FireplaneI’m not a big fan of the cameos in Atlas Shrugged. I guess commercially it’s good for publicity, but like having Bill O’Reilly in Iron Man, it’s a bit jarring. It would be kind of cool if they were playing people that weren’t themselves (like Hannity appearing as a defender of the latest government initiative).

Depending on how the courts decide on the subsidies, declining to set up state exchanges may have been the smart move.

If being wrong feels so good, you don’t wanna be right.

The drought situation, in maps and images.

The attempts to shoehorn a local (American) angle here notwithstanding, this story about India’s trash situation is quite interesting.

The effects of gambling (and casinos) on the poor is abysmal. These are the sorts of issues that really test my libertarian self (and kind of kick his ass, actually).

Richard Florida gloats about 19 of 51 cities where the cities are growing faster than their suburbs. That sounds impessive, until you remember the base points. By the same numbers, suburbs are actually gaining more people.

Our next housing crisis may be in the rental market.

Americans not only don’t get government-mandated vacation time. We fail to take advantage of the vacation time we’re offered.

The more maddening I find a paywall, the more likely that the paywall is having some success. I find Financial Times’ paywall to be very maddening.

Utah’s non-Mormon paper looks like it might be eaten up by its Mormon paper.

There is a myth that it’s bad for children under four to spend the night with their (separated) father, and it’s persisting despite a lack of scientific basis.

Let’s take something with all of the downsides of cohabitation, and validate and formalize it! I’d say “If you’re not sure, then cohabitate.” Except that cohabitation’s track record isn’t particular good. Instead, if you’re not sure, focus on “Why am I not?” and go from there.

The chief problem with global warming, unlike many things it is compared to, it’s an international problem with greatly differing costs among the needed participants, however hopeful some may be about India.

The laws surrounding child pornography are problematically broad. “Possessing child porn in digital form is against a law that isn’t realistic in the digital world.”

Fewer young people are using sunscreen! Bad news! Or is it? According to a scientist in Seattle, sunscreen is bad for you.


Category: Newsroom

One year ago today, I did not smoke a cigarette.

And I haven’t smoked one since.


Category: Elsewhere

-{This post involves race and politics, so obviously partisan and racial commentary is okay. Do comment with care, however.}-

The Hollywood Reporter has a lot of interesting background stuff on Saturday Night Live in recent years. The most interesting part to me, naturally, is the show’s political balance. James Downey, a writer on the show, commented with regard to their treatment of Barack Obama:

If I had to describe Obama as a comedy project, I would say, “Degree of difficulty, 10 point 10.” It’s like being a rock climber looking up at a thousand-foot-high face of solid obsidian, polished and oiled. There’s not a single thing to grab onto — certainly not a flaw or hook that you can caricature. [Al] Gore had these “handles,” so did Bush, and Sarah Palin, and even Hillary had them. But with Obama, it was the phenomenon — less about him and more about the effect he had on other people and the way he changed their behavior. So that’s the way I wrote him.

ObamaToastThis strikes me as pretty wrong, on its face. I knew even way back then the tact I would take: aloof, arrogant, and self-interested. Now, I don’t know the extent to which he actually is these things, but he did actually come off that way just a bit from early on. Enough to be able to pounce on. But SNL didn’t and said, even back then, that Obama was just so hard to make fun of.

It’s tempting to chalk this up to politics, but Downey isn’t very liberal, had some serious issues with Obama, and did go after him in another way (specifically, the media’s treatment of him). It’s honestly hard not to attribute this mostly to race. Specifically, the fear of being racist.

It isn’t the worst thing in the world, of course, that it’s harder to make fun of black candidates and presidents without getting a social wrist-slap. I’d argue that it’s actually generally a good thing. I do think that there was the fear of either being considered racist – even if white candidates do get that treatment. I think there was the fear of giving the racists’ cover (and I have no trepidation in saying that a lot of Obama’s critics are racist or use racism as a spiked hammer in their attacks). Which is actually quite understandable, but very much to the detriment of the show itself.

This actually speaks a bit to the odd place that Obama puts us in. Both in the sense that his critics have used his race to attack him, and in the sense that his supporters have attempted to link race with the vast majority of attacks against him. Unless it’s Obama eating a watermelon or something to do with Kenya, there are very few Obama criticisms that are so clearly and incontrovertibly about race that you can attribute it to such. Think back to the criticisms of previous presidents and how they might be perceived if applied to Obama:

He’s is a womanizer… that’s a fear of black male sexuality.
He’s is a smooth talker… ditto.
He’s is stupid… are you saying black people are stupid?
He talks funny… uhhhh?
He is a wimp… said only due to racist stereotypes of black masculinity.

So we’re left to where a race angle can be provided to just about anything. But it’s too easy to say that we shouldn’t consider race unless it’s a cross burning on a front lawn. One of the things Game Change that was pretty clear was that Hillary Clinton’s and John McCain’s people (over the alleged objections of the candidate) were using race, even when there was plausible deniability. And Obama’s people were using charges of racism even when they didn’t think that racism was actually a factor.

I said when Obama first clinched the Democratic nomination that it would be a race between the two parties. The Republicans would try to make race an issue as much as they could without getting called on it. The Democrats would try to take as many criticisms off the table by calling it racist. I should have figured this would apply to candidates as well.


Category: Statehouse, Theater

I recently complained about Google crippling their devices in the name of security. Lenovo, the maker of the ThinkPads I have been reliably buying for over a decade now, has decided to do the same in the name of… I don’t know. Aesthetics, I guess.

I got my hands on a Thinkpad T540p, which is their newest 15″ laptop. I got my hands off of it and I am at a loss. It is terrible. It is atrocious. It takes one of the big reasons that I (and many others) are loyal Thinkpad user and makes it decidedly inferior. Harder to use. And not in a way that I will get used to over time, most likely. Mostly, in a way that makes me question whether I will ever buy a Thinkpad again. I haven’t purchased a laptop that wasn’t a Thinkpad since 1998.

If there is a method to their madness, I don’t know what it is. it does look nicer, I guess. Buttons and their inherent functionality and ease of use have become passe, I guess. Out with the function, in with the form I suppose.

This leaves me in a lurch because, like I said, I don’t buy anything but Thinkpads. For a while I can basically continue to buy the previous models. Until it becomes outdated. If I do that, though, I will run into the same situation I am in now where every laptop in the house is becoming outdated all at once. This is because at some point I determined that the T60/T61 was the perfect model and made sure that just about all of my laptop purchases were that model. But computers become outdated over time, and start falling apart. It says a lot that I am dealing with this for a model made in 2006, but it’s inconvenient when I have spent the last two weeks trying to find use for an army of computers that can’t make the transition to Windows 7. Presumably, sticking with T520′s will be great until they all hit some other roadblock.

Then, I guess, either Lenovo will have its act together, or *gulp* I may be looking at Dells.

Incidentally, Microsoft is pretty evil. They’ve shoved down something called Secure Boot. The result of which is that it took me a half hour just to figure out how to boot a Linux LiveCD. It can be done, but man they make it difficult.


Category: Server Room

Superdestroyer and I have gone back and forth on the future of lower-level athletics, with him believing that there is none and that before long schools will start dropping football programs and myself believing that (while some may) most will hold on and take the financial loss.

The University of Hawaii is talking about dropping its football program:

Athletic director Ben Jay on Monday asked officials to help lobby the state for $3 million to help keep the the school’s athletic teams competitive or it may have to consider a reduction in sports, according to a report in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and KITV-4 News.

“There is a very real possibility of football going away,” Jay said under questioning by members of the Board of Regents Committee on Intercollegiate Athletics, the Star-Advertiser said.

But, he said, “but even if football goes away, all the revenues that football drives goes away and then it becomes a costlier venture for the university.”

Alex_Green_Hawaii_WarriorsMost likely, he’s bluffing to get the state to cough up more money. The other FBS programs that have talked about dropping their programs (San Jose State, Rice, and Tulane) haven’t. Further, Hawaii is in the Mountain West Conference which is presently in a better financial position than those other schools in terms of revenue.

On the other hand, Hawaii is not a school that necessarily benefits from having a football program. The benefits are mostly comparative, and Hawaii has almost no competition within its state and appeals to a particular kind of student outside of its state. While having a football program or not may be the difference between having heard of Georgia State and not having heard of it, and mentally comparing Georgia State to Georgia Southern, the University of Hawaii has the benefit of being the flagship state university of our nation’s most unique state.

Which is how they have stayed competitive despite numerous disadvantages. I was stunned when I read an account of why June Jones made the lateral move to SMU. He had no recruiting budget and had to actually recruit players that had either never been to the campus or payed their own way to visit it. The facilities are in exceptionally bad shape. They do seem among the more vulnerable to dropping their program.

Other than the realignment ramifications – explored below – Hawaii exiting football would have two effects. Since Hawaii is in a particular position, I wouldn’t expect other schools to start suddenly re-evaluating football. It would, however, put an end to one of the pecularities of FBS football, which is that the NCAA allows teams that make the trip to Hawaii the opportunity to play a 13th regular season game. It is an effort to induce teams to take the long and expensive trip out. The second is the almost certain demise of the Hawaii Bowl, which was pretty much set up solely for the sake of giving Hawaii a place to play during bowl season. Typically, the the participants in the bowl are teams that have trouble filling their own stadium, and aren’t going to bring crowds to the Aloha State. While it’s a reward for players on teams that become bowl eligible, it’s an even greater money-sink than most bowl games and the visiting teams don’t even bring their marching bands due to cost.

Which must have the University of Idaho absolutely salivating. Idaho’s football program is currently languishing in the southern-based Sun Belt Conference while they wait for an invitation to the MWC. Unfortunately for U of I, they will probably be disappointed. Not just because UH isn’t likely to drop its program, but because if they do they are at best third in line. The first position being BYU, who is unlikely to be interested. The second position being UTEP.

UTEP-QBUTEP is also probably closely monitoring the situation. They left the WAC for Conference USA in part for schools that have left Conference USA. There were rumors that they had tried to get into the MWC and were rebuffed. If they can afford the Conference USA exit fee, they’d probably gladly accept the invitation. As things stand now, they’re playing second-fiddle to their sister school in San Antonio. Both in the UT system, both with the same colors, except with UTSA having far more potential as a program. Geographically, they are a better fit for the MWC as well. For the MWC, they would be able to claim the El Paso market and have a presence in Texas (albeit barely).

If UTEP did make the move, then Conference USA would probably need to move to replace them. Last time around, Western Kentucky beat out New Mexico State for the slot. There is a strong likelihood that UTEP played a role in keeping New Mexico State out, and with UTEP out of the picture NMSU may be able to step right in. Though Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette have been mentioned as potential candidates, neither seem particularly likely to me. Both other competitiveness, but Arkansas State doesn’t offer much of a region or market and has a lackluster academic profile. Louisiana-Lafayette has the academic profile, but not much of a market. More likely is that they would skip straight to Georgia State, which has made it clear that they are working to invest heavily in getting their fledgling program off the ground (plus: Atlanta!). Since UTEP itself isn’t very good, they can afford for the replacement not to be very good. Another possibility would be Massachusetts, which is looking for a home for its football program. However, that’s unlikely as UMass wants to keep its non-football sports where they are and the last time C*USA had this choice (with Temple) they were uninterested in football-only members.

The Sun Belt, whether losing Idaho or some school to Conference USA, would probably not expand.


Category: Theater

nucleareuropeTo the right: Nuclear power plants in Europe.

Horrid: Allegedly, a woman slowly poisoned her son to drive up traffic on her mommy blog.

Laurie DeRose has a fascinating piece on how couples resolve conflicts over childbearing (ie how many children to have, if any). It’s surprisingly less a gender issue (he gets his way, or she gets hers) even in countries with little gender equity. The tie-breaker seems to be, as much as anything, social norms.

Why families used to have more children than they currently do.

Harper’s goes undercover with a cult infiltrator.

The Free State Project (wherein a bunch of libertarians moved to New Hampshire) has had a little success, but increasingly according to Kashmir Hill they’re turning to technology to set people free.

Over Hoegh-Guldberg of the Global Change Institute is calling for nuclear power. With James Hansen and others joining the call , though others remain against.

The biggest problem with nuclear power, at this point, seems to be FUD. Among the many reasons I hope that progress on renewables accelerates is so that we will have a better idea of what its limitations are, so that we can more thoughtfully figure out what we need to do (if anything) to plug the holes.

I thought calling “football” by the name of soccer was a purely American thing, but apparently we’re not alone (and we haven’t always called it soccer).

An ex-con reviews Orange is the New Black. She wants to know where all the guards are at.

College educated women are getting married before having kids, but they’re the only group that is.

In China, flight attendants are learning kung fu.

The Supreme Court may be wading in on a lawsuit between Jack Kirby’s family and Marvel Comics.

Assortive Mating 1, Trophy Wives 0

Even hermits need to have good people skills, if they want to go pro.

The efficiency of negativity.

You can buy four houses in Chicago, or five in Atlanta, for the same amount that it costs to buy a house in London or San Jose.

There are 292 ways to make change for a dollar.


Category: Newsroom

I come up with projects at the worst times, sometimes.

When we were preparing for our move from Cascadia to Arapaho, I got the silly notion that I really needed to update my college football database (which included incorporating all of the scores in c college football history).

Now we’re buying a house, and I’m working diligently on getting all of my old computers back up and running in the post-XP world. This means Linux, which means learning a whole lot about Linux. It wasn’t something I set out to do. Rather, I was working on setting up a backup MediaPC and it became apparent that Windows 7 simply wasn’t going to run on it adequately (for reasons unknown, the specs are almost the same as the primary Media PC, which runs it fine). So I installed Linux and got this whole ball rolling.

Right now I am stuck on a Thinkpad T42p. One that has some hardware flaw, to boot. It’s not easy to figure out what I would do with it if I got it working, but I can’t stop trying to get it to work. My preferred Linux distro (brand) won’t install. I can get SUSE and Fedora to install but I can’t get the video files working on it. I can install from a LiveCD where I will have video but not full network capability. It’s really driving me crazy.

And I sort of suspect that it will end up like those desktops I meticulously worked on for weeks. I got them working, finally, then realized what pieces of crap they were and dismantled them and threw them out the next week. This computer is technically weaker than those, though it’s a laptop and my standards aren’t very good. Theoretically, either a video-less networked machine or a networkless video machine could be useful somewhere. But I am hard-minded about getting both of them working. So I’m scanning distro-watch for anything that’s not Ubuntu-based* (which won’t load), polished enough to have networking capability, but not so polished and professional that they leave the video decoders off.

* – Ubuntu is the #1 Linux distro out there, and is really quite good. So good, in fact, that dozens of other distros use the exact same underlying code. That way, you can use their wonderful software bank and have access to a lot more software and its ease-of-use. My favorite distro is Mint, which is Ubuntu-based but better for this reason and that. But all of the Ubuntu-based ones use that Ubuntu installer that won’t work in this particular machine.


Category: Server Room

Romney-TallIn recent weeks, Mitt Romney has been experiencing an interesting insurgence. Emil Henry made The Case for Mitt Romney in 2016, followed by former Romney foreign policy advisor Alex Wong arguing that Romney was right.

More recently, Matt K Lewis argues that Romney in 2016 doesn’t sound as ridiculous as it might, Congressman Jason Chaffetz argues that Mitt Romney will run in 2016 and will win.

It’s not just the media or politicians talking to the media. Romney is in demand for Republican congressional candidates at rallies, and perhaps more notably, Romney beats Obama handily in an “if the election were held today…” question.

Buyer’s remorse is one thing, but I simply cannot remember John Kerry ever getting this kind of love in 2006. The two actually have quite a bit in common. They lost the popular vote handily but not overwhelmingly. Neither was beloved by the party that nominated them. Both lost against incumbents who had either a limited or no second honeymoon. Both had personalities that did not go over well with the electorate. And yet while Kerry may have won such a hypothetical poll in 2006 and probably did, I don’t remember any of this for him and in fact he was talking about running again in 2008 and was pretty much shot down on the idea.

So what’s going on?

I think some of it is a recognition among non-partisans that Romney may have gotten a raw deal. Remember when he ridiculously asserted that Russia was a geopolitical rival? Haha, old-timer! And binders of women? Haha, there was something wrong with that because it sounds funny. He never actually said he likes firing people, we can all pretend that he did.

I can actually sympathize with some of this, insofar as my own view of him is considerably less negative now than it was on election day. The thing about Romney, though, is that he was always better at a distance. The girl in the clown suit.

More to the point, the reasons he lost to a president of at most midling popularity in 2012 haven’t gone away. It can’t even be said that the party that was dragging him down (and it was the party dragging him down rather than vice-versa) has changed, or that he would have more capacity to change it in or by 2016 than he did in 2012.

And, of course, he won’t be running against an unpopular Barack Obama. He’d likely be running against Hillary Clinton, who crushes him just as handily as he did Obama on the very next question of the same poll.

Now, I happen to think that Clinton herself is not as invulnerable now as the polls suggest. I suspect that she will more likely than not be our next president, but like Mitt, Hillary looks better at a distance and she lost a nomination that should have been hers for a reason. If there is a Republican to take her down, I simply can’t imagine it’s the guy with a similar baggage portfolio. About the best that can be said of Romney is that he would be better positioned to defeat HRC than Jeb Bush.

Which brings us to the real reason behind the seeming Romney renaissance. The GOP has nobody else. By the time Kerry came along, many of the Democrats were already looking at Hillary Clinton or dreaming about Al Gore or Barack Obama. Not only did they have a list of winnable candidates, but the Republicans lack their own HRC2016. With Chris Christie torn asunder, Paul Ryan not looking to run, and the other candidates being completely and entirely unacceptable to major fragments of the party, one of the two the tallest men on the field is the guy who was too short to win a winnable election (and the other the brother of the guy who got the party in the position that it’s in).

All of which to say is that the principle lesson to all of this is that the GOP has some serious work to do.


Category: Statehouse


Category: Theater

WaveReportHave we reached Peak Hybrid? This is probably not related to the fact that hybrids are not as efficient as we think, since almost no cars are.

The Japanese Prime Minister wants to ramp up Japan’s cool factor, but artists want no part of it.

Denmark’s free higher education is pointed to by some as something to aspire to, but it’s hurting their economy.

Chris Reed argues that California’s politicians and media are stuck in the 80′s with their love of light rail, when game changing driverless cars are right on the horizon.

Meanwhile, the problem with driverless cars is that its not-drivers are kind of lazy.

China’s Ghost City situation has not improved. But here’s a cool one that looks like Manhattan.

Meanwhile North Korea has created its own ghost town near the border.

Advances continue to be made on the storage side of the renewable power equation.

More metal, less emissions? Sounds good to me.

MIT’s Technology Review interviews Joseph LeDoux on attempts to understand and tinker with human memory.

Peter Cappelli argues that non-compete clauses punish the wrong party. It’s become increasingly popular for college football coaches to have buyouts so large that only the schools that would hire them can pay it.

Don’t try to read your employees’ minds, and don’t pretend they are family.

Government corruption is good for infrastructure spending, bad for education and health care spending.

The Space Station is getting a coffee machine!

Teenage Mutant Ninja History.


Category: Newsroom

Queenland

Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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