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


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wikileaks defense

After the release of diplomatic cables that didn't seem to have anything to do with anything apart from embarrassing the US, I was under the impression that Wikileaks was dedicated simply anti-US sentiment.  The question of how to rebuke or prevent Wikileaks from doing this came up.  However:
  1. Wikileaks itself has not so far broken any laws.  Although laws may have been broken by individuals who leaked the information, Wikileaks has exposed secrets to all, including those who were keeping the secret.  This is journalism, not warfare.
  2. Embarrassing those in power is all leaks have ever done.  Attacks against leaks have always centered around an anti-nation or anti-those-in-power bias.  Wikileaks and its activities are nothing new or unique.
  3. A leak does not have to contain incriminating information.  Ostensibly, the point of leaking information that's subversive, criminal, or immoral is to prevent it or seek justice from who have committed these acts.  Those who are glad that Deep Throat leaked information about Nixon or Daniel Ellis leaked information about the Vietnam War would say those were justified and important leaks.  However, in legal and journalistic terms, its difficult to define a justified or unjustified leak. 
Assage himself has said that he believes he is being separated from association with the press, despite membership in press organizations for many years.  The real danger is that Wikileaks is successfully censored or its members assassinated and that, in the future, terrible crimes will go unreported.

Some have come to the organization's defense:
Others have not.  Possible 2012 Presidential candidates have called Wikileaks director a terrorist (Mike Huckabee) and flip-flopped on his status as good or evil (Sarah Palin).


Note that one of the diplomatic leaks has been about Monsanto's dangerous products, so the issue more than just about embarrassment.  However, the point still stands.

Idiot Pilot

Every time I seem to be moving away from the entire genre of rock, a band seems to come along that draws me back.  This time it was Idiot Pilot.  The video's audio isn't synced correctly, but its the music I mean to point to.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Orson Wells on Cold Reading

A fascinating story about how the famous director was a fortune teller for a day and what he learned from it.

Chinatown (1974) movie review

This is one of those movies that's impacted by current events.  Some movies get better over time, this one seems to have gotten worse.

When the fundamental storyline of a movie is that a rich man gets away with raping an underage girl created by a director who is a rich man who got away with raping an underage girl?  I guess the analysis that if you're not willing to see a movie or read a book made by a shitty person, you're missing out on a lot of good stuff.  Hunter S. Thompson, according to his biography, beat his wife, but I still enjoy his work.  Hemmingway was by all accounts a self-important douchebag, but undoubtedly part of the soul of American bravado.

Its a great movie.  Nicholson is fantastic.  In terms of cinematography, its unmatched by almost anything I've seen, save Touch of Evil (1958).  Amazon reviews are sparkling.

Despite all that, when the movie was over, I just felt sick to my stomach; I hated it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cigarettes bad for everyone always

Although I don't generally mind cigarette smoke, the strongest language yet from the surgeon general just came out.

Pretty much if you see someone smoking, you should get them with the fire extinguisher.  Its win-win.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Oh yeah don't go in there

Honestly, its not helpful to tell people there's a trap ahead and to watch their step.  Really, if you're going to set a trap, you shouldn't advertise it.

Thieves everywhere feel talked-down to.

Take comfort in THIS.

This image was -- no joke -- actually on a Starbucks location front door.  What corporate dipstick thought this would be a good idea?  It couldn't possibly be creepy and a subliminal "buy more on schedule" message?

Here's a to take comfort in: hating on Starbucks.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Just two things

An old email I ran across, inspired by an Internet forward/survey thing a few years ago:

Two names you go by:
  1. Mr. Smooth
  2. Mr. Fantastic
Two things you are wearing right now:
  1. Germs
  2. Robust air of authority
Two things you would like to have in a relationship:
  1. No scrubs
  2. No abrasive cleansers
Two of your favorite things to do:
  1. Tell people they're majestic.
  2. Pointing at myself in the mirror and saying "who's that guy?"
Two things you want very badly at the moment:
  1. To somehow capture the leprechan so I can have his pot-o-gold
    without having him make that "so do you have any Irish in you?" joke.
  2. Lots of counterfeit money labeled "counterfeit" because I so love irony.
Two pets you had/have:
  1. My imaginary dragon friend. His name is Teri. I don't like that
    name but it wasn't really my decision.
  2. My pet rock that looks like Steven Tyler. His name is also Teri,
    which is confusing.
Two things you did last night:
  1. Didn't get any.
  2. Made up for my inadequacies by boasting about my fancy hat.
Two things you ate today:
  1. My pride.
  2. The law.
Two people you last talked to:
  1. Teri
  2. Teri
Two things you're doing tomorrow:
  1. The same thing I do every night ... try to start a fire with my mind.
  2. Get a lighter after 17 minutes of abject failure.
Two longest car rides:
  1. After I broke up with Alanis Morsette
  2. Going home from work after finding out she was rich.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How to eff up a sexual assault investigation

Having seen this for myself in other places with assault victims who are intimidated into silence, it seems another bad handling of a rape case has surfaced, this time by Notre Dame.  Its reported handling of a charge related to a football player shouldn't just be bad public relations, it should be an attack on the school that ends when they modify how they deal with assault victims, open up the details of the case to public scrutiny, and apologize if the accusations are true.  The prosecutor in the case is keeping this topic alive and going after some of her attackers like a Mr. Sean O'Sea.  If Sean had a sister who got raped, he might be a little less interested in pointing out a the victim had depression and that another public case of sexual assault was a hoax.  Its a little too straw man to even comment on.  Encouraging others not to rush to judgment while you rush to judgment?  Nice one, Sean.

Although the victim (according to what the prosecutor listed) did everything right, the lesson here is get a good lawyer as quickly as possible.  Sadly, the people you think should be there to help you may not.

Fortunately, an investigation is ongoing.

See also: RAINN tips and legislation to help protect rape victims.

Mozilla Seabird phone

This is just a concept, but its an astoundingly cool idea.  Even if the phone doesn't come to be, it looks like Mozilla is going to be one of the real technology innovators out there.

Cut government programs, just not MY programs

A permanent problem in government it seems, even with the anti-big government Tea Party.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Leaked information from China diplomats

Not really, but its definitely entertaining and probably somewhat accurate.

Simple file share: isendr.com

If you quickly and easily want to transfer something from one computer to another, you'd be hard pressed to find something simpler.  iSendr doesn't require any uploading of a file to a distant server, just a peer-to-peer transfer from one place to another.  The connection is one-time-use only.

It requires that the machine sending the file is online and available so this is primarily for "live" transfers.  I haven't tested it on larger files.

Beating the developers at their own game

We've been playing CoD: Modern Warfare 2 for quite a while now, so we were pleased when we beat their time.

Obviously some other people have already beat this (some by quite a bit), but its was a nice feeling. 

Sidenote: until looking up a few of the competing times, I had no idea there was a sentry gun on top of the other restaurant.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Buddhism in popular media

An episode of an excellent Batman animated movie from a few years ago tackles many topics in Buddhism and Philosophy including women's role in religion, justice and non-violence, suffering and attachment.  Written by Brian Azzarello.

Various funny pics

Found these fine links on a website called PearlTrees from a user named wheezingdemon.  Still new to the service, I have no idea how to link to this person.

Stupid patent lawsuit

So a company (I can't tell if its related to Cygnus, who merged with Redhat) is suing big companies for the most obvious of computer operations: an image preview of files inside a directory.  Its a stupid on par with Amazon's one click purchase patent (addressed by the link author).

Monday, November 29, 2010

The future is actually going to be Linux?

Although its become a joke, many optimists still say "this is the year of the Linux desktop" and this year may have seen their dreams come true in maybe a way they didn't expect.  I've been watching the Google OS for quite some time, but maybe more impressive is the predicted dominance of Android in the coming market.  Not only is it a commercially viable Linux product, but one that is expected to take over phones as well as tablets.

Watching Microsoft throw away around a billion dollars when the Kin project failed followed by producing their new web browser that doesn't run on the most popular operating system in the world makes me wonder where their priorities are.  It seems they're focused on a strategy more similar to Apple's than on the ubiquity of Windows operating system.  As mobile devices increasingly take the place of PCs and laptops, mobile devices will increasingly become the tools we rely on.

In terms of stability, Android's open internals based on a solid operating system pull it far in front of Palm and Blackberry (I have both, and both are very crashy).  Apple carries similar stability but its higher price, small hardware selection, and one-carrier-only selection puts them at a disadvantage.  The iPhone has had other problems including short battery life, poor phone reception, and other hardware issues.  Fundamentally the thing is a phone and not addressing this first and foremost is absurd.

So Android is a phone that doesn't shy away from hackers and tweakers?  An app store that doesn't have an until recently totally mysterious and indecipherable (and still not great) system for accepting submissions?

Negatively, the Android system has not made life easy for developers, the real heart of any "smart" device.  Using an open system with a wide variety of hardware without clear standards has created a fragmented OS base that has some of the same problems as the many distributions of Linux (SuSE, Redhat, Ubuntu, etc.)  Still, if Android can address this confusion, its going to be difficult to buy anything else.

Maybe the hardest fucking game ever

Some of those early Nintendo games were genuinely, really, way over-difficult.  In thanks to them...

"A sardonic loveletter to the halcyon days of early American videogaming, packaged as a nail-rippingly difficult platform adventure" (homepage)

Although someone has beaten this game, this guy didn't.

(Thanks W)

I hate Zimbra (for Mac)

Although the program proved very useful for a long time, after several weeks of not actively using it, I decided to uninstall it. 

This page has a nice uninstall script that didn't work.  Using my tech-jitsu I was able to delete the extra crap, but this was a non-simple process.  (For those that are curious, run script, then move /zimbra folder to /opt where it will mysteriously disappear.)  Someone who was not as technically inclined would still have this huge program still taking up space on their machine.

As a reminder to myself and a warning to the 4 people who might come across this blog entry: make sure you install to the default folder.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Petting instructions

Some helpful tips for petting cats. (thanks silver)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Upgrade fever!

The tendency in games to push you through endless upgrade procedures even to get the game up to adequate levels is parodied in the excellent Upgrade Complete game where you buy -- not just components for your ship -- but menu buttons, music, a mute button for the music, and even the hilarious ending.

The game itself is actually quite dull compared to the upgrade procedure, but that doesn't take away from the fun of the experience.

How do you pay for something that's free?

The issue came up recently for me when I asked a Russian game developer how I could thank him financially for one of the best games I've ever played.  He said don't worry about it, but the issue still bothers me.

Obama and Truman

An article on Huffington comparing the two, along with a favorable review of Obama.

I'm divided on this argument, simply because its the "history will judge this situation" that's meaningless right now.  On the other hand, to make real changes, a perspective into the future and a gradual development towards a goal seems like a wise course, especially when we're talking about government.  Still, Obama's "change we can believe in" slogan didn't mean change years from now.

Picture credit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Piece of metal to cool down a laptop

I literally found this while walking home one day: its a small piece of flat metal with holes in the lower part.  I set it underneath my laptop to help draw heat away from the device.

Over time, a cooler computer will last longer and work more reliably, so its the cheapest laptop accessory I carry.

The state of LED bulbs

An interesting and mostly positive overview of a growing trend. (thanks Silver)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Movie Review: Salt

Someone said it for me, although I'd give it fewer stars.

Note that in Salt II, Jolie's character will fly up into the atmosphere and spin the planet backwards, mysteriously making everything go back in time as if the rotation of the earth had fuck all to do with time moving forward.

Stewart and Carlin

An excellent George Carlin interview with a very young Jon Stewart. (thanks Kim)

Its the only interview Carlin mentions in his book "Last Words."

Ted Koppel on news bias

A great article from Ted Koppel commenting against opinion news for profit.

"What we really need in our search for truth is a commodity that used to be at the heart of good journalism: facts - along with a willingness to present those facts without fear or favor."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cultural clash(ing)

A little outdated but very much in the spirit of George Carlin, Bill Maher talks about the death threats of South Park for depiction of Muhammad.  In doing so, he also points out that -- as much as we all want to get along -- some cultural elements may be genuinely incompatible.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What's an "Ogg Vorbis"?

You may never have tried to play a file ending in "OGG", but you'll likely be using the software behind it soon.  Google's new high-end VP8 video format endorsed by Mozilla and others is an open format video format that uses the long standing open audio format.  The #2 audio player maker SanDisk already supports OGG in most of its playersNow OGG music will run without any additional downloads or plugins inside Firefox, Chrome, and many other programs, including Android cell phones.

This brings up the question, will Ogg take over where MP3 left off?  Although it works on almost every audio player in existence, many other formats are lined up to take its place with dramatic space savings, support for surround sound, and other features, there's some strong resistance from Apple.  Their devices use a drastically different format and likely will never support Ogg.  Apple CEO is actively against the format, both for patent, technology, and of course his own interest in owning MP3's successor.

Hopefully Google's backing and the (so far) very strong success of open formats in determining technology standards will stand up to a legal assault by Apple.

Mixxx DJ software

Remarkably easy and intuitive DJ software that's also open source and runs on Mac, Windows, and Linux.  If you've ever been curious about how its done or wanted to try your hand, this is a perfect way.

Big thanks to the authors and contributors of this great freeware.

Rachel Maddow interviews Jon Stewart

An excellent look at how Jon Stewart views himself, his views of right-versus-left in the media, and his recent "restore sanity" rally.

I will not be flying anytime soon

If you want to take a plane you get to pick:
  1. Humiliating pat down you would probably get if you were a convicted arsonist
  2. X-rays that are very likely bad for your health that the pilot's union is actively telling its members not to use
I've heard about this from too many sources and too many awful stories to think this is anything but total shit.  Its unfortunate there's no 3rd option coming out of the TSA.  Meanwhile I think I'll stay home for the holidays.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gay Nazis

Not recent, but more viciously funny great work from Jason Jones over at The Daily Show.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wallaces' Workshop

Although it is to some extent an advertisement, it also manages to be the best flash game I've played in a long time.  You'll have to mute the volume pretty early in (top right buttons) as the voice actor's input stops being cheeky after about an hour.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

(Not) winning the lottery

While 1 in 10,000,000 doesn't seem so impossible if you see people on the news winning all the time, its recognizably hard to wrap your mind around just how many people are in major US cities.  Fortunately or unfortunately, a simulation program is available to help you see how screwed you are.

Webmath has another take on this: some other odds for the sake of comparison:

You have about a 1 in 2,000,000 chance of being struck by lightning.
A pregnant woman has a 1 in 705,000 chance of giving birth to quadruplets.
Someone eating an oyster has a 1 in 12,000 chance of finding a pearl inside of it.

Alternately, there is one method that's a sure thing:

If you want to win big, consider taking that $10 a week you might spend on lottery tickets and investing it. After 35 years, you will be guaranteed $100,314.56 — if you get an eight per cent return on your investment. With a 10 per cent return, your weekly $10 would be worth a guaranteed $166,742.59. Make it $12 a week and at 10 per cent, you've squirrelled away $200,091.10 after 35 years. Again, guaranteed.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Linux transition

Windows used to have:
  • All the applications I need
  • Tons of great freeware
  • Lots of cool customization tools for the user-interface
  • Runs games
  • No fuss -- just works
That's losing ground

Software permanence

Great applications for Windows come and go.  Microsoft's Photo Editor was replaced by a complete crap Photo Manager.  Microsoft Office ribbons.  Meanwhile, if I buy another computer, it comes with a Windows version that doesn't run all the applications I want.  I have to upgrade to Professional, Ultimate, and Enterprise version to get Windows XP compatibility and that comes at the price of multiple downloads, disk space, and extra RAM.

Mac has a similar problem: great software for the platform frequently doesn't follow into the next version.  Several programs I've wanted to try have required 10.6, which I don't want to upgrade to for fear of losing even more programs that only work on 10.5!

If something comes out for Linux and just about anyone uses it, the program remains available pretty much forever.  Once the code is out there and available, it seems to create a permanence.  Once you've got it, there is no re-learning how to use a program in Linux.

Gradual improvement

Microsoft could not described as gradually improving; many didn't consider Vista an upgrade over XP nor Office 2007 an upgrade over 2003.  Vista was bloated, slow, and problematic and almost nobody thinks the DOCX format was an improvement of any kind for office users. 

Meanwhile, Linux is gradually getting better and every version adds more and more, each of the upgrades for free.  Its not up to speed with Windows or Mac OS, but there has never been a downgrade.

The future

Microsoft hasn't created anything new for the marketplace in years and is just resting on its old business model: OS, Office, and forced upgrades of both.  This is not a company for the next 10 years and putting time and effort behind them is just putting off the inevitable.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Opt-out of getting the phone book

Probably the dumbest (wasteful, useless, outdated, etc.) product still somehow sold, there's a way to avoid getting it.  Unfortunately, you can't just type in your address and get removed -- you may also need call a phone number.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Firefox passwords

So although its possible to break a Firefox "master" (a topic mentioned here on the site), Mozilla put out an excellent article on picking hard-to-guess passwords that would make breaking their master password take too long to make it worth attacking (10+ years).

Saturday, October 09, 2010

The yogurt's gone bad

Maybe the best fridge note I've ever seen.

Additionally, best comment in the comments section:

I'd've put the expired yogurt, lid off, foil still on, in someone's pillow. Lay down and get a head covered in expired yogurt.

Friday, October 08, 2010

Two amazing flash games

Although ultimately a simple game with somewhat limited replay value, this zombie defense game brings something I've never seen before in the "real time strategy" world: no central base.  You are continuously building and breaking down your defenses and base-type structure as you move through the map salvaging materials and gathering survivors.  The goal here is not expansion but careful, balanced transition.  Move too slowly and you'll run out of resources, but move too quickly and you'll overextend yourself and become vulnerable.

A less revolutionary game, but with amazing replay value is Bubble Tanks 1.5.  I've played and set aside $50 games before I was halfway finished with this free, online game.  Awesome!

Good news today (horray)

  • Some good reporting asking the question I've tried to put into words for quite a while: how are we going to reduce or end the deficit when everyone wants to end government "waste", but nobody wants their programs cut?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Making Steel-cut Oats

They're more dense, cheaper, are reputed to be better for you, and don't get tedious and boring the way regular oatmeal seems to.  Unfortunately, as they are less processed than regular oatmeal, they frequently require more cooking/preparation.  Fortunately there's a long list of ways to do that.

(Thanks W)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Still more internet censhorship

A Democratic and Republican senator both over the age of 70 who aren't concerned about internet censorship have put together COICA.  Utah Republican Orrin Hatch whose widely criticized views on intellectual property has taken a step down from a series of bad ideas including "copyright owners should be able to destroy the computer equipment and information of those suspected of copyright infringement" to a slightly less but still way-too-broad bill to shut down domains that may have infringing content (think youtube.com and others).  More here.

Although the bill appears to be put off until the midterm elections, its clear both Democrats and Republicans can score big points with Hollywood by supporting COICA.  Hopefully enough voters will fight the bill into non-existence.

Is it a mollusk? Is it a plant?

A species of slug has borrowed genes from a plant and made itself extremely versatile using a process known as horizontal gene transfer.  Now if only we could combine a turtle with a ninja.

(Thanks Wes)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

End music torture

It sounds like a Creed joke, but unfortunately its very real.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't use Google with IE

Just logging into Gmail anywhere using IE means that your password is saved on that computer in a way that can be instantly retrieved.  A simple program can be downloaded and run to find your password.  Test it for yourself.  If you're forced to use IE to check a Google account, make sure you go through the process of clearing all browser information.

This is not an issue on Firefox, but its not entirely IE's fault as Google could disable this and many other Google applications store their password in a totally insecure way.  Firefox users should not save their password and, if they do, should set a master password.

Related: IE usage drops below 50% in the US.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Don't use Microsoft Word

...or if you do, avoid the .doc or .docx format.  Save to RTF or HTML.


Thought of the week

If your beliefs are always purely emotional, its difficult to convince
anyone else.

If your beliefs are always purely rational, you won't convince yourself.

Recent text message: Resident Evil in 3D

Whatever you do, do not see Resident Evil 3D. It is the shittiest movie since I Know What You Did The Other Day With That Boring Guy and Holy Shit Was It Boring.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Arnold Vader

Truly a missed opportunity in the history of cinema.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Amazing sci-fi concept art

Some really amazing and inspiring images from three great artists at cghub.
... especially this one by Daniel Ljunggren

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rally for moderates

Hopefully an anecdote to the loud, stupid, and frequently meaningless speech popular now, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert present a very novel idea, emphasizing a move against radical polarization.  Its probably a good idea.


A favorite bit from a favorite show (Northern Exposure), as well as some awesome wedding vows.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lessons from the Quran burning fiasco

CNN lists quite a few thinkers, but I was most impressed by Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar.  (His entry is a little more thank halfway down.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Too much soap, too much oil

Clothes and dishwasher soap and changing your car's oil.  You should probably be using less.

"High Fructose Corn Syrup" now "Corn Sugar"

Although it would be nice if they would fundamentally change the process to something more healthy, backers of the product have solved the problem by just changing the name.  Although the NYTimes article doesn't suggest that HFCS is any worse for you than regular sugar , its a totally dishonest way to ameliorate bad press.  Calling something bad for you by a different name to confuse consumers is dishonest and it will invariably make worse problems of obesity and those at high risk for diabetes.

Note that this hasn't gone through yet with the USDA yet but the article seems optimistic it will.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Experimental music: Briokids

Briokids, an outstanding, experimental-electroclash-idm-breakbeat-noise music group is still around and has posted much of their music up on Youtube.

One of the best and most unattended concerts I ever went to, the producers are named for the toxic waste neighborhood where they presumably spent some of their childhood.  As such, the music is frequently disillusioned, anarchistic, and harsh, and reminds me very much of how punk music must have first sounded to people in the 70s. I was ecstatic to find out they were still around.

"Sharpshooter" fallacy

A professor friend noted that its always better to mistake a rock for a bear than a bear for a rock.  The person in the first scenario can laugh about it later, the second cannot.

The problem comes in when people make decisions based on patterns that are not present, such as the assumption that there were German spies in the non-bombed neighborhood during WWII.  The rush to caution is therefore seems to be a good idea, the rush to judgment does not.

(Note: "Sharpshooter" is also known as the Ontological Fallacy.)

(thanks Mark)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Broken on purpose

An outstanding talk about what is broken and why, and another strong reminder of Douglass Adam's Somebody Else's Problem Feild.  One of the difficulties of increasing complexity is the potential for irrational as well as counter-productive policies, behaviors, and products.  A reminder that designers must ask who their audience is and spend a little time thinking about what could go wrong.

Most revolutionary about the talk is the notion of when breaking something on purpose may be exactly what's necessary; its not new that the pursuit of perfection is a bad idea but sometimes doing something "wrong" makes all the difference, or perhaps the right thing in reverse.

Fire vs. tornado

You would think that a -- oh i dunno -- a @#$%ing huge tornado would BLOW OUT A @#$% WILD FIRE.


Here's a smaller one but obviously something they could get closer to and, you know, not die.

(Care of a slashdot article.)

Iran's president tells a joke

He might be a leader of a foreign nation helping to destabilize his region, but in reference to the doof in Florida who wants to burn the Quran, its still a pretty good zinger:

"I like to retaliate by burning a book that you Americans hold dear, but the only book you care about is Facebook." (twitter)

You win this round, Ahmadinejad.

(Thanks W)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Building an anti-monument

A fascinating architectural and historical achievement, trying to mark something terrible with zero fanfare.

Recent Mac finds

  • MenuMeters - I was upset when a similar program went payware until I found a free, open, and just as good alternative.
  • Keka - Finally a high compression opener and creator for Mac.  Now if they would only integrate a file manager.
  • Miro Video Converter - Send files into formats that will work with your devices.  Simple, clean, and pretty.
  • Mplayer OSX Extended - Finally broad format support like SMplayer for Windows.
Updates on stuff posted here before:
  • Perian - broader format support for Mac's own Quicktime player.  Primarily use it to play Windows Media format files.
  • Growl - notification system for OS X that Windows would do well to mimic.  I've probably talked about it before but oh well.
  • Burn - really got to test out this program out recently and wow did it perform.  Great stuff.
  • Audacity Beta - leaps and bounds above the non-beta version.  Remember auto recording based on noise detection (like if you talk?).  Its in there.

Don't censor Craigslist

The recent move to kill "adult services" on Craigslist isn't helping or so says an article by a source experienced on the matter.  Its not a first amendment issue, instead its transparency and the idea of less-bad in a world of very-bad.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Authenticity in politics

A recent article on Sarah Palin brings to mind Chris Rock's "Bigger and Blacker" set from a few years back about people who just love to not know under the guise of "keeping it real."  As if being ignorant is another way to be authentic (as authenticity is a big goal of hip-hop).

Another comparison is the "unfrozen caveman lawyer" bit that Phil Hartman (pictured above) used to do on SNL.  After going down a long list of things that he doesn't know (flying airplanes, answering machines, a solar eclipse) he mysteriously jumps ahead to a complex and difficult decision easily.  Usually that his client was "entitled to several million dollars or more in both compensatory and punitive damages for an injury." (wikipedia)

"He was portrayed as a selfish, well-dressed attorney who repeatedly claimed to be a simple-minded caveman, and would employ simple folk wisdom to win his cases."

This introduces a strange double-standard: in medicine, we all demand someone who's gone through an enormous amount of training before we will let them so something relatively simple like set a broken bone or stitch up a wound, but someone who can run the country can be an everyman / everywoman?

NYReviewOfBooks site sums it up well:

Commonsense Conservatism hinges on the not-so-tacit assumption that the average, hardworking churchgoer, like the ladies at the booth, equipped with the fundamental, God-given ability to distinguish right from wrong, is in a better position to judge, on "principle," the merits of an economic policy or the deployment of American troops abroad than "the 'experts'"—a term here unfailingly placed between derisive quotation marks. Desiccated expertise, of the kind possessed by economists, environmental scientists, and overinformed reporters from the lamestream media, clouds good judgment; Palin's life, by contrast, is presented as one of passion, sincerity, and principle. Going Rogue, in other words, is a four-hundred-page paean to virtuous ignorance. [source]

(Thanks Silver)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Justify's most popular

Blogger's new "stats" system just informed me of my 5 most popular articles:

Feb 2, 2009 - 2 comments
 - 14 Pageviews
Apr 6, 2009
 - 8 Pageviews
Aug 13, 2010 - 3 comments - 
4 Pageviews
Oct 6, 2008
 - 3 Pageviews
Apr 14, 2010
Evidently this site would be more popular if clear solutions to technical problems were highlighted.

Favorite ugly Mac software: Retriever

Its not easy to use or pretty but its proven to be supremely useful.  Retriever is an open source download manager that supports web, FTP, and BitTorrent downloads and works spectacularly well for wireless connections that will occasionally have corrupted or unfinished downloads.  Also works great with secure websites that require a login.

Its unclear why Firefox doesn't have something built into it already that does this but until then, Retriever works beautifully.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Clowns, magnets, and majesty

In 2009, Insane Clown Possie did a song that talking about miracles everywhere in life, the earth, childbirth, etc.  All good things, sure.  The problem is they referred to pretty well understood things as "miracles" and, more than that, denied any interest in learning more.

Water, fire, air and dirt
Fucking magnets, how do they work?
And I don't wanna talk to a scientist
Y'all motherfuckers lying, and getting me pissed.

This sounds vaguely like accepted or chosen ignorance or that science is ultimately pushing false notions of something as well known as magnetism.  This is ripe for teasing, especially to a group that so obviously takes themselves too seriously.

So of course "fucking magnets, how do they work" became an internet meme attached to many topics:
This goes on for a while and some scientist guys dressed up in clown makeup and tried to show ICP how magnets work using a series of charts and graphs.

Lets just say it didn't go well.  Or did it go fantastic

More on this most useless of topics.

(thanks W)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Koch brothers and the Tea Party

Another company to add to the list of the viciously self-interested Exxon, Phillip Morris, and Monsanto: Koch.  The article highlights the much more eye-catching anti-Obama move, but much more insightful is later in the article describing millions spent against environmental legislation and funding global warming deniers.  Presumably if global warming never comes about, the Kochs will make a lot of money and be lauded as great small government philanthropists and captains of industry.  Of course, if they're wrong and the dire predictions about Global Warming are true, the Koch brothers will go down in history as one of the greatest of the selfish, myopic corporate scumbags.

It also unfortunately paints the Tea Party, who they fund, as fundamentally anti-environmental, which doesn't respect the thousands of hunters and fishermen who make up their ranks.

Update: A follow-up Op-Ed

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Flash games of interest

  • Trap Master - Very fun and interesting "Defense" game where you are a bad guy and set traps for the good guys.
  • Dadgame - an uber-destructive rampage that's very good fun for about 10 minutes, but loses flavor when you realize there's not much to it.
  • Infectionator World Domination - a very entertaining game for about an hour or - play without the extra junk.
  • Cursed Treasure - an outstanding game.  Can't beat level 13!.  (Get it full screen here.)

Bike sharing program = abortion

A hilarious example of a slippery slope, "Colorado Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes says a Denver bike-sharing program could threaten residents' 'personal freedoms.'"

Among the possible problems a bike-sharing program:
  • Rein in American cities under a United Nations treaty
  • Promotion of abortions and population control
  • Supports extremist global warming types
Evidently doing something that helps reduce traffic, pollution, and the health of the population is a leftist trick.  That was a close one, Dan.

(thanks Silver)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Parody checkmate

In the history of catastrophically stupid intellectual property decisions, Constantin Film has issued take down notices concerning the usage of their critically-acclaimed movie Downfall in parodies about all manner of topics.

Fortunately, someone created an outstanding Downfall parody video about the removal of Downfall parody videos.


Owner of Fox News gives Republicans 1 million

Hopefully the last few people who argued that the network is fair or balanced will stop saying it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Startups beware

If you're in technology and you're trying to do something cool, it seems you're almost forced to join up with a huge company who has an effective patent stalemate with other huge companies.  At least this is the suggestion behind a post by former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz.

Its unfortunate for consumers if innovation doesn't rule this market.

Vote with your wallet

Target recently apologized for giving money to an right-leaning candidate after boycotts were discussed.  Although the term vote with your wallet is nothing new and readily visible in politics today, now companies are starting to directly target a politically divided group.

Enter Creedo mobile, a cell phone company that takes pleasure in pointing out AT&T has given millions more to Republicans than Democrats.  AT&T has been tacitly advertising for Creedo since its not hard to find ways in which AT&T is a morally compromised company, but how far does this go?  Should I buy "lefty" toothpaste and carrots?

Although its nice to be able to use more than a ballot box to vote, one danger is that if consensus and goodwill are achieved politically, this could be bad for business.  A group or company born of conflict seems to disappear if that conflict ever goes away, so those companies have a vested interest in stoking the flame.  While the fire doesn't appear to be going out anytime soon, its disturbing to imagine a group whose bottom line is impacted by how much people hate each other.  C.S. Lewis wrote a book about this sort of thing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Home Depot recycles CFLs

Very happy to find a place to recycle compact fluorescent bulbs.  The mercury contained in them is poisonous, but until this point, its been a tradeoff between much more expensive LED bulbs or more emissions and more trash caused by inefficient incandescent bulbs.


An LED bulb I've been very happy with.

Why Yahoo went nowhere

Yahoo purchased its mail service tools, then purchased its mail service upgrade, and never did anything to improve or update either one.  They've been 2 steps behind every other internet company for more than 10 years.  A great article on Yahoo's rapid ascent and then next step into nowhere.

Here's hoping they can shift back into relevance.

Interfaith relations in 2010: Mosque near ground zero

A mosque two blocks from ground zero would be a fantastic way to promote healing and understanding 10 years after the 9/11 attacks and would be a huge statement to the world that as well as a clear statement that the US is not at war with Islam in the Middle East.

Instead, the opposite has been pushed.

Even though Timothy McVeigh was Christian, a long list of people of Muslim belief were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and our country has its own violent Christian fringe terrorists, Christian Pastor Terry Jones still describes Islam as "a violent and oppressive religion" (source).

The issue has become a lightning rod for drawing political favor by Newt Gingrich:

"Gingrich said that he would push for legislation to prevent states from adopting sharia law even though none are proposing it and there is no likely prospect of it happening" (source).

That said, does Islam need to make a better statement to its opponents?  Has the news just not covered Islam's attempt to heal the divide created by the hijackers?  Has there been such an effort?

  • Article on one of the people behind the mosque, Daisy Khan, who sees it as a healing effort.
  • A good contrasting article comparing the building of a convent near Auschwitz.  This brings up an obvious question: if centers of worship too close to places of mass death is insensitive, what distance from lower Manhattan is acceptable?  What about St Paul's just across the street from ground zero, built well before the towers?
Update 2: 
  • Olbermann makes some interesting points, especially about how businesses around Ground Zero have floundered.  Unfortunately he starts with a comparison with the Nazis, which is a little too Glenn Beck for my taste.

    Friday, August 06, 2010

    Searching for why gay marriage is wrong

    Whatever your side on an issue, accepting the status quo is always dangerous.  Ignoring your opposition is myopic and the equivalent of keeping your fingers lodged firmly in your ears while singing.  As such, the search for strong arguments why members of the left should oppose gay marriage has begun.  This is not a static article: it will be updated with better opposition.

    The best argument so far is that gay marriage is a political wedge that will always energize the Right against the Left.  It seems if you want to lose elections, just talk about gay marriage.

    Other arguments have not been very compelling:
    • Voters have consistently voted against it - ("against the will of the people") I have little doubt that if there was a vote to keep slavery legal in the South, that wouldn't make it something you should advocate.  Part of the problem of democracy has always been preventing the majority from bullying the minority.
    • Most religious groups opposite it - same problem as above group; many religious groups also favor it.  Even if the majority is in favor of something, that doesn't make it right or wrong.
    • Courts should not decide this issue, the people should (source: Brian S. Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage) - counter example: Brown vs. Board of Education; courts decided against discrimination, few on the left thought this was a bad idea then or now.
    • Marriage is for children - this may have been true 100 years ago but clearly isn't accurate now. 
    • Bad for families and children - research on this isn't compelling.
    • Its unnatural - sounds too much like the argument against interracial marriage.
    • Slippery slope - people will marry animals or inanimate objects.  This is easily addressed since there's a fallacy named for this.
    • Fundamental change to social institutions should happen slowly - the left loves equality and feels changes since the 50s have been for the better.
    • Gay people are fundamentally unequal - This is probably the weakest argument given some of the greatest thinkers in history.  A few examples include Da Vinci, Wittgenstein, Francis Bacon, the greatest American poet (Whitman) and a math genius who probably had a lot to do with winning World War II for the Allies (Alan Turing).
    Stronger arguments involve attacking bad arguments by the left:
    • What is really advocated?  This is a tough one.  Lefty groups should be clear why they do or do not support polygamy, which is not an unthinkable next step.  The focus now is on equality in the eyes of the state, but those advocating for gay marriage are tacitly suggesting a definition of marriage as only between two people while they dismiss a definition that excludes same-sex marriage.  Two women who love the same man may wish for the same equality.  Are there polygamous Leonardo Da Vinci's?  Is one necessary to give group its rights?
    • The Left is advocating marriage by disparaging it.  One of the frequent tactics is to point out that if famous morons can get married and divorced at the drop of a hat, Marriage isn't so sacred after all.  This makes for good late-night monologues but is ultimately self-defeating.  Its like arguing that voting is meaningless to avoid giving advocating women's suffrage.
    • Anyone who doesn't want gay marriage is a bigot.  If your beliefs do include marriage only as a union between a man and a woman, that does not make you a Nazi.  Bigotry is a "person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices" (source), which is something anyone can be if they don't consider contrasting positions.
    • Hospital policies against non-family members during possible end-of-life moments. This is a problem with legal issues / hospital policies.  You should be able to decide you want or don't want at your side when you're dying.  Marriage is connected to this but not the only solution.
    • There is enough war and death in the world without telling people they can't love each other.  A meaningless emotional argument, it is similar to the hospital argument in that its both true and obvious, but marriage is not and was never a permission to love.  On the other hand, taken together they represent a legal challenge to a long list of other anti-gay laws that may represent a challenge to one's right to love someone of the same sex.  If the state allows union, it will be forced to contend with many other issues of equality and equal protection.
    Note: This article was edited on 9/31/2010 for clarity and adding the "stronger arguments" section and the bit about gays as fundamentally unequal.

    iTunes Lite (Windows)

    Two recent nightmarish experiences with iTunes:
    1. iTunes for Windows is incredibly bloated and takes forever to either install or uninstall.  A mysterious error meant I had to call in backup using Revo Uninstaller (free version).  Still took almost a half hour.
    2. A friend's daughter lost all her music when she lost her iTouch device.  Evidently there was no backup on the computer she was using, nor could she re-download the music from Apple for anything but the full, original price.
    Unfortunately, if you really need this software to talk to your music player, you're stuck.

    For problem #1 there is fortunately a trick.  Its not perfect and Apple still needs to pay attention to the bloatware its producing.
    For problem #2 the search for a fix continues.  For now, Apple's far too short website entry.


    Wednesday, August 04, 2010

    Nerdiest court ruling ever

    Often people talk about legalese like its indecipherable, but when court precedent and reasonable doubt are put into comic book terms suddenly its obvious (ignore the comic at the top).

    If you've read Spawn, you would know what the judge was talking about.  Of course McFarlane is guilty.

    I look forward to them going after the awful Eragon for being a near carbon-copy of Star Wars.

    (thanks switch)

    Monday, August 02, 2010

    Share not lest ye be shared

    A good article on PC World about a recent security problem in Facebook.

    Although the information gathered is already openly available, this is a great reminder about just how important it is to monitor your privacy, much like the "please rob me" application and the ACLU's "Pizza" presentation.

    Thursday, July 29, 2010

    Adulthood difficulty

    Some of us have trouble moving into the next phase.  The images describing this transition, though simplistic, are wonderfully accurate. (thanks switch)

    Wednesday, July 28, 2010

    Simply the best

    A bold, artistic move.  Only Picard spin-kicking Jabba the Hut on the top of Mount Doom could hope to compete. (thanks Kim)

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Stuck in a Groove

    A disturbing, beautiful, and very unique video about if a remix of perfect or imperfect moments lasted for eternity.  An interesting visual and thought experiment.

    From the amazing Live Visuals blog.

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Zimbra email client review (part 2)

    See Part 1

    This is review is my attempt to take a second look at this program.

    • God awful memory cluttering (over 100 megs!).  I'm thinking it runs an entire web server to operate this single application.  Surely they could turn a few services off to cut that down a little.
    • Contacts and calendar don't plug in right to my work email.
    • New messages notification in task bar never goes away even after i read everything
    • Indent email is a two-click process.  I indent A LOT of email so this is painful.
    • Search is somewhat slow
    • "Notebook" doesn't work or sync with Outlook's "notes"
    • Very annoying: won't exit memory unless you say "Shutdown Service" rather than "Quit".  Just sits there taking up a TON of ram.

    • Best feature may be that when a time is mentioned "Yesterday, Tomorrow, Next Week" it automatically highlights this and asks if you want to make a calendar instance from it.  This is beyond cool.
    • Cleaner, simpler, easier to search my messages ... will even search my entire public folders directory, which helps me track down weird/obscure company information.  (include "in:inbox" if you dont' want that to happen)
    • Collects messages into a "conversation" / gmail-style box
    • Skinable
    • Connects many different email accounts

    Verdict: Would rather use Thunderbird and just forward everything to Zimbra.

    Sunday, July 18, 2010

    Processor premium

    A friend pointed out that Apple charges a big premium on their top-of-the-line Intel i7 processors.  Some digging shows that although many operations go about 30% faster from i5 (the next step down in Apple's offering) to i7, it may not be worth the money.

    Its a persistent problem in computers: a premium both Apple and Intel both put on the "Ferrari" versions of their products.  In this case, users can save $400 by getting the i5 and a slightly less powerful graphics card.

    Not included in the product price is what many users will need to get the very latest versions of software often necessary to get the optimized speeds.  For Photoshop users, that can be a cool $1,000 more.  You don't just pay for the processor, you pay for the software optimizations to use it.

    This graphic is from a few years ago but as the article suggests, its unlikely the Core 2 Quad ($550 at the time) was 3x faster than the Core 2 Duo Conroe ($180).

    Edit: was listing i9, but the highest processor sold by apple at the writing of this article was the i7 processor.

    (Thanks Kimberly.)

    Thursday, July 15, 2010

    Movie Review: Legion (2010)

    An awesome B movie unfortunately ruined by moments of awkward, out-of-place, and terrific acting.

    Picture the producer talking to the studio heads:

    "Think machine guns and angels! ... We've got [insert good actor/actress] already signed up.  Its just like that Christopher Walken movie The Prophecy, except this time both God and all the angels are all pissed."

    There's a flicker at the beginning of Army-of-Darkness-style Sam Raimi genius, but it quickly fades into a story that takes itself too seriously.  There's no flow in the actors or dialog from scene to scene, so its impossible to care about the characters, even when their copious talents are put into some outstanding monologues.

    This movie should have embraced how absurd it was and pushed it over the top at every opportunity with the zeal of a teenager on too much caffeine.  Maybe next time, captain angelface.

    Types of debt

    Have anxiety about buying a house or going back to school and getting into huge debt?  Turns out there's good debt and bad debt and here's a very clear breakdown on both.

    Bad teachers can be good for students

    Although any institutional tolerance for bad teachers brings down the status of the whole operation, learning to deal with difficult people and difficult situations is a function of adulthood.  An education official agrees, though I'm sure parent's don't.  Mainly because its possible to prepare young people for useless authority figures without being one.

    Wednesday, July 14, 2010

    Thinking about songs from The Clash

    Edit: Song actually by Sonny Curtis and The Crickets 
    (Thanks Kimberly.)

    Monday, July 05, 2010

    Quote of the week, July 5th, 2010

    "You have to listen for the 'awwwrrrr'." 

    My friend Silver, explaining how to know when enemies in the game Modern Warfare 2 are finished.

    Making fun of people in trouble

    From a few years back, Craig Ferguson talks about picking on people who obviously need help.  Remarkably open and honest for a late night show.

     Related: Great article on addiction .

    Friday, July 02, 2010

    Car tricks

    How you drive is as important as what you drive when trying to save gas.

    Thursday, July 01, 2010

    Saturday, June 26, 2010

    Using Google Docs to scan images for text

    Google Books service has so far converted thousands of books into a readable format.  Although this is mired in controversy, I'm glad someone is doing it.  Furthermore, the software that converts the text is very smart (even able to convert ancient greek!) and now available for public use (Google Docs account required).

    Unfortunately, initial reviews of this service have not been kind.  Hopefully it gets better.

    Google is not the first to market on this one as there are many other services for optical character recognition (OCR).  The difference will likely be that Google will likely let users upload larger documents for conversion as a feature of its competition with Microsoft Office (which has no such capability).

    Saturday, June 12, 2010

    The problem of hard passwords

    Have you ever been assigned a password that you couldn't possibly remember, then required to write it down somewhere or come up with one equally weird?  How is someone supposed to remember "n0A2aw3f"?  How are you not supposed to write something like that down?  Enter Password Card, a tool to provide an opportunity to easily use passwords that would be almost impossible to guess.

    (Below: example "card")

    Just pick a character and a color for a password of any length.  If the card is lost, it looks like random characters (above), so you're safe.

    Why gibberish passwords?

    You may wonder why organizations require this when ATMs only require simple 4-number PIN passwords.  The reason this is secure is because ATM machines will only allow you to try around 4 times before locking your account.  Frequently other passwords and services don't have this limitation and must rely on passwords that must withstand millions of attempts by very fast computers.

    A single character of a password if using a number has 10 possibilities and a single letter has 26 possibilities.  If you combine both upper-case, lower-case, and numbers (as Password Card does), you have 62 combinations available.

    While a four number ATM code has 10,000 possibilities, a four character password from Password Card would have almost 15 million!  An 8 character password would have over 200 trillion combinations!

    So the advantages of a difficult password are obvious.

    An open password?

    Unfortunately, as cool as the Password Card is, the weak link is for against an intelligent or dedicated thief.  If someone has your card and your login names, its very easy to enter all the left-to-right combination of characters present on the card and have a computer quickly try them all.  So the question becomes: could you publicly post a wallet-sized piece of paper with your password written on it on it and still be completely secure?

    For any proposed system, the password must be present and visible and should use the current "Password Card" system in some format.  Here's what we came up with:

    Use obvious associations that a human could make but a computer could not, such as grey being connected to the sad face and the heart with red.  So all someone would have to remember is "sad face, heart" to have a much more complex, harder to guess password.  Drawing from our card above, four characters would come from the grey line under the sad face ("svwR") and four more from the red starting under the heart character ("qYdr").

    This two-part password seems to be much more secure and could of course be made three or four-part for better security.  Even a computer's "attack" on the card would be fruitless as the possible combinations starts to become nearly impossible again.


    Generatedata.com - Generate any kind of data, including random passwords.