Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Impeach Cheney

The best article in this month's GQ is Wil S. Hylton's Articles of Impeachment for Dick Cheney. There's an intro, but starting on page 2 of that article you'll find he's actually written up 6 articles that (as far as I know) could actually be used. Maybe Congress will take note.

Today's Torture News

GQ this month has an article called Blowback about the CIA kidnapping and rendition of Abu Omar. He was a suspected terrorist under watch in Italy. Higher ups in the CIA wanted to send him to Egypt for questioning against the recommendation of the local CIA guy Bob Lady. Omar was questioned and released after a year. He was told never to talk of the event but called his wife and told her. He was recaptured and imprisioned ever since. A reporter found out about the kidnapping and tracked it down. The CIA were apparently very sloppy using cell phones and being dumb, so the reporter found out everything in a few months. Bob Lady, and otherwise good agent, retired and was left to take the fall for this. The agency refuses to talk about the case on his behalf.

But the thing that got to me about the story was this. After Omar talked is when they started torturing him. "The former senior CIA official said the Egyptians were known to torture, but only after they got the information they wanted. 'They're a good intel service,' he said 'They use sedatives and psychological manipulation to get someone to talk. If they're mad or you're of no use--that's when they get mean'". Does it get any sicker than that?

In other torture news the Washington Post has the story of Marwan Jabour who spent two years being tortured in secret CIA prisons around the world. And this while "The US military has appealed to the producers of 24 to tone down the torture scenes because of the impact they are having both on troops in the field and America's reputation abroad."

More on Bush and Iran

Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article The Redirection describes Bush's new efforts against Iran and puts them in a large context of backing Sunni's against Shiites. He quotes Martin Indyk, of the Saban Center: "The President sees the region as divided between moderates and extremists, but our regional friends see it as divided between Sunnis and Shia. The Sunnis that we view as extremists are regarded by our Sunni allies simply as Sunnis."

We also heard this weekend that US generals 'will quit' if Bush orders Iran attack.

George Lakoff writes in the Huffington Post The Words None Dare Say: Nuclear War. He desribes how Iran's nuclear facilities are far underground, which conventional weapons can't reach. So if we do bomb them with the intention of destroying their nuclear capability, we'd need to use a bunker buster, a "small nuke. I wrote about bunker busters almost a year ago. By the way the test described in that post was cancelled last week. Lakoff wants it to be clear, when anyone (he quotes Republicans and Democrats) says "all options are on the table" they are talking about pre-emptively using nuclear weapons against another nation. He calls that nuclear war and doesn't want a euphemism used for it.

Oh and those bombs found in Iraq the administration told us were made in Iran? Turns out, not so much. A raid in southern Iraq on Saturday seems to have complicated the case. There, The Wall Street Journal reports troops "uncovered a makeshift factory used to construct advanced roadside bombs that the U.S. had thought were made only in Iran." The Wall Street Journal no less.

When do we get to impeach these people?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Olbermann Rips Apart Condi Rice

And in the News Today...

Dow Industrials Plunge More Than 500: "The Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 500 points today before gaining some of it back. The Dow dropped 546.02, or 4.3 percent, to 12,086.06 before recovering some ground. It was down 360.42, or 2.85 percent, at 12,271.84 with about a half hour of trading left."

Cheney unhurt in blast outside Afghan base: "A suicide bomber attacked the entrance to the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan Tuesday during a visit by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, killing up to 23 people and wounding 20 more."

NASA to pull hail-pummeled shuttle off launch pad: "The U.S. space shuttle Atlantis will be moved from its launch pad to a hangar due to damage caused by a hailstorm to the fuel tank, NASA said on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if the move would delay the next launch, which is scheduled for March 15, but the U.S. space agency generally needs three weeks to ready a shuttle for liftoff once it is on the pad."

And I honestly don't know what to say about this one.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscars 2007

Last night was oscar night. I didn't win my pool, but would have if I had choosen The Departed for Best Picture instead of Little Miss Sunshine. I was confident in my picks but only got 14/24 right. There were a number of upsets this evening:

Alan Arkin over Eddie Murphy
Happy Feet over Cars
Pan's Labyrinth over Children of Men in Cinematography
"I Need to Wake Up" from An Inconvenient Truth over "Listen" from Dreamgirls
The Danish Poet over The Little Matchgirl

Costume Design was a crazy category this year. The Costume Designers Guide awarded Curse of the Golden Flower and The Queen, the critics pick was Dreamgirls and the winner was Marie Antoinette. And the film about fashion, The Devil Wears Prada, was no ones pick.

I thought the show was ok. The only speech I really liked was Forest Whitaker's. Al Gore's acceptance speech was ok and he was funny presenting with Leo DiCaprio. Leo kept pressing him to make a big announcement and when he started to the orchestra started playing and cut him off.

Years ago they had an interpretitive dance for the best pictures and I thought they'd never do it again. But this year they had a troop of about a dozen people behind a screen with a big light. They would come out and then form human shadow sculptures representing the films. It only took a few seconds before they went to commercial and it was pretty amazing. They also had a sound effects chorus who "sang" the effects for various movie clips in a montage.

Ellen DeGeneres was pretty good hosting. I suspect it was her idea this year to "celebrate all the nominees as opposed to all the other years when we just celebrated the winners". They opened with a short film of all the nominees (even of minor categories) speaking against a pure white background, saying thank you or something funny. It was done by documentary great Errol Morris. Ellen's best line in her monologue was about the diverse group of nominees "if there weren't blacks jews and gays there would be no Oscars". Between awards she was just ok, but she went into the audience a few times. Once she handed Martin Scorcese a script to consider and another time she had Steven Speilberg take a picture of her and Clint Eastwood for myspace.

I really liked the iPhone commerical of various movie clips of people answering a phone and the JC Penny commerical that recreated iconic movie scenes (Singing in the Rain, Mary Poppins, Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider, The Birds, Titanic) with ordinary people on the streets of New York City.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Pre-Oscar Recap

I managed to see everything nominated in 15 categories including all of the big 8 (picture, director, the 4 acting, and 2 screenplay). In 6 other categories I saw all but one of the nominated films. Of the 58 films nominated I 46. I missed:

The Good German - Best Score
Apocalypto - Sound, Sound Effects Editing, Makeup
Curse of the Golden Flower - Costumes
Lifted - Animiated Short
After the Wedding - Foreign Film from Demark
3 Documentaries: Deliver Us From Evil, Iraq in Fragments, My Country, My Country
All 4 of the Documentary Shorts

Best Picture is really a horse race this year and I think it's a sign there were a lot of good movies but not many great ones. My favorites films of 2006 were Little Miss Sunshine and United 93.

5 Movie Reviews

I've seen a bunch of nominated films in the last 2 days. Here are some short comments.

Flags of Our Fathers - Clint Eastwood's first movie this year on the battle of Iwo Jima. It cuts back and forth between the battle (from the American point of view) and the aftermath where the soldiers who raised the flag were sent home to help fundraising efforts. The movie explains how "soldiers who raised the flag" is a misleading term. It's a good film but the back and forth bothered me. I was also mistakenly under the impression that it wasn't very bloody. It is. If you don't like war movies, you might want to stay away. There are a few references to Letters from Iwo Jima that I probably only caught because I saw them out of order.

Half Nelson - Ryan Gosling is up for Best Actor for this film about an inner city junior high school teacher who's also a drug addict. That might be enough to frighten away any parent, but this film is really good. Drey, one of his students catches him smoking crack and a relationship slowly forms. Gosling's whole life is about a dichotomy of trying to do the right thing (inspiring students on civil rights, saving Drey from his dealer's "friendship", writing a children's book) and often failing because he's an addict. I was a little distracted watching this and will watch it again. it plays out really well with subtle moments and serious emotional messages. Good stuff.

Marie Antoinette - is up for Best Costumes. It's sort of a Cliff Notes version of her life set to a modern sound track and edited like a music video (well not that bad). It did strike me as a bunch of scenes strung together and without much of a character arc. Pretty amazing given the subject matter.

The Lives of Others - Up for Best Foreign Language Film from Germany, this is set in East Germany in the 80s. It follows a playwrite who becomes a dissident writer after the suicide of his black-listed friend. We also follow the Stasi agent who's spying on him. There's a fair amount to the story and it presents a chilling view of life in a totalitarian society. The end goes on a bit long but works. it's the best argument for privacy I've seen and a really good film.

Days of Glory - Up for Best Foreign Language Film from Algeria. This is a WWII story of Algerian soldiers fighting for France. On the battlefield they fight and die like the French, but behind the lines they are denied leave, promotions, and even fresh tomatoes when they are available. About Letters from Iwo Jima I said "While not quite up to All Quiet on the Western Front or Paths of Glory, it can be talked about in the same conversation." This film is much closer to those great films. It's immediately engaging and you care about the soldiers (perhaps more than the French do). My only fault is that you don't learn much about the primary characters. They're not characatures but there aren't the conversations (like in Saving Private Ryan) to tell you much about them. In the first half I had trouble telling them apart but by the end they were all distinct. They actually represent all the possible reactions to how the French treat them. One hides his heritage, another demands equality at every turn. One wants to ignore the French and return home, another wants to move to France, and the last is willing to accept whatever the French tell him. Of all the war films I've seen recently, this is the best.

MS v ATT: Patenting Software

Here's an interesting summary of the oral arguments of Microsoft v AT&T this week in the Supreme Court. Microsoft is infringing AT&T's patents with Windows. MS is saying since the master disk is copied onto machines in another country for manufacturing that US patent law doesn't apply. This is the first time that the Supreme Court is dealing with software patents so it's interesting on that front.

Questions were asked on whether software was patentable (Breyer, Stevens), whether the source code or the machine code was patentable and whether the code itself or the disk containing the code was patentable (Kennedy, Stevens, Ginsberg). "Justice Alito asked whether any machines other than computers have components that are not physical things. Waxman said that he could not think of any." I think a player piano qualifies, and maybe any recording device.

The problem with all of this is that software is a little like quantum mechanics. It behaves as both an invention (patentable)and as an expression of thought (copyrightable), like being both a particle and a wave. I think in these discussions it's ridiculous to discuss anything but the software itself as opposed to the disk or printout it might happen to be on, though the ability to make copies is the whole point of copyright protection.

People forget that the point of patents is to increase competition by having inventors reveal their inventions publicly with a patent as opposed to just keeping them secret. This allows others to build on the invention. At this point software patents are harming the industry, not helping. Having many patents gives the large companies a lot of power, but for a small company a patent can be a really valuable asset. There's certainly a lot of time and money spent on the issue.

I think the biggest problem is that 20 years protection for a patent is forever in the software world (let alone life of the author plus 70 years for copyright). Well that and the fact that really stupid patents are awarded. If you fixed that, I imagine a lot of problems go away.

Geeks on a Plane

How to crash an in-flight entertainment system explains some common programming bugs.

What Pelosi Should Have Said

Yet again, Cenk Uygur nails it in the oddly titled Dick Cheney is Right. Imagine if she said:

You know what validates al-Qaida's strategy? Going into Iraq when that country had nothing to do with 9/11 and leaving Osama bin Laden alone. I don't care to hear what the vice president thinks of al-Qaida strategy until this White House captures Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri - the men who ordered the attacks against this country on 9/11 and so far have suffered no consequences.

Instead of running his mouth, the vice president should be busy devising a strategy to capture the leaders of al-Qaida. Their strategies are validated every day they are free and openly taunting our government. Does this administration ever plan to capture the people who committed this heinous act upon our people? Or are they too busy attacking their political opponents instead?

Right now, the president and the vice president are threatening Iran - yet another country that did not attack us on 9/11. Do they care about al-Qaida at all? Escalating the war in Iraq and threatening a new war against Shiite Iran would do absolutely nothing to thwart al-Qaida. It would only make them stronger.

Maybe I need to draw the vice president a map because apparently he has no idea where bin Laden is, or doesn't care. Yoo hoo, he's over there - in Pakistan. Are you going to go get him or sit there and make political attacks all day?

Here's my final message to the vice president: Shut your mouth and do your job!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Going to Canada? Think Again

Going to Canada? Check your past Tourists with minor criminal records turned back at border, thanks to post-9/11 data mining. Because a single minor arrest in 1975 might mean you're dangerous, or something.

Steve, Where is Lifted?

The only Oscar nominated short animated film I haven't seen is Lifted. It's odd because it's from Pixar, who's CEO is that Steve Jobs guy who also is CEO of Apple. So why is Lifted not available at the iTunes Music Store? Other nominated shorts are. Other shorts from Pixar are. So why not Lifted? Someone must have seen it for it to get nominated. Right?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Does Bush Know What a Neocon Is?

Timothy Noah in Slate asks Does the president know what the word neocon means? Apparently in his new book journalist Andrew Cockburn writes "One day during that holiday [Aug 2004], according to friends of the family, 43 asked his father, 'What's a neocon?'". As Noah concluded "But if it is true, that's astonishing."

Dick Cheney's Dangerous Son-In-Law

Dick Cheney's Dangerous Son-In-Law is lawyer Philip Perry. He's been in the administration as Associate Attorney General, (number 3 in the Department of Justice), and helped on the War on Terrorism and building the Department of Homland Security. He then became the General Counsel for the OMB. He left the administration for private practice in 2003 but returned in 2005 as General Counsel of DHS.

"Perry has been a key player in the struggle to prevent the federal government from assuming any serious regulatory role in business, no matter what the cost". He prevented the EPA from regulating the chemical industry to improve their security measures after 9/11 on the grounds they didn't have the right to do so. "In November 2005, acting New Jersey Governor Richard Codey got tired of waiting and issued an executive order mandating that the forty-three riskiest chemical plants in his state come up with chemical-security plans and conduct a review of potential IST measures."

"The only acceptable outcome, then, would be for Washington to pass legislation giving the industry exactly what it wanted: a fig leaf of regulations to satisfy public opinion and a hidden gun that would take aim at New Jersey's tough new regulations."

"Perry came through in a characteristically concealed manner. When it became clear that Collins-Lieberman was going nowhere, Perry went searching for a new vehicle to get more industry-friendly results. He would find it in a DHS appropriations bill in the Senate, to which had been attached an obscure amendment giving the DHS short-term regulatory authority over chemical security. Perry reworked the language and helped to get it added to the spending bill in a conference committee. Under the new amendment, the DHS would have nominal authority to regulate the chemical industry but also have its hands tied where required. For example, the DHS would be barred from requiring any specific security measures, and citizens would be prohibited from suing to enforce the law. Best of all for industry, while the bill didn't mention giving the DHS preemption authority, it didn't bar it, either, leaving a modicum of wiggle room on the subject. In other words, if Perry was sufficiently brazen, he could claim for the DHS the power to nullify the chemical regulations in New Jersey."

"He was sufficiently brazen. When the DHS finally unveiled its proposed regulations in late December of last year, Hill staffers noticed that the department had effectively granted itself the power to set aside state laws, even though the new federal law didn't expressly grant such authority. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle were livid. "In order to please their cronies in the chemical industry, the Bush administration is willing to put the health and safety of millions of people at risk," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). Senator Collins, for her part, released a statement accusing the DHS of attempting to create regulatory powers "out of whole cloth." It was indeed curious that Perry, who had been so cautious about allowing the EPA to claim regulatory authority in the Clean Air Act, should now be so bold in interpreting the language in an appropriations rider. Or perhaps it wasn't so curious at all. "

These people disgust me. Remeind me again with party wants the terrorists to win? It's 5.5 years since 9/11 and the chemical industry has done nothing to secure it's plants (that would cost money) and government is doing nothing either. And when the next attack comes, they'll blame the Democrats.

Misc News Posts

I've been a bit behind on my news posts. Some things that have caught my eye recently:

Court rules against Guantanamo detainees. "The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 that civilian courts no longer have the authority to consider whether the military is illegally holding foreigners." This was part of the court stripping provision of the Military Commissions Act. The law says the courts can't rule on it. Amazing. Next stop, Supreme Court.

In a case with Philip Morris, the Supreme Court ruled that punitive damages can only be awarded to punish for harms to those directly involved in the lawsuit. So you can't punish a tobacco company for harming smokers who didn't sue. This was a case that started in 1991, there must be some class action suits that are in the pipeline.

Christiane Amanpour interviews an anonymous senior Iranian government official who says the US and Iran should have talks because they are "natural allies" against al Qaeda.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What's Special About This Number?

What's Special About This Number? has something about most every number up to 10,000. I don't understand most of them but there are links that supposedly explain it.

Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith is up for Best Actor so I saw this last night. It's based on the true story of Chris Gardner who while sometimes homeless with his young son, worked through a highly competitive internship to be a stock broker and became a millionaire. Smith plays Gardner and Smith's real life son Jaden plays Gardner's 5 year-old son Christopher.

The problem with such films is that you know the ending. So it comes down to whether the film can build up tension or emotional wallops. I think Ron Howard is the master of this with films like Apollo 13 and Cinderella Man. I don't know Italian director Gabriele Muccino's previous works but I don't think he's up to it. At 2 hours long there's plenty of time to develop everything but the film doesn't manage to. There are many scenes of Gardner running to catch something (a bus, a thief, a room at a shelter, another thief), but other stuff is missing. I would have liked to see more of him working at the internship, getting sales. He must have been good a this, and this is why he was better than others, it would have been nice to see it. Thandie Newton plays the screeching wife who leaves Gardner. She gives up her son after Smith says "you know you can't take care of him" but we don't know why that is. I get the sense some of her scenes were cut.

Smith is good in the role and is in every scene of the film, but I don't think it's an Oscar worthy performance. There are two scenes that are supposed to get to you. One when he cries that they are forced to spend the night in a subway bathroom. That was rock bottom. The other was in a shelter when Christopher tells his dad he's "a good Papa". These almost brought a tear to my eye, but not quite. When he finally gets the job I was waiting for the big scream "Yeah!" but instead we got him welling up and running into the street.

The wikipedia page lists some of the differences from the true story. For the most part I'm ok with the changes. The Rubix cube bit was good and making Christopher 5 instead of 2 helped. I had wondered why he didn't manage to sleep at work, it would save time and why Dean Witter didn't have a day care program he could use. Also the money all seem skewed. I'm not sure how he survived on $250 from selling a bone density scanner and blowing much of it on a hotel for the night. Saying the internship paid $1000 per month would have made more sense.

So it was ok to see, but if I had missed it I would not have been disappointed.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Death Penalty

Martin O'Malley, the Governor of Maryland has this op-ed in the Washington Post today: Why I Oppose the Death Penalty.

Vista Security Overview

The Register has this article Vista security overview: too little too late. There are a lot of details and it seems pretty reasonable. One of these days I'll be forced to play with Vista.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Short Movie Reviews

The Coolidge Corner Theater is showing this years nominated animated and live action shorts. I saw them all tonight. Well almost all, they didn't have the animated short Lifted but they had the other four. Here's what I thought of the films, though for those in my Oscar Pool, it's not necessarily what I think will win. All the live action shorts and some of the animated ones are available on iTunes for $2 each.

The Danish Poet was a narated love story with animation that reminded me a bit of Peanuts. It seemed hand drawn and not particularly stylized. Alas for all of my reading of all kinds of stuff I stil don't understand animation principles. The story involved some chance meetings, hair that put Rapunzel to shame and someone dying when a cow fell on them.

The Little Matchgirl is by Disney based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale. It's set in Russia with some opening scenes that reminded me of Dr. Zhivago. The main character reminded me of Mulan and that wasn't particularly good. A girl selling matches is freezing outside at night and has several dreams of something better.

Maestro was computer generated animation about a mechanical arm dressing a bird before a show. The camera rotates around the room in a ratcheting motion and there's a very good payoff in the end. it was very short but I found it a little slow, but the ending really made it worthwhile.

No Time for Nuts stars Scrat from the Ice Age films. This time while trying to get his acorn he finds a time machine and chases the acorn through time. It's really really funny. I laughed out loud at most every scene, particularly at the Twilight Zone ending. I believe it's on the Ice Age 2 DVD and it's completely worth seeing.

All the live action films disappointed me. I didn't think any of them were as good as last years, certainly not in production quality.

Binta and the Great Idea was an African film partly funded by Unicef. The 8 year old Binta narrates and introduces us to her family and villiage as she goes to school. There's one story about Binta's father pitching an idea up the local government chain. The other story is about an older girl who wants to go to school but her father won't let her. She, her mother and ultimately the villiage in a play try to convince him he's wrong. I think it's meant for African audiences but the look into African life is interesting.

Eramos Pocos is about a father and son trying to survive on their own after the mother leaves them. They decide to go to the rest home the mother's mother is in and get her to come live with them to feed and clean them. She's more than happy to leave the home. It almost works but the two men are such slobs they over do it.

The Savior is about a door-to-door evangelist who's having an affair with a potential convert, who happens to be married. His partner wants to help convert her but he keeps insisting she's shy and this requires the one-on-one approach. She calls it off and he keeps showing up, ultimately introducing himself to the husband. It's a little dragged out and tense scenes aren't quite tense enough.

West Bank Story is spoof of West Side Story with next door falafel stands owned by competing families.The Kosher King is jewish and the Hummas Hut is Palestinian. It opens with dancing in the streets with lots of finger snapping. After not too long David, an Israeli soldier and son of the Kosher King's owner, falls for Fatima, the sister of the owner of the Hummas Hut. There's lots of singing with lots of puns. The whole thing struck me as a high school musical (not the teen video) but it's probably more at the college level.

Helmer and Son was my favorite of the bunch. An adult son is summoned to a rest home to help coax his father to come out of the closet he's hiding in. He's inherited the family business and dad isn't too happy about how he's running it. The sister comes by to coax dad out as well. There are two payoffs, one funny and one poingnant, they both work.

The Most Annoying Things About Windows Vista

PC World has The Most Annoying Things About Windows Vista. Mostly they seem reasonable but I do disagree with a few. First of it's good to keep your things in your user-name folder. They whine "it's not that the new names and locations [for commands] are harder to use, it's that there's no particular need for the changes. And the new names tend to be vaguer than the ones they replace. I agree with that, particularly with vague terms like "Personalize" but putting files in arbitrary places is the same issue. If there's no reason to store your resume in "Programs and Files", don't.

It's also good that you don't run with full administrator privileges. Making serious changes to the configuration of the machine should be rare, and always having those rights is just dangerous. Their recommendation to change this is just inviting security problems.

Monday, February 19, 2007

A New Mac Owner

I was in NJ this weekend helping my sister buy her first computer. She got a mac :). A MacBook Pro (because of the 15" screen), an AirPort Extreme (great range), and a free printer. She basically got the latest versions of what I have. She's doing pretty well at using it all. She's using Mail, Safari, iCal, iChat, MS Office, Google Earth. She can print, find an application's preferences, and have a video conference. When I left she was busy ripping CDs and entering people into the Address Book.

It was interesting for me helping a non-geek along. I'm usually pretty good at explaining things but I was surprised at what things she knew and what she didn't. Computers have a lot of abstract concepts and most people don't understand them at all. I also helped them with their Windows ME machine. Even I found playing in the network settings there very confusing. What I think most people don't realize is that mac's are easier to use because they present things in a more obvious fashion, not that they don't present the complex details, they just do it in a much more intuitive way.

Introducing the Book

My sister got her first computer this weekend (a mac) and I was down helping her. It wasn't quite this bad, but a friend sent this and it's very apropos.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Life at NetFlix

Some posted what it's like Working for Netflix at a Shipping Center. "Will be making repetitive actions for extended periods of time with limited outside contact during work hours. Temp to hire position with limited advancement possibilities."

RFID Powder

Hitachi has announced a new tiny RFID chip. It's 0.05 mm square, that's 64 times smaller than current chips shown to the right. Yes the tiny grains shown here are the big chips. "The new chips have a 128-bit ROM for storing a unique 38-digit ID number."

A JAG in Afghanistan

A JAG in Afghanistan writes an interesting post about some of the issues they face while trying to modernize the legal system in Afghanistan.

Movie Review: Water

Water by writer-director Deepa Mehta, is up for Best Foreign Language Film. It's set in 1930's India and is about the plight of widows. Widows must live in a special ashram reserved for them. The film opens as Chuyia, an 8 year-old widow, is placed into one by her father. Yeah, you read that right.

Chuyia is befriended by fellow widow Kalyani (played by the beautiful Lisa Ray). She's in her 20s and is prostituted by the matriarch as the ashram's only source of income. We follow her story among some of the others.

Widows are shunned by society. As an example when one goes out to get water near where a wedding is, a man says to her "Don't let your shadow touch the bride". It's just astounding to watch how it's completely ingrained in the religion and society that these people are outcasts. In the background, Gandhi is changing things in India but even the widows find his statements that the untouchables deserved freedom, unimaginable.

If it's not obvious that Mehta is trying to make a statement, a widow asks "Why are we widows sent here? There must be a reason for it." and the response by a liberal thinking young Brahman is "One less mouth to feed. Four saris saved, one bed, and a corner is saved in the family house. There is no other reason why you are here. Disguised as religon, it's just about money."

As I look in IMDB it seems Water has been banned in India and it seems they tried to film it there but there were many protests, so it was filmed in Sri Lanka. The film ends with the following note: "There are over 34 million widows in India according to the 2001 Census. Many continue to live in conditions of social, economic and cultural deprivation as prescribed 2000 years ago by the Sacred Texts of Manu."

I really enjoyed this film and look forward to seeing Mehta's previous films in this trilogy, Fire and Earth.

Cenk Uygur on North Korea and Iran

Cenk Uygur in a pair of posts gives Bush credit for the North Korea deal and blame for what he's doing with Iran.

On North Korea: "North Korea gave up its nuclear weapons program for a measly $250-300 million dollars. That's literally what we spend in Iraq in one day. Oh yeah, we promised not to invade them and to start trading with them. And what would be the downside of that?"

"Iranian weapons would be responsible for less than 8% of our fatalities and less than 4% of our wounded in Iraq. On the other hand, the Sunni insurgency is responsible for the great majority of our casualties. And you know where some of their funding comes from? Saudi Arabia."

Then he says: "So, if this administration cares so much for the troops dying in Iraq, as they claim, why don't they investigate who is sending the money for the weapons that are killing over 90% of them? If they don't do this, then it becomes patently obvious that they are using the troops as an excuse once again for their real agenda. They want to attack Iran at all costs.

Jobs vs Gates

This is pretty fun. The beginning is better than the end, but yes apparently it's true, the Commodore 64 is the best selling personal computer of all time, 30 million units.

5 Bar Bets

Here are 5 short videos of how to hustle free drinks. I need to try the first one, the second is a little lame, the third is fun and last two are pretty good.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Two Crazy Copyright Stories

The first is that Nancy Pelosi started a blog and posted C-SPAN clips of House activities. Far right Republicans called her out for violating C-SPAN's copyright. How dumb is that? Isn't it fair use? How can CSPAN copyright Congress? Turns out they can't for the House floor but can for Committee hearings (for 100 years!). The Republicans retracted their release within the day. Now if Congress will retract C-SPAN's monopoly and copyright over what our representatives are doing.

The second is dumber.Wendy Seltzer, a law professor, trying to show how copyright holders claim more rights than they actually have, posted the NFL's copyright claim of the superbowl. "This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or of any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent, is prohibited." Turns out they can't do that. You have fair use claims you can use it for and you can use it for educational purposes and (I believe) you can show clips to review it. Guess what, the NFL sent her a takedown notice; demonstrating exactly the point she was making.

More on Iran

I had started writing this before reading Craig Unger's piece. That's far more informative than this. Be sure to read the article in the previous post.

There are still all kinds of Questions about the Iran bomb claims. Bush in his press conference tried to make the doubt irrelevant: "What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds force to do what they did. But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know, and what matters is, is that they're there. What's worse, that the government knew or that the government didn't know?" The transcript doesn't capture the obnoxous smirks and "hehs" he included. The Daily Kos picked this apart in Iran and the Bush Press Conference.

If Bush actually understood his "fool me once" misquote, he might understand why we're skeptical of his claims about Iran. I also wonder if "the enemy" is using weapons from any other nation? Perhaps soviet or even American weapons. I don't know why but I just assumed all the weapons were not 100% made in Iraq by Iraqi hands. Are we going to go after after every nation that sold Iraq weapons?

Daily Kos also writes about Rice lying to Congress about a 2003 Iranian Proposal for "an end to Iran's support for anti-Israel militants and acceptance of Israel's right to exist". It seems Iran made a proposal and Rice ignored it.

A recent conversation between Bush and Soroush Shehabi (a grandson of one of the late Shah's ministers) went like this: "Mr. President, I simply want to say one U.S. bomb on Iran and the regime will remain in power for another 20 or 30 years and 70 million Iranians will become radicalized." "I know," President Bush answered. "But does Vice President Cheney know?" asked Soroush. The president chuckled and walked away.

On the meta front, Glenn Greenwald writes The NY Times returns to pre-Iraq-war "journalism" While other papers have questioned the administration's claims, the NY Times on Saturday published "a lengthy, prominent front-page article by Michael Gordon that does nothing, literally, but mindlessly recite administration claims about Iran's weapons-supplying activities without the slightest questioning, investigation, or presentation of ample counter-evidence." Brad DeLong wonders Why Is Michael Gordon Still Employed by the New York Times.

Understanding Bush/Iraq/Iran

Craig Unger has written a tour de force article for Vanity Fair, From the Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Iraq. Really, go read it now. I now understand why the neo-cons wanted to invade Iraq (and now Iran). How Bush made his decisions and everything. And I'm frightened.

How is it that I've never heard of A Clean Break before? It explains everything.

Mmmmm, Ginger....

Vegan Grandma has everything you always wanted to know about ginger.


A new designer desk that I'm sure will be crazy expensive.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

U.S. Flexibility Credited in Nuclear Deal With N. Korea

The Washington Post writes U.S. Flexibility Credited in Nuclear Deal With N. Korea

"Now Bush has signed off on a deal that accepts North Korea's original position -- a 'freeze' of its Yongbyon nuclear facility -- and requires Washington to move first by unfreezing some North Korean bank accounts. The agreement leaves until later dealing with such vexing issues as the dismantlement of the facility, North Korea's stash of weapons-grade plutonium and even North Korea's admission of the nuclear program that started the crisis in the first place."

Apparently the deal came about because of some informal bilateral talks between the US and NK. Another thing Bush was wrong about.

Hillary's Iraq Problem

I have to agree with the Daily Kos on Hillary's Iraq problem. She won't admit her vote was a mistake and she gets asked about it every day. Other Dem nominees have admitted to a mistake and they've moved on. Not doing so makes her look calculating and worse, since she's behaving like Bush in not admitting a mistake, like she's calculating wrong. Again.

Intuit's Suppport No Better

Seems like Quicken's Bad Support hasn't improved in 6 months. Lauren Weinstein writes about her experiences with the latest forced upgrade.

New Forms of Speech?

Engadget has a cute column Switched On: Radar love that might be the beginning of a new form of speech, enabled by the Zune.

Kansas Schools Evolving

In August I posted about Kansas ousting the conservative majority on the school board. You know, the ones that banned the teaching of evolution. Turns out, this week they will "repeal rules backed by social conservatives and switch to science guidelines that embrace Charles Darwin's mainstream theories."

"The current board [is] planning to delete a passage about abuses of science. The wording mentioned the Nazis, forced sterilization and the decades-long Tuskegee syphilis study...Critics claim the board is trying to sanitize the sometimes ugly history of science, while scientists argue the passage was inserted by supporters of 'intelligent design' during the last revision and unfairly targets abuses perceived as linked to evolution."

Of course it all comes down to how it's presented. Is it 50/50 because science has both good and bad parts (see that's fair!) or is it 99/1 because most of science is ethically fair and like anything else, there have been abuses? If added by intelligent designers I have my suspicions.

More on Rep Dan Burton

Here's more on Rep Dan Burton (R-IN) who yesterday said we have to continue the war in Iraq in order to prevent Iran from launching a nuclear weapon at New York and California. It turns out, it's impressive he was on the House floor and not on the golf course.

"A review of House votes for the past decade shows the Indianapolis Republican has been absent every year votes coincided with the [Bob Hope Chrysler Classic Golf] tournament: 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2001. This year in January, he missed a total of 20 out of 73 votes."

25 Most Corrupt Officials of the Bush Administration

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has assembled a report on The 25 Most Corrupt Officials of the Bush Administration. "The misconduct covered here tends to fall into four general categories: using power to benefit friends and family members, engaging in private activities that conflict with government positions and a lack of supervision over high-level personnel...Perhaps the most disturbing conduct... falls outside of these categories: it is overseers...using their positions to undermine oversight."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Technology Sucks

I've had a few issues with technology lately and I'm annoyed

1. I signed up for FIOS from Verizon, this is their new broadband technology which is fiber optics to your home. They offer internet, phone and TV services. While they were very nice and offered me tons incentives (including a $200 AmEx gift card) one was signing up for referrals to friends (which I've done already) for more gift cards. While I signed up at with my verizon email address, but didn't receive the activation email. I changed it to my gmail email and did. But now my account is set back to the verizon email and is not activated. If I try to change it to gmail it says that's already used. I sent email to the address listed but nothing happened. A few days later I received email asking if I wanted to activate (so the address is entered correctly), I clicked on the link and still nothing. Meh.

2. I'm doing some contract work and I needed to OpenVPN into a site. I found the TunnelBlick mac-client which is typical mac zero install, trivial to use. Well it kinda worked but it didn't't set the nameserver correctly. The problem is while I tried to figure out how to fix this I was immediately dropped off the cliff of arcane config files. Now I'm pretty comfortable with arcane config files, but these were about topics I had to learn about. What were tap and tun and where did openvpn end and TunnelBlick begin and how OS X Tiger doesn't just use /etc/resolv.conf but has a new service that needs to be updated. Ugh. I never did get it working. I moved to XP, found a client, and it just worked. That made it all a little worse.

3. I registered this blog at Ttechnorati. I've followed their instructions to have blogspot automatically ping it when I post and I've hit the manual ping button, but Technorati still says my last post was 145 days ago. I spent an hour surfing through forums and out-of-date FAQs and got no further. I don't know if it's Blogger's problem or Technorati's, or even how or who to report it to. Meh.

You get what you pay for.

Spaghetti Sauce with Chicken Sausage and Swiss Chard

Tonight I made Spaghetti Sauce with Chicken Sausage and Swiss Chard over some whole wheat pasta. Pretty tasty. I wish all recipes came with nutritional information.

Some things I want to remember for next time. Cut the onions bigger and carrots smaller. Remember to crush the tomatoes. The Swiss Chard looks enormous going into the pot, but after a second you can barely see it's there. I didn't need to add honey.

President Bush in the Twilight Zone

David Kuo is a religious republican. He worked for Bush and Ashcroft. He writes a blog about faith and politics. Today he posted: President Bush in the Twilight Zone. It's kinda nice to see.

"If President Bush can't see [compassionate conservatism and the faith-based initiative as] abject failure, if he truly believes that this is his legacy, one is left to seriously consider his grip on reality."

House Debate on Iraq is Frightening

I just watched Dan Burton (R-IN) argue on the House floor that we have to continue the war in Iraq in order to prevent Iran from launching a nuclear weapon at New York and California. He compared "the situation today with the radical terrorists in Iran" to Chamberland and HItler and said he's worried about this because he "studied history and watched what happened in the past". Maybe he should study Vietnam. And no, there are no typos in the above.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Naked Lobsters

Jamie finds on the internets how to do this Lobsters!. "For the first time in human history, people have finally devised way to extract the meat of a lobster without cooking it."

Cenk Uygur on the Evidence Against Iran

Cenk Uygur writes I Call Bullshit on the Evidence Against Iran.

"Speaking of embarrassing, here's one of my favorite parts. No one was allowed to take pictures of any of the so-called evidence, videotape anything or in any way record and confirm any of the evidence that was shown to them in that room."

"Even Iraq's deputy foreign minister was left unconvinced. He added, "It is difficult for us here in the diplomatic circles just to accept whatever the American forces say is evidence ... If they have anything really conclusive, then they should come out and say it openly." Ouch."


According to this, I'm a master procrastinator:

Google Book Search and Copyright

The New Yorker has an interesting article by Jeffrey Toobin called Google's Moon Shot. It's about Google Book Search which is their effort to be able to search the content of every book published. They scan either thousands or tens of thousands of books per week.

The problem is that book publishers while they like some of the aspects of the program (more people finding books) they don't like others (making digital copies of the books). As the article points out, they could just want their cut, like when Hollywood pays to make a movie out of book. And Google has a lot of money and might just view a large payout as cost of doing business.

"Like most federal lawsuits, these cases appear likely to be settled before they go to trial, and the terms of any such deal will shape the future of digital books. Google, in an effort to put the lawsuits behind it, may agree to pay the plaintiffs more than a court would require; but, by doing so, the company would discourage potential competitors. To put it another way, being taken to court and charged with copyright infringement on a large scale might be the best thing that ever happens to Google’s foray into the printed word."

Apparently though if the current law suits are settled, that would be a precedent that any competitor to Google would have to pay as well, which would be a significant barrier to entry for anyone else.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Libby Trial Sheds Light on White House

Tom Raum for the AP has a good summary of the Libby Trial. He covers what happened with the Plame leak, what Libby is accused of, and what has come out of the trial. The thing that most stands out to his regards Dick Cheney: "'What didn't he touch? It's almost like there was almost nothing too trivial for the vice president to handle,'...'If he's down to micromanaging news leaks and responses at that level, I found that quite astounding.'"

D drives A bonkers

Eggshell Carving

Speaking of carving, I had no idea you could carve eggshells, particularly with a laser beam.

Watermelon Carving

Apparently instead of pumpkins, the Japanese carve watermelons. Here's a gallery of amazing carvings. One of my favorites:

72 Virgins

Steve Martin on 72 Virgins in the New Yorker. Pretty funny.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

MIni Movie Review: Jesus Camp

The adults in this film are nutcases and they systematically brainwashing children. This was scarier than An Inconvenient Truth. This can't be the mainstream religious right. I don't get standing in front of a room of children and saying warlocks are evil and if Harry Potter were in the bible God would surely strike him dead. Having kids smash coffee mugs that say government must be creating civil unrest or something. They had children too young to know what sex is, pledge to end abortion. A 9 year-old girl proselytizes in a bowling alley; this after praying to God to bless a bowling ball and throwing a gutter ball. Why doesn't God listen to the prayers of this girl?

Smart Mail Folder Tip

Red Sweater Blog has a nice tip about Mail Smart Folders. I use on the mac (after years of VM in Emacs) and file mail in about 20 folders and delete a lot that mostly sits in the Trash. When the trash is large I delete stuff from mailing lists and that's usually enough.

Searching for mail works reasonably well but there are extra clicks involved in looking for messages in the trash or sent folder. This tip I think will solve that for me. I have a new Smart Folder called Recent that includes mail I've viewed in the last week including if it's in Trash or Sent. Right now it only has 82 items in it so it's small and zippy, but having messages in all folders including Trash and Sent in one place is very convenient for search. This is specific to but I'm sure it can be duplicated in other mail programs.

I'd include an image of my folder but I'm having problems uploading an image to blogger, so here's the image from the article. The differences for me is that i have to the 2 checkboxes at the bottom checked and include the 7 days instead of just 2.

Climate Stuff

Phaeton's Reins is a long article on "The human hand in climate change" by Kerry Emanuel, MIT Professor of Meteorology. It explains everything you ever wanted to know about the climate.

The Volokh Conpiracy writes about AEI's defense of what the Guardian called their bribery attempt to discredit the IPCC report. (Whew!)

In a slightly related report, Brandon Hansen on OmniNerd did a statistical analysis of how accurate 10 Internet Weather Forecasting sites were (I think over 13 months) at predicting temperatures in Houston. All the details are here.

State of Journalism

Dan Froomkin has a really good (and long) story in Thursday's Washington Post, Washington Journalism on Trial about the Libby trial and what it tells us about how the news media works. There's also stuff in there about Bush climate change, Tony Snow saying Greepeace is for nuclear power, the budget and Iran. Also about Snow attacking Gore for saying the White House was bribing scientists to doubt climate change when it was AEI, execpt Gore didn't do so, CNN misreported it and Snow went with it. Glenn Greenwald comments on Froomkin's story and more.

Send these to Oswego

Gizmodo mentions this Awesome Japanese Snowplow Robot. "Yuki-taro is an autonomous snowplow robot that is loaded with GPS and a couple of video cameras to make its way around. It doesn't just push snow around, oh no. It eats snow, turns it into compressed blocks, then poops them out so they can be used later for alternate sources of cooling and refrigeration."

Media Frenzies

Is it just me or is the only good thing about the media frenzy on the Anna Nicole Smith story is that it supplanted the media frenzy on the crazy astronaut story, which ended (for now) the media frenzy on Lindsey/Britney/Paris.

The craziest addition is that Prince Frederic Von Anhalt (aka Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband) claims he's the father of Anna Nicole's baby. Apparently has a history of coming up with crazy stories. Previously he sued Pfizer, claiming Viagra made him impotent. Reconcile those two statements.

Think Progress covers the coverage pointing out "coverage of the war was drowned out". Will Bunch writes about another sudden tragic death that might deserve more coverage.

iPhoto and Spotlight

I found out today that spotlight was not correctly indexing my iPhoto photos. I found this by wondering if Quicksilver's Set Comment... action would set the comment field of a photo in iPhoto. It turns out iPhoto's comment field is different than the Spotlight comment for the underlying file. Spotlight comments are stored in the metadata of the file, visible with the mdls command. iPhoto comments are stored in the ~/Pictures/iPhoto Library/AlbumData.xml file which is indexed specially by Spotlight. But I found that if I set an iPhoto comment, Spotlight wouldn't find it when searching. When I tried manually indexing the ~/Pictures/ directory (with mdimport) I got a parse error on the AlbumData.xml file.

This post on the Apple discussion boards explains it and describes how to fix things. It turns out that newlines in the iPhoto comments screw up the spotlight indexing. So I created a smart group of all photos with comments that contained a newline. I then went through the resulting 134 photos by hand and removed the newlines. Annoying, but it didn't take too long. I followed the rest of the instructions and had to delete the 3 slideshows I had saved (I could keep albums no problem). I added and removed a spotlight keyword to all 5500 photos in the Library. This remarkably took only a couple of seconds to perform.

Now everything works fine. But the iPhoto comments and Spotlight comments are still two separate things. It's a little inconvenient, but not a bug.

BitFrost: New Security System

This Wired article High Security for $100 Laptop is a watered down version of this summary of the full spec of BitFrost. The One Laptop per Child project is trying to build $100 laptops for the purpose of getting them to every child on earth to help education. BitFrost is the security platform of the project and it's pretty interesting. The laptop will run a version of Linux and

"The XO will premiere a security system that takes a radical approach to computer protection. For starters, it does away with the ubiquitous security prompts so familiar to users of Windows and antivirus software...'How can you expect a 6-year-old to make a sensible decision when 40-year-olds can't?'" This big difference is that each app runs with a limited set of permissions and not the full set of permissions that the user has. This is an old concept in computers but not common in todays machines.

An example of why this is good is the Windows Solitare program. The OS gives Solitare permission to do whatever the user can, access the network, write to the disk, use the camera, anything. And why should Solitare be able to do these things? What if some hacker found a way to exploit it. By not giving it these permissions, even if it was hacked, it wouldn't be able to accomplish much.

There are more details in the spec, but if it's successful, let's hope the major OS's adopt some of the notions.

The Joys of Wisdom Teeth XI

Ok, I think this is the last post on the topic. A month ago I went to the oral surgeon with some discomfort and he said there were some sharp ridges and said it would take a couple of months to heal on it's own or he could surgically open up the gums and shave it down. That would require a week of healing from the surgery. So I went home considering the options and the nice thing was, I had no discomfort after that visit at all. So I've been good for a month.

Today I had the original cavity that caused all this filled. All seemed to go well so I think I'm done with this entirely. Finally.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Power Corrupts

Google sought to silence politicians while seeking tax breaks.

Watch the Devastating John Kerry Cross-Ex

Follow this link and follow the instructions there to see John Kerry rip in the Bush administration official on climate change for 15 minutes. It's a real video file and you can jump right to the 2:14:45 mark (no need to download the first two hours).

Mini Movie Review: Borat

At times funny, at other times disgusting and at most times disrespectful and uncivil. In the end, fairly forgettable. I found the wikipedia article very helpful in explaining what was "real" and what was staged. For example, when he destroys items in the antique show and then doesn't have all the money to reimburse the owner I felt bad for the owner and didn't find it funny. Turns out that was staged. In that scene, not knowing that made it less funny.

Could This Be Anymore Kafkaesque?

This is ridiculous: "An Army officer who investigated possible abuse at Guantanamo Bay after some guards purportedly bragged about beating detainees found no evidence they mistreated the prisoners — although he did not interview any of the alleged victims, the U.S. military said Wednesday."

Alternative to Big Bang Proposed

I don't really follow this, but two physicists have proposed a new model of the universe and say their math works out. Instead of continually expanding, they propose that a property of dark energy allows the universe to continuously oscillate between expanding and contracting. This means a never ending universe. I guess now its time for others to check the math and then experiments to be proposed to prove the theory.

More on Job's Open Letter

John Gruber has an interesting analysis of Job's open letter: Reading Between the Lines of Steve Jobs’s Thoughts on Music.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Amazing Astronomy Pics

This list of the 25 Best Astronomical Images of 2006 is much better than the list of the 10 Best Astronomical Images of 2006 I posted before.

Vista Myths

10 Vista Myths

Weak Republican Senators

Think Progress lists the 8 Republican Senators "who claim to oppose sending more U.S. troops to Iraq voted the wrong way, supporting the conservative filibuster...along with their public disapprovals of Bush’s escalation plan".

Steve Jobs Wants to End DRM

Steve Jobs today, in an open letter writes that Apple would like to remove the DRM (Digital Rights Management) from its iTunes music. It seems it's a condition of the big 4 music companies, but as Jobs points out, it's fairly ridiculous. While they require it for online purchases, CDs don't have DRM so it's doing nothing to stop piracy.

I found this interesting: "a key provision of our agreements with the music companies is that if our DRM system is compromised and their music becomes playable on unauthorized devices, we have only a small number of weeks to fix the problem or they can withdraw their entire music catalog from our iTunes store."

The only thing I disagree with is: "since 97% of the music on the average iPod was not purchased from the iTunes store, iPod users are clearly not locked into the iTunes store to acquire their music." The 97% is due to users ripping their own CDs (or illegally copying unprotected music). Since other online music stores use their own DRM systems, music bought from other online stores don't play on the iPod. There is some lockin.

It's clear that Apple has benefitted from this, so I find it particularly interesting that this open letter argues to get the music companies to stop requiring DRM. I doubt Apple is trying to level the playing field of their digital music dominance. I could be that they are genuinely trying to make the user experience better. Apple both talks about that and from my experience, practices it. I suspect that DRM is in the way of some future Apple product. Maybe with iPods, iPhones, AppleTVs, Macs, etc. the 5 system limit will be hit by most users and Apple wants to up it but the music companies won't let them. Maybe this is asking for too much hoping to get less, or maybe this really is their wish. Either way, I'm pretty happy about this open letter, you don't see enough of it.

Web 2.0 Video

I don't think this video works to describe Web 2.0 to someone who doesn't already understand it, but I do think it's an interesting way of presenting information:

Alito Interview

Legal Times has an interesting interview with Justice Alito about his first year on the Supreme Court.

Bring TP to Ladies Room

Hawk Wings is running a capturing contest for this image:

White House Still Controlling Iraq Debate

Cenk Uygur writes about how the Democrats are letting the White House frame the debate on Iraq and how the Republicans in the Senate are liars. "They're going to filibuster a non-binding resolution on Iraq. What happened to up and down votes? What happened to filibusters under only most extreme circumstances?" And Chuck Hagel for all his bluster on Iraq a couple of weeks ago, caved and voted with his party.

It was funny when Bush screwed up the "fool me once" quote but he screwed up the summary too. It's doesn't mean you can't get fooled twice, it means if you do, it's your fault. Bush has to stop listening to Cheney, he's gotten everything wrong. Eh, it's already too late, it's Bush's fault.

Mac Ad: Cancel or Allow

Apple has a new Get a Mac ad up called "Security" which is a commentary on Vista's (apparent) proclivity of asking "cancel or allow" for everything you want to do.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Everything you ever wanted to know about climate change

Just read this post on the climate change report released last week. Read the whole thing, including "how Exxon-Mobil-funded denialists are already trying to pay scientists to "undermine" the report – since clearly none of the thousands of scientists who worked on the IPCC report have sufficient skepticism. What annoys me is the way in which the IPCC report, which is truly the gold standard for any scientific project, is criticised as though it were the work of a small group of cranks."

Election Posturing

I agree with Arianna Huffington in Will the Ghosts of Pro-War Statements Past Haunt the 2008 Campaign?. I think the press is going to go after the democrats on their Iraq votes again and again, and I don't think they'll have the spine to have a good answer or control the conversation. Really, they've shown no ability to do so for years, why should it change now? I watched Edwards on Meet the Press and it was painful at times. (Russet doesn't hammer Cheney that way, and we know that's why Cheney appears on Meet on the Press).

I'm tired of everyone blaming "the intelligence". The intelligence community is part of the executive branch. If you say the intelligence was wrong you should ask why Bush's administration was wrong on the intelligence. In fact there's a Senate committee that promised an investigation into this a few years ago (did they manipulate the intelligence) and we haven't gotten an answer yet. As near as I can tell the Dems aren't looking into it either.

The Democratss (and the Republicans) have an answer to explain their vote for the war, Bush lied to them on the facts. Cheney cherry picked intelligence sources and fabricated the case. If they voted for the war they were wrong to trust the administration. Then again, Obama's answer is a strong clear one, maybe that's what will keep him in first place.

Hello, I'm a PC, and I'm Bill Gates

Here's a Joy of Tech comic on the Bill Gates interview:

Move Review: Monster House

There's an old scary house in the neighborhood with a grump old man living in it, the kind that steals kids toys when they come into his (non-fenced) yard. DJ lives across the street and is obsessed with the house. When old man Nebbercracker gets hurt, the house literally starts attacking DJ and his two friends.

Monster House is up for Best Animated Feature, against Cars and Happy Feet. I liked the direction of this film the best of the three. Happy Feed seemed to have the camera on a roller coaster and I found Cars kinda slow and not as entertaining. This however has some really interesting camera angles, stuff that's normally only in a good live action film and the pacing and story are pretty good. I was also thinking that aside from the house (and some stunts at the end), this could have been a live action film. Can't say that for Cars or Happy Feet. I really enjoyed the beginning of this film but by the end my interest waned a bit. Still it was pretty good.

Mini Movie Review: Poseidon

Eh. Basically a big chase sequence with the emotional impact of a video game. Remarkably predicable. Thankfully it was short.

The Supreme Court on PBS

PBS is currently airing a 4 part series called The Supreme Court. It's narrated by David Strathairn, who played Edward R. Murrow in Good Night, and Good Luck. Various experts (including Chief Justice John Roberts and former Justice Sandra Day O'Conner) describe the various cases the previous Justices. Good stuff.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Stimson Resigns

Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs Charles “Cully” Stimson who called for a boycott of law firms representing suspected terrorists has resigned.

"Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said ... [Stimson] had made his own decision to resign and was not asked to leave by Defense Secretary Robert Gates." Seems like a minus on Gates who should have done something for this. "The Bar Association of San Francisco last week asked the California State Bar to investigate whether Stimson violated legal ethics by suggesting a boycott of law firms that represent Guantanamo Bay detainees."

NFL Proves Copyright Law is Broken

So get this. Fall Creek Baptist Church in Indianpolis was going to have a Super Bowl Bash at the church so that the congregation could watch the game together on a projection TV. Sounds like a great community event right? Well the NFL said it would be illegal. The slate article goes into details, apparently the big issue was that they were going to charge admission and they had a big screen. The law has an exception for sports bars. So bars are good but churches are bad. The copyright law is crazy.

Bizarre Interview With Bill Gates on Vista

Steven Levy interviews Bill Gates in Newsweek. Gate's answers are bizarre at times as Levy asks some questions with how Vista compares with the Mac. Matt Asay writes about some of these things in InfoWorld.

I agree with Asay. Gates' answer for why someone should use Vista is really weak. Better security, ease of use, compatibility with more devices, are all better reasons. And what he listed is clearly catchup to the mac. And he (understandably) avoids the topic of the features (WinFS) that were removed in 2004 when the whole development process changed. The search stuff is also catchup to the release of Spotlight on the mac and even Google Desktop on the PC. I was surprised to see so many questions on the mac commercials, but Gates answers are confusing on those too. In one he says he hasn't seen it, in another he says there isn't slightest shred of truth to it.

Gates security comments seem very wrong. Windows is clearly behind the Mac and Linux and BSD systems. The mac is certainly not invulnerable but it's also clearly more secure. Sure the Month of Apple Bugs found some holes, though not all of them were in the OS and not all of them were in Apple code. Nevertheless, they pale in comparison to the number of Windows exploits that have been found (and probably to the number of IE exploits that have been found). The mac is more secure because the underlying unix code base is more secure, file permissions are set appropriately out of the box, and the root account is disabled by default. These things were not true with XP and MS had to do a lot of work for Vista to catch up.

Gates talks about adding layers, that's certainly vague and there were obviously API layers, but many of Windows security issues have come from putting things like Active X controls into the browser and putting browser support into Email, without any security features. Yes they added more power, but often not for good cause, and until recently MS added such things without any thought to the security consequences. This is what needed to change at MS.

Vista looks interesting, and it seems the long beta program worked for Vista, I've seen very few reports of issues with installation. My next PC (whenever that is) will certainly have it, though I'm in no rush to run out and upgrade my current PC. On the other hand, Leopard (the next Mac OS) will be out this spring, and I'm sure I'll get it quickly.

Bush Shortchangees New Orleans

"President Bush is expected to shift $1.3 billion away from raising and armoring levees, installing floodgates and building permanent pumping in Southeast Louisiana in order to plug long-anticipated financial shortfalls in other hurricane-protection projects, a move Sen. David Vitter describes as a retreat from the president's commitment to protect the whole New Orleans area."

"The reason the West Bank projects are running short of money is that Congress asked the corps last year to hastily pull together estimates. What are normally months-long calculations were reduced in some cases to days. Subsequent increases in the cost of materials and labor further ballooned the price of the projects. But Vitter's point is that if the shortfalls are now clear, why not ask Congress for more money?"

Maybe there's a reason he didn't mention Katrina in the State of the Union.

Pentagon Miscounting 47,657 Nonmortal Casualties

The New York Times reports that "Statistics on a Pentagon Web site have been reorganized in a way that lowers the published totals of American nonfatal casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan."

On Monday, the bottom line listed a total of 47,657 “nonmortal casualties.” On Tuesday the bottom line is now “total — medical air transported,” and the figure is 31,493.

"Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, deputy director of force health protection and readiness at the Defense Department, said the previous method of tallying casualties was misleading and might have made injuries and combat wounds seem worse and more numerous than they really were."

Maybe not counting vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and diseases makes some sense. I'm sure troops stationed in the US get injured too. But if you look at this table (pdf) it's clear they are trying to play games. If you wanted to accurately present the info, you would have reordered the lines and put the totals after the details in all cases so it was clear what lines were counted in the total.

Why We Can't Trust What Bush Says

Digby has a post explaining why we can't trust what the Bush administration says as it moves a 2nd aircraft carrier into the region and starts talking about Iran in its speeches.

Rumsfeld on May 24, 2002:

"The United States has no plans to invade Iraq or any other country, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Friday, but he refused to discuss the Bush administration's thinking about how to deal with Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein"

Gates Feb 2, 2007:

"With respect to Iran, first of all, the president has made clear; the secretary of State has made clear; I've made clear -- nobody is planning -- we are not planning for a war with Iran."

And Cenk Uygur goes further, if they invade Iran we must impeach them. He cites a lot of articles and makes it clear, Iran supports the Shiites against the Sunnis. The Sunni are the ones attacking Americans. We're supporting the Shiite dominated government forces. Uygur actually points out enough reasons to impeach them now, we should listen.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Disagreeing With Chief Justice Roberts

Geoffrey R. Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, writes about Chief Justice Roberts and the Role of the Supreme Court. He doesn't agree that narrow opinions are good because the court is supposed to provide guidance, and if a ruling is narrow it provides only narrow guidance. I've heard Scalia echo similar thoughts. He also cites that unanimity is overrated as many concurring and dissenting opinions have been some of the most influential.

The Deficit

The Economist has a post saying the budget deficit isn't that bad. The comments are far more intelligent and worth a read.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

MS: Don't Copy 1.0 Features, Use Latest Rev

Apparently Vista has voice recognition commands. You can speak to the computer and have it do things. Slashdot reported on this article that says websites can play sound files that can say commands to delete files or shutdown your machine. Joy.

As the article says the mac has had speech controls for years. I think many people play with them when they first find out about them and then turn them off. I use them only to turn the page when reading long files with Tofu (an app that simply formats long text in narrow newspaper-like columns to make them easy to read).

Apple hit this problem years ago too and added a configurable prefix word that must be spoken before the command. I just tried it now, having a doc open in Tofu. If I say "Stanley move page right" it moves the page (you have to be really lazy to use this and my machine is named Kubrick). If I use Quicksilver to have the mac say "Stanley move page right", it doesn't move the page, and if I recognize the lights on the control it seems that the voice recognition is disabled while the mac was speaking.

MS should copy the latest rev of apple innovations not the 1.0 rev.

These kinds of problems is why voice controls haven't taken off. They really don't work well when cubicles are involved. The only voice controls I actually like are voice dialing on my cell phone (oddly I don't use them on my home phone).