Saturday, August 31, 2002

A Frisbyterian:
  • Believes in the god "Wham-O."
  • Worships a flying disc.
  • Believes that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof of the garage.
Was the inventor of the frisbee a Frisbyterian? Read this.

Say It with Flowers

Cool, huh? Click here for more info.

Thursday, August 29, 2002
Bullies for "Family"

The Tampa-based Florida Family Association is pulling out the stops and acting like bullies in trying to keep the City of Orlando from implementing an anti-discrimination provision regarding sexuality. The story, from the Orlando Sentinel, can be found here.

It's such an honest shame that some folks can't see that the condition of human rights and respect isn't a zero-sum situation. Protecting the rights of sexual minorities is, in fact, perfectly consistent with protecting the rights of religious people and families. Framing it any other way is, in my opinion, a short-sighted mistake.

Supposedly, these "Family" folks are against porn. What's that got to do with whether an employer should be able to release or not hire someone because that person isn't heterosexual? Hmmm. Could it be that these "Family" people are really more interested in imposing their version of Christianity on everyone else than in stopping the downsides of pornography? Hmmmm.

Yet Another Bad Statistical Analysis by a Journalist

Here's a less than useful article on traffic accidents and fatalities along the interstate highways in Volusia County from today's Daytona Beach News-Journal. Featured inanities:
  • Quotes from a slow-driving tow-truck driver. (Hasn't the author or the driver in question considered that vehicles going slower than the traffic flow constitute some measure of a traffic hazard, too?).
  • A visit to the body shop where bloody wrecked cars are impounded.
  • This sequence of one-sentence paragraphs:
    State transportation officials evaluate a highway's relative safety with a complicated formula that takes into account the number of crashes, vehicles that use a roadway[,] and mileage driven.

    Applying that formula to Volusia's interstates shows there is an accident along I-95 for every two million miles driven.

    By contrast, there are about 1 accidents along I-4 for every two million miles driven.
    Okay. An accident in contrast to one accident. Unfortunately, while one wants to believe this is an editing mistake, there's not enough evidence from the rest of the piece to believe that the reporter understands numerical reality to a degree that he wouldn't say that one and one are in contrast to each other.

    Update: The article did include a typo: It should've read that the accident rate on I-4 is 1.5 accidents per two million miles.
  • What should be the money graph is next:
    Fatal accidents, meanwhile, occur on I-95 at a rate of one every 60 million miles driven. They're even less common on I-4, where the rate is one every 100 million miles. By comparison, the sun is 93 million miles from the earth.
    First, the rate of a fatal accident on I-95 is in comparison to one on I-4 in the same way as 1/6 is to 1/10. That's about a factor of 1.6 more frequent. So, we're not talking even twice as likely for a fatal accident on I-95 as on I-4. Does that justify the use elsewhere in the article of "far fewer" of the I-4 accidents leading to fatalities? (Some of this may have to do with the relative rates of actual accidents, which as noted above, were reported to be the same, but with some evidence that that's a screw up.)

    And there's that throwaway about the distance to the sun. 93 million miles? Really? Do I take I-4 or I-95 to get there?
  • There's no discussion of whether the differences in rates of accidents or fatalities could be accounted for by chance. The fact that there is a difference between the rate of fatal accidents may have something to do with speed, as the author is suggesting, or it could just be random. There are statistical tools that let one quantify the likelihood that chance accounts for the resuts. There's no evidence that the author is aware of such tools.
The article's bottom line tries to be that speed kills, but there's no convincing evidence presented in the article to that effect. It's just a collection of seemingly random statistics that don't make a convincing argument for anything.

The News-Journal, it should be noted, rarely met an accident on I-95 or I-4 that it didn't want to put a picture of on its front page or on its web site. Someone at the paper seems to have an almost fetishistic interest in crash scenes. It's kinda creepy.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002
Debate Coverage from Around the State

Addendum: Added the streaming-video link.

Here's streaming video (Real) of the debate from the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union.

Here's a transcript of the debate, from the Palm Beach Post.

Here are links to stories from the websites of various Florida print media outlets:

Debate Comments

As reported in most major media outlets, the debate last night between the Democratic candidates for governor of Florida was anything but exciting. Here's my impressions.

McBride had the most to gain. He's in second place (although still tens of points down), has endorsements out the wazoo (as noted here by Mark Lane), is the candidate of the party establishment, teachers' union, etc. I couldn't tell that there was anything leadership-like about him. He didn't make any compelling case that he should be governor, although he did do a pretty good job of reminding folks that Jeb! shouldn't be.

Daryl Jones, in third place in the polls, probably did actually gain the most. He was effective in presenting himself as someone who knew his way around Tallahassee, and he demostrated lots of energy. Maybe too much energy. Maybe to the point of crossing a threshold that says, "whoa there fella, slow down". He was just a bit over the top: from the Jerry Brown-esque "here's my 800 number" and "here's my website" to donning a hardhat during his closing statement (reflecting back to his comments about home building in his opening statement). Still, if he does get folks out on street corners -- wearing yellow hardhats and giving out Jones campaign material -- it'll likely be worth the momentary no-shame quality it had last night.

Reno was effective if boring. Unlike McBride, she didn't need to demonstrate leadership qualities because she's a known quantity. Too much so for some people. Still, everyone knows she's got cajones the size of avacadoes. She seemed to have learned a few things from sitting at the Cabinet table with Bill Clinton: how to slip in the anecdote, how to raise several issues in one answer. Still, except in stature, she was not head and shoulders above the other two candidates.

Overall ranking: A very close debate with only marginal differences between the candidates. I'd say Reno won, Jones came in second, and McBride third.

I also think that Reno is very likely to win the primary and to be much more effective against Jeb! than is currently presumed, especially by the Anyone-But-Reno crowd. She held her own against her own boss (Clinton) and the Republican leadership in Congress, so I figure she's likely to eviscerate Jeb! to a much better degree -- even if she does it in sly and subtle ways -- that many have realized. She may have strong negatives, but she can probably make clear those of the sitting governor better than the other two candiates.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002
Florida Dem Gov Candidates Debate

I was cooking supper and missed the debate. Here's a link to streaming video (Real format) from the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union.

I just started watching/listening to it, so no comment yet.

Fukuyama on Us and Them

Here's a speech by Francis Fukuyama on us (USA) vs. them (Europeans) in the post-9/11 world. His point is that European and American differences on the legitimacy of international institutions are real; he gets at some of the reasons for those differences, particularly European evolution of (not necessarily democratic) trans-national institutions to limit expression of the various European nationalisms in contrast to American unilateralism based on national-based democratic institutions. Those explanations alone make it a good read, regardless of your opinion about his suggestions for what the USA could do differently to smooth things out between us and other nations.

The link's from Alterman.

Monday, August 26, 2002
Odds and Ends

Stuff I shoulda linked to a long time ago:

Thursday, August 22, 2002
Vandalism Story Update

Here's a plesant update from the Orlando Sentinel on the story linked to in this blog entry about a family whose home was vandalized by destruction and painted racial slurs.

Wednesday, August 21, 2002
Fixing Blogger Weirdness

Okay, I just bit the bullet and reinstalled the original template. I saved the mods I'd made previously, so I oughta have links, counter, etc. back in the near future.

Addendum. Look, Ma! I fixed it!

Blogger Weirdness

Brought up this blog after editing some of the links, and things were weird. It had a dark gray background. So, I started putzing around the template and changed the backgrounds to white.

Then I noticed that my permalinks weren't working.

I'll give it a while -- after all, I gotta work for real -- before I see what's up.

Tuesday, August 20, 2002
Memphis Media Watch

Someone by the handle of Half-Bakered is reading the Memphis papers and writing about it.

Afghan Independence Day

Yesterday, 19 August, was Afghan Independence Day. This story in the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times is the only mention of it I've seen.

Miss Cleo Made Him Do It!

Some guy in Gainesville, Florida, just got convicted for murder. He said that Miss Cleo's Hot Line ID'd the one who'd done him wrong. Story here.

Hateful Punks

What are the odds that the damage described in this story from the News-Journal was done by young men whose parents will swear up and down that their boys couldn't do anything like that?

Monday, August 19, 2002
A Better World

I was born, born in the 50s. In a small town in middle Tennessee. That means I got to live through most of the Civil Rights Movement. Like a lot of other people around my age -- hey, maybe your age, too -- I got to make mistakes and choices when I was fairly young about race relations. It's a matter that's still very much a part of me.

My mom had a maid. A "colored girl" as I guess polite white folks woulda said back then. She was smart and someone I really always liked. She helped raise me: After my mom took to golf and I became a golf orphan, Jennie effectively babysat me a lot during the summers when school was out. She and her husband worked hard: she had two jobs, one of which was working in a little shack of a beer joint in the black part of my home town (known to the white folk as "Nigger Ridge").

I never screwed up, at least as far as I can remember, with Jennie. Never said anything stupid like "Nigger Ridge" in front of her. I don't think I really used it at all, although I'm sure I must've said it at some point. Usually it was just "The Ridge". But I did screw up with her sister.

Her sister, Louise, was a registered nurse who worked at the local clinic. Louise sometimes really did babysit us. She may have turned me onto professional wrestling: my memory is cloudy about that.

One time when Louise was babysitting us, my mom gave us some money so that Louise could take us to dinner. She gave us the money and reminded us that we would have to eat in the car, because Louise couldn't go into the local drive-in restaurant, Pete's, to eat because she was black.

How many of you reading this understand that this was really, no shit, the way of life that many of us in the southern states of the USA grew up with in part? That black people couldn't eat inside some restaurants just because they were black. This is where part of our nation was in, say, 1960? With very real and very visible evidence of race discrimination against black people, a legacy of slavery in the USA.

So, when we got to the restaurant that night, what did little five or so year old me do? That's right, I blurted out: "We have to eat in the car because you're black and can't go into Pete's to eat." Or something like that.

I knew immediately that I had said something that didn't need saying. That I had hurt Louise's feelings by saying it. I don't recall how the episode unwound -- she likely said something sweet and reassuring to me -- but I remember the awfulness of it to this day.

The last incident along those lines that I recall happened when I was in high school. I was working in the kitchen, and one of the dishwashers, another student, said something smart-assed to me and gave me the finger. I shot back with the old, "What's that? The number of white people in your family?" line.

Immediately after I said it, I noticed that one of the cooks, a black woman named Kate -- one of the sweetest souls you could ever meet -- standing there. I apologized to her immediately, and she was nice about it. But it was just so awful.

I hope that's not the world that kids in the American south grow up in today. I see evidence that it's not.

While we were in San Antonio, at The Alamo (hopefully more about that later), there were three -- count 'em, three -- mixed raced couples with kids there. Two of them were of the white guy with black woman variety that's received recent attention in the press, and one the more frequent black guy with a white woman couple.

I don't think that's something you'd've seen a lot of back in 1960 or in 1973.

I've even seen -- this was close to fifteen years ago in New Hampshire -- a white-guy/black-woman couple where the guy had a tattoo of the Stars and Bars on his arm. (And I still haven't seen "Monsters' Ball".)

There's still room for growth, though. The next day we encoutered two examples of "homophobia". Some a-hole at the table next to us at the Tower of the Americas at the HemisFair Park was yapping about the "faggot artists" who had moved into some neighborhood there in San Antonio. Later, that night, our waiter at Dick's Last Resort -- hey, it was late, and we needed food, so it really was a last resort -- said, "Y'all don't look like the faggoty types."

Still, when I walk down the beach here in Daytona Beach and see the sheer diversity of the people playing here -- and contrast that with what a whitebread spot it was when we'd vacation here when I was a kid -- I know the world has gotten better. And I believe it can and will continue to do so.

Event Blog?

Mark Lane, blogger as well as writer for the Daytona Beach News-Journal (or, more appropriately, Snooze Journal), has me down on his links as an Event Blog.

WTF is an "event blog"?

All this technobabble. It's as bad as Star Trek.

Friday, August 16, 2002
Home. Home, again.

Daytona Beach, Florida. Well, the road trip is over. We made it home after about 3500 miles and two weeks.

I have a mess of pictures to sort through and put up somewhere at the homepage site. My brain is out of order for right now, though.

I appreciate everyone who's been poking in here to see if there's anything new. And you people coming in from search sites. Check out the archives if the spirit moves you.

Saturday, August 10, 2002

Austin, Texas. Just a brief update on our visit to the Oklahoma panhandle.

It rained there last night! That might not be big news to you if you're not a farmer who hasn't seen substantial (> 0.5 in.) rain since May 2001, but it was great news to Mack's dad. It rained 1.7 inches at their farm last night.

Here's one photo of the results.

Thursday, August 08, 2002
Farm Report

Addendum: I've added photos.

Hooker, Oklahoma. Greetings from the Oklahoma panhandle, or, as the locals call it, No Man's Land. We're here on my lover/partner/unindicted-co-conspiritor's family's farm.

It's dry. Very dry. As dry as people around here have seen in years. Mack's dad's milo-maize crop is tiny. Usually by this time of year its waist high or so, with heads of kernels that will be harvested around (U.S.) Thanksgiving. Not this year. It looks unlikely there'll be any production to harvest. The (winter) wheat harvest earlier this year was meager.

We drove in from eastern Oklahoma, where they've had more rain. In fact, just east of U.S. highway 54, which goes through Hooker, there's been rain. But there was no snow last winter, and there's been very little rain so far this year. Any rain that comes now is likely too late.

New farming technology -- the no-till stuff -- has helped prevent the kinds of wind erosion that was characteristic of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Still, the current conditions aren't exactly reasuring to the locals.

We spent some time yesterday looking around the farm, helping Mack's dad with a few chores, helping Mack's sister look for some cattle that belonged to her brother that had gotten out of the pasture.

Mack's dad also killed one little bitty rattlesnake.

The people around here are what was once known as good decent farm stock. They are sensible in their concerns and sensible in their conduct. And they are concerned. Perhaps of greatest concern is their sense that government is not working the way it should. That it has become a tool of big business and only big business. They are concerned about trade issues and matter of sovereignty. And they are concerend about the possible loss of their small-town and farming ways of life.

Simply throwing copies of Who Moved My Cheese (ugh) at them is not going to solve that latter problem. And the prior problem isn't being addressed to the satisfaction of anyone sharing that concern, city or country.

Regardless of the drought, the countryside is beautiful, and it's a pleasure to be here.

Friday, August 02, 2002
Road Trip

Daytona Beach. We're outta here this morning for a two-week trip to Tennessee (Memphis), Oklahoma (Bartlesville and Hooker), and Texas (Austin and San Antonio). Trip reports, with photos even, are a possibility, but nowhere near a certainty.

I may even be able to use the passenger-seat time to get some longer-form thoughts down, so keep an eye out here.

Thursday, August 01, 2002
The Five Dead

I have to apologize for not having said anything about the five dead American citizens who join the two Israelis from yesterday and the too many Israelis from the past few months and the several thousand Americans and others who died last September. No excuses. Just lame-brain-ed-ness on my part.

I know that what happened is just awful. I know it's completely unacceptable. I know it ought to be a reality check for many who persist in a fantasy about what the militant Palestinians are willing to do and why. That same cohort may even persist in a similar fantasy about the radical Islamists.

I'm nowhere near knowledgable enough to say what we ought to do (and not many of you reading this are either). Most of us in a situation where we can do little more than talk, and talk remains cheap.

It does seem to me that it would be nice if those who think they can, and who sometimes do, harm our fellow citizens consistently felt that they had to think twice or three times before doing so. I wish I knew how to create that state of being from the situation we're in now. It requires intelligence (of the whispering and sneaking around variety) as well as smarts, and I'm coming to the conclusion that it requires a willingness to use not just an overwhelming, but a completely disproportionate, degree of force in response. Force of a scale that those who would hurt us really do not regularly conceive of, except possibly in fantasies they have about the harm they hope to someday do to us.

I believe we're in a position to make things such that it's not us, but the other side, taking the reality check. Yes, talk is cheap, and even any suggestion about using weapons of the scale that every now and then I consider we ought to be using has to be made very cautiously. Still, those who are trying to kill us need to think very carefully about the consequences of their actions.

None of us has to exist, but if it comes down to them or us, I'll take us.

Whatever Happened to "Free Speech"

Okay, so it's a play on "Whatever happened to 'The Nashville'?", a phrase a friend once used in referring to Jason and the (Nashville) Scorchers (for whom I once worked live sound many many years ago. Like before they even had a record contract. Drifting back, I can't help but recall going to the Krystal at, what, one? two? in the morning with some of the Scorchers -- maybe they were in The Electric Boys then or some other band whose name I can't recall -- but I distinctly recall a very loosened up one of them taking two of his small hot square hamburger objects, deconstructing them, and using them to color his face, war-paint style, with mustard. But I digress).

But, I was recently looking through an O'Reilly catalog (sent via snail mail to me probably because of my name on some IEEE mailing list they, or someone marketing for them, had bought), and I noticed that some book about Mr. Richard Stallman has the title "Free as in Freedom".

When did this happen? When did "free as in 'free speech', not 'free beer' " become "free as in 'freedom' "? What genius -- and let's be honest, there are many -- at the Free Software Foundation -- or elsewhere -- made this substantive change from what had been an honest, heartfelt, spontaneous slogan to something with dot dot dot gravity. Or should that be "dot dot dot gravitas"?

Now to be fair, I haven't read the book, and the change might be discussed right there in that spot. But to someone who's watched the GNU/FSF/Stallman thing evolve over the years, it just seems a shame to see such a clear statement of a concept, "free as in 'free speech', not 'free beer'," get blurred with the less clear but more grandiose "free as in 'freedom' " schtick.

p.s. Does Stallman still wear his "Impeach God" button everywhere?

p.p.s. RMS, if you're reading this (ha!).... I'm the guy who gave you a copy of The Fall by Albert Camus. Sometime in 1982, down in Lettvin's lab.

Massive Thanks! Part III

A gigantic "thank you" to Avedon Carol of the The Sideshow. Unfortunately, I can't thank Avedon with a gender-based term of respect, since I don't know, either factually or in a likelihood sense, whether the name "Avedon" is given to males or females.

So, in addition to my thanks for the links, my apologies to Avedon for not knowing (just yet) whether to use "Mr." or "Mrs." or "Miss" or "Ms".

Addendum, 10 August 2002. A friend informs me that it's Ms. Carol. Thanks, Clay.

Massive Thanks! Part II

A super-massive "thank you" to Mr. Gary Leff of More Room Throughout Coach fame (i.e., the Frequent-Flyer Guy). I won a prize in his "link to me and you might win something" sweepstakes.

Massive Thanks! Part I

A humongous "thank you" to Mr. Ted Barlow. Thanks to his linkage yesterday, I had a order of magnitude more visitors than I had ever had.

Okay, yes, that is going from the tens to marginally over 100. I can accept that.