Sunday, August 30, 2009

The new Philips ipod

I got a Philips GoGear Aria 16GB portable MP3 player. It has a 2-inch screen for pictures and videos, and is much nicer than the ipods made by Apple. Much cheaper also.

It is much easier to use than an Apple ipod because you can just plug it into a computer and it looks like a disc drive. You can just copy your music on, unplug it, and play it. No need to use Apple iTunes or anything like that. It can use MSC or MTP mode.

The one odd thing about it is the behavior of one of its buttons. The player has seven buttons in front, and the one in the middle is used for Select, Play, and Pause. It must be operated with a very brief tap. A slow press does nothing. I thought that the button was defective, so I called Philips tech support, and the guy advised me to return the product. He was not aware of the problem. So I got another one, and it works the same way.

Now that I know that the button works this way, it is not really a problem. I tested the player on two friends of mine, and one of them thought that the button was defective. I don't know whether the Philips engineers intended this behavior or not. I think that they should either change the firmware or put some warnings in the manual, or else they will get a lot of returns. On most devices with a Pause button, you can press Pause as slowly as you wish. And even on this Philips player, a slow Pause works just fine to pause watching a movie.

I am posting this to notify others that the Philips ipod is not really defective, but it just requires a quick tap on the Select/Play/Pause button. It might save someone else from returning it.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Railroading Barry Bonds

Yet another court has ruled that the feds have broken the legal rules in their attempts to prosecute baseball star Barry Bonds.

I have trouble seeing the point. Maybe Bonds took advantage of some ambiguity in the baseball rules to hit a few more home runs that he would have otherwise. The feds have harassed Bonds for five years with a weak case, blackmailed witnesses, and conducted illegal searches. Even if Bonds is somehow guilty of something, I don't see how his conduct could be any worse than that of the feds.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The great sex ratio reversal

Anthropologist Peter Frost writes:
Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a reversal took place in the ratio of single men to single women among people of reproductive age. This sex ratio slipped from male scarcity to parity and then to a relative excess of males, due to a decline in male mortality and an increase in divorce and remarriage by older men with younger women (Pedersen, 1991). The imbalance seems to have steadily worsened. In Germany, single men now outnumber single women up to the age of 60 (Glowsky, 2007). ...

Indeed, over the past thirty years the new marriage market has failed to deliver its presumed benefits. Divorce rates have gone up, not down—because more women are filing for divorce. Illegitimacy has gone up, not down—because more women are voluntarily having children out of wedlock. And more women are postponing marriage or rejecting it altogether. True, men are participating more in family life, but this has not offset the overall withdrawal from family life by women. And true, the birth rate has gone up in the last few years, but for the rest of the past thirty years it was trending downward. The current boomlet probably has other causes.

These negative outcomes could have been predicted. ...

So what is the optimal sex ratio? If we wish to have a society with no double standard, i.e., equal limitations on male and female sexual freedom, the optimum would be parity at all reproductive ages. This is something we have not had for thirty years now, and it would take an act of political will to bring it back. We would have to scrap no-fault divorce and make joint custody the norm. We would also have to lower the sex ratio at birth, probably through incentives for the birth of daughters.

It could be done and probably will be. The question is how bad things will get before action is finally taken.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Boy Who Heard Too Much

I had no idea a blind kid with a telephone and an attitude could cause so much trouble. Read the Matthew Weigman story.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why lawyers are hated

A lawyer wonders:
A recent Gallup poll on public opinion towards various professions has the legal field once again near the bottom: Only 25% of people polled had a positive view of lawyers.
His readers provide a long list of reasons, including:
A short list of reasons why lawyers are hated:

1) Layers are a symbol of inequity. O.J. gets away with murder because he can hire a team of $400/hr lawyers. Warren Buffet is in a lower tax bracket than me because people like him can hire legions of lawyers to convince the legislature and the courts that capital transactions should be taxed at a lower rate.

2) Aside from economists, lawyers are the most arrogant group of people. I hate being in meetings with lawyers. You can't get anything done.

3) You can't trust a lawyer, ever. They will screw you over if it suits them.

4) You have to hire a lawyer to protect yourself from other lawyers.

5) Lawyers claim to revere the law, and they do. Right up until it suits them not to revere the law. John Yoo and his defenders are a good example of this.

6) Lawyers will argue on behalf of anyone or on behalf of any cause as long as you pay them. If I had enough money I could change the law with a team of talented lawyers. This is not hyperbole.
A lot of other good reasons are posted as well. I am not sure that these reasons quite explain the contempt that many people have for lawyers. Some people regard lawyers as immoral and destructive in most of what they do.

Unamerican Hawaiians

AP reports:
HONOLULU — Protesters will march the streets and Hawaiian chants will echo from the sprawling lawn of Iolani Palace on Hawaii's 50th anniversary of statehood, as high-minded panelists ponder the islands' future at a daylong conference.

While lacking much in the way of public parties or parades, Hawaii's official statehood day festivities will feature entertainment by local musicians and panel discussions emphasizing tourism's future, alternative energy and Native Hawaiian rights.

About 1,000 demonstrators who would rather see Hawaii's independence restored are expected to rally outside the conference at the Hawaii Convention Center.

"We want to show how U.S. imperialism has spread across the Pacific and across the world," said Lynette Cruz, an organizer of the Hawaiian Independence Action Alliance. "It'll be fun."
Maybe it would be better if Pres. Obama were born in Kenya or Indonesia. The folks who immigrate here from Kenya are happy to become Americans. I don't know what is the matter with these Hawaiians.

Pres. Obama even supports the Akaka Bill, a truly insidious bill to reinstate the Kingdom of Hawai'i and create some sort of racist apartheid state.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fewer male teachers are in K-12 classrooms

The Chicago Tribune reports:
For two years Chezare Warren taught math at a middle school on Chicago's South Side, weathering the kind of situations that keeps so many men from pursuing teaching careers at elementary and secondary schools.

There were the usual jokes from friends about his low pay and cushy workday. There were the awkward moments with women who sometimes belittled his profession. There was the occasional whisper or suspicious glance from parents who questioned why a young man would choose to spend so much time with children.
Soon, we will no longer have men teaching elementary school. The schools are being feminized.

Friday, August 21, 2009

AP distorts health care plan facts

AP claims to educate us:
FACT CHECK: Health overhaul myths taking root

WASHINGTON—The judgment is harsh in a new poll that finds Americans worried about the government taking over health insurance, cutting off treatment to the elderly and giving coverage to illegal immigrants. Harsh, but not based on facts. ...

THE POLL: 45 percent said it's likely the government will decide when to stop care for the elderly; 50 percent said it's not likely. ...

THE POLL: 55 percent expect the overhaul will give coverage to illegal immigrants; 34 percent don't. ...

THE POLL: 54 percent said the overhaul will lead to a government takeover of health care; 39 percent disagree. ...

THE POLL: 50 percent expect taxpayer dollars will be used to pay for abortions; 37 percent don't.
Here is a similar CNN article.

I am with the public on this. The vast majority of those promoting the Obama plan want to give free treatment to illegal aliens in emergency rooms, pay for abortions, ration medical care to the elderly, and they all regard this plan as just a step towards a govt takeover of health care.

If the plan proponents really want to dispel these myths, then they should add features that are directly counter to them. Eg, they could immediately pass a law saying that hospitals do not have to treat illegal aliens.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

She Sues for Two Broken Fingers

Here is a NY lawsuit:
On July 12, 2003, Lisa Nutley sought to celebrate her birthday with the thrill of her life - a recreational parachute jump. ...

the main parachute failed to deploy ... Rohemo was able to free up the back-up chute, he and Lisa floated down to safety and no one died that day.

Whew, what a thrill. Maybe Lisa should've paid extra for the additional thrill. Instead, because her third and fourth fingers were fractured during the fall, she lawyered up and sued SkyDive claiming that Rohemo - her savior - had wrongfully told her to hold tight to a dangerous area of the parachute he was trying to cut away and then never told her to let go at an appropriate time. This, she and her lawyer claimed, presented Lisa with an enhanced risk not assumed or inherent in a tandem jump.
I like her name: Lisa Nutley. Most people would have been happy to survive with only two broken fingers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Newspaper libels innocent banker

It would be nice if the newspapers were to treat citizens as being innocent until proven guilty. But they don't, even after acquittal. Consider today's Si Valley newspaper story:
Prosecutors could also try to cut a deal with Reyes, as they did in another high-profile Silicon Valley prosecution involving Frank Quattrone, the powerhouse investment banker who went through two trials and an appeal before the government abandoned its obstruction of justice case against him. The Quattrone case was unrelated to backdating.
This implies that Quattrone pled guilty to a lesser crime. But he never admitted wrongdoing, and he was never found guilty of anything. This newspaper knows this -- they probably published 200 stories about him during his trials, and nearly all suggested that he was some sort of criminal. I hope that he demands a correction.

Meanwhile, the same paper says:
Digital music sales catching up to CDs

With digital music sales increasing 15 percent to 20 percent a year — and CD sales dropping at an equal pace — purchasing tunes on discs is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

Next year will be a tipping point, said Russ Crupnick, NPD vice president of entertainment industry analysis. "It will be a dead heat" between digital and CD sales, he said.

The speed with which digital sales have grown — they made up just 20 percent of music sales two years ago — have many people assuming CDs died long ago.
No, all music CDs contains digital music. Every CD sale is a digital music sale.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Framed predator gets life sentence

Wired mag reports:
It’s official. There’s nobody in the chat rooms but pedophiles and undercover police.

On Thursday, a federal appeals court upheld the conviction of an Indiana man whose online efforts to proposition underage girls led him to not one, not two, but three undercover cops, none of whom apparently knew about the others. ...

Despite the prosecutorial missteps, the panel upheld Daniel’s conviction, ruling that the additional chat logs still showed his intent to commit a crime. Daniel is serving a sentence of 17-and-a-half years in prison, followed by supervised release for life.

There’s no evidence in the record that he ever succeeded in talking with a real underage girl.
I am all for locking up child predators, but there was no child involved, and no child. The prosecutors argued in court that there were children in the online chats, but they were just just entrapping cops. I think that these long sentences should be reserved for those who cause real harm to real people.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health food nuts for Obama

ABC News reports:
Joshua has been taking the bus to his local Whole Foods in New York City every five days for the past two years. This week, he said he'll go elsewhere to fulfill his fresh vegetable and organic produce needs.

"I will never shop there again," vowed Joshua, a 45-year-old blogger, who asked that his last name not be published.

Like many of his fellow health food fanatics, Joshua said he will no longer patronize the store after learning about Whole Foods Market Inc.'s CEO John Mackey's views on health care reform, which were made public this week in an op-ed piece he wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

Michael Lent, another Whole Foods enthusiast in Long Beach, Calif., told that he, too, will turn to other organic groceries for his weekly shopping list.

"I'm boycotting [Whole Foods] because all Americans need health care," said Lent, 33, who used to visit his local Whole Foods "several times a week."
This is funny. Pres. Obama appeals to socialists and Whole Foods appeals to folks who are paranoid about food. There appears to be a large overlap.

Update: The Wash Post reports on the boycott:
But that is part of what made Whole Foods the "primo hangout of liberal Democratic yuppies," as one call to action on MySpace put it -- and exactly the reason that many say they feel duped.

"Dear Store Manager," a member of the Boycott Whole Foods Facebook group wrote, "The 30 risotto cakes that I purchased from Jenkintown Whole Foods, last Friday, were scrumptious. But today they are giving me indigestion of the soul as I realize that my money may have funded the demise of the public option in the nation's health care reform legislative debate."
Something is going on here. It is as if some part of the brain is subject to food delusions, and that same brain part also has delusions about govt functions. This needs more research. We need to understand this mental illness.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Media lends credence to birthers

The leftist group Media Matters writes:
Glenn Beck recently told his version of President Barack Obama's life story. Obama's parents met "while taking a Russian language class ... at the height of the Cold War." His father figure was Frank Marshall Davis, a man who "happened to be a communist." In college, ...

It's all connected. The leaders of the conservative movement feeding those protests have a simple message, encapsulated by Beck's monologue: President Obama isn't one of us. He wasn't raised with American traditions or values, and he doesn't believe in the American principals of free market capitalism, respect for life and liberty, and love of country.
I think he means American principles.

Pres. Obama campaigned on the slogan of CHANGE. Much of the support for Obama came from people who were hoping that he would abandon some of our bedrock American principles.

The stories about Obama's past came from his own (probably ghostwritten) autobiography. That book was the biggest thing in favor of Obama, in the view of many of his supporters. It seems just as fair to oppose Obama for these things, as to support Obama for these things.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Hillary's insecurity

I would have thought that Hillary Clinton would have gotten over the fact that her husband got her where she is today. Apparently not. She continues to disrespect her husband.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Shrink is a monster

The National Enquirer reports:
"Dr. Phil is a monster!" Those are the angry words of a former patient of Dr. Phil McGraw, who is revealing the shocking story of the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of the TV shrink!

Sara Morrison is speaking out in a world-exclusive ENQUIRER interview - divulging sickening details ...

Sara was a college sophomore home for the summer when she sought treatment from Dr. Phil in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1984.

"I suffered from low self-esteem, ..."
So she has just now figured out that she has had 25 years of low self-esteem? I would probably have low self-esteem if I ever took Dr. Phil's TV advice seriously.

It might be a good thing if Dr. Phil has to devote some energy explaining the ridiculousness of such charges.

Pedestrian helmets

News from Denmark:
Intense promotion of walking helmets for pedestrians has begun. This logic has been sorely missed. These two organisations have happily promoted bike helmets but pedestrians suffer just as many head injuries, if not more.

This Danish campaign poster reads:

"A walking helmet is a good helmet"
"Traffic safety isn't just for cyclists. The pedestrians of Denmark actually have a higher risk of head injury. The Danish Road Safety Council recommends walking helmets for pedestrians and other good folk in high risk groups."

The slogan is catchy in Danish since it kind of rhymes. All in all it's a brilliant project. Let's save some lives.

The new walking helmets will be available in the Danish Cyclists Union's [Dansk cyklist forbund] shop. Although, as the Danish Cyclists' Union, the Road Safety Council and Trygfonden have been quick to point out:

"A bike helmet is a fine substitute for walking helmets, so there's no need to take it off when you get off your bike. Keep it on throughout the day for maximum safety."
I don't think that this is a joke, but I am not sure. I would think that automobile drivers would benefit the most from helmets. Maybe they are next.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Whether gays are born that way

It is common for politicians and others to say that gays are born that way, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is a bigot who does not accept the science. It is illuminating to read what the experts say.

The American Psychological Association (APA) writes:
What causes a person to have a particular sexual orientation?

There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
It goes on to say that there is no known therapy for changing sexual orientation that has been proven safe and effective, but does not say that it is impossible or that there is evidence that it is impossible.

The APA has just endorsed a stronger statement, as the NY Times reports:
The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments. ...

No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the resolution, adopted by a 125-to-4 vote. ... Instead of seeking such change, the association urged therapists to consider multiple options, which could include celibacy and switching churches, for helping clients live spiritually rewarding lives in instances where their sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.
Switching churches? Some silly shrink is going to try to tell you what church to attend? The report does not explain how well that works.

The report does not go so far as to say that sexual orientation is immutable. It says that certain therapies are likely to fail, but most psychological therapies to change behavior fail anyway.

When someone expects me to have an answer to these questions, I point out that there are experts who have devoted their lives to them, and they do not have an answer, so how could I have answer? Any opinion you get from me or anyone else is just an opinion, as no one has proved that any answer is correct.

Do not use sunscreen

Millions of U.S. children have disturbingly low Vitamin D levels, possibly increasing their risk for bone problems, heart disease, diabetes and other ailments, according to two new studies that provide the first national assessment of the crucial nutrient in young Americans. ...

Low Vitamin D levels are especially common among girls, adolescents and people with darker skin, ...

The researchers and others blamed the low levels on a combination of factors, including children spending more time watching television and playing video games instead of going outside, covering up and using sunscreen when they do go outdoors, and drinking more soda and other beverages instead of consuming milk and other foods fortified with Vitamin D.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sex without a condom is good for you

A Scottish newspapers reports on some politically correct research:
Mr Brody based his conclusions on a study of the sexual behaviour of 99 women and 111 men in Portugal. They filled in questionnaires about the pleasure they derived from their sex lives and contraception use.

Using a measure of psychological health developed in Canada, Mr Brody concluded that condom use was associated with members of the sample who exhibited problems dealing with stress.

Those that had unprotected sex appeared to be able to deal with stress in a more mature way by taking effective action. They also had better mental health.
I wouldn't necessary make any big decisions on what the Scots say about Canadian measures of Portuguese mental health, but I am glad someone is studying the matter.

In sickness and in health

The NY Times reports:
New research shows that when married people become single again, whether by divorce or a spouse’s death, they experience much more than an emotional loss. Often they suffer a decline in physical health from which they never fully recover, even if they remarry. ...

None of this suggests that spouses should stay in a bad marriage for the sake of health. Marital troubles can lead to physical ones, too.
Then what use is this report?

There are a lot of studies showing that marriage is correlated with good health. But does divorce cause bad health, or does bad health cause divorce?

If divorce causes bad health, as these researchers are claiming, then health is indeed a reason to stay married. But maybe this study is just a reflection of people dumping their sick spouses.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Women are also falsely accused

I posted below a fishy story about a man being charged with sex abuse. The accusation seemed improbable and unfounded to me. This is a big problem for men who volunteer for youth activities. Now here is a story about what seems to be a phony charge against a woman:
Nicole Howell, 26, was a first-year English teacher finishing up a lesson on Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," when she was pulled out of her Dayton High School classroom in December and told she was being suspended for having sex with a student.

"I thought it was preposterous," she said.

It got worse. Howell was arrested for first-degree sexual abuse less than a month later and faces a trial in the fall. Her teaching certificate is in jeopardy and she's had to move back home with her parents.

All for an affair that she says not only never happened, but one that there is no evidence of other than the ramblings of a high school kid who at first claimed the two were involved in a threesome with another male student. ...

Howell said the beginning of her first year as a teacher was going well until early December when she started hearing rumors in the hallway.

"There were a couple of students snickering about a teacher involved in a threesome," she said. ...

Howell said she was told that both boys denied any sexual contact with her to the principal. Other rumors that followed, including that the accuser's father drove his son to her apartment for sex, was also disproved, Howell said.

But on Dec. 15 when she was suspended, Howell said the principal told her that the accuser, who had been threatened with possible expulsion for lying about such a serious allegation, had recanted his denial and was accusing Howell of having sex with him.
She will have to prove her innocence, but in court in the press, against the flaky anonymous charges.

I don't have all the facts here, but I think that the principal, prosecutor, and newspaper should ignore such an implausible and unsubstantiated story unless there is some rock-solid evidence of something really harmful. And there is not.

Reason for private schools

The Half Sigma blog writes:
As I explained earlier in this chapter, one of the primary benefits of private school is that they pass on upper class values to their students. This is why it’s important that the teachers come from the right social background. Private schools attract teachers from upper class backgrounds, and job applicants from the wrong background are screened out during the hiring process. Public school teachers, on the other hand, may even come from working class backgrounds, and these teachers will definitely be teaching your children the wrong values!
I think that this explains most of the motivation for private schools. People like to say that they are paying for private school in order to get a better academic education. But I have seen people pay a lot of money when there is a much better and cheaper academic alternative.

Forced racial school bussing was never just for more equal academics. It was to impart upper and middle class white values on lower class black kids.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Dubious accusation of acting inappropriately

The San Jose paper reports:
A former South Bay youth soccer coach with a long and lauded history in the sport faces charges he molested an 11-year-old child while volunteering as a locker room attendant during a recent FC Gold Pride women's professional soccer game.

Thomas Anderson, 75, of San Jose, who is scheduled to enter a plea in the case Monday, is charged with eight felony counts of a lewd or lascivious act on a child younger than 14, police said.

While at a Gold Pride soccer game July 19 at Santa Clara University's Buck Shaw Stadium, two witnesses reported seeing Anderson acting inappropriately with a child, police said. ... Gold Pride officials ... said he brought the victim to the game with him. ...

His arrest is the latest in a string of high-profile cases in the local athletic scene. ...

"I am in disbelief," said Bob O'Connor, treasurer of the West Valley Youth Soccer League, which Anderson founded decades ago. O'Connor regularly saw Anderson at Gold Pride soccer and Earthquake soccer events, where O'Connor also volunteered. "He was a good friend, we shared a lot of soccer interests so I am in absolute shock over this." ...

O'Connor described Anderson as a friendly, outgoing sort, admired by both children and adults. O'Connor said he never saw any hint of inappropriate behavior toward children. "He was very nonthreatening, he was funny and quite a character, they liked him." ...

Anderson was arrested Friday and arraigned on Wednesday. If convicted, he faces 22 years in prison.
My guess is that a lot of men will refuse to volunteer for youth activities after reading a few stories like this. A false accusation is just too easy, too common, and too dangerous.

I am all in favor of jailing child molesters, but this story seems very improbable to me. The man is 75 years old. He has spent his whole life coaching and assisting youth sports, and everyone praised his work. He brought the kid to the game.

If he is really a child molester, how is it that no one ever suspected anything before? If he wanted to molest the kid, why wouldn't he do it before or after the game when no one was watching?

And what did he do? The accusation is that he was "acting inappropriately". People have widely different opinions about what is inappropriate. It appears that the man and the child were fully clothed. He may have just given the kid a hug, and some bystander disapproved.

The man's life is ruined whether he is innocent or guilty. The newspaper named him in a prominent page 1B story, and allows his accusers to remain anonymous. It does not even detail the accusations. It is impossible for him to defend himself.

I believe that the man should be considered innocent until proven guilty. The accusers in this case could have just notified the child's parents. This smells like a witch-hunt.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Domestic violence against women only

I had assumed that the domestic violence laws were formally sex-neutral, but here is Calif Health and Safety Code sect. 124250:
(1) "Domestic violence" means the infliction or threat of physical harm against past or present adult or adolescent female intimate partners, and shall include physical, sexual, and psychological abuse against the woman, and is a part of a pattern of assaultive, coercive, and controlling behaviors directed at achieving compliance from or control over, that woman. ...

(e) In implementing the grant program pursuant to this section, the State Department of Public Health shall consult with an advisory council ... The membership of the council shall consist of domestic violence advocates, battered women service providers, and representatives of women's organizations, law enforcement, and other groups involved with domestic violence, and at least one representative of service providers serving the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community for purposes of domestic violence.
Now I am wondering whether this council really has any "domestic violence advocates" on it. It seems to me that a domestic violence advocate is someone who advocates domestic violence. That might balance out some of the others on this council!