Saturday, October 04, 2008

2053 Feeds? Sigh....

Saturday, October 4, 2008

If you use Bloglines, and you SEE this post on Bloglines, please leave a comment and tell me. All I'm seeing on Bloglines is the red [!] that says there's a problem with the feeds, and it seems to think that the URL is incorrect or the site doesn't exist. I'm having fits!

All I did was turn feeds off for the evening of 10/2, while I transferred over some old posts from the AOL journal, and then I turned feeds back on the next morning. I went to Blogger Help and the Blogger forums, but it doesn't look like anyone else is having the problem, although I did pick up the information somewhere along the line that sometimes there can be something IN a post, some screwy HTML, that breaks the feed doohicky.

AOL. I'd be not at all surprised if AOL inserted screwy HTML. They couldn't even get the font sizes right back when I was using AOL Journals.


Well, I'm off to NJ tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Friday, October 03, 2008

2052 Political Contributions and other bits

Friday, October 3, 2008

On the debate: Except for once when it sounded like she thought "Al Kayda" was a dictator in some middle eastern country, Palin mostly didn't shoot herself in the foot. She was able to stick to a topic and form complete sentences that made sense. Unfortunately, the subject she stuck to often had nothing to do with the question except for the presence of the keyword or two she took off on, and she imparted no specifics. I kept yelling at the television "Answer the question!"

Everyone picked up on her getting the name of the commander in Afghanistan wrong. But worse than getting the name wrong was getting what he said wrong. She said he said an Iraq-style surge in Afghanistan would work.

WASHINGTON – The new top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said yesterday that more U.S. troops are urgently required to combat a worsening insurgency, but he stated emphatically that no Iraq-style “surge” of forces will end the conflict there. "Afghanistan is not Iraq,” said Gen. David McKiernan, who led ground forces during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and took over four months ago as head of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan.

Also, she said that Obama was wrong that US air strikes were killing civilians. In fact, US air strikes are wreaking enough havoc on the civilian population, killing men, women, and children indiscriminately, that the US is severely impacting NATO goals with the Afghani government.

What she did best: There are a very large number of people who don't find intelligence, experience, or expertise to be desirable. They want someone "just like me". Most of her demeanor and delivery was carefully calculated to appeal to those "just like me" people. Wink, wink.


Want to know who your neighbors made political contributions to, and how much? Go to and put in a zip code, or town name, or street name, or even a specific address (careful - some people didn't use their home address), or a last name.

Pretty cool.


To correct a misconception - if the president dies, and then the vice-president dies, Nancy Pelosi does NOT necessarily become president. She would become president only if BOTH the president and vice-president die at pretty much the same time.

If the president dies, one of the first duties of the vice-president upon being sworn in is to appoint a new vice-president. Then if the new president would die, the appointed vice-president becomes the new president and appoints... etc. So it's possible to have a president who was never elected.


Some female (young, single) idiot (Diana Falzone?) on "Mike and Juliet" today just said that if you don't like your in-laws, you probably don't really like your spouse. She also said you should not keep in touch with an ex.

She's so naive! I have disliked in-laws. One, Ex#2's mother, because she repeatedly snubbed me and made my husband's life miserable, and another because I loved Jay, and I could clearly see that the reason Jay couldn't make decisions was that his father viciously attacked every decision he'd ever made. It was next to impossible to please the man.

And certainly you MUST keep in touch with an ex-spouse if there are children, and if there's no children it's still ok if you both can keep it on a friends-only level. Even ex-dates can be friends, if you were friends before the dating.

That young lady has a lot to learn, even if she does have an advice book out. Writing a book doesn't automatically make you an expert!

2051 VP Debate Flowchart

Friday, September 3, 2008

Oh MY God This Is Great! You have GOT to see this! Absolute perfection! I tried to copy it, and I can't, so you have to go to the link. (The title is a bit misleading.)

It works first as a joke, but then it slowly dawns on you that it isn't a joke - it's really the way it went.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

2050 Gotcha

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I confess that I am sometimes guilty of a very unattractive form of manipulation - the art of the "gotcha". That's when you know that someone is going to react in a certain way or take some action that is guaranteed to tic you off, and you purposely either set up a situation that will elicit that action and reaction, or you make no effort whatsoever to head it off. You sit back, watch it happen, and then say, "See? I knew he/she'd do that!" And then you get all pissed off because they did.

At least I do it only occasionally.

There are people who do it almost constantly to others to prove their own superiority, to themselves if no one else. They want you to sympathize with them, having to deal with all these stupid people.

There are people to do it to themselves, and it looks a lot like they're doing it to prove their own incompetence to themselves. They want you to sympathize with them, the way they're always taken advantage of.

None of them get any sympathy from me. If you knew this was likely to happen, why did you take no action to head it off? If you knew that something is going to go a certain way, but you made no effort to stop it or change the course, then it's partially your own fault. Don't come crying or complaining to me.

All of this is to say that in the case of the Mensa elections, I know I pulled a gotcha. I know I could have done something, and I didn't, so I am fully aware I shouldn't complain. I have no justification for my anger, other than the "it's not my job to make people do what they're supposed to do, when they know what they're supposed to do" excuse.

But I'm going to complain anyway, because I'm pissed.

The local Mensa governing board consists of five people. The elections are every two years. There's supposed to be an independent three-member nominating committee who gets out there and drums up candidates. This being a small group, the bylaws allow that if the nominating committee can find only five candidates, then there is no balloting. The five are simply declared elected. The bylaws also allow for petition candidates if the membership is not happy with the proposed slate.

Back in the days when the editor typed up the newsletter and made copies on an office copier, folded them, and stuck a first-class stamp on them, the lead time for the newsletter was only a week, and the bylaws schedules allowed for all the announcements to be made in sufficient time, and we had actual elections. But now, with all the "help" we get from computers, professional publishing, and arrival delays because of second-class mailing, the lead time for the newsletter is three weeks, which means that the membership gets announcements only a few days before the next step in the process has to be completed.

The result is that there have been no elections in the past ten years. The Nominating committee asks the current board if they want to run again, they might have to find a replacement for one who wants to bow out, so they've got their five, there's no time for petitions, there's not even time to publish a ballot!, and the five are declared elected.

This has created a lot of grumbling, because the same people are "elected" all the time, and the few replacements we've had have every appearance of being hand-picked by the current board. Like, "If I had been aware it was an election year, maybe I'd have run, but I never saw a call for candidates ...." There was never an opportunity for "outsiders" to get inside.

That has thoroughly pissed me off for years.

So this year I got onto the bylaws committee, and took the election procedures and notifications as my personal project. I was proactive! I tried to fix this! I stretched out the process to allow time for proper notifications, and pegged it to newsletter issues rather than months, specifying what information was to be in what issues (ballot-5, ballot-4, ...), and so on. Everyone who saw it agreed that it was good, and the current board even unanimously passed a resolution to use the proposed schedule for this fall's election, even if the new bylaws were not yet approved by national.

The steps, to be published in the monthly newsletter:
- June - call for volunteers for the nominating and election committees
- July -announce makeup of the nominating committee and call for candidates for election
- August -pause to allow for volunteers to come forward or be coerced
- September - announce slate and candidate's statements, and publish procedures for petition candidates if one is not happy with the slate
- October - publish full slate, statements of petition candidates, and ballot
- November - pause for return of ballots
- December - publish results of election

There wasn't a call for committee volunteers until early September (note that we were supposed to have a slate by then), and then it wasn't in the newsletter. It was on the chat group, to which fewer than a quarter of the membership subscribes. I volunteered for both the nominating committees and the election committees, specifying that I did not want to chair either. Then I sat back and waited.

They way I figure it should happen is that the chair of the nominating committee should ensure that a call for candidates is in the newsletter, the committee should meet and discuss any volunteers who have come forward, get a copy of the full membership list, see if there are any people who might serve if only asked, get on the phone and ask people, and drum up MORE THAN FIVE people, even if it requires some twisting of arms and pouring of guilt.

So I volunteered, and then I waited. Three weeks later, I was still waiting for someone to tell me that my offer had been accepted, and that the chair of the nominating committee was so-and-so.

I didn't find out I was on the committee until I got a panicked email from the person I assume is the chair, freaking out because he discovered that two of the current board members do not intend to run again, and we have to find two more people, and WHAT DO WE DO NOW!!!???

I just received my October issue of the newsletter, containing a call for candidates. The October issue was supposed to contain the ballot. Ballots are to be counted the first week in December. But of course, there was never any intent to issue ballots. There was obviously no attempt whatsoever to ensure that there was a real election.

What @#$^&.

I don't care. If we don't have at least five, national will disband the local group, folding us into probably the Albany group, or maybe the NYC group, and I don't care. We deserve it. I'm done.

Now, do I deserve any sympathy for my frustration with these stupid people? Or should I be blamed for knowing exactly what would happen, and instead of standing up and pushing, making sure things happened as they should, should I be blamed for just sitting back and watching it happen?

What @#$%^.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

2049 The Quote for the decade

"Beware of the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry, [who,] infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How will I know? For this I have done."

- Julius Caesar

2048 September's word cloud

From Wordle:

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

2047 Observations

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My house is on the helicopter flight path between Albany and NYC, and they fly low through here - I mean treetop level. Normally there's an average of one helicopter a week thrumming over, shaking the house and scaring the cats (it sounds like a train is heading straight for the house).

Lately it's been two to four a day. Even if I had no idea what's going on these past two weeks, I'd know there's something big going down.


The government and media are trying to scare us! Everybody keeps stressing the 700+ drop in the Dow. They say it's the biggest drop blah blah blah.

Well, in bare numbers, like 750, yeah. That's the largest number. However, it's not the biggest drop! Nowhere near. Don't forget that the Dow has been rising steadily for years. In percent, this drop is (heh heh) a drop in the bucket. It's only a 7% drop. That's only the seventh largest drop since something like 1940!

To call it the largest drop since the Great Depression is sensationalism and fear-mongering, and it's not true, and it pisses me off. AND, by creating fear, it almost guarantees further dropping (not to mention the administration gets its power-grabbing way).

I run a portfolio table online. I don't check it often because I'm a long-term investor and day-to-day rises and drops don't bother me. So I checked. Yeah, I have had some painful losses comparing three weeks ago to today. However, one of the columns in the table tracks gains over the cost basis (mostly the prices in 2002 through 2004), and even with the losses of the past week, I'm still showing high gains over base. So even today, I have not lost a cent, and have actually gained by an admirably healthy amount.

[Later Update - See this. He agrees with me. I'm hoping that this delay in pushing the bailout through will allow the OTHER proposed solutions to get a hearing.]


I saw The Man last night. We had dinner in Newburgh, our "halfway point".

He'd had some stuff going on, and we hadn't been able to get together in five weeks. A very frustrating five weeks. He had suggested an overnighter for last night, and I said no, just dinner.

I needed to see how I felt, and how I felt about "us", and I didn't want to be distracted by a promise of the physical.

I know how I feel about him. There's no question of that. What I was unsure of was the relationship. Over the past five weeks of not knowing for sure what was going on, and wondering why I'm putting up with what feels like half a relationship, like there's something missing, feeling shut out sometimes and wondering why, I needed to reexamine what I want, and whether what we do have is enough.

I'd almost reached the conclusion that no, it wasn't enough, and maybe it would be better to go our separate ways. Yeah, I arrived at the restaurant in breakup mood.

Within a half hour of his arrival last night I knew that it's worth it. Worth the frustration. Worth everything. We have some kind of Vulcan-like mind meld, and it's extremely satisfying. We were together four hours, and it was non-stop talk and laughter and mutual admiration.

The chemistry between us could power a nuclear submarine.

I guess I just need to be more definite with him about what I want and need, and more insistent than I have been. I still don't know where this is going, but once again, I don't care.

Monday, September 29, 2008

2046 Leno on Bailout

“I listened to President Bush’s speech. I think I understand this whole economic crisis. See, rich people on Wall Street made a big mess, and they’re too rich to clean it up. So the rest of America, you know, their maids and butlers, they have to clean it up for them. You see how easy it is?

“As far as this whole $700 billion thing is concerned, they keep saying, “We have to act now. We have to act now.” This is like a bad TV offer. “Just 10 easy payments of $70 billion each. Operators are standing by, but you have to act now!”
Jay Leno

2045 What Black Hole?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Thinking about the collider. If it did happen to create a black hole that didn't disintegrate and swallowed the universe, would we notice?

Movies always show people being stretched as they're being sucked in, and shrieking in pain, but really, I don't know if you'd notice a thing. It's not like your nerve fibers are being stretched. Think of it this way - if overnight, some space was added to every particle, atom, molecule, everything, inside and out, so that everything was twice the size it had been, as long as everything, inside and outside of everything, including you of course, got "bigger", but still retained exactly the same relationship to everything else, would you notice? Maybe not.

So if everything got "smaller", like packed closer together, but all the relationships stayed the same, maybe you wouldn't notice. That would be like being sucked into and being inside a black hole. Maybe the sun would look funny for a nanosecond, before it got sucked in, too, but if all the relationships stayed the same, maybe reactions stay the same, too, and it would continue to "shine" in our "sky". Everything would be "denser" than it was, but in relation to everything else, it's the same.

Sorta like when you travel fast and time slows down, you don't notice because everything traveling with you has slowed down too. I think. I guess.

Maybe it's already happened a time or two or three, the black hole, I mean. Maybe we're in one. How would we know?


Another LSAT question. This one is bugging me because required information isn't given.

Example 7
Alice, Bobby, Carole, Dwight, and Elva were playing a game with marbles. When the game ended Alice wrote down the following information:
- Carole has more than Alice and Bobby together
- Alice's total is the same as the total of Dwight and Elva together
- Alice has more marbles than Bobby
- Everyone has at least one marble

Question 2
If Dwight has more marbles than Bobby, who ended the game with the least marbles?
A. Alice
B. Bobby
C. Carole
D. Dwight
E. Elva

We know that Carole and Alice both have more than Dwight, and we're to assume that Dwight has more than Bobby, so the question becomes, "Who has the least, Bobby or Elva?"

Let's allow Bobby one marble, and Elva two.
Then Dwight must have at least three marbles, Alice five, and Carole more than six.
That works.

Let's allow Elva one marble, and Bobby two.
Then Dwight must have at least three marbles, Alice four, and Carole more than six.
That works.

Both allocations fit all the rules given, and the premise in Question 2. (Question 1 should have no effect, since it simply asked who ended up with the most marbles, which is obviously Carole.)

Either Bobby or Elva could be the least!

It annoyed me enormously. Then I looked at:

Question 3
Which one of the following is a possible order of children going from most marbles to least?
A. Alice, Bobby, Carole, Dwight, Elva
B. Carole, Alice, Bobby, Elva, Dwight
C. Carole, Bobby, Alice, Dwight, Elva
D. Dwight, Carole, Alice, Bobby, Elva
E. Carole, Alice, Elva, Bobby, Dwight

Carole>Alice+Bobby, therefore
Carole>Alice and Carole>Bobby, and
Alice=Dwight+Elva, therefore
Alice>Dwight, Carole>Dwight, Alice>Elva, Carole>Elva, and
and that's all the players, and that's all we know.
We don't know anything about the relationship between Dwight, Bobby, and Elva.

It's obvious (unless I'm missing something significant) that Carole is the highest, so that eliminates answers A and D, leaving B, C, and E. At this point it's obvious (unless I'm missing something significant) that we aren't to use the supposition in Question 2, because all three of our choices show Dwight as lower than Bobby.

Alice has more than Bobby, so C is out, leaving B and E.

Assigning marbles to the kids in B and E, we can have
B. >9, 5, 4, 3, 2 -or-
E. >9, 6, 4, 3, 2

Both of them check out as possible valid orders, highest to lowest.

So, what's the answer? Do they allow multiple answers? Am I missing something?

I think I found the black hole. Help!


Actually, I often read and hear things too literally. Last night on the news, a woman was saying that someone had broken into her home "and stole her jury box." I was wondering if she'd bought it at an auction or something, like people who buy church pews, it might be fun to have a jury box if you had like a home theater or something and then she went on to say her "best jury was in it" --- and my head exploded.

It took me a few seconds to figure it out.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2044 Bad bad LSAT! Bad!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I took the "Sample LSAT Critical Reasoning Section" to bed with me last night. There were 25 problems, and you're supposed to do them in 35 minutes. I took 31 minutes, and got 2 wrong. Note that it was 3 am, and I wasn't what you'd call sharp or motivated, and I know what I missed on one of them.

The other, however, I have a major beef with. Their answer is WRONG! It's the conventional answer, but it's wrong.

This is the problem (it's #9 here):

9. Mrs. Mason is gifted with psychic powers that enable her to foretell future events. In the past, Mrs. Mason has predicted such actual events as the election of President Clinton, the stock market crash of 1987, and the St. Loius Cardinals' 1982 World Series victory. These are just a few of Mrs. Mason's accurate predictions. The answer to which of the following questions would be most useful in evaluating the strength of the argument above?

A) What percentage of Mrs. Mason's predictions has come true?
B) Could the election of President Reagan have been predicted without the help of psychic powers?
C) What is the actual mechanism by which Mrs. Mason's psychic powers are supposed to operate?
D) How long before the events in question did Mrs. Mason make her actual predictions?
E) Do most scientists accept the idea that the power to predict the future through psychic means really exists?

Note that "useful in evaluating the strength of the argument" does not mean it helps to make the statement sound truer. It means that it most helps you to decide the validity or invalidity of the statement. Subtle difference there. Another way to think of it, if you could ask one question and one question only to decide whether to believe the statement or not, what would that question be?

"B" can be thrown out immediately as having no relevance (although if it had said "Clinton", it might have a lot. Perhaps it was there to catch the unwary). "C" can be discarded because knowing whether she uses a crystal ball or a spirit guide doesn't matter. "E" I'd throw out because any answer wouldn't have a bearing on this particular case. That left "A" and "D".

If I ask "A", and get "90% of her predictions are accurate", that sounds good, but it still leaves me with questions concerning the validity of her predictions. If I get "10%" of her predictions are accurate, it doesn't make a lot of difference to me. 90% of easy predictions is not 9 times better than 10% of difficult predictions, and there is no indication of the difficulty of her predictions. So knowing that number is not helpful. It does NOT make it easier for me to evaluate the strength of the argument.

Let's try "D". If the answer is "She has made all of these accurate predictions at least 2 years before the events in question", then hey, now we've got something to go on. That's a strong point. Or it could be "She made these accurate predictions three minutes or fewer before the actual results were announced." Whoa! Blows the argument out of the water. Any idiot can do that. Either way, whatever the answer, I DO have more useful information to evaluate the strength of the argument.

So, I answered "D".

They wanted "A".

I don't agree.

"A" is the conventional answer. Their argument is: "The passage cites just three accurate predictions by Mrs. Mason and alludes to others. However, the existence of three successful predictions means nothing by itself; one would need to know what percentage of Mrs. Mason's predictions has been accurate (or inaccurate). A success rate of 95 percent would mean that she is almost surely a legitimate talent [Me - not if all of them were made moments before the event!]; a success rate of 5 percent would strongly suggest that she is a fraud.

Ok. Who do I write to....

2043 Thud

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A pro-Palin woman on a discussion panel on TV this morning insisted that Sarah Palin is still enormously popular - after all, she was at a rally in Florida the other day, and 60,000 people showed up to see her.

The evidence offered does not support the conclusion.

You can bet your last dollar that if Sarah Palin showed up anywhere around here, I'd show up, too! It might be more fun than a demolition derby. I might even cheer at something she said, just to encourage her to say more like it.

Everybody loves a good safe wreck.

2042 Adversarial v. Inquisitorial

Sunday, September 28, 2008

About three years ago I wrote an entry about what bothers me about American court procedures, as contrasted with the French system. While looking for samples of the LSAT, I found the following essay in a section on reading comprehension. It nicely describes the differences between the adversarial system (as used in the US) and the inquisitorial (similar to what is used in France). After reading this, which do you prefer? My conclusion, back in that early entry, was "If I were innocent, I'd want a French court. If I were guilty, I'd want an American court and a rich uncle. That doesn't sound nice at all."

There are two major systems of criminal procedure in the modern world--the adversarial and the inquisitorial. The former is associated with common law tradition and the latter with civil law tradition. Both systems were historically preceded by the system of private vengeance in which the victim of a crime fashioned his own remedy and administered it privately, either personally or through an agent. The vengeance system was a system of self-help, the essence of which was captured in the slogan "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." The modern adversarial system is only one historical step removed from the private vengeance system and still retains some of its characteristic features. Thus, for example, even though the right to institute criminal action has now been extended to all members of society and even though the police department has taken over the pretrial investigative functions on behalf of the prosecution, the adversarial system still leaves the defendant to conduct his own pretrial investigation. The trial is still viewed as a duel between two adversaries, refereed by a judge who, at the beginning of the trial has no knowledge of the investigative background of the case. In the final analysis the adversarial system of criminal procedure symbolizes and regularizes the punitive combat.

By contrast, the inquisitorial system begins historically where the adversarial system stopped its development. It is two historical steps removed from the system of private vengeance. Therefore, from the standpoint of legal anthropology, it is historically superior to the adversarial system. Under the inquisitorial system the public investigator has the duty to investigate not just on behalf of the prosecutor but also on behalf of the defendant. Additionally, the public prosecutor has the duty to present to the court not only evidence that may lead to the conviction of the defendant but also evidence that may lead to his exoneration. This system mandates that both parties permit full pretrial discovery of the evidence in their possession. Finally, in an effort to make the trial less like a duel between two adversaries, the inquisitorial system mandates that the judge take an active part in the conduct of the trial, with a role that is both directive and protective.