About

I'm Mike Pope. I live in the Seattle area. I've been a technical writer and editor for over 30 years. I'm interested in software, language, music, movies, books, motorcycles, travel, and ... well, lots of stuff.

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In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it's the exact opposite.

Paul Dirac



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Blog Statistics

Dates
First entry - 6/27/2003
Most recent entry - 12/8/2017

Totals
Posts - 2465
Comments - 2568
Hits - 2,005,917

Averages
Entries/day - 0.47
Comments/entry - 1.04
Hits/day - 380

Updated every 30 minutes. Last: 7:44 AM Pacific


  10:53 AM

I belong to the group that has the correct political beliefs. Our side knows the truth, and we're correct about everything, and we're good. The other side is wrong, and they're bad. Our beliefs are true for all circumstances and scenarios. They are valid for all parameters and variables. They apply to all people at all times and for all situations.

Our opponents argue about these beliefs. That's because their morals and thinking are corrupt. They look for weasely ways to rationalize their own unethical behavior. And they hate our beliefs and our nation.

Why is the other side so wrong? Some of them are stupid, or crazy. Many are simple-minded fools who can only parrot the platitudes of their elite. They all are tools of shadowy overlords who manipulate these people's beliefs to thwart the will of all true citizens, probably for financial gain. (Because our opponents are stupid, this is easy.) Some of them hate everything we stand for and are eager to work against their own interests. The important point is that all of them are wrong, always.

History has vindicated us over and over. Our founding fathers all agreed 100% with our beliefs, as we can easily prove by quoting them. These sainted leaders had a unique and inspired vision for our country. But our opponents have co-opted this for their own evil purposes. Sometimes our opponents have temporarily had power, which they gained through deceit and fraud. They then ignored our true and good beliefs and implemented their destructive agenda. Our bitter vindication is that each time they then ran the country straight into the ground.

Sometimes I cannot believe the terrible situation our opponents have gotten us into. Like education. This country once had standards and excellence. But our opponents undermine education by trying to expose young children to ideologically motivated ideas that violate everything that's true. They just want an education system that brainwashes innocent children and that teaches them to scorn us and our beliefs.

I tune in to media that helps me clarify and reinforce my already correct beliefs. These insightful and objective media are filled with stories about how our opponents are idiots and about their latest outrages. These stories affirm how correct we are and how wrong they are. I once tuned in to the media that our opponents slavishly follow. I could not believe the lies, distortions, and character assassinations that passed for "truth" in that media. It was obvious that our opponents are fed propaganda written by media elites to arouse passions against us and to push the elites' agenda. Probably for financial gain.

One of our politicians was recently accused of something underhanded. The opposing media harped on this for blatantly political reasons. Despite his years of selfless service, he will be hounded out of office for this trivial issue, and our opponents will waste precious time and money on this ridiculous political theater. Naturally, when one of their politicians pursues the criminal activity that passes for normal among them, they hypocritically excuse it away, even though it's a blatant affront to everything that's good and true. And even though it's such conclusive evidence that the politician, like all of those party, is a crook and is unsuited to represent people who really care about their country's values.

Whenever a new issue faces our country, I approach it with an open mind and a desire to understand it critically and thoroughly. I weigh the issue and examine it from all viewpoints, because I always want what's best for our city, state, and nation. A remarkable thing is that our party's viewpoints on any issue always turn out to be the correct ones! It's true, though: ask anyone who truly understands the issues and isn't brainwashed by the opponents' relentless propaganda, and you'll find that they agree with us. Just as remarkably, our idiot opponents always have some harebrained view that's 180 degrees away from the truth. Are they just contrary, because they hate us? Probably they're so locked into their brainless political beliefs that they can't see all sides of the issue the way we can. Or they don't think at all, and are just led around by their party elite, probably for financial gain.

Yes, I am blessed to belong to our correct-thinking party. It bothers me, though, that there are so many people who stubbornly cling to incorrect ideas. If they hate our ideals so much, why don't they just go form their own country? If they did, we could finally run things the correct way. And then our country would be a paradise.

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  01:20 AM

The New York Review of Books this week has a review of a series of books about Bosnia and Kosovo, which of course also deal with the shocking brutality of the strife that began there is 1992. The article opens with the following, which doesn't need much comment, I don't think:
What unites many countries in the world, both the ones that don’t give a fig about human rights and the ones that profess they do, is their unwillingness to punish their war criminals. When it comes to accountability, instances of confronting their own guilt are exceedingly rare among nations, especially when the victims are members of some other race, religion, or country. Even international leaders concerned with situations such as the one in Yugoslavia, despite their protest to the contrary , are often reluctant to see the guilty punished since political interests usually take precedence over justice.

In addition, there’s an unwritten understanding that crimes committed by the United States and a few other Western powers go unpunished. When the International Criminal Court was launched in 2003, the Bush administration refused to join, fearing that its military and its leaders could be arbitrarily indicted by some grandstanding foreign prosecutor. But that was just dissembling. The real reason is that the United States considered itself as a country whose exceptional moral standing exempts it from accountability for the war crimes it commits. The trouble with that is that everybody else feels the same way. The belief that one ought to be able to kill one’s enemies and live happily ever after is nearly universal.

Not many people care to know what their governments do to others in their name. No society can bear the thought that it is committing some injustice against innocents, so elaborate excuses have to be made. Justifying war crimes to their fellow citizens is what nationalist intellectuals are expected to do. The editorial and opinion pages of our newspapers and magazines have recently published articles pleading with President Bush to pardon the lawyers in the Department of Justice who devised the regime of torture and detention and the officials who put them into practice, and not allow them to be criminally prosecuted, since, allegedly, they broke the law out of a sincere wish to keep us safe. What nationalist ideologues everywhere tell their own people is that they occupy a unique moral universe in which the laws of the outside world do not apply. Unlike everyone else in the world, they, and only they, are good even when they are slaughtering women and children. Anyone who objects to that view either suffers from self-hatred or is some sort of traitor in the employ of a foreign power.

-- Charles Simic, "Connoisseurs of Cruelty," New York Review of Books, March 12, 2009

[categories]   , [tags] human rights

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  01:35 PM

It's the Thursday-technology-and-politics edition. I guess.

Etch-a-sketch clock. Robotically controlled Etch-a-sketch draws the time (once per minute).


[via grow-a-brain]

Challenged ballots: You be the judge. Examine pictures of disputed ballots in the MN congressional race (primarily between Al Franken and Norm Coleman) and render your opinion on how the ballot should be counted.


[via Colleague Molly]

Wii Theremin. From Make magazine: "Ken Moore, a user experience designer at Google, created a very convincing Theremin simulator using a Wiimote and a Roland JV-1080 synth." There are videos, including one of Moore playing the Star Trek theme, which seems appropriate, nu?


[via Laurel at O'Reilly]

[categories]   , , [tags] robots, etch-a-sketch, clock, theremin, wii, ballots, voting

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  11:01 AM

Aaron Swartz writing about the potential to change the election process:
Here's how you get elected to Congress today: First, you make friends with a bunch of wealthy people, being sure to agree with them on all the important issues. Then you take their money and hire a well-connected Washington, D.C. campaign manager. The campaign manager shows you how to ask for more money and then gives it to his partner, who makes some TV and radio ads and runs them in your district. They keep doing this until your money runs out and then, if you're lucky, you get more votes than the other guy.

Because of the netroots, it's now possible to change the first part of this story. Instead of raising your money from conservative or centrist rich people, you can now raise money from progressive people over the Internet. So instead of candidates who all agree that telephone companies shouldn't be punished for spying on Americans, you can have candidates who think every American should have free health care.
What do you think, is this change going to change the face of politics?

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  03:54 PM

If you're reading this, I got the new router to work.

Campaign Gaffe Remix. Good to remember that political campaigns are, above all, theater. Often comedy.

Nuke the Fridge. Jason Kottke discovers, tracks, and grows weary of an Interent meme based on the latest Indiana Jones movie.

SAM by Cree. Dang, I want one of these. All-electric two-seater made of recyclable materials.



[via GOOD blog]

The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 From the American Library Association. See also: Uncle Bobby's Wedding, in which librarian Jamie Larue responds thoughtfully to a patron who wants a children's book about gay marriage removed. [book list via jeff atwood; Larue's letter, I forget.]

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  12:27 PM

A science and technology episode, sort of.

Worst Car of the Millenium. As voted by fans of NPR's "Car Talk." Sample comment (Renault Dauphine): "Truly unencumbered by the engineering process."

The Jetpack: From Comics to a Liftoff in the Yard. Someone might finally have cracked the elusive personal jetpack. (Not counting Yves Rossi.) [via Sarah]

FiveThirtyEight. A site/blog that applies statistics to politics, apparently (?) non-partisan. What makes this seem credible is that it's run by a fellow who built his reputation among the most insatiable and the least-forgiving consumers of statistics: baseball fans. [via Colleague Michael. No, not that one ... the other Michael. No, not that one either.]

Anyone Can Make a Font. FontStruct: Flash-based tool for creating your own font. Unbelievably clever. Tedious, tho (hey, a font has lotsa letterforms). And it turns out that having Flash-based tools does not make one a more talented font designer than having a chisel, say. Alas. Perhaps you'll produce something less lame than I did. In fact, I pretty much guarantee it. [via ... I forget, sorry.]

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  10:27 AM

The nostalgic spot that the good ol' 50s have in American culture has some economic justification. In some ways, it was indeed a golden age. Charles Morris, writing in The Trillion Dollar Meltdown:
Birth rates dropped sharply during the Depression years, so the generation of men entering the labor market in the 1950s was an unusually small one and was much in demand. The pay gap between young workers and older workers therefore became unusually narrow, facilitating early marriage and family formation. All measures of social disruption, like crime rates, dropped like a stone. Earlier marriage and greater economic security also made couples more willing to have children.
Thus, the 50s of "Leave it To Beaver" and the great explosion of the American suburbs, so fondly remembered, were the result of unique social conditions. These circumstances were not (and are not) the norm.[1]

Moreover, the very benefits that the 50s brought to the US carried with them the seeds of their own destruction:
When the boomers reached school age, elementary schools everywhere were forced onto double and triple sessions; it was even worse in the suburbs, where schools had to be built from scratch. As they hit their teens, juvenile delinquency moved to the top of the social agenda. Struggling to cope, police forces became more selective about the behaviors that elicited an intervention, a process that Daniel Patrick Moynihan later called "defining deviancy down."
And so on.

This is in the intro to the book. Morris is merely recounting the economic (and incidentally social) history that has brought us to our current economic, um, situation. He goes on to cite the predicted and successful rise of the Republican party (culminating in Nixon's 1968 victory over Humphrey). From this point, I believe we will be going on a wild ride through the inflationary 70s, the 80s Reagan era, the boom years of the 90s, and the confluence of events (and technologies) that have brought us to where we are.

The only positive notes that have emerged from the intro so far are that a) the US has seen strong hits to the dollar before (and recovered) and that b) the Japanese economy went through something like we are experiencing (tho in their case, government inaction has prolonged the pain a long, long time). But we'll see, won't we.

More as I encounter interesting tidbits.


[1] Slightly surprisingly (to me) is that Morris does not note that the economies that we did and do compete with -- Japan, Germany, China -- were lying in piles of rubble, leaving the field wide open to American companies. The end of the 50s is defined not just as he does here, namely the maturation of the baby-boom generation, but as the time during which the great econmies of the world (less China) started coming back on-line. For example, in 1973, the year of the Arab oil embargo, Japanese and German car companies, which had been slowly establishing themselves in the US, were ready with small vehicles to take huge pieces of market share away from US companies. Had the embargo occurred in, say, 1955, Volkswagen, Honda, and Toyota would not have been ready to be as spectacularly successful as they later proved to be.

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  01:32 PM

A funny, and I'm sure quite intentional, juxtaposition just now on iGoogle:

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  10:03 AM

The political season is, if nothing else, a rich source for the honing of one's cynicism about the integrity of politicians. And I don't just mean those who are clearly the dregs of humanity, the spawn of the devil, and who are determined to lead the country straight into disaster -- ie, the Other Guys, haha, whatever your political leanings happen to be. There are those who believe, of course, that Our Guy is upstanding and honest, and who is selflessly sacrificing himself in the cesspool of politics to Lead America to a Bright Future.

Uh-huh. Those guys don't get elected. I doubt they exist.

Anyway, last night's Democratic debate, Now Featuring Questions From Our Audience, provided an amusingly educational moment in the notoriously slippery language of politics. As many know, Hillary Clinton has been chastised for exaggerating the drama, let's call it, associated with her world travels, including especially the now-famous trip to Bosnia. A question posed to her via video asked about this. Her response found both of us chortling with amusement. Here's a transcrpition I made, leaving out the boring parts:
You're right. On a couple of occasions in the last weeks I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case and that I'd written about in my book, and, you know, I'm embarrassed by it, I've apologized for it, I've said it's a mistake, and it is, I hope, something that you can look over[1].

[...]

I know that it is something that some people have said "Wait a minute, what happened here?" But I have talked about this, written about it, and then, unfortunately, on a few occasions I was not as accurate as I have been in the past.

[...]

I will either try to get more sleep, Tom, or, you know, have somebody who is there as a reminder to me. You can go back to the past 15 months ... We have both said things that have turned out not to be accurate. You know, that happens when you're talking as much as we have talked. But, you know, I'm very sorry that I said it and, you know, and I have said that it just didn't jibe with what I'd written about and knew to be the truth.
The particular phrase that we kept repeating arond here was "I just said some things that weren't in keeping with what I knew to be the case."

For the record, I have nothing against Clinton (or not much, I guess), and I don't mean to suggest that she's any less credible than anyone else in this race. But I couldn't resist this gem of a moment in which a politician tries so very hard to come clean, but somehow just can't quite spit it out.

On the plus side, at least in this exchange, Clinton did not roll out that favorite of politicians everywhere, the "clarification," which of course is political talk for "oops."

And I will note that as I was transcribing this, I marveled that Clinton could, even while on the spot, speak in complete and coherent sentences.


[1] An interesting error, this, to confuse look over with overlook. I have no doubt that Clinton knows the difference here, especially considering that these eseentially mean the opposite. Seems to me I've read about this recently.

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  10:33 PM

We went to our local Democratic caucus today. It was at the elementary school up the street, so we left the house just a few minutes before the 1:00 PM start time. As we approached, tho, we realized that people were thronging to the school, and we ended up parking quite a ways away. There was a long, long line to get into the school (everyone was quite happy that it wasn't raining) -- we estimated that in all there might been, dunno, 500 people. I found out later that people had come some distance to get to the caucus, so were just lucky that the location was close to our home.

Standing in line gave us a chance to talk to people around us. People were excited. The woman behind us had gone to Key Arena yesterday morning to hear Obama speak to an overflow crowd (18,000+) and conveyed her excitement and that of other people who'd attended. So many young people, she noted.

Several people said it was the first time they'd attended a caucus, which was true for us as well. As I say, people were fired up about the elections this time. The caucus this year is also earlier than in years past, per the same tendency that states have had to move their primaries up. So this time it actually matters; in the past, the Washington vote has not been particularly influential in candidate selection.

Inside it was a zoo. It seemed pretty clear that the local party had been caught flat-footed by the sheer number of voters who turned out. They had initially planned to use the cafeteria/auditorium for all precincts, but had overflowed pretty quickly into the gym. Even then, both rooms were packed full.

In addition to not anticipating the numbers, the party had not been super-organized about how people were supposed to find their precinct's assembly area (or even find out what their precinct actually is). So there was a lot of milling around. But people seemed to take both the crowd and the disorganization in pretty good humor.

We found our precinct and waited. We found a sign-in sheet, on which you record your basic info and your (at least initial) presidential preference. They had of course way underestimated the number of sheets they'd need, so we had to improvise. Then they sorted out some officers -- a secretary, a chief officer of some sort -- all of which was done by voluneering on the spot.

In our particular case, there was confusion because they'd combined two precincts. Or they hadn't. Or something. Someone was dispatched to get some answers while they did an initial count of the votes. The answer came back from the higher-ups that no, the precincts were to be treated separately, so this required a tedious process of sorting out the initial votes by separate precincts.

Finally the votes were tallied on a whiteboard. An Obama supporter read out the numbers on the sign-in sheets, closely watched by a Clinton supporter. We had 75 people in the room (50 + 25 for the two precincts). (One woman, alluding to the type of suburb we live in, said wryly "Who would have thought there were so many Democrats in our neighborhood!" We laughed.) In our 50-person precinct we had 29 Obama and 21 Clinton, in the other precinct it came out as 16 and 9. No one had signed in as undecided, which I found quite surprising.

We were well over an hour into the whole thing by then, and had finally gotten to the caucus-y part of the caucus -- were people could speak about their choice. As we read the rules, one person for each candidate was allowed one minute to make a statement.[1] We had were working as two precincts, so we got four such statements.

One person said she had a son in Iraq and felt that Clinton would best be able to bring the troops home. She used the phrase "White House-ready." Another said that she felt that Clinton was the right candidate for now, and that she'd bring Obama to the point where he would be ready in 8 years. An Obama supporter emphasized the need for change.

Each person got applause. The last speaker said what probably many people were thinking, which was that they would support whoever got the nomination in the end.

A couple of more math-inclined people noted judiciously that such-and-this number of people would have to change their votes in order to affect the delegate count, and did anyone think they might do that? None. So our delegate count stood at 2+2 and 3+1.[2]

The next step was the reading and submission of various statements, which would not be voted on. So Sarah and I left at that point, which was right around 3:00.

It sure was an interesting process. The logistics of it all -- or lack thereof -- could have had a negative effect, but people were remarkably patient. It would have been a different experience to be sitting in a more relaxed atmosophere with maybe a fewer number of people, and especially to be able to hear more from individuals about their preferences. The question of Obama or Clinton has certainly generated a lot of discussion, but we didn't really get that much of it today.

I suppose it's a reflection of the electoral process at large: bureaucratic, somewhat disorganized, not perfectly representative of everyone's choice. A bit messy. I still love it, tho. I love that people take elections seriously, and seeing people streaming into the school today lifted my heart. Elections really are about hope for the future. And that was in plentiful supply today.


[1] This didn't seem right to me -- I understand the time limit, but somehow thought that anyone who wanted to would have the chance to speak. It was academic, because few enough people wanted to make statements.

[2] Or that's the way we reckoned it. The instructions were really not that clear about how to do the rounding and such to split 4 delegates by our 29-21 votes. But we had a roomful of people who (we could stereotype) go out of their way to be fair, so that's how it ended up being assigned.

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