Politics as Usual

I somehow wound up on the GOP mailing list, and received this e-mail today:

Dear Matt,

Once again, President Obama stepped in front of the prime time TV cameras to attempt to sell the Democrats’ leftist health care scheme to legislators and anyone else who might still be paying attention.

The charm offensive isn’t working. Americans no longer feel the need to give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt.

They have seen through the hype and media adoration to understand that the Obama Democrats are determined to push their far-left agenda on our country whether the American people like it or not.

You can feel the rising mood of freedom-loving Americans across this country. Not afraid, but incensed and determined, that their government not be a menace to our
hard-earned liberty and prosperity.

They are extremely concerned that the President and his congressional allies are launching an unprecedented assault against the principles upon which America was built.

At town hall meetings, Tea Party protests, and countless other gatherings of concerned patriots, Americans are saying enough is enough. Enough taxes. Enough spending. Enough debt. Enough entitlement. And enough arrogance. Enough.

Those running the Administration and Congress have never seen this kind of public outpouring of dissent. They alone who have the right to protest. They who “know best.” They are wrong.

Our government is of the people, by the people, and for the people. Those aren’t just fancy words. They are the bedrock upon which our republic was founded. Whether power hungry officials in the White House and on Capitol Hill like it or not, they are to serve the interests of the people — not the other way around.

Well, the town halls are over, and Congress is back in session. That’s why you still need to show your support for the principled position of fiscal restraint, personal responsibility, and unfettered liberty as opposed to the Obama Democrats in Washington who are trying to force leftist “change” upon our country.

Send a personalized e-postcard, your own “Declaration of Independence,” to Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who lead the elitist, “progressive” Democrats.

Let them know enough is enough — you won’t stand idly by while they threaten our livelihoods and liberty with their outrageous Washington power grab.

And when you send your virtual postcard, I hope you will also take this opportunity to make a secure online contribution of $25, $50, $100 or whatever you can to the RNC today to help fund our efforts to recruit and support effective, principled Republican candidates who will know who they work for when they defeat the Democrats this fall and in 2010.

Let’s hold the Obama Democrats accountable for their opportunistic, selfish power grab. Please send a strong message to the Obama Democrats today

Michael Steele
Chairman, Republican National Committee

P.S. Matt, you can make the Obama Democrats in Washington know you mean business — send them an e-card today. And when you do, please take this opportunity to make a secure online contribution of $25, $50, $100 or more to the RNC to support and elect Republicans who believe in the conservative principles America was founded on. Thank you.

While I’m hardly a GOP sympathizer, I consider myself open to both sides. And their e-mail surely disappoints in that regard. Note that not a single fact about health care is mentioned, yet the plan is an “unprecedented assault against the principles upon which America was built,” and represents an “opportunistic, selfish power grab” by “Obama Democrats.” For one, why oppose the plan? It’s utterly unmentioned, and most of the reasons I’ve heard are based on baldfaced lies.

But more significantly, I think, it never once mentions the GOP plan to reform health care. During the elections, McCain was nearly as vehement as Democrats in stating that the health care system needs urgent reforms. We need to lower costs, insure more people, and improve quality. It would seem that you can’t do them all at once, except that many other nations are doing just that. And the thing that bugs me so much is that I know that some Republicans have excellent ideas, and that, if both parties worked together, we’d have the most effective, most efficient health care system in the world.

But instead, we have this crap. Name calling, baseless accusations, and outright lies. I hear that Pelosi has cooties, too.

A Helpful SEO Site

SEO has been a fairly weak area of mine in the past, so I’ve been trying to brush up on it. Some of the stuff mentioned is really obvious and repeated everywhere (don’t use Flash if you want it indexed; pay attention to keywords…), but there’s a whole industry around SEO. I just came across 55 Quick SEO Tips Even Your Mother Would Love, which, although it includes some of the banal advice, is also chock-full of useful advice. Some of what’s mentioned goes against some of what I’d intuited but makes me happy as a netizen to know: “keyword bombing,” for example, often ends up counting against you. Apparently, leaving spammy links in the comments of other sites can do harm, too. A constant supply of fresh content helps to boost relevance, it seems.

The author of that site also posits that links from .edu sites seem to be weighted pretty highly. I wish I was aware of this when I maintained three separate sites in college. Of course, many of the other points seem to suggest that blindly linking to my site for the sole purpose of boosting my ratings might not have actually done much for me. What a lot of the good guides seem to keep coming back to is that, more than anything, having content that people naturally link to is the best thing you can possibly do for SEO.

Edit: An interesting tidbit: Google apparently takes domain name ownership into account, so that a change in domain name ownership appears to wipe out any “trust” that the domain build up. This is pretty interesting to me.

Edit 2: The list got reposted as 106 Quick SEO Tips Even Mom Would Love, and it has some more interesting tips. I’m liking the unconventional wisdom: they mention that linking to other sites, for example, isn’t a bad idea. Conventional wisdom holds that you don’t want to waste “link juice” on other sites. Check out #92, which seems to suggest some creepy levels of knowledge by Google.


For a while at work, whenever we’d do any sort of update of code, we’d announce it to users. Sometimes it was ultra-minor features, and we’d just make announcements like, “We fixed a few back-end bugs that may make the site nominally faster,” just for the sake of announcing that we were doing things. But I found a curious effect: we’d fix a single line of code causing a very specific bug, and soon, people started writing in about all sorts of new problems. Some of them were bugs that we’ve known about for months, others were things that were impossible, and the rest were things that couldn’t possibly have been related to the change we made. And then others would pile on, saying things like, “They have problems like this every time they release new updates,” and whatnot. The psychology of this fascinated me, and, when we did updates that had minimal user impact, I started lobbying to make no announcement about them. And when we did that, the number of complaints about bugs dropped. People still reported actual bugs, but it put an end to the “Can’t they do an update that doesn’t break more features than it adds?” posts that blamed our updates for bugs that we didn’t introduce.

The Latin term non-sequitur seemed fitting for that phenomenon, and also for something else that I always found interesting: arguments about the politics of very personal matters. Some have argued that gay marriage out to be banned because homosexuals cannot conceive children, for example, even though no one argues that infertile heterosexual couples ought to be denied the same right, nor is it even a sane reason to ban marriage.

Here’s my latest non-sequitur. And it’s totally true, even though it makes no sense at all: since I upgraded to Snow Leopard, I’ve at least doubled the number of times I’ve entered my password incorrectly. It’s a remarkable difference, though perhaps aided by confirmation bias. But the thing is, even with confirmation bias accounted for, it really is happening way more often. But I can usually feel my fingers making the mistake, so I know it’s not a Snow Leopard bug. The only logical conclusion is that Snow Leopard is actually making me press the wrong keys. (Actually, an equally-probable conclusion is that Leopard would allow logins with the incorrect password, and now it’s actually checking it. I’m pretty sure neither of these is true, though.)

Actually, another example of the logical fallacies here is perhaps better shown by the best use of US taxpayer money ever, this diagram purportedly created by the US Department of Transportation, demonstrating that “correlation does not mean causation” by showing an eerily exact precise trend that doesn’t make any sense to have even thought about graphing.

Some Weekend Deals

I find myself surfing SlickDeals and FatWallet even when I’m not looking to buy anything… Here are some hot deals I’m aware of, for anyone else materialistic who might be in the market for any of these things:

  • Big, cheap, fast SATA laptop disk: 320GB, 7200RPM Seagate 2.5″ SATA notebook drive, 16MB cache, 3 Gbps. $69.99 with free shipping at NewEgg. Might be a welcome upgrade for my slow 5400rpm laptop drive.
  • Or, per Fatwallet, Dell has a 250GB 7200rpm disk for $40 shipped if you use the mentioned coupon code.
  • Kind of an absurd deal: 3x 16GB SDHC cards for camera buffs willing to put up with rebates. $125 before a $90 rebate, meaning you end up paying $35 for three 16GB SDHC cards. Wow.
  • Maybe you can use one of those jumbo SDHC cards in the Canon Rebel T1i with MP980 printer bundle that Costco has. $1100 before a $300 rebate, which essentially means you get the camera body and lens for $800, a very slight savings over what you’ll pay elsewhere, but with a $300 printer thrown in for free. If you can sell that printer for anywhere near its value, you’ll make out like a bandit, it seems. Besides a really nice LCD, excellent high-ISO performance (at least for its class; a D3 or 5DMkII will outperform it, but at three times the cost or more), it also brings full 1080p HD video, albeit with a crappy microphone per reviews.
  • AT&T apparently has some 8GB refurbs of the iPhone 3G for $50, though (a) you’ll still need a close-to-$100/month plan, and (b) that thread is full of arguments about whether refurbs are worth it or not, and Mormon jokes…?
  • 22″ 1680×1050 Hanns-G LCD, $139.95 at NewEgg. Based on the complaints, it does DVI and VGA, but doesn’t include a DVI cable.
  • 23″ 1920×1080 Acer LCD, $179.99 at NewEgg. I own two 1920×1080 LCDs, and would buy a third if only I had a computer that could handle another one.
  • I love my IDE/PATA/SATA-to-USB adapter, though $15 isn’t much of a savings over the $25 I paid for a different brand not on sale. If you know what it is, you’ll realize how immensely useful it can be.

Robbery Gone Wrong

This Youtube video of a jewelry store robbery gets progressively more and more entertaining.

At the beginning, I couldn’t help but chuckle as they feel compelled to smash the glass door that others had just walked right through, since the door was open since it was the middle of the day. And any time this may have saved is negated when the guy drops a bag and has to bend over and pick it up before going in. I marveled at the remarkably short time between going in and coming out, and was entertained when the guy with a baseball bat came chasing after them. And for extra hilarity, a man comes walking out with a fire extinguisher a minute later.

But then various other camera angles are shown, and it becomes apparent that the sledgehammer-wielding, motorcycle-riding bandits are actually inept criminals.

iStat Menus

As a heads-up for Mac users, iStat Menus has just released version 2.0, which adds support for Snow Leopard. It’s a free application, but immensely useful. Stuck at 2GB RAM, I find the RAM meter to be useful, and clicking it gives me an overview of memory hogs. The CPU meters, disk usage and network bandwidth graphs, as well as the temperature are all indispensable, too. It’s so handy that I paid for it.

It’s Silly Season!

Now that kids are going back to school for the year, the President thought it would be prudent to deliver a feel-good speech to kids about the value of education, in face of startling statistics about school dropouts. His plans haven’t been well-received, though. Derek Thompson, writing for The Atlantic, calls the reaction an “automated controversy,” saying “The controversy isn’t that Obama has announced something controversial, but rather than he’s announced something. Full stop.” Colorado mom Shanneen Barron says “I’m an American. They are Americans, and I don’t feel that’s OK. I feel very scared to be in this country with our leadership right now.” Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer said, “As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology,” calling the speech “an invasive abuse of power.”

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called this silly season, pointing out that Reagan and Bush Senior both gave similar, non-partisan speeches without anyone batting an eye, or even really caring at all.

In response, Fox News has released an alternate lesson plan, pointing out that the Obama children attend a $29,000/year private school and asking children to discuss topics like “What choices, if any, should other parents have about where their children go to school and about how to pay for educating their children?,”  “When elected officials pass laws should they and their staffs also be obliged to follow those same laws or should they be exempt?,” “If an elected or appointed public official breaks the law what should be done about that?,” and “What do you think about giving some students special preferences in admitting them to schools or awarding them money or prizes: what guidelines do you suggest?”

CNN includes this helpful statistic, too: “‘Ninety percent of Americans who identify with the president’s party approve of him, but 85 percent of those who belong to the opposition party disapprove,’ said Keating Holland, CNN’s polling director.” 90% of those who support the president support him, but 85% of those who oppose him oppose him. Sure, I’m taking some unjust liberties in restating her statistic, but it seems absurd either way. Perhaps the term “opposition party” is part of the problem? Why can’t we have a party that happens to have slightly more representation than the other, and a party that’s nearly as big that’s helping to keep America great, too?