Efforts to understand, improve, or do less harm to the world around me.


___________________

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why I didn't see the latest Tarantino film

Quentin Tarantino over the years answering the question: "I wonder how I can make a revenge-themed movie?"

1994 - Oh I know, I'll make 'Pulp Fiction' where the most memorable scene will be a gangster planning to get "medieval" on a freaky rapist.

2003 - I'll make 'Kill Bill,' a movie where a former female assassin becomes pregnant and then her former associates kill her husband, friends, and child.

2007 - I'll make 'Death Proof' where a former stunt man murders one group of women, then terrorizes another before they beat him to death.

This year - I'll make 'Inglourious Basterds' where American Soldiers terrorize the Nazis in France.

Thanks but I'll pass.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Poem: It plugs into the goddamn wall

Others are trapped inside their own skin.
They have no ability, no capability.
Their arms are like stubby knobs unable to form control and systems.
Things are left undone, inefficient, unworkable.
Dealt with and untouched on a daily basis.
I have a drill.
I fuck shit up.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Mitch Hedberg joke

I'm against picketing, but I don't know how to show it.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Zimbra e-mail client review

Having access to Exchange server e-mail can sometimes be critical to doing your job, but if you're stuck with the sometimes painfully stupid Outlook 2003, you might go looking elsewhere.

Although the Linux-only Evolution is a great tool for this, Zimbra Desktop was an option available for Windows, Mac, and others. For a basic e-mail client that does everything you need it to do simply and easily, this is a real winner, but the program takes up enormous system resources.


The Good

  • Excellent support for a wide variety of email systems both web (like gmail and hotmail) and POP/IMAP services. (Outlook can do this but not well.)
  • Better interface, great calendar, overall much prettier.
  • Good drag-and-drop support
  • A strong "Find" tool. This is more of a knock on Outlook '03, which buries an extremely important component inside menus and "CTRL+F" is useless until you reply to the email.
In composing an email:
  • Both HTML and plain text options
  • Simple, easy attachment tools, draft, and otherwise
  • Automatic email address detection
The Bad
  • Doesn't seem to work with the Google Calendaring system (I had to click refresh). You can connect Outlook to Google Calendaring with a separate tool (note that this tool is probably not secured).
  • Doesn't cut back on features for things that don't exist for Google's calendar (such as attachments and other Exchange-only features)
  • After I added in all my addresses, takes up an enormous amount of disk space: 1.81 gigs.
  • File saving tool "Breifcase"? Thought this service had been turned off.
  • "Notepad" tool doesn't work with google docs. Its a mystery where it stores "notepad" files when you use non-yahoo accounts (probably locally).
  • Not as customizable and no power features like Outlook 2003.
Calendar
  • Google Calendar works great but many of the options available don't move over into google docs.
  • Didn't work correctly with Exchange calendar

So unfortunately, Zimbra is helpful and good, but is not a replacement for Outlook 2003. If you do get stuck with Outlook, make sure you install the fantastic Xobni, which improves search, keeps track of contacts, and many other useful features.


Download Zimbra Desktop.

Done with Facebook



In a case that's been building for quite a while now, Facebook basically seems to think its users are neither important nor valuable. Their continued privacy problems have peaked yet again in the news with a new interface that just makes things worse.

Conclusion? Its time to start backing away slowly from Facebook. Many of its elements are enjoyable but the benefits don't outweigh the pain. As far as a method to simply get back in touch with old friends, Facebook has certainly become the standard. As a social medium where people should share any personal information, its time to go elsewhere.

Image source.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Drug policy based on actual research

Policy based on politics and history shouldn't have as much weight as science, but it seems that's one place we're stuck.  I was most surprised by their analysis of alcohol in comparison to other "drugs."

It always seems that people arguing for a balanced drug policy are those that want to use currently outlawed drugs.  However, coming down harder on the worst drugs and lessening the penalties for those less harmful seems obvious.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chicken Little is cleaning up!



I've talked before about people profiting from being alarmists, but there may be a more direct way to profit from doom-saying.  Glenn Beck might defend himself by saying that he's just a part of a good idea but he can't possibly escape the idea that this is a total conflict of interest and that he may be worsening the very problem he bemoans.

Colbert also takes a swipe on this issue and not just at Beck.

Image source.

Top 10 reasons why the McDonalds "McRib" only available for a limited time

Taken from an actual question posted online.

  1. They are made of endangered blue whale.  They can only kill 10 blue whales a year and get away with it and that's just enough McRib meat to feed 100,000 people.
  2. Elephants get old but not as quickly as we'd like
  3. We don't know but Tom Hanks is actively trying to learn the secret from the Catholic church.
  4. Made from the tears of orphans.  Although their sorrow is great, they only *really* cry during the holidays.
  5. Because those few cats who can actually talk like they do in Disney movies are a threat to our way of life.
  6. Those baby seals can hold their breath for a pretty long time.
  7. Extracting skunk meat takes real skill.
  8. We've been feeding Jared those Subway sandwiches for years.  Now everyone gets a taste.
  9. What do you call it when its Hanna Montana?  Hannibalism?
  10. It comes from a rare gigantic centipede with over 300 "ribs"
Find a McRib near you!  (Someone in Saskatchewan is making a religious trek to Alberta as we speak.)

Pandora radio review

From listening to Pandora
 lately:

The Good:
  • I've discovered a number of new albums and songs that may become passionate favorites.
  • Compared to other internet radio which will alternately play great and terrible music, at least I know what I'm listening to and can skip ahead.  That makes it worth the commercials.
  • Music genres can also be very restrictive and false, listing artists instead of genres has provided a much better level of quality songs.  Additionally, you find more stuff from artists you already know that you may not have heard yet.  For artists with a wide catalog, this can be a real eye opener.
The Bad:

One major problem is that it almost excludes a whole genre of music: electronic, which has a lot of outros and intros.  These are long, repetitive strings of music that are there just to allow the DJ to beat-match two records before seamlessly switching over, often giving the impression of a never-ending song.  Frequently these intros and outros from singles and studio albums are included in radio stations who don't know any better.  A very great song might await you after a very dull intro, but you've already voted the song down or skipped it.  This can also be heard on non-singles albums, where overlapping intro-outro sequences abruptly cut off.

Additionally, I rarely listen to individual songs in Electronic music, and instead aim for whole sets or whole albums.  Favorite music selections among fans like me usually aren't focused on individual songs.  For this reason, Pandora is a great way to discover new music, but in terms of overall listening isn't my first choice.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Handling extremism

An excellent article on cult religious deprogramming applied to Muslim extremists.  This represents a peaceful and positive option for young people who would normally join the most hated group in America and much of the world.  It also thins the line between religious madness of dangerous cults like Jonestown with those of the 9/11 attacks.  Best of all, it takes away from what Martin Buber might have termed the otherness of what are basically angry young people.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Psychology of climate change

How do people handle something that is:
  • supported by mountains of evidence by scientists all over the world
  • very far away
  • very dire
  • probably inescapable?
With the help of some well-funded PR groups, we disbelieve that there's any problem at all.  Denial on a near-global scale.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Plugging a friend

[Edit: sadly both these sites are now offline]

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Great Mac finds

  • Unplug headphones, pause VLC or iTunes with Breakaway. Plug them back in and continue. I absolutely love this.
  • A much more indpenedant twist on iTunes, DoubleTwist allows you to connect to many different music devices, import music from Youtube, and buy music from Amazon. Didn't function with my Palm TX device, but worked beautifully with my Blackberry and an old SanDisk player. (Available for Mac and Windows)
  • Clear out all the extra install and language information with Mac applications using Monolingual. I've talked about this before but it turns out this is something you want to run every few months as software updates frequently bring with them thousands of unnecessary files. Also for space saving, don't forget Disk Inventory X.
  • Note: this program is out of date except for Limewire/Frostwire and other iTunes share clones. OurTunes lets you download music from any iTunes share. Just go to an internet Cafe where someone's sharing and grab some tunes! (Available for Mac and Windows)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanks but I don't need a drummer

With people like Kid Beyond and Imogen Heap doing very similar one-person-band performances, this makes me wonder what bands of the future will look like.

I recommend just listening; the only reason to watch the rather dull videos are to see that these are remarkably complex and beautiful songs by just one person with an effects tool.

Musical find of the week: "Extrawelt"

Really enjoying this genre-bending set from an electronic music artist I'd never even heard of before today from Newmixes.com (scroll down a bit to get to the full set downloadable in MP3).   Very much reminds me of the "clickhop" genre: something inside electronica, downtempo, and IDM.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ergonomics

Had been planning on writing an article on this for a while but Lifehacker has a great breakdown. The screen height, keyboard level, alignment, and posture are all very important.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Protect yourself from your landlord

  • Get everything in writing - if its not written down, it didn't happen
  • Look for positive reviews online
  • Send all communications via certified mail
... and more.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Windows 7 wants to be Mac OS X

Although this will be old news for some of you, many aspects of Vista mirror Mac OS X.  From look and feel, included applications and functionality, all the way down to a new directory structure all made me think someone was trying pretty hard to be a Mac.  Windows 7 seemed to take it a step further and at least one Microsoft employee seems to concur. (thanks Silver)

Mafia Wars actually somewhat Mafia-like

I'm sure spammers justify their activities similar to how CEO Mark Pincus justifies starting his "Mafia Wars" company.  Paraphrasing Balzac: "Behind every great fortune there is a great crime." (thanks Kimberly)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My new favorite Wikipedia article

List of cats with fraudulent diplomas.

Update: I was linking to the discussion on this article and not the actual article, which is far more entertaining.

Glenn Beck doesn't do his homework

Evidently Beck is ripping on people to an audience of millions without even doing the courtesy of asking for comment.  Why should facts get in the way of a good story?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Cheney vs. Cheney

A withering but, as far as I can tell, accurate attack on Dick Cheney, suggesting most of all that his recent criticism of Obama's slow movement on Afghanistan is absurd given that his administration sat on their hands on the same issue for years.  I'm straining to see another side to this issue, but it seems here as complete lack of awareness.

It sort of reminds me of gay Republican senators attacking gays, which spawned this.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Your relationship with Windows 7

Sometimes technology can be put in very human terms. (Thanks Silver)

Why Fox News isn't

Rachel Maddow makes a strong and sober case for why Fox isn't just right-leaning News, its not news at all.  Quality journalism can be right-leaning, however.  Its called The Economist.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Tea Party does not equal Gay Rights march

Stewart points out more problems with Fox News selective hearing when it comes to marches on Washington.

Difficult people

Almost everyone has at some point encountered someone that was hard to work with. Arguments for putting up with it usually go something like this (taken from an actual newsgroup post):

____ is a dick. He knows it, we know it. Pls take any dickish (ie: involving the dick) statements/responses from his intarwebs as such. It's his nature, he's not trying =)

Sure there's a little Hunter Thompson in all of us but unfortunately research suggests that the "its not his fault" position simply doesn't work. Although this person may justify their existence with technical capability or good sales, they exact a cost on productivity by affecting other employees poorly takes away any benefits they bring.

Why exactly have we tolerated jerks in business for so long? [Author] Bob [Sutton] convincingly demonstrates using surveys, psychological studies and anecdotal evidence that workplace jerks are far more trouble than they're worth. They mat be getting results and making the numbers, but they do so at a huge cost to the rest of the organization and to the well-being of the people around them. (source)

Sutton's suggestion is that you shouldn't hire them, don't put up with them, and if you're in a management position, fire them; they are hurting you more than they are helping. No one wants to attend a staff meeting where their ideas are going to be shot down and no one wants to post to a newsgroup with those kinds of responses. They could go to slashdot for that.

But what to do if you're stuck with one?

Video fact checking

Frequently political videos don't reveal their sources and thus are little better than propaganda. Often video is more entertaining and more interesting, but still needs to list sources so viewers can evaluate the truth. Entertainment and honesty in journalism need not be mutually exclusive. A recent one connecting the iPod with attacking the Republican congress fortunately at least tries to, unfortunately not using the best sources.

Similarly O'Reilly rightly corrects Jon Stewart for clearly taking one of his statements out of context.

Update: Stewart responds, O'Reilly edits it out.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bad dad/mom

Children wanting to have a relationship with their parents despite serious problems is not unusual, but sometimes can be too toxic to maintain. (thanks silver)  You don't have to hit your kids to be abusive.

Remember, if your parents were shitty, you've got to try harder.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Interesting videos

Unsurprisingly, four of these are TED talks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Less abortion

For many in the pro choice movement, abortion is still a terrible thing but a necessary evil. So a majority of Americans likely favor fewer abortions. How do we get there? Well, the country with the best statistics in this area is somewhat of a surprise:

The Dutch? With their legalized prostitution and ultraliberal abortion laws? How can that be? I did a little research and found out that the Netherlands has not only the lowest abortion rate but the lowest rate of teen pregnancy. In fact, the country has held this distinction for decades. Researchers credit strategies like sex education in schools, discussion of sexuality in the mass media, and easy access to contraception. One study pointed out that "acceptance of contraception preceded liberalization of abortion" and that Dutch citizens accept "abortion only as a last resort." (source)

See also: Huckabee and Stewart on abortion.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Tepid Topic



Although it seemed a little deviance was better than none, the goth/punk store "Hot Topic" had, as of 2008, "688 locations in the United States and six stores in Puerto Rico, the majority of which are located in regional shopping malls." As of 2006 their revenue was 3/4 of a billion dollars (source: wikipedia). So really its the McDonald's of deviance.

(image source)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Music maker



I had such fun with this interactive music maker. Its so simple and enjoyable, its easy to blow your lunch hour.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Subtract your news (a howto)

Tired of getting certain types of news? Whether its the inconsequential morons or politics from Obama, Sean Hannity, or overused sports phrases, there's a way to finally clean that up using the free FeedRinse service:

1. Set up an account

2. Make a list:
People/topics I'm sick of

* Kayne West
* That Jon and Kate show
* Marilyn Manson
* Donald Trump
* American Idol
* Dance competitions

Non-News

* Britney Spears
* Lindsay Lohan
* Scott Weiland
* Scott Stapp
* Paris Hilton & Nicole Richie
* The Kardashians

3. Get your news source (there are many). For example, the Associated Press Top Stories feed:


4. Add a list of filters. Click the "+" sign a few times to add lots of blockers:


5. Finally, select "get your rinsed feeds" and click the button in red below:


I use Google's service but there are many listed below:


You're done! Log into your news reader of choice and you've just filtered out the stupid!

Censored 8008ies



A new calculator with a profanity filter will help prevent calculator porn. The importance of such a move cannot be understated in pitting math vs. nipples.

What's 62 + 7? Error!

(image source)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sort of a poem: Hope

Old empty husks of dazzling fate. Courage replaced by utter harmony. Cages made of all-we-can-handle-today. It just seemed recently that the dream died and was replaced by so much reality it killed hope. What happened to you can do anything you put your mind to? What happened to being available to miracles? Seems so much of adulthood has crushed possibility. But then I don't think hope was working so well on its own. Sort of delusional. Maybe there is a way to bring it back just a little.

Corporate abuse

First net neutrality and then the Senate reconsiders corporate wiretap immunity?  Perhaps an attack on corporate personhood and privacy?  I look forward to seeing where this goes.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Among us, one of the greats

Whether or not he was the greatest, he's certainly important. It staggers the imagination to think that one man's work might have saved a billion lives.

More info (and image) from Wikipedia.

Related: Pen and Teller pay tribute.

Net neutrality comes

Very happy to see this and expect it will be a lasting and positive legacy of the Obama administration.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fear sells

An excellent article on Glenn Beck covers both the state of American politics, the divided state, and a profitable way to play to your audience.  He's not the only one following this model, he's just the best at it.  We can all learn from the way he and others like him both Right and Left love and celebrate America by calling whoever is not on their team a bunch of toxic dirtbags. 

Beck and the other kids want you to know that whatever team you're on, the other team represents all that is wrong/delusional/evil.  [Please buy my book.]

If you enjoy group think and polarization, be sure to participate in this process and remember that those other people are just crazy.

Note: I apologize for referencing an article with with a question for a headline.  As pointed out by John Stewart, they are frequently editorial embellishment and/or poor journalism.

How to feel like crap all the time

In the same tradition as the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, How to be Depressed.

The latest version of everything

PC World reports: Unpatched Applications Are #1 Cyber Security Risk

So update your PC (Sumo) or Mac (AppFresh). Its worth the trouble: you'll also get more features and your stuff will generally crash less.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

David Lynch hates everything



An outstanding director talks about his clear distaste for

Friday, September 11, 2009

Health care public option conversation

On the topic of healthcare reform, a wise friend of mine pointed out the following (paraphrasing):

"The so called "public" option has no competition, no profit incentive, and therefore, no incentive to be *efficient*. Ergo, its cost to run will keep escalating, as demand escalates, and all the while the actual supply side of the healthcare economic equation remains stagnant, further compounding prices. To offset the problem, government will throw more money at it, causing higher taxes and another recession, which will be offset by printing more money, thus weakening the dollar and losing more foreign investment in the US. Better solution: stimulate growth and competition in healthcare supply markets (i.e. supplies, equipment, services) and limit "public option" participation to those who can prove they don't make enough to become insured on their own."

While in principle, the profit and competition motive should drive better services like computers, cars, and more, it's not working with health care.  As I understand it, profit-driven health care is the problem, not the solution.  Where the profit motive in other industries drives innovation, the motive here is to deny service at the time of greatest need, as that means the greatest profit.

Thus, a public option seems more viable and the analysis is whether this waste is an acceptable failure level to justify the public good.  This could be compared to the publicly funded police and education systems: they are wasteful, but necessary to maintain the peace and keep America competitive.  When family members get sick without treatment, that doesn't maintain the peace or make us more competitive.

(Responses welcome.)

Note: some of these ideas come from an essay by Bill Maher touching on the public option.

closebutnocigar.com

Something that really tests the limit of free speech versus defamation, but with what should be a sound satirical point:
  1. Glenn Beck makes accusations about Obama's citizenship with no evidence.
  2. An openly offensive website makes accusations about Glenn Beck with no evidence.
Therefore Glenn Beck has no claim against a political wedge is being used against him.

Unfortunately for the site operator, he should have chosen someone else to make this point with, since Beck has come out against this particular issue. Beck is no stranger to conspiracy theories, but the "Birthers" aren't one of them.

Lou Dobbs is probably a better target for this type of edgy, biting satire.

(Thanks Wes.)

Update: John Stewart runs this satire a lot better:
"I have no reason to believe that Congressman Campbell (who co-sponsored Birther-related legislation) spends his time surreptitiously giving out dollar tug jobs at a local rest stop."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Personal recorders don't cover your ass



Although I don't want people tapping my phone, I want to be able to walk into situations where someone is acting in an unlawful way and be able to prove later in court I'm not the bad guy. A recent asinine court case says this not only isn't okay, but sets a scary precedent that your iPhone is illegal.

What is legal in Massachusetts might differ from your state, but from my basic understanding of wiretapping laws, this sounds accurate. A conversation between yourself and one other person is one issue, but if you pick up a conversation between two other people in a not-exactly-public space, you could land in legal hot water. This case seems to take it a step further, making it possible for a cop to make your life harder merely for:

... "possession of a wiretapping device." Yikes. Even my iPhone has a voice recorder feature built in. I'm in possession of such a device any time I step out in public.

The only solution seems to be make the recorder as inconspicuous as possible in the hopes that it will be overlooked, or deal with people exclusively over the phone.

Image credit.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Cash injection not a cure



Western society seems to worship youth, money, and beauty, but it won't surprise anyone that a 16 year old, beautiful, sudden millionaire didn't turn out well.

While the importance the lottery plays in the hopes and dreams of people who are on the bottom is noted, this outcome isn't unique or restricted to the young. If you've seen some of the people hurt by gambling, there's danger both on the effort to win as well as after you actually succeed.

While it seems like a lose-lose scenario, it would be silly to suggest that this is a reason to embrace poverty, but the clear lesson here is if you run into a lot of money, go in with more than a simple plan.

Image credit.

If the devil's in the details, Apple's quite evil

Not everything works with Snow Leopard yet, but there's a plethora of small changes. Still, Mac users should obviously wait a few months for things to get ironed out on the compatibility side.

Its nice to see operating system developers focusing on what's under the hood instead of making users turn off all the seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time "features" (like in Vista and XP). To be fair, one feature I could do without on the Mac is Dashboard.

Facebook's continuing saga of bad policy



You may have heard about Facebook's stupid idea to own everything always and forever, and then efforts to recant on that. Well, behind the scenes it was already a mess. Although a spokesman claims there are efforts being made to address this (scroll to end of article -- thanks Mark), it looks like Facebook won't be unifying your social network without putting you in some amount of danger. Remember, the TOS requires you use your real name and as anybody who's looked at identity theft, its probably much easier to target a Facebook user.

Why Google Chrome?



Recent news has Google Chrome in the news including how its not gaining any traction, but I have no idea why anyone would use this software when a privacy-enhanced version Iron (Windows only) is available. Its fast, works fine, skinnable, and without all the creepy garbage from Google Inc.

This reminds me of when Netscape tried to take Firefox and integrate it into their browser without realizing the lighter and less corporate Firefox was just better.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bad logic in politics

Probably not limited to healthcare, facts are not informing upon a view points in politics.  Instead, its more about what team (left or right) you're on.

Monday, August 24, 2009

You might be the bad guy if ...

You use "threats to kill one suspect's children and to force another to watch his mother sexually assaulted." Sounds like Mobsters but, no, turns out its the CIA. Last I heard even some mobsters had a no women, no children policy.

Maybe its just threats, but it still seems like Chuck Norris needs to liberate some prisoners from America. After he's done, he'll take them back in time to the other America where that sort of thing was unthinkable. Where only they (the bad guys) did that kind of thing.

Update:

Republican Peter King responded to this issue in Politico and makes some strong points:

"When Holder was talking about being 'shocked' [before the report's release], I thought they were going to have cutting guys' fingers off or something — or that they actually used the power drill," he said.

"You're talking about threatening to kill a guy, threatening to attack his family, threatening to use an electric drill on him — but never doing it," King said. "You have that on the one hand — and on the other you have the [interrogator's] attempt to prevent thousands of Americans from being killed."

King is correct in that the threat of violence in interrogation is usually far more effective than actually performing it. Threats have the effect of letting the victim's imagination go overtime, which is usually more effective. Unfortunately, this type of interrogation can also be damaging and its impact over time -- especially years -- can be similar to being physically tortured. The concern is that threats of rape, murder, and power drills over time are just as damaging and represent a slippery slope. That an American soldier is making these threats is counter to notions of the United States as a beacon to humanity in a time of Rwandas and North Koreas of the world.

As the story has unfolded, it seems the prisoner abuses are only sounding more and more barbaric. Still, it seems King's views would be the same:

"They’ve declared war on the CIA. We should resist and fight back as hard as we can," he said. "It should be a scorched earth policy. ... This isn't just another policy. This goes to the heart of our national defense. We should do whatever we have to do."

This represents is an ugly dilemma, choosing between the possibility that 1,000s may die in some type of attack versus destroying a handful of individuals' lives. Victims of torture don't sleep at night even years after the initial trauma, and emotional torture and physical torture have similar effects. Its not difficult to find accounts of this as many dictatorships in Argentina and El Salvador left behind a destroyed populace of merely accused citizens. I'm sure they used the same rationale to torture prisoners: with this evil, we can prevent one greater.

We're all familiar with the idea of the idea of a ticking bomb, suggesting that torture would be acceptable in certain circumstances. While some call this a red herring, it doesn't change the fact that harsh interrogation can be torture, especially over prolonged periods. If based on accusation or possibility of future harm, this is not a legal system and instead a description for a mad playground operated by thugs and masochists. We know these people are the bad guys not because they have been convicted, but from classified information that we won't know for 20+ years. Imagine the people defending the program are wearing El Salvador uniforms and suddenly you won't want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Obviously, the answer cannot be "don't interrogate anyone," but should include an awareness that we are still the good guys and good guys don't cheat the difficult process of possible bad guys being innocent until proven guilty. If we throw out the rights of those people, you might one day be confused for one of those people. The way to do that is with accountability and transparency; when interrogation is done outside the rule of law and without consequence to those who break the law, that's a recipe for another kind of human disaster, one that dissolves the pride of what it is to be American.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Entertaining videos

  • Knowing someone that's getting into dating for the first time, I found this useful. Some of the tips may also apply to those that have been in the game for a while.
  • A surprisingly good look at how to deal with bullies.
Update:
  • Cuss words are still hilarious - The Onion (from Kim)
  • Pretty much any video making fun of KISS is welcome, but this one is very good.

Lies repeated often enough ...

An educated citizenry is the backbone of democracy.  Unfortunately, our citizenry has been misinformed.  It reminds me of the number of people who thought there were WMDs in Iraq and the bad decisions that were subsequently made.

"A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both." - James Monroe

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Benchmark

(I don't know what this is.)

Can't see but going in anyway - home base is a song - heart is in a jar - hat is in a grave - spirit shut down - hopes unfortunate and incompatible - goal hazy - not saving, just getting by - not sent by god - owning the work - rules rewritten - not even sitting at my own table.

AT&T vs. Google Voice

Some good ideas about competition in phones.  I really hope someone implements this and brings phone services out of the 80s.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What drug war?

The impetus for change in drug policy in the United States to something that actually works is way past due. The Onions satirical take in 1998 ("Drugs win drug war") makes me wince even harder that nothing has changed since the 70s.

It would be a distraction for the current administration to make an attempt, but billions could be saved by doing something, anything to be more effective.

Update: Mexico tries something new: passes decriminalization for minor drug possession as well as providing treatment for addiction.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Japan hates dolphins

Japan's dolphin "research" is a pretty big industry.  Mercury poisoning, killing intelligent creatures, and totally inhumane methods?  What's not to love?

Intel better understands the problem by adding to the problem

Your computer rarely runs at 100% capacity, so why not use a program that will put those processes to use? Sounds like a good idea? Well, although there are projects that help humanity, I fail to see how this will positively affect climate change.

It seems like a bad idea to use more electricity, which means more coal burned and more CO2 in the atmosphere that's causing global warming. Sort of a cancer-for-the-cure moment there.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The new definition of an Operating System

An excellent article on the upcoming Google OS:

Best quote:

David Gelernter, a computer scientist at Yale University, has described the chief goal of the personal-computer OS as providing a " 'documentary history' of your life." Information technology, he argues, must answer the question "Where's my stuff?" That stuff includes not only words but also photos, videos, and music.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Turn the page *slowly*

The comic presented (ala Penny Arcade) is pretty silly, but the interface?  I sat there just turning the page back and forth for a full minute.

I want this type of thing for programs like ComicsViewer.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Problems with recent "Cash for Clunkers" program

While I applaud the Obama administration trying to do things that are simultaneously good for the economy and good for the environment, this program has two major issues:
  1. Not really good for the environment.  Seems to be purely a boost to the car industry.
  2. I found out they destroy the engines, which I find disturbingly wasteful.  Although a device may not work well, that doesn't make it useless or otherwise salvageable.
If someone can speak to this, I'd like to know.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A mountain of political cynicism

This isn't exactly constructive but its the sort of thing someone should say.  My hope is that once we're all conscious of it, maybe we can sit down at the table again and start talking to each other. (Thanks Switch)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Health care analysis using actual research

A recent hilarious interlude fully underlines some people will just make things up as they go along.  Here's a little fact-checking on both sides.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Governing to that one dude in the back



A great example of using good reasoning and culturally effective terminology with a strong emotional appeal as well as brevity and style. This usually powerful gesture that in this case will strongly impact and change the minds of only 0.0003% of the population: the one that watches Star Trek religiously. (thanks Kim)

Good news -- bad news

First the good news: a teenager in Ontario isolated a bacteria that will break down plastic bags considerably faster than several hundred years. This appears to be something that could be done on a broad scale, which may dramatically reduce landfill waste. (Thanks to Mark for this one.)

Next, the bad news: Bisphenol A -- a topic I've been following for a long time should have been banned long ago. The villains according to this article are the Weinberg Group, Sunoco, and Sciences International. Although these people have no business in the civilized world, what's much worse is what this situation implies about the rest of us:

"Humans are terrible at reacting to subtle threats: We fear the unknown, the immediate, but not things which harm us slowly in subtle ways." (source)

If this is true and global warming is true (so far the vast consensus is yes), we're in a great deal of trouble.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Health care = 9/11

Watch Neil Cavuto throw his back out reaching too far to connect health care and terrorism.

The train of logic:

Nationalized health care => more doctors => hiring doctors from outside the US => some of the doctors are Muslim => terrorists are Muslim => nationalized health care is a breeding ground for terrorists

I think I can do this in fewer steps:

Cavuto hates big government => nationalized health care means bigger government => Cavuto will attack big government with bad slippery slope arguments and no evidence.

Jindal stimulus refusal Fail

I have no idea if the economic stimulus will work, but I don't understand why that would justify its refusal. Successively, how would a refusal then justify its acceptance?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tanning beds = slow arsenic poisoning

After a leading dermatologist called tanning beds "death beds," I took a careful look when tanning was compared to arsenic.

The article makes a false equivalency: tanning itself is not the same as rat poison, but instead eating small amounts of rat poison for years.  That's still unsettling.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Songs that make me hate life

A list of songs I hope desperately not to hear when I'm somewhere I can't escape.
  • Creed - My Own Prison. The video for this song is almost too horrendous to link to. Its like a dog threw up on a velvet painting of a dog throwing up on a velvet painting. I hate most everything by this band.
  • Apocalyptica - I Don't Care. I'll admit its catchy and the distortion is excellent, but the repetition ultimately makes it torturous. Don't worry -- he doesn't care about my opinion. He doesn't care. He don't care. He doesn't care. He don't care! (and repeat)
  • Blue October - Dirt Room. Like the band -- but the torture/revenge themes just grate on me over time ("I want to cover you in ants, bees and honey then take a picture for the cover of our album"). No thanks. For contrast, here's a GOOD breakup song.
  • Matchbox Twenty - Push. The lyrics and repetition ("well I will well I will") drive me fucking batty. Ugh.
  • Foo Fighters - Big Me. I like the Foo Fighters, but this song blows. Its a great example of a song made radio-worthy purely by a great music video, and why MTV hurts music as a whole.

Related
:
David Cross on bad music, especially Creed.

Signs that sales position might suck

Taken from actual online posts:
  • The product or service you're selling is murky, yet still somehow has a "billion dollar market"
  • Job posting looks like it was written by someone who can't type: "P/T job / with flxble hrs. Comp and a + - but not req'rd."
  • Phrases that don't mean what they say:
  • "Unlimited compensation" = you make commission
  • "Help educate customers" = you cold call people
  • "Strong phone experience" = you cold call people
  • "Some of our top sellers earn $____ per week" = you will probably earn a lot less because you don't take caffeine intravenously.
  • "You'll love this job" = a generally better experience than getting kicked in the nuts
  • "Pleasant working environment" = free donuts

Recent coffee shop jokes

  • You know they used to make a "dot com" bubble tea, but they stopped because everyone got laid off.
  • They make an optimist and pessimist drink here but its really the same thing: a rip off.

The next Kitchen Sink



Put the work of a lot of software developers together into a big, portable package again.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Meat vs. veggie

Is being a vegetarian really healthier? Depending on what illnesses you might be prone to genetically, the answer might be different for you.

If you don't have any predispositions in any direction, the article is a strong proponent of balance in your diet.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Why Apple sells iPhone ringtones

Someone pointed out that its not easy to get a ringtone on an iPhone, something that should be fairly easy and automatic like so many things with iPhone. It plays music, it has a phone -- what's the problem? Unfortunately, this is the old assumption that the iPhone is really just a computer with a phone hooked into it, but Apple isn't a computer company anymore. Now an online music retailer, ringtones are big business for Apple, accounting for millions in sales every year. They couldn't sell the iPhone and not sell ringtones in keeping with intellectual property of the artists.

Additionally, when you are an industry leader, you create money-making standards, like only playing a tiny handful of YOUR audio formats, using a hard-to-access file system, and having non-standard USB connectors. By contrast, the competition puts out players with standard connectors, plays a long list of formats, and you can search through the device just as if it were a USB drive. That's the type of thinking that makes ringtones something to be paid for.

That said, by and large I hate ringtones. I do not want to hear your rap-music-in-a-paper-cup-sounding bullshit. If you make a ringtone out of a recent top 40 song, you are a tool. A soft beep or low ringing noise is as much as I want to hear but if you just put it on vibrate, that'd be great.


Image credit

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dr. Seuss style

  • Tepid rapid vapid habits terribly trouble helpful rabbits.
  • Crushing dishing wishing facts need the help of some snuggly cats.
  • Versions turning the worst of life's urge the purge of excessive trifles.
  • Cake in the way of the temple today make shake and display some aging dismay.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Problems of legal music

The ethics of file sharing are an issue I've been wrestling with for some time, but meanwhile I've been looking at fully legal options:
  • Internet radio - there are some terrific sources but this has progressively gotten more annoying, ironically from the often totally unique tracks. When you hear something you absolutely must have, its often not really available due to the pervasive nature of remixes. Often they can't be found through any means legal or otherwise.
  • Recorded radio - using Screamer (for Windows) provides an automatic recording function that will grab any net radio stations you listen to.
  • Commercial services with free sections - Several free and fully legal sources. (Thanks to Kimberly for this one.) iTunes doesn't exactly come with a catalog of free files like Amazon, but there are several sites that attempt to cover free music through Apple's service.
  • Unique formats - paradoxically, higher quality music is often more openly available than MP3 format music. If you don't mind converting your audio from a high quality, large file size format to something that will play on your portable, you can get quite a selection. This type of audio, known as "lossless," or near-perfect quality audio available, presumably comes from music enthusiasts who record concerts and collaborative music projects that have no clear owner. (Many retailers are gradually jumping on this bandwagon.)
  • Tip-Jar albums - Radiohead and NIN both have notably given away albums that encourage people to pay what they think is appropriate for an album. Gradually more artists have been trying this method.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vick's second chance!

If you love people who torture dogs, be sure to watch the NFL in the near future after Michael Vick shows "remorse".

This guy captures my feelings on the topic so very well.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Mood enhancing foods

Foods that were already making me happy ...
  • Chocolate covered almonds
  • Avocados
  • Whole wheat in general (since it usually has a more complex flavor)
... are also making me happy.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Women happiest at 28?

This article bothers me on all sorts of levels but the psychology certainly makes sense.  I'm just hoping for a broad cultural change that doesn't make late 20s the only time women are supposed to be more than just content.

News flash

Michael Jackson is dead -- musicians several orders of magnitude better than him still hard at work.

In related news: major media outlets celebrate the announcement by a California coroner that a cause of death won't be determined for several weeks. Plans to drag the story as long as humanly possible in the works. Inevitable speculation by news anchors about Jackson's return from the dead not treated with any skepticism will herald a new journalistic low and the dawn of the end-times.

Update: upon reflection, I think this post is more about Jackson's less-savory past than upon his actual talent; a quick look at wikipedia shows that he wrote most of his songs. I'm a fan of Hunter Thompson's writing, but I also acknowledge he was a shitty person.

Update Update! Wow, did I ever call it: MJ's Ghost! Hahaha! (Of course quickly debunked.)

Getting off meth



After some very ugly experiences with Meth, its easy to get cynical about one of the most addictive drugs out there. It doesn't seem possible that someone could kick the habit even with a lot of help. Here's one story about that process from A&E's Intervention series.

Another excellent story, this time with over-the-counter meds.

Better compression on Mac

The integrated "Compress" tool in the Finder window is wonderfully simple compression method, but far from a heavy-duty. Rarify is free software that helps you tighten your archives, named for its use of the RAR format.

Where this matters:
  • When backing up 100s or 1,000s of database or text files, this can mean a space savings of 10-30% vs. regular zip files.
  • When you're archiving something to CD or DVD and space is still a concern.
  • If you want to password-protect a file you're sending.
Where this doesn't matter
  • A few files you're emailing to a friend. A little extra space here and there isn't going to matter.
  • Don't re-compress ZIP files nor JPG or MP3 files. These files are already compressed. PDF files will sometimes compress more, sometimes not.
Setup suggestions
  1. When you install, the program will pop up with an annoying notice about downloading the RAR binary but the program will download the files automatically for you. If it asks, select "Install inside rarify". Then start the program and select "Rarify" from the menu.
  2. In the preferences, turn the compression meter all the way to the right. This is because if you want a speedy, normal compression, you should be using OS X "compress" program instead.
  3. To compress, just drag a file or files onto the purple-green-and-blue dock icon:
Note that most Macs cannot open RAR files by default. Recipients of your files will need a program like Unarchiver.

Crossover users: I strongly recommend the Windows 7-zip program in OS X. Its .7z format is similar in speed and compression to RAR and has tons more features.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Republican party surges back! Oh wait, no nevermind.

So South Carolina governor Sanford's office said he'd gone hiking on the Appalachian Trial, which is something I've always wanted to do. My respect for the man went up and his status as a possible 2012 candidate really sounded cool. As it turns out, that wasn't the truth -- he was having an affair with a woman in Argentina.

This is shortly after Senator Ensign, a Republican from Nevada just admitted a fling with a member of his staff. Wow.

I consider myself a creative person but couldn't write shit this good.

Update: A good review of the Republican situation.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Happiness is ...



... breathing helium and getting tased. This video is hit-and-miss, but what it gets right is somewhere between watching Bill O'Reily get his ass kicked by a midget on Friday and riding a go-cart off a ramp out of an exploding building.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Huckabee and Stewart on Abortion



Since its so very rare I get to see a conversation on this topic with any real value. Stewart handles it brilliantly.

Note: sorry -- had a bad link, now fixed... thanks Kimberly.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Poem

Nations of burden walking upright. The cold of the day ripping me up and making me old. There may be hope in the clearing of some distant forest away from everything where there are no expectations. I am criminal with desire for food and drink both of an evil sort named for
the ugliness as well as luster. I'm brittle and cresting into a new world. Any slower and I'll die of distaste.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Maher again -- this time against Obama

Been real impressed with Bill lately. One of the problems with Obama's pragmatism on many issues is that -- just like ignoring Global Warming -- it just isn't going to work in the long term.

Update: His followup to the reaction -- jump to 2:00 into the video.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

You're doing it wrong

Turns out there's a better way to handle certain movies and music:
  • Play Club Dread from about the middle -- its much funnier without the intro. For some reason the beginning just ruins the film.
  • Start SLC Punk also from about the middle. Otherwise, you already know who the guy with glasses is -- one of the best characters -- and that's not very interesting. Then watch it from the beginning to the middle.
  • Play And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead "Worlds Apart" in reverse order - its much better that way
  • Dune sucked but if you watch the extended edition with an intro about the world and setting, its a great movie. Its NOT short.
  • Haven't tested this but I'm told the 6th star wars movie (episode 3) is good if you just skip past any part with Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman. Because this movie made me bored with light sabers, I don't plan on trying this.
Update:
  • Serenity - just skip the beginning sequence with the dude getting stabbed by falling on the sword. The movie is better without it.

If you accidentally delete something on a Mac

My recommendations:
  1. Turn off the Mac immediately.
  2. Ask yourself how much you want that file back. If the answer is several thousand dollars, send it to a professional data recovery service. (The only one I can recommend is OnTrack.) You will need to remove the offending drive.
  3. If its not worth that much money and trouble, get some data recovery software on a bootable CD to run on the machine. I recommend the commercial Data Rescue II, which will let you recover one file under 5 megs with the unregistered version. The software requires an external data source (like a USB drive) and my experiences with the software were mixed, as were a MacWorld article on the software. However, Data Rescue II is made by the same company that makes the excellent Drive Genius software so it might just be that data recovery on Mac drives formatted with HFS is just difficult.
  4. My tests with commercial recovery software StellarPhoenix also lacked good results and the software doesn't come on a bootable CD, which may make recovery more difficult.

Related
: Free software that does this on Windows

Update: I found some free, cross platform, and open source software that does this: TestDisk. For recovering media files: Photorec.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Snuggie cult

Someone took a commercial for snuggies and redid the voiceover.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Great places to visit



Wikipedia can be unintentionally hilarious. For bonus points, try reading this article out loud.

Additionally, if you've heard the term BFE, this is probably what they were probably talking about.

(Thanks Switch)

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Microsoft threatens to leave the US

They like so many things about the US but when they get the bill?

Comments below the article are also quite good.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Interactive technology

Microsoft's answer to the Wii. Although I have little doubt the first version of the software will be painfully below expectations but version 2 or 3? Wow.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Daydreaming is good

As it turns out your brain is very active when daydreaming.  I got all kinds of good stuff done in highschool.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Software choices

Have a program you love or looking for a better, cheaper, or simpler alternative for any operating system, often web-based?  (I love this site so much.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Democracy in Iraq

Although Bush Jr. was attacked for the senseless idealism it suggested, Democracy in Iraq might be the best way to handle present religious extremism.  (Reza Aslan on The Daily Show)

Cable news false debate

More in my series on "adults" mixing it up and calling each other names on TV. This time, a recent cable news debate about Obama getting a degree at Notre Dame. How many bad arguments can you find?

Bill Donohue - Of course the eye catching element is Donohue compares Obama to former KKK leader David Duke. Although this is headline catching, shocking, and probably works on some level, this is also a fallacy of composition. The bishop comparing Obama to David Duke is like comparing someone with different values to a serial killer: you may disagree with someone else's values but that doesn't make them a monster. Additionally, the David Duke point makes it look like 1/2 of the country that agrees with Obama are all members of a white supremacist terrorist organization. Its a false dilemma that you are either with Bill or with the terrorists.

Additionally, partial birth abortion is a non-issue as it makes up 0.2 percent of the 1.3 million abortions (source). It is therefore comparable to Obama's recent efforts to cut the federal budget by only 17 billion dollars, which would cut the overall budget by much less than 1% --- its a purely a symbolic act or effort at placation.

Robert Boston - Fundamentally misunderstands the point of the debate; he's trying to keep a lid on what he sees as a manufactured controversy by saying it isn't currently an issue and therefore shouldn't become one (the is-ought problem). He suggests that this isn't news because the majority of Catholics don't care nor agree with the bishop and therefore Bill isn't a representative of anyone. Fox New's website asks and answers its own question with its headline "Fabricated controversy or real debate?" Unfortunately, the real heart of the issue is whether a minority opinion here should be important (resisting a Bandwagon fallacy).

Also, he uses the term "you people" which is pretty close to an ad hominem that hurts his own credibility, not Donohue's.

"Moderator" Megyn Kelly (thanks Kimberly) - Failed the hardest by only attacking Boston, and using bad arguments to do so.
Kelly: "I just want to challenge you on your point ... the claim that the catholic church has allowed all these people to speak -- pro death penalty and so on and so forth."
Both the moderator and Boston failed to do their homework: George W. Bush gave the commencement and was given an honorary degree in 2001 after overseeing the execution of 155 people in Texas. There was no controversy at all about him coming despite this conflict with with Catholic dogma. It may be true that the death penalty is LESS bad than abortion, but no one made that point or tried to.

2009-05-19 edit: I formerly wrote that George W. Bush merely spoke at the college, but he in fact got an honorary degree.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Making software play nice

+

Digsby is an amazing social program that unifies your social networks (myspace, facebook), email, and instant messaging connections. Unfortunately, like many programs, Digsby likes saving all sorts of information to your computer, which clogs your registry over time. It also saves logs of conversations, information about your social networks, and has other privacy issues. Further, I have no idea if Digsby is even somewhat secure. New programs by new startup companies shouldn't be trusted -- what if it hurt system when I ran it?

Fortunately, I used a program called Sandboxie to solve this problem.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Blackberry afraid to move out of parents' basement

Some people apparently love Blackberry. My 8100?

  • The device on the whole is about as intuitive as trying to pet an angry cat.
  • Getting the software off your computer is like when you got Crisco on your hands when you were a kid. Try washing that shit off.
  • Developers are playing a game with users of "hide the features and settings". Desktop software similarly useful.
  • Wait for Jesus to return while installing the Desktop Software.
  • While other renegade companies are learning to distribute and sell software for their smartphones like its some kind of platform, Blackberry can't download external software unless you have a data connection with your provider. Forget saving money and bandwidth by downloading stuff through your computer.
  • Blackberry thinks Mac users should buy a real computer (won't download saved music and photos with an accessory SD card and won't update anything).
  • But the latest operating system has all kinds of features! But how do you install this mysterious software when its not listed in the official support downloads? Magic!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Evolution solves problems



Picture a kid in Texas who wants to be a doctor. Make sure she goes to a top Christian university in the same state. The highschool she's in says that evolution is just a theory, but in college she's given a very different picture. This suggests that Texas schools do not prepare the doctors of tomorrow with an education in line with their own top Christian medical school. This very real situation means that our society's healers will learn and then discard useless information.

In addition, Biology created by the alternative theory to evolution of intelligent design will not heal anyone. Evolutionary biology has created gene therapies that are currently making people more healthy and will continue to cure more diseases into the foreseeable future. Its not that creationism or intelligent design is fundamentally incorrect or impossible, its that there is no application; the principles derived from these ideas are not testable in a laboratory nor do they provide new information or a new perspective on current information.

As a required curriculum for students in Texas or any other state, it seems therefore to be a waste of time. Support real science to get actual results.

Related: Bill Maher points out that recent high profile viruses evolved (skip to 1:50 in the video) and that treatments for these and future diseases are obviously generated using real science.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Compelling Linux

GHack has a series of good articles on things Linux does better why you should switch, and why you should switch now.