Friday, October 29, 2004

Eleven hours . . .

. . . until go time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004


I'm thinking of participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge this year. In brief, you write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days, from November 1 to November 30. Naturally, the result is pretty rough, but it's allegedly a good way to force yourself to write everyday, and if there's one thing I need, that's it. I doubt if I'll write anything salvageable, but they do say your first million words are practice . . . I've got six days to decide.

And four days until the wedding! It's insane how fast the last month has flown by.


Eminem has a video out on GNN of his new anti-Bush song "Mosh." It's actually a cool video with some unique animation and, of course, a message I agree with!

[via Oliver Willis]

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Instant runoff voting

There is actually a bill in the House right now, H.R. 5293, that if passed would require instant runoff voting in federal elections by 2008.

Thursday, October 21, 2004


It's funny, I'm strangely nervous about my family. Not my immediate family, but the family I don't see that often. For instance, my Aunt Janie who lives here in Austin. I used to see her all the time when I was a kid, but I called her just now and it actually felt strange enough that I was glad to get an answering machine and put the ball in her court. Maybe it's because all of my communication with anybody but my parents has always been mediated by them. I have nothing to base interaction with aunts and uncles on besides family get-togethers. It's so silly, really, when you consider that we're related and I've talked to them dozens of times. And being twenty-four years old and afraid to call someone is pretty lame, anyway.

Update: We ended up talking for an hour and a half. Phew!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

John Kerry

While I know I'm not going to vote for John Kerry on Election Day, Matt's blog has me thinking about reasons why one would. My reasons why not are simply that I disagree with his positions on most issues: he's too conservative for me! In Texas, Geroge W. Bush will get all of the electoral votes regardless of what my ballot says.

That said, I think I would face a fundamental difficulty if I lived in a swing state. You see, I don't believe in ethics for ethics sake, or karma, or anything like that. As a result, I think the only honest way to judge actions is by their consequences, not by emotion. If I were rating Bush's value to humanity were he reelected, I might give him a -8 on a scale of -10 to +10. As utterly horrible it is to even comprehend, there could be worse than Bush. Pat Robertson (-9) or Adolf Hitler's reanimated corpse (-10) are two that spring to mind. John Kerry would be around a +2 in my book, along with almost all Democrats. Howard Dean might be a +4, Dennis Kucinich a +6. David Cobb and Ralph Nader are probably in the +8 range. A thus-far mythical technology-friendly socialist-leaning progressive would get a +10.

By this sort of calculus, it is easy to see that a vote for Kerry with even a 50% chance at winning is much better for humanity than a vote for Nader with a 0% chance. Bush is simply That BadTM. This is nothing new, we all understand this reasoning whether we agree with it or not. However, most of us who would vote for a third-party or independent candidate are torn between the obvious need to remove Bush from office and the interior feeling that we voted our conscience. Most Nader voters, for instance, would suggest that Nader won't cost Kerry the election, Kerry will cost himself the election by not appealing to those voters who chose Nader.

Let me be clear: I agree.

That said, I am at my core utilitarian. I think the only reasonable standard by which we can measure the "rightness" of a decision is by determining if we maximized utility for all involved; that is, we achieved the greatest good for the greatest number. The ends do justify the means.* I think that if I were in a swing state, even if I didn't agree with all of John Kerry's policies, voting for him would be voting my conscience because my conscience tells me that Bush is detrimental to our nation and indeed the world. Kerry may get into office and not change a single thing . . . and this would be better than Bush staying in office and making things worse. It seems to me that the only ethical choice to make is to choose the lesser of two evils when that choice has actual, tangible consequences. The evil of leaving Bush in office really does outweight the good of voting for a candidate without a fighting chance, and in our flawed system, no third-party or independent candidate has such a chance. Although I wouldn't go quite this far, a compelling argument could be made that in a two-party system efforts to reform the party you are closest to from the inside are more more worthwhile than efforts to defeat them both from the outside. People like Kucinich and the Congressional Progressive Caucus share this view.

Of course, we could change all that by using instant runoff voting, in which people rank their choices. If Joe Swingstater voted for Nader and neither Kerry nor Bush received more than 50% of the vote (highly likely), the system would go Joe's second choice, which might be Kerry. In this way, the winner will always be the first person to receive more than 50% of the vote, and will be the candidate who actually is the closest fit to a majority, rather than being the most electable by a plurality. Everyone could vote their conscience while also voting for the lesser of two evils if their conscience lost. This would make third-party and independent candidates far more attractive to mainstream voters, allowing them to compete and gain support. In a perfect world, we would also get proportional representation so that our legislature would actually reflect the views of the people, but I'm not holding my breath.

So, as much as I wish things could be otherwise, I encourage anyone who lives in a highly contested state to vote for John Kerry. Everyone else: vote for Nader or Cobb so they get more support and national attention!

* This is a much-maligned phrase, because it implies that any good end (say, removing Saddam Hussein from power) justifies any evil means (say, invasion and war). That simplistic analysis doesn't calculate that such evil means will result in evil ends (thousands dead) along with the good ends, and more often than not, those evil ends just won't be worth it. A truly utilitarian consideration includes all of the ends, not only the good ones.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

In solidarity

I have disabled anonymous comments. Crazy.

Another day in paradise

I subbed for an elementary-school music teacher today.

In other words, I watched Fantasia 2000 seven times. At least it's good. Ottorino Respighi's The Pines of Rome and Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird are two of my favorie pieces, and they were both extremely well animated.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Defensive driving

I'm taking an online defensive driving course right now. It's pretty ridiculous. When you take section quizzes, there's this studious little cartoon man with a mustache and suit. Instead of saying "Correct!" or "Excellent job!" as his appearance would suggest, he says "Yeah!" and draws a check mark on a dry-erase board.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

And it was good

They had some great chili at the cookoff, and we had a fun time sampling and checking out the animals. Given the zoo's humble beginnings and limited funds, I was really impressed with what they're accomplishing out there. Sure, a few million dollars could give the animals more breathing room, but they're safe, loved, and well taken care of. It's a lot better than the other alternatives for most of them.

Mmm, Chili

We're planning on going to the Vegetarian Network of Austin's 16th Annual Lone-Star Vegetarian Chili Cook-Off today at the Austin Zoo. Should be fun.

The Austin Zoo, unknown even to many Austinites, is a rescue and rehabilitation sanctuary that takes in abandoned exotic animals. So, when John Q. Millionaire gets sick of his pet Bengal tiger, the Austin zoo will take it instead of it being hunted our outright killed. They don't capture wild animals, yet they have over 400 animals.

I hope the weather doesn't get worse, because it looks a little crappy right now.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Two weeks . . .

. . . and counting! I'm excited.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Brain-computer interface

A quandraplegic was implanted with a pill-sized chip (the "BrainGate" system) that allows him to check email, play video games, and control the television by thought alone, even while doing other things such as talking. It's not science fiction anymore, people.

[via BoingBoing]

Scott McReynolds, Naval officer

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


I blogged a while back about how caloric restriction -- eating a third fewer calories than you "should" while maintaining adequate nutrition -- extends maximum life spans in every species it's tried on. Now a biologist has found the gene responsible in mice. When food is scarce, as during caloric restriction, the gene produces a protein that turns off other genes that help store fat. The fat moves into the bloodstream and gets burned. This keeps the mice lean, youthful, and healthy into old age. Mysteriously, it also makes them less succeptible to a host of age-related illnesses such as diabetes.

Humans have the same gene.

If one could activate it without actually restricting calories, there is no reason people couldn't avoid significant aging for forty or fifty years beyond middle age. Diseases, accidents, and murder would still kill people, but you're talking about an average life expectancy of 100 or so . . . on top of the steady increase that better medicine has been providing for the last century. If one could tackle the cancer problem, we just might live to be 150.

The biologist, Leonard Guarente, believes medicine to stimulate the gene will be available in a decade. Twenty-second century, here I come! Hopefully.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Rachel took this picture while we were driving home from Houston.

I like it.

Long day: random shit

I wasn't able to get a job scheduled last night, so I had to get up at 5:00 to search for one. Unfortunately, it seems everybody else was doing the same thing, so I couldn't get work today. Luckily, Rachel and I took the opportunity to get our marriage license before she went to work. We then continued our multi-day few-minutes-here-and-there screening of the Star Wars trilogy DVDs. She's only seen the movies once each. Once! Even for a civillian (read: non-dork), that's an abnormally low number of times, isn't it? I'm not that big of a Star Wars fan, all things considered, but they sure are fun to watch.

Now I'm hanging around doing nothing. I might have to continue my neverending tour of the Austin used book stores and find something to read. Maybe tour is an exaggeration, since I've only been to the two nearest Half Price Books, but whatever. A lot of the books I'm interested in buying are, while not more than a decade or two old, not currently in print. I haven't had luck finding any so far. I might have to turn to Amazon if I can't.

I have grown increasingly annoyed with radio music, and increasingly bored with the music I already own. I want to get into some less mainstream stuff, but I feel a little intimidated because I wouldn't know where to begin looking. I'm in the mood for true alternative, experimental, indie rock, trip-hop, electronica, literate hip-hop, etc. Nothing too angry, unless it's political. If anybody has any suggestions, fire them my way.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Mrs. Renfro's

I am trying Mrs. Renfro's Habanero Salsa for the first time. My review: fantastic! My advice: a little goes a long way! I like it hot, luckily.


Yesterday we went to DFW to pick up Rachel's wedding dress. We had lunch with Kate and dinner with Rachel's mom, grandmother, and grandfather. All in all, it was a good trip. It seems like every weekend we're either leaving town or somebody is coming into town. Something tells me this will not change anytime soon.

You know what was an underrated movie? Gattaca. I think it was one of the best science fiction films of the 1990s.

Columbus Day means I don't have to work on Monday. Good for me. Not so good for the American Indians.

Friday, October 8, 2004

Trey Parker on elections and puppets

Xeni Jardin interviews Trey Parker and Matt Stone about their upcoming marionette film Team America: World Police on NPR's Day to Day.

"People assume we're trying to affect the election. But if you're going to change your vote based on what you see in a puppet movie, honestly -- you really should not be voting in the first place."

[via BoingBoing]

Thursday, October 7, 2004

My mind is wide open . . .

I have had "Oh My Love" by John Lennon stuck in my head nearly without pause since about 8:00 pm on Friday, October 1. Not that it's a bad song, in fact it's quite nice, but six days is pushing it. Thanks, Luke and Jamie. It's all your fault!

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

No Iraqi WMDs

Is anybody really surprised by this? Did you hear some of the Senate debate? Republicans are still trying to claim the Iraqis snuck the weapons out. Here's what I don't understand: war supporters believe wholeheartedly the intelligence that suggested Iraq had weapons. They clearly think that the United States intelligence community is accurate. Why does that accuracy suddenly disappear when the data suggests that Iraq didn't have weapons? Do you really think the United States chief weapons inspector is incompetent?

Google browser

I must have been out of the loop, because I had no idea that Google was planning on launching a web browser. Apparently, it'll be based on Mozilla, which has been sorely temping me to leave Internet Explorer for months, thanks to nifty features like automatic pop-up blocking, great security, and tabbed browsing.

Damn you, memory!

Believe it or not, I actually think of things I want to blog about when I'm at work.

Then I forget them.

Monday, October 4, 2004

Such a good weekend

I had a fabulous time this weekend. Luke and Jamie had one of the coolest weddings ever and I am so happy that Rachel and I were able to be a part of it. I can't think of anything that would have made the event any more perfectly them.

On Sunday my mom and aunt hosted a family shower for Rachel and me. It was good to have some of my family and her family get together and mingle a little. There was the one awkward moment when everybody talked politics . . . let's just say everyone from both families agrees that George W. Bush is a good president. Which means Rachel and I feel like we're in Bizarro World when they talk about it. I can't comprehend how even someone who supports a rootin'-tootin' war on terror could possibly think he's doing it the right way by invading a country with no ties to terrorists and that poses no significant threat. Ah, but luckily that moment passed quickly.

On top of all of the comraderie, Rachel and I got our diplomas in the mail and she even got a job. Now it's smooth sailing for a few weeks, we get married, and then . . . oh yeah, the rest of our lives!