Thursday, February 28, 2008

My Song Chart Attempt

I heard a commercial while writing the last post and had to break out Numbers and try this...

Lonely Number.png

Song Charts

Who knew there was a flickr set for Song Chart Memes


Harry Shearer's Found Objects

The hilarious Harry Shearer has a series of videos called Found Objects which is clips of political talking heads before they go on the air. It's very funny to see how stupid these people are.

Congressional Inaction in the Face of Corruption

Daily Kos writes in State of the Nation about the current delays by Congress regarding Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten's contempt charges.

"We all remember that the House just recently voted, at long last, to hold Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress for ignoring their subpoenas to appear before the House Judiciary Committee in the matter of the US Attorneys purge. That was two weeks ago."

But again, they want to investigate Roger Clemens on perury.

John McCain and Exxon Valdez

David Roberts writes in the Huffington Post about John McCain and Exxon Valdez.

"Four months after the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history, McCain voted against requiring double hulled tankers."

"To this day, Exxon is the only oil company that doesn't use double-hulled tankers to ship oil in and out of Alaska."

What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part 8

This weeks What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? spends too much time on the real thugs and not enough time on Omar.


Here's a conversation on popcorn from a year ago in the New York Times.

Here are 8 ideas for dressing up popcorn. I've done cheese, spices, and herbs but the others don't sound so interesting.

Earth's 6th Great Mass Extinction is Occurring Now

Here's some cheery news, The Earth's 6th Great Mass Extinction is Occurring as You Read This

"If all mankind were to disappear, the world would regenerate back to the rich state of equilibrium that existed ten thousand years ago. If insects were to vanish, the environment would collapse into chaos."

"There is little doubt left in the minds of professional biologists that Earth is currently faced with a mounting loss of species that threatens to rival the five great mass extinctions of the geological past, the most devasting being the Third major Extinction (c. 245 mya), the Permian, where 54% of the planet's species families lost. As long ago as 1993, Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson estimated that Earth is currently losing something on the order of 30,000 species per year -- which breaks down to the even more daunting statistic of some three species per hour. Some biologists have begun to feel that this biodiversity crisis -- this 'Sixth Extinction' -- is even more severe, and more imminent, than Wilson had supposed."

This sixth extinction is caused by man, though the article draw comparison to the Cretaceous cometary collision 65 million years ago. That threw up particles into the air affecting the atmosphere, which is what we're doing to the earth now. They also claim our affect began around 10,000 years ago with the invention of agriculture.

"The causes of biocide are a hodge-podge of human environmental “poisons” which often work synergistically, including a vast array of pollutants, pesticides, a thinning ozone layer which increases ultra-violet radiation, human induced climate change, habitat loss from agriculture and urban sprawl, invasions of exotic species introduced by humans, illegal and legal wildlife trade, light pollution, and man-made borders among other many other causes."

"Critics argue that species disappear and new ones emerge all the time. That’s true, if you’re speaking in terms of millennia. Scientists acknowledge that species disappear at an estimated rate of one species per million per year, with new species replacing the lost ones at around the same rate. Recently humans have accelerated the extinction rate to where several entire species are annihilated every single day. The death toll artificially caused by humans is mind-boggling. Nature will take millions of years to repair what we destroy in just a few decades."

Game Review: Apples to Apples

I played Apples to Apples with some friends over the weekend and can heartily recommend it. The game consists of two sets of cards, red and green. Each player gets 7 red cards which contain nouns like Robin Williams, Republicans, The First Day of School. One player is designated judge and this rotates around the group. The judge turns over a green card which is an adjective like Silly, Irrelevant, etc. Each player selects a red card that fits with the green card and the judge chooses the best match. It might be most relevant or funniest or whatever. Even though I didn't do very well, it was a lot of fun.

Of course there's a wikipedia page on it and it includes some variants of game play that sound interesting. I also found out it won a 1999 Mensa Select award which are five new games selected each year which are "original, challenging and well designed". From the few games I know, it looks like a really good list.

Exxon Valdez at Supreme Court, Roberts Makes an Ass of Himself

In 1989 the Exxon Valdez struck a reef and spilled 10.8 million gallons of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska. Captain Joseph Hazelwood was in his cabin, possibly drunk and the third mate, probably overly fatigued was in command.

"In 1994, in the case of Baker vs. Exxon, an Anchorage jury awarded $287 million for actual damages and $5 billion for punitive damages." Exxon appealed and in 2002 the judge reduced the damages to $4 billion. Exxon appealed again and the judge increased the punitive damages to $4.5 billion, plus interest. Exxon appealed again and in 2006 the damages award was cut to $2.5 billion. Exxon appealed again and was heard by the US Supreme Court yesterday.

Dana Milbank reports on the oral arguments in the Washington Post At the High Court, Damage Control.

The plaintiffs lawyer was Jeffrey Fisher "What you have today are 32,000 plaintiffs standing before this court, each of whom have received only $15,000 for having their lives and livelihood destroyed and haven't received a dime of emotional-distress damages,"

Most troubling to me is this from Chief Justice John Roberts: "Roberts seemed the most agitated as he argued that Exxon wasn't responsible for the captain's unauthorized drunkenness. "I don't see what more a corporation can do," he said. "What more can the corporation do other than say 'Here is our policies' and try to implement them?" He's obviously never worked in business. Execution is kind of important, as is risk management that's more than a piece of paper.

"What bothered the chief justice was that Exxon was being ordered to pay $2.5 billion -- roughly three weeks' worth of profits -- for destroying a long swath of the Alaska coastline in the largest oil spill in American history. 'So what can a corporation do to protect itself against punitive-damages awards such as this?' Roberts asked in court. The lawyer arguing for the Alaska fishermen affected by the spill, Jeffrey Fisher, had an idea. 'Well,' he said, 'it can hire fit and competent people.' The rare sound of laughter rippled through the august chamber. The chief justice did not look amused."

"Ruth Ginsburg pointed to the evidence that 'Exxon knew that this captain had a severe alcohol problem, and yet, they let him stay on voyage after voyage and did nothing about it.'" Justice Alito is an Exxon shareholder and recused himself.

Robert Barnes has more on the case as does Linda Greenhouse.

Scientists Discover How Cigarette Smoke Causes Cancer

Scientists discover how cigarette smoke causes cancer "Everyone has known for decades that that smoking can kill, but until now no one really understood how cigarette smoke causes healthy lung cells to become cancerous. In a new research report published in the March 2008 print issue of The FASEB Journal, researchers from the University of California, Davis, show that hydrogen peroxide (or similar oxidants) in cigarette smoke is the culprit. This finding may help the tobacco industry develop ‘safer’ cigarettes by eliminating such substances in the smoke, while giving medical researchers a new avenue to developing lung cancer treatments."

Maxim Lies

Yahoo reports Maxim apologizes for Black Crowes review. The Black Crowes first new album in 7 years, "Warpaint" comes out March 4. Maxim published a 2.5 out of 5 star review having heard only one song. "The Crowes' manager, Pete Angelus, said the magazine explained that its review was an 'educated guess'." Not that I'm a huge fan or likely to buy the album, that's pretty crappy. Does Maxim also choose their Hometown Hotties by only looking at one limb?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Bloomberg's Not Running for President

In a New York Times Op-Ed, Mayor Bloomberg writes I’m Not Running for President, but ... "And while I have always said I am not running for president, the race is too important to sit on the sidelines, and so I have changed my mind in one area. If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach — and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy — I’ll join others in helping that candidate win the White House."

Lewis Black's New Show: Root of All Evil

At 10:30pm ET, on March 12 Comedy Central will premiere a new show, Lewis Black's Root of All Evil. Set your TiVo's.

Here's a review of the pilot taping. "The Root of All Evil puts "pop culture on trial." Lewis Black plays the judge, and a rotating roster of guest comedians play lawyers prosecuting decency's greatest offenders. The first trial pitted "Chick Flicks" against "Video Games" as the root of all evil. Comedian Andrew Daly argued that chick flicks were the root of all evil. Paul F. Tompkins argued that video games were the root of all evil. The two presented their cases, which included videotaped segments, and took turns questioning each other as witnesses. In the end, Black came down with a verdict. Next up, Paris Hilton vs. Dick Cheney as the root of all evil. Patton Oswalt argued Dick Cheney's case. Greg Giraldo argued Paris Hilton's. You get the basic concept. "

Nixon Played Crazy With Nukes

Wired has another interesting article this month. The Nukes of October: Richard Nixon's Secret Plan to Bring Peace to Vietnam. "October 1969, however, was different. This was the only moment we know of when a president decided that it made strategic sense to pretend to launch World War III."

"Codenamed Giant Lance, Nixon's plan was the culmination of a strategy of premeditated madness he had developed with national security adviser Henry Kissinger. The details of this episode remained secret for 35 years and have never been fully told. Now, thanks to documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, it's clear that Giant Lance was the leading example of what historians came to call the 'madman theory': Nixon's notion that faked, finger-on-the-button rage could bring the Soviets to heel."

I think by playing crazy he's proved he really was crazy.

The Truth About Autism

Wired has a fascinating article The Truth About Autism: Scientists Reconsider What They Think They Know. It starts by describing this video by 27-year-old autistic Amanda Baggs.

An explanation starts at the 3:15 mark.

"No one helped her shoot the video, edit it, and upload it to YouTube. She used a Sony Cybershot DSC-T1, a digital camera that can record up to 90 seconds of video (she has since upgraded). She then patched the footage together using the editing programs RAD Video Tools, VirtualDub, and DivXLand Media Subtitler. "My care provider wouldn't even know how to work the software," she says. Baggs is part of an increasingly visible and highly networked community of autistics. Over the past decade, this group has benefited enormously from the Internet as well as innovations like type-to-speech software. Baggs may never have considered herself trapped in her own world, but thanks to technology, she can communicate with the same speed and specificity as someone using spoken language."

It's a totally mind blowing article.

M33 in Infrared


M33 is "about half the size of our Milky Way Galaxy, and is located about 2.9 million light-years from Earth." NASA’s Swift satellite over December and January took the "most detailed ultraviolet image of an entire galaxy ever taken".

"The image clearly shows the spiral structure of M33. New stars are forming inside the spiral arms. These stars are very hot, and give off a lot of ultraviolet light. This light hits nearby clouds of gas, heating them up and causing them to also shine in ultraviolet light. 'The entire galaxy is ablaze with starbirth,' adds [NASA Astronomer Stefan] Immler. 'Despite M33’s small size, it has a much higher star-formation rate than our Milky Way Galaxy. All of this starbirth lights up the galaxy in the ultraviolet.'"

Etch-A-Sketch vs Earthquake

F7395A25-561B-475B-ABFD-3749A1873D6C.jpgThis is going around and seems to be a photoshopped joke. Pretty funny though.

Here's something that I think is real from last year: The world's greatest paintings reproduced - with an Etch-A-Sketch

Mercury's Has A Long Tail

Mercury's 'tail' is longer than thought "Mercury's gravity is too weak to hold a permanent atmosphere, so when atoms are evaporated from the planet's surface by solar photons or other processes, some of the atoms form a tail that points away from the sun." It extends 1.6 million miles from Mercury. Maybe Mercury will be changed from a planet to a comet.

GOP Halts Effort to Retrieve White House E-Mails

Remember those White House email messages that were lost? White House officials including Karl Rove were using their RNC accounts instead of their White House accounts for official business. I think this violated the Hatch Act and some official records act that we're supposed to retain all government documents. Yesterday, Waxman's House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had a hearing on Electronic Records Preservation at the White House.

The Washington Post reports GOP Halts Effort to Retrieve White House E-Mails "After promising last year to search its computers for tens of thousands of e-mails sent by White House officials, the Republican National Committee has informed a House committee that it no longer plans to retrieve the communications by restoring computer backup tapes, the panel's chairman said yesterday."

Yeah, that important stuff Congress asked us to do because law might have been broken, we're not going to do it. Oh and how does it take months and months to search. You either have them or you don't. You find the backups and look. It should take a couple of of weeks at most.

There were also some statements filed about whether Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald got all the relevant email messages to his subpoena into the Plame investigation. "One problem: Even though White House computer technicians hunted high and low, an entire week's worth of e-mail from Cheney's office was missing. The week was Sept. 30, 2003, to Oct. 6, 2003, the opening days of the Justice Department's probe into whether anyone at the White House leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame." Yup no coincidence there.

This all just seems like obvious stonewalling to cover up laws that were broken. Just not responding to the subpoena and losing these messages and even using RNC accounts in the first place violates laws. But will there be any followup like any charges filed? I doubt it.

But of course Congress does want the DoJ to investigate Roger Clemens for perjury. We can't get that for anyone in the administration but a baseball pitcher that might have lied about steroids, now that's important.

The Last Democratic Debate

I watched the debate last night and I wasn't particularly impressed. Clinton needed to win and didn't. Obama did just fine and in fact kept on with the same messages and calm tone he's had since the beginning of the campaign, that comes across as genuine and avoids her image of being tactical or desperate. Here's a transcript of the debate. Sorry about the following, it rambles a bit.

I agree with digby that we have to figure out How Do We Defeat Tim Russert?. "Can someone please explain to me how that can possibly happen until something is done about the reprehensible political press? From tax returns to Farrakhan to footage shown by "mistake" to the endless, trivial, gotcha bullshit, this debate spectacle tonight was a classic demonstration of what people really hate about politics. It isn't actually the candidates who can at least on occasion be substantive and serious. The problem is Tim Russert and all his petty, shallow acolytes who spend all their time reading Drudge and breathlessly reporting every tabloid tidbit and sexy rumor and seeking out minor inconsistencies from years past in lieu of doing any real work."

The questions started out being more about the campaign than about the issues. Williams started by asking about her difference in tone then about a picture of Obama sent out by Drudge. Somehow Obama managed to turn that into a long back and forth on health care policy. Clinton kept responding, loudly and I think kept repeating the same things. There is a difference in their plans and I think Obama is right that it's minor. At least he described them so we could make up our minds, she started saying his plan was like making Medicare not mandatory, which as Obama pointed out, it's not.

Williams then asked about NAFTA and Clinton complained about getting the first question all the time and brought up Saturday Night Live. She then went on for 3 full minutes about it saying she always opposed it, though while first lady she didn't have a public position. Obama says that when she ran for Senator she said NAFTA had been good for NY.

Russert then gave a number of quotes by Clinton from the 90s saying it was good. He then said "In the debate that Al Gore had with Ross Perot, Al Gore said the following: If you don't like NAFTA and what's it's done we can get out of it in six months. The president can say to Canada and Mexico we are out, this has not been a good agreement. Will you as president say we are out of NAFTA in six months". Is this a stupid question or what? We're going to skip negotiations entirely and even elections and have candidates remove us from NAFTA? Clinton did well saying "No, I will say we will opt out of NAFTA unless we renegotiate it." which is the obvious answer. He then pulled up a quote from her in 2004 saying NAFTA had on balance been good for NY and America and that she was now changing her mind. She then said that's not my whole record and that she has a detailed plan to fix NAFTA.

Russert then repeats "Let me button this up. Absent the changes you're suggesting you're willing to opt out of NAFTA in six months". He then turns to Obama, has a quote calling him ambivalent on NAFTA and asks "will you as president say to Canada and Mexico this has not worked for us, we are out?" It's as if international negotiates are held by 4 year olds. Oh yeah, that's Bush's policies.

So Obama then talks about how globalization is good but we should be allowing our workers to compete fairly. Russert says "Senator two journalists here in Ohio wrote a piece called Business as Usual which is very well known, suggesting that it wasn't trade or manufacturing jobs that were being lost because of it but rather business as usual, lack of patents, lack of innovation, lack of investment, 70% of the PhDs in biology and chemistry leaving the state. The fact is exports now have the highest share of our national income as ever, Ohio ranks 4th in terms of exports to Canada and Mexico. Are you sure this has not been better for Ohio as you suggested." So he does the bait and switch. Ask a stupid yes/no question and then give lots of facts to show the answer as wrong. Of course, Obama's answer wasn't wrong.

Russert then asked Clinton about her economic plan. She's said she'll create 5 million new jobs in 10 years. He then points out that in 2000 in her Senate run she said she'd create 200,000 new jobs in upstate NY but there had been a net loss of 30,000 and she's since said she might have been a little exuberant. "Tonight will you say that the pledge of 5,000,000 jobs might be a little exuberant?" Again, what a stupid question. She did well saying she thought Al Gore would be president.

Williams asked "Senator Obama, yesterday Senator Clinton gave a speech on foreign policy and I'm going to read you a quote from it. Quote, "We've seen the tragic result of having a president who had neither the experience nor the wisdom to manage our foreign policy and safeguard our national security. We cannot let that happen again. America has already taken that chance one time too many." Some of the comments in the speech were more pointed. The senator has compared your foreign policy expertise to that of George W. Bush at the same period. Provided you could be going into a general election against a Republican with vast foreign policy expertise and credibility on national security, how were her comments about you unfair?" Isn't this just saying "please respond to your opponents statements"?

Williams then asked Clinton "Well, Senator Clinton, in the last debate you seemed to take a pass on the question of whether or not Senator Obama was qualified to be commander in chief. Is your contention in this latest speech that America would somehow be taking a chance on Senator Obama as commander in chief?" She started by saying "Well, I have put forth my extensive experience in foreign policy, you know, helping to support the peace process in Northern Ireland, negotiating to open borders so that refugees fleeing ethnic cleansing would be safe, going to Beijing and standing up for women's rights as human rights and so much else." Unfortunately in these forums there's no fact checking. Did Hillary really negotiate peace in Northern Ireland? The answer is no. She went on about Obama "So the fair comparison was when we both had responsibility, when it wasn't just a speech but it was actually action". "She made two visits by herself to the province, in May 1999, when she was the keynote speaker to a women's conference, and a 12-hour trip in October 1997, when she gave a lecture at the University of Ulster."

Clinton then said "And on a number of other issues, I just believe that, you know, as Senator Obama said, yes, last summer he basically threatened to bomb Pakistan, which I don't think was a particularly wise position to take. I have long advocated a much tougher approach to Musharraf and to Pakistan, and have pushed the White House to do that." That's really just amazing. I remember the debate she's referring to and Obama's response last night was dead on. "With respect to Pakistan, I never said I would bomb Pakistan. What I said was that if we have actionable intelligence against bin Laden or other key al Qaeda officials, and we -- and Pakistan is unwilling or unable to strike against them, we should. And just several days ago, in fact, this administration did exactly that and took out the third-ranking al Qaeda official." She's losing and these are the attacks she comes up with?

Russert then asked one of the dumbest questions I've ever heard: "Let me talk about the future -- let me talk the future about Iraq, because this is important, I think, to Democratic voters particularly. You both have pledged the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. You both have said you'd keep a residual force there to protect our embassy, to seek out al Qaeda, to neutralize Iran. If the Iraqi government said, President Clinton or President Obama, you're pulling out your troops this quickly? You're going to be gone in a year, but you're going to leave a residual force behind? No. Get out. Get out now. If you don't want to stay and protect us, we're a sovereign nation. Go home now." Will you leave?" Both answer that Iraq is sovereign and in that scenario you leave. But then Russert does his same old shtick and follows up to trap them: "If this scenario plays out and the Americans get out in total and al Qaeda resurges and Iraq goes to hell, do you hold the right, in your mind as American president, to re-invade, to go back into Iraq to stabilize it?" Clinton then has balls to say "You know, Tim, you ask a lot of hypotheticals" and Russert actually says "But this is reality". It is? Iraq threw us out, we left and al Qaeda resurged? Clinton very rightfully pointed out "No -- well, it isn't reality. You're -- you're -- you're making lots of different hypothetical assessments."

Williams then mistakenly showed a clip of Clinton mocking Obama saying light will reign down from the sky and a celestial choir will sing. Williams question was "That was Senator Clinton. But since we played that tape, albeit in error, for this segment, how did you take that?" Now that's probing. Maybe it was the wrong clip, but they clearly intended to show that clip at some point. Then they showed a clip of Obama saying she can't claim credit just for the good things from Bill Clinton's term. Williams asked "Now, Senator Obama, you can react to it and whatever you wanted to react to from earlier, but I've been wanting to ask you about this assertion that Senator Clinton has somehow cast herself as co-president." Am I the only one that remembers Bill Clinton campaigning and saying Hillary was really strong and by voting for him you get two-for-one? And of course the first thing she did was health care which didn't turn out very well.

Russert then asked both about keeping their word about taking pubic financing and releasing tax returns. It just seemed like badgering and it also was another common Russert pattern. Ask an annoying question, the candidate ducks, he asks the same question again in a strong tone and the candidate ducks again and then he moves on. "Repeat twice Russert" seems like a reasonable nickname.

Then he went on about Farrakhan's support for Obama and the difference between reject and denounce. And of course Obama was right that denounce is the right word. Is this what we've come to as far as our political debates: "Tim, I have to say I don't see a difference between denouncing and rejecting. There's no formal offer of help from Minister Farrakhan that would involve me rejecting it. But if the word "reject" Senator Clinton feels is stronger than the word "denounce," then I'm happy to concede the point, and I would reject and denounce."

Williams then asked "The National Journal rates your voting record as more liberal than that of Ted Kennedy. In a general election, going up against a Republican Party, looking for converts, Republicans, independents, how can you run with a more liberal voting record than Ted Kennedy?" Obama then described the ratings as "silly" and explained the two votes that led to the report.

What was impressive about both candidates was that they had the facts to back up positions even on stupid questions. The next question from Russert about the new handpicked Russian president. He wanted to know what each candidate knew of him. it turns out not much and I'm ok with that, there isn't much they need to know about him at this point. He's not president yet and neither is Clinton or Obama.

So overall I found Russerts questions tactically annoying and Williams' as light weight softballs about quotes from the campaign trail. The result of this debate is that both candidates looked better than both questioners and that's kinda useless to me.

William F. Buckley Jr. Is Dead at 82

The New York Times reports William F. Buckley Jr. Is Dead at 82. "Mr Buckley, 82, suffered from diabetes and emphysema, his son Christopher said, although the exact cause of death was not immediately known. He was found at his desk in the study of his home, his son said. “He might have been working on a column,” Mr. Buckley said."

Jeff Bezos at TED

This TED Talk is from 2003 and is Jeff Bezos comparing the internet to the gold rush and finding a better analogy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What to do when compact fluorescents crack

The Boston Globe explains What to do when compact fluorescents crack. See they contain mercury which is a toxin and "can pose a small risk of mercury poisoning to infants, young children, and pregnant women if they break"

Clarence Thomas' Two Years of Silence

NPR had a report Clarence Thomas' Two Years of Silence "It's been more than two years since Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asked a question during arguments. The other eight justices regularly pepper attorneys with questions. Madeleine Brand talks with legal analyst Dahlia Lithwick discusses the quiet justice in a vocal courtroom."

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

The Onion TV reports Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early

Departing US Iran Envoy Says Nuclear Issue Will Not Be Resolved By Time Bush Leaves Office

MotherJones reports Departing US Iran Envoy Says Nuclear Issue Will Not Be Resolved By Time Bush Leaves Office.

"Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nick Burns, who is due to leave the State Department after twenty-six years of service at the end of the month, spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington tonight.

But all were looking to Washington's top Iran envoy for a signal about what the Bush administration plans to do on the Iran nuclear issue over the next ten months; and for signs that Burns' imminent departure might be related to some bureaucratic battle - or simple exhaustion or frustration - at trying to lead the administration's effort to cobble and keep together an international coalition to pressure Iran diplomatically and with economic sanctions and other means to change its behavior on its nuclear program.

He said that he did not think the Iran nuclear issue would be resolved by the end of the Bush administration and would still be outstanding when a new administration takes office. 'I don't think conflict with Iran is inevitable,' Burns said. 'There is plenty of space for diplomacy.' 'I think the issue plays out well beyond 2009,' Burns said."

Bye bye B-2

We lost a B-2 "A B-2 stealth bomber crashed just after take-off from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. Luckily the two pilots ejected to safety, but that is more than a billion dollars down the drain and as David Axe points out, nearly 5 percent of the B-2 fleet). The US has 21 20 B-2s in total."

The Atlantic has a long article about the pilots of these planes.

Battlestar Galactica Interview Part III

Battlestar Galactica Interview Part III "In Part III of our interview (the final part in this series), we discuss the cylons. How do the humans view the cylons? As mere machines? As quasi-human? Are the humans heading toward a recognition of more humane treatment of the cylons? Why did the cylons choose to try to annihilate the humans? How do the cylons govern themselves? What role does the cylons' religion play in all this? We explore these questions and more, including what political and philosophical books most influenced Ron and David in their creation of the show. We learn why Adama changes his views about Boomer and accepts her as a person. And we try to coax out spoilers for the upcoming season."

What I Like About the New Battlestar Galactica

What I Like About the New Battlestar Galactica is a good post.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Craig Venter at TED

I've started to make my way through the TED Talk videos on the web. This one by Craig Venter from 2005 was particularly interesting. It's a 17 min video.

Star Wars Summarized By a 3 Year-Old

More on the Oscars

Who was the "Sarah" George Clooney was with?

Tilda Swinton's dress looked like a garbage bag.

Does Rene Zellwigger have actual eye balls or just eyelashes?

I'm already tired of hearing people say that they hadn't heard of any of the actors or any of the nominated movies. Everyone should know who Daniel Day Lewis is. I just heard Barbara Walters say of Javier Bardem "who knew him". He was nominated in 2000 for Before Night Falls.

Of the best picture nominees, aside from Atonement, the others were all strong movies, with great reviews and Juno even had a good box office. It's the Oscars, what do you expect but good movies to be nominated? If you don't go see them, you don't get to say it was boring because you never heard of the films. If people start going to the good movies, maybe Hollywood would start making more of them.

It seems this was probably the lowest rated Oscars ever, beating out 2003 for that honor. And still ABC got $1.8 million for a 30 second commercial spot, up 7% from last year.

I've seen a few things like this that say "Jon Stewart didn't get a laugh all evening long." I conservatively counted that he got 20 good laughs in the opening monologue.

The Wire Episode 8

I really liked this episode. Omar. Man I'm gonna miss you. What a crappy way to go, but it's somehow fitting. Kenard was the one who killed him and the one last week who wasn't impressed when seeing Omar gimping around. It was him that was going to light a cat on fire at the beginning of the episode and didn't run when Omar passed. He's a sick little kid with a future that one. But it sucked that Omar's murder didn't even make the paper. Ok, that's probably a lot to ask for when his body bag has the wrong name on it. Omar was doing the best police work on the show. His old school buddy Bunk is second.

McNaulty is now a dealer. He's dealing money to all the cops, just as much as Marlow is dealing to the addicts and Clay Davis is dealing to the political cronies. After hearing the FBI profile him, he's looking for a confessor. That's why he told Kima and Beadie. Scott Templeton, the reporter getting called on lying is foreshadowing what will happen to McNaulty.

I thought Leander Sydnor was going to get popped while he was looking at the map book. I didn't expect him to crack the code. Go Lester. He's going to pull down both Marlow and Davis before being forced to take retirement. Maybe they just setup Davis to keep Lester from turning him by saving McNaulty by appointing him to the Liquor Board. Now that would be perfect.

Here's Salon's take. Oh and I don't why I haven't been reading Television Without Pity lately. Here's their recap.

This is the best show on TV.

Battlestar Galactica Interview 2

Law blog Concurring Opinions has posted part 2 of their Battlestar Galactica interview. "In Part II of our interview, Dave Hoffman interviews Ron and David about politics and the economy. How did the political system of the Twelve Colonies work prior to the cylon attack? After the destruction of the colonies, how does the economy work aboard the fleet? Why do people still continue to do their jobs without compensation? How does commerce work? Why do people still use money? Dave examines these fascinating questions and more."


I came in 5th in my Oscar pool. I had lost pretty early on.

I'm really happy Marion Cotillard won for La Vie en Rose even though I picked Julie Christe for Away from Her. Cotillard was just amazing in that role and as you can see from the live Oscars and the clips from the film, she just completely and impossibly transformed herself.

images.jpegimages-1.jpegI thought Supporting Actress was really difficult to pick this year. I went with Ruby Dee but Tilda Swinton pulled it out and her speech was fun. I think Amy Ryan was probably most deserving but maybe next year. Ever notice how Tilda Swinton looks like Clay Aiken?

Jon Stewart was good this year. Better than he was two years ago. His opening was pretty good, particularly the line about showing respect for the writers by inviting them to the Vanity Fair party (instead of canceling it) and his description of this years nominees: "this years slate of oscar nominated psychopathic killer movies, thank god for teen pregnancy". He had a good dig on Norbit too, "too often the academy ignores movies that aren't good".

Stewart was also good pointing out 11 year old singer Jamaya Simone Nash. After coming back from another commercial break two of them were playing Wii tennis on the giant screen. I think the funniest presenters were Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill who were introduced as Dame Judi Dench and Halle Berry and spent the time fighting over who looked more like Halle Berry. Steve Carell was pretty funny too.

There were too many film montages. I'm guessing it was how they coped with not having enough time to write stuff. it was fun for a while but then got old. At least they made fun of themselves with oscars salute to binoculars and periscopes and bad dreams, an oscar salute.

I thought a lot of the actresses managed to look very beautiful in spite of their dresses. I just didn't like the feathers which seemed to be unfortunately prominently placed. Anne Hathaway, Jessica Alba, Penelope Cruz, Kristen Chenoweth, and Hilary Swank all had the same problem. Another trend that annoyed me was strapless dresses that didn't move with the person and looked liked armored breast plates. Keri Russell and Kristen Chenoweth both had this. Also the woman who won for best costume design had a horrible dress, that shouldn't happen. I think Katherine Heigl, Marion Cotillard, Renée Zellweger and Cate Blanchett looked best.

Why were Heidi Klum and Seal there? They weren't in any films, didn't present and he didn't sing. And yet they were sitting near the stage. If you're going to invite Heidi Klum at least show a shot of her standing up.

I noticed this year they were pretty good about letting multiple people talk when accepting the award. They were bad for the award for sound mixing when they cut off the guy to show a montage of past best actress winners. That's just rude. The best song winner was from Once and Glen Hansard spoke but Markéta Irglová was cut off before being allowed to say anything. The best moment of the night was when Jon Stewart, back from commercial, brought out Markéta Irglová so she could give her speech. Here's what she said:

"Hi everyone, I just wanted to thank you so much. This is such a big deal, not only for us but for all other independent musicians and artists that spend most of their time struggling. And the fact that we're standing here tonight, the fact that we're able to hold this, is just proof that no matter how far out your dreams are, it's possible. And fair play to those that dare to dream and don't give up. This song is written from a perspective of hope and hope at the end of the day connects us all no matter how different we are. And so thank you so much who helped us along the way. Thank you."

This was the best speech of the night. Hopefully the oscar producers will learn their lesson. I'd rather hear winners speak like this than watch a lot of montages. If the 24 winners were allowed to speak for a full minute that's still less than a half hour of the broadcast. At least this year everyone got to walk up on stage.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Seeing the Oscar Nominations

When the Oscar nominations came out I had a bunch of films to see. I managed to see just about every film it was possible to see. I've seen all the films that got more than one nomination:

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

From the other main categories that got one nomination I've seen all but August Rush, up for Best Song, which isn't in theaters and isn't on DVD.

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

None of the foreign films are in theaters or on DVD. I saw 3/5 of the Documentaries. Of the three shorts categories I saw all the animated and live action films yesterday but have no way to the documentary shorts. So of a total of 113 nominations, I've seen 100!

Movie Review: Oscar Shorts

Yesterday I went to the Coolidge Corner Theatre and saw both the live action and animated oscar nominated shorts. I wasn't as impressed with this years crop as I have been with previous years. I still have idea what I think will win the awards on Sunday.

The Nominated Live Shorts:

1. AT NIGHT - A Danish film about three teenage girls spending the holidays in a cancer ward. At 40 minutes long, lots of sad elements and one Freddy Krueger reference.

2. THE SUBSTITUTE - An Italian film about a crazy substitute teacher who seems to be inspired by the antics of Roberto Beigni. Pretty funny at times. It was "dedicated to those with difficulties with conduct".

3. THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS - A french film about some really bad pickpockets who take in a deaf homeless boy and use him in their life of crime. I thought it dragged.

4. TANGHI ARGENTINI - An office worker meets a woman on the internet and arranges to meet her at a dance club for the tango. He then has to have a colleague give him dance lessons in just two weeks time. It was only 13 minutes and was a lot of fun. It reminded me of a funny european beer commercial.

5. THE TONTO WOMAN - A western based on an Elmore Leonard story. A mexican cattle thief meets a woman who was previously held by indians for 11 years, now being held in her own log cabin by her husband. It was slow and boring and stupid and I really didn't like it.

The nominated Animated Shorts:

1. I MET THE WALRUS - True story: "In 1969, fourteen-year-old Jerry Levitan snuck into John Lennon's hotel room with his tape recorder and persuaded him to do an interview." This film is (pen and ink?) animation to that audio track, mostly just playing off the words spoken. Pretty fun and only 5 mins long.

2. MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI - A wordless mix of claymation and CGI from Canada about an old woman on a train. She looks like an old Winona Ryder. The first half introduces here to various characters on the train and there's a really fun chess game. The second half throws all of that away and turns it into some kind of weird horror film that seemed completely pointless to me.

3. EVEN PIGEONS GO TO HEAVEN - A 9 min French film in which a priest visits an old man in a cottage and tries to sell him a machine that will transport him to heaven. Pretty fun and Pixar-like.

4. MY LOVE - A 27 min Russian story set in the 19th century about a prince drawn to two very different women. The animation is watercolors that looked like impressionists crossed with the Saturday Evening Post. The images all morphed into each other and while I got the overall gist of the story I found parts of it confusing.

5. PETER & THE WOLF - A wordless animated version of Prokofiev's classical music piece. The stop-motion animation struck me as Robot Chicken done well. It was fun but at 27 min I found it very long with lots of long slow dramatic pauses.

What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Seven

Finally, What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Seven.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Wire Episode 7

Still waiting for the real thugs' comments but here's Salon's "The Wire" episode wrap-up.

Flu IV

I think I'm close to done with the flu. Tue I slept through the night with the aid of Nyquil, last night I did it without drugs. I still cough or blow my nose a bit, but I can breathe normally and that's a big win. I also lost about 4-5 lbs which is nice, we'll see if I can keep it off. I think today I'll try to catch the Oscar nominated short films at the Coolidge.

Bush's New Lows

The American Research Group has a new poll. "Among all Americans, 19% approve of the way Bush is handling his job as president and 77% disapprove. When it comes to Bush's handling of the economy, 14% approve and 79% disapprove."

"Among Republicans (29% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 45% approve of the way Bush is handling his job and 50% disapprove. Among Democrats (43% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 1% approve and 99% disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job. Among independents (28% of adults registered to vote in the survey), 17% approve and 75% disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job as president."

Obama in Congress

hilzoy, guest blogging in Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish wrote Dear Chris Matthews: Please Do Your Job where he describes Barack Obama's legislative accomplishments.

Ignoring the McCain Story

I honestly don't care about the latest New York Times story on John McCain, For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk. I don't care if he had an affair with lobbyist Vicki Iseman 8 years ago, just like I didn't care who Larry Craig might have had sex with or who Bill Clinton had sex with. Though it's interesting watching Republicans have different reactions about this story compared to the other two.

Total Lunar Eclipse Last Night

eclipse2008.jpgI took a few photos of the eclipse last night. This is the best shot put my point and shoot wasn't able to do very well at this task. My friends Mike and Rich both have DSLRs and real tripods and did much better. I mostly looked at it through my Pentax 10x50 binoculars and I could easily make out craters and when colored red they were very cool. If you missed it, it will happen again around Christmas 2010.

Battlestar Galactica Interview

One of the law blogs I read has a Battlestar Galactica Interview. "We are thrilled to offer readers of Concurring Opinions an interview with Ron Moore and David Eick, creators of the hit television show Battlestar Galactica. Daniel Solove, Deven Desai, and David Hoffman ask the questions. We would like to thank Professor John Ip for suggesting some of the torture questions. Our interview lasts a little over an hour, and we'll be providing it to you in several parts over the next few days." Yep, you should be watching this show.

"Our interview is structured in three parts. Part I, available today in two files (see the end of this post to download), focuses on the issues of legal systems and morality. It examines the lawyers and trials in the show. It also examines how torture is depicted, as well as how the humans must balance civil liberties and security.

Part II examines politics and commerce. It explores how the cylon attack affected the humans' political system, and it examines how commerce works in the fleet.

Part III examines issues related to cylons, such as the humans' treatment of cylons, how robots should be treated by the law, how the cylons govern themselves politically. Additionally, Part III will explore the religious issues involved in the show."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Iron Chef Busted

The Village Voice has an article Iron Chef Boyardee that explains "Iron Chef America is more bogus than even I had imagined."

Go Outside Right Now

If you're not looking at the lunar eclipse, go outside and look it at right now. That's saturn to the left of the moon by the way.

Movie Review: 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a Romanian film getting rave reviews. It tells the story of Gabita Dragut, a college student getting an illegal abortion with the help of her roommate Otilia in the late 80s. It opens during the morning of and shows their life in the dorm while they prepare by doing mundane things like trading with neighbors, packing, booking a hotel room, etc. This is what life in a dysfunctional communist society was like.

Gabita is one of the most inept people ever presented on film. She's incapable of performing even the simplest task for herself, by herself. Fortunately she has Otilia to help her. Everyone should have a friend like Otilia.

The film has very long shots, often concentrating on the banal, such as the conversation at a dinner party Otillia's boyfriend's family is throwing. The camera often didn't move even after the shot was over, most obviously in a scene when Otillia catches a bus. It stays focused on an overpass long after she's out of the shot. Also, several things the camera concentrated on, never became relevant again. The result is a verisimilitude not commonly found in films.

The film is not judgmental and merely tries to show events as they might have happened. Certainly some of the characters deserve to be judged. There are some very difficult aspects to the story. Not to give anything away but I was expecting even worse. I think the point is to compare the first scene to the last and note the effect of the events.

I saw it with a group of people and while we all thought it was a fine film, none of us understood why so much lavish praise is given to it.

Movie Review: Sweeney Todd

Sweeney Todd is a barber in 19th century London seeking revenge on the evil judge that stole his wife and sent him to a penal colony for 15 years and is now killing various London miscreants. He performs these acts in his barber shop rented from the second story of Nellie Lovett's pie shop on Fleet Street. She makes the "worst pies in London" and uses the remains of Todd's victims as a new source of high quality protein in her pies. He kills them in his barber chair and pulls a lever lowering the chair back and dropping them down a trapped door to the basement near the furnace. The angles work out that all the victims land upside-down on the tops of their head. Each and every time we're shown the shot of the bodies landing and crunching like rag dolls. I found this shot somehow hilarious, and it's a good thing since we're shown it about 8 times. I laughed out loud each and every time.

It's also about the only thing I really loved in Tim Burton's film based on the Broadway play by Stephen Sondheim. It has the dark washed out look and the overdone makeup (making even the living characters look ghostly) of a Burton film and stars Burton regulars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as Todd and Lovett. Alan Rickman makes a good Judge Turpin and Sasha Baron Cohen is a competitor barber with a young assistant. There's also a Romeo and Juliet star-crossed young lovers subplot.

There is a lot of blood in a Monty Python squirting kind of way and against the washed out tones it really comes across looking like thick red nail polish. Murder, cannibalism, rape, pedophilia, etc. Sounds like the stuff for a musical doesn't it? There is plenty of singing and it's mostly fine, though I found the tunes all unmemorable. I'm not sure if the songs advanced the plot or slowed it down, probably both. It's dark but goes more for tragedy than fun (well except for the falling bodies) and didn't really come together as a film.

Movie Review: Across the Universe

There are a few images from Julie Taymor's Titus that are burned into my brain. A scene where a girl has branches for arms is stuck in my consciousness as much as any scene from Clockwork Orange, and yes that's high praise. Frida had a lot of images too but those are in my mind much more for Salma Hayek than Julie Taymor. Across the Universe got pretty bad reviews and I skipped it in the theater. It got a Best Costume nomination so I watched on DVD.

The film takes over thirty Beatles songs and assembles a story out of them. It seems unimaginative that it's the story of several teenagers during the 60s in Liverpool and the US. Two are in a band, one gets drafted, two fall in love, and one is a war protester and at one point they all lived together in an apartment. It seemed like a cross between Hair and Singles, though it really is assembled like a jigsaw puzzle, trying to find a story through different unrelated lyrics. Given the subject matter they always have the out making the story about a drug trip and they take advantage of that several times, including some guest performances by Bono (I Am the Walrus) and Eddie Izzard (For Benefit of Mister Kite).

There are a few numbers that are really inspired masterpieces. Taymor matched the song I Want You with Uncle Sam on a draft poster. As Max enters a draft office Uncle Sam literally comes off a giant poster to bring him into an assembly line of identically masked soldiers that strip and process him. To bring in the line "She's so heavy" the soldiers are walking across miniature jungles of Vietnam carrying the Statue of Liberty. It's obvious but it really works. It then segues into a different I Want You sung by the young asian lesbian Prudence saying it of straight singer Sadie. Prudence was introduced earlier singing "I Want to Hold Your Hand" taking that previously happy song and making it sad. It never occurred to me that Strawberry Fields could be bloody fields, but I doubt I'll forget that allusion. I've never been a big fan of Happiness Is a Warm Gun" but now that I've seen it as a hospital fantasy sequence with five Salma Hayeks playing nurse I've added a star to it in iTunes.

The cast is all basically newcomers and they do their own singing which is quite good and mostly live and not lip-synced. However, overall I don't think the story is really interesting and the allusions are pretty direct and simplistic. The Beatles are such a defining part of the sixties that to take the music and set it to a rough sketch of the sixties seems redundant. A couple of songs set in new contexts really work, but otherwise it's too long and too unoriginal.

NBC Ends Fall Only Debuts

The New York Times reports Ending Tradition, NBC Dismisses Fall Debuts. "NBC Universal took a big step toward undoing one of the television industry’s oldest traditions by announcing Tuesday that it would move to a year-round schedule of staggered program introductions. The move is intended to appeal to advertisers, who crave fresh content to keep viewers tuned in." Maybe this is the beginning of the end of sweeps weeks and shows can be scheduled for what works best for them.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Malcolm Gladwell at TED on Spaghetti Sauce

I'm working my way through the TED talks. TED is an exclusive conference so influential people can share ideas. I've seen this talk before but it's good and worth listening to. It's Malcolm Gladwell talking for about 20 minutes about spaghetti sauce. Really, it's fascinating.

SCOTUS Rejects ACLU Challenge to Warrantless Wiretaps

The Supreme Court announced today it will not hear the appeal of the ACLU in its warrantless wiretapping case. They gave no reason, but it would have taken 4 justices to agree to hear the case.

"The ACLU sued on behalf of itself, other lawyers, reporters and scholars, arguing that the program was illegal and that they had been forced to alter how they communicate with foreigners who were likely to have been targets of the wiretapping. A federal judge in Detroit largely agreed, but the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the suit, saying the plaintiffs could not prove their communications had been monitored and thus could not prove they had been harmed by the program." The ACLU appealed the dismissal and that's what was rejected today. These are the ACLU's comments today.

Marty Lederman wrote this excellent article on the 6th Circuit's opinion last July. Only one judge ruled on the actual merits and it's clear the program violates FISA. The other two judges dismissed on standing and that's a very tricky question here. It's not clear who was targeted and only those who were have standing to sue. That's a crappy catch-22.

Glenn Greenwald writes more on this topic in The courts and Congress affirmatively conceal and protect lawbreaking. "This decision does mean, however, that EFF's pending lawsuits in San Francisco against AT&T, Verizon and the other telecoms are now the sole remaining vehicle for finding out what the Bush administration actually did when spying on Americans for years without warrants, and as importantly, is the last hope for obtaining a judicial ruling as to whether the President broke the law and violated the Constitution when doing so. If Jay Rockefeller and Dick Cheney have their way and retroactive amnesty is granted to these telecoms, those lawsuits will be forever dismissed and Americans will remain indefinitely in the dark about how our own Government spied on us, and will forever lose the opportunity to have a court rule whether the Government broke the law and violated our Constitutional rights."

"When high political officials here are accused of breaking the law, they need not defend themselves. Congress acts to protect and immunize them. The courts refuse even to hear the lawsuits. And executive branch officials are completely shielded from the most basic mechanics of the rule of law."

"In a minimally functioning Republic, when our political leaders are accused of concealing wrongdoing, Congress investigates, uncovers what happens, and informs the American people. When political leaders are accused of breaking the law, courts decide whether that occurred. None of the branches of government do that any longer. They do the opposite: they not only fail to perform those functions, but they affirmatively act to block investigations, help the conduct remain concealed, and ensure that there is no adjudication. When it comes to ensuring that the NSA spying scandal specifically remains forever uninvestigated, secret, and unexamined, telecom amnesty will be the final nail in this coffin, but it is merely illustrative of how our political culture now functions."

Requiem for a TV News Career

Here's an interesting story from Chez Pazienza in the Huffington Post, : Say What You Will (Requiem for a TV News Career). She worked at CNN and was fired for having a personal blog that she didn't get approved by corporate. She then goes on to decry the state of the mainstream media as a whole and to stand up to it. Sounds like the rantings of a pissed of individual, but it was still a fun read.

How Many F-22 Do We Need?

Slate had an article, The Air Force doesn't need any more F-22s. "Last December, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates decided to stop production of the Air Force's beloved stealth fighter plane, the F-22 Raptor, at the end of fiscal year 2008. This would leave the program at 187 planes costing a total of $65 billion. On Feb. 13, according to today's issue of Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, Gen. Bruce Carlson, chief of the Air Force's materiel command, told a group of reporters, 'We think that [187 planes] is the wrong number' and that the Air Force would find some way to build 380 before the program's done. He joked that 380 is a 'compromise,' since the original plan calls for 381."

It goes on to describe how the justification is China's developing miltary but then describes how while that's true, it won't be an issue for decades. Let's save some money. That's not to say the plane isn't amazing. Here is a video compilation of some acrobatics:

LOST The Economist

Ben Lundy at Broadcast Depth has a goo LOST Episode 4x03 - The Economist review.

Business Model And Software Patents To Be Reviewed in Court

Techdirt writes Patentability of Business Model and Software Patents Comes Under Court Scrutiny: "Nearly ten years ago, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) made its ruling in the State Street Bank case, effectively allowing patents on business models and greatly expanding the scope of software patents in one single move. While there are many problems with the patent system, this one decision made for a lot more bad patents very quickly -- and many of the ridiculous lawsuits you see today wouldn't even exist if this decision had gone the other way. While we've seen the Supreme Court suddenly get religion on fixing the patent system in the past few years, it hasn't really touched on the question of software or business model patents. "

"CAFC has agreed to a full court hearing to examine the scope of what can be patented. It may sound like a technicality, but it could be a very big deal."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Total Lunar Eclipse Wed Night

On Wed night there will be a total lunar eclipse. There won't be another until December 2010. Sky and Telescope explains: "Earth’s shadow will totally engulf the Moon from 10:00 to 10:52 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, or 7:00 to 7:52 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. The partial phases of the eclipse last for about an hour and a quarter before and after totality."

"So why does the eclipsed Moon glow deep orange or red, rather than being blacked out? The answer is amazing. The red light you'll see on the Moon comes from all the sunrises and sunsets that are occurring around Earth at the time. Our atmosphere scatters and refracts (bends) the sunlight that grazes the rim of our globe, sending some of it into Earth’s shadow."

See Lunar Eclipses for Beginners for more info and pictures.

Earlier today the whether forecast was for party cloudy skies, now I see "A slight chance of snow after noon. Increasing clouds, with a high near 36." If you're near Boston CfA is having a viewing from their roof with telescopes. Conveniently, it's almost exactly the time I'm supposed to stop being contagious.


Last night I switched from Afrin to Nyquil and got my best night's sleep in a while. I woke up this morning and barely had a fever so that's an improvement. My back also is much less achy. Coughing doesn't hurt as much but my nose is much more stuffed, it's practically useless. We'll see if the Comtrex i just took helps. No I'm not overlapping medications but I am switching between them, particularly anti-histamines.

Yesterday I watched Elizabeth 2 and The Assassination of Jesse James. Neither was particularly good. Elizabeth had enough story to tell but didn't really bother to like the first one did. James didn't have enough story and took an hour or more too long to tell it.

Today Sci-Fi is running a Firefly marathon, always good stuff.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Google Sees Lots of iPhone Usage

Interesting article in the Financial Times, Google homes in on revenues from phones. "Google on Wednesday said it had seen 50 times more searches on Apple‘s iPhone than any other mobile handset, adding weight to the group’s confidence at being able to generate significant revenues from the mobile internet."

Also sucky that Apple Insider plagiarized it.

Flu II

Thanks for the well wishes. I think this is my first flu vs a regular cold. I had some difficulty sleeping for the last couple of weeks. I had a stuffy nose only when sleeping and woke up during the night. Though other things like construction sounds, snow plows at 3 freakin' am and a noisy upstairs neighbor could have contributed.

Wed night was a lot worse and on Thu I had a fever and called for a doctor's appointment on Fri. They gave me rapid strep and flu tests and the flu one came up positive. The doctor and nurse stayed out of the room until they could get me a surgical mask but they still were whining that they got exposed. Why they weren't wearing masks themselves, I don't know. Apparently lots of people around here came down with the flu this week.

He gave me a prescription for Tamiflu and I went to CVS to get it filled. When I was in Japan in 2001 I noticed lots of people walking around wearing surgical masks. It was really strange to me but made sense. It was mostly sick people who didn't want to infect others. It probably has to do with their tendency to not blow their nose but merely sniffle all the time which struck me as odd. At the time we discussed how strange this would be in the US, well now I've proved that. People in CVS gave me lots of strange looks. While looking for something in the middle of an aisle a father with 2 young boys came down the aisle, stopped, walked back up the aisle, down a different one and then up the other side of mine, just to avoid walking past me.

Yesterday when I got home I started in with the drugs and they've helped. Last night I woke up a few times but got a decent nights sleep. Of course I was woken up at 8am by the sounds of construction. Here's my view outside my front door.


By then the drugs had worn off and I felt like crap. A lot has moved to my throat and I have a nasty cough that hurts. Lots of general malaise too. I got up, took more drugs, got back into bed for a few hours and felt much better. I made some brunch which helped since aside from tons of fluids, all I ate yesterday was a small tv dinner. I watched a little TV, I think Bill Maher was better without his writers. Then I took a 3 hour nap. We'll see if I have enough energy to watch a movie this evening. Yes, I of all people, really don't have the energy to watch to a movie.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I'm not sure if the blog will have more or fewer posts. I have the flu and am home and resting for a few days. I'm pretty wiped out so I'd guess fewer. Enjoy the long weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bush Shuts Down Website Tracking U.S. Economic Indicators

Think Progress explains ahow with all the bad economic data coming out, the Bush Administration Hides More Data, Shuts Down Website Tracking U.S. Economic Indicators.

"The Bush administration’s latest move is to simply hide the data. Forbes has awarded one of its ‘Best of the Web’ awards. As Forbes explains, the government site provides an invaluable service to the public for accessing U.S. economic data. Yet the Bush administration has decided to shut down this site because of ‘budgetary constraints,’ effective March 1:"

Bolten and Miers in Contempt of Congress

Finally, the House Cites 2 Bush Aides for Contempt.

"The House voted [223-to-32] Thursday to issue contempt citations against the White House chief of staff [Josh Bolten] and a former White House counsel [Harriet Miers] for refusing to cooperate in an investigation into the mass firings of federal prosecutors."

Four Lessons Learned At Guantanamo Bay

The Blog of the American Constitution Society wrote Four Lessons Learned At Guantanamo Bay.

"After more than six years, the basic questions of who can be tried by military commission, for what charges and under what procedures remain unresolved. Yesterday’s pretrial hearing in Omar Khadr’s case only underscored this point. Yet the U.S. government continues to insist on trying to use these military commissions as an end-run around standards and procedures for criminal justice that have served the United States well for over 200 years."

Yep, Ethanol's Bad

Kevin Drum wrote Ethanol: It's Even Worse Than You Thought.. "A few days ago two studies were published showing that biofuels like ethanol had no positive effect on global warming. In fact, it turns out that they're actively bad for the environment. One of the studies concluded that use of corn-based ethanol produces twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as regular gasoline over a 30-year period, and only becomes carbon neutral after 167 years."

Maybe oceans are the answer.

Indiana Jones Trailer

The first half of this trailer is slow but the second half looks better. But Harrison Ford does look old.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Spielberg Quits Olympics In Darfur Protest

Spielberg quits Olympics work to protest Chinese inaction - International Herald Tribune "The movie director Steven Spielberg has said he is withdrawing as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing after almost a year of trying unsuccessfully to prod President Hu Jintao to do more to try to end Sudan's attacks in the Darfur region."

Battlestar Galactica DVDs

Here is some Battlestar Galactica DVD news.

Season 3 DVDs - due March 18th - containing all 20 episodes for $60
Razor isn't included because it already had it's own DVD release for $27

Season 4 will premiere on Sci-Fi on April 4. I have friends who have been waiting months for the Season 3 DVDs. Why they are arriving only 17 days before the premiere I don't know. Seems like not enough time for people to watch 20 episodes.

And it looks like the season 4 DVDs will be split into two halves at $50 each just like Season 2. Nope I won't be falling for that crap. I'd enjoy owning the DVDs and I'd like to support the show by buying them, but I won't pay $100 for it, nor would I expect someone to gift them to me for that.


Since a reader commented about Lost I'll do a Lost post. Yeah I'm into it. After each episode I and a group of friends exchange theories via email. What follows isn't all mine.

I thought the first episode of season 4 was just ok. It was nice to have Lost back but it didn't reveal anything near as mind blowing as any of the other season premieres (the pilot, the tail section, the Others' camp). Hurley is my favorite character so it was good to have a flash forward for him. His flash forward paralleled Jack's so there wasn't much new aside from debates about his visions of Charlie (see below).

I really liked the second episode. It was good to see all the Freighties even if Daniel's flashback was particularly vague. It seems like the different Frieghties have different reasons for coming to the island and in spite of Matthew Abaddon's mission description to Naomi, they might have different missions.

Miles says they're looking for Ben (and Frank seemed unsurprised by a "native"). We've previously seen Ethan and Richard in the real world (getting Juliet) so it's not that hard to believe Ben was off island too. However Naomi said she was looking for Desmond and had a photo. If Penny isn't involved (and if she is they are just screwing with Charlle's death) then it must be her father Charles Widmore.

My guess is the island has its secrets (probably alien if you go by the comic book and some of the strange happenings) and is hidden from the rest of the world via some kind of (electro-magnectic) shield. Locke not turning the key and Desmond "turning the sky purple" probably exposed it to the outside world (we saw the Polish researchers in the cold detect the event and tell Penny). Widmore was probably involved with Dharma and is looking for Ben to find out what happened when the hostiles destroyed Dharma. Or maybe Ben's been pretending to still be Dharma so the food drops keep coming. That would explain why Ben is so afraid of the Freighties and why he thinks they might want to kill everyone still alive on the island (since they killed Dharma).

I assume the Oceanic 6 are six Losties rescued from the island. It seems it's Jack, Hurley and Kate and three others. I''m guessing they get off the island via some means other than the Freighties. Since Hurley went with Locke and not Jack there must be something that happens to get them together. Also with the other Oceanic 815 found in the water, the six have to have some explanation for how they survived for several months, they could not have just floated. When Abbadon asked Hurley "if any of them are alive" I'm guessing he meant Naomi's team though it could have meant the others.

Something traumatic must have happened that Jack and Hurley have a secret. I don't see how Jack would leave the children from the flight who we and he saw with Cindy the stewardess, with the others on the island. Something big must have happened. Since we know they want to go back to the island, we know it's not destroyed and I assume people are still there.

My hope is that Ben was in the coffin but I can't explain how he would be part of the Oceanic 6 since he wasn't on 815 and the manifest list is well known. My best guess for someone on the plane would be Locke, but he probably would have been forced to leave the island.

I like some of the theories that involve time travel. We've seen Desmond go back and relive an event and he has reliable visions of the future. He told his physics professor friend Donovan about it and maybe he tells Penny and they muck things up for her father. One friend of mine has a hope that Desmond's time travel created a paradox and there are two Charlies. Remember Desmond walked by Charlie in his alternate past. Maybe the vision Hurley had was of a real alternate Charlie. Personally I think he was just Hurley seeing people.

To me the biggest mystery is who were the original hostiles (now others). Also, remember the corpses found in the cave in the season one? They're called Adam & Eve and the producers said they are related to the central mystery of the island. They're a plot plant to prove the writers had it all plotted out from the beginning. So any theory must take them into account. If there's time travel, they could be any of our Losties.


What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Six

What Do Real Thugs Think of The Wire? Part Six.

Is anyone else watching this or am I just posting these for myself? Not that I'm going to stop ...

Photosynth Demo from TED

This is a really great video of a TED talk showing a Photosynth demo. They took many flickr photos of the same thing and stitched them together to form something similar but more than large VR views of a place. The example of Notre Dame is very impressive. Photosynth's site is here but the demo is only for windows :(

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The TSA Has a Blog

Evolution of Security is the TSA's blog. "This blog is sponsored by the Transportation Security Administration to facilitate an ongoing dialogue on innovations in security, technology and the checkpoint screening process."

So far it's a mix. There are some posts that suggest they have a clue and they are being very gracious dealing with a lot of obnoxious comments and seemingly not censoring them. I give them credit for this. They commented on the story about US Customs Searching Electronic Data, though I don't find the answer completely satisfactory.

Then there's this post, Hooray Bloggers! that congratulates the complaints "about airports that were requiring ALL electronics to be removed from carry-on bags". They didn't know this and looked into it and found out "this exercise was set up by local TSA offices and was not part of any grand plan across the country. These practices were stopped on Monday afternoon." Isn't that encouraging? How do these practices just start? And there's a comment on the post that the following Monday the incident occurred again at BWI.

Son of Concorde

A new European plane is being billed as the Son of Concorde: "The commercial plane is designed to carry 300 passengers and will reach speeds of Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound. Its hi-tech liquid hydrogen-powered engines will also produce few carbon emissions, making air travel much greener." The article has son good images.

Color Pencils Reviewed

This Review of Color Pencils is pretty funny.

Strike Over, So When Are My Favorite Shows Coming Back?

When Are My Favorite Shows Coming Back? lists for many TV shows what's expected for the remainder of the season.

The most common seems to be "Expected to shoot 4 to 7 new episodes to air in April/May." I'm looking forward to that for The Big Bang Theory, House and Grey's Anatomy (hopefully the season improves). I've recently gotten into Friday Night Lights and am sorry to see "No new episodes expected for this season. Future TBD." Heroes is a big "TBD" probably because of special effects, they need a longer lead time for the episodes.

Lost's news is pretty good "Six pre-strike episodes remain. Six additional episodes could air this season." Maybe more stuff will be revealed quicker. Battlestar Galactica is not listed but 10 new episodes are expected starting on April 4th.

And I think the best news is for the Bionic Woman, "No new episodes expected. Ever."

Wiki Surgery?

Just came across Wiki Surgery. "Wikisurgery is a free surgical encyclopedia for surgeons and their patients. Contributions in the form of new articles and editing can be made by anyone at anytime anywhere in the world."

This seems like a bad idea.

Comcast TiVo Disaster

This is too bad, Two Weeks of Comcast HD TiVo Service: Complete or Total Disaster? "What follows is the story of our first two weeks with the brand new, Comcast HD TiVo service. The merges the Comcast HD cable settop box with the DVR recording capabilities of TiVo software. The experience, while having so much potential for a quality product at a fair price, has been nothing short of disastrous."

To be clear, this is the new comcast service that uses TiVo software, it's not the HDTiVo box from TiVo itself.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Complete Introduction to git

This is the best Complete Introduction to git I've seen.

Economist Podcasts

I didn't realize this but the economist does podcasts. They even have business travel guides for various cities done by the correspondents (who obviously travel a lot).

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Daily Kos has an interesting analysis of democratic voting demographics.

Favorite Colors

At the bottom of the right column there's a hit count meter. Via that I get some statistics about this blog. One of the things I see is what google queries people make that bring them to this blog. One trend is that I get a lot of people looking for the favorite of color of famous people. I was mentioning that to group of former co-workers who are loyal readers and they suggested I should blog them. So here are some recent favorite color searches that lead people here:

heath ledger favorite color (3 times)
bugs favorite color (2 times)
www. what is keira knightley favorite color stuff like that
halle berry's favorite color
james marsden's favorite color
albert einstein favorite color
obama's favorite color
george w bush favorite color
what is andrews favorite color
kids favorite color
president favorite color
what was pythagoras favorite color

I also got these other "favorite" queries:
george w. bush favorite movie
martin luther king jr favorite food
favorite food heath ledger
gerald ford favorite food

Winter Update

It's 15 degrees F outside. There are also big wind gusts so the wind chill is below zero. The sky is clear though so that's a plus. Yesterday was really odd, it would be fine one minute and the next it would be whiteout conditions. Quick squalls that were intense.

I went out with the Sunday Night Film Club and looked out the window and saw things were fine. Five minutes later when I left the house I could barely see to the end of the (now clear) driveway. It was slow going driving into Kendall Square and there were some slippery spots but it wasn't too bad. After the movie we walked to Tommy Doyles. There's what's best described as a long alleyway between some buildings we went through and it was nasty. Really fierce cold wind right at our faces. Someone commented how they didn't remember anything about the movie before that walk.

When driving home the squalls had stopped but it was still cold and there was ice around. About a block before I turned on my street there was a tree blowing in the wind. I saw it from about a block away and it was blowing around much more than the other trees around it. It really looked like a Transformer (aka giant robot) on the side of the road.

The Wire Episode 6

"I like how you didn't overwrite it. No extra color. No puffy adjectives. Just tight, declarative sentences."

The discussion in Salon.

Entertainment Weekly's recap is reasonable, but I think Marlo took credit for killing Prop Joe, he didn't blame it on Omar.

Computer For a Mother-in-Law

A geek friend who's into Linux asked my advice for getting a mac for his mother-in-law knowing that he'd have to do remote support for it. He found my response useful so I thought I'd blog it.

The computer will mostly be used for email and web surfing.

If she wants a desktop get an iMac. EIther of the 20" models is sufficient, though the 2.4GHz 20" model is worth the added cost for what you get, she probably won't need the added specs. The Mac Mini is fine too if she already has a monitor but it's not quite the deal it was when it first came out. The camera builtin to the iMac is really nice to do video chats.

I really like laptops instead of desktops and recommend macbooks. I like being able to move the machine to different rooms, e.g., bring it into the kitchen to follow a recipe without having to print it out. Again the middle model is the sweet spot, but the low end will be fine. A lot of people do like the black one and while you can configure the white one the same way the black costs $150 more. My sister got the macbook pro because she liked the bigger screen (15.4" vs 13.3". It's a lot more money but she's happy with it. The current guess is new macbooks and macbook pros will be announced at the end of Feb.

I think all of these ship with with 1GB ram and that's probably good enough for email and surfing. I have 1GB in my Powerbook now, it's fine but can get a little tight with a lot of things open. I typically have running: Quicksilver, iGTD, Safari, NetNewsWire, MarsEdit (blogging client), Mail, Adium (IM client), iCal, Address Book, Activity Monitor. I can have one or two other large apps (iTunes, iPhoto, Delicious Library, Pages) open before running into some swapping.

My sister forgets to close apps so sometimes runs into problems (the little red button in a window's top corner on a mac closes a document not the app, unlike on windows). Also we've setup a second account for her fiance and both are logged in at the same time. The virtual memory works great but some of the apps like safari (and the flash plugin) are VM hogs.

Apple gouges on memory but if you need to repair it they don't respond well if there's third party mem installed. I'll probably get 2GB of Apple ram and if I wanted more than that I'd go 3rd party. The iMac comes with a 1GB DIMM so adding another is easy. The macbook comes with 2 512MB DIMMS so if you go to 2 1GB ones, ask for the old ones back to sell on ebay, otherwise the Apple Store will keep them and you're still paying for them. Ordering online doesn't have this problem.

Backups may or may not be an issue. A lot of people now just use web apps, my sister, when she remembers, backs up a few files to a thumb drive. I have an external drive I connect every few weeks and use a free program SilverKeeper to dupe the drive. I've restored from this once and it was fine. Leopard's Time Machine is a good seemless backup tool. I haven't used it yet but a friend loves it. It needs another drive to backup to, but they have a new product Time Capsule to do that. It a combo AirPort (802.11n/g/b) basestation and hard drive and can do backups over wifi. It's about to ship but I plan on getting one with the new machine.

Some wifi routers don't do as well with macs. Sometimes the web interface doesn't like safari or configuring the password for encryption is wierd (wanting a key instead of a passphrase) or more likely the port forwarding stuff doesn't auto configure for audio/video chats. Linksys is the best of the 3rd parties. For my sister we got her an Apple one which while expensive, it works well. It's also a print server so she plugs in her printer and it's on the network, great with the laptop. The admin UI is not web based so it's nice to use. I've taught her how to reboot it which she needs to do occasionally (if the printer isn't visible), it's no problem. Time Capsule lets you plug in a printer too so it's all you need and comes in 500GB and 1TB models.

If she's into it, Apple has a service called One-to-One. For $99 for a year, she can book an hour-long one-on-one instore training session to cover anything about the mac or apple products. How to use Safari, bookmarks, mail, iPhoto, an iPod, etc. The amazing thing is that $99 allows for up to one a week in the year, that's 52 sessions. They have iMacs instore to use or she can bring her own laptop to use. This can free you up from having to do support/training.

OS X comes with a Software Update tool that runs weekly and gets new revs from Apple. It works great. My sister can do it and when I see her I do quick checks to see that all her stuff is up to date. My sister is now up to iTunes and iPhoto so people do learn to use new things. If she needs Word/Excel support, get the student edition of mac Office, either the new or old is fine. There are no checks or limitations.

Safari is fine and I use it as does my sister. Firefox is installed too for the occasional sites that don't render in Safari. I've taught my sister how to start it if a site doesn't work. Safari is more mac-like (emacs keybindings, dictionary lookup, etc) but your mother-in-law probably won't run into those things. The fact that it updates via Software Update is nice. Firefox 3 will use cocoa so I'm looking forward to that, but the new WebKit builds (Safari's open source HTML rendering engine based on KHTML) are blazingly fast.

AppleCare is their hardware warranty and I'll get it with the next machine. It's like $350 but covers all apple stuff and makes repairs and phone support pretty painless for 3 years. Bringing things to an apple store (you can schedule an appointment time online) for easy stuff is much nicer than dealing with say Dell. Their genius bars are a huge win compared to the Windows and Linux world or Best Buy's Geek Squads. Apple machines are probably average when it comes to needing repairs. I had a bad mem slot once and a hard disk that died. Both were diagnosed at a genius bar. For the mem slot I shipped to Apple and had a new machine back in a couple of days, for the drive I left it at the apple store and picked it up in a couple of days (now I'd change the drive myself).

I know it's not popular but the good book to get is Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual. It has a chapter on everything from the basics to editing video with iMovie, etc. I learned a bunch from the Tiger edition. My sister hasn't open it, intimidated by the size, but I'm still hoping.