Dreaming in Code
I just finished Dreaming in Code. It is an excellent book. (Thanks for the recommendation, Ben (Beaty) -- so far 100% of the books you've recommended to me have been great.)
Dreaming in Code is the story of an ambitious, ill-fated software project called Chandler. Well, maybe "ill-fated" is too strong, but the fact is that the project went for years and years without ever producing a usable software product. Chandler (written in Python!) is supposed to be the ultimate personal-information-manager, that would handle your email and todo lists and addresses and calendar and so on. It was to do all this no "data silos" -- unlike most other software, it wouldn't force you to separate your information into arbitrary categories in order to fit the computer's data model.
Sounds great, but what does that actually mean? I don't know, and it sounds like the Chandler team didn't know either -- they had this incredibly vague ambition and they spent years trying to turn it into a usable spec so they could code something. Dreaming in Code follows them through all the twists and turns of this maddening process. It sounds like defining how Chandler should work was like trying to nail jelly to a wall.
Spurred on by a vision of revolutionizing the way people interact with computers, but frustrated by the enormity of the task and the lack of visible progress: I know exactly what this is like. I've worked on a project like this -- it was called Archy. Archy was going to do everything and be the most amazing software in the world. Maybe someday it still will. But we had the good sense to recognize what we were up against, and we chose to break off a managable chunk of functionality and turn that into Enso. Still, the dream of Archy informs our ideas about what user interfaces could be.
Ahh, over-ambitious, doomed software projects. Like Don Qixote, dreaming the impossible dream. The king of this type of software is Xanadu. It started in 1960 and it's still not ready. (Read all about the amazing epic tragedy here.)
Dreaming in Code ends a bit inconclusively, saying good-bye to the Chandler team in 2005. But Chandler development is still going on, and even now in 2008 nobody knows what will become of it. I personally saw Mitch Kapoor give a presentation about Chandler at Euro Python in Lithuania last summer, telling us how close it was to being ready and how awesome it was going to be. At this year's PyCon in Chicago, Aza got big LOLs from the audience just by name-dropping Chandler. Will Chandler someday prove the doubters wrong? Or will it become a laughingstock like Duke Nukem Forever?
Dreaming in Code is about more than just Chandler, though. It uses Chandler as a take-off point for discussions of the history of software development, the open-source ethic, the programmer lifestyle, and the eternal quest to make computers not suck so bad. It probes deeply into fundamental questions that confront all of us who work in the field: Why do so many software projects fail? Why is so much supposedly finished software such a pain to use? Why is programming hard? Will we ever discover a "silver bullet" that makes it easy? Why can't we write software the way we build bridges?
And it does all this in a way that I think will be very accessible for nontechnical readers. Most of the book's contents were already familiar to me, either from personal experience or from having read about them elsewhere. Most of it had me nodding along: yup! Yup! That's exactly what it's like! I found it a good read because it ties together so much of what's been said about software into one compelling and thought-provoking story. For people who have never written code, I think this book would be the perfect introduction to understanding what programmers do all day, what frustrates us, and why we love our jobs despite the frustration.
I'm at PyCon (the Python programming language convention) today. I just gave my presentation on Desktop application development in Python. You can download my presentation slides from that link, but you'll need a Mac with Keynote to view them.
Yes, I actually made slides for this presentation. (Some of them are pretty silly). Usually when I give a talk I just talk, and/or demonstrate software in action, but no slides. Why this time? Partly cuz the audience was a lot bigger than I'm used to, but also because I wanted to try out the new MacBook Pro that Mozilla gave me. I wanted to see if a Mac laptop would give me less trouble hooking up to a projector than I'm used to from Linux and Windows.
And indeed, the projector worked fine on the first try, for a change (huzzah!) but VMWare (which was running a virtual machine, running Windows, so I could show off Enso running) failed to change screen resolution when the projector got plugged in, so I couldn't show off Enso because it was clipped off the top of the screen. And I didn't know how to fix it. Arrrgghh! So I just had to go ahead and give the rest of the talk without being able to show what I was talking about. I think I did OK, but it definitely threw me off my game. At the end of the talk, after questions, one guy came up to the stage and said "I think I know how to fix that". And he did. So I was able to show off Enso after all, at the very end.
(By the way, about the new MacBook: Unfortunately the texture of the keyboard makes typing very unpleasant. You know squeaky chalk on a blackboard? Or dragging your fingernails across a blackboard? Or rubbing a chunk of baking soda between your fingers? I get that feeling every time one of my fingernails brushes one of the keys on this Mac. I have to type very carefully so that only the pads of my fingers touch the keys. It makes the computer almost unusable unless I have an external keyboard plugged in. It's a bummer.)
The Humanoids went to Whirlyball today as a sort of goodbye-party.
I had never heard of Whirlyball either. Here's how it goes:
Two basketball-hoop-ish things at opposite ends of a room.
Lacrosse-style racket/paddle things for everyone.
A whiffle ball.
Everybody's in bumper-cars.
We played for about two solid hours, with two teams of four. It was a blast!
The bumpercars have a crank instead of a steering-wheel, to make it easier to turn with one hand while your other hand holds the racket. Yes, this is just as awkward as it sounds. If you're not laughing at your own uncoordination, you've got the wrong attitude. Finally, I've found a team sport where everyone else is reduced to my level of incompetence!
I've rented a u-Haul. I've got my license. I've set the date. My sister (Kristin, not Aleksa) is taking a week off of work to help me drive. It's time for a
CROSS-COUNTRY ROAD TRIP!!!
View Larger Map
Google calls that "1 day, 7 hours" but I think it calculates time assuming you are a robot who never needs to stop for food, sleep, or gas.
The route above goes through Laramie, WY (where Will and Tonya live!), as well as Salt Lake City (where Austin lives) so there's some good friend-visiting potential. But I'm open to suggestions of alternate routes if anybody knows a particularly good one.
I'm moving sometime around March 25
Which means that's the last comic I'm going to be able to post before I move. In fact I'll probably be taking this website down around March 22, since it's hosted on the computer at my apartment, which I have to pack up and move along with everything else. It should go back up in early April and I should be able to put up another comic soon after that.
Time for a Company Trip to the Onsen
You knew I as going to have to do a hot springs episode eventually. I tried to keep it as un-fanservicey as possible.
Except maybe for people with an oba-san fetish. If that's you, then, well, enjoy your fanservice.
Here comes another bubble
A very well-done music video called Here Comes Another Bubble, to the tune of "We Didn't Start the Fire".
I explained in a previous post why I'm excited to go to Mozilla. "Here Comes Another Bubble" explains the flip side. A big part of me is apprehensive because I'm headed straight into the middle of this kind of environment, and it will be a constant challenge to separate what's real and important from the general hypestorm of overpriced, faddish nonsense.
Bloxes.com is now live. This is a Humanized side-project which we've now spun off into its own company. Think cubic-foot sized omnidirectional cardboard legos which can build human-sized structures strong enough to stand on.
For the past half a year we've divided up our office space using walls made of bloxes. Now you can too, cuz we're selling them.
There may or may not be some embarrassing pictures of me in the slideshow.
You should definitely be reading Skin Horse.
Just a couple weeks old at this point, so catching up on the archives will be easy. What's there so far is very, very promising.
No, I won't even try to explain what it's about. Just go read it. From the beginning.
See, that's how you should start a story. Jump straight into the middle of a bizarre situation so the reader is immediately curious to find out what the heck is going on. Explain later.
Enso is open source now
A post that's not about the election, for a change! Aren't you glad?
Enso is now Open Source software. Huzzah! The code is available through Google code. We have a new mailing list and also a discussion forum.
Why I Don't Like Hillary Clinton
OK, she got Ohio and Rhode Island by big margins, and probably Texas (although so narrowly that it's effectively a tie (and Obama may even get more delegates out of Texas; the rules are weird)).
This is really bad.
Clinton isn't winning either in delegates or popular vote. She hasn't even caught up; she's merely stopped her losing streak. She's still about a hundred delegates behind, with the exact number depending on who you ask. With only ten -- mostly small -- states left, plus Puerto Rico, there's essentially no way she can catch up.
So why is this so bad?
Well, if Obama had won one of the big states, or if Ohio had been a tie too, then he would have been a clear winner going into the convention. But now it's effectively a tie going into the convention; neither can win without the "superdelegates" -- high-ranking Democrats who can vote however they want. That means that in the end the popular vote and the pledged delegates aren't going to matter -- the nominee will be decided by the party elites. (Explanation of Democratic party rules and how they got to be that way.) And backroom deals with party elites are the Clintons' specialty.
So now Clinton has a serious shot again at being the nominee -- even if she loses the popular vote and the pledged delegate count. Very un-democratic. She'd be the equivalent of Bush in 2000. It will play horribly in the general election, where McCain can point out that she doesn't even have the support of her own party. Even if the superdelagates decide to respect the popular vote and Obama gets it after all, it's very depressing that he ends up relying on a farcical aquatic ceremony and not a mandate from the masses, so to speak. That won't play so well in the general election either.
I'm disappointed. I was really hoping that tonight would be widen or preserve Obama's lead, not narrow it, so that Clinton would be compelled to drop out. Because I really, really don't like her.
Why not, Jono? Why don't you like Hillary Clinton? What, are you sexist or something? Shouldn't we have a woman president, Jono? Weren't the Bill Clinton years in the 90s a pretty good time, Jono? Won't Hillary be a lot better than Bush at least? What's the big deal with hating her?
Let me explain.
Sure, I'd support a woman president. Just not her.
I'm sure we will have a woman president within my lifetime. But whether I vote for her or not depends on who she is and what she stands for, not on her sex.
Democrats have a deep-seated need to prove that they're not racist and they're not sexist. In this primary they have to choose between the two. That's why you see Clinton supporters accusing Obama supporters of voting for him just because he's black, and Obama supporters accusing Clinton supporters of voting for her just because she's a woman. It's kind of an encouraging sign that anti-racism and anti-sexism are playing a bigger role in this fight than normal old-fashioned racism and sexism. I think that's why we haven't seen any overt racist or sexist campaign ads; they would backfire horribly among Democrats.
So, let's call Clinton vs. Obama a wash on the "put an underrepresented and previously oppressed group into the presidency" factor. They cancel each other out, as far as I'm concerned. Great! Maybe we can focus on substance then?
Besides, we keep hearing glurge like "no matter who wins, it will make history", bla bla bla, because we'll have a representative of one formerly-oppressed group or the other as president.
Except that we might not have either. Because it's likely that
Clinton would lose the general election.
Many polls show Clinton losing to McCain while Obama wins against McCain. A lot could happen between now and November, and polls are often wrong, but there it is for what it's worth.
It makes sense. The Republicans are scattered, disorganized, factionalized. A significant number of them continued to vote for Huckabee in primaries, even after it was mathematically impossible for Huckabee to win, so I can only interpret this as a protest vote by hard-core religio-conservatives against McCain. The only way they can possibly win is if they face off against the one enemy that would instantly unify and galvanize their base: Hillary Clinton. It's impossible to overstate how much she's hated by Republicans. She's an utterly polarizing figure.
In fact, Rush Limbaugh urged his fans to vote for Hillary Clinton in Texas, precisely for the reason that having her as the nominee is the best path to a Republican victory. It's impossible to know how many people actually did this, but Texas was so close that it might have been influential.
(You can tell a voting system is pretty screwed up when it motivates people to vote for the candidate they least want to win. But that's a rant for another time.)
I think Obama would do better against McCain: he wouldn't win on security, obviously, but he's strong in other suits. Obama's inspirational message, common-sense policies, sincere religion, and lack of 90s-era baggage are all soothing to centrists and moderate conservatives. In every state with open primaries, large numbers of independents and Republicans have been voting for him. It's all anecdotal evidence, but just about everybody I know has told me about at least one conservative relative who supports Obama. So I think the crossover vote for him is genuine, and I think he would do a good job of uniting people. Maybe he'd even break down some of the stupid counterproductive liberal-vs-conservative hatred which has so degraded the public discourse in this country.
I see this primary as a choice between the nominee who unites people and wins, or the nominee who divides people and loses.
And how sad would it be to lose this one? The Republicans have spent the last four years trying desperately to give the 2008 presidency to the Democrats on a silver platter. America is shouting that it hates Bush, that the Republicans are all rotten, that the war was a mistake, and that they people are desperate for change. If the Democrats have all these advantages and still blow it, they are officially the most pathetic political organization on the planet and should be disbanded immediately before they cause any more embarassment. (This is parody -- I think.)
But you know what? Losing isn't the worst thing. If Clinton is the nominee and she somehow wins the general, I fear that might be even worse.
Sure I hate Bush, but not enough to think that keeping Republicans out of the White House at all costs has to trump every other concern. I find it hard to believe that every Republican is pure evil. I want to take a good hard look at what kind of president Hillary Clinton would be before deciding whether I would rather support her or McCain.
And what better way to judge her than by how she's run her campaign?
With financial problems and personnel churn that suggest serious mismanagement, for starters.
Then there's her attitude: Every time Clinton loses a state, she explains why that state doesn't matter. Obama only wins in small states, she says, or only in states with caucuses, or only in states with large black populations. I'm winning among white, registered Democrats! That's what she says. It's being called the "Insult 40 States Strategy. Guess what: You're not running for president of white, registered Democrats. You're running for president of the United States.
Next: She wants to reseat the Michigan and Florida delegates. She agreed before the primary season began that they wouldn't count. Back then, she thought she was going to waltz to victory unopposed. (And in any year when Barack Obama hadn't been running, she probably would have.) Once she started losing, she wanted to change the rules. That's not kosher. In fact, Clinton's name was the only one on the ballot in Michigan. (OK, OK, Dennis Kuchinich was on there, but he doesn't count -- sorry, Jake.) The only way it would be remotely fair would be to have a do-over in those states, since so many people probably didn't even bother going to vote, thinking it woudln't count.
But, since it's a tie going into the convention this year, it's likely we'll see a protracted legal battle over whether Florida votes count or not. Gee, what does that remind you of? Not something I'm eager to relive.
Clinton has also run a much more negative campaign than Obama has. Obama takes every opportunity to praise his opponents' achievements. He disagrees respectfully and explains why his own ideas are better. He's refrained from mentioning any of the items from Clinton's rich, juicy, and incredibly extensive resume of scandals.
(Bookmark that page, because you're not going to finish it in one sitting. As my friend Geoff said of Hillary Clinton: she's a liar and a criminal and she should be in jail. More about this later.)
Up until quite recently, Clinton mainly avoided negative campaigning as well. The few extremely minor attacks that she tried -- like that weaksauce "plagarism" charge -- seemed to rebound against her. I actually started hoping that we might be seeing the start of a new era where negative campaigning is no longer effective. Ha! Silly me! As the Clinton campaign got desperate, it turned to much dirtier over the last couple of weeks, such as apparently circulating this photo of Obama in traditional African clothes, presumably to make people afraid of his scary foreign-ness and Muslim ancesry.
Speaking of backfiring campaign ads, how about that red phone?
Clinton's experience claim is bogus.
Clinton's campaign message of having 35 years of experience and being ready to lead and ready to handle a national security emergency at 3 AM is a mirage. It has no basis in fact, but the media continues to parrot it unquestioningly.
Junior Senator from New York is her first and only elected position, which she has held for eight years. "First Lady" is not an elected position and it carries no official powers or responsibilities. Obama was in the Illinois state senate for eight years before moving to the national Senate, which means he's actually been a legislator two years longer than Clinton has. In addition, Clinton's record of actual legislation sponsored in the Senate is paper thin. Obama accomplished more in two years in the Senate than she did in eight.
Listen to the long awkward pause when Clinton's team is asked "What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary's career where she's been tested by crisis?". The answers they come up with are pathetic.
The truth is that Clinton never had security clearance even when she was in the white house. She's mostly trying to use her husband's national-security credentials as her own. I predict this gambit will backfire instantly as soon as you put her side-by-side with an actual combat veteran.
Obama's credentials are no better than Clinton's in this area, but at least he's not trying to fake it.
Finally, Clinton has been talking an awful lot about universal health care, and how she has lots of experience fighting for it. Um, she might not want to be emphasizing that so much: the 1994 "Hillarycare" plan was an ill-conceived, big-government, bureaucratic horrorshow. Among other terrible ideas, it included criminal penalties for people who tried to pay for unapproved health care out of their own pockets. It was rightfully defeated, but in the process it set back the cause of national healthcare by ten years.
She wants power, but what would she do with it if she had it?
Time for some video evidence!
Here's Clinton being interviewed by John Stewart. Watch carefully. Note that this interview goes on for ten minutes and she doesn't say a single goddamn thing except to repeat what John Stewart says back to him in different words. Typical empty-suit politician: says whatever she thinks you want to hear, and no one will ever know what she really thinks.
She reminds me of Richard Nixon.
Watch this video, where Clinton attacks one of her own supporters who asks her a question about her vote on Iran. She accuses him of being a plant -- says that someone put him up to asking that question.
Nixon-style paranoia. They're all out to get her. There's a vast right-wing conspiracy.
Here's another video. It was posted to illustrate the unnattractive "Hillary Cackle". I don't really care what her laugh sounds like; that's just as dumb as picking on Barack Hussein Obama's middle name. But this video reveals something a lot scarier than her laugh. A transcript:
Questioner: "conservative hitjobs", "right-wing conspiracies": Why do you and the president have such a hyper-partisan view of politics?
Hillary: (laugh) If you had walked even a day in our shoes over the last fifteen years, I'm sure you'd understand.
She doesn't even try to rise above partisanship: she embraces it. Although this video is from the 90s, it reflects an attitude still central to her campaign -- Conservatives are bad, they're out to get her, it's all about her and how unfair people are being to her. It's never been about America or how unfair our government is being to us.
Compare: "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."
I'm not the first person to compare Hillary Clinton to Richard Nixon. Dana Blaneknhorn does it often: With Hillary Clinton we get to re-live the past of the Baby Boom generation into the indefinite future.
Here's another one: "She helped impeach him; now she displays just as much paranoia".
(That's right: Hillary Clinton was one of the lawyers for the prosecution at the Nixon impeachment trial in 1974. I don't know if it's irony, or destiny, or what, but it's like she killed Sauron and kept the Ring for herself.)
More similarities: Though Nixon was a Republican, the actual policies he enacted were centrist, even liberal. According to some, he didn't care about policies: only about power. The mood of the 1960s was liberal, so in order to win he enacted liberal policies. But once he had won, he abused his power to persecute his political enemies -- the hippies and the war protestors and the democrats. His problem was not that he supported bad policies; he didn't. His problem was a total lack of personal ethics.
I see a strong parallel. Clinton will say and do anything to become president. She doesn't care about policies: like her husband, she'll do whatever is popular. The laws she signs will lean to the right, just as Bill Clinton's did, just as Nixons leaned to the left, because the current political climate is conservative and she has no interest in changing it. "Democrat" is not a statement of ideals for her, or her husband, but merely a political power structure to exploit. With the power that she attains, she will persecute her political enemies -- in this case, the Right, especially anyone involved in the attacks on her husband. She will attack them mercilessly, further polarizing and dividing the nation.
All hypothetical. This isn't what I can prove, only what I fear. But now you know the source of the chill I feel every time I hear her speak.
Richard Nixon founded the modern era of politics, the era of the ideological slugfest, of constant battles between Left and Right, of every new problem being exploited as a wedge issue instead of being solved, of my-side-right-or-wrong thinking, of red-state/blue-state confrontation, of Baby Boomers treating every vote being a referendum over the Vietnam War and the hippie movement.
It sucks and I want it to end already so we can get on with solving real problems, the problems of today. I want Americans to focus on the things we can agree on, compromise, work together, make progress, solve problems. I want us to remember that we're all on the same team here, the American team. Instead, the current state of politics forces us to divide into the egghead-commie-liberal team and the gun-totin-redneck team and battle it out against each other.
Obama, as the first post-baby-boomer presidential candidate, could possibly help to end the era of the ideological slugfest. Clinton would not: she would make it worse. Her administration would be a constant scorched-earth battle between the Red Team and the Blue Team over every single insignificant piece of ground.
Do Not Want!
And that's the Hillary Clinton that people are overlooking when they go and vote for her simply out of name-recognition, or out of nostalgia for the 1990s, or because it's time for a woman president.
Now, I hope, you understand why I think her election would be a disaster.
Does "Momentum" exist?
Apparently, according to the people who write the news, Obama has "momentum" because he's won 10 states in a row. But if Clinton does well tonight, she'll have "reversed the momentum" and it will be hers again. They seem to take on faith that there is such a thing as "momentum" and that it affects how people will vote.
But what does that actually mean?
In an election that's done in stages, like this primary, we have a discrete series of observations of two or more semi-dependent variables. When comparing an observation at one time to an observation at another time, we may find that a lead of one variable over another has increased, stayed the same, decreased, or reversed. To believe that momentum is meaningful, you have to believe that a change in one direction makes future change in the same direction more likely. For this to be true, voters would have to be changing their preference based on their observations of which way earlier votes had gone.
Obviously this happens early on in a race with 3 or more contestants. If there's three candidates in the primary and I see that the one I prefer only got 1% in states that voted before me, I may reasonably conclude that he's not viable and I'd be better off voting for my favorite of the two front-running candidates. That's simply another example of the game-ability of any election with more than two candidates, where I can only vote for one.
But how correct is it to extrapolate this phenomenon to a race that remains close, and/or one with only two contestants? Consider these two scenarios:
Obama wins the first ten states to vote, and then Clinton wins the next ten states, and now they each have 50% of the total vote and delegate count.
Clinton wins the first ten states to vote, and then Obama wins the next ten states, and now they each have 50% of the total vote and delegate count.
In Scenario 1, you can bet pundits are saying that Clinton has staged an amazing comeback and now has all the momentum going her way. In scenario 2 they would say the same thing about Obama. The momentum theory would predict that I should be more likely to vote for Clinton in sceanrio 1 and more likely to vote for Obama in scenario 2.
Yet in both scenarios, the vote totals are exactly the same when it comes time for my state to vote. In both scenarios the race is still competitive, I have reason to believe that my preferred candidate can still win, and there's no third-party spoiler in the race so I have no incentive to try to game the system. Common sense says that when it gets to be my turn, I should just go ahead and vote for my preferred candidate in either scenario.
Why should the order of the victories and losses prior to my state affect the way I vote?
Now, economists have finally figured out that humans are not always rational actors and so we can't always assume they'll do what's in their own self-interest. So it might very well be the case that people do illogical things depending on who's been winning lately.
But can we point to any evidence that this momentum effect exists and is statistically significant?
If not, I think it's reasonable to consider an alternate explanation: Clinton is more popular in some states, Obama is more popular in other states, and because the state primaries/caucuses happen in an arbitrary order, we'll inevitably see a random assortment of periods where where a lead is growing and other periods where a lead is reversed, just as in flipping a coin repeatedly you'll sometimes see a run of several heads and other times see a run of several tails. You might think you see "momentum" in a string of heads or tails, but it's just the natural human propensity to find a pattern where none exists.
After all, political pundits need something to talk about on slow news days, and I'm sure that talking about momentum-reversals is more fun than just reporting how the latest state to vote has changed the relative totals.
Basically, I need something to keep me occupied while I sit in front of my computer all night looking at the primary vote tallies and hitting "refresh" over and over again. Not going to be able to sleep tonight until most of the precincts have reported.
So in the meantime, here's me trying to organize my thoughts.
But first, a warning: In the course of organizing my thoughts, I may link to various articles on various news sites. Some of these articles may have... comment threads.
For the love of God, do NOT read any of these comment threads!
The flame wars going on between Clinton supporters and Obama supporters are vicious. They're full of name-calling and slander, pouty threats to vote for McCain in November if Obama/Clinton doesn't win the primary, and accusations that the other side is sexist, racist, and/or "drinking the Kool-Aid". I made the mistake of looking in some of these comment threads over the weekend and I got sucked in to reading. I could feel myself getting angrier and stupider with each comment I read, yet I could not tear my eyes away from the train wreck. I lost valuable hours that could have been better spent inking my next comic page.
I repeat, do not read the comment threads on any political news articles, blogs, or YouTube videos until this election is over. (Not that there's ever a reason to start...)
If Obama gets the nomination, who do you think would be a good choice for his running mate?
In order to win over those who are worried that he's lacking in experience and/or weak on national defense issues, he should pick a running mate with a proven track record in military, security, and/or foreign affairs.
Many Clinton supporters would be angry that Obama took away their chance of seeing a woman in the White House. It would be a good strategy to pick a female running mate in order to win these people back.
Even better would be if he could somehow do both of these at the same time. Hmm, a woman with experience dealing with foreign governments and a reputation for being tough on terrorists...
Clearly, the only choice is Condoleeza Rice for Vice President!
...OK, maybe not.
RIP, Gary Gygax.
Some horrible jokes in this article. "Rolled a natural one on his fortitude save"? Penny Arcade has a nice tribute to the man, though.
Idle fan speculation: Which of the Outer Planes do you think Gary Gygax would end up on?
What about Vermont and RI?
Texas and Ohio primaries going on today. Also Vermont and Rhode Island but the news seems to forget about them due to their rinky-dink number of delegates. Sniff, sniff; doesn't anybody care about Vermont and Rhode Island? Well, I do, because I used to live in the former and often visit the latter. And seriously, this primary is so close that every state counts no matter how small. It's an epic battle to the finish! I love it!
The last polls I saw were tied to within the margin of error in Texas and Ohio. I shan't speculate on who will win; I'll just wait and see. The voters have confounded the expectations of pollsters and TV talking heads in every contest so far this year, and I hope they continue to do so. People who get sucked into following politics tend to forget that voters are human beings with free will, not just statistics to be sliced up along arbitrary demographic lines. So-and-so is up x% among Hispanics and down y% under those under 50; so what? A million people voting have a million different reasons for making the choice they do. Someone who spends days researching Senate voting records and campaign finance law to make a decision gets a vote which counts exactly as much as the vote of someone who picks the person who looks better on TV. I guess what I'm saying is that there's simply no way of knowing how it's going to go until all the votes are counted. (And even then, sometimes we don't know. Thanks, Diebold.)
A horrible propaganda comic I found
I found this utterly strange comic strip in a stall in the men's room at an In-N-Out Burger in Millbrae, CA last week. (Link not safe for work).
So, what is it? I guess it's supposed to be some kind of slander of gay people, like a Chick Tract or something. Then again, it might be a parody. It's so deranged and hopelessly out-of-touch with reality that I can't tell one way or the other. And where's the punch line, anyway?
When you can't even discern what point something is trying to make, you know it's a failure as propaganda. (At least Jack Chick could never be accused of making that mistake.)
If it's not a parody, it's certainly an "own goal" for whoever made it, since it succeeds only in making homophobia look as stupid as it really is. I can't even get too offended at it, though, since the thought of someone spending time drawing and distributing these is just sad. Or giggle-inducing.
This is pretty cool. Political campaign contributions over $1,000 are legally required to be public. So why not make that plot all that information on a map and make it easily serchable? The Huffington Post has a site called Fundrace 2008 where you can search for people who contributed to a certain candidate or party, or scroll around an area to get the gist of it, or zoom in to the street level and see contributions coming from individual houses. You can even search by company and see who, say, Apple employees are supporting.
It's a little freaky how much personal information you can find on here. But people chose to make it public when they made campaign contributions. And privacy is dead, anyway.
I don't seem to be on here yet, but for the record I donated $250 to Barack Obama earlier tonight.
Curse you Todd Stroger!
The Cook County government led by Todd Stroger just raised sales taxes again which gives Chicago a 10.25% sales-tax rate effective April 1st.
According to the linked article, they're hiring an extra 1000 employees (bringing them to over 28,000, which they need in order to do... um... county government stuff? What does the county government do, anyway?)
Here's a reasonable proposal for how the tax hike could have been avoided.
Everybody around here hates Todd Stroger anyway. He got his position in a very un-democratic way: he was first appointed by Daley as an alderman in 2001 to replace an alderman who had died, and then in 2006 he replaced his father John Stroger on the ballot for Cook County President when John had a stroke a week before the primary.
I vaguely recalled having voted against the guy in 2006. here's what I wrote at the time. Ah, yes, I was conflicted because voting for the opposition, Tony Peraica, meant voting for a Republican, and at the time I just wanted to kick all Republicans in the nuts. But I did end up voting for Peraica and in retrospect it was the right thing to do.
10.25% sales tax. That's absurd. Not only do tax increases encourage people and businesses to move away from cook county, but sales tax increases are particularly bad because sales tax is regressive, i.e. the poor end up paying a higher percentage of their income in sales tax than the rich do. Way to make it even harder to be poor in Chicago.
Bobby in St. Louis
I've got a small portion of my late cousin Bobby's ashes in a little plastic shampoo bottle.
I was originally going to find a cool place to scatter them to the elements, but then I thought... why blow it all in one place? Why not take the bottle with me on my world travels indefinitely? I can take pictures of it at interesting landmarks.
The Gateway Arch in St. Louis
The banks of the mighty Mississippi. That's a Lewis-and-Clark-expedition memorial statue in the front, and a casino riverboat barely visible on the far bank of the river to the right of my hand.
More to come, once I figure out how to liberate my cell phone camera pics from Verizon's Digital Restrictions Management.