Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

I wish everyone the best for the holidays. I'm taking a few weeks of vacation with my family in Texas and then my wife's family in LA. I'll be back a few days after the new year. Untill then -- I hope everyone spends some time with their families thinking about the really important things in life and playing with their new ipods.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Humor from Scrappleface

President George Bush today, confirmed a recent Newsweek magazine cover story, admitting that he’s “living in a bubble” — isolated and aloof.

Friday, December 16, 2005

New Victorian: A Message From Karl Rove

New Victorian: A Message From Karl Rove:

Democrats, trial lawyers and the ACLU--read this and weep. The secret prison camps in an unidentified '-stan' country are ready. Join us or be assimilated.

The sad thing is that the Kos-acks and the Atrios guys really believe something like this. Of course, I know some republicans that think hollywood is in league with satan and that the DNC secretly takes its orders from the Kremlin so ... what can you do?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Firefox Tweak Guide - TechSpot

Mozilla Firefox is a great Internet browser, applauded by users and critics alike for its features, performance, usability, customisation and security. Firefox 1.5 builds on Firefox 1.x by adding an integrated auto-update system, improved pop-up blocker and improved standards support, not to mention thousands of bug fixes. This updated guide will take you through all that Firefox 1.5 has to offer covering the options menu, about:config preferences, CSS, extensions and more.

Firefox rox, pure and simple. I have newegg, torrentspy, googlemaps, ebay, amazon, and several other searches preloaded into my quicksearch bar. I highlight a word and right-click and the definition pops up. I right-click and can make a screen-grab of my viewport. I can right click to automatically log into registration-only sites. The list of things I can do simply and easily with firefox goes on and on and on ... if you're not using a highly-customized version of firefox, then you're the technoutopian equivalent of a mentally retarded web-surfer.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

DRM, Incompatibility, and Market Power: A Visit to the Sausage Factory

Running through this whole convoluted tale are two consistent threads. DRM is used as a weapon not against infringers but against market rivals. And when companies use DRM to undermine compatibility, law-abiding customers lose.

Interesting article on the devious machinations of the powers that be in their quest to control the information we consume. DRM stands for Digital "Rights" Management, though the only rights DRM protects are the rights of record companies to screw artists and consumers.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Lessig on the Google Print Law-suit

Lawrence Lessig:
"Like Valenti with the Betamax, the publishers and Authors Guild simply want to tax the value created by Google Print. They are not complaining about any “decline in [their] property value” caused by Google Print. They are instead racing to claim the value that ancient law is said to give to them, despite the harm that claim produces for “progress.”"

In the words of Instapundit, read the whole thing. He hits the nail on the head with this post; ultimately the current Intellectual Property debate will have to give way to common sense. Just like air travel, freedom to share a file must win out because the only alternative is a digital police-state.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cure for GOP ‘Culture of Corruption’

If you want to leak the names of CIA agents, or accept bribes in exchange for legislative favors,” Rep. Pelosi said, “you have to get some judge to make it constitutional first. Forty years ago a woman couldn’t legally abort her husband’s baby so she could marry her girlfriend and live in condo built on a site that city council confiscated from a poor retired couple. But now, it’s totally legal for many Americans.

Heinlein quote

"There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back."

Instapundit was talking about the death of newspapers, but it applies equally well to Hollywood and the music labels. Profit from selling plastic disks isn't a fundamental right. Technology has made distribution of information value-less, those industries must adapt -- read, find a way to add value to the consumer on the consumer's terms -- or perish.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Photoshop Texture Tutorial


Now we can add some splatters. This will be hard for me to explain but basically to add splatters you need to stamp with the splatter brush (brush no. 9) a few times on the same place or paint while hardly moving from the same spot. You need to play with this brush a bit to get the 'feel' for it. You can also enhance the splatter using brushes number 3 & 12.

Good Tutorial on making background textures for use in digital paintings or for scrap-booking projects.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Do Lies help?

"If you are alarmed at $8 trillion debt in a $12 trillion economy, what would you think of $80 trillion debt in a $120 trillion economy? In an economy like that, would these young kids you’re scaring today be better off or worse off? Why?"

Why indeed. But here's the thing Steve -- even though I deplore politicians stretching the truth and painting false pictures -- I really do believe that making the government spending a smaller fraction of the economy will cause improved economic growth. (see graph below), and you've talked many times before about how important that is for our nation's financial health. So though I don't like the dishonest distortions about impending fiscal doom, I harbor some hope that the fear-mongering might lead to smaller/smarter federal spending.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Lunacore Photoshop Tutorial - Beautify a Face (part 1/7)

Link:: "This tutorial will show you how to beautify a face. The corrections that we're going to do will make the face look different, but at the same time we avoid to make the results look unnatural. Of course, the face we're going to work on is not going to look the same when we're done, but we will only make necessary and subtle changes. We will fix skin, remove blemishes and wrinkles, whiten and fix teeth, fix hair, fix eyebrows, increase definition in the eyes and crop and sharpen the image in the final steps."


"The rich get poorer and the poor get richer. That’s what filesharing does for the music industry. No wonder the RIAA is desperately trying to shutdown all filesharing activities.

A recent overview of the current literature on the effect of filesharing on record sales shows that the most popular artist (top 25%) sell less records. However, the remaining 75% of all artists actually profits from filesharing. How this is possible?"

Good site with interesting articles on integrating firefox with bittorrent.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Gun Rights Poetry

"When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said 'Stick to the Devil you Know."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Senate Republicans are Cowards ...

"Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, today endorsed a measure introduced by Senate Republicans that would force President George Bush to lay out his plan for ending the war against terrorists in Iraq.

“We think it is important for a democracy such as the United States to be transparent with the public,” said Mr. Zarqawi in a video statement released to al-Jazeera TV and CNN. “We’ll all feel better when we learn strategic and tactical details of how Mr. Bush intends to stop al Qaeda from turning Iraq into the first major victory in the global jihad."

Sunday, November 13, 2005


“Our troops deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war will remain firm in our conviction that we didn’t know what we were doing at the time,” Sen. Kerry said. “It’s important, on Veteran’s Day, to remember that our Democrat commitment to our military hasn’t changed.”


Friday, November 11, 2005

Its the Inquisition ... what a show!

Yes, even an institution as honored and storied as modern scientific academia can stoop to ... well stoop to exerting institutional predjudice and irrational repression of its own members when they don't subscribe to the prevailing theories and doctrines... Follow the links from Glen Reynolds' post here to get the story.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Skeptical Optimist has new Tax Graphs

Fill in the blank: 'Tax cuts for the ______'
For those of you who have been vacationing incommunicado in Antarctica for the last twenty-five years, the word that correctly fills in the blank is “rich.”

Great post with nice little graphs showing how incredibly progressive our tax system is. Also, notice how fair the Bush tax cuts were for every income class.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Paris Riots

Having lived in and around Paris, I feel I should comment on the riots there. I met alot of North-African emigrees in France, mostly algerians; on the whole they were poor and lived in government-built housing projects called HLMs. I doubt there's a big religious cause to these riots, as most of the Muslims I encountered were not overly religious -- rather, this is probably culture-based. Frankly, most white people in France don't like the arab immigrants. The oft-lampooned ultra-nationalist (read racist) politician Jean-Marie Le Pen is strongly supported by 1 out of every 8 Frenchmen, and 1-in-3 Froggies have a favorable impression of the man (Le Pen is on the record as saying that the Holocaust is a detail of WWII and that racial equality is absurd.)

I'm saying that there's a pretty huge cultural divide in France -- exacerbated by the welfare-state mentality. The confiscatory tax rates and commensurate goverment spending have led to anemic economic growth and -- more critically -- french citizens are totally dependent on their government to provide a life for them. The net effect is entrenched and multi-generational poverty for the great majority of Arab immigrants.

Thus, a great deal of pent-up anger and frustration.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Arabs Riot in Denmark

"The MSM has done everything possible to minimize the Islamicist nature of the violence in Europe, and has blacked-out coverage of the Danish front. Here is another example of how the blogosphere has become essential to an understanding of the realities of the world."

Is it just me, or is there not a world-wide radical-Islam PROBLEM?

Friday, November 04, 2005

France's Socialist "Utopia" Unmasked

"Back in the 1990s, the French sneered at America for the Los Angeles riots. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported in 1992: 'the consensus of French pundits is that something on the scale of the Los Angeles riots could not happen here, mainly because France is a more humane, less racist place with a much stronger commitment to social welfare programs.' President Mitterrand, the Washington Post reported in 1992, blamed the riots on the 'conservative society' that Presidents Reagan and Bush had created and said France is different because it 'is the country where the level of social protection is the highest in the world.'

How the times have changed. Muslims in Paris's suburbs are out shooting at police and firefighters, burning cars and buildings, and throwing rocks at commuter trains ... a sign of something deeper at work - no doubt France's failure to integrate its immigrant Muslim community.

It turns out that France's Muslim community lives in areas rampant with crime, poverty."
As one who lived in Paris from 1993-1995, this analysis is spot on.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Hilarious Parody of lef-wing hysteria

"This is what happens when you don't listen to the brillant Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer and instead go for the GUSTO. Bush is MOONING US with the blessing of the DAMNED FUNDIES OF HIS PARTY. The RIGHT WING has captured the REPUBLICANS and has turned them into a THEOCRACY. Pretty soon all of us are going to be wearing BURKAS and be barefoot and preganant in the KITCHEN. AND you KNOW that hes not going to be for GAY MARRIAGE (COME ON! How could you NOT be for gay marriage? Stupid Right-WINGERS and your stupid morals and values. LOVE is a moral value), and with any luck, and if BUSHIE gets one more on the SCOTUS, a WOMYNS RIGHT TO CHOOSE is going to be GONE. And we are going to have to get our abortions in BACK ALLEYS. And no birth control. AND DARE I FORGET...BUSH*TLER IS GOING TO REINSTITUTE SLAVERY!!!"
I endorse Alito, and I predict he'll wind up on the SCOTUS despite a fight in the senate. Last I checked, you could buy money for 78 cents on the dollar over at INTRADE, by betting that Alito gets confirmed.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Jeff Jarvis gets it right

"He goes after the quality of two crappy Wikipedia entries and with them rejects the whole notion of amateurism. Except I could show him many articles in my local papers that are crappy. Does that negate the value of all newspaperdom and all journalists?"
Interesting article on Web 2.0 and the evolving relationship between companies and the customers they serve. Ultimately, the internet will enhance our lives because more information is better -- for everybody; buyers, sellers, producers, consumers, creators, companies , individuals, politicians, PACs, everyone -- than less.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Armed populations are harder to exterminate

"In other words, in the face of evidence that an armed populace prevents genocide, the human rights community has largely gotten behind a campaign to ensure that there will be no armed populaces anywhere in the world...
Given that the traditional approaches of conventions and tribunals have failed miserably, the human rights community should be prepared to endorse a new international human right: the right of law-abiding citizens to be armed." (via Instapundit)

I think about this in terms of power decentralization: decentralized power structures (like the US system of checks and balances and federalism) by their very nature are more robust, more flexible, and more fault-tolerant than centralized systems.

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Marriage Debate, a few last thoughts:

Link:: "But of course if you are advocating for SSM, you really do know that social meanings matter. You've made passionately clear that an identical institution called “civil unions” that delivered all the legal incidents of marriage just wouldn't be good enough, because it doesn’t mean the same thing. You seek to use the power of government to take all those accumulated meanings of marriage (which were not created by the government) and re-direct them to same-sex relations, and many of you clearly also want to discipline those who don’t accept your moral view, to the best of your abilities. And so many want to do this in the name of liberty, without even acknowledging what SSM is: the use government power to impose a new morality on a reluctant people."

Family pictures

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The era of big government being over, is over.


Just say no to universal suffrage

Link. Some liberal, pea-brained judge thinks showing a driver's license prior to voting is too much of a burden on people. Read the whole thing.

Friday, October 14, 2005

So what kind of beast am i?

From Wikipedia:
"Minarchism is the view that the size, role and influence of government in a free society should be minimal ... Many minarchists consider themselves part of the libertarian tradition, and claim that what they call minarchy continues the traditions of classical liberal philosophy. The term is perhaps most often used to differentiate libertarians that believe it is possible to have a state that protects individual liberty without violating it itself, from the anarchists who believe that any state is inherently a violation of individual liberty. Minarchists believe some minimal government is necessary to preserve liberty (from invading non-minarchy based armies, if nothing else)... Many minarchists agree that government should be restricted to its 'minimal' or 'night watchman' state functions of government (e.g., courts, police, prisons, defense forces). Some minarchists include in the ideal role of government the management of essential common infrastructure (e.g., roads, money)...
minarchists favor expansion of power in a government of a small jurisdiction (like a city or county) over a larger jurisdiction (like a state or nation). This leaves individuals who wish to avoid living or working under the expansion more options (it's easier to move to another city or county than to move to another state or country)."

New TEchnoUtopia art

I'm updating the look of Technoutopia with this new original artwork by ... me.

Multiple-personality disorder

I have recently been accused of being schizophrenic. Reason: I frequently harp on the size and scope of the federal government (and its budget), yet I also link to posts like this one which argue that our federal budget deficit isn't so bad.

To explain my internal consistency, it suffices to divide the issue of federal spending into two realms: one is the realm of law and philosophy of government, the other is the realm of economics.

When looking at things through the lens of economics, I think its clear that:
1. There is no impending budget-deficit crisis.
2. Current spending levels are supportable, given robust economic growth.
My take-away is that, from an economic stand-point, we shouldn't go crazy with tax-cuts or spending-cuts in an effort to "tame" our "exploding" national debt.

Before we start analyzing government spending economically, we first have to ask ourselves what the Constitution authorizes the federal government to do as a matter of law. (And what powers we should give to government more generally.) From this perspective, I am convinced that the federal government is too powerful:
1. the constitution lays out a central authority whose powers are limited to a small number of specificall enumerated functions (national defense, interstate commerce, foreign affairs, regulation of the money supply, federal courts) -- compare this to our current situation: the courts have allowed the federal government to regulate (and tax) pretty much anything.
2. the un-constitutional power of our current federal government manifests itself in two ways: federal regulations and the power to tax and spend.
3. I want to reduce the power of our federal government, thus I desire a reduction in government spending/taxing. This is an end in itself and completely independent of any economic analysis (though I happen to believe that lower taxes will induce greater economic growth).
So my desire to see the budget reduced is motivated by a desire to reduce the scope and power of the federal government, not by economic concerns.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Susan Crawford blog on Internet Law

Link :
"The copyright concerns that scholars have been focused on for the last ten and more years are proxies for the central problem facing the internet: private control of our internet experiences. We’re moving from the conceit of owning information (the problem of IP, the problem taken on by Jamie Boyle in his 1996 Shamans, Software, and Spleens) to the conceit of owning the public internet itself – or, in other words, the conceit of owning flows of information. "

Read the whole thing. Interesting questions and ones that are important to answer correctly in the coming techno-utopia.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Why I'm not a republican anymore


"Republicans took control of Congress in 1994 by promising 'the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money.' A look out my window says that isn't happening.

A review of the federal budget confirms it. Federal spending was up 33 percent in President Bush's first four years, making Bush the fastest spender of taxpayer dollars since President Johnson. Between the pork-filled highway bill, the emergency spending bills for the war in Iraq and now the blank-check plans for Hurricane Katrina, he's breaking that record now.

When Katrina spending is factored in, Bush will likely be the fastest-spending president since Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II."
Oprah-induced Child Molester Hysteria: Read the whole thing. A little vulgar, but funny and the point is well taken. In perusing Oprah's list I notice that I'm guilty of many of these "Molester-traits": I enjoy hugging and kissing my two kids, I act like a kid when around them and encourage them to act like kids themselves, I like to play human-steamroller and give them piggy-back rides, etc. I guess Oprah has already profiled me as a pervert.

Friday, October 07, 2005

DRM screws legitimate users instead of pirates

The War on Game Pirates | TG Daily: "While these copy protection methods are finding their way onto an increasing amount of videogames, the ironic thing is that despite all the hassle they create for honest users, they don't work all that well. I've seen as many cracked copies of 'protected' videogames on the Internet as unprotected games. The real joke is the fact that the cracked versions of the games do not come with the disruptive copy protection - meaning that the pirates do not suffer the ill effects of the driver that are inflicted upon legitimate paying customers."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Google declares war on Microsoft

"GOOGLE HAS confirmed that it will launch free spreadsheet and word-processing software online and take on Microsoft in one of its biggest markets.

Under the deal, Google will allow web users to access Sun's OpenOffice from a toolbar.

Sun's Australian spokesman Paul O'Connor bubbled that the deal was a wake-up call for Microsoft:

'At the moment most people are used to having to pay for software packages, but at the end of the day, the value is in the content and services – not in the software itself,' he said."

No duh! I don't know how many times I've gotten into it with people over intellectual property and so-called "piracy" who lamely conclude their arguments with the bold economic assertion (stated in a tragically pained, kind of whiney voice): "But without copyright, how will software developers make any money?"

Hello people, ever heard of World of Warcraft? Everquest? Google? Trying to own the bits is moronic, the value-added is in service and support.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Interesting Digital Identity presentation

Fascinating stuff, by Dick Hardt (I recommend downloading the large version, even it is low-res, so the small version is probably unwatchable).

I impatiently await the realization of his ideas; its only a matter of time.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Pictures from DC

A shot of me, listening to my 4Gb iPod Nano <\drool>, at the WWII memorial in DC last week.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Intellectual Honesty in budget discussions (a modest proposal):

The Skeptical Optimist:
Maybe a Constitutional amendment is in order; something like this:

"Article XXVIII: Anyone who talks or writes about the raw dollars of debt, the raw dollars of deficit, or the raw dollars of interest payments, instead of debt as % GDP, deficit as % GDP, or interest as % of tax receipts, will have his ________ or her ________ chopped off in the town square within twenty-four hours after conviction of the crime. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation, except the President shall have the duty to enforce this article when the violator is a member of the Congress."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Light blogging this week; I'm at the AIAA infotech@aerospace conference in Washington DC all week. Here's the kicker -- the conference is in the Hyatt Regency Crystal City and the hotel doesn't offer high-speed internet in its rooms. What kind of a world do we live here? Are we still in the stone age? I'm in the hotel lobby for crying out loud. I have to come downstairs to check my email -- its so humiliating.

Anyway, other things I hate about this hotel:

There are no refigerators in the rooms -- this means that I'm continually making runs to the ice machine to keep my 2-liters of Dr. Pepper cold. What kind of a cheap, dive am I staying in here.? Caffeine addicts of the world, Unite!

The pool and the jacuzzi are closed. What's the point of having a pool if its permanently closed? Its in the 90's outside, but I can't take a dip because the hotel is too cheap to maintain a freakin' pool? unbelievable.

My room telephone doesn't function: there's no sound coming out of the speaker when people call, and the speaker-phone set-up doesn't work.

The hotel is out beyond freaking egypt, its almost a mile from the metro station. Lousy, lousy location -- the marriott is so much better situated. Should've stayed there, they probably offer high-speed internet in their rooms and have a real pool.

Hyatt Sucks!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Finally, someone is talking sense!

Heritage Policy Blog: "McCain Says Ditch Prescription Drug Benefit. Sen. John McCain said today that with the cost of recovery from Hurricane Katrina estimated to be in the neighborhood of $200 billion, the Medicare prescription drug benefit should be canceled. "
Do we really need more wealth transfer to the elderly?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Heaven forbid the internet become a public library!

Authors Guild sues Google over library project | CNET "The Authors Guild on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against search engine Google, alleging that its scanning and digitizing of library books constitutes a 'massive' copyright infringement."

Does anyone else think this is insane?

Media Companies, Not Pirates, Are The Real Threat > September 15, 2005

InformationWeek > September 15, 2005: "AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — When you hear 'content owners' (COWs, for short) from the Video Entertainment Vortex — mainly Hollywood studios and their spokespeople in the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) — talk apocalyptically about the rape of intellectual property by 'pirates,' the world does truly appear to be coming to an end. The fear factor in these warnings is so palpable that one looks for the hand of Stephen King — perhaps an Internet/ABC/Viacom simulcast entitled, 'The Night of the Mind Cannibals!'

Video piracy, in the standard scenario presented by big-time COWs, is the profoundest threat to mankind — or at least mankind’s potential profit margin on re-releases of 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' — since the Black Death, the H-Bomb or killer hurricances.

The latest weapon promoted by the world's COWs against the threat of video piracy — which rips off Hollywood at something like .0175 percent of its (admitted) annual revenue — is something called the 'broadcast flag.' The Federal Communications Commission was planning to insinuate this copy-protection software into all new broadcast content until a federal court this year said they lacked jurisdiction. This ruling has only redoubled COW efforts to enlist regulatory agencies in its sacred mission of squeezing every quarter 'til the eagle grins."

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hollywood is Brain Dead ...

Freedom to Tinker:

"Which brings us to the movie industry’s announcement, yesterday, that they will set up “MovieLabs”, a $30 million research effort to develop effective anti-copying technologies. The only sensible explanation for this move is that Hollywood really believes that there are easily-discovered anti-copying technologies that the technology industry has failed to find.

So Hollywood is still in denial about digital copying.

The pressure will be on MovieLabs to find strong anti-copying technologies, because a failure by MovieLabs can’t be blamed on the tech industry. Failure will show, instead, that stopping digital copying is much harder than Hollywood thought. And MovieLabs will fail.

When MovieLabs fails, expect the spinners to emerge again, telling us that MovieLabs has a great technology that it can’t tell us about, or that there’s a great technology that isn’t quite finished, or that the goal all along was not to stop P2P copying but only to reduce some narrow, insignificant form of copying. Expect, most of all, that MovieLabs will go to almost any length to avoid independent evaluation of its technologies.

This is a chance for Hollywood to learn what the rest of us already know — that cheap and easy copying is an unavoidable side-effect of the digital age"

Friday, September 16, 2005

Bush: Champion of the Welfare State !?

The White House communications team scrambled this morning to explain how President George Bush accidentally delivered a rejected draft speech in New Orleans last night on national TV.

White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett said he still does not know how the text of an address he had personally rejected as "too DNC" wound up in the president's hands last night.

Many Republicans reacted in shock as all of America heard Mr. Bush promising a series of federal interventions and taxpayer-cash infusions
Technorati tags:

To any republicans who saw Bush's travesty of a speech -- this is the kind of welfare-state mentality we would have gotten if Kerry had won. I'm becoming sorry I voted for this big-government wolf in sheep's clothing.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

My son Will, yesterday walked across the room for the first time. Good on him!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Believe it or don't:

Via "THIS IS SURELY THE DUMBEST STATEMENT OF THE WEEK, which is no small accomplishment given that the Roberts hearings are underway:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an 'ongoing victory,' and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Don't encourage Irresponsibility

The Becker-Posner Blog:

"Just because a person loses his house in a flood that destroys hundreds of thousands of other houses, rather than in a fire that destroys just his house, is no reason for the taxpayer to reimburse him for the loss. The fact that most people do not buy flood insurance, just like the fact that most Californians don't buy earthquake insurance, is no reason for me to insure them."
Read the whole thing.

I'm down with his whole argument. I'm looking at the 60+ billion that our lovely congress is pissing away, and I'm thinking -- where is all that money going?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Need Humor?

Check out Scrappleface -- Scott had me in stitches:

Allegations of widespread fraud in unmonitored polling places threatened to mar the credibility of Egypt's sham presidential election today which pitted four-term President Hosni Mubarak against nine opponents whose actual names will be revealed to the public after the polls close.

As the Muslim nation's first contested presidential election charade wound to a close, opposition parties claimed that widespread voter intimidation tarnished the otherwise pre-engineered outcome.

"We had hoped that this phony election would continue Egypt's progress toward genuine artificial democracy," said one unnamed Mubarak opponent who opted for anonymity rather than imprisonment, "This sets a horrible precedent for other Arab nations who have taken the first, tentative steps toward the pretense of freedom."

Increasingly Extreme Weather?


Just hype by the media trying to push an extremist environmental agenda. This chart from the Commons blog shows that total fatalities as well as death rates due to "weather-related extreme events" are on century-old down trend. Thanks to our technology and economic growth, we're better protected than ever from the vissitudes of Mother Nature.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

You can't have fun when other people are suffering

Or at least that's the subtext from notorious pervert Xeni Jardin's (of Boing Boing fame) post: a photo collage of Bush playing guitar on the one half with desperate refugees on the other.

OK, so I guess we're not allowed to enjoy music or laugh or get photographed enjoying ourselves during times of natural disaster. I'm wondering if maybe someone has a picture of Xeni laughing during the time immediately after hurricane Katerina -- then I could make photocollage showing what an awful person she is by superimposing her gaiety on scenes of human suffering.

This kind of cheap-shot journalism destroys Xeni's credibility as an honest voice in the coming digital age.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Welfare State Mentality

I'm on board with the following sentiment:

What Hurricane Katrina exposed was the psychological consequences of the welfare state. What we consider "normal" behavior in an emergency is behavior that is normal for people who have values and take the responsibility to pursue and protect them. People with values respond to a disaster by fighting against it and doing whatever it takes to overcome the difficulties they face. They don't sit around and complain that the government hasn't taken care of them. And they don't use the chaos of a disaster as an opportunity to prey on their fellow men.

From here.

File-sharing is speech

I was reading Eugene Volokh's paper and was struck once again by the vile, horrific, stinking cess-pool that is America's current copyright law.
He considers the value and limits of crime-facilitating speech, and how the first amendment protection of speech should be weighed against the possibility that some speech might enable criminal activity.
Basically the fact that I can't post an mp3 of the song I'm listening to right now, to this blog, drives me crazy. If file-sharing is anything, its speech; the exhanging of data -- simple pure communication. But in America in 2005 its not free speech, its speech controlled by the record companies and the movie studios and Micro$oft.

Monday, September 05, 2005

New Blog

My sister has a new blog over at Bon Mots, go check it out!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Legalize Drugs

One of the after effects of frequenting libertarian websites is that it gets you thinking about their policies and views and eventually their arguments begin to subconsciously sink in. I've been mulling over the whole drug legalization issue for awhile now, ever since there was a lively discussion on the topic at Left2Right in the comments on this post.
As the notion of drug legalization has fermented in my brain, the central question mutated into the following:
What gives the federal government the right to decide what I put in my body?

I can't seem to find a good answer. At first I thought to myself: "Well, taking mind-altering drugs can endanger other people; imagine your kids' bus driver hopped up on pot or crystal or cocaine..." Except then I realized that the crime there can be addressed directly via legislation exactly like we've done for drunk driving. It isn't necessary to outlaw alcohol to legislate against the abuse of alcohol that endangers others.
This was brought home to me especially poignantly by the illegalization of ephedrine -- an herb that I've frequently used as a body building aid in the past and which has been scientifically proven to be safe -- here, the feds butted into my personal life and dictated what I could (or rather, could not) put in my body. How dare they? Where in the constitution did we give congress the right to control the most basic element of our lives; our alimentation?

More to come.

Hacking Satellite TV

Until last month many of the world's satellite tv companies relied on a cryptosysem called Nagravision. It has been broken for years, so recently DishNetwork sent all of its customers new access cards for their recievers. These access cards contained new circuits capable of decoding a new and (supposedly) more secure encryption system called Nagravision2.

Several days ago a group of European hackers broke Nagravision2, and many of my friends across the world are now viewing all of DishNetworks' programming (including PPV movies, premium sports channels, etc.) for free.

I believe DishNetwork underestimated the inherent security difficulties in giving millions of its customers the cryptographic key (or rather a method to get the key via their access cards) and simultaneously expecting that their enemies would be unable to reverse engineer said key.

Anyway, Nagra2 is wide open for anyone who is interested. Go to mauisun's bulletin board for more information on this fiasco.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Christian Service or Feel-good make-work?

So, the men at my church are planning a relief expedition to Gulf Port Mississippi; leaving 4:30am on Saturday, coming home Monday afternoon. This puts me in a lousy situation because, obviously, I really don't want to spend my entire Labor Day weekend without A/C, sleeping in a smelly hot church on the floor and hauling debris away from homes while standing in Typhoid and snake-infested water; yet if I don't go I'll look like an uncaring prick who selfishly values my own time and comfort over the desperate need of my fellowman. Yeah, I guess that's pretty spot-on. Truth hurts, am I right?

Unfortunately, they're still planning on having church on Sunday. This means that if I don't go do this bit of service then I get to see all the ladies at church and explain why I'm not in Mississippi doing Christian service with all the other men in the church.

The answer came to me just now: skip church and run the table so to speak. If I'm hell-bound this week end, why not go whole hog?

Seriously though, I'm going to cut a check to charity to cover the miniscule amount of help I would be able to render if I were to go there over the weekend. Honestly, I'm not into suffering for the sake of suffering. If my own discomfort were able to substantially and uniquely improve the lot of the folks in the wake of the storm, then I'd be happy to help. I spent a weekend doing service right after Ivan, and all I can say is ... if we'd each pitched in 40 bucks we could have hired professional to do what we did in a quarter of the time.

Macrovision tries to ruin P2P

So it looks like Macrovision is trying to make a buck off of the file-sharing phenomenon, by charging "artists" a fee to spoof the p2p networks. They insert bogus or non-functional files at many central nodes in the hope that people looking for content will download the bogus stuff. Read the whole thing. The article [via Tom's Hardware Guide] concludes:
While Macrovision attempts to stop piracy ... they admit that it may be an impossible goal to achieve as P2P networks adapt and change. According to Dalke, Hawkeye works well against most of the major P2P networks including EDonkey and FastTrack. But full protection against Bittorrent has not been achieved yet.
That's right, because if someone seeds a bogus file on bittorrent the peeps who download it will leave a comment indicating that its crap. Thus bittorrent self-regulates against this kind of attack.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Don't let idiots vote.

This article over at the NYT explains how dumb some Americans are, specifically in the area of science. Not much of a surprise to me -- the article says that 20% of Americans believe that the Sun revolves around the earth, mmm ok. As anyone who has seen Jay Leno's street interviews knows, stupidity is a universal constant which crosses all national, racial, and gender barriers.

This is the very reason that I propose a simple intelligence test before people are allowed to vote; does our democracy really need morons deciding who is best suited for the presidency?

Deny Suffrage to Idiots! Please join my national and growing campaign to curb the power of stupid people by sending me $25 via cash, check, or Paypal before the retards ruin our country.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Did Political Correctness kill Free Speech?

This post over at the Volokh Conspiracy is right on target. Let me quote:

You can't think seriously about criminal justice and crime control without recognizing the racial disparities in crime. You can't think seriously about the causes of disproportionate representation of men and women in certain fields without at least considering whether men and women might on average have important biological differences that might explain some of this disproportion. You can't think seriously about what public health strategies are needed to fight AIDS ... without knowing the data about the demographics of HIV.
Apparently, Eugene was getting grief for pointing out that homosexual sex is much riskier than straight sex.

It's Harvard's Summers incident reborn: free speech for everyone, unless we don't like what you're saying.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Well, I'm here at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco for the 2005 Guidance, Navigation, and Control Conference. So far I've been impressed with the talks; yesterday I saw some interesting things being done with receding horizon control; wherein optimization is performed over some fixed horizon and the tail of the optimization cost function is estimated with a pre-computed value function.

Also I was happy to see my doctoral advisor here, Randy Beard, and we were able to lunch together yesterday at a delicious little Thai place next to the hotel. I also bumped into my friend Wei Ren, who another of Randy's students, and he's just nailed a professorship at Utah State University -- congratz Wei!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Hollywood screws Windows Vista

There's a great post over at Freedom-to-Tinker about how Hollywood is screwing over Windows users in the upcoming Windows Vista. Check it out for yet another example of how we all pay for our Luddite intellectual property paradigm.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Master Plumber

Who's your daddy? I said, who's your daddy !? I am. Yes, you may now refer to me as Master Plumber in addition to Will or Dr. Curtis or 'hey you' or ... ok;
So the sink and faucet are installed and the leaks are gone -- thank you, thank you, no applause please. Actually big props to my buddie Kevin who gave me the intel I needed to fix the problems.
On another note, my wife and I have been watching the West Wing season one (courtesy of my friend Bit, of course) and though I'm not a liberal I really like that show -- its also great to be able to watch the episodes in order, without commercials, and all at once.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I know, I know, you (my faithful readers) are like -- where has he gone? Why must we endure the excruciating agony of life without new technoutopia posts?
Relax my friends, you pain is over.
First of all, can I say how much I hate plumbing? I wasn't feeling well yesterday so I took the afternoon off in order to rest. After I get home, I see that the people have come to install our new Corian countertops in the kitchen -- so, you guessed it, I end up spending 5 hours on my back under our sink installing the new faucet, replumbing the disposer, and trying (in vain) to plug two leaks in copper pipes. Apparently I'm going to have to re-solder the fittings, which in case your wondering, is guaranteed to be a major pain in the rear...
Anyway, I have a huge soar throat today and I feel like shite, but I hate posts with no links because they're like dead-ends for addicted web-surfers, so here ya go suckers:
try this
or this
or maybe even this (which is interesting yet misguided)

happy surfing.

Friday, July 22, 2005


More bombs today in a resort in Egypt. It seems like more and more the folks in the blogosphere are waking up to the fact that radical islam is a disease that must be fought by every civilized nation and people on the planet.
I'm wondering if this recent spate of violence won't make people more sympathetic to the war in Iraq, as slowly the realization dawns that evil must be confronted and force must be meet force.
Appeasement is the cowards answer, the naive dream of intellectuals who haven't grokked the reality of life on planet earth.
To quote my hero, Winston Churchill,

"We must fight ... we shall never surrender."

Hacking Harry Potter

Prof. Felten has anther good post on the Borg-like futility of resisting filesharing. As some of my readers know, I've read all the books and find them very entertaining. I borrowed the first few books from a girlfriend in college, and the last one from a neighbor. This newest one I borrowed from my buddie 'Bit', Bit Torrent. Yes, it was available as a pdf or an audible mp3. Great stuff Rowling, keep up the good work!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Interested in our National Debt?

If you're interested in national politics and our nation's economy, taxation, and debt then you probably already read The Skeptical Optimist regularly.

If you don't -- well, what the hell is wrong with you? You don't like practical, approachable, non-partisan analysis of our nation's finances?

filesharing is evil pt2

"You're getting something for nothing you lousy ingrate!! OK, I grant that you don't owe anybody the right to make a buck -- but you're enjoying their (movie, music, software) and not giving anything in return; that's wrong."

Ahhh yes, the `ole something for nothing routine. Having discovered that no meaningful harm is being done, some have suggested that filesharing is immoral because it is gratis.

Me: I listen to the radio for free every day -- I enjoy it greatly and I don't pay a cent. Is this wrong?
RIAA Zombie: But you pay for it through commercials!
Me: No I tune into a different station when a commercial comes on -- do you have a problem with that. I also leave the room when the tv commercials come on, its my preferred snack/bathroom break time. Maybe I Tivo. Does this trouble you so? Can I not enjoy tv and radio for free? Did I sign some sort of a contract that I would watch the commercials? The fact is we get something for nothing all the time in life -- air, radio, tv, beaches, mountains, forests, those little snacks they give away in supermarkets, ...
RIAA Zombie: But its not fair, the record studio does all this work to produce the cds, then you just take the music off the internet without paying a dime!
Me: Wake up and smell the napalm! The only thing unfair about the record industry is how they treat the musicians (despite what you think, musicians make the great bulk of their money touring, as they've always done since before there were even vinyl records.) Record studios produce a zero-value product (since the cost of copying and delivering information in today's world costs basically nothing) when they offer me a cd. The artists provide value, but they make their money on concerts and merchandise -- which by all accounts can only increase with a wider distribution of their music. But we're digressing here, as these things always do, into a fight about the proper business model for the record studios. I don't owe the Record companies a profit (see my first post) and I don't give a rat's ass how much money they [don't] make. In a free market its up to the record company to provide me a valuable product if they want my business -- and copying and distributing digital files costs me nothing, so what value do they add?

Up next: why the idea of "owning" digital content is patently ridiculous.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Cross sums puzzle (kakro)

I've just discovered a fun little pencil and paper puzzle game akin to crossword except with numbers -- its called kakro in Japan where it is apparently very popular. Try this site if you'd like to download and print some to play.

Python Rocks!

Yes, all of the hype is true: software development using python is 2-5 times faster than using C++ or Java. I've been a MATLAB scripter in the past, mainly for writing prototype feedback control algorithms, and python rivals matlab for ease of use and quick development.
And the great part is that a slew of usefull modules are available, making the development of cool applications straightforward.
So if you've ever wanted to try computer programming but didn't know where to start, or if you're looking for a better way to develop software: try python, it makes programming fun again.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Digital piracy is wrong!!

I get this line frequently from holier-than-thou friends, co-workers, and [extended] family and I'd like to publicly address this in a series of posts about the ethics/morality of downloading digital content. I think the people asking this question take for granted that deep down I agree with them, and they are sort of expecting a bashfull "aww shucks, yeah I'm a sinner, but hey .." response.

Well, I'll disabuse all you MPAA/RIAA zombies right now of your fantasies -- not only do I think digital piracy is not wrong, I wish there were a whole lot more of it.

There are too many issues to discuss in a single post so I'll concentrate on the "its wrong because it hurts the record studios/software developers/movie studios" line of reasoning.

But does downloading digital content cause harm to the creator of that content? Well, the first thing to note is that noone is being deprived of their property--a download copies a file, it leaves the original intact. Despite being called piracy, filesharing is not stealing: imagine sneaking into your neighbor's house and making an exact replica of their new stereo. You enjoy the benefits of a new stereo and your neighbor need never know -- there's no immediate harm being done, if any harm occurs its because of some secondary effect. Usually the claim is one of financial harm -- i download a song instead of buying the cd, so I've harmed the record company to the tune of $15.
But think about the implication there -- if not buying a particular commodity causes morally significant harm, then we're a bunch of sadists, aren't we? I buy AMD over Intel -- do I owe Intel an apology? My wife doesn't likes to do her own gardening -- is she wronging the local gardening business? Anytime we consume anything, or don't consume for that matter, someone is losing our business -- is their lack of profit creating a deficit on our moral balance sheet? This argument just doesn't add up, unless you believe that we have a moral imperative to ensure everyone makes a buck.
At this point in the argument, my opponents usually jump to another reason why filesharing is wrong by pointing to the illegality ... but I'll treat the other (equally deficient) attacks on digital piracy in future posts. Untill then, burn baby burn. Get you bittorrent groove on, my friends, and download the content you want guilt free.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

My daughter Jessie and me

My First Post

I know what you're thinking, or rather what you should be thinking: what the hell is this blog about? Mainly the theme here (I hope) will be the application of principles from my proffessional speciality (the theory of feedback control, robust system design, and decentralized-networked filtering/estimation/control) to politics, economics, and life in general.

For the sake of transparency, I will briefly describe my views as of 1 July 2005:

I don't identify myself with any particular political party of philoshopy, though the closest ideology would be classical liberalism (aka libertarianism). I favor the decentralization of power. I favor governmental power that is strictly limited in scope to certain necessary functions: law-enforcement and the administration of justice, protection of commons-type assets for fair use (roads, frequency spectrum, water, etc.), national defence, protection of free markets, etc.

I believe that free market - based economic systems (such as American capitalism) are superior in delivering a higher standard of living.

I hold that family relationships are the most meaningful and important ones that we have in life and that identification with and loyalty to family structures are under-emphasized in the great western democracies.

I believe that intellectual property (IP) law in the US has reached the point of insanity, and that modern IP law will become simultaneously 1) less enforcible and 2) more widely percieved as unjust and unworkable.