Friday, November 30, 2007

How Do I Love Google?

Let me count the ways.

And I love iGoogle too.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Would You Like My Resignation With That?

Julie MacDonald was a deputy assistant secretary at the the U.S. Interior Department, and like so many of President Bush's appointees she was inclined to tell scientists their business. According to the New York Times, MacDonald browbeat agency biologists or overruled them to favor industry, but don't take their word for it. MacDonald resigned in disgrace in May after an internal review found that she violated federal rules by giving government documents to industry lobbyists. Now, her boss, H. Dale Hall who is director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has brought forth eight of MacDonald's decisions up for review and stated they will likely be overturned.

MacDonald joins other Bush appointees like 23 year old George C. Deutsch, a college dropout who was made a public affairs officer at NASA after working on Bush's re-election campaign. Deutch directed agency workers to limit reports' access to a top climate scientist because of his statements on global warming, and he told a web designer to add the word "theory" after every mention of the Big Bang.

And then there was Philip Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist who was appointed chief of staff of the Council on Environmental quality. When Cooney testified before Congress he said, "My sole loyalty was to the president and advancing the policies of his administration."

It's disgraceful that this administration's appointees can't have any loyalty to their civic duty or to good science.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Waterboarding, A Crime Previously Prosecuted By the US

There's been so much debate lately about whether waterboarding is torture, I'm surprised it took until this month for journalists to dig around and find the the US prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American prisoners of war during WWII. From the article in The Washington Post:

The United States knows quite a bit about waterboarding. The U.S. government -- whether acting alone before domestic courts, commissions and courts-martial or as part of the world community -- has not only condemned the use of water torture but has severely punished those who applied it.

After World War II, we convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied prisoners of war. At the trial of his captors, then-Lt. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the 1942 Army Air Forces officers who flew in the Doolittle Raid and was captured by the Japanese, testified: "I was given several types of torture. . . . I was given what they call the water cure." He was asked what he felt when the Japanese soldiers poured the water. "Well, I felt more or less like I was drowning," he replied, "just gasping between life and death."

Nielsen's experience was not unique. Nor was the prosecution of his captors. After Japan surrendered, the United States organized and participated in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, generally called the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Leading members of Japan's military and government elite were charged, among their many other crimes, with torturing Allied military personnel and civilians. The principal proof upon which their torture convictions were based was conduct that we would now call waterboarding....

...a number of Japanese prison-camp officers and guards were convicted of torture that clearly violated the laws of war. They were not the only defendants convicted in such cases. As far back as the U.S. occupation of the Philippines after the 1898 Spanish-American War, U.S. soldiers were court-martialed for using the "water cure" to question Filipino guerrillas.

More recently, waterboarding cases have appeared in U.S. district courts. One was a civil action brought by several Filipinos seeking damages against the estate of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos. The plaintiffs claimed they had been subjected to torture, including water torture. The court awarded $766 million in damages, noting in its findings that "the plaintiffs experienced human rights violations including, but not limited to . . . the water cure, where a cloth was placed over the detainee's mouth and nose, and water producing a drowning sensation."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On Writing Tips

I was just reading some tips on writing (I just can't help but look because I hate myself for not writing more) and, as usual, wondering if these would work. I feel like a chronic dieter.

One of the tips was to always write at the same time of day for the same amount of time, but that's been challenging for me for a couple of reasons: having two small children and two small dogs and two parents living with me usually adds up to frequent distractions plus my work schedule often leads to crunch times when I can't go to the bathroom because of fires that need putting out. Still, I try. Outlook reminds me everyday at the appointed hour. I've been moving that hour around for months trying to find the most productive time, which I think is in the morning.

Another tip I read and have read often is to write crap and not be afraid of it. Well, I guess that's what this blog was for, but I still feel awfully guilty writing junk. I ought to have more going on inside my skull than aimless thoughts, but on too many days when the appointed hour arrives I look inside there and that's all I see. Maybe I'm just too mediocre, too lame, too uncreative to be a writer. Eh, I doubt that's going to stop me.

I think I've got another story due at the end of the week. Eric's prompt was "It's alive!" and I've been mulling over it for about a week. I've got a decent kernel of an idea and now I need to wrap a plot around it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

But Warren Buffet Likes the Estate Tax

The Right loves rich people. Maybe that began with the Puritans and Calvin's belief that God showered wealth upon his chosen elect as a sign of His favor. The Right especially love super rich people like Warren Buffet, a man who for decades has remained one of the wealthiest men in the world. Sites like Newsmax hawk his books on investing more than the Bible. So, when Warren Buffet testified before Congress in favor of the estate tax, the Right couldn't Swift Boat him; they just took snarky shots while the subtext sneered, "Why can't he stop being a do-gooder and embrace being privileged like the rest of us chosen people?"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Busy Day

  • Got Hazel on the bus.

  • Got Gabe in the car and went to Hannaford Supermarket in Northwood, where I loaded the food for the Nottingham Food Pantry (This is something that either Amanda or I have been doing every Thursday for the past couple of months. It's a nicely run program and it's stunning to see what supermarkets would otherwise discard in a dumpster. There's a horrifying amount of waste that occurs each day in America yet people go hungry. I'll fill you in on this later).

  • Dropped Gabe off at pre-school.

  • Delivered the food to the Food Pantry.

  • Got home and wrote some code.

  • Picked Hazel up at school and brought her to the dentist in Portsmouth

  • Brought Hazel back home and went to get my hair cut in Barrington (It really needed it).

  • Got home and wrote more code.

  • Brought Hazel for her flu shot in Exeter.

  • Went from the dentist to pick up Gabe and realized when I got there that I'd moved the other carseat out to make room for the Food Pantry goods.

  • Brought Hazel home.

  • Picked up Gabe.

  • Brought Hazel to Karate in Barrington and filled the tank on the car.

  • Finished writing my code.

Everything got done, so it was a good day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FPS Time Again

Yes, the holidays are nearly upon us bringing Christmas music to stores weeks before Thanksgiving, dancing animatronic Santas and lots of new game titles. Crysis and Assassin's Creed are out and getting great reviews.

In other shoot-em-up news, I've been enjoying the later chapters of the HL2 single player mod MINERVA. Adam Foster makes some nice maps.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Pat Roberson Endorses Giuliani

I know that I'm very late in commenting on this, but I was unplugged for the past several days and it takes time to wrap your head around events this hypocritical. Pat Robertson has endorsed the candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, even though Giuliani is pro-choice and pro-gay rights and Robertson has called for revolution over legalized abortion in America (though Robertson defends forced abortions in China, saying "So, I think that right now, they're doing what they have to do. I don't agree with forced abortion, but I don't think the United States needs to interfere with what they're doing internally in this regard.") and stated that support for gay rights "will bring about the destruction of your nation. It'll bring about terrorist bombs, it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor."

Also, remember those infamous comments of Jerry Falwell's following 9/11 in which he blamed the attacks as God's retribution for abortion and gay rights, among others? Few commentators has mentioned that Pat Robertson was not only Falwell's partner in that conversation but wholeheartedly agreed with him.

So, when Pat Robertson says he has endorsed Giuliani because he believes Giuliani will defend America from "the blood lust of Islamic terrorists," doesn't he believe that Giuliani's views are partly responsible for that blood lust?

Maybe that's asking for too much rational thought from Mr. Robertson.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I mean the metaphorical kind, the type you fear to tread upon when in contact with certain people. Usually these explosives hide under the ground of specific topics, like a relationship that ended badly or one that never began. But then there are those individuals under whom the entire landscape lies carpeted with ordinance. You might talk about sports or movies or what's on the radio and suddenly your ears ring with the resulting BOOM.

So, what to do about those who live in the middle of a field of landmines? Don't go near them unless you have to.