Saturday, November 12, 2005

Pat Robertson's Snidely Whiplash Moment

As if to confirm that Intelligent Design is Creationism in Compassionate Conservative clothing, Pat Robertson says Dover, PA may have turned God against them by voting out the ID school board slate.

I can just picture him twirling his (metaphorical) moustache and whining, "Curses! Foiled again!"

Friday, November 11, 2005

Printing Photographs

I get a Digital Photography newsletter from Imaging Resource every month (which I skim, I'm not really deep into it). This month they have a thoughtful article about printing photos at home, at a retailer, or viewing them on a monitor. I especially liked this paragraph:
Third, who actually looks at all these prints? ... All these years of looking through double Jumbo prints we were just being polite. Were we in the picture? No? OK, flip. Flip, flip, flip...
One of these days I'll get a scanner and scan all the great images I remember taking .... that is, until I actually look at them and ask why I thought they were so great ...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A New Congress in 2006?

In the middle of a Wall Street Journal analysis (look for the paragraph that starts "Republicans have lost the upper hand") of this week's election results is this nugget:
For the first time since the Republican congressional landslide [in 1994], a majority of respondents say it's time to replace their member of Congress.
This has always been the problem with polling on whether the electorate wants a Republican or Democrat controlled Congress: Most congressional seats are considered "safe" because of gerrymandering, and people would gladly vote out the congress-critters in every other district but their own.

If the WSJ/NBC poll is to be believed, there may be a trend away from this condition, which is encouraging for the prospects of regaining Democratic control of Congress.

Maybe there's hope for those articles of impeachment, after all.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Googling Song Titles

Google is a wonderful thing, is it not?

I have been transcribing music from cassette tapes to digital lately. I transcribed a tape of a Pete Seeger concert that I had the priviledge of mixing in 1981, and tonight I've been cutting into tracks a transcription of a recording of a WPKN (Boston) folk music broadcast from 1986.

The recording has the announcer's breaks, so years ago I was able to put the artist's names, song titles, and album names on the cassette box insert. Tonight I found out how far off I was on some of the names. There were little spelling differences - Waggoner instead of Wagonar, Rodden instead of Rawdon.

The funniest mistake, though, was the artist or band name that I had as "Give Me Spirits" for a song from The Original Tap Dancing Kid album. Hey, I just didn't know, and that's what it sounded like. Googling the album title got me the singer's name - Jimmie Spheeris. I NEVER would have guessed that!

Bush Approval Graph

Time to bump it up again.

From Professor Pollkatz's Pool of Polls

First posted 9/06/05.
Copied up 10/18/05 because I'm still liking it.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Universal Healthcare

In the presidential debate last night, Matt Santos made the claim that Medicare administrative costs are only 2 percent of program costs. I was skeptical but it was not hard to find a citation of the same statistic. Here's what the Medicare Rights Center has to say about it:
Private plans typically have administrative costs eight to ten times that of Original Medicare. Whereas Medicare uses less than 2 percent of funds for administrative costs, Medicare private plans, on average, use 15 percent of funds for administrative costs
Private plans cost more because they employ large bureaucracies with the sole purpose of getting someone else to pay.

What to do? Paul Krugman gives us a model to follow:
Taiwan, which moved 10 years ago from a U.S.-style system to a Canadian-style single-payer system, offers an object lesson in the economic advantages of universal coverage. In 1995 less than 60 percent of Taiwan's residents had health insurance; by 2001 the number was 97 percent. Yet according to a careful study published in Health Affairs two years ago, this huge expansion in coverage came virtually free: it led to little if any increase in overall health care spending beyond normal growth due to rising population and incomes.
Damn you, Harry and Louise!

"We Don't Torture"

Larry Johnson at TPM Cafe presents a good argument against torture. Put simply, torture does not gain useful information and makes enemies, if the torture stops short of murder.

Bob Cesca over at Huffington Post looks at it from another angle, and comments on Bush's latest lie:
"We do not torture," the president said Monday in Panama City.

He's either outright lying or the administration has a very different definition of torture than the rest of the world. I would argue that it's both.
But Cheney's demand to carve an exception for the CIA out of the torture ban that has so far passed the Senate would essentially approve torture for any US agent. I mean, how hard can it be to get one CIA agent to within spitting distance of your torture chamber? Or to get your victim to the agent?

We have to assume they're everywhere anyway, and they'll just carry around little tin CIA badges to hand out to whoever needs to break somebody's head.

Miserable Failure

Our president is a miserable failure.

Just doing my part in the googlebomb thing.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Owl, or maybe a Hawk

Had an unusual visitor today in our neighbor's tree. The tree is a great old maple that lost its central trunk from about 25 feet up, but the surrounding branches fill out and up to about 50 feet or more.

We've had gusty wind all day, up to 60 mph they say, so I went out to see if any branches were down. I looked up into the maple, and the thought crosses my mind, "Did someone put a fake owl up there? How did they get it up there .. oh, wait, it's a real owl."

It was a classic brown owl in the classic owl perch position. I couldn't tell you the species, but it was about 14 inches tall or more. Its little head kept scanning back and forth, for lunch, I suppose.

I find this unusual because I live in the middle of the city. Sure we're called the "Forest City" sometimes, but still, I had never seen an owl in the city, except that old guy in the Boston Museum of Science, and that doesn't count, and he's gone now anyway.

So it was kind of neat. Unfortunately the branch he was on can't be seen from the house and it started raining, so all I got was the one look. I'll have to keep checking back to see if he takes up residency. Maybe he can help with the pigeons.

Update: I now think it may have been a hawk, perhaps a rough-legged hawk down from the north for the winter.