Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Falwell Lives On

It was only a matter of time: Fundamentalists blame Wall Street's woes on gays. OpenLeft calls these idiots medieval.

Not Feeling Sorry for Sarah Palin

Rebecca Traister doesn't feel sorry for Sarah Palin. The Sarah Palin pity party. "Everyone seems to be oozing sympathy for the fumbling vice-presidential nominee. Please. Cry me a freaking river."

Kathy G. adds her own Boo fucking hoo. "But there's one reason above all that I can't summon an ounce of sympathy for this wretched woman, and it's this: if we lived under the kind of legal/political regime Palin has spent virtually her entire life working to bring about, and if my 11-year niece were raped and became pregnant as a result, she would then be forcibly compelled, in Sarah Palin's America, to carry her pregnancy to term and to give birth."

I totally agree.

On the Financial Mess

You Can't Rescue the Financial System If You Can't Read a Balance Sheet by John Hussman really goes to the next level in explaining the economic problems and what the bailout plan needs to address. Now if I could only remember everything I learned in that Financial Accounting course my dad made me take in college.

Paul Krugman explains where the money will come from. It's not so bad. James Galbraith tries to answer How Much Will It Cost and Will It Come Soon Enough? but I think he does a better job at explaining how the plan could be better.

FiveThirtyEight examines the bailing voting and sees Swing District Congressmen Doomed Bailout. Here's one economist's reaction to his congressman's vote. His update to that post is good reading as are the links he cites at the end. The above came from Freakonomics.

Here's a good overview of 10 links that explain how all this economic crisis relates to your investments.

US Economy Does Do Better Under Post-War Democrats

What Does It Take to Define Away the Statistics Showing Economic Performance Under Democratic Presidents Superior to That Under Republicans?.

Media: Bush Is The ‘Picture Of A Beaten Dog’

Think Progress writes Bush Is The Picture Of A Beaten Dog after his (4 minute) speech this morning. I thought last week he did a pretty good job of explaining how the mortgage problems led us to bigger financial problems. Now if only he could explain why the bailout plan is good, instead of merely necessary. That would be leadership.

30 Reasons

30 Reasons will post or email a pro-Obama poster a day starting Oct. 5.

White House Press Corps Asks No Question On Purgegate Report

Remember Purgegate? The firing of the nine US Attorneys? The White House Press Corp didn't. A damning 18-month report was released yesterday finding the firings were flawed, Gonzales and other officials were completely out of touch and the White House is still stonewalling the investigation, preventing it from reaching definite conclusions. And yet, at the daily press briefing, The White House Press Corps Fails To Ask A Single Question On U.S. Attorney Investigation.

Posner on The $700+ Billion Bailout

Richard Posner writes about The $700+ Billion Bailout. It's one of the best summaries I've seen.

I Wish I Understood This

From Do not doubt that this is a real crisis: more on Fed’s balance sheet.

"Paul Swartz, has graphed the shift in the composition of the Fed’s balance sheet. The Fed has extended a lot of credit to the financial system — and supplied even more liquidity by letting the investment banks borrow some of its Treasuries."


Monday, September 29, 2008

Hubble Broken

Here are all the details on the Hubble problem. "The specific part that failed is the Science Data Formatter, which takes the observational data, formats it into packets, adds headers, then sends it down to Earth at a rate of 1Mb per second. Without it, Hubble can take data but cannot send it to us! It’s not known exactly what piece of the SDF failed, but the whole schmeer is basically on the fritz."

There's a redundant "side B" on board that they will try to get working, but it's not just throwing a switch. The article describes the details.

It Snows on Mars

Mars Lander Sees Falling Snow, Soil Data Suggest Liquid Past "A laser instrument designed to gather knowledge of how the atmosphere and surface interact on Mars, detected snow from clouds about 2.5 miles above the spacecraft's landing site. Data show the snow vaporizing before reaching the ground."

John Kerry Takes It To McCain On Fox News

John Kerry Takes It To McCain On Fox News

Kerry: Barack Obama was in constant touch with Secretary Paulson almost every single day, sometimes several times a day for the last two weeks. Barack Obama was the first person to speak and lay out at that meeting at the White House for about seven or eight minutes the entire parameters of what we had resolved. John McCain, when offered the opportunity to speak, passed, didn't speak until the very end, and when he spoke, did not offer a solution and did not say what he would support. The fact is that on a Monday of about a week ago, John McCain said the fundamentals of our economy are strong. Within a few days, John McCain was suspending his campaign because of the greatest crisis since World War II. He suspended his campaign and it took him 22 hours to get from New York to Washington, a one-hour flight, had time to go do Katie Couric in an interview, had time to give a speech to the Clinton millennium, and when he got here, he wound up -- I mean, he said he was going to interrupt his campaign to come down and save the negotiations. Most people believe what he did was interrupt the negotiations to come down and save his campaign."

John McCain: Clown

I like Brad DeLong's description, John McCain: Clown based on his actions on the bailout bill and those of his party.

Verizon To Get iPhone In 2009?

Here's some interesting speculation Verizon To Get iPhone In 2009?. I might consider switching service companies. Or AT&T might improve the network enough to prevent defection.

Update: Then again, maybe not.

Ted Talks

While taking the train into Boston today I watched a bunch of TED talks on my iPhone. Here are two I particularly liked:

Movie Review: Religulous

I went to a free advanced screening of Religulous this afternoon. It's written by and stars comedian Bill Maher. The director is Larry Charles who also directed Borat and you can see similarities in that.

Maher is the son of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father. In a conversation with his mother and sister we learn a bit about his upbringing. He was raised Catholic, not even knowing his mother was Jewish. The went to church but as he notes, he was a kid and of course didn't have a theological basis for his religion, he just didn't like having to wake up and dress up to go to church on Sunday. When he was 13 they stopped going, his mother isn't sure why his father decided this but thinks it's because they used birth control and the church was strongly against the practice..

Bill travels the world and talks with various religious people. Christians, Jews, Muslims, ex-Mormons and even though he doesn't talk to any Scientologists, he makes fun of them too. The participants seemed to have been told they were doing a documentary on religion but once Bill starts asking pointed questions (and really openly mocking them) some get annoyed and walk out. The film is edited so it's not clear if we're really seeing the subjects' complete responses. When Bill makes jokes or comments, they often cut to stock or movie footage to emphasize the point. I'm sure many of the subjects will be appalled when they see themselves in the film. It's probably why they seemingly had to lie about the film to get to interview these people.

I laughed quite a bit and enjoyed it, but it does slow down in the middle. The film is really against fundamentalism although it says it's against religion. He speaks with two Vatican representatives who really agree with Bill on most of his points; but the film doesn't ask at all what these seeming rationalists are doing dedicating their lives to the Catholic church. Are they perhaps finding some good in religion by not taking the Bible stories literally? He talks to some Muslims but the film paints that religion as not only crazy but violent and dangerous as well. The people he speaks to, particularly a woman on the street in Amsterdam where Theo van Gogh was murdered, seem to have opinions I'd be interested in, but either Maher doesn't let them say it or the film edited them out. The only Jew he speaks to is a non-Zionist who went to (as Bill describes it) the Iranian Holocaust denier conference a few years ago.

My big problem is the dichotomy of the approach. Maher wants us to discard religion on the rational argument that the basis of them all is fiction. As he says, what other ideas do we hold on to from the Bronze Age? And the newer religions (Mormonism and Scientology) have to have even crazier stories to keep up. But he wants us to believe this because he tells us the stories are crazy and he makes us laugh at them. There's no rational argument constructed. He interviews a few scientists (including a neuro-theologian) but they too are edited to not present a full case as they must be able to. The film is being pitched as a documentary but it settles for being a comedy, if only it realized it.

The film though isn't trying to convert the believers. It's explicitly aimed at the 16 million atheists in the country, trying to get them to unite and have their voice heard politically. As a group they are larger than the NRA, the Jews, the African Americans, etc. An interview with an evangelical Senator, who ultimately jokes that there is no IQ test for the Senate does show a need. Then again, I don't know what percentage of atheists already vote, for some reason I suspect it is high. After all, atheists don't believe in a divine plan to set things right.

If you've seen his HBO series Real Time With Bill Maher, and I do really enjoy the show, it plays much like the segments where he interviews people on the street. It's not really to more depth, it's just longer. It ends with something like his New Rule segment but it's not one of his best, it just has loud background music and lots of film clips to make it seem more important.

When I got home I saw the House rejected the bailout package and the Dow had its biggest one day drop ever. A big drop happened at the announcement which was at 2pm, right when the Religulous screening started. Maybe there's a connection? Or maybe it just rains sometime.

Palin Can Name Only One Supreme Court Case

Palin to do more interviews and "tell her story". "After noting Roe vs. Wade, Palin was apparently unable to discuss any major court cases. There was no verbal fumbling with this particular question as there was with some others, the aide said, but rather silence."

Ok, I can name a lot, and sure, Roe is currently the most famous case. But to not be able to name the civil rights case Brown v. Board of Education? Or the slavery decisions Dred Scott or Plessy v. Ferguson?

How about the more recent abortion case Crawford, or the Roe predecessor Griswold v CT.

How about the first big decision, Marbury v. Madison? Or Miranda from which your "Miranda rights" come from.

What about Korematsu v. US which imfamously supported the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II?

What about the recent Guantamo decisions? Hamdan? Boumediene? Or Heller, the most recent decision which supported the second amendment right to handgun ownership. She should have been interested in that one.

What about Bush v Gore?

I can't wait till Thursday.

Carbon Is Building Up in Atmosphere Faster Than Predicted

The Washington Post reports Carbon Is Building Up in Atmosphere Faster Than Predicted.

"In 2007, carbon released from burning fossil fuels and producing cement increased 2.9 percent over that released in 2006, to a total of 8.47 gigatons, or billions of metric tons, according to the Australia-based Global Carbon Project, an international consortium of scientists that tracks emissions. This output is at the very high end of scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and could translate into a global temperature rise of more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, according to the panel's estimates."

So not only are massive amounts of Pre-Ice Age Methane Stores being Released in Arctic from the warming that's already occurred, but man is releasing greenhouse gases at the high end of estimates. This makes the financial crisis look like an ice cube compared to an iceberg.

"The IPCC has warned that an increase of between 3.2 and 9.7 degrees Fahrenheit could trigger massive environmental changes, including major melting of the Greenland ice sheet, the Himalayan-Tibetan glaciers and summer sea ice in the Arctic. The prediction that current emissions put the planet on track for a temperature rise of more than 11 degrees Fahrenheit, Le Quéré said, means the world could face a dangerous rise in sea level as well as other drastic changes."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

New TiVo User Interface?

Gizmodo has A Sneak Peek at the New TiVo User Interface

SpaceX Did It -- Falcon 1 Made it to Space

SpaceX Did It -- Falcon 1 Made it to Space "SpaceX has made history. Its privately developed rocket has made it into space."

Distant Replay

Distant Replay is an interesting article in The Atlantic where the author watches the greatest football game every played, the 1958 NFL Championship between the Colts and the Giants, with current Eagles head coach Andy Reid, pointing out how much the game has changed in 50 years.

Einstein Off By 10<sup>20</sup>?

Towards a new test of general relativity? "Scientists funded by the European Space Agency believe they may have measured the gravitational equivalent of a magnetic field for the first time in a laboratory. Under certain special conditions the effect is much larger than expected from general relativity and could help physicists to make a significant step towards the long-sought-after quantum theory of gravity."

"Although just 100 millionths of the acceleration due to the Earth’s gravitational field, the measured field is a surprising one hundred million trillion times larger than Einstein’s General Relativity predicts. Initially, the researchers were reluctant to believe their own results. We ran more than 250 experiments, improved the facility over 3 years and discussed the validity of the results for 8 months before making this announcement."

I'm not sure if "one hundred million trillion" is 1020 or the European (British?) version which I think is 1023.

Faith-Based Mortgage Payments

The Cunning Realist in Faith-Based Mortgage Payments quotes George Bush from 5 years ago in now busted Fresno, CA:

"And so we need more counseling and more education to make sure our fellow citizens know what it means to buy a home and can get comfortable with the idea of buying a home. And so we've doubled the amount of money available for community-based programs, faith-based programs -- (applause) -- to be able to brief their parishioners and/or their fellow citizens about the opportunities and the hope and what it takes to be able to purchase a home."

I also liked this from the same speech:

"But here are some of the things that we intend to do and we discussed today earlier. Sometimes people have trouble finding the down payment for a home. It makes them nervous when they hear the down payment. We need to have a down payment fund to help people with down payments if they qualify. The Congress -- the House passed my request for $200 million a year. It's stuck in the Senate. The Senate needs to act. If they're interested in closing the minority home ownership gap, they need to act on the down payment fund."

Innocence and Experience

This month's Atlantic has a fun list, Innocence and Experience, "a compilation of great moments in precocity, endurance, and procrastination, organized instructively by age." Here are a few:

Age 6. Alfred Hitchcock’s father sends him down to the police station with a note instructing the officer in charge to lock him in a cell for five minutes, circa 1905.

Age 13, Spanky McFarland retires from Our Gang, 1942.

Age 39. Ian Fleming vacations in Jamaica with his mistress, 1948. While there he purchases a copy of Birds of the West Indies, by the ornithologist James Bond.

It's adapted from A Book of Ages: An Eccentric Miscellany of Great and Offbeat Moments in the Lives of the Famous and Infamous, Ages 1 to 100

McCain Camp Politicies Bristol Palin Wedding

The (London) Times reports McCain camp prays for Palin wedding.

"Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. ‘It would be fantastic,’ said a McCain insider. ‘You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.’"

That's so heart-warming.


Breakthrough Reached in Negotiations on Bailout.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Happy 25th Birthday Gnu

Richard Stallman looks back at 25 years of the GNU project. "On September 27, 1983, Richard M. Stallman announced his intention to found the GNU project in order to build a free operating system. Now, 25 years later, the Free Software Foundation is marking the anniversary of the announcement with a month-long celebration. Looking back at the last quarter century, Stallman expresses some guarded satisfaction with the growth of the free software movement, but also some bemusement about how it has grown more complex as it has faced new challenges from within and without, and an awareness of how far it still has to go to reach its goals."

Economist Brad DeLong on McCain and Obama

Economist Brad DeLong's Opening Statement: UCLA Anderson Forecast Conference this week. It's not too long and there's some very good stuff there comparing McCain and Obama's economic policies. In part:

"What reason could there be not to vote against a candidate who says he doesn't know very much about economics? Not to vote against a candidate whose two chief economic advisors are Phil 'What Problems with Deregulation, You Whiners?' Gramm and Carly 'H-P Paid Me $21 Million to Go Away' Fiorina. All signs are that McCain economic policy is set to be much worse than even George W. Bush policy--unless Douglas Holtz-Eakin could win the fight inside the White House snakepit. But I don't think he could: McCain regards Gramm and Fiorina--not Doug--as peers to be deferred to. I would be happy to be proven wrong if we take the gamble, but it's not a gamble I want us to take."

"It is not just that economic policy under John McCain is likely to be ver bad, it is that economic policy under Barack Obama is likely to be quite good. Barack Obama shows every sign of continuing the moderate Democrat tradition of economic policy--working to reduce income disparities, enhance opportunity, restore fiscal balance, speed up productivity growth, try to fix our health care system, invest in America's future, and engage with the global economy. He is a very smart man with, I think, a very good team of advisors."

He give some specific numbers on Obama's plan after that. But my favorite part was how he dismisses McCain's constant chattering about earmarks with this pie chart:

20080924-pssihndnbiirrkr9gxc3tb8fi8 1.jpg

Maybe Obama Did Win

Five Thirty Eight describes Why Voters Thought Obama Won

An Underreported Part of the Palin Couric Interview

Here's the whole Couric interview:

It's the second question I haven't heard much about. When asked why she didn't get a passport until last year and if that indicated a lack of interest or curiosity of the world, she said

"I'm not one of those who maybe came from a background of kids who perhaps graduate college and their parents get 'em a passport and give 'em a backpack and say go off and travel the world. Nooooo, I've worked all my life. In fact I've usually had two jobs all my life until I had kids. I guess I was not part of that culture. The way I've understood the world is through education, through books, through mediums that have provided me a lot of perspective of the world"

I wish Couric would have asked her to name the books that most influenced her world view.

Two jobs before she had kids. She graduated college at age 23 and had her first child at 25. That would be potentially two years with two jobs? I don't think it was that much. This is all wikipedia has for her work experience: "In 1988, she worked as a sports reporter for KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska, and for the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman as a sports reporter. She also helped in her husband’s commercial fishing family business."

And for education, her communications-journalism degree took 5 years at 4 colleges:
1 semester at Hawaii Pacific College
2 semesters at North Idaho College
2 semesters at the University of Idaho
1 semester at Matanuska-Susitna College
3 more semesters at the University of Idaho

Obama went to a number of colleges too.
2 years at Occidental College
2 years at Columbia University getting a degree in political science with a specialization in international relations
3 years at Harvard Law School getting a JD magna cum laude and was president of the Law Review
12 years teaching constitution law at University of Chicago Law School

Yeah, she's just as qualified as he is to be in the oval office.

Panel of Harvard Experts: Crisis in the Markets

From Thursday: Panel of Harvard Experts: Crisis in the Markets. Good stuff, here's the real media video.

Jon Stewart Compares Bush's Speech Wed With 2003

I'm not sure if this is hilarious, frightening or just an example that most persuasive speeches stick to a standard form...

Sarah Palin Answer Generator

Interview Sarah Palin will generate Sarah Palin-like answers to interview questions. An example:

Q: What is your foreign policy experience?

Alaska that we take the fight to the problems on Wall Street. Well, it certainly does because our our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska. We have got to play an appropriate role in the trade sector today we've got to show the support, in this nation, at this time. It is from Alaska that we take the fight over there. Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, overseeing the oil and gas development in our state to produce more for the right reasons and serving for the other party, also.

RIP Paul Newman

Paul Newman, a Magnetic Titan of Hollywood, Is Dead at 83 . I've been meaning to watch The Verdict and I will be watching and reading Road to Perdition in a few weeks.

Scientists warn US Congress of Cancer Risk For Cell Phone Use

I buy an iPhone and this pops up again, Scientists warn US Congress of cancer risk for cell phone use. The article is mostly cautionary saying we don't yet know, some studies show a greater chance of tumors on the cell phone side of the head and that extra caution should be taken with children because the radiation penetrates further into their smaller heads. It also seems alarmist saying we shouldn't wait 50 years like we did with cigarettes.

Most kids text message so the phone isn't at the head. And I use my iPhone more as a PDA or iPod so far so it's not next to my head. I assume headphones are better than a phone next to your skull, but I'm not sure about a bluetooth headset that's constantly broadcasting bluetooth to the phone.

The comments to the article are skeptical to be mild. Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the issue so far.

Quick Thoughts on the Debate

I watched the debates at a friend's house and we all thought they were fine. Neither side made a big mistake, they actually covered some real policy stuff. McCain didn't get angry, Obama wasn't too professorial. Neither side had a big scoring moment either. We didn't think it would change anyone's mind. For the undecided we thought people probably wouldn't have been put off by Obama. We thought the one good line was Obama saying "I have a bracelet too" and was surprised none of the post-debate commentators mentioned it.

My car ride home was just a mile long. I put on the NPR station and it was during a BBC program. A BBC news person was asking some guy with a thick southern accent what he thought of the debates. He said something pretty close to:

"Well I thought McCain came across as experienced and when he talked about foreign policy you got the sense he didn't learn it in a book but really was involved with all these events. Now I don't pretend to know everything about this stuff but Obama kept having to say that you're not representing my position correctly and constantly had to correct stuff and after a while you wonder if he he's really been changing his positions on things."

So there's an idiotic way to interpret things that I never would have thought of. But the worst part was the BBC announcer coming on saying "that was the Republican Governor of Mississippi explaining his views on the debate tonight".

Maybe Sarah Palin isn't the worst governor in the US.

Friday, September 26, 2008

61 Nobel Laureates Endorse Obama

"Yesterday 61 Nobel Laureates released a letter endorsing Barack Obama for President"

Here's what CEOs made before the meltdown

The Boston Business Journal reports Here's what CEOs made before the meltdown. That is the ones at Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, AIG, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Fannie Mae, Washington Mutual, etc.

The Economist on the Palin-Couric Interview

The Economist on The Palin interview with Katie Couric.

"It's too ghastly to laugh at: you almost (not quite, but almost) feel some pity for her. A drama-critic friend of mine made a good point: I think what we're seeing is someone who thought she knew everything discover how little she actually knows, and it terrifies her. Compare her demeanor in the Gibson interview to this one. In the first, she was poised and confident. Sure, she spat out talking points and opaque answers, but she stuck to her script, until Mr Gibson rattled her with the Bush doctrine question. With Ms Couric, conversely, she rambled, she edited her own sentences recursively, she looked away from time to time, and her answers did not make sense—and I don't mean political sense; I mean they made no grammatical or logical sense. Vladimir Putin rearing his head and floating into American air space, tax relief needing to accompany tax reductions, one in five jobs coming in 'the trade sector': these are the words of someone who's rattled. She's politically savvy, so she has a modicum of self-awareness and, as she's said before, she knows she can't blink; she knows she has to seem confident in what she's saying. But I'm also willing to bet she's just smart enough to know how truly out of her depth she is."

My Producer Cousin on TCM Monday

Yes, I'm very into the Oscars. I've watched every year since I was 8. The reason is that when I was 8, my family took a summer vacation to California and while in Los Angeles we met my mother's first cousin Walter, who I found out was a producer in Hollywood. We got a private tour of the studios and got on the set of The Hindenberg (and met George C. Scott), and the TV shows: The Rookies, M*A*S*H and Planet of the Apes. This was very cool for an 8 year-old (although Urko the gorilla scared me a little, I wish I had known he was Spock's father). After dinner, at Walter's house, he took my sister and I into the kitchen, let the dog out, closed the blinds and opened the kitchen cabinet to reveal several oscars. I got to hold them. There had been a fire at his office so he was keeping them there. One of the Oscar's head had melted off in the fire. To an 8 year-old this just meant it must have been a special Oscar. Several months later we watched the Oscars as a family. Walter was president of the academy so we got to see him.

Walter Mirisch Book Cover.jpgHis name is Walter Mirisch and in 1957 he and his brothers formed the Mirisch Company, one of the first independent production companies. He recently published a memoir I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History which I enjoyed a lot. Some things appealed particularly to me: there is family stuff in it and my grandfather's first name is mentioned. I learned that the headless Oscar I held was for In the Heat of the Night. He also made Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, West Side Story, The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape and the original Pink Panther and Thomas Crown Affair. There are also a lot of stories of making films and the strange things that sometimes happen to put deals together.

For example, even though it was cheap, Jose Ferrer was interested in it (and had won an Oscar the previous year) and John Huston would direct, no studio would finance Moulin Rouge because it was the story of a dwarf. Walter was working at a small studio, Monarch, and they were interested, but Ferrer wouldn't do it for a small studio fearing it would ruin his career. Walter put together the financing and got United Artists to distribute it and that ultimately led to the creation of their company.

Walter was apparently well liked. Joel McCrea gave him a cadillac because he was the only person to actually give him money for residuals on any of his films. Elmore Leonard's Get Shorty was inspired by difficulties Walter faced of producing a film based on Leonard's book LaBrava which was to star Dustin Hoffman and be directed by Martin Scorsese. He dedicated Get Shorty "To Walter Mirisch one of the good guys."

Anyway on Monday if you get the Turner Classic Movies channel they are doing an hour interview with Walter at 8pm (repeated at 11pm) that I suspect will be interesting. They're also showing four of his films: In the Heat of the Night, West Side Story, The Apartment and Fort Massacre.

Here's a 30 minute podcast interview if you just can't get enough.

Sarah Palin Disney Trailer

This Sarah Palin Disney Trailer from College Humor is pretty funny. All spawned from Matt Damon's comment that her story is like a really bad Disney movie.

Debate is On

Just heard on TV, tonight's presidential debate is on.

No bailout agreement yet.

I look forward to hearing the explanation.

McCain's Latest Ad Is More Lies

FactCheck reports A McCain-Palin ad claims Obama has been 'mum' on the economic crisis. That's false.

Pakistan fires on Nato aircraft

Great, now Pakistan has fired on two US helicopters.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Eight Barack Obamas On The Ballot In Brazil

And I think our elections are crazy. NPR reports Barack Obama On The Ballot In Brazil. "If this fall's election is disputed, we have a winning slogan for Barack Obama: 'Make sure every vote is counted in Brazil.' South America's biggest country has a law that permits candidates to put any name they'd like on the ballot. They just have to make sure it's not offensive. The Democratic nominee is apparently popular in Brazil. And candidates in at least eight local elections have chosen to run under the name Barack Obama."

Foldit - A Protein Folding Game

Foldit is an online protein folding game where you can contribute to science.

"We’re collecting data to find out if humans' pattern-recognition and puzzle-solving abilities make them more efficient than existing computer programs at pattern-folding tasks. If this turns out to be true, we can then teach human strategies to computers and fold proteins faster than ever!"

McCain's Stunt

As of Tuesday, McCain hadn't seen Paulson's three page plan issued on Saturday.

You think someone could have briefed him on it?

On Wednesday morning McCain said he cleared his schedule to deal with the financial crisis, though it seems he still met with a doner.

And yet on Wednesday afternoon McCain announced the crisis was so huge he was suspending his campaign to return to DC to help negotiate a settlement. Obviously he wanted to use all that expertise on the topic he had. He also announced that the Friday debates should be delayed. The pundits respond with dismay. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said he was crawling into a corner with his blanket.

He cancels visit on David Letterman (filmed in the afternoon), telling him he needs to get on a plane; but instead McCain goes on CBS News with Katie Couric.

Wednesday night, Obama and McCain released an innocuous joint statement. It's not clear how it came about. But Obama wanted to include five principles: oversight, protecting taxpayers, preventing executives from profiting from taxpayer money, prevent foreclosures, and no earmarks; and Bush said essentially the same thing in his speech, but McCain didn't agree to them.

On Thursday the Huffington Post reported that the campaign was still operating. "Across the country, McCain campaign offices are up and running, accepting volunteers, conducting phone banking, literature dropping and other GOTV activities. This held true on a local, state, and even regional level. The Huffington Post called up 15 McCain-Palin and McCain Victory Committee headquarters in various battleground states. Not one said that it was temporarily halting operations because of the supposed "suspension" in the campaign. Several, in fact, enthusiastically declared the continuation of their work. Others hadn't even heard that the candidate for whom they were devoting their time had officially stopped campaigning."

On Thursday it seems there's a deal. Though perhaps not all the Republicans are on board.

A White House meeting on Thursday afternoon was apparently called by McCain. Lots of people attend.

Update: "At the bipartisan White House meeting that Mr. McCain had called for a day earlier, he sat silently for more than 40 minutes, more observer than leader, and then offered only a vague sense of where he stood, said people in the meeting."

It ends with some work to do as Republicans aren't happy. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) who's been at the center of all this says it does no good “to be distracted for two or three hours by political theater.”

And it seems both McCain and Obama are taping interviews on all three network newscasts tonight.

Meanwhile McCain economic Advisor (and AEI nutcase) Kevin Hassett spouts partisan nonsense at Bloomberg that the Democrats Created the Financial Crisis. Larry Tate rips it to shreds. citing his biases, his past mistakes, his cherry picking of his data, and exaggerating it to the point of lies and lying about the supposed bill that McCain created and it's fate.

Mars rover Opportunity sets out on its greatest journey yet

2-marsroveropp.jpgMars rover Opportunity sets out on its greatest journey yet.

Opportunity, one of two Mars rovers is on day 1,661 of it's original 90 day mission. Yup that's no typo. It's travelled through Victoria crater and is now beginning a two year journey to Endeavour crater which is 20 times larger. "To get to the 22 kilometer-wide crater (nearly 14 miles), Opportunity will need to drive 11 kilometers (nearly 7 miles) to the southeast -- that's equal to the total distance the rover has traveled since it landed on Mars in January 2004."

They're not sure they'll make it, but two things happened in 2006 that give it a better chance. One was a software update that improves it's autonomous choices of safe routes. Another is the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter with a powerful camera that can resolve the rover and potential obstacles.

British Hovis Bread Commercial

Hovis is a brand of bread in Britain that's been around for 120 years. Here's a new commercial that emphasizes on that longevity. If only their bread stayed fresh that long.

Apparently they have a history of doing interesting ads. A 1973 commercial by Ridley Scott was in 2006, voted the all-time favorite commercial. Here it is:


China’s Provinces Population Compared To Nations

Strange Maps has The Population of China’s Provinces Compared "This map compares the population of China’s provinces (plus the ‘renegade province’ of Taiwan), autonomous regions and municipalities with those of whole countries, and thus helps shed some light on that issue."

china-provinces_populations 1.png

Palin Takes Questions From Press Corps For First Time

After only 4 weeks since being named the GOP VP candidate, Sarah Palin takes questions from press corps for first time. I'm not impressed.

Letterman Pummels McCain

As part of suspending his campaign, McCain cancelled a Letterman appearance last night at the last minute. Dave was not happy, laying into him the entire broadcast. Here's some of it...

Don't lie to Letterman.

The Onion: McCain’s Economic Plan For Nation

The Onion reports on McCain’s Economic Plan For Nation: 'Everyone Marry A Beer Heiress'

Bailout Chart

Kevin Drum has this nice graphic on the bailout. "here's a history of government bailouts starting with the Penn Central bailout of 1970. All adjusted for inflation, of course."
Blog_Bailout_History 1.jpg

All the details are here.

Rick Davis Still Officer at Lobbying Firm

Newsweek follows up on the Rick Davis story, Davis, McCain Aide, Still Officer at Lobbying Firm

"Rick Davis, John McCain's campaign manager, has remained the treasurer and a corporate director of his lobbying firm this year, despite repeated statements by campaign officials that he had ended his relationship with the firm in 2006, according to corporate records."

McCain Camp To Propose Postponing VP Debate

I heard someone speculate about this idea last night now CNN reports it's true:
McCain camp to propose postponing VP debate. I guess she's so qualified we never need to hear from her.

Or maybe they're just afraid of more performances like this:

Here's the full interview.

Pre-Ice Age Methane Stores Released in Arctic

The Independent has an Exclusive: The methane time bomb.

"The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats."

"In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age."

"Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane."

And just to strike and alarmist tone, this could be bad. Don't cross the streams bad.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

McCain is Pissing Me Off

McCain today says he wants to push back the presidential debates this Friday so that he can go to DC and convene a leadership panel to deal with the financial crises in a bipartisan way putting politics aside.

Huh? First off, you're not president yet, your only responsibility is as Senator and you've missed more votes in the Senate than anyone, by far. Where were you?

I've been watching C-SPAN today as my representative led the House Financial Services Committee questioning of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. I saw both sides ask questions and suggest that people were working behind the scenes on coming up with a deal. It sounds unpartisan to me (probably because neither side understands it all). Where are you? You could have been participating and still made the debates.

Doesn't it sound like canceling political debates might be a political ploy? Nah, couldn't be. Could his economics tutoring be running behind schedule?

McCain Campaign Manager's Firm Getting Paid by Freddie Mac

The New York Times reported yesterday McCain Aide’s Firm Was Paid by Freddie Mac Through August.

McCain's campaign manager Rick Davis has been getting $15,000 a month from Freddie Mac since the end of 2005. The payments stopped last month as a result of the government takeover. Why did he get this money (or actually his firm, Davis Manafort, got the money while he's on leave, but he still benefits as an equity holder in the firm)?

"They [Davis Manafort] said they did not recall Mr. Davis’s doing much substantive work for the company in return for the money, other than to speak to a political action committee of high-ranking employees in October 2006 on the approaching midterm Congressional elections. They said Mr. Davis’s firm, Davis Manafort, had been kept on the payroll because of his close ties to Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, who by 2006 was widely expected to run again for the White House."

Yup, McCain is so against lobbyists, he just wants his aides paid under the table for no public reason. Put another way...

“John McCain's campaign manager and Freddie Mac had what amounts to a secret half a million dollar lay-a-way plan,” said David Donnelly, director of Campaign Money Watch. “For almost three years and as late as last month, Freddie Mac made secret, monthly payments of $15,000 to Rick Davis’s firm for a no-show job, apparently in exchange for providing special access to a future McCain White House.

Now Mr. Straight Talk, what are you going to do about it? Anything more than this? Here's a statement from the McCain campaign.

Ben Smith in Politico calls them on it: "The statement is basically a non-denial. Part of its focus is to dispute the Times's suggestion that Davis's ownership of Davis Manafort means that he benefits even if he's on leave of absence. There are reasonable arguments on both sides there. The statement also argues that the Times tilts toward the Democrat, and makes guesses about the paper's motives, all reasonable and arguable. What the statement doesn't dispute is the actual news in the story: the $15,000 monthly payments from Freddie Mac, which began while Davis was still running the firm. "

Yes Powers Should Be Limited

Glenn Greenwald in Single funniest blog post I ever read writes about the hypocrisy of the right complaining about the executive powers Paulson requested in the financial bailout having defended Bush's powers for 8 years as being nigh absolute.

Hershey’s No Longer Using Chocolate in Some Products

Cocoa has apparently gotten so expensive that some
Hershey's products are no longer made with Chocolate.

"Products such as Whatchamacallit, Milk Duds, Mr. Goodbar and Krackel no longer have milk chocolate coatings, and Hershey’s Kissables are now labeled ‘chocolate candy’ instead of ‘milk chocolate.’ ...Hershey’s has switched to less expensive ingredients in several of its products. In particular, cocoa butter — the ingredient famous for giving chocolate its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture — has been replaced with vegetable oil. The removal of cocoa butter violates the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s definition of milk chocolate, so subtle changes have appeared on the labels of the Hershey’s products with altered recipes. Products once labeled ‘milk chocolate’ now say ‘chocolate candy,’ ‘made with chocolate’ or ‘chocolatey.’"

So read the label carefully. Or better yet, get some of my current favorite chocolate, from L. A. Burdick.

The Twelve Lies Of Sarah Palin

Andrew Sullivan writes The Twelve Lies Of Sarah Palin

Good Ideas Don't Need Lies

Paul Krugman in Good ideas and lies applies this principle to the Paulson's economic plan: "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance".

And lots of economists have concerns with Paulson's plan.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Goggle Gives Us The Candidates In Quotes

Google Labs has put up a bizarre site, In Quotes which gives you a slot machine like interface to see quotes by the candidates on specific topics.

CNN Pulls Plug on Palin -- Or At Least Threatens To

It's the four updates to this Talking Points Memo post CNN Pulls Plug on Palin -- Or At Least Threatens To that make this so fun. At the UN, Palin was going to give a photo op, that is have photographers take pictures. But the campaign wasn't going to let producers in with the photographers. After 25 days of non-access, journalists might have actually tried to fight back. Hey, if you're not going to give us access, we're not going to give you publicity. Imagine that.

McCain Articles Today

George Will wrote in the Washington Post McCain Loses His Head "It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?"

Jennifer Parker writes for ABC News McCain Gaffes Could Undercut Message on Economy, Foreign Affairs "In recent days, John McCain has made a series of verbal gaffes that have undercut his campaign claim that he is the candidate who is ready to safeguard the nation's struggling economy, some political analysts believe."

Ben Smith writes in Politico McCain camp criticism rife with errors - "Sen. John McCain’s top campaign aides convened a conference call today to complain of being called ‘liars.’ They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama’s record. But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy."

Even Ken Burns criticizes McCain's VP Pick "'He (McCain) selected someone who is so supremely unqualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency and he has turned the selection process into a high school popularity contest and an 'American Idol' competition,' Burns said. He said that McCain made a 'cynical' pick in what he said was the most important decision of his presidential candidacy. Burns, whose lifelong work is in American history, said that 'in the whole history of the Republic there has been no one with as thin a credential' as Palin. He said it was, for McCain, a 'Hail Mary pass' that will be decided in November."

Apple iPhone App Secrecy Going Too Far

Apple has done some amazing things with the App Store for iPhones (and iPod Touches), but their NDA for the public development kit and changing rules on acceptable applications are pretty bad. And now App Store Rejection Letters Now Under NDA. That's very bad.

Verizon just called

Verizon wireless just called to tell me they appreciated my business for eight years and wondered of there was a reason for my change. I said I went with an iphone to better sync with my mac's address book and calendar and I did not like their policy on limiting the Bluetooth profiles on their phones. We talked for a bit and he seemed interested in the feedback. He also said I had 30 days to switch back and they incentives like two free months or free minutes or free phones. I don't think I'll be taking them up on it.

Posted by ShoZu

An October Surprise in Pakistan?

US forces are fighting in Pakistan again and Scott Horton in Harper's Magazine writes An October Surprise in Pakistan? He makes a few other points aside from the speculation of the hope for an impact on the election.

Free Ice Cream at Cold Stone Creamery Thursday

This Thursday from 5-8pm at all Cold Stone Creameries you can get free ice cream at the 7th Annual World's Largest Ice Cream Social.

"Throughout the month of September, Cold Stone Creamery will be selling Make-A-Wish wall stars to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation, an organization that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. Be sure to visit your local Cold Stone Creamery to try two new flavors, Nutter Butter® and Marshmallow, and the very special “Make-A-Wish Creations” inspired by Jack and Emily, two Wish Children."

You'll have your choice of free 3oz servings of either:

Jack's Creation - Marshmallow ice cream with OREO® Cookies, Chocolate Chips and Fudge
Emily's Creation - Nutter Butter® ice cream with White Chocolate Chips, Kit Kat® and Yellow Cake

The Newest Dwarf Planet: Haumea

Astronomy Picture of the Day writes about Haumea of the Outer Solar System. It's now "the fifth designated dwarf planet after Pluto, Ceres, Eris, and Makemake". Has anyone heard a mnemonic to remember them like the "My Very Earnest Mother ..." (or a new of those that eliminates Pluto)? Something better than the acronym CHEMP?

"Haumea is significantly longer than Pluto, while in another direction Haumea has an extent very similar to Pluto, while in the third direction is much smaller. Haumea's orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Pluto, but usually Haumea is further away." Here's an illustration though its surface features are currently unknown:

haumea_nasa 1.jpg

Here it is in scale with some other Kuiper Belt objects.

"Haumea was recently [named] by the IAU for a Hawaiian goddess. Haumea has two small moons discovered in 2005, recently renamed Hi'iaka and Namaka for daughters of the goddess."

I also stumbled across this to scale graphic of moons in wikipedia. I hadn't realized that Mars' moons, Phobos and Deimos were so tiny, with an average diameter of just 22km and 12km respectively.

Candidates' Views on the Supreme Court.

This Sunday's America & The Courts on C-SPAN interviews Bloomberg News Supreme Court Reporter Greg Stohr about the Candidates' Views on the Supreme Court. I'm not sure I learned much, but they did cover everything and had a bunch of good video clips of both candidates that I hadn't seen before.

I can't like directly to the page about this episode but you want the one from Sept 20. Here's a link to the real media video. It's an hour long and you could listen to the audio in the background just fine.

Dodd's Plan Better than Paulson's?

On Sunday I saw that average americans were Mad as hell - taxpayers lash out about the $700 billion bail out. Yesterday I read about Sen Chris Dodd's (D-CT) alternative proposal to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's 'give me the money and don't let anyone question what I do with it' plan. Seriously, Section 8 (a veiled reference?) of the proposal says:

"Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."

I've complained about such bills before. Glenn Greenwald does his usual complete roundup of opinions in Growing right-wing opposition to the Paulson plan. Today I see that Paul Krugman likes Dodd's proposal a lot more:

"I’ve had more time to read the Dodd proposal — and it is a big improvement over the Paulson plan. The key feature, I believe, is the equity participation: if Treasury buys assets, it gets warrants that can be converted into equity if the price of the purchased assets falls. This both guarantees against a pure bailout of the financial firms, and opens the door to a real infusion of capital, if that becomes necessary — and I think it will."

The Two Classes of Airport Contraband

Bruce Schneier has a really good succinct post on The Two Classes of Airport Contraband.

"There are two classes of contraband at airport security checkpoints: the class that will get you in trouble if you try to bring it on an airplane, and the class that will cheerily be taken away from you if you try to bring it on an airplane. This difference is important: Making security screeners confiscate anything from that second class is a waste of time. All it does is harm innocents; it doesn't stop terrorists at all."

If you're caught with a gun or bomb you'll be arrested, so even if screeners aren't 100% effective, terrorists aren't going to risk it. If your plot depends on a liquid, if such a thing is even possible, you're not deterred because getting caught means you'll just try again.

Buy a Mac, get One to One training, win an Emmy Award

Maybe this should be a mac ad... First time’s a charm (via tuaw)

"Elementary school band director’s initial effort at filmmaking earns him an Emmy Award, and his students are the stars."

"‘I was really surprised when I found out about the Emmy because it was the first video I ever made . . . I just purchased a high-definition camera and went to the Apple store for weekly lessons on Final Cut Pro,’ Newman said."

Monday, September 22, 2008

EPA To Decline Regulating Chemical In Water

I'm really sick and tired of Bush's EPA. The Boston Globe reported today, EPA to decline regulating chemical in water .

"The Environmental Protection Agency, under pressure from the White House and the Pentagon, is poised to rule as early as today that it will not set a drinking water safety standard for perchlorate, a component of rocket fuel that has been linked to thyroid problems in pregnant women, newborns, and young children across the nation. According to a near-final document obtained by the Washington Post, EPA's "preliminary regulatory determination" - which was extensively edited by White House officials - marks the final step in a six-year battle between career EPA scientists who advocate regulating the chemical and White House and Pentagon officials who oppose it. The document estimates that up to 16.6 million Americans are exposed to perchlorate at a level many scientists consider unsafe; independent researchers, using federal and state data, put the number at between 20 million and 40 million."

Todd Palin Refuses to Testify

Daily Kos' article Todd Palin dissolves the Alaska legislature has an extreme title, but it also has all the details of what's going on. Basically even though he legally can't ignore the subpoena, the punishment would have to be meted out by the legislature which doesn't meet until January, which is after the November election. Open and transparent.

Firing the SEC Chairman

The Volokh Conspiracy has the details on if McCain could fire the SEC chairman. It turns out he couldn't remove him from the commission but could remove him as chairman and appoint another commissioner to that post.

Cancer stem cells

The economist last week had a good story on Cancer stem cells.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Today's Washington Post editorial Hiding in Plain Sight calls out Palin for not giving a news conference in 23 days as VP candidate and McCain one in more than a month. I don't know when Obama's last one was.

I went to an ACLU panel last week about the media and politics, particularly the election. Callie Crossley said she spoke to a student recently and was shocked he told her that the President doesn't have to answer questions from the press. She said yes he did, they were the fourth estate.

Actually as far as I read the Constitution, he only has to give a State of the Union speech once a year. Yes there is freedom of the press in the First Amendment but the press doesn't appear in Article II. It seems Republicans have found this loophole, maybe we need an amendment mandating the president answer questions from the press and candidates too. But they'd probably get around it by just talking with Fox News. They call themselves press, so they must be right?

I thought I remember that Bush gave very few press conferences at first. It was a month before his first press conference but that doesn't seem so long now.

Cash for Trash

I really don't know enough to have an opinion but Paul Krugman's column today Cash for Trash makes sense to me.

Jed Bartlet Talks with Barack Obama

Maureen Dowd loaned her NYT column today to Aaron Sorkin so he could
Conjure a Meeting of Obama and Bartlet. Another Bartlet speech is always fun.

Create iPhone Custom Ringtones

While today's xkcd isn't lost on me

Here's a simple Guide to Create iPhone Custom Ringtones in GarageBand ‘08. It's quite simple but Mac-only. Here are a few other ways to do it. Though keep in mind, here's an odd case of a user denied warranty service because of a custom ringtone. He didn't use Garage Band but used a method that did the same thing.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Neil Stephenson

So I got the picture up here from ShoZu, but couldn't enter the description in the iPhone. Stephenson did a reading and took questions. The answers were all well thought out and complete, he'd gotten most of them before. When I got my book signed I asked if he did anything half-assed. He said yes, but he doesn't get paid to discuss them on national tours in churches. While he was signing my friend's book he said he's a half-assed machinist. Posted by ShoZu


Blogged from my iPhone using ShoZu.

Posted by ShoZu

Election Coverage Reform

Mark Harris in this week's Entertainment Weekly writes his ideas for Election coverage reform. I hope the powers that be read it and take at least some of the advice. NBC improved its Olympic coverage this year over previous outings. Is it too much to ask the same for their election coverage?

iPhone First Impressions

I've been playing with my iPhone almost constantly since getting it two days ago. It's a pretty amazing device. Here are my first Impressions (and second and third, etc).

Buying it was pretty seamless. The sales guy at the Apple Store had never done an iPhone activation before but we had no glitches. They use their handled devices which I noticed were PocketPCs, which just seemed wrong. I transfered my Verizon Wireless phone number and needed the account number (I had brought my last phone bill) and phone number. I was asked for a password but didn't know what that was aside from my voicemail password, but didn't give it, it wasn't required and it worked anyway. After waiting about 15 minutes I was told it was all set. I made a call and that worked and then I tried making a call using one of the demo iPhones (I hadn't realized they were live) to my number but my old cell phone rang. It turns out when you leave the store you can make calls on the phone but it can take up to 5 hours before receiving calls switches to the new phone. After about an hour I got a text message from AT&T saying I was now receiving calls.

That first night I got another text message from AT&T welcoming me to them. It was at about 4:30 am and the phone made noises when it received a text message. This is configurable but I usually want it on. A friend said I'll quickly get used to muting it before going to bed. I did last night. I suspect this is the case for other cell phones too. I don't send too many text messages but had the issue a few times with my old phone, but muting it was as trivial (on the iPhone there's a separate hardware button that does this).

The phone stuff is very nicely done. They used the touch screen to make the controls big, appear when needed and easy to use. Looking up contacts is easy. My Address Book (about 600 entries) synced fine including pictures. Clicking on street addresses lets you see them in google maps or get directions, etc. There's a favorites list where you can list numbers. Double clicking the home button brings up favorites in just about any app (except when iTunes is playing and this is configurable). It took me a bit to figure out how to delete favorites (click the red button which turns out to be a twisty and click the delete button). Also how to reorder them (drag using the 3 parallel lines on the right, they're supposed to be a grip I guess). I think I'll miss voice dialing but favorites will help a lot.

Call quality is pretty good. I'm getting variable signal quality at home. Between 2 and 4 bars and once it said 3G for a second until the WiFi connected. My first call was dropped as I walked around my home. My second lasted close to an hour and was ok. There was some static at times but it worked. A call in the evening worked fine with little static. I've made one call out of the house and got an answering machine so it's hard to know the quality.

Google satellite maps are just amazing Traffic is incredible. I've had a nav system in my car for 8 years and I've used the iPhone version in stores and I've even told iPhone owners about features they didn't know about. But still, using them is just amazing.

Calendars came over from iCal but their associated colors didn't (I got random ones). The Calendar timezone wasn't set from location or from my mac's settings. I'm surprised there's no week view and that it doesn't rotate if the iPhone is sideways. I have several calendars in iCal (Personal, Events, NY Giants, etc.) I believe you can view one calendar or all calendars but not several like I do on the mac.
I haven't added an event but it looks simple.

I wasn't expecting my safari bookmarks to sync but they do (now I'll have to clean them up). There doesn't seem to be a way to set a home page for Safari. You can save an icon on the device that always opens to a particular page, I guess that's the substitute. I'm still clicking the Safari icon and sometimes don't want to wait for the last page I looked at to load.

The calculator app works fine. The notes app is pretty wimpy and oddly doesn't rotate. And it is surprising that iCal todos don't sync to the device anywhere. In fact, no buitin in app does todos. I've used iTunes and YouTube a bit and they seem fine. The soft controls that overlay on the screen are very intuitive. YouTube seems to only play sideways, not in portrait mode; again that seems odd. The camera is merely adequate; there's no zoom or flash or video. I've yet to use voicemail or configure email (I have gmail that I use with Mail.app from POP3 and I want to make sure I get it all right before I make the switch).

I have had some issues. Several times I've gotten in a state where many (all?) third party apps won't open. They start and then crash immediately but the builtin in apps work fine. The only solution I've found, and it's worked each time, is to delete one app that's failing and redownload it from the Apps Store. Then it works and all the other failing apps do too. I've seen this with popular free apps like Mobile News and Bloomberg.

I've had some issues connecting to my home network. Configuring it just worked, I had to enter the wifi password (my network is encrypted) but it remembered it and connected and speed is good. But sometimes when I turn the phone back on it doesn't reconnect to the network. At least a few times (I'm not sure about every), if the wifi doesn't seem to be connected (zero or one bars in the indicator) if I open Safari I quickly get all bars. Maybe it's just not connecting until it's needed? I'll need to do some more testing.

I've had some problems connecting it to my mac with the cable to sync. iTunes doesn't always recognize it. I believe the cable is connected firmly on both ends, but nothing happens. Usually trying again (or again and again) gets it to work. Last night I took some pictures, when I connected it today, I already had iTunes open but then iPhoto opened and it wanted to download pics which is nice. I said yes but it had a problem, it said it couldn't read the 3 images. I reconnected and it worked fine. I also left the photos on the device. Now, whenever I connect the iPhone, iPhoto opens too.

One time I was zooming in on the radar map on the National Weather Service page and the device froze. I mean everything froze. I had to surf to find the following key sequences. Holding down the home button for 6 seconds should force quit the running application. That didn't help me. Holding down the power button for (either 6 or) 10 seconds restarts the device. This solved my problem but I had to try it a few times for it to work and when I did I held it down for longer so the device shut off and I was confused for a moment. For completeness, holding down both power and home for 10 seconds resets the device (deleting all your data, but a sync should restore it).

Several apps let you click on links which open in safari. The problem is there's no easy way to go back to the original app. If I'm browsing Twitterrific and I click a link, I just want to see the image and go back to Twitterrific, not start surfing in safari. Same in Facebook.

I'll do another post in a few days with the 3rd party apps I've settled on. Also, advice on accessories would be appreciated. I think I want a car charger and perhaps a screen protector or case. Have you liked or disliked any models? I'll be checking iLounge for reviews, anyone know of a better site?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Performance Will Be Adequate

This is for the readers that worked with me at our startup. When we had a developers conference for the beta release of 1.0 our server team leader was presenting and was asked what the performance of the server would be like. His response was "adequate". Not the terminology marketing would have preferred.

I remember a Dilbert strip where he was brought on a call to customer and the lesson was never let an engineer talk directly to a customer because they don't lie. I think at the end he bursts out saying "it's a lie and we had to reclassify all the bugs as features just before release", but I can't find the strip.

Stephen Colbert had Vice Chairman of General Motors Bob Lutz on Wed night. He was talking about the new GM Volt, a new electric car that the company is betting heavily on.

At about 4:20 into this video Colbert asks "Let's talk 0-60 here. Will that thing jump off the line?" Lutz replies "Adequately" and Colbert and the audience laughs. The rest is really funny too, watch the whole thing.

iPhone 3G Power Adapter Recalled

It figures. The day I buy an iPhone, Apple recalls the power adapter. Nice that they will exchange for free. Annoying that they won't be available until Oct 10. I'll be charging via my mac until then.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What iPhone Apps Do I Want?

So I have my new iPhone. The number transfered from Verizon seemingly without problem. It's doing it's first sync now and then I'll do the 2.1 update (since with 2.0 I'm currently getting zero or one bar at home. Since I'm basically the last person I know with an iPhone, what applications do I want?


Here's an angle I hadn't considered: Aren't you sort of glad Congress repealed Glass-Steagall?. "Without Glass-Steagall repeal, Bank of America wouldn't be able to buy Merrill Lynch, the only bit of arguably positive news to come out of this crazy weekend. And more generally, it is looking like investment banks that don't have big consumer banking franchises aren't up to the challenge of surviving modern-day financial crises."

I'm clearly no expert on the matter, not even close, but to me this just means when Merrill fails again it will bring down BoA with it. CitiCorp isn't doing so well lately.

Republicans hate regulation, but regulation can mean two things. First it regulates what you're allowed to do and that is limiting, but second it regulates your reporting and transparency, in that usage it's more like certification. As I understand it, the panic is all about this junk mortgage debt that was repackaged as high quality sounding derivatives and resold to other investment houses who didn't know what risk they were actually taking (and hey everything always goes up right?). When the bottom fell out because people couldn't pay their increasing adjustable rate mortgages or refinance because their home values dropped, the confidence dropped out of the investment houses because they didn't know what they had because what they bought from others isn't clearly defined and this made people unwilling to give new loans which caused a general credit crunch.

Here's an admittedly weak analogy. What if the FDA didn't require accurate and (well only somewhat) detailed labels on food? If there weren't accurate or even any calorie counts would you just go by the "Now Low Fat!" marketing messages? After a while and you were gaining weight would you still trust those useless labels?

Banning fois gras may be bad regulation, because it prevents you from making an even informed choice (I don't really have an opinion on it, I understand the cruelty argument). Forcing restaurants to include nutritional info on the menu seems like a good thing. Even though it forces the restaurant to spend money they probably wouldn't otherwise, it lets you make better informed decisions. It's also something the few individual places would do on their own unless everyone did it. The goal is to make the requirement not too burdensome.

Privatizing Social Security

Gee, good thing we didn't privatize Social Security like Bush and McCain wanted. McCain's Social Security is a Disgrace comments here, his much earlier and somewhat more sane comments here.

Sorry Sarah, Barack Beat You To It

CNN's article Palin’s transparency proposal already exists in D.C. is just too funny.

"‘We’re going to do a few new things also,’ she said at a rally in Cedar Rapids. ‘For instance, as Alaska’s governor, I put the government’s checkbook online so that people can see where their money’s going. We’ll bring that kind of transparency, that responsibility, and accountability back. We’re going to bring that back to D.C.’

"There’s just one problem with proposing to put the federal checkbook online – somebody’s already done it. His name is Barack Obama. In 2006 and 2007, Obama teamed up with Republican Sen. Tom Coburn to pass the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act" which created USASpending.gov .

Colbert on McCain's Excuse for Negative Ads

Stephen Colbert had a great bit wed night, McCain Attacks Obama "John McCain has not accepted Stephen's invitation to appear on the show, so he has no choice but to spread horrible lies about him. "

Palin and Rape Kits

Hekebolos in Daily Kos connects some dots to answer WHY would Palin refuse to fund rape kits?. The theory is because they contain emergency contraception.

Palin's Contradicting Stories

The Daily Kos summarizes Palin's multiple stories on how she accepted the nomination, Okay, now she's OFFICIALLY a pathological liar. She either accepted without hesitation or asked her daughters to vote on if she'd accept or something else. Sheesh.

Astronomers Find Dim But Massive Galaxy, Is It Dark Matter?

Astronomers Discover Most Dark Matter-dominated Galaxy In Universe.

"The galaxy, called Segue 1, is one of about two dozen small satellite galaxies orbiting our own Milky Way galaxy. The ultra-faint galaxy is a billion times less bright than the Milky Way, according to the team’s results, to be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal (ApJ). But despite its small number of visible stars, Segue 1 is nearly a thousand times more massive than it appears, meaning most of its mass must come from dark matter."

Democrats Targeting Voters the Republican Way

Christopher Stern writes for Bloomberg, Democrats Take Republican Database Model to Target Swing Voters

Harold "Ickes, a Democratic media consultant and former Clinton adviser, has spent four years and $15 million building Catalist, a database that scores 200 million Americans according to their likelihood to vote for party candidates. Illinois Senator Obama, 47, is one of his biggest clients."

"The model is VoterVault, a 12-year-old store of voter information that gave Republicans the edge in 2000 and 2004. In 2000, Bush lost the popular vote, though he carried the election by winning Florida by a margin of 537 votes out of more than 5.8 million cast. The 2004 race was equally close, with Iowa, New Mexico and even Ohio decided by less than 1 percent of the vote."

"This year, with polls again showing a tight presidential campaign, Catalist may enable Democrats to level the playing field by allowing Obama and the party's down-ticket candidates to focus on voters who will support them and ignore those who won't, he said."

iPhone Now?

A friend came over with his 3G iPhone running the 2.1 update. I didn't get 3G coverage in my house but it got 4 bars of Edge (2G), everywhere in my home. It could make calls and it received calls and the reception was good. He got 3G coverage just outside my house. I wonder if its frequency has more difficulties passing through buildings. Anyone (Karl?) know?

If I'm home 2G is fine (it's what I have now for Verizon voice service) and at home I'd be using wifi to surf anyway. I think I might have to go buy an iPhone.

Microsoft's New Ads

Gizmodo has the new Microsoft ads, Microsoft's "I'm A PC" Ad Beats Seinfeld (But Not Hodgman). This is phase 2 of the campaign and they are better than the Seinfeld ones. There are a lot of comments to the post saying people (even mac users) think the ad is good.

I'm not that impressed. We know the PC is dominant and this ad isn't saying it's good, merely that lots of different people use it. Maybe the benefits will come in phase 3 of the campaign.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Movie Review: Vicky Christina Barcelona

I had a lot of hopes for Woody Allen's latest film Vicky Christina Barcelona. It was fun, but forgettable and a hugely wasted opportunity.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are two friends who after graduating college are spending a summer in Barcelona with family friend Judy (Patricia Clarkson). A narrator (Christopher Evan Welch) who sounded like David Hyde Pierce narrating The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human (why do I know this?) crossed with a little Matthew Broderick, tells us that Vicky and Christina are opposites. Vicky is a Type A planner and engaged. Christina is a bohemian free spirit.

They soon meet artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) who recently broke up with his wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz) another artist who was a bit unstable and stabbed him. Juan Antonio approach Vicky and Christina in a bar, invites them to his villa for a threesome. Of course Vicky is appalled and Christina is interested. The story takes some turns and then Maria Elena shows up and it takes more turns.

Three things bothered me about this film. First off is the narration, it doesn't stop after the first scene. It seemed like every scene was narrated to the point that the acting was superfluous. The narrator tells us what happens, the film doesn't show us. There was just no need for it and I don't know why Allen used it. It worked in Little Children, it doesn't work here.

The second is that for a film about threesomes involving these gorgeous people, it was entirely unerotic. It wasn't even romantic. I don't recall any erotic scenes that Allen has done, not for laughs that is. This should have been and I don't even think he attempted to do so. Maybe the narrator was his way of avoiding it. Whenever I got emotionally involved in the story, the narrator came back to remind me I was watching a movie.

I've read a few things about how well he used Barcelona and that the film was a travelogue. I've been to Barcelona and I wasn't impressed by this presentation. Woody show some quick shots of Gaudi's masterworks: Sagrada Família, La Pedrera, and Park Güell and things are sets in gorgeous homes and villas. In spite of the fact that they said Vicky majored in Catalan Identity (whatever that is) they kept talking about people speaking Spanish. One of the first things I learned about Barcelona was that they don't speak Spanish but Catalan (which is closer to French). And I think all visitors are a little surprised that they eat dinner at 10 or 11 pm. Add to it the common movie practicalities that all roads are empty and I didn't get any sense of the place.

I also had problems with the acting. I didn't recognize Hall from her role as Christian Bale's wife in The Prestige and I'm surprised to learn she's British, because didn't detect an accent at all. But I didn't buy the performance. Same with Johansson who's pretty but dull, I didn't even like her wardrobe. I've liked her in some other films but not here. And it didn't help that in a few scenes both of these women seemed to do Woody Allen impersonations. Even the usually wonderful Clarkson was barely used and was stiff in the early scenes before getting a little better in some later ones. Bardem and Cruz were the only ones that managed to find a fully fleshed out character in the script (I'm not sure where) and show it on screen. Both bring life to the film and their bilingual fights are a lot of fun. I didn't believe Cruz's character was a "genius" painter, exceptional pianist, photographer, etc. though it was probably more of the scripts fault. The only thing she wasn't an expert at was aiming. Still without these two, the film would not be worth seeing.

Perhaps the major problem was that I didn't even find it particularly funny. The funniest part of the film might be the MPAA rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material involving sexuality and smoking. Amusing is probably the right word, but I had a hard time figuring out the point. It's not a love letter to Barcelona, a character study, about the nature of love or a comedy. So a pleasant diversion? Maybe. I think it needed more focus.

* Minor Spoilers *
In the beginning the narrator brings up in the opening description of Vicky and Christina that their primary difference is how they view love. Given the title and prominence of this we might be led to believe that this is the point of the film, but as we see it unfold in the film, neither is quite what they say. Are they maturing? Experimenting? is that good? Seemingly not. Juan Antonio is perhaps refreshingly upfront, but ultimately is a user (clearly with Vicky). Maria Elena is consistent and selfish. Maybe the point was their tumultuous relationship? But it's not at all clear what missing magic Christina brought to it. Judy is there merely to say a loveless marriage is a waste.