOn. It's both effective and hilarious.

For Your Edification

Here's the notice I received about a candidate forum for the 15th IL Congressional District on campus:

There will be a debate/forum Tuesday on the UIUC campus for the candidates for the 15th U.S. Congressional District and the 103d Illinois State Representative District. This campaign forum, co-sponsored with the Daily Illini and the Association of Academic Professionals, will take place on:

Tuesday, October 14, from 7:30-9:00 p.m. on the 2nd floor of Levis Faculty Center (919 W. Illinois St., Urbana)

Questions asked will deal directly with university issues. Come hear what their positions are.
I won't be able to attend due to prior commitments, but I'd appreciate any reader feedback (from the 6 or so people who regularly read this blog...).

Up From The Bottom?

The Dow gained a bajillion points in trading Monday. My question is: did we hit bottom last week, or will the Libor and TED spread still be horrible when the markets open, making Monday's gain the largest dead cat bounce in history?


The world may never know will find out in a few hours.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Dunno Who Made This...

But it sure does a lot to link John McCain to the economy after a week when he wanted no part of it.

***WARNING: Those who are prohibited from listening to PG-13 language should not watch this clip.***

Monday, October 6, 2008

Keating Economics

Here's the documentary the Obama campaign put out on the web to counter the Bill Ayers BS.



There's sitting on a charity board with a reformed extreme leftist, and then there's this... which do you think the American people will actually care about?

Will the Real Challenger Please Stand Up?

So it's one month and a day before the election, and the Democratic Candidate for the 15th Congressional District in Illinois is still a big question-mark. I have heard precisely nothing out of Steve Cox's campaign, and the campaign "news' page is still blank. He doesn't even have a position statement about the economy, which is the issue of the election. As best I can tell, he intends to ride Obama's coattails into office which, in a gerrymandered GOP-friendly district like the 15th, seems like a daft thing to do.

That said, here's some oppo research I offer up to the Cox campaign (not that either one will see it, as next-to-no-one reads my blog). Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL15) said of the recent bailout bill:

"I remain highly suspicious of this request and frankly resentful of the presumption that taxpayers should be put on the hook for irresponsible decisions by Wall Street money changers."
Accordingly, he voted against the bill both times. However, this is a reversal of his previous position - remember the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005? The one that was supposed to "prevent bankruptcy abuse" but really was the credit card companies whining that they were getting screwed over for giving every schmo and his dog a credit card but came crying to the government when people who should never have been given more than $50 of credit had their debts forgiven by the bankruptcy courts? The entire point of that bill was to put people - ya know, taxpayers - "on the hook for irresponsible decisions by Wall Street money changers," and guess how Tim Johnson voted on that bill? He voted for it.

Let me type it again slowly, for those who did not read it the first time: Tim Johnson was for putting taxpayers on the hook for the bad decisions of financial executives before he was against it.

And yes, anyone who clicks through and reads the full text of Rep. Johnson's statement knows that I took him about 80% out of context. However, it would make a great political attack ad, and we all know that Cox needs all the help he can get right now.

All's Fair...

Every time the McCain camp tries to smear Obama by association, the Obama camp should drop a Keating Five reference in the course of steering the conversation back to the economy. Not only does it more damning than anything the GOP has on Obama, but it has a bonus of applicable to the state of the nation.

Friday, September 19, 2008

One of the Sad Things About My Surgery

Is that talking like a pirate requires making lots of noise in the back of the throat, which is rather painful for me right now.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Post-Op Post

My adult tonsilectomy and adenoidectomy went well. I'm ambulatory, but the after-affects of anesthesia and motor vehicles do not agree well with my stomach. I haven't tried solid foods yet. I can speak softly (which is a boon, since I've read that some people have pain with even whisperting), although saying consonants at the back of my throat like "x" is occasionally interesting.

As far as how it feels, right now it's as if I have a bunch of mucus at the back of my throat that I can't hawk up. Beyond that, there's a bit of pain, but I've got an extra-viscous liquid painkiller to help with that. I have a week of drinking lots of fluid and eating Popsicles and ice-cream ahead of me. :-D

Thanks for the well-wishes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Creationist Shindig - Postgame Report

I'm not about to document all the atrocities against science and informed thought at the Creationist talk I attended this past Friday. In such a setting, the creationist is nearly always at an advantage - they have their well-honed lies and practiced rhetorical tricks, while any skeptic in the audience is hobbled by not having a near-encyclopedic knowledge of the facts.

The talk itself began by conflating Dawkin's strident atheism with the entire field of evolutionary study. He then proceeded to misrepresent natural selection, classical Darwinism, and the Modern Synthesis, all the while referring to the field as "Darwinism". (When questioned about this, he insisted that this was because the media refers to it as such, when in fact the media does such because that's the term the creationists use.) He brought up Panspermia and some crackpots to muddy the waters further, and disparaged the entire field of Geochronology (which made me wish that I had my geology grad student acquaintance with me...). He then trotted out a long list of "problems" with evolution, most of which are not problems at all, and then listed some bible verses aimed at asserting God's hand in Creation rather than denying evolution, all before wraping up with another reference to Dawkins' atheism by transposing it onto the entire biological community.

In all, the talk served to confuse the issue of what evolution really is about, what it actually says, and its history, as well as to construe it as a threat to theism in general when such is not the case. If I wanted, I could reply to the whole thing with a string of citations of the Index to Creationist Claims.

Following the talk was a question and answer session, and John's experience with such things became readily apparent. Question time was limited, supposedly because he gets tired of talking, but more likely because he is unwilling to deal with critical questions from the audience for an extended period of time. He is not interested in debating. Anyone attempting to question him in the future is advised to have a single good question thought out in advance, and to be a lot less confrontational about it than I was. Also, having a laptop with wifi internet access is also a good idea, so that one can access Google and the Index while the talk is going on. Had I been so prepared, I could have looked up and questioned John about Uranium-Lead dating, which is used to date things older than 1 million years old and which he completely skipped over in his talk.

In future, the best way to undermine him may be philosophical. He divides the "possible" views on the issue into three: Biblical Literalists, those who aren't-quite-so-literal, and those who believe what science says on the subject. In doing so, he supports the false dichotomy between evolution and Christian faith. Pointing out that there is really a continuum between pure atheistic support of science and literal creationism while also noting that Dawkins' views are not representative of science as a whole may do more to limit John Bilello's effectiveness than any nitpicking over details.

On a related note, I have heard that there's a Young Earth Creationist giving a talk tomorrow evening. I did not get the details, though, since I will be unable to attend. (I have a tonsillectomy scheduled for tomorrow and I doubt I will be up for much beyond drinking gatorade.) If anyone decides to go I would be happy to hear about it, though.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Anonymous Headroom

A message from Anonymous to the leaders of the Scientology organization.


Note: if the above video has been taken down by YouTube, please see it here instead.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Creationist Shindig - Time and Place

Aighty, so I went and found one of the posters again, and was happily surprised to have been wrong in yesterday's post on the days for the Creationist lectures- instead of tonight and tomorrow, the talks will be tomorrow and on Saturday. The speaker will be John C. Bilello, Professor Emeritus of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Michigan (faculty bio). Friday's talk is entitled "Darwin vs. Genesis", while Saturday's is "Bible and Physics - Atoms". The talks will take place in room 1320 of the Digital Computing Laboratory at the University of Illinois. The event is being hosted by the Christadelphians of Champaign County, who were kind enough to put a color PDF of their flier online.

Now, onto the juicy pregame analysis.

John's faculty bio page, linked to above, lists his research interests as:

Application of high energy (synchrotron radiation) x-ray diffraction imaging, microdiffraction, grazing angle incidence scattering and other associated techniques as a tool for non-destructive materials characterization to study a wide range of problems in metals, alloys and semi-conductors where it is necessary to control the structure-property relationships on both the micro and macro-scale to achieve improved performance or to create new materials.

Current research is focused on surface and interface studies in controlling the fabrication and mechanical properties of thin films, multilayer nanocomposites, and on the role of grain boundaries in fatigue and fracture.
...which isn't even biomedical, let alone related to anything biological. Off the bat, this guy sounds like someone who has no relevant background to the subject matter he is giving a talk on.

Also, it appears that these talks are something of a standard of his: he gave them in Ontario in 2005, when a review of the anti-evolution section was posted on Panda's Thumb. Unless this guy's updated his talk, it might be easy to start picking nits with his arguments and "problems" with evolution. I intend to be taking notes when I'm not demonstrating how he's wrong, so expect a summary here soon-ish afterwards.

UPDATE: Apparently someone at Discussing Discipleship, a blog spawned from a class at a local Methodist church, has also noticed the talk. It should be interesting to read alternate perspectives of the talk afterward, assuming such get posted.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Other Palin

No, I'm not going to go on about yet another icky fact about the GOP's fundie Veep candidate. Instead, I'll just pass along this ad for a new third-party candidate, Michael Palin:

If you were surprised by this video, you should be ashamed of yourself. In fact, you may be in need of a spanking...

Nearly Forgot

Some wingnut creationist is giving talks on campus tomorrow and on Friday. If I remember and can find one of the sparse fliers, I'll try to post a summary of who/what/where sometime tomorrow (I'd go look now, but I'm sure the buildings with the fliers are locked). Also, if I end up going, I'll summarize the atrocities committed against science and sense.

What He Said

The Stranger at Blah3.com is the person I cite as my own personal blogfather. His "question-mark campaign" of simple flash videos set to music introduced me to the nascent blogosphere and got me interested in reading political blogs. More recently, he pointed out how well-managed Obama's PR outfit is:

Obama and his advisors seem to understand that campaigns run on a very tight wire, and campaign operatives are so ready to spring at any perceived slight by the opposition that they'll often react before they weigh the situation. To their credit, Obama's team has made precious few of these impulsive moves - to the contrary, they're more likely to create the illusion of inaction if it means not making a mistake. And as situations develop, Obama's team will let the tension build to the point where McCain's campaign are ready to pounce at anything.

A good comparison point is the way michael Jordan would play basketball in crunch time. When Jordan brought the ball up the floor, he'd often slow down his motion to draw his defender in. The longer he slow-walked, the more the defender would tense up waiting for Jordan to make his move. And the longer Jordan would wait, the chances of the defender making a mistake would increase. Then all it would take was a head-fake, a feint, or a full step, and the defender would get faked out, commit a foul or move the wrong way and give Jordan the room to make his move. Two points, maybe three with a foul. Worked just about every damn time.

That's how Barack Obama is running this race. His campaign will lay back for days at a time, letting McCain and Palin showboat and level outrageous charges. It drives some of his supporters absolutely batshit. You can see it on the blogs. A week does not go by where Obama supporters are not on a comment thread, demanding that he fight back, swearing that McCain is running away with the race due to Obama's inaction or refusal to fight back or not responding quickly or forcefully enough. These people don't realize that Obama is playing a different game on a different level - certainly at a much higher level than McCain's Boys are used to playing.

He's been slow-walking the ball since the convention, and you can bet money that McCain's campaign has been tuned into every speech, reading every interview, looking for a slip-up that they can capitalize on. And they get so focused on trapping Obama that when he shows a head-fake - 'lipstick on a pig' - that they dive in and whack him on the wrist.

Two points. And it's worked just about every time.
As with everyone I link to, you should read their entire posts, not just my excerpts.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Edwards Wimps Out

So sayeth the N-G. See the post below as to why.

We Knew It Already

But DKos diarist casiopea points out that It's OK if You're a Republican

It's OK to cheat on your wife if you're a Republican: John McCain gets to do it because he was a POW. Newt was cheating on his wife while impeaching Bill Clinton. Gary Hart's candidacy burned at the media's stake after Monkey Business, and John Edwards was crucified. Not that I care one bit. As Bill Maher reminds us, "FDR, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Bill Clinton... they all cheated on their wives. The only one that hasn't... George W. Bush." In the days before Bill O'Reilly, things were different. Grover Cleveland was caught with an out-of-wedlock baby in the middle of his campaign against Blaine. Cleveland admitted it, and started to pay for the upbringing of the baby. Then, he went on to defeat Blaine, who was seen as a saint in private matters but a crook in the public ones.

It's OK to have a thin resume if you're a Republican: in the last days, we have comically learned way too much about the civic life of Wasilla, Alaska. Conservatives have told us with a straight face that Sarah Palin has national security experience because she commands the Alaskan National Guard and lives next door to Russia. To Karl Rove, Tim Kaine is a lightweight because he was the mayor of Richmond, Virginia. Today, he's telling a different story. The only VPs elected in their early 40s in the 20th century were all Republican, and they all won. Theodore was 42, Nixon was 40, and Dan Quayle was 41.

It's OK to have a teenage daughter with an unwanted pregnancy, if you're a Republican: yes, after thirty years making policy out of the woman's body, that's what they are trying to tell us. After thirty years of fighting against choice, they are celebrating Bristol Palin's heroic "choice" to keep it.
There's more where that came from, and that's only a small list of the hypocrisy that is the modern GOP.

As an aside, when will the Republicans get around to renaming themselves the Whigs? That's what they've been since Reconstruction, barring interruptions by competent people like Roosevelt and Eisenhower.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Propriety of Pranks

So the big news from this weekend (N-G, DI) is that someone managed to hack the everybody@uiuc.edu email system (which, as far as I understood it, was locked down to all but a few approved users) and sent spoof emails from Chancellor Herman to discourage people from Rushing this Fall. While long time readers know that I approve such sentiments, I have to condemn whoever did this.

"Why?" you might ask. The answer is simple: they did a piss-poor job of mimicking the Chancellor's prose and I belong to the school of thought that a prank not done well is not worth doing.

Look, here's the spoofed email in its entirety:

Dear Students,

Many of you may be aware of an event known as Rush. It is my objective to warn you of the potential downsides of Greek organizations. I advise you to not succumb to the aggressive recruitment tactics used by these organizations. It has been my concern over the years, that the Greek culture of alcoholism and lack of respect for the community degrades campus life. These organizations present themselves as prestigious, yet are discriminatory, serve to perpetuate social inequality, especially with respect to the opposite gender, and promote a lack of diversity. Many students have expressed concerns with regards to safety on campus, particularly due to Greek culture and behavior. It is my hope that a student's experience on campus strengthens one's individuality, but the Greek system emphasizes the group above all, without cause or reason. This is detrimental to the purpose of universities.

I hope that you will consider wisely.

GDI Chancellor Richard Herman
Now, having spent years reading the man's email prose, I could tell right off the bat that the author of the email was not Chancellor Herman. For example, here's a MASSMAIL that went out this past May:
Dear Friends:

I am delighted to announce that our online networking community Always Illinois now features email forwarding. All members of the Always Illinois community can customize an @alumni.illinois.edu address, providing long-term consistency and connectivity. It's also a great way to network with family, friends and colleagues.

If you haven't already, I urge you to sign up for Always Illinois online. Our exciting networking community is a free benefit to all Illinois alumni, students, faculty and staff. Always Illinois offers all the basic functions of a social network with added levels of security and privacy. To join and strengthen your ties to our great Illinois family, visit www.alwaysillinois.org.

Richard Herman
Chancellor

**Always Illinois and e-mail forwarding are free services provided by the
University of Illinois Alumni Association and the Office of the Chancellor.


This mailing approved by:
The Office of the Chancellor

--
This Message sent via MASSMAIL. http://www.cites.uiuc.edu/services/massmail/
Note the many differences: Chancellor Herman starts off with an open greeting to his readers, he spreads his prose out into multiple paragraphs, he generally has a conclusion, he places his title on the next line after his name instead of placing it immediately before his name, the email was sent by MASSMAIL, and it was "approved by the Office of the Chancellor". The scam email had none of these things.

Now, if the author(s) of the spoofed email had taken the time to make their message look more credible, they would probably have delayed a campus reaction by a few hours (as it would've taken longer for people to realize it was a hoax) and they would have gotten my kudos. Instead, I am forced to condemn them for doing a half-assed job.

Bonus for the journalism majors: Ask the Chancellor's office or campus Public Relations if the Chancellor had been a member of a fraternity while in college. If he was, that would be multiple kinds of hilarious.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Taking Stock of the Situation

Under the headline "Kids and Stocks", cnn.com has a video on teaching your kids about the stock market.

So, what does it say about me that the thought which popped into my head after reading that headline was of a Pythonesque "man on the street" segment about the general public's support for putting children and teenagers into stockades?

(And yes, the "Who has the money nowadays (ever?) to let their kids play on the stock market?" comments are entirely appropriate for this post.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grand Late Opening

The News-Gazette reports that the renovated IMPE, now the ARC, is set to open Aug. 21st.

I would like to remind people that, according to the original schedule, it was supposed to reopen for the last semester of my senior year - i.e. two and a half years ago.

That is all.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

When Nerd Worlds Collide

So I was at a gamer party and since the host had a newer copy of Rock Band I was helping play through the "tour" phase to unlock the cooler songs. Whilst doing so, we discovered that you can buy for your rock dude avatar things a "Doctor What?" outfit, complete with shin-length coat and scarf, which was of course immediately bought and customized to a dark maroon color. Similarly colored pants were also purchased to complete the outfit. (And if you don't know why, go should join Adric on a certain spaceship...) The description for the "Doctor What?" outfit mentions something about being ready for anything with it, whether you're traveling through time or space. If only such stylish togs were more readily available.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Business Cents

There's no laundry facilities at my current apartment, so I am forced to use the only clean laundromat remotely close to campus. Usually when I go to the laundromat, I don't bring extra quarters - I expect the change machines to be working. This seems a reasonable expectation; most people don't keep $8+ dollars of quarters laying around, and it behooves the owner(s) of the laundromat to make using their machines as easy as possible.

I say all this because when I went to said conveniently-located clean laundromat, there were no quarters to be had. None whatsoever. All three change machines were out, and the person working the desk there had apparently been out of quarters for some time. She said that management had been called, but that it was hard to get someone out on a Sunday. I checked the adjacent former Osco, but they too had long been stripped of their quarters.

So I went to do other errands for a few hours. When I returned to the laundromat, though, there still weren't any quarters. I ended up going across the street to Quiznos to buy dinner and thankfully managed to buy a roll of quarters off of them. It wasn't until halfway through my dryer loads that the laundromat's change machines were restocked.

Now, let's stop and think about this for a bit. A laundromat, like the vast majority of other businesses, exists for one reason - to make money providing a needed service. I, as well as many other people, have a much easier time doing laundry on weekends rather than during the week - in fact, whenever I'm there it's usually quite busy. I have to wonder what owner and/or manager in their right minds would let their business be unusable to most of its customers for hours of peak usage time.

For any business, but laundromats especially, not having quarters on hand makes no cents.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Winning, Losing, and the Winds of Change

Sara at Orcinus has a post up on Hillary Clinton's primary loss and what it means from a feminist and progressive standpoint. It's probably not what you think it is, either, so go read it.

It's Amazing What You Find

Apparently Tom Skilling is looking for a new minion.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Someone Said the "I" Phrase!

Former presidential advisor Karl Rove refused to respond to a subpoena from the House Judiciary Committee and this time they're not pussyfooting around.

"A refusal to appear in violation of the subpoena could subject Mr. Rove to contempt proceedings, including statutory contempt under federal law and proceedings under the inherent contempt authority of the House of Representatives," Conyers and Sanchez wrote.
Normally, contempt proceedings against the executive branch fail, since congress chooses to let the Justice dept handle prosecutions in Federal courts under statutory contempt rules and most administrations will call off their lawyers rather than prosecute themselves. However, statutory contempt is merely congress fobbing its contempt powers off on the other two branches of government. Each house also has inherent contempt powers, which means that the body of congress so defied can try the case themselves and hold that person until the end of the session. This can be repeated at the beginning of each session, and the Supreme Court has upheld this power as valid and integral to the functioning of the Legislative Branch.

Unsurprisingly, his lawyer is playing dumb with the media (who, for the most part, is likely dumb themselves on the issue):
Luskin noted in May that his client had already received a separate subpoena from the Senate Judiciary Committee. "While the [House] committee has the authority to issue a subpoena, it is hard to see what this will accomplish, apart from a 'Groundhog Day' replay of the same issues that are already the subject of litigation," the lawyer wrote, referring to a movie in which a person lives the same day over and over again.
As Mr. Luskin knows full well (or should, if he's taking Rove's money), the reason for the House to issue its own subpoena is that it allows the inherent contempt proceedings to occur in that house. Inherent contempt trials are conducted by the presiding officer of the house so offended. Cases in the senate are presided over by the President of the Senate, a.k.a. VP Dick Cheney, who has political reasons to oppose letting anything Rove's done come to light. Inherent contempt trials in the House of Representatives are presided over by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who is much more likely to play ball on the issue. Knowing those to things, which venue would Democrats prefer such a trial to occur in? I'll give you two guesses, but if the first isn't the House of Representatives you have a moral obligation to strike yourself in the head with a brick.

Right now, though, while I listen to the sound of a thousand bricks thumping, all I can hope for is to see this threat of Inherent Contempt be acted upon.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I Name It... Lake Campus




The City of Champaign really needs to do a better job of maintaining its storm sewers to keep stuff like this from happening. I thought the entire point of the Healey Street Detention Basin was that there wouldn't be things like a stream with a current running North along Locust Street.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Another Nail in the Coffin

A Federal Judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by the designer of the Chief logo due to lack of jurisdiction.

I wonder how long and how many more failed desperate attempts to revive him it will take before people will realize that their racist mascot of choice will not be coming back.

Because I've Neglected This Blog Way Too Much

Here's a map of the states of the Union which I have set foot in.



Get your own Visited US States Map from Travel Blog

Now isn't that spiffy?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Genius!

I am at my folks' for the holiday.

Trying to be prepared, I plugged my cellphone in to charge a bit before I left.

I then proceeded to forget about the cellphone until I was well north of I-80. The phone is likely sitting on my desk, fully charged, and with a few voicemails waiting for my return.

...

In other news, a very early post on here was visited by a crackpot. If anyone still reads this blog, feel free to have at him.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

More Biology Viral Videos Ads

Not to be outdone by Bio-Rad, Eppendorf now has a viral advert for their automated pipetting system. While funny, it doesn't have any lines that top "PCR: when you need to know who the daddy is."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Missed One

Sports Illustrated online has a photo-essay up on the most difficult things to do in sports. They left out scoring a riposte in competition Sabre fencing, which is so rare that it when it occurs, it is announced to all present at the event.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

D'oh

NASA's webmaster screwed up: the current headline for their History page is "Put Title Here".

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Any Idea," huh?

Reading the Tribune during lunch, I found this snippet:

Bush was asked about a proposal by Republican presidential contender John McCain, later endorsed by Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, to suspend taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel for the summer travel season. The tax is 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24.4 cents on diesel fuel.

"I'm open to any ideas and we'll analyze anything that comes up," he said.
Suspending taxes would be stupid - it's not the taxes that are the problem, and with the government running deeply in the red as it is, it can't afford the revenue loss. However, since Shrub is supposedlly open to anything, here goes - it is well-known that the price of gasoline no longer reflects supply and demand, but instead the efforts of big-money investors to save their own asses. In the interests of preventing this price inflation from hurting the economy further, price controls should be implemented. If Nixon, the most vile President before Dubya, could do it, Bush can do it too.

He won't, though - he and his buddies are all oil guys. The last thing they want is the price to come down.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blueberries and Cherries

On my way out this evening I noticed a metric buttload of squad cars around the intersection of Green and Locust, all but one of them with lights flashing. Two hours later, some of them were still there (or had been replaced) and the lights were still going.

Whatever was up, I fully expect to read about it in the Daily Illini tomorrow, and will be disappointed if I can't. The DI is a morning paper, it should be scooping the News-Gazette on a lot more stuff than it does. The DI's craptacular local coverage makes it really hard to defend when people I know from other schools make fun of it.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Getting What's Coming To Them

While I was out and about tonight I noticed that the police were conducting Bar Raids on the Campus bars. During UofI's Moms weekend. I'm not sure what amuses me more, the idea of Champaign getting loads of cash from Suburban parents buying alcohol for their underage progeny, or of some parents seeing direct consequences for indulging their overprivileged kids. I applaud whoever came up with the idea of running a raid tonight.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Amazing What You Can Find Online

A few years ago a copy of a Cheapass game called Fight the Power was included in an order of other games I received from them. All the game consisted of was a rule sheet, and the only pieces needed to play were six-sided dice, which one can scavenge from most other games. Sometime a year and a half ago I lost my copy of the rules, but about an hour ago finally found a copy of them online.

Yay for the power of the interwebs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Energy Savings

Every month or so, there's a MASSMAIL to staff or a story in the local media about how the recent hikes in energy prices and usage have done nasty things to UIUC's budget. While asking faculty and staff to reduce energy usage is a good thing, it'd do wonders for DIA to set an example and not have the lights turned on at Memorial Stadium every single night for no good reason. It's not even football season anymore, the thing is effectively mothballed until August.

And yes, I'm aware of the construction. That still doesn't supply a reason for keeping the stadium lights on overnight.

A Blog You Should Be Reading

I'm not quite sure how I found it, but Judge a Book by its Cover is a blog run by a librarian who makes fun of bad cover art on books. A common target are romance novels and anything published by Baen. Updated irregularly (but still more so than I, perhaps I need more fiber...), it's still quite funny.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Just a Thought...

Were Intelligent Design ever to gain acceptance as science, those craptastic Left Behind novels would then be Sci-Fi.

Ewwwwwww.

Friday, March 28, 2008

False Advertising

There is a marked lack of carousing, battle-happy warriors, and Valkyries in Valhalla, NY.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Blast You, Kansas State!

You besmirched my 'til-then perfect bracket.

I will also very shortly have similar feelings for Notre Dame.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

It's Fairly Simple, People

You get on the bus at the front, and you get off the bus at the back. Unless you need the ramp or need the bus to kneel in order to get off, leaving from the front causes a traffic jam as you keep the people who actually have a clue from getting on the bus.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"Establish Justice", "Promote the General Welfare", and "Secure the Blessings of Liberty".

What are three phrases from the Preamble to the Constitution that the GOP would rather we all forgot, Alex? (via dday at Hullabaloo)

Why All The School Closings?

I was in Subway for lunch today and caught a laundry list of school closings due to weather. Maybe I'm still acclimated to Chicagoland weather, but I'm kinda confused as to why a bunch of school districts closed for the day. There wasn't even two inches of accumulation on the ground at the time, and all the arterial streets were being kept clear by plows and salt.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Yet Another Reason to Dislike Unofficial

I'm currently sitting up at 5:13AM waiting for a tow truck to come and remove someone from my parking spot. If you and umpteen-thousand of your closest friends are all going to descend upon Champaign-Urbana, a community known for its craptacular parking situation, for its annual Bacchanalia, I'd appreciate it if a lot more of you would take the train, bus, or other means besides a car to get here. There aren't enough parking spots to handle the crowd, so plan ahead: just because I'm out doing something that doesn't involve ethanol does not give you the right to take my parking spot. When your car ends up in the impound lot, you'll get no sympathy from my bleary-eyed self.

Note: Edited to correct early-morning grammar.

They Write About It as if It's News

So both the News-Gazette and the Daily Illini reported on the Chief student referendum as if it mattered, which it doesn't. At least the News-Gazette took a break from its breathless reporting to mention the 2004 referendum, which was just as non-binding as this most recent one. Both referenda were merely means to get a Students for Institutionalized Racism-associated person elected to a Student Trustee seat with a non-binding(!) vote.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bush Administration Outrage Number 3.56 Billion

Teresa Nielsen-Hayden at Making Light has a post up on how the Secret Service is systematically underprotecting the Democratic candidates. It's too long and excerpt-heavy already for me to give you a snippet, so go read it yourselves.

I Question Your Underlying Assertion

Archpundit recently picked apart an editorial on the Equal Rights Amendment by Fran Eaton (who my readers may remember as the author of an exercise in incoherency that attempted to defend John Bambenek's misreading of Michigan state statues). I'll be the first to admit that I know little about the legal ins and outs of the ERA, but a couple grafs that Archpundit highlighted caught my eye:

But not only will the ERA's passage stir the hackles of little old ladies and helpless widows, 18-year-old college women may be up in arms.

No longer will military registration be required of just males, it also will be required of females - again, no discrimination based on sex. While more and more young women are choosing the military as a career option, if the draft were to be enacted in a stepped-up defense in the war on terror, our 18-year-old women would be forced into service along with our 18-year-old men.
Now, maybe this just comes from my recently having been in the prime age groups to be drafted, but I don't see how subjecting women to the draft would be a bad thing. Our society has made great strides over the past half-century in recognizing that in the vast majority of circumstances, women are just as capable as men, if not more so. To deprive our nation of half its available pool of recruits in a time of national emergency based solely on outdated social ideas is absurd. I don't know why calling upon women to defend with their lives the rights that are due them is the bad thing Fran makes it out to be.

Then again, based on our previous encounter, I get the distinct impression that I would have no idea why Fran thinks most of the things she does.

The "E" Word

The truth is out: the "surge" really was an exercise in Escalation after all.

President Bush ordered nearly 30,000 additional troops to Iraq in January 2007 to pacify Baghdad and its surrounding provinces. When the last of the five Army combat brigades and two Marine battalions ordered in as part of that campaign leave Iraq by July, 140,000 troops will remain -- about 8,000 more than the 132,000 U.S. troops stationed there before the surge, Ham told reporters at the Pentagon.

"This will be very much conditions-based, but that's our projection as of today," he said.
I'm sure you can Google up loads of fodder for the round of "told-you-so", so I'll let my few readers do that if they want to. Needless to say, the liberal blog consensus was that the surge was an all-around bad idea strategically. Of course, the story neglects to mention how underprepared the surge has left our military, which was predicted, but that wouldn't be proper steno journalism.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

For the Record

As I am 1/2 Irish and use alcohol responsibly, I take offense to many of the slogans, like "Drink yourself green", used to promote Unofficial St. Patrick's Day, as well as the "holiday" itself. I'm on record elsewhere saying that it's all kinds of stupid, mostly because St. Patrick's Day rarely if ever falls during Spring Break.

Oh, and I take offense to the Fighting Irish too, if any Chief supporters feel like throwing that strawman argument out.

Anyhow, I'm lucky that where I work is a rather unlikely place to see intrusion by drunken students. Others may not be so fortunate.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

XKCD is an Excellent Webcomic

I can definitely sympathize with the stick-figure protagonist of the most recent comic.

UPDATE: PZ Myers notes that this particular webcomic applies to himself as well.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Lame Ducks are not Irrelevant, Sadly

Via David Kurtz at TalkingPointsMemo, rocket scientists are calling BS on the administration's reasons for blowing up a de-orbiting satelite.

"There has to be another reason behind this," said Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Henry L. Stimson Center, tells the Washington Post. "In the history of the space age, there has not been a single human being who has been harmed by man-made objects falling from space."

So what could that other reason be?

Our veteran space security specialist believes there are several. To him, the satellite shot is a chance for the military to try out its missile defense capabilities; a way to keep secret material out of the wrong hands; and a warning to the Chinese, after they destroyed a satellite about a year ago.
The blog post goes on to note that the test will definitely annoy both China and Russia, and only encourage them to blow up more satellites.

And, besides, why isn't the media remarking on the big to-do we made when China shot down one of their satellites? The hypocrisy right here is rank.

UPDATE: El Reg also notices the hydrazine non-issue.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Congressman has Cohones

They may require a micrometer to measure their diameter, but Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL15) definitely has at least a pee-wee pair, as evinced by his actually staying in the chamber to vote "Nay" on the contempt resolution against Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel, and Joshua Bolten, the White House Chief of Staff. It looks like he managed to overcome his day-job as Bush Administration lapdog and actually stand up for something. Maybe next time he can stand up for what's right, but at least he's taking steps to improve himself.

Too bad that it looks like the House leadership isn't being smart about the contempt citation and exercising the chamber's Inherent Contempt powers. Rather than waiting for the courts to sort things out, Inherent Contempt would toss their asses in jail a lot faster, barring any sudden desire on their parts to cooperate.

I Realize Mental Illness is Involved

...but still, how does one end up thinking that going into a classroom, shooting up a bunch of people, and then killing yourself is a good idea?

Today's shooting at Northern Illinois was senseless, tragic, stupid, and wholly unpreventable barring the institution of a police state. Besides expressing my condolences, whatever they're worth, I don't know what else to say.

UPDATE: A UofI student was the gunman.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why Single-Payer Health Care is Better

Sara Robinson concludes her two-part discussion on Single-Payer health care by discussing some more incorrect assumptions about universal health care. From her conclusion:

The private sector has had 20 years to prove that it could deliver low-cost, quality care using those vaunted business-style efficiencies; and it has failed us utterly and completely. This fact should be the ultimate nail in the coffin of the old conservative canard that "the free market always does it better." If that was true, privatizing health care would have been the shining example that proved it once and for all. Instead, all we got was a colossally expensive national disaster that's denying full coverage to a third of the country --- and putting our health, competitiveness, financial and social capital, and national security at risk in the process. It's also devastating the aspirations of our entire middle class, which is being hollowed out by our current health policies.
The national security angle - which you should go read - is what I find the most interesting. I'm posting this more to educate my paltry score of semi-regular readers, but if anyone has anything to say I'm interested in a discussion.

Note: Part I is here, and my original post is here.

Happy Darwin Day

Today is the 199th anniversary of Darwin's birth.

I wonder if the scientific community would mark the occasion with as much fanfare if the Creationists weren't constantly trying to demonize the man and his work.

Kudos to Moon-grrl for pointing out this holiday.

Penny Stamps are a Good Investment

Just when I ran out of my old, 39¢ stamps and got some new 41¢ stamps, the United States Post Office announces that the price of a first-class stamp will go up a cent in May. I guess I'll finish off that book of single-cent stamps a lot sooner than I expected.

Monday, February 11, 2008

And That Will Prove....What?

So Students for Campus Racial Stereotypes will apparently be putting a referendum question on whether the Chief should be brought back in this year's student election. As student government elections are dominated by the same Greek crowd who drunkenly chants the name of a mascot we no longer have during football games, the outcome of the referendum is almost certain.

What I don't understand is what the point of the referendum is. It's not like the student body has any say in the matter - retiring the Chief has always been an issue for the Board of Trustees to decide. When I was an undergrad, the last referendum on the Chief helped to pull in a pro-Chief Student Trustee on its coattails. Thing is, just like last time, having an extra pro-Chief trustee won't do any good, since UIUC will not have the binding vote in the upcoming term.

Also, what's up with the DI's headline, "Chief Illiniwek issue steps closer to vote by students"? Did the DI run a series of stories chronicling the "steps"? This is the first I've heard of it, and it sure looks like a final step to me.

Beating Back the Stupid

Matt of Pooflingers Anonymous, an excellent anti-Creationism blog, has a post up noting the start of an aggregator for those blogging on pseudo-science, much like that used by those blogging on peer-reviewed research. This combined effort is titled Blogging on Pseudo-Scientific Douchebags, and has an icon to match, though I prefer the lite version as I perfer to take the high road in such discourse.

My preferred pseudo-scientific fodder, Creationists, have been slim pickings of late. I was hoping for more fun from News-Gazette blogger Rhonda Robinson, but she apparently posts so seldom that it makes one wonder why the N-G bothers to pay her. However, if/when an appropriate mark presents itself, this logo will definitely be trotted out again.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Money You Make and the Accident of Birth

Ian Walsh over at Firedoglake has a post up explaining how the Libertarian scream of "It's my money!" is hogwash:

[I]f you're American, a large chunk of the reason you make a lot of money (relative to the rest of the world) is that you are American. The main cause of your relative wealth is not that you work hard, or that you're innately smarter than members of other nations (though you may be since you weren't starved as a child). It's because you had opportunities given to you that most people will never had, and those opportunities existed due to the pure accident of your birth or because you or your family chose to come to the US. The same is true of most first world nations.

Immigrants understand this very well. There's a reason why Mexicans, for example, are willing to risk death to cross the border. Their average income is $7,310, compared to the US average income of $43,740. They won't make up all the difference just by crossing the border, but they'll make up enough that it's more than worth it. They haven't personally changed, they don't work harder now that they're across the border. They aren't smarter and they aren't stronger. They just changed where they lived and suddenly the opportunities open to them were so much better that their income went up.

So let's bring this back to our typical Libertarian with his whine that he earned it, and the government shouldn't take it away. He didn't earn most of it. Most of it is just because in global terms, he was born on third and thinks he threw [sic] a triple. That doesn't mean he doesn't have to work for it, but it does mean most of the value of his work has nothing to do with him (and Ayn Rand aside, it's almost always a him).

Now what a government is, in a democratic society, is the vehicle that the population as a whole chooses to use to organize collective action. Government is, imperfect as it is, the closest approximation to the "will of society" that we've got.

Since the majority of the money any American earns is a function of being American, not of their own individual virtues, the government has the moral right to tax. And since those who are rich get more from being American than those who are poor, it also has the moral right to take more money from them.

More importantly than the moral right, it has the pragmatic duty to do so. The roads and bridges that government builds and maintains; the schools that it funds, the police and courts that keep the peace; the investment in R&D that produced the internet; the sewage systems that make real estate speculation possible, and on and on, are a huge chunk of what makes being American worth so much more than being a Bengali. Failure to reinvest in both human and inanimate infrastructure is like killing the golden goose, and America, for decades now, has not been keeping its infrastructure properly maintained, let alone building it up.
Besides muddling his sports references, this is a great piece that incorporates my own argument that "the government is the will of the people, so therefore it's still your money," yet goes even further to deal with this talking point. Astute readers will note that, in my previous post, I only claimed about a hare-brained decision on the part of the IRS and not about paying taxes in and of itself. Government exists to do things on behalf of the public, and it requires the public's funds to do so. To say otherwise is just silly.

Air America Needs to Get Stronger

WCPT-AM needs to up its transmitter strength so that it reaches central IL. As much as I like listening to WPGU-FM, I do occasionally have a hankerin' for talk radio that doesn't make me want to pull the stereo out of my dash.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

My Government at Work

I'm figuring my taxes, and this year the IRS put the instruction booklet for the 1040EZ online as an HTML file as well as a PDF. What they did was a straight copy-paste. Thing is, telling me to "go to page 14" doesn't do me a lick of good when there are no page numbers in HTML. One would think they could pay an intern to hyperlink all of those to make the file actually useful.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Lies, Truth, and What's Really Going on North of the Border

Sara Robinson, usually of Orcinus, has a post up at the blog of the Campaign for America's Future going over some common misconceptions that get booted around the US media about Canadian healthcare. It's not easily excerptable, so go and take a gander yourself. It's part I of II, and I'll post a link to the second part as soon as I notice that it's up.

UPDATE: Part II is up.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Question for Da Superfans

Stemming from a discussion I was having earlier today about what superdelegates are, I have to wonder, who is more powerful, Ditka or Da Mayor, Richard M. Daley?

Is the Media Really That Stupid?

I spent a good chunk of my evening tonight hanging out in a place with lots of TV screens, some tuned to the election coverage. I saw them call a number of states for Obama or Clinton - which makes absolutely no sense, since winning states doesn't matter for the Democrats. The primaries are not the general election, so there is no statewide winner-take-all system for the Democratic Party's presidential primary system. Delegates are awarded proportionally by congressional district, which makes the big deal that's being made over winning states really pointless. Just show the bloody delegate total, which is what matters, rather than insulting our intelligence and loudly declaring who has won which states.

Disclaimer: There was no sound where I was watching the TV, so maybe they were actually talking about how important the delegates are. By the amount of time the graphics dwelt on who won which state, though, I highly doubt this was the case.

PSA: Avoid the Kirby Underpass

As I was driving along Neil this evening, I noticed that the police have blocked off the Kirby underpass where the road crosses under the Canadian National railroad tracks, as there was at least a foot of standing water. If you drive that way to work in the morning, it might be wise to use an alternate route. I had seen a cop car blocking the St. Mary's Road underpass, but going back the other way the road had been cleared, so I dunno what happened there. Windsor road was completely clear, and Stadium Drive had water gushing out of the manhole covers but was not flooded much beyond that.

Go Vote

Go directly to Vote
Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200 (because that would be illegal)

Today is Super-Duper, Gee-Williker, Ain't-it-swell? Tuesday. One or both parties may, may end up with a candidate. Maybe. I'm merely happy that my primary vote this time around actually means something. However, it's still important to go out and vote, since, even though the state is foregone for Obama, Democratic primaries award delegates proportionately. That means that Clinton can, and probably will, snag a few Illinois delegates, though probably very few of the state's superdelegates.

If you don't know where your polling place is, and you live and are registered to vote in beautiful Champaign County, IL, you can go to the Champaign County Clerk's office website and check your registration status. Polls open bright and early at 6 AM and close 7 PM. As always, the wait is generally shorter the earlier in the day you go. If you are in line when the polls close, you are still entitled to vote, but you must remain in line to do so. (This isn't as big an issue in the primary as it is in the general.) While you're there, pick up your little "I Voted" sticker so you can guilt trip your friends into going into the polls as well. Again, this skill is of increased utility in the general election, though it doesn't hurt to practice now.

Also, while I was looking at my specimen ballot, I noticed that the Democratic party in the 15th District has managed to dig up a new challenger to Rep. Tim Johnson (Bush Lackey-IL15). His name's Steve Cox, and I have no clue who this guy is. He doesn't have a website up yet, which doesn't bode well, but at least it's better than things were a couple months ago when the Dems weren't even fielding a candidate.

UPDATE: I should hone my Google-Fu a bit more, as I turned up a bio of Steve Cox on the Champaign County Democrats website. Would be nice if this could be the first hit on a Steve Cox IL search. Oh well, I guess this link is the start...

UPDATE, Part Deux: If you have moved since you last registered to vote, but are still in the area, you should be able to go to the polls and request a "Federal Ballot," which includes only the races for President, Senator, and Representative. Still, if you didn't update your registration, it's better than not voting at all. I'm not sure quite what the rules are on it - whether you can go to any precinct, or just your old and/or new one. If you have a question, I'd suggest contacting the county clerk's office.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Oh My, That's a Lot of Dandruff

So the snow's falling and we've had at least an inch already, and the News-Gazette's meteorologist is calling for 8-10 inches of total accumulation from the storm, not counting the blowing and drifting that's sure to occur afterwards. The University sent out a massmail on how it was planning to deal with the snow, including pretreating streets and sidewalks before the snow started to fall in earnest. On my way home I could definitely see a difference between the sidewalks controlled by campus and by private owners. Even so, whether or not we see a repeat closing of the school will probably depend on the rate of snowfall, and whether or not the cities and the universities can keep up with it overnight. Myself, I doubt that the Chancellor will call off classes, but I guess we'll see in the morning.

Also, this'll probably be the first real test of the Champaign ordinance requiring private property owners in Campustown to clear snow from their sidewalks within a few days of the end of the storm, or face a fee when the city does it for them. Hopefully the frats will get their acts together and get it done, rather than let the snow pile up until the city comes around.

For those who wish to check it every 30 seconds,here's a link to the News-Gazette's closings page.

UPDATE: The News-Gazette reports that Uni High is closed tomorrow, though the University is still open. I wouldn't be surprised if part of the reason Uni High is closed is because some/all of its feeder district busses will not be running. I'd also like to make clear that I'd really like it if the University were closed tomorrow, as I've been accused in the comments of not thinking Positive University Closing Thoughts.

UPDATE, Part Deux: The University of Illinois is open for classes Friday, 1 February 2008.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Horse is Out of the Race

John Edwards ended his presidential campaign today - which, while disappointing, is understandable, since the media apparently can handle multiple candidates on the GOP side but covering more than two Democrats is apparently much too taxing on their resources. In 2004, when the Illinois presidential primary didn't matter, I voted for Edwards anyway and proceeded down the ballot. This cycle, with my preferred candidate no longer in the running, I'll have to shift my support to Barack Obama. Clinton was closely aligned with the DLC, who had the horrible idea of moving the Democratic party to the center, which only shifted the Overton window farther to the right. We don't need more of that, and so I'm left supporting her opponent. Hopefully Obama can help repair our government and national discourse, paying attention to those who need help rather than the obscenely wealthy living at the top.

UPDATE: Moon-Grrl also has thoughts on Edwards dropping out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Posts From Blogs You Should be Reading

Jonathon at Analog Periphery has a post up on the lowering of Army recruitment standards. Remember all those stories that were batted about in 2001-2003 about newly-elected Presidents calling their predecessors and thanking them about the wonderful military they were handed? The next guy (or gal) is not going to be saying that to Dubya.

Daily Kos diarist indigo5 has apparently set hirself up a blog titled John Bambenek Truth Squad and posts there as Interloper. While I admire anyone with a cluestick for Bambi (the site's slogan, or at least its blogspot URL) I have my doubts on how well it will be administered. Interloper/indigo5 already has a history of committing the same sin as Bambenek - he didn't check his definitions and went on a rather idiotic rant based on his mistaken understanding. Even so, I wish him well - reading that much of John's stuff has to be bad for one's health.

Lastly we have Jim Macdonald over at Making Light, who has up a post on how the cast of Cloverfield would have acted if they were sane, sensible people. Jim has an extensive Emergency Management background, and uses the post as a means to link together a large number of his previous posts on how to be prepared for offal striking the rotary ventilation device. He also takes the opportunity to link to Cloverfield in Fifteen Minutes, which is a hilarious summary of the movie.

Not Unsurprising News

Orac has the terrible story of how Ben Stein's brain came to be eaten by a certain Undead F├╝hrer:

Shambling toward him, wearing and old tattered uniform of some sort with a red armband was a vision of hell. Rotting flesh sinking into its cheeks, a tiny mustache above a lipless mouth with dung-colored teeth, it came. It was impossible for such a being to exist; yet it existed, and it advanced on the pudgy man. The man gave out a girlish shriek and turned to run. Surely he could outrun this creature.

He couldn't.

Faster than a pudgy old man could possibly run, the creature leapt. It leapt and clenched its skeletal hands on either side of the man's head. "Braaaaaaaiiinsss! Jeewiiisssh braiiins!**" it bellowed, a dim memory of its most dreaded enemy and most horrific crime against humanity in life driving it onward as it clamped its mouth on the man's skull and fed with a loud crunch.

The man's last thought before blackness fell across his eyes was, "Damn you, Charles Darwin! This is all your fault!"

**Translated from the German, of course.
Whether or not you enjoy Blake's 7 fandom, takedowns of Creationists, and/or dissections of how stupid the argument ad Naziam is in most contexts, you should go read the whole thing. It's a hoot.

They Knew What They Were Doing

Josh Marshall has a small blurb up notifying world+dog of "some chatter that the Florida and Michigan delegate issue may go to court." I, personally, have no pity for the Democratic Parties of those two states. They knew full well what the threatened consequences would be if they moved up their primaries ahead of the DNC-established February 5th cutoff. As John Bambenek, a man who only plays at being a lawyer, has already pointed out, political parties are private organizations with the right to free association, allowing them to exclude whomever they want from their shindigs. As such, either the Clinton campaign and the states involved are going to have to find something else to base their argument on, or the DNC's lawyers are going to make some very easy money.

Monday, January 28, 2008

For Those Playing Along at Home

I'm sorry for being almost late with this, but here's the link to this year's State of the Union Drinking Game. This year's list features specific shots (recipes included) for a few of the phrases. If you want to watch the SotU address online, you can do so here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

...But Isn't That the Point?

One of the common complaints one hears from Illinipundit and other conservatives is that the lament over politicians who think that "the federal government can and should solve everyone's problems for them." They even have a nickname for people espousing such views, "nannystaters".

Last I checked, the entire point of government was to solve the people's problems and to work for the public good. So, why are conservatives complaining about government doing its job?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Someone Please Explain This to Me

Someone would have to be living in a hole to not know that Big Shitpile is really messing up the economy right now, and will for some time. While I'm not surprised that the government is getting involved, would someone please tell me why we're giving people advances on their tax returns? (At least, I assume that's how things are getting paid for, as that's how the "tax refund" was handled the last time around.) This whole economic crisis is, to my understanding, the result of the uncertainty over which large financial institutions are holding what large pieces of bad mortgage loans, accompanied by the necessary fall of ridiculously high real estate valuations propped up by those bad loans. While this sucks for a lot of people, average Joe either isn't effected or is so deep in shit that $600 is not going to go very far. So why are we bothering having this be part of the stimulus?

UPDATE: Jonathan of Analog Periphery expresses similar sentiments and does so while being coherent and organized.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

An Exercize in Over-Rationalizing a Movie

Thar be spoilers ahead. Be ye forewarned.

I went and saw Cloverfield over the long weekend, mostly because a group of people I know were going and I had nothing better to do. I went in fully aware that this was the Blair Witch Project of monster movies, and I can say that the experience was not a waste of my money. The CGI was decent and wasn't done for the sake of drawing attention to itself, and the story was entertaining enough that you didn't think about the absurdly long battery life of the handheld camera that was supposedly capturing the film. I've read a bunch of stuff about the supposed parallels between the movie and the attacks of 11 September, but I really didn't see any connections except that something was attacking New York, and you're going to get that in any monster movie involving the Big Apple. (Or it might be that I'm too distanced/insulated/uncaring about the 11 Sept. attacks, but that's the subject for a future post.)

Also, I've heard some complaints about the big bad monster, mostly about how it was disappointing. There are two things one has to consider about this though. First is that the evil monster you create in your head will always scare the crap out of you more than anything that can be put up on screen. This is why the best horror/suspense films don't even bother showing the evil in the dark - doing so would be anticlimactic. The second is that there are only so many ways to put together a creature that is 20 stories tall, able to support its own weight, and able to move faster than a slow plod in a believable manner. They did a good job of reversing the orientations of limbs and other things, but they can't not have huge muscles reminiscent of nearly any terrestrial animal. Smaller things, like the arthropods of death that dropped off the big baddie, have a lot more freedom in body plan, and they realized the little buggers quite nicely.

However, while others may have been enthralled by the plot and touched by the movie's theme of the importance of friendship, I found a different take-home lesson from the movie:

There is a time and a place when you should listen to certain evolutionarily conserved programming in your brain, cut your losses, and run like a scared little monkey.

It doesn't matter that this girl you've liked since forever and boinked once a few months ago is trapped in her collapsed apartment building located right where the big monster is rampaging. It's near-certain that she's going to die, and if you go into that area, you probably will too. The same goes for any friends dumb enough to follow you without tackling you and hauling you off to safety. The central character in the movie was offered three opportunities to obey his inner scared monkey, and each time chose to be heroic and stupid. I fully accept that the movie could not happen without its characters being willfully stupid, and I also accept that certain people will let their emotions rule their decisions in survival situations and make really bad decisions. However, when you have one person gravely injured in a highly inaccessible area, with multiple hazards between them and their putative rescuers, and a group of four survivors that are at worst walking wounded, the rational decision is to save the four lives that are nearly guaranteed, rather than risking all five.

The first opportunity for the group to save their own asses came when the story's central character got the initial call from the romantic interest - right before his brother was killed by damage done to the Brooklyn Bridge by the monster. He could've gone, "Nope, I'm in over my head, I'm getting out of here," found another way off of Manhattan, and ended the movie abruptly. The second offered out was right after the bridge scene, with the military-led evacuation group walking towards safety the next street over. Again, calmer and more rational thought at that time was possible, and leaving was perfectly plausible. The character supposedly holding the camera even threatened to tackle our idiot hero, but doesn't follow through (This brings up a corollary to the above lesson: if your group's leader insists on being stupid and heroic, you either tackle him and drag him to safety against his will or let him go off to die by himself.) The last out they were given was in the Army field hospital set up in a department store, when they saw one of their companion's chest explode as a result of being bitten by one of the skittering arthropods of doom. (The explosion was done in pantomime, as doing the CGI for that would have definitely lost the movie its PG-13 rating.) If that, along with the fact that the Army's only answer to such wounds was quarantine for the victim and biotainer suits for the medical personnel, is not enough to convince one that they are in over their heads and need to leave immediately, I don't know what is. Of the five characters involved in the rescue attempt driving the plot, four died and the fifth might have survived - and the possible survivor was not the one that the group set out to rescue. Four dead and one maybe really does not seem like a good outcome to me, but of course, your mileage may vary.

"Don't be a hero," is slowly becoming a stock phrase in war/battle/survival movies, but it is something that this batch of characters should have listened to. People who try to be heroes end up doing stupid things and get others besides themselves injured or killed - so when a big alien decides to destroy your local metropolis, do the sensible thing and get out.

(I fully intend to plug in hyperlinks from this article to TVTropes.org when I have the time.)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Little Egypt is Farther South, People

...So if you insist on living in denial, you need to transfer to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and start rooting for the Salukis. Meanwhile, the rest of us can go on our merry way without some sods trying out to be the next Chief Illiniwek.

Yes, you read that right: Students for Chief Illiniwek and the so-called Council of Chiefs have announced tryouts for the next person (read: white male) to continue the worst thing to happen to race relations at the University of Illinois since its Ku Klux Klan chapter was founded. At least the KKK disbanded on campus - apparently we are not yet so lucky as to be free of our former racist mascot.

Honestly, though, I shouldn't be too surprised after listening to the drunken hordes at football games continuing to yell, "Chief!" during the three-in-one at halftime. The denial that the Chief is gone runs deeply, and nowhere does it run as deep as Students for Chief Illiniwek:

[President of Students for Chief Illiniwek] Schmitt said his plan is setting the stage for a Chief revitalization that might be years down the road.

"We don't want to do this in an official capacity right now," Schmitt said.

In the meantime, Schmitt said Students for Chief Illiniwek is content to humbly channel the enthusiastic spirit of student, alumni and fan support.

"Whoever the new Chief is might not dance on the floor of Assembly Hall," Schmitt added. "But students still realize that this is a huge honor not only to the community but to Fighting Illini legacy."
Beyond the overall denial, there's still a couple things that are plain wrong about this. First is that the University cannot bring back the Chief. This was the primary reason why the Board of Trustees hemmed and hawed for so long over their bullshit "consensus conclusion" - they knew that if and when they retired the Chief that the political costs to the University would be so high as to make that decision irreversible. Maintaining a racist mascot was a black eye to the University, but reinstating it would cause the University's national and global reputation to reek for years to come. Hardly anyone on that board wanted to be stuck with the local political misfortune of being the ones to retire the Chief on their own which, while I understand it, does not make it any less cowardly. The NCAA ruling lowered the political costs to the Board of Trustees as they could claim they were saving the Athletic programs from sanctions by the mean, mean people outside the university. (Although, they were really just saving the money sports - the others had already been screwed for a year as they were unable to host playoffs.) That the board felt the need to retire the Chief without much public warning speaks more about the character of those who support the Chief, from whom the board was trying to hide, than the Board itself.

Nevertheless, what I want to know is what the new guy is going to do. Is he just going to go to games in street clothes with his thumb up his butt? Or are the Chief supporters going to try to get the new guy to show up in costume (whatever remains of it now) to non-sporting events? (As if that wouldn't make the environment of this university even more hostile and abusive...) Unless Students for Chief Illiniwek start pulling stunts worthy of the Orange and Blue Observer, I honestly cannot fathom what the new Chief will do besides stand perpetually in the on-deck circle as the ballpark is being torn down around him.

Also, running as a companion story in the Daily Illini is their own coverage of the lawsuit over the Logo for the Chief. None of the details have changed since the News-Gazette ran its story nearly two weeks ago - and that the DI sat on this for so long makes me think that someone there knew about the new Chief selection long ahead of time. What really bothers me about this article, though, is the lack of new reporting by the Daily Illini. The first big issue is that the reporter did not get the University spokesperson on the record saying how the new merchandise will not violate the NCAA ruling. A journalist should never accept it when a public official handwaves away any important issue, and since habits learned early are hard to break, the instinct to ask the uncomfortable questions should be ingrained now. The second issue I have with this is that the Daily Illini has had weeks to prepare this story, and yet they do not have a single word from the NCAA on the matter. As I pointed out previously, one of the big things in the News-Gazette article was the lack of a response from the NCAA. The NCAA has the power to say that the University is no longer in compliance with its ruling on Native American mascots, and so a statement from them matters - yet there's not a single blurb about it in the DI writeup. What has this reporter been doing for the past couple weeks that he did not call the NCAA? Even the NCAA refusing to comment is important, as noting such only highlights the blatant hypocrisy of the situation. The bottom line is, until someone comes forward and explains how the University selling/licensing Chief merchandise does not violate the NCAA ruling, the whole thing is going to stink to people on both sides of the issue.

Oh, and the way, I did notice that the Chief people tried to bury this story on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a school holiday and three-day weekend for students. Way to be honest and forthright and all that.