Saturday, 1 January 2005

So long, and thanks for all the fish

The new year brings a new blogospheric home for yours truly. This is my final post at Signifying Nothing. I’ll now be co-blogging with fellow Linux geek, philosophy geek, and Memphian, Len Clevelin, at Dark Bilious Vapors.

I’d like to thank both my co-bloggers, Chris and Robert, for putting up with me. And I’d especially like to thank Chris for hosting the blog, and writing the software that runs it, especially when he was humoring my feature requests.

And thanks to all the readers out there who took the time to read, comment on, or link to my posts, whether you agreed or disagreed with me. You know where to find me, if you want to read more.

Tuesday, 28 December 2004

Happy Birthday, Linus!

Today is the 35th birthday of Linus Torvalds, principal author of the Linux kernel.

Tuesday, 21 December 2004

Great Googly Moogly

Today would have been the 64th birthday of Frank Zappa.

Some take the bible
For what it’s worth
When it says that the meek
Shall inherit the Earth
Well, I heard that some sheik
Has bought New Jersey last week
‘N you suckers ain’t gettin’ nothin’

“The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing,” from You Are What You Is.


Happy Anniversary University of Roches

When you're buying a list of addresses to send junk mail to, you really should make sure that the address field holds more than twenty characters. Otherwise you end up looking very silly.
Dear Carl,
I would like to congratulate University of Roches on its upcoming 15th Anniversary. Few companies reach this important milestone. Promoting your experience and success is the number one way to generate new business and reinforce existing relationships. That's why it's important to promote your anniversary with our Foil Embossed Anniversary Seals.

Junk Mail Side 1Junk Mail Side 2

Saturday, 4 December 2004

Amazon citations

Amazon has a new "citations" feature for academic books. If the book is one for which "Search inside this book" is enabled, Amazon will tell you what other books are cited by the given book, and also what other books (with "Search inside" enabled) cite the given book.

For example, take the Amazon page for one of my favorite philosophy books, On the Plurality of Worlds, by David Lewis. In the citations section, we see that this book cites 29 other books in Amazon's catalog, including The Shape of Space, by Graham Nerlich, and Science without Numbers, by Hartry Field. There are 120 books in the Amazon catalog that cite Plurality, such as Supervenience and Mind, by Jaegwon Kim. There are even links to images of the pages where the citations occur.

It's trackback for books!

Brad DeLong.)

Friday, 3 December 2004

Unrest in the forest?

Tucked into the omnibus appropriations bill passed a few weekends ago, there was a little noticed provision designating the oak as America’s national tree.

It would have been the maple, but I understand that one’s already taken.

Free Credit Report

A recent amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) provide you with a free copy of your credit report, upon your request, once per year.

To prevent them from being overwhelmed with requests, the free reports are being phased in over a nine month period, from Dec. 1, 2004 to Sept. 1, 2005, depending on your state of residence.

For more information, visit the FTC‘s page, or go to (No link provided, since that web server rejects requests with a HTTP_REFERER header from any site other than,,, or, presumably to thwart phishing attacks.)

Thursday, 2 December 2004

Memphis Blogger Bash III

Summaries of last night’s Blogger Bash have been posted by Len, Abby, Eric, Mick, and Aaron. Topics of discussion included Japanese horror movies and Vietnamese restaurants.

Abby has pictures.

Mick says I look like Matt Drudge. You decide: me, Drudge.

Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Depressing news from South Asia

The government of Bangladesh has stopped women from taking part in a swimming competition after a radical Islamic group threatened to bring the district around Chandpur to a halt with protests.

And in Pakistan, a man has been sentenced to life in prison for blasphemy.

Sunday, 28 November 2004

Memphis Blogger Bash

Eric Janssen of webraw is organizing a bloggers bash for Wednesday, December 1, downtown at Cafe Francisco. Cafe Francisco has a WAP, so if you want to, you can bring your laptop and liveblog it.

Len Cleavelin.)

Dept. of bad logos

Maybe it's just me, but I find the logo over at New Donkey a little bit scary.

New Donkey logo

Couldn't they make the donkey look a little friendlier?

Good Luck, Randy Barnett

I’m no big fan of Randy “Buy My Book” Barnett qua blogger, but after Lawrence Lessig, he’s my second favorite lawyer. I join Jim Lingren in wishing Mr. Barnett the best of luck Monday in oral argument before the Supreme Court in the case of Raich v. Ashcroft.

I’d love to see Raich win the case, but I’m not getting my hopes up.

Friday, 26 November 2004

Banana Guard

Why didn’t I think of this?

banana guard

Are you fed up with bringing bananas to work or school only to find them bruised and squashed? Our unique, patented device allows for the safe transport and storage of individual bananas letting you enjoy perfect bananas anytime, anywhere.

The Banana Guard was specially designed to fit the vast majority of bananas. Its other features include multiple small perforations to facilitate ventilation thereby preventing premature ripening and a sturdy locking mechanism to keep the Banana Guard closed. The Banana Guard is of course dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

Boing Boing.)

Wednesday, 24 November 2004

Plush microbes

ThinkGeek is selling “infectiously cute” plush microbes. Collect them all! There’s flesh-eating streptococcus, ebola, mono, and my favorite, beer yeast.

Tuesday, 23 November 2004

Introductory metaphysics text

Two former professors of mine from the University of Rochester, Ted Sider and Earl Conee, are collaborating on an introductory metaphysics text, Riddles of Existence.

The introduction and two chapters, “Personal Identity over Time” and “Why Not Nothing?” are online.

Brian Weatherson.)

Thursday, 18 November 2004

The mind of the undecided voter

Christopher Hayes has an interesting article at The New Republic on undecided voters whom he spoke to in Wisconsin, while campaigning for Kerry during the final seven weeks before the election. His anecdata range from the funny
One man told me he voted for Bush in 2000 because he thought that with Cheney, an oilman, on the ticket, the administration would finally be able to make us independent from foreign oil. A colleague spoke to a voter who had been a big Howard Dean fan, but had switched to supporting Bush after Dean lost the nomination. After half an hour in the man's house, she still couldn't make sense of his decision. Then there was the woman who called our office a few weeks before the election to tell us that though she had signed up to volunteer for Kerry she had now decided to back Bush. Why? Because the president supported stem cell research.
to the truly sad
I had one conversation with an undecided, sixtyish, white voter whose wife was voting for Kerry. When I mentioned the "mess in Iraq" he lit up. "We should have gone through Iraq like shit through tinfoil," he said, leaning hard on the railing of his porch. As I tried to make sense of the mental image this evoked, he continued: "I mean we should have dominated the place; that's the only thing these people understand. ... Teaching democracy to Arabs is like teaching the alphabet to rats."
to the insightful
Undecided voters, as everyone knows, have a deep skepticism about the ability of politicians to keep their promises and solve problems. So the staggering incompetence and irresponsibility of the Bush administration and the demonstrably poor state of world affairs seemed to serve not as indictments of Bush in particular, but rather of politicians in general. Kerry, by mere dint of being on the ballot, was somehow tainted by Bush's failures as badly as Bush was.

Monday, 15 November 2004

RFIDs on prescription bottles

Viagra and Oxycontin bottles will soon be tagged with RFID chips, under a new FDA initiative to discourage theft and counterfeiting.

"Right away, for the first time ever, a cop can say 'that bottle came from a crime scene and this suspect is in possession of stolen property'," [Purdue Pharma chief security officer Aaron] Graham said.

(Purdue Pharma is the manufacturer of Oxycontin, a narcotic.)

Maybe I’m missing something, but what will stop thieves from just removing the pills from the bottles and throwing the bottles away?

If the “war on drugs” didn’t have such a high cost in human freedom, the ineffectual antics of the drug warriors would be a laugh riot.

Girlfriend's lap pillow

Guys, has your girlfriend dumped you for the boyfriend’s arm pillow? Don’t worry, the Kameo corporation of Japan has something for you, too. The amazing new girlfriend’s lap pillow will get you through those lonely nights without her.

Pure Land Mountain, which doesn’t seem to have permalinks.)

Creator of "The Flash" dies

Harry Lampert, creator of DC Comics superhero “The Flash” (the original Golden Age Flash, Jay Garrick), is dead at the age of 88.

Sunday, 14 November 2004

First date kisses

I have to agree with Amber Taylor, and disagree with Will Baude.

If one wishes to be asked on a second date, one must in some way indicate the desire to be asked. The easiest way to do this is a goodnight kiss. If one is, as Will writes, “shy, or merely very very reluctant to make bold moves,” then I recommend learning to say the words “Can we see each other again sometime?”

It's hard enough to ask a person out on a first date and face the possibility of rejection. One should not have to do so for the second.

I haven’t been in the dating scene for about eleven years, but when I was, I always interpreted no kiss as “kiss off.”

Wednesday, 10 November 2004

Thanksgiving dinner in a bottle

Or five bottles, to be precise. Following up on their successful turkey and gravy soda from last year, the Jones Soda company is selling a holiday five-pack: turkey and gravy soda, cranberry soda, mashed potato and butter soda, greenbean casserole soda, and fruitcake soda. (þ apostropher.)

Sunday, 7 November 2004

Alabama's blue belt

Looking at the red/blue county map, it’s pretty easy to correlate most of the blue counties with major urban population centers.

One thing that has me mystified, though, is the neat blue line bisecting otherwise red Alabama horizontally, seemingly following the path of Highway 80, as far as I can tell, and bleeding over slightly into Mississippi and Georgia on either side. Montgomery, Alabama’s capital and second largest city, is in the middle of the blue strip, but what about the rest of it? What’s the explanation of Alabama’s “blue belt”?

Update: Chris explains in comments that Alabama's "blue belt" is Alabama's black belt.

Online book on Gödel's theorems

Prof. Peter Smith of Cambridge University has posted sixteen chapters of his work-in-progress on Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and related mathematical/logical/philosophical goodness in PDF format, beautifully typeset using LaTeX.

I’ve read the first twelve chapters, which take you through Gödel’s first and second incompleteness theorems, Tarski’s theorem on the undefinability of truth, and (the most surprising result, IMO), Löb’s theorem.

You’ll need a background in symbolic logic to understand it. If you don’t know your ∀s from your ∃s, you’ll be lost.

Smith takes the opposite approach from Boolos and Jeffrey, taking you through Gödel’s theorems using only the apparatus of primative recursion, saving full-blown recursive function theory and other topics in computability theory for later.

It’s been a while (about seven years) since I’ve been through the material, but I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t pick up the first time around.

Brian Weatherson.)

Post-election irony watch

Matt Welch notes the irony of a wine-sipping, BMW driving, California law professor lecturing liberals on “elitism”.

Prof. Bainbridge responds to Welch with “I know you are, but what am I?”

Racist gets 59,602 votes

Racist and eugenics advocate James Hart garnered 59,602 votes in Tennessee’s 8th Congressional district, 25.8% of the total vote. (Final results for all Tennessee U.S. House elections.)

Of course, I know that only means that nobody pays attention to Congressional races in uncompetitive, gerrymandered districts, and almost everyone who voted for him did so only because he was in the Republican column on the ballot.

Still, it’s pretty sad.