The Phantom City

Notes from our travels across a mysterious world.

Page 2 of 70

Greet a blade of grass

Okay, I’ll freely admit when I first saw this video, my immediate reaction was that I was going to put it on my blog and snark on it. Let’s face it, it sounds like a Unitarian Universalist hymn, and they put the lyrics in the video so there’s no mistaking that you just heard “Mother Eve and Father Pine.”

That being said, here are a few reasons I present this video without snark for your actual enjoyment:

  • I’m a sucker for symphonic metal, and Nightwish is really good at it. There are some great songs on this album.
  • They’re fully committed, and there’s something charming about that. Seriously, this is from a concept album themed around science and reason. They might be marketing geniuses who know exactly what they’re doing after 20 years, but they’re willing to put it all out there.
  • This song has the word “eukaryote” in it.
  • I’m pretty sure their latest lead singer is a Valkyrie…and you can’t teach that.

Oh, I’ll be free

Rest in peace, David Bowie.

Research covers a lot of ground

I’ve seen a tweet going around that says people under the age of 44 are almost as likely to use Youtube for research purposes as they are Wikipedia.

Given that the tweet is being passed around in academic circles, I suspect the meaning of “research” is meant to be understood as scholarly research, which would be kind of appalling.

However, if you look at the actual question, it asks what sources people have used for “information.” I guess I’m just as guilty as anyone else, then, because Wikipedia has some great stuff about the Battle of Lepanto and Steven Universe, but it’s not great for figuring out how to replace a door handle in a 1998 Toyota Corolla.

Rest in Peace, Christopher Lee and Dusty Rhodes

These two men had more of an effect on my life than you’d think.

My mind is made of clockwork

…tick, tick, tick…

For various reasons, this is a bad time to be starting a new project, but I had been planning to do this for quite a while. I’ve written a little about work and software development here, but The Phantom City never seemed to be the most appropriate place. So, for those ideas, I present The Clockwork Mind!

I really need to get back into writing more, and hopefully one blog will inspire the other. On most subjects, I’ll be here. On programming, software development, and management, I’ll be over there.

Like The Abominable Dr. Phibes…

…It rises from the crypt, seeking to take vengeance upon those who left it for dead!

Okay, really, I just restored The Phantom City from the most recent personal backups I could find to bring it out of its 2.5-year slumber. My previous “lifetime” hosting was for the lifetime of the company, not my own, and even though another company valiantly jumped in at the last minute to honour those plans, my server was one of the few that couldn’t be successfully transferred before the shutdown.

I decided to take a break from blogging, and I didn’t see a new host I was particularly enthusiastic about until someone recently mentioned WebFaction. Shared managed hosting for developers with one-click installers that work? Sign me up! I’ve been using cloud servers to play with various things, but I like to tear them down and build them back up, so it’s not really ideal for blog hosting. Plus, after a long hard day of securing other people’s servers, I kind of like being able to depend on someone else to take care of one of my own. (The link above is an affiliate link. I don’t know what I get if you sign up using it, but why not?)

Anyway, I think I’m up to date through the shutdown as far as content, but I still need to fix a bunch of links and images. Plus, I just jumped a whole bunch of versions of WordPress, so I’m still figuring out how to replicate some of my old blog functionality. Much better themes available, though. We’ll probably never get back the classic theme, unless I can find where the backup with those source image files went in the last ten years, but we’ll always have the favicon to remember it by. Besides, I’m getting older, and the large text is comforting to me.

Well, let’s see how this goes. My Facebook statuses have been trending longer and longer, so it’s about time I moved them to their natural home, where they can embiggen the spirits of us all. 🙂

No more [email protected] on the PS3

Well, there goes my sense of social contribution. Sony will be removing the Life with Playstation client from the PS3 with the 4.30 update. The client, which contributed processing time on the PS3 to medical research using folding protein models, was used by around 15 million people to contribute over 100 million hours of calculations.

My system has a little over 500 nights’ worth of calculations under its belt, which would be about 3000 hours. I figure my function has been to supply money for power for the PS3 to keep doing important work. Now what’s my purpose, and what’s it going to do? 🙂

Here’s hoping Sony changes their mind, or figures out some other way to use those processing cycles.

Courtesy of The Escapist.

47% chance it’s you

So, I’m sure everyone has heard about Mitt Romney telling rich folks the election is running against him because 47% of people don’t pay taxes, expect handouts, etc. Not sure why anyone would be surprised. This has been a common conservative talking point this year, particularly in the primaries, and Rush Limbaugh uses it all the time.

Some things about the 47% who don’t pay taxes:

1. There is some percentage of genuinely poor people in there. Progressive tax rates are a good way of allowing the poor to take care of themselves as much as possible, without direct government aid. Need all of your money to survive? Keep your money. It’s simplicity itself. Now, we can argue about social welfare programs and benefits targeted at the poor, but that number isn’t 47%, and is only related to the 47% in that both include the poor.

2. Big contributor to the 47%: Seniors on Social Security. If you make below a certain amount in addition to your Social Security income, you don’t pay taxes on that Social Security income. How should we “fix” that so everyone is contributing equally and the 53% can feel better about life? Tax Social Security benefits? That would be just as idiotic as the current Social Security taxation scheme, where the federal government sends money to people and then turns around and has to collect that money back. Wouldn’t it be better to just cut the benefits the same amount and lose some of the bureaucracy?

3. Also a big contributor to the 47%: Families making below a certain amount who get the Earned Income Tax Credit. Not personally fond of this one, but I doubt too many people want to get rid of it. (Seriously, I get children are expensive, but why the heck is the federal government paying us to have them? Why not just give us a more progressive tax scheme and better-targeted social welfare, and let parents figure out how many children they can afford, as they did pre-1975?)

4. And, my personal favorite: Mortgage interest deductions. Don’t get me wrong, we claim them every year. But is it genuinely a federal interest to encourage buying houses instead of renting?

Who benefits from factor 2? Seniors! Who mostly benefits from factors 3 and 4? Middle-class white people! You know, the folks Mr. Romney wants to come out and vote for him in 2012. Which is why he keeps talking about defending Medicare, and Social Security, and keeping the expensive parts of Obamacare and Bushcare….

Personally, I don’t want to vote for a person who, when talking to rich donors, draws a vision of the entire population as producers and parasites — guess which role the donors get to play — but then turns around on his commercials and talks about how much he wants to defend all of the entitlements he so contemptuously dismissed in his rich donor speech.

On Saturday Night Live this weekend, Jay Pharoah — playing President Obama — said that though he might not have a lot going for him in this election, he’s always got Mitt Romney to help out. True words.

Update: How nice to be reminded of some of the folks in factor 1 — a substantial portion of our own enlisted soldiers — by a man who done lost his mind back during the Bush 43 Presidency. (And yes, trying out neoconservative foreign policy once doesn’t mean anything. Supporting it for the entire Bush 43 and Obama administrations, no matter what, means you’re an addict.)

Update, redux: Let’s all be reminded: Never corner a Carter. They fight mean.

Update, yet again: Reason has a good quote:

The price of public generosity is massive and, at the individual level, largely hidden. Far from thinking of themselves as victims, most net recipients think they’re the ones pushing the wagon. This is the misconception that needs to go away.

And yet another Update: This is how much a family of four, with one spouse working, would need to make to pay income taxes, thanks to tax breaks. Hmmm…only one parent working…tax breaks equaling lower effective tax rates…I thought this was supposed to be the Republican Dream. Instead, Mr. Romney gets his talking points mixed up and says you’re a parasite. Thanks, President Reagan, for the tax breaks and tax rates that make this person a parasite!

Et tu, T-Paw?

So, listening to the Republican National Convention, I just heard Tim Pawlenty trying out a line about the Presidency being Barack Obama’s first job. I thought this was odd, since he was obviously in public service for a while beforehand, but decided to examine the President’s career to see when he had worked in the for-profit private sector. (You know, the only real jobs at the RNC.) Turns out he was a lawyer for a civil-rights-oriented law firm before running for Illinois State Senate. He was also a professor at a private university, but that probably doesn’t count for the RNC.

I decided to look at Pawlenty’s record. After law school he worked as a labor lawyer, and then was vice president at a software company. Otherwise, just one political job after another. Seems familiar, somehow.

On the other hand, I’ve worked at three different for-profit companies in just the last few years. (It’s all been government contracts, though. I didn’t build that.) Does that make me more qualified for the Presidency than Tim Pawlenty? I know he didn’t get a lot more votes than I did in the Ames Straw Poll.

Do dogs own the house?

First, go read Mike Munger’s My Dog Does Not Own My House.

While the analogy is interesting, it isn’t complete. How about this?

The group of homeowners decided they needed 18 dogs to keep them safe. First, they provided food for 15-20 or so, depending on the generic food harvest. Then, they decided to provide food for 12 for the next ten years, no matter what the harvest.

When the dogs pointed out they needed food for six more, the homeowners said no. The dogs weren’t really interested in running off 6 of their own, and the homeowners insisted on 18 dogs’ worth of protection.

For some reason, in the past, the homeowners committed to letting the dogs incur debt for the group of homeowners, so the dogs did so to get the extra food. This caused great consternation among the homeowners, who did not like the debt. So one of the dogs says, however clumsily, that as long as they want 18-dog service, they’re either going to go into debt or need to give them more food.

This causes great debate between those who want 10 dogs, and those who want 20, both of whom want to pay for as little food as possible. (Oddly enough, it doesn’t seem to matter whether the homeowner lives near the edge of the community near the bandits and beasts or not. What matters is how convinced the homeowner is that they individually can whip those bandits and beasts, and whether or not they were down with the collective dog thing in the first place.)

As a natural result, the homeowners hold an election to see who’ll be Top Dog, and both of the candidates promise 18 dogs’ worth of protection for the low, low price of either 10 dogs’ worth of food or 13 dogs’ worth.

Not sure the coercion is all on the dogs’ side. We know most of the foolishness and responsibility isn’t.

Interesting link included to Nozick’s Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism? Pretty sure most people, like me, are fine with meritocracies as long as the merit system favors them and they = elite, and populist when that doesn’t happen.

Update: Our current system? It’s kind of like the dog analogy, except with the addition that some homeowners’ houses are considered more valuable for reasons spanning from collective valuation, to buying votes, to their willingness to contribute snacks to the Top Dog, and they get more dog attention.

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