Thursday, September 30, 2004

Image Virus spreading through AOL chat

This didn't take long. Microsoft announced holes in it's applications that could be exploited with code implanted in JPEGs on September 14th. Patches were also made available. A week later code appeared on the internet that demonstrated how to exploit the holes in the applications. ZDNet reports today that just such a virus is spreading through AOL chats. It's a small infection thus far.

WSJ Reporter in Iraq - letter

This letter is from Wall Street Journal reporter, Farnaz Fassihi. It is an honest account from one reporter's eyes as to the situation in Iraq. The WSJ reporter has confirmed that she wrote the letter. Among other items in the letter:

"Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler."

Take the time to read it through.

Prayer icon

Pray for a better time, a better world: Saint Clinton

Mount St. Helens

Yes, the volcano is likely to blow, soon. I just heard on the morning news that it's been upgraded to very active. A lot of earthquakes are being reported. Here's a volcano cam, though it's VERY foggy there this morning, so it's pretty useless now. However, hopefully it will brighten up later in the day and provide us with some good pictures. Seattle is in no danger from Mount St. Helen's. Air flow in the upper atmosphere is in a southerly directing, so most of the ash will probably head towards Portland, where the mayor is asking people to review emergency procedures and to learn from the lessons they got when the mountain erupted last time.

History repeats

To fit in with the change of events, words, too, had to change their usual
meanings. What used to be described as thoughtless aggression was now
considered the courage of a loyal ally; to think of the future and wait was
merely another way of saying one was a coward; any idea of moderation was
just an attempt to disguise one's unmanly character; the ability to
understand a question from all sides meant that one was totally unfitted for
action. Fanatical enthusiasm was the mark of a real man, and to plot against
an enemy behind his back was perfectly legitimate self-defense. Anyone who
held violent opinions could always be trusted, and anyone who objected to
them became a suspect. To plot sucessfully was a sign of intelligence, but
it was still cleverer to see that a plot was hatching. If one attempted to
provide against having to do either, one was disrupting the unity of the
party and acting out of fear of the opposition. In short, it was equally
praiseworthy to get one's blow in first against someone who was going to do
wrong, and to denounce someone who had no intention of doing any wrong at
all. Family relations were a weaker tie than party membership...

--Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War, 382

Aussie Firewall; 100GB of Harleymail

Two from Slashdot: In Australia, a conservative political organization wants to add a tax of $7 to $10 on internet connection fees. The goal is to use that money to build a nationwide filtering system to block pornographic material. Of course, the group announces that the goal is to protect children. Clearly, if these people want a nanny state filtering system, they should try living in China. Conservatives today are such odd creatures. They declare that government should be small and let people take responsibility for their own actions, then they ask for something like this.

On a brighter note, a California company that publishes an online motorcycle magaine has announced that it is providing email accounts with a storage capacity of up to 1 Tbyte each and a maximum email size of 500MB. The service is fee based. A 100Gbyte account will run the user $150 per year. Note: most email accounts couldn't accept a 500MB email. The promoter has a lot of interest in the product. He currently offers free email accounts that are 3GBytes large. He's also offering a free 1 TB account to the first person to fill up a 100GB mailbox. That's a lot of porn subscriptions.

Oui, on drugs

Here's a fun diversion. It's a collection of pages from a 1970 edition of Oui magazine featuring an article and pictures of drug paraphenalia. Note: the article does not disparage drug use.

Update: It seems my friend, Messiahbomb, has also found this site.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Ike for Kerry; A Byrd on one hand

First, Dwight Eisenhower's son, diplomat and lifelong Republican, is voting for Kerry.

"The fact is that today’s “Republican” Party is one with which I am totally unfamiliar. To me, the word “Republican” has always been synonymous with the word “responsibility,” which has meant limiting our governmental obligations to those we can afford in human and financial terms."

Next, Robert Byrd, S-W.V., gave a speech last night during which he declared, "
The Constitution of the United States has been undercut, undermined and is under attack. I have viewed with increasing alarm the erosion of the people's liberties. What we've seen is a ruthless grab for power. This administration relies on fear and secrecy."

Outsourcing Torture

Well, well, well, stung by press reports regarding a Canadian citizen who was refused entry into America and deported to Syria where he was tortured, how does the U.S. government propose dealing with such issues in the future? Obsidian Wings reports on a bill, H.R. 10 - the "9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act of 2004" which would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to issue new regulations to exclude from the protection of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, any suspected terrorist - thereby allowing them to be deported or transferred to a country that may engage in torture. The provision would put the burden of proof on the person being deported or rendered to establish "by clear and convincing evidence that he or she would be tortured," would bar the courts from having jurisdiction to review the Secretary's regulations, and would free the Secretary to deport or remove terrorist suspects to any country in the world at will - even countries other than the person's home country or the country in which they were born. The provision would also apply retroactively.

Let's see, the Republicans outsource jobs, they outsource health care reform, they've proposed outsourcing the president, and now they want to outsource torture. Have they ever seen an opportunity to dodge responsibility that they didn't like?

A Night at the Hip-Hopera

The Kleptones have a new mash-up release titled, A Night at the Hip-Hopera. It's available free as a download (via mirrors linked to at the above site or via a bit torrent link also on the site). The album is a stunning example of DJ/mash-up culture paying homage, in this case, to the music of Queen. The set of music runs about 74 minutes long and is uninterrupted. They even include album artwork in the bit torrent. I love listening to these types of experiments as I find it fun playing musical trivia while trying to guess the samples in each track. In this case, got people together and has compiled a list of the samples. If you're undecided about downloading the album, then perhaps the list will intrigue you.

While I'm promoting this sort of thing, I'll also recommend The Prodigy Remixed project which features some really fine mash-up artists. I've been following these guys since their tribute to The Clash (London's Booted). Not all of the people on The Clash tribute is on The Prodigy Remixed album or vice versa.

Speaking of The Clash, look into getting the definitive release of one of the great rock albums ever: London's Calling. The new release features a completely remastered sound, a second disc of never before released demos, and a third disc - DVD - of footage from that era.

And while I'm on re-releases, let's give a promo to Lloyd Cole and the Commotion's re-release of their first album, Rattlesnakes. The re-release features b-sides, live versions, and demos as well as being remastered. This pop masterpiece was criminally overlooked in America when it was released 20 years ago and the American label is dragging it's feet on releasing it here again. The band has reformed for a few dates in the UK.

Other releases either out or coming that have attracted my attention lately: Le Tigre - This Island, Joseph Arthur - Our Shadows Will Remain, Bossacucanova - Uma Batida Diferente, Fela Kuti - Underground Spiritual Game, Bjork - Medulla, Tuxedomoon - Cabin In The Sky, Gotan Project - Inspiracion - Espiracion Remix, Sergent Garcia - La semilla escondida, Ben Harper and the Blind Boys of Alabama - There Will Be A Light, Yuka Honda - Eucademix, Masada String Trio - 50th Birthday Celebration Volume One, and Banabila - Spherics.

Bush versus Bush on N. Korea

J. Peter Scoblic in The New Republic: "I assure you, I will never turn over America's national security decisions to leaders of other countries." Bush says this at nearly every campaign stop. But, when administration officials are asked exactly what progress they have made with North Korea, given that the country now has enough plutonium both to fuel its own small arsenal and to sell some to Al Qaeda, they all give the same answer: The negotiations are multilateral, involving not just the United States and North Korea (as was the case during the Clinton administration) but also China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea. This, they say, gives the talks greater force.

Read more at the link above. (Firefox notes that it stops a pop-up window from this site).

Stewart vs. O'Reilly

This story is being widely reported, but I'll land credit to MSNBC, where I saw it on The Countdown with Keith Obermann last night, though Keith wasn't least, I think not...not unless he had a radical transgender surgery (radical being that it happened overnight - would Keith be so egotestical to seek out honors as the sexiest newscaster from both Playgirl and Playboy within the same year?). Viewers of The Daily Show on Comedy Central are, on average, smarter than those who watch The O'Reilly Factor on Fox. John Stewart appeared on The O'Reilly factor where Bill O'Reilly referred to Stewart's audience as "stoned slackers" and he said there was research to suggest that. Comedy Central, worried what advertisers would think, called upon a real study that suggests otherwise.


From The Army's recent decision to break up Halliburton's logistics contract doesn't make a dent in the war profiteer's monopoly. And despite evidence that the giant corporation was vastly overcharging taxpayers for services it provides, it still has almost exclusive access to many contracts in Iraq. The good news is that there's a bipartisan proposal in the Senate to create a war profiteering oversight committee. Corporate policy expert Charlie Cray explains.

E-voting, more P2P, and storage

Three from ZDNet:

1) California's Governator signs a bill requiring paper receipts after e-voting. As I said before, this only makes sense. You can get a receipt at an ATM or a gas station, right? One report (on television last night) said that the e-voting machine manufacturers claim the cost of adding printers to the machines would be over $1,000/machine. Ha! You can't tell me banks didn't take that into consideration. By the way, why aren't we voting at ATMs? Couldn't the manufacturers just make a deal with Dell and get the printer thrown in for free? *smirk*

2) The movie and music dictators have bought the House of Representatives who have passed a bill giving the FBI and federal prosecutors more power in tracking down file swappers. (Note, I'm not going to use the phrase "illegal file swappers" because, in the minds of these dinosaurs, any file swapping - sometimes even amongst computers in your own home - is "illegal"). Great, they are trying to get the feds to do their legal work at a cost to the taxpayers. Hey, FBI, work on the file swappers instead of corporate fraud (known as bait and switch) or terrorists. Next up? A how-to-manual for federal agents describing applications of the Patriot Act to stem the tide of P2P. I suggest we flood the net with Muslimgauze files.

3) A new DVD format was announced that can store up to 1 terabyte of data on a single disk. New technology allows it to hold 250 gigbytes of data in each of 4 layers on the DVD. While the format is about 5 years away from production, experts say that it could now hold the entire collection of The Simpsons on one disk. In 5 years time, we're likely to see compression technologies improve as well, meaning I could almost hold my entire music collection on one disk. Take that, RIAA! To my mind, home users will be easing into this sort of capacity as they record HDTV television (assuming broadcasters allow such a thing) and home movies. Where this capacity really has a market is in enterprise data storage, miniature home technologies, and, of course, gaming and porn (two drivers of technology from the dawn of time).

Wired world

Need cables for connecting things? Don't want to pay the outrageous prices charged by your big name retailers? Try Cable Wholesale. At least, someone on Forever Geek highly recommends them. The prices are good.

P2P Radio

Om reports on a P2P application that scans your hard drive for music files, then allows people on your buddies list to listen to those files by streaming them. Pretty snazzy, though I'm sure that the repressive oligopoly known as the RIAA will try and squelch it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

More on RSS

A friend of mine sent me a gmail this morning to let me know about another RSS service. He had tried the one in Firefox plus another 1 or 2 RSS readers and wasn't very satisfied with them. Then he found Bloglines, which allows you to keep RSS, Atom, and XML based newsfeeds all in one spot online. You can also create your own blog there and use bloglines to clip items for use in your blog. This was the second time in a half day that this site was brought to my attention, so I thought that I'd check it out. It's pretty cool. I like having the news feeds (from ZDNet, et al) that are given to me in XML mixed in with the RSS and Atom blog feeds. Check it out.

Weekend Update

Shawn started back at school last Friday. She worked for half a day, then went to class for the other half. While she was gone, I worked away on the pears and apples we had bought the previous weekend. Pear preserves and pear mincemeat was made. I also dried pears and apples. Plus I made a pear clafouti for the second time during the week (using maple syrup and rosemary as flavorings). I've still got more pears and apples to work with. I'm going to freeze some of them for use in desserts throughout the winter. I've found a couple of Asian pear recipes that look promising for canning and will get to work on those shortly. We might make one more trip across the mountains for more pears and apples. Yum! A friend has been encouraging me to begin a cooking/recipe/food blog. I've seriously been considering doing that and if I so, the link will be posted here.

Saturday, a friend of mine asked me to come over to his sister's house for a going away party. I was toying with the idea - still have the directions printed out in front of me, now - but Shawn came home with some halibut from the University Seafood store, so I opted to hang and cook with her. Although the reality of the work load from her class hasn't quite kicked in yet, she'll likely be buried with work over the next few months and we won't see much of each other. It was time well spent, though I felt bad about blowing off Phil.

Sunday was a pretty lazy day. After an early phone call from the scarents, I made a basic breakfast (fried eggs, toast, canned peaches, basil jelly, and fried potatoes with rosemary and thyme). I expected after that to work on getting something straightened out between Shawn's notebook and the wireless network. On Friday, she couldn't connect from the bedroom and she got caught up in a little tension convention and ran out to the office PC to print out some reading for class. Part of the tension also had to do with the mounting reading she had from her textbook, which had not yet arrived after ordering it via a third party through Amazon a week prior (her fault for ordering it late, really, but she didn't understand how the shipping worked and all). Luckily, the network booted up fine. Shawn read, I played on the PC as well as dried apples and cleaned the house. We took a walk in the afternoon after the fog let the sun shine through.

While walking around the hood, up the hill where the new townhomes are going in, we met a woman who greeted us and began and conversation. Before long, Marie was inviting us into her home which she shares with her friend, Fred. We met her new kitten and new puppy as well. Fred, got up to introduce himself. He's 85 years old, partially blind and partially deaf. If Marie looked like she was needing some company and conversation, Fred was looking doubly so. Fred latched onto me like a man banished from contact with his own gender for years. We weren't in the house for 5 minutes before 2 conversations were going: Shawn with Marie and myself with Fred. We were there about 15 minutes when Fred confided in me, "She's (meaning Marie) a little social, if you haven't noticed." *smile* I liked them both and plan on visiting Fred sometime in the future.

Marie ended the conversation by giving us a tour of their home. It's a one story townhome. They kept most of the basic options, only upgrading the flooring (it's easier for Fred to move across wood. Fred has the master bedroom while Marie has the guest room. Fred gets his own room for watching television, so he can sit closer to the screen and crank up the volume. The homes up the hill start at around $240,000 and that must have been what they paid. It's perfect for Marie and Fred. I've noticed how the age range in that area of the hood appears to be older. However, I'm happy with more land, land I can landscape and maintain, and a larger home.

We finished our walk in the hood and came home to make pizza. Using a Boboli thin crust, we added smoked tomato sauce, garlic, fresh basil, zucchini, jack cheese, oregano, eggplant, artichoke hearts, pitted olives, and Pecorino Romano. Yum! I sliced the eggplants (from our garden) and then baked them in the oven with a little olive oil and oregano before we used them on the pizza.

Last night, I picked up Shawn from work and we drove to Seattle. We went to the Elliot Bay Book store where Orhan Pamuk was presenting a reading from his latest novel, Snow. The turn out for his reading was terrific. It was the first time that he had given a reading at a bookstore in Seattle (he had done one or two at UW). Pamuk's novels are rich works of literature. They feature tensions between modernism and classicism, fundamentalism versus secularism, Western versus Eastern ideology and where they can meet and comprimise and how they learn to live together or not. The first book I read by Pamuk was My Name Is Red. I picked it up on a whim at Powell's books in Portland and found it fascinating. His style reminds me of Borges and Calvino in that the way he weaves his stories together and how they seem to rely, not necessarily on the fantastic, but on coincidence which might seem remarkable. My Name Is Red also adds to it's elements long narrations on art and art development in the 16th century. It's a terrific and exciting read. The New Life is the book that I'm working on now and it is also fascinating. Pamuk says that the latest novel is more overtly focused on politics. He also said that it is the only book that he will ever write on politics (he said that several Turkish authors have seen the quality of their work diminish as they became enmeshed in politics), though it is difficult to believe this since he clearly is interested in the subject. Politics is a part of all of his books, but more often it is in the periphery as it is in most people's lives. In there was anything that I regretted about last night's reading, it was that most of the questions were focused on Turkish politics and what the author thought of them. I'd rather of heard more about his writing and his process in writing as well as the broader themes of his books. Shawn did ask what he is working on today and he replied that it's a love story that spans 30 years in Istanbul. Other delights of the evening for me were: a mention of Borges as referenced obliquely in a portion of the new book, his dislike of Steinbeck ("He is someone peasant writers in Turkey model their books after." He prefers Faulkner and some of Hemingway, but he also has a clear love of Russian authors), his dismissal of most of the magical realism movement in Latin American literature as a way of sugar coating the atrocities of the times - he gave a pass to Garcia Marquez in this regard and called Garcia Marquez a "great writer".

Yusuf Islam answers back

In an LA Times editorial, Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) answers his critics. Registration is required to read the editorial, but it is free. Here's an excerpt:

"God almighty! Is this the same planet I'd taken off from? I was devastated. The unbelievable thing is that only two months earlier, I had been having meetings in Washington with top officials from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to talk about my charity work. Even further back, one month after the attack on the World Trade Center, I was in New York meeting Peter Gabriel and Hillary Rodham Clinton at the World Economic Forum!

Had I changed that much? No. Actually, it's the indiscriminate procedure of profiling that's changed. I am a victim of an unjust and arbitrary system, hastily imposed, that serves only to belittle America's image as a defender of the civil liberties that so many dearly struggled and died for over the centuries.

Need I say that any form of terrorism or violence is the antithesis of everything I love and stand for? Anyone who knows me will attest to this. I have spent my life in the search for peace and understanding, and that was mirrored clearly in my music. Since becoming a Muslim, I have devoted my life to education, charity and helping children around the world.

Consistently I have condemned the attacks of 9/11, stating that the slaughter of innocents, the taking of hostages and coldblooded killing of women and children have nothing do with the teachings of Islam. I've openly and publicly repudiated the actions of groups that resort to such acts of inhumanity — whatever their names. Any allegations to the contrary are fabricated. The Koran equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of all of humanity.

Ever since I embraced Islam in 1977, people have regularly tried to link me with things I have nothing to do with. Take the Salman Rushdie case as an example, or the regurgitating of the accusation that I support groups like Hamas.

I am a man of peace, and I denounce all forms of terrorism and injustice; it is simply outrageous for anyone to suggest otherwise. The fact that I have sympathy for ordinary people in the world who are suffering from occupation, tyranny, poverty or war is human and has nothing to do with politics or terrorism.

Thank God my daughter and I were relieved of our ordeal and delivered home safely. I also thank all those who prayed for me and supported me through this dark episode; I have never harbored any ill will toward people of God's great Earth anywhere — and wish the reverse was also true."

Someone's reading!

Heh, yesterday I posted about the Gmail invites to give away. Thus far, one person has managed to email me. (Shawn's also asked for one, so that has lowered the number to 4 invites). The person who emailed me got an invite, as promised. He's a guy with his own blog site, which is very nice - describing mostly his personal experiences as a "smalltown boy" living in England. For the record, I asked Chip if "smalltown boy" was a reference to the Bronski Beat and he had to google them to find out who they were. *smile*

Chip's email was very cool and very kind. He complimented me on this site and said that he enjoyed it. It was very cool because, even though he used the "Next blog site" function of Blogger to find this spot, it's nice to know someone out there beyond my circle of friends is reading this - making it a slightly less masturbatory experience. Or, does it make this more of an exhibitionist experience, or both? Hm...must ponder.

Asking Chip about the possible Bronski Beat reference was a reminder that I approach my 40th birthday this year. Egads, what will I do for a party? Shawn was thinking of planning something, though I don't know if school has hijacked that yet.

Explanation of RSS

One of the great features of the Firefox browser is "Live Bookmarks". In essence, live bookmarks provides RSS feeds to your browser and makes each new subject that is syndicated appear as a new bookmark in the live bookmark folder. The reason I like this feed is that it allows me to see if a blog has been updated by looking at the bookmark subject lines rather than surfing over to the site.

I've explained this, or attempted to do so, to a few people and several have asked me exactly what an RSS feed is. Now, CNET has a rather good explanation plus a how-to on their site. They fail to mention that Firefox and Thunderbird have this capability built in, but they do offer both products on the site.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hotmail and Outlook

Microsoft is announcing today that people who like to use Outlook and/or Outlook Express to access their hotmail accounts will no longer be allowed to do so unless they pay for the premium account. This practice is the same as it is at Yahoo. Hopefully, Gmail will just decide to let people access with whatever mail reader users choose and force Microsoft and Yahoo away from this policy.

If anyone from Microsoft is reading: Once I got my GMail account and decided that I enjoyed it, I was thinking about switching from my paid Hotmail service. Now that you've put this restriction in place, I'm thinking even harder about it. This is a stupid move and it makes me seriously consider dropping other Microsoft products such as Office and Outlook Express in favor of free OpenOffice and Thunderbird. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

By the by, if someone is looking for a Gmail invite, then email me privately. I've got 4 invites to give away.

Time wasters

The Victorian Sex Cry Generator

A game the combines two favorite past times: Love Chess

Virgin Digital

Virgin Music has started it's own subscription based music store to compete with Apple, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Wonder when Google will get into the game?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

6th graders get military training

A friend of mine from the Upper Pennisula in Michigan - a Yooper - pointed me towards this article (look in local news for Thursday) in the local paper with the headline "Sixth Graders Learn Fitness, Military Skills". Quoting from the article:

"he stations include fitness training such as running, push-ups and sit-ups, along with more advanced military procedures such as grenade launching....

Across the field, Cadet Rebecca Boyce leads a group of marchers into a rhythmic chant. "I want to hurt someone! I want to kill someone!" her diminutive ranks shout at full decibels.

Boyce approves. "You guys are naturals," she says.

One of the most strenuous exercises is known as the buddy team rush. Under a simulated barbed-wire fence, the students crawl on their backs, holding plastic guns."

Friday, September 24, 2004

The American Street

Michael Berube has an interesting article posted on The American Street today. The questions he poses are why did some liberals support the war in Iraq and who, amongst liberals, was responsible for the protests against the Iraq war not gaining traction? Interesting read.

Democrats want to ban the Bible

Yep, the NY Times reports that Republicans have sent out campaign literature saying that liberals want to ban the Bible. To quote from the article:

"The Republican Party acknowledged yesterday sending mass mailings to residents of two states warning that "liberals" seek to ban the Bible. It said the mailings were part of its effort to mobilize religious voters for President Bush.

The mailings include images of the Bible labeled "banned" and of a gay marriage proposal labeled "allowed." A mailing to Arkansas residents warns: "This will be Arkansas if you don't vote." A similar mailing was sent to West Virginians."

Political equation

Israel buys smart bombs from US + Israel Charges Iran has replace Saddam as Terror Exporter + Iran rattles sabre after Israel buys smart bombs = ?

Can you answer this test, boys and girls? This is so pathetic. I particularly enjoy the last line of the second article linked to above: "Shalom called on the General Assembly should convene a special session to address the growth of anti-Semitism, racism and other forms of intolerance."

Coding standards

This article on SitePoint is from a 16 year old kid. In one sense, it's pretty impressive that a 16 year old boy can take time off from masturbating long enough to think through issues of a group of people writing code. On the other hand, anyone who has worked in a group or organization and had to go through someone else's code can understand a coding standard is desirable. This is going to become more true in the SQL world (in which I practice) as Microsoft's next server will allow people to write some code in VB, C, C++, C#, etc - just like their other .NET products.

Rats are cool

A friend of mine owns a couple of rats. She loves them and sends me emails telling me how cool they are and how she loves caring for them. Now, Forever Geek posted a link to this story about how rats are even cooler. They can sniff out victims of earthquakes and collapsed buildings.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Flip Flopping

Yesterday, I was watching CSPAN. I've always found it to be rather compelling reality TV (who said 'Survivor' started that trend?). Even when they are just broadcasting from the floor of the House or Senate, it's fascinating to me to watch how the government works, or not. It's also fascinating to observe just how incompetent many of the elected officials appear to be, to watch the wheeling and dealing, to view them struggle to put together a cohesive thought while hiding their lack of comprehension in a rambling speech. Senators are much better at oratory skills, as a whole, than House members. Senators can go on at length in their speeches, which gives them an advantage (sometimes) while House members have to pare their messages down into soundbytes of 2 to 5 minutes. It was the House that had my attention yesterday.

Up for discussion was the Transportation and Treasury budget. Amendments to the budget bill were the focus of my viewing times. The amendments were designed to cut huge chunks out of the bill. The interesting moment came when the leader of the committee that passes the budget announced on the floor of the House that legislators should not be concerned that these amendments were passing. By one estimate, from the minority leader on the committee, 80% of the transportation budget had been cut by the amendments. No problem, explained the committee chairman. No one need worry because all of the programs cut "...will be put back in the conference committee when it resolves the bill."

In other words, the chairman was explaining that these amendments were merely for show. They were designed to allow members to go back home and announce that they had voted to cut pork, but that during the conference, all of the spending had been put back in place. The subtext of this is that the "other party" must have ruled during the conference committee votes or that Senators had demanded that it be so. No one who voted to cut spending, therefore, would have to take responsibility for their votes.

It's these types of dog and pony shows that frustrate people. If you know that you're going to end up with Bill 'X', then why pretend about cutting it in the first place? Getting elected is not your job. Running the country and passing legislation that is good for the people back home is your job.

These maneuvers also set up nasty discussions during election season. They make it difficult for anyone with a legislative record to run for higher offices in the country, whether that office is governor or president. Ask John Kerry as he takes shots from Bush. Bushies portray Kerry as a flip flopper when Bush has a sizable record of doing that himself and his decisions actually sent people to be killed in combat. It's ridiculous.

I had almost forgotten about this crap until I read a piece in the Seattle Times this morning.

Oh, and today's House story (from my perspective) revolved around the pledge (Not the furniture polish, but rather the nationalist polish). Republicans want to pass a bill stating that the pledge should say "...under God..." and that it cannot be reviewed by any of the federal courts, including the Supreme Court. Apparently, they do not want any federal activist judges messing with this, so they think it's appropriate to leave it to the individual states to decide on the pledge (ridiculous, as in theory it could lead to 50 different versions of the pledge). Remember, this is the same party that doesn't want to leave gay rights to individual states as it might be handled by activist judges at the state level and we might end up with a patchwork of laws regarding gay marriages. But, no, that's not a flip flop, is it?

Russ Meyer - R.I.P.

Messiahbomb pointed out this morning that Russ Meyer has passed on. That's a damn shame. We should spend some time remembering Russ with film parties over the next month.

Bias test

Take a series of tests from Harvard to find out your biases regarding race, age, weight, sexuality, Arab-Americans, President Bush, and more. Pretty interesting stuff. Also, be certain to check the FAQ afterwards as it has good information on the test you took as well as the results. Highly recommended time killer. I took the race bias test for Black Americans versus White Americans. I completed it in under 10 minutes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Do you feel secure, yet?

As I listened to the news yesterday while working in the kitchen (see below), I heard an alarming report from the newsdesk of MSNBC. For an unknown reason, a plane was diverted from Dulles airport from London to an airport in Maine. Later, it was reported that the plane carried on it a passenger who was on the watch list for terrorists. The passenger was apprehended in Maine and was not allowed entry into the US. This morning, it was revealed who this grave threat is.

Time away

I took a few days off from blogging. Saturday, Shawn and I drove across the mountains. We were on a mission to buy some apples (for drying) and some pears. Well, Shawn was on a mission for apples as snacks while she is in school. I was on a mission for pears for no apparent reason other than I wanted to buy a case or two and put myself to the task of making something with them. This despite the fact that I had plenty to contend with in our own garden. Friday saw me harvest 3 or 4 pounds of green beans (last of the season), 3 or 4 pounds of cucumbers (also last of the season), and a fair amount of fennel seeds (with lots remaining). Also last week, I grabbed a bunch of winter squash from the garden (we have a LOT of spaghetti squash) and some tomatillos (which I had never prepared before and still had on the counter when we set out for Index for breakfast on Saturday).

Breakfast in Index took an unusually long time. We had decided to skip our place in Sultan because the wait was long and the portions were way too large. Our wait was hardly shortened in Index. Apparently, we had arrived a little bit after a party of 20 hunters/fishers who were seated in the back room (who knew there was a back room?!?). Still, by the time breakfast arrived we were definitely hungry and it was pretty good.

When we continued our drive, we decided to make an impromtu stop at the Anjou Bakery in Cashmere. We had seen it during our drive to Lake Chelan in August and it had peaked our curiosity. What a delicious place. They sell pies, fresh baked breads, pastries, cookies, coffee, tea, and sandwiches there. A small number of tables inside is complimented by a small number outside. It was a warm enough day that we could have sat outside, but after our breakfast we were too full to bother with a meal. Still, we bought a loaf of multigrain bread (excellent!) for dinner and breakfast plus a Russian teacake and a coconut macaroon. We got out of there for around $5.

Next stop was Trader John's in Entiat. We had stopped at this spot on the way back from Lake Chelan and bought peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines there. We liked that the stand was so large and offered a wider array of fruits. Also, one of the owners is very knowledgable on the different products as to flavor and how to use them. On top of it, you can taste the fruit that they have in bulk before you buy (at the front of the stand, they have it chopped). After much discussion, we bought a bag of Flemish pears, a bag of Asian pears, a bag of Italian prunes, and a bag of Pluots. Shawn didn't like the apple selection. She was looking for Fuji apples. Since we had already discussed stopping at a couple of other places and since there were a lot of signs offering pears, I didn't buy my case from Trader John's.

On the way to our next destination, we decided to stop at a place down the road (Highway 97a, on the way back towards Leavenworth). A quick run through of the stand, complete with greeting from a friendly, but bored youth who attempted to keep one eye on us and another on the football game in the back, but failed as the game won over and we were assessed as not being a threat, told us this stand did not offer what we were looking for. They did have a greater selection of apples, but alas no Fujis.

The Hauf Family stand is a favorite of ours. We like Helen Hauf, not only for the alliteration her name presents, but also because she's a lovely, friendly, down to earth woman. She moves easily through the world, or at least that's how we perceive her. When we arrived at their stand, east of Peshastin, Mrs. Hauf was discussing prices for her pears with a customer. The customer asked Mrs. Hauf for the price of some Asian pears and was informed that they were "A dollar twenty five per pound or a dollar per pound if you buy ten pounds." The customer replied, "You give me better price." To which Mrs. Hauf replied, "Honey, if you can grow them cheaper, then you can get a better price." The customer turned her down, but decided to take her other goods. Mrs. Hauf walked to the back of the store to get the other items. While she was away, the customer walked out front, picked up a pear, and nibbled on it. She brazenly continued to eat it while her husband paid for the goods inside. Mrs. Hauf asked the husband, "You know, dear, you've been here a few times. Normally, I don't say anything, but is she always like this?" Yes, the man replied, and he was clearly embarrassed by his wife's actions. We later learned that she grabbed another free pear for the road on the way to the car, that she always tries to barter for a better price, and that she always grabs free produce without asking to munch on. Mrs. Hauf was a bit out of sorts.

By the time Mrs. Hauf had turned her attention to Shawn and I and her other customers, Helen looked as if it had all rolled off of her. I suggested that Helen wait on the other customers while Shawn and I surveyed the goods. The Haufs grow their own pears as well as bring some in. They had a better selection of pears than Trader John's and about the same selection of apples. The apple selection disappointed Shawn, but we were pleased to see the pears as well as some winter squash. At 39 cents per pound, Shawn was all over the squash. She grabbed some acorn and butternut squashes. Helen, having finished with her other customers, turned her attention to us. "What can I get for you, dear?" she asked Shawn. Shawn then asked her about the different types of pears, noting that we'd like to can some and dry others. Helen took us back to the Flemish pears and told us that they were her favorites. She took us back to her counter, pulled out a knife, and proceeded to demonstrate how she slices her pears for drying. She also gave us a slice to sample. It was very good and we decided to take a case.

On the way with the case to load with pears, Helen pointed to a case of apples. They were small apples in a mixed case of two kinds. Helen told us that because they were small, she was selling the whole case for $5. She washed 2 apples and gave them to us to try. They were VERY good, so we took the case. Helen filled our case of pears and continued to tell us about the pears and the season. The case kept getting fuller and fuller. She ended up over packing it. When we got back to the counter with the produce, we added a case of Asian pears onto the bill. When she rang us up, Helen gave us a discount on the Asian pears (79 cents per pound, as opposed to the dollar she had offered the customer who bartered). She also gave us a discount on the Flemish pears and didn't charge us for the overpacking. Satisfied with our purchases, we began to head out, when Helen offered us 2 Asian pears (different varieties) to munch on while on the road. Gotta love, Helen.

Our last stand stop was, as usual, Smallwood's Harvest. This spot is a possible tourist trap. They sell a lot of packaged items under their own label, including jams, salsas, honey, canned produce, wine, and more. They also have a corn maze and an artist's show (weekends). Our reason for going was their large produce section. There, we picked up some sugar pumpkins, onions, and gourds. We also found out that the apples Shawn wanted to pick up wouldn't be in for another 7 to 10 days. Ah, well, another trip!

Heading into Leavenworth, we decided to stop for a beer and perhaps a bite to eat. With all of the travelling, my legs needed strectching, so we walked around the town. It was the first time that I've ever walked around the city. We stopped in several shops. It was a nice day to be there. The sun was out, yet the temperatures were mild. The tourists had thinned considerably, making the sidewalks easy to navigate. Eventually, we settled down for a beer, but decided to pass on food. After leaving, Shawn said she needed something in her stomach to counter the beer, so I suggested the cookies from the Anjou bakery. Quite tasty.

Once home, we found ourselves with a lot of produce. However, the hour was late enough that we focused on dinner instead of stored goods. On Sunday, we turned our attention to stored goods. After breakfast and a run to the grocery, I helped Shawn with getting the guestroom/her study area back together. Then I made some roasted tomatillo salsa and froze a batch of that. We cut Italian prunes and pears and set them up on the dehydrator. Shawn made an apple crisp. We worked together on Vietnamese spring rolls. The "excitement" for the day was discovering that one of us (probably me) had left the garage freezer door ajar. The freezer had run and mostly defrosted. We scrambled together some coolers and saved what we could (most of it, actually). We then left the freezer off and the door open and let it defrost the rest of the way - might as well take advantage of it).

Monday and Tuesday have been spent working on the produce. I've settled on a pear preserves recipe that I hope to make today. I've also made some herbed vinegars (French tarragon, pineapple sage, and basil - separately; not together), pesto, dealt with some of the green beans and cucumbers, and picked eggplants (in order to save them from the temperatures and to make moussaka for dinner). In addition, I squeezed in lawn work, laundry, restocking the freezer, hanging extra shelving in the pantry, and helping out more with the guest room. Drying pears continues and I plan on making a pear dessert tonight for dinner.

Oh, also have a couple of nibbles on jobs. As if I need another! *smirk* So, if I'm not blogging regularly, it's because I'm buried under apples and pears - and loving every minute of the challenge, as well as the promise of good eating this winter.

Saturday, September 18, 2004


Well, The Seattle Times published my comments online and in print that I made earlier about the proposed amendment to the Constitution that would allow the Schwarzengroper or Jennifer Granholm (both foreign-born naturalized citizens in the U.S.) to run for President. I submitted the pithy comments after posting them on the blog. The Times did some minor editing (leaving out the Schwarzeneger and Granholm references), but left it mostly intact.

Just for clarification purposes, I'm all for discussing this concept (no topic is beyond discussion to my mind), but I'm not all for doing this just to see a "rising star" in the party get to run for office. Surely, the deliberation this deserves shouldn't occur during an election year. Changing the Constitution should not be done lightly and the political climate being what it is, we should hold off on any changes until things cool down.

My comments about outsourcing were meant in jest, in part. Members of both parties are abdicating responsibility for their actions when creating legislation for this country. Democrats and Republicans have been complicit in creating extrodinary tax incentives for the wealthy and the corporate to outsource jobs - most of which do not get reported or are little understood by the people these legislators serve, assuming they are understood by the legislators themselves (see NY Times reporter, David Cay Johnston's book on this or read an interview online with him about this topic). They are also complicit in not reforming the health care system in this country towit the latest proposals to buy drugs from Canada and Europe merely shift the burden of creating reform at home to buying drugs from nations that have already enacted reform, including price controls for said drugs.

I'm no parochialist. There may be candidates that are foreign born, but are raised or spent a great deal of time in the US that deserve to be president. However, surely we can find people of equal or greater quality who has been born on our shores. For politicians to claim that it's not possible, then they are once again admitting complicity in not wanting to deal with the issues of true electoral reform at home that would attract such candidates and abdicating their role as legislators.

New Ad-Aware SE version out

Lavasoft released Ad-Aware SE version 1.05 yesterday. Users should upgrade their systems ASAP. Free versions can be downloaded via Lavasoft or one of it's mirror sites (ie, Major Geeks, CNET, TechConnect, or HNS). Users who have Ad-Aware Plus or Professional should use the same email information they received when upgrading from Build 6 to SE. If you deleted that email, then shame on you. Go to their forums, request a new user ID and password.

I don't see much of a difference in the new version. The change log says that the differences are minor. I did post a complaint on the Lavasoft forums regarding 2 issues: 1) I'm miffed that I had to reload the plugins for Ad-Aware after installing 1.05 - that should not be the case, and 2) Other settings that exist in previous versions should be carried over to 1.05 without me having to go back into the options and setting it up again (ie, which drives to custom scan, using Ad-Watch on start up, etc.)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Amendment to the Constitution

I should have commented on this yesterday. Politicians, *sigh*, you've got to love them. First, they give tax incentives to companies that outsource American jobs. Then, rather than come up with real legislation, they want to outsource health care reform by importing drugs from Canada and Europe. Now, they want to outsource the president through an amendment to the Constitution that would allow a foreign born, naturalized citizen to be elected to the nation's highest office after only living here 20 years.

I don't care if you're a Schwarzeneger or Granholm fan, surely the gene pool isn't so thin that we cannot find equivalents within citizens born in the states? Don't mess with the Constitution on these grounds.

Mark Morford

I'm on Mark Morford's email list. Today's column, titled What Whips Your Spinach? What's it mean when the men do all the cooking and the women sit back and talk about God?, made me smile. I've recognized this trend amongst my own friends. Not necessarily that the women/partners cannot cook or cook well, but that more men are taking up the art. In part, the plethora of cooking shows has to have something to do with this. For my part, my mother told me at a young age, "You will not do to some other woman what your father did to me." And with that, I was learning to make cookies, pop corn (before the gadgets, folks), and make simple dinners. Later, moving in with Archie, I got a lesson on how my mother's cooking wasn't very healthy or flavorful. When we switched to vegetarianism (a phase for Archie; a long term commitment for me), we were determined not to be bored by bland food and took it upon ourselves to expand our horizons - something we both continue to do albeit with different roommates.

A quote from Morford's column, "
After all, roles change and energies shift and men and women swap slices of identity all the time despite ourselves and despite the culture's rampant stereotyping and despite the regressive sexist homophobic Christian Right's attempts to strip women of their power and keep 'em in their place. We inhabit each other's aspects all the time; we just don't always want to admit it."

Note to Mark, should you read this: Nope, it's not just a San Francisco thang. I can point to people in Seattle, LA, Portland (OR), Detroit, New York (including NYC), Indiana, and Austin where this is happening. Granted, for the conservatives, these are big cities, but since when were big cities not part of the "real America"?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Shameless Music plugs

Over the past couple of years, three women from the Seattle area have really gotten their music stuck in my head. There are a lot of good artists here that do that. Wayne Horvitz, Bill Frisell, Laura Love (who has a new book out), and Skerik all have that tendency. In fact, I still listen to all of them a lot. However, it seems that the last couple of years, I've reached for CDs by these other artists more often than the ones above - especially this year.

Aiko Shimada is a Japanese American songwriter. Her work borrows elements from both cultures and mixes folk, jazz, and experimental music into the fray. She has an amazing voice. Her songs tend to remind me of the gray skies and rain we see a lot of around here. I don't find that depressing in the least. Rather, it is a mood that the music evokes - calming, peaceful, dreamy - like a Japanese watercolor. Her work is mostly self released with one album available on John Zorn's Tzadik label. The albums are available through CD Baby. Links to that site as well as some samples can be found on the site linked above.

Laura Veirs, whom I had the pleasure of seeing perform with Aiko Shimada last January, is a song writer of great interest who is beginning her first complete US tour this month. I first saw her perform in a coffee shop in West Seattle. Her stage presence, voice, and gift with lyrics made me seek out her recordings and more live performances. After self releasing a couple of albums, her latest CD, Carbon Glacier, was picked up by the Nonesuch label in America (home to Frissell, Laurie Anderson, Caetano Velosos, Emmylou Harris, et al). The music she writes features elements of folk, jazz, rock, pop, more experimental sounds, and alt-country. Veirs is an excellent live performer. She has played/recorded with Tucker Martine, Bill Frisell, and Eyvind Kang, et al. As with Aiko Shimada, the link above features samples as well as links to buy her albums.

Finally, and most certainly NOT least, is Jesse Sykes and the Sweet Hereafter. Jesse and the band mix an slt-country/rock sound the evokes images of small, smoke filled, back room bars covered in dense blue light. Her breathy voice is subdued, subtle and altogether mesmerizing. The lastest CD, Oh My Girl, is not necessarily an album that jumps out and grabs you, but it rewards in spades upon repeated listenings. As the songs get under your skin, you will find yourself humming perhaps the title track totally unaware that you are doing it. Once that happens, you know you're hooked. Comparisons to Neko Case are fair, but they ultimately have different sounds. This band has a great future ahead of it and they deserve a lot more recognition (as does everyone else listed here).

Framing the issues

Here's an interesting interview with UC Berkley professor, George Lakoff. It describes how conservatives frame the debates of a great many issues and how liberals are woefully inadequate at doing the same thing. Definitely read page 2 where he discusses how there is no such thing as a "free market". Thanks to Bubblegeneration for pointing this one out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

September Security Update from MS

Microsoft announced a critical update today involving "JPEG processing technology". This includes Windows XP SP1 users (NOT SP2 users) as well as users of Office XP SP3, Office 2003, PictureIt!, Visio, Visual Studio .NET and more. Go to the Windows Update and Office Update sites and get your updates ASAP. For the developer products, go to the technical bulletin.

Ah, satire

If you've not read Michael Berube Online, then you're missing some of the funniest material of this political season.

Blogging of the President

Speaking of Shauna, she has 2 links on her excellent site to another blog site called, The Blogging of the President. The first one is an good discussion of the possibility of discarding the Constitution if ever a WMD hit our shores (hello? The Constitution survived Timothy McVeigh and the 2 attacks on the World Trade Center thus far and I don't know how you can classify those attacks as anything, but WMD. On the other paw, I realize I'm quibbling over the term WMD as I consider it a rather vapid term - totally useless). The other, more excellent discussion is the courting of women voters by the political campaigns this year.

Terminator strikes one for the terminated

Arnold signs a law banning necrophilia in California. Thanks to Shauna for the link.

Firefox 1.0 preview release candidate

It's here - almost. The preview release candidate is here. I've downloaded it and am using it right now. The upgrade went well. When I loaded the new version, a splash screen came up telling me that certain extensions would no longer work with Firefox 1.0, but would I like to look for updates to those extensions? I clicked "Yes" and the product found 4 extensions (out of about 8) that it could update. It did so, then promised to check periodically for updates to the other extensions. Then Firefox opened and I was good to go. One thing I noticed was an esoteric one, but I liked it: The live bookmark folders are a different color than other bookmark folders. There are other updates to the product, but you can read about them on the site (link above). Final release will be sometime mid October.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Neoconservative role in Chechnya?

From The Guardian in the UK comes an editorial by John Laughland that contends that Russian critics of Vladamir Putin's tactics in the Breslan massacre are backed by some of the same neoconservatives who backed the invasion of Iraq. Why? Because the Chechen terrorists "...shows the undemocratic nature of Putin's Russia, and cultivates support for the Chechen cause by emphasising the seriousness of human rights violations in the tiny Caucasian republic. It compares the Chechen crisis to those other fashionable "Muslim" causes, Bosnia and Kosovo - implying that only international intervention in the Caucasus can stabilise the situation there." CNN reported that Putin has complained to the White House about this before.

Is it any wonder why The Seattle Times story today quotes Putin as saying "
Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?"

Saturday, September 11, 2004


Why do people make voting such a huge pain in the ass issue? I was watching CSPAN this morning and a representative of the Free Congress Foundation (conservative political think tank) was the guest. The topic was the upcoming election and how it will be conducted. Apparently this organization has a study coming out that gives grades to counties and states as to how conduct the election (paper versus electronic ballots, for instance, as well as the consistency of each method throughout the state).

Viewers of CSPAN called in to mostly object to electronic machine voting. I heard a conspiracy theorist from Massachussetts call in complaining that all of the companies that make the machines are owned by Republicans and therefore the elections will be rigged. A couple of different elderly citizens called complaining that they didn't trust electronic voting (one said that he hadn't ever used an ATM and was proud of it). A smaller number of people called in suggesting that they liked the idea, but didn't trust the veracity of the method, given that it can be hacked and/or fail. Internet voting was discussed and apparently the Pentagon has tested a method of that for it's troops, but it isn't satisfied with the security of the method (which made me wonder about the security of it's other communications, but I digress). The majority of the callers were definitely skittish about electronic voting and they were all passionate about their views (good for them!).

This got me to thinking about voting a little bit. Why does it have to be so painful? Politicians lament every year about the number of voters, but they do little to make it easier to vote. One great thing for me is absentee voting. Shawn and I enjoy it because we can sit at home, discuss the issues, and then mark our ballots while sipping bloody mary's on a Sunday morning. Some people voice concerns that absentee balloting in some states allow voters to cast their votes weeks in advance which means any last minute shenanigans that might influence the election will not be taken into account by the voter. This doesn't bother me for a couple of reasons. First, I don't tend to cast my absentee ballot until the weekend before an election. Secondly, people who do vote very early are not likely to change their minds about their votes unless something really drastic happens. Absentee ballots work for me, but not everyone is in favor of it. So what other ways can we make voting easier on people?

How about, and this is not an original or a particularly new idea, voting on a weekend? Why not require every employer to give an employee at least a half day to a day off on either a Saturday or a Sunday so that everyone has an opportunity to cast the vote? Of course, network television might not like that much because they cannot announce the votes until the polls close, but so what? They'll probably have a more accurate count to report and can avoid the egg in the face they got in 2000. Some people will take the time to do something more important in their lives, but so what? Those people may not have voted one way or the other. It will still provide more opportunity for more people to vote.

Thinking about voting methods: Why not have multiple methods for voting? In Washington, for instance, we've already got absentee and showing up to vote. When I go to the airport and fly Alaska Airlines, I have 3 choices of how to check in for my flight. I can do it online and print out a boarding pass that I present when I get on board. I can go to their kiosk and have it print my boarding pass. Or, I can go to the counter and have a person check me in. Why can't this be done for voting? The argument is that internet voting isn't safe in part because there's no way of verifying the person's identity who voted. Well, there's really no way to verify my absentee ballot either (not to mention that it's rather easy to forge driver's licenses and other IDs, if anyone wanted to go to the trouble). Why not have kiosks as well as regular old paper ballots at the polling locations? When I go to the supermarket, I can use a regular check out line or I can check out my own groceries. When I go to the bank, I can use a teller or I can use the bank machine. Why can't we do the same for our polling places?

One rap against the electronic voting machines that I heard a lot of on CSPAN was the grumbling about the machines being rigged. Hey, when I use a machine at a bank, a supermarket, or the gas station, I get a receipt for my records. Why not have the voting kiosk print out a receipt that shows your complete voting record. The voter can double check the receipt and then deposit it in a box on the way out of the door. These receipts can then be tallied to audit the voting machine records. That way, even if the machine were rigged to give the votes to one candidate or another, the paper log would still exist as a backup or safety measure.

In fact, when I shop online, I get a receipt for my purchase either in email or a page to print out or both. For online voting, the voter could receive such a receipt via email and print out. The print out would then be signed and mailed into a voting office. This is the equivalent of what I do with my absentee ballot. It doesn't add any work to the absentee system since those votes have to be tabulated anyhow.

Any other ideas as to how we can improve this? Politicians, like much of the public, tends to vacillate between loving technology in some areas (the Pentagon, for instance, as well as Fatherland Security) while distrusting it completely in other areas. Yet many private ventures (banks, retailers, etc.) rely on some of these common technologies and they have at least as much at stake as the government does in maintaining security. We should be thinking outside the box a great deal more to address these issues and making elections more accessible to everyone. Maybe then voter turnout would increase. On the other paw, maybe the political parties don't really want that to happen. Talk about your conspiracy theories!


I found this a long tme ago, but was reminded of it today when I went to Joe Jackson's site. A few years ago Jackson began to consider the idea of giving up his tobacco habit. He started looking into the barage of claims by anti-smoking fundamentalists and he came to very different conclusions. Recently, he's been trying to assist people in fighting the anti-smoking laws that bar smokers from restaurants and clubs, etc. Note: I am not a tobacco smoker and never have been one. I do believe that some of the new laws are over the top and unnecessary government interference in how people live their lives and run their businesses.

You can read an essay from Jackson here. Even if you disagree with his views, it's a good read.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Inappropriate lobbying?

Forward Newspaper Online reports that the Israeli government may be using US citizens and Jewish groups to try to lobby Congress to carry out or support Israeli policy and concerns. Normally, I dismiss conspiracy theories involving Jews outright, but this comes from a Jewish newspaper. Plus it comes at a time when some of the neoconservatives in the government are being investigated as to whether or not they shared secrets with Israel.


I love Vancouver, BC. It has a very classy international feel to it. They have a professional hockey team, a huge park, some great restaurants, clothing stores, and tourist attractions. They also have a jazz festival every June that features top quality talent in both free and paid venues. Plus, they really do treat soft drug usage in a civilized manner.


An engineer has created a robot that walks on water. Next, I bet he programs it to quote biblical verses.

SP2 criticisms

Here's a lengthy article by David Berlind of ZDNet regarding Windows XP SP2. He makes some interesting points, which is why I'm linking to it here. One point that he refuses to make, since he tends to be a Microsoft basher, is that SP2 will make a lot of users systems out there more secure than they were before. Berlind claims at one point that SP2 is worse than doing nothing, but he's wrong. If someone out there were using XP without their Internet Firewall turned on and didn't know why they should have it turned on or why they should have a virus protection software (I know, to some of us that sounds incredulous, but the reality is that a lot of people are online these days who don't have a clue), then SP2 is better for them. I will grant Berlind that for people who don't have a clue, SP2 could lull them into a false sense of security and I'll grant him that Microsoft should be making windows secure for those people. Microsoft is getting there. On the other hand, Berlind makes the classic error that Macs and Linux is more secure because we don't see the full scale attacks. Why would anyone bother writing a virus for a Mac which represents less than 1% of the PC market? Did Berlind ignore the fact that Apple just posted patches for 11 security holes? As far as Linux goes, it can be more secure, but only if one takes the same steps as I would take to lock down a machine running Windows. *shrug* And once again, why write a virus for a relatively paltry number of machines running Linux? In any case, it's still a good read and not all of his points are invalid.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

There are a couple of Mashup sites that I hang out at and poach tunes from. One of the message boards sent this along. It's George Bush "singing" the tune written by U2. You can stream it or download it.

While I'm at it, let's pass along this link to a tune from William Shatner's upcoming album (release date is October 8th). The album is produced by Ben Folds and features him as well as Henry Rollins and Joe Jackson on vocals. Oddly enough, this is a pretty good tune.

Firefox 1.0 preview release candidate

The Burning Edge reports that Mozilla will release a Firefox 1.0 preview release candidate some time next week. They are scheduled to release Firefox officially in October. Excellent news for people who want to get away from Explorer.

Matthew Miller

Matthew Miller has a good essay on the president's concept of "ownership". He actually cornered Newt Gingrich about the fact that the many Americans (48%) don't own stocks and therefore would not benefit from this plan. Gingrich responds that it will be a litmus test for Bush to redistribute wealth so that the poor can own some crumbs from this cake.

Another view of the Fatherland

Charles P. Pierce published an article in American Prospect Online today with some revealing insight into the current administration and the media. This quote, in the article, is not from Pierce, but rather White House chief-of-staff, Andrew Card:

“It struck me as I was speaking to people in Bangor, Maine, that this president sees America as we think about a 10-year-old child. I know as a parent I would sacrifice all for my children.”

Given my supposition that they baby boomers act like spoiled children who deny responsibility and lack the desire to lead, I can understand how the administration might perceive things that way. Of course, the one at the head of this is the most selfish little brat of the bunch with a sense of greed and entitlement that, in a more level headed generation, would disqualify him from any position of power.

Then again, is anyone surprised that the elites in the media and Washington might look down upon the average people of America. When they look out, they see either simpleton farmers or Springer show finalists and rejects. They see sheep to be herded from one policy decision to the next. Propaganda, as it has been practiced by every administration since Wilson is the dog that keeps the herd together.

Mary-Kate Olsen'd Crack Man

Or, if artwork isn't your thing, how about a good old fashioned game of Pac Man? Only this time, Mary-Kate Olsen plays the famous game character. Your mission is to assist her in her eating disorder by sniffing up lines of cocaine.

Robert Bonfils

ON a lighter note, enjoy the artwork of Robert Bonfil. His work graced the covers of many a pulp fiction book. With titles like "Orgy Beach", "Song of Sexpence" and "AC-DC Stud", you know they have to be good.

Uncle Tom's Cabin Club

Um, er, the Log Cabin Club (Gay Republicans) announced yesterday that they will not endorse Bush for president. According to the article, 1 million homosexuals voted Republican during the last election. Some friends of mine express dismay over that number. Actually, there's a good, conservative argument for applying civil liberties to homosexuals that revolves around freedom to live as you like without fear of government interference and yet to be treated equallly under the law. Unfortunately, while the Republican party remains under seige by fundamentalists, gay people are not likely to find a friend with that party. Frankly, I don't know why they even bother. I wonder how long the fundamentalists (which are pro-government activists of the same ilk that Democrats are accused of being) will be allowed to control that party or if true conservatives will eventually break off and form their own party.

Blogger issues

Sorry for the extra posts yesterday. Blogger was telling me that nothing was posted. Afterwards, I left to pick Shawn up from the scareport and never made it back online. I've edited out the repeat posts and will pick up where I left off yesterday.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Bush bounce?

Here's an article by John Zogby, founder of the professional and respected polling firm Zogby International, discussing problems with the methodology of the polls reported on last week showing Bush got a bounce from the RNC:

"Article author, Pollster John Zobgy, ''Two new polls came out immediately after mine (as of this writing) by the nation's leading weekly news magazines. Both Time's 52% to 41% lead among likely voters and Newsweek's 54% to 43% lead among registered voters give the President a healthy 11 point lead. I have not yet been able to get the details of Time's methodology but I have checked out Newsweek's poll. Their sample of registered voters includes 38% Republican, 31% Democrat and 31% Independent voters. If we look at the three last Presidential elections, the spread was 34% Democrats, 34% Republicans and 33% Independents (in 1992 with Ross Perot in the race); 39% Democrats, 34% Republicans, and 27% Independents in 1996; and 39% Democrats, 35% Republicans and 26% Independents in 2000. While party identification can indeed change within the electorate, there is no evidence anywhere to suggest that Democrats will only represent 31% of the total vote this year.''

Texans for Truth

My friend, Scott, pointed me towards this article in the Washington Post about a group of Kerry supporters looking into Bush's National Guard service records again. Their ad campaign begins on Friday of this week and they are hoping to counteract the noise created by the Swift Boat Veterans ads (and the idiotic media who gave credence to the ads while dismissing them by showing the ads on the air nationally everytime they interviewed the was a bit like depicting the "degenerate nature" of Janet Jackson while showing her nipple flash on air ad nauseum during the discussions).

*sigh* I knew it was going to be an ugly political season. Once again, folks, what happened back then with Bush/Kerry/Cheney/Clinton doesn't really matter. Rhetorical question: When are the baby boomers (the most coddled, spoiled generation of this country's history) going to stop acting like self-absorbed 3 year olds battling in the sandbox and begin leading? It's their country, now, and they can stop the Freudian therapy and quit blaming mom and dad on their woes any day for my money.

But, I digress. Here's a portion of the article in case you don't want to register with the Washington Post.

"In a television advertisement to begin airing Friday, Bob Mintz, a lieutenant colonel in the Alabama Air National Guard during the time Bush was supposed to have been there in 1972, will say he never saw Bush at the base even though he looked for him, according to a spokeswoman for the group.


Challenging the government's declaration that no more documents exist, the AP identified five categories of records that should have been generated after Bush skipped his pilot's physical and missed five months of training," Kelley writes.

"White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said there were no other documents to explain discrepancies in Bush's files."

The five kinds of missing files identified by the AP are:

• A report from the Texas Air National Guard to Bush's local draft board certifying that Bush remained in good standing in 1972 or 1973.

• Records of a required investigation into why Bush lost flight status.

• A written acknowledgment from Bush that he had received the orders grounding him.

• Reports of formal counseling sessions Bush was required to have after missing more than three training sessions.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Sullivan disavows Bush

After 9/11, Andrew Sullivan has been a big supporter of the current president. Despite the fact that Sullivan is gay and was one of the original supporters of gay marriage, he hung tight to the Republican party for both their fiscal and foreign policies. That has now changed. On Andrew's blog site, scroll down to his entry for last Friday. His take on Bush's speech at the RNC begins with praise:

"It was the second best speech I have ever heard George W. Bush give - intelligently packaged, deftly structured, strong and yet also revealing of the president's obviously big heart."

Then, in the second paragraph titled, The End of Conservatism, Sullivan writes, "
But conservatism as we have known it is now over. People like me who became conservatives because of the appeal of smaller government and more domestic freedom are now marginalized in a big-government party, bent on using the power of the state to direct people's lives, give them meaning and protect them from all dangers...And Bush's astonishing achievement is to make the case for all this new spending, at a time of chronic debt (created in large part by his profligate party), while pegging his opponent as the "tax-and-spend" candidate. The chutzpah is amazing. At this point, however, it isn't just chutzpah. It's deception. To propose all this knowing full well that we cannot even begin to afford it is irresponsible in the deepest degree. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the only difference between Republicans and Democrats now is that the Bush Republicans believe in Big Insolvent Government and the Kerry Democrats believe in Big Solvent Government. By any measure, that makes Kerry - especially as he has endorsed the critical pay-as-you-go rule on domestic spending - easily the choice for fiscal conservatives."

On the foreign policy portions of the speech: "
I agreed with almost everything in the foreign policy section of the speech, although the president's inability to face up to the obvious sobering lessons from Iraq is worrying. I get the feeling that empirical evidence does not count for him; that like all religious visionaries, he simply asserts that his own faith will vanquish reality. It won't."

And he ends on this sad note: "
And the president made it clear that discriminating against gay people, keeping them from full civic dignity and equality, is now a core value for him and his party. The opposite is a core value for me. Some things you can trade away. Some things you can compromise on. Some things you can give any politician a pass on. But there are other values - of basic human dignity and equality - that cannot be sacrificed without losing your integrity itself. That's why, despite my deep admiration for some of what this president has done to defeat terror, and my affection for him as a human being, I cannot support his candidacy. Not only would I be abandoning the small government conservatism I hold dear, and the hope of freedom at home as well as abroad, I would be betraying the people I love. And that I won't do."

Role model from Florida

Scroll down this article discussing the reactions of local Floridians to hurricane Francis and you'll find a story about Wini McKinney. She's a 78 year old ex-flight attendant who did leave her home during the storm.

"I didn't have a problem at all," she said, standing among the debris. "I sat outside in my little cubby hole, with my gin."

A fine role model for the world over.

Texas Prisons mirror Abu Graib

My friend at Messiahbomb published a link to an ABC News article which points out that Texas prisons have been a breeding ground of abuse over the years. Could the President from Texas have been expected to avoid the Iraqi prison scandal, given the state's record?

Blair supports Kerry

Despite all of his praise for Bush, Tony Blair has announced that his government supports Kerry's election to president. So, now we know which government was among those that Kerry has stated would prefer to see him as president and it turns out to be one that supported Bush's efforts in Iraq. Kerry was often criticized for stating that some foreign governments wanted to see him elected. He was asked many times which governments might wish that by Republicans who cynically wanted the answer to be either France or Germany or another country who did not support the Iraq war. Hopefully this will quiet those critics.

It should come as no surprise that the Labor Party should favor a Democratic U.S. President. Labor's policies are more in line with the Democrats. The Tories typically favor Republicans.

Back from Ketchikan, AK

The trip was a good time, overall. Thursday night, we arrived to find the mother-out-law waiting for us with the car. The Ketchikan airport is on an island across a channel from the city of Ketchikan. You must take a ferry to get to the city. To go from the airport to the city is free, but to go the other way is $4 for walk on and $10 per car plus passenger. If the clouds are at 500 feet or lower over the airport, the plane re-routes to Juneau. Luckily, they were at 700 feet for our arrival. It was raining and dark when we arrived in Alaska's 4th largest city. We went to Safeway to buy munchies and then to the liquor store for gin and wine. The suite we ended up in that night was nicely decorated, but we were surprised to see that the extra twin bed was in the master bedroom.

Friday: We spoke with Mary, the owner of the Anchor Bay B&B and she offered an adjoining room with queen size bed and bath for only $25 more per night. Still, a much cheaper price than the Beast Western ($170/night per room). It was a cloudy morning, but it wasn't raining. We ate breakfast in town (at a recommended spot), then decided we'd cook breakfast at the room for the rest of the week. When we got to the bride and groom's house, the groom, Rusty, was there and waiting to take Shawn and I fishing. We went out for 5 hours. It rained, we were soaked through, we caught nothing but turbot which Rusty said was inedible, but we had a good time drinking beer and chatting with Rusty. We grabbed up the shrimp traps before we came back in order to make the trip worthwhile (got about 100 or so shrimp). While out on the water we saw some beautiful landscapes, a sea lion, an eagle, a spider crab, some sun fish (one, nearly 24 inches across), and a lot of salmon jumping out of the water. We dropped Shawn off at our place (exhausted) and Debbie (mother-out-law) and I went shopping for dinner and breakfast food at Safeway. We came back with more snacks (one would think we had just smoked a bong and had the munchies), shrimp, pasta, eggs, capers, tomatoes (canned), herbs, kalamata olives, and more. I made dinner that night with fresh pasta, shrimp, tomatoes, kalamatas, capers, and thyme. Debbie made a delish salad to go with the meal. Much wine was drank (Big House White from Bonny Doon winery).

Saturday: The terror begins. It was a beautiful and sunny morning. Cruise ships passed by our windows. The suite was right on the beach, so we had a great view. Debbie and Shawn made breakfast; I did the dishes. We went to the couple's house in order to prepare floral decorations. I really did not want to have anything to do with it, so I took a book to read. Within minutes of our arrival, Debbie asked me to look up how to make topiaries online. It seems Debbie had done one sometime, but wasn't sure on where to go with it. Shawn had never done one and neither had the bride. In an attempt to save money and to get her vision of the wedding, the bride, Jennifer, had gone all Martha Stewart. Luckily, she had a lot of help preparing gift bags, swaths to hang from the ceiling, bouquets, topiaries, and so on. Note: Alaska time is a bit like Maui time, only wetter, colder, and darker. All hands were needed to complete the tasks, yet no one was very organized and everything took longer than expected. I got a bit frustrated - probably in part because I drank too much coffee. There was a lot of discussion and little seemed to be accomplished. We didn't get into Ketchikan like I thought we would and Debbie and Shawn seemed to be in a family mode (natural if it weren't so dysfunctional and frantic). We got out of it OK, with Shawn only calling me a "Rotten Old Bastard" once or twice.

Sunday: I drank less coffee with breakfast. Shawn helped me make it and I did the dishes. We went to the couple's home at 9:30. One topiary had been arranged the night before. The bride didn't want to do any more because she was afraid that the roses would open up too much (which was the cause of some consternation the night before as the flowers had to be carted back to a variety of homes and stuffed into refrigerators). A crew was waiting for our arrival and fro Debbie to guide them. Debbie took charge and guided the "girls" on the fine art of topiary making. Four people, Debbie included, made topiaries and Debbie supervised the final touches. My task was to trim roses and keep a supply of them available in the two colors we were dealing with. When I saw something that looked like it was going astray or about to run out, I asked questions and offered suggestions. Debbie did a great job and 8 more topiaries were finished in about 2.5 hours. We transported them and the flowers for the tables to the lodge where the wedding was to be held. Afterwards, Debbie, Shawn and I went to Ketchikan for some sight seeing. Debbie, who was a bit perturbed at me the night before, thanked me for my help in the work that day.

She was also bit perturbed that I wanted to get downtown and look around as well because, as she and Shawn noted, there wasn't much to see. I still think it was a good idea to escape the frantic madness and if they were mad at me for being demanding, so be it. We spent a pleasant afternoon shopping. Shawn and I picked up 2 prints: one from Ray Troll and one from Evon Zerbetz (scroll down to "Great Blue Heron"). We owned some of Zerbetz's work already. We dined at a resort in town for a snack and a drink before the wedding.

The wedding was at a lodge near the couple's home. A waterfall flowing next to the outdoor setting (it began to rain right after the wedding was over) drowned out much of the ceremony. A violinist played before and during the wedding (nice touch), The couple looked great. The bride's dress was beautiful - a beaded top and a color that accented her pale skin and her red hair. The groom looked as if he were going to cry through most of the ceremony. The reception was a bit disorganized. I began to wonder how many weddings the lodge had hosted (trouble getting the beer, forgot about fruit juice for children to toast with, they actually carded the groom who does have a baby face, but is over 21). I noticed how, outside of the wedding party, I was one of 3 men who wore a suit and tie. Rusty and Jennifer sat next to us at the table for dinner. They arrived late because they went straight up to their honeymoon suite at the lodge. Class. :-) Rusty's side of the family was in full on manic, obsessive, frantic mode. They try to control it, but they cannot really hide it and the whole thing tends to grate my nerves. However, Shawn reamained calm and in good spirits and I stayed away from the spirits, for the most part. After the traditional garter snapping, bouquet tossing, and cake cutting, we took off. On the way back, Debbie (who insisted on driving and is the worst driver of the three of us) was afraid of travelling on the dark and unfamiliar roads past 40 mph. This did not, I should note, endear her to the natives who, through their use of horns and flashing lights, pointed out that the speed limit was 50 mph. Debbie cursed something like, "dickheads" and I suggested that she pull off and let them by. It was a suggestion that wasn't particularly appreciated, but I think that was because she hadn't thought of it herself.

Once safely home, I dropped to my knees and told Shawn that if I survived the weekend, I'd never criticize her driving again. We relaxed to the sounds of classic jazz on the satellite TV dish. Well, we relaxed until Debbie decided that she needed to fix and clean out the ice maker in the suite's frig. I suggested turning it over in the sink overnight and letting it melt, but Debbie decided to take out some of the day's frustration with a butter knife. While she clamored away for a half hour or more, I went to bed.

Monday: We went out for breakfast again. This time it was a different spot, but the results were similar: high priced and mediocre at best. Once again we waundered around Ketchikan. In part, we did this to kill time as I had to be at the airport around 2PM. After wandering a little bit, Shawn suggested that we go to a coffee shop of some sort. I was agreeable to this idea, but once we began talking coffee, we somehow were sidetracked and ended up wandering some more. Debbie began getting irritable with me as we had run out of things to see in Ketchikan (to her mind) and I had no more suggestions of what I wanted to see. This was a bit unfair, I thought, as I noted that I was the stranger in the town and they had both visited in the past. If I had the car, I'd have driven to other spots just to see what was there and get another perspective. I did suggest that we return to the resort in town and grab coffee and/or drinks. That fell on deaf ears and we went to a dock for a walk. Shawn and I wandered around, looking at the boats and Debbie, after smoking a cigarette, joined us. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and fairly warm. We only encountered a couple of brief showers. Eventually, we made our way to a bar where we wnjoyed a beer and Debbie and Shawn split a slice of Key Lime pie. They dropped me at the airport just before 2. The flight home was uneventful and the Seatac Parking went smoothly.

I'm glad to be home. The cats were/are happy to see me. I've caught up on emails and I've got some yard work to do. Plus, I've got tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans to harvest and do something with - yikes! One day, I'd like to go back to Ketchikan without the skelatives and their agendas. A little hiking would be in order, for instance. I'd also like to see more of Alaska. The scenery is gorgeous and I find the place peaceful. The people we met are often friendly plus we met some colorful characters as well. Shawn comes back on Wednesday morning. I look forward to spending some time with her before she goes back to work on Thursday.