Monday, August 29, 2005

RollingStone.com: Four Amendments & a Funeral : Politics

This is the most depressing article I've ever read.

RollingStone.com: Four Amendments & a Funeral : Politics: "Four Amendments & a Funeral
A month inside the house of horrors that is Congress
By MATT TAIBBI"

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Who should declare war

In his first novel, "For Us, The Living", discovered and published posthumously, Heinlein proposes an interesting approach to war by inventing a future constitutional amendment that declares, in effect:
Except in case of invasion of the United States, Congress shall not have the power to declare war without submitting the matter to a referendum.

As a novel, "For Us, The Living" is....really bad. (There's a good reason Heinlein never published it!) The idea of declaring war only by referendum intrigued me, though.

Let's use Iraq as an example. In Heinlein's future, the authority to invade Iraq would have been put to public referendum. Only those eligible for military duty vote on war. Those who voted for the war would be the first group drafted, if the referendum passed, and would report for duty immediately. Those who did not vote would be the second group drafted, if needed. Those who voted against the war would be the last group drafted, if needed.

I disagree with his notion that those already serving in the military would not be permitted to vote, but otherwise, I think it would be an interesting experiment.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Degrees of Familiarity

"We've howdied but never shook."


That saying delights me each time I read it. I wish I could remember who said it; I think it was in a chat room.

My first thought was to work from that saying into an exploration of degrees of familiarity. But there are enough versions of that sort of thing, from sociologists and anthropologists and psychologists and psychics. And nothing I write equals the simple charm of:
"We've howdied but never shook."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Malapropisms

At The Great Startup Game is a great collection of malapropisms. I'd like to add another that appeared in an email at work. The writer was recommending an architect, and I don't think this was intentional -- rather, a case of having heard but never read a word.
"He's not a pre-Madonna like most architects."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The "great divide" on Iraq

The Blog | David Swanson: Sheehan Breakthroughs, Unbridgeable Divides, and Taboos Unbroken | The Huffington Post: "The big divide here is between those who believe the war was based on good reasons and those who believe it was based on blatant lies that have been extensively documented. "

This is binary thinking. It makes for neater graphs. Easier to report when every issue is shoved onto a Home vs Visitors scoreboard.

I confess that one of my favorite t-shirts says "There are 10 types of people: those who understand binary and those who don't". My favorite college class was Logic 101, where statements are X or non-X (with the added twists of some and all). And Swanson's premise neatly follows that pattern, although my professor would have made him rewrite it as: No people who believe the war was based on good reasons are people who believe it was based on blatant lies that have been extensively documented.

Well, except for those who believe...
  • The reasons given to the public do not accurately reflect the reasons that the individuals involved pursued this course

  • The reasons given to the public may be good but do not justify military action

  • The "real" reasons may be good but do not justify military action

  • The reasons given to the public, accurate or inaccurate, do not justify military action; however, the "real" reasons do

  • ...shall I go on?

I suppose it is difficult to take sides on a polyhedral issue.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Free software from Microsoft?

Yes, it's free, and it's actually cool. Photo Story 3 for Windows is elegant in that you can go with the defaults as an absolute neophyte and get a great output...yet you can also tweak and play to get a really great output.

That output is a Windows media file (.wmv) that uses motion effects on a set of digital images to create a photo display that is actually interesting to watch. (Plus you can add a soundtrack!) And it's fun.

One tip that I learned the hard way: if you're doing a photo-story of more than half a dozen images, add each photo to the project individually in the order you want the images displayed (or close to it). I added 45 images to a project at one time; they appear in the project in the same order they were listed in Explorer (alphabetically), and trying to get all those images rearranged using the thumbnails in the filmstrip was a PAIN.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Should I let you leave my window...

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately. I've decided I prefer the focused posts to bloggers who seem to simply dump as many links in per post as possible.

Not that I dislike links; they have been the paths to some of my most enjoyable pong searches. (That's what I call following intriguing clicks that send me off in impulsive directions, and the object of the search is wherever I end up. Pong sounded better than "shiny object"...)

In a good pong search, you never go backwards. But when I'm reading blogs, I'm generally interested in both exploring the target of a link and finishing the post I'm reading. Too often, the link loads in the same window and may also contain an intriguing link that I want to follow, taking me further from the remainder of the first post. I guess I could finish reading the post, and then go back to the start and begin clicking, but that's not how I like to do it.

Since I can't depend on the blog owner giving each link a new window, I settle for right-click, Open in New Window.

And that started me thinking about what should be the default for blog-etiquette. I haven't discovered if there is such a default or, if there is, whether I violate it each time I add target=new to a link. I do know my preferences aren't universal. Some users may abhor multiple open windows - I know it confuses my mother.

So given two groups - A wants new targets, B wants one window - which default is least dissatisfying to all users?

  1. New target: A is satisfied, B is dissatisfied and must perform three actions (click link, return to first window, close first window)

  2. One window: B is satisfied; A is dissatisfied and must perform two actions (right-click, click Open in New Window)

For lack of any other compelling argument, I'll go with motion economy. One window. But because this is my blog, you're just going to have to close me.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Disposing of the body

Most of my gardens only demand manual watering in July and August - one of the advantages of living in the pacific northwest. My tiny handmade pond beneath the willow tree needs to be replenished most frequently, but I tend to forget which works out for the best because then it's nearly empty by the end of August and I can clean it out. (No fish, just a water feature that my dog believes is her private drinking pool.)

So yesterday evening, I check on the pond to see if it's at a good cleaning level yet. The fountain and pump at the shallow end are completely exposed; the deep end still has some water but not much...and what's that? Some large dark lump poking out of the remaining water - did one of the large rocks fall in?

Grab a plastic rake to get the "rock" out. One poke...it rolls over, and I realize that I'm looking at a dead animal. A possum, probably, but I'm too grossed out to look closely to tell.

Several moments of "omg, my puppy drinks here...what do I DO with it...I'll run and get Dave across the street to help...no, I'll call my brother", but eventually I face the fact that I'm a grown adult and should be able to handle this situation on my own.

Shovel. Heavy gloves. Many industrial-strength garbage bags. Terrified that I'll slip and fall in the water while flashing back to that horrid movie we saw in school, "Red Badge of Courage", where John-Boy is running and falls headfirst into a cow's corpse.

But I manage without disaster and don't throw up.

And when it's thoroughly packaged and the pond covered up, I dump it in the garbage can. "Can I do that?" I wonder. "Will the garbage police report me for improperly disposing of an animal carcass?"

But a web search reassures me. In our county, to dispose of a dead animal under 15 pounds: place it in several plastic garbage bags and put it in the household garbage can. Who would have guessed...