September 29, 2003
Suburban Blight

I just discovered a blog, Suburban Blight, where the host does a one-person version of the Carnival of the Vanities. It is called the Cul-de-Sac.

It is a fun blog in its own right. Look around. My laugh of the day was this link on poetic justice.

Updated References

When I check my stats, I can see what pages are frequently viewed. By far, the most viewed reference is my collection of links about abortion. Today I went ahead and added a few new links.

Beware of Pride

When much of the Northeastern USA and Canada suffered from a massive power failure, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi boasted that such a problem could never befall Italy. This was extremely foolish since Italy imports a large portion of their energy and thus cannot control it.

The utter foolishness of Berlusconi’s comments were revealed less than 2 months after his boast. Yesterday, 90 percent of Italy was without power after a freak accident and the authorities hope to restore power to all sometime Tuesday. 90%!

I feel for those without power and would not wish this on the Italians despite the bluster of their prime minister. But I must admit, I appreciate his modern day example on why one should avoid hubris.

September 28, 2003
All Politics are Loco

Taegan Goddard pointed me to an interesting LA Times story about a potential Republican challenger for Barbara Boxer. Some people want to recruit Dennis Miller to run for her U.S. Senate seat next year.

Now that would be an interesting race. I suspect the debates would be memorable.

Quixote Endorses McClintock

The Californian recall election process has fascinated me because the choice facing Republicans is so dynamic. Tom McClintock seems to be that rare breed of politician – one who actually says what he means, means what he says, and clearly articulates policies based upon principles instead of political expediency. Arnold Schwarzenegger still is learning about the issues, but seems to be more Libertarian than Republican (that is, he strikes me as fiscally conservative, but socially liberal – and I suspect his social liberalism will trump his fiscal conservatism when the two conflict). Obviously his name recognition is a huge asset, especially amongst the voters who really don’t care about the Republicans nor the Democrats. The question is why should Republicans vote for Schwarzenegger?

In previous posts, I’ve assumed McClintock would bail out of the election once he saw Schwarzenegger was the more popular candidate. However, as I have learned more about McClintock, I no longer think this is the case. I also now hope McClintock fights to the finish. Why should a man give up his dreams and principles for a man who does not share those principles?

Many wishy-washy Republicans, blinded by seeing a chance to get someone associated with the Republican party elected as governor, are ignoring their principles and urging McClintock to abandon his. From a game-playing perspective, this makes sense. Ralph Nader probably cost Gore the last election. Twelve years earlier, Ross Perot allowed President Clinton to get elected by splitting the conservative vote. Clearly Republicans fear that McClintock’s staying in the race will allow Lt. Governor Bustamante to remain in power.

I say take the risk. Republicans should vote their principles and vote for McClintock. If Bustamante wins, then a few more years of Democratic misrule should guarantee a Republican victory next time around. If Schwarzenegger wins, as I predict he will even with McClintock staying in the race, then the Republican voters would have remained true to their principles without making a difference in the race’s outcome. And if all Republicans actually voted for McClintock, I suspect Tom McClintock would win. Unfortunately this outcome is quite doubtful.

No matter what the outcome, this pundit fully supports and endorses Tom McClintock and his quixotic quest. And I will defend his right and responsibility to stick to his principles and remain in the election against all the misguided and/or unprincipled Republicans calling for him to withdraw. The ends do not justify the means.

September 24, 2003
Non-Californian Review of Gubernatorial Recall Debate

**** Introduction – prepared before debate ****

Tonight’s debate, which Schwarzenegger called the “Super Bowl of debates,” is of tremendous importance to the people of California. According to one poll, two-thirds of potential Californian voters “said they would be swayed by the face-off, which could be the most-watched debate in California political history.”

I suspect I lot of people will link to this who are not familiar with me. So let me quickly give my biases. I would like for a pro-life candidate to win, but I suspect the odds of that occurring in California are slim. I am a political independent and would love to see Arianna Huffington do well just to show independents can be a viable political force. Other than these preferences, I don’t really care. I hope whoever is elected can actually help California. All of their problems are not Governor Davis’ fault, but he certainly made things worse and deserves to be recalled.

Now that my relevant biases have been disclosed, let’s continue.

The Players – the top 5 (by polls) candidates participated in tonight’s debate. In alphabetical order, they are:

Cruz Bustamante (D) – currently California’s Lt. Governor
Peter Camejo (Green)
Arianna Huffington (I)
Tom McClintock (R) – currently a California State Senator
Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)

With twelve questions, five candidates, and 90 minutes, I fear this will merely turn into a sound-byte fest, but hopefully it will still serve to give some idea of the competence – or lack thereof – of some of the candidates.

**** Debate coverage ****

The debate was far more fluid and interesting than I expected. On economic issues, McClintock and Schwarzenegger gave the conservative line and Bustamante, Camejo, and Huffington gave the liberal line. Both sides attacked each others’ statistics (and Huffington attacked Busamante’s figures too). It was humorous to see McClintock defending Schwarzenegger’s answers, hope he sees the irony in it later.

Camejo did come across as a fiscal conservative during one point in the debate. He attacked Bustamente role in the Davis administration, asking for a 5-year audit to see how the Davis administration went from almost a 40 billion dollar surplus to almost a 40 billion deficit.

Mark Twain once said there are lies, damn lies, and statistics. This was obviously true during the debate and I will not attempt to analyze all of the statistics people were throwing around; I am sure paid writers will do their best on this. However, I study marketing demographics and know quite a bit on one of the issues the candidates raised. McClintock and Schwarzenegger were correct when they said more people were leaving California than were joining it. This started a few years ago in a shocking reversal of historical trends. Only time will tell if this is a fluke or a new trend, but McClintock and Schwarzenegger were correct. The others were either ignorant or deliberately deceptive.

Since the more traditional newspapers should cover the main issues, I’ll spend the rest of my time on my impressions of the candidates.

Bustamante struck me as a pompous hypocrite. He was the only candidate to disagree with the recall election, yet was happy to participate in it. The Lt. Governor admitted the current administration was spending too much money, but wanted to become Governor to fix things. He kept prefacing his remarks that “Arnold [or Arianna], you wouldn’t know about this, but…” Despite my growing dislike for the man, he did well on the issues.

Camejo was interesting. He was knowledgeable, and mostly stuck to the issues. He struck me as a policy wonk. An Albert Gore without the attitude problem. He had no qualms about interjecting himself, but avoided the childishness shown by some of the other talkative candidates. His closing statement scared me (he thinks the Kyoto agreement is a good idea and thinks the US should have left Saddam Hussein in power), but he presented himself very well.

Huffington couldn’t stick to the issues. She had guts, attacking Schwarzenegger and Bustamante constantly and occasionally poking virtually everyone (I’m not sure if she attacked Camejo or not), but tended to rant against Bush, the rich, Republicans, almost anything to avoid sticking to the issues. Once, she even tried to debate the moderator. However, she also had her gracious moments such as when she announced her admiration for McClintock, saying even though she usually disagreed with him, you always knew where McClintock stood.

McClintock was presidential. When he did speak, he was dignified, articulate, and factual. However, he didn’t interject himself nearly as much as anyone else. Other than when he was correcting factual errors, he only spoke when prompted by the moderator. On certain issues, he stood alone and he did so with conviction. He was obviously the only social conservative at the table.

Schwarzenegger did an adequate job. At times he showed he had obviously studied the issues and articulated (in his own way) a deep understanding of the issue. At times he seemed superficial (almost Hollywood like) with simplistic answers. Those that are irritated by President Bush’s smirk were probably outraged by Schwarzenegger’s confident grin. He has a few snappy one-liners, but should have avoided Huffington’s pettiness instead of occasionally sinking to her level.

**** Who Won the Debate? ****

If I were grading the candidates on their debate performance, I would rank the candidates in this way:

First Place - Peter Camejo (Green)
Second Place – Tom McClintock (R)
Third Place – Cruz Bustamante (D)
Fourth Place –- Arnold Schwarzenegger (R)
Fifth Place (LAST) – Arianna Huffington (I)

In a close decision, Camejo won the debate. If McClintock had interjected himself more, I probably would have picked him as the first place winner. In a traditional format, I think he would have won with ease, but he didn’t adapt enough to the fluid format. Camejo did, and he won the debate. That isn’t to say I agree with him on most issues, but I am trying to be as objective as possible.

However, the election does not hinge on who “won” the debate on how well they performed. This may be a good thing – in an ideal world, the election should hinge on the merits of the candidate’s beliefs, not just how well the candidate presents his or her ideas. But people don’t always, or even usually, vote on merit either.

So, in a political sense, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the debate. He was likeable and didn’t make any major errors. The common wisdom says the election is his to lose. He didn’t. While I deeply regret how this simplistically this election is being determined, I think this clinched the election for Schwarzenegger.

Since the actor didn’t shoot himself in the foot, I predict McClintock will withdraw from the race fairly soon. He’ll probably wait until the polls come out tomorrow or Thursday. But if the polls still show Schwarzenegger with a major lead, I think McClintock will withdraw and ensure Schwarzenegger’s victory.

However, if McClintock stays in the election, it will really get interesting. Will California Republicans vote with their heart (McClintock) or their head (Schwarzenegger)? Will they split the vote and allow Bustamante to stay in power? We’ll know the answers soon.

September 23, 2003
A Victory for Common Sense

I just reviewed the brief (13 page) decision by the 11 members of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They unanimously overturned the previous ruling by three of the most liberal members of the Ninth Circuit. Technically, the earlier Ninth Circuit decision was withdrawn as soon as the larger, 11-member group, agreed to hear the case. In practice, this amounted to overruling their most liberal colleagues.

Thus, in their brief, the Ninth Court reviewed the original August 20, 2003 decision by the California district court that affirmed the election was required to be held to comply with Californian law. The Ninth Court affirmed the reasoning of the district court on the basis of two points.

1) The amount of hardship the State of California and its population would suffer if the recall election were delayed. The Ninth Court concluded significant harm would be done and hundreds of thousands of votes would be disenfranchised (absentee voters who have already cast their ballots).

2) In one small line, the Ninth Court stated “we are reluctant to intercede… …falls within the province of the state to determine.”

I would be happier if they had stressed point number two – that is, the Federal Courts do not have any jurisdiction over local elections unless they have evidence of fraud. However, given the liberal bias of the most overruled court in the land, I am just thankful the Ninth Court managed to do the right thing at all.

The plaintiff, the ACLU, still has the option of appealing this decision to the Supreme Court. But while the ACLU may seem anti-American in their actions, they are not stupid. If they can’t win in the liberal Ninth Circuit Court, they have no chance at the Supreme Court. I think they’ll let the matter drop.

September 17, 2003
Carnival of the Vanities
September 15, 2003
Incompetence Rewarded – The 9th Court Strikes Again

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal court most overruled by the Supreme Court, delayed California’s recall election until March. According to the Mercury News, Governor Davis lucked out:

The 9th Circuit is the most liberal and maverick federal appeals court in the country…

…the outcome of a case can depend on the makeup of the three-judge panels selected at random. However, legal experts have taken note that the ACLU drew what one law professor called a ``dream panel'' -- Judges Richard Paez and Sydney Thomas, appointees of President Clinton who are widely regarded as liberal to moderate, and Pregerson, a Carter appointee and liberal firebrand who has openly questioned the death penalty and California's ``three strikes'' law.

The decision is on hold until it is clear if the 9th Court will be overruled yet again. I am troubled by this ruling in many ways. I am not a Californian and I really don’t care who wins the recall election. However, I am concerned over two issues.

First and foremost, the recall election is a State election with very little direct impact on the Federal government. Yes, I know California is our largest state and is a very influential state with a lot of indirect impact on the rest of us. However, I do not see a compelling national interest that justifies the involvement of Federal Courts. The 9th Circuit Court should have stayed out of it and left it up to the Californian courts (which had already ruled that the elections should take place). So three liberal judges are ignoring both the wishes of the Californian people (who gathered enough signatures for the recall election in accordance with Californian law) and the rulings of Californian judges who represent Californians. This decision epitomizes everything that is wrong with liberal judges.

Secondly, the reasoning of judges rewards incompetence. With the help of the main plaintiff – the ACLU – these three judges said the recall election has to be delayed until March when better vote-counting equipment was installed in parts of California. So, Governor Davis has been in office for more than one full term. As governor, he is ultimately responsible for ensuring his state can conduct fair elections. He does such a bad job as governor that people launch a recall election. And the Ninth Court says Davis gets at least six more months in office because he was too incompetent to ensure fair elections? No wonder these loons are the most overturned justices in the land. Forget about Davis, let’s recall the Ninth Court.

September 14, 2003
The Saga of Recluse

If you like Fantasy, you might enjoy the Saga of Recluse. Like his science fiction novels, L.E. Modesitt, Junior main theme is on how people use power. However, I do not recommend reading the novels in the order they were written. I did this and the first novel gave away way too much about several of the other books (because Modesitt then wrote about “past” events in these books). This was true for a few more of the books as well, so I recommend reading them in this order. I placed the main character of the book in brackets.

Magi’i of Cyador [Lorn]

Scion of Cyador [Lorn]

Fall of Angels [Nylan and Angels are introduced]

The Chaos Balance [Nylan]

The Towers of Sunset [Founding of Recluse; Creslin]

In the next three books, Modesitt gives both perspectives (Chaos and Order) on the same events. He did a very good job on this, but reading one side of the events gives away the ending of the other book(s). I recommend reading them in this order, but it does not really matter that much. Modesitt’s writing style showed the benefit of experience in the two books about Cerryl (they were written years after The Magic Engineer).

The White Order [Cerryl]

Colors of Chaos [Cerryl]

The Magic Engineer [Dorrin]

The Order War [Justen]

The Magic of Recluse [Lerris]

The Death of Chaos [Lerris]

I thought the Fall of Angels was the weakest book of the series, but it provides some basic background for much of the saga. In my opinion, Modesitt’s craftsmanship has definitely improved over the life of the series. The Saga of Recluse is not one of the best fantasy series published, but if you enjoy fantasy, you will probably enjoy the saga. It is better than most of the tripe that is passes for fantasy and is a thoughtful – and thought provoking – body of writing.

September 13, 2003
Real Campaign Finance Reform

If you haven't read Owen's post on a potential scandal involving the Governor of Wisconsin, an abusive union, and pepperonis, you should. I was looking at the comments and most of the respondents are missing the bigger picture.

What bothered me most about this story was not the union/company disagreement. Unions and Companies have disagreed in the past and they will continue to disagree in the future. They have different objectives (to put it simply, the unions want to maximize their pay while the companies want to maximize their profit). There is nothing particularly newsworthy about a union/company disagreement except to those involved.

However, it is newsworthy if the State is getting involved without a compelling interest. I hardly think the State of Wisconsin, much less the United States, would be threatened if a pepperoni plant closed for a while. And, as Owen pointed out, the plant seems to be doing fine without the striking union members. So there is no compelling state interest involved.

However, there is a compelling interest for politicians who want union money for their future political campaigns. And I suspect this is the reason Governor Doyle is allegedly abusing his power. It would be interesting to see how much the local Tyson union has (and will) donate to Doyle.

If politicians were serious about reform, they should ban all political contributions from unions and corporations (I can hear gasps from Democrats and Republicans alike - tough). In accordance with the First Amendment, individuals should be able to contribute as much as they wanted to any candidate. However, all contributions would have to be listed on a public website within 24 hours of the contribution.

Some people argue that many people contribute in order to gain access to candidates. Others argue that people simply donate money to those candidates that share many core beliefs with the donor. In all likelihood, both are true. However, you will never be able to prevent people with money from buying access, at least not in any remotely free society. Thus, I believe the best solution is to keep track of donations. Given the information, the public can make up its own mind if a politician is being bought. It is when this information is hidden (or masked by corporate/union gifts) that corruption may be hidden.

September 10, 2003
Employment Update

I have updated Solport's economic charts. In general, employment opportunities continue to grow for the non-manufacturing sector. It's been a rough 30 months or so, but I think we are over the hump for this sector. While the rate of increase in new jobs has slowed from last month, more managers still expect to be hiring more people.

On the other hand, employment prospects in the manufacturing sector still look bleak. This may change toward the end of the year, but it is still too early to be confident in this.

As always, remember I am discussing entire sectors (manufacturing and non-manufacturing). There will be specific exceptions to these general trends on an industry by industry basis. The purpose of my charts is to see the big picture.

Carnival of the Vanities

Welcome to Solport and Admiral Quixote's Roundtable. I have the privilege and responsibility of editing the fifty-first edition of the Carnival of the Vanities. As your host, I hope you enjoy your time at Solport.  Please pardon the spartan look of the site as the recent switch to Nucleus was the first part of a large construction project. At the top of the site is the Navigation bar.  The Communications section and the References section are well visited by my regulars; hopefully you will find something for you.

With no further ado allow me to introduce a truly unique assortment of bloggers, the generous contributors to this carnival. (Note: If you submitted a post that did not appear, read my previous posts and accept my heartfelt apologies).

Solport Bridge

Most bloggers post links to interesting events.  Many bloggers contribute their own analysis to current events.  Some bloggers are good at it.  It is a rare blogger who actually initiates a story.  Kudos to Owen for his investigative reporting.  He has uncovered a potential scandal involving the Governor of Wisconsin, an abusive union, and pepperonis.  This story has all the ingredients for a Pulitzer Prize - if only the Pulitzer organization would pay attention to bloggers.

Greyhawk tells a compelling tale of an American hero.  It should be required reading every September 11th. I couldn't help but to contrast Greyhawk's post about Rick with LittleA's post about Lance Armstrong - the quitter. Rick was larger-than-life until the end. Lance proves he is only human after all.

Solport Comm Center, Counterspin Division

A Day of Remembrance – Tomorrow is the second anniversary of the terrorist attack on American civilians. Like Pearl Harbor, it will go down in our history as a day of infamy. Also like Pearl Harbor, the unprovoked surprise attack invigorated America and changed the world. And it will continue to change the world for years to come. Americans know this. To their relief and/or dismay, people around the world know this. Several bloggers want to know why the media does not publicize this.

MommaBear is not happy with how the media is expected to handle tomorrow's anniversaryMurray Hill provides another perspective and predicts the mainstream media will go the way of the dinosaurs.

While some bloggers have covered the anniversary story, others have kept an eye out for different forms of propaganda.

Serona analyzes the spin the RIAA is putting on why they are lowering CD prices after being busted for price fixing and how the RIAA threatens our civil liberties.

Maripat, one of the group bloggers at Catholic Pundits, discusses how the media continues to make the mainstream pro-life movement look radical by only quoting from the fringe elements.

Jordana Adams despins the "for the children" argument being raised against home-schooling.

Eric has an intriguing perspective on President Bush's latest speech and Romulus asks readers to make their own decisions about the size of Bush's government.

While on the Left Coast, Kiril Kundurazieff shines the ray of truth on Governor Davis's change of heart.

Brian Arner expresses his doubts about the Bush administration's reasoning on IraqMoe Freedman has a different persepctive and reviews some earlier suggestions for forming an Iraqi government.

JR looks at political correctness from a Christian perspective.

Bussorah points out Anti-Americanism may have nothing to do with America.

Solport Security, Psych Ops Division

Sarah Fitz-Claridge, founder of Taking Children Seriously argues that there is nothing wrong with children who loathe school. This post alone would have merited classification within Solport's Psych Ops Division.  But my investigation into her past revealed that Sarah has been practicing covert ops skills.

Dean Esmay originally emailed me an interesting post about women.  I enjoyed the comments on that post, especially the first one that commented on the evils of Planned Parenthood.  I also wondered what the feminists that Dean discussed would think of the original American feminists.  A few days later, Dean sent me another link about the monster in his living room, but said I could run both posts if I liked.  So I did.

Andrew Ian Dodge is another blogger whose writing generates intelligent responses - a trait to be admired.  He theorizes how recent changes in American policy may impact Cuba.  The King of Fools worries about another potential change in American policy - babysitting the UN.

Solport Security, Brig

Revsparker paints a shameful picture of American "justice" which provides another example of the tyranny of the judiciary.  We are a country of laws, but law without mercy, without flexibility, without due consideration of the facts, sounds more like a police state than America.  Revsparker tries to end with a message of hope, but it sounds bittersweet to me.

Bigwig gives a compelling reason why the cloak of secrecy around some immigration trials is flawed.

Safe within one of Solport's padded cells, Sasha holds nothing back in ranting at Rall.

Joe was treated as a potential criminal when the POTUS came to town.

Andres Gentry would like to put DHL in the brig. Failing that, boycott DHL.

Solport Medlab

Pieter explains why he is one in a million and shares his personal experience in living with it.  Let us pray he overcomes it for good.

James provides a soothing prescription for blathering actors.

Queen Medb had a bonk-on-the-head day.  I can sympathize with her majesty.  But I am glad she was suffering for a worthy reason and expect she will make a full recovery.

Solport Academy

Some bloggers gave us a current glimpse at life on campus.  Kevin White shares his perspective on the first week of his last semester in collegePietro discusses an effort by some UCF students to place an American flag in every classroom.

Camilo defines and discusses Blogs while Harvey discusses why he blogs.

Andrew Cline proposes why structural biases are more important to consider than ideological bias.

Fuz offers lessons on building mobile infantry:  Lizard calvary, Mecha Starship Troopers, and Fuel Cells.

John Ray debunks the latest research claims denying the link between IQ and genes.

Chuck gives a history lesson concerning Islamic Extremists and September 11.  It may surprise you.  I certainly learned something. 

Dax blogs about the recent etymology of his favorite phrase, just damn! while Bogie educates city folk on rural living etiquette.

J, of the delightfully named Quibbles 'n Bits, has a thoughtful post on the correlation between dictators, industry, and mass executions. This provides additional support for Zombyboy's

post on why the only possible exit for the West is in victory.

Phil theorizes about i Space and alternate realities where anything is possible.

Heather reminds us of Sisyphus with a poetic rendition of the old tale.

Solport Holodeck

TheYeti demands the government do something about pro-Christian bias in the NFL.

Morgaine compares President Bush to a "lite" anti-Christ and theorizes that Arnold's family history will cause him to fix California's next presidential election for Bush in 2004.  As of this writing, her link was not working, but you can scroll down to August 12, 2003 for the post.

Israellycool has some doubts about what Mel Gibson really believes.

On the Lighter Side

Alex points out the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Maripat, half of the rockin Republican team at RightWeAre, wishes her partner Lori a happy birthday.  Let's see how many birthday wishes Solport and the Carnival can generate.  And trivial question of the week - How many blogs have Maripat as a contributing member?  (I'll post the answer in a day or so).

DC in the debut week of Brainstorming, reports on a modern day Mayberry R.F.D.

Harvey reveals more reasons why Evil Glenn must be stopped.

Ravenwood offers frank advice for women while Solonor reveals how he met his wife.

As for yours truly, I am still smiling.

Next week, Carnival of the Vanities will be celebrating its first anniversary at the home of its originator, Bigwig's Silflay Hraka.

Still Smiling

In the midst of working on my basement, I had to run to Lowes. After finding what I needed, I went to check out. I tried to pay for my purchase with a Lowes Gift Card. I ran it through the self-serve credit card reader, but it didn’t work.

The cashier – a cute blonde in her mid twenties – smiled at me, took the card, and swiped it through her own card reader while saying “It takes a woman to spend money.” Sure enough, the card worked perfectly.

I’m still smiling about it days later.

The Most Challenging COV Ever?

I don’t know if other Carnival of the Vanities hosts have bumped into major problems while hosting COV or not, but my experience has been memorable. Let me give you some background.

This summer I finished up a four-year project. Upon its completion, I accepted a new job in another state. My wife and I bought a house built in 1949 from a sweet old couple who were the original owners. We moved in about 2 months ago. After I sold our old house, I resumed blogging again. With all of that paperwork behind me, I also decided now would be a good time to switch blogging software. After all, COV was two weeks off, I had plenty of time. My wife and I had even managed to renovate the basement in our “new” house. We laid tile in the great room and in a nice office for me. We had finished painting it and I just moved my PC and all my files and books downstairs.

Two days later, we had the first significant rainfall since we moved into our house. The sweet old couple had lied through their teeth about the condition of the house. When my wife and I went downstairs the next day, we found several inches of rainwater and sewage backed up in the basement. We frantically moved as much stuff as possible out of the basement.


Using my trusty shop-vac, I literally hauled about 50 gallons of contaminated water out of the basement before I gave up and called a plumber.  We managed to get a plumber there fairly quickly.  He reported that the house had some drainage problems, but he could fix it. He said the entire problem was easily preventable with yearly maintenance and didn’t understand why the previous owners hadn’t warned us – he had been there before…

We also hired a cleaning service to help us haul stuff upstairs and clean what could be salvaged. Since the water was contaminated, all wet books and such had to be tossed. I’ll confess that my wife and I were in a bit depressed for a day or two of the magnitude of our loss – since we had been assured the basement would stay dry, we kept all of our unpacked moving boxes down there. We also like wood furniture and had quite a bit of wooden shelving down there. Most of it was a total loss, as well as all the tile we had so painstakingly laid.

I called my insurance agent who said that we were not covered, but for an extra $50 a year he could sell us a rider for next time. (Warning: If you have Shelter Insurance, their base policy does not cover many types of water damage). I thanked him for this timely information and went back to our mess.

All of the tile, drywall, paneling, and wood frames in the basement had to be removed. In a nutshell, we had to strip the basement to concrete. I rented a truck and have been spending the last few days ripping out decaying wood and driving it to the dump. On the way back from my second trip to the dump yesterday, a tire blew out on the interstate. I’ll give the Chevy designers due credit, the Silverado was easy to control even with a blown tire.

The good folks at Enterprise Rental took the Silverado back for a few hours and got it back to me with a new tire on it. It is good to see an organization handle hiccups with competence – they said it was the first blown tire they had seen in over 10 years since they change their tires frequently. I just laughed and said it went with the week.

I hired a plumber to help me remove the downstairs sinks. Not a single sink, toilet, or tub in the house had a cut-off valve and I had to remove the vanities downstairs as they were ruined. While he was there and I was removing drywall, he noticed that the upstairs bathrooms both had minor leaks that had caused the wood beneath them to rot (my home inspector missed that as well as the drainage problems). Fortunately, I could still see some humor in the situation and put it on my list to fix.  This is our fourth house, but this may be our first severe money pit.

I stayed home today during working hours and tore out our stairwell and made several more trips to the dump. This evening, I went into work and knocked out a few things that had to be ready in the morning. When I returned home, I had the email fiasco where about 15 or so COV submissions were lost. Hopefully the authors will see my message and resubmit before I go to work in the morning.  As of this writing, at least one person has resubmitted, so I'll count that as a partial victory.

So there is my long tale about my challenges in hosting COV. For their sakes, I hope no one can top it. At least my host server is working flawlessly. (Famous last words…). My spirits are still high and I shall persevere. However, I think my blogging pseudonym has never been more appropriate.

Microsoft and COV

If you sent me a COV entry between 11:03 AM today and 10:05 PM, please resend it. To be even simpler, if you sent me a submission and did not receive a personal reply from me, resend your submission.

I have heard horror stories about Microsoft Outlook Express, but I have never had a problem with it. Not until tonight. Every time I checked my email, I highlighted all of the COV emails and used the mouse to drag them to a COV folder.

When I got home from work tonight not long ago, I followed this protocol. However, this time something went wrong. One of the bloggers had requested a read request. And apparently if you highlight and drag many emails at once while someone has requested a read request, you can crash Microsoft Outlook Express. While all of the emails were highlighted, I was asked if I wanted to send a read request. Everything else froze. I clicked yes – nothing happened. I then clicked no and nothing happened. I am running Win XP Professional, so I hit ctrl-alt-del to call up the task manager. Nothing. Not even a blue screen of death, just a hard freeze.

I finally had to turn the system off and back on. Windows XP took a long time to load (about a full minute, I was worrying that my system had crashed). But it finally loaded. When I went to the my email program, all of the new emails were gone. They were not in the deleted folder, they were not in the in box, they were not in the COV folder, they were just missing.

I must admit I stared at the screen for a while in disbelief. I’ve been using email since the 1980s and I have never had a problem before… And the timing is horrific with the COV submission deadline being virtually now. So I am extending the COV deadline until 7:00 AM Eastern Time September 10. And my deepest regrets for this inconvenience.

September 08, 2003
Carnival of the Vanities

COV #51 will be hosted by yours truly this week. If you are not familiar with it, once a week many bloggers submit one of their posts for the carnival. The host of the week compiles them, sometimes makes comments, and then publishes them all at once. If you would like to submit a post, send me an email by midnight (Eastern Time) September 9. I'll be publishing all of them on September 10.

Some folks have said my email is hard to find. I'll work on making it a bit easier to find, but one of the simple ways is to click on my Communications link (look at the top frame) and then click on Contact. You'll see my email address there.

September 05, 2003
Year of Chaos

My life has been full of more, uh, interesting events over the last six months than over the last decade.

I'll post details later, but I'll be hard to reach for a day or two. For those of you submitting for the Carnival of the Vanities, I'll be responding to you this weekend (hopefully Saturday, probably Sunday).

September 03, 2003
Voting with Their Feet

Daniel Henniger has written a fascinating column that integrates demographic trends with political analysis. Specifically, he has correlated census data – which shows how the US population is redistributing itself – with voter behavior from the 2000 presidential election.

Before I discuss Henniger’s findings, let me ensure you are familiar with his terminology. Do you remember the colorful maps showing how each state (and county) voted in the last presidential election? The “blue” states were those who voted for Gore and the “red” states were those who voted for Bush. As you would expect, the blue areas are known for being liberal (e.g., California, New York) and the red areas are known for being conservative (e.g., Texas, Utah). The map was so prevalent when it was created, it still appears in popular culture:

Well, Henniger used this map in conjunction with US Census data and drew some interesting conclusions. In general, entrepreneurial Americans – the ones that pay most of the taxes – are fleeing the blue states in droves. On one-hand, this points out the stupidity of states trying to tax their way out of trouble. So long as people have freedom of mobility, they will vote with their feet. On the other hand, this probably means the blue states are getting bluer and the red states are getting redder. Despite the color coding, you can find conservatives and liberals in all 50 states. However, as the conservatives tend to flee the liberal states in large numbers, the proportions of liberals and conservatives in each state may change substantially.

I doubt you will hear this discussed a lot in liberal papers. After all, it reveals a strong and growing discontent with the current liberal mindset.

Democratic dictum holds that all this [high taxation and large government programs] is necessary to support "needs." But what is the point if only the uppermost-middle-class can afford their idea of Eden?


September 02, 2003
Science and the Media

The media has a bad reputation for covering scientific issues. Perhaps the same characteristics that allow them to write well also ensures the numerically literate are not well represented. That is a nicer theory than saying that most in the media are too ignorant to understand basic math, let alone science.

At any rate, I had to laugh when I read the varying stories of how the world might end. If you haven’t heard, there is a minuscule chance of an asteroid hitting Earth on March 21, 2014. Based on known information, the odds of the asteroid actually colliding with us are approximately 1 in 909,000. This is a probability of 0.00000110. In other words, don’t worry about it.

Of course, the media has jumped on the potential damage that will occur if the asteroid hits. Nothing wrong with this, asteroid impacts is a staple of science fiction and it is probably a fun change of pace for the reporters. But the funny and sad thing is how the journalists describe how the potential impact without doing any simple facts. My background is marketing, not physics, but I can do basic math.

The articles are consistent in that the potential damage of a collusion is estimated at 350,000 megatons. Presumably this is one of the facts given to various reporters by the astronomers. The majority of the articles that I have read claimed that any collision would be equivalent to simultaneously detonating 8 million Hiroshima-type nuclear bombs.

Let’s check that. A quick google search reveals that Little Boy generated an explosion of about 15,000 tons of TNT. So a Hiroshima type explosion is the equivalent of 15 kilotons or .015 megatons. Simply dividing 350,000 megatonnes (the expected damage) by .015 megatons (Little Boy equivalent) gives an answer of 23,333,333. So the majority of reporters are off by over 15 million nuclear bombs.

I also found a range of estimates from 13 kilotons to 20 kilotons for Little Boy, so I’ll also use these extreme values to cut the reporters some slack. Using these figures, 350,000 megatons is the equivalent of 17,500,000 to 26,923,077. A decent number of reporters gave an estimate of 20,000,000 Hiroshima-type bombs, so kudos to them for getting the story right.

My point is not that the reporters were way off base. The difference between 8 million and approximately 20 million does not really change the impact of the story – both numbers are beyond the imagination of normal people. My point is that reporters do not bother to do the simplest fact checking on their stories. It took me five minutes to check the facts and another ten to write it up. I did this on my break. Reporters are getting paid for their writing and have a responsibility to check their facts. I am not sure if the reporters are just lazy or mathematically illiterate. Either way, many of them are not living up to their responsibilities. No wonder people are paying less and less attention to the mainstream press.

One final note. Just for fun, I went to CBS News and read their report. Over the last year, I have wondered if those fired from the New York Times and the BBC for making up stories have obtained jobs at CBS. To put it mildly, CBS is not a reliable source if you want the correct facts. I didn’t expect CBS to be in the minority that got it right and they were not. Nor were they in group that claimed the explosion would be the equivalent of 8 million Little Boys. Instead If the asteroid did strike earth, it would hit with the force of more than 25 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs. That’s right, CBS thinks an asteroid would only be the equivalent of 25 small nuclear bombs going off. Heck, modern nuclear bombs have a greater yield than this. It looks like, yet again, they forgot to proofread. CBS, if you are tired of all your scientific errors, I'm available on a freelance basis...