Archive for September, 2008

Sacrasm? The New York Times?

Friday, September 26th, 2008

One can almost hear the dismissal in the following summary of a NYT article from their international news RSS feed:

Gov. Sarah Palin met with the leaders of Georgia, Ukraine, Iraq, Pakistan and India and engaged in small talk about her looks and New York City.

Did you hear McCain cancelled his Letterman appearance?

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

Let Dave tell you about that at length.  One of the things I like about Dave is that if you were to, say, cancel an appearance on his show and go down the hall to do an interview with Katie Couric, he’d run the satellite feed of that.  Really.

Cookie Monster Slayer

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Boing Boing points out this picture of a muppet hunter from Dragon*Con this year.  I’d take a look before showing it to young kids.  It’s not the Father Christmas videos Warren Ellis pointed out a couple years ago, but it may disturb kids.  And the Father Christmas videos certainly will.

Lessig on Palin – not the whole story

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

John Heidemann pointed me at a post on Lawrence Lessig’s blog in which Lessig assesses Palin’s qualifications against vice presidents who were elected to the position. It’s an interesting angle to take, and overall I agree with his conclusion that she’s got one of the weakest resumes for the job. Personally, I believe there are many better qualified people to be VP, and I consider her choice as a candidate to be a strike against McCain. In essence, I agree with Lessig’s assessment of her credentials.

However, I have a significant problem with Lessig’s presentation. He takes some pains to point out both that Palin has a weaker resume than all but two holders of the VP office, and that roughly 1 in 5 Vice Presidents have to assume the duties of president. The implication is that there’s a 1 in 5 chance that the country goes down the tubes if she’s elected. What I find disingenuous about the presentation is that he fails to mention that one of his 2 least qualified vice presidents assumed the office of the presidency and aquitted himself fairly well.

Only looking at Chester A. Arthur‘s resume, as Lessig does, probably oversells his suitability for the job. In addition to the lack of experience on the national stage, Arthur was a believer in the spoils system, and was long associated with the customs collection in NYC, which was a hotbed of chicanery, if not outright corruption. Few believers in good government believed that Arthur would do anything but follow the party line and reward hacks.

When Garfield was shot by an assassin who claimed to represent Arthur’s faction in the party, Vice President Arthur got his call on the red phone. Few had high hopes for his performance, but a remarkable thing happened: he grew into the office rather well. All told he acquitted himself quite admirably on many fronts, often bucking the very party leaders who had put him in power.

Arthur makes few people’s list of great presidents. He faced relatively quiet times, and his successes were mostly domestic. He makes fairly few lists of worst presidents, either. He is an interesting case study of how an underqualified person can rise to the challenge of the presidency.

I don’t mean this to be a defense of Sarah Palin. As I’ve said above, I think she is an unwise choice for VP and I would have grave concerns if she became president. Nor do I wish the description of Arthur’s experience to support the position that a vice president needn’t have any experience to do well as president; I believe that a VP should be qualified in his or her own right. While Arthur was a reasonable president, Theodore Roosevelt, who also assumed office following an assassination, became an outstanding president, partially because of his superior experience and qualifications.

However, after Lessig draws the parallel to Arthur, and raises the specter of an unqualified president, I think he owes the audience a description of how Arthur did when he assumed the higher office. Failure is not a certainty in this situation, and it’s only fair to point that out.


Monday, September 22nd, 2008

While overall Sinfest can be a little raw, I’ve been really enjoying its last few Sunday strips. Tatsuda Ishida has done a fine job on Sarah Palin and the big buyout. It’s not often that a Celine Dion song is the structure for a satire rather than the victim. Well done.

Fear the TED

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

One of the great joys of Planet Money has been finding out that the TED spread is a measure of fear.  Fear is my business.  And business is good.

New wheels

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

A couple weeks ago my venerable 1990 Miata announced it wanted to be traded by flinging a spark plug out of the engine block, stripping the threads as it went. Now there are things one can do to repair such a thing, but it sort of makes you ask what’s next on the 18 year old car. I figured rather than waiting to see, it seemed like a good time to try a new car.

I picked the Scion xB and was able to pick up a used one for a reasonable price. It’s pretty much the anti-Miata. It’s got the boxy appearance of a mini-UPS van, though it actually gets better gas mileage than the Miata. I’ve been happy with it so far and look forward to a few more years of service.

WordPress cropped the thumbnails somewhat oddly.

Grap update

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

This grap update has been in the pipe for a while.  It fixes some lurking bugs, including some pic incompatibilities, so it’s worth upgrading.  The CHANGES file has the details.

The FreeBSD port is moving through the approval process.  Source is at .

IM again

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

Shortly after announcing I was playing with Empathy, I began poking at Pidgin (the former Gaim).  I like Pidgin’s multi-account handling better than Empathy’s and there’s some documentation, so I’ve switched over.  Still, if you’re expecting to see me on IM and don’t, drop me an e-mail.

Two of my favorite things…

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

The Finger Lakes and old time aviation meet in this clip of a restored Curtiss flying boat, America.  Link via AvWeb.