November 14th, 2007


[politics] Impeachment as a blunted tool

A new poll reports that 64% of American voters say that President George W. Bush has abused his powers as president. 53% of them say the abuses rise to the level of impeachable offenses and Mr. Bush should be impeached and removed from office.

What occurs to me on reading this is that the 1998 impeachment of Bill Clinton on thoroughly hypocritical1 grounds has trivialized impeachment as a political instrument for at least a generation. While I don't believe the masterminds behind the Permanent Majority were so clever as to be aiming for that goal, they accidentally succeeded in shielding Bush and Cheney from any real possibility of impeachment, simply because of the endless fodder for accusations of political theater and tit-for-tat grandstanding.2

This trivialization of impeachment only foreshadows the current administration's trivialization of the Constitution, as well as American economic, diplomatic and military power. Lapel pin wearing Lee Greenwood patriots have blindly followed George W. Bush into the hell of growing American irrelevance as he works out his daddy issues on the international stage. Irony having died sometime during the Clinton administration3, the confluence follow-the-flag patriotism and the shredding of American values goes remarked only by marginalized liberals and unheeded foreign observers.

The presidency was never intended to be occupational therapy. Too bad Gingrich's geniuses tore up the public's pink slip option.

1. Unless you believe that no Republican politician has ever lied about sex while under oath.
2. Google the phrase "malkin impeachment theater" for an example. I won't dignify that woman with a link from my blog.
3. Collapse )

[links] Link salad, hump day edition

Bannerman's Island — Strange history and haunting photography. (Hat tip to Velcro City Tourist Board.)

Assassination Jokes, Anthrax Spores, and Russian Mobsters

bloggasm on how The God Delusion has mainstreamed atheism

Smart Phone Suggests Things to Do — Why do I want HAL in my handset?

Earthrise images via HDTV — Stunning. Courtesy of the Japanese space program and their Kaguya probe.

Red Meat on science fiction — :: die laughing ::

Why curvaceous women are more intelligent — WTF?

Paying for kidneys

[child] The true nature of magic

This past weekend the_child wanted to rent and watch Twitches imdb ]. As always, I watched it with her the first time through.

She likes to mess around with DVD extras. If there's a "making of" disc, she'll often watch that first, and spend more time with that than the actual movie. DVDs are a highly immersive experience for this kid.

The Twitches release we rented has one of those little DVD games you sometimes find. It supposedly tells your fortune, by making you select a secret number, asking you some leading questions, then identifying the secret number you picked and giving you a prediction associated with that number.

the_child was quite astonished her first time through this, and demanded to know how they did that. She was amazed by the magic trick the DVD had pulled on her.

We went through it carefully together, and I helped her analyze it. Here's the algorithm involved:

  • Pick a number between 1 and 55

  • If it's a two digit number, add the digits together

  • If it's a one digit number, simply use the number itself

  • Subtract your second, calculated value from the original number

The solution set falls within the series {0,9,18,27,36,45}. ie, a zero or a multiple of nine. I don't know the name of this function, but it's kind of cute. The leading questions were nothing but smokescreens ("What flavor of ice cream do you like best?") to obscure the math going on in the fortune telling process.

When the game reached its culmination, it presented a screen of numbers from 0 to 55, with a mix of symbols. The solution set always has the same symbol next to each member of the set. All the other symbols are there, again, as a smokescreen. It told her to note the symbol next to her number, then presented it on a following screen along with a generic prediction ("You will soon meet a person with a dog," that sort of thing).

Once the_child understood that this was how the DVD "knew" what number she'd guessed, she was disappointed. "I thought it was real magic," she told me.

I explained that everything that looks like magic has an explanation, and the "real magic" is in knowing how the trick was done. She decided this was pretty cool, after all.

I do believe I'm raising a thoughtful skeptic.
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[process] Nothing like a copy edit to make you feel stupid

This here is a pretty good copy edit. I can tell because it makes me feel dumb. As in, "I wrote that? And said this!?" More to the point, many booboos have been caught.

I have once more been reminded that I am apparently congenitally unable to properly manage the [that|which] distinction. Likewise [further|farther]. I also apparently spent 700 pages in love with the word "tiny". "Paging Dr. Freud to the women's wear department, a slip is showing." Not to mention the usual tyops around omitted words, stray determiners and conjunctions, strange geographical transpositions and whatnot.

Good thing I'm not a confectionist prefecturist perfectionist! Back to the page mines.