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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Confessions of a computer geek

Last night I started a big upgrade project for the program that runs our office. I wrote the program a few years ago and spend at least a couple of hours a month tweaking it, making it better, and expanding it to meet new needs. Every time I go into the program I am reminded that like a child going off to college, the thing has a life of its own, of which I am no longer in control.

Read the Rest...

Friday, April 29, 2005

Plan for World Domination Progressing Quite Swimmingly, Thank You

The BBC is slowly learning the truth: that the Properly Misspelled Zomby Army of Zombyboy will soon take over the world.

Just so you know.

There has been a small outbreak of “zombism” in a small town near the border of Laos in North-Eastern Cambodia.

The culprit was discovered to be mosquitoes native to that region carrying a new strain of Malaria which thus far has a 100 percent mortality rate and kills victims in fewer than 2 days.

After death, this parasite is able to restart the heart of its victim for up to two hours after the initial demise of the person where the individual behaves in extremely violent ways from what is believed to be a combination of brain damage and a chemical released into blood during “resurrection.”

A sly hat tip to Jonah.

President Bush, Social Security, and Us

President Bush’s words on Social Security last night worked for me in the sense that I think he’s heading in the right direction. Of course, I don’t think he heads quite far enough, but it’s a good start.

The acknowledgement that the system needs to be means tested was surprising and gratifying, but didn’t go far enough. Social Security, outside of any private accounts that the government may or may not give us, is a welfare program, and it should be treated accordingly. Means testing for a welfare program should exclude anyone who is truly wealthy; there is a principle of fairness involved that makes me uncomfortable with this since even the wealthy have been asked to pay into a “retirement program.” The truth is, though, that the system needs to be modified to reflect the reality: there is no reserve of money to pay retirement benefits and any pay-go system is in reality a welfare program meant to save the least of us from impoverishment in old age.

The Donald Trumps of the world don’t need the monthly government handout that takes the form of a Social Security.

To move to that kind of a system, though, the government must provide private accounts--the portion of your taxes that you or you heirs are actually entitled to, that requires no means testing, and that funnels wealth from one generation to the next.

My biggest curiosity with the President’s proposal last night--short on specifics as speeches must be, it’s hard to consider it a full proposal--are about the numbers involved in keeping the promises that he makes. Everyone maintains at least their current level of benefits (although the indexing for increases is tied to inflation to slow the growth of payments) and the closer you get to the bottom of the economic food chain, the more of a bump you get in payouts. I’d like to see the numbers to back-up the plan.

Before you head over to Michelle Malkin’s site (the link is at the bottom of the post) to see how the left is misrepresenting what the President proposed last night, you might want to acquaint yourself with this bit of wisdom:

The principle of full reserves, indispensable to private insurance, is thoroughly inapplicable to social insurance because governmental insurance programs can never escape being on a “pay as you go” basis. Belief that the maintenance of full reserves will lighten the future costs is utterly without foundation. For while reserves in private insurance are assets because they represent investments in government bonds, private factories, stores, buildings and farms, governmental reserves invested in its own securities are liabilities. Whereas a private insurance company draws interest outside its own policy-holders which supplements its income, the government merely spends the funds as fast as they come and in return deposits only its own IOU notes. Even the interest it sets aside to the reserve account on its ledger consists merely of additional IOU notes.

That brilliant explanation of the futility of describing the Social Security collection as a lock box or as retirement insurance hasn’t lost its edge since the day it was published in January of 1939. Abraham Epstein wrote it for The New Republic (leave a comment with a request and I’ll be happy to forward the PDF) suggesting some of the changes that President Bush was pushing last night.

Fixing Social Security shouldn’t be a partisan issue; it should be a frank discussion about the shortfalls of the current system, a realization of what we can reasonably expect from the system, and then finding a series of solutions that protect current and soon-to-be retirees. The system is broken and has been from its inception; it was and is a flawed design.

Now, head over to Mrs. Malkin’s place to see how people like Josh Marshall and Atrios are fighting the fight against Social Security reform and against the long term economic health of the United States.

Heheheh

Hey, wait a minute.

That wasn’t very nice.

Darned, evil Mark Hasty.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

More Late Night Entertainment, Part Something or Other

Tonight I’m back to Sonia Dada and the song right now is “Screaming John” from their wonderful album, A Day at the Beach. The lyrics, about loneliness and insanity, are engrossing, the rhythm is compelling, and the gospel meets pop sensibility just worms its way into your mind.

The kicker, though, is the vocal performance.

All alone in the middle of the night,
he went crazy by the candlelight.

Before his final madness came,
he had a vision of God on an elevated train,
grieving for the anguish of his lonely, lonely boy…

The voice is pure and gorgeous, but there’s this little catch in his voice at one point of the song that, inexplicably, gives it even more power and more urgency. This is one to play loud.

(Click the link to see the lyrics and hear the song.)

Bo Bice and His Big Bag of Cocaine

Bo Bice, my favorite in the current American Idol series, has a history with drugs. Which is probably about as surprising to some people as was the fact that Syria might not have been entirely forthcoming about their withdrawal from Lebanon. Anyway, Drudge, the Great Gossip, is linking to a Smoking Gun story about Bo’s felony arrest for cocaine possession and subsequent trip through a drug diversion program.

What can I say but good for him?

Let’s get this straight:

  1. Almost all of my favorite albums were fueled by either drugs or a recent trip through rehab.
  2. Real rockers have a druggy phase. He was just proving his devotion to the genre.
  3. I’ve used coke. And you know what, I liked it. A lot. I mean, if it were made legal, I would buy the occasional 8 ball to share with friends.
  4. What, you could look at this guy and think he wasn’t knee-deep in coke or meth? Please…

To tell the truth, I haven’t touched coke or meth since 1993 or 1994. I haven’t touched any illegal drug since 1997 or 1998. I’ve had a few opportunities, but I’ve turned them down because I don’t like the drugs that make you feel more screwed up than a good beer buzz, I worry about the health effects, and I don’t like the idea of going to jail. So, if I’m ever on the verge of becoming a household name, let it be known that I’ve always been fully forthcoming with my drug history.

To paraphrase the great (deceased) Bill Hicks: never murdered anyone, never raped anyone, never beat anyone, never lost a job, laughed my ass off and went about my day. That isn’t a blanket approval of drug use: some people shouldn’t use drugs the way some people shouldn’t drink and Michael Jackson shouldn’t be left alone with young children.

But for a few of my bartending years--the years immediately Pre-Marriage--I was a regular user of coke and meth. I stopped using by choice one day and never looked back. There was no dramatic withdrawals or trips to a clinic; there were no tearful confessions to a therapist and no regrets.

No regrets about either using or stopping.

So, here’s to Bo and his former drug habit. I hope he’s one of the majority of people who have used drugs: he’s had his fun and he realizes when it no longer fits the life he’s trying to live.

So, Just to Get This Straight

So, pal, let me understand this correctly: what you have there is a legal weapon, purchased legally, with which you have done nothing illegal. Well, we sure as hell can’t have any of that around these parts.

A tip of the hat to Jed for today’s (please, God, I hope) most outrageous story.

The Carnival of Tomorrow

If you’re in need of some good reading today, you might want to head on over to the very first Carnival of Tomorrow (complete with a cool graphic).

After you’ve finished here, of course, because ResurrectionSong is the Home of Good to Read Stuff. As you are already aware.

Probably.

The California Economic Conundrum (As Interpreted by Zombyboy) (Updated)

Sure, the example is California, but the rule of it seems to apply at the national level.

California (before giving Gray Davis the boot): Gray Davis must go! His economic policies are disastrous and woe will fall upon us if he is allowed to continue his evil ways.

California (turning its eyes to an unlikely hero and the hypnotic qualities of Twisted Sister’s classic “We’re Not Gonna Take It"): Help us, Arnold Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope!

California (following the glorious honeymoon period): Wait, wait, wait, no one said anything about sacrifice. No one said anything about giving up our free stuff.

California (projected for the near future): Hey Arnie, here’s the fix! Tax the rich, tax the rich! Because, you know, they can afford it and all…

Lesson for the Rest of Us: Everyone likes a reformer until they start reforming things, and everyone believes that someone else’s pet program should get cut instead of their own. That is, balance the budget on someone else’s back, thank you, because my free stuff is far more important than their free stuff.

Play that out on a national level and it’s no wonder that we face our current spending and budget problems.

Update: Linked, kindly, by Rob at Burton Terrace.

This is an appropriate extension of the conversation.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

More Late Night Entertainment

Tonight, instead of succumbing to the hideous thing that is whatever film Encore is playing this late, I decided to listen to the streaming music from Anti-. Anti- is the record label for bands and people like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Daniel Lanois, Tom Waits, and (this is the important one right now) Joe Henry.

Joe Henry’s Tiny Voices makes perfect late night listening. I am, at this moment, listening to “Sold,” a jazzy little thing with seductive lyrics. The thing is about as slyly sensual as you could imagine. After this, I’ll probably pop in his earlier release, Fuse and listen to “Want Too Much,” which acts as a perfect counterpart to “Sold.”

So, if you’re up tonight, working like me and looking for something to listen to, then Anti-’s streaming radio might be a good fit for you. Just click on the jukebox link at the top of the page and enjoy the music.

“And if you fall, then I confess, better you this time...”

American Idol: The Hilarious (Updated)

I have to admit: I’m shocked by this week’s vote.

Not Scotty. Not Anthony.

Although I kicked him for his performance last night, I would never have expected Constantine to be going tonight. On the positive side, it gave us the chance to watch his really, extra-special defiant final song. Giggle-worthy only because it sounded just as bad as it did last night.

Heheh. Funny.

Update: On a more important note, ResurrectionSong is the number one MSN search result for Super Happy Sex. How the hell cool is that?

I mean, it won’t stay that way, and it’s all Mark Morford’s fault, but let’s be honest: there’s nowhere better for you to go for Super Happy Sex.

Remember that. It could be important some day.

Nuggets. Ouch.

As fun as the Nugs were to watch a few days ago, they are painful to watch tonight.

Terrible defense, overeager offense, ugly shots, bad turnovers, and just plain bad.

Ouch.

Civil War in Togo?

The last few days have brought reports of scattered violence and unrest in Togo, and today the situation worsened.

Togo’s opposition presidential candidate has declared himself president with 70% of the vote, despite official results giving him only 38%.

“We must fight with our lives if necessary,” Bob Akitani said, claiming the poll was rigged in favour of Faure Gnassingbe, the former leader’s son.

Today is a good day to reflect on how fortunate we are to live in a country where this kind of post-election violence is a thing of the past. That doesn’t help the people of Togo, though, who are faced with the very real possibility of a violent coup or a civil war. Unfortunately, neither side seems bent on compromise and the regional watchers gave the vote their approval.

That there were significant irregularities is not in dispute, but whether those were enough to render the vote invalid is questionable. Togo, a tiny sliver of a country in Western Africa, had been under the rule of the same head of state--complete with sham multi-party elections--since 1967. Gnassingbe Eyadema maintained his power in the same way that Robert Mugabe has remained the head of his state: a ruthless and loyal military, massive corruption, and compromised elections.

Togo may well be a peek at Zimbabwe’s future. Mugabe has managed to hold power to this point, and done everything in his power to ensure that the country will remain a one-party state beyond his death (with almost joking allowances for an opposition party that is defanged by the changes that Mugabe’s government continues to make to the constitution). But his death will leave a void in the power structure that won’t easily be filled by one of his followers.

Togo, with help from the international community, may well find a peaceful way for a democratic government to take shape. If so, the lessons learned here could prove useful in other nations throughout Africa. If a peaceful resolution isn’t found, then it will prove a warning about those nations with aging dictators and a history of political unrest.

Read the story.
Togo’s CIA Factbook entry (in need of an update).

Shocking. Shocking, I Tell You

In my early morning reading regimen, I came across this shocking bit of news in the Washington Post.

Syria has not withdrawn a significant part of its intelligence presence in Lebanon, undermining its claim yesterday to have ended its 29-year intervention in its western neighbor, U.S., European and U.N. officials said.

The international community yesterday welcomed the pullout of the last of 14,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon. But the continuing presence of covert Syrian intelligence operatives would violate the promise President Bashar Assad made to the United Nations last month to withdraw all Syrian personnel. It would also contradict a letter the Syrian government wrote to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan yesterday saying that the withdrawal was complete.

What? You mean the Syrians might actually lie? To the UN Secretary General?

That just can’t be. I mean, lying to the UN brings such terrible consequences that I can’t imagine anyone would dare to take the chance.

Shocking.

No. Really.

Read the story.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

A Bad Movie for Late Night Displeasure

I am busily not watching Bloodsport III, one of the worst movies ever made. Bad acting, bad script, bad fighting scenes, and wretched singing from the female lead. I’m working on a logo design for a local company and just realized that the background noise might actually be hindering the creative process. Oddly, John Rhys-Davies, everyone’s favorite dwarven hero, plays a big role in this 1996 slice of vile cinema. The one decent actor in the mix; I hope he was paid well.

Off goes the TV, on goes the Sonia Dada.

American Idol: It’s a Long, Long Ride

I’m back again, talking about the Idol, mocking Paula Abdul, generally agreeing with Simon, and wondering how much longer Scott can stay on the show.

This week, they’ll be showcasing current music. Man, what would I give to hear someone sing Mark Lanegan’s song “Resurrection Song.” Just sayin’.

Read the Rest...

Heheh. Well, Yeah…

Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.



English Genius

You scored 92% Beginner, 85% Intermediate, 100% Advanced, and 80% Expert!
You did so extremely well, even I can’t find a word to describe your excellence! You have the uncommon intelligence necessary to understand things that most people don’t. You have an extensive vocabulary, and you’re not afraid to use it properly! Way to go!

Thank you so much for taking my test. I hope you enjoyed it!

For the complete Answer Key, visit my blog: http://shortredhead78.blogspot.com/.

My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:

You scored higher than 29%on Beginner, You scored higher than 12%on Intermediate, You scored higher than 79% on Advanced, You scored higher than 77%on Expert


Link: The Commonly Confused Words Test written by shortredhead78 on Ok Cupid


H/T to Across the Atlantic.

Update: McGehee thinks he’s all better than me. I think we should mock him now…

Sick in the Head

I’ve got nothing clever to add to this little snippet, but I thought that it was funny, worth sharing, and, when you stop to think about it, probably pretty obvious.

All this brings to mind a fascinating article published in last week’s British Medical Journal by Iona Heath, a London physician who focuses attention on a troubling paradox. Heath draws on work done by the economist Amartya Sen to illustrate the following point: “It seems that the more people are exposed to doctors and contemporary health care,” Heath writes, “the sicker they feel.”

Heath points out that the enormous emphasis on preventive health care in rich countries such as Britain and the United States has some significant disadvantages. An ounce of prevention may be worth a pound of cure, but what are the costs of making an obsession with avoiding ill health, or more precisely risk factors for ill health, a central focus of one’s life?

Heath uses Sen’s comparative economic work to illustrate that people in the United States are far healthier by every objective measure than people in a particularly poor Indian state, yet have vastly higher rates of self-reported illness.

I would just point out that there might be a second, and very interesting question to ask: as people are exposed to mental health care and have more exposure to mental health care professionals, does self-diagnoses of mental illness rise with no corresponding rise in actual illness?

Anyway, another good article by often infuriating Paul Campos.

Read the story.

Update: Kindly linked by Deb, who probably expected the whole trackback thing to work. Heh. Fooled her.

Update the Second: Also linked by De Doc, who is not only a friend, but an actual doctor. I kind of wonder what his view on this subject is…

Monday, April 25, 2005

Follow-Up

Catallarchy linked my post from last week about homosexuality and the church. The conversation that grew up on their site is well worth the time to read through.

Unequal Protection Under Law

It isn’t an everyday occurrence for me to agree with one of Salon’s writers. In fact, Salon usually makes me roll my eyes in exhasperation, wishing that their writers weren’t wobbling quite so far to the left. Today’s story about the unfair treatment of Matthew Limon was compelling, though. While I think that the author, Ayelet Waldman overstates her case (particularly in relation to making the enforcement of laws like the statutory rape law a classist exercise--absent proof, I’m not sure that her assertion is supportable), the fact is that if there exists a discrepancy between the way a state handles statutory rape in the case of homosexual acts and heterosexual acts, then that state is not offering equal protection under the law.

Read the Rest...

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