Very interesting dispatch from the front lines of the now-mostly-over battle of Fallujah.

Lots of explodey fun:
Although American forces had not been into the city since April, we had been collecting intelligence on the city for months through unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's), human intelligence, and Special Forces. So we knew exactly where they stored their weapons and where they held meetings, and so on all of these attacks from the air were precise and very effective in reducing the enemies ability to fight us before the battle even started. With each attack, secondary explosions of weapons/ammo blowing up were heard. The Coalition also threw the enemy a curveball by destroying all the vehicles that had been parked in the same location for more than 3 days---the enemy planned to use these as car bombs when we attacked. Again, almost every single vehicle the air assets attacked had huge secondary explosions.

Plus a drugged-up terrorist militia:
They also found unbelievable amounts of drugs, mostly heroin, speed, and cocaine. It turns out, the enemy drugged themselves up to give them the courage" and stupidity to stay and fight.

More proof that the killing-a-wounded-fighter incident was a non-issue:
The enemy tried to fight us in "the city of mosques" as dirty as they could. They fired from the steeples of the mosques and the mosques themselves. They faked being hurt and them threw grenades at soldiers when they approached to give medical treatment. They waived surrender flags, only to shoot at our forces 20 seconds later when they approached to accept their surrender.

And an intelligence bonanza:
The intelligence value alone is already paying huge dividends. Some of the 900 detainees are telling everything they know about other insurgents. And the enemy never expected such a large or powerful attack and they were so overwhelmed that they left behind all kinds of things, including books with names of other foreign fighters, where their money and weapons come from, etc.

Good work.

Via Instapundit.

"I'm so full of ideas, and here is a good one"

The quote is by Stereolab. Since I'm considering what may be a new business model, I figured I might as well unload my previous Big Idea, from a few years ago. Maybe it's blogging that makes me feel willing to give out potentially valuable information to the world, free of charge. Actually, I'm curious to hear people's feedback.

The idea is: why not have prices fluctuate in fast-food restaurants over the course of the day? You walk into some fast-food chain, and the menus above the counter are all on computer screens. The prices change on the display every half-hour, or hour or so. They adjust themselves as a function of the number of customers in the store, the number of staff around, the amount of ingredients purchased at the beginning of that day, etc. Basically the price moves around like it would in a frictionless market economy, as a function of supply and demand.

This dynamic pricing solves a number of issues:

Logistically, you'd just have to make sure to give someone a receipt once they ordered, so they'd pay exactly the amount that they saw as they were ordering. That way they wouldn't get stiffed if prices rose while their order was being prepared.

So there it is. Dynamic pricing's been done by Priceline and others for online ordering of airline reservations and the like, and EasyEverything does it with internet access (if you've never been to one of these places, the amount of time one dollar gets you fluctuates based on the current occupancy). "Congestion pricing" has also been done for toll fares on busy highways, and electricity charges. But nobody's done it with food service, as far as I know. A fast food restaurant seems like a good venue because there's high traffic and no printed menus.

So, readers, what is the flaw in this plan? I have my own opinions, of course. Note that a perfectly acceptable answer is, "no, Yaron, there is nothing wrong with this business model; here is lots of money so you can implement your reasonable-sounding, nay genius idea."


In someone else's door

I'm back in New York, finally; it was a really good weekend.

On Wednesday night I ran into a girl I used to date, at Great Lakes, a bar in Park Slope, which was actually where I had originally met her. She was out with a friend of hers, but friend left after an hour or so. I last saw her about 8 months ago; I had wondered about her, and wondered whether she was upset with me, because things had ended kind of badly before, but, ah, I guess not. Am I coasting on the successes of me circa a year ago? Perhaps I am.

Thursday morning I went back home, and that evening we had Thanksgiving dinner and gave thanks for the bounties of this beautiful country. I enjoyed Tofurky, plus a tofu pumpkin pie I helped make that everyone complimented, even before they found it was a non-dairy fraud.

On Friday I hung out with this Israeli guy I knew through friends of my parents. We went out to some local bars that he basically introduced me to, because I really know nothing about Amherst night life, and we met up with another Israeli friend of his, a guy who just finished doing his service as a sniper in the Israeli army. He reminded me of one of those Israeli playboys you see in New York a lot and he seemed to know more people than I did in Amherst, after having been there I think less than two months. He dropped that he's third cousins with Howard Lutnick, the CEO of embattled Cantor Fitzgerald, and he described meeting up with him and "a room full of multi-millionaires" in New York and amazing them with his army stories.

Later, at another bar, we ran into some guys from my high school class, which was nice. Actually I ran into people from my high school all weekend long, including on the train ride back.


Hey no

I'm checking out my roommate's issue of Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" issue (very poorly defined, by the way - in the fine print they say it's just rock & roll songs, but then the list include hip-hop and country too). It's about as pretentious as you'd expect from the self-congratulatory people at Rolling Stone, and many of these songs by any objective standard really deserve to be in a "500 worst songs" list, like The Eagles' "Hotel California" (no. 49), a ski-lodge song if I've ever heard one.

Anyway, Outkast's "Hey Ya!" at number 180 (I can't quibble with that listing) they refer to as having a "bizarre 11/4 time signature". Okay, the song's in 4/4. It's a little complicated: each phrase in the song is three measures of 4/4, then one of 2/4, then two of 4/4. That's 22 beats altogether. So yes, I guess you could divide that by two and come up with 11 and be done with it, but that just doesn't make any sense. It's a 4/4 song.

There seems to be a pattern in music-appreciation magazines that whenever they delve even the slightest into actual music theory they get it wrong.

Maybe I should have titled this post "things that make Yaron upset that no one else cares about."



Frederick J. Chiaventone in the New York Post says the battle of Fallujah is over we've won: "For all practical purposes, according to one officer, the "back has been broken" of the terrorists who called Fallujah their headquarters. What remains are smoking ruins, wary, battle-hardened Marines and dead terrorists."

Various pieces of evidence from the last few weeks point to a coup being engineered in North Korea, by their former best friend China. Fantastic if true.

I was going to include a link here to a graphic before-and-after photo of Ukraine's embattled pro-reform candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who was poisoned by rivals, but I decided it was too disturbing. Let me know if you want to see it. Anyway, good luck to this poor man: he's now trying to declare himself President, though the vote (probably rigged) went for the other guy.

Check out The Subway Chronicles, tales of life and love and the New York City subway system. The current featured essay, by our very own Ken Wheaton, is a story of heartbreak amid a fundraising pitch.

Smurfette Lisa has a nice, timely post on faith: "I really can't commit myself to believing that God intended us to be divided into our own groups."


Wiki does it again

Today I discovered Wikisource, through OxBlog. It looks like it's been around for about a year, so maybe everyone else knows about it already. It was created by the same people behind Wikipedia, and it's meant to be a repository for every written work in the public domain, all entered and edited by volunteers. I guess Project Gutenberg already has most of the books (including plays and religious texts) that Wikisource has, but Wikisource is formatted better and has links to individual chapters, plus translations into many languages, and also has a whole bunch of political speeches, random scientific texts, source code and various other things. Here's the first 20,000 prime numbers, and The Wealth of Nations.

It's an unbelievable lode of information. I wonder what uses people will make of it.


End them, don't mend them

A reader asks for my opinion on corporate farm subsidies. Anyone who reads this site probably knows that I'm a down-the-line economic libertarian; thus I'm strongly against farm subsidies, like all other corporate welfare. It's a huge amount, around $17 billion dollars a year. The money is always billed as helping out small farmers, though actually 90% of it goes to huge companies; to me, though, that's irrelevant: any goverment dollar spent to aid a certain type of business over others leads to misallocated priorities, decreases our global competitiveness over the long term, and unfairly penalizes taxpayers. Whether it's Farmer Joe or Big Grain that cashes the check doesn't really matter to me.

There are other costs besides financial ones: corn subsidies, which have made the price of corn unnaturally cheap, leads to the ubiquitous corn syrup in our packaged food, a recent innovation that may be linked to the current rise in obesity. It's certainly unhealthy for the cattle who are fed it, again because of its low price: their bodies can't handle corn, they become sick and have to be pumped full of antibiotics for the entirety of their miserable lives.

Hmm... so I guess you could say I'm against farm subsidies.

Unfortunately I can't see an end to them anytime soon. Lots of people agree they're a bad idea, but I can't think of a single major political figure in either party who's willing to come out against them. President Bush signed a massive increase into law, true, but John Kerry voted for the bill, and during the campaign Kerry attacked President Bush for not supporting subsidies for milk farmers (unfortunately for us, it was a false attack).


Karol has a post about Jude Law and his possible appeal, which compels me to stick in my 2 cents. He's good looking, he's charismatic, yet his movies have done only mediocrely. What's the problem?

I turn back to something I learned in a film class, which is that James Dean was beaten up in all three movies he appeared in; a conscious decision on his and the filmmakers' part. Audiences just wouldn't have gone for a good-looking character who coasted through life without getting hurt. James Dean became a legend as a result of those three movies. Meanwhile, Jude Law makes movies in which he's well-dressed and cruises around nonchalantly on a motorcycle or in a fighter jet.

Brad Pitt gets it, or at least he used to: he's been shot (Thelma & Louise), locked in a mental institution (Twelve Monkeys), bruised and battered (Fight Club), and had his life ruined (Seven).

Johnny Depp gets it: he was chased out by a mob in Edward Scissorhands, miserable throughout What's Eating Gilbert Grape, a failure with a speech impediment in Ed Wood, and killed in Dead Man. (At this point he's no longer really a young actor so the rules no longer apply.)

Other good-looking actors besides Jude Law, like Ben Affleck and Matthew McConaughey, don't seem to get it either, which is why I think their careers are going nowhere. It's not hard, guys: if you're a pretty-boy, men are willing to accept you and women are willing to love you, but only if they see you lying bloodied on the pavement, not just once but again and again and again.

Not that hard at all, guys. Follow the script.



Froggy Ruminations, a former Marine, on the Fallujah Marine shooting incident (via LGF).

Oxblog on a plot hole of the new Star Wars movies.

Everybody went to Camp Ramah. I went to Tel Yehudah, I didn't totally like it. Maybe I should have gone to Camp Ramah instead.

Washington State governor's race still undecided, currently at a 19-vote difference.

Armond White of the New York Press on Eminem's "Mosh".


Not grasping the "allies" concept

More sophistication from the French:
M Chirac, speaking to British journalists, including The Times, soon after General Powell’s announcement, revealed that he had urged Mr Blair to demand the relaunch of the Middle East peace process in return for backing the war.

“Well, Britain gave its support but I did not see anything in return."

I guess you can't please everyone. John Kerry called America's allies "coerced and bribed", and now Jacques Chirac attacks Tony Blair for not having been bribed.

Via Best of the Web.

Snipers adopted

I just made a donation to Adopt a Sniper, which I found via Tim Blair, which buys gear and basic supplies for Army and Marines snipers. Seems legitimate, and it's a worthy cause.

To those of you who would say that the need for private donations signifies some incompetence on the Bush administration's part, equipment shortages on the front lines have simply been a fact of life in warfare since back when Ogg ran out of rocks to throw at Thok.

(Karol also linked before to some snacks-for-soldiers programs, another worthwhile cause.)


Lost geek weekend

I spent almost literally the entire weekend at home at my computer working on a web-based application, like the hardcore nerd that I secretly am. It's an idea that I got about a month ago, but it took me a while to do some initial design work and get access to a server with PHP and MySQL on it (these are a web programming language and a database, respectively, for those of you who apparently unlike me can get a date on a Saturday night). The project involves online betting, basically. Hopefully it'll be done in a few weeks, if I can keep at this schedule.

It was a little bit frightening how easily I fell back into the incessant-programming routine; I mean, yes, I write code for a living 8 hours a day (give or take), but I thought I now treated it as an occupation, not as a lifestyle. Next I'll be walking around in a bathrobe eating Cheetos.

Dirty no more

R.I.P. ODB, a.k.a Ol' Dirty Bastard, a.k.a Dirt McGirt, a.k.a. Big Baby Jesus. A Brooklyn rapper and American original.

I missed two chances to see him, the second one just last Friday. And now I never will, which is too bad.

"I come with that ol' loco
style from my vocal
Couldn't peep it with a pair of bifocals"

(from Wu-Tang Clan, "Shame on a N***a")


Nightingales are strung along the sideway in my mind; one and one is nine, the moon, the June moths and the quiet. I have never really been here, if I am alive; am I just a photograph inside a printed line? How much further can we drive, and how much can I say? Am I just a monograph inside a printed shade?

The Clientele, "I Had To Say This"


Friday fun link

Giant blue screen of death this morning, at Port Authority near Times Square. (Via Kottke.org)

I've never done a "Friday fun link" before - was that fun? I hope so.


Socialized medicine takes another blow

Jane Galt notes the death of TennCare, Tennessee's expanded-entitlements health program that she says "looked a lot like John Kerry's health care plan in many respects".

Tennessee's Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, announced yesterday that he was forced to kill it because of spiralling costs: "With no changes, TennCare could have eaten up as much as 40 percent of the state budget by 2008, according to an independent study. Right now, Tennessee spends 33.3 percent of its budget on the health plan, according to the governor's office." According to the article, he originally wanted to reform it, but lawsuits by public advocates (a breed we in New York City are well aware of) prevented him from making any changes to it.

As President Bush noted during the campaign, trying to cover everyone's health care expenses will really run up the tab in a hurry.

Arafat roundup, local edition

New Vintage links to some excellent sources, Petite Dov is reduced to profanity, Ken Wheaton finds another reason to hate Jimmy Carter, Chainik Hocker finds about three more reasons to hate the French. Also, Alarming News has a haiku contest, and if there's one thing I can't turn down, it's a haiku contest.

Dead at last

Yasser Arafat, the man who boasted that he invented airplane hijacking (it was actually the KGB), but did invent suicide bombing, died this morning in Paris.

And with that, the darkest chapter in Israel's history comes to an end, we hope.


Also, let me know if you understand the ending

If you get a chance to see "Primer" I really recommend it. It's like a science fiction movie where no one is there saying "so let me get this straight, Professor: what you're telling us is..." There's no attempt made to hold the audience's hand. There's also very little sudden action or tempers flaring to provide dramatic "high points". I thought it was excellent.

It reminded me of a 70's Russian sci-fi movie called "Solaris" (the original, not the remake last year - didn't see that one). The plots are very different but they both used natural-sounding dialogue and didn't try to explain too much, and they both managed to be credible sci-fi movies with barely any special effects.

Half is better than none

Harvard Associate Professor Alberto Abadie finds in a new study that terrorism tends to occur in dictatorships, and has no correlation to poverty, despite what the Chomskyites say. (Via Best of the Web)

I'm glad this is getting coverage, though I don't think it's complete: I wish he had factored welfare into the study. Combine lack of freedom with the corrosive power of the modern welfare state, and you get, I think, something closer to the full explanation.

The idea in brief is that a state can breed terrorism by (a) imposing severe political and economic restrictions, which prevent citizens from being able to accomplish anything meaningful with their lives, at the same time (b) funding a full-service welfare state, which removes people's innate dignity by taking from them the need to be breadwinners and provide for their family, and then (c) providing an ideology of hatred against some outside entity. Combine police state, nanny state and a scapegoat for people's troubles together and you have a recipe for a sick society, which has held up from the Palestinian Occupied Territories (the people in the "refugee camps", don't forget, make a living off of UN-sponsored handouts) to Saudi Arabia all the way back to Nazi Germany.

I read an essay on the web a while ago that explained it all in more detail, and referred to it as the "double clamp theory"; unfortunately now I can't find this essay anywhere. Really too bad. I did find this well-written piece by Mickey Kaus on the welfare/terrorism connection.

Anyway, not to overly confuse the issue: I still think democracy is the best and only solution to terrorism.


Blogroll update

I added Chainik Hocker. Another right-wing Jew living in Brooklyn: who knew? I like this site because the name reminds me of a phrase in Yiddish my dad used to yell when we were growing up. Oh, I see he has a helpful explanation here.

Also added: everybody's favorite Communist, Ivan Lenin, and The Urban Grind.

Sympathy and trust, etc.

I played "Hair" on Friday night, which went quite well, I thought. At times while everybody was running around and jumping, it felt like one of those acting nightmares: all of a sudden I'm onstage in a production of "Hair". But the music was pretty easy, I had run through it all before and I didn't make any obvious mistakes. All good, as they say.

The show has grown on me, too, on a second viewing (or quasi-viewing). The characters still come off as kind of smug and boring in the spoken parts, but the songs tell a different story: here they're jazzed-out hipsters, full of love and peace instead of just going on about how much they're full of love and peace. Here's the start of my new favorite, "Good Morning Starshine":
Good morning, starshine
The Earth says hello
You twinkle above us
We twinkle below

Good morning, starshine
You lead us along;
My love and me as we sing
Our early morning singing song


Also, I have to give props to Esther for accurately quoting "Hair" in a previous comment, though I didn't recognize it as such. And it was the right quote to use given the context. She's a maven!

During the brief all-nude section I shamelessly looked around even though we were still playing at the time. It was nice, though I wouldn't call it the most erotic experience of my life or anything. With all the naked people standing around, it sort of felt like being at the gym locker room. A co-ed locker room. With some young, good-looking women. Okay, it was nice.

Afterwards, people from the show went out to a bar, so I joined in. I chatted with a girl who said I should come see the show again. I told her I had already seen it, last week. "What'd do you think?" I told her it was good, though it was, you know, a Sunday matinee, kind of low-energy compared to this one. "How could you not have liked it? You got to see me naked," she exclaimed. "Oh, um... where were you?" "Right at the front and center!" "Oh." The only thing I could think of to say at that moment was the old joke about not recognizing her with her clothes on. She wasn't terribly impressed. Darn low lighting.


Dubya wins

Well, it's all over but the speeches. George W. Bush won a second term, this time with a clear majority (the first time a candidate's had a majority since his dad in 1988). The night was a clear victory for Republicans and a solid defeat for terrorists and other enemies of America, and France and Germany, nearly all of whom were praying for Bush to lose.

That said, I may have to rethink my powers of prediction. I called it for Bush over six months ago on this blog, which is a point of pride, but I also said Kerry couldn't get 10 states, and then, in a moment of bluster, brought that number down to 2. Kerry proved me wrong and won at least 22 states, including the whole Northeast and West Coast. Reader Dave S. called me on it, we made a wager and now he's due a crisp Jackson.

I'm no Dionne Warwick, is what I'm trying to say here.

Minimal posting here again today because I'll probably be blogging on Karol's site, who's driving back from Colorado.


One more day

Well, the elections are tomorrow, and I am glad this thing is finally coming to an end. I started this blog right in the middle of the election, and it's sort of colored everything I've written about. After this I may just go back to posting song lyrics, which by the way have been about 90% of all my favorite posts.

I hope the electorate chooses my candidate of choice, Dubya. And similarly I hope all my local voting choices win, too (probably Libertarian party down the line - a man can dream).

More so than that, I hope it's not a close election, because that would just be too painful for everyone to go through again. I don't want to have to know everything about voting patterns in Ohio counties.

More so than that, I hope there are no terror attacks tomorrow, as some people have raised the possibility of, and we can go one more day in security like the beautiful, awesome country we are.

Okay, that's enough wishes for me.

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