Sunday, January 29, 2006


That is the sound that the lower registers of a harpsichord make when they are being played really fast. That is the sound Kerry and I heard at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra last Thursday when the harpsichord was simply thrashing Bach's Brandenberg Concerto No. 5. Yes, thrashing. The urge to applaud between movements was almost overwhelming. Luckily, we kept it in check, but I felt like we were in the Simpsons episode when they hold up candles during the extended organ solo of "In the Garden of Eden" by I. Ron Butterfly. ("Remember when we used to make out to this hymn?")

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Hostel is a currently playing movie that imagines a hostel in eastern Europe where people pay to torture and kill travelers. By all accounts, it is one of the most gruesome and gory films for a major-studio to have released (if not shocking enough for the truly hard-core slasher flick crowd). It confuses, saddens, and revolts me that such a movie was made, never mind that it was the most popular movie in America when it was released earlier this month. But Kerry made a brilliant observation today: can you imagine the response if this film had been made about torturing puppies instead of people?

Monday, January 16, 2006

I can't believe I'm agreeing with the RNC

From the linked article:

"Al Gore's incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America."

- Tracey Schmitt, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee
OK, I half agree with the RNC. I don't think I'm prepared to go on the record with my opinion on Al Gore's understanding of the threats facing America, but I'm fairly certain I'm not too interested in hearing it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

At least Target is safe

Once minor differences in the House and Senate versions are reconciled, Maryland's legislature will pass a bill requiring employers of more than 10,000 people to spend at least 8% of payroll on employee health benefits (or contribute the same amount into the state healthcare system). This is being reported in the media as "anti-Wal-Mart legislation", as the only other employers in the state of that size (Johns Hopkins, Giant Foods, and Northrop Grumman) already pass the healthcare threshhold.

The odd fact that employers explicitly fund health care for so many people in the US is a relic of another government intervention in the labor market, in the mid-20th century. I'm so glad to see that, instead of pursuing systematic solutions to the real health-care issues facing the state (not just those who work at Wal-Mart), the legislature is preserving this distorting anachronism in the system by cherry-picking a firm that is being slaughtered by PR.

If Wal-Mart is violating existing laws, bust them on those laws. If the societal health safety net is inadequate, fix the safety net in a systematic way that shares the costs and benefits equitably. But please, don't write laws to pillory the villain-of-the-week for the cause-of-the-month.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Engineering, writ small

Forbes has released their list of the top ten nanotechnology products of 2005. This list incidentally illustrates the difference between science and engineering: science gives you Nobel Prizes; engineering gives you chocolate-flavored gum and stink-proof socks.