Thomas Paine Rants I like to rant. This is my forum. You can follow me on twitter @thomaspaine Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:14:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 <![CDATA[Executions should be by firing squad, federal appeals court judge says]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:12:35 +0000

U.S. 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on the use of lethal injection to kill inmates as reported by the LA Times:

“Using drugs meant for individuals with medical needs to carry out executions is a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful — like something any one of us might experience in our final moments,” U.S. 9th Circuit Court Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in a dissent in the Arizona death penalty case of Joseph Rudolph Wood III.

“But executions are, in fact, brutal, savage events, and nothing the state tries to do can mask that reality. Nor should we. If we as a society want to carry out executions, we should be willing to face the fact that the state is committing a horrendous brutality on our behalf.”

To my mind your support of the death penalty should hinge on one question; how many innocent people is it ok to kill in the name of justice? For me that answer is zero but those that disagree should not be able to mask the brutality of state sanctioned murder behind the euphemism of lethal injection.

Again Judge Kozinski:

I personally think we should go to the guillotine, but shooting is probably the right way to go.

(source: The excellent Next Draft newsletter)

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<![CDATA[You’re probably using the wrong dictionary]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 23:41:08 +0000

If you value the crafting prose or the study of language then you certainly need to read this post by James Somers; since you are probably using the wrong dictionary.

But somehow for McPhee, the dictionary — the dictionary! — was the fount of fine prose, the first place he’d go to filch a phrase, to steal fire from the gods.

He then lays out some beautiful examples showing how a dictionary can not only be source of inspiration but also of nuance and character.

Notice, too, how much less certain the Webster definition seems about itself, even though it’s more complete — as if to remind you that the word came first, that the word isn’t defined by its definition here, in this humble dictionary, that definitions grasp, tentatively, at words, but that what words really are is this haze and halo of associations and evocations, a little networked cloud of uses and contexts.


Most important, it describes a word worth using: a mere six letters that have come to stand for something huge, for a complex meta-emotion with mythic roots. Such is the power of actual English.

Who is the author of this beautiful book of prose that happens to define words as well? None other than Noah Webster; a man who’s name has become synonymous with definition.

Noah Webster is not the best-known of the Founding Fathers but he has been called “the father of American scholarship and education.” There’s actually this great history of how he almost singlehandedly invented the very idea of American English, defining the native tongue of the new republic, “rescuing” it from “the clamour of pedantry” imposed by the Brits.

“[R]escuing” it from “the clamour of pedantry” imposed by the Brits. Hehe.

Mr. Somers also goes into some detailed instructions for setting up your Mac to use Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913 + 1828) but I prefer this simple installer from the Convert Webster’s github project. If you want to install it on a Kindle or Mobile device see the Appendix for details.

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<![CDATA[Buzz Aldrin’s Punch-Out]]> Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:08:24 +0000

I met Mr. Aldrin at my grandfather‘s funeral 20 years ago and he was an incredibly nice and personable fellow. I too take moon landing conspiracy theories personally1 and while I have never actually punched anyone over the matter I totally understand the desire to. Go Buzz!

  1. My grandfather and namesake was administrator of NASA when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
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<![CDATA[★ Leaked: iPhone 6 Sapphire Screen]]> Tue, 08 Jul 2014 18:32:17 +0000

I was skeptical of the rumors that the new iPhone display would be made of sapphire crystal but this part leak looks pretty authentic. Not only is the clarity amazing but wait until he tries to scratch and bend the paper thin display. Vow!

Here is another impact test where they go a bit further.

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<![CDATA[America and Iraq: Un-disentanglement]]> Mon, 16 Jun 2014 23:05:27 +0000

Great article from The Economist talking about the various options that America has to combat the rise of ISIS in Iraq.

It is much easier and less risky for America to aid the Iraqi government as part of an anti-ISIS coalition with Turkey and Iran than to do so in the guise of Iraq’s leading patron or ISIS’s archenemy. And a limited programme of military aid might be enough to ward off Republican attacks that the administration is doing nothing about ISIS; critics will be hard pressed to explain to a war-weary public why America should be doing even more to reinsert itself into Sunni-Shiite bloodshed in Iraq. This, in fact, appears to be the policy the Obama administration has selected.

Whatever policy emerges on dealing with ISIS, it’s clear that America’s long-term strategy for the Middle East has to be oriented towards letting local powers settle the geopolitical balance themselves. Iran, Turkey, and other regional players will have to take the lead in backing the Iraqi government and combating ISIS, because America lacks the expertise, the political will, and ultimately the capacity to do that job.

I couldn’t agree more with the The Economists analysis of our long-term strategy.

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<![CDATA[MIT robot augments you with two extra arms]]> Fri, 06 Jun 2014 16:22:05 +0000

Some folks over at MIT are working robotic limbs that augment, rather than replace, your existing arms. While these are crude prototypes it’s easy to imagine this tech being used in building and manufacturing. Combine it with a Siri type language interpreter and things start to get pretty serious.

“LimBot, hold this board and hand me the drill.”

“LimBot, lift me up to the next floor.”

Add some feet and this could be better than an exoskeleton.

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<![CDATA[12 Basic Principles of Animation]]> Sat, 24 May 2014 00:52:39 +0000

The illusion of life does a lovely job of laying out 12 guiding principles developed by some of the original animators at Disney in the 1930′s.

The illusion of life from cento lodigiani on Vimeo.

There is something about this that reminds me of Apple. These guys took the time to find the subtle details that add an emotional connection to animated material. I watched the video without knowing it was related to disney but seeing the little box obey these rules I was immediately reminded of old school Disney animation. None of the rules are required to make animation, but without them you end up with the Android equivalent; flat, emotionless and ultimately unsatisfying.

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<![CDATA[Memories of Steve]]> Mon, 05 May 2014 18:04:59 +0000

Don Melton recalls some of his memories of Steve.

I have no plans to watch that new movie about Steve Jobs. As I have no plans to read Walter Isaacson’s biography of him.

It’s not because I think those efforts are somehow not worthy of his memory. It’s just that I have my own recollections of the man. And I’m very jealous in guarding them. I don’t want those few and fleeting memories fractured and confused by other people’s interpretations.

Consider that a fair warning, because I’d like to recount a few of my own stories about Steve here. Not only for you, but for myself. Because maybe in the process I can remember him better.

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<![CDATA[★ A record-breaking brown dwarf: as cold as ice and just 6 lightyears away]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 21:53:16 +0000

Located in our astronomical backyard this brown dwarf star is about the size of Jupiter and is estimated to have a surface temperature between -48 to -13C. It’s the coldest brown dwarf yet discovered and will almost certainly be the subject of some very interesting research in the coming years.

While this is not the first brown dwarf we have found this close to our solar system it does make me wonder how long it will until we pay a visit to one of these foreign bodies. Perhaps even within my lifetime?

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<![CDATA[SpaceX Rocket Launch Looks Stunning From Drone’s-Eye View]]> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:05:32 +0000

Make sure you turn on HD before watching this incredible video of the SpaceX F9R rocket performing a vertical take off and landing.

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