Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Enough is Too Much By Half


I had the misfortune of travelling internationally this week.  That doesn't sound too bad considering that I just went to Canada and it was to spend Christmas at a ski resort.  But the problem wasn't the destination or even the journey there.  The problem was the trip back.
What happens when a Nigerian Jackass tries to blow off his own testicles on an airplane?  The TSA suddenly embarrassed and needing to justify it's existence uses it as an excuse to:

  • Frisk everyone - including children, with their hands down the back of your pants using the same rubber gloves to touch everyone
  • Ban ALL carry-on items - leaving thousands of laptops to the mercy of the throwers/baggage-handlers
  • Not allow anyone out of their seats for one hour prior to landing.  Standing up is a crime during that time - either to go to the bathroom or to access the overhead bins.
  • Change the rules during the process - thereby allowing the first batch through security to keep their laptops but not the cases - which then had to be thrown away on the spot.
At what point to do we, the paying customers, cry 'foul' and draw the line?

Delta airlines has placards posted and pamphlets that they hand out to say that they are not responsible for any property that you lose by 'complying with regulations' - i.e. arbitrary rulings at the security booth are final and you have no recourse to keep your property if they arbitrarily tell you to throw it away.

The Delta pilot went out of his way to lay blame for the 1-hour-in-seat rule on the TSA, Northwest airlines, and the idiot in question - at least 3 times.

If children were required to be frisked to the extent that they did at the airport when they went to school - we would call it Child Abuse.  But you are not even allowed to intervene on your children's behalf because you might pose a danger in doing so - in the same way that you may not touch your wallet as they rifle through it.

How all of this benefits the airlines:
  • More checked bags means more luggage charges
  • 1 hour less cabin service (I watched from first class as my cabin stewardess did crossword puzzles) 
  • No laptops means more sales of in-flight entertainment services on seat-back screens
How to get around this crap:
  • Charter your own plane - a turbo-prop is $400/hour and a jet is $1,200/hour plus the pilot's time for layovers.  This is split across everyone in the plane.  There is NO security at all.  You leave your shoes on and bring your bags from your car to the plane and no one says anything to you with the exception of the pilot.  Money talks and the rich do not suffer the indignities that the peasantry must lightly.
  • Ship your luggage - for $500 I sent my snowboard bag fully loaded on a round trip from New York, USA to Whistler, Canada.  It went through customs without me and was at the hotel when I got there. Zero hassle.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

One Month I Want Back


Many retail-based businesses in America experience their peak sales period during the Jud├Žo-Christian "Holiday Season".  As a result it seems as though every year some wishfully thinking business-people are responsible for trying to extend that season.

"Traditionally" the shopping season starts the day after Thanksgiving in America.  This is because unless you're working in retail - you have a day off to go shopping.  In my opinion if you have any sanity you do anything BUT go shopping that day if only because that is when it will take the most of your time standing check-out in lines.

It is also the day that it is considered 'acceptable' to start playing Christmas-music in the stores.

However this year I saw attempts at selling Christmas-related merchandise immediately-after-if-not-overlapping Halloween!

I heard on the radio this morning a DJ quoting a 'fact' that 70% of Americans still haven't begun Christmas shopping today - and it is December 22nd.  i.e. 3 days before you are supposed to be giving these gifts.

If this is indeed a Fact - then no amount of lead-time is going to improve your sales.  Indeed I would think that  shoving Christmas down everyone's throats too early has the opposite effect from that intended.  I know that I personally will walk out without buying anything if I have to suffer through too many of those torturous ditties while being forced to wait before being allowed my turn to fork over my currency.

So I say to all Marketing People - research this.  PLEASE.  I, and many like me, find these "Holidays" a tiresome burden.  If you can find any truth in this - may we please get that month of our lives back?

My theory for this pattern of behavior is not one of laziness as much as one of managing your funds.  Have you ever noticed how eager bill-collectors are at this time of year and the threatening tone that regular bills take on?  I think most adults are used to this cycle by now and have adapted to the idea of holding on to as much money as you can for as long as you can & then when you know everything is taken care of - only then do you go and spend whatever meager savings you have left.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Go.... fish?



Google has a new experimental programming language that they are calling "go".  The problem is that for the last 10 years there already is a language with that name, or more precisely "Go!"

Now I don't know about you but my semantic filter fails to see a capital letter and a punctuation mark as creating a new word - in any case.

The joke is "Google didn't Google for Go before using the name".  But the sad truth is that I have read some troll-like comments from clueless & disrespectful people who think that Fame-makes-Right and that brand the work of McCabe as "little known", etc. in a dismissive way.  (Someone introduces it using those very words in the Wikipedia article on the subject)

I don't care that Google has a lot more money than Francis McCabe - it does not supercede his usage of the name for a programming language.  He has even published a book on the subject.  If they want the name that badly they should have to part with some of it to compensate the man for a decade's worth of his life put into something they are stepping on.

McCabe's problem seems to be that he did not Trademark the name.  The question stands "is what Google is doing here considered to be  'Evil'? "

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Robot Arms Race


I have noticed that there is a sort of arms race between online games and people who leverage the power of macros.  Anything that you can automate in a game can be performed on the user's end via automation - in theory.

The reason for this is simple - game providers charge a fee to use their systems.  They built the game & they want to be the ones to make money from it.  People who can automate playing the game can 'farm' for the rewards handed out from playing.  Sometimes this is called 'gold farming'.  It can be for anything that is freely exchangeable between multiple players in a mutually shared on-line game world.  Often the objective is to exchange those wonderfully coveted prizes for actual real-world currency.

This is behavior is not limited to games.  Using automated scripts/macros/bot-programs to access web pages & follow links is a business unto itself.  This is because online advertising works on two tiers - click-throughs and conversions.  Just clicking on an ad makes somebody a fraction of a cent.  Actually buying something after clicking through gets a lot more.  The difference between those two prices is actually because of people using scripts.  Since you can write a script to click on an ad link all day - it devalues that ad.

The captcha is one development in this arms race.  However, there is commercial software that can defeat this with OCR out there.  So if you can do this often and effectively enough to pay for your computers, an internet connection & some fancy specialized software and still clear a profit on top of it - then this might be for you.

Randomization seems to lie at the heart of every method to trying to subvert any automated script.

World of Warcraft does this kind of thing with activities like fishing - where it requires human interaction to respond to the random location on the screen and timing when your little float bobs so that you have to click on it.  That way you can't walk away & let your computer fish all day.  You could do it yourself - but you would have to sit there getting bleary-eyed, pale & fat doing so all day.  Odds are that you can't support yourself and your family on selling virtual fish without a little help.

Kingdom of Loathing being wholly web-based is far more susceptible to this sort of thing and deals with it by randomizing combat results.  Other popular web-based games do something similar.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Modern Propaganda - Your Tax Dollars At Work


PSYOPS aka Psychological Warfare aka Information Manipulation is something that is actively being pursued by the American government, intelligence, and military institutions.  What is disturbing is not that it is being aimed at enemies.  It is that our allies are also being actively targetted.

Millions of dollars have been handed out in the form of government contracts for creating tens of thousands of websites and even cell phone edutainment games.

The real question is of course would any of this be truly effective in any way other than perhaps being construed as a spamming campaign / denial of service attack / watering-down of the accuracy of search engines and information sources?

Would this actually have any real effect beyond that which commercial enterprise has achieved so far?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Creation" doesn't fly in the USA

Apparently there was a film made about Charles Darwin in the UK called "Creation" and for a while there they were not able to find a distributor in the USA because the Theory of Evolution is considered 'too controversial' in this country...

To put the spotlight on this opinion - here is the results of a poll taken in February of this year:



What kills me about this is how easy it is to come across people who are actively spamming pseudo science and top-loading search engines to drive people to their nonsense.

Notice how this works - the movie is made and people are watching it all around the world - but someone with money and an agenda are blocking the distribution of a film in this country about the history of science.

We can have movies about zombies and vampires and killer robots and fictional para-military forces made by scientologists where guns are fired constantly but if you want to do a think-piece about a scientist whose theory is completely proven out by the subsequent discovery of DNA -- that is too "controversial"?  (And since when is controversy bad for a film?)

That same DNA evidence is submittable in court mind you.  The same courts where the Scopes trial took place.

Mind you - they did eventually find a distributor:

[From Wikipedia:]
According to Jeremy Thomas, the United States was one of the last countries to find a distributor due to the prominence of the Creation–evolution controversy.[4] On September 24, 2009,Variety reported that Newmarket Films acquired the rights to the movie and plans to release it in December in the US.[6]

Big Brother Pretty Useless


London has a lot of video cameras.  Maybe Las Vegas comes close - but the majority of those are privately owned.  London's cameras are run by the state.
So you would think that having them all be coordinated would lead to solving a lot of crime, no?

Um no.

1,000 CCTV cameras to solve just one crime, Met Police admits

Friday, October 9, 2009

Virtual Wires


The word of the day is Beamforming.

It was a new one for me this morning - and I don't like falling behind the curve on new technology - so I took a few minutes to learn something new:

Beamforming is a specialized method of antenna-based RF transmission.  Essentially is has to do with selectively using/timing different antennas or frequency bands in order to aim the transmission/reception either physically or virtually at the source/target you are most interested in.

This is different from the concept of omni-directional transmission/reception that most of us are familiar with.  You can think of it in a way as the concept of a satellite dish pointing at a fixed location instead of a pair of rabbit-ears trying to listen to everywhere at once.  Only in this case - the dish would be self-aiming.

Originally developed for sonar applications - it found another application in cellular networks and is now being introduced for wireless networking.  Expect to hear more of this buzzword in the near future.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

5 Y's & 2 ToDo's


Have you ever wondered why your manager might sometimes talk to you like a little kid obsessed with the word "Why?" ...

There is a problem solving method that asks you to do just that.

Which is a pretty good idea when you think about it - as annoying as that can be when you are on the receiving end of it.  (A little humility and an open mind can go a long way in those times.)

But finding out why is worthless if you're not going to do something about it.  In fact you really need to do two things about it.

I think the true wisdom in these approaches though is the idea of solving problems iteratively.

What I mean by this is that usually when you have a Really Big ProblemTM - it is going to take a lot of time & effort to fix - usually because it took a long time to create the problem.  That is to say, that the problem itself was created iteratively - one uninformed/bad decision compounding the others growing over time.

If you have systemic problems like that - it is perhaps best to solve those problems iteratively also.  An hour's effort here and there compounded over time can achieve meaningful results without necessarily getting in the way of General ProgressTM.

It also has the effect of assigning more realistic priorities to things.  If you spend an hour working on the root cause every time that you have a recurring problem - the problems that occur most often will end up getting the most cumulative attention instead of those that perhaps are perceived as being more important.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Stuff of Snowboarder Nightmares

Avalanche Skier POV Helmet Cam Burial & Rescue in Haines, Alaska from Chappy on Vimeo.

GT-10B in Depth



I have had some time to spend with my new toy now.  

So here are a few words on the subject:

All in all it makes me wonder why I waited so long.  This is a game-changer.  The overall impact this has on how I do things now is significant.

In terms of gizmoes all strung together and glued/screwed/taped/velcroed to a piece of plexi-glass/wood/padded-custom-case & then running into the amp...  I'm done - for quite a while I think.  It pretty much has every stomp-pedal that BOSS ever made for bass in there more or less.  You can use them in whatever order/combinations you like - and SAVE those combinations.  This allows a lot more creativity in a live situation in terms of getting your effects together between/during songs.

It is also Really Easy.  That is how it was sold to me & it does not disappoint.  Neither do I find it to be as condescending as it might be.  The EZ Tone thing for creating a sound borders on that - but how often would anyone use that after getting to know how to use the thing?

In terms of sound processor though -- niice -- I plugged it into my PowerBook via the USB cable & driver software & ran it simply through Garageband as the sound input and output - and plugged my headphones into the GT-10B for the session.  WOW.  It upgraded the experience tremendously.  I even banged out a new song the first night I sat down with it.  (Just imagine when I hook it up to some real editing software)

Add that last bit to the ability to back up/restore/mix&match all of the patches that you create via that USB cable to the computer - and now you have a professional situation where you can buy a replacement on the road & get on with the show with very little effort.

And of course - The Sound ...  It is really very nice.  It is also very easy to be cheezy - particularly with the pitch-shifter - so beware.  Hard as is it to imagine - I could see potentially just running through a PA system (with the appropriate monster subwoofers) because you can make the sound exactly what you want.

No they don't come out & say it - but there is clearly modelling of Ampeg, Orange, etc. in there.  It makes a difference.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nothing Wastes Time Like "Crunch Time"


Why is it that in the middle of every major software development project that I have ever been a part of there is a point that is reached where management panics, throws out the original plan and starts shooting from the hip?

The one thing that no one ever seems to try to include in their schedules is Problems.  As developers we create them, find them and face them every day.  Most are little problems that can be worked out with some analysis, patience and research.  Some are serious mind-benders that require rotating people in and out of the effort to find the answer to them.  And some are like Inventing a Light Bulb.

What I mean by that is that Edison had to experiment over and over and over to find the right filament in order to make a commercially viable light bulb.  He measured his success in the effort by how many things he successfully disqualified from being the answer.

When software developers 'slip' a deadline - it is more often than not one that was forced on them artificially in the first place by backing into a date based on some delivery expectation that has little to do with the actual work itself.  Any work estimate is just that - an estimate - and does not include delays caused by "things that we don't know that we don't know".  By definition it can't be.  You can estimate time required to learn things that you are aware that you don't know - but the questions, implications and problems that come out of learning that is unknowable until you take that next step.

Therefore the pursuit itself it wrought with inherent disappointment if you are in a hurry to get your software done.  For this reason the only thing that makes sense it to develop everything iteratively.  One small step at a time.  It is good to have goals - but the results of an iteration should be modest and should never be overloaded to try to reach an artificial goal.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Metal Gear Music


I finally caved in and bought a Boss GT-10B yesterday. I have to say that it really does sound nice. I almost like it better through the headphones it sounds so nice. I am an old fan of multi-effects units, so I took to it right away. It is pretty amazing what you can do to your sound with one of these things.

I only started messing around with the loop feature last night but as a bass player it's very handy and relatively simple to use.

In actual news - the Dethklok album and new season is about to drop and the tour is underway.

Also Iggy Pop has a new album out called Preliminaries. It is New Orleans style jazz with him singing in french. That concept might scare you off - but from what I have heard it is pretty awesome actually.

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Work of Fiction

This is actually not one email - but a composite of several - so it's a bit like text-collage art :


"
Dears,

Looping all...

This is not good. Lets be very careful while implementing any functionality, specially when it is a big change. We must follow the QC properly.

We have a critical issue in environment in order to fix this we need to make web deployments urgently. can you please help us on this.

It is going up & down...

Can you help immediately...

Please do the needful.

Also we need to discuss on the folowing points:

I am not sure which query of SoAndSo report are you expecting from me?

Is it meant for SomeOtherSoAndSo?

Regards,

- SoAndSoWhoMustNotBeNamed
"


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Memetics

I have been told by someone that not only am I the only person that they know who has ever used the word "meme" but that I tend to use it in a sentence at least once a day.

Today I am going to run with that.

By way of definition I will call a meme a self-replicating unit of information stored in the brain.

Richard Dawkins put forth an idea that "Selfish Genes" use living bodies as vehicles and factories for self-replication.

If you want to be a goofy sci-fi nerd about it - think of it like the damned Midichlorians using us for raw material.

But if you want to look at it another way - you might say that it is more accurate to say that in fact we are far more condusive to be vehicles for memes. In fact, Dawkins put this idea forth himself since he is credited for coining the term.

There is an additional way to look at this however that he did not touch on. While you can apply the concept of selective pressure and evolution to ideas and meme also, there are things that memes are capable of that genes are not. Everyone knows that ideas spread from person to person. But there is another far more profound ability - Memes can jump species.

A person can watch animals hunt for food and can learn how to do the same thing. A chimp or a gorilla can be taught things like sign-language and the concept of zero. A dog can respond to voice commands. Wild dogs in Russia have learned to commute by train.

Memes also seem to have wars. It might be argued that all organized human warfare is in fact a product of memes. But what I mean by saying that memes have wars is that one can evolve that as a condition for it's existence is mutually exclusive of another. "Religious Wars" are a prime example of this type of memocide - where a set of ideas inherent in one set of individuals is forcibly purged by another set of individuals holding a different set of ideas.

How much more deeply are we enslaved by our own ideas than we are by our genetic makeup? The only real upside is that memes evolve several orders of magnitude faster than genes. You are 'free' to change your mind as you will. But will you? Can you? Do you ever go out of your way to 'change' your mind? Why are we all so inclined to "believe" rather than to "think"?

Is it because it is safer for us or for our memes?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Scala is pretty Groovy after all



It seems that Scala got a resounding review from the originator of Groovy, James Strachan.

I am a great fan of the concept of the Java Virtual Machine. I think that the ability to have multiple languages producing a common byte-code format produces some very powerful benefits. In essence you can have one project or multiple projects running in a common environment where code resources written in different languages can interact with each other and not be dependent on any one particular hardware infrastructure. In fact you could run your code on many different types of hardware and achieve clean interaction between them all.


That greatly simplifies the development process. Anything that makes complicated things simple without losing the power inherent in the complexity is OK in my book.

At the risk of ostracising myself on PerlMonks - I am of the opinion that perl 6 bet the farm on rolling their own virtual machine. While I know that historically speaking the JVM was not remotely open when the perl 6 effort began and what is more there was not much support for any language besides java on the JVM - but much has changed in the many years that perl 6 has languished in it's Duke-Nukem-Forever-style development cycle.

I would love to see someone implement perl on one of the open JVM platforms that exist in prove that it can be done and kept open. I would welcome it as a first step towards implementing it on the actual JVM - which is used in many many many production environments around the world.

I know that a large contingent of the perl community habitually throws stones at Java - but I belong to the subset of developers that are interested in perl and Java for the same reason - developing code with platform independence.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Shocking and Awful

There is quite a bit of noise about the release of the would-be summer blockbuster, G.I. Joe. But it's not the kind that we usually hear about. The story isn't about how good or bad the movie is. It isn't about the lines of people camping out to see it.

This story is about the marketing strategy of "thumbing your nose at sophisticates".

Apparently Paramount has spent $US150 Million advertising this movie to Middle America - completely bypassing "the coasts". Considering that the movie cost $US175 Million to make - that is a lot like doubling down when you're losing at the craps table.


One Manhattan-centric voice, i.e. New York Magazine summed it up in 15 words on their Approval Matrix: "Lovers of hilariously mean movie reviews mourn as G.I. Joe will not screen for critics"

Most telling is the way that Sienna Miller, a star of the movie itself, has made multiple damning comments and even an accusation about the making of this summer "tentpole".

If you are planning on attending the Kid Rock/Lynyrd Skynyrd tour - you will get your ample dosage of G.I. Joe, whether you like it or not.

This is target-marketing at it's ugliest. But if you love country music or NASCAR, odds are you have never read a movie review and hate all things sophisticated, and so if I trash you at the end of this blog entry - you'll never even notice. It's a bit like trashing the Amish on-line - how would they ever know? But then again no one whom is Amish ever threatened anyone that I know. "I'm gunna kick yer ass" however is like a cowboy mantra, isn't it?

Still, I would suggest that you spend that $12 on another batch of Skoal instead of this waste of celluloid. It will last longer and might contribute favorably to the natural selection that you don't believe in anyway.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Line6 Follow-Up

So in a sense of fairness I got a hold of the User's Manual for the Line6 Bass PodXT Live and combed it for uncoolness.

I got rattled when they went rule-head on me with this:

1. Obey all warnings on the POD XT Live and in this Pilot’s Handbook.

But the only thing that I read about volume levels was actually phrased in a way that made it seem like they cared about you and not necessarily the people around you first:

8. Prolonged listening at high volume levels, especially with headphones, may cause irreparable hearing loss and/or damage. Always be sure to practice “safe listening.”

Note that the suggestion that Roland offered was to do exactly the thing that Line6 is warning you about - listening to loud music through headphones.

The way that I choose to interpret "safe-listening" in this context is to wear ear-plugs on stage and crank it up for the world to hear. Incidentally, if I find myself with front-row tickets I think they're a wise move too.

Interestingly this unit has a sweet-spot setting for the Bose PS1 Cylindrical Radiator™ which I find very interesting technically. I have been told by a beautiful woman that I trust however that they are not sexy.

I will say this - Line6 writes a far better manual than Roland. I think the proof is in the sound though... I guess I will have to harrass some poor salesman into letting me try them both. That sounds like an ordeal for us both.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

'Reasonable' Rock & Roll

I am interested in buying a multi-effects unit for my bass. I narrowed it down to two contenders:


I was pretty much sold on the Roland unit and have been saving my pennies to pick one up. But I was reading the Owner's Manual & I came across this little nugget that just bent me out of shape:

To avoid disturbing your neighbors, try to keep the unit’s
volume at reasonable levels. You may prefer to use
headphones, so you do not need to be concerned about
those around you (especially when it is late at night).

What kind of corporate liability lawyer dreamed up that bizarre bit of legal advice? There are multiple settings in the device specifically designed for the playing of Hard Rock and Heavy Hetal music, amongst others. What are they thinking!?

Whatever happened to "This goes to eleven"!?

I suppose to be fair I need to check the Line6 copy next...

iTunes Uses "Pentium Math"

I am sure that there is some kind of technical explanation for this one, but whatever it is - the UI designers gave me a laugh:



But what is one ridiculous message when two in a row can make you keep scratching your head?


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dropping the Ballmer


If you are a Micro$oft stock-holder - I suggest that you start a vote of no-confidence against your CEO.

I love to lampoon this guy - because he makes it so easy.

But honestly, just because you were Bill's sidekick does not mean that you have the tenacity of vision that Bill Gates does.

Here is the latest dippy thing that he had to say about a serious subject that strikes at the heart of the M$-Ca$h-Cow:


I am pretty sure that a lot of people know what it is - and what is more they are very interested in it. I know that I am.

The fog of multi-generational FUD is starting to clear as the blogging-generation grows up. No more will the middle-class buying dollars be swayed from their techno-toys by silly mud-slinging.

How do I mock thee? Let me count the ways:
  • Vista - an industry-wide joke that even Jerry Seinfeld couldn't make funny
  • Zune - a pathetic also-ran
  • X-Box - never turned a profit
  • X-Box360 - this product dumping thing is expensive! Still never turned a profit
  • Sync - You can't keep your OS from crashing and you want to put it in my car!?
  • MSN - An online service that no one paid for that became a brand name for awful TV channels
What exactly has come out of Redmond since he's been at the helm that is worth anything?


My Next Phone?

This is tasty...
Now that Pandora is coming for Android I just might end up with something like this as my next phone.

Monday, July 20, 2009

What You Weren't Allowed To Know...

...Unitl after the election...

I don't know which is funnier - the meat of this story or the repeated use of the ?word? "Knowledgeability"... (Isn't the proper word 'knowledgable' - used as an adjective? You guys were communications majors, surely you do not need to butcher the English language in this way?)

Oh here we go again - How about simply using the word "Knowledge"...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dude, Where's My Party?

Is is unforgivable quotes like this that make me ashamed of the Republican party:

"I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God." - George H.W. Bush

"We don't have to protect the envionment, the Second Coming is at hand" - James Watt, former Secretary of the Interior

Do you see me using the word 'polemicist' at the top of this blog? Let me be clear - I have nothing in common with the likes of Ann Coulter. No one would pay any attention to that twit if she wasn't somewhat attractive. At the time of my writing this - she is 47. I can't wait until she hits the wall and is squelched into irrelevancy.

Let me be clear about this:
The reason why I am a Republican is because I believe in small & limited government. I want the government out of my life and off of my property. The religiously intolerant Fundamentalist Christians1 whom have hijacked the party and are constantly trying to extend the influence of law into the wombs of women are completely out of control and need to be kept in check.

In New York state you must belong to a party in order to participate in the Primaries. I believe that change is best effected from within - so I participate. But I disagree with almost everything that my fellow Republicans seem to be for these days.

GWB expanded the federal government more in his first term than Clinton did in both of his terms. It took a jackass like him to make a weasel like Bill Clinton look good.

I miss the prosperity of the 90's in the worst possible way.

But neither do I forgive the Democrats for their complacency while the proverbial excrement was hitting the rotating blades.

IMHO the American people now expect politicians to be utterly corrupt and forgive them for it. I want you to think about that because it means that you are giving a shooting license to Ceasar. It only took 8 years for the Greatest Country In The World to drag the global economy down with it.

Now ask yourself - what, if anything, is getting better?

1 Fundamentalist Christianity - because bothering to believe in ALL of it is a lot of work, and that Love Thy Enemy stuff must be some Hippie Nonsense, right?

A Plea to All iPhone Developers

FACT: iPhones get dead-spots on their screens

Most people that I know who have them have a dead spot somewhere. Mine is a line about 1cm tall extending across the screen.

If you have a button on the screen somewhere, someone is likely to never be able to press it.

There is a simple answer to this:
ROTATION, ROTATION, ROTATION!

Please Please Please support rotation in your applications whenever possible. If I can flip the screen around then I can get all of the buttons in any app to work.



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Freedom of Speech is not Freedom from Spam

I am the sort of person who can withstand the constant onslaught of slings & arrows from critics and detractors alike.

But if you are going to comment on a posting - please do not use it as a forum to post nothing but links to yourself. Please write an actual comment.

I was apparently link-spammed by the author of tradeskillsllc.blogspot.com (Happy with your link now?) or someone using their account who posted a comment including all of the text of their two most recent blog entries. These had nothing to do with the posting it was 'commenting' on at all. I am going to delete it.

If you want to debate a topic & tell me that I'm a shitwit - that it one thing. As long as you are vaguely on-topic I will not so much as moderate. But blatant self-advertising is just rude and a waste of time for the few people who read this blog. I am for free-speech. But if you just want to shout out your name, go stand on a NYC street-corner & start rappnig free-style or something and get off of my lawn.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Blogspot Feature

It would seem that if I am going to meditate a little longer on a blog entry that I need to finish it before moving on to the next one. I added 2 new postings today that had been brewing for some time now - but they appeared chronologically not in the order in which they were 'published' but rather in the order in which they were created.

I suppose I will need to be a little better about that kind of thing from now on!

Wordle Snapshot

Occasionally I take a snapshot of my blog using Wordle.

Here is the latest version:

Wordle: gregory42.blogspot.com

Monday, July 13, 2009

Video Games vs. Violent Crime

I apologize for the stupid pop-up ad. Just close the window & come back to watch the video.

Hubba Hubba Huh?

Aaaand my nomination for the worst technology name of the year is ...





How to Share Photos without Facebook

A number of people that I know seem to think that you need to use Facebook to share photographs.

In fact many people outright refuse to share photos with me unless I join.

These are mostly the same people who had that same attitude about MySpace 2 years ago.

Well - for those of you who can't handle email attachments for some reason and are too frightened by your own computer to turn on the built-in web-server that everyone has now.... Try one of these:





Sarah Palin – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly


[ADHD WARNING: This is a LONG post & the good stuff is at the end]

Following the ‘disjointed rambling’ that was her 2,700+ word resignation speech, I took the time to sit down & thoroughly research the history of Sarah Palin. Being a fellow Republican (dude, where’s my party?) and a Scientist (I neither thump nor burn books, I read them) – I thought I would try to be as fair as possible in presenting a picture of this person whom has been a lightning rod for attention for the last two years.

From that, I give you the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Sarah Palin. The Good reflects the hard-earned accomplishments of someone who has worked hard & deserves to be proud. The Bad reflects poor decisions and failures – and to be fair who doesn’t make those – but that which one should be regretful about and learn from. The Ugly however is that which is neither to be forgotten nor forgiven and what makes this politician truly dangerous and a shameful embarrassment to Alaska and America.

Many of the events listed in one section end up reappearing in another section – so I have attempted to link these with footnote references.

Full disclosure – I did not vote for McCain in the last election. I did vote for him in favor of Bush in the 2000 New York Primary.

Good:

  • Elected twice to the city council of Wasilla, in 1992 and 1995 & was a member of from 1992 to 19961
  • Served two terms (1996–2002) as the mayor of Wasilla
  • First female governor of Alaska
  • Youngest person elected governor of Alaska
  • First Alaskan candidate of either major party on a national ticket2
  • First female vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party2
  • Head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter at the school3
  • Captain and point guard of the school's girls' basketball team that won the Alaska state championship in 1982
  • Winner of the Miss Wasilla Pageant in 19843
  • Finished third in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant, which earned her a college scholarship4 and the "Miss Congeniality" award
  • Returned to the University of Idaho in January 1986, where she spent three semesters completing her bachelor's degree in communications-journalism, graduating in May 1987 4
  • During her first year in office, Palin kept a jar with the names of Wasilla residents on her desk, and once a week she pulled a name from it and picked up the phone; she would ask: "How's the city doing?" Using income generated by a 2% sales tax that was enacted before she was elected to the city council, Palin cut property taxes by 75% and eliminated personal property and business inventory taxes
  • Elected president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors.
  • Chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2003 to 2004
  • After resigning from the AO&GCC, Palin filed a formal complaint against Oil and Gas Conservation Commissioner Randy Ruedrich, also the chair of the state Republican Party, accusing him of doing work for the party on public time and of working closely with a company he was supposed to be regulating
  • She also joined with Democratic legislator Eric Croft to file a complaint against Gregg Renkes, a former Alaskan Attorney General, accusing him of having a financial conflict of interest in negotiating a coal exporting trade agreement, while Renkes was the subject of investigation and after records suggesting a possible conflict of interest had been released to the public. Ruedrich and Renkes both resigned and Ruedrich paid a record $12,000 fine.
  • Palin followed through on a campaign promise to sell the Westwind II jet, a purchase made by the Murkowski administration for $2.7 million in 2005 against the wishes of the legislature.
  • In December 2008, an Alaska state commission recommended increasing the Governor's annual salary from $125,000 to $150,000. Palin stated that she would not accept the pay raise. In response, the commission dropped the recommendation
  • Helped in her husband’s commercial fishing business7 [This isn't all that he does however]

Bad:

  • Unsuccessful campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska in 2002
  • Republican Party's vice-presidential nominee for the 2008 United States presidential election2
  • Announced that she will not be a candidate for re-election in 2010 and that she would resign the Office of Governor effective July 26, 2009
  • Enrolled at Hawaii Pacific College in Honolulu. She left after one semester 4
  • Transferred to North Idaho College, a community college in Coeur d'Alene and spent two semesters as a general studies major in 1983 4
  • August 1984, she transferred to the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho 4
  • After two semesters at UI, Palin returned to Alaska and attended Matanuska-Susitna College, a community college in Palmer, for one term in the fall of 1985 4
  • Did not complete her second term on the city council because she ran for mayor in 19961
  • The first governor not to be inaugurated in Juneau; she chose to have the ceremony held in Fairbanks instead. 6
  • Palin promoted oil and natural gas resource development in Alaska, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge(ANWR).
  • In 2006, Palin obtained a passport and in 2007 traveled for the first time outside of North America on a trip to Kuwait. [She was the only Vice Presidental candidate in history to have never met a foreign head of state. That she never even travelled out of the USA at all prior to 2007 is shameful for someone whom would potentially preside over foreign policy matters]
  • In June 2007, Palin signed a record $6.6 billion operating budget into law. At the same time, she used her veto power to make the second-largest cuts of the construction budget in state history. The $237 million in cuts represented over 300 local projects, and reduced the construction budget to $1.6 billion. In 2008, Palin vetoed $286 million, cutting or reducing funding for 350 projects from the FY09 capital budget.
  • Palin also joined with nearby communities in jointly hiring the Anchorage-based lobbying firm of Robertson, Monagle & Eastaugh to lobby for federal funds. The firm secured nearly $8 million in earmarked funds for the Wasilla city government. Earmarks included $500,000 for a youth shelter, $1.9 million for a transportation hub, and $900,000 for sewer repairs.
    However in 2008 Alaska was still the largest per-capita recipient of federal
    earmarks, requesting nearly $750 million in special federal spending over a period of two years
  • She opposes same-sex marriage and supported a non-binding referendum for an Alaskan constitutional amendment to deny state health benefits to same-sex couples 3
  • Palin has called herself "as pro-life as any candidate can be" and has called abortion an "atrocity." 3
  • Palin has stated that abortion should be banned in nearly all cases, including rape and incest, except if the life of the mother is endangered.3
  • Palin has stated that she does not support embryonic stem cell research. 3
  • Governor Murkowski appointed Palin to the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. She chaired the Commission beginning in 2003, serving as Ethics Supervisor. Palin resigned in January 2004, protesting what she called the "lack of ethics" of fellow Republican members.5

Ugly:

  • She promoted an effort to de-list the polar bear as an endangered species, since this could hinder oil searching 7
  • In 2007, Palin supported a 2003 Alaska Department of Fish and Game policy allowing the hunting of wolves from the air as part of a predator control program intended to increase moose and caribou populations for subsistence-food gatherers and other hunters. In March 2007, Palin's office announced that a bounty of $150 per wolf would be paid to the 180 volunteer pilots and gunners, to offset fuel costs, in five areas of Alaska. Six-hundred-and-seven wolves had been killed in the prior four years. State biologists wanted 382 to 664 wolves killed by the end of the predator-control season in April 2007. Wildlife activists sued the state, and a state judge declared the bounty illegal on the basis that a bounty would have to be offered by the Board of Game and not by the Department of Fish and Game.7
  • Palin stated in 2006 that she would not allow her personal religious beliefs to dictate her political positions3
  • Her father, Charles R. Heath, was a science teacher
  • Member of the girls' cross country team [her father was the coach]3
  • 1988, she worked as a sports reporter for KTUU-TV and KTVA-TV in Anchorage 3
  • Worked at the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman as a sports reporter [You wonder where all the sports metaphors come from?] 3
  • On the City council, she successfully opposed a measure to curtail the hours at Wasilla's bars by two hours. This surprised her opponent Hartrick because she was then a member of a church that advocated abstinence from alcohol. [I actually agree with her legal stance but it is the hipocrisy that raises questions. She clearly cherry picks where to apply Beliefs to the Law] 3
  • She introduced abortion, gun rights, and term limits as campaign issues [i.e. these were not issues Alaskans based their votes on previously - Wedge Stratregy anyone?]
  • Shortly after taking office in October 1996, Palin consolidated the position of museum director and asked for updated resumes and resignation letters from some top officials, including the police chief, public works director, finance director, and librarian & stated this request was to find out their intentions and whether they supported her 6
  • As Mayor she temporarily required department heads to get her approval before talking to reporters, saying that they first needed to become acquainted with her administration's policies 6
  • As Mayor she created the position of city administrator
  • Reduced her own $68,000 salary by 10%, although by mid-1998 this was reversed by the city council [An obvious and clumbsy PR stunt]
  • According to Wasilla librarian Mary Ellen Emmons, Mayor Palin inquired two or three times in October 1996 as to how Emmons would handle any request to remove books from the library 3 6
  • Palin fired Emmons and Police Chief Irl Stambaugh in January 1997, stating that she did not feel they fully supported her efforts to govern the city. The next day, following expressions of public support for Emmons and a personal meeting, Palin rescinded the firing of Emmons, stating that her concerns had been alleviated, and adding that Emmons agreed to support Palin's plan to merge the town's library and museum operations.Stambaugh, who along with Emmons had supported Palin's opponent in the election, filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination, violation of his contract, and gender discrimination. In the trial, the defense alleged political reasons; Stambaugh said that he had opposed a gun control bill, Alaska HB 270, that Palin supported. The federal judge said in the decision that the police chief serves at the discretion of the mayor, and can be terminated for nearly any reason, even a political one, and dismissed Stambaugh's lawsuit ordering Stambaugh to pay Palin's legal fees.6
  • Using municipal bonds, she made improvements to the roads and sewers, and increased funding to the Police Department.She also oversaw new bike paths and procured funding for storm-water treatment to protect freshwater resources.At the same time, the city reduced spending on the town museum and stopped construction of a new library and city hall.
  • During her second term as mayor, Palin introduced a ballot measure proposing the construction of a municipal sports center3 to be financed by a 0.5% sales tax increase. The $14.7 million Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex3 was built on time and under budget, but the city spent an additional $1.3 million because of an eminent domain lawsuit caused by the failure to obtain clear title to the property before beginning construction.The city's long-term debt grew from about $1 million to $25 million through voter-approved indebtedness of $15 million for the sports complex, $5.5 million for street projects, and $3 million for water improvement projects. A city council member defended the spending increases as being caused by the city's growth during that time.

  • In 2004, Palin told the Anchorage Daily News that she had decided not to run for the U.S. Senate that year, against the Republican incumbent, Lisa Murkowski, because her teenage son opposed it. Palin said, "How could I be the team mom if I was a U.S. Senator?" [Really? She took career advice from her teenaged child?]
  • In 2008, as a vice-presidential candidate, Palin characterized her position as having told Congress "thanks, but no thanks, on that bridge to nowhere." This angered some Alaskans in Ketchikan, who said that the claim was false and a betrayal of Palin's previous support for their community. Some critics complained that this statement was misleading, since she had expressed support for the spending project and kept the Federal money after the project was canceled.
  • In August 2008, Palin signed a bill authorizing the State of Alaska to award TransCanada Pipelines — the sole bidder to meet the state's requirements — a license to build and operate a pipeline to transport natural gas from the North Slope to the Continental United States through Canada.The governor also pledged $500 million in seed money to support the project.It is estimated that the project will cost $26 billion. Newsweek described the project as "the principal achievement of Sarah Palin's term as Alaska's governor."
  • Palin dismissed Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan on July 11, 2008, citing performance-related issues, such as not being "a team player on budgeting issues." Monegan said that he had resisted persistent pressure from the Governor, her husband, and her staff, including State Attorney General Talis Colberg, to fire Palin’s ex-brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten; Wooten was involved in a child custody battle with Palin’s sister that included an alleged death threat against Palin's father.6
  • She placed an aide on paid leave due to one tape-recorded phone conversation that she deemed improper, in which the aide appeared to be acting on her behalf and complained to a trooper that Wooten had not been fired.6
  • On September 1, Palin asked the legislature to drop its investigation, saying that the state Personnel Board had jurisdiction over ethics issues. The Personnel Board's three members were first appointed by Palin’s predecessor, and Palin reappointed one member in 2008. On September 19, the Governor's husband and several state employees refused to honor subpoenas, the validity of which were disputed by Talis Colberg, Palin's appointee as Alaska's Attorney General. On October 2, a court rejected Colberg's challenge to the subpoenas, and seven of the witnesses, not including Sarah and Todd Palin, eventually testified
  • On July 4, 2009, Palin's attorney issued a statement threatening bloggers and news organizations with potential defamation lawsuits for spreading rumors about criminal behavior by Palin as if the rumors were fact.6
  • Todd Palin works for the British oil company BP as an oil-field production operator7 and owns a commercial fishing business
  • Palin described herself in an interview as a "Bible-believing Christian." After the Republican National Convention, a spokesperson for the McCain campaign told CNN that Palin "doesn't consider herself Pentecostal" and has "deep religious convictions." 3
  • In a 2006 gubernatorial debate, responding to a question asking the candidates whether they would support teaching creationism in public schools, Palin stated that she supported teaching both creationism and evolution. Shortly after that debate, Palin said in an interview that she meant she supports allowing the discussion of creationism in public schools3, but says it does not have to be part of the curriculum. She supports sex education in public schools that encourages abstinence but also discusses birth control. 3
  • On global warming, Palin has said that "a changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made."7
  • Regarding foreign policy, Palin supported the Bush Administration's policies in Iraq, but is concerned that "dependence on foreign energy" may be obstructing efforts to "have an exit plan in place"7
  • Palin supports preemptive military action in the face of an imminent threat, and supports U.S. military operations in Pakistan. She declined to give a yes or no answer regarding whether U.S. military forces should make cross-border attacks into Pakistan without the approval of the Pakistani government.

Commentary, linking topics:

1 She failed to complete her 2nd term

2 Arguably she was a major cause of the lost election. It is widely held on both sides of the political arena that they should have declined the nomination.

3 The agenda of the Fellowship of Christian Atheletes is to promote religion through sports. Her subsequent sports-centered career and religious overtones are arguably an extension of this early-adopted agenda. This clashes however with her declaration in 2006 that she would not allow her religious beliefs to dictate her policies

4 This is one of the oft-cited 'quitter' moves where it took several attempts for her to complete her degree.

5 These are incidents where the "quitter" label applies. There is a pattern of "cut and run" behaviour when she finds herself in an underdog scenario, unable to run the show and win admiration.

6 These are cases where her heavy-handed need to control public perception has overriden her ability to govern properly

7 Does anyone else perceive Conflicts of Interests in these, or is just me?