Monthly Archives: November 2005

R.I.P. CDs

Compact Disks photo
I had pretty much come to this conclusion as well, but today’s article in the SF Chronicle by Aidin Vaziri entitled “R.I.P. CDs” puts the nail in the coffin:

They’re overpriced, ugly and don’t even make good rearview mirror ornaments. Now that we know they are also potentially poisonous to personal computers, thanks to Sony BMG’s rogue copy-protection technology, there’s really no reason to buy another compact disc ever again.

It’s clearly time to move on. Think about it: No more nails-on-chalkboard-style skipping. No more secret tracks that scare the stuffing out of you 15 minutes after you think an album has stopped playing. No more fumbling around with those impossible-to-unwrap jewel cases. It was fun while it lasted. The music industry has declared war on its customers.

Evolving Attitudes?

Darwin/monkey drawing
The November 28, 2005 issue of Newsweek features Charles Darwin on the cover. I found the following in ‘The Editor’s Desk’ column:

Writing about evolution for this magazine didn’t used to be a dangerous assignment. When Jerry Adler authored a 1982 cover story on the late paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould and his theory of ‘punctuated equilibrium’ no one thought to send him hate mail. But last February, when we published Jerry’s ahead-of-the-curve takeout on ‘intelligent design’ he got heated correspondence from proponents and critics of the theory that evolution is part of God’s plan. And in July, Jerry couldn’t even pen a cover on dinosaurs without being attacked by readers who refuse to accept that the Earth is more than 6,000 years old.

Speaks for itself…

Credit goes here.

The U.S. & Religion…

An interesting post over at Marginal Revolution on the 1796 Treaty of Tripoli. From the treaty, which did not cause controversy at the time:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

Amy Rigby @ Mississippi Studios – 12-Nov-2005

Amy RigbyJust home from the Amy Rigby solo acoustic show at Mississippi Studios tonight, and I give her a big thumbs up! I had only heard one of her records from a few years ago, so a lot of the songs were new to me, and I thought they were largely quite good. She’s no strumming folky – the songs are very much rock n roll songs – and very clever and funny at the same time. Amy knows a lot of ‘drummer’ jokes (Q: what do you call a drummer without a girlfriend? A: homeless), and I especially liked her discussion of ‘human resources’ (when asked ‘what motivates her?’ at a temp agency interview, she quickly said ‘anger’ then realized ‘oh, you didn’t want an honest answer’).

Go see Amy if you have a chance – tour details at her website:

The Man Who Kept the Secrets – Thomas Powers (1979)

The Man Who Kept the Secrets is a story of the history of the CIA, tracking the career of Richard Helms, Director of the CIA from 1966-1973, the first insider to act as director. At the time the book was written, the CIA had recently been through an a public scouring as the public learned of assassination attempts on foreign leaders and other nastiness. I thought the book did a very good job of explaining the CIA perspective while not excusing the excesses. As Powers describes it, the CIA essentially worked for the President, and did not have its own agenda for the most part. If the Kennedy brothers wanted Castro out of the picture, then that was what the CIA would try to do. But things got ugly when Nixon wanted more help from Helms in covering up the Watergate burglary, while Helms was trying to keep the CIA record clean (it seems pretty definitive that the White House ordered the burglary).

Helms was always careful to keep the written record clean of damaging orders, and while he was known for being truthful with the Senate, he was also very careful to say just as much as he needed to. When the tide turned in the seventies, and the questions got more direct, Helms was put in what he felt was an unfair position; if he told the whole truth he’d be implicating Presidents and others, which no one really wanted.

It seems like little has changed since then. With the new Iraq war it appears that Cheney was leaning on the CIA to provide what he wanted.

Another thought from Chaitin

Here’s a paragraph from Gregory Chaitin’s Meta-Math! that is well worth pondering (from an appendix, emphasis in the original):

Perhaps the universe is complicated, not simple! This certainly seems to be the case in biology more than in physics. Then thought alone is insufficient; we need empirical data. But simplicity certainly reflects what we mean by understanding: understanding is compression. So perhaps this is more about the human mind than it is about the universe. Perhaps our emphasis on simplicity says more about us than it says about the universe!

My take on it is that there is no real question about it – our ways of understanding need not reflect the underlying reality, and we’re fooling ourselves if we think otherwise.