Saturday, April 26, 2003

HOME AGAIN: Just got home. The conference was cool. I got to meet a lot of people and even did some hiking; there's nothing more entertaining than hiking through the forest with a dozen biologists who can answer all my questions about everything I see. I think I learned more about trees and plants and small forest animals this afternoon than I had ever thought about, and it was pretty neat. I'm sleepy, and it's time for bed.

Friday, April 25, 2003

MY RIDE: Oh, I just wanted to toss in a link to the website of the guy that I'm riding with, Nick Gessler. I should have gone into anthropology. Check out this paper from his site.
One often hears the sentiment from computermen that any philosophers worth their salt have long since transferred to computer science departments.
Well, I've thought it, but I haven't often heard it. Check out this cite from Marvin Minsky:
I think that Computer Science is the most important thing that?s happened since the invention of writing. Fifty years ago, in the 1950s, human thinkers learned for the first time how to describe complicated machines. We invented something called computer programming language, and for the first time people had a way to describe complicated processes and systems, systems made of thousands of little parts all connected together: networks. Before 1950 there was no language to discuss this, no way for two people to exchange ideas about complicated machines. Why is that important to understand? Because that?s what we are. Computer Science is important, but that importance has nothing to do with computers. Computer Science is a new philosophy about complicated processes, about life, about artificial life and natural life, about artificial intelligence and natural intelligence. It can help us understand our brain. It can help us understand how we learn and what knowledge is.

Aristotle, Kant, Descartes, and other philosophers didn?t know that you need an operating system, the part of the brain that does all of the housework for the other parts, to use knowledge. So all philosophy, I think, is stupid. It was very good to try to make philosophy. Those people tried to make theories of thinking, theories of knowledge, theories of ethics, and theories of art, but they were like babies because they had no words to describe the processes or the data. How does one part of the brain read the processes in another part of the brain and use them to solve a problem? No one knows, and before 1960 no one asked. In a computer the data is alive. If you read philosophy you will find that they were very smart people. But they had no idea of the possibilities of how thinking might work. So I advise all students to read some philosophy and with great sympathy, not to understand what the philosopher said, but to feel compassionate and say, Think of those poor people years ago who tried so hard to cook without ingredients, who tried to build a house without wood and nails, who tried to build a car without steel, rubber or gasoline.? So look at philosophy with sympathy, but don?t look for knowledge. There is none.
Holy crap.
GONE CONFERENCIN': I'm leaving this afternoon for an Artificial Life conference-type-thingy and I won't be back until Saturday night. It's being held at the James Reserve out near "Idyllwild, Californiia" as the website indicates. Excellent. I hope "Californiia" isn't California's evil clone or something (if you get that joke, that's sad) and I hope it doesn't take too long to get there during Friday traffic.

Everyone going is presenting something, which implies that I will be presenting something too. Since I didn't know I was going to the conference until this past Tuesday, I haven't had much time to prepare. Ergo, I will be presenting a bit of background on my PhD dissertation and trying not to look too ignorent [sic]. That is all, have a nice day.
BEST OF THE BEST OF THE WEB TODAY: Today's Best of the Web Today is even better than usual. I can't resist copying a few of the items....
Say It Ain't So, Joe
Antiwar Rep. Jim Moran of Virginia, who last month unburdened himself of the view that "if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," now says he's likely to endorse a pro-war Jew, Sen. Joe Lieberman, for president, reports Washington Jewish Week. We guess if pro-war Jews run everything anyway, one of them might as well be president.

They Know What's Good for You
Former Enron adviser Paul Krugman is frustrated by democracy. "If American families knew what was good for them, then most of them--all but a small, affluent minority--would cheerfully give up their tax cuts in return for a guarantee that health care would be there when needed," he opines in today's New York Times.

Striking a similar tone, "a former head of the National Council of Churches, the Rev. M. William Howard Jr. of Newark, N.J., explained that church leaders have 'an informed' and 'critical assessment' of the war and the Bush administration's justifications that church laity, relying on popular media, lacks," according to columnist Mark O'Keefe.

Golden Anniversary? has a cute graphic up today on its homepage. The two o's in its logo have been replaced by a double-helix. If you roll your mouse over the logo, this text pops up: "Celebrating DNA's 50th Anniversary."

Huh? Even creationists would agree DNA has been around for at least 6,000 years.
Good stuff. I've got to stay on top of those Googlers; I usually notice their little easter eggs myself.
POST-WAR IRAQ: The brilliant Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gives an interview to the AP. On moving towards local elections:
Rumsfeld: What we want to do is to first assure that there’s a relatively permissive environment, a secure environment. ... And increasingly a number of humanitarian people who are only allowed to do emergency situations are saying well we are leaving because there was not an emergency. ... In some cases they are actually forming town councils and beginning that process.
Town councils are indeed one of the most fundamental units of government, and it's a good start. The fact that emergency aid organizations are leaving is interesting, and something I hadn't read elsewhere. On whether or not Iraq's new government will be a theocracy:
Rumsfeld: ... And there'll be some sort of a representative government that will evolve and a non-dictatorial, a non-repressive government. And if you are suggesting how would we feel about an Iranian type government, with a few clerics running everything in the country. The answer is, that ain't gonna happen, I just don't see how that’s going to happen.
And the money quote, regarding future US military presence:
Rumsfeld: I don't anticipate or not anticipate. It seems to me that one would hope that Iraq would not invest in a military, in a way that distracted from the needs of the Iraqi people. They have a neighbor that they've been at war with. Iran. And, so there is that issue and the question is, what is best for Iraq and what do the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government that eventually all decides is in their best interest. It may be that they would like to have a security relationship with other countries that would enable them to not make those massive investments and still feel that they were in a relatively secure situation, relative to their neighbors. It may be that that's not the case and it's all so far in the future that it's not something.
That's a yes. Good thing, too.
Q: And what would you say to the weapons inspectors, in fact, Hans Blix said recently that the U.S. side of demonstration of this was pathetic in terms of finding

Rumsfeld: The U.S. what?

Q: That in terms of the record of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was pathetic and he thought the weapons inspectors should

Rumsfeld: Is it that his record or, was pathetic or U.N.'s record?

Q: The U.S. presentation, of the case that there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Rumsfeld: I haven’t read what he said.
EDUMACATION: My mom is on the school board for the area in which I live, and so I've taken a keener interest in education-related issues recently. Joanne Jacobs has a blog up that discusses many of the problems facing public education, and it makes for a sobering read. Personally, I'm not convinced that the government has any business being involved in education at all (at least not the federal government), and I think that many of the problems with public education arise from the word public.
BETRAYAL: What makes someone betray their country? Donald Sensing explains the MICE acronym that accounts for most traitors' motivations. To bad the word isn't WEASEL.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

RADICAL LIFE EXTENSION: How would civilization change if a sudden technological breakthrough made it possible for everyone alive today to continue living for the forseeable future, barring unnatural deaths? For example, if some treatment extended our average life-span to 1000 years, it would take quite a while for scientists to even determine that since no one would die of natural causes until hundreds of years from now. Ok, so, what effect would it have?

Wealth would concentrate much more powerfully since people would just keep accumulating money long after they would have otherwise died. I expect that this would make property and housing more expensive, and harder for young people to afford. Unless people started having far fewer children, the population would increase dramatically very quickly. People would need to continue working to support themselves indefinitely, and it would be much more difficult to retire. It would be difficult for young people to get jobs because the old people would just keep theirs, but they would probably have to accept lower pay as the pool of experienced non-retired people continued to grow. Creative individuals such as writers and scientists would be able to produce many more works of greater maturity than might otherwise have been possible. Politics would change as well, since offices that aren't term-limited by law would essentially be permanently held by a few select people; most likely new term-limit laws would be enacted. The dynamic of generation gaps would change, depending on how much biological basis there is for the apparent fact that most adults get stuck in a cultural rut in their twenties that they never emerge from. This would lead to stable markets for all eras of music and other forms of entertainment.

Any other ideas? I'm sure there are a ton of things I haven't even considered. Maybe I'll write more on it later, depending on what (if anything) that people write in the comments.
I WANT PATIENCE, AND I WANT IT NOW!: I think that many people underestimate the importance of patience. In my population genetics class today we discussed some equations (the arithmatic for which my professor worked out in painful detail) that describe how beneficial alleles gradually take over within a population of animals. The rate that the frequency of the beneficial allele increases depends on a few factors, one of which is exactly how beneficial the allele is for the organism in question; the more beneficial it is, the more quickly the allele spreads. The interesting result however, which many students apparently couldn't grasp, is that no matter how slight a benefit the allele grants to its bearers and how slowly it is passed on, given enough time a beneficial allele will spread to 100% of the population. It's just a matter of time. If having blue eyes makes a person 0.000000001% more likely to find a mate, eventually everyone will have blue eyes.

This should be intuitive for anyone who has taken calculus. The limit of ((x^2)/x) as x goes to infinity is infinity. The limit of ((x^1.000000001)/x) as x goes to infinity is also infinity. So what? Well, let's take an example without the math. It took me an hour to get to work from school this afternoon (gotta love the 405). That's a long time, and although my patience is at its weakest when dealing with traffic I was never afraid that I wouldn't eventually get to work. Why? Because I was headed in the right direction, and my average speed was greater than zero. I would have to get to work eventually, it was just a matter of time.

There are a lot of things I am waiting for, some of which I can be rather impatient about at times. I'm tired of working on my PhD; I've put a lot of time into it, but it's hard to be motivated because even if I put four hours a night in it's hard to see progress. The thing I have to remember is that as long as I'm pointed in the right direction, and my speed is greater than zero, eventually I'll finish. That's the key to patience I think: plodding along. As long as some infinitesimal advance can be made every day, I'll reach my goal eventually.

No matter what Zeno says.
ESCAPE FROM NK: The title is intended to evoke "Escape from L.A." but whatever. I do the best I can with what I've got. Anyway, StrategyPage has a cool little story about the US and other nations smuggling North Koreans out of Kim Jong Il's hell-hole. It's job was called Operation Weasel, ironically enough. Since the site doesn't have permalinks, let me just quote it:
April 24, 2003: An Australian paper reported that eleven nations have allowed for their consulates to be used to hustle 20 North Korea military and scientific officials out of North Korea, into China and then to the United States or South Korea. Called Operation Weasel, it's main intent was to get past Chinese reluctance to encourage North Koreans to illegally cross the border into China. Some 300,000 North Koreans have already done that, and China considers these refugees a potential economic or military problem. Operation Weasel obtained the cooperation of the tiny, bankrupt, Pacific nation of Nauru, which agreed to allow New Zealand and American officials to set up a Nauru embassy in China and use this embassy, and diplomatic immunity of Nauru diplomats, to get the North Korean defectors out of China. The defectors have provided many more details of North Koreans nuclear and chemical weapons programs. An Australian newspaper figured out the scheme and published a story about it. But the nations involved have all denied the story, or most of it, anyway.
The Australian paper mentioned appears to be the Weekly Australian, but I can't find the article or a website for the paper. However, here is an article that mentions the first article.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

ENVIRONMENTALISTS OF THE FUTURE: What will become of environmentalism in the future? Say we go to Mars and find that there really isn't any life there. Will the greens complain that we're disrupting the planet by building a colony on the empty red sand? Will they whine when we terraform that dead world and attempt to remake it in earth's image? And let's say we're successful in doing so... in fact, we colonize a dozen or so worlds in the next century or two. Will the greens then concede that earth itself has become expendable? There won't really be much need to conserve rainforests on earth if we plant one giant rainforest on some other planet, will there? Oh sure, it might look pretty to keep some parks around the old home planet, but it won't be essential will it? Accumulating trash won't be a problem anymore either once we can just toss it into the sun cheaply and efficiently, or convert it to nuclear power using the Mr. Fusion that satisfies all our energy needs.

One of the main problems I have with environmentalism is that I think it's just a charade. Environmentalists are intellectually dishonest. They proclaim doom and gloom, but their real agenda isn't to protect the earth, it's to hinder humanity. As Lileks writes today, the assertion that "IF EVERYONE LIVED LIKE YOU, WE WOULD NEED 6.9 PLANETS" makes me think hey, we'd better get started and find some more planets, so that all the poor, oppressed people in the world can live like me! The environmentalists, on the other hand, think that the solution is that I should start living like all the poor, oppressed people.

The environmentalist movement is the intellectual descendent of the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. "The earth revolves around the sun?! Nonsense!" They routinely ignore and suppress the vast store of scientific knowledge that undermines their ideological dogma, and they villify anyone who stands up to them. This is unfortunate, because it's important to use our resources and environment responsibly and it's a shame that this message is tainted by the charlatans that hide behind it.
I BELIEVE!: I try to read The Diablogger every day, but I don't generally check out the myriad of links that he scatters throughout his posts. On a whim, I decided to follow a link saying that our true reasons for invading Iraq are "best left as a mystery". That link took me to this article on a site named Exopolitics -- "dedicated to producing high quality research papers that focus on the political implications of what an overwhelming amount of evidence conclusively points to as an Extraterrestrial presence on Earth that is known by clandestine government organizations who keep official knowledge of this presence secret from the general public and elected political officials."

This paper examines how the need to gain unfettered access to Iraq's extraterrestrial (ET) heritage has played a critical role in influencing US foreign policy in the Persian Gulf region ever since the Carter administration. The paper analyses how clandestine organizations based in the US, Europe and Soviet Union/Russia have historically maneuvered amongst themselves to gain the most strategic advantage in having access to and exploiting ET technology hidden in Iraq. The paper argues that the need for a diplomatic solution to the recent international crisis over Iraq, resulted from the desire of clandestine groups in Europe and Russia to restrict access to these sites by US organizations that have grown rapidly in power and displayed an imperialistic tendency that leads to much anxiety among their European counterparts.
Anyway, if my friend ever sets up some script hosting for me I'll put up my random conspiracy generator. I'll put Exopolitics out of business!
REPUBLIC OR BUREAUCRACY PART 2: My network proxy at work won't let me send long posts to Blogger... so here is the second part of a two-parter:

(continued from earlier...)

Secretary of State Powell, on the other hand, has taken to diplomacy like a pig to uh, mud, if you'll excuse the analogy. Powell is not a pig, but diplomacy is a rather uh, muddy business, and the State Department is one of the most liberal bureaucracies in the government. They are pretty keen on the transnational progressivism that animates much of European diplomacy, and they were the motivating force behind the recent UN debacle. Whether or not Powell approved of the approach we took with the UN, I have a feeling that it wasn't directly in line with what Bush wanted to do, but that he simply didn't have any choice. The bureaucracy is the only tool at Bush’s disposal, and if he pushed them too hard or publicly denounced their failures/disobedience he would completely undermine himself and turn the State Department against him permanently. Because of the rules and regulations governing the bureaucracy he couldn't simply replace the insubordinate officials. He has to deal with them.

So now we are faced with military victory in Iraq after diplomatic defeat in the UN, and the fear of many conservatives is that the State Department will lead us to more diplomatic defeat by not aggressively pushing Bush's foreign policy agenda in the aftermath of the battle. The War on Terror isn't over yet, and in order for us to take full advantage of this victory we need to stay strong diplomatically and not give away the credibility and authority that we have earned on the battlefield. Our diplomatic enemies must be punished diplomatically, just as our military enemies were punished militarily. Otherwise, we will have won the Battle for Iraq but we will never win the War.
REPUBLIC OR BUREAUCRACY PART 1: My network proxy at work won't let me send long posts to Blogger... so here is a two-parter:

One of the open secrets of the United States government is that the unelected officials in the federal bureaucracy wield a tremendous amount of power, which they don't always use to enforce the policies of the President and his cabinet. The President is the CEO of the vast majority of the federal government (excepting only the court systems and the various Congressional staff offices), but Presidents come and go every four or eight years -- bureaucrats can hold their offices for decades, and are often impossible to fire regardless of performance. The bureaucracy is also predominantly liberal, for various reasons that I won't get into here.

Because the bureaucracy is ideologically oriented and largely independent of the President (in function, if not technically), it can often be difficult for a President to get these officials to enact the policies that he wants. Oh, they'll give lip service to the President's agenda, but I think we all know exactly how enthusiastically they will implement programs and reforms that go against their own ideological bent. The cabinet secretaries are supposed to supervise the bureaucracy and try to keep everyone in line, but only the top-most levels are appointed by the President and the rest of the management is made up of irremovable public bureaucrats that may or may not follow the President's orders once their supervisor leaves the room.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has made quite a few enemies in the military because of various reforms that he has been trying to push through. The military is generally conservative and likes President Bush, but the reforms that Rumsfeld has been advocating (such as eliminating many military support jobs and replacing them with civilian contractors) aren't at all popular with the old school generals. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld has been rocking the boat and making some progress with the changes that the President wants.

THE BIBLE AND LESBIANISM: Eugene Volokh asks, "So what's the problem with lesbianism?" One of his points is that
4. This leads us to the Bible. The Bible does, it seems to me, contain text that prohibits male homosexuality -- but I haven't seen any verses that prohibit lesbianism. I may well be missing something; if there are verses that touch on this, please let me know. But at this point, I really don't see any specifically scriptural objection to lesbianism.
Without getting further into the discussion, let me point out Romans chapter 1, particularly verses 24 through 27:
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Ok, to get slightly further into the dicsussion, I don't think it's the government's place to enforce morality. Is homosexuality a sin? Yes. But so is lying, and I don't think there ought to be a law against lying. If you are just looking for an excuse to beat up on Christians, then disapproval of homosexuality is the cause du jour; fine. But if you really want to understand what the Bible says about mankind, I wouldn't focus on this one issue. Everyone is a sinner, and everyone is saved by God's love, mercy, and grace.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

ELECTION 2004: Sure it's 18 months away, but a lot can happen in 18 months right? If you're interested in the next federal elections, check out The New Republic's Election 2004 page.
BOUGHT AND SOLD: I imagine that most everyone has read about George Galloway, the British Minister to Parliment (from the Labour party) who was basically bought by Saddam Hussein and paid more than US$500,000 a year to try and prevent the overthrow of the Iraqi regime. Galloway was one of the most militant anti-war politicians in England (militant anti-war, ha), and it's now pretty much conclusively revealed that he held his positions not purely out of some strange morality, but rather because of these huge bribes. Since most of my readers are probably American, think of what would happen if it was shown that a Republican Representative or Senator had taken money from Saddam; this debacle is of about the same level of magnitude within Britain's political system.

His explanation?
Asked to explain the document, he said yesterday: "Maybe it is the product of the same forgers who forged so many other things in this whole Iraq picture. Maybe The Daily Telegraph forged it. Who knows?"

When the letter from the head of the Iraqi intelligence service was read to him, he said: "The truth is I have never met, to the best of my knowledge, any member of Iraqi intelligence. I have never in my life seen a barrel of oil, let alone owned, bought or sold one."
Fortunately for Galloway, Britain has just abolished their last capital offense: treason.
THE ACTS 2 CHURCH: In Acts 2:42-47 we see an awesome picture of what the early church in Jersalem was like, right after the coming of the Holy Spirit. The church we are shown looks ideal, and I think that it typifies what Heaven is like in certain aspects. However, I don't think it's appropriate to take this picture we're given and extrapolate from it a "model" to recreate in modern churches. Why not?

It's important to realize the spiritual and cultural work that God was doing in the lives of those early Christians. The church had exploded from 120 of Jesus' closest disciples to over 3,000 new believers virtually over night. The New Testement had not yet been revealed, and the only source of teaching was the apostles who could tell new Christians what Jesus was all about and what God intended for them to do. Because of this (as well as the looming persecution by both Jewish and Roman authorities), the early church in Jerusalem was extremely tight by necessity, and essentially socialistic in nature and governed directly by the apostles. Everyone "gave to anyone as he had need" because many of these new believers were visiting Jews from foreign lands. They met together every day because, basically, they were on the ultimate "camp high". God was doing extraordinary things among them, new believers were being added daily, and it would have been impossible for all of this to occur if they had attempted to maintain their previous lifestyles.

Is this a model for how modern churches should function? In some ways, yes -- the Spirit of love and devotion that underlies the actions of the early church should still be the foundation of our churches today. However, the manifestation of that Spirit will be different. We have the teachings of Jesus and the apostles written down for us to study wherever we may go; indeed we should be in God's Word daily, but we don't need to meet at church daily to do so. We should take care of the needs of other believers, but it would be impractical and unsustainable for church members to all sell everything they possess -- this would simply lead to more need in the long run.

Eventually, the early church in Jerusalem was broken apart as persecution drove wave after wave of Christians out of the city and out of Israel altogether. This persecution was all a part of God's plan, as there was no way for a church that stayed in Jerusalem to "go to all the world" and preach the gospel. The example we are shown in Acts 2 tells us much about the Spirit with which a church should function, but if we are to fulfill the purposes that God has called us to we cannot attempt to recreate the exact same structure.
JESUS THE JEW: Donald Sensing writes a fascinating article about how Jesus fit into the cultural and religious landscape of first century Israel. Lots of historical information, and an analysis of Christianity's early structure and how it was influenced by earlier Greek and Roman political conquest of the Jewish people.
TIMING, RELEVANCE, ABSURDITY 3: Just to close down the topic, here is a letter written by three law professors at UCLA regarding the recent UCLA Faculty Senate resolution that decried the liberation of Iraq. It starts:
We believe the liberation of Iraq was just and necessary. But last week, we told President Bush that we deplored the war.
Was it flagrantly inconsistent for us to make this statement, so contradictory to what we believe? You bet.

Why did we do it?

We were mugged.

We were mugged by about 200 of our faculty colleagues at UCLA. These colleagues condemn the liberation of Iraq and wanted to say so publicly. But they were not content to speak out in their own names, as they had every right to do. Instead, they insisted on speaking in our names — and in the names of the more than 3,000 people on the UCLA faculty.
There's more at InstaPundit and The Volokh Conspiracy.
COLLEGE STUDENTS: Mean Mr. Mustard up at Berkeley has some thoughts on SDB's post about potential shifts in opinion among the college student demographic. Mr. Mustard is skeptical, based on his observations at Berkeley, but I think he fails to take into account the high turnover rate of "college students". Four years from now the demographic will contain an entirely new set of people; so while I do believe that the students he knows are unlikely to see the light and become capitalists overnight, that doesn't matter since they won't be "college students" in a few years.

I posted the following to the comments section:
I think that, as Toxic pointed out, opinion among college students will change over the next few years precisely because those who are lost-cause college students now won't be in college anymore soon enough. The members of the demographic turn over so quickly that the major opinions held by "college students" can easily change drastically.

I can't really predict whether or not this *will* happen, but it's certainly possible. I know a good many high school students, and most of them are totally psyched about the War on Terror. I don't know if that's a good perspective to have or not, but lots of them love the reality of our military power and the fact that we can use it for good around the world.

So, we'll see. Who knows what effects will be seen here in California (much less in Berkeley) but I wouldn't be surprised to see opinions shift among college students over the next few years.

Monday, April 21, 2003

OWNERSHIP: It's late, so maybe that's why I'm having strange thoughts. I don't understand how anyone can claim ownership of any piece of intellectual property that exists in digital form. Once something (say, a song) is stored digitally, it is represented by a long series of 1s and 0s -- the song is essentially translated into a really big number. Depending on the format used for storing the song (MP3, WAV, &c.), the number that represents the song will be different. So does the owner of that song also own the number that represents that song? And if so, the number generated by what storage scheme? All of them?

That's a big problem because any number can be changed to any other number using the appropriate math. For instance, I could easily write a program that takes in the number that represents a particular song and then adds 1 to that number. Does the owner of the song own that number too? I could write a music program that takes this new number, subtracts 1, and then plays the song... so in a sense I simply created a new storage format for music. Adding and subtracting 1 is simple, but there are literally an infinite number of possible storage formats that haven't been invented yet, and they span every single number. Any number, when combined with the right algorithm, can be used to generate any song. So where is the copyright infringement? Is the song stored in the long binary number, or in the algorithm that decodes it? I could write another piece of software that no matter what file you put into it always plays the same song. Is every single file in existance now in violation of that song's copyright?

Similarly, since every song file is just a really long number, what happens if I'm working on some complex mathematics and my answer turns out to be the exact number that represents some song in MP3 format? Does the owner of the song now own my mathematical formulas that just happened to generate their song? If they don't, then I can write a piece of software that takes my formulas as input and plays their song as output. Basically, the song would be stored in the math, and I would have invented a new storage format. It would be trivial to generate formulas that output the number for any song you want.

In the end, it's impossible to own numbers. Since numbers are used to represent everything stored digitally, it seems impossible to me that copyright as we now know it can continue to exist. Add to this other thorny issues such as digital child pornography ("that's not a picture, officer, that's just a really long number I got from my math equations") and decryption warrants and I think we're just on the tip of dealing with the changes that the digital revolution will force upon our civilization.
THE PRICE OF PEACE: Via Clayton Cramer, here's an MSNBC article that brutally describes the cost that the Iraqi people bore for the "peace" that kept Saddam Hussein in power. There are hundreds of such articles making their way around the world right now, and the so-called "peace movement" should be miserable now that the truth of what they were defending is known.

All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. And that's exactly what the "peace movement" was advocating. Don't let anyone forget it or try to rewrite history.
PRESIDENT BUSH IS A CHRISTIAN: The fact that President Bush is a born-again Christian seems to bother a lot of people. Robert Bartley discusses why. Naturally, I think that the main problem that some people have with Bush's religion is that it doesn't match their own secular humanism. American presidents have all given lip-service to Christianity, but the liberal left thinks that Bush actually believes what he says, and that scares them to death.
POST-WAR IRAQ: I've said before that establishing permanent military bases in Iraq should be one of our top goals now that the battle for the country is over. However, some guy named Rumsfeld seems to think otherwise. Apparently, he believes that "Well, we've got all kinds of options and opportunities in that part of the world to locate forces. It's not like we need a new place."

Yeah, well what does he know? He didn't promise that it won't happen, he just says that it seems unlikely. Personally, I think it would be a good idea and I still think it's going to happen.

I asked SDB about this, and he speculates that Rumsfeld is playing dumb to avoid "freaking out" the Qataris. Okey dokey, it's possible. Rumsfeld's language was pretty strong though, even though he didn't rule out the possibility of American bases in Iraq altogether.
PETS: It appears that other bloggers like to post pictures of their dogs/cats/pets online. Naturally, each and every one of them is the best dog/cat/pet ever. Bah. Hey, don't get me wrong, I like animals -- to eat! Ha! But seriously, I don't get it. Why would anyone want to share their living space with an animal? I never even liked having human roommates.

You may think I just feel this way because I've never had a pet, but you're wrong. I have had several pets. Let's see... I had a bird for a while when I was a kid, and it shed feathers all over the place and crapped on everything. It sucked. One day it mysteriously disappeared, and I never even gave it a second thought. Actually, I think I was glad it was gone. More recently, I gave the whole pet thing another shot, and I bought two kittens. They slept all day when I wanted to play with them, and then tore up the house like banshees all night when I wanted to sleep. I tried to lay in bed and ignore the huge sounds of metal crashing and furniture tumbling, but it was impossible. When I would get up to check on what had been knocked over, I couldn't find anything out of place. There's no way two little kittens could make that much noise without destroying something, I'm sure of it, but I could never prove anything.

Unfortunately, after six weeks or so I was forced by circumstance to stick the bestest kittens ever in a sack and bury them in the yard. Now hold on, don't get too upset. No one has seen them in a long time, so it's possible they're still alive. Maybe one of them ate the other to survive, who knows; they did like to watch reality TV during their short stay with me. In any event, until someone observes them they're in a superposition of dead/alive states, so my belief that they're alive is just as valid as whatever you might happen to believe.

Hopefully I won't have to live with another person again until I get married, and my next pets will be human children. I've been told that it's not appropriate to refer to children as "pets", but it's the same general idea, right? Except that when kids get to be 8 or 9 they can get a job at the Nike factory and start earning their keep. Try that with any other kind of pet, it won't work. Except maybe with monkeys.
AMERICA INVADES JAPAN!: Well, not really, but my brother invades Japan anyway. He's put up a blog to record details of his excursion, and there's lots of pictures. Keen!