Lost Theory

Benjamin Linus is Morpheus, and Charles Widdmore is Agent Smith/the Machines. The island is Zion. Locke is Neo, and Jack is Cypher.

That should ruin it for you, and make you kind of dread the coming explanations and denuoements that will quite probably suck.

You’re welcome.

Drop Removed From Bucket

Kudos to the Metropolitan Mass Transit Boondoggle Association for getting a bill reduced $95,000:

    A consulting firm that worked on Metro’s failed lawsuit against MetroLink designers has agreed to knock $94,617 off its final bill after the agency questioned some travel expenses and other charges.

Too bad the ill-conceived bucket was so big as to make this win negligible:

    Metro, formally known as the Bi-State Development Agency, spent more than $21 million on its three-year legal battle against the original designers and construction managers of the Shrewsbury MetroLink line. But after a three-month trial, a St. Louis County jury ruled in favor of the defendants, who had counter-sued.

    Metro later reached a $6 million settlement with the contractors — bringing the agency’s total trial cost to $27 million.

With enough judicious budgeting like this, the whole thing will take an extra 30 minutes to go bankrupt.

The Public Safety Aspect of Illegal Immigration

CNN Radio reported about an automobile accident in remote Arizona that killed and injured a large number of people jammed into a truck. Just people, the radio announcer said. A special kind of people, my mind inferred. This AP article alludes to what special people they might be:

    A pickup truck jammed with people has crashed in remote central Arizona. Four people are dead and nearly 30 are injured.

    Authorities are investigating the immigration status of those involved in the Sunday morning rollover crash.

Funny that the Public Health aspect of illegal immigration is never discussed. That public money is spent on chasing down and treating people suffering from exposure or dehydration crossing in the desert or in treating people hurt in accidents where large numbers of them are crammed into trucks or whatnot.

Spurious and scurrilous laws are passed with larger impact to protect far smaller sample sizes of citizens. How about taking illegal immigration seriously and enforcing the laws or erecting the walls in the name of public safety?

Hah! Just kidding. People who do illegal things will do them regardless of how more illegal you make them; it’s always easier to layer on more control upon the law abiding than to bring the existing criminals to heel. See also all gun control attempts.

Ill Portents

You remember the last time the media got hopped up on a shark frenzy? Summer 2001.

Now it’s an election year, and maybe I’m just on a hair trigger for my normal paranoia, but when I start hearing about the sharks ramping up their attacks, I’m suddenly worried about what effect a mass casualty attack would have on American soil right before the elections.

The truthers taking to the streets claiming Bush did it to stay in power, and maybe Bush even tries a Guiliani “I need to stay in power a little longer to handle it” attempt, and suddenly….

Well, use your fetid imagination if you’ve got one.

Going for the Shallow Angle

When someone wants to offer arguments on a political subject, how does the St. Louis Post-Dispatch highlight his reasoning? Hah! Trick question. It doesn’t; it highlights how he looks! The headline: A boy-next-door is fighting affirmative action. The lead:

    Tim Asher sat calmly and appeared unfazed moments before he was to address a roomful of Latino leaders, some of whom were likely to be hostile to his message — that Missouri should end affirmative action programs based on race and gender.

    In the last couple of months, Asher, 45, has become accustomed to speaking before skeptical crowds like this one at Hispanic Day at the Capitol.

    Asher, with his boy-next-door looks, has become the face of the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative.

Well, played, Post-Dispatch journalist and editor, well, played.

Content of his character and/or intellect? Nah, that might be too convincing; let’s diminish him by calling him a pretty boy.

Point/Counterpoint, Unintentionally

ComputerWorld runs two stories this week which illustrate a point/counterpoint, albeit unintentionally.

First, an editorial shrieking about how not having electronic medical records is dangerous:

    The medical data that might have saved me several hours of terror sat unused. It was unavailable to doctors outside of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Keene clinic, except by mail or fax. And even if the clinic could transmit my records, Charlotte Regional Medical Center’s systems were incapable of receiving them. According to its records department, the hospital still uses paper-based processes for its medical records.

On the other hand, here’s a frightening story about online medical records:

    University of Miami officials last week acknowledged that six backup tapes from its medical school that contained more than 2 million medical records was stolen in March from a van that was transporting the data to an off-site facility.

Perhaps someone in the know weighs the chances of a faulty diagnosis against the chances of the data being stolen and determined the risk of theft is greater. Perhaps not.

But that’s a consideration to make, ainna?

Good Book Hunting: April 26, 2008

Today, we hit a couple of garage sales nearby. We did not come home empty-handed.

More garage sale books
Click for full size

I got:

  • 9 volumes (of 11, apparently) of Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe series of historical novels. I don’t think I’ve heard of them. However, they were fifty cents each, and if I like them, I have a lot of them. If I don’t, well, I hope my heirs like them or get similar value for them.
  • A thin reference volume on using perennials in landscaping.
  • A collection of Pogo cartoons that I can read while watching a baseball game.

Additionally, I bought a CD of hits of the 70s and SimCopter.

And a really nice Renoir print; I spotted it even though the signature was covered by the matting of the print. It was marked $4, but the garage sale proprietor and owner of a Lustron house offered to give it to me for $3, even after I had $4 out. I like when negotiations go like that. My beautiful wife didn’t like the frame, but we found another of the same size that she liked at another sale. Providence, I tell you.

So that’s 11 books for me, total, which is more than I’ve read this week, so I better get onto a couple more quick browsing books.

Book Report: Solved! Famous Mystery Writers on Classic True-Crime Cases selected by Richard Glyn Jones (1987)

Now, this is an idea book (unlike this). This volume collects 11 essays about real criminal cases, written by famous (or semi-famous, or at least published) authors of suspense or crime fiction. Most of the cases were sensational in the day, but time and probably O.J. have erased them from our minds. As such, they’re worth a bit of exploration from decades later and retelling. The book also includes a science fantasy story by Harlan Ellison about Jack the Ripper, which is out of place.

A pretty enjoyable read, although as one Amazon reviewer notes, some things go on too long, including a recap of the Snyder-Gray trial in 1927 and Erle Stanley Gardner’s explication of Argosy magazine’s “The Court of Last Resort” series. But still worth the time, I’d say, especially if you can score a copy cheap, such as one cent plus fifteen dollars shipping and handling through the convenient link below.

Books mentioned in this review:


Book Report: Michelangelo: His Life and Works by Donatello de Ninno (?)

I grabbed this book because I owned it and because I’ve gotten into the new good habit of looking at these browseable books while I’m watching a baseball game instead of leafing through a magazine or trying to get into something of my denser, deeper reading between pitches.

This book, apparently dating from the 1960s (it’s not dated inside, but Amazon or its users says 1969), so who am I to argue? It looks to be a companion to a museum exhibit or two. It contains a brief (30-40 pages of text?) biographical sketch of Michelangelo and images of his work. It explores his movement in Renaissance Italy and the trends in his work. Interesting stuff, particularly since I was not that familiar with his time period or whatnot.

Coupled with my other recent read of Renaissance Italy (John Hawkwood: An English Mercenary in Fourteenth-Century Italy), I’m getting more familiar with this pivotal period in history and whatnot. Interesting bonus factoid/intersection: Less than 100 years after Hawkwood was chief of Florentine defenses, Michelangelo took at turn at the walls, literally, as he was the Governor General of fortifications and lent himself to constructing the walls and whatnot.

Interesting, and something one can browse during a televised baseball game. Culture and Cardinals baseball are going to be the hallmarks of my summer.

Books mentioned in this review:


Revision

The St. Louis Cardinals’ ninth inning pitcher, commonly called the closer, bears the name Isringhausen and the nickname “Izzy.”

I so move that the nickname be revised hereby to “Izzy Or Izzn’ty.”

Thank you, that is all.

More Supporting Evidence

Another blog supports the thesis from my Suburban Journals column from yesterday: Some Things Are Still Cheap:

    Once in a while at work I am taken aback at how cheap some things are. I find myself on occasion wondering how a certain item could be made in China, shipped over here, marked up, then marked up by me and still cost what is a relative pittance.

    I have always been amazed at how cheaply you could eat if you needed to. I am not talking about USDA prime cuts here. If you were down and totally out and needed to resort to cheap food just to sustain, you can get by on just a few bucks a day. Mac and cheese is .59. A loaf of bread is still under a buck. Fruit and veggies are still relatively cheap compared to other foods.

(Link seen on Instapundit.)

Because We Can Dictate Citizens Behaviour, We Must

The St. Louis County Council has voted along party lines to continue to compel residents in unincorporated areas to use a designated trash hauler with a new designated minimum level of service (once a week recycling pickup now mandatory). A councilman wanted to repeal the compulsion, but wiser totalitarians prevailed:

    The St. Louis County Council on Tuesday rejected a measure to scrap a controversial plan to divide unincorporated areas into trash collection districts that would each be served by one waste hauler.

    The vote at the council’s regular meeting followed two hours of fervent public comments at a special hearing Tuesday afternoon. In their arguments before the council, numerous county residents raised such diverse points as the need to preserve the free market economy and worries about the durability of asphalt.

    The bill, proposed by Councilman John Campisi, R-south St. Louis County, would have removed the county’s authority to establish the trash districts. The contract for waste hauling in each district is to be awarded to the lowest bidder.

    Campisi said that the districts were unpopular with his constituents and that he feared they would put small haulers out of business.

    His bill failed 4-3 on a party line vote, with Democratic council members Kathleen Burkett, Hazel Erby, Barbara Fraser and Mike O’Mara voting against it and Republicans Greg Quinn and Colleen Wasinger joining Campisi in support of it.

You know, it used to be government made a set of commandments you shouldn’t break as laws. The thou shalt nots: Don’t murder anyone, don’t collect piles of disease- and rodent-bearing refuse on your property.

Then it became a bunch of laws designed to keep people out of circumstances where the citizens could possibly commit a thou shalt not: Thou shalt not have guns, thou shalt have weekly garbage pick up.

Now, it’s gone beyond that, removing even more choice by limiting the citizens’ behavior to well-conceived courses designated by the governments. The thou shalts: Thou shalt use Waste Management for your weekly mandatory garbage pickups and your weekly mandatory recycling garbage pickups. Thou shalt paint your house only in colors approved by the historical preservation committee. And so on.

Where does it end? It should have ended with the thou shalt nots; now, there’s no principle preventing the city and county councils from mandating any behavior for the good of the municipality.

Turtles Poached, Anthropomorphized

The headline is “Turtle-napper pleads pleads guilty“, but the story indicates the animals were merely poached:

    The third of three men charged in a illegal turtle-napping scheme pleaded guilty in St. Louis today to a federal felony charge.

    Bobby Wayne Pyburn, 20, admitted that he and Erich Wayne Higgins, 33, had set up nets and illegally trapped dozens of turtles late last summer in Missouri’s bootheel and sold them to Kenneth Brandon Reese, 26, in Arkansas. All of the men are from Lake City, Ark., the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

What’s the difference?

-Napping tends to refer to either the illegal capture of people or, less formally, pets. However, by applying it to wild animals instead of the more precise term for the crime that already exists, the journalist and writer are elevating the wild turtles to the same legal status as humans or human possessions.

Think I’m making too much of this? Well, try this analogy on for size. Poaching:-Napping::Hunting::Murdering.

In both cases, the gerund for an act involving wildlife is replaced with a legal term dealing with crimes against men to elevate your outrage at the lesser charge by making it sound like violence against man.

Orwell would be proud.

Book Report: The Top 10 of Everything 2008 by Russell Ash (2007)

I received this book as a Christmas gift. It provided a couple hours of browsing while watching baseball, as it’s that sort of book: a number of Top 10 lists about various and sundry subject grouped into categories like music and sports and leisure. Definitely a coffeetable/browsing sort of book, as there’s not much text besides the lists, the sources, and the occasional tidbit.

The first chapters on science and nature didn’t really hook me, as I really have little interest in the top animals by size or the most common or uncommon elements. Once we moved into to the entertainment sections, though, I could get through more of them in a sitting.

Probably not worth the amount it’s going for on Amazon, but it was a gift. If you’re looking for lists, you’re probably better off with The Book of Lists series, which offers more interesting lists with better commentary/detail on the list items.

Books mentioned in this review:

The Horse Pushing The Cart

I think the St. Louis Post-Dispatch got things in the wrong order here when it describes a citizen expressing his views to his leaders:

    Ignoring lobbying from a major Republican campaign donor, the House voted overwhelmingly Monday to grant the largest tax break ever in Missouri to a Canadian firm.

    With little debate, legislators approved a package aimed at luring Montreal-based Bombardier Aerospace to build a $375 million plant near Kansas City International Airport.

    The bipartisan vote was 125-16. The bill now moves to the Senate.

    Bombardier could draw up to $40 million a year for 22 years, as could other “mega-projects” that invest at least $300 million and employ 1,000 people at above-average wages.

    Critics, led by multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield of St. Louis, have questioned whether the state would get its money back. His free-market think tank, the Show-Me Institute, recommends the state give tax breaks to everyone instead of picking projects to promote.

The paper uses lobbying as a negatively laden code word these days which means “sought government attention.” The fact that he often gives to Republicans is also a code that he’s a fat cat. In short, the Post-Dispatch tries to marginalize the person’s views, which are that the state shouldn’t engage in crony capitalism and give breaks to its friends or to projects its legislators like.

A good principle, but not one to even consider when it comes from a wealthy Republican lobbyist.

The Sun Never Sets On The Taxation Empire

A tax scheduled to end? Stop!

    Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and two local law enforcement officials want telephone users to help pay for police, firefighters and paramedics through their phone bills.

    Barrett, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm and Police Chief Edward Flynn are asking Gov. Jim Doyle and the Legislature to give municipalities control over the 911 telephone surcharge that is supposed to expire Nov. 30. They’re hoping to add that provision to the budget-repair bill now under consideration.

Even better, the mayor wants to expand the tax:

    The surcharge on cellular telephone users was created in 2005 to cover the costs of technology to pinpoint the locations of cell phones during calls to the 911 emergency number. Montgomery said that technology has saved at least 15 lives statewide.

    The fee started at 83 cents a month, rose to 92 cents in 2006 and then dropped this year to 43 cents.

    But before the fee expires, Barrett wants lawmakers to authorize municipal governments to retain the surcharge and expand it to cover all telephones, including land lines provided by both telephone and cable companies. Milwaukee would be able to boost its charge to a maximum of $1 a month in 2009 and $1.50 a month in future years. [Emphasis added]

In the sidebar, the mayor as quoted as saying, “Gun crime is expensive, and fighting crime is expensive.” Gee, mayor, how about some prioritization? Pick either gun crime or fighting crime then, instead of making taxpayers of your (formerly) fair city pay for everything you can dream of in your power-mad dreams?

Rah! Rah! Go, Crony Capitalists!

The piece in bizjournals.com is entitled Yeah, it’s tax deadline, but government isn’t all bad, but I think I’ve summed up the point with my headline. Author asserts:

    Sorry to disappoint all you tax-and-spend bashers out there. This won’t be another article bemoaning profligate government spending and the ill effects of our tax system on American businesses, jobs, consumers and bank accounts.

    As worthy a cause as that is, it’s really too easy – shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel. I need a more challenging task.

    How about all the benefits our government bestows on us when it spends all that tax money?

    Yeah, that’s the ticket – science fiction.

    Let’s see.

    Wait. Give me a minute. I’ll think of something.

    Now, I’ve got it!

    Technology.

    We live in a society and economy that requires constant technological advances. Whatever your views on government, one is forced to admit the fact that government is responsible for funding basic research.

Well, the author certainly killed a number of words in his minimum with that transition, didn’t he?

But from then on, it’s all about how government buys us Tang by taking from my poor elderly one-eyed neighbor and giving to universities sitting on fat endowments and defense companies awash in government contracts.

Spare me the huzzahs.