Aug 10, 2006

den Beste at Chizumatic (likely permalink) is annoyed by this article about linguistics and pronunciation.

Read the rest (931 words)

Aug 09, 2006

Yesterday, an incumbent Democrat Representative was almost certainly
ousted (McKinney), an incumbent Republican Representative in my home
state of Michigan was beaten in his primary and his opponent is almost
certain to win, and Democrat Senator Lieberman faces what promises to
be an intense battle after losing his primary.

There's an interesting way to interpret this which I haven't seen
anyone mention yet. The theory of gerrymandering districts is that if
you draw the district to be 60%+ solidly Republican, that the incumbent
will basically be assured of re-election. Upon this quite a lot of the
informal goverment system is based, including a lot of cynicism on the
part of the electorate about the difficulty of actually affecting the
government. However, the danger of gaming a system is that it tends to
play you right back; you usually win a reprieve, but then whatever
forces you were trying to deny come back redoubled.

It's possible that yesterday's results represents just that;
gerrymandering didn't save McKinney from losing her office due to
terminal embarrassment. (On the part of her constituency, not her.)
The Michigan Representative wasn't saved by gerrymandering; his
constituency didn't like his direction, so they tossed him out. True,
it is almost certainly with another Republican, but that is like small
comfort to the loser. Lieberman's situation is more of a fluke, but
it's still a situation where what conventional wisdom would have
called an assured victory a year ago has become a stiff battle.

Could Congress have pressed the Gerrymandering too far? Is this the
pushback that they didn't anticipate? If so, I think it will tend to
ameliorate the negative effects of Gerrymandering, as it's not very
"useful" if it doesn't have the effect of isolating the elected from
accountability to the electorate. Our system is set up in such a
way that your really can't force people to keep representatives that
they do not want. (Become suspicious if anyone suggests giving
incumbants an automatic pass in primaries...)

Only two more years will tell if these three two events are just
isolated coincidences, or a trend. But if incumbency in even the most
gerrymandered of districts is no longer a near-automatic ticket to
re-election, the game changes quite a bit, in ways that will probably
be difficult to predict.

This is also predicated on the idea that this is an unusual number
primary upsets. People keep constantly pointing out that Lieberman is
the fourth Senate incumbant loss since 1980, but I haven't yet seen any
stats on Representatives. If this isn't an unusual number, then the only
fluky aspect is that they got so much attention.

Oh, and step one is complete...

(Slightly tweaked the 4th paragraph on Aug. 10, 2006, then majorly tweaked after a former co-worked emailed me to point out that Senate districts can't be gerrymandered without quite a lot of effort, since they are the state lines. I can only call that flaming idiocy. If I'd realized that, I wouldn't have posted this at all.)

Conservation Laws
Aug 06, 2006

In physics, there are Conservation Laws, which are among the most
important discoveries mankind has ever made. The great-granddaddy is
Conservation of Energy, that energy can neither be created nor
destroyed. An unexpected energy imbalance has driven a lot of physics;
for instance, neutrinos were
discovered mathematically long before they were actually detected
because of an energy imbalance in beta decay.

Read the rest (2347 words)

Aug 06, 2006

I recently installed Google Analytics on my site, after seeing it in action at work. One of the reasons I installed it is I was interested in seeing what hits were "real" on my site, as a search engine or referrer spammer won't trigger the analytics Javascript code. (Or, at least the spammers don't seem to be doing it yet.)

I figured that Google would show fewer hits than my web logging software, but I was unprepared for the magnitude of the difference. For Friday, August 4, my web logging software reports 431 unique visiters accessing 1447 pages. (Yup, small site, no?) Google reports 50 visits for 50 page views. That is quite a difference.

I had hypothesized that this site was an unusual combination of well-linked and low traffic, making most of the traffic crawlers and search engines, but I didn't expect it to be that much difference.

Jul 26, 2006

I had a funny dream last night.

I dreamt that somebody came up with a symbol that would cause you to die if you looked at it. I’m not sure exactly what the symbol was, but it was an 8 by 8 grid of single-digit numbers and a few lines. (Matrix mathematicians beware!)

The funny thing is this: Nobody believed it when told. They’d demand to see it, snatch it out of the person’s hands, and as they are collapsing to the ground loudly declare, “See, I told you so.”... their final words.

And this would happen over and over again. One person watches someone kick the bucket right in front of them, refuses to believe it, grabs the symbol out of the dead person’s hand, and again proudly announces in their last two seconds of life that they knew it wasn’t true.

My dreams are pretty light on metaphorical meaning. I don’t get the sense this means anything in particular. But it’s still interesting to figure out what this is a metaphor for. Mail me an entertaining one and I might just post it.

I’ll tell you what it reminds me of, though. There are people who will get certain ideas in their head, and will not let go of them, even as reality is repeatedly kicking them in the head for it.

One stereotype I see on TV a lot is the inveterate skeptic who refuses to believe anything “supernatural”. Perhaps that is a fine way to function in this world. But I gotta say, when you’re sitting the middle of a room where everything not nailed down is spinning around you, amorphous beings are darting in and out of the walls giving off horrific screams that you hear without your ears, the air is a-sizzle with energy, and somebody you know is long dead is staring at you from the other side of the table reeling off specific, verifiable claims that you later validate are true when you couldn’t have known them earlier, it’s time to reconsider the idea that ghosts don’t exist.

Ironically, the worst offenders probably show up on Star Trek; any given season is enough to show anyone with an open mind that there is a lot of stuff that occurs in the Trek-verse that is not currently explicable by their science. It’s one thing to believe that science may explain it someday; in that universe that’s a pretty rational belief. It’s quite another to deny that the phenomena exists. Usually it's a Vulcan doing this. Honestly, you’d think that Starfleet Academy alone would break every recruit of the idea that weird stuff can’t be true nonetheless, let alone a year of field experience.

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