Monday, September 26, 2005

What a president does after a hurricane

In September 1965, President Johnson visited New Orleans two days after Hurricane Betsy struck.

In the Ninth Ward, Johnson visited the George Washington Elementary School, on St. Claude Avenue, which was being used as a shelter. “Most of the people inside and outside of the building were Negro,” the diary reads. “At first, they did not believe that it was actually the President.” Johnson entered the crowded shelter in near-total darkness; there were only a couple of flashlights to lead the way.

“This is your President!” Johnson announced. “I’m here to help you!”

The diary describes the shelter as a “mass of human suffering,” with people calling out for help “in terribly emotional wails from voices of all ages...It was a most pitiful sight of human and material destruction.” According to an article by the historian Edward F. Haas, published fifteen years ago in the Gulf Coast Historical Review, Johnson was deeply moved as people approached and asked him for food and water; one woman asked Johnson for a boat so that she could look for her two sons, who had been lost in the flood.

“Little Mayor, this is horrible,” Johnson said to Schiro. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.” Johnson assured Schiro that the resources of the federal government were at his disposal and that “all red tape [will] be cut.”

The President flew back to Washington and the next day sent Schiro a sixteen-page telegram outlining plans for aid and the revival of New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This makes my head explode

Virtual plague spreading like wildfire in World of Warcraft
9/21/2005 4:47:00 PM, by Jeremy Reimer

Players of Blizzard's incredibly popular World of Warcraft are reporting the outbreak of a virtual plague that is spreading across major cities in the virtual land of Azeroth, infecting player characters at an alarming rate.

The trouble started when Blizzard programmers added a new instance, which is a separate area connected to the outside world that players can enter and attempt unique quests. One of these instances, Zul'Grub, contained the god of blood, Hakkar. Hakkar was a powerful foe that could cast spells of his own, including a spell called Corrupted Blood. This spell did a large amount of damage to any player within the vicinity of the casting, and the effects lingered on after the spell was over.

What happened next was something Blizzard did not expect. Some of the players who had gone into the instance emerged back into the main world of Azeroth, and started spreading the Corrupted Blood disease to others who they came into close contact with. The infection soon spread into many of the cities and towns in the virtual world. Since the disease was intended to be a danger to powerful players, it tended to kill those less than level 50 almost instantly.

Game masters (GMs) tried to quarantine certain players from moving into new areas, but they kept escaping the quarantine and moving on to infect other people. A patch was issued to try and mitigate the damage, but it did not have the desired effect. According to a Blizzard poster on the WoW forums:

"It appears that the hotfix remedy concocted to combat the recent Azerothian outbreak has not yielded desired results. At this time, our medical staff is continuing to develop an effective cure. We look forward to ensuring the health and vitality of the citizens of Azeroth in the near future."

The most interesting thing about this "outbreak" is perhaps the reaction it has provoked among WoW players. Instead of being angry about the deleterious effects of a bug, many are treating this as an exciting and unprecedented event in the WoW universe. It would be even more interesting if epidemiologists in the real world found that this event was worthy of studying as a kind of controlled experiment in disease propagation.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Karl Rove, stand up comedian

Found here:

Karl Rove, President Bush's top political advisor and deputy White House chief of staff, spoke at businessman Teddy Forstmann's annual off the record gathering in Aspen, Colorado this weekend. Here is what Rove had to say that the press wasn't allowed to report on.

On Katrina: The only mistake we made with Katrina was not overriding the local government...

On The Anti-War Movement: Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real anti-war movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally...

On Bush's Low Poll Numbers: We have not been good at explaining the success in Iraq. Polls go up and down and don't mean anything...

On Iraq: There has been a big difference in the region. Iraq will transform the Middle East...

On Judy Miller And Plamegate: Judy Miller is in jail for reasons I don't really understand...

On Joe Wilson: Joe Wilson and I attend the same church but Joe goes to the wacky mass...

In attendance at the conference, among others were: Harvey Weinstein, Brad Grey, Michael Eisner, Les Moonves, Tom Freston, Tom Friedman, Bob Novak, Barry Diller, Martha Stewart, Margaret Carlson, Alan Greenspan, Andrea Mitchell, Norman Pearlstein and Walter Isaacson.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Body work

While considering the case for Intelligent Design, I've recognized some major design issues of the human body which require immediate attention:

1) Absence of prehensile tail. The supposed Intelligent Designer gave other bipedal mammals prehensile tails, a useful extra appendage for holding things and hanging from tree branches, yet neglected to give humans the same. It can't have been a matter of the brain capacity for using a tail being needed for other things; monkeys with much tinier brains than humans manage to use their tails just fine. If humans were designed to be the pinnacle of creation and the dominant lifeform on Earth, why were monkeys designed with an advantage denied to humans? Evolutionists claim that primates lost their tails when the common ancestor we share with monkeys descended from living in trees. Since there was no selection pressure in favor of long prehensile tails for creatures living on the ground, shorter tails were not eliminated from the gene pool, and they eventually vanished altogether. Evolutionists call this a "use it or lose it" scenario. Clearly this sort of issue doesn't matter to an Intelligent Designer, so why don't we have the tails our furry friends enjoy?

2) Poor sense of smell. Our human sense of smell is pathetic compared to that of any dog. There's anecdotal evidence that the neural pathways for much more powerful scenting exist in the human brain, and can even be activated in special circumstances...but if so, our capacity to smell is still mostly dormant by default. Again, why do they get something we don't? The evolutionist claims this is another case of "use it or lose it" -- that when our ancestors acquired three-color vision, sight became more important to reproductive success than the ability to detect pheromones, so our once-impressive scent organs atrophied. In fact, a large portion of the brain seems to be identical to that of other mammals, including a number of features we never use. Is this because the Intelligent Designer had finished work on the mammalian brain first, and reused his work in creating man rather than making a new design from scratch?

3) Hazardous brain location. The evolutionist claims that our brains are on top of our heads for cooling; that we learned to walk upright so as to present a smaller area exposed to the rays of the sun, and therefore the brain needs to be as close to the surface as possible, rather than buried deeply where it can't radiate excess heat as easily. Advocates for the Intelligent Designer have to explain why he couldn't invent a more efficient air cooling system when human engineers design these all the time. Are humans smarter than the Intelligent Designer? Is that why our brains sit in a location where they're exposed to damage from things falling on top of the head, or an antelope femur swung at our craniums by a jealous rival? If the Intelligent Designer cared at all about our safety, surely the brain could sit inside the ribcage away from easy harm? The sense organs could still be on top, but why was the fragile brain put there as well?

4) Even more hazardous genital location. Same comments. Human male genitalia need to be al fresco because they function better with the added air cooling. Unfortunately, this also makes them extremely vulnerable to a knee in the groin. And while I'm doubled over in pain, the bastard hits me in the head with an antelope femur. I'm dead because the Intelligent Designer couldn't think of how to design a natural jockstrap built into the human body? Did he not care? Or does he actually want me dead?

5) The whole waste elimination thing. No, I'm serious here. That clenched muscular ring we call an anal sphincter is just pathetic in design terms, prone to damage and often working poorly at best. A truly intelligent Designer could have given us a setup with voluntary control, an orifice which could open and close when necessary. Since we haven't been provided with this, untold suffering and embarassment have been the result. Gaining even the slightest voluntary control over this muscle is an aspect of yoga training -- I'm not making that up -- and even then the results are slight. This part of the design seems to have no thought put into it whatsoever.

These are but a few examples. I'm afraid the evidence suggests a disturbing pattern. The so-called Intelligent Designer responsible for human beings was not as inventive or intelligent as a human engineer; he reused earlier designs without regard to their appropriateness to the task at hand; cut corners wherever possible; and generally increased hazards to the users of his design even when they could easily have been avoided. In light of this shoddy workmanship and slapdash attitude, I have no choice but to recommend that the Intelligent Designer needs to be fired immediately.
Thu, September 15, 2005 - 10:48 PM

Friday, September 09, 2005

Because someone asked

Here and here are the best description I've seen of what it's really like to write mainstream comic books.

It's a field with demands and methods as specific and unique as writing for Hollywood, but often considerably less pleasant for creative types. Not to mention much less renumerative. Please note, you do not need to have any interest in pervy millionaires who dress up as giant bats or science nerds who get bitten by radioactive spiders to find the above links informative and interesting. But if you are one of those people, you ought to read this.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Brain-sucking zombies

Back in the Thatcher era, British comedian Alexei Sayle had a joke that went something like this:

"Did you ever notice how people always hate whoever's in charge of the government, until the next one comes along and then the previous one starts looking good by comparison? Well, just how bad will the next Prime Minister have to be to make us miss Margaret Thatcher? 'Oo-er, I used to hate that Mrs. Thatcher...but ever since the brain-sucking zombies from Venus arrived and one of them became Prime Minister and it goes around sucking people's brains out of their heads, she doesn't seem so bad!'"

I mention this because just now I read a quote from Newt Gingrich:

"I think it puts into question all of the Homeland Security and Northern Command planning for the last four years, because if we can't respond faster than this to an event we saw coming across the Gulf for days, then why do we think we're prepared to respond to a nuclear or biological attack?"

So now I know the brain-sucking zombies from Venus must be in charge...because all of a sudden Newt seems sensible by comparison.

Unpopular thought for the day

This country spends about $1.3 billion on the war in Iraq every week.

There wasn't a vote as such on whether or not to invade Iraq; there wasn't a vote on whether or not we should let Osama bin Laden go free. This was something the American taxpayer was basically handed as a done deal...and even now that more than half the country will say it was a mistake to invade Iraq, we will likely still go on for several more years spending $1.3 billion every single week on that endeavor.

The President wants to make the suspension of the estate tax permanent. He wants to reduce federal spending and cut taxes still more. Except for that thing in Iraq, mind you, where no amount is too high...provided it doesn't go towards body armor, or adequate medical facilities for wounded troops. And then he asks Americans to donate to the Red Cross for hurricane relief.

I find that offensive. I'm sorry if anyone thinks that makes me a bad guy, but there it is.

If private charitable giving is the way to go, I say let the Pentagon get its military budget from charitable donations. If we need those funds for defense, let the Administration make its case to the American people and see if they'll voluntarily donate $1.3 billion every week to keep it going. But if you're going to collect tax money from the people, shouldn't the first priority be spending it on saving the lives of those same people?