Friday, November 21, 2008

Cut-and-paste, or pride-and-prejudice

When I was in high school I did a one-week summer program at West Point. They had these nifty graphical X-terminals that used these new-fangled things called "mice". You painted over the text with the mouse and then you could cut text and paste it somewhere. I thought that was really neat.

Later, in college, I had an account on one computer and I could telnet or ftp into other computers in different rooms or cities. I thought this was really neat.

A few years ago I was at a trade fair and saw a program called VMWare, that lets you easily run a virtual computer inside another operating system. I thought that was really neat.

Yesterday I needed some emergency dental work, so now I'm rushing to get some projects done before the weekend. I need to cut-and-paste a lot of text between two pieces of mathematical software. One application is on a remote machine that I can only get to on my MacBook via Windows Remote Desktop running under XP running under Parallels running on my MacBook. The other application is on a remote Mac that I can only use via Mac Screen Sharing. It is running under XP on that Mac using VMWare. Every time I cut-and-paste the data it disappears. I suspect that some scientist in Mongolia is trying to figure out why my model data is appearing on his desktop. I don't think this is neat at all.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The sex life of computer scientists

According to Counterpoint Magazine, researchers have found that 83% if all Wellesley mathematics majors are virgins, but only 40% of all CS majors are. (Study: IQ Linked to Virginity.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Who people are voting for and why (guest post)

From Lisa Archer:

I'm voting the opposite of my brother just to make him mad.

(Note from Jeff Hall: this woman's brother must have the patience of a saint.)

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Who people are voting for and why (guest post)

From Ronald Corcillo:

I'm voting for Barack Obama because I make less than $200,000 a year and he wants to cut my taxes.

Oh, he's also the only candidate who's pledged to capture Osama Bin Laden, the guy who killed 3,000 Americans (including my best friend from college) over 7 years ago but has somehow been ignored by George W. Bush.

The Republicans continue to try the "If you can't make an argument, attack the plaintiff" approach. But for once, people aren't falling for the trumped-up personal attacks. People are actually voting based on the issues - and that spells a lot of trouble for the Republicans.

Election eve

In a few hours, barring another 2000 or 1876, we can all stop worrying whether John McCain has cancer or whether Barack Obama is going to surrender to al Quaeda. And of course even if your worst nightmare about either of these two men were true, the Republic would still survive and prosper. We have designed our Constitution so that the Executive branch is unitary, but surprisingly weak, and that's the way most people like it.

America in 2012 is probably going to look much the same whether President McCain or President Obama is running for reelection. They are both pretty smart, and our country is a big place that can mostly look out for itself.

But that doesn't mean that the character of the intervening four years aren't going to matter to us at the time. My greatest worry isn't that a President Obama would raise taxes or let Iran get the bomb or give his interesting Chicago associates government jobs. My worry is simply that he has demonstrated no respect for liberty, and has surrounded himself with people with no respect for dissent. Am I worried for nothing? Ah ...
  • At the end of the longest and most expensive election in history, his campaign takes time out to persecute a small businesswoman for expressing a dissenting opinion.
  • His operatives and allies go all out to publicly trash the reputation of a working-class Joe whose only crime was to ask Sen. Obama an unscripted question.
  • When Joe Wurzelbacher refused to repent his sins, his campaign illegally searched government records in an attempt to find dirt on him.
  • When Gov. Palin was nominated for Vice President, his prominent supporters claimed that her baby was actually her daughter's child. When it was revealed that this is impossible, since her daughter was herself pregnant, his prominent supporters launched on of the most vicious series of attacks in our nation's history on this innocent 17 year-old girl. (Even at the darkest moments of the 2000 election recount, could you have imagined that the liberal elite would ever countenance -- laugh at! -- vagina jokes about a Republican candidate's teenager daughter on network TV?)
    Sen. Obama has rightly distanced himself from these outrageous attacks on the baby and the teenager, but he hasn't publicly scolded or condemned Andrew Sullivan, Conan O'Brien any of the childrens' attackers by name.
  • His lawyers have threatened legal action against the NRA for running ads that disagree with his characterization of his positions. (If John McCain did this to NOW or ACORN, his own supporters would threaten to abandon him. For that matter, I'd like to think that if Al Gore tried to muzzle his critics with legal threats, his supporters would have abandoned him too. We just don't do this sort of thing in America, do we?)
  • In Missouri, Democratic Sheriffs threatened to arrest anyone who lies about Obama. (They later said that they had been misunderstood. Of course it was silly of the public to take them seriously. It's not like the power of arrest is anything to worry about nowadays, right?)
  • He's kicked journalists off of his campaign plane who come from papers who don't show any loyalty to him.
  • More generally, he seems to have a Nixonian ability to take simple criticism personally.
Summing up, my biggest worry is that the fawning personality cult around him goes considerable trouble to discredit and punish anyone who does not support him. Of course, he can't be blamed for what other people do, and good politicians are supposed to try to be popular. But, like Vladimir Putin, at the very least he does nothing to discourage his cult's excesses.

Obama Warns He May Cease To Exist Unless America Believes In Him

INDIANAPOLIS—Unless citizens throughout America keep him in their thoughts, say his name to themselves over and over, and otherwise believe in him with all their might, Barack Obama may cease to exist, the candidate warned supporters Thursday.

"My fellow Americans, I am currently very strong and very, very real," Sen. Obama told a cheering crowd of 12,000 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. "Even here in Hoosier country, a traditional Republican stronghold, your faith has kept me from growing faint, becoming transparent, and slowly fading from view."

"But please, don't stop now," Obama added. "Unless you continue to believe in me, I'll completely disappear. You have to keep me in your thoughts at all times!"

- The Onion, via

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Tolerating dissent takes practice

If McCain did this, it would be front-page news:
Journalists from three major newspapers that endorsed John McCain have been booted from Barack Obama’s campaign plane for the final leg of the presidential race.

- Fox News, quoted by Michelle Malkin. The papers banned from the plane are the Washington Times, the New York Post and Dallas Morning News.