Monday, September 26, 2005

Serenity, The Movie

Firefly was a very enjoyable TV series which didn't quite make it. The characters were interesting and human--all of them--while the story was slowly developing. Set in a future dystopia, it was a strange but appealing blend of Star Trek and old-fashioned westerns.

Personally I was quite sad to see its demise--I wanted to see what was going to happen next!

Now comes a slight reprieve in the form the movie, Serenity. It's being prescreened across the land this week.

Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal. The Serenity website is at this site.

I'll be watching it tomorrow night in Denver. Stay tuned to this site for the review.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Mac as Hell and Not Gonna Take it Anymore

Winn Schwartau, a self-proclaimed Windows bigot and expert on security who has worked on security issues for 22 years has decided to switch...
to a Mac.

I'll let him say it in his own words:
...predicated on the hypothesis that the WinTel platform represents the greatest violation of the basic tenets of information security and has become a national economic security risk. I do not say this lightly, and I have never been a Microsoft basher, either. I never criticize a company without a fair bit of explanation, justification and supportive evidence.

I have come to the belief that there is a much easier, more secure way to use computers....

my company has given up on WinTel [an Intel-based computer running Windows]. We have successfully moved to Mac in less than two days. Think about it: a security-friendly alternative that works and doesn't require gobs of third-party utilities to safely perform the most mundane tasks. Please follow the details of our experiment at securityawareness.blogspot.com. It's already way more interesting than I thought it would be.
Although it is often asserted that the multitudinous security problems besetting Windows computers are due simply to their large market share, professional computer experts say otherwise. The design of the Windows system is insecure from the ground up. It was never intended to be networked with other computers and proper safeguards to ensure security for the users were never put into place. Microsoft's focus has always been on making things look good on the surface, hooking as many users as possible as quickly as possible, and only later adding invisible but necessary components, and only then when absolutely necessary. Since then it has been bandaid piled on top of bandaid, never addressing the fundamental issues, never making the systems really secure. Even the fans are bailing.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

An Eternity at the Opera

Charlie (CO), a frequent contributor to Roger Simon's blog and elsewhere, pointed me this morning to this rather cynical post by Mickey Kaus. In response to Senator McCain's holier-than-thou pronouncement that he is (once again!) taking the money out of politics, Mickey suggests that the reality is precisely the opposite. Namely, that it is the solely the threat of filibuster which keeps the Democratic Senators important, which keeps corporate money flowing into their PACs. Mickey quite rightly argues that in a simple majority-rule house they would be rather irrelevant. But the air of cynicism toward money he ascribes to McCain doesn't strike me as quite on the mark here. McCain is self-interested of course, but it seems to me he's interested in self-aggrandizing by promoting his persona as the go-to anti-big-money man in Washington, not in grabbing money per se.

Pondering Kaus's attitude, I noticed a link he provided to an article he wrote five years ago comparing Darwinism to Marxism. Kaus is a former Marxist who still sorta wants it to be true. He's the proverbial idealist hiding inside the cynic.

Which got me to wondering--what the heck is the appeal of "Marxism" anyway? Of course there's the naughty-boy appeal of surreptitiously adopting a philosophy opposed to the parental figures in government--the "Establishment"--at the height of the Cold War. That should be good for a few sophomores but fails to explain the lingering appeal after all these years. What exactly does "Marxism" represent. Scanning Kaus's article, the following ideas appear: 1) the material trumps the mental/spiritual, 2) things occur because they're worked out through a back-and-forth interactive process (called the "dialectic"), not an all-at-once ab initio creation, 3) there are "laws" by which these processes can be described in a particularly laconic manner, 4) religion and culture are reduced to "epiphenomena", which is really simply an elaboration of 1).

Do these things really make sense? Well, can there be anything more hilariously absurd than a bunch of academics--people whose very existence is devoted to the primacy of mind--solemnly declaring in a religious way that mind doesn't matter and religion is mere fluff? So much for 1). 2) strikes me as nothing but common sense. Whereas philosophers famously seek the "philosopher's stone" in the form of an overarching system that explains all, every mere mortal understands in his bones that other people "get a vote" in the current military parlance, i.e., that the whole world is a vast interactive system that can never be explained or predicted by any one system. Which means that 2) is really a direct contradiction to 3). 3) is itself the most interesting. It is the glory of modern science that it is able to explain vast amounts of observation from a few very sophisticated laws. Wonderful, but there are limits to the abilities of science to proceed in this direction, limits to the use of rationality itself. These limits are not just somebody's theory, but are hard and fast mathematical proofs. The theory of Kolmogorov complexity for example proves that in the grand scheme of things the "laws" we can conceivably create are only a small fraction of the facts we will observe. Gödel's Theorem and the Halting Problem are similar results.

The bottom line is that Marxism seems to be nothing more than a hodge-podge of outdated Nineteenth Century science amalgamated with common sense and silliness. So, what's the appeal?

Monday, May 23, 2005

Self-Hating American Press

Here's another terrific must-read from Wretchard. He points out that the American press, by magnifying as much as possible every American pecadillo while simultaneously ignoring outrages against humanity perpetrated by the enemy, are having the effect of making the enemy appear to be invulnerable while diluting the efficacy of the American military more and more. Why do they want our soldiers to die?
From the Department of the Weird

It's well-known that human beings produce about 105 live boy births for every 100 live girl births. After that it's downhill for the boys: they die at a higher statistical rate during each year of life. In the olden days, women frequently died during childbirth. Now that's unheard of, and by the time old age rolls around there aren't all that many men.

These trends are different in such countries as India, China, and Korea, where there are something like 140 boys for every girl, at least in some areas. What happens to the girls? I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Here's where it gets weird. A recent study in Britain finds that if you divide people up by profession, engineers and people in other standard male-oriented professions are likely to have far more boys than the general population, 140 boys for every 100 girls, while people in nursing and other traditional female professions are likely to produce 135 girls for every 100 boys. Is it nature or nurture? Something in the water? Do people in more traditional female jobs have genes preferring girls? Is there a sort of backroom evolutionary competition going on between male engineers and female nurses to control the world? Who knows?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A Tale of Two Views

There seem to be two approaches toward dealing with the head-sawers being advocated. On the one hand we have the Bush administration approach: send in the marines and bring the war to them. On the other hand, we have the Kerry approach: bring the troops home and hope for the best.

I have a simple question. Has there ever been a single instance in the historical record when the act of appeasing the crazy barbarians caused them not to attack? I've been wracking my brains without being able to come up with an example.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

The Hall of Mirrors

With the Eason Jordan case, the MSM find themselves in the quaint position of reporting on the consequences of a major story which--oops!-- they never reported in the first place. Exactly as in the case of the Soviet propaganda newspaper Pravda, their readers and viewers are prevented from seeing the truth of what's really going on directly; they are required instead to read between the lines in the hope of discerning reality. If they're lucky, they will. The MSM are presenting smoke and mirrors and calling it reality.

Unfortunately for them, the rise of the internet has allowed ordinary people not inducted into the journalistic priesthood to have a voice. Suddenly the MSM is like a junior-high teacher caught out in a bald-faced lie about sex while all the kids in the back of the room snigger and whisper the facts amongst themselves. The MSM still has power and authority, but their ability to impose a faux narrative just because they say so has been forever lost.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

There is More

Here's another interesting bit on the HP fiasco, apparently the inside view.

It seems that capitalism certainly has the potential for going seriously awry in some of these short-term scenarios. It's too early to tell how it will do in the long run.
Good News

Carly Fiorina's mission to eviscerate one of the world's truly great technology companies while building her own private air force has ended. Hewlett-Packard employees are reported to be dancing in the aisles. The stock has gone up $7b on the announcement. That ought to tell you something.

Here's one former employees take (many more can be found on the cited link).
I worked at HP in the 80s, still hold stock in the company, and I have been horrified for years at the degradation of HP from a great place to work (and a profitable, socially responsible company) into a soulless, internally repressive corporate tyranny. Bill and Dave would be speechless with rage were they still with us.

Ms. Fiorina has presided over such low points as dumping a profitable calculator division (without even spinning it off or doing an EBO!), and a recent corporate general meeting where the proxy-voting process was blatantly abused and manipulated to ensure the board got their way regardless of what the stockholders wanted.

To say nothing of the shenanigans with trying to suppress aftermarket inkjet cartridge suppliers/refillers. Hewlett and Packard would never have condoned such slimy means of boosting profits; they preferred to make money by adding value, and believed in interoperability and good corporate citizenship (a quaint concept, I know, but I'm an old fart...)