Wednesday, January 28, 2004

New column

By: UnrepentantNewDealer

New Column
Inspired (maybe that isn't the right word) by Michael Akerman's recent addition to the blog of a Thoughts in Brief column, I have decided to embark upon the uncertain prospect of a semi-regular brief column of my own which I hereby christen Random Ramblings. Let the good times roll!

So, How 'Bout Those Panthers?

No really, how 'bout 'em. I am about as far from a sports fanatic as you could get, but even I am getting somewhat excited about this year's Super Bowl (as opposed to the commercials--check out last week's Foxtrot in the comics when Peter asks Jason who he thinks will win).

For a team that was really bad until this year, the Panthers have really turned things around. Now, surprisingly, I really want them to win. Perhaps that's because of my innate sympathy with the underdog, or perhaps it could be chalked up to state loyalty. After all, I'm going off to college next year and I don't want new acquaintances to say "You're from North Carolina? You're football team sucks." So to the Panthers, I say "Don't screw up, don't make North Carolina the punchline of every joke in the nation--again..."

Ah, Politics Is Such Sweet Sorrow...

"Howeird" Dean has done it again. The pundits tell us that his infamous post-Iowa "Dean Scream" combined with John Kerry's first place performance (and Dean's third-place finish) in Iowa narrowed Dean's more than 25-point lead over Kerry in New Hampshire to a loss to Kerry yesterday by more than 10 percentage points. But Dean's loss in Iowa though cannot be neatly explained by his post-Iowa speech. Dean was the front-runner by a wide margin in Iowa and in national polls. The hoarse speech Dean gave in Iowa hurt his image, but that was not the nail in his coffin. The bane of Howard Dean has always been one thing: Electabilty.

Dean was able to convince himself that Democratic primary voters would back him because he was the most liberal candidate. He swung to the left early, because Democratic primary voters are always more liberal than ordinary voters that tip the balance in the general election (vice-versa for the GOP). Dean probably planned to swing back to the center for the general election against Bush. It was the tried and true strategy. But it failed this time because Dean swung so far to the left, he couldn't come back. He played the extreme liberal role to the hilt, so that was the angle taken by the major media and adroitly exploited by his primary opponents: Dean is extremely liberal, Americans have never elected anyone this liberal, therefore Bush will inevitably win if Dean gets the nomination.

The one thing Dean forgot was the very thing that made him the front-runner: anger at Bush. Dean was the angry candidate and that appealed to all true Democrats who are furious at Bush. But Democrats are not just idealists, we are in John Kennedy's praise "Practical Idealists". Democratic voters despise Bush so much that they will vote for the candidate most able to defeat him in November. That is all that matters to the average Democratic voter: "Which candidate is most likely to sweep this crook and his cronies and fellow parasites from the White House?" In this case, Dean came up short, and Kerry was the big winner.

After all, who would you bet on: the Vietnam War veteran with a Purple Heart and years of experience in national security issues or the guy who hid in the Texas Air National Guard rather than be drafted to go to Vietnam, a guy who went AWOL from his Guard unit for two years and has yet to offer an explanation for his unauthorized absence? As Kerry said in a recent speech (this is paraphrased)," If George Bush wants to make this election a debate on national security, I have three words for him that I know he understands: Bring It On!"

It looks like the Democrats might actually choose a candidate who could compete on an even playing field with Bush. I recently overheard a Republican classmate at school worry "I don't know. They're [Democrats] getting smarter. They picked Kerry in Iowa." I don't imagine Karl Rove's been getting much sleep lately....

Whew! I guess I'll stop there for now. What's that you say? I promised a "brief column"? Didn't the word Ramblings in the title tip you off? Well, now you know better than to trust a stream-of-consciousness-style writer to ever be brief.

Until the next "brief" post,

~Michael Smith

The Run Down

By: Michael Akerman

I figured I should do a quick run down of some recent news items that warrant opinions, but since I don't have anything amazingly revealing to add to discussions, I'll just make a post of

Thoughts in Brief

The Dean Dance

As we all know, Dean made a fool of himself at the Iowa caucuses, committing primary election suicide by alienating the elite primary voters by revealing himself as immature and lacking self control.

I personally think this is a large part of why he's losing in the primaries and caucuses, where the voters are party elites who want a serious candidate with an actual campaign, rather than Dean's "campaign" of "Young People R0X0R."

Spaced Out

Now, I'm a big fan of space exploration. The space program literally pulled America to the forefront of science and technology, energizing research into polymers, food, sleep surfaces, powdered drinks, duct tape, aluminum foil, and countless other modern conveniences. Also, space is really cool (not just temperature-wise) and it's a great thing to learn more about. So, when there were rumors of a new Bush space initiative, I was excited. I looked forward to media coverage of physical testing of today's astronauts, amazing discoveries in science and technology, and pictures from orbit.

Yet Bush sorely disappointed me. The plan, it turns out, calls for a new space vehicle in ten years, and calls to land on the moon in 15 years. Allow me to reiterate: 15 years. Almost as long as my entire life so far. Let me point out that the original space program under Kennedy, started in 1960, took only 9 years to reach the moon... in the 1960s. With 40 years of advancement under our belt, we should be able to reach the moon next week. Then there's the 10 year span until we get new space vehicles. Prototypes for the "Next Space Shuttle" have been around since before the First Space Shuttle, and the current fleet of space shuttles is getting extremely old, as space vessels go. It's no wonder that people worry about safety on the shuttle.

Also, the Hubble telescope is going to be shut down in (IIRC) about 5 years, two years before the next telescope goes up. This stuff really shouldn't take that long.

MyDoom is YourDoom

Another virus is traversing the net with astounding speed, called by most "MyDoom," but officially titled W32.Novarg.A@mm (MyDoom is catchy and short). I think this worm is hilarious, because, as one news site said, it really was made by "some disgruntled Linux user." Linux users are, frankly, pissed at some company named SCO (I have no clue why), and one of them made the MyDoom virus to target them.

MyDoom comes in your email inbox (by the way, when did it change from e-mail to email?) looking like a bounce-back from your email server, as in, one of those EMAIL ADDRESS NOT FOUND emails. But it comes with an attachment (I got two today. Mine were error.txt, I think, as the attachment) that people keep opening. I have to say, these internet users are... dumb. Seriously, why would you care what the error log says on an ADDRESS NOT FOUND error? People need to learn to think.

And you thought your cell reception was bad...

Several days ago (weeks now?) the Mars rover Spirit lost contact with Houston. The control center was trying to contact it, but the only response they got were acknowledgement beeps, saying the rover got the messages. No images. No data on environmental surroundings. The media was abuzz.

Apparently, though, they think they've solved the problem. I was watching CNN, and they said that NASA scientists think that the rovers hard drive became overloaded. It essentially ran out of the free space necessary to create messages and carry out orders. You'd think a Mars rover would have terabytes of hard drive space to store all the highly detailed information. High quality technology there...

Happy Birthday to Me

Yep, I'm now 18, and as a birthday gift, God gave me nearly a week off from school (could be a whole week. Need to see what happens today and tomorrow.), because He loves me more than the rest of humanity. That's right, I said it.

Anyways, this year I get to vote (important year, too. Presidential elections and all) and... smoke cigarettes and... go to... strip clubs and.......... 18 is more boring than I expected. I even get to sign up for the draft (Stupid Uncle Sam, always sticking it to the little guy).

So, those are the things I think are most important about the last couple of weeks, except the Guilford County School Board removal of Indian mascots. For in depth opinions on subjects like this, see my post on the Race Card.

...also, Guilford County Educational Television (Channel 2 on Time Warner Cable) plays some really good music...

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Magic Web Site Transformation!

By: Michael Akerman

Now that I'm hosting the blog on my webspace (technically, RoadRunner's webspace, but it's rented by my family) I'm thinking about making the blog into a multi-page web site, with seperate sections for each regular contributor.

I figure I'll present it professionally in a kind of newpaper/forum style, and add a TrackBack link at the bottom of each post to allow easy responses to posts by different authors. I think I'll also figure out a way to maintain links to responses on original posts (i.e., I write a post, Smith responds using my TrackBack URL, I add a link to his post on my original post). I also plan on having a Reader's Contributions section and a Webmaster's Log, tracking the developments of the website itself.

Each regular contributor will be a Staff Writer, and I'll put those neat little black and white pictures of each staff writer on his section. I will be the Webmaster.

All I need now is a title. I'm leaning toward "The Learned Weasel" (Learned pronounced ler-ned), but feel free to give suggestions. I will also need artwork matching the title. If I go with The Learned Weasel, I'm thinking a weasel in a purple velvet robe (the fancy rich type) sitting on a beanbag wearing a monocle and smoking a pipe while holding an open newspaper and looking at the viewer. If you can draw, by all means send your work for this to me. I'll cite you as the artist right next to the art, if I use it. Send contributions to

...or the Learned Gecko, or Learned Monkey, or Learned Ferret...

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year

By: Michael Akerman

Editor's Edit: Dateline 1-5-04: There's an actual issue post below this one. Read it.

Should old acquaintances... and old people... and babies... and champagne.


May your year be blessed with all that you wish, even if you trod on others' toes to get it. May my life be blessed, and may I be blissfully unaware of the suffering of others.

It's what we all really want right?

(That seems like it should be tongue-in-cheek, but it's not.)

...I didn't actually post exactly at 12:00:02. I just changed the time stamp...