URLs Du Jour (7/20/2005)

Let's see … the big news of the day is Dubya's nomination of a Supreme Court justice last night, so let's look at:

  • You know the adage about the dog walking on its hind legs: not done well, but you're surprised to find it done at all. Read the inspiring story of how Laird Breyer programmed his Bayesian spam filter to play chess. This is a classic bit of technical writing in the mold of Kernighan, Plauger, Pike, et. al. as we follow Laird on his quest. OK, the result is not a very good chessplayer, but—you're surprised to find it done at all. And probably more important, just reading about his design process is a lot of fun. (Via Slashdot.)
  • We often feel we have a huge investment in our arguments, even more so when the arguments are carried out in public; so when two people debate a contentious issue, it's rare to see one persuade the other. So it's worth noting that James Glassman and Tyler Cowen debated private Social Security accounts a few months back in Reason magazine, Glassman being pro, Cowen being anti. Now, Glassman has been persuaded by Cowen's argument. The revalatory article is here. Key paragraph:

    I believe the president should focus on putting Social Security on a sound footing. The best way to do that is to adjust benefits by increasing the retirement age, cutting back payments further for those who choose to retire early and indexing the growth in benefits to the consumer price index (that is, inflation) rather than to wages. Raising payroll taxes -- or increasing the ceiling below which those taxes are collected -- should be off the table. Such a hike would have a disastrous effect on the economy.

    (Tyler Cowen's gracious comments are here.)

  • Happy 36th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Go check out Google Moon, and be sure to zoom aaaaallll the way in …

    [Update: there used to be an easter egg back in 2007. Gone in 2012.]


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:55 AM EDT

Star Trek: Insurrection

[Amazon Link] [4.5 stars] [IMDb Link]

Please note that, since I bought the first 8 "Special Collector's Editions" of Star Trek movies, I was more or less going to get this one too, no matter how bad. And the next one.

But in fact, Insurrection is a pretty good movie, taken on its own terms; I don't need major drama in a Star Trek movie, or an apocalyptic plot. Jean-Luc and his gang aren't saving the world, or even a world here, just trying to get the bad guys to leave a few hundred nice people alone, to live in their idyllic hippie commune. Unfortunately, the Federation has decided to be on the side of the bad guys, because the hippies happen to be sitting, nearly literally, on a fountain of youth.

The Enterprise crew muddles through, however, and the outcome is never really in doubt. The script has some genuinely funny and touching moments, mainly relating to the crew feeling frisky.

At times it sounds as if they're trying to Make A Tiresome Point About Today's Problems, like the old series used to do, but it's not fortunately not heavy-handed. What, the Ba'ku are supposed to be Palestinians? Or maybe Israelites, since the Son'a are planning to (more or less) "push them into the sea." American Indians? Or … hey, maybe this was a pre-emptive comment about the Supreme Court's eminent domain decision in Kelo; the hippie planet is being taken for "public use." My head hurts.


Last Modified 2012-10-26 10:56 AM EDT