May 21st, 2005

Things to do Memorial Day weekend

I may be switching my regular day at EFRC to Wednesdays until such time as I get a job.  This means, in particular, that I could actually have Memorial Day weekend free.

I'd love to go to Marcon, but it's economically unreasonable unless I don't have to pay for a place to sleep.  I could talk myself into paying the cost of the membership, the gas, and the meals, but not the hotel room, even if I could get one at this late date.  And since I *can't* sleep in a room full of other people, the odds of a place to sleep for free or next to nothing seem comparable to those of my winning the lottery and being able to afford a hotel room, but I figure I'll mention it.  In the unlikely event that someone sees a solution to the problem, I'd be thrilled to hear it.

If I have the weekend off but I don't go to Marcon, it would be possible, at least in theory, to go to tnatj's Fen and Filk party (I think that's the official name).  I need to be reminded of the details of this wonderful event, but as I recall the schedule and the location, it would take someone more insane than me to drive there, filk, and drive home the same day.  So again, being able to go would depend on locating a cheap (yet private and quiet) place to sleep.  Anyone who could help, please respond.

I already know that lots of people I wish I could spend the weekend with will be at Marcon, so please don't tell me how wonderful Marcon will be unless you can also tell me something that will actually make it possible for me to go.  I'm open to messages of encouragement about the Fen and Filk, though.  Also, feel free to tell me about other things I might want to do (bearing in mind that none of those things involve sitting in front of a TV watching a bunch of people drive in circles really fast) and could actually afford.

Confirming judges

I've been hearing quite a bit in the news lately about the upcoming showdown over the process of confirming judges.  I have strong feelings about both the fitness of the judges whose nominations are the excuse for this circus, and even stronger ones about the political motivation of the Senators involved, but I didn't actually come here to rant about that, and I don't want to discuss either the nominees or the politics right now.

There's actually a real policy question here, a question that should be decided not on the basis of political advantage for today, but on what makes sense in the long term for a system of government.  From one side of the debate, we keep hearing that, in the interest of fairness to the nominees and to the President, nominees should receive an actual "up or down" vote.  Even controversial nominations and nominees should be given enough respect that they're actually resoved, one way or the other, rather than hanging in limbo.  And I basically agree with this actual point, despite my disagreement with the people who are pushing it.  On the other side of the debate, we keep hearing that protecting the rights of the minority in the Senate is part of the vital system of checks and balances that makes America America, and I wholeheartedly agree with this -- the principle itself, not just the side that happens to be arguing it.

There is a solution that would satisfy both of these principles, a solution that seems so obvious that I wonder why I haven't heard anyone talk about it:  change the Senate rules -- legitimately, with bipartisan agreement and the proper two thirds majority -- so that confirmation votes for judges requires a three fifths supermajority.  There's no reason to filibuster a nominee your party doesn't like, because if you have the votes to sustain the filibuster, you have the votes to defeat the nominee in the official vote.  Nominees get the respect and closure of an actual vote, the rights of a substantial minority are respected, and best of all, nobody gets to squeak through into a lifetime appointment to a Fedaral court on a 50-50 vote with the Vice President breaking the tie.  Federal judgeships are too important to let marginal candidates into them; if a candidate isn't solid enough to convince a supermajority of the Senate that he can be trusted, he really *shouldn't* be given a lifetime appointment.

Is there anything I'm overlooking here that argues that this isn't a good solution in principle?

Is there anyone with enough public recognition and rhetorical ability out there who would be willing and able to make anyone in either party in the Senate who opposed this look like a complete twit?

If you're reading this and the basic idea makes sense, please talk it up on your own blog or whatever forum you work in.  Pass it along.  Say it better than I did.  It's probably too late to actually get anyone in the Senate to listen, but hey, let me have my fantasy that a sane idea could actually get some traction in this country.

Zen Minesweeper

Pretty much everyone who uses a computer plays Minesweeper (or some equivalent on the OS of your choice); most more than they'd want to admit.

But how many people play Zen Minesweeper?  This is where you don't use the mark mines option; you just click on the safe squares.  The Windows version will detect when the number of open squares on the board equals the number of mines, mark all the open squares as mines,  and declare that you've won.  I discovered this years ago, and now I never play any other way.  Once you get used to it, marking the mines yourself just makes it take longer.