Friday, February 29, 2008

Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of A New Day

And as you cross the wilderness, spinning in your emptiness:
You feel you have to pray.
Looking for a sign
That the universal mind (!) has written you into the passion play.

POTUS ought to invade America

Via miaculpa:

More than one in 100 adults Americans is in jail or prison, an all-time high that is costing state governments nearly $50 billion a year, in addition to more than $5 billion spent by the federal government, according to a report released today.

With more than 2.3 million people behind bars at the start of 2008, the United States leads the world in both the number and the percentage of residents it incarcerates, leaving even far more populous China a distant second, noted the report by the nonpartisan Pew Center on the States.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sic Semper Tyrannis

...rule by fist, fiat, fear, and fury is destined to fail.
-Howard Gardner, Five Minds for the Future.

I find the alliteration pleasant, and we can all hope that the idea is true.
I omitted the first three words of the sentence, "In the long run," which I think are unnecessary.

PS: I might as well write about Howard Gardner's book here. Howard Gardner is probably best known for his theory of multiple intelligences which stands in opposition to the psychometric theory of a single factor g, revealed by IQ tests, that underlies all (human) intelligence. "Five Minds for the Future" I chanced across in the new books section of the library, and since it is a slim volume, and since it somehow connected in my mind with one of Bee's lines of thought, I picked it up. If we have a chance at solving the problems of the future, surely it will be by cultivating the minds of the future.

The five minds are the disciplined mind (master of a discipline), the synthesizing mind (that can draw together different disciplines), the creating mind (I don't need to describe that, do I?), the respectful mind (a mind that culturally aware and able to work with diverse people), and the ethical mind (no description needed, either). Gardner could have made myriads of choices in this synthesis, but argues well about these five as being central.

Gardner describes the characteristics of these minds, and why they are important, and also how we might cultivate them. It is in the last part the book is at its weakest, because the truth is that we simply do not know how to cultivate these qualities. E.g., to train Olympic athletes, we know what precisely needs to be done physically. Of course we do not know how to create the mentality of a champion. For our future minds, the situation is rather vague, all we can do is akin to - prepare good soil, sow good seeds, water them, and then pray! When even how to teach elementary mathematics remains in dispute, then can we expect any better in this much more difficult enterprise? Our ignorance is profound. We await a Newton of the teaching profession to give us a beginning. What one such has to accomplish is outlined in this book.

Friday, February 22, 2008

From Bee's Gallery

From Bee's Gallery: Nothing Else Matters

It resonates strongly with me. The tone of this week.

PS: you may have to go backwards and forwards in the slideshow on that page to see the drawing.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Lifeblood of a Civilization

Here. E.W. Dijkstra

In the Western world, 66 institutions have enjoyed a continuously visible identity since 1530. Among those 66 are the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church and the Parliaments of Iceland and the Isle of Man. What makes these 66 so interesting ... is that the remaining 62 are all universities!

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The How-To of Successful Propaganda

How Does Right-Wing Media Craft Its Message? - Wollman, Fuller and tristero

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Memories of Summer

Friday, February 15, 2008

Another Solar System is discovered!

The result and the method of achieving the result are the most exciting news of the day.


Astronomers said Wednesday that they had found a miniature version of our own solar system 5,000 light-years across the galaxy — the first planetary system that really looks like our own, with outer giant planets and room for smaller inner planets......In the newly discovered system, a planet about two-thirds of the mass of Jupiter and another about 90 percent of the mass of Saturn are orbiting a reddish star at about half the distances that Jupiter and Saturn circle our own Sun. The star is about half the mass of the Sun.


Since 1995, around 250 planets outside the solar system, or exoplanets, have been discovered. But few of them are in systems that even faintly resemble our own. In many cases, giant Jupiter-like planets are whizzing around in orbits smaller than that of Mercury. But are these typical of the universe?

Almost all of those planets were discovered by the so-called wobble method, in which astronomers measure the gravitational tug of planets on their parent star as they whir around it. This technique is most sensitive to massive planets close to their stars.

The new discovery was made by a different technique that favors planets more distant from their star. It is based on a trick of Einsteinian gravity called microlensing. If, in the ceaseless shifting of the stars, two of them should become almost perfectly aligned with Earth, the gravity of the nearer star can bend and magnify the light from the more distant one, causing it to get much brighter for a few days.

If the alignment is perfect, any big planets attending the nearer star will get into the act, adding their own little boosts to the more distant starlight.

That is exactly what started happening on March 28, 2006, when a star 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Scorpius began to pass in front of one 21,000 light-years more distant, causing it to flash. That was picked up by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or Ogle, a worldwide collaboration of observers who keep watch for such events.

Ogle in turn immediately issued a worldwide call for continuous observations of what is now officially known as OGLE-2006-BLG-109. The next 10 days, as Andrew P. Gould, a professor of mathematical and physical sciences at Ohio State said, were “extremely frenetic.”

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day

On a normal day, a dozen roses, such as those here, are $9.99 a dozen. On Valentine's Day morning, the same are $34.99! What a gift of such roses means may be reconsidered.

Me, I prefer growing my own roses, though they are season-bound, pricklier, less picture perfect, but infinitely more fragrant and alive and fun.


To keep Wolfgang happy:


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Note: looks correct on my Macintosh, but not on a Compaq nc6230, where the shadows are wrong.

Roses 1

Roses 2

Dijkstra on the Buxton Index


A very useful measure is —called after its inventor— the "Buxton Index". John N. Buxton discovered that the most important one-dimensional scale along which persons are institutions to be compared, can be placed is the length of the period of time in the future for which a person or institution plans. This period, measured in years, gives the Buxton Index. For the little shopkeeper around the corner the Buxton Index is three-quarter, for a true Christian it is infinite, we marry with one near fifty, most larger companies have one of about five, most scientist have one between two and ten. (For a scientist it is hard to have a larger one: the future then becomes so hazy, that effective planning becomes an illusion.)

The great significance of the Buxton Index is not its depth, but its objectivity. The point is that when people with drastically different Buxton Indices have to cooperate while unaware of the concept of the Buxton Index, they tend to make moral accusations against each other. The man with the shorter Buxton Index accuses the other of neglect of duty, the man with the larger one accuses the other of shortsightedness. The notion of the Buxton Index takes the moral flavour away and enables people to discuss such differences among themselves dispassionately. There is nothing wrong with having different Buxton Indices! It takes many people to make a world. There is clearly no moral value attached to either a long or a short Buxton Index. It is a useful concept for dispassionate discussion.

Hoping to have a dispassionate discussion based on this of variety of phenomenon.

On new physics at the LHC

Dorigo's summary of Mangano's paper.

Key point:
One should think of two phases for a discovery: establishing the deviation from the S[tandard] M[odel of particle physics], and understanding what this deviation corresponds to. It is crucial to maintain these two phases separate.

There are so many Beyond Standard Model [BSM] theories with so many adjustable parameters that any deviation that the Large Hadron Collider results might exhibit from the Standard Model will almost certainly fit into a BSM. Therefore the knowledge that a deviation fits a BSM carries no information on whether the deviation is real or an experimental artifact.

The Key to Happiness

CIP makes a profound point in a simple way - the key to happiness is to never live in a place with bad weather. :)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Two Americas

Glenn Greenwald:

Bestowing retroactive telecom amnesty is nothing more than the latest step in creating a two-class legal system in America, where most citizens suffer grave penalties if they break the law, while our most politically powerful and well-connected actors are free to do so with impunity.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The United States now elects a King, not a President

Copied in full:

Mark This Day

02.07.08 -- 1:24PM
By David Kurtz

Attorney General Michael Mukasey is back on the Hill today, testifying to the House Judiciary Committee. Paul Kiel is covering it at TPMmuckraker.

So far, he's dropped two big bombshells. DOJ will not be investigating:

(1) whether the waterboarding, now admitted to by the White House, was a crime; or

(2) whether the Administration's warrantless wiretapping was illegal.

His rationale? Both programs had been signed off on in advance as legal by the Justice Department.

Cynics may argue that those aren't bombshells at all, that the Bush Administration would never investigate itself in these matters. Perhaps so. But this is a case where cynicism is itself dangerous.

We have now the Attorney General of the United States telling Congress that it's not against the law for the President to violate the law if his own Department of Justice says it's not.

It is as brazen a defense of the unitary executive as anything put forward by the Administration in the last seven years, and it comes from an attorney general who was supposed to be not just a more professional, but a more moderate, version of Alberto Gonzales (Thanks to Democrats like Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer for caving on the Mukasey nomination.).

President Bush has now laid down his most aggressive challenge to the very constitutional authority of Congress. It is a naked assertion of executive power. The founders would have called it tyrannical. His cards are now all on the table. This is no bluff.

Late Update: TPM Reader RF:

David Kurtz's "Mark This Day" blurb misses the most important point -- it's not just that the Attorney General's position is that a DOJ Order makes the subject activity legal but that, as Nadler brought out, there is now no recourse to a judicial test, either criminal (through refusal to prosecute) or civil (through the state secrets privilege based solely on a DOJ affidavit). The DOJ is entitled to take whatever position it wants, however self-serving and unitary, but now there is no avenue for judicial review and so that is the end of the story. That is the important point here.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Gerbera - final

Gerbera - 3

I learn, but slowly.

Gerbera Daisy - Improved

Gerbera daisy - improved

Short story - much improved.
Long story - read the first comment.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Gerbera Daisies

Gerbera Daisies


1/8 sec at f/1.8 (camera on tripod)
85mm (Canon EF85mm f/1.8 USM)
ISO 100
No flash
Canon EOS 5D

My comments - I took two dozen variations with the 24-105mm and the 85 mm lenses, with dark and light backgrounds, without and with flash (direct and reflected). Somehow none of them capture the exact color and warmth of the flowers. This one is the closest out of the camera. Playing with all the sliders in Adobe Lightroom doesn't improve things. I'm wondering if maybe the precise color is outside the gamut of the computer LCD screen. More likely it is my novicehood. Perhaps I need to get a color card to be able to learn how to do precise color corrections.

Analysis of the Edwards campaign

Here is an excellent analysis of what went right and what went wrong with the John Edwards campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

I'm excerpting this one paragraph as an aside, because it goes to something I'm just beginning to grasp, namely, that the first word in "participatory democracy" is redundant; there is no democracy without active engagement by the majority of citizens. The infrastructure of democracy may linger on but will decay away if the citizens are passive. Apparently lots of wise people have not understood this yet.

You should be able to see immediately why John’s populism was anathema to the SCLM {So-Called Liberal Media}. They view voters as members of a passive audience, whereas populism assumes the grassroots are made up of citizens to whom public institutions, like government and the media, are ultimately answerable, and that when they are not, public activism is a vital answer.

How power is used

From a Rick Perlstein article on the Fox news network:
Like his account of the time he did an interview with David Brock for a critical article Brock did for New York magazine on Fox News. Roger Ailes was not happy. Our hero gets a call from his agent, one of the most powerful in TV news:

""Danny. Did yoo give an intavyoo to Noo Yawk magazine?... I already know the ansa. I got a phone call from Roger Ailes an owwa ago. He told me that until I drop you as a cloyent, any demo tapes I send ovah for talent jobs will sit in the cawwna and gatha dust."

Here was the interesting part: the article had not yet been published. So how did Roger Ailes learn about his participation? Explains Cooper:

I made the connections. Ailes knew I had given Brock the interview. Certainly Brock didn't tell him. Of course. Fox News had gotten Brock's telephone records from the phone company, and my phone number was on the list. Deep in the bowels of 1211 Avenue of the Americas, News Corporation's New York headquarters, was what Roger called The Brain Room. Most people thought it was simply the research department of Fox News. But unlike virtually everybody else, because I had to design and build the Brain Room, I knew it also housed a counterintelligence and black ops office. So accessing phone records was easy pie.