Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

Old posts from my weblog.

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This week I finally moved my stuff into my Paradigm office, also known as "the former marketing storage room."

Slate: International Papers -- That Was the Year That Was.

"...compacting the last 12 months of news in six of the countries that dominated `International Papers' in the year 2000."


Rebecca Blood is turning neuroses into an art form.

Slate: The Book of Virtual.

"A NYT front-pager delves into the rise of abstinence-based sex ed classes, a curriculum that next year will receive $100 million in state and federal funds, compared to $30 million in federal funds for HIV ed. The story provides a special glimpse into where the money is going when it describes a video used in some of these courses that shows a half-dozen teenagers chewing cheese snacks, then spitting into glasses of water, which they then pour into one another's glasses."

On the darker side:

Slate: A Ukrainian murder mystery.

"While no one has been paying much attention -- while all eyes have been on Putin's Russia and Milosevic's Serbia -- Leonid Kuchma, the Ukrainian president, has been slowly eliminating opposition media."


Science News: Science News of the Year.

"Years ago, fresh out of a statistics course, I made some friends laugh by insisting that an election shouldn't be considered valid unless the difference between the vote counts is statistically significant. I was viewing an election as an experiment with the hypothesis that more of the voters wanted candidate A than candidate B. I didn't pursue the idea because a vote count seemed to me to be a fixed result. How could you measure variability without holding the election repeatedly day after day? Was I naive!"


Happy Holidays!

Houston Chronicle: Coincidence brushes elections of `W' and `Q'.

Since the day after the US presidential election, I've been boring anyone who would listen with a discussion of the elections of 1824, 1876 and 1888.


In Israel I got to hook up with a couple of old friends. Anat Canning took me out to eat in Jaffa last Sunday night, and one evening I had pizza at home with Ronit Strahilevitz and her husband Nir.

I also did a tour of Jerusalem, against my wife's direct orders. Very interesting. Of course, because of the current mess I didn't get to see any Muslim sites, but because it was a Friday during the month of Ramadan, I wouldn't have been allowed in the Muslim quarter anyway.

Slate: Why the Fuss Over Condi Rice?.

"I leave you, finally, with the case of Poland. Also heavily Catholic-I believe the figure hovers around 99 percent-and also very traditional, Poland is rarely thought of as a country notable for its feminist traditions. Yet at one point this year, Poland, which has already had a female prime minister, had a woman as its chief central banker (the equivalent of the Federal Reserve chairman); a Protestant for a prime minister (until his appointment, I didn't even know there were Polish Protestants); and a Jewish foreign minister. The Jewish foreign minister, Bronislaw Geremek, has since resigned, in the wake of the collapse of the ruling coalition, but this week was elected chairman of his political party, a position that may give him another shot at high office. In the course of a rather tough leadership battle, the issue of his religion did not arise.

"Contrast that to Joe Lieberman's appointment as Gore's running mate, widely hailed by Americans as indicative of American tolerance, talked about endlessly as some kind of breakthrough: If we still have to make such a fuss over these things, doesn't that show how far we have to go?"


Wall Street Journal: How the Two Parties Turned Into the Coke And Pepsi of Politics.

"[The 2000 election campaign] is also a story of a new kind of perfection: a political marketplace that more than ever holds the nation's major parties in a state of equilibrium. The two campaigns and their parties raised nearly $1 billion for television advertising, stump appearances, ever-more accurate tracking polls, focus groups and direct mail. In return, they became the Coke and Pepsi of politics, understanding their market so perfectly that they each captured precisely half of it."

Now, just a minute! Look at this item in Slate's Today's Papers:

"An inside WP story casts an interesting light on the recent stress by the Supreme Court and others on the notion of a December 12th deadline for presidential elector selection. It reports that as of the end of that day, only 29 states and Washington, D.C. had certified their elector slates. The reason the paper gets from the federal officials in charge of such matters? The real deadline, they say, is December 18th."


CNN: Electrocuted man rises from the dead.


Science News: Chalk reveals greatest underwater landslide.

"A chunk of a giant comet or asteroid slammed into Mexico's Yucatan peninsula about 65 million years ago, setting off earthquakes with magnitudes estimated at 10 to 13. The seismic shock waves generated meter-high vibrations in Earth's crust all along the east coast of North America.

"New research indicates that this shaking sent sediment from shallow waters sliding off the continental shelf. Once the ooze settled, it may have blanketed a region as large as 3.9 million square kilometers on the deep ocean floor-an area more than twice the size of Alaska."


The CIA's report on Israel.

How's the weather in Herzlia?


In October I wrote a terribly irreverent piece on Jack Kilby when he won the Nobel. Here's a more respectful write-up:

Physics Today: Physics Nobel Prize Honors Roots of Information Age.

"The strong push for the miniaturization of electronics motivated Kilby to join TI in the summer of 1958. His first few months there are now the stuff of legend. As a new employee, Kilby could not take vacation that summer, and so he looked for a project to work on. `I had looked at the alternate miniaturization schemes that were around at that time,' recalls Kilby, `and I concluded that the best thing TI could make was semiconductors.' His idea: Use semiconductors not just for transistors and diodes, but also for resistors and capacitors, putting everything on the same substrate. The bulk resistivity of the semiconductor and its diffusion-doped layers could be exploited for fabricating resistors; p-n junctions could provide capacitance. By September, Kilby had made working devices--a phase-shift oscillator and a flip-flop--from available blocks of germanium, and within a few months had made ICs from silicon."

Physics Today: The Accelerating Universe: Infinite Expansion, the Cosmological Constant, and the Beauty of the Cosmos.

"One of the most surprising recent results from observational cosmology is the evidence that the expansion of the universe is accelerating. If gravity were the only force acting to alter the expansion rate, then the universe would be expected to be decelerating or, in the extreme case of a universe with essentially zero mass, expanding at a constant rate. Acceleration implies that the cosmological constant postulated and then discarded by Einstein is in fact not zero."


Science News: An early cosmic wallop for life on Earth?.


I find most of the "fight for the presidency" news pretty boring, except for the stuff dealing with constitutional law:

LA Times: Scalia Offers New Theory.

"`Stepping back from the technicalities, [Supreme Court Justice] Scalia is saying that there's an anti-democratic thrust to Article II of the Constitution,' said professor Alexander Keyssar...

"This section of the original Constitution gives power to the state legislatures and the electoral college, `and, in effect, it leaves out the people. If you follow the logic through, the implication is we have no guarantee of a right to vote in presidential elections, which is astonishing,' Keyssar said."

Actually, this was always my understanding of the U.S. Constitution, and I certainly don't consider myself to be "aggressively conservative."

For some historical context, check out the election of 1824.

Walter Kessinger

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