Looking for signs

People look for patterns everywhere, trying to find reasons why things happen. And of course, they’ve been looking for patterns to predict the outcome of the election.
Good news — since the 1930s, every time the Redskins lose their home game before an election, the incumbent loses the election. And today, the Redskins lost to the Packers, 28-14.
Of course, the annoying thing about patterns is that they are often thwarted, leading to stories of the “first time since…” variety…

TechnoBlah, Electrawoman!

It’s 2004 — nearing 2005 — and I am more and more disappointed in our technological advancements. Shouldn’t we all be flying to work in little Jetsons cars by now? Where’s the transporter we were promised?
I’m sitting here acting as a clearinghouse of information for my friend Jon, who is running in today’s Marine Corps Marathon. I’ve got all sorts of windows open with maps and times, as well as a handmade list Jon made, listing his estimated times and locations. So far, he’s been right on target, while the magical tracking system from the marathon is way off. For a long time, it indicated that he was at mile -55; now it seems to have the mile location correct, but the dot on the map is 4 or 5 miles behind. So much for technology.
And then there are mobile phones. Back when I graduated from high school, cell phones came in big heavy packs, with a corded handset. Remember how they, strangely, had a special kind of doohickey that the handset latched to?
Now, cell phones come in tiny little packages, and have such unintuitive features as cameras (who in the world decided that the telephone needed to be combined with the camera?). Yet, the phones work so much less often than they used to.
Because of the distance between us, B and I conduct large parts of our relationship via cell phone. He’s on Cingular, I’m on AT&T — the same network these days. But everytime we talk, one of us loses signal or drops the call. The sound quality is cruddy. And we don’t have the cheapest phones out there, either.
I think that the major problem with technology these days is the market-driven way it’s developed. Cell phone companies aren’t interested in better quality, they want quantity. More calls shoved into the limited bandwidth. ‘Cos you can’t make money with quality. Just turn on the television and you’ll realize that.
The last really big technological undertaking by nations was, I think, the Concorde. Talk about futuristic — a supersonic passenger jet? Cool! Of course, it was incredibly expensive, so much so that it was never profitable and finally, the jet was taken out of service — the tragic crash was just one more excuse. (Lots of 707s have crashed, yet they’re still flying.)
How long until the International Space Station is abandoned, a grand idea that became so pared down and pointless that it’s just a useless tube hanging in space? Where’s the giant rotating wheel with a Hilton on it?
And one last thing: where’s my huge 3D television that I can hang on the wall? Yeah, yeah — I could buy a plasma set, 20 years after they were predicted to arrive, but it’s still plain old 2D. Turner Classic Movies is airing “Creature from the Black Lagoon” right now, and their listing says “Originally in 3-D.” What was the point of that little remark? How does that impact our viewing of the film? I guess they hope the audience will watch and think, “wow… this would be so much better on a 3D television.”

At all costs

Today’s Washington Post takes a look at the unprecedented level of dirty tricks plaguing this year’s election:

Registered voters who have been somehow unregistered. Democrats who suddenly find they’ve been re-registered as Republicans. A flier announcing that Election Day has been extended through Wednesday.

… Students at Florida State and Florida A&M universities, some of whom signed petitions to legalize medical marijuana or impose stiffer penalties for child molesters, unknowingly had their party registration switched to Republican and their addresses changed.

… Local papers have traced some of the problems to a group hired by the Florida Republican Party, which has denounced the shenanigans. Switching voters’ party affiliations does not affect their ability to vote, but changing addresses does, because when voters shows up at their proper polling places, they will not be registered there.

The college scam has also made an appearance in Pennsylvania, along with a separate scam last week in Allegheny County, where election officials received a flurry of phone calls about fliers handed out at a Pittsburgh area mall and mailed to an unknown number of homes. The flier, distributed on bogus but official-looking stationery with a county letterhead, told voters that “due to immense voter turnout expected on Tuesday,” the election had been extended. Republicans should vote Tuesday, Nov. 2, it said — and Democrats on Wednesday. A criminal investigation has been launched.

Authorities in several states also are investigating claims, by former employees of groups paid by both the Republican Party and Democratic-leaning interest groups, that they destroyed or did not turn in new registrations by voters of the opposite party.

In Wisconsin, a flier is circulating in Milwaukee’s black neighborhoods that purports to be from the “Milwaukee Black Voters League.” “If you’ve already voted in any election this year, you can’t vote in the presidential election,” the flier reads. “If you violate any of these laws, you can get ten years in prison and your children will get taken away from you.”

… Meanwhile, in Lake County, Ohio, some voters received a memo on bogus Board of Elections letterhead informing voters who registered through Democratic and NACCP drives that they could not vote. Election officials referred the matter to the sheriff.

… In South Carolina, Charleston County election officials warned voters Friday to ignore a fake letter that purports to be from the NAACP. The letter threatens voters who have outstanding parking tickets or have failed to pay child support with arrest.

New stuff

Well, here’s the new look — hopefully it renders decently on everyone’s computer, but I did made a decision about what I would and wouldn’t do. Frankly, it’s my website and if I want to design it to look good on a wide Mac monitor with Safari… well, dammit, I will. I mean, I didn’t set out to make it difficult for Windows users, but I figure it’s not my responsibility to be compatible, you know?
Anyway, I’m sure that a few people will complain about it no matter what.
There are a lot of things broken right now, so don’t get your knickers in the twisted position; it’ll take me a while to fix everything, especially since Expression Engine is far more complicated than I realized.

Can you hear me now?

Just a heads up — I’m switching the blog over to new software, so things will be a little messy and disrupted here for the next day or two (or three, depending on how much time I have to deal with it)…

A plague of cuteness

As I write this, I’m looking out of my office window to see literally thousands — if not millions — of ladybugs flying, swirling all around our office building. They’re whizzing by, sometimes stopping to crawl around on my windows, in some weird swarm.
Why is this happening today? Where did all these ladybugs come from?
Like my co-worker Jennie says, it’s better than cicadas.

Two-dimensional editing

There’s an article on the Science Daily website entitled “Discovery of Two-Dimensional Fabric Denotes Dawn Of New Materials Era”.
The only problem is, the fabric is not two-dimensional, and a science site should know better.

Researchers at The University of Manchester and Chernogolovka, Russia have discovered the world’s first single-atom-thick fabric, which reveals the existence of a new class of materials and may lead to computers made from a single molecule. The research is to be published in Science on 22 October.

Right there in the first sentence, they blow the headline to bits: anything that has a thickness — whether it’s one atom or billions — is not two-dimensional. A two-dimensional object would have width and height, but absolutely no depth.

Just being pedantic, that’s all.

Pardon our electrons

Soon — hopefully — I’ll be switching the blog over to new software, Expression Engine. Time for new templates! And also time to fix problems. I know that some people have had trouble with this latest look, especially with the left column (by the way, does it still mess up? I thought I fixed it a few weeks ago, but…).
Is there something about the site you don’t like? Something you love? Any comments or annoyances? Let me know before I start a new design!

Airbrushing

You know, quite often I find myself equating the Bush White House with the old Soviet Union — the constant secrecy, the intolerance of dissent… hell, Dubya never speaks in public, only in front of a carefully vetted audience that cheers every word. He never reads newspapers. He lives in a tiny little perfect world his handlers have created for him. Sounds like an old Soviet premier to me.
Anyway. Just as the Soviets did, the Bushies like to re-edit their own history and delete items that don’t reflect their current policies:

Is the White House scrubbing its Web site?

Helen Dewar and Brian Faler write in The Washington Post about the mystery of the disappearing Coalition of the Willing — and more.

“Blogger Brad Friedman, who noticed the disappearance, believes this is part of a widespread ‘scrubbing’ of documents on the government site. Gone are links to the audio and video of President Bush’s statement that ‘I’m not that concerned’ about Osama bin Laden, a Q&A when Bush said ‘misunderestimate’ and Bush’s acknowledgment that his decision making on stem cell policy was ‘unusually deliberative for my administration.’

“Jimmy Orr, who handles the content for the White House site, said nothing nefarious was intended. ‘We have some 80,000 pages and 3,000 video and audio links,’ he said. ‘When we republish pages and move files, some links are bound to go down, and there are bound to be dead pages.’ “

For the record, the March 2001 press conference where Bush first said “misunderestimate” is in fact on the site; the transcript just says “mis-understimate” instead. Using Google, I found another version of the coalition list on the Web servers, for those of you who are curious. And the July 2001 press conference where Bush spoke about his unusual deliberation is in fact also on line. But the other stuff is indeed missing.

Divorced from reality

On ABC’s “Good Morning America” today, Charlie Gibson asked President Bush if he feels his job is burdensome.

“I’m a sunny guy, so I don’t feel burdened at all,” Bush replied.

[Washington Post White House Briefing]

Strange… I wanna see MORE commercials now

Is it just me, or are those HP Digital Photography commercials the coolest commercials ever? Damn, I wish I could do stuff like that.

Let’s be petty

You know what? I’ve only ever deleted one post in the years I’ve been blogging, and that was because of a confidentiality agreement I signed. This time is different.
I posted some musings here about Bill Kamal based on a single encounter I had with him and the stories of some other people I know, and I decided I couldn’t defend what I had written or why.
It really made little sense, and certainly didn’t make a salient point — and when I tried to justify it to myself, I couldn’t. I had no good reason to post it and I now withdraw it.
Sorry. I’ll leave the newspaper quote here, since that is, at least, news.