Thursday, November 30, 2006

Toy Review: HD TiVo

Wednesday the comcast service guys showed up to put the second cable card into my TiVo. They had never installed into a TiVo before and they brought two cards. Fortunately the first one worked and 20 minutes later they were gone and my TiVo was running through it's guided setup.

So all is working great now. Where previously I had a series 1 TiVo with a regular cable box and a second cable box for HD programming (switched through an A/V reciever), now I just have the one HDTiVo. The receiver only has the TiVo, DVD player and AirPort Express for iTunes connected to it. The two cable cards cost a total of $2.70 a month (we'll see when the first bill comes) and I don't need to rent the cable boxes and remotes, so my monthly bill is down a bit. I also used the current deal to transfer my lifetime TiVo subscription to the new box.

The HD TiVo has two tuners so it can record two things at once. The switch between tuners is seemless. If you're recording something and change the channel, it automatically switches to the other tuner. You don't have to think about it at all. If you have season passes setup that conflict, it will record two things at once. Unlike previous TiVo's there's a display panel with the current time and two status lines. Each line has a red light if it's recording and if it's a programmed show (as opposed to one of TiVo's suggestions) it shows the name of the show being recorded. I find this display a bit too small to read from 10 feet away, but it's kinda nice.

The HD TiVo supposedly can hold up to 30 hours of HD programming and of course more of regular programming (there's a 250GB hard drive). For most shows if they are in HD I have season passes setup on HD channels. If it's not in HD or not something where it matters (animation, news, etc.) I record it on a regular channel to save space. So far there are 5 screens of programs saved on it (3.5 are suggestions) and it hasn't had to delete anything yet. Since everything going into the box is digital cable, I don't have a quality setting to choose from, it saves everything in the same format that it comes over the wire. Everything looks great so far.

The TiVo does closed captioning if you want. Since my plasma TV is just a monitor, no tuner, I was missing this. Sometimes it's nice is to watch a show with cc on and at double speed (one fast forward speed) and read the dialog, finish in less than half the time. It's a little convoluted to turn cc on and off but you can customize the font and forground and background color. The TiVo also has aspect controls to show 4:3 programming on a 16:9 screen. It can do full (stretched), zoom (cropped top and bottom) and panel (regular 4:3 with vertical side bars). The nice thing about doing this with the TiVo instead of the TV is that the guide overlaid on the screen isn't stretched or cropped.

I bought the wireless adaptor so it's connected to my home wifi network instead of a phone line. It downloads all the scheduling info from the net. Configuring it was effortless. At first it didn't work and then it suggested I check if I had mac address filtering on and gave me the address to add. I did and it worked. Also there's a screen that gives access to Yahoo weather, traffic and photos as well as some games (connect 4, same game and scrabble) and access to movie theater tickets schedules and ordering via fandango. For Yahoo you login once and it remembers, so you can see weather and traffic for the specific locations in your account, very convenient. I can't imagine ever using it to order movie tickets, but I've already used it for the weather.

My old Tivo was a Sony so I've never had the famed TiVo peanut remote. Instead I use a Home Theater Master MX-500 universal remote. The new TiVo remote has been changed a little and I like it a lot. It is programmable for the volume and mute controls of the receiver and can turn the TV on and off, but there's no button for the receiver power (it would need two as it has discrete buttons, one for on, one for off).

An odd change is that while there are sound effects in the menus, there are no sound effects when fast forwarding or I think at any time a show is being shown. No be-boop be-boop be-boop. I miss these as they gave some feedback when you hit a key.

So overall I'm really impressed with this TiVo. With two tuners it's even more effortless to use. In spite of the fact I've had HD TV for over two years, it's a lot nicer now to watch it recorded on a TiVo due to the channel guide, recording, pausing, etc. It's crazy expensive (I got it as a gift and got a good deal on it at Best Buy due to a salesclerk in nicotine withdrawl) but it's also really really nice.

Jail in America

Guess how many American adults are in jail? Would you guess 1 in 500? 1 in 100? 1 in 50? Would you believe 1 in 32?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Hurricane Season Ends Quietly

Hurricane Season Ends Quietly. It's still hard to predict the weather.

Bush Executive Order Found Unconstitutional

A federal judge ruled that portions of Executive Order 13224 was too vague and is unconstitutional. The order was meant to combat financing of terrorist organizations. The problem is it was "unconstitutionally vague as it gave the president 'unfettered discretion' to effectively 'blacklist' terror groups without applying objective criteria in making the designation. Collins said that portions of the order violated the petitioners' First Amendment rights in that it "imposed penalties for mere association" with a designated group, and because several operative terms in the order are so vague as to give the president nearly unlimited power to declare organizations illegal. "

What is Obvious?

The Supreme Court heard a case on patents this week. At issue is how do you determine if an invention is obvious and therefore not deserving of a patent. The problem is, the test is subjective. To help clarify the word obvious, the test is if "teaching, suggestion or motivation would have led a person of ordinary skill in the art" to the invention. Scalia called that "gobbledygook". Roberts asked :Who do you get to be an expert to tell you something’s not obvious? I mean, the least insightful person you can find?"

It's precisely these kinds of cases where I think strict constructionists lose. Yes laws should be precise and easy to understand but this isn't always possible. For example, the famous pornography definition. Having too many patents for obvious things really does harm the software industry and I can imagine it hurts other industries similarly. The Constitution protects us from unreasonable searches, who decides what's reasonable?

Unlike most of Congress, I read the Patriot Act. To be honest, I thought most of it was ok. Sure there are things in there that subtly change various laws and I defer to the ACLU or others to figure out what rights I'm giving up, but a lot of it was clarifying laws that were too specific. E.g., your right to privacy on the internet was different if you used Dial Up, DSL or Cable to get on the net. The law said the phone company couldn't allow tapping without a court order, but said nothing about cable companies, so you were more secure using DSL vs a cable modem. How dumb is that? As I understand it copyright law is different for vinyl records vs CDs (or at least it was). If you want laws that apply to new technologies, and don't go on for thousand and thousands of repetitive pages, you can't require every little thing to be itemized in the law. And summaries will at some point need clarifications by judges. I'll be really curious to see if they can come up with a clearer test for obviousness.

Powell Says It's a Civil War

Colin Powell comes out of hiding and says Bush should admit Iraq is in a Civil War

Paint Commercial

Here's a cool paint commercial that claims to have been staged for filming instead of just created digitally.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Winter Soups

Tonight's cooking class was Winter Soups, just a one day class. We made 7 soups. The structure of the class was a little different than others I've taken. The instructor had done some prep before we got there and gave out 7 recipes and walked us through them all briefly. We then picked which one we wanted to make, split up and cooked. I didn't like the format as much as others, since I basically made one soup (alone) and asking questions was difficult because the teacher was trying to be 7 places at once.

It was nice being able to taste 6 other soups, and two of the recipes basically just differed on the types of onions used and it was nice to be able to compare the results. Still there were a lot of people on top of each other in the kitchen, questions were a little frustrating, and you really only made one dish. In other classes we all stood around as the teacher went through the recipe handing off work (chopping, stirring, etc) so people did something and she (so far all my teachers have been women) could move on.

Anyway, I made a carrot and parsnip pureed soup and it seemed to be most people's favorite. But I claim little responsibility because it was so trivial. Saute two chopped onions until translucent. Add 6-8 cups vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add one pound each of roughly chopped carrots and parsnips. Bring to a boil and lower heat and simmer 30 mins. Add some chopped fresh thyme and sage. Puree with an immersion blender (fun). Season to taste, optionally add some cream. Easy and yummy.

The Next Two Years

Glenn Greenwald has a good post on the next two years.

Freedom of the Press to Disclose Imminent Raids?

"The Supreme Court refused Monday to shield the New York Times and two of its reporters from a prosecutor's probe into who leaked word of planned raids on two Muslim charities five years ago." I'm not sure what I think about this.

Lohan on Altman

Somehow I missed this. After Robert Altman died, Lindsay Lohan, who was in A Prairie Home Companion, (sadly his last film), released a public letter of condolence. Read it, it's moronic and incoherent. Frankie Thomas in a fun read actually compares her to the President of the United States. This should be preposterous but is sadly credible.

I didn't know that Altman's highest praise for his actors was saying they were adequate (I wonder if that applies to server performance too?). The fact that Lohan ends her letter with a reference to this and misspells it, is...(words fail me) ironically ironic.

Aside from MASH I wasn't a huge fan of Altman's films. I remember hearing him say that he hated when someone came up to him and said they saw one of his films. He made films that needed to be seen several times before you got it all, so seeing one just once missed the point. I think I'll watch Gosford Park again.

Web-style nostalgia

Someone with apparently more time than me, browsed through YouTube for various 80s saturday morning cartoon intros and made this list. Most of these are a bit past my time, maybe someone else will do one for the 70s.

Would you believe?...Yada, yada, yada

TV Land will be counting down The 100 Greatest TV Quotes and Catchphrases. Apparently it will take 5 hours over 5 nights starting December 11th. Or instead you can just read the list here.

Monday, November 27, 2006

New Mac Ads

New Mac ads are out. Amusing but not fantastic.

Looking at McCain

Kevin Drum writes about Matt Welch's article in the LA Times about McCain. I think that in comparison to Bush, McCain look decent (so does a chia pet). Of course that's completely frightening that our standards have been lowered so much. In 2000 when McCain was running I liked how he spoke and I had some respect for his statesmen like conduct, but as I looked into his actual positions, I found they didn't match mine at all, particularly on social issues. Now on Iraq I agree he's pretty far removed from reality. My guess is that he won't get the nomination this time either, at least I hope so.

Buying a President

Think Progress reports about Bush trying to raise $500,000,000 for his library. First off this is a huge amount of money for a Presidential library, apparently "the more you have, the more influence [on history] you can exert." They are trying to get "megadonations of $10 million to $20 million a pop" and these donations can be anonymous. Arianna Huffington describes why we should care about this, "captains of industry, Arab nations, wealthy heiresses, and anyone else with very deep pockets will be able to curry $10 million or $20 million worth of goodwill with the president of the United States -- and no one need know." This is just crazy.

Controlling Speeding in Denmark

Ok, this is just crazy. Warning, nudity and it plays automatically.

More on MA v. EPA

Here's some more on MA v. EPA coming up this wednesday.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Movie Review: Babel

Babel is the third film made by the team of director Alejandro González Iñárritu and writer Guillermo Arriaga. Their previous collaborations were Amores Perros and 21 Grams and if you've seen either of those films, you know what to expect from Babel.

The film shows four interconnected stories. First, two Moroccon boys, out herding goats, recklessly shoot a new rifle at an oncoming bus. In another, Richard and Susan Jones (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) are a married couple on vacation to get over a tramatic event in their lives and save their marriage. They are on a tourist bus in Morocco when Susan is mysteriously shot. They try to get her to a hospital but they are in the middle of nowhere, in a small villiage getting care in a hut while waiting for a way to a hospital. In the third story, Amelia is a mexican nanny taking care of the Jones' children in southern California. Her son is getting married in Mexico and she decides to take them with her over the border. The fouth story is less directly related but is about Chieko, a deaf mute Japanese teenage girl.

As in his previous films, I found all the stories interesting and assume that the stories are connected thematically and not merely as a plot device. However I have a hard time finding a theme that really connects all four. There's the don't do stupid things theme, which works great for don't shoot at buses or take someone else's children across a border but doesn't do as well for don't get hit by a random bullet while taking a bus ride. There's the communicate better theme hinted by the title and that's ok for a troubled teen and a troubled marriage but not so good for others. Maybe it's just the fact that each of the 4 stories are in different languages.

I thought my inability to find this theme was my own shortcoming, but the group I saw it with had a similar problem as did A. O. Scott in the New York Times so I'm in good company.I think others tried too hard finding a theme when they tried "Kafkaesque tragedies about individuals swallowed up by the bureaucratic machinery of nationhood." and "he burrows deep into the existential loneliness of each character to create a kaleidoscope of cumulative human sadness and grief over the state of the world."

I liked Babel. I found it engaging and pretty easy to follow, for such an involved story, that's good filmmaking. The acting is universally strong and there are a lot of emotionally charged scenes. A few stories left me guessing as to the outcome all the way to the ending, and usually guessing wrong. I liked all the pieces, I even got all the pieces, I'm just not sure I got the whole, or that there was a whole to get.

Dueling Vlogging

On November 6th, MIke McIntee posted this video on YouTube entitled White House Caught Doctoring "Mission Accomplished" Video. It's short and walks you through clicking on a white house video that shows Bush giving the speech though it's cropped so that the banner isn't visible and there's a black bar at the bottom. McIntee claims this is nefarious. To me it was probably just a camera angle that didn't show the banner and the bar was for news shows to show their crawling banners.

Then I found that just one day later, pudgenet posted Mike McIntee Is Lying where he has similar thoughts as I did but takes it further and clicks on other links on the White House page showing they all have the black bar the bottom. He also claims that McIntee has removed comments pointing this out.

What intrigues me about this story is that it's dueling video blogging done on YouTube. This is informal point/counter-point done by anyone. It's also a waste of bandwidth. I'm not sure how many MBs these clips are but I just described them both in 145 words, less than 1KB, but the videos are more fun to watch.

Mac Ads in Japan, Translated

This is a fascinating translation and analysis of the Japaense versions of the Mac vs PC ads. The two cultures are different and the ads have to be as well. And if you're not familiar with the differences they don't make sense unless they are explained to you. I also like the idea of just showing the rendering of Kanji characters in the two systems.

Carrier Penguin

Scott Turow on Scalia and the War on Terror

Scott Turow has an article in the New York Times Magazine entitled Scalia the Civil Libertarian?. He gives a good overview of Scalia and how they generally support the Republican views and then talks about how Scalia's originalism in the Hamdi case led him to disagree with the administration's position.


"The Supreme Court hears arguments this week in a case that could determine whether the Bush administration must change course in how it deals with the threat of global warming. A dozen states as well as environmental groups and large cities are trying to convince the court that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate, as a matter of public health, the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from vehicles."

Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition

Worshipping a Hubble Image

I think this is a bit overstated but The Hubble Deep Field: The Most Important Image Ever Taken is a 6 and half minute video about a very cool picture. The first half rambles a bit but does have a Pink Floyd soundtrack, so it can't be all bad.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Movie Review: Casino Royale

I was 11 when I saw my first Bond film, The Spy Who Love Me, and I saw it in a theater. After that I watched whenever they were on TV (this was long before TNT's Bond marathons every 6 months) and read all of Ian Fleming's books. Of course the books were better than the films and of course the early Connery films were the best of the films. I think Connery was the best Bond, but he had the advantage of having the best scripts. Films that had stories and not just stunts. Stories that were fun and not crazy and only pushed the bounds of reality, but did not completely defy all forms of physics. I have seen the all the films, but I found invisible cars pretty stupid.

Sunday night I saw the newest Bond film, Casino Royale, and it's the best Bond film in a long long time. Casino Royale was the first Bond book Fleming wrote and the producers used it as an opportunity to reinvent the character. The opening segment shows his first 00 mission. Next we get an inspired foot chase scene in Madagascar mostly through a construction site. We don't know much about that villain but he's played by Sebastien Foucan a real life master of the sport of Parkour and free running which involves running through urban obstacles in artistic ways. It makes for a good action scene but we also see a Bond who sometimes literally runs through walls but at other times out thinks his opponent and takes short cuts to catch up. The whole movie offers such contrasts. M describes him as a blunt instrument and everyone constantly describes how he has to overcome his ego. For the first time in a Bond film, James Bond has a character arc...and it works.

He tracks a few people and then we get to the main plot. Le Chiffre is a terrorist financeer who has lost money and plans to get it back in a high stakes poker game. Bond is the best poker player in MI6. He's supposed to make sure Le Chiffre loses so that he'll need to turn to MI6 for protection so they can get him to tell secrets. It's a plan that makes some sense vs just killing him. In the book they played Baccaratt, now it's Texas Hold 'Em, that's a fine modernization.

Bond's bankroll comes from Her Majesty's Treasury and because it's a Bond story, the agent sent to look out for the money is the beautiful Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). Unlike many other films, she's actually intelligent and she and Bond verbally spar. He doesn't just sleep with her, he falls for her.

Casino Royale was directed by Martin Campbell who also directed Goldeneye, one of the better Bond films of the last 15 years. The two main writers also wrote Die Another Day and The World Is Not Enough, two of the dumber films. But this time they were helped out by Paul Haggis of Crash and Million Dollar Baby fame and that clearly helped. The end was a little drawn out and it seemed like every lead came from a cell phone but otherwise I was pretty impressed.

I haven't mentioned Daniel Craig yet, the newest Bond. A lot was made of the fact that he's blond, that's of course superficial and irrelevant. In fact I think he's perhaps the best Bond, but we'll have to wait a movie or two to find out. He's clearly the most athletic and comes across as very powerful and masculine. He runs a lot in this film and I found him very remincient of Robert Patrick as the T-1000. Connery was more sophisticated but since this was an origin story, that's specifically not in Bond's character yet. In the next film we'll see if he picks up some of that. In the various fights, this Bond gets hurt and while the scraps and cuts do take a scene or two to heal, they do have an emotional effect on him and you see bond's character forming from these early events in his career. A lot of this happens because of Craig.

I of course like Dame Judi Dench as M but I was bothered by the setting of every one of her scenes. We never used to see M's home or (I assume) M's spouse and Bernard Lee never travelled to the Caribbean.

Much of the formula is followed. Bond travels to Prague, Madagascar, London, the Bahamas, Miami, Montenegro, Lake Como (Italy), and Venice. There are fights, stunts, beautiful women, and (only a few) quips. The opening didn't follow the formula, but since this is an origin story, perhaps that's ok. The song sucked and I still can't decide if I liked the credits. They seemed like a cross between an iPod commercial and 60s animation. Again, quite different from the forumla.

I can't think of too many other films where I critique the credits, a Bond film has a lot to live up to. As I said, I haven't been too happy with the franchise for a long time, but I enjoyed Casino Royale a lot. I hope it does well and I hope the producers listen to the critics and continue this trend for the next one.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Path to Saner Copyrights?

U.S. Copyright Office Issues New Rights. "All told, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington approved six exemptions, the most his Copyright Office has ever granted. For the first time, the office exempted groups of users. Previously, Billington took an all-or-nothing approach, making exemptions difficult to justify."

Software now often comes with locks to prevent piracy but it also prevent other (legitimate) uses. Recent laws have made it illegal to circumvent these locks, even for legitimate uses. The ruling clarified some of these cases and makes it legal to circumvent the locks in these cases:
  • Film professors can copy snippets from DVDs for educational compilations
  • Blind people can use software to read aloud copy-protected electronic books
  • Software for obsolete machines can be archived (not sure I follow this, unless it's about emulators)
  • Working around a lost or broken hardware dongle

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Comcast CableCARDs Suck

So the new HDTiVo is wonderful. I've taken the CD changer and VCR off the TV Rack. The HD TiVo replaces the old TiVo and two cable boxes (one connected to the TiVo and one HD cable box that I switched with the receiver). So what was 7 boxes is now 3.

I bought the TiVo on Monday, called the cable company and was amazed that they made the appointment only 2 days later between 9 and 11am. The cable guy came at 10:30 and he knew what he was doing, he'd previously setup about 8 HDTiVos. Most of the time was spent with him on the phone to the office as they "activated" things and reading numbers back and forth. Unfortunately he got some errors so then he was on hold for 15 minutes waiting to get to tech support. Tech support wasn't that helpful, but we quickly determined that the cards were bad (thankfully it wasn't the card readers, I don't need to replace the TiVo). He had one spare and that worked.

Now I have to wait for them to come back to install the second. I had the installer call to make the appointment thinking he might have an easier time, but they said the appointment would be December 4th. I can't make that day and wanted it sooner. So I called Comcast Customer Service myself, it was about 12:15, and was told Dec 4th was the earliest. I asked politely saying it was their mistake they needed to fix and now I have less service (only one tuner instead of two) than before they got here. He said could connect me to someone in leadership and after being on hold for 15 minutes I now have an appointment on Nov 29th between 12-4. Not great, but I can live with that.

In the mean time the TiVo is great. I think because it's connected to my home network instead of a phone line I get much more interesting Internet stuff (Yahoo Traffic, Weather, Movie Times/Tickets, etc.) More info when I have more time to play.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Challenging Unlawful Detentions

former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and others challenge wartime detention policy. Maybe someone will do something.

New Toy

Yesterday I finally bought a new toy I've wanted for a while. I've done part of the setup, and the cable guy should be here tomorrow morning to finish it up. Review after I've used it a bit.

Freeport Pilgrimage

So today I made a pilgrimage that I hadn't done in 18 years of living in New England. My sister and I went to Freeport, Maine and went to the outlets and the LL Bean store. For an outlet villiage it was pretty good. It's not my favorite cup of tea but I can hold my own. We did LL Bean towards the end of the day when we were both pretty tired, and we did the Factory Outlet first. I didn't like that as it's everything mixed together and a bit disorganized. Too much effort for me to shop. But then we did the retail store and wow, that was pretty impressive.

First off, the store is actually several stores, we just did the main one which is about one full block and three stories tall. There are two other stores next to it, one for Hunting and Fishing and the other for Bike, Boat & Skiing. The main one is huge. Imagine every item in the catalog, each style has a complete rack in each color. So if a jacket comes in 4 colors, there are 4 racks of that jacket. Sometimes for something like that they'll do two colors per rack, but still it's impressive. And every size is available. The store is huge and spacious. I don't buy much from the catalog, but it was very nice to actually try stuff on and feel the textures. In the camping section they had every backpack (one color per rack), every pocket knife, every water bottle, etc.

I'm surprised I was so impressed with a store but, if you in the area, and inclined to such stuff, it's worth it. Still you won't get me near a store this Friday. I'm not that crazy.

Dick Cheney: Most Dangerous Man In The World

Cenk Uygur writes about how Dick Cheney wants to invade Iran. Idiot.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why We Don't Stop the Genocide in Darfur

John Prendergast in the Washington Post writes So How Come We Haven't Stopped It? referring to genocide in Darfur. It turns out Salah Abdallah Gosh's is the head of security for the government which "gives him a lead role in the regime's counterinsurgency strategy, which relies on the Janjaweed militias to destroy non-Arab villages in Darfur." In a post-9/11 world, Gosh has also been helping the US in counterterrorism, so we turn a blind eye. Pretty disgusting. "Walking loudly and carrying a toothpick only emboldens the regime to escalate its attacks in Darfur.

SERE Instructors, Students Against Torture

Josh Marshall posts letters from people who've been through the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training (how to survive torture) including an instructor of the program:

"The horror of the recent revelations of the use of our school’s techniques in Iraq and Gitmo is disgusting. We are all horrified that we have destroyed the only tool we have to keep our soldiers safe … the disgust of world opinion. Waterboarding is a torture. Period."

"Torture, we revealed, was a useless and single pointed device which was wholly unreliable – torture was for sadism and the pleasure of the torturer. It had no intelligence value and the information would always be suspect."

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Friday, November 17, 2006

Breatfeeding Mother Kicked Off Plane

I first saw this in Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner's article in the Huffington Post Delta Kicks Breastfeeding Moms Off Plane. The story seemed bizarre to me and I realized that we really had no facts of what happened. Rowe-Finkbeiner thought she was being discrete but its not clear she knows she was. Then reading the comments is even more amusing as people with no knowledge of the facts make assumptions. Here's an article with a little more information, including the airlines (maybe not good enough) apology.

This strikes me as one flight attendant being overly sensitive in a society that's way too permissive of violence and so shunning of sex (except in advertising) that it stifles normal bodily functions. Then again, I'm a single male, I'm probably not allowed to even talk about the topic.

McCain Says NOAA Breaking Law on Global Warming Report

NOAA was supposed to produce a report on global climate change in November of 2004 and they haven't done so yet (that's 2 years late). Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, the head of NOAA, was testifying at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation and McCain (R-AZ) was flabbergasted, ""You know, you are really one of the more astonishing witnesses that I have [faced] -- in the 19 years I've been a member of this Committee."

iPod Support Docs

The Unofficial Apple Weblog writes about the new iPod Support Documents Apple posted.

Evening of Giving

Last night I went to the oddly named Evening of Giving in Marlborough, MA. It's a charity fundraiser to raise money for a homeless shelter; this was the 17th year. At a local hotel a lot of restaurants brought food. Donors gave $30 and got in for all you can eat or sample. The hotel did all the drinks, which weren't free, so that's how they got their money.

The food was very good and had everything from BBQ, to raw bars, carving stations, pastas, etc. I really liked the mini BBQ pork sandwiches and sweet potato pie from Firefly's and the giant shrimp cocktail. There were of course many desserts but the big hit were the giant chocolate covered strawberries (I watched someone have 21!). Friends who live in Marlborough and told me about the event have been several times before. They have this down to a science. We arrived early which helped to avoid the crowds. The brought plastic one-handed plate holders with space for the plate, a drink and even holders for silverware. They also weighed themselves before and after the event but I'll spare you those details. It's way too much food, but it's fun running into a friend you have seen in a few minutes just muttering, "mmmm, bacon wrapped scallops".

If you're looking for a charity event to run this was successful. I understand they raise $30-40,000 annually. The hotel has a big event mid-week and gets money from drinks (even water was $2). Restaurants get some publicity. People get a great deal for $30. The charity gets lots of money. There were (I think 84) tables set up in ballroom space, if you signed up 10 people early enough you got a table. There was a DJ and some dancing and a raffle. The food tables were setup around the lobby and down one hallway, it was very crowded when in full swing.

Now it's off to the gym.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Patriot Act Misused in Mile High Case

Concurring Options (a law blog) has a summary of various articles about a couple arrested for overt sexual activity on a plane. On what would otherwise be an amusing random news story (perhaps not to them), I see this in the story: "A couple's ill-concealed sexual play aboard a Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles got them charged with violating the Patriot Act, intended for terrorist acts, and could land them in jail for 20 years." Yep, we need these powers to help fight terrorists and we wouldn't dream of using them against anyone else. And we don't listen to your phone calls or look at your bank accounts, riiiight. This is why we don't give the government more powers than they need.

Proof of Fox News Bias

Cenk Uygur talks about Fox News and how the new internal memos really do prove they aren't news but are opinions. Now if only other news sources (and viewers) would treat them that way.

Post Election Analysis

Kevin Drum has interesting data about the ideological makeup of the House Republicans that lost their seats.

More on Murtha

Here's more info on Jack Murtha's ethics stuff. It's doesn't seem that bad.

Supernova Pictures

The image below is from the Chandra observatory, think of it as the Hubble for X-rays. It's of Cassiopeia A which is the youngest remnant of a supernova in our galaxy (in the constellation Cassiopeia). Supernovas are explosions of large stars and as you might imagine there's a lot of energy produced. In fact, it's believed all the elements in the universe heavier than iron were produced in supernova explosions. This is why elements like gold are so rare.

In this case astronomers were looking at more esoteric stuff, particularly electrons given off in the explosion. Looking at how they are accelerated (which should be similar to how protons and ions are accelerated) offers an explanation for where cosmic rays come from. Cosmic rays are these particles with lots of energy, so basically going very fast. The question is what gives them this energy? The theory is supernovas do. By looking at the dispersal patterns in x-rays this observation seems to back up the theory of accelerating particles. For me, it's a pretty picture :)

Here are some more pics of the same thing in different wavelengths, including what it looks like in visible light (that is through a telescope).

Bush and Vietnam's Flag

Think Progress reports on the lastest Bush faux pas, As Bush Goes To Vietnam, White House Website Displays The Wrong Flag. They displayed the flag of South Vietnam, which as not be used since the war ended in 1975. How hard is it in this day and age of the Internet to find the right flag of a country?

The CIA World Factbook has the right flag. wikipedia does too. The economist country briefing and the UN's cyber school bus both have the right flag, but they are very small. And yes Flags of the World got it right. And no surprise, Vietnam Tourism has the right flag.

If you google vietnam flag you get three flags, the first is wrong, the second two are right. Would you take the first or the most popular? If you google Vietnam you don't get images.

I suspect this is the problem. If you google South Vietnam you get some images, including the wrong flag. If you lookup South Vietnam in wikipedia you get a nice article on the old country, including the old (now wrong) flag. Maybe this is a problem of too much information being available? It's now easy to find out and out of date information. Then again, I think this is probably just a problem of not knowing what to look for and being careless in what you find.

Cute Animation

This is very cute. A Master's Thesis Animation, from a student at The School of Visual Arts in NYC.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Last Fish Class

Since people seemed interested, tonight was the last class of my Cooking With Fish class. We made Sole with Crab and Spinach Stuffing and a Lazy Man’s Bouillabaisse. Both were tasty and pretty easy.

John Roberts, Media Master

Slate has an article on Chief Justice John Roberts following this Nightline interview he gave yesterday.

Yes Virginia There Is Global Warming

George Monblot debunks the debunking of global warming. It seems the Sunday Telegraph ran a two part story by Christopher Monckton that claimed that global warming was exagerated. " In keeping with most of the articles about climate change in that publication, it is a mixture of cherry-picking, downright misrepresentation and pseudo-scientific gibberish. But it has the virtue of being incomprehensible to anyone who is not an atmospheric physicist."

Democrats Have Problems Too

David Sirota in the Huffington Post in For the Love of God, Please Stop. It's Embarrassing. Like, Really Embarrassing. points out that Democrats have problems too. Some pro-war Democrats are now trying to rewrite history to better fit into the post-election the Iraq War is bad outcome, in particular Rep Steny Hoyer (D-MD) who "led the charge against Democrats taking a strong position [against] Iraq." Hoyer is running against Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA) for House Majority Leader. And lets not forget while Murtha did do well taking a stand against Iraq, he's not beyond corruption charges.

John Hodgman Interview

Boing Boing has a podcast interview with John Hodgman that's very good. Unlike the others I've heard, he's actually himself and not in character.

Movie Review: The Queen

I walked into The Queen expecting a biography of Queen Elizabeth II with a wonderful performance by Helen Mirren. I kinda got that. Mirren's performance is outstanding but The Queen only covers the one week period following Princess Diana's death. If you remember, the Royal family was at their summer home at the time and stayed there with no public statement while it seemed all of England was flocking to London to drop off flowers at Buckingham Palace and mourn as a group.

The Guardian's review spends most of it's time explaining how The Queen is "the first ever critical depiction of the monarch in mainstream British drama". That's certainly significant and obviously the royal family didn't participate in the creation of the film. The films official site says the sceeenplay is "drawn from extensive interviews, devoted research, discreet sources and informed imagination".

It came across to me as exactly what you think you know about the family. Elizabeth is cold and aloof, Charles is inept, Philip is an ass, and the Queen Mother drinks. Charles is redeemed a little as he sheds a tear for Diana, comforts the children, and seems frightened of his mother. The Queen points out that Diana was no longer a part of the royal family and deserved no special notice from them. The flag wasn't at half mast because it's not a flag but a standard which is only flown when the Queen is in residence. Yeah whatever.

When the Queen wonders if she's supposed to drop everything and go to London or points out that she's thinking of the grandchildren that's all well and good until you notice she doesn't do anything but drink tea and is never shown with the grandchildren. We're shown Charles telling them the bad news and then Philip takes them hunting every day as a distraction. Elizabeth shows more sympathy for the killed stag than she does for Diana. I guess this is supposed to mean something but of course it's all complete conjecture.

One surprise was that I think the person with the most screen time was Michael Sheen as Tony Blair. He became Prime Minister shortly before Diana's death and had a better understanding of the mood of the people than their queen did. He talks with Elizabeth about the need for modernization. The movie shows her progression via telephones. At first we see her using rotary phones, while Blair uses modern cordless ones. But by the end, Elizabeth even uses a cell phone, wow.

The production values are all good. Good sets, costumes, makeup (all but Charles looked very much like their real live counterparts), etc. The cinematography was good with mostly eye level static shots giving a you-are-there effect. There's one helecopter shot over the countryside that just feels very out of place. Also some the Diana story is told with interspersed news clips and reenactments. Also towards the end there are a several cutaways to shots of Diana which seemed odd to me.

There's a point where Blair makes an abrupt turn-around and defends the queen's actions to his staff. It's fine for seeing the other side, but I don't buy it. At the end the Queen and Blair have a conversation about how quickly the public mood can change. While that's relevant to Blair now, it's nothing new.

The Queen is an exercise in restraint. There isn't much that happens with the main characters but that's used as effect. The characterizations while notable in sense of the film history also are not anything new. The acting is superb, Mirren is guaranteed a nomination, but the film (obviously) didn't do much for me. I have some sympathy for the Queen's point of view that people made too much of Diana's tragic death but I don't have any sympathy for the Queen.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Padilla Update

Next in the ongoing Padilla story we have federal prosecutors denying that he was tortured. I guess a trial will have to find out the truth. They don't however contest that he was held without charges for 3.5 years.

Fun With Cornstarch

Movie Review: Gigot

Gigot is a 1962 film you've probably never heard of, I hadn't. It's not on DVD or video but it showed up on cable (FMC) and I TiVo'ed it. It stars Jackie Gleason and is directed by Gene Kelly (yes that Gene Kelly). Gleason plays a mute working as a janitor in post-war Paris. He's known around the town as a simpleton and make fun of and have fun with him. He befriends a street walker and her young daughter. As he tries to entertain her they build a friendship. Stuff happens.

The word that comes to mind is charming. You probably won't laugh out loud or cry but you will have a smile on your face. I don't think that by today's standards everything is wrapped up nicely (with every bad act made up for and every relationship mended), but let it go and just enjoy. Gleason's performance is marvelous, expressing so much without making a single sound. The music keeps things moving along (it got an Oscar nomination). The closest thing to it I can think of is the first half of Life is Beautiful.

I'm sure Gleason would have been nominated in any other year, but 1962 had perhaps the greatest competition for Best Actor of any year ever:
  • Gregory Peck won for To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Burt Lancaster for Birdman of Alcatraz
  • Jack Lemmon for Days of Wine and Roses
  • Peter O'Toole for Lawrence of Arabia
  • Marcello Mastroianni for Divorce - Italian Style

So if you manage to come across Gigot on cable, watch it, you won't be disappointed.

A Good Day

So a few things came together today and I'm pretty happy. I took my new iPod Shuffle to the gym and worked out for the first time in a while. All went well and I'll be back there tomorrow. Also my Cooking with Fish class is tomorrow, so tonight I did my homework and cooked fish. I made for myself a pan seared Red Snapper over a braised fennel with a side of steamed broccoli. I basically started with this recipe but substituted chicken stock for white wine and cilantro for parsley. It came out pretty well though the snapper's skin could have been a little crisper. We'd made this in class, and if I'd hadn't done that I never would have made this at home. Exercise and a healthy meal, not bad, now if only Heroes and Studio 60 are good tonight...

Java GPL'ed

Sun has open sourced Java. Finally. This is good news, but is it too late? I wonder what changed Sun's mind on this? Has their Java source licensing revenue dropped so much that it didn't matter anymore? Does that mean people have already moved beyond Java? Sun seems to have done good things with the license. There's a GPL exception for classpaths so you can load proprietary libraries, that's good (well rms probably doesn't think so). They still own and license the brand which seems to be based on compatibility tests, so for as good as the tests are, things called Java should remain interoperable.

The open source community has for the most part avoid Java, will they be willing to switch now? Certainly Linux distributions will now come with Java. Will applications start depending on it? How many runtime environments do we want to support? 10 years from now will there be different distributions that seek to optimize the system by choosing packages that use the same language environment to avoid instantiating too many? Another aspect of this, will alternate byte-compiled languages that run on the JVM become more popular? The JVM is pretty high quality, with Python/Jython or Ruby benefit from it?

How myth gets built into conventional wisdom

Glenn Greenwald has a good posting about how in today's media a single person expressing an opinion can become "the conventional wisdom" in a matter of hours.

Lost-alike Shows

Matthew Gilbert in the Boston Globe this week described how 'Lost' leaves us wanting more. Lost is very good TV but it's falling under its own weight of unresolved mysteries. Adam Sternbergh in New York Magazine writes about How to fix shows like 'Lost'. His point is that ongoing shows about a mystery have a problem that if they resolve the mystery the show ends. So shows like the X-Files, Twin Peaks, and Lost all have this inherent conflict. "Puzzles are meant to be solved, not prolonged." His solution is to design the series to be run for just a couple of seasons. This makes a lot of sense but it's hard for networks to end successful shows.

I really enjoyed Prison Break last season but it did seem a little stretched that the breakout didn't occur till the season finale. This season they've put aside the plot of who killed the vice president's brother and framed the star's brother, as all the escaped cons go their own way but converge on the lost stash of D.B. Cooper, while trying to avoid the cops. The premise is good and it was exciting, but this is a show that should only last a season or two, not 5 or 6.

The first show I remember having running story lines (and to use the term arcs to describe them) was Wiseguy. This started in 1987 and ran for 4 seasons. It was about a cop deep undercover into organized crime. He had between 1 and 3 cases a season which gave us plenty of time to meet the bad guys in depth (Kevin Spacey was one of them, and not the best one) and explore various issues. Murder One was a lawyer show with a case lasting a whole season. It didn't do very well. Babylon 5 was a good sci-fi series, originally designed to be 5 seasons long. It was a miracle it lasted for all 5 years, but it did and the best part of the show was the unfolding story and the rich universe that was developed with enough time to explore many alien races, characters, and beliefs.

Sternbergh says 24 works well, but because it's a cliffhanger show and not a mystery one. Like, Murder One, each season is its own plot and things are resolved by the end of the year. HBO's The Wire (my second favorite show) does the same thing with its 12 episode seasons. Showtime's Sleeper Cell had a good 10 episode run for it's first season and now it's coming back for an 8 episode second season.

Many of the new network shows this season followed a similar model as Lost, huge casts and running stories with mysteries. Smith, Kidnapped, and Runaway have already been cancelled, and Vanished and Six Degrees are struggling. I think Jericho and The Nine are doing ok, but I'm really not interested in learning a new cast a new mysteries, I'm still waiting for the mysteries of Lost to be resolved.

I have been watching Heroes (the closest thing to a hit of the new shows) but it's making a conscious effort to not be like Lost and are giving us solutions to mysteries while creating new ones. I like this model and think it worked pretty well for Alias until it reinvented itself one too many times.

Another strange thing I've heard is that networks are considering letting cancelled shows run a little longer to wrap up their plots. The fear is that people won't watch new shows if there's a risk they'll never find the answers to mysteries they invest themselves in. If you can resolve the plot in a handful of episodes, it's probably a bad idea to think that you can successfully stretch it out for several seasons.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Where'd That Surplus Go?

Greg Mankiw writes about what happened to the budget surplus from 2002-2011. "Reasonable people can disagree about whether the Bush tax cuts were advisable, but don't let anyone tell you that the tax cuts were the main reason the surplus of 2001 disappeared." It turns out tax cuts were only about 20%. The war and other spending were the biggest chunk and it turns out people estimates of the economy were wrong.

Voting Problems

Voting problems in Florida. Shocker. Oh and they were due to using electronic voting machines without paper trails. Shocker. Maybe they can be fixed by 2008? I'm not holding my breath.

South Park on Evolution

Evolution according to Mr. Garrison on South Park. No wonder people don't believe in evolution.

Friday, November 10, 2006

More on British Terrorism Threat

MI5 chief says Iraq war is driving British Muslims into terrorism. What's I'd like to see in addition to strong security, is some outward pro-Islam actions by the US and UK with the support of non-fundamentalist Islamic leaders. Anything to give us some good press and help make up for the mistake that was invading a country.

Some Democrats are Corrupt Too

TPMmuckraker points out that even though the Democrats will be in power in Congress, it's not the end of corruption.

More Post-Election Stuff

I think Cenk Uygur goes a little to far in The Republican Party Might Soon Become Irrelevant. Yes the Democrats won big, but as this year should prove, political fortunes can change pretty quickly.

Glenn Greenwald goes slightly less far in Coming Attractions. He points out how the Republican rubber stamp on the president seems to be over and "It actually feels like we have more than one branch of government again". Here's hoping. We still have to wait till January before the new Congress is in place.

In the mean time, Media Matters points out Bush acknowledged he lied about Rumsfeld, but media refused to call him on it. Some things take longer to change. Although Dan Froomkin has some coverage in Meet the new Bush.

Faux Pax

Wikipedia has a pretty fun and interesting List of faux pas of the world.

Imprisoned Pulitzer-prize Winning AP Photographer

Andrew Sullivan writes about The Case of Bilal Hussein. "An Iraqi working as a contract photographer for the Associated Press has been held—uncharged—by the U.S. military for seven months. The U.S. says Bilal Hussein has links to terrorists. The outraged AP implores the Pentagon to charge him or free him." We have no idea if he did anything, but that is the problem with detaining people without charges. Now the military is not used to charging people with crimes, but that goes back to the point that military shouldn't be used for policing.

Election Funnies

This week's Onion is very funny. Particularly Republicans Blame Election Losses On Democrats and Rumsfeld: 'My Half-Assed Job Here Is Done'.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

British Terrorism Threat

Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5 (roughly the UK's FBI), gave her first public speech in a year and half. She said they were "dealing with up to 30 alleged "mass casualty" terror plots against British targets in the UK and abroad" and "that MI5 and the police were tackling 200 groups or networks totalling more than 1600 identified individuals in the UK who were 'actively engaged in plotting or facilitating terrorist acts'". Perhaps the most surprising statistic was "If the opinion polls conducted in the UK since July are only broadly accurate, over 100,000 of our citizens consider that the July bomb attacks in London were justified."

Dean Did Good

Stephen Burt writes his post election article we won. nationwide. feels weird in the Huffington Post. In it he mentions that Rahm Emanuel, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee made a lot of mistakes. He also gives credit to Howard Dean's controversial 50 state strategy of funding races in all 50 states and not just concentrating on the big ones. The Democrats not only took the House and Senate, they also did very well in state elections for governor and state legislators. What I hope is that this helps bring up new candidates to the national level. I hope it also makes the Democrats realize that thinking like a loser will guarantee you'll be one, maybe more of them will grow a spine.

This DailyKos post Quick Notes From Planet Earth is also a nice summary of the annoying post-election grand-standing.

Making Your Passport Useless?

Friends of Liberty reports We're All Prisoners, Now: US Citizens to be Required ''Clearance'' to Leave USA. "Forget no-fly lists. If Uncle Sam gets its way, beginning on Jan. 14, 2007, we'll all be on no-fly lists, unless the government gives us permission to leave-or re-enter-the United States."

Your passport is supposed to give you the right to enter or leave the country, however the Department of Homeland Security has proposed that you'll need to explicitly get permission to enter or leave the US, yes even for US citizens.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has long recognized there is a constitutional right to travel internationally. Indeed, it has declared that the right to travel is "a virtually unconditional personal right." The United States has also signed treaties guaranteeing "freedom of travel." So if these regulations do go into effect, you can expect a lengthy court battle, both nationally and internationally."

I'm glad the Democrats won the elections.

Rove and Coulter Walk into a Bar...

ABC's Jake Tapper calls out Karl Rove's pre-election polling lies in The math. "There are legitimate conservative arguments to make about the media. But not every time someone reports something that doesn't bode well for Republicans is it bias. Sometimes it's called: reality."

Too bad I'm sure no one will be able to convince Ann Coulter that not agreeing with the President isn't treason. Her pre-election article is her usual putrid hate-mongering. Hey Ann, did you remember to vote in the right district this year? Because deliberately voting in the wrong district (unlike disagreeing with the President) actually is a felony.

Humble Suggestions for Reid and Pelosi

Comedy writer Adam McKay at the Huffington Post has some Humble Suggestions for Reid and Pelosi. Some were good, and laughed out loud at numbers 2 and 3.

Movie Websites

Lifehacker has a list of good movie related websites.

George Will on the Election

I philosophically don't agree much with George Will, but I like reading him. Here's his column on the election.

Specter Giving Conservatives Heartburn

While Tim Chapman thinks Spector doesn't get it, these are the same reasons I like him (aside from when he caters to the right).

Rove: Evil Genius or Stewie?

Matthew Yglesias writes "that this election ought to demolish the Myth of Karl Rove". He points to Rove's strategy of not concentrating resources on the close races (VA, MT, MO, TN) but instead attacked Democratic seats in other states (NJ and MD). He then points to Rove doing the same (mistaken) thing in previous elections but winning in spite of it.

"Interestingly, Rove made the exact same error in 2000, engaging in an absurd late-game effort to campaign in California. He then lost the election, only to wind up with Bush securing the White House through a series of incredibly unlikely events plus a partisan Supreme Court. Then in 2004, he did something similar with weird last minute gambits in Hawaii and New Jersey that put his candidates perilously close to losing Ohio (and with it the presidency) not withstanding a decent-sized popular majority. Learning nothing from his good fortune except an unhealthy sense of infallibility, he proceeded to do it again and then, finally, have things genuinely blow up in his face."

Andrew Sullivan in May wrote How Stupid Is Karl Rove?. "Rove is a terrible political guru. To sell your soul - and your party's soul - for a permanent majority is one thing. To sell it for 51 percent is just pathetic."

Bush not welcome in Indonesia

Bush is going to Indonesia on November 20th, but they don't want him. Well a body of Islamic clerics doesn't want him.

Rush Admits He Lies

I try to just avoid Rush Limbaugh. Apparently he had things to say after the election including this ridiculous bit where he claims that he secretly cringed at Republican policies while lying to his listeners that he supported it. Why does anyone listen to this drug addict?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Roberts to Decide Munaf's Fate

In case you forgot about the story of Mohammad Munaf, the appeals process is now up to Chief Justice John Roberts to decide if the Supreme Court will get involved. "The case of Mohammed Munaf, now pending in the D.C. Circuit Court, raises basic issues about the right of a U.S. military detainee to challenge in U.S. courts his detention by the U.S. and allied coalition force in Iraq and his impending transfer overseas to another government."

Dems Have The Senate

It's official, just heard it on ABC.

Robert Gates

In the vein of "be careful what you ask for", this interview gives us some possible insight into what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will be like. He sounds ok and certainly qualified. The interview suggests that the rift between defense and intelligence (pun kinda intended) should be healed, though I suspect they're underestimating Cheney. Wikipedia already has a fair amount about Gates.

Reduced to a Britney Post

Ok, I honestly don't care about Britney and K-Fed. I'm surprised it took so long and she has no one to blame but herself. But there are so many things wrong with this I don't know where to begin.

Gizomodo, a gadget site, has a post saying that Britney told Kevin about the divorse by SMS text message! And they have a video of him receiving it! "Watch this, Lis. You can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half." (it's about 1:44 into it). And what does Gizmodo care about this? They wonder if his phone is a sidekick.

Is there anything about this that isn't horribly wrong?

Toy Review: iPod Shuffle

Last Friday I got a new toy. I still have my 40GB 4G iPod but I picked up a new 2G iPod Shuffle. I wanted something tiny for the gym. I really do like having ALL my music on the 4G iPod, but often I just listen to podcasts and for this the iPod Shuffle is perfect. It holds 1GB which is plenty and gets over 12 hours on a charge.

The wearable aspect is wonderful. I just clip it to my shirt. I basically just use the one center button for play/pause. In the car I use the tape adaptor and it's tiny sitting in the center console, and there's no distracting screen.

It's not perfect. There is an on/off button which I've been using, but I now appreciate Steve Job's insistence that the iPod not have an on/off switch. I'm not sure why the shuffle does. The one tiny LED is overloaded and I sometimes miss not knowing how much is remaining on a track.

They made it a little difficult to use with podcasts. When you connect it, iTunes does an autofill from music. If you change the popup to be a playlist of podcasts you'll find nothing is populated. It took some searching of the forums before I found that the shuffle won't autofill with podcasts. I was ready to return it but then found that I can just drag podcasts onto the shuffle and they transfer fine. Now if only this process didn't create duplicates.

I really do like my ER-6 headphones, but now I wish they had a shorter cord. Leave it to Apple to find new ways to make you want new accessories.

If you like really small, I think the shuffle is a great 2nd iPod. The Nano is certainly easier to use and still small and a better choice for your only iPod. The shuffle's size puts it in the category of jewelry and it makes a great 2nd iPod. Now I'll have to start going to the gym regularly again.

Today's Globe

I found the election coverage in today's Boston Globe both out of date and bloated, the web is better for the statistics and I found CNN et al better for the big stories. But I did find 3 interesting articles in today's Globe:

First on page A11 I learned that an Al Qaeda bomb suspect [was] sentenced to life in prison. This happened in London but amongst many other plots, he was plotting to blow up the World Bank in Washington DC and the NYSE. He'll probably be extradicted to the US for terrorism charges to add to the life sentence.

Then on page C5 there's a shorted version of a story I saw in last Sunday's New York Times called Supermarket chain's stars guide the way to nutritious eating. Hannford Brothers supermarket has rated all the products with 0-4 stars to rate "good nutritional value". Their system avoids what they call "the jelly bean rule, imposed to make sure that a food containing mostly sugar cannot gain stars simply by being beefed up with fiber or vitamins." Anything to try to teach Americans better eating habits.

I have to say, I agree with Matthew Gilberts Prescriptions for an ailing 'Anatomy'. I keep saying that this should is better than it has any right to be, and I hope it stays that way. It's good as a guilty pleasure, but it also has some very deep characterizations that's quite rare on TV.


Ah yes, finding old quotes from politicians is always fun. DailyKos points out that Senators Allen (R-VA) and Burns (R-MT) didn't believe in recounts in 200.

The Agenda

I've already heard that Pelosi is bring out conservative Democrats, this DailyKos post disputes that.

And this DailyKos post talks about how only now is the media covering the Democratic agenda. In part that's probably ok. It wasn't going anywhere before yesterday, and since many Dems had different agendas, now it seems the Pelosi's is one with some weight.

Election Results

So the results look pretty good. The Democrats took the House by a good margin. The Senate is now down to Virgina to determine if it's 50-50 or 51-49. And the wonderful surprise is that Rumsfeld resigned and Bush accepted it (though in his press conference the president suggested he was lying last week about Rumsfeld staying). So let's see what the Dems can do. Bush said some nice things at his 1pm press conference about working with this Congress but I don't believe it. My guess is Bush's one practice veto will lead to more. The Dems should be able to reassert congressional oversight and I'm sure that will lead to more executive privilege issues.

In looking at the results this one thought struck me. Remember all the talk a couple of years ago about the Republicans successfully gerrymandering districts and that would mean the Democrats would never win again? I guess that wasn't true. It struck me as odd that the in spite of gerrymandering, Democrats won the House (where districts matter) and yet the Senate is close to 50-50 and that's just a popular vote.

I guess the right way to look at it is that only 33 Senate seats up for election. The media I've seen has been concentrating on number of seats changed and you see numbers like 5. If you look at it as 24-9 (Democrats won 21, Independents 2 in CT and VT, and Republicans only 9 with VA still undecided) that's pretty severe.

Economist Brad DeLong, who I normally like, wrote 32,100,000 vs. 24,524,000: "One way to look at last night's election is that the implicit gerrymandering of the Senate and the in-the-tank-ness of the press corps are keeping people from realizing how big the blowout was. Consider this: it looks like 32,100 thousand Americans voted for Democratic Senatorial candidates, and only 24,524 thousand Americans voted for Republican Senatorial candidates. That's a 13.4% margin of Democratic victory."

Ok, he meant million instead of thousand, but gerrymandering the Senate? Last I checked Senators were elected by popular votes of the states and that was mandated by the Constitution. If his numbers for the popular vote are right, that's pretty interesting.

So hopefully VA goes to Webb. In the mean time, the Supreme Court heard an abortion case today and Israel and Gaza are shooting rockets at each other and the military leader of Hamas is calling for strikes against the US.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

I Voted

I voted (with an optically scanned paper ballot), did you? And some things to remember.

Math for Programmers

Here's an interesting post called Math for Programmers. It suggests an alternative math curriculum for students which is designed to be more relevant for programmers. Some of the comments are good too, obviously pointing out that some people won't become programmers and other branches of math will be more relevant to them. I do agree that there's lots you can learn on your own these days and students should be taught that math isn't scary and isn't that difficult and can be learned.

Republican Apologies Wanted

In response to Republicans demanding Kerry apologize to our troops, Steve Young lists 35 apologies Republicans should make.

Microsoft and Novell

I was traveling Thursday and missed this announcement. Microsoft and Novell came to some agreement involving Linux and patents. It's bizarre and I don't think anyone can quite figure out it's significance. Groklaw has the best analysis I saw. I didn't see anyone mention what Ray Ozzie's influence might have been.

Khalilzad Quiting as US Ambassador to Iraq

Kevin Drum writes about U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad Jumping Ship

Fox Reporter Undergoes Waterboarding, Calls it Torture

Fox Reporter Undergoes Waterboarding, Calls it Torture. Watch it.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Torture Secrets

The Bush administration must be afraid of torture evidence getting out. They are now trying to claim that their torture procedures are a state secret and not allowing victims to talk about what was done to them, even to their lawyers. Impeach these bastards.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Leaking Bad, Lying Ignored

Glenn Greenwald writes about The crime of exposing the truth about Iraq and I couldn't agree more. The New York TImes publishes proof that Cheney lied to the American people and the response is to go after leakers and not follow up on the lies. Why isn't this impeachable?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Latest Poll

Very encouraging poll results.

State of Debate

The last debate between the candidates for MA governor is tonight. Here are the rules that the 4 participants agreed to. Candidates ask each other questions, they have 20 seconds to do so, a 1 minute answer, and a 20 second rebuttal. We can't even have two minutes to discuss an issue.

Art Lessons

As I've said before, John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy has a blog where's he's been giving free advise on how to draw cartoons.

I really liked a post from Sunday, Specific Acting-Scribner, Clampett, Blanc, Foster. Play the video clip towards the bottom.

Today he had a particularly good post in his series on Color Theory, neutral or natural colors. Though to get his dislike of pink of and purple, you'll probably have to look at older posts like Garish vs. Warm, Pee and Poo colors versus Colorful Greys, and look at the sky before you paint a sunset. He had two posts with examples of good color. The one on Yogi Bear I understood not problem, the one with some anime I had more problems with.

Miltary Says Iraq Near Chaos

"A classified briefing prepared two weeks ago by the United States Central Command portrays Iraq as edging toward chaos, in a chart that the military is using as a barometer of civil conflict." It also seems to completely justify Tufte's hatred of PowerPoint.

In Bed With Big Oil

It's because of crap like this that the Bush administration gets the reputation of being in bed with the oil companies. They drill on public lands and don't pay the rent. the government has less money to balance the budget or deal with our trade deficit.

Your Tax Dollars Pushing Abstinence For Adults

Tell me this is really what people want?