Sunday, June 27, 2010

Balance in All Things...

Via my mom:
And GOD Created New Jersey ...

GOD was missing for six days. Eventually, Michael, the archangel, found him, resting on the seventh day.

He inquired, "Where have you been?"

GOD smiled deeply and proudly pointed downwards through the clouds, "Look, Michael. Look what I've made."

Archangel Michael looked puzzled, and said, "What is it?"

"It's a planet," replied GOD, and I've put life on it. I'm going to call it Earth and it's going to be a place to test Balance."

"Balance?" inquired Michael, "I'm still confused."

GOD explained, pointing to different parts of Earth. "For example, northern Europe will be a place of great opportunity and wealth, while southern Europe is going to be poor. Over here I've placed a continent of white people, and over there is a continent of black people. Balance in all things."

GOD continued pointing to different countries. "This one will be extremely hot, while this one will be very cold and covered in ice."

The Archangel , impressed by GOD's work, then pointed to a land area and said, "What's that one?"

"That's New Jersey, the most glorious place on earth. There are beautiful mountains, rivers and streams, lakes, forests, hills, and plains. The people from New Jersey are going to be handsome, modest, intelligent, and humorous, and they are going to travel the world. They will be extremely sociable, hardworking, high achieving, carriers of peace, and producers of good things."

Michael gasped in wonder and admiration, but then asked, "But what about balance, GOD? You said there would be balance."

GOD smiled, "Not very far from New Jersey is Washington, DC. Wait till you see the idiots I put there."
Now my mom seems to think that this story implies good things about New Jersey.  But with a little searching, it's clear that every state has claimed their place in this parable.  In other words, you can compare any state favorably to Washington, DC – especially in terms of average IQ.

My version of this story would replace “Washington, DC” with “New Jersey”, and “New Jersey” with ”Idaho”, “Montana”, or “Wyoming”.  There now, doesn't that sound right?

Way to Go, Joe...

Biden's defeatist attitude reminds me very much of Jimmy (“wear a sweater”) Carter.

Whatever else happens this November, I hope the election brings a crop of positive, can-do types to Congress – 'cause the current bunch is just making me crazy...

Biden, go stick your head in a bucket and leave it there, will ya?

It's Long Past Time to Put an End to This...

The headline reads “Pope deplores Belgian sex raids, stresses autonomy.”  This is in reaction to the Belgian police searching the home and office of an Archbishop.

Now I have no idea whether the police raid was based on reasonable suspicion, but the pope's objections weren't along those lines.  He's objecting to the very idea of police investigation of Roman Catholic officials.  He claims that the Roman Catholic church is entitled to its own independent investigation, the results of which would be reported to police.

What the pope wants is exactly what has been happening for the entire history of the United States.  I'm not familiar enough with practice in other countries to know if the same tradition holds there.  I say “tradition” because at least in the United States there is no law to this effect – it's just what's been done before.  Tradition, in other words.

There is ample evidence that this tradition has failed our children.  In case after case in the past couple of decades, we've all discovered that the Roman Catholic hierarchy has been actively hiding the disgusting behavior of their own members, moving repeat offenders from parish to parish and refusing to deal with the problem – or even to acknowledge it.  The church's version of this is consistently that the offending clergy are being treated “pastorally.”  They appear to believe, contrary to all evidence, that the offending clergy can somehow heal themselves with the aid of their religion.  There is zero evidence that such healing takes place, and much evidence to the contrary.  To this outside observer (I am not a Roman Catholic), the behavior is a combination of denial and hiding.

The pope has got it exactly backwards.  Instead of insisting on independence and handling the “problem” within the church, he should be welcoming the police investigations and legal proceedings as much-needed assistance in ridding the church of a shameful plague – a plague of their own making...

Unemployment Index...

This is today's Unemployment Index (of unemployment-related Google searches).  The big dip from mid-April to early June has been erased; it's now back into the highest territory it's ever been in.

As I've said in earlier posts about this index, I'm not really sure what to make of it.  It is, to say the least, a very unconventional “measure” of unemployment.  It indicates something, I'm sure, but I don't know what.  For some reason, between mid-April and today, far fewer Americans were googling for information about unemployment.  Why?  What does that actually imply?  And what does the recent jump indicate?  

One thing that jumps out at me: the recent dip in this index almost exactly corresponds to the recent tip in the stock market indexes – the inverse of the relationship I'd expect.

How to Hand-Draw a Hologram...

I would never have guessed that this was possible

Years ago I read an article describing an algorithm for converting a 3D software model into the blobs and squiggles that make up a hologram.  That looked like a lot of fun and an interestingly complex challenge, so I put that on my list of “things to do when I have spare time.”  There is commercial software that does this today, to visualize things like new building designs without actually building a model. 

But to do hand draw a hologram?  That thought never crossed my mind...

I'm So Glad...

...that I no longer program in C. 

Reason #2,496: I don't need spiral expression decoding rings.

G8 and G20 Meetings...

Lots of pronouncements (e.g., a five-year “deadline” for Afghanistan, condemnation of North Korea's sinking of a South Korean naval vessel) coming out of the G8 and G20 meetings in Canada – but so far as I can tell, not a single actual action.  Call it blather and bluster over substance.

The saddest part?  I'm not even slightly surprised...

Melting Ice and Sea Level Changes...

Here's a very accessible (no math, for you mathophobes) explanation of why ice melting doesn't raise sea levels in the manner you might expect it to. I've read the same points before in very technical papers...

I Miss Rummy...

Donald Rumsfeld was at the Pentagon on Friday, attending the unveiling of his official portrait.  He gave this short speech:
Some might ask how our country has endured? Well, it should be no mystery. It is because we are a free people, blessed with a free political and a free economic system – Where we are: free to think and act; to believe and protest; to vote and petition; and, yes free to succeed, to fail, and to start again.

The night satellite image of the Korean Peninsula, my favorite as many of you know well, captured many miles above the earth, tells the whole story. Below the 38th parallel, South Korea is bathed in the light of dozens of cities, monuments to that nation’s freedom. In one of the most successful economies in the world, millions of South Koreans go about their work, creating opportunity and prosperity for themselves and their families. North of the DMZ is darkness. There live exactly the same people, with the same natural resources. But those millions of Koreans labor not for themselves or their families, but for a regime that enslaves them.

The stark difference between the free and the unfree is illuminated in that picture. The boundless energy of human beings is most assuredly not unleashed by governments of boundless power. That energy is unleashed only by free political institutions and free economic systems.

But because we are free, as a people, we face choices:

We can choose to engage with the world, strengthening alliances with our friends, expanding trade agreements, deterring potential foes, and taking the fight to them when necessary. Or we can retreat, or make the truly tragic mistake of modeling our country after systems that are obviously unsuccessful. If we choose the latter path, let there be no doubt, we are certain to fail the generations to follow.

On September 12, 2001, hard hats unfurled an American flag over the still burning and deeply scarred Pentagon. Joyce and I wanted to include that scene in this portrait because those traits of resilience and perseverance – while remarkable – are not uncommon for the men and women of this Department. They are what built and sustained this country. And they are what I saw every day in the men and women I served alongside in the months and years after the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history.

To each of those who serve – military and civilian – or have served, and to your families, there will come a time when the achievements you’ve made, and the trials you’ve endured, will recede into history. But although time will pass, and memories fade, certain important things will remain always – your pride of service and the appreciation of a grateful nation.

This country – which has treated me so well, and which offers so much opportunity for us all – exists and prospers because the members of the United States armed forces, have stepped forward and volunteered to protect it. In a very real sense, America is their gift to the future.
Impressive man, Mr. Rumsfeld.  He'll be 78 next month.  Nobody in the Obama administration even comes close to his intellectual horsepower...

Declaration of Independence, Version 2.0...

From Day-by-Day.  Read the whole thing!