Archive for the 'Peter's Page' Category


For the last six months or so, one of the first things I did upon coming into work on Sunday mornings was to check Randy Pausch’s update page. Randy Pausch, if you will remember, achieved worldwide notoriety last fall when the video of his “Last Lecture” hit the internet and the Wall Street Journal noticed. Having been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Pausch, 47, gave a lecture entitled “Really Achieving your Childhood Dreams” to an audience at Carnegie Mellon University where he taught computer science. Well this morning I selected Randy’s site from my bookmarks menu but the page was very, very slow to load. Too slow. Sure enough, when the page refreshed, it contained the news that Randy passed away Friday due to complications from his disease.

What made Pausch’s story so compelling to me wasn’t merely that he was close to my age and, like me, the father of young children, nor was it merely the fellow feeling that most of us past and present cancer patients have for one another. Rather it was his infectiously positive yet humble attitude, the geeky fierceness of his appetite for life, and his charmed and seemingly bottomless capacity for extraordinary achievement that convinced me that pancreatic cancer didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell against this man, that this time death itself had fatally (ha!) miscalculated in even daring to touch someone so fresh and so vitally creative, so… Jedi. The Force was very, very strong in this one.

But I guess at the end of the day it’s never strong enough. And of course I knew that, in that cold, data processing part of my brain, and I’m certain Pausch did too. But I’d still like to think Randy made death a little nervous, if only for a couple of years, or even a couple of minutes.

You can check out the video of his famous “last lecture,” as well as videos of his lecture on time management and his cancer activism, here.

Pausch’s Update Page documenting his cancer battle is here.

Carnegie Mellon’s obituary of Randy is here.

Unlike thousands and thousands of very lucky people, I never knew Randy Pausch in life. But like tens of millions of almost as lucky people, I will never forget him.

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It’s the Pollution, Stupid

Or more specifically it’s the soot, from our tailpipes, our industries, most of our electricity generation—and also from forest fires, volcanoes, and the wind. Black carbon soot is causing most of the loss of polar ice according to this recent piece from Scientific American. Yes, that Scientific American. The same Scientific American that seems to put global warming on it’s cover every other issue, usually including a Soviet-esque five year plan proposed by the editors. Check it out:

Belching from smokestacks, tailpipes and even forest fires, soot—or black carbon—can quickly sully any snow on which it happens to land. In the atmosphere, such aerosols can significantly cool the planet by scattering incoming radiation or helping form clouds that deflect incoming light. But on snow—even at concentrations below five parts per billion—such dark carbon triggers melting, and may be responsible for as much as 94 percent of Arctic warming.

“Impurities cause the snow to darken and absorb more sunlight,” says Charlie Zender, a climate physicist at the University of California, Irvine. “A surprisingly large temperature response is caused by a surprisingly small amount of impurities in snow in polar regions.”

What’s more, Charles Zender, the climate physicist at UC Irvine quoted in the piece, believes that this is warming we can actually do something about, and with policies far less drastically disruptive than those aimed at carbon dioxide production:

He argues that simple steps, such as fully burning fossil fuels in more efficient engines and using cleaner-burning cooking stoves, could help preserve the dwindling Arctic snow cover and ice (see video here). Even changing the timing of such soot emissions could play a role. “If you have to burn dirty fuel, you can do it in the fall or winter” when it will be buried under subsequent snowfall, Zender says. “If you can time your emissions so they have the least impact then you will not trigger these very sensitive regions to start warming by this ice albedo feedback process.”

Al Gore, call your office.

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The Next Baseless Consumer Scare

IkeYesterday our flappy-headed friends to the North fired the opening salvo in the next ridiculous consumer scare that, thanks to New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, is sure to be convulsing US consumer markets soon. The enemy this time? BPA, a.k.a. bisphenol-a, a chemical used in the production of polycarbonate, the plastic best known for it’s use in re-usable water bottles and plastic baby bottles. And of course this massive intervention is accompanied by the usual, schizophrenic “danger! danger! But there’s nothing to fear” language that’s typically heard when the government gallops in to save us from nothing:

“We’re not waiting to take action to protect our people and our environment from the long-term effects of bisphenol-a,” the environment minister, John Baird, told a news conference, where he displayed an array of baby bottles made from plastics that do not use the material. The health minister, Tony Clement, told reporters that after reviewing 150 research papers and conducting its own studies, his department concluded that children up to the age of 18 months were at the most risk from the chemical. Mr. Clement said that animal studies suggested “behavioral and neural symptoms later in life.” Potentially unsafe exposure levels are far lower for children than for adults, Mr. Clement said, and he and Mr. Baird both said that adults who use plastic containers made with the chemical were not at risk. “For the average Canadian consuming things in those products, there is no risk today,” Mr. Clement said.

Of course the ironic part of all this is that polycarbonate became the shatter-less choice for spring water and for lining steel food cans precisely due to the fact that it doesn’t impart the “plastic” taste to its contents—even over long periods of time—that other popular polymers eventually do. As far as the science goes, it’s extrapolated from the results of animal experimentation, but searching the internet I could find no mention of a single suspected case of BPA poisoning anywhere. This of course will not prevent thousands of lawsuits citing phony symptoms, but hey, it’s for the children, right? We can’t have our baby daughters becoming lesbians can we?

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And Now for Something Completely Different

I don’t know about you guys, but this pretty much sums up my feelings about the upcoming presidential election:


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Has Hillary Lost or Surrendered?

That’s the only question left after her and Barack Obama’s debate tonight, which took place about a mile and a half from my house.

I can’t believe I’m watching, in real-time, Hillary Clinton get smacked around with the campaign schtick her opponent has knicked from her own husband. The ‘92 election was Bush Sr.’s to lose until Governor Bill and his sidekick Al started talking about the people’s desire for an unspecified “change.” The “the courage to change” theme was so effective that just before that election, Bill had gotten to the point where he would use the word three or four times per sentence—just like Obama’s doing now. And Hillary is just sitting back and taking it for some inexplicable reason.

Instead, she should have a pod of campaign volunteers looking for Obama lines “plagiarizing” Bill Clinton. That would make headlines. And instead of her stupid Xerox line in tonight’s debate, she should have suggested that if Obama was going to continue to “borrow” his sound-bites, maybe Deval Patrick should be running for President.

It’s starting to look like the Vodkapundit is right:

This is the hillary Clinton who had some bloggers — including me — buying into this counterfactual nonsense that she’d prove to be “the most uncompromising wartime leader in American history?” Oh, please — she can’t even stand up to Barack Obama.

Perhaps all this time it’s not been Barack but Hillary for whom there is no “there” there.

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Goodbye Rudy Tuesday?

Cross-posted at my widdle Wiberal Capitawist Pawty bwog.

Sorry about the title, really. But it’s all up to the crackers now. Fred Thompson has left the building, leaving Rudy Giuliani the only candidate in the Republican race potentially capable of prevailing in November against either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama—or both. But Rudy may well have made a strategic error: having been the polling frontrunner for almost a year, Giuliani and his captains decided to forgo the smaller early state contests and focus on high-delegate states, beginning with Florida on January 29th. Giuliani’s people have been bivouacked there for months. The effort has kept the candidate with a double-digit lead in the Sunshine State—until now.

Enter Duverger’s law, which states that district-based plurality elections favor a two party system due to voter polarization between the frontrunner and the strongest challenger. In the contests he skipped, Rudy finished most often in fourth or fifth place, with single-digit percentages. With John McCain and Mitt Romney now being perceived as the the top two candidates, Giuliani’s poll numbers have been plummeting in Florida, California, New Jersey, and even New York, the very delegate-rich states that he was counting on to elevate him to the nomination. In Florida, the latest polls now have Rudy in a three way tie for first place at best and losing to both McCain and Romney at worst.

But what makes it impossible to write Rudy off yet is the following: historically up to a third of Florida voters have taken advantage of the state’s liberal absentee/early voting rules to cast their ballots prior to actual elections. Giuliani’s team knew this going in, and assembled early voting and absentee voter “chase” teams that have been operating since before Iowa urging Rudy supporters to vote early. No other candidate has done this. With this being a four-way race, it’s possible Rudy can absolutely stink on Tuesday yet still win due to early/absentee ballots cast for him back when he was fab.

What’s more, given that the media has all but ruled it out, a Rudy win in Florida would turn the press upside down, making McCain’s comeback in New Hampshire appear small and uninspired by comparison. The very trend that makes the chances of a Giuliani nomination currently appear hopeless contain the same forces required to make his big-state strategy work by making him the lead story one week before Super Tuesday. Duverger can giveth as well as taketh away.

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About Peter

Peter Jackson is Papa Bear to a bear family of five (clap clap clap clap) deep in the heart of Texas. By day he anonymously toils supporting a prosperous fruit company’s server products while at night he wastes his time reading the internet cover to cover. Astrological Sign: Pisces. Turn-Ons: Milton Friedman, firearms, breakfast tacos, F.A. Hayek, concrete houses, Jeeps, compound interest, The Beatles, and human freedom. Turn-Offs: the war on drugs, collectivism (in all of its forms), fear (in all of its forms), mountain cedar pollen, and mean people (all of which seem strangely related, no?). Favorite Fantasy: a Liberal Capitalist Party.

I first met Lance at Camp Singing Waters during the summer between second and third grade some 35 years ago. I was the scared fat kid, he was the goofy skinny kid. Since then we’ve seen each other through junior high football and GT classes, high school and Explorer Post, girlfriends, VWs, an apartment or two, Mardi Gras, an ocean of beer, children and wives, inter-state moves—and somehow we’ve never managed to ditch each other. The thing I love most about Lance is that if you mostly do what he says, he’s always, always happy to tell you about the rabbits one more time.

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