Saturday, April 19, 2008

More like this please!

The Destroyermen is going on hiatus. I'm glad to see that there was a blog like this to hiatus from. It's the XO of an actual US navy destroyer who takes amazing photos. I do hope he gets back to blogging sometime soon. I also hope that more military units will start semi-official blogs like this sometime soon. Every bit of information that can be released to the public without compromising opsec should be, and that's a pretty substantial number of bits. Check out the archives. I particularly liked the pictures of the ships going into Singapore.

Update: They're back!! This is the coolest military blog I've yet found. I hope we get more like these from all the branches. Troops blogging on their own are cool, but officers blogging with their real names and ranks up above each post adds a much needed perspective. We need a good infantry batallion XO blog someday soon.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blogging news

Okay, I've been reading blogs since a time when many of my friends didn't know what they were. That wasn't very long ago. Now, I read in bits that there's a Nielsen online and that they are rating blogs now. Both these things are interesting news. Even more interesting is that, of the top ten most widely read weblogs in America, only one name is familiar to me.

I've also never heard of bebo. According to this post it's the social networking site that dominates in the UK. The interesting thing about that is, one might expect that without the language barrier, the established networking sites like myspace or facebook would have taken the UK market, but they haven't. It seems like old-style word of mouth may be a big part of how those networks grow. Now that I think of it, my own entry into each of the networking sites I have a profile on (Friendster, myspace, and facebook) was prompted in each case by someone either telling me about it face to face or by an email from someone physically not far from me. LinkedIn is the exception. I have a profile there, which I haven't touched in probably over a year. That seemed like a really good idea, but I don't know if it will amount to anything or not.

But it's interesting how in the online world language barriers are not the only substantial cultural boundaries.

If a particular website can dominate its market in the US, while another one holds on to its share of the UK market, it seems to follow that a site could hold a market share that matters in terms of dollars in just one region of the US against a competitor that holds the rest. I read an article about Elvis that talked about how there were such a thing as regional hits back in the 50's and early 60's but the music market had become a national thing and those were history. Could the web bring that back?

Owning stuff

Basically, I'm against it. I used to collect books, but moving on a limited budget made me aware of the cost of keeping heavy, dust-collecting things around.

The value of keeping a bookshelf full of the things that have meant something to you is now better available in Facebook applications and blogs. So there is no reason to have books around once I'm done reading them. Ditto for DVDs and CDs.

Once I tried reading books on my Dell Axim handheld computer with its little 3 inch screen, I found the experience better than printed books in every way, unless illustrations were involved. If everything I wanted to read was available in that format, I would have switched entirely over. But most of what's really good to read was published before Ebooks and is available much cheaper at used bookstores. That will continue to be the case for some time. But eventually, I won't have to deal with printed books at all and I'll be happy.

I found this interesting quote on the NY Times tech blog Bits, which I keep in my Google Reader.
Until now, Apple has scoffed at the idea of music subscriptions. Steve Jobs, its chief executive, has said that people want to own, not rent music. The company declined to comment.
Steve Jobs is right about most things, but this is surprisingly wrong. Everybody I know who has tried Rhapsody loves it. I think as more people try renting music, they'll look back and laugh at the time they wanted to own it.

The downside of Rhapsody is you can only listen to it on a computer with broadband. But a portable device that can do what rhapsody does would be ideal. I know such devices exist now, but they don't do anything else. If the iphone had that capability, I would want one even more than I already do.

But the main point is, read bits. Because, in the words of Samuel Faber, "Knowledge is good".

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Faster please!

The Google blog is talking about a project to build a new high-bandwidth subsea cable system linking the U.S. and Japan. This would have been real handy when I was trying to look up example sentences on ALC

Keep at it

ROK Drop has more on Okinawa crime stats and US military crime stats. I'm so glad to see him still on that. The completely off-base idea of US troops as criminals and thugs which prevails in Japan and South Korea needs to be flogged mercilessly and deported back to North Korea where it belongs. The American media isn't going to do that for us since that would require that they be biased in favor of the truth rather than seeking balance between the agendas being fed to them, which is easier. GI Korea assures me that the US State department and USFK have consistently done the right thing and issued press releases protesting the unfair treatment of our troops in Korean and Japanese newspapers, but that these releases have been consistently ignored.

One nitpick: he describes the crime rates as "out of control" when they were double that of the local population. To double a crime rate that's reasonably low to begin with--while rightly unacceptable to a commander in charge of the unit--isn't really an "out of control" rate of crime.

I haven't looked at that graphic yet, but I noticed on the data table from Okinawa prefecture's website that the year that SOFA personnel crime rate finally dipped below that of the local population and then stayed there, was around 1974, two years after the draft ended. There's probably a connection there.

I also agree with ROK drop that restricting troops to the base is a good response to the smears of anti-American protest groups. I sure would have hated it when I was in Korea, and I feel for troops on Okinawa who are imprisoned by the policy, but it sends a clear message to those who do business with the military. You can sit silently and not speak out against your country's media when they smear us, but you can't count on our business with that attitude.

Update: ROK Drop has posted the mother of all GI crime in Korea posts. He even has footnotes. If the State Department or any of the commands in Asia who are actually professionally responsible for doing this kind of thing have done as well at publicizing this issue, I would like to see the link. ROK Drop showed me one link concerning the armored vehicle incident, but I can't think of a good reason why all of this information is not easily accessible by a search of the State Department website. There might be a relatively innocuous reason, but it's very hard for me to imagine a good one.

On an unrelated note, nothing is accessible at all from the main page of the USFK official site. They could have called for volunteers from the special-ed class of the Yongsan post elementary school and gotten a better job done on it. I'm sure that at least one in 10 brand new recruits could code some functional HTML, if the special-ed students were too busy. I hope they didn't pay too much for the design.

Another Update: More on the Okinawa post restriction.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Anti-gun bigotry

Dan Savage says that a Spokane shopping mall doesn't have the right to express sympathy for the victims of the Northern Illinois shooting, because they are part of the gun culture. It's less asinine than Jerry Fallwell blaming 9/11 on American gays, but only slightly less. The anti-gun bigotry that runs rampant in places like Seattle and Chicago prevents people like Dan Savage from ever addressing the fact that Chicago and DC and most of the American cities where the gun culture is not tolerated have more murders, not less than places with legal concealed carry (like Seattle). I called him on that in the comments.

The other thing that's offensive about that post is the way it's a perfect mirror image reflection of this letter that Schmader responded to. Savage's post, and this retarded letter-writer's anti-city screed both come from the premise that we can blame all our problems on the immoral culture of those other people.

The letter-writer calls for a ban on naked statues and blames all of us drug-using sodomite Satan-worshipers in the city for complicity in child rape. Savage calls for every one in the gun culture to take a share of the blame for the murders committed by this nutjob.

Sorry Dan, most of us in the gun culture weren't raised Catholic. We don't go through life looking for shares of unearned guilt to flog ourselves for.

And you're more a part of the gun culture than I am. You went to a pistol range--in Texas of all places--much more recently than the last time I fired a weapon which was 97. You wrote a book about it. I know with your Catholic moral masochism you can't wait to say "yes I am partly to blame as part of the gun culture. Somebody assign me some penance and make it hurt! Check out my new hairshirt! It's extra abrasive!" That same kind of bullshit runs rampant in my own lapsed Catholic family. I won't be a bit surprised if that's in the comments somewhere if I go back to that post in a day or two.

Your book also said something about tolerating other people's preferred sins, but I guess that doesn't apply when there's evidence-free claims connecting other lifestyles to some sort of crime or social ill, or when those other people are on the wrong side of the mountains.

For intelligent and informed commentary on the shooting, coming from a "real city", Second City Cop responds to the anti-gun nuts and provides a bunch of the back story on the case, and more worthwhile comments , here, and here

Update: Oh man! Second City Cop has nailed this issue again.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The fruits of appeasement

The appeasement of North Korea and other states like it by the relatively free countries living under constant attack by them has a long and disgraceful history. One Free Korea sums up the latest chapter. 22 people tried to escape and were sent back to their deaths in North Korea in the name of "peace" and "sunshine".

If you look at the ROK Drop post on the subject, you can see me in the comments hoping it wouldn't turn out this way and offering hypothetical other ways it might be.

This is probably the worst betrayal of defectors yet. The other similar stories I've heard, Simas Kirdirka, and Miroslav Medved, both end with the victims alive.

The Seattle Housing Market

The market which supposedly tanked in 07 has, according to numbers reported in The Seattle Times stayed pricey. King county single-family home prices went up 7.1% and condos in King County climed 12.4%. It's interesting just how eager people are to jump on doom and gloom. Of course, you could see doom and gloom in the rising prices too if you wanted, but according to the slog post the local housing market "tanked" in 07. The news seems to be that Seattle is still a very popular place to buy real-estate in and to poop on.

Hat tip for the numbers to Seattle Condo Review

Update I recently talked to an investment banker who told me that: (A) The Seattle area is the number 1 strongest housing market in the country. (B) It's guarantied to at the very least plateau this year and probably dip a bit. Assuming he's right and I've correctly reported our conversation my original point about Dominic Holden prematurely blowing his doom and gloom load still stands.

Good TV

For the past 5 years or so, TV shows on Netflix have been my favorite entertainment. I have just in the past week or so, nearly run out of shows that I'm seriously looking forward to the next disc of. The only one left is the last season of Veronica Mars. The more intense school gets, the less time I have to spend experimenting with shows that might completely suck, but the more I need good shows.

List of the Day has put out a list of the best wrongfully canceled shows. They have Kitchen Confidential and Sports Night, so I have reason to believe that the rest of this list may be worthwhile. So, I'm making it my new Netflix queue.

Okinawa crime stats

ROK Drop has done some research that has needed doing for some time. He also says some things that the United States should have been officially saying for decades.

The US State Department should be answering the Japanese and Korean news media with statistics like these and aggressively defending the reputations of our troops. The people in Okinawa and Korea can't really be blamed for the way they think of the US military when our people aren't broadcasting these kinds of answers to their media.

Here's the money quote "..This means that SOFA status personnel make up 4% of the Okinawan population but only committed 1.3% of the crime in 2001."

He got those numbers from the official Okinawa prefecture website. I've never yet heard those numbers mentioned in any news reports about crimes committed by marines in Okinawa, yet there they are. It's interesting that they are provided by Okinawa prefecture. Every news report I hear or read about a crime committed there gives the impression that most Okinawans view the US marines as the worst criminals in their community. I know I've heard basically those exact words from people who grew up there. And yet, Okinawa prefecture has done more for the reputations of our service members than any US news outlet or branch of the US govt. that I know of.

What does it say about the American news media that they will go less distance for the reputations of our troops than a Japanese prefecture will? What does it say about the State Department?

If I'm wrong, and if US State Department officials and military spokespeople have been aggressively waving these numbers around as they should then I owe them an apology. If, on the other hand, they've let these numbers sit there in the face of each criminal incident, they need to be fired.

Update ROK Drop posted the answer to my question and it does look like USFK said exactly the right things after the car accident in Korea. I hope releases like this are coming out regularly in response to the protests that happen there. And my apology to all military spokespeople and the state department is tentatively offered. GI Korea assures me that these releases have consistently come out of USFK and the fault for consistently ignoring them lies with the US and Korean news media.

USFK Press Release

Thursday, January 31, 2008

He gives good headline

I don't condone communism in any way, but if it weren't for Charles Mudede I wouldn't get news like this. And for that, and all the amusing contact highs I've gotten reading his lunatic ravings, I owe that guy a drink or two.