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How I voted in 2008

I sent in my ballot on Saturday, after spending Friday evening discussing the propositions with a bunch of people over dinner at our house.  There seemed to be broad consensus on them, which isn’t too surprising, given that I avoided inviting people I thought I might disagree with.  I did that on purpose.  I wanted it to be an analysis of the questions at hand, not a personal policymaking session.  Ballotpedia had a lot of information on some of the propositions.  I’m guessing it will only improve in future elections, and I think the wiki model is actually close to being perfect for coming up with summaries of contentious political topics. Here’s how I ended up voting:

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California Ballot Initiatives, 2008

A surprising amount of information and linkage is to be had at the Wikipedia.

CA Ballot Initiatives:

  1. (1A) Bond for high speed rail: UNDECIDED (requires federal matching funds, probably will run far over budget because it was priced years ago when commodities were cheaper, won’t be functional for many years, now is a crappy time to take out a loan, but it sure would be nice to have a high speed train between LA and SF… would tickets cost more or less than Southwest?)
  2. Revised CAFO standards (more space for chickens, pigs, veal): YES? (Seems petty – unclear how slightly more space for chickens will result in fewer antibiotics being used, and better water quality near CAFO facilities… it’s still a hundred million chickens, isn’t it? but it’s a step in the right direction – similar to legislation in the EU, doesn’t fully take effect until 2015… dunno)
  3. Children’s Hospital Bond: NO (Provides public subsidies for private for-profit hospitals, without also giving public sector a share of the profits, or any control over the organizations they are funding, nearly identical bond measure passed in 2004 – and they’ve only spent half *that* money!)
  4. Require parental notification and waiting period for abortions: NO
  5. Reduction in non-violent drug offense penalties, treatment in lieu of incarceration: YES
  6. Capital expenditure for more prisons: NO (we have enough prisons already!  Just let out the non-violent drug offenders if there’s not enough space)
  7. Renewable energy portfolio standards: NO (based on UCS analysis)
  8. Outlaw Gay Marriage: NO
  9. Victims rights and harsher parole requirements: UNDECIDED
  10. Subsidies for some fuels (esp. natural gas): NO (based on UCS analysis)
  11. Non-partisan congressional districts for CA: YES

Local Measures:

  • Measure R (transportation sales tax in LA County): UNDECIDED No bike/ped call outs (does complete streets apply to this?), way too much focus on highway projects.
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Obama and McCain in their own Wordles

The first debate, in Wordle format. Not too hard to tell who’s who:

A Wordle of Obama in the First Debate
Obama
An Wordle of McCain in the first debate
McCain

It might be better if Wordle would pick up on phrases. It would be interesting to see if one could extract a candidate’s talking points from this kind of stream-of-consciousness format, or even identify talking points they didn’t know they had. Not clear if it will be worthwhile running the VP debate through this… some of Palin’s comments seem to be pre-wordled!

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Open Letter to My Credit Union

I’ve been doing all my banking through credit unions since I was an undergrad at Caltech.  I’ve liked using them because they don’t, on balance, spend as much time and effort trying to trick their members into doing stupid things with their money as banks do.  Their fine print isn’t as small, or as prevalent.  Their credit cards have a reasonable rate, clearly stated.  Their checking accounts don’t have hidden fees.  They aren’t out to screw you, which most commercial banks are, as far as I can tell (certainly the ones involved in the liar-loan industry deserve that reputation anyway).

So I’m bothered that I just received several “convenience” checks from the Elevations Credit Union, linked to my Visa card, with a low introductory APR of only 3.99%.  I’m bothered because they’re trying to lure members into spending money on credit, at a time when US households are on average further in debt than ever before. I’m bothered because they’ve sent me something in the mail that could easily have fallen into the wrong hands and created a credit headache for me.  I’m also bothered that they spontaneously increased my credit limit from $1,000 to $2,500 without asking me if that’s what I wanted.  Previously, I had specifically requested they lower my credit limit to $1,000, because that’s about how much money I take home each month, and getting into more than one month’s worth of revolving debt seems like a bad idea (since the grace period is one month long).

Elevations recently re-organized as a state credit union instead of a federal credit union.  I don’t know if that has anything to do with their apparent change in character.  But I hope it doesn’t go much further than this.  Finding a new credit union would be a hassle.

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Financial Negativeland

Today I joined the erstwhile Masters of the Universe, and entered the red.  My investments are now worth fewer dollars than I put into them.  Am I freaking out?  No.  Not yet anyway.  Another 25% down and we’ll see.  I thank Bill Bernstein, Jack Bogle, and Burton Malkiel for this calm.  Am I even surprised?  No, and the thanks for that has to go to neo-Popperian Nicholas Nassim Taleb.

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Autumn is Here

Fall arrived today, not officially, and not to stay, but for sure it’s now begun.  And it’s not just the shit-slinging monkeys running for public office that tips you off.  We didn’t need the fan last night.  We kept the windows closed.  The breeze at home is cool even at 3:45pm.  I wanted to wear long sleeves.  I didn’t want iced coffee.  The shadow of the shade cloth is falling on the planters in the courtyard, and the light has that golden hue.  The middle of the day is disappearing, and edges are rushing in, changing the feeling of solar time as we tilt away from the sun.

I’m sure it’ll get hot again.  The offical weather reports don’t even seem to admit that it’s cooled off now (highs are supposedly still above 30°C… but they sure don’t feel like it).  It can be 40°C in October here.  But the blinding and oppressive light that summer wields is weakening.  The darkness is coming back.  The safe and enveloping darkness we can hide in.  The sun that grows broccoli and chard and peas and mustard greens, but puts habañeros to sleep.  The gray marine morning.

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Longing for Colorado

Fickle weather.  Deep, stony, mountain gorges.  Bike paths and festivals.  Rides up the canyons to picnics by the creeks.  Cool winds and thunderstorms.  Bright sun and clouds that move.  Margaritas and popcorn.  Shortness of breath on 13,000′ peaks.  A change of seasons in twelve hours.  Collegiate girls lounging in the sun.  Green smoke in the woods.  Busses that work.

Visiting makes it harder not to stay.

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The Rotation Problem

Given the latitude and longitude of a prior planetary rotation axis (or pole), and given a set of latitude and longitude points defining a number of features on the surface of the planet, determine the latitude and longitude points describing the location of the features in the prior rotational regime.

I know.  Someone’s already solved this problem.  His name was Euler, and he did it in a more general case. So much more general, that all of the descriptions I can find of his solutions are a little opaque.

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Short lineaments aren’t just noise

I’m now able to successfully discriminate plausible NSR fits by:

  • calculating several “good” fits, that is, any local minimum in the fit curve that is within 10% of the overall curve’s amplitude, of the minimum fit.
  • screening these good fits based on whether or not endpoint doppelgangers generated at those amounts of backrotation are with in an MHD of less than 0.1*lin.length() of lin.

This screening process:

  • almost always results in a unique best fit
  • screens out many bad fits (because even at their minima, they can’t create synthetic lineaments)
  • very occasionally permits more than one fit to be included as good enough

I think it’s good enough to be able to avoid doing the monte carlo thing for now.

I looked at several bands of lineament length, especially the short ones, to see if there were perhaps a trend toward noise in the shorter lineaments, which is what I would expect, given how easy it is for them to fit somewhere in backrotational space. But it turned out that they still display approximately the same aggregate fit curve and activity histogram:

Only the shortest lineaments tend toward noise.
Only the shortest lineaments tend toward noise.

It would be good to create a map of the lineaments, color coded by where their good fits occur, and compare that to the map of resolution and illumination angle that I got from Trent, just to see if there’s any kind of correlation.

Now I need to transform the lineaments into the paleo-orientation suggested by Schenk and Nimmo, and re-run the analysis, to see if magically, that shell orientation gives a more convincing story.

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The Cold Box is Chillin’

With the final batch of cider done fermenting, I turned the temperature down to 5°C last night to chill everything for storage, flocculation, carbonation, and dispensing! I also hooked up the gas and the taps. The leak on the CO2 tank isn’t actually at the regulator-tank junction where I’d thought originally, it’s somehow in the main valve on the tank… and so unfixable from my point of view. But… hopefully it can be traded in for a new tank anyway. 50 gallons of brew all in all: 1 mead, 3 beers, and 6 ciders. We’ll definitely have to have a coming out party in September.