Thursday, October 30, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

On the other hand, Charles Krauthammer takes a closer look at 'temperament.'
Who do you want answering that phone at 3 a.m.? A man who's been cramming on these issues for the last year, who's never had to make an executive decision affecting so much as a city, let alone the world? A foreign policy novice instinctively inclined to the flabbiest, most vaporous multilateralism (e.g., the Berlin Wall came down because of "a world that stands as one"), and who refers to the most deliberate act of war since Pearl Harbor as "the tragedy of 9/11," a term more appropriate for a bus accident?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Richard Dawkins's continuing (rather sad) devolution from actual scientist to advertising flak continues. As Siris writes:
I see that the Atheist Bus Campaign finally managed to get off the ground and gather together its donations. According to the the campaign website:
As Richard Dawkins says: “This campaign to put alternative slogans on London buses will make people think - and thinking is anathema to religion.”

I'm inclined to think that thinking is anathema to advertising slogans, inasmuch as they don't allow much room for things like evidence or argument; but insofar as there is a rational motivation for any sort of advertising campaign, it's not to 'make people think' but simply to establish a presence (which is all that advertising campaigns ever really do).
(Up Next: Atheist Action Figures.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ross is right. And I like Alec Baldwin lately the more I see of him.

Kissinger's mother, Paula, had died the month before, at the age of 97. She had lived in the same formerly German-Jewish community in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan for decades. Kissinger looked me in the eye and, with what I believed was genuine emotion, said, "Thank you for saying that to me." I mention this because I wonder, what did some of you people actually think would happen with Palin on SNL?

Saturday Night Live is a comedy show. It's not Meet the Press. It doesn't "ask the tough questions" or "set the agenda." It attempts, with varying degrees of success, to make people laugh. That's it. Whether they skewer and savage people in order to do so, they don't care. When you come on a show like that, you are prepared in advance to get worked over. Palin knew that. Palin came on to be a good sport. And she was. She was polite, gracious. (More so than some of the famous actors who come through there, believe me.)

However, I assume that, like Meet the Press, SNL feels an obligation to offer their special forum to any and all public figures and officials who are current. Headline making. And in SNL's case, would make for a hit show. Several people decried SNL for giving her a spot on the show. You're kidding, right? The woman is the Vice Presidential nominee of one of the two major parties in this country. Don't put her on SNL? With all of her exposure and the Tina Fey performance? What reality are you in?

If you think an appearance on Saturday Night Live would sway voters and actually affect the outcome of the election, you may have more contempt for the electorate of this country than the Republican National Committee does. And that's a lot of contempt.

A couple of weeks ago I saw him on Bill Maher's show. I was surprised, and perhaps shouldn't have been, to see him excoriate the Clintons for as much of the current financial mess as he did the GOP.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Well, they ran out of gas, but it was a great series. Indeed, baseball hasn't been this good in a long time, according to Roger Angell. Congratulations to the Rays--and good for them. Garza pitched a fantastic game.

On the other hand, there are always people with no class, no real love of baseball, who can't resist being whimpering jerks about it.

Update: Looks like the fan in question decided to pull that post down. Good for her.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Staying Alive.
"We get to keep playing and that's truly thrilling," Terry Francona said of the draining victory.
Maybe it's because by the 7th inning, I was flipping back and forth between the Sox down by seven runs, and 'Return of the Living Dead' on IFC.

Some Zombie magic must've sneaked into Fenway.

What a comeback. At least one more baseball game in October.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One of my favorite stops when we go to Montreal:
Patisserie de Gascogne. There are three in the greater Montreal area, but the largest is the shop at 237 Avenue Laurier. I'm not into sweets as a rule, but their coffee is superb, and the sandwiches excellent.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Short Fiction Dept.
It's been a couple of years since my last short story sale (to DoubleThink). And even longer since I sold a science fiction short story.

This one is called Venus Theot├│kos.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Well, as Grace Kelly once said (in To Catch a Thief), "That's Warm, Friendly France for you!"

Houellebecq, France's most controversial modern writer, was hailed as the defining voice of nihilism after his novel Atomised 10 years ago. But he now compares the chattering classes' hatred towards him to Nazism. He says his relationship with the French media is "total hatred", and a "war of extermination" is being waged against him.

He writes of a pack hunting him down and says his critics would love to drive him to suicide or stop him writing. He has no qualms about living in Ireland as a tax exile, and fears he can never again do public readings in France.

Despite trying to cut back on the habit of scouring Google for references to himself, he admits he is paranoid, adding: "If there is anyone in France right now with excuses for being paranoid, it is me."

Houellebecq also talks for the first time in detail about his parents, answering his mother, who recently published her own book calling him a "stupid little bastard".

Slightly new look to the web site and blog. In addition to an official Farrellmedia logo with which I can now brand the hell out of everything I post, I'm also shifting the delivery of all our online video segments to Brightcove's CDN and Media Player, which I think is the best thing since sliced bread.

The Video Archive page will remain firmly QuickTime based, mostly out of my sentimental attachment to Apple's media player.
Nice post by Moshe Rozali about the problems facing physicists trying to unify general relativity and quantum physics:

Alas, there are many indications (which I may get to at some stage) that quantizing the gravitational field is problematic: when going down to length scales for which the quantum mechanics of gravity is important, we simply don’t know what to do. Unfortunately, this distance scale, the Planck length, is tiny. If we are not extremely lucky, we probably cannot probe this length scale directly. Nevertheless, we have now an incomplete story, full of interesting puzzles and paradoxes, and making that story coherent is the problem of quantum gravity.

So, what can happen when we go to such short distances? in other words, what is the quantum structure underlying classical general relativity? There are exactly two possibilities:

1. The description of gravitational physics by a field theory involving the metric tensor holds all the way down to the Planck length. This is similar to what happens in QED: this field theory describes the physics accurately all the way down to distance scales for which quantum mechanics is relevant. In this case, in order to describe quantum gravitational phenomena, one has to quantize the metric tensor, something we don’t really know how to do.

2. The metric field shows some substructure already at distance scales larger than the Planck scale. That substructure is what underlies the physics of classical gravity. In order to describe physics at extremely short distance scales, such as the Planck length, one has to quantize that substructure. This is similar to nuclear physics, when we are interested in very short scales we look at the quantum mechanics of the quark and gluon fields, QCD.

That is the basic dichotomy of quantum gravity (and not background independence, as is often claimed). There are many clues, about which I will write at some point, that it is the second option that is more likely. Among those clues are the myriad of conceptual and practical problems we encounter when we try to follow the first route, and the fact that nearly 80 years of attempts have not resulted in much progress. On the other hand, after countless failed attempts, we do now have in string theory a few working examples of general relativity emerging as long distance approximation to something more fundamental, lending us confidence this is indeed the right scenario.

As a result, most researchers interested in quantum gravity (almost all of whom are labeled string theorists) have abandoned the attempt to quantize the metric tensor directly. There are still a few holdouts, who take at least some features of classical general relativity seriously all the way down to extremely short distances, I hope everyone can join me in wishing them good luck in their quest.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Talk about a guy with a Napoleon complex. Sheesh.
(Real Life: Better than any Parody.)
The Sox upend the Angels again. Here's the LA Times:
They are the Atlanta Braves for a new generation, an unhappy label not easily removed. This was their chance to stake their claim as an elite franchise, maybe their best chance, maybe the last chance before Teixeira and Francisco Rodriguez cash in this winter.

"You can't say we'll be in a position like this again," Torii Hunter said.

There was disappointment and frustration in every corner of the Angels' clubhouse, defiance and anger in some.

"We lost to a team that was not as good as we are," John Lackey said.
Actually, no. When you win 100 games in a really crappy division, you're not the better team. Lackey pitched a great game last night, and his defense let him down. That doesn't happen on the better team.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Evil of Frankenstein Scott Boras
Bill Simmons on why Manny got away:
If it did play out that way -- and I would bet anything it did -- would that explain Manny's uncharacteristic anger in June and July? I say yes. I say absolutely. Again, it's Scott Boras! The guy could convince a hemophiliac to give blood. Manny's heel turn (to borrow a wrestling term) never could have happened without an evil "manager" prodding him and poking him.26 For the life of me, I can't imagine how anyone could write a column, speak on television or give a radio interview within 72 hours of that trade without blaming Boras, as if the greediest sports agent of our lifetimes happened to be standing there idly while Manny's career in Boston imploded. You can't blame Manny just like you can't blame Lindsay Lohan for having awful parents or any Duke basketball player for turning into a whimpering crybaby.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I think we're way past what this tells us about Sarah Palin. I'm starting to worry about what it tells us about Alaska....