Thursday, February 28, 2013

What really scares the GOP and why?

The headline on Politico reads "Republicans fear sequestration gives Obama upper hand". The article isn't really about a political upper hand, though. It's about the fear of some in the GOP of how decisions concerning where the cuts will be made might be left in the hands of the evil man in the White House. Paranoia and hatred seem to be the primary motivators for these people. There isn't any acknowledgement of why this situation exists. Basically the GOP was determined to deny Obama anything that could possibly be defined as a positive achievement in his first term. Remember the famous quote about the goal of making him a one term president. In the back and forth over the fiscal cliff the proposal was made to set up something that neither side would like to see happen as a sword of Damocles threatening both parties that would hit after the 2012 elections, presumably forcing something more rational and fine tuned to be developed after the pressure of the election cycle was over. But there were many factors that weren't really accounted for including the undying hatred for Obama even after the election, the willingness to take the chance of a double dip recession on the part of the more conservative elements of the GOP and the basic innumeracy of much of America. In a country with a third of a billion people and an economy that regularly uses numbers in the billions and trillions people are still far too impressed by those who measure things in whatever way helps their agenda instead of looking at multiple ways of viewing the numbers and questioning which way really is the most important one.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What's that glint in the GOP eye?

Can't you just see the glow of fanaticism in their eyes? At least that's what I think when I read things like this about current GOP "leadership". The sequester isn't big enough according to the RNC. Or maybe it's Obama's fault. They're just so confused even as they are so self assured of their righteousness.

The Heritage Foundation is not a think tank

Changing economists, Menzie Chinn at Econbrowser points out that  the Heritage Foundation doesn't really seem to understand economics all that well.

I thought this one was a real gem.
While budget deficits most certainly increase demand, the borrowing necessary to finance those deficits must dollar-for-dollar reduce demand. The net effect is more government debt but not more total demand and certainly not more jobs.
So the government borrows money to finance things. More often than not this means they or their contractors go and hire people and/or buy things from businesses. Yet this "economist" from Heritage says that every dollar the government must borrow for this magically vanishes from the economy. This is a constant claim of self-identified conservatives which is just as fact free an ideologically based claim as is the desire to have intelligent design in science classrooms. The Heritage Foundation is not a think tank if you consider thinking the ability to seek out and recognize facts. It is a belief system tank, no more.

Businesses need customers more than tax cuts

Sticking with Robert Reich, he points out that what businesses really need is customers. A big problem with that is that actual take home pay has been dropping for a long time now. When you combine that with the so-called fiscal conservative's insistence that government cut back and spend less the numerous businesses that count government at all levels among their customers then there is even less ability to hire. One thing that Reich doesn't mention is the secondary effect of businesses that these businesses would buy things from and that the people they have fired or not been able to hire would buy things from or hire for services. It's the real trickle along economy.

The Deficit is not our biggest problem

Robert Reich points out the reasons that you shouldn't believe that the deficit is our biggest problem. It really isn't. What would happen to it if we were back down to a 6% unemployment rate as measured by U3 or better still, 10 or 11% as measured by U6? But that's not what the Republicans are talking about. If you want to know how well austerity works out ask the British.

Trade Mark system just as broken as patent system

Boing Boing has an article showing how the trade mark system can be abused like the patent system. A trade mark that should never have been granted cost Ali Spagnola, a Pittsburgh artist, $30,000 to get it reversed. I have to really admire her for doing this because it was the right thing to do. She could have walked away from this fight easily but because she didn't someone who apparently richly deserved it lost his case and the ability to make money from appropriating an idea that wasn't really his to begin with. So now to celebrate her victory she has this IndieGoGo project for a PowerHour Freedom Victory Tour.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lost Land Beneath the Waves - ScienceNOW

This is what can be so great about modern science. New discoveries lead to new technology which leads to new instruments that lead to new discoveries. Using a mixture of gravity mapping, mineral analysis and plate movement reconstruction researchers have provided yet more evidence that makes a convincing argument that many islands in the Indian Ocean and some of the sea floor are in fact what's left of an ancient continent.

My GoDaddy Meltdown

A long time ago, an internet eternity, in fact, I created a blog on Blogger called The DemiNerd. But I wondered about the limits of the platform when it came to specific combinations of being able to run advertising and some other things I wanted to expand into so I decided to use an account that was a "leftover" on GoDaddy and use the title The DemiGeek. A slightly more fitting title, I thought, and I already had the domain name. And I wanted to play around with really customizing the site and hosting it on a shared hosting system makes it more flexible.

So I had the hosting plan on GoDaddy changed from Windows server to Linux server because that's what WordPress runs on. It took three days. OK. I could live with that. Then it refused to install WordPress properly, producing a database connection error every time. I reported it to tech support. Apparently several database settings hadn't converted properly and were still trying to point to databases on the original servers the plan had been on. They fixed that problem after a couple of days. I installed WordPress and put a different theme on the site that wasn't anything complex or demanding. Added a couple of widgets. Added an Amazon Associates aStore widget. The next thing I knew it was taking over two minutes to load. So I got rid of the only "unusual" thing on the site, that being the aStore widget. Didn't make a bit of difference. I called GoDaddy tech support again. They couldn't figure it out but moved the site to a different server. That didn't help either. Then they completely reconfigured the nature of the shared hosting account. Hey, it was working! For a couple of days, that is. The site performance has been a constant roller coaster ride and today was the end.

I changed my Blogger web site to be The DemiGeek. I changed the domain records so that leads to the Blogger web site then exported the posts from the WordPress site and imported them into the site on Blogger. Now there's just some work to further improve the Blogger version of The DemiGeek.

What's It Like to Wake Up From a Tea Party Binge? Just Ask Florida! | Mother Jones

Once you've decided that government that does anything except defense and law enforcement is evil and needs to be cut off at the knees someone will pay for it in ways other than taxes. The people who voted for Rick Scott and the current crop of Florida legislators are learning that the hard way though the biggest prices being paid don't care who you voted for.
What's It Like to Wake Up From a Tea Party Binge? Just Ask Florida! | Mother Jones

Businessweek passes on NOAA estimate on climate and work

Decades ago I worked some summer jobs during college and one "hiatus" trying to save up the bucks to go back to school with jobs that were both outside and indoors with no air conditioning. The work in summer was hot and sweaty and at one of them I wound up dehydrated in spite of my efforts to avoid it. I can all too readily imagine what it will be like in a few more decades if current trends continue.
Worker Rest Breaks Double by 2050 as Climate Warms: NOAA - Businessweek

Being president doesn't mean you can skip your kids' dance recitals

There were quite a few articles on this bit of First Family life, but I liked this headline the best.
Obama attends daughter Sasha's dance recital

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fracking isn't without consequences

Walter Brasch on The Moderate Voice writes about the dangers that those in a rush to profit from fracking aren't paying nearly enough attention to safety. If we need the energy the corporations going after it should at least give due consideration to the safety of everyone involved.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

GIFs are cool now?

If you've been around the internet for a while and maybe even its precursors such as BBSes you know the GIF has been around for a while. 25 years in fact. New Republic as a very good article on where it came from and where it's at now. It's really amazing that a humble little graphic file format could become such a flexible and wide spread phenomenon.

Monday, February 18, 2013

ataxingmatter does a Bullfinch imitation for the GOP

Linda Beale at ataxingmatter lists the ongoing myths that are repeated ad nauseam by the right wing spin machine. She's doing this as the beginning of a planned series of posts looking at the "foundation on which the right-wing policy ideology depends". This ought to be fun for policy and economics geeks.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Danger, Jane & John Doe Computer User! Don't buy the retail copy of Office 2013.

PC World informs us that it is definitely true that if you buy a retail copy of Office 2013 instead of using Microsoft's "rental" system to acquire it is tied to the one computer forever. If the computer dies or you just need a new one with more capabilities your old copy is useless. You have to buy a new one. I think this is a rip off of the highest order no matter how badly Microsoft wants to switch from selling retail copies to perpetual leasing of their software if you want to use it. I think I'm going to tell everyone I know that buying a retail copy of Office 2013 is a very bad idea.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Finance sector drowning in liquidity while Main Street has a drought

Banks, brokerages and other entities in the financial sector endlessly justify many of their actions by pointing out that this action or that fiscal instrument increases liquidity and that is a good thing. This is a reason that companies that make high speed, high volume automated trades based solely on algorithms analyzing trends cite to justify their existence in spite of their ability to crash markets with an errant keystroke. My response is "So what?". The financial markets and liquidity within them are meaningless within the bubble they've created for themselves. If they are not connected with the real world and human needs, what we think of as the Main Street economy, then they are a meaningless sideshow. As this article from the Washington Post shows, even as a flood of liquidity sloshes around the world financial corporations drowning them in so much money that they have no idea what to do with it, the people who need money and have none because of being unemployed or underemployed have none. They suffer from a drought that crushes hope and self-respect and that, unlike a drought that nature inflicts, human beings can end if they so choose. But the bubble protecting Wall Street and its foreign cousins from the reality of the consequences of their actions seems to be impervious.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

More evidence for bad climate news in the Arctic

redOrbit notes that new satellite data backs up earlier research that Arctic sea ice is thinning. Combined with a lessening area being covered by that ice, especially in the summer, it could mean worse news coming along even faster than most climatologists and Arctic researchers feared.

A version of The War of the Worlds you might never have heard of

This is something that too many people, IMHO, don't know about. War of The Worlds- 30th Anniversary is the 30th anniversary release of a great musical project. Richard Burton reading from the H.G. Wells book combined with amazingly talented composers and musicians make for a great treat for the ears and mind.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Arctic soil producing more bad news as it warms?

One of the worries concerning warmer temperatures in the arctic besides the effects of ever-shrinking summer ice coverage has been arctic methane release. But initial findings of Rose Cory, an environmental scientist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and her team would seem to indicate that it will also produce some unpleasant surprises when it comes to CO2 production. Carbon being released by melting permafrost and then reacting chemically to turn into CO2 has been recognized for a while now but it turns out, at least in research done so far, that carbon being released from the places where permafrost melting has resulted in holes and landslides, known as thermokarst failures, can be even worse. The carbon from deeper layers of soil that are revealed in rapid bursts are actually different from the carbon closer to the surface, with tests showing that carbon to be 40% more susceptible to conversion into CO2.

This seems to be just another piece of bad news when it comes to unexpected feedback systems being discovered as warming continues.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Evidence? We don't need no...

Maybe the site is slanted one way in the political sphere, but they and Rep. Pelosi do point out something very valid. The last track I had the studies that show that violence in media contribute to real world violence were outweighed by those that didn't provide any real evidence of the claim. I don't think there is enough evidence on one side to prove anything in this disagreement over what role, if any, video games, TV and film in our overly violent nation.

Is there a "New Normal"?

A blog on the Discover Magazine has a good post on the question of how climate change and weather events are now framed and how they will likely be framed in the future. The point Kevin Trenberth is quoted as making makes sense. Climate change, by definition, will affect all weather events. The question is just how.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A potential northern sky show

NASA informs us that a CME has been produced by a long duration solar flare that will hit the Earth. It's going to be a benign one highly unlikely to do any damage but if you're far enough north the aurora will probably be a nice show.

Great-grand^10000 Dad!

Wired, as well as many other media outlets, have picked up on this story about an attempt to reconstruct what the last common ancestor of all current mammals might have looked like. I suppose there's a family resemblance to some people.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Only tangentially geeky, I know.

I just watched an episode of a show on PBS called Shakespeare Uncovered. It's interesting premise is to have someone who has actually been involved in the subject play of that episode such as an actor or director be your guide to an exploration of the history of the play and its continuing appeal to audiences. What makes this tangentially geeky? One of the episodes tonight was on Hamlet with David Tennant, the 10th Doctor, as your guide. Tennant starred as Hamlet in a BBC production with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2009 with Patrick Stewart as Claudius and Hamlet's father's ghost. See? It's related after all.

When there are no good options left...

The MIT Technology Review features a story about a potentially cheap and easy plan to stop global warming. Or at least that's the headline. It's about the suggestion that's been around for a while that sulfur injected into the upper atmosphere could form sulfate particles that would reflect enough energy back into space to make up for the GHGs that are being pumped into it by other processes. The article focuses on David Keith, a physicist who thinks that we need to at least seriously research whether or not it's doable and if there are unintended consequences that would make it an untenable solution.

Keith wants some limited field tests to move past the computer models that have already been run. Some think that field trials are the slippery slope that would lead to such a system being fully deployed. Supporters of Keith's position acknowledge that extreme caution needs to be taken and that even if deployment was actually decided on at some point in the future it's not an all or nothing proposition. It could be implemented on a limited basis and consequences watched for. Still there are those that object, of course. But those who oppose any research and experimentation seem to be assuming that those proposing it think it's a good idea. As this article makes clear, they don't. They do, however, see that it is far too likely that when it comes to heading off the consequences of our carelessness with the environment we are far too likely to need a solution of last resort.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Some books on Amazon and the smell test

So, you see this widget on the left hand side of the page? I'm trying to build what is called an Amazon aStore. You take and create your own take on an online bookstore using Amazon's inventory and order fulfillment. I thought this would be a way to create my own take on a "small" online bookstore with a fannish view of things. One thing I'm doing is providing links and (in the near future) some information on classic science fiction and providing categories for their books currently in print. In the process of doing this I've found some rather interesting things.

Be careful what you buy. I'm not providing names or links because I just don't want to provide even negative publicity for these "publishers". The other night while adding the available books by Robert Silverberg I stumbled across one that made me think "Is this legit?". Scrolling down a bit I saw a post by Silverberg blasting these folks for publishing something that he had let slip into the public domain since he considered it superseded by another book. Tonight I stumbled across a questionable publication of a Theodore Sturgeon book. From what I've been able to tell, it's more than a little likely that while some of this kind of publishing is actually in the public domain, I for one am not interested in supporting someone who is overcharging for someone else's work when I can be pretty sure that the writer's estate isn't seeing a penny.

The Quasi-Official Robert Silverberg Web Site

We do learn more and more. It's called science.

In the realm of very vaguely related news stories, 8 days before we are due for a cosmic close shave so close that it could whack an orbiting satellite or two, we read that there is even more evidence that the massive impact that produced the Chicxulub crater was in fact if not the sole cause almost certainly a contributor to the massive extinction event whose most famous victims were the dinosaurs. Gotta love it. This is the way science works when dealing with questions about real world events that can't be answered in repeatable laboratory experiments though some don't seem to appreciate it. Scientists have to not only ask not only the questions concerning the event they are researching but what kind of traces are there to help them find those answers. This is what climatologists do in order to try and find the answers concerning climate change. In spite of what some whose fashion sense should include tinfoil hats claim, they are not involved in a massive hoax or conspiracy. They ask questions and go where the evidence takes them. As they should.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hello world!

When I installed WordPress it created an initial post called "Hello world!" that I imagine most people would just delete and create their own introductory post for their brand new blog. But given that "Hello world!" seems to be the first little computer program that you learn in almost every programming language I just thought I'd leave the title while putting some actual text in here instead of the boilerplate that the WordPress folks created.

Yes, this blog will have geeky stuff about science fiction, computers, fantasy and pretty much all of the stuff that one would expect with that title. But I doubt I'll be able to stay away from politics, economics, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Kansas City Royals and anything else that happens to catch my attention.