Friday, February 27, 2004

Enlightened & Supreme Commission for Tourism

UPDATE: Hmm... Google's cached version of the Saudi Commission for Tourism's webpage refreshed rather quickly (and Alexa did not archive the page for Now, all you've got is an apology for inconvenience caused by erroneous information, instead of an admonition warning Jews to stay away from the Arabian peninsula.

Maybe they should explain to we the inconvenienced whether this "erroneous information" is Wahhabist doctrine, or just the handiwork of some miscreant programmer.

Original Post:
Recent attention toward Saudi Arabia's overtly anti-Semitic visa policy has led to a rather tight-lipped description of tourist visa requirements.

You might want to check Google's cached version of the page to see the real requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Excuse me.
Would You Sign this Petition to Put Roy Moore on the Presidential Ballot?

In my panicky, post-Nader-announcement tour of progressive websites, I stumbled across John Nichols' level-headed reaction at The Nation. Nichols wisely points out that the hue and cry opposing Nader's announcement indicates that Nader is just not going to matter in November.

Sadly, this season's Presidential campaign will resign Ralph Nader -- without whom we would have neither the EPA nor OSHA -- to the ranks of Aaron Burr & Alger Hiss: public figures whose otherwise notable carriers ended badly.

Timothy Noah at picks up on one of Nichols' points in his piece, Forget Nader. Draft Moore. - How Democrats can win back the White House. Roy Moore is the former Ten Commandments justice from Alabama, and his presence (backed by the Constitution Party) on the ballot in swing states could siphon many more votes from Bush than Nader could take from Kerredwards.

So, what I've been wondering is...

Would I be willing to work for the Roy Moore campaign?

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Sinister Dexter @ The Blue Chalk Cafe -- Mardi Gras 2004

Since I frequently feel like Americans work too much, I was thrilled to see hundreds of people at the Blue Chalk Cafe for Mardi Gras last night.

Here are some pictures from my band's performance.

Urban Outfitters' Commitment to Excellence

Looking for a follow-up to its attention-getting Ghettopoly, Urban Outfitters decides to market clothing that discourages young people from voting.

I'm amused by Urban Outfitters and its perpetual good taste foibles. What strikes me as strange is that the same company ever in search of a new societal faux pas also owns froufrou clothier Anthropologie ...a store that, to me, is like a retail version of NOW.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Send a Message to the Messenger

Out of a desire to "retire our supremely selected president," Ralph Nader has announced that he is launching an independent run for the US Presidency in the coming election.

As many Democrats/Liberals/Progressives will tell you, this could go very badly. Therefore, I urge you to contact the Nader campaign and let them know how you feel. Here's what I just told them:

The greatest gifts the Nader campaign could give to the 2004 Election would be (1) to clearly elucidate your principal issues along with practical solutions that could be implemented during one term, (2) to broadly advertise the message of, and (3) to bow out in October if the race is even remotely close.

The specific issues raised by your campaign are vitally important, and progressive pragmatists desperately need progressive idealists; however, no one -- not environmentalists, not American workers, not our foreign allies or foes -- needs another Bush presidency.

Put another nail in the coffin of the villainous electoral college, but don't be complicit in a Bush re-election that progessives cannot bare and that the world can scarcely afford.

It may be that Ralph has drank too much of his own Kool-Aid to understand the short-term detriment of his long-term optimism. However, it's distinctly possible that people within his organization can be swayed through the power of our individual responses.

Please, please, please don't be silent -- let Nader know where you stand.

Friday, February 20, 2004

They're this close to televising Duke practices

After Stanford grabbed the #1 ranking in both college basketball polls, I told myself that I wasn't going to say peep about basketball within this blog. As holding the top ranking is a sure-fire way to lose, I figured it's best to remain quiet until Stanford's fifteen minutes are up.

I lied to myself. With the Cardinal on the dais, I must speak.

I just wanted to share a tidbit that Luke Winn pointed out in his online column for Sports Illustrated this week:

National TV appearances by projected No. 1

(data for entire regular season)
 TeamTotal games  Games On National TV  % on National TV  
 Duke 292689.7%
 St. Joe's27518.5%
 Miss. State  27311.1%
A little TV time parity, please? The pat ESPN explanation of the East Coast Bias bogeyman is that West Coast games start too late for East Coast fans to appreciate their quality. However, what's to appreciate if they're not on TV at all?

What irks me most about Stanford's (or any good West Coast team's) absence from the national stage is that the late-night programming on ESPN, ESPN2, or Fox Sports is typically either a fishing show, motocross, or a rebroadcast of the ACC game that was televised in primetime.

We linger in obscurity so people in Rhode Island can see Hank land a bass at 1 am.

Whatever it Takes

After bowing out of the Presidential race before it got started, Bob Graham has announced that he'd be willing to stand as the Vice President-nominee on the 2004 Democratic Ticket.

Call me selfless, but I would like to announce that I, too, am willing to be the Vice President on the Democratic Ticket.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

A More Effective Way to Be Afraid

For your browsing convenience, I've added the Terror-O-Matic™ Homeland Alert System to the bottom of my page. It's Jitterrific!

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Mel Gibson:
Great Director? Dunno.
Fun Husband? For Sure.

Not sure if you'll see Mel Gibson's new The Passion of The Christ? At least you can enjoy The Onion's review of previous Jesus-centered cinema.

While I'm on the topic...

Prediction #2:
22nd century school children will ask their teachers when the term "conservative" came to mean positively loony.
(Prediction #1)

Be wary, ye four-legged dining companions

Hawaiian state senator Fred Hemmings wants to allow Hawaiians to bring their dogs with them into restaurants.

During the 19th century, Hawaiian Poi Dogs were much loved by Island families, but were also eaten to extinction.

Just be careful, Foofy. Just be careful.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Close, but No Guayabera

Online retail giants like closely track customer behavior. Based on this stored information, these stores use this data to predict consumer behavior.

For example, Amazon often displays an item juxtaposed with items bought by customers who seem to shop like you.

Smaller online retailers are eager to follow Amazon's example, although there's evidence that they're learning slowly.

NASA's future financing?

If astronomers had discovered that crude oil lingered within the hearts of dwarf stars, not 10 billion trillion trillion-carat diamonds, human astronauts would already be halfway there.

DeBeers need not worry that this discovery will cut into their obscene profit margins. As detailed in Wired last year, Gemesis et al. are about to dramatically cheapen diamonds through the production of colorless, flawless diamonds in the laboratory.

What will the well-heeled want on their fingers when 4 carat solitares are affordable?

A Techie is a Techie is a Techie

I wouldn't normally turn to Slashdot to hear level heads discussing globalization; however, today's Indian Techies Answer About 'Onshore Insourcing' runs counter to the usual xenophobic Slashdot grain.

Here in Silicon Valley, I almost exclusive hear globalization discussed in "over there" terms, so it's a pleasant departure to see the topic discussed by workers in India.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Where Did You Stand?

We've just past the 40th anniversary of MLK's I Have a Dream speech, and I have a confession to make.

Someone who is 80 years old in 2004 would be in his or her thirties during the build-up of the civil rights movement. My confession is that I'm a little hesitant to ask people within this age group where they stood as the civil rights movement swept America.

I'm hesitant not because they'll tell me something I don't want to hear -- that they once held views that now sound quite dated and/or racist -- but that they'll whitewash their past opinion, detailing their present position or telling me what they think I want to hear.

I bring this up because I'm curious about how we'll talk about the movement toward gay marriage when we're asked about it in 2043.

When we're grandparents, will we tell our grandchildren that we celebrated the day that the first gay couple was married in San Francisco?

Will we remark about how we marched against what might become the 28th Amendment to the Constitution?

Since such an amendment shares the fate of the 18th Amendment, will an elderly you say that you saw it coming the whole time?

From where I sit, the movement toward gay marriage has only one possible outcome. I think almost all of us will say these things.

From where I sit, the only real question is: When you say these things, will they be true?

Democrats Just Love the People Too Much

Muckraking Matt Drudge is reporting that infidelity will do in the Kerry campaign.

Whether these reports are true or not, the Iowa Electronic Markets are responding, and Kerry's campaign is trading at $.31, down from $.47 at the start of the week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

A Rose by Any Other Name

The cast of this go-round of Fox's American Idol includes Fantasia, Jasmine, Marque, and Tiara.

Under normal circumstances, these monikers might draw attention, except that this time they're destined to be overshadowed by the positively 18th century flair of Erskine.

A Galaxy Not So Far Away?

Prediction #1:
The same people who claim that NASA faked the moon landings are about to claim that Opportunity's recent picture proves that both Mars rovers are really on Tatooine.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Your Candidate For Pennies on the Dollar

Forget the polls. The only electoral prognosticator worth heeding is the Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM), a real money futures exchange set up by Iowa's Tippie College of Business in which you can buy shares in future events.

The way that IEM works is that you can invest up to $500 on a number of future events (like elections), in which you buy shares of certain outcomes. If your outcome comes to pass, you make money. If not, you lose your shirt.

An example to explain the IEM:
Lots of pundits speculate whether the Federal Reserve Board will raise, lower, or sustain its key rates; however, IEM is the only place (that I know of) where you can essentially wager on the outcome. According to this graph, the current share price of the Fed keeping rates the same during its May meeting is trading north of $.90. If you bought shares at $.90, and the Fed kept the rate the same, you'd be paid out $1.00 for every share you owned.

Now, it turns out that the IEM is generally a better Presidential Election predictor than the polls, so it's a good idea to keep track of how well the market is treating a candidate's chances.

Right now, futures in John Kerry are surging him into, in a virtual tie with Bush. (Actually, the market has him winning in a landslide, but that will be clearer after Kerry wins the Democratic nod.)

A Kerry share assumes that he'll win the Democratic nod and go on to defeat Bush. Shares in this outcome were available for $.03 at the start of January, and have leapt to ~$.45, a dead heat with the President, at the time of this writing.

Eager to keep their audiences attention, some writers may imply that other democratic nominees still have a chance, but the IEM says otherwise. Dean went from $.34 to virtually nil, a fate shared by Clark. (Strangely, the market still gives Edwards a $.25 chance.)

So ...where will Kerry's shares be trading on the Monday before Election Day?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Soil? More Like Piles of Dust

NASA geologists call it a stroke of luck that the Mars Opportunity Rover landed in a 9 ft deep crater with what looks like exposed bedrock. As it was targeted for a broad plateau, odds seemed high that it would find a less feature-rich environment.

Though the crater landing was quite fortunate, I wonder if Opportunity will be able to escape this crater. The soil dynamics of the crater are already causing the rover to slip, and the Martian soil compresses at the slightest pressure.

If it can't escape the crater, the tinfoil hat crowd will have a field day speculating what elaborate Martian culture must linger just beyond the lip of Opportunity's home.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

3 Notes as My Blood Pressure Returns to Normal

Having just returned from Stanford's 80-77 win over rival Arizona, a college basketball game for the ages, I've got a few observations to share.

1) I really wish that Americans didn't feel obligated to trot out the national anthem before every sporting event. Why must each sporting event be an endorsement of national patriotism?

Although it's hearsay, I understand that other countries don't have this pregame musical obligation. I seem to recall an NPR piece saying that the British only play their national tune before national matches.

2) As partisan as team sports are -- zero-sum games where one tribe's victory is nothing more than another tribe's defeat -- this particular game reinforced, first-hand, those qualities that give spectator sports a transcendent air.

Stanford scored 7 points in the final 45 seconds of the game, achieving an improbable victory on a last-second shot from a Rudy-esque player, Nick Robinson.

Besides sports, what else in life is cause to leap in the air, exultant, embracing strangers?

For more along this line, I highly recommend Nick Hornby's ode to spectator sports and the London Arsenal, Fever Pitch. Hornby reminds us that it's perfectly all right to be partisan and parochial, as the victories and defeats of sport are either sweeter or more bitter than those we know in our pale, ordinary lives.

3) Cloaked in the half-anonymity of the internet, crazy people seem to stake out territory. Though online stock message boards may ultimately provide more fertile ground for encouraging the mostly mad, ESPN's message boards seem largely populated with nitwits who long for their radically biased rants to live online in print.

For example, enjoy these veritable pleas for help (bearing in mind that Stanford barely won the hard-fought game).

The flip-side of spectator team sports is that they provide a marvelous outlet for those in society who are locked in a completely partisan view. In the eyes of these quasi-troglodytes, proximity overcomes partiality -- it's their team or else.

They are quite unable to lend a less-biased eye on the proceedings of their lives and they try hard to ruin spectator sports for those of us who don't share their vitriol.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Sensitive Eyes

Easily upset?

Terri Carlin must be, because she's just filed a multi-million dollar class action suit against Janet et al. over the Super Bowl Breast Baring.

If there's one thing I like more than easily offended yokels, it's litigious easily offended yokels.

Medical Advances Make For Difficult Decisions

As frequently noted in our human-interest-story-oriented media, rapid advances in post-natal surgery give more and more severely conjoined twins a chance at life that would have been impossible just a few years ago.

Poignant stories of lives in the balance emerge as these children go under the surgeon's knife ...none more poignant than Rebeca Martinez, who undergoes surgery today.

Although Rebeca is not the first baby to be diagnosed with craniopagus parasiticus -- in which a parasitic, living twin grows from the body of an infant -- all other cases have died before birth.

Today, so that Rebeca might live, her twin (whose brain is only partially developed, yet its mouth moves as Rebeca is breast-fed) must be removed from Rebeca's body and thereby killed.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

What Not to Do With Your Spare Time In Germany

Bored and in Germany? Don't teach your dog how to do a Nazi salute. It's potentially illegal.

Where's George?

Which question will undo President Bush's reelection campaign:

Where is the Iraq banned weapons arsenal?
Where was George W. Bush in 1972?

What Do You Think About During a Layover in Phoenix?

Two thoughts as I wrap up this business trip:

1) Eating in a sports bar in the Phoenix airport is the modern day equivalent of Edward Hopper's Nighthawks. All these lonely souls are just passing through.

2) One of the benefits of moving to New York City (as Steph and I will in Autumn 2005) will be that reading the New York Times in public won’t make me self-conscious anymore. (I know it’s the paper of record ...I just always feel awkward reading a paper named after a city on a far-away coast.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Restaurant and Retail Chains as Far as the Eye Can See

Other than my frequent connections through DFW, this week's business trip to Dallas represents my first visit to these parts.

Based on my first 24 hours here, it seems to me that Dallas is not a city. It's an area.

Without meaningful geography to define their scope, places like Dallas just sprall and sprall.