Tuesday, March 23, 2004

USAJobs.com: 45 million served: "The USAJobs Web site, launched last August, has received 45 million visitors and has more than 800 information technology job openings listed online, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
Clarence Crawford, OPM's chief information officer, said the Web site, one of five e-government initiatives that the agency runs, lists more than 18,000 federal jobs and has 400,000 resumes posted online."

45 million visitors and 800 job openings? 18,000 jobs and 400,000 resumes?

Does that make you feel better about the current job situation or worse?


Monday, March 22, 2004

World Press Review - World Press Wire: "Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The controversy over the efficacy of the
oral polio vaccine in Nigeria deepened Monday as the Supreme
Council for Sharia in Nigeria (SCS) rejected the much-publicised
report of a joint committee which last week pronounced the
vaccine safe for use in the country."

Well, then they are going to get sick and die. We can't force medicine down their throats, if they want their children afflicted with a terrible disease then just let them be and try to contain the disease so that it doesn't spread to others.

Hate to be harsh about it, but letting foolish people die if that's what they insist upon doing has a certain Darwinian appeal.

Useless vs Useful Math

What an interesting exploration into math and election demographics.

Remarkable Grasp of the Obvious Dept.

Yahoo! News - Suicide Warning Sought for Antidepressants

The FDA is advising us to keep an eye on depressed people for warning signs of suicide? Next they'll advise us that people taking Tylenol may suffer from headaches.


Yahoo! News - Israel Kills Hamas Founder in Airstrike: "GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israel killed Hamas founder Ahmed Yassin in a helicopter missile strike outside a Gaza City mosque Monday, prompting threats of unprecedented revenge by Palestinian militants against Israel and the United States. "

Well, so much for any hopes of peace in Israel in our lifetimes. Israel has just made a martyr out of a spiritual leader and created thousands of new terrorists. A cynic might suggest that they did it in order to stir up a lot of anti-Israeli violence by the Palestinians and thus justify the wall that they are building which in some places seems to incur on Palestinian territory.

Let's just hope none of it blows back against the United States.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

All Headline News - Afghan Minister's Killing Sparks Fighting: "However, a top Herat military commander, Zaher Naib Zada, told AP by telephone Sunday night that his forces killed Sadiq in a confrontation after the minister went to Zada's home to fire him."

Well, I guess you really don't want to fire people in Afghanistan. Curious that this was offered as an explanation for murder that sparked a battle that killed as many as 100 men. Whatever happened to just filing a grievance with your union rep?

Remarkable what passes for acceptable behavior in some parts of the world.


Saturday, March 20, 2004

Essay: The Honesty Virus

What an interesting premise! The basic idea is that we tell FEWER lies online than we do in person because we've grown used to the idea that what we say online is archieved and available forever. If we lie online it's more likely to come back at us sometime in the future - as opposed to in live conversation were it may be forgotten or denied later.

Hadn't really occurred to me but it does seem that people are a little more careful about what they write on line these days.

Yahoo! News - U.S. Army Charges Six Soldiers for Cruelty in Iraq: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military charged six soldiers on Saturday with offenses including cruelty, mistreatment and assault following a criminal investigation into allegations of prisoner abuse at a jail in Iraq. "

What I find remarkable about this story is the fact that this "occupier" is willing to charge its own soldiers with crimes like this. What was the last occupying army that prosecuted its own soldiers for crimes against those being occupied? What was the last occupying army that allowed the people it was occupying to protest against it in the streets?

Make no mistake, what we're seeing in Iraq is not imperialism.

Economist.com | Tourism in Somalia: "HE HAS perhaps the world's hardest job, but very little to do. Abdi Jimale Osman is Somalia's minister of tourism. His inbox is always empty; unsurprisingly, given that his anarchic homeland has not had a single officially acknowledged tourist in 14 years. "

Wow, talk about a lousy job.


Thursday, March 18, 2004

There are a number of secretaries at my workplace who have unopened boxes of their business cards tucked away on a shelf at their desk. I asked one once why she doesn't give her cards out. "I don't want to waste them" she said.

She's wasting them by leaving them on the shelf. The point of a business card is to get it out in the public eye. She should carry a dozen in her purse. Drop one in the contest box at every restaurant she goes to. Give one to her dentist, her dog groomer, her cousin.

Don't waste them.


Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Lord, protect me from those to whom you speak directly.
FOXNews.com - Top Stories - Tenn. County Officials Seek to Ban Gays: "DAYTON, Tenn. � Rhea County (search) commissioners unanimously voted to ask state lawmakers to introduce legislation amending Tennessee's criminal code so the county can charge homosexuals (search) with crimes against nature."

What a remarkably small collection of people.

IOL: CIA 'missed chance to kill bin Laden': "Secret spy footage taken from an unmanned drone over Afghanistan in Autumn 2000 shows what some intelligence analysts believe is bin Laden."

Interesting that this footage gets released now, isn't it, in the middle of the election campaign? I guess if you can't catch Osama releasing footage (4 year old footage, I note) of him is the next best thing. Conveys the notion that we're making progress; that we're close.

Hopefully nobody will notice that the footage is dated fall of 2000, a year before the 9/11 attacks.

There I go being cynical again.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

BBC NEWS | World | Europe | French PM is sent 'terror letter': "French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has received a letter from an unknown Muslim group that threatened to attack France, French officials say.
A group calling itself Servants of Allah, the Powerful and Wise One sent the message via Le Parisien newspaper. "

Here's a crazy thought. In light of all the sentiment against Spain for threatening to give in to the terrorists and withdraw troops from Iraq, maybe this letter is actually the work of some group that wants to show that countries who vigorously opposed the war in Iraq may be targets too.


Monday, March 15, 2004

A classic of Internet humor: Three Dead Trolls in a Baggie have their music video Every OS Sucks online. It still cracks me up. (note: You'll need to have QuickTime installed).

Click "Video" in the left margin, then scroll down to find "Every OS Sucks".

CBS News | 6 Of 9 Fresno Victims Died By Gun | March 15, 2004�20:23:32: "Others acquaintances said Wesson appeared with women and children who seemed to be under his control. Frank Muna, a lawyer who once sold the murder suspect a house, said the women wore dark robes and scarves, walked behind Wesson and did not speak when he was present.

The children were home-schooled because Wesson did not trust public education, his sons said, and Wesson, who did not work, was supported by the women. "

What a fascinating case-study of human psychology. I know perfectly nice guys who can't even get a date, but this guy (no Ben Affleck to look at, I might add) apparently has at least 4 women who are willing to mate with him and support him.


International News Article | Reuters.com: "Georgia Slaps Sanctions on Rebel Region"

I have to admit that when I first saw this headline the first image I got was Boss Hogg having Roscoe try to take the Dukes farm again.

If you're going to vote, please think.

If you're going to think, please vote.

Kovar/Hall: "Electron Band Structure In Germanium, My Ass "

My kind of physics report.


Sunday, March 14, 2004

Welcome to AJC!: "FRESNO, Calif. (AP)--Six coroners, triple the typical weekend staff, worked in shifts Sunday to identify the nine victims of a mass killing, believed to all be family members of a man who lived a bizarre life of polygamy and incest. "

Is there more depravity today than there used to be or is it simply a tribute to the media and the technology age that we just hear more about it than we used to?

Think about it - with cell phones, digital cameras, wireless, the Internet....is there a story that happens anywhere in the civilized world that isn't available to the rest of the world within hours if not minutes?

A humorous observation from Dr. John Allen Paulos' book "Innumeracy"

A man is afraid to fly because he thinks there may be a bomb on the plane. He calculates the probability of their being a bomb on the plane and finds it to be quite low, but not nearly low enough for him. So he puts a bomb in his suitcase, figuring the odds of there being TWO bombs on the plane is infinitesimal!

This is a man who doesn't understand the concept of independent events.


Friday, March 12, 2004

World Press Review - World Press Wire Russian tradition does not recognize competition as positive factor because competition awakes low instincts in people and does not improve the quality of products, but, on the contrary, worsens their quality.

I was almost taking this piece seriously until I got to this part. I think it's an established fact that competition forces improvement in products. Furthermore I think the Russians (and Soviets before them) have a long list of pretty shoddy products produced without competition.

Los Angeles Times: The Fringe Fires at Bush on Iraq: "Simply because Kwiatkowski, Wilson, McGovern, et al have flaky views doesn't necessarily mean they're wrong in all the charges they make against the administration. But those who hear their vituperative accusations should at least be aware of where they're coming from. Citing them out of context gives them an authority that their own intemperate words undermine."

Interesting that it takes him until the very last paragraph of his column to acknowledge that just because Ms. Kwiatkowski's column might be entirely true despite her obvious anti-Administration point of view.

: "But, like the ads that exploited 9/11, the Bush-Cheney campaign clearly isn't appealing to the offended parties for votes here. The targeted demographic is that swath of Americans who will respond to fear-mongering and won't mind if Arab-Americans are insulted along the way. "

Unfortunately I fear that is a much wider swath than we think. In my travels I encounter a lot of "scared little minds" who think "nuke the towelheads" is not such a bad idea. These people are voraciously pro-Bush and more than willing to support the bombing of any brown people in any far-off land as long as it's in the name of anti-terrorism.

It's too bad - I think if these people came out of "hiding" and looked around they'd think better of such an approach. Instead they keep their heads down and cheer every bomb we launch without regard to what it's aimed at or why.

iWon News: "We didn't anticipate that the clothing from the show would fit the average New York City-size woman,' shopper Melissa Weinberg told The New York Times in Friday's editions. 'But some do, and others were obviously Sarah Jessica Parker's.'"

I wonder how the other three actresses on the show feel about this implication.


Thursday, March 11, 2004

Free online IQ Test I have no idea how accurate it is, but it claims I'm a "visionary philosopher" so it can't be too wrong. :)


Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Reuters Health Information (2004-03-10): Teens pledging sex abstinence often fail - study: "Dr. Peter Bearman of Columbia University in New York, who headed the study, said the pledge movement failed to recognize the realities of adolescent sexuality. 'Ideological programs designed to make serious interventions in public health programs tend not to work,' he said. "

I expected this result. I was a teenager once and I remember the raging hormones -- it's incredibly difficult, especially in our sexually charged societies where the "virgin" role models for teens are people like Britney Spears, to resist the urge to participate in sex.

Some manage it, but most don't. Pledges of abstinance sound great in the counselor's office. But when you're at a party and your favorite cheerleader gives you that "come hither" look most teenaged boys are going to find it rather difficult to resist. It's nature.

iWon - National Enquirer Breaking News: "Bonny Lee Bakley's sister Margerry charges that Robert Blake has a strategy for staying out of jail -- keep firing his attorneys and string the case out for so long that he dies a free man!"

Ya think? I predicted that months ago...after he fired the second one.


Tuesday, March 09, 2004

From the "Don't Do The Crime If You Can't Tell The Time" department:
Yahoo! News - Police: Woman Tried to Pass Fake $1M Bill: "COVINGTON, Ga. - A woman was caught trying to use a fake $1 million bill to buy $1,675 worth of merchandise at a Wal-Mart, and was later found with two more of the bills in her purse, police said. "

I understand they offered to give her the change in $60,000s.


Monday, March 08, 2004

NewsMax.com: Inside Cover Story: "Though the Tribune-Review report was first unearthed by researchers on FreeRepublic.com within 36 hours of the inception of the Bush ad controversy, the mainstream press has been slow to pick up on Peaceful Tomorrows' anti-Bush pedigree. The group, for instance, has long been active in opposing U.S. involvement in Iraq."

Does opposing the war in Iraq automatically translate to an "anti-Bush pedigree?"

Yahoo! News - Bush Accuses Kerry of Trying to Cut Intelligence: "'As I tell people, war's what they got with George W. Bush as president, and we're going to win the war,' he told a local television station in an interview. "

Ignoring for a moment the issue in the article, read this quote by George W. Bush and see if it leads you to any interesting thinks.

Even if you don't agree with the politics of it, this Salon.com "Flip-Flop" piece is pretty funny.

Whiskey Bar: Now He Tells Us!: "I will say flat out [that] I was under the same impression: that we had a very good grip on their nuclear program and there really wasn't much of a nuclear program well into the 1990s. I was constantly being assured that by the IAEA and by the intelligence community. And then all of a sudden we had a slew of defectors come out in the mid- and late 1990s and what they told us was that everything that we had thought was wrong."

This article is an interesting read - but it also raises the question of whether the U.S. got played by the defectors. By that I mean...maybe our intelligence guys had it right to begin with. Saddam was contained, he was not making any progress in his weapons programs, he had no significant stockpiles and despite his huffing and puffing was no real threat to anybody.

Then these defectors -- whom you have to assume were hostile to the Hussein regime since they were, you know, defectors -- show up and start telling horror stories about all the weapons and programs Saddam has. "You guys had better go in there and kill him! He's got, ummm...weapons, yeah! WMD and if you don't go in there and kill him right away he's going to give them to his terrorist friends. Oh, he's got LOTS of terrorist friends! Trust me, I was there. Oh, and after you kill him and overthrow his government I'll be more than happy to return to Iraq and assume a leadership position in the rebuilding, of course."

Did they say that? No, of course not. Did they mean that? Hmmmm....makes one thinkthink.


Saturday, March 06, 2004

World Press Review - World Press Wire"There was a core of sensible people who faced with this decision would have gone the other way for sensible reasons. The argument is one I understand totally".

He suggested such people were misguided, however, in not appreciating the extent of the threat.

Tony Blair says that people opposed the war did not appreciate the extent of the threat. Unfortunately weapons inspectors have pretty clearly determined that Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush appreciated a threat which did not really exist.


Friday, March 05, 2004

In most of the stories about Ralph Nader's candidacy in the upcoming election the caveat is offered that since he is not being sponsored by any major party he may not be able to even get on the ballot in every state. Getting on the ballot requires at least a minumum number of signatures.

I believe that's a rather trivial obstacle for Mr. Nader. Not only are there still quite a few closet independants who will sign for him, there are plenty of Republicans who would love to see his name on the ballot and will eagerly sign.

Reuters Health Information (2004-03-05): Fitter men carry less weight around belly: study: "NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Fitter men are less likely to carry extra pounds around the belly, regardless of how much they weigh, a new study has found."

They needed to do a study to determine that guys who are in good shape don't have big stomachs? A little ThinkThink would have told them that. I hope they didn't spend too much money researching that one.

Yahoo! News - Martha Stewart Guilty of All Counts: "Martha Stewart Guilty of All Counts "

Don't get too excited, it will be a LONG time before Martha has to worry about coordinating her jumpsuit with the curtains. Her lawyers will undoubtedly appeal and appeal and appeal and appeal. While it's almost certain that she's going to get sentenced to at least a few years in prison (the feds have some strict sentencing guidelines and no parole) it's not likely she'll actually start serving that sentence anytime in the next couple of years.

It's still nice to be rich in America.


Thursday, March 04, 2004

ABCNEWS.com : Crime Blotter: Man in Diaper Arrested: "P E Q U A N N O C K, N.J. � Unless you're a baby, showing up in a diaper is no way to make a good first impression. Just ask one New Jersey man.
William Rhode III, 53, of Paterson, was wearing a diaper over pink stretch pants and nothing else when he came to the Holy Spirit School in Pequannock and sought a job application, police said.
When school officials refused to give Rhode an application, he defecated in his diaper and fled, police said.
Police arrested Rhode shortly afterward at a nearby local supermarket. Rhode faces child endangerment charges and is being held at the Morris County jail on $75,000 bail. A judge has ordered that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
It's not clear what kind of job he was hoping to get at the Catholic school. "

I don't even need to write a joke for this one.

Yahoo! News - NBC to Air Diana Audiotapes on Marriage: "NBC has acknowledged that the tapes provide no new revelations, but the network believes it will be illuminating to viewers to hear Diana's own voice. "

What NBC meant to say was that they think they will score massive ratings among those who hold a morbid fascination with Princess Diana (and the Royals in general) and among those who slow down to look at car wrecks. You need only look at the circulation of tabloids like The National Enquirer to predict that millions of Americans will tune in for this little exploitation-fest.

Yahoo! News - AP Poll Finds Bush, Kerry Tied in Race: "Exit polls from 2000 show that about half of Nader's voters would have backed Gore in a two-way race. Nader dismisses the spoiler label. "

Here we have a fine example of using statistics to mislead people. The thrust of this story is that Nader being in the race caused Gore to lose and to support this they point to the exit polls that purport to show that "about half of Nader's voters would have backed Gore in a two-way race."

The problem with that is that if half of them would have backed Gore then the other half would have backed Bush. Basic algebra teaches us that if you add the same amount to both sides that the equation is not altered.

Innumeracy in action.

Lord, protect me from those to whom you speak directly!

Don't mistake movement with progress.


Wednesday, March 03, 2004

From the Lou Boyd Says dept...

However much wood a woodchuck chucks, it only does so four months out of the year. The other eight months it hibernates.

This week the lovely Charlize Theron became the second African-American actress to win the academy award for Best Actress.

Thanks to Stuart for pointing that out.


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Yahoo! News - Killington Votes to Join New Hampshire: "Secession activists say Killington's restaurants, inns and other businesses send $20 million a year to Montpelier in sales, room and meal taxes, while the state returns just $1 million in municipal and education aid to the town of roughly 1,000 residents.
'The state is treating us like a cash-cow,' said David Lewis, town manager. "

Are we our brother's keeper?

WorldNetDaily: Kerry would abandon terror war: "According to dissident Ayatollah Mehdi Haeri, who fled Iran for Germany after being held for four years in a regime prison, Iran's hard-line clerics 'fear President Bush.' In an interview with Insight, Haeri says that President Bush's messages of support to pro-democracy forces inside Iran and his insistence that the Iranian regime abandon its nuclear-weapons program 'have given these people the shivers. They think that if Bush is re-elected, they'll be gone. That's why they want to see Kerry elected.' "

I think the trick is to balance fear with respect. It's GOOD that they fear Bush. The sentiment we want them to have, though, is not "if Bush gets reelected we're gone" but rather "If we conduct ourselves as a responsible member of the international community, stop sponsoring terrorism, don't seek to proliferate nuclear weapons and weapons of mass-destruction then we can thrive!"

We don't want them to be complacent, believing that they can continue to sponsor terrorism and develop nuclear weapons because nobody will do anything about it. We do want them to see more than the stick, though, they need to see the carrot. That they can benefit by coming on board and cooperating with the international community.

Fear is good, balanced with a heavy dose respect and a resultant committment to join the international community moving forward with peaceful goals.


Monday, March 01, 2004

I've been thinking about this Aristide business in Haiti. He claims we abducted him and forced him to resign. We deny it.

My first impression was, well...he was there surely he is the best witness to what occurred? But the more I thought about the conflicting stories my mind turned to motive and more specifically our lack of one. I had a difficult time thinking of a reason why we might force Aristide to resign and "kidnap" him.

Certainly the story would have to come out, I mean we didn't kill him, surely he was going to tell people if we did it. Is it in our interests to have Aristide removed? Surely not; for the very reason that the administration is denying it now. While we're sending thousands of American men and women around the world to "promote liberty and democracy" in foreign lands it would not serve us well to forcibly overthrow a democratically-elected government. One which posed no threat (actual, nominal or imagined) to us. We had supported Aristide previously and despite our certain disappointment with his rule we had no particular reason to want him out of power.

While I'm sure we wanted the discord in Haiti to end quickly and with as little bloodshed as possible, the forced removal of Aristide would do us more harm than good and was not the only means to that end. UN Peacekeepers might have been able to quell the violence without the removal of Aristide.

Then I considered if Aristide might be less that totally truthful. He's been increasingly embattled, apparently on the verge of being forcefully overthrown, abandoned by his own police. He's been talking tough about never resigning - perhaps his claim of forcible abduction is really just a face saving statement?

At the end of it I don't really know who is telling the truth. But for the moment I'm skeptical that we would have forcibly removed him from office. I guess it could all be a misunderstanding, but ultimately I think we have to look at who stands to gain from embellishing the truth here.

Think about it.

CNN.com - Koalas blamed for island destruction - Mar. 1, 2004: "ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) -- Cute, cuddly and fast breeding, thousands of koalas are eating themselves out of a home on an Australian island. But authorities are refusing to heed conservationists' pleas to reduce the population, fearing a backlash from tourists and animal rights activists.
South Australia state Environment Minister John Hill said tourism would drop dramatically if koalas were killed on Kangaroo Island.
'We rely a lot on the international market for our tourists,' Hill told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, adding the issue was particularly sensitive in Japan. "

Wait until the tourists get treated to the sight of hundreds of starving koalas dying and fighting amongst each other. That'll be a good time for everybody, eh?

This week we're going to talk about innumeracy. I'm sure nearly all of us know what illiteracy is -- the inability to successfully read and write -- but not many know what innumeracy. Innumeracy is the mathematical equivalent of illiteracy. It's the inability to comfortably work with fundamental numbers and it is a very serious problem for an increasingly technical society.

Evidence of innumeracy is all around us: in news reports, belief in pseudosciences and elsewhere.

Stay tuned for more on this subject. In the meantime click the link above to buy John Allen Paulous' excellent book on the subject.


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