The Big Think

September 16, 2010


Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:27 am

The Volokh Conspiracy has an interesting idea:

William Howell, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates, and I have an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal making the case for a constitutional amendment giving 2/3 of state legislatures the power to repeal any federal law or regulation. Here is the wording of the Repeal Amendment:

“Any provision of law or regulation of the United States may be repealed by the several states, and such repeal shall be effective when the legislatures of two-thirds of the several states approve resolutions for this purpose that particularly describe the same provision or provisions of law or regulation to be repealed.”

At present, the only way for states to contest a federal law or regulation is to bring a constitutional challenge in federal court or seek an amendment to the Constitution. A state repeal power provides a targeted way to reverse particular congressional acts and administrative regulations without relying on federal judges or permanently amending the text of the Constitution to correct a specific abuse.

The Repeal Amendment should not be confused with the power to “nullify” unconstitutional laws possessed by federal courts. Unlike nullification, a repeal power allows two-thirds of the states to reject a federal law for policy reasons that are irrelevant to constitutional concerns. In this sense, a state repeal power is more like the president’s veto power.

This amendment reflects confidence in the collective wisdom of the men and women from diverse backgrounds, and elected by diverse constituencies, who comprise the modern legislatures of two-thirds of the states. Put another way, it allows thousands of democratically elected representatives outside the Beltway to check the will of 535 elected representatives in Washington, D.C.

Congress could re-enact a repealed measure if it really feels that two-thirds of state legislatures are out of touch with popular sentiment. And congressional re-enactment would require merely a simple majority. In effect, with repeal power the states could force Congress to take a second look at a controversial law

It’s an interesting idea that has a lot going for it, not the least is that it’s not designed to be a “nuclear option” where the federal government cannont respond. Instead, it’s a way for the states to say “seriously, guys, NO. We don’t want this”. If the federal government is stubbornly insistent on passing a certain law, they still can (with only a simple majority the second time), but they will do so with the full knowledge of the disapproval of at least 2/3rds of the country. It sort of acts as a Citizen’s Veto on any law coming out of Washington- one that holds a lighter force of law, but one that the Feds would be… unwise… to ignore.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and can’t figure out the downside. Am I missing anything? How could this be abused in the future? Tinkering with the Constitution isn’t something that we should do lightly, so the idea of an amendment makes me a little nervous, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to restore some state’s rights to the current mess of a system.

There seems to be growing enthusiasm for this, although getting our reps in Congress to actually pass such a self-limiting law might be like getting them to pass term limits or a salary cut. harumph.


*UPDATE* Friend Daniel writes:

Initial thoughts on the repeal amendment, which I hadn’t heard about until reading your post. Since my reaction is entirely negative, I’ll present this as a list of reasons not to pass the amendment. And since I’m at work I won’t do too much explicating of my points:

1) As an occasionally amused and often exasperated observer of the goings-on in Austin, I don’t trust state legislatures to act more wisely or judiciously than Congress, and I certainly don’t consider my state rep to be a more reliable proxy for my voice than my federal rep.

2) Related to the first point, why is one group of elected officials to be preferred over the other? You might call this a problem of democratic epistemology: How do we know which is the “real” will of the people? The answer is that we don’t, and we don’t get closer to it by adding to the already maddening difficulty and complexity of getting legislation passed.

3) Congress works on legislation that is national in scope. State legislatures are (quite properly) only concerned with how things affect their state. Giving states veto power over federal actions blurs the lines of authority and political accountability.

4) In practice it would likely never or almost never be put into practice, but in the meantime it would turn every contentious federal issue into an occasion for posturing and spluttering on the part of state pols, eating up valuable time and energy from our already stretched-too-thin state legislatures.

5) Special interest groups operate with considerably less transparancy at the state level compared to the federal level.

6) We’ve already got a mechanism for how to deal with massively unpopular legislation. We vote the responsible parties out of office.

7) It isn’t clear to me that we need to be able to veto unpopular legislation. Unpopular legislation that turns out to work will be a good thing. Unpopular legislation that doesn’t work can be repealed through the normal federal legislative process.

September 15, 2010

Well…. crepe

Filed under: Foodie — jasony @ 8:52 pm

I got a nice new Scanpan crepe pan for my birthday and was looking forward to making all kinds of crepes, but for some reason it’s just not working out. Every single crepe tore, even though I followed the recipe to the letter (and watched videos online of people with seemingly indestructible crepes). I just couldn’t flip any of them (they were so thin they ripped, and so insubstantial they had no strength). They tasted good, but it was a very frustrating experience. Harumph.

September 14, 2010

The Size of Things

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 4:52 pm

The scale of the universe. Neat implementation.

Logic Breakthroughs

Filed under: Apple,Business,Music — jasony @ 1:38 pm

If you’ve been keeping up to date (hi mom), I’ve been working on Logic for a while now, trying to wrap my head around how the program works and what it is capable of. Today, for the first time, I feel like I really have this thing under my fingertips. I don’t have to go looking in the manual for short commands, or trying to figure out how the program routes signal, or devise a workaround for something I used to do with Vision. Not only that, but I’ve broken down a serious mental wall and gotten into some of Logic’s more esoteric and powerful capabilities.

I continue to be impressed with this program- not only what it’s capable of, but of the thought that Apple put into it. There are still a few little annoyances that I’m having to work around, and one or two things I would change, but, wow, does my stuff sound better.

It was worth the effort!

September 13, 2010

Lordy, Lordy

Filed under: Friends — jasony @ 5:28 am

Happy Birthday to my lifelong friend Patrick, who turns four (decades) today. Patrick is one of the oldest friendships in my life- we’ve known each other since 10th grade! From singing in barbershop quartets, traveling to Korea (sorry Kevin), never being in the same choir together, rooming together, and generally being around each other’s lives, I can’t imagine what growing up in Texas in the 80’s would have been like without him. A lot less interesting, that’s for sure.

Happy Fortieth, Patrick.

September 10, 2010

Forty One

Filed under: Disclosure — jasony @ 12:00 am

Today I am 41.

Today my blog is 7.

Wow, that went fast. Just a year ago I was planning a party for my big 4-0, and now here I am already bidding forty goodbye. At this rate I’ll be sixty next year.

Overall it was another good year, with all of the inevitable curveballs that life throws at you. I was able to continue writing music, doing audio work, building projects, and experiencing life with my best friend at my side. Nothing hugely traumatic took place (for which I’m grateful), and I was able to add some neat things to my list of life experiences. Here are some highlights:

Saw the ISS on June 25th- Friend Josh pointed out to us that the International Space Station was going to be passing over our house at just the right time, and in just the right part of the sky, to get a really clear view. So we went outside and searched the heavens for it. Wow! Even in full daylight it was easy to see as it took its two minutes to cross our sky. Ever since NASA began planning the ISS way back in the late 80’s, they’ve said that it’d be visible with the naked eye, and they were right! If you ever get a chance to see it, definitely go out of your way. It’s spectacular.

Did the mix for a feature film- I was the principle (read:only) sound man on a feature film in the summer of 2009. It was a really good experience and I’m happy I did it, even though it was a very short and hard shoot. Well, the producers liked my work enough to ask me to go back through and do the full mix. So I’ve now done a full theatrical mix for a feature film! It took me about six weeks, working 8-10 hours every day, to complete the mix. I wanted for my work to be able to stand up next to any major studio release you see in the theater. There are no explosions or car chases or anything, but there’s a lot of dialog, as well as plenty of background sound effects that need to be there to sell the scenes (door opening, cars passing, background chatter, foley). I did every single bit of audio editing, and I’m proud to say that it sounds great. I haven’t seen it on the big screen yet, but from watching it over and over (and over and over and over and over) in my studio, I know that the audio is as close to perfect as anything I’ll probably ever do. Hooray!

Painted minis– in addition to my Hirst block constructions, I decided to take up miniature painting so that my castles could have that lived-in look. I painted a few small figures and was pleased with the results. It’s a time consuming and eye-straining process, but very rewarding when you step back to look.



Lived in Colorado for a month– Erin and I were invited to house sit for some good friends in Colorado Springs for a whole month (after a 2 day stopoff in Santa Fe, NM). We both love the city, and spent the time either playing tourist, or sitting on their beautiful 1000 square foot deck overlooking downtown C.S. drinking tea and enjoying not being in the Texas heat in August.

30 days went too fast. One of the things we did there was…

Climbed a mountain– about three weeks after getting to Colorado (and getting suitably acclimated to the altitude), Erin and I spent two days climbing Mount Antero. It’s the only one of the Collegiate Peaks’ 14,000 foot peaks that I haven’t climbed. We hiked three miles to a camping spot on the side of the mountain, then slept a few hours and hiked 7 miles to the summit, then aaaaalllll the way back down the trail to the car. It was a 12 mile, 12 hour day with only one significant stop. One of the hardest physical things either of us has done in years, but oh, so rewarding. We even got to call a few friends from the summit- something I’ll not make a habit, but it had to be done since we had signal.





Hand fed a giraffe– the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has the largest herd of giraffes in captivity, and Erin and I got to hand feed some of them from a tall platform. They’re a little grumpy, but it was neat to get up close to these giants.


Ate a meal at the Dushanbe Tea House– one of my absolutely favorite restaurants on the planet, the Dushanbe Tea House in Boulder is a must-see if you’re ever in town. I discovered it by serendipity ten years ago and have only been back two times. It’s a great experience if you’re a tea lover. Oh, and the desserts are masterful.


Rediscovered Bulmers– when in Ireland a few years ago I discovered Bulmers Cider. They don’t make it in the states, so I figured I’d go a long long time before having a pint again. I was thrilled when we found Magder’s in Denver. Magder’s is the American name for this tasty Irish import. Sláinte!


Built another potato cannon– built another potato cannon with good friend and fellow Mad Science Guy Sean for his 40th birthday, then spent the afternoon gleefully blowing the candy out of a tank-shaped pinata. Take that, forces of paper mache oppression!


Stupid Guyed– went to Port Aransas with the Stupid Guys, my third foray with this great group of fellows. We hung out in the condo, swam (well, not me, but that’s another story), got eaten by bird sized mosquitos, told your mom jokes, and had great conversations with a great group of gents.

Propped– for the fourth (or fifth, or sixth, depending on what you count) year in a row I was able to build props for All University Sing. I built a giant birthday cake, a huge ice cream truck (ridiculously heavy), a person-sized clamshell, a castle, a giant rubber ducky, various chalkboards, and even engineered and machined a pair of aluminum inserts for a special effect during the show. Lots of time and effort goes into the props every year, and I always have a blast building them.





Remodeled our patio– another construction project for the year! We finally got around to redoing our patio area. I built a railing, a pair of gates, hung sunblocking shades, tiled the floor, and hung a ceiling fan. The railing still needs painting (when it cools off a bit), but the patio, with the shades drawn, has quickly become one of our favorite places to eat.

Spent the night on an aircraft carrier– Erin and I got to go with my nephew’s Boy Scout troop to spend the night on the Lexington aircraft carrier in Port Aransas, Texas. I have always wanted to go on an aircraft carrier, and getting to spend the night was a huge bonus. The verdict? Fun for one night, but the coffin-like beds and lack of air conditioning make me appreciate our sailors even more. The Lex was a very cool place to tour. We got free run of the place and could wander at will, and we had a fun weekend spending time with my brother and his sons.


Learned to Knit– While in Colorado, Erin and I happened across a quaint little knitting store in Old Colorado City. Since finishing The Friday Night Knitting Club, Erin wanted to learn to knit. So we signed up for a private class, bought some supplies, and sat down for a two hour knitting lesson. It probably won’t become a favorite hobby of mine, but it’s neat to know how to turn a raw bunch of wool into a scarf.


Went to the U.S. Olympic Training Center– and got to see future Olympians training. What a neat place!


Upgraded– After twenty years of using Studio Vision Pro on Mac OS 9, the time finally came to make the major studio update. Hitching my professional life to a 20 year old, outdated, unsupported program that operated on old hardware was just becoming too risky. So last April I purchased a 27″ iMac, Apple’s Logic, a MOTU Audio interface and Midi interface, and set about the months-long process of learning all of it. It’s been a challenge learning the new software, but it’s also opened up a whole new area of composition and mixing. It’s so good to work on good tools.

A great year, spent in the company of great friends. Here’s to the future.

September 8, 2010

Halo: Reach

Filed under: Audio,Games — jasony @ 7:37 pm

The sound and music of Halo Reach. Brilliant!

“HALO: REACH” Game Audio Profile from Michael Coleman on Vimeo.

September 7, 2010


Filed under: Technology — jasony @ 9:22 pm

How a mechanical watch works.

Pretty cool and clear.

Optimistic Words

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 6:07 pm

The truth of America’s problem today is this. We are not caught up in a Malthusian crisis of mass shortage and starvation. We are being crushed under the riches being pumped out by a cornucopia of wealth and abundance. We don’t need to get by with less; we need to figure out how to harness the floods of abundance now inundating our landscape.

A positive spin on current events, courtesy Walter Russell Mead.


Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 7:33 am

This makes me happy:

Screen shot 2010-09-07 at 8.32.14 AM.jpg

Bring it on!


Filed under: Education,Quoth — jasony @ 7:28 am

“Chances are 100% that you hold some belief which will subsequently prove to be a case of mass confirmation bias–people unconsciously cherry picking evidence which validates what they expected to find. Unfortunately, it will probably take several decades for us to realize this, at which point, we will replace it with some other socially convenient belief.”

via The Atlantic. It’s a good short article about how we all have selection bias, and sometimes even the “experts” are wrong (especially!). I’ve always been interested in the common belief that those people in the “old days” were silly, ignorant, or somehow less intelligent than we enlightened folks because they believed in things like geocentrism, the aethers, or the efficacy of quicksilver for curing your ailments (!). Yes, they were wrong, but they were honestly wrong, and they based their beliefs on what they knew at the time. They did the best they could. We, with our super-scientific society, are convinced that we’re 100% correct about everything. It doesn’t help that we hear weekly that scientists are getting very close to a Theory of Everything. Just because a TOE will explain the subatomic universe does not mean that we have a handle on the, er, smaller questions.

I’ve always wondered what I believe now that will cause someone in 500 years to look back and say how quaint.

Have we progressed since the days of leeches and vapors? Undoubtedly. Can we feel secure that we know everything? Not on your life.

September 6, 2010

Midichlorian Rhapsody

Filed under: Movies,Music — jasony @ 9:11 pm


September 5, 2010

Precision…. Walking?

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 6:05 pm

stick with it. It’s actually pretty cool at parts.

September 4, 2010

Call Alice

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 4:04 pm

A flight through a wormhole.

The European Model

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 11:59 am

According to a German newspaper, America has become too European, and “the nation would be better off embracing traditional American values like self-reliance and small government.”

“The state is also suffering as a result. Heavily indebted state, county and city governments have less money to spend. Even before the crisis, roads full of potholes were part of everyday life in some places, as were power outages and other problems with the public energy and water supply. What’s new, however, is that some cities in America are deliberately choosing to cut core services, such as switching off street lighting. Last winter, Colorado Springs, which with its 400,000 inhabitants is the second largest city in the state of Colorado, turned off one-third of its street lights to save money.

Nothing is immune from the wave of budget cuts, it seems. Schools have been closed and teachers laid off. Roads have been allowed to fall into disrepair and parks left to rot.”

It’s always interesting to get a foreign perspective, and the image of an America where the streets are full of potholes, the electricity is out, and the parks are closed seems pretty bleak. Fortunately, it’s not strictly the truth (or at least it’s been- surprise!- dramatized for publication). Erin and I were in Colorado Springs for a month this summer and the place seemed very clean and friendly. We did happen to see a park that had been closed down due to budget cuts, but that just meant that the concrete government buildings had been shuttered. There were still plenty of people out at the park enjoying the day.

Still, it does seem like we’re on the fiscal path to close some services in the future. I read today that if we cut 20% from all state and federal budgets we’d still be at the level of 2006 budgets and their deficits. Something has got to give.

September 3, 2010

Pay Up

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 11:02 pm

A terrifying student loan scheme infographic. So many of my friends are getting deep in debt going to college. I wonder what this means for the country 20 years down the line? My alma mater has almost tripled in price since I graduated 18 years ago. Tripled?!? It hasn’t gotten three times better, just three times more expensive. A must-read for all college students or parents of future college students.


Filed under: Friends — jasony @ 6:27 pm

“It hits me over and over again that the people we know we know only a facet of, and for only a snip of time. Their stories, begun before the foundations of the earth and lasting till beyond the crumbling of mountains, are revealed to us only by the page.”

A wonderful post over at Barry’s site. Read the whole thing.

Future Rock Band

Filed under: Education,Games — jasony @ 6:03 pm

Pretty neat!

What I’m liking about the Rock Band genre of music games is that the controllers (guitars, basses, and drums) are getting to be less and less like toys and more like actual instruments, and the software is starting to include some really good basic training. If you can make practicing fun you can get all sorts of people into playing for real. I think the demand for Rock Band shows the pent up desire to play.

The Worth of Khan

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 10:58 am

Yeah, I stole the headline, but it was worth it. 🙂

Sal Khan’s online academy might just be the next big thing in education. We sure need it. Story here.

September 1, 2010

Move Me

Filed under: Education,Macintosh — jasony @ 2:51 pm

Cool! SketchyPhysics is now available for the Mac. Time to boot up SketchUp and play a bit.

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