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


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.