Parental Notification

This post on parental notification laws got me thinking. Most of the laws come with provisions for waivers, but it seems that the women who most need the waivers are the ones least likely to get them.
Young women in stable families and who have good relationships with their parents will not require legal coercion to inform them. For the most part, these laws are only relevant to young women in the worst family situations; there is no legitimate purpose fulfilled by forcing them to go through an intimidating process to waive parental consent requirements.

Furthermore, many judges are against abortions and so refuse to grant waivers under any circumstances.
My judge is anti-abortion, and he doesn't believe a child should have this done without her parents. You have the right to file, and the right to file in your initials; your name won't even be on the petition. But that doesn't mean he will grant it. We had one [case] one time ... and her doctor advised her to have an abortion for medical reasons, and [the judge] still would not grant it.

I think that parental notification laws are backdoor method of banning abortions for the people who probably need them most (young women).

Dangerous Hacker!

This is great! Some moron was bragging about being able to hack this guy's computer and issued a challenge: give me your IP address and I'll hack your computer in five minutes. The moron was given IP address, and proceeded to hack in, eventually deleting everything on all hard drives. He apparently didn't realize that means"myself", so he was actually hacking his own computer.

Senate Leadership

Mark Schmitt gives an interesting insider's view of what it takes to be a good leader in the senate. It's about the practicalities of being in charge of a group like the senate.

Budget Fun

From the New York Times
The House and Senate broke a lengthy impasse over federal spending Thursday night, narrowly adopting a $2.56 trillion federal budget for 2006 that aims to trim the growth of Medicaid by $10 billion over five years, add $106 billion in tax cuts and clear the way for oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge."

So we have to cut healthcare for needy people so we can have 10 times more in tax cuts for the not-so-needy people. Isn't that cute?

Buck Rogers

Ah, the '80s. You have to love a show progressive enough to have a woman fighter pilot, but with enough sense to make her wear a battle-skirt everywhere. I assume it's a battle-skirt, because, well, why would a fighter pilot wear a normal skirt? Same with her battle-blouse, which was low-cut for obvious military reasons.

Putting the Art in Martial Arts

I was talking to one of the Aikido instructors yesterday. He had an interesting way of looking at martial arts. He said that after we've practiced for a little while, there is a huge group of people that we will be able to beat in a fight. There's also a small group of people who we'll never be able to beat, no matter how long we practice. The group of people left over, the ones we can't beat now but we can with practice, is extremely small.

Since the marginal self-defense benefit of practice after a few years is pretty minimal, why continue to practice? The answer: that's where the art comes in. It's fun to practice and perfect our martial arts for their own sake, independent of any self-defense benefits. That doesn't mean that it can become some sort of dance, because if it isn't martial then it's not really artistic. But it does mean that after some amount of time, improving our self-defense abilities is no longer the main goal of practicing martial arts.

Asymmetric Information

Angry Bear has a post on the economic effects of asymmetric information.
...[the] article describes how markets can go awry in the face of significant asymmetric information, primarily noting that real estate agents tend to keep their own houses (on which they pocket about 97% of any resulting increase in the sale price) on the market for longer than their clients' houses (on which they pocket only 1.5% of any increase in price from holding out longer).
Or consider these findings of a 1996 medical study: Obstetricians in areas with declining birthrates are more likely to perform cesarean section deliveries than obstetricians in growing areas – suggesting that when business is tough, doctors may try to ring up more expensive procedures.


Jeanne at Body and Soul has been on a roll recently: "I won't be so naive as to suggest that different rules for the powerful are anything new. But the lack of accountability among people who so enjoy lecturing the rest of us on standards is especially galling."
She includes a couple of timely examples.

The Glory of East Palo Alto

I had an interesting experience in Home Depot about half a year ago. I was looking at business cards near the entrance when I heard some police sirens. "Ah, the glory of East Palo Alto," I thought, and continued browsing. I started to get annoyed, though, as the sirens didn't go away, and in fact grew louder. All of a sudden a man ran into the store, followed close behind by a couple of cops. The cops tackled him in front of a display of 3-ring binders and started wrestling with him.

My first thought was to go and help, but I figured they had him outnumbered and could handle him, and I didn't want to get in the way. The store employees, on the other hand, all ran and hid behind the checkout counters, looking up every now and then to see what was going on, their heads popping up and down like in whack-a-mole.

After five or ten seconds of wrestling, another policeman came in, this time preceded by a police dog. By that time they pretty much had the guy subdued, though, so I didn't get to see the dog do anything. They hauled him out, and that was that.

I finished my shopping a few minutes later, and when I left the car with the guy had left, but there were some cops standing around doing paperwork. They seemed to be in a good mood, so I said, "Hi," on my way past them and went home. Ah, the glory of East Palo Alto.

This Is Not Right

When I read stuff like this, (Summary: German sent to Afghan prison in error, tortured), I wonder how Bush voters rationalize it to themselves. This goes against everything that America stands for.

Krugman on Health Care

Paul Krugman has an interesting idea. Private health insurers can increase profits if they can select those people who are least likely to need their services. However, since we have a safety net in this country, those people end up getting taxpayer-provided health care.
According to the health organization, the higher costs of private insurers are 'mainly due to the extensive bureaucracy required to assess risk, rate premiums, design benefit packages and review, pay or refuse claims.' Public insurance plans have far less bureaucracy because they don't try to screen out high-risk clients or charge them higher fees.
Isn't competition supposed to make the private sector more efficient than the public sector? Well, as the World Health Organization put it in a discussion of Western Europe, private insurers generally don't compete by delivering care at lower cost. Instead, they 'compete on the basis of risk selection' - that is, by turning away people who are likely to have high medical bills and by refusing or delaying any payment they can.

Voting Reform... Not!

"The first chairman of a federal voting agency created after the 2000 election dispute is resigning, saying the government has not shown enough commitment to reform." The guy is a Baptist minister and a Republican. I'm surprised that fewer people have resigned from this government on principle.

How Stupid Are They?

The purge continues: "The Inter-American Telecommunication Commission meets three times a year in various cities across the Americas to discuss such dry but important issues as telecommunications standards and spectrum regulations. But for this week's meeting in Guatemala City, politics has barged onto the agenda. At least four of the two dozen or so U.S. delegates selected for the meeting, sources tell TIME, have been bumped by the White House because they supported John Kerry's 2004 campaign."

The Buck Just Keeps Going

The army has decided that none of the commanding officers who presided over torture are culpable in any way. Phillip Carter is a former Army officer who is very upset by this, and he doesn't mince words.
Talk about cognitive dissonance. In the Army's leadership schools for officers and sergeants, the doctrinal manual preaches quite a different result from the outcome of this investigation. Bottom line: commanders (and NCOs) are responsible for everything their unit(s) do or fail to do, period.
Despite these generals' findings, none of the officers responsible for facilitating these abuses will face criminal charges. Or, put another way, the Army IG has wholly disregarded the record evidence before him to arrive at an arbitrary and capricious decision that the senior Army leaders involved should face no legal consequences for their actions. What kind of message does that send to our junior military leaders? What kind of message does that send to the world?

The New Pope

So the new pope was a member of the Hitler Youth. Here's an interesting take on that.

The Media

Here's an interesting theory about why people trust the media less than before. When people see or read a story that they know something about, they often find that the story is riddled with holes. Before the internet nobody else would know, but now everyone else can find out about the problems. So his theory is that the media is no worse than before, we're just more aware of it now.

This sounds reasonable to me. Whenever I've read a story that I know something about, there are invariably mistakes, sometimes pretty major ones.

Sweet Justice!

Yahoo! News - Woman in Wendy's Finger Case Arrested
The woman who claimed she found a finger in her bowl of Wendy's chili last month has been arrested, the latest twist in a bizarre case about how the 1 1/2-inch finger tip ended up in a bowl of fast food... She was arrested on a warrant alleging grand larceny and attempted grand larceny... As it turns out, Ayala has a litigious history.

She apparently planted the finger so she could sue Wendy's.

Dumpster Diving FAQ


GM Gets Its Comeuppance

I've never understood why large corporations would be against single-payer (I think that's the term) health care. It would relieve the companies of their health-care obligations, plus it would level the playing field against smaller companies that didn't offer health care to their employees. GM is now reaping what it has sown.

Boltzmann's Tomb

Check out the inscription on Boltzmann's tomb.

Tech Gurus on the Take

It turns out that a bunch of the "tech gurus" on TV were paid to promote certain products. I never listened to those segments because it always seemed obvious to me that they never really understood what they were talking about. Now it occurs to me that perhaps they did understand, but sounded stupid because they were making special efforts to promote certain products.


In case any (both?) of my readers are wondering, this blog attempts to provide a modicum of anonymity both for myself and my friends. That's why, for example, I refer to Cleetus instead of using his real name. Mrs. Cleetus is lucky that her husband had such an attractive moniker for her to inherit.

Divorce Rate

It turns out that the divorce rate is not as high as normally stated: "The method preferred by social scientists in determining the divorce rate is to calculate how many people who have ever married subsequently divorced. Counted that way, the rate has never exceeded about 41 percent, researchers say."

This also caught my eye: "... a 'divorce divide' has opened up between those with and without college degrees... since 1980, the two groups have taken diverging paths. Women without undergraduate degrees have remained at about the same rate, their risk of divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage hovering at around 35 percent. But for college graduates, the divorce rate in the first 10 years of marriage has plummeted to just over 16 percent of those married between 1990 and 1994 from 27 percent of those married between 1975 and 1979."

Judicial Activism

A New York Times editorial about judicial activism, specifically about Scalia: "Justice Scalia likes to boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads, even if it leads to results he disagrees with. But it is uncanny how often it leads him just where he already wanted to go."

New Links

I've added two new weblogs to the list of links on the side. The first is BAGnewsNotes, a liberal weblog that analyzes the news by examining pictures. It sounds like a gimic, but the site has some really interesting posts anaylzing images that appear in various media, dissecting how images are composed and why the particular images were used.

The second weblog I added is Slacktivist. It is written by a liberal Christian who works at a newspaper, so it brings several perspectives that I'm not normally exposed to. He has written many thought-provoking posts.

California Labor Camps

I didn't know that California had forced labor camps.


Crocodiles are fancy. Perhaps too fancy. That is, they have certain features, like a four-chambered heart, that seem unnecessary. This post hypothesizes that crocodiles could have decended from warm-blooded creatures for whom these features were necessary.

An interesting side issue: "[Crocodile] bones have the characteristic richly vascularized structure of fibrolamellar bone, one of the hallmarks of endothermy and one of the pieces of evidence that dinosaurs were warm blooded. Interestingly, one bit of counter evidence used against the hot-blooded dino hypothesis was the fact that crocodilians have the same structure…maybe there's another reason for the similarity, that crocs are also descended from hot-blooded ancestors."

Separation of Church and State

Some people don't understand the separation of Church and State: "'Perhaps all Indian River School District players and fans should go inside the school and have their pre-game prayer while the Jewish girl sits alone in the bleachers."


A vaccine has been developed to prevent human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer. Some religious groups oppose vaccination because they feel that it would promote premarital sex. I understand that these people want to prevent premarital sex, but women always seem to bear the brunt of their crusade. Given that most of the people at risk haven't even heard of HPV, it seems that punishing women for having sex is more important than saving them from cancer.

The Estate Tax

An interesting perspective on the estate tax . The argument is that it's bad for society, and ultimately for the rich, to have no estate tax because the extremely wealthy end up with no incentive to work.
This poisoned chalice afflicts societies as well as individuals. It was bad for Spain to have American extractive wealth in the 16th and 17th centuries without having to work for it, and bad for Argentina to have built its 20c culture on cattle-raising for export, an activity much like mineral extraction. It was bad for the antebellum US South to construct its culture on a plantation economy. ... It's been bad for Kuwaiti and Saudi society to have all that oil it didn't make or find, bad for lottery winners…and usually bad for the children of the very rich.

Statistics, politics, and failures of intelligence analysis

Mark Kleiman has an interesting post on intelligence analysis: "Third, the real problem has to do with what the military calls command influence (in the context of courts martial and similar proceedings) and a background structural bias caused by differential rewards for different conclusions. The CIA was founded to prevent another Pearl Harbor. 'Worst Case' assessments are a way of life. No one ever asks what the down-side of a threat overestimate might be; everyone knows the danger of a threat underestimate. "


I just returned from Cleetus and Mrs. Cleetus's wedding in Austin, Texas. It was a beautiful ceremony and I had a great time. Austin is apparently a sort of cultural oasis in the middle of Texas, but I still found it to be a little weird. It was also very dry, and yet simultaneously very muggy.

Estate Tax

Mark A. R. Kleiman: "Being wealthy and important because of your ancestors is European; making it on your own is American." Read the whole post.


Whale-Dolphin Hybrid Has Baby Wholphin.

Random Papers

This random CS paper generator actually got a paper accepted to a conference.


A couple of interesting posts about companies perverting science. The first is about pharmaceutical companies trying to skew research:
Betty J. Dong, a pharmacologist, had been contracted in 1987 by Flint Laboratories to run a clinical trial comparing Synthroid, Flint's synthetic version of thyroid hormone, to that of three competing formulations. At the time, Synthroid was the market leader and the most expensive drug in its class. Dong and Flint signed a lengthy agreement detailing the design of the study, and both sides fully expected the results would show that Synthroid was superior.

But all four drugs turned out to be essentially equivalent. In 1990, as Dong prepared a paper for JAMA, the company that was at first so eager to solicit her help, launched a vigorous campaign to discredit the study. Flint then rushed its own paper into press at a less prestigious journal, concluding--surprise!--that Synthroid was superior. After numerous attempts to address the company's criticisms, Dong finally submitted her paper to JAMA, only to withdraw it three months later when the firm threatened to sue for breach of contract. It took the FDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to get the company to back down. Dong's paper did not see print in JAMA until 1997.

The second post is about chemical companies doing the same thing:
In their study, vom Saal and Hughes suggest an explanation for conflicting results of studies: 100 percent of the 11 funded by chemical companies found no risk, while 90 percent of the 104 government-funded, nonindustry studies reported harmful effects.

Fafblog speaks

The definitive word on health insurance:
Well other countries might have better health care, but at what cost? At the cost of freedom, that's what - the freedom squeezed from their lives by their all-powerful government healthbots. And freedom is the best medicine, right next to laughter and actual medicine!

On Balsamic Vinegar

I recently found out that there's a huge difference between good balsalmic vinegar and the stuff you get at Safeway. The crud from Safeway (CfS) tastes like vinegar with brown food coloring and maybe a little sugar. The good stuff (GS) has a completely different taste. As it's impossible (for me, at least) to describe a taste, I'll just say that the GS is much better and much less vinegary. In fact, it wouldn't be horrible to drink the GS plain, whereas I'd never do that with the CfS. We've been using the store brand from Whole Foods, "365" brand.

Saint Factory

From AMERICAblog:
JPII churned out almost 500 saints -- more than all his predecessors of the past 2000 years COMBINED.
Geez, anybody can be a saint these days. I wonder if I could be sainted. I'm pretty cool and amazingly handsome.


A fun quote:
This suggests a different possible role for the bug man, even a new function he can serve for the GOP: that of a ready-made issue for any Republican from the Northeast who needs a poster boy for Republican corruption against whom to define themselves and highlight their independence. Of course, that may sound a bit more like a Democratic issue. And you're probably right. But I'm trying to help the best I can.
Too true, too true.


Sesame Street is about to become lame:
"Literacy involves a great deal more than just phonics. 'Sesame Street' has a long history of understanding that, which is why this recent news about the program's 'new' emphasis on healthy eating is rather disappointing:
Cookie Monster ... will cut down on his favourite food as part of an anti-obesity drive.

The blue-furred muppet who used to sing 'C is for Cookie' will now tell viewers that 'A Cookie is a Sometimes Food.'

Each episode of the show's new series will begin with a 'health tip' about healthy foods and physical activity.

A Sesame Street representative said the popular character would be 'broadening his eating habits' in the future.


For the past three decades the Cookie Monster has been the monstrous embodiment of gluttony. He has, in other words, always taught children about healthy eating habits.

'Sesame Street' works as educational television because it teaches in a variety of ways -- not just through clumsily didactic lectures. It presents characters like Cookie Monster or his neighbor, Oscar the Grouch, and shows those characters making choices. Some of those choices are good, some of them are bad. Part of learning to read, part of being literate, is learning to understand such stories -- learning to recognize that not every character in every story is a 'role model' worthy of emulation.


'Sesame Street' used to trust its young viewers to understand stories, and they did. Generations of children grew up watching Cookie Monster without the confused notion that by featuring such a character the show was somehow advocating gluttony.

One of us...

I was just dropping a book off at Cleetus's place, A Deepness in the Sky. I mentioned to him that the author was a CS professor: "One of us!"

From the other room we hear the future Mrs. Cleetus say, "I'm not one of you, am I?" Lucky for her (and him), I don't think that she is.

P.S. I don't mean to imply that the future Mrs. Cleetus has no identity of her own, I just don't have an anonymity-preserving nickname for her.

P.P.S. A Deepness in the Sky is one of the best books I've ever read. I would recommend it to anyone.

A Gentleman

A word to the wise:
"A gentleman’s prime claim to handsomeness is in the harmony and balance of his figure. If he does not have this, perfection of individual details like the eyes, teeth, nose, or lack of bodily odors will not make him attractive."

Health care

So the emerging liberal consensus is that health care is better in other countries unless you're extremely wealthy. Kevin Drum is pretty persuasive on that point.

For more, see Angry Bear and Krugman.

War crimes

Here's an interesting article about war crimes. At the end of World War II, the United States prosecuted many members of the Japanese Military for war crimes. It turns out that the U.S. is now committing many of these same war crimes. Just read the article, it's pretty interesting.

Update: Corrected a typo, changing "not" to "now".

HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux

This page, HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux, reminds me of someone I know...


Sony Invention Beams Sights, Sounds Into Brain
LONDON (Reuters) - If you think video games are engrossing now, just wait: PlayStation maker Sony Corp (SNE.N). has been granted a patent for beaming sensory information directly into the brain.


'The pulsed ultrasonic signal alters the neural timing in the cortex,' the patent states. 'No invasive surgery is needed to assist a person, such as a blind person, to view live and/or recorded images or hear sounds.'


A Sony Electronics spokeswoman told the magazine that no experiments had been conducted, and that the patent 'was based on an inspiration that this may someday be the direction that technology will take us.'

Doesn't take much to get a patent these days, does it?


According to this quiz I'm mostly an athiest, with a little agnostic and jew thrown in. Some of the questions were a little weird, though, and simple "1 to 5" answers aren't appropriate.



















Which religion is the right one for you?

How tall?

Have you ever wanted to know how tall celebrities really are? Here's your chance.

Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate

Wow, quite an in-depth analysis of various sci-fi series.


A great post on pharmacists' "right" to refuse to dispense certain drugs.

Stuck in an Elevator for 3 Days

I can't help but think that some of the fault lies with the deliveryman himself. The intercom in the elevator worked, but the language barrier was too much, so instead he stayed in there for 3 days.

Firefox Extension

Tab Mix is a great extension for Firefox. It gives you control over when new tabs are opened, lets you rearrange tabs, and lets you undo when you accidentally close a tab.

Self defense in Florida

They're changing the requirements for justifying the use of deadly force in Florida. As the link says,
Traditionally, one must attempt to retreat before one is justified in using deadly force against a potential assailant. There are other requirements, too, such as a subjective belief in the imminent danger of grievous bodily harm that is not objectively unreasonable, and battlefield mercy rules (once the assailant is down and apparently incapacitated, don't finish him off!).

They're getting rid of the requirement to attempt to retreat first.

Marx's labor-theory-of-value

Here's an econ. professor's refutation of Marx's labor-theory-of-value. Pretty interesting to someone who's never taken macroeconomics. :)

Hilarious video

Check it out.


A very interesting story. I'm not sure what I think about it.

The Washington Monthly

Some interesting data (and charts) about Democrat/Republican identification vs. liberal/conservative identification. It turns out that there are still more Democrats than Republicans (even after the Southern Democrats left), yet there are many more conservatives and independents than liberals. Also, liberal/conservative identification seems to be much more stable than party affiliation. Maybe the definitions of conservative and liberal change with the times in order to keep these numbers more or less constant...

MacGyver Timer

A kind of cool timer. I can't help but wonder what MacGyver could have done with something like that. If you really want one, you can get one for $15 here.

Impressive Monitor Architecture

Impressive Monitor Architecture. Pretty much says it all.

Passport shenanigans

Eek! They're putting ID chips into passports. I assume that they'll be passive devices like the anti-theft devices some stores use. Are we all going to have to keep our passport in foil pouches?

Your name is who you are

A paper claims that test scores are correlated with names. Specifically, the claim is that names associated with low socio-economic status are associated with lower test scores, independent of race. That would be interesting, if true.

Housing bubbles

An interesting post at Angry Bear about housing market bubbles.

How to use liposuction to repair Adobe Reader 6

If you're using Windows, and you use Adobe Acrobat Reader a lot, you're probably sick of how long it takes to load. Wouldn't it be nice if someone told you how to speed it up?

Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies

Here it is: Dungeons & Dragons For Dummies. You know you want it. How else will you learn, "D&D Etiquette"?

The "internet"

If you're wondering about all the links posted on the side of "Turtles", wonder no more. This post will explain them all!

Useful Sites
- Rotten Tomatoes - A movie review site. It compiles reviews from hundreds of reviewers.

Interesting Sites
- Gizmodo - The newest information on gadgets.
- The Loom - A science weblog.

- Angry Bear - A group weblog run by a bunch of economists.
- Brad DeLong - An economics professor at UCLA.
- Body and Soul - Much more liberal than I am, but she often has interesting things to say.
- fafblog! - Very funny, but somewhat of an acquired taste
- Lawyers, Guns, and Money - A group weblog covering many topics, especially law.
- James Wolcott - A very funny writer who has written for many magazines, currently Vanity Faire. His writing reminds me of my friend Andy.
- Mark Kleiman - A public policy professor at UCLA. He writes about many topics, but I especially like his posts on topics like crime prevention, prisons, etc.
- Mark Schmitt - Has worked in Washington and in foundations for a long time, has an insider’s view of politics
- Pharyngula - A biology professor at University of Minnesota.
- Political Animal - A general-purpose political weblog. The author (formerly known as CalPundit) is generally a reasonable guy.

The ultimate martial art

George Ledyard Sensei, who teaches up in Seattle, has an interesting essay about how Aikido isn't the ultimate martial art, but neither are most modern martial arts.


I saw the movie Bait yesterday. It's a comedy/action movie starring Jaimie Foxx. The reviews made it out to be really bad, but I liked it a lot.


An interesting post about how many libertarian criticisms of government can also apply to private contracts. When private groups get large enough it's hard for me to see a difference.

Turtles all the way down

Welcome to Turtles All The Way Down here at tictacturtle. There's a little bit of a story about the name. Have fun!