Thursday, January 31, 2008

How Hard Is It To Make a Pop Song?

Scott Adams planted the seeds led to She Amazed Me – the Music Video.

"Several blog posts ago, I observed that many popular songs have nonsense lyrics. So I asked readers to submit random lyrics that could be strung together to create a hit song that means absolutely nothing. German band RIVO DREI took it one step further by putting the best random lyrics together, writing the music, and performing it. Now the final piece falls into place. Dilbert Blog reader Jem8472, who wishes to be otherwise anonymous, has created the music video and posted it to youtube."

It's a perfectly fine bland pop song.

Copy a CD, owe $1.5 million

Copy a CD, owe $1.5 million under "gluttonous" PRO-IP Act. "Not content with the current (and already massive) statutory damages allowed under copyright law, the RIAA is pushing to expand the provision. The issue is compilations, which now are treated as a single work. In the RIAA's perfect world, each copied track would count as a separate act of infringement, meaning that a copying a ten-song CD even one time could end up costing a defendant $1.5 million if done willfully."

What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part 4

Part Four of What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? is the best yet. My predictions:

McNulty goes down. Daniels tries to protect him but Burrell uses whatever he has on Daniels to force him to throw the book at McNulty.

Lester stays safe and gets his pension. Bunk stays good, keeps his job, makes small busts.

I would have said Omar kill Marlo, but the Greek angle sounds right to me. They will protect him and perhaps take out Omar. The new generation takes over from the old. And then Avon gets out of jail.

Or maybe McNulty manages to get Marlo (he's tampering with evidence in unrelated deaths, the evidence on Marlo can still hold) and the Greeks need to put someone else in charge (Omar or Avon)?.

Freezing Over

"A rare snowstorm swept the Middle East on Wednesday, blanketing parts of the Holy Land in white, shutting schools and sending excited children into the streets for snowball fights."

F*** Planet Earth

Serendipity. Came across this just a few hours after posting my favorite Wire scene. It has basically the same dialog placed over Planet Earth shots.

This is by max goldberg.

Women in Film

List of people in the comments at Women in Film

Garmin Drops a Phone into the GPS

Garmin's nuvifone looks like it might be the first competition to the iPhone.

My Favorite Scene From The Wire

This is from season 1. Warning, contains some nudity and "some" profanity.

Ok, it was 100% profanity.

Dark Energy is Real

Dark Energy is Real by Dr,. Pamela Gay is probably the best layman's explanation of a recent study on dark energy.

Pick Your Candidate

Here are three quizzes to fill out to help you pick a candidate:

Pick Your Candidate told me I like (in order): Kucinich, Edwards, Clinton, Biden, Gravel, Dodd, Obama

USA Today's Candidate Match Game told me I like (in order): Kucinich, Richardson, Biden, Obama, Gravel, Clinton, Edwards

Select Smart told me I like (in order): Obama, Kucinich, Dodd, Gore, Boomberg, Edwards, Clark, Biden, Clinton

Yeah, that helps.

Update: and Speak Out says I like Clinton, Obama, Kucinich.

Pick Your Candidate

Here are three quizzes to fill out to help you pick a candidate:

Pick Your Candidate told me I like (in order): Kucinich, Edwards, Clinton, Biden, Gravel, Dodd, Obama

USA Today's Candidate Match Game told me I like (in order): Kucinich, Richardson, Biden, Obama, Gravel, Clinton, Edwards

Select Smart told me I like (in order): Obama, Kucinich, Dodd, Gore, Boomberg, Edwards, Clark, Biden, Clinton

Yeah, that helps.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Think Progress on State of the Union

Think Progress fact checked the State of the Union speech. Lots of posts with details.

Christopher Nolan on Heath Ledger

Charisma as Natural as Gravity.

Movie Review: Atonement

It seems if you've read the book, Atonement is a great movie, though that's hard for me to believe. I had not read the book and knew very little of the story going into the film and I found the film quite weak.

The film is the story of Briony Tallis. It begins in 1935 with her as a 13 year-old at her family's British mansion. Her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) has a thing for Robbie Turner (James McAvoy), the son of one of the servants, who the family likes enough to pay for his college education. We know nothing else about them but are witness to two of their dalliances, as is Briony. While searching for missing twins, Briony is also witness to another sexual assault and falsely accuses Robbie of the crime. The film then jumps 4 years into the future to World War II. Robbie for some reason is not in jail but is a soldier in France. There are several war scenes that seem completely arbitrary: Robbie in an attic with two comrades, then walking through a field stumbling upon bloodless dead school girls then fortuitously meeting up at Dunkirk for the evacuation. In flashback we see Cecilla is a nurse in London and has a random half hour encounter with Robbie. Briony is also a nurse in London and we see several events from early in her career: what is apparently the first soldier to die while she comforts him and bonding with some coworkers who try to guess at her past. These two stories come together at the end but I'll leave that for a spoilers section.

The film felt like a long montage. Maybe if I had read the book these disparate scenes would have suggested various passages, but that shouldn't be a prerequisite to enjoy the film. E.g, I understand the book explains that Robbie was released from prison on condition of enlistment. There are two short shots of the mother in bed seeming ill while a small boy throws a ball into a wall. It's useless in the film and was probably a chapter in the book.

The entire war story line is a distraction from the main story of Briony's guilt. After all, the film is called Atonement and begins and ends with Briony. Sure, there's a tradition of setting stories in historical background but this film gets the tone wrong. The Dunkirk scene includes a 5 minute tracking shot that while technically impressive serves no plot point. I found it fitting that after wandering around for five minutes they ended up at near where they started. I noticed the shot itself not the scale of the horror as in depot scene Gone With the Wind or any of Saving Private Ryan. Also jarring was that at first the injured are mostly shown bloodlessly until some of the later scenes in the hospital when they decide it's time to abruptly pump up the gore.

We're supposed to feel for the tragedy of these separated lovers but I knew so little about them I didn't care that much. A subplot is fine, but in this film it felt like it came at the expense of time spent to add depth to the main story. We're supposed to experience Briony's guilt and attempts to live with it or overcome it but it seemed so tangental to the storytelling. The last scene does its best to save the film but it raised more questions for me than it answered and by then I was way way past caring.

This is another film told non-linearly. Leaving out parts of the story to make a mystery for the audience annoys me when M. Night Shyamalan does it and it annoyed me here too. I much prefer when our mysteries are shared with the characters. Showing a late flashback to reveal new emotional motivations seems far less effective to me than letting me experience the scenes with the knowledge of the characters. I'm prepared to think this might be different in books than in films, but it was true in this film.

I'm really surprised this film got 7 oscar nominations. Art Direction (aka sets), Costumes and Cinematography I guess can go with any lavish period piece. I found the nominated score particularly annoying. It struck me as looped standard melodramatic music with touches of annoying Eyes Wide Shut piano notes.

I know I'm in the minority with this review. I'd love to hear comments if you've seen the film or read book or both.


I tried to avoid revealing too much of the story. It really bothered me that the relationship between Lola and Paul was glossed over. We have to assume that Lola knew it was Paul that night but we really don't know if it was consensual or not. It felt to me like she was coming on to him in the candy scene but it feels like that's pushing it. I suppose her burns she blames on the twins could instead have come from a previous encounter with Paul (he has an injury too). Assuming the later marriage is supposed to tell us the "assault" was consensual, then I'd like to know how Lola (and Paul) lived with the guilt of sending Robbie to jail. That seems equal to Briony's guilt (if not more so) and I think it would have be interesting to contrast how they dealt with it.

It's also not clear if Briony knew it wasn't Robbie and lied, thought it was Robbie and was merely wrong, or convinced herself it was Robbie because of her crush and thought she was telling the truth. It's probably the latter, but really why leave ambiguity? And I certainly would have been more invested in these event if I knew at the time about her crush on Robbie.

I was completely shocked that when Briony stumbled into the library that Cecilia said nothing to her, not even a don't tell anyone about this. But it's far beyond my willing suspension of disbelief that she didn't have a forceful conversation with Briony before the trial or tried to discredit her during the trial by disclosing her actions. Or that Robbie wouldn't have put together the crush and the jealousy in his own defense.

If Cecilia was willing to wait for Robbie why didn't she see him when getting out of jail? If Cecilia didn't talk to Briony didn't she have to make up (for the novel) what Cecilia whispered to him when being arrested and the whole encounter in the cafeteria? How would she have known about them otherwise?

We know nothing of Briony's life other than she became a successful novelist (she must have been successful to publish 21 novels). Did she marry? Did her guilt leave her emotionally stunted? Wouldn't these things be more relevant to a story about making amends than the evacuation at Dunkirk?

I've read how the story was so deep and layered and I just don't see it. I find it shallow and merely suggestive. I also think that the ending, revealing that a mere one scene was fictional is not a big deal in a film almost a decade after The Sixth Sense. The real weight of the last scene is that Briony lived with this guilt for decades and used fiction as means to seek redemption. It's tragic Cecilia and Robbie didn't have time together. Any psychiatrist would have told her that they might never have managed an overt relationship because of the class difference and that Briony didn't cause their deaths. If Briony really did convince herself that it was Robbie and didn't realize it wasn't until the wedding, then she couldn't have even saved him from jail time. And it hardly seems a revelation to think that writing could be cathartic.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Whatever Happened to Estonia?

I asked last August, Whatever Happened to Estonia? Bruce Schneier has an answer in The Estonia Cyberwar.

"The attacker convicted today isn't a member of the Russian military, nor is he an embittered cyber warrior in Putin's secret service. He doesn't even live in Russia. He's an [20-year-old] ethnic Russian who lives in Estonia, who was pissed off over that whole statue thing."

Video Series on Regrets

I think this one is a riot (sound with profanity):

Others in the series are here, Coudal Partners. Hobbies is really fun too. "Stamp collecting that's a thrill. You gotta touch them tweezers."

Found these via this Printing spoof of them on YouTube.

360 Degree Photos has lots of full Screen 360 degree virtual panoramas. You need Quicktime VR to view them but you probably already have it.

It's Data Privacy Day

Apparently today is Data Privacy Day. Seems important but very lame as well.

LEGO 50 Years Old

LEGO turns 50 today and Gizmodo has a lookback including a timeline.

Restoring from Time Machine

James Duncan Davidson writes about his experiences Restoring from Time Machine. Getting people to do backups is hard enough, but I think it's even rarer that people practice restores. Think of it this way, when you lose all your data and you're trying to get it back, do you want that to be the first time you go through the procedure?

Paper Art

Peter Callesen does some amazing art work with single sheets of paper. See his site for many more very cool pieces.

White-Hand 1.jpg

HalfWayThrough3 1.jpg

Cowboy-2 1.jpg

the-short-distance-between- 1.jpg

BigPaperCastle1web 1.jpg

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Movie Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a French film based on the memoir of Jean-Dominique Bauby, an Elle editor who suffered a massive stroke at the age of 43, leaving him paralyzed. His only means of communication was through blinking his left eye.

The first 45 minutes are mostly told in the first person. We see through Bauby's eyes as he wakes up in a hospital and doctors lean over him and tell him what happened to him. We hear Bauby's thoughts, even as he realizes he's not able to speak them to his doctors. Initial shots are blurry and we see Bauby blink (apparently filmed by having someone pinch their fingers over the camera lens). The first person shots are interspersed with other shots of memories or metaphors, a repeated one of a diver in a diving suit which is how Bauby feels in his body.

Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski is best known for working with Steven Speilberg since Schindler's List. The camera work isn't as annoying as Cloverfield but it does take some getting used to. There were nine people in the matinee I saw and two left after about 15 minutes which was definitely a mistake.

We see the various day to day events of a patient dependent on others for everything. Henriette and Marie are two therapists who help Baugy learn to speak and communicate. Marie teaches him a system where she says the letters of the alphabet in order of common use (in French of course) and Bauby blinks when she says the letter he wants. We hear this sequence a lot, fortunately even the alphabet in French sounds good. The first thing he says is "I want death". The mother of his children, Céline, who he never married, comes to visit him, but he doesn't want her to bring the children to see him.

About 45 minutes into the film he says "I decided to stop pitying myself. Other than my eye, two things aren't paralyzed, my imagination and my memory." At this point most of the first person shots stop and the film shifts to third person scenes. He had a contract with a publisher to write a book and decides to follow through. Claude comes to take his dictation, one blink at a time. Meanwhile he has more visits from Céline and allows her children to come. He talks to his father Papinou and remembers some previous conversations with him. He remembers past loves and other events that lead up his stroke.

Despite the fears that the opening scenes evoke, this is not a depressing movie. Sad certainly, but not depressing. I wouldn't call it a celebration of life either. But it is an interesting and intimate portrait of person in a devastating situation without all the answers.

The acting is quite good. Mathieu Amalric plays Jean-Do and manages to express a lot just through his left eye. The only actor I knew was Max von Sydow as Papinou and he was outstanding in his two scenes. The other characters were other French actresses I didn't know. Each was more beautiful than the last, though in a might you know this person kind of way.

I liked the film a lot (enjoyed isn't quite the right sentiment) though I've seen several reviews that are far more glowing about it how innovative everything about it is. Bauby's situation was of course tragic and to write a best selling book is quite an accomplishment under any circumstances, but I think these reviewers must never have heard of Stephen Hawking. And while I haven't seen many first person films, I know I was introduced to the concept in 1978 with an episode of M*A*S*H told from the point of view of the patient (and in real time).

Get Smart Trailer Is Out

Looks a little weak to me. Seems like they got the tone wrong. Don Adams never had self-doubts and Agent 99 never had contempt for Max.

Movie Review: There Will Be Blood

It's taken me a while to write this review of There Will Be Blood. In many ways this is a great film. Director Paul Thomas Anderson and star Daniel Day-Lewis are both at the top of their craft. The reviews are very good, all touting how well made it is, but few if any try to describe what it means and that's where There Will Be Blood falls short.

It tells the story of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a miner who starts off in silver and moves to oil. He adopts an orphaned boy and names him H.W. From a young age H.W. is part of the business, particularly when Daniel pitching himself as a family man to people he wants to buy oil rights from. After a tip, they head to Little Boston, California to a small ranch with oil. Daniel buys the ranch from the Sunday family and as they start to mine a small town forms. Paul Sunday (Paul Dano) founds a church and he and Daniel dislike each other. The rest of the film describes Daniel's journey of negotiating with the town and standard oil and others while trying to raise H.W. and deal with a long lost brother. Daniel is harsh and short tempered and perhaps at times evil.

Every visual aspect of this film is astonishing. The sets of a small town in the middle of a scrubby desert are great, Deadwood only wishes it had the budget for this town's set. The costumes, however much covered in mud or oil make it all seem authentic. The camera work is fluid, every scene feels perfectly captured. Shots of an oil rig burning reminded me of Days of Heaven.

The first 15 minutes are a wordless, a tour de force, just as the beginning of 2001 is. Lewis' Daniel Plainview is alone working in a silver mine. The scene shows how difficult and dangerous the work is and what kind of man it took to pursue a living that way. For as simple a scene as it is, it's engrossing, suspenseful, surprising and stark. Next a few years later you see Plainview has switched to oil mining with a small team.

The music reminded me of Philip Glass or Planet of the Apes. You will either love or hate it. I did both. I loved it at times and hated it at times. Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood should be nominated for best original score but was disqualified because Anderson choose some existing music for a few scenes.

Daniel Day-Lewis plays Plainfield as John Huston. He commands every scene he's in which is just about all of them. But the weakness of the film is that it provides so little background or explanation for Daniel's actions. He's all about work and winning and in his deepest conversation merely says he doesn't like people. He almost opens up to family but that's rather short lived. He has no interest in woman at all and that's never touched on. For a film that seems like a character study, there's very little to study.

Can a two hour and 40 minute film that covers 40 years in a man's life not be trying to explain him or be a metaphor for something else? The main complaint against this film is that it's not about something. Armond White says it well: "Plainview’s family-narrative tree suggests what Pauline Kael said about Days of Heaven: You can hang all your old metaphors on it. It’s never clear what Anderson intends these characters to mean—for Plainview or us." Then again a friend I saw it with liked it because it wasn't even trying to be more, it was just a good story and I have to agree with that. But I wanted more, even though the first 15 minutes really were enough for me and the rest was just gravy on top of that.


My sister told me about this site FreeRice. They ask english vocabulary quizes and for each right answer they donate 20 grains of rice via the UN. It's fun and helpful. They started in October and are donating over 100,000 grains a day through this January. The rice is paid for by the advertising at the bottom of the screen which I didn't even notice.

Guess who knows how much you earn each week?

Guess who knows how much you earn each week? |

"The Work Number, a little-known product of Atlanta-based Equifax, captures the salaries and job titles of 46 million Americans every time they collect a paycheck. That represents about a third of the American workforce.

For the past decade, The Work Number has been warehousing and selling this information to lenders and employers who want to verify incomes or conduct background checks."

Or Maybe Attorneys Probe Deepens

A week ago the Hill wrote Attorneys Probe Deepens.

"But recent behind-the-scenes activity in several investigations suggests that the issue that roiled Congress in 2007 could re-emerge in the heat of the election year. Two inquiries by the House and Senate ethics committees are examining whether several congressional Republicans, including one running for the Senate this year, improperly interfered with investigations. As potent as the congressional probes might be, they appear to be far narrower than a sprawling inquiry launched by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)."

There's much more in the article. We'll see.

Top Dems Stall Miers, Bolten Contempt Vote

Purgegate is still ongoing, just at a glacial pace. One reason it's held up is that Josh bolten and Harriet Miers refuse to testify. The House could issue contempt of Congress charges but Top Dems stall Miers, Bolten contempt vote.

"Senior Democrats have decided that holding a controversial vote on the contempt citations, which have already been approved by the House Judiciary Committee as part of its investigation into the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, would “step on their message” of bipartisan unity in the midst of the stimulus package talks."

"The Judiciary Committee approved contempt citations against Bolten and Miers on July 25, but Pelosi has yet to bring the measures to the floor." Maybe if they dealt with this at the time they wouldn't have had to look embarrassed now.

Bloomberg's Favorable Rating?

Open Left wrote Bloomberg's Favorable Rating Is Teh Suck. Maybe he wouldn't do so well in a presidential campaign. They cite several different polls both nationally and even just in New York City that say he would not do well in the election.

How Your Government Will Spy On You

Friday TPM's Today's Must Read was about handicapping the FISA bill votes. "The table is set for Monday, when the Senate will vote on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) attempt to end debate on the intel committee's bill. That motion to invoke cloture will need 60 votes to pass. If it does pass, then the Senate would immediately vote on the bill, which civil libertarians dislike for a number of reasons beyond its measure granting retroactive immunity to the telecoms."

Yesterday a senior administration official said "The president would veto a 30-day extension". Instead he wants a new full bill passed by Friday.

Clintons vs Obama

hilzoy in Obsidian Wings writes about Hillary and Bill's Lies And Democracy "However, I don't think the problem is exactly that they are assuming that most people won't follow the news closely enough to know who is telling the truth and who is lying. As far as I can tell, that assumption is accurate. The problem is that they are playing on that ignorance in a way that displays a different sort of contempt for voters: not the assumption that most people do not follow the news closely enough to be able to say what's wrong with criticizing Obama's 'present' votes on anti-abortion bills, which is probably true, but the idea that it is OK to manipulate them into casting votes they might not cast if people were not telling them lies."

US and Thailand: Allies in torture

Shawn Crispin in the Asia Times writes US and Thailand: Allies in torture. The article is well worth a read and really puts to shame our domestic reporting on the issue.

"As one of the US's most trusted regional allies, Thailand was a logical and secure destination for situating the secret interrogation facilities. Although Thailand is conveniently not a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Torture, it has signed onto the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which broadly protects human rights, including the right to a fair and speedy trial for those charged with crimes.

Although the US ratified the ICCPR in 1992, it has in the intervening years frequently violated the covenant on the twisted and some say spurious legal argument that several of its articles are not 'self-executing'. With the prosecution of its 'war on terror', the US has more recently persuaded several of its regional strategic allies - including Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines - to either ignore or reverse their prior multilateral commitments to rights-protecting international laws and covenants like the ICCPR in exchange for preferential trade and military deals. "

"Thailand has been lured into such practices from the highest echelons of the US government. Former US Homeland security director Tom Ridge, during a presentation in 2004 to foreign journalists in Bangkok, praised Thailand for Hambali's apprehension, but when questioned about whether the commando-style arrest represented a violation of Thai sovereignty, he replied that he was not knowledgeable concerning the relevant Thai laws. President George W Bush in a press conference before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bangkok months after Hambali's arrest referred to Thai special branch counterterrorism chief General Tritos Ranaridhvichai as "my hero" for his role in the sting operation. "

"Now the bigger security question for Thailand and the wider region concerns what role the US may be covertly playing in Southern Thailand, where an increasingly violent Muslim insurgency and counteractions by Thai security forces have by some estimates resulted in over 2,800 deaths since December 2004. While Washington is far and away the Thai military's largest supplier and closest foreign trainer, both governments have studiously maintained that the US has played no role whatsoever in counterinsurgency operations in the Thai south. The recent revelations about the CIA's secret prison on Thai soil have cast new doubts on those assertions, however."

And perhaps the most depressing part: "Rights advocates monitoring southern Thailand's conflict note a striking similarity between the torture techniques US agents are known to have used against terror suspects held in both Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba with those now in practice by Thai security forces against suspected Thai Muslim militants." It now seems other nations can refer to US torture techniques.

Ok, maybe the end is the most depressing: "But by foisting on its regional allies the worst of the Bush administration's rights abusing excesses - including alleged torture, renditions and running roughshod over international laws - the US's professed claim to promote democracy in the region has never rang more hollow in the wake of the CIA prison revelations. And yet there's considerably more at stake than a mere loss of diplomatic face. For those who believe that Bush and senior members and foreign envoys of his administration should one day face trial for war crimes for their controversial and many argue illegal prosecution of the US's "war on terror", the CIA's and US Embassy's actions in Thailand should provide yet another disturbing store of evidence for international lawyers and rights advocates to build their case. "

Stewart Slams Media For Provoking Campaign Drama

I have a number of friends who say The Daily Show isn't funny without writers. The Raw Story has an article Stewart slams media for provoking campaign drama that includes a video clip that I think proves them wrong.

Caroline Kennedy Picks Obama

Caroline Kennedy wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in which she endorses Obama. A President Like My Father.

"Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual."

"I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."

Caroline Kennedy's 1990 book In Our Defense was the first law book I read and the first to get me interested in the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court. It goes through each of the first ten amendments giving briefs of cases that have tested and defined the boundaries of our rights. The 1995 follow up, The Right to Privacy (both with co-author Ellen Alderman) was also great.

Striking writers take act to D.C.

Striking writers take act to D.C.. "The striking writers behind Jon Stewart's fake news show and Stephen Colbert's fake talk show came here to explain to real lawmakers Wednesday a strike that has crippled creative television and threatens to wreck the Oscars. But knowing it can be difficult to get a lawmaker's attention when not in a Learjet or on the links, the brains behind two of Comedy Central's most-watched shows couched the issues in terms Washington could understand: a mock debate."

To prove they are really funny, their mock debate included mocking protesters, one in a pink shirt the other in green. Video here.

Movie Review: Norbit

Impressive makeup.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

iPhone Accounting?

PC World asks Where Are Apple's Missing iPhones?. "Analysts are mulling over Apple's iPhone sales numbers and are alarmed at a perceived discrepancy in the figures. Apple claims slightly over 3.7 million iPhones were sold in 2007 -- yet AT&T this week revealed it ended the year with 'just at or sightly under two million iPhone customers'." Estimates are of 3-400,000 sold in Europe which still leaves 1.3 million unaccounted for. Could 35% of all iPhones be unlocked?

More at Computerworld. "The only way Apple could possibly feel “confident” of reaching 10 million units by the end of 2008 is if the company were to sell more iPhones during next year’s holiday season than they did during this year’s. And the only way to do that is to sell to existing users. And the only way to do that is to come out with a new iPhone."

Now I'm interested in a new 3G iPhone but I fail to follow the math. I don't really think Apple sold iPhone's to more than half the market last Christmas.

Anthology Recordings

Saw this Wired article about Anthology Recordings. "Anthology Recordings is the world’s first ever all digital reissue label, its goal to provide an online outlet for rare and out-of-print music of all eras, genres and cultures." It's all obscure stuff you won't find on iTunes or perhaps anywhere else. They are apparently good to the articles too.

A List of Regional Pizza Styles

A List of Regional Pizza Styles. There isn't any more to say.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Books That Make You Dumb

Virgil Griffith of Cal Tech mined Facebook's list of favorite books at various colleges and mapped them to their average SAT scores. The result is Booksthatmakeyoudumb. He's graphed the data a few ways, my favorite is this one.

Gaydar is Real

An Eye for Sexual Orientation. "They showed men and women photos of 90 faces belonging to homosexual men and heterosexual men for intervals ranging from 33 milliseconds to 10 seconds. When given 100 milliseconds or more to view a face, participants correctly identified sexual orientation nearly 70% of the time. Volunteers were less accurate at shorter durations, and their accuracy did not get better at durations beyond 100 milliseconds"

Obama Or Clinton

Chris Bowers on Open Left writes Why I Prefer Obama To Clinton. He covers 7 issues. "So, that makes four clear advantages to Obama, one to Clinton, and two areas that are about even. Overall, that is a very strong advantage for Obama" His preference is Edwards, but he's considering other options.

Pamela Leavey writes in The Huffington Post : Yes She Can! Why I'm Endorsing Hillary. Her choice is more emotion based. "And then it hit me. I knew that she could lead this nation in a better direction. I knew that she had the experience, the knowledge, the innate sense and the vision to start fixing the wrong that have been wrought on the American people by the Bush administration. Yes, she can, I told myself. Yes she can."

Ok, here's a bonus. Andrew Sullivan writes Huckabee On Divorce. "The Bible is clear. Jesus is actually explicit on this - and never mentioned homosexuality. Divorce is clearly forbidden. If we have strayed from such a core Biblical principle, and the Constitution is the place where we are supposed to resolve social policy, then Huckabee must support a constitutional amendment to ban divorce everywhere for everyone."

What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Three

I thought this weeks episode of The Wire was a little weaker than the last two, but still good. Here's What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Three. Good stuff.

A Poor Stimulus Plan?

Bush and Congress agreed on a fiscal stimulus package, what do economists think about it? Liberal Paul Krugman and conservative Greg Mankiw are both pretty down on it.

Everything About The 700 MHz Wireless Spectrum Auction

IEEE Spectrum writes Taking Apart the 700-MHz Wireless Spectrum Auction. It started yesterday and this contains all you could want to know.

GQ's 10 Best Guy Films You've Never Seen

GQ has a list this month of The Ten Best Guys Films You've Never Seen:

1. Rififi - Heist Flick
2. Croupier - Cool Britannia
3. The Limey - Bloody Villian
4. The Matador - Dark Comedy
5. WithNail & I - Buddy Film
6. The Last Detail - Road Movie
7. Point Blank - Noir Masterpiece
8. The Sand Pebbles - War Epic
9. Safe Men - Cult Comedy
10. The Beat That My Heart Skipped - French Import

I've seen Croupier, The Matador and Point Blank and really liked them. I also saw the Sand Pebbles and thought it was good. Now I have even more films to add to my list. The other 6 are all available on Netflix and it thinks I'll give them all about 3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

George W. Bush's favorite Painting

George W. Bush's favorite painting is pretty fun. This is his real favorite painting and his interpretation of it. It's followed by the artists actual intentions. Yet another example of Bush being wrong in his own fantasy land.

Movie Review: Enchanted

Oscar nominations came out and I try to see everything nominated. One reason is that I sometimes find really good films that I otherwise would have missed. Enchanted got three nominations for best song and I knew people who had seen it and said it was better than they expected, but I wasn't all that interested. I had lunch with a friend yesterday and he was going to see it afterward with his 6 year old son and wife, so I tagged along. I have to say, I had a lot of fun with some of this film. Now I see it has a 93% favorable on Rotten Tomatoes and that makes sense to me.

The first 10 minutes are animated (and narrated by Julie Andrews). It is a storybook tale of Princess Giselle pining for her Prince Edward with lots of woodland creatures included. Giselle's best friend is a chipmunk named Pip. Edward has an assistant named Nathaniel who's really working for the evil Queen Narissa. To prevent the wedding Narissa throws Giselle down a bottomless hole that lets out at a New York City manhole cover. Animated Giselle becomes Amy Adams and her performance is amazing. She embodies an animated Disney princess, with twirling and singing and smiling and ernest goodness. This film would not work at all without this performance. She should have gotten Ellen Page's nomination.

Eventually Prince Edward and Nathaniel appear, looking for Giselle. James Marsden is Edward and his a live version of Gaston. He played Cyclops in the X-Men films and I was never impressed, but he is remarkably expressive here. Pip comes along with them and is CG animation and unable to speak in the real world. Pantomime and getting into trouble is his specialty and he's very fun. Giselle is hard to find because she's taken in by Patrick Demsey is Robertt, a divorce lawyer with a young girl and a girlfriend he's about to propose to. He doesn't believe in true love and Giselle is the personification of it, literally not understand what anger is. So you can all see where this is going and it culminates with Narissa coming to NY as Susan Sarandon who's also fun.

So here's why this film works. Giselle spends the night on Robert's couch and wakes up early (at dawn?) and finds the apartment a mess. Dirty dishes, clothes, etc. What would a Disney princess do in such a situation? She opens the window and sings to call the woodland creatures to help her clean. But this is NY so it's pigeons, rats, roaches and bees that come and help. And they do help, as she sings "Happy Working Song". And what would a real life human do waking up and finding rats, insects and pigeons in his apartment? Exactly what you'd expect. This the most entertaining scene I saw all year. The song is up for an Oscar and it's making me rethink that award. I don't think it should be for just the song (which I'd never care to hear on the radio) but for the scene in which it appears, which I could watch over and over again. There is a similar scene in Washington Square Park that's almost as good and is also up for Best Song.

This is was a surprisingly fun film. I knew almost nothing about it going in and that helped I'm sure. I had a similar experience with Dreamgirls last year. If you go to the movies for happy/fun, Enchanted will deliver. If more likely your dragged to it by a significant other, you won't hate it as much as you think.

Mercury in Color

57987773-7CE3-4904-B5EE-42FEEB6AB568.jpgMessengers first Mercury in Color photo. Though it seems Mercury is mostly black and white.

iPhone as Guitar


If you've ever been to my home, you probably remember a partially constructed eyesore across the street. Well I woke this morning to the sound of its destruction. I managed to snap a few pics and get a video clip of the end (it might still be processing on youtube, try later if it's not playing). Afterwards they tore down the corner house. I have lots of pics and videos of that. I'll post them after I learn how to play with iMovie.






Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Movie Review: Stardust

Stardust came out this summer to little fanfare. Apparently it was difficult for people to classify and it got lost in the shuffle. Most reviews were positive, comparing it to The Princess Bride. The trailer didn't help, trying to make it look like it was a Lord or the Rings-like epic. I didn't remember it but The Princess Bride had an awful trailer as well. How is that possible? I watched Stardust on DVD and I think it's more like a cross between Time Bandits and The Princess Bride with a little Pushing Daisies thrown in.

After a brief prelude the film is about several people trying to find a fallen star that has taken the human form of Claire Danes. Tristan wants to find it to give it to Victoria so she'll marry him because she looks like Sienna Miller. The evil witch Lamia wants it so she can look like Michelle Pfeiffer again. Various evil princes want it so they can become King to replace Peter O'Toole. In various adventures they meet other witches, an air ship captain and a thieves fence.

Every 2 minutes in the first half of this film there's another new whimsical revelation about this world: enchanted string, transporting candles, a chorus of the ghosts of slain princes, etc. The second half has fewer, but it does have my new favorite use of a voodoo doll. It's a lot of fun and there are great visuals. I loved how the camera zoomed out to show a map and then zoomed in across countryside to show a new locale, giving it a real sense of place. Much of the film is really fun, particularly Michelle Pfeiffer and Ricky Gervais as the fence.

However the film isn't nearly as much fun as The Princess Bride. First of all, while some of the prose is interesting, there are no memorable lines or even particularly funny ones. Certainly funny situations, but not lines. Also I wish Tristan was more noble, I found I wasn't rooting for him as much as I should have been. And I certainly could have done without seeing Robert DeNiro try to channel Nathan Lane in the role of a closeted flaming pirate air ship captain.

The film is rated PG-13 and that seems right. While most of the film would be fine for kids, there are a few quick shots that take it beyond PG. The reading of entrails, mystical beheadings, the slightest hints of rape and slavery. It really surprises me that the filmmakers decided to put these in as I don't think they added to the story.

Overall it's a fun move with a lot of creative things going on. It was missing some kind of magic and that left it with an odd mood, but it's still worth seeing and deserves a bigger audience than it got.

Bush, Aides Made 935 False Statements In Run-Up To War

CNN reports on a study by the Center for Public Integrity and its affiliated group, the Fund for Independence in Journalism, Bush, aides made 935 false statements in run-up to war.

"President Bush and his top aides publicly made 935 false statements about the security risk posed by Iraq in the two years following September 11, 2001, according to a study released Tuesday by two nonprofit journalism groups."

The study says: "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."

"Bush made 232 false statements about Iraq and former leader Saddam Hussein's possessing weapons of mass destruction, and 28 false statements about Iraq's links to al Qaeda."

"[Colin] Powell had the second-highest number of false statements, with 244 about weapons and 10 about Iraq and al Qaeda."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Skynet or WOPR?

Wired reports Israel Eyes Thinking Machines to Fight 'Doomsday' Missile Strikes. "Israel has been hit in recent years by thousands and thousands of rockets, mortar shells, and missiles.  And that could be just a preview of the onslaught Iran may one day unleash. So Israeli military leaders have begun early planning for a new, robotic defense system, armed with enough artificial intelligence that it 'could take over completely' from flesh-and-blood operators.   'It will be designed for... autonomous operations'." This can't be good.

Heath Ledger 1979-2008

Well this sucks. Heath Ledger, Actor, Is Found Dead at 28. "When no one answered, the housekeeper and the masseuse opened the bedroom and found Mr. Ledger naked and unconscious on a bed, with sleeping pills — both prescription medication and nonprescription — on a night table." It looks like his last role will be as the Joker in this summer's The Dark Knight.

At Most A Year Left of Bush

On Jan 21st, 2009, a new president will be sworn into office. That is unless something causes the current one to leave office early or he tries to suspend the Constitution even more than he has and the Democrats fall over even more than they have.

365 days to go (does 2008 have to be a leap year?).

2007 Oscar Nominations

Oscar nominations were today. I hadn't really thought about predictions for the nominations but they seem pretty reasonable. Below are those films that got more than one nomination.

8 There Will Be Blood
8 No Country for Old Men
7 Michael Clayton
7 Atonement *
5 Ratatouille
4 The Diving Bell and the Butterfly *
4 Juno
3 Transformers
3 The Bourne Ultimatum
3 Sweeney Todd *
3 La Vie en Rose *
3 Enchanted *
2 The Savages
2 The Golden Compass
2 The Assassination of Jesse James *
2 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
2 Into the Wild
2 Elizabeth: The Golden Age *
2 Away from Her
2 American Gangster
2 3:10 to Yuma

I've seen all but the 7 marked with a *. If anyone is interested in seeing those with me, let me know.

Of the major categories, the only one I've seen all the nominated films is Original Screenplay. The others I've seen all but one, except for Best Actress where I'm missing 2. Of the minor categories I've seen all the nominations for Editing, Effects and the two Sound categories. But wow, I've seen none of the films up for Best Costumes. Enchanted got 3 nominations for 3 different songs so I'm week in that category.

Of the nominated documentaries, I've only seen one, Sicko. How The King of Kong didn't get nominated for Best Documentary I don't understand. Of the foreign and short films I've not heard of, let alone seen, any of them. These are the remaining films that got one nomination:

1 The Kite Runner
1 Surf's Up *
1 Persepolis
1 Once
1 Norbit *
1 Lars and the Real Girl
1 In the Valley of Elah
1 I'm Not There
1 Gone Baby Gone
1 Eastern Promises
1 Charlie Wilson's War
1 August Rush *
1 Across the Universe *

Norbit was one of the worst films of the year but got nominated for makeup. It will be at the end of my Netflix list.

I'm still working on my best of 2007 list. Certainly There Will Be Blood and
8 No Country for Old Men. So will Eastern Promises. I'm disappointed that Before the Devil Knows You're Dead didn't get any nominations. And while I didn't expect nominations I also really enjoyed The Simpsons Movie and Hot Fuzz.

I think this years Oscar Pool will be very interesting. I don't expect a single movie to sweep a lot of awards and many of the big categories will have several strong contenders. Should be a lot of fun. If I know you and you're interested in the pool, let me know.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Galaxy Garden

"The Galaxy Garden is a 100-foot diameter outdoor scale model of the Milky Way, mapped in living plants and flowers and based on current astrophysical data." It's in Kona, Hawaii. Lots of pictures at the site but here's one:

gg_composite450 1.jpg

"Stars, dust, and gas are all symbolized by various flowers. Stars are shown by the patterning on gold dust crotons and bromeliads, whose leaves are spattered with yellow dots, each leaf a starfield. Hibiscus flowers represent giant gas clouds called nebulae."

The One Month Coupon Strategy

The Simple Dollar has The One Month Coupon Strategy: A Really Clever Way to Make Coupons Worthwhile.

"Take the coupon section out of the Sunday paper and put it aside for four weeks - don’t even bother to look at it. Four weeks later, open it up and clip everything that’s even remotely of interest, whether you’d buy it normally or not. At that point, take the wad of coupons to the store and just look at the shelves. Magically, most of those coupons you have will sync up very well with stuff that’s already on sale on the shelves. When you combine the sale price and the coupon, you’ll usually be able to get items for next to nothing."

Tufte on the iPhone Interface

Information design expert Edward Tufte on Interface design and the iPhone in a short video form.

Krugman on Reaganomics

Krugman has more on Reaganomics "In short, the Reagan economy was a story of recession and recovery, but not of any sustained improvement in performance. That didn’t come until the middle Clinton years."

NBC and iTunes Reconciling?

Five months ago NBC and iTunes Split, now it looks like they might be getting back together. That didn't take long.

Lightsaber Laser Pointers

Someone had to do this. Lightsaber Laser Pointers Turn Presentations Into Deadly Duels

Movie Review: Cloverfield

I saw this Cloverfield because it was produced by JJ Abrams of Alias and Lost fame. I also liked the trailers that gave nothing away. The thing I wanted to make sure was that we found out what was happening to the city. If it was a Lost plot it would probably take two seasons before we knew anything. If it was an earthquake I wanted to know, if it was Godzilla I wanted to see Godzilla. Based on reviews I knew we found out. I also knew to expect Blair Witch Project first person shaky camera and that some found it very annoying. So I really expected a Godzilla movie, which isn't my favorite genre, but from the point of view of screaming pedestrians getting stomped on and that I thought could be interesting. The 84 minute runtime also meant I could put up with anything for that long.

After the Fenway Theater got over their problems with their digital projector during the previews, Cloverfield started with various Defense Department labels about a film recovered from Central Park. We then see some earlier shots of a couple and then get into a going away party for Rob who's taking a job in Japan. A bunch of twenty-somethings are drinking in a loft in Manhattan that no twenty-something could afford but fair enough. Hud is filming, Jason is Rob's brother who's almost engaged to Lily. Rob apparently had a fling a couple of weeks ago with long time friend Beth who's there with a date. Marlena is there waiting for friends and Hud is hitting on her. For all the MTV Real World similarities, no Real World episode was ever this annoying. I hated these people 9 minutes in. It was really 9 minutes in, I checked my watch. I couldn't wait for some disaster to start killing them. It was 6 more torturous minutes before the building shook.

So then we follow the above named people as they evacuate the city and get info and sightings about what is going on. The effects are pretty good, though as someone said, it's easy to make good looking effects when the camerawork is a shaky digital mess. Honestly, Hud is worst person you've ever seen at framing a shot and the camera doesn't have image stabilization. It does have night vision but that's only used in one scene.

The film covers 8-10 hours so Hud turns the camera on and off. I was annoyed that the camera battery seemed to be infinite but then realized it really only filmed an hour and a half. This could have be a great gimmick to show only the good parts of the story; but it was just the opposite. In any action scene, Hud has to stop filming, put the camera down (with half the frame blocked by a rock) to help someone or film something while running and shaking so you can't see anything. Oddly he films many conversations with friends and I kept thinking if I was talking with him I'd be yelling at him to put the camera down. He also films long (and stupid) walks through pitch black subway tunnels (only halfway through does Rob show him the light and night vision features).

I was also bothered by a lot of stupid things in the film. They were good enough to show a cell phone battery dying, but then he runs into an electronic store being looted and finds a replacement battery in it's package. He opens it and miraculously it's fully charged. They show maps of New York and talk about the right places but the time it takes them to get to these places seems completely out of whack. Let me ask, if the lights flicker because the building (or block) is shaking and then go out for 30 seconds, would they then come back on (and I'm not talking about emergency lights). Oh and aircraft trying to escape, should turn away from the action, otherwise it's like escaping an oncoming train by running along the tracks. Oh yeah, deep wounds should bleed.

I probably liked it least of the group I saw it with, but the best praise I heard was "it's exactly what I expected". I didn't find it horrible but I did find it annoying. Someone suggested a sequel with the same story from the point of view of a soldier. I think I would have preferred the characters be trapped some place with a view.

If you see it, there's apparently something in the background of the last Coney Island shot. Some have speculated that shot is the real reason the army was interested in this amateur film.

The MacBook Air is the Cube 2.0?

A friend pointed me at The MacBook Air is the Cube 2.0.

While I'm not running out to buy one I can't say I entirely agree. It's specs are actually quite similar to the macbook except for connections and disk size. I have one friend who is going to get one. He's a programmer and walks 2 miles each way to work. For him, saving 2 lbs is a big deal. It will be his primary, but not only machine. Conversations with him have made me rethink my usage. After ripping all my CDs, I've rarely used my optical drive. I've never had more than one thing plugged into the USB port. I use the firewire 800 port for my external backup drive, but Time Capsule solves that better. I'm using 75GB now so I think 80GB is a little small, but moving my 35GB of music to a server would solve that and for traveling I'd bring an iPod anyway.

The best complaints I've heard about it are that it's clearly made for travel and since the footprint is the same as the macbook it isn't easier to open on an airplane tray. Then again, I haven't heard that the macbook doesn't fit. Second, since there isn't cellular access builtin, the lack of an expresscard port means you need to use a clunky USB dongle to a data card; not a sleek solution worthy of Apple. Of course you could use the bluetooth to connect to a cell phone with a data plan, but not if you have an iPhone, that feature is disabled (probably because of AT&T).

Still I'm waiting to see the update to the macbook pro. To me, I want a 15" screen and more real estate on my primary machine.

Microscopic Art

titanic.jpgWillard Wigen creates Microscopic Art. Sculptures literally on the head of a pin or in the eye of a needle. Even Snopes says it's true. Here's the Titanic on the tip of a pin

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Evoking Reagan

Barack Obama mentions Reagan and now everyone is writing about Reagan.

digby is annoyed in You Sir, Are No Ronald Reagan that he would mention Reagan without a disclaimer. "Because he won big in 1984, leaders in both parties accepted this omnipotent Reagan myth and have run against liberalism ever since --- and have ended up, through both commission and omission, advancing the destructive conservative policies that brought us to a place where we are debating things like torture. It would be helpful if ending the era of Democrats running against the liberal base could be part of this new progressive 'trajectory.'"

in Game Changing Strategy digby goes further to say: "If he wants to change the trajectory as Reagan did then he should take a page from his political strategy instead of his rhetoric, stop praising him and bury conservatism instead. "

digby then goes further in Message Guru, whining about using Republican rhetoric in the progressive plan to raise the payroll tax cap. "This is how the conservative movement wins even when it loses. If Democratic candidates will keep repeating their propaganda for them, they can just take a breather, infuse their movement with a much needed fix of victimization and martyrdom, count their money for a few years and then pick up right where they left off."

But aside from whining, Paul Krugman goes after some presumed facts on Reagan and Revenue. E.g., Reagan cut taxes but tax revenue increased 80% over his 8 years. While true in dollar terms, there are other (simple) facts to consider. "Is it really possible that all the triumphant declarations that the Reagan tax cuts led to a revenue boom — declarations that you see in highly respectable places — are based on nothing but a failure to make the most elementary corrections for inflation and population growth? Yes, it is."

Open Left goes after Reagan's Popularity. "Comparing his average approval ratings during his time in office to the average approval ratings of other Presidents during the era of public opinion polling indicates that no, he was not a particularly popular President." While his data shows Clinton, FDR, Johnson, Eisenhower and Kennedy all being more popular than Reagan, it also shows Bush senior being more popular than all but Kennedy and Eisenhower and I'm not so sure I believe that.

Australian Party Kid Interviewed

"This Australian kid (Corey Delaney) threw a party while his parents were out of town, 500 people showed up and terrorized the neighborhood. Some news station gets him for an interview and he is not sorry about it at all."

It's the last minute that makes this.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Mike Foley: Cycling for Shelter

My friend Mike is doing another charity bike ride, this time it's Cycle for Shelter. If you're interested in sponsoring him go here .

Dobbs on Colbert

Esteban Colberto's Interview with Lou Dobbs was brilliant.

Surgeons Get Better Playing Wii

Another reason to get a Wii, Surgeons Get Better Playing Nintendo Wii. "According to the experiments by the Banner Good Samaritan Medical Centre team, playing some Wii games improve surgeons' performance."

Monkey’s Thoughts Move Robot

One of the stranger stories I've read: Monkey’s Thoughts Propel Robot, a Step That May Help Humans "On Thursday, the 12-pound, 32-inch monkey made a 200-pound, 5-foot humanoid robot walk on a treadmill using only her brain activity. She was in North Carolina, and the robot was in Japan."

What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Two

Freakonomics Blog in The New York Times has What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Two. This makes a great show even better. Find out what it really takes to bribe a cop.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Toscanini's Shut Down for "Nonpayment of Taxes"

If you live here you know what this means, if you don't, pity us. Toscanini's Shut Down for "Nonpayment of Taxes".

Update: Toscanini's reopens. Whew.

Flickr: Photos from The Library of Congress

This is really amazing. The Library of Congress has partnered with Flickr to publish non-copyrighted photos in Flickr. 3,000 of them. Some (all right, all) of these are great photos. See the Flickr: Photos from The Library of Congress.

Since it's Flickr, there's an RSS feed so you can read it through your newsreader or perhaps your screen saver. Dave Winer is going nuts because it works with his new FlickrFan. It's new feed reader that's meant to show flickr photo feeds on a computer connected to a big screen TV.

TiVo Bringing Jaman's Obscure Foreign and Indie Movies To Your DVR

TiVo Bringing Jaman's Obscure Foreign and Indie Movies To Your DVR.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Luis Guzmán's Bizarre Cabot Cheese Ad

I find everything about this slate "ad report card" to be weird. Luis Guzmán's bizarre Cabot cheese ad.

"It turns out that when Guzmán isn't on set, he lives and works as a gentleman farmer near Cabot, Vermont."

US Military Spending

Glenn Greenwald writes The bipartisan consensus on U.S. military spending.

"Our military spending exceeds the rest of the world's spending combined, and we spend almost 10 times what the second-place country, China, spends. 'Only' about $150 billion of the total U.S. amount is attributable to the two active wars we're fighting, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus, even if one wants to excludes those amounts, the basic picture remains the same. Nor do these amounts include the billions of dollars in military aid we give to fund the armies of other countries, such as Israel and Egypt, which alone comprise substantial portions of those countries' defense budgets."

Our annual military budget is $623 billion while the entire rest of the world's is $500 million. "The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the combined spending of the six "rogue" states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion."

This is 41% of the federal taxes collected annually. You think it might be cause of our debt and fiscal difficulties? You think it might be part of the reason the rest of the world thinks we're war mongers? Bush wants tosell the Saudi's $20 billion of weapons. Sure that's money to defense contractors that employee Americans, but maybe we could find other things to make and sell them.

You've heard all the candidates talk about change, and you'd think changing this would make money available for other programs. But Greenwald has quotes from the three Democratic candidates saying they would all increase defense spending.

Obstruction of Justice

Glenn Greenwald writes 9/11 Commission: Our investigation was obstructed. It refers to an op-ed in the New York Times on Jan 2,
Stonewalled by the C.I.A. by 9/11 commission chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton. Given the revelation that the CIA had tapes of interrogations and then destroyed them, obstruction of justice seems right.

At first I was going to whine that writing an op-ed seemed like an underwhelming reaction but now, "The Justice Department opened a criminal investigation into the destruction of CIA interrogation videotapes and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey appointed an outside prosecutor to oversee the case...Mukasey named John Durham, a federal prosecutor in Connecticut, to oversee the case."

In other news, "Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) took to the House floor to urge the House Judiciary Committee to begin impeachment hearings into Vice President Cheney for 'high crimes and misdemeanors'." I unfortunately doubt anything will come of it, but maybe.

A Supreme Court on Voting

The New York Times had an editorial A Supreme Court Reversal: Abandoning the Rights of Voters. "The Supreme Court heard arguments last week in a hugely important case about voter ID laws. Asking for identification at the polls may sound reasonable, but an Indiana law disenfranchises large numbers of people without driver’s licenses, especially poor and minority voters. If the court upholds the law, as appears likely, it will be a sad new chapter in its abandonment of voters, a group whose rights it once defended vigorously."

Huckabee Wants Amendments for God's Standards

Here's what Mike Huckabee said:

"I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,' Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. 'But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

I've seen this on a lot of blogs and here's a
video. I've yet to find any quote of what he was saying just before this. I've heard hints about abortion and gay marriage. If that's what he says I'm in favor of an abortion amendment, though probably not the one Huckabee would like (but as I understand the one 70% of the population agrees with). I would like to remove this debate from the Supreme Court and stop selecting justices based on it.

Then again, I think basing anything in the constitution on a religious rationale violates the 1st amendment and is just really fucking frightening.

The Unbearable Inanity of Tim Russert

Matthew Yglesias writes about The Unbearable Inanity of Tim Russert. It's a good read. The main complaint is that he doesn't dive into issues but rather tries to trap people into contradictions. it's aggressive but not helpful.

"This is a helpful example of how a journalist can be useless to all parties. If you're a hawk and think Thompson was making a fundamentally sound point, then Russert, by going off on a trivial tangent, was undermining it unfairly. If you're a dove and think Thompson had a fundamentally unsound point, then Russert, by going off on a trivial tangent, was failing to undermine it properly. But just because you're pissing off both sides doesn't mean you're doing anything right. Maybe you're just being an all-around clown"

White House Missing Emails Are Lost

Daily Kos on : White House Missing Emails Were Recycled: "So, there was a system in place to archive emails, and the Bush administration simply stopped using it.  Is there really any doubt that this is deliberately criminal activity?  Those emails contain the details of the invasion of Iraq, the outing of Valerie Plame and the endangerement of our vital intelligence network, and the scheme to fire competent US Attorneys who refused to do their dirty work"

"This should be be aggressively investigated and prosecuted. If we've got the time and resources to put Marion Jones in jail and to grill Bud Selig over steroid use by players of a game, then Congress and the Justice Department sure as hell better find the time to seriously investigate these missing emails."

10 Telephone Tricks

Lifehacker has Top 10 Telephone Tricks, some of which look quite useful.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Network News Gives Up

I love this story, Network News Gives Up.

Keynote Tricks

Ok, I'll prove I'm an infographics geek. I was watching the MacWorld Keynote and as always, was impressed with Steve's slides. I'm also impressed with iWork Keynote and have the current '08 version but as you might guess, I don't have much need to use it. I tried to see how easy it would be to recreate one of Steve's slides with a pie chart on it.

Picture 1.pngHere's a pic of it. Creating the pie chart is trivially easy. Choose the chart and in a popup table enter the values and names. A legend is created and the formatting is reasonable. The slide appeared with an animation with each wedge appearing separately and rotating in. That was one check box too, though it took me a few minutes to find it. Choosing the 3D layout, the "fun" texture and colors, setting up the right tilt and the glossy lighting style was also quite easy.

After that he "exploded" the Apple segment (the green one at the bottom) out and that was easy to do too, select the wedge and slide the explode scale to about 12. It does require a second slide which is a duplicate of the first with the only difference being the exploded wedge and watching the video it's clear it's a quick transition and the wedge doesn't just move.

But I can't figure out how he gets the next block of three wedges to explode together. If I try, they all explode individually, even if all three are selected at the same time. And there's nothing in the manual explaining how to do this. If anyone knows please tell me.

Picture 2.pngFYI, the next thing is to change the label of those three wedges to one summed value and I think that's done by making another duplicate slide, making the existing labels transparent and adding a new text box label on top using the same font settings.

MacWorld Announcements

So the MacWorld keynote has happened and while it was pretty good, I'm not sure I'm going out and buying anything. Let's see how my predictions did.

No updates to the AirPort Express. To stream iTunes to a stereo you either need to slow your network down to g speeds or get an Apple TV.

The AirDisk Time Machine backup issue was solved with a new product called TIme Capsule. It's an AirPort Extreme with a hard disk built in. So now if your drive fails and you send it out for repair/replacement, you lose your home network too. It can also share a printer on the network. A 1TB drive will cost you $500. That's actually pretty reasonable compared to a $180 AirPort Extreme with say LaCie's 1TB drive for $370.

The MacBook Air is the new insanely thin laptop. Pretty nice, but I think it makes a better 2nd machine than a primary one. I'm not sure an 80GB drive is enough for my only machine. Aside from the drive and slower processor speeds, it seems to be the same as a macbook (same memory, graphics, screen, iSight, wifi, bluetooth) aside from all the stuff it doesn't have (optical drive, firewire, audio input). Also it's one mono speaker instead of stereo speakers. $1800 for the hard disk version, add $1000 for a 64GB solid state drive. They have a neat new way to share a remote optical drive that's pretty slick but the $100 external superdrive is probably how I'd go.

iPhone and iPod Touch got software updates, but no hard disk for the Touch yet. They put an iPod drive into a laptop, but not their slickest iPod.

Apple TV got a big makeover. You can now rent movies directly from the device with a new user interface. Also there's HD movies but only 100 at first and after that 30 days after the DVD ships. They got all the studios on board but I don't think netflick has much too fear yet. Also they still have the 24 hour bug. I've had a few friends try the movie download thing and all complain about finishing a film in 24 hours. If you have kids and start a film at 9pm and stop at 10 wanting to finish the next night. By the time 9pm rolls around for you to watch again, your 24 hours are up. It should be 30 hours at least.

No WiMax, tablets or 3G iPhones. Also no updates to the Mac Mini or the MacBook Pro. Given that those are due, I'm still waiting for them but I hope for not too long. I think I really want the next 15" MacBook Pro, but we'll see.

Tom Cruise Is Crazy

What Would Tyler Durden Do has video called Tom Cruise is Crazy as Hell.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Political Reconciliation in Iraq?

The New York Times reported Iraq Eases Curb for Former Officials of Hussein’s Party. "The Iraqi Parliament passed a bill on Saturday that would allow some former officials from Saddam Hussein’s party to fill government positions but would impose a strict ban on others. The legislation is the first of the major so-called political benchmark measures to pass after months of American pressure for progress."

It will allow some Sunnis to work in the government and will force others out. The numbers vary depending on who is talking. In general though the Shiites seem happy about it and the Sunnis not so much. The LA Times story is harsher about the law and Hullabaloo following up on that in Myth of Progress Grows Mythier actually uses the phrase "death sentence".

Still the surge supporters are happy because it's one of the political benchmarks that the surge was supposed to enable. "While the legislation would be the first major new law sought by the Bush administration intended to help reconcile Iraq’s warring factions, other so-called benchmark laws continue to be stalled. Those include measures that would allow provincial elections, contemplate constitutional changes sought by Sunnis, and spell out rules governing the development and distribution of the country’s huge oil reserves."

Andrew Sullivan comments The Surge Wins One "What does all this mean? No one can know for sure. Except for this: if there is any indication of national reconciliation, even if it is fleeting and ephemeral and qualified, the argument for sinking more money and time into Iraq will, it seems to me, gain strength. If the Congress couldn't force withdrawal in the circumstances of last summer, I can't see how it will do so in the future when the war's objectives seem marginally less out-of-reach."

He goes on to say "Since the failure of nerve by the opposition last summer, the US has effectively decided to occupy Iraq for the rest of our lives." and speculates about what the presidential candidates will be forced to do.

What Corruption Looks Like

I'm sure this is ordinary, but I found it interesting: What Corruption Looks Like.

The Best Peanut Butter in the World?

Davenetics article on The Best Peanut Butter in the World has been making the rounds. He says it's Parkers Farm Peanut Butter but I'm not sure it's anywhere around here. Their company info page and resellers page have different lists. Anyone try it?

Ignoring An Inconvenient NIE

I should be fearful when the President doesn't believe his own best intelligence agencies opinion, right? Bothersome Intel on Iran. "'[Bush] told the Israelis that he can't control what the intelligence community says, but that [the NIE's] conclusions don't reflect his own views' about Iran's nuclear-weapons program."

Top 50 Atheism Quotes

Top 50 Atheism Quotes. At least it starts with George Carlin.

MacWorld Predictions

There have been a lot of predictions for what Steve Jobs will announce at MacWorld on Tuesday. I was going to do a long post with my predictions too, but I'd rather just wait. I'll give a few small things I'd like:

I use an AirPort Express to connect a printer and my stereo to the network. I want an AirPort Express that does 802.11n so that I can go to a pure n network and use Time Machine with an AirDisk (and I want that to work too). Even one g device will slow down the network and the AirPort Express is the only non-n device in the apple lineup. Time to correct that.

Everyone wants a smaller laptop and I suspect they'll announce one called the MacBook Air. I think Apple also needs a 15" macbook. Laptops sell more than desktops and a lot of switchers want an entry level machine but don't want a tiny screen. $2,000+ for a 15" macbook pro is more than they want to spend. The biggest difference between the machines is the graphics card. Maybe the pros will get blu-ray to differentiate more.

I'd really like to see an iPod touch with a hard disk. I have about 40GB of music and like having everything on one iPod with a big easy to use screen.

I suspect the Apple TV will get some kind of makeover with HD content available as rentals from the iTunes Store.

I don't expect WiMAX or a tablet. I want a 3G iPhone because AT&T's coverage at my home is crappy but supposedly I get good 3G coverage. I expect it later in the year, not on Tuesday.

For software announcements iLife and iWork have already been updated. Bento means there won't be a database app announced. I think what's missing is a real Outlook equivalent but I don't expect it either.

Ok, so there were some predictions there, but it was more hope than analysis.


So the 50 degree weather ended and we got more snow today. Predictions were 9-12 inches but I got a little less than 5 inches.


The Election, Media and Chairs

Erica Jong writes in the Huffington Post We Deserve What We Get: "I want to talk not about candidates but about our media turning every presidential election into a high school"

"Our magazines and newspapers are so dumbed down that they never discuss issues, only stereotype or attack or puff up candidates -- and all for the most idiotic things -- like their marriages, which in truth we know nothing about -- or their weight or their clothes or their hair. They don't discuss brains, intelligence, psychological maturity, but only who's up or down in the polls, cuter in photos, who misted up, cried or didn't cry, said "my friends" like Reagan or mimicked Bill Clinton's style or JFK's or whomever's. Our press is a disgrace."

It really is annoying and its clearly affecting the election. Andrew Sullivan shows this as clearly as anything in The Candidates On Chairs. While it's really funny, it's also so sad is that this is accurate and about as much info we get from the candidates on issues.

The Big Dig Leaks, Mastercard Ad Style

Bostonist describes The Big Dig Leaks, Mastercard Ad Style. Quoted:

Number of leaks considered "serious" in the Big Dig Tunnels: 237
Number of leaks total in the Big Dig Tunnels: 670
Estimated gallons of water entering the tunnel each month from leaks: 800,000
Number of years in which the tunnels might have a "serious breakdown": 25
Percentage of ceiling girders showing rust: 10
Number of engineers assigned to working on the leaks: 1
Fact that the Big Dig was considered "over" last month: Priceless

Web, Crackdowns Weakening Mafia's Grip

As you no doubt have figured out, I'm pretty addicted to the internet (including the web and other services). I sometimes wonder how I found things before Google Maps and my GPS. How did I ever answer "where do I know him or her from" before imdb. How did I shop before being able to do online research? Well Web, Crackdowns Weakening Mafia's Grip describes how the web is being used to disrupt the Mafia in Sicily. "In a rebellion shaking the Sicilian Mafia to its centuries-old roots, businesses are joining forces in refusing to submit to demands for protection money called 'pizzo.'"

Time May Not Exist

Time May Not Exist is an interesting article that I don't completely follow, but wish I did.

The Woman Who Changed the World

The Woman Who Changed the World connects Jeri Ryan to Barack Obama and strikes me as thanking Mary Jo Kopechne.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hubble Sees a Double Einstein Ring

2008-0110ring.thumbnail.jpg"An Einstein Ring happens when two galaxies are perfectly aligned. The closer galaxy acts as a lens, magnifying and distorting the view of a more distant galaxy. But today astronomers announced that they've discovered a double Einstein Ring: three galaxies are perfectly aligned, creating a double ring around the lensing galaxy. The odds of finding something like this are pretty low. And yet… here it is."

"Here's how it works. As Einstein predicted, gravity has the power to bend light. So instead of traveling on a straight curve, light that passes close to a large mass is pulled into a curved path. When you have a foreground galaxy perfectly lined up with a background galaxy, the light from the more distant galaxy is distorted into a ring of light."

Lost in 8:15

Here's a summary of the first 3 seasons of Lost in 8 minutes and 15 seconds. It's fast, pretty fun and helpful. I had forgotten a couple of things.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Moneygami - Origami With Bills

Moneygami - Origami With Bills:

moneygami_002 1.jpg

Those Iranian Radio Transmissions

Here's the latest on the Strait of Hormuz event this week. This is from the NavyTimes. ‘Filipino Monkey’ may be behind radio threats, ship drivers say.

Polarization And The Democrats

Andrew Sullivan in Polarization And The Democrats publishes a readers comments.

"We don't need to to change the leadership of polarized Washington, for which Hillary is no doubt the best suited of the Democratic candidates. We need to end polarization, and that requires a Democratic landslide that only Obama might achieve. So let's roll the dice."

I've heard this a lot. There's no chance Hillary will end the polarization. It's not clear Obama can either, it's not like this is a new complaint, but he's the only one with a chance. I don't hear of many Republican's impressed by Obama, just Democrats, and last I checked while there might be a lot of independents who vote, there are very few in Congress. I guess it will all come down to what Congress will look like. If the Democrats take Congress, polarization won't be an issue, if they don't, I suspect gridlock will remain.

Movie Review: The Kite Runner

I hadn't read the book but enjoyed The Kite Runner. It's apparently pretty faithful, though some of the end is missing. Of course the book is better.

I'd rather not describe the plot in much detail. It follows the story of Amir showing him first in the US as an adult and then flashing back to his childhood in Afghanistan. He had a best friend, Hassan, and they liked kite flying together. Amir was a wimpy child and had to live with some of his acts of cowardice and the disappointment of his father. When the Russians invade, he and his father flee the country, first to Pakistan and then to America. Amir ends up traveling back to Afghanistan under Taliban rule.

it's pretty straight ahead storytelling. There wasn't much suspense or doubt as to what would happen but I was engaged throughout the film. A friend complained of some of the coincidences at the end of the film but they didn't bother me. What they show of life under the Taliban has been written about a lot, so seeing burqas, soldiers, poverty and a stoning wasn't as shocking as it might have been years ago. The reviews are mixed because it doesn't really delve into Amir's psyche and I agree with that. He's emotionally shut down for most of the film, until the inevitable conclusion.

The filmmaking is all fine. The chinese locations do well standing in for Afghanistan but then again, all I know is from the news and the film Kandahar. The acting is also fine, though not much stands out. The cast is mostly unknowns, though I should have recognized Shaun Toub from many different roles.

It's a good story, but the film will be forgettable. I'll have to add the book to my list.


Steve Young wrote in the Huffington Post With Stewart and Colbert, It's Do As I Say Not As I Do.

"That's the problem. We need S&C's intelligent, cut through the bull, make a point through satire, or make no point at all but it's still funny, kind of Daily Show, Colbert Report on the air. But there's no question they've 'crossed the line'."

"If a strike was only about those on strike, strikes would never work. It's not just about inflicting discomfort on "management" and their advertisers, it's about affecting everyone."

"What Stewart, Colbert and friends are doing is alleviating the necessity for AMPTP (Producers, etc) to get back at the table. Why should they? Their shows and stars are coming back and so are their viewers. Without the writers, pension, health benefits and daily fresh fruit they're NOT paying for now, they're actually able to do these shows even cheaper."

Sadly, I agree. Not quite enough to not watch Jon Stewart but enough to not watch Colbert and enough to not watch the other late night shows. I've turned off the TV and have been reading more, that's got to be a good thing.

Mitch Kapor Bails on Chandler

I've never played with Agenda but I had hoped Chandler would let me try something similar. Too bad that 6 years later, with no useful app to show for it, Mitch Kapor bails on the Chandler project. tells you what's true and what's false, after the politicians speak. E.g., "Dueling chain e-mails claim he's a radical Muslim or a 'racist' Christian. Both can't be right. We find both are false."