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Saturday, April 23, 2005

Degrees of Kevin Bacon

Bacon Brothers - Getting There
You may remember Kevin Bacon from such movie classics as "Animal House" and "Pyrates." Or perhaps you have played the movie trivia game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

However, you may not be aware that Kevin and his brother, Michael, have a musical career as well. Oddly enough, they call themselves The Bacon Brothers. You might also be as surprised as we were to find they are really good muscians. iTunes categorizes them as Rock, but there is a definite Country flavor to their music as well.

Here are some of the lyrics from our favorite song on this album, "T.M.I.," by Kevin and Michael Bacon:
She woke me up late last night
She said something don't feel right
I think it would be best for me
To get this off my chest you see
Way back in eighty-two
Around the time I first met you
He didn't even mean a thing
A silly fling
And she said
I'm not attracted to those muscle-bound guys
And she said I prefer a man who's more your size
And he had a swollen wallet and a swollen head
There's more to life than being good in bed

Too Much Information
No I was not aware
Too Much Information
What makes you think I care
I could have made it through this day
Feeling perfectly O.K.
Having never heard a single word
That you just chose to say
Too Much Information
You don't get the tune, of course, but take it from us, it's catchy.

UPDATE: Added link to Amazon for the album, since the cover art (and bandwidth) is from them.

Dispatches from Outland

Roy Jacobsen of Fargo, ND, blogs at Dispatches from Outland. This week an old post of his, wherein he coined the term "food dodecahedron" was linked from Best of the Web. He was immediately buried under a "Tarantolanche." Now that the hordes have receded, he's feeling lonely up there, so stop in and say, "Hi."

Here are a couple of fun things that we found on his site. The first is a "Blog Map" that can show where you are and other bloggers in the area. The catch is only those registered (free) with the site generating the map are shown.

The second item is a link to a "color test" illustrating the differences in the way our brains process words vs. colors/images.

This Just In: High Gas Prices Force Changes

Our choice for stupidest article of the day goes to this gem from Will Lester and the Associated Press:
AP-AOL Poll: High Gas Prices Force Changes: "By WILL LESTER, Associated Press Writer - WASHINGTON - Americans feeling the impact of high gasoline prices are driving less, rearranging vacations and cutting other expenses to balance the budget."
Flash: Higher prices reduce demand for gasoline! Who knew? Why doesn't it work like that for anything else?
"An Associated Press-AOL poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed say that if fuel prices remain high for the next six months it will cause a financial hardship for them. Thirty percent of those polled classified the hit as 'serious,' according to the survey by Ipsos-Public Affairs for the AP and AOL News."
Something tells us most of those polled don't know the difference between "hardship" and "inconvenience." But wait, there's more:
"'You have to decide -- gas, groceries, medicine,' said Marcia Cain of Indianapolis, who is semiretired. 'I'm on limited income. I don't go out as much -- eating out, going to listen to jazz. It uses gas you don't want to use.' Cain paid $2.15 per gallon this week after paying $2.35 per gallon the week before. 'It aggravates me, but there's not much I can do about it,' she said."
Just a suggestion, Ms. Cain, but perhaps cutting out the jazz concerts and restaurant meals should come before giving up food in general or medicine. Suppose she drives 15 miles in a car that only gets 15 mpg to go out to eat or to listen to jazz. That evening now costs $1 more than it did a few months ago. It's hard to see that being more than 5-10% of the total cost of that evening.

Of course higher gas prices really do squeeze some people, but it's absurd to claim this will be a "hardship" for half the country. An adjustment, yes. An inconvenience, sure. An irritation, certainly. Let's have a little perspective here, people.
"The survey found that 58 percent of respondents have reduced their driving, 57 percent have cut back on other expenses and 41 percent have changed vacation plans to stay closer to home."
Not that we doubt that people are using less of something that suddenly becomes more expensive, but did we need a poll to find this out? How about just looking at the total number of gallons sold now vs. last year at this time?

Now on to America's favorite sport: assignment of blame.
"Americans spread the blame around, with 29 percent pointing to the oil companies, 24 percent citing foreign governments that dominate oil reserves and 23 percent saying it's the fault of politicians. Eight percent blame the high prices on 'environmentalists who want to limit oil exploration,' while 6 percent blame 'people who drive gas-guzzling vehicles.'"
So 52% of those polled are so ignorant of economics that they don't know that producers don't control prices, supply and demand do. We love blaming things on politicians as much as the next guy, but politicians are not directly the cause of this. Good grief, GWB just invaded Iraq to steal their oil, what more do you want, people? Hey, at least we don't yet have another "Synfuels" rathole to pour money down.

Limits on Exploration? Gas-Guzzling Vehicles? -- Tastes great. Less filling. Yes, you're both right, and 14% if those polled have at least one clue. Now the guzzlers are paying more and exploration is being expanded.

There are other factors, too. The weakness of the dollar makes oil cheaper for users in other countries even at a higher price in dollars, driving up demand. Demand for oil by China is much higher than just a few years ago, because of Chinese economic development. The NIMBY syndrome is also a culprit, as no one has wanted refineries near them, so practically none have been built for years. Complex environment rules mandate many different gas formulations by state and region, driving up costs. The feds just pumped a lot of crude into filling the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, boosting demand some more.

Taxes are a big part of the price of gas in most states. Check out the fine print at the pump next time to see your state's take. Note that fuel taxes based on a percentage of the price mean an automatic, hidden tax increase as the price rises.

So altogether we can't let the politicians off completely in this blame game. They did pass and maintain the environmental restrictions that drove up costs and cut supplies. They let NIMBY block refinery construction, and they are responsible for driving down the value of the dollar. State politicians control the gas taxes.

Perhaps some of those blaming "politicians" were thinking of these things. We're afraid, however, that most just checked that box out of a general feeling that government should "do something" about the problem. After all, it's the government's job to solve all problems.

Would it be too much to expect the AP to write a sensible, informative article about the real causes of the situation instead of a stupid poll? Yes, we guess it would be too much to expect.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Moussaoui Pleads Guilty in 9/11 Conspiracy

Would-be hijacker and al-Qaida terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui has officially pleaded guilty to mass murder conspiracy. This is not really a surprise, as it has been rumored for several days at least that he was about to plead guilty without a plea bargain. Apparently, he plans to appeal his (expected) death sentence, hoping to get a hearing before the Supreme Court and thereby gain attention.
ABC News: Moussaoui Pleads Guilty in 9/11 Conspiracy: "ALEXANDRIA, Va. Apr 22, 2005 — Zacarias Moussaoui pleaded guilty Friday to conspiring with the hijackers in the Sept. 11 plot and declared Osama bin Laden personally instructed him to fly an airliner into the White House in a separate assault.

Over the objection of his lawyers, Moussaoui calmly admitted his guilt in a courtroom a few miles from where one of the hijacked planes crashed into the Pentagon in 2001, setting up a showdown with prosecutors who quickly reaffirmed they will seek Moussaoui's execution."
We're not quite sure what basis there is to appeal a guilty plea, but we suppose, as Voltaire might say, that if none exists, it will be necessary to invent some.

We have no objection to the death penalty in principle, although we would prefer true life-without-parole sentences, if the legal system could actually manage that. In this particular case, we would be happy to see Moussaoui nibbled to death by ducks, but perhaps a better choice would be 3,000 consecutive life-without-parole sentences.

After all, he's hoping to get sentenced to death. Whether he sees that as a route to an audience with the SCOTUS or as his personal "martydom operation," why let him have what he wants? Where's the "glory" in sitting in jail for tens of years with no hope of ever getting out? There's none, which is why he wants death.

However, if he is to be executed, we suggest letting him exercise his right to die, peacefully, with dignity, by refusing him all food and water.

Stupid Blog Tricks

Be sure to check out our poll currently in the sidebar on a vital issue of the day. As Al Gore says, "Vote early and often." To be certain that we Count Every Vote, you may select more than one choice on the list at a time. You can also vote every day.

If you would like to add this poll to your blog, let us know. It was more work than expected getting the darned thing valid in XHTML 1.0 Transitional, so it would be nice to get a little more mileage out of the gag.

Yippee! Our PageRank Is Not Zero!

Sometime since we toddled off to bed last night Google updated the PageRank for DLMSY from 0/10 to 4/10. Suddenly, we've left the darkness of irrelevancy and plunged headlong into the glorious glow of Googly Goodness.

Four inbound links are displayed, so special thanks to Grizzly Mama and Moonbattery for putting us on the map. The other two are from a Blogrolling page listing links to Instapundit and a "Missing Link" from a site we've never heard of that seems to have nothing in common with DLMSY beyond a reference to Catch-22.

We are also pleased to announce new, non-zero PageRank values for:
Moonbattery at 5/10
Sysyphean Musings at 5/10
A Republic, Madam, if You Can Keep It at 4/10
and Plains Feeder at 3/10

Ryne McClaren
and Grizzly Mama held steady at 5/10 and 4/10, respectively. I'm not sure if all these changes went up since yesterday, but I'm pretty sure that the ARMIYCKI and Plains Feeder Page Ranks are new.

Congrats to all.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

SEO For Dummies: Google Patent Application, Sandbox, and Banning

We continue to consider strategies for search engine opimization (SEO) for the blog. Recently Google applied for a US patent on its search algorithms. There is a certain amount of risk in doing that, as the patent process requires a company to publicly reveal the technology it is seeking to patent. For Google this loss of secrecy means:
  1. Competitors will learn what they are doing and try to copy parts of it outside the scope of any patent
  2. Web marketers will be sifting through the documents trying to learn how to increase the search scores of their pages
  3. Items 1 and 2 begin immediately, but it will be awhile before any patent claims are allowed, with no guarantee of allowance at all.
Wayne Hurlbert blogs commercially about commerical blogging, and he takes a look at the Google patent application at Blog Business World - Marketing, Public Relations, Search Engine Optimization and what can be gleaned from it:
"Google does apparently have a Sandbox filter effect. In effect, new sites are placed on probation to see if they last, or if they are only disposable get rich quick spam sites. Those spam sites break every Google guideline in the book, but rise to page one very quickly. The idea of spam websites is to glean as much revenue as possible, prior to a Google banning from their index. Google does ban them too. Don't worry about that one.

To prevent this sort of mischief, Google has instituted the Sandbox to keep the new sites lower in the rankings until they prove their worthiness. While the system might be unfair to new sites, it's a fact of life. There are also some ways of minimizing the damage caused by the Sandbox filter.

New links are held back in value by a fresh link filter. When first added, the new link doesn't transfer its full quota of Google Juice to the receiving page. Over time, the filter dissapates for the link, and all of the link popularity boost power is sent along to the linked site.

Bloggers are less affected because the links are from similar theme relevant blogs. Because the topics discussed are similar, the inbound links are given more weight faster by Google. The fact that links are often from within posts themselves help, as do permanent links from blogrolls.

Google is also rewarding sites that link out to other sites. Talk about another win for bloggers! Bloggers freely link to other blogs and traditional websites. This generous linking policy, shared by most bloggers, is rewarded by Google. Higher search rankings for the helpful blogger are the benefit. The reason for this benefit, resulting from linking out, is to encourage links to other people who provide useful and interesting content. Remember, Google is thinking like a seeker of information."
He includes a link to the patent application itself, if you really want to get down-and-dirty. The so-called Sandbox Filter is discussed further in another post on the same site:
Blog Business World - Marketing, Public Relations, Search Engine Optimization: "The Google Sandbox is an alleged filter placed on new websites. The result is a site does not receive good rankings for its most important keywords and keyword phrases. Even with good content, abundant incoming links and strong Google PageRank, a site is still adversely affected by the Sandbox effect. The Sandbox acts as a de facto probation for sites, possibly to discourage spam sites from rising quickly, getting banned, and repeating the process."
This page is also a perfect example of the SEO Holy Grail of packing the maximum number of repetitions of keywords into a page. He manages to squeeze in 71 instances of the term "Sandbox" in that page, including sticking it into many headings. We're not sure we're ready for that kind of commitment on this blog.

The take home message from the Sandbox is that about the only way around it is to wait it out, but use that time to gather good links (which also have to "age").

Another site, ez Search Engine Optimization, speaks about the value of reciprocal links and the dangers of relying on "link farms" to boost your site's rating. You can get the Google Death Penalty:
Why bother with reciprocal links? Can they really help?: "When search engines revealed the importance of inbound links to a site's perceived importance, link farms sprang up all over the place. A link farm is basically a collection of links on a web site - a place where you could add your site, after all, the more links pointing to your site the better, right? Wrong. Search engines like Google quickly began penalising sites that were listed in the most notorious link farms. Not only were sites PR ZEROD, they were oftern banned from the Google index altogether.

For the search engines, the only type of inbound link that is acceptable, is a link from a site with similar content to your own. So if you are selling inkjet cartridges, don't ask webmasters of clothes sites for a link. Keep your link requests to your own niche. the tighter you keep it, the more chance you have of Google (and other search engines) looking favourably on your site."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

SEO For Dummies: Link Farms

So what are "link farms?" Do they need a government subsidy, a protective tariff, or perhaps price supports to bring them up to "parity?"

We recently stuck a toe into Search Engine Optimization, or "SEO," in a quixotic quest to qualify the blog for more attention from Google. Since "links" from other sites are known to be a key part of Google's searching/ranking algorithms, it would seem the more you have the better off you are. This kind of thinking has led to many sites that exist entirely for the purpose of sharing links among largely unrelated sites. Such sites are known as "link farms."

Recently, Google apparently changed some elements of its ranking system, which may have implications for a link farm near you. The details of Google's system are a closely guarded secret, of course. Still, where there is money to be made there will always be enquiring minds figuring out how something works. If you think you might have "bought the link farm" with Google, check out The Web We Weave, Linking for Google: April 2005 (H/T Pamela at Online Business Journal:
"If you or someone you know has been engaged in a link-building plan that relies on link trading between multiple sites that don't actually relate to or do business with each other, you might want to take a few hours to examine your link-building strategies.

About four weeks ago, an article appeared in Wired Magazine telling the world how simple it was to game Google by bulking up on links. The article became a focal point for discussion in many circles and might be inadvertently responsible for a notable rise in the number of link-trading email spam offers. It may have also alerted Google that it was high time to implement a number of new link-evaluation filters designed to separate the good from the bad. This idea has been the subject of a few recent articles and is backed up by several sections of the 63-point patent document.

To recap the central theme of the patent document, Google compiles document profiles based on the historic data of several elements relating to every URL in its index. The historic data included in that profile plays a determining factor in various scores, or points Google assigns documents when generating keyword driven search results. It is therefore easy to extrapolate the concept that the recent update is based on historic data in regards to links."
We doubt if they are going to be deliberately devaluing blog alliances like Homespun, as that kind of thing is legit. Of course, devaluation of blog alliance/blogroll links could be occurring as a side effect. Few people really know what's going on, and those that know are not about to talk. However, if you are cross-linking with a site that's nothing but links, the value that site contributes to your "page rank" may be heading south. Could it drop below zero, and actually hurt your rank? Maybe.

Does this kind of thing even matter for those of us trying to attract a few readers here in the blogosphere? Our opinion is that it does matter, in that it will bring people to your site who are looking for something you wrote about. They may like what you have written. While there, they may read more. You have to write good, useful, fun, interesting stuff to get any visitors to return. One thing is certain, though: if they never hit your blog the first time, they'll never return.

There is more in the linked article, but no definitive answers, of course.

Linguistic Profile

We just took this test at Blogthings - Your Linguistic Profile. (H/T: Swerve Left) You answer a few dialectic questions and it diagnoses your accent.

Your Linguistic Profile:

65% General American English (Tycho 70%)
10% Midwestern (Tycho 0%)
10% Upper Midwestern (Tycho 0%)
5% Dixie (Tycho 5%)
5% Yankee (Tycho 20%)
That's what we call a neutral accent, and a big reason we denizens of The Great American Desert are so highly sought after for TV, radio, and telephone sales jobs. Even 15 years in Connecticut couldn't push our Yankee above our Dixie.

UPDATE: Added Tycho's scores on the test above. His formative years in Connecticut left a lasting "Yankee" impact, and he has so far dodged the Midwestern speech patterns.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Google Knows Where You Live

We were checking out the new Google Map system (beta). Like Mapquest or Mapblast, you give it an address and it shows a map. However, Google also gives you satellite pictures of the area in incredible detail.

In this picture our house is just to the right and down from the big, red balloon. Wow. It makes you want to look out your window to see if the big, red balloon is there in the street.

So How Good Is She Really?

We must admit we bought into the conventional wisdom that holds that Hillary Clinton is a "great" politician. In the free Wall Street Journal site, Opinion Journal, blogger Jay Cost argues that reports of her greatness have been greatly exaggerated:
OpinionJournal - Extra: "It is, of course, gospel that Hillary Clinton is a political genius, or something to that effect. She is so brilliant that potential Democratic opponents are warned by pundits everywhere that she will work her secret devil arts on the poor fool who dares cross her. She is that good. Ostensibly, the only hope that humble conservatives have to keep her from being the first female president is some tawdry book by Ed Klein.

I have never understood this. Where do her political credentials come from? It seems to me that she was a great supporting player to a good (though highly overrated) politician. She played the part of the forgiving, intelligent, driven wife with great effectiveness. When she takes center stage, however, the results are quite mixed. She botched health-care reform so badly that President Clinton got absolutely nothing from a Democratic Congress. She coined the term 'vast right-wing conspiracy'--guaranteeing that conservatives everywhere would curse her existence until the end of time. She did win that New York Senate seat, but that, to my mind, was pretty unimpressive. She beat latecomer Rick Lazio, who was not a formidable candidate, to say the least (the word 'sophomoric' comes to mind).

If her political accomplishments are unimpressive, why is she so feared? Why is she seen to be a political genius? The answer to this question eluded me for a long time, perhaps because it is so simple. The plain fact is that Hillary Clinton is actually one of the worst politicians in national politics today. She is feared as a brilliant politician only because she is such an obvious politician, which is actually the key mark of a bad politician."
Cost notes that all politicians must be somewhat calculating to be successful, but the best politicians do it so well you hardly notice. Hilary's positioning for the 2008 presidential race and her "move to the center" have been done with such finesse, skill, tact, and subtlety that practically no one noticed. Er, at least almost no one who has been in a coma for the past 6 years has noticed.

In fact everyone knows what she is doing and why. She comes across as cold, calculating and ruthless [Why would that be?], which is the opposite of how a truly good politician appears.

None of this means she won't be nominated or that she can't win, although it does suggest she's got a long row to hoe to get back to the Whitehouse.

Read the rest of Jay Cost's article.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Legal Aspects of the Schiavo Case

Tom at MuD & PHuD has an interesting post in this week's Best of Homespun about the legal wranglings in the Schiavo case. Before continuing, go read that one.

In a followup today Tom responds to a comment left by on the first post. This is the point of discussion in Tom's first post:
The second inaccuracy involved with the polling is the question as to whether or not the government should step in to counteract the courts' decisions and save her life. Does anyone see the problem there? How about the fact that our government (state and federal) is composed of three (count 'em, three) branches. Those would be (in the order in which they are found in the US Constitution): the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial. So, the government was involved in this case way, way before you or I had ever heard of it, let alone before the US Congress stepped in. So why should the Congress, President or even the Governor not have the power to impose a check (or even a balance) on the Judicial branch? As a matter of fact, they have every right to do exactly that (see point 3a).
To which the commenter, dopderbeck, responded:
I share a few of your sentiments, but you have it wrong about Congress and the courts. Nothing in the Constitution suggests that Congress can overrule the factual findings of a state court. That's the role of the state appellate courts, which, not incidentally, affirmed the trial court's ruling in this case. If legislatures or executives could reverse any judicial order, the courts would be rendered powerless, and there would be no hope of objective justice. In that event, Whoever had the money and power to influence the legislature and/or executive would always win in court, and the average citizen would have not hope of justice against the powerful. Even worse, if Congress could overrule state trial courts, state governmental authority would wither away. Do you really want Washington telling the local judge in your county how it should decide your auto accident case?

There's lots to question in the Schiavo case, but the trial court's authority isn't one of them, and Congress was out of line when it tried to step in.
The question of state vs federal authority on this issue has caused many "players" to switch sides from their usual position in the debate. The federal courts do (rightly) generally leave the interpretation of state laws up to state courts. However, this general rule is routinely violated in death penalty cases, of course, and civil rights/due process grounds are often used by liberals to federalize a state case. Sometimes this is even justified, e.g. desegregation of the Old South.

So dopderbeck's basic argument is reasonable, although he takes it to rather absurd lengths in worrying about "If legislatures or executives could reverse [...] how it should decide your auto accident case?" This is just silly. For one thing, our problem today is more the judiciary writing its own laws and ignoring the other two branches, rather than getting crushed by the overzealous excecutive and legislature.

Federalizing a state issue should not be done lightly, and arguably is already done too much. Despite the outcry against a special law for this one case, we think that was the best course here. Because it was narrowly tailored to the particular situation, one case did not result in a general bad law (at least not from the legislature and executive).

However, we think Tom's general point is correct and that the legislative and executive branches most certainly do have the power to reign in runaway judges. This power extends not only to the appoint and impeachment process, but also to changing the laws. This is the reason that Hamilton called the judicial branch the weakest of the three. Today, many seem to believe that whatever a judge says is sacrosanct. A few, unelected judges can tell the other two branches of government, who do face voters, to "shove off."

The degree of judicial overreaching in this case is staggering. See this article on by Jan M. LaRue to see just how bad it is. Un-freaking-believeable.

Moving Tom's point back to the state level, it seems to us that the Florida legislature and Florida executive branch do properly have the power to overrule a Florida judge in a matter of state law by passing a new law. How could they not have that power, provided the law itself is not unconstitutional (state or federal)? We are supposed to be a nation ruled by laws and representative government, not by judges redefining the law as they go according to their whims.

Disclaimer: We are not a lawyer, nor do we play one on TV.

TFS Magnum: How much does the MSM just make up?

We can't find a link to it, but last week Laura Ingraham reported on her radio show that the AP published an account of John Bolton's "grilling" by Democrats on the committee. Nothing unusual there, except that the story went up at the same time as the hearings began. In other words, the AP "news service" was getting into some fortune-telling on the side.

Evidently, this is not at all uncommon, as Zendo Deb cites two more recent incidents:
TFS Magnum: How much does the MSM just make up?: "The first story comes to us via Posse Incitatius, and actually happened April 3, or so, when we were all busy with other media stories. Mitch Albom wrote a column for the Detroit Free Press. Nothing surprising here, but he wrote the column on Friday describing things that happened on Saturday for the Sunday paper. Except they didn't happen. Albom wrote about a meeting of 2 ex-college basketball stars, and although he did talk to them to get quotes, he describes a meeting - in much detail - that never took place. They intended to meet, but were in the end unable to do so. The piece reported in the Detroit Free Press was fiction.

Via Emperor Darth Misha we find the story of a Boston Globe 'reporter' also writing fiction. In this case we are treated to a description of the yearly baby harp seal hunt in Canada this past Tuesday. The only problem is the hunt did not start on Tuesday, it started on Friday - delayed due to weather. Furthermore, Barbara Stewart, the 'reporter' (aspiring novelist, no doubt), gave first-hand details of an event that didn't take place in Nova Scotia, when she herself was anywhere but the frigid north."
Of course it's faster and less costly to "get the scoop" when you are scooping manure.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Tonight's TV News

The local news on our CBS affiliate tonight closed with the story of a cat being rescued from a tree. We are not making this up. Lincoln is a city of over 225,000, but still a small town at heart.

We Take It for Granted...

A peaceful transfer of power after an election is just expected for us. As bitter as the last two presidential elections were, no one but the crazies ever expected that Clinton or Bush would refuse to step down when the people had spoken. After all, that's what always happens.

Sadly, this is not the way it works in much of the world. Mahmood of Bahrain reminds us of just how special the Iraqi election is in the Middle East:
Mahmood's Den :: Moving goal posts...: "One of my favourite bloggers, Benkerishan [arabic] touched upon a point that amply demonstrates how the goal posts have shifted with the result of the Iraqi elections: the incumbant president became a vice president, and no blood flowed in the process!

I agree with Benkerishan, this is unbelievable in 'our' democracies: he argues that Al-Yawer should have killed all of his opponents or at least discredited them, put his tribesemen in positions of power so that they encircle and protect him, start steeling left right and centre, and citizens be damned. It is the Arab way which has been inherited for one and a half thousand years.

Therefore, I am immensely pleaseed to have lived long enough to witness such an event in my own lifetime, and I wish my Iraqi brothers and sisters the best of luck... they are leading the way to what we only hope to have a taste of: real democracy."
Anybody think this might change some things in the region?

Fun with Machine Translation

Effortless translation from one language to another has long been a dream of humanity (and perhaps dolphins). Douglas Adams, in a parody of the world of scifi where aliens everywhere speak English, devised the babelfish. A live babelfish in your ear would live there, happily translating everything into your language for you. Altavista's machine translation service is named for the babelfish.

We have now added links to each post that will provide Google's machine translations for the corresponding post pages. Conceivably, this may be of some use to some readers, but the primary motivation is fun.

Artificial Intelligence is often the same as Natural Stupidity, and machine translations prove this epigram. The translations are amazing, both in their successes and their failures. For example the link translation of the previous post about Nebraska football:
Ne me laissez pas Vous arrêter: Le Football Du Nébraska: "Ici dans le grand désert américain l'université de l'équipe du football du Nébraska inspire un fervor rarement approché par la plupart des religions. Hier était les rites annuels du ressort -- le scrimmage d'intrasquad: : 's'avère, tailleur de Zac [ nouveau quarterback ] paumes en sueur eues samedi avant le jeu Rouge-Blanc du ressort du Nébraska. Évidemment, 63.416 spectateurs typiquement ne s'occupent pas des jeux de ressort au comté de maître d'hôtel (Kan.) Université de la Communauté, l'ancienne école du tailleur.'
Oui, c'est 63.000 spectateurs pour un scrimmage.

L'étoile de journal de Lincoln a choisi Aaron Pieper, un ancien joueur 'd'équipe du scout' 33-yr-old en tant que son 'directeur sportif de NU pendant un jour.' Apparemment Pieper a suivi l'Annonce courante, Steve Pederson, autour pendant un jour pour qu'une histoire soit éditée mardi."
In a lot of ways this is really not bad, and it could help someone with some English and/or knowledge of the subject make a stab at understanding what is being said. At the same time parts of it are unintentionally humorous:
  • It refers to "the university of the football team of Nebraska." Some might find this strangely appropriate.
  • It misses the word "fervor" completely, even though there is a French cognate, "ferveur."
  • "Spring" is not translated as the season ("printemps"), but as a spring as in a bed or a car suspension. It gets the right kind of "palms" though.
  • Quarterback Zac Taylor becomes "the tailor of Zac." Similarly, "Ron White" in the sidebar list becomes "the white of Ron."
  • It thinks Butler County has something to do with the "maitre d'hotel" at the former school of "the tailor"
  • The Lincoln Journal Star becomes "the star of the newspaper of Lincoln."
  • Although it doesn't try to translate "NU," it really wants the "AD" to be a classified ad ("l'annonce courante").
The results from Babelfish are similar, but not exactly the same. The machine still misses "spring" and gets "palm" right. Babelfish also gets "fervor" right, but it thinks "don't" is a noun. The "quarterback" gets translated as "stratège," which might be correct. Babelfish doesn't really improve on any of the other oddities, and adds it's own bizarre twist: "The newspaper of Lincoln takes the starring role in chosing Aaron Pieper..."

One thing is certain: you shouldn't rely on machine translation for anything important. All in all Google did a bit better on this test than Babelfish, but your mileage may vary. Using both may give you a better chance to catch an error, but agreement is no assurance that a particular translation is correct.

Nebraska Football

Here in The Great American Desert the University of Nebraska football team inspires a fervor seldom approached by most religions. Yesterday was the annual rites of the spring -- the intrasquad scrimmage: "Turns out, Zac Taylor [new quarterback] had sweaty palms Saturday before Nebraska's Red-White Spring Game. Evidently, 63,416 spectators typically don't attend spring games at Butler County (Kan.) Community College, Taylor's former school."
Yes, that's 63,000 spectators for a scrimmage.

The Lincoln Journal Star chose Aaron Pieper, a 33-yr-old former "scout team" player as its "NU Athletic Director for a Day." Apparently Pieper followed current AD, Steve Pederson, around for a day for a story to be published Tuesday.

Our question: Can we keep Pieper?

Warning: Poster Crossing

It's possible that some "non-Abe" posts will occur on this blog. Tycho's new X-Box is still his first love, but he has spent a few waking minutes lately in which he was neither playing, nor thinking about playing Halo. We have also added The Voice of Modulation, a longtime lurker, to the approved poster list. Consequently, there is a risk of VoM posts in the event he decides to stop lurking.