Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bubble thing, Children's Museum of Portsmouth, VA.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cretaceous shoreline as political destiny

The blog "Strange Maps" has a fascinating discussion about the link between geological history and voting preferences in the South in the 2008 Presidential election.

Those counties which lie just inside what would have been the shoreline of the North American continent during the Cretaceous period voted overwhelmingly for Obama.

Why? According to a comment by "Neal", the areas which were once prairieland during the Cretaceous. These areas ended up over time with a soil that was just right for growing cotton. American plantations sprang up in these places, today those areas remain populated by African American descendants of the slaves who worked on the plantations. And African Americans voted predominantly for Obama, while their southern white neighbors went for McCain. Fascinating stuff.

More discussion at strange maps, virgorous north

Cretaceous map by Dr. Ron Blakey
Cotton map by Strange maps blog
Electoral county map by Mark Newman

Sunday, November 16, 2008

How to render multiple povray files in linux bash commands.

for i in fracpos04*.pov; do povray $i +fn +w1280 +h960 +kff225 +a0.3; done

The above commands are what I used in linux to render a whole bunch of povray files. I had a stack of POV-Ray scene description files that were all of the form fracpos04*.pov. When I ran this command in bash, linux will look at all the files in a directory. For those which are of the form fracpos04*.pov, linux will run the command povray [filename] with switches that call for PNG output file type, a width of 1280, a height of 960, an animation with 225 frames, with anti-alias setting of 0.3.

This blog post is just kind of a gratituituos sticky reminder to myself, in case I forget how to do it again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Then he blessed him there.

"Then he blessed him there." Genesis 32:29b.

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 56.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

For me this happened to be the bible.
(Uh, I later saw that even closer to me, buried under a pile of mail, was ConsumerReports Buying Guide 2009, and that book's page 56 was about toilets:

"Check your water pressure."

Sunday, November 09, 2008

GM: sometimes green position is the libertarian one

There's a story in the NY Times entitled, GM Says U.S. Cash is its Best Hope. General Motors is looking for a government bailout.

Among the arguments against buying and making SUV's are that they are dangerous to everyone but the driver; they use up far more gas than they ought to; using more gas increases our dependence on foreign oil and is going to turn northern Canada into a giant lake. There are humanitarian interests on a global scale at stake here. There are national security interests at stake here. But GM sought to line its pockets at the expense of these interests. Problem is that the market does in fact include those who are complaining about your products. It most surely includes those who are affected by the externalities that your product generates.

The LA Times blog article, Average mpg by car company, has some interesting news about the connection between fleet MPG and economic performance:
Now, back to those car sales figures. GM's sales declined 18%, Ford's fell 28% and Chrysler's dropped 36%. Toyota was off 21%, and Honda saw a 1.1% increase. Here's the average fleet mpg of cars by those manufacturers in 2007. And, not surprisingly, there's a correlation -- the manufacturers whose vehicles get the worse fuel economy also got hit the hardest sales-wise.

2007 model year statistics

Domestic passenger
Daimler-Chrysler: 28.6 mpg (-36% overall sales)
Ford: 29 mpg (-28% overall sales)
General Motors: 29.9 mpg (-18% overall sales)
Toyota: 31.6 mpg (-21% overall sales)
Honda: 33.5 mpg (+1.1% overall sales)

Imported passenger
Daimler-Chrysler: 24.7 mpg (-36% overall sales)
Ford: 29.9 mpg (-28% overall sales)
General Motors: 31.9 mpg (-18% overall sales)
Toyota: 38.5 mpg (-21% overall sales)
Honda: 39.6 mpg (+1.1% overall sales)

Light trucks
Ford: 22.2 mpg (-28% overall sales)
Daimler-Chrysler: 22.6 mpg (-36% overall sales)
General Motors: 22.6 mpg (-18% overall sales)
Toyota: 23.9 mpg (-21% overall sales)
Honda: 25 mpg (+1.1% overall sales)

The above statistics cause me to have no desire to bail out the American manufacturers. Wait a minute, Honda and Toyota have plants in the US-- I should say to bail out the gas-guzzler manufactuers.

The issue also points out my beef with the recent Republican party. It is no longer the party of limited government, but it still is the party of opposition to social change. Environmental activists had been demanding government regulation to force US manufacturers to comply with demands about fuel economy. The Republicans, standing on a principle of economic liberty, refused. My fear is that a significant fraction of Republicans will join the chorus in calling for taxpayer-funded bailouts. And in so doing, they will once again demonstrate a significant shift in the overall philosophy of the party. The Republicans will have gone from a party that opposes regulations that force social change to one that uses government regulation and subsidy to oppose social change. Thus, they make the great leap from libertarian to mere evil.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Where they failed.

Kay Buchanan on MSNBC said that Republicans need to come together to discover where we failed.

Here's a short list:
1.) Limbaugh
2.) Hannity
3.) Dobson
4.) Giuliani
5.) Leibermann

Note that I didn't say Republican principles of fiscal responsibility, rule of law, and protection of the sanctity of life failed.

Monday, November 03, 2008