28 October 2008

links for 2008-10-28



  • This course is an introduction to game theory and strategic thinking. Ideas such as dominance, backward induction, Nash equilibrium, evolutionary stability, commitment, credibility, asymmetric information, adverse selection, and signaling are discussed and applied to games played in class and to examples drawn from economics, politics, the movies, and elsewhere.


27 October 2008

Want A Laugh? The Ann Arbor News' Non-Endorsement

I would to introduce you to one of my favorite Dutch phrases: plaatsvervangende schaamte. Here's how to pronounce it (no, that's not me).

So, what does plaatsvervangende schaamte mean (if you haven't clicked that link above)? It means "place exchanging shame", or, the shame I feel because you aren't ashamed of what you're doing. You know, like when you're friend is singing terribly but thinks they sound like a pop star?

Or, say, when you're the biggest newspaper in the most liberal town in the state, and you can't even find your dignity to choose a candidate to endorse for one of the more important Presenidential races in history. Yet that's what I feel today for the editorial board at the Ann Arbor News.

Granted, this is the paper that twice endorsed George W. Bush. But, today less than 2 weeks before the election, the AA News endorsed... no one. In 816 words they managed spit out every Republican talking point, most of the Democratic points, a smear or two, and still say absolutely nothing.

As one commenter put it, this is the "coward's way out", which indeed it is. We haven't subscribed to the News in many years and I see there's no reason to give them another look. What a waste of an opportunity and potential.

Plaatsvervangende schaamte.

For president: flawed candidates, no endorsement

23 October 2008

The McCain Campaign Enters the Self-Parody Stage

You just can't make this stuff up:

Madam President, the amendment before the Senate is a very simple one. It restricts the use of campaign funds for inherently personal purposes. The amendment would restrict individuals from using campaign funds for such things as home mortgage payments, clothing purchases … and vacations or other trips that are noncampaign in nature. […]

The use of campaign funds for items which most Americans would consider to be strictly personal reasons, in my view, erodes public confidence and erodes it significantly.

Who said that? John McCain. In 1993. You know, when he was still standing up for the American people. Not when his party was footing the bill for his VP's wardrobe to the tune of $150,000.

Now, a certain regular here will say something like "they're both so bad". Which is true to a degree. But this is just patently wrong. This crap defense that the clothes will be donated to charity is bull. Really? All the clothes purchased for the Palin kids and Todd Palin are going to be taken back from them and given to... who, exactly? And if that was always the intent, how stupid does your campaign staff have to be not to use that as a selling point? Seriously, how hard is it to say "Gov. Palin's clothes for tonight's debate were purchased at a union shop and will be donated to the Salvation Army after the event." Bam! You got union points and a photo-op the next day.

Face it, you got caught; suck it up, apologize and move on. Don't bullshit us with some idiotic story about charities and donations? Nevermind that the purchase of those clothes may actually be illegal under US Tax Code. Oh, and the best part? Guess who pushed that section of the tax code into law?

John McCain. (See Section 313, para (b), sub-section (B)) [see also: original Senate bill, overview of S.27, bill's complete history]

Idiots. I don't want McCain to win, but this is pathetic. At least stand for something. At least have the balls to tell your party when they're wrong, not repeat the same stupid excuse and defend an apparent violation of a bill you sponsored.

Senator McCain, I wanted you to be the nominee in 2004. I wanted to vote for you so badly then. I even watched you this season, hoping you really weren't the stooge for the Bush administration that you appeared to be in the years following, hoping I could vote for you this time. But I can't, and I'm getting close to giving up on Republicans in general.

I really believe that you think you're doing the best thing for the country. But by allowing the political players to game the public in an attempt for votes, you're sacrificing every shred of integrity and, dare I say it, status as a maverick you've built over the last 20+ years as a Senator.

As Christopher Buckley said, "I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me."

A Few Steps Closer to Blu-Ray and Netflix

We have yet to make the leap to Blu-Ray. Frankly, I haven't seen the point yet. Yes, I'd love to see what the quality would be on our TV, but I'm not willing to shell out $300+ for a new player and then $30-60 for movies that I likely already have. We did buy an up-convert DVD player when we got the TV and, so far, movies have looked pretty damned good.

But, today was yet another step closer to our purchase of a Blu-Ray player with the announcement of Samsung adding Netflix streaming capability to a new model of their Blu-Ray players. We've been using the Blockbuster service for a while now. It started at Blockbuster because we could exchange mailed movies at the store for in-store movies, and we got a coupon every month for a free game rental. It was a sweet deal until Blockbuster jacked up the price. We downgraded, still getting movies via mail, but no in-store exhange and no monthly game rental.

To be honest, the only reason we didn't switch was a) the price at Netflix at the time was the same and b) we had hundreds of movies queued up and were too lazy to re-do all that work on Netflix. (Hint to Netflix: find a way to import my Blockbuster queue and you might have a deal.)

Of course, in the long run, this announcement may not push us over the purchasing edge at all; the Xbox announcement in July hasn't because of the Xbox Gold requirement (seriously? I have to pay to watch content I already paid for once? Lame.) But, if I own the player and there's no fee to watch the movies I've already paid Netflix to see, that's a pretty tempting deal.

Wonder if these will be out by the time tax season rolls around...

Blu-ray players hooking up with Netflix

links for 2008-10-23

19 October 2008

The Right Answer

In his endorsement of Sen. Obama today, Colin Powell said this:

And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian.  He's always been a Christian.  But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America.  Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?  Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, "He's a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists." This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine.  It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave.  And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone.  And it gave his awards--Purple Heart, Bronze Star--showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death.  He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith.  And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey.  He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.  Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way.  And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know.  But I'm troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

So, when I look at all of this and I think back to my Army career, we've got two individuals, either one of them could be a good president.  But which is the president that we need now?  Which is the individual that serves the needs of the nation for the next period of time?  And I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities--and we have to take that into account--as well as his substance--he has both style and substance--he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president.  I think he is a transformational figure.  He is a new generation coming into the world--onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I'll be voting for Senator Barack Obama. [transcript]

 kareem_khan

This is the photo essay Powell referenced.

17 October 2008

The Chicago Tribune Endorses Obama

Not so surprising for a newspaper to do so, but it is pretty surprising to see this newspaper do so. The Tribune has never before endorsed the Democratic candidate for President. In fact, its history as a staunchly conservative newspaper makes this endorsement even stronger.

The endorsement itself is a litany of how McCain has failed to capture the hearts of anyone but the most obtuse of Republicans, from his shifting policy on taxes to his selfish choice for Vice President. It is also a first-hand view of the experience and abilities of Obama from the paper and staff that have watched his political career from the beginning.

Whatever your leanings, it's a cogent argument and a heavily-weighed endorsement; read it here.

New Red Dwarf!

Oh SMEG yeah! Red Dwarf, the stalwart sci-fi/comedy from the Beeb is coming back (sort of). I'm currently working my way through all the episodes in order (thank goodness for online DVDs) so this news is doubly wonderful for me.

All the original cast has agreed to reprise their roles and will debut in 2009 sometime. Please BBC, don't screw those of us on this side of the pond; give us some option to view them here (streaming, iTunes, whatever).

Smegtastic Red Dwarf returns to small screen with new episodes

Red Dwarf - official site

And, if anyone hits the lottery, the entire series on DVD.

15 October 2008

links for 2008-10-15



  • Eyeball centerpoints, bisect an angle, midpoints, and complete shapes. Fun, quick game

    (tags: games)

04 October 2008

Speaking of Food Porn...

We made a pilgrimage to the new Whole Foods in Ann Arbor today, as required by our residency contract with Washtenaw county. It always surprises me just how much the marketing of food lends to its appeal. For instance, entering the store, you are assaulted with the scents and sights (lit by the sun from mid-afternoon until sun set, I assume) of fresh, polished fruits and vegetables. The unsightly boxes that these foods came in is visible, all are stacked by hand in neat towers of spheres or columns. It's glorious; food as a vision. You can't help but want all of it because it looks so appealing. It's like the red-light district materialized in a grocery store, but all the hookers became apples, leaks, and.. well, melons.

Now, I will admit there are things available at Whole Foods that simply cannot be found at Kroger or the local grocery store; cheese and fish tend to be on our list when we hit Whole Paycheck. But, for the embarrassing amount we spent today, much of it was splurging: potato latkes and grilled leaks simply don't land on our menu very often.

Don't get me wrong, if I had the means, I'd gorge myself on $20 fruit tarts and $50/pound hand-massaged cheese until I burst. But I always feel slightly guilty partaking in the gastronomical orgy of that place, like I should have just stayed with that steady girlfriend instead of hitting the hookers and blow in The Valley.

Tune in next week when I crank up the hypocracy and go back to Whole Foods for a sushi lunch.

Spicey Porn

There are many miracles in the world to be celebrated and, for me, garlic is the most deserving.

Leo Buscaglia

I love to cook. Which is to say, I love to make bold, spicey dishes. Garlic is my favorite flavor to play with, much to the chagrin of J--, but I also love the smell of fresh basil, cilantro, and hot peppers.

Which, with winter not far from our windows, is why finding The Spice House is such a wonderfully awful event. For those spices I just can't find around here, I now have a source. And my debit card softly weeps. If anyone *cough* is looking for a Christmas suggestion, I'd point to the Some Like It Hot Gift Box. Or anything from the garlic page.

03 October 2008

Judge rules against Michigan over wine shipments

The state prohibits out-of-state retailers from shipping wine straight to Michigan consumers _ unless the retailers have a location in Michigan and are a part of a three-tier regulatory system.

A federal judge in Detroit earlier this week declared Michigan's law unconstitutional for discriminating against out-of-state retailers.

Woo hoo! Wonder if they'll appeal.

WOODTV.com