Posts Tagged ‘W’

Morning Madness

Posted: 2 November 2007 in Uncategorized
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Ever get pissed twice before you’ve really even opened your eyes? This is why I shouldn’t read my RSS feeds so early in the morning. At the top of the list is Bush equating Democrats who oppose the war (as if it could be called opposition, anyway) to those who ignored Hitler and Lenin and then Hillary firing back. Am I mad at Bush for making this analogy? No and I think he’s correct, but not in the way he thinks. I’m more angry at Hillary for firing back and not recognizing her own culpability. The Sheepocrats sat back and did nothing four years ago when this war began and passed the Patriot Act before that. They have endorsed the war at every stage since and even their current so-called opposition is luke-warm and putrid with its weasliness. So yeah, they are like people who ignored the rise of Hitler and Lenin. If she had recognized that and said it publicly, it would have done her credit.


Next up, I was reading a few bit twiddling hacks and came across a nice one for branchless absolute value [hat tip]. The hacks are all in the public domain, too, so that’s good. He does list the occasional variation that is patented, an enormously helpful fact if you’re producing commercial software. So here is the patented version of the branchless absolute value:

int v; // we want to find the absolute value of v
int r; // the result goes here
int const mask = v >> sizeof(int) * CHAR_BIT - 1;
r = (v ^ mask) - mask;

The last ^ (XOR) – (subtract) combination represents the patent. What works also?

r = (v + mask) ^ mask;

As Sean points out, though, the patent probably could be contested if the holder (none other than Sun Microsystems) ever tried to enforce it. So what ticked me off is that such a thing could be patented. I raise my hands in impotent fury at the ludicrousness of software patents. I don’t blame the inventors for them, it’s something you pretty much have to do these days. I blame the system that makes that true.


Did some benchmarks on the two versions of absolute value given above.  Using a 3.06GHz processor, I could run 4 billion absolute values in 18.916 +/- 0.021 seconds for the patented version and 18.906 +/- 0.026 seconds for the free version.  So no need to even bother with the patented version it looks like.

The problem with our two-party system is that it encourages uniformity. I am becoming more and more convinced that the only difference between the parties is their rhetoric. An observation that led me to vote Green in the last presidential election. When the Democrats took control of the House in the last election, there was much rejoicing with people celebrating as if the Endless Summer had come at last. There would be no more pain and war and suffering. Total crap. I was happy, but my expectation was failure and weakness and I have not been disappointed.

So now Congress looks to be extending the Bush administration’s wiretapping privileges. Way to stand up for the so-called mandate you were touting, Dems. You suck. From the NY Times:

As the debate over the eavesdropping powers of the National Security Agency begins anew this week, the emerging measures reflect the reality confronting the Democrats.

Although willing to oppose the White House on the Iraq war, they remain nervous that they will be called soft on terrorism if they insist on strict curbs on gathering intelligence.  (emphasis mine)

A Democratic bill to be proposed on Tuesday in the House would maintain for several years the type of broad, blanket authority for N.S.A. eavesdropping that the administration secured in August for six months.

In an acknowledgment of concerns over civil liberties, the bill would require a more active role by the special foreign intelligence court that oversees the interception of foreign-based communications by the security agency.

A competing proposal in the Senate, still being drafted, may be even closer in line with the administration plan, with the possibility of including retroactive immunity for telecommunications utilities that participated in the once-secret program to eavesdrop without court warrants.

Reminds me of those Hefty trash bag commercials: “wimpy wimpy wimpy.” I think that makes for a good analogy, because it’s time to take out the trash. With the exception of Dennis Kucinich, I am giving up on the Democratic party. Dennis is the last principled person there. The rest are Republicans in donkey’s clothing. From here on out, I’m voting straight Green (though actually this isn’t much of a change since I never had much faith in the Sheepocrats and voted Green when I could anyway).

The things Bush says are so awesome sometimes.  My new favorite quote is “Childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.” [source] At first the White House transcriptionists corrected the mistake, but then press secretary Dana Perino instructed them to include the mistake, saying that the integrity of the transcriptions is very important to her.  This is good.

Language Log brought this particular juicy quote to my attention and Mark Liberman has an interesting commentary on the nature of the grammatical mistake – one more common to children than adults.  He also has a clip you can listen to.  He goes on to say that Bush does pause after he says childrens but that there’s no indication he’s just made a planning mistake.  I’m not completely sure I agree here.  I don’t think he necessarily did, but it’s possible.  I’m curious whether he was reading from a teleprompter or piece of paper and misread it as children’s and then seeing the rest of the quote, paused because it didn’t parse at first and then plunged on ahead because he’s a public speaker and it’s better to just keep going than stop and visibly appear to be lost.

Anyhow, the interesting part of Liberman’s post is the reference to chilluns, which he attributes to some possibly fictional southern dialect.  It’s not fictional.  It’s called Gullah and it’s from around the Charleston area in South Carolina.  Interestingly, I have also heard some people use a similar form in the country around the midlands of South Carolina.  I’m not really sure how to transcribe it, but it’s sort of like chillren.  Unlike chilluns it’s usually not plural (at least not that I recall).  When I first heard it, I thought the speaker was joking and using covert nonsense speech, like many of the words my wife and I use together.   For example, Kek kek kek = Connecticut, Pennsyltucky = Pennsylvania (especially when referring to the more rural parts), and South Kakalakee = South Carolina.  (We didn’t make all those up, but they are parts of our private conversations.)

But you can actually find a lot of occurrences of chillren on Google, so it’s not all that uncommon.   It seems to appear in a lot of slave narratives (judging by the Google results), so it probably had its origins in the pre-Civil War era and has survived in some areas.

Well, I didn’t get a chance to listen to Edwards last night on MSNBC, since I apparently can’t work a TV anymore. I thought I was watching MSNBC, it was actually NBC and then after Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island made the Democratic response and there was no John Edwards, I realized my mistake. Thanks to the wonders of the giant tubes that make up the interwebs, I was able to watch his speech:

I was pretty happy about the speech, though it came off as disappointingly weak at the end. He made a convincing, fairly non-aggressive case against prolonging the war, arguing from simple practicality. It seems this approach could possibly be better at persuading conservatives and fence-sitters than saying that Bush and the military are terrorists (ala Rosie O’Donnell). And yes I know she didn’t actually say that. What was weak in Edwards’ speech was the whole “timeline” business. It annoys me whenever I hear it. It’s so open-ended. If by timeline, he means in three weeks, then I can live with that.

Another problem here is that while Edwards has come out on the side of peace, he still voted for the war: a serious failure in judgment. And I don’t even listen to Obama (aka Obomba) when he chastises other candidates for voting for the war. Based on his long history of voting to prolong W’s endless war, I have little doubt that Obama would have been right there with his “aye” raised high when called upon to vote to overthrow a sovereign nation whose leadership we installed.

It returns to the fact that there is only one choice: Dennis Kucinich. Electability is a term invented by the corporate-sponsored media. Real electability is what happens when you actually go out and vote with your mind and heart instead of voting because of what some plastic face on a TV screen tells you to do. Dennis Kucinich is the only one who has opposed this war at every turn, the only one who has a real plan to bring our troops home. Edwards was right when he said the only way to force a political solution between Shiites and Sunnis is for us to get out of there. Kucinich has been saying that all along. We should hold all of these democrats accountable and vote for the only one with the clarity of mind and morals to do what was right from the very beginning and elect Kucinich.

A few weeks ago, I talked about mountaintop removal mining and how it was raping West Virginia’s mountains.  Wired has posted a gallery including some pictures before and after.  And of course, now the government has recently announced regulations to allow more mountaintop removal mining and to allow it closer to streams.  So, luckily for West Virginia residents, they will be able to have more waste in their water, more flooding, and a state that is starting to resemble a wasteland.  At first I thought it odd that an administration that WV voted for twice would turn around and hurt its people, but then I figured W is thinking two things:  1) some of that  — whatchamacallit — nature is only good if ya’ll can strip it down and use it to make money, and 2) they didn’t vote for daddy back in ’88 and ’92.   If only they hadn’t voted for W in 2000, the election would’ve gone the other way.  I guess every choice has consequences.

Poor West Virginia. They have it really bad. Every county in that state has a sign saying “a certified business location”. I always wondered just what the bloody hell that was supposed to mean. They are outright begging people to put a business there. I was amazed to see the unemployment rate is really low, though, at 3.8% (low — by comparison to other states, that is). That’s down from around 7% in 1997. Also, they have a tough time with their public image. I think the rest of the country, when they even remember that this state exists, pretty much considers it to be full of poor, uneducated and inbred mountain-people [see this post re: how I feel about that sentiment]. While passing through WV once, my wife Donna heard this snippet on a radio station:

“WXXX. Giving you permission to bitchslap the next person who calls it Western Virginia.”

They have been doing mountaintop removal mining in WV for years.  This type of mining essentially destroys the top of a mountain in order to extract coal quickly and more cheaply.  The results are that tons of dirt get deposited in the valleys and harmful byproducts get into the water.  In Google Earth/Maps, sometimes it can be hard to tell what you’re looking at in the satellite imagery. If you look at West Virginia, where there should be mountaintops are barren wastelands. Images at, an activist group dedicated to ending mountaintop removal mining, seem to confirm that what we are seeing in Google Earth are indeed images of the aftermath of mountaintop removal mining.

To add insult to injury, the Bush Administration is about to issue new regulations to increase the amount of mountaintop removal mining. So more mountains will be raped clean, dumping tons of sediment and the byproducts of the mining process in the valleys. So West Virginia’s best natural resource (beauty) will be destroyed in exchange for its dirtiest (coal). Sure it will give West Virginians jobs, though not as many as conventional coal mining would. And of course, when the coal is gone, and it will be gone eventually, there will be no jobs left anyway. A better option, though not as profitable for big business, would be to offer free training to West Virginians so they can change industries. No solution is easy, but if the Bush administration gets their way, it will leave West Virginia in about the same state as Nauru.


Roasted coffee and German satellites

Posted: 21 August 2007 in Uncategorized
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Gmail features web clips over the menu bar that you can customize and often spew some sort of advertisement. One such is for the Coffee Fool. They make the claim that fresh coffee should be a sweet drink and that bitterness and flatness are a result of the roasting process. I’ve been very curious to try it out, but the price is anywhere from 50-200% more than Starbucks, which is already expensive enough. I might cave soon, though, as I have been given scientific justification to spend money (and frankly, the thinnest pretexts will do when it comes to spending money). So boffins have concluded that the bitterness is coffee is not due to caffeine as it had been supposed, but due to roasting. It seems the Coffee Fool knows what they’re talking about.

Battling Bitter Coffee: Chemists Identify Roasting As The Main Culprit

On an almost completely unrelated note, Germany will be deploying a satellite to go into orbit around the moon. The goal is to create a stereoscopic view of the moon and thereby produce 3-D images. It will also capture 3-D data of the moon’s magnetic field. All this is part of a drive to go back to the moon. With W‘s call for a manned moon mission by 2020, the world must surely be seeing a critical need to not allow the US to spread its hegemony there as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting the world thinks the US will be taking over the moon, per se, but that early influence will lead to American dominance of the birthright of all mankind (which is itself debatable, I know).

The moon is basically a giant nugget of gold protected in the deepest cave and guarded by a pack of crazy monkeys. It’s damn hard to get at, but whoever does will be rich. The moon is loaded with Helium-3, which — if fusion does become possible — will be the fuel. So there’s a bit of a chance here and potentially worth billions. Now we just need to get fusion working…

Mining the Moon: Not Just Pie in the Sky

Details on Germany’s Lunar Exploration Orbiter