March 2010


I’ve been nervous all week, but good Lord, the Democrats did the right thing.  For once.  Despite the vindictive Republican resistance, the Democrats control both houses, so if they couldn’t do it, it would’ve been their fault.  But victory makes a lot of complaints moot.  As with the election itself, Obama’s strategy looked risky and sometimes head-shakingly improbable… only it worked.  So maybe he knows what he’s doing more than the pundits think.

The argument isn’t going to end now, so you may want to re-read Unca Zomp’s previous summaries:

And don’t forget that the health care reform was not passed with reconciliation.   The Senate passed it already.  The second bill, to adjust the bill more toward the House’s original law, was what went through reconciliation– which is just a majority vote, and something Republicans very happily used when they were in power.

We’ve probably learned a lot more in the last year than we ever wanted to about how major legislation gets passed.  It’s not a pretty process– though from what I’ve heard the bill is a lot more coherent and less porky than, say, the stimulus package (which was vitiated by bad ideas like tax cuts… whatever the good of tax cuts in general, what we needed to avoid a depression was spending, and than tax cuts aren’t the best at producing that).

What’s sad, though it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, is how much the Republicans have degenerated.  It’d be possible to make a case against health care reform.  It wouldn’t look very nice (“the uninsured should face health disasters and financial ruin”), but it could be done.  But the Republican position has been “HELL NO BIRTHER TEA PARTY BUGS ARE CRAWLING ON MY SKIN AAAAAAH CTHULHU RL’YEH FHTAGN.”  It’s worked pretty well for them up to now.

But I’d venture to say that they’re not going to accomplish much more with it.   They’ve lost their best weapon: the fact that the bill was in process.  The many versions of the bill made it hard for supporters push it; and it’s always easier to oppose something that’s not done yet.  They’re going to talk about repeal, but for that they’d need 2/3 of both houses– not the most realistic of plans.  Unfortunately, there’s no longer anything pushing Republicans away from craziness; brace yourselves for much more of it.

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It’s hard not to look at the sales page for the LCK every hour, but that way madness lies. But a bunch of people have ordered it; I love each and every one of them.

It’s interesting to see this on the Amazon listing:

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #1,974 in Books (See Bestsellers in Books)

Popular in these categories: (What’s this?)

#5 in Books > Reference > Words & Language > Linguistics
#5 in Books > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Linguistics
#42 in Books > Nonfiction > Education > Reference

#1974 out of 2 million sounds pretty good, no?  And #5 in linguistics!  Sure enough, the bestsellers in linguistics page shows the LCK right there, beating out books by Noam Chomsky, Daniel Everett, and Mortimer Adler.  What this shows, however, is that Amazon must calculate these things with sales per day or something, and that we’re in a pretty small niche, with sales in the double digits.  (It also seems to show that what the Amazon public clamors to know is E-Z Spanish… four of the top six sellers are aids for Spanish learners.)

 Amazon says that it can take up to “15 business days” to build the listings page. But I checked tonight and the LCK is here! So go buy it! I’ve read it and it’s really good!

I’ve been playing the newest Borderlands DLC, The Secret Armory of General Knoxx, which raises the level cap from 50 to 61.  Four of us started out, all at level 50, and we were constantly creamed… we’d be going down the highway, all get wasted by Lance Probes, and barely get farther next time. 

Tooling down one of the many, many highways in the DLC

I think I complained about not being able to see your money past $10 million and how strangely demotivating that is.  Well, they sure fixed that problem– dying costs 7% of your cash, so I spent a fortune getting reanimated.

All this was pretty much hilarious fun.  The Dr. Ned zombies really weren’t hard enough… the game needed a solid challenge.  (Though it’s unpredictable whether any particular mission will be hard or not… there’s something to be said after all for Oblivion’s monster levelling.)

There’s bits that remind me of Grand Theft Auto IV… not so much the criminality as the amazing amount of driving.  Thank Scooter for afterburners.

I also finished my replay of Mass Effect, this time on Veteran level.  It is better that way… on the other hand, I do think combat is just not the game’s strong suit.  Halfway through the game or so, I had a strategy that took care of most battles– pretty much Barrier and Marksman with pistols only; use the other mass effects, plus cover, while they recharge.  I have a new appreciation for games that create weapons or tactics you’re eager to try– Fallout 3, Borderlands, and TF2 are all great at that.

Great article by Maciej Ceglowski  on scurvy– how the cure was discovered two centuries ago, then lost.  The Antarctic expeditions were plagued with scurvy, despite the best scientific advice of the time.

http://idlewords.com/2010/03/scott_and_scurvy.htm

The basic problem turns out to be that a solution was found (lemon juice) but no one knew why it worked– no one knew about vitamin C.  So the British Navy in the mid 1800s switched from lemon juice to lime juice, which was cheaper… not realizing that the limes they used had far less vitamin C.  And that in turn cast doubts on the citrus cure, and that led to more trouble…

I’ve read that damn PDF several times over, but sometimes you just have to sit down with a physical copy.  And when you do, you cringe at the number of errors.  Plus you can’t resist adding in a couple more facts.  (On the plus side: I’ve read the whole book and the spine isn’t even creased.  So that’s reassuring.)

Anyway, all this takes time, much more time than expected, but at least for now it’s back in Amazon’s hands.  

For months now I’ve been in a state where little things keep coming up that I think should go in the book.  But if anyone discovers anything new in linguistics in the next few weeks, I hope they shut up about it.

I got the proof copy of the LCK today.  If you’re worried– I certainly was– I’m glad to say that it looks like an ordinary trade paperback.  It’s 6″ x 9″, glossy cover, good paper, looks like the glue will hold up. 

I could probably release it as is (it’s taken long enough to get to this point), but hey, I’m a perfectionist… I’m going to read it over one more time and look for anything I can correct.

It then takes Amazon a few weeks to build the web page.  (Why so long?  You’d think they’d’ve figured this out by now.)

More bulletins as events warrant.  In the meantime, go watch the new OK Go video.

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