Thursday, December 30, 2004



Note: The following is (another) entry from my long defunct "TIX3" weblog. It was originally posted almost exactly five years ago, on Dec. 29, 1999. - Ed.

The Christmas holiday is over and I've returned from my Christmas trip back to Ohio. The trip itself was not a smooth one - it's smoothness was in fact comparable to Austin Powers' smile or the United States' conversion to metric. There was snow, slippery roads, accidents, traffic jams, slow airport employees, delayed planes, reassigned seats scattered across the plane, more slow airport employees, an eternal wait at the baggage claim and yet more slow airport employees. But the crown on the evil king's head, the cherry on the mudpie if you will, was the parking ticket.

Outside the brand-new Austin airport, there are two lanes for people picking up and dropping off passengers. It was already very late when we landed, so to save time I went to retrieve the auto from long-term parking while the wifey stayed at the baggage claim to claim our baggages. I return in remarkably record-breaking time, jamming, in fact, to find her baggage-less. So I join her in her task of standing around watching the carousel, figuring the job will go twice as fast with two of us. I mention to her that the two picking-up-and-dropping-off lanes have a five minute time limit, but at the same time assure her that it's such a zoo that no one will know if we leave our car there for (gasp!) six or seven minutes.

After waiting, waiting and waiting some more, I decide to take some of our carry-on bags out to the car. There's a yellow slip on the windshield that I spy from afar. 'A warning' I think optimistically, 'no way was I even gone long enough for anyone to see the car, watch it for five minutes and still write a ticket!' You already know, dear reader, that I was wrong, don't you? Well, mostly wrong, and only on the important parts. For indeed the ticket wasn't for exceeding the time limit, but for leaving the car "unattented" [sic].

Okay - two big problems I've got at this point. The first is, who the hell cares if it's unattended? It was in the curb lane, not the second lane, so it's sure not blocking anyone in. It's been there for maybe ten minutes, so it's not like an abandoned vehicle. Okay, it's taking up a space that other people are coming along wanting, but that's not what the ticket is for, is it?! It would have taken up just as much space and for just as long if I'd been sitting in, leaning on or loitering around it!

But the thing that really gets me is this. We have to pay $25 (early payment - $50 if we wait too long) because of some overzealous parking stormtrooper on a power trip who can't even spell "unattended"! I mean, it's the guy's job title! Or, hey, who knows? Maybe it's wrong there too, maybe at parties he replies to "And what do you do?" by saying "Oh, I'm a parking attentant at the new airport. In fact I'm so zealous in performing my duties that I've received several commentations. I intent to go far in this field, you know!"

So anyway, our bags finally came, and we finally got home, and we finally got to collapse in our very own bed.

The End.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004


Interesting interview on with Daniel Altman, the author of the new book Neoconomy. If this guy's right, then Bush's economic policies aren't just tax breaks for his rich friends and puppeteers - they're actually part of a Master Plan.
"Following the path chosen by the neoconomists," says Altman, "could indeed lead to a period of untold prosperity, with living stands rising faster than ever before. It could also lead to nothing less than the collapse of the capitalist system -- a real revolution in which the nation's tax-paying laborers rise up against a class of wealthy free-riders."

And Social Security reform is part of The Plan, too. How does Social Security privatization fit into the neoconomist vision?

DA: By transforming Social Security into a system of private portfolio accounts, we're essentially taking a huge amount of money out of the government's coffers and putting it straight into the private sector. So this would be a huge step forward in achieving the neoconomy.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Mr. Anderson's Word Processor

A fork of OpenOffice specifically for Mac OS X called "NeoOffice/J" just released a 1.1 beta. I haven't tried it yet, though I'll probably check it out. I wouldn't normally bother you, dear readers, with such a trifle, but there was such a funny comment on the Slashdot story about the release that I couldn't resist.
We've had our eye on you for some time now. It seems that you've been living two lives. In one life, you're OpenOffice, an open source multi-platform office productivity suite. The other life is lived in computers, where you go by the hacker alias NeoOffice/J that has been engineered to run natively on Mac OS X. One of these lives has a future, and one of them does not.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Merrie Chriftmaf

Via Democrappy, an interesting (and short) history of Christmas from the History Channel.
In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday...

The end of December was a perfect time for celebration in most areas of Europe. At that time of year, most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter. For many, it was the only time of year when they had a supply of fresh meat. In addition, most wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking...

By holding Christmas at the same time as traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated. By the Middle Ages, Christianity had, for the most part, replaced pagan religion. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated raucously in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today's Mardi Gras...

Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings... After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas... Christmas wasn't declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870...

In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city's first police force in response to [Christmas-time gang rioting by the disenchanted classes]. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America... Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia...

In the next 100 years, Americans built a Christmas tradition all their own that included pieces of many other customs, including decorating trees, sending holiday cards, and gift-giving.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Skunkiest Skunkworks Evar

Via Slashdot, a fascinating story of pride, craftsmanship and sheer determination that is completely and exactly the opposite of the past few years of my own career, The Graphing Calculator Story.
In August 1993, the project was canceled. A year of my work evaporated, my contract ended, and I was unemployed.

I was frustrated by all the wasted effort, so I decided to uncancel my small part of the project. I had been paid to do a job, and I wanted to finish it. My electronic badge still opened Apple's doors, so I just kept showing up.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Barlow Update

A follow-up to the fight of 4th Amendment champion John Perry Barlow, as introduced here last Monday. To make a long story short, he lost the case, but will appeal. He's intended from the start to go all the way to the Supreme Court, it's just too bad he didn't start with a lower court win. Audio coverage on NPR; full first-person account by Barlow himself.
At one point, Judge Papadakis asked, rhetorically, if Ms. Ramos, upon smelling the marijuana and probably deducing that there was no bomb in the bottle, should have screwed the cap back on and let it go. This is precisely what I'm suggesting she should have done.

Onion vol. 40 #51

So-so Onion today.
  • Weed Delivery Guy Saves Christmas
    "Dudes, it's a no go," Kleist said before delivering the bad news. "Carl totally flaked on us. He left for Michigan already."
    The roommates' faces turned ashen: There would be no Christmas weed.

  • Scientific Journal Releases List of Year's Top 100 Compounds
    "Some people griped because hydrogen-, carbon-, and oxygen-based compounds made up more than 75 percent of the list," said Dr. Timothy Grant, one of 50 top scientists polled for the list. "But the influence these elements have on the chemical world cannot be denied."

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


Via jwz, a McDonald's protest story on Yahoo: Octopus cannon targets McDonalds in southern France. As jwz laments, no pictures of cannons or octopi.
SETE, France (AFP) - Armed with a high-pressure hose and a bucket of octopi, hundreds of protestors in this Mediterranean town pelted a McDonalds restaurant due to open this week with the slimy seafood...

Aiming the hose across the water, they catapulted fresh octopi -- a local delicacy, known here as the "pouffre" -- towards the town's first McDonalds, which had been set to open on Saturday...

The demonstration caused the opening of the restaurant, the first fast-food outlet in the port town following years of resistance by the former communist mayor, to be put off until next week.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What Is The Good?

Hilarious description of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by David Rees (the Get Your War On guy) and how it destroyed his career as a philosopher before it even started. At Amazon, Me and the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.
Who commanded this amalgamation of early-century Cantibridgian ultra-braniacs? Bertrand Russell. The number-one head colossus in charge. The alpha-Harvard-cum-laude of all philosophers. In a field of giants, he stood as the sine qua non gigantic behemoth. His was a wise, white face that flushed with pleasure when presented with a killer new theory about logic, mathematics, or metaphysics. But if in the course of his many mental safaris Russell spied a limping, unsound theory or a half-assed specimen of sophistry, a scowl would download upon his face, the day would darken, and there would come to pass a "Sabbath, bloody Sabbath." The moans of broken, blasted ideas echoed in his wake...

But, almost impossibly, Bertrand Russell's greatness was soon to be overshadowed by a second, more powerful greatness. On the horizon burned a stupendous intellect--a world-destroying avatar of all that was to follow… the one true wielder of modern philosophy's hammer of Odin. A mighty thunderhead that would lay siege to the fields of philosophy tended by lesser hands... [Wittgenstein] entered this world a prodigy--a prodigy who grew ever more smart as he grew older. By the time he died in 1951, breathing his last words: "Tell them I've had a wonderful life (even though I had to suffer all you dumbasses)"--he was the most brilliant man to ever die.

According to the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, language's only proper use is the description of states of affairs that can be verifiably true or false: those involving solids, liquids, or gases. Nothing else properly falls within language's words. The traditional philosopher may object: WHAT ABOUT MY FAVORITE QUESTION, "WHAT IS THE GOOD?" The Good is not a solid, a liquid, or a gas, so we can't use language to talk about it. Same with religion, ethics, metaphysics, and all the profound subjects traditional philosophers usually talk about. From now on those topics will be off-limits to language. You want to discuss the Good? Go play a guitar solo in your jam band about the Good. Just don't mess up the alphabet trying to talk about it.

LCV 2004 Scorecard

LCV Scorecard
The League of Conservation Voters has released their 2004 scorecard, grading the U.S. Congress on the environmental votes of this year.
This edition of the National Environmental Scorecard provides objective, factual information about the environmental voting records of all Members of the final 108th Congress. This Scorecard represents the consensus of experts from 19 respected environmental and conservation organizations who selected the key votes on which Members of Congress should be graded. LCV scores votes on the most important issues of the year, including environmental health and safety protections, resource conservation, and spending for environmental programs.

See how your Congressional Delegation Scored
Enter Your Zip:

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Firefox Up, IE Down

Good ink on Firefox 1.0 in the New York Times today. I don't mean the ad, either, but the story The Fox Is in Microsoft's Henhouse (and Salivating). The hapless (and of course soulless) Microsoft mouthpiece actually says the following in "defense" of IE over Firefox (snarky comments in italics from the original story):
  • current users of Internet Explorer will stick with it once they take into account "all the factors that led them to choose IE in the first place." Beg your pardon. Choose? Doesn't IE come bundled with Windows?

  • Firefox... has thus far enjoyed "a bit of a free ride." If I were the spokesman for the software company that included the company's browser free on every Windows PC, I'd be more careful about using the phrase "free ride."

  • Even though he's the " director of product management for Windows", he doesn't even use IE himself! Instead he uses Maxthon, published by a little company of the same name. It uses the Internet Explorer engine but provides loads of features that Internet Explorer does not. "Tabs are what hooked me," he told me.

  • one suggestion for those who cannot use the latest patches in [XP] Service Pack 2: buy a new PC... "It's like buying a car," he said. "If you want to get the latest safety features, you have to buy the latest model." In this case, the very latest model is not a 2001 Internet Explorer, but a 2004 Firefox.

Basically, Firefox's remaining market is every person on earth who hasn't heard of it yet. IE is toast.

Joel On Pricing

New essay by Joel Spolsky, Camels and Rubber Duckies.
I'm going to start with a little economic theory, then I'm going to tear the theory to bits, and when I'm finished, you'll know a lot more about pricing and you still won't know how much to charge for your software, but that's just the nature of pricing.

Possibly the first, and certainly the best essay on the subject that mentions porn movies at the Ritz Carlton, and also uses each and every one of the following terms:
  • demand curve
  • O frabjous day!
  • consumer surplus
  • Babymosesinabasket
  • net present value
  • Holy Segments, Batman

Let 'Em Stay

From Mother Jones, Giving the Gift of War, a new holidy tune (sung to the tune of "Let It Snow"):
Oh, the war in Iraq is frightful,
But for Lockheed and pals it's delightful,
Since the Pentagon continues to pay,
Let 'em stay, let 'em stay, let 'em stay.

Insurgents show no signs of stopping,
Americans can't stop AK's from popping,
Since it keeps Boeing's prices high,
occupy, occupy, occupy.

When there's a bombing or firefight,
It means moo-lah galore for GE,
And ev'ry IED laid at night,
means they're buyin' a brand new Humvee

As long as some Black Hawks keep crash'in,
The Complex can really cash in,
More war equals much more dough,
Let's not go, never go, let's not go.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lemony Snicket 101

For the non-kid readers out there, a handy primer on the phenomenon of Lemony Snicket in this story on NPR. The audio story is a little over 8 minutes, but there's also an excerpt from the first book on that page.
If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle. This is because not very many happy things happened in the lives of the three Baudelaire youngsters. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire were intelligent children, and they were charming, and resourceful, and had pleasant facial features, but they were extremely unlucky, and most everything that happened to them was rife with misfortune, misery, and despair. I'm sorry to tell you this, but that is how the story goes.
Note that "Lemony Snicket" is not a character, but the recorder of the Unfortunate Events. The books are actually authored under this pseudonym, and I never even knew the real author's name until I came across this story. BTW, the author gets immense credit for having never seen the Cat In The Hat movie, even though the movie treatment of his book has the same director of photography as that film.

64.2857 Percent Fascist

Interesting series of three posts at Democrappy (via Jo Miller), in which the author considers how closely the current U.S. administration matches to a checklist of basic characteristics of fascist regimes. These posts are on the long side, but worth reading in their entirety. Here's a summary of his scores (0, ½, or 1).

Part One
  1. [½] Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
  2. [1] Disdain for the importance of human rights
  3. [½] Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
  4. [1] The supremacy of the military/avid militarism
  5. [½] Rampant sexism

Part Two
  1. [0] A controlled mass media
  2. [1] Obsession with national security
  3. [1] Religion and ruling elite tied together
  4. [½] Power of corporations protected
  5. [0] Power of labor suppressed or eliminated

Part Three
  1. [½]Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
  2. [1] Obsession with crime and punishment
  3. [1] Rampant cronyism and corruption
  4. [½] Fraudulent elections

He goes on to conclude,
a grand total of 9 out of 14. Which I suppose means the U.S. is 64.2857 percent fascist...

the U.S. is the strongest, most advanced (and arguably most culturally diverse) liberal-capitalist society in history. Fascism has often (if not always) taken root in capitalist societies, but it is arguable none of them ever was as liberal (in the classical sense of the term) as the U.S.

So what I think this means is that the liberal character of U.S. politics and culture may be one of the strongest bulwarks against the development of full-blown fascism.

"Pivotal Roles In Great Events"

Here's some classic Rove/Bush PR spin. Rove is the master of the Big Lie, and excels at attacking political opponents on the very front which should be least assailable. A perfect example is the "Swift Boat Veterans", criticizing the wounded in combat and decorated volunteer soldier Kerry while George was partying so hard he couldn't even fulfill his duty to the stateside National Guard.

In the same spirit, Paul Bremer, George Tenet and Gen. Tommy Franks, who along with Bush himself should probably be tried for war crimes, were instead awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday.
"Jerry, Iraq is free today, and you helped make it so," Bush said, using Bremer's nickname. "And a free Iraq will help make generations of Americans more secure."

Speaking to the general who oversaw combat in Afghanistan and the initial invasion of Iraq, Bush said, "One of the highest distinctions of history is to be called a liberator and Tommy Franks will always carry that title."

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

No Longer Afraid of Nader

I voted for Nader in 2000, I admit it. And apologize for it. This election year though, he not only didn't have my vote (well, he couldn't have, since he wasn't on the ballot here), but he scared me. I was afraid he'd spoil things again. He didn't; somehow King George stayed in power without Ralph's help.

But now, now that he's no longer a threat to Anybody-But-Bush, I'm not afraid of him anymore. In fact, I can see him turning out to be a big asset in the defense against Bush, if other people can get over their Nader-phobia like I have. Nobody can deny it: he's a fighter. Here's an opening volley, courtesy of an interview by Democracy Now!.
There is no crisis in Social Security. It's absolutely solvent until 2052, according to the Social Security trustees, who are pretty conservative. The slightest changes can continue it on for the rest of the century. Medicare is the one with sky rocketing corporate health costs that is in trouble. But Wall Street and the republicans and the ideologues, including George W. Bush, have got their eyes on these private accounts...

Now [Bush is] placing all of his cronies in all of these cabinet positions because he doesn't want candid commentary and candid advice. This is a closed-mind messianic militarist, who can be vulnerable politically, if you had a steadfast Democratic Party who knew what it stood for. Because the old story, refusing to bend, he broke, will apply to Bush in politics, because he is setting himself up for being advised by sycophants. This is like a royal court, being advised by sycophants...

I think the anti-war movement went on hibernation because of anybody-but-Bush syndrome for a year, and severely weakened itself. It needs to reassert itself...

if you want to see the trajectory of what I see in this country, because of unbridled corporate power, it's in the book, The Good Fight, which I urge people to read.

Onion vol. 40 #50

Gold Bond Spokesman
Grudgingly Admits It Makes
Your Balls Tingle

New Onion today - yet another pretty good one, too.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Loony, Bizarre and Irresponsible

Molly Ivins, via WorkingForChange, on Social Security suicide.
Q: Can we at least agree that we have a problem?
A: No.

To fully fund this shortfall would require additional revenue of 0.54 percent of GDP... "roughly equal to the fraction of [Bush's tax cuts] that goes to people with incomes of $500,000 a year."...

[Ending Social Security] is not some leftist conspiracy theory: Grover Norquist of The Club for Growth has been open about it for years. What we have here is a happy convergence of ideology (the Market Can Solve All Problems) and greed. The greed is from the financial industry, which stands to pick up an incalculable sum in profits -- and, of course, the financial industry contributes generously to Guess Who...

It's kind of hard not to be stunned by the irresponsibility of this scheme. To just blithely borrow the money to destroy a successful social program is, well, loony, bizarre and irresponsible.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Barlow's Taste of the System

John Perry Barlow, the Grateful Dead/EFF guy, writes today about his battle in defense of his (and all of our) civil liberties. I'm glad there are people like him (and John Gilmore) around with the time and money to fight these fights.
This was no joint in the ashtray casually spotted by the officer while writing a speeding ticket. A closer analogy would be the joint discovered on the floorboards of your car after the officer removed its carpeting while writing a speeding ticket.

ForecastFox 0.5.8

Here's a handy little Firefox extension: ForecastFox. It retrieves weather forecast information and displays it right in the browser window frame. Especially useful to those of us whose office is a windowless cave.

I don't know much about Firefox extensions, but I gather there are tons of them out there. Before Firefox hit 1.0, new browser versions would often break all the existing extensions, though presumably that will happen much less often now. They are easy to install - just click the link and restart the browser. (Actually, I installed this last week sometime, but hadn't restarted the browser until today...)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Haiku Error Messages

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

You've surely seen these before, but they are really funny. I looked this up because Kid #1 is studying poetry, including haiku, in school. And here's something you may not have known: it's not just one of those anonymous e-mail jokes that mysteriously spring to life, although that's what I always thought it was. There are plenty of sites still today that list these (mostly) without attribution. The original source? Salon. In fact, there's even an article about the hijacking. Now you know.

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a simple stone.

Apple Rising

And not just their stock (at $65.64 as of this writing). Maybe we're going to see some long overdue market share growth. Via MacCentral, Consumer Reports is finally coming around to the superiority of Macs.
"In this atmosphere of low expectations, Apple Computer has actually raised its support satisfaction for the desktop computers over the past three years to levels well above all competitors, while offering the most reliable desktop hardware,"

The glut of viruses and spyware typically found on Windows PCs didn't pass by Consumer Reports unnoticed -- "Another factor working in Apple's favor," said the report.

And over at the Wall Street Journal, Walt Mossberg sums it all up.
consumers have been forced to devote rising amounts of time and money just to keeping the machines safe. The PC has, in many cases, gone from being a solution to being, at least in part, a problem... A big reason for this slide backward is the failure of Microsoft to cope adequately with the security crisis. The software giant, which has reaped tens of billions of dollars from its Windows monopoly, first designed the operating system with too little attention to security. Then, it failed to move quickly enough or comprehensively enough to respond to the security problem...

Meanwhile, the company's historic rival, Apple Computer, has been making giant strides in ease of use... The Mac is also packed with extras that Windows lacks... Apple upgrades its operating system far more often than Microsoft does... Best of all, the current Mac operating system has never been attacked by a successful virus, and almost no spyware can run on it...

In terms of ease of use, Apple has opened a greater lead over Microsoft than at any time since the late 1980s, when the Mac was pioneering the graphical user interface and Microsoft users were stuck with crude, early versions of Windows.

On the other hand, hardcore gamers may still scoff at Mac. See the just re-posted Mac Gamer Switch Ad, by the Red vs. Blue guys.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Today In U.S. War Crime News

More sickening evidence that the terrorists at Abu Ghraib (that is, the captors) weren't the aberration the U.S. claimed them to be. And they knew it.

First, via Bob Harris, a story on Salon, "Whitewashing torture?" (subscription or free day-pass required).

So, here's the story in a nutshell - National Guard Military Intelligence Sgt. Greg Ford tried to blow the whistle on torture that he was witnessing. So, they falsely claimed he was crazy and express-mailed his ass out of Iraq. (I guess Klinger should have reported prisoner abuse, instead of just wearing a dress all those years.) Granted, one can imagine (or try to) the pressure this guy's unit was constantly under, being shelled by mortars from every direction day and night, trying to find and stop them. But there is no excuse, ever, for violating the Geneva Conventions.
[Col. C.] Tsai [a military doctor who examined Ford in Germany] told Spiegel that he had treated "three or four" other U.S. soldiers from Iraq that were also sent to Landstuhl for psychological evaluations or "combat stress counseling" after they reported incidents of detainee abuse or other wrongdoing by American soldiers...

If Ford's allegations are proven, the Army would be faced with evidence that its prisoner abuse problem is even more widespread than previously acknowledged -- and that some of its own officers not only turned a blind eye to abuses but actively participated in covering them up...

According to Ford, his teammates, three counterintelligence agents like himself -- one of them a woman -- systematically and repeatedly abused several Iraqi male detainees over a two-to three-week time period. Ford describes incidents of asphyxiation, mock executions, arms being pulled out of sockets, and lit cigarettes forced into detainee's ears while they were blindfolded and bound...

"[Ford's commanding officer, Capt. Victor Artiga] looked right at me and said, 'Nope, that never happened. You're delusional, you imagined the whole thing. And you've got 30 seconds to withdraw your complaint. If you do, it will be as if this conversation never took place.'"...

When a CID [Criminal Investigation Command] investigator finally began pursuing the matter in the fall, Artiga told the investigator that the 223rd had "looked into it" and found "nothing wrong."...

But wait, there's more! In an article in today's Guardian Unlimited, Abuse 'continued after Abu Ghraib', there's additional evidence of torture and abuse, plus (surprise!) additional evidence of covering it up.
US military officials witnessed the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees at a second Baghdad prison at the height of the Abu Ghraib scandal and were threatened and harassed when they attempted to report the abuse, official memos released by the Pentagon have shown...

documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have revealed that senior Pentagon officials who claimed that Abu Ghraib was an aberration were repeatedly informed of abuse elsewhere through official channels.

I hate it when my country makes me sick. But on the plus side, I bet the victims will just forgive the U.S. and be fine with it. Or, even if they don't, they probably won't tell anybody about it. Or, if they do, it certainly won't be exaggerated in the telling. Or, if it is, I'll bet plentiful first-hand accounts of U.S. war crimes, in the midst of a war that's unnecessary and groundless in the first place, certainly won't be used to recruit new anti-American terrorists. Yes, those terrorists are just about all finished, I reckon.

Where's George? I want to vote for him after all! It's not too late is it?

Joel Speaks; You Read

Nice long interview with Joel Spolsky on Salon today. The usual high signal to noise ratio, plus answers to something I'd wondered about: how his company is doing, between consulting, "City Desk" and "FogBugz". Good stuff; Salon membership or free day-pass required.

On being so careful to not repeat mistakes that it slows you down too much:
Basically, by the time [his grandmother] got to be 65, every mistake she'd ever made in her life she had corrected by creating a new procedure by which she made sure that she never made that mistake again. For example, before she left the house, she double-checked that she had her keys, the burglar alarm was on and so forth. So she had been acquiring these habits to prevent making mistakes she had made in the past. And by the time she got to be 65, it took a half-hour to run through the whole checklist!...

It's what the Army calls fatigue. Fatigue is everything in the Army that you do to keep your equipment in good working condition: polishing your shoes, brushing your teeth, making sure that you're ready and that all your bullets are clean and there's no sand in your gun. It's all called fatigue, and it takes about two hours a day for an infantry guy. And it's everything but the actual thing you're trying to do. Microsoft has now got to the point where it's like 80 percent, 90 percent fatigue. So even though they're still scoring a [perfect] 12 on the Joel test, we need another category, which is "and you're not Microsoft."

And a nice simple description of software requirements, excerpted for no reason whatsoever, certainly not because my own company can't find its ass with both hands:
If you think of the requirements as being this paragraph, and the specification as being this page, and the code as being several pages, at each point, you're adding more detail. And in fact you can go straight from the requirements to the code, and most people try to do that. The trouble is, it's like eating your meat without chewing it -- you tend to choke a little bit. Whereas the specification is just a hope that before you actually start on the code you can think of as many problems as possible and solve them when it's still easy to make changes, before you get into the code and it's more costly to make changes.

Thunderbird 1.0

Thunderbird logo
This just out, Thunderbird 1.0. Thunderbird is the mail-only component of the Mozilla suite, the same way Firefox is the browser-only component. Similarly, there are versions for Linux, OS X and That Other "OS". Here's a positive quickie review of the OS X version. There's also a decent-looking Getting Started Guide to help you, uh, get started.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

What Is That Ribbon?

Seeing all those goofy yellow and red, white & blue "support our troops" ribbons on cars reminded me of this scene from the web series "Boy George Michael Jackson Browne" (Episode 6). The difference is, I don't think the "troop support" ribbons are fund raisers for anything for the troops.

The scene setup is, Jack is an alien visitor, here to "provide that witty outsider's view". He and his earthling buddy Matt are in a diner, and the waitress just walked up.

Jack: What is that ribbon on your shirt there?
Waitress: Oh, this! This is a ribbon for AIDS awareness.
J: I'm sorry, I don't understand.
Matt: See, he's from another country, so he's, you know...
W: Oh, okay... Well, it's like this. I bought this ribbon from a woman. You buy them for a dollar. It's like a donation. You buy these ribbons for a dollar, and they use the money to continue researching AIDS. To see if they can find a cure!
J: Oh, I see, so they buy ribbon, and then they take the money; do more research; buy more medical equipment.
W: That's right! Pretty good!
J: Well, wouldn't they make more money if they didn't have to buy all those ribbons? Wouldn't they have more money for research? If you just gave 'em a dollar?
W: Uh, yeah, I guess so... but, you know, I think the idea is that, you wear the ribbon to show that you support AIDS awareness.
J: AIDS...? What is "AIDS awareness"?
W: It's like teaching people about AIDS. So that they're aware of the problem!
J: Are there people that aren't aware of AIDS? Uh, uh... Is this true?!
M: (shrugs) Uh-uh...
W: Uh, may... I guess.
J: I live 18.5 trillion light-years from here, and I'm aware of your AIDS problem.
M: Hey Jack, you wanna get a round of dessert or somethin'? Some ice cream? Piece of pie or somethin'?
J: No, I uh, uh... is there an inscription on there that makes people aware of the...
W: No! It's just... I mean... Everybody just sort of knows that these red ribbons are for AIDS.
J: But logically, doesn't it make sense, that if they know the ribbon is for AIDS, that they should already be aware, aware of AIDS anyway?
W: They're not supposed to teach anybody anything, it's just that... I guess... It's just to show other people.. that you support AIDS research. That you care about it.
J: Are there people that don't care?
W: Maybe they're not thinking about it very much. And then when they see you wearing the ribbon, they're more inclined to support AIDS research, too!
J: Ahh, I get it! See, when a human being realizes that a significant group of people like an idea, then, they're more inclined to support that idea as well. You know, I've seen that on your television shows.
W: ...
W: Can I get you something else?
M: Yeah, you know, a bill would be great.
J: You know, on TV, on your sporting events, it's the same thing. And like, fashion shows, with the trends, you know, fashion trends?
W: Yeah, that's just the way some people are!
J: And on television, on the historical stuff, I've seen, you used to believe that people with dark skin were animals. But now, you believe completely the opposite!
M: Well, you know, we try to get better, that's...
J: And then, then there's the "Nazi Party". And evidently they were pretty popular, but...
M: How much do we owe?
W: ... I'll get your check.

Onion vol. 40 #49

Winterized Pet
Pet Winterized

That time of the week again: new Onion.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Proof That Linux Hackers Are Dudes

Via this week's Debian Weekly News, a truly attention-grabbing CPU monitor utility for Linux: hot-babe. The busier the CPU, the less she wears. And since I know that once you've seen one pair, you pretty much want to see them all, I'll save you the downloading, gunzipping and untarring trouble.

Note: the following images are not work safe.
  1. not busy
  2. busy
  3. busier
  4. still busier
  5. busiest

Mandatory Sentencing

Via Slashdot (ironically enough), an article on showing that the retards I correspond with at work are the rule rather than the exception, What corporate America can't build: a sentence.
Here is one from a systems analyst to her supervisor at a high-tech corporation based in Palo Alto, Calif.: "I updated the Status report for the four discrepancies Lennie forward us via e-mail (they in Barry file).. to make sure my logic was correct It seems we provide Murray with incorrect information ... However after verifying controls on JBL - JBL has the indicator as B ???? - I wanted to make sure with the recent changes - I processed today - before Murray make the changes again on the mainframe to 'C'."

The incoherence of that message persuaded the analyst's employers that she needed remedial training.

I also liked this turn of phrase.
"E-mail has just erupted like a weed, and instead of considering what to say when they write, people now just let thoughts drool out onto the screen," Hogan said.

"Life is short, dippies."

All advice columns should immediately cease production and be replaced by the Rabbit.
Listen up, you grain-fed honky dickweeds - not just you, WW, but every fucking honky out there needs to hear this. We're not alive for very long. Have you noticed this, dickcheeses? We do not have all the fucking time in the world to draw up cost-benefit analyses on potential long-term pairings.

This Modern World, 12/7/04

This week's This Modern World: "The Great Debate":
Left vs. Right

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Unspoken Part

Via Lawrence of Cyberia, Mark Twain's "War Prayer".
"You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. the whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory--must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain... for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

AbiWord 2.2

AbiWord logo

This just out, AbiWord version 2.2, in which they add native OS X support (i.e., not just X11). I don't use it all the time, but it's a competent non-Borg word processor. And a bargain at twice the price!

Wonder Who They Voted For

From yesterday's Austin American-Statesman (via Jo Miller), an accidental but interesting juxtaposition. These are from two separate, unrelated stories.
"Daily struggle to live in worn-out camper"
"Round Rock mom drives Barbie-themed Hummer"

camper family vs. hummer family
She has a Geo Metro with a busted fan and brakes that are going bad. "I'm scared to drive it now." The family also has a pickup that isn't running because it needs a starter and a battery.


Alderman's husband, Joe, keeps a low profile in his unadorned black Mercedes convertible. While the Barbie car was his idea, "I try not to drive it if I can," he said jokingly.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Better Dying Through Chemistry

Dec. 3 marked the twentieth anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, which
killed thousands of people in the Indian city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. It was caused by the accidental release of forty tons of methyl isocyanate (MIC) from a Union Carbide pesticide plant located in the heart of the city. This event remains the worst industrial disaster in history, with significant injuries to at least 50,000 people.

The vapors killed more than 2,000 people outright and injured anywhere from 150,000 to 600,000 others, some 6,000 of whom would later die from their injuries.

Check out jwz's creepy print ad from 1962:
Union Carbide was "Building a New India", apparently by having a giant, disembodied hand dump blood onto the fields.

Thank god that we've learned to keep industry on a short leash to protect human health. Oh wait, I forgot what country and what year I was in:
According to Greenpeace, the Bush administration is attacking Reach ["Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals"] "vehemently, in one of the most aggressive foreign lobby efforts ever to influence a proposed piece of EU legislation."

Greenpeace cites a US Congressional report taking the environmentalists' viewpoint. This concluded that the Bush administration, "at the request of the US chemical industry, mounted a campaign to block the efforts of the European Union to regulate chemical companies".

Friday, December 03, 2004

Macware, not Malware

One of the good (and getting better) reasons to use a Mac instead of a Windows box is the virtually nonexistent amount of "malware": viruses, spyware, etc. But most of the time when you bring this up, somebody like your stupid brother claims that this is the case only because Macs have such small marketshare. The thinking is that the evil hackers and miscreants that are behind the various types of malware ignore the millions of Macs because they represent only a small percentage of potential victim machines. That may be part of it, but I believe the main reason is that Mac OS X is just harder to attack. A decent write-up in the comments of a Slashdot story the other day ("Clean System to Zombie Bot in Four Minutes"), spells it out pretty well. Show this to your stupid brother (or mine) next time.
Even a completely unpatched Mac OS X 10.0.0 [current version is 10.3.6 - Ed.] machine would not be vulnerable to any kind of remote attack, because no ports whatsoever are open to the outside world, and on most consumer Mac OS X systems, never will be. The fundamental and intrinsic security design and considerations of Mac OS X are just better, period. Even local exploits, such as might travel freely and easily on Windows via email, aren't as possible or practical on Mac OS X (e.g., a potential Mac exploit of this nature that spread via email would have to have its own MTA or a lot more complexity than a simple script on Windows where Outlook and the OS does all the work for you). Yes, marketshare, i.e., the chances of the next host encountered being a Mac, certainly doesn't hurt, but that is not the sole or primary reason Macs aren't vulnerable. No effective automatic vectors of infection or spread, either local or remote, exist, period. When external ports are opened, they usually represent open source services such as apache and OpenSSH, which as a matter of course are usually updated long before theoretical exploits become reality because of the intense scrutiny and peer review such products receive by the community.

When will people learn, that after three and a half years of Mac OS X, with the market growing, it's not just because of "marketshare" that Macs are rarely affected by these types of issues? Can people admit that it's possible that security decisions that were simply and fundamentally better than those of Microsoft were made? I get a kick out of articles that trumpet "MACS JUST AS INSECURE AS WINDOWS" when a text shell script is "discovered", one that must be run by someone with root or physical access no less, with no worthwhile vector or method of automated propagation of any kind! This is in the face of completely remote and automated exploits that can hit a Windows machine in minutes of being on the network, or exploits that own your machine by simply visiting a web page, or viewing an email message in Outlook (yes, these have continued to exist, some even very recently).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

A Disturbing Scenario

We The People Book Cover
Browsing around on Amazon today, found a book called "We The People" by Thom Hartmann. It's apparently in graphic novel (i.e., comic book) format. Intrigued, I perused the first part with Amazon's little "Search Inside!" feature. They have five or six pages of actual excerpt, enough to cover a whole section, and it's so compelling that I had to share.

Follow this link directly to the Amazon excerpt, then click the "Next Page" links to read through. The good part starts on the second page, under the heading "A Disturbing Scenario...". An apt title, indeed.

Dear [ Decision Maker ]

End Torture Now
Dear Friend,

President Bush has nominated for Attorney General his former White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales. Mr. Gonzales is infamous for his memos that laid the groundwork for the widespread incidents of torture and abuse we've now seen at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.

Please take a moment and go to and send a letter to your Senator asking that they vigorously question Mr. Gonzales during the confirmation process about his views on torture and indefinitely holding "enemy combatants."

Will it matter if you do? Will your Senators (or their staffers) give two shits about some email spam sent from a web form? Maybe not. On the other hand, maybe so - and the cost to you is nothing.

Fucking Ignorance

Via Jo Miller, a story about Rep. Henry Waxman's criticism of federally-funded abstinence education:
Many youngsters participating in federally financed, abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half of gay male teenagers have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," a congressional analysis found...

Supporters of the abstinence approach, also called abstinence until marriage, say teaching young people about "safer sex" is an invitation to have sex.
I like the part about how it's called "abstinence until marriage." That fits in nicely with administration efforts to "defend" marriage. So get it straight! (pun intended): marriage is for one man and one woman, and it's for frenzied, frantic, nonstop oh-thank-God-we-finally-made-it wild jungle sex (missionary position only).
Nonpartisan researchers, however, have been unable to document measurable benefits of the abstinence-only model. Columbia University researchers found that, although teenagers who take "virginity pledges" may wait longer, 88 percent eventually have premarital sex.
Well, hell, 12 out of 100 ain't bad, right? And those 12 for sure won't get pregnant, so that's good. The other 88, however, well, they're fucked in more ways than just the fun way.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

A Bush-Era Quiz

Don't worry, it's multiple choice. Guess which U.S. agency's head said the following yesterday:
"I believe the mission that the president has given me in a second term, and the agenda and the philosophy that was validated by the election, was more progress, faster, being achieved in a way that will maintain economic competitiveness as a nation."
  1. Department of Commerce
  2. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  3. Environmental Protection Agency
  4. Department of Education
  5. Department of Labor
  6. Department of Housing and Urban Development
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind.

Onion vol. 40 #48

Iraqi Terror Level

It's Wednesday, which means it's Onion day.
  • Iraq Adopts Terror Alert System
    Should the terror risk level rise to Code Orange-Yellow, it is likely that hostages will be left alive only long enough to dig their own graves.

  • Fighting Insomnia
    • Use your bed for sleeping only. Conduct all reading, eating, phone calls, and sexual relations on the kitchen table.
    • Try counting sheep, rather than the number of times you've failed as a wife and mother.
    • If you got less than three hours of sleep the previous night, it's important to inform everyone you meet of that fact all day long.

  • The Onion In History, Nov. 27, 1979
    • Sadat, Begin Celebrate Peace Treaty with All-Night Coke Orgy at Studio 54
    • Carter Offers Ayatollah 'Helpful Energy-Saving Tips' in Exchange for Hostages

Mr. Smug Goes to Canada

Heard this bit on All Things Considered yesterday. It shows George W. Bush's painful lack of anything resembling diplomacy or tact, as he smugly derides a reporter's question regarding how his and the country's "approval rating" in Canada has plummeted since 9/11. I really think he should have ended with at least "so in your face!" if not a full-blown, "suck it, bitch!" Maybe the Liberal Medians at NPR just edited that out.
...question at the news conference from a Toronto newspaper reporter dealt with the immediate goodwill Canadians felt for the U.S. in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. And how polls now show that it has since deteriorated. The reporter asked if the President felt responsible for that.

Bush: "I haven't seen the polls you look at. An' we just had a poll in our country, where uh, the people decided that the foreign policy of the Bush Administration oughta be, stay in place for four more years. It's a foreign policy that uh, works with our neighbors, trade between our countries has never been stronger. But it's a foreign policy that also understands that we've got an obligation to defend our security."
For those who are RealPlayer averse, here's the soundbite in MP3. You really need to hear it to get the full effect.