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One word of praise? February 2, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Article, Link, Politics, Racism, Washington Post.
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It’s always fun (for me) to see public figures roasted alive for their acts of unconscious racism.

On the one hand you have your conscious perpetrators: the Mel Gibsons and the Michael Richards of the world.  Sure, there is schadenfreude there too.  But that is bone-headed conscious stuff — the lowbrow purse-snatching and shoplifting variety.

The real gems are the unconscious ones like Senator Joe Biden’s recent gaffe.  That’s the busted-for-white-collar-stock-options-fraud variety, the drilling-through-the-side-of-the-vault-but-forgetting-about-the-alarm kind.

Biden’s racist gaffe?  He called Barack Obama “articulate”.  If you were to call me articulate, I’d probably say “thanks”, but it wouldn’t really boost my ego.  But Barack Obama?  Who on earth would be surprised to hear that he is articulate?  And why would that be any form of flattery, unless the implication is that it is somehow unusual?

Will wonders never cease? Here we have a man who graduated from Columbia University, who was president of the Harvard Law Review, who serves in the U.S. Senate and is the author of two best-selling books, who’s a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, and what do you know, he turns out to be articulate. Stop the presses.

Har.  That’s telling ’em.

I think the word that Senator Biden wished he had said would be eloquent.  Now even I would be flattered by that.


“12 Galaxies” Running for Mayor of S.F. January 22, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Link, Photo, Politics, S.F. Examiner, Uncategorized.
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Frank (12 Galaxies) Chu (Rmannion - Wikipedia / Creative Commons)

Frank “12 Galaxies” Chu is running for mayor of San Francisco?

The S.F. Examiner gives him odds of 1,000,000 to 1. Not so good, given that the official electorate population of S.F. is less than 1,000,000. Something tells me I could get better odds than Mr. Chu.

Still, the newspaper was not entirely ungenerous in their assessment:

Name: Frank Chu

Occupation: San Francisco eccentric, sign-carrier

Why: No one would campaign harder than Chu, who has walked downtown streets for years with his incoherent “12 Galaxies” signs. An Emperor Norton for the 21st century, he would do less damage in City Hall than many current and former supervisors.

Frank (12 Galaxies) Chu (Docketrocket - Wikipedia / Creative Commons)

Feed your clams January 21, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Cooking, Link.
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Reading through the glossary of Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain, by Penelope Casas, a book full of interesting tips, tricks and miscellanea, I found this discussion of cooking live clams:

Clams, in Spanish cooking, are often prepared right in a sauce. To avoid the grittiness that could result when clams open and release sand, scrub the clams (preferably very small and hard-shelled clams, such as littlenecks), then soak at least several hours or overnight in salted water to cover, sprinkling about 1 tablespoon of cornmeal or bread crumbs over the surface. The clams will eat the cornmeal or crumbs and release any sandy material. They will also become quite plump from their meal.

This is not a technique I would have stumbled upon by myself.

Opt out of credit-card offers received via U.S. Postal Mail January 21, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Link.


You can choose to opt out for 5 years or permanently. The former can be done online; the latter requires a signed letter to be sent by postal mail.

This won’t completely stop the flood. Some companies don’t go through Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to get your name and address. Instead, they look at local public records such as real-estate filings. And obviously there is no way to opt out of inclusion in the public records, at least not without some serious extenuating circumstances along the lines of being in the Witness Protection Program.

But this should stop the bulk of the legitimate “Connor, you are pre-approved for a $10 loan!” letters.

The Venerable Tin Can January 20, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Link, Magnum, Photo, Slate.
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London, Queens Market, 1990 (Martin Parr / Magnum Photos - Used without permission)

Slate is running a photo series honoring the tin can. Some interesting photos in there.

For me, this photo was the most powerful. Can’t really explain it, except to say it feels so… bleak. A harsh, bright light on modern life.

$1.2 million is also a lot of money January 20, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Economics, Link, Second Life, Self-Link.
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$1.2 million: that’s how much is being spent daily within Second Life.

(Not much different from other markets, except the only collateral behind it is a collection of fields in Second Life’s database.)

That’s chump change compared to the daily allowance of the Iraq war. But it’s still 12,000 transactions of $100, which is nothing to sneeze at. I know a few software companies that would be worth a whole lot more if they touched this kinda float even occasionally.

I’m going to stop way short of calling it silly. I played Everquest over a span of five years, World of Warcraft over a span of two years. I understand the high call of virtual bragging rights. I’ve even bought and sold a few dozen virtual “Skull-Shaped Barbute [AC:13, HP:35, SvM:10]” items for real cash over the years. (Note to wife: less than four figures, and I’m pretty sure I’m in the black, not the red. Hi, I love you!)

But… the graphics in Second Life SUCK! The interactive experience is no better than VRML from pre-2000. The mechanics of the world are about as attractive as opening a strip club on the surface of Mars — yeah, you might get to peep a bit, but you’re wearing a 200 lb. suit in a hostile environment, and everyone you meet is trying to bum your oxygen supply.


Buzkashi January 20, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Connor, Flickr, Link, Parenting, Personal, Photo.
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Buzkashi players, Afghanistan (Po Lo - Used without permission)

For some reason, Connor and I got onto the subject of Buzkashi. (These are risks when you’re trolling photography web sites with a 4-year-old in tow.)

Buzkashi… what to say? Perhaps the only sport whose rules can be conveyed in a single sentence:

Drag the headless carcass of a goat to your team’s goal before the other team does likewise, and don’t break any laws doing it.

Connor became interested in this when I told him it was dangerous. How to explain? It’s dangerous because the competitive spirit of humanity can only somewhat barely be constrained by rules and laws? Because the will to win is stronger than the instinct to avoid hurting others? Because the real golden rule is “me first”?

But as with everything else, all you have to do to change the subject at his age is change the subject. I pulled up a photo of one insect battling another, and all was well.

Please tell me you have kids and weird situations happen to you too….

America’s split personality January 19, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Link, News, Poker, Politics.

America’s split personality, case study #314:

Poker. It’s now a multi-billion dollar industry, what with the round-the-clock ESPN coverage, the online poker rooms, the “Indian” casinos popping up in every other county, and the beers-and-cards-with-the-guys nights all over America. And it’s also illegal almost everywhere, in a hunted-aggressively-by-the-federal-government way reminiscent only of the War On DrugsTM.

It’s been a big news week in the world of online poker. First, two Canadian executives of the British online funds transfer company NETeller were arrested because their business sometimes facilitated cash movements from American citizens to onlnie poker rooms. Then, in today’s news Derek Kelly, the owner of the private British poker club Gutshot was convicted of violating the British Gaming Act.

I play on pokerstars.com, an online poker room based in San Jose, Costa Rica. Until yesterday it was trivial to move money in and out of my account there. (Yes, I do move money out — do you think I’d still be playing if I were losing?) Now it’s slow, complicated, and no longer free. I’ll have to pay legal money-launderers disguised as Visa payment services, businesses which remain open because they too are housed in countries currently outside the influence of the U.S. black-boots.

Derek Kelly’s defense was based upon the position that poker is a game of skill, not one of luck, and is therefore not subject to the same restrictions as other forms of wagering. I think he should have won on this point. Even the state of California supports this position.

Everyone knows that luck plays some part in poker. But anyone who has ever played more than a smidgin of poker understands that luck takes a distant back-seat to skill. From a mathematical perspective, as the number of hands played approaches infinity, the hands dealt to each player approach absolute parity. The difference after that is skill — skill in understanding and reading human psychology, and skill in being able to instantly assess the relationship between the probable outcomes and the implied rewards of any given hand.

The thing that irritates me is that even though playing poker is legal in California, as a California resident I’m still not allowed to play poker online. Why? My guess is that it’s because the government doesn’t get their share of the pie. Pay to play.

$300 million is a lot of money. January 19, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Article, Economics, Link, N.Y. Times, Politics.
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$300 million is also how much we’re spending in Iraq every day.

(That is, of course, without putting a price tag on the 5 or so American soldiers and the 95 or so Iraqi citizens who die every day.  If we were to assume that a wrongful death suit would find an award of $1 million for each of these, then the number hits $400 million.)

The most shoplifted item in America is… January 19, 2007

Posted by pcorcoran in Article, Link, Slate.
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I don’t think that would have made it into my top 5 guesses.  Not only that, women are much more likely to attempt to steal meat than men (who tend to prefer Tylenol and batteries, often in conjunction with a drug habit, because of their street resale values.)