Bus Stop

A bus stop in Taiwan.

Cheap(er) plane tickets

Good to know:
I recently made a one-night trip from Houston to Chicago with very little notice. I managed to save almost $200 off of the lowest-price plane ticket by adding a hotel room at a Super 8 outside of Gary, IN, which I didn’t use.

A quick look at Travelocity shows me that it was no fluke- for brief trips with very little notice, it’s much cheaper to book a flight to Chicago if you book a room at a Super 8 at the same time. At the time that I originally wrote this post, Delta would sell a flight from Houston to Chicago for $616 without a hotel room, $340 with. If I needed to leave tomorrow, I could buy a ticket on American for $606 without a hotel room, or $350 with.

So the moral is: try booking a really cheap hotel room on the travel consolidation websites (Expedia, Travelocity) and you may save a lot of money.

Update: Fixed. See Comments.

They censored Douglas Adams!!!

Matt Yglesias notes that “MPAA rules for avoiding an R-Rating … allow you up to two uses of “fuck” as long as the word appears in a non-sexual context.” A bit reminiscent of the “Rory” Award, featured in Douglas Adams’ Life, the Universe and Everything, which was granted for the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word “Fuck” in a Serious Screenplay. In the US edition of LTUAE, this was changed to the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word “Belgium” in a Serious Screenplay, neatly proving Matt’s point about the unique censoriousness of American media.

- How accurate are track & field records?

Interesting. One excerpt:
They can record to the ten-thousandth of a second, although that level of precision is not commonly used. That's because every track (and every lane) differs in length by a minuscule amount, so two runners who race at exactly the same speed might cross the finish line with times that differ by a tiny fraction of a second. In the 1972 Olympics, for example, two swimmers finished a 400-meter race within two-thousandths of a second—or a few millimeters—of each other. As it turned out, each lane of the swimming pool had been constructed to a precision of just 10 millimeters, so there was no way to determine the winner.

Last to Surrender

This guy was either very loyal or very messed up, quite possibly both:
...One such soldier was Officer Candidate Hiroo Onoda. At the end of 1944 he was sent to the Phillipine Island of Lubang, having been trained in the art of guerrilla warfare. The Americans arrived in February 1945 and soon wiped out all Japanese forces save four men. One of them was newly-promoted Lieutenant Onoda.

Lieutenant Onoda began his guerrilla war only a few months before the end of World War II, which the four soldiers were unaware of. In 1949 one of the soldiers "deserted" to the Phillipine Army and was brought back to the area to try to tell the others that the war was over. Lt. Onoda recognized it for what it was: a trick! The remaining three soldiers "retreated" to a new area.

In 1954 another soldier in Onoda's tiny army was killed in a shootout with filipino fishermen. Leaflets were dropped over the area addressing the two remaining soldiers by name in a vain attempt to convince them that the war was over, but Lt. Onoda was too smart for that. Even when Onoda's brother was brought in to address them over a speaker system they were convinced that the Americans had found someone who looked and sounded like his brother in order to get rid of him.

Lt. Onoda lost his third and last soldier in 1972, while conducting a "raid" on rice crops. In 1974 he met a Japanese university dropout named Suzuki who had come out to Lubang with the express mission of finding Onoda. Cautious at first, Onoda listened as the young man told him that the war was over. Onoda explained that he could not surrender without orders. On March 9th, 1974, a meeting was arranged between Lt. Onoda and Maj. Taniguchi, Onoda's former commander. Taniguchi ordered Onoda to give up his sword and this small slice of World War II finally came to an end.

Barbarism in Texas

A little old, but it's still a horrible story:
So, with no place to get an abortion after 16 weeks, what does a panicky, 17-year-old girl do if she's four months pregnant? Erica Basoria decided to try to induce a miscarriage. When that didn't work, she asked her boyfriend to step on her stomach. A week later she miscarried.

This is all bad enough, but what comes next is fantastically worse: Texas also has a shiny new law criminalizing 'fetal murder,' and the fact that Basoria wanted a miscarriage in this case doesn't matter. Her boyfriend, Gerardo Flores of Lufkin, has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for his part in this tragic comic opera[.]


Legal Fiction:
I'm no expert on the history or past practice of disclosing a nominee's government writings, but I do know that the assertion of attorney-client privilege as a basis of withholding them is ridiculous. The attorney-client privilege is a privilege that belongs to the client, not the attorney. Once the client waives it, it no longer exists. In Roberts' case, the 'client' is the United States. And there is simply no justification for refusing to waive it when the issue is whether to approve a man who could be on the Court for thirty years or longer.

In addition to Fred Thompson who actually invoked the privilege, Gonzales added that disclosing these materials would 'chill communications' among government attorneys. Maybe, maybe not - but even if it did, it's irrelevant. All lawyers write with the understanding that their client may waive the privilege one day. It happens all the time in DOJ investigations - the government (through a mixture of carrots and sticks) 'persuades' the investigatee to waive privilege.

More on the Wilson/Plame Affair

This is the best thing I've read about the whole affair, written by a former CIA case officer and prosecutor. I can't recommend reading this article enough. Scroll down and start reading where it says, "Testimony of James Marcinkowski".

There is a very serious message here. Before you shine up your American flag lapel pin and affix your patriotism to your sleeve, think about what the impact your actions will have on the security of the American people. Think about whether your partisan obfuscation is creating confidence in the United States in general and the CIA in particular. If not, a true patriot would shut up.

Welcome to the New Police State

Including random searches to ride public transit in New York.


CJR Daily::
"one live shot that made me bust out laughing was from MSNBC as one of their female reporters ventured out close to the white-capped water crashing onto the shore. She was holding onto her ball cap and leaning into the wind as though it was taking all her effort just to stand. Giving her dramatic coverage of how dangerous it was to be this close to the water and how powerful the wind and waves were, her moment of glory was quickly deflated before she realized it. As her cameraman panned the area the camera came around behind her only to capture some local people in their tank tops and shorts casually walking just feet behind her, with hardly any notice of the wind and rain. There was even one man holding his small child on his shoulders as calm as if it were any day in the park."

Star Wars III Choreography

One of the fight choreographers for Star Wars III answers some questions:
I'll try and cover some of these questions. My opinion of the final product of Ep III is that its ok. I know how much was shot and how little of it ended up in the final reel. Thats an unfortunate reality of film but it still smarts. The non-included stuff I can't talk about but I'd check out the EP III game if you want an idea. Anyway, lets see how we go:

1: All the fights were test shot prior to the shoot based on script notes and required shots. These breakdowns sometimes consisted of sets and specific moments that had to happen. Usually it was just a case of geography, A fights B down corridoor, out onto platform, down ramp, 12 droids appear etc etc. All the acro in the test shoots was done real with wires and air rams using the sword doubles and Hayden Christiansen who was training with us. At the actual shoot, the number of real stunts was reduced and a number of CGI bits were included. At the end of the day i'd say about 50/50 digital to real stunts made the film.

2: The most difficult thing about the choreo process is that the conditions were constantly being changed or updated. New geography was added or removed as well as characters and droids. The challenge was to keep the choreo interesting without having to create new stuff for the actors to have to learn. Rehearsal time was premium and with the exception of Anakin we had very little time to teach and prepare the actors for their fights.

3: In defense of Sam's fight, he had very little time to learn it and yet had it running at a great pace. Ian was not brought in to rehearsals as he was told he would not be fighting. This of course changed on the day of shooting. We had to rush and change the choreo to accomodate both actors and to preserve the original rehearsal material. Sam didn't have a sword double because he didn't need one. To look at that scene now is quite strange, it's such a pivotal moment and seems quite disjointed in its flow.

Single Issue Voters

This is an interesting approach to analyzing issues for rational politicians:
Here's how single-issue voting works: Normally, a question is presented to the electorate and if 51% favor it, it should pass (assuming rational legislators - a dubious assumption in these dark days). If 51% oppose it, it should not pass. This ideal model, however, doesn't take intensity of preferences into account. For example, let's say 20% of voters really really want an environmental regulation eliminated. The other 80% would prefer to keep it, if you asked them, but they don't really care that much. Other issues are more important. If you're a legislator, you know that by opposing the elimination the regulation, you'll lose 20% of the electorate immediately and gain nothing. If you favor eliminating it, you gain 20% of the electorate, and lose nothing. Not a tough choice, is it? It's not a tough choice even though 80% of the population supports the regulation.

He goes on to say that this is how prohibition got passed, and why he fears that an anti-abortion law could be passed (if Roe is not upheld) even though a majority of Americans are in favor of abortion.

Press? What Press?

Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog.:
Last week Lawrence O'Donnell revealed that he, along with 'too many people,' had known for some time that Karl Rove had leaked the identity of a covert CIA agent to get back at her whistleblower husband. Like Matt Cooper, Judith Miller, or any good member of the press, O'Donnell sat on this information for months to protect the sanctity of reporter-reporter privilege.

As it turns out, there are quite a few criminals and potential criminals in the administration the media would tell you about - if only it could. Sadly, because the media adheres to the very strictest of ethical codes, these felons can never be exposed.

Activist Judges

CJR Daily: Archives:
... Instead of scoring the judges on how often they affirmed or overturned lower court rulings, Gewirtz and Golder asked a different question: 'How often has each justice voted to strike down a law passed by Congress?'

Since 1994 (when the court assumed its current composition), Gewirtz and Golder write, the Supreme Court has upheld or struck down 64 Congressional provisions. The most 'activist' judges, as measured by this yardstick: Clarence Thomas, who voted to strike down the laws in question 65.63 percent of the time, and Anthony Kennedy, close behind with a 64.06 percent off-with-their-heads performance. The least activist judges by this measure are Stephen Bryer, who voted to overthrow percent 28.13 percent of the time, and Ruth Ginsburg, who did so 39.06 percent.

In short, it's the liberal judges who are most conservative about upending established law, and the conservative judges who are most willing to overturn a Congressional majority by judicial edict.


The Carpetbagger Report explains how the pledge has changed over time (changes in bold):
1892 version: I pledge allegiance to my Flag, and the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for all.

1923 version: I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

1924 version: I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

1954 version: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Oooooohh, pretty!

Hubble spies lord of the stellar rings:

A spectacular, luminous ring offers the best evidence yet that a nearby star is circled by a newly formed solar system.

The ring is composed of dust particles in orbit around Fomalhaut, a bright star located just 25 light years away in the constellation Pisces Australis – or the Southern Fish. A recent image captured with the Hubble Space Telescope - which makes the system look uncannily like the Great Eye of Sauron from the blockbusting Lord of the Rings trilogy - confirms that Fomalhaut’s ring is curiously offset with respect to the star.

"The geometrical centre of the ring is offset to the left of the star’s position, shown with a yellow dot."