Saturday, September 30, 2006

Republican Values Update

According to the NY Times, Rep. Mark Foley (R-Florida) resigned Friday "after being confronted with a series of sexually explicit Internet messages he is reported to have sent to under-age Congressional pages."

Republican House leaders denounced Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) after she called for an investigation into the matter.

What, Ken Starr is busy or something?

[Update 2006-10-01 11:54 EDT]:

It now looks like the Reps aren't going to be able to wish this one away. Today's NY Times has a story talking about how "[t]op House Republicans knew for months about e-mail traffic between Representative Mark Foley and a former teenage page, but kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children's issues …"

The new GOP plan appears to be that a couple of Reps will join in the call for the investigation, while the others will spin the idea that the email messages that they knew about "… were much less explicit than the others …"

Well, less explicit, perhaps. But still mighty creepy. Here's an excerpt of one that they did know about, sent to boy in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina:

"How are you weathering the hurricane. . .are you safe. . .send me a pic of you as well."

Friday, September 29, 2006

Reading Recommendations -- 2006-09-29

Just two for this post, but they're so good they deserved to be shouted about right away:

  • Good Agile, Bad Agile
    Skim the opening part about the Agile software development methodolgy if you find your geek meter going on orange alert, but Steve Yegge's description, further down, of the work environment at Google is to lust for. Even if you're not a software developer.

    And if you're one of the many Fortune 500 CEOs who regularly reads my blog, you'll find Steve's essay especially instructive.

  • What to Expect When You’re Not Expecting
    I follow CJSD quite closely. Usually, it's pure laughs. This latest post is a little bit more poignant. (Here, "a little bit" => "a whole lot.") But Brando keeps his sense of humor alive in the darkest of times.

    Inspirational, to say the least.

It's The Small Mind Things

This is beyond geekery and into true dorkiness, but …

I just discovered you can track packages using Bloglines! How cool is that? Now I can hear a "bing" every time the UPS people make a move with my copy of this book.

Don't click that link. It's embarrassing.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blogger in Beta

I recently accepted the invitation from the good people of Blogger to move this blog over to the new version of their software (which has been labeled with as much imagination as the the title of this post ;^) ).

From my point of view, B in β rocks. It's a lot faster to publish a post, for one thing. This gives me additional incentive to fix my typos, and that should have universal appeal. (Oh, and hey! The spellchecker works a lot better, too!)

There are also some additional tools, one of which I especially like: individual posts can have labels, which means posts can be sorted by category, in addition to being listed chronologically. More on this anon. (And by "anon," I mean, "when I figure out a good organizational scheme." My sense of filing compares to that of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler).

As far as I can see, the changes to you, dear reader, will be nearly transparent. The only difference that I can see, from your point of view, is that when you post a comment, you'll be taken to a page on a secure server. You'll notice the lock icon, etc. If you have your browser set up to notify you when you enter and/or leave a secure page (aka, an encrypted page), then you'll get that usual little pop-up informing you of that fact. Just click "OK."

Nothing to worry about. Nothing new to learn. No bookmarks to change. Same procedure for everything that you've done before.

But be sure to let me know, please, if anything seems weird to you.

Including the mindset of the author.


"Rushing Off a Cliff"

A few days ago, I posted some thoughts about the appalling "antiterrorism" bill that has been sold as a compromise between the Bush Administration and the Senate. The House has passed it already, with 34 Democrats voting to support it, and all indications are that the spinelessness of the minority party will continue to be on display when the vote comes up in the full Senate.

Today's NY Times has an editorial that talks, precisely, about why this is such a terrible bill. It's depressing, but you should still read it.

After you do, you'll better understand what Molly Ivins meant when she said recently, George Bush is Photoshopping the Constitution.

[Update: 2006-09-28 20:30 EDT]: I apologize for not giving the link to the column in which Ivins had that great line, but here's another column by her on this torture bill. Opening lines:

Oh dear. I'm sure he didn't mean it. In Illinois' 6th Congressional District, long represented by Henry Hyde, Republican candidate Peter Roskam accused his Democratic opponent Tammy Duckworth of planning to "cut and run" on Iraq.

Duckworth is a former Army major and chopper pilot, who lost both legs in Iraq after her helicopter got hit by an RPG. "I just could not believe he would say that to me," said Duckworth, who walks on artificial legs and uses a cane. Every election cycle produces some wincers, but how do you apologize for that one?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Do As I Say. Or Not.

Remember that National Intelligence Estimate that I mentioned a short while ago? Apparently, your president has heard about it, too.

From today's NYTimes:

"Here we are, coming down the stretch in an election campaign, and it's on the front page of your newspapers," Mr. Bush said at a news conference with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan. "Isn't that interesting? Somebody has taken it upon themselves to leak classified information for political purposes."

Yeah. Don't play the plame game.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Clinton/Wallace and Morris the Hack

What, is this an election year or something?

The little tubes leading to my house have been jammed with spin about former President Bill Clinton's appearance on Fox News, in which he reacted aggressively to some of interviewer Chris Wallace's questions.

From the Big Surprise Department, we heard some blather from Dick Morris (see also: political hack, epitome of). Writing in Daryl Cagle's newsletter, Morris begins:

From behind the benign façade and the tranquilizing smile, the real Bill Clinton emerged Sunday during Chris Wallace's interview on Fox News Channel. There he was on live television, the man those who have worked for him have come to know -- the angry, sarcastic, snarling, self-righteous, bombastic bully, roused to a fever pitch. The truer the accusation, the greater the feigned indignation. Clinton jabbed his finger in Wallace's face, poking his knee, and invading the commentator's space.

Wait a minute. Before we get to Morris's apparent new fetish for adjectives, let's clear something else up first. How do you jab a finger in someone's face and end up poking his knee?

Possible explanations:

  1. Chris Wallace is even more twisted than the typical Fox Newsie.

  2. Just more anatomical confusion on Morris's part. (You probably recall that Morris was fired by Clinton during the 1996 campaign, when Morris was caught paying for the privilege of putting someone else's foot in his mouth.)

I myself didn't watch the program when it aired. I rarely watch TV, and I wouldn't watch White House Pravda Fox News if you waterboarded me. Which we don't do.

But given all the hype, we should probably take a look for ourselves, don't you think? The longest excerpt on YouTube that I found is about ten minutes long. You'll note from the title the obvious leanings of the person who posted the excerpt, but nonetheless, I relink, you decide.

[Update: 2006-09-27 09:39 EDT]: Think Progress has the complete transcript, if you'd rather not watch the video.

My take on the interview: Clinton wasn't about to take any crap from Wallace, and quite properly put him in his place. I didn't see anything in the way of "snarling." And as for "bombastic," I think Dick Morris has forgotten what articulate means, probably because it's been too long since we've had a such a president.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Educator

Our broadcasting outreach [in Iraq] is supervised by a longtime Karl Rove pal, Kenneth Tomlinson, who last month was found by State Department investigators to be using his office -- literally -- to run a "horse-racing operation." One of Mr. Tomlinson's thoroughbreds is named Karzai, in supposed honor of the Afghan president. If that's his idea of lifting America's image in the Muslim world, he might as well be on Al Jazeera's payroll. On Wednesday, ABC News reported the bottom line of such P.R. misfires: a confidential Pentagon survey found that 75 percent of Iraq's Sunni Muslims support the insurgency, up from 14 percent in 2003.

--Frank Rich, "Stuff Happens Again in Baghdad" (T$)

The Education

So who was right [about the looting of the museums in Baghdad, circa "Mission Acomplished"] -- Rich and Conason or Rummy? Rummy, of course. He almost always is.
--Andrew Sullivan, 10 June 2003
Fire. Rumsfeld. Now.
--Andrew Sullivan, 18 Sep 2006
There seems to me no question that Fox News would now regard Barry Goldwater as a leftist.
--Andrew Sullivan, 25 Sep 2006

[Update 2006-09-29]: Typo fixes.

Torture Logic

Four years ago in Liberia, in an attempt to preserve his corrupt authority, President Charles Taylor adopted the Bush administration's phrase "unlawful combatants" to describe prisoners he wished to try outside of civilian courts. Today Mr. Taylor stands before The Hague accused of war crimes.
--Paul Rieckhoff, in an OpEd piece titled "Do Unto Your Enemy…"

It makes me crazy that Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or some other Democrat leader hasn't stood up and stated, in a loud, clear voice, "We, the Democratic Party, are completely against descending to the level of the thugs that we're combating, and we will do everything possible to defeat Bush's torture bill. We believe in a government of laws. We believing in adhering to treaties that we have signed. We believe in retaining the moral high ground. If the President and the majority party in Congress insist on attaching the destruction of the Geneva Conventions to the latest appropriations bill, then let them explain to the troops why there isn't any money."

Besides Reickoff's piece, I also recommend Andrew Sullivan's column in yesterday's (London) Times: "Torture by any other name is just as vile"

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Today's Entry in the Duh Files

You know that feeling you get when you read about some scientific study that spends 38 million dollars to establish, say, a link between watching ten hours of TV per day and poor performance in school?

You think, yeah, I suppose it's good to document things, and, no, we shouldn't rely solely on conventional wisdom, but was that really the best use for all that money?

Now think about how much money the U.S. government spends on intelligence gathering.

Now look at the headline for the lead story in today's NY Times:

Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Late addition: Reading Recs for 9/23/2006

Have you about had it with the ruling party's brand of Christianism? Me, too.

Here's a good antidote: Open Letter To Kansas School Board

You might already know about the Church of the FSM, but did you know about the "statistically significant inverse relationship" between the "approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years?" Graphics and discussion are about halfway through the letter.

FSM logo for cars

And if you want to continue the fun, check out some of the hate mail that the Pastafarians have received.

Nice moment for the old guy

So, I'm in Wegman's buying some groceries, and the cashier, a fine-looking woman, asks to see my ID, since I'm buying some beer. (That's not the nice moment. That's the law.)

I show her my license, she looks from it to my face, turns to type in my date of birth, goes back to scanning groceries, does double take, says: "You look familiar!" Big smile.

Big smile from me, too.

Of course, on the way out of the store, it occurs to me that she's going to run back to the break room and tell everyone, "Guess what? That weird-looking guy came in here again."

Reading (and Listening) Recommendations -- 9/23/2006

  • "Unplug It!" -- One piece from this week's edition of that always fine program, On The Media, especially stands out. This is an interview with Daniel Ellsberg about the responsibility of insiders to leak classified information. Yes, you read that right. (You can listen now. The transcript will be available on Tuesday.)

  • "Why Johnny Can't Code" -- a non-geeky … okay, not too geeky … article on fretting about the disappearance of BASIC from today's computers.

  • "Amazing X-Ray Glasses from Sprint!" -- all products that deserve it should be so well trashed. In this case, Joel Spolsky rightfully and righteously destroys the cell phone called the LG Fusic, its corresponding service, Power Vision, and the marketing tactics of Sprint.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Reading Recommendations: 9/18/2006

I haven't been reading the papers as much in the past couple of weeks, because I've been having too much fun on vacation. Here are a few links that you might like, however:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Test Post

This is just here for GB, to see if the Bloglines notifier works.

Friday, September 15, 2006

There are updates available for both Firefox and Thunderbird. In both cases, version is now available.

The updates address some ominous-sounding security issues, it sez here.

I found the automatic updating, which happened last night on my PC, a little flakey. I have both programs set to notify me of an update, but not to do it automatically. When I got the notification and clicked "OK" to allow the upgrade, it was a little murky what was going on for a couple of minutes. No biggie, and it might have been due to the load on Mozilla's servers (over 200 million Firefox downloads to date, I recently read). I updated both on my Macs this morning, doing Help > Check for Updates, and that went fine.

Now you know.

[Update: 2006-09-17 11:04 EDT]:KK tells me the update worked without flakiness for him

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Another Shout-out for Flickr

Not only was the upload process painless and the on-line interface really intuitive, I absolutely love Flickr for its choice of pronouns. It's "Your Pictures" and "Your Profile" and "Your Account," instead of the MY MY MY that Windows saddled the world with.

Vacation Pix

I put up some shots on Flickr of things that I did in the days following the wedding.

As with the wedding pix, higher res shots available upon request.

Thanks for the camera, KK!

Wedding Pix

I posted some of the pictures that I took at Bernadette and Kyle's wedding on Flickr.

Higher res copies are available upon request.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Spell Check Idiosyncrasy of the Day -- 9/13/2006

Thunderbird suggests reconfigurability where I used configurability. Given that I was talking at the moment about Thunderbird's "almost infinite configurability," I found this somewhat ironic self-referential funny.

I mean, don't you have to configure before you can reconfigure? And how could you have the ability to redo something that you didn't have the ability to do in the first place?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Okay, here's one thing I don't miss about LA

I'm in a Starbucks in Valencia (or is it Santa Clarita?), and I have now heard for the 87th time and I haven't even finished my first cup of coffee ...

"Have a great day!"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

TC at Ragged Point 9/5/2006

(Click image to expand)

You'll have to take my word for it that the Pacific Ocean is right there, off to the right, about 100 feet down. Every so often, I could see a glint. Magical place.

Fare Warning

What does this say about the physical condition of visitors to Hearst Castle?

My Xanadu?

Or maybe just my final resting place . . .

Thoughts while disconnected


9/5/2006 06:30 PDT Cambria

My new cell phone, which already creeps me out by being aware of when I change time zones, bothered me just a little bit more yesterday. I opened the phone up and a message popped up on the screen:

Local time is now 01:60 pm.
Update clock?

In defense of the phone, it was in fact 2:00 pm at the time, so one could say that the phone was not so much in error as it was differing from me on semantics.

But still.

Guy Thing

9/6/2006 23:09 PDT Berkeley

Why is there no female equivalent for the word "manfully?"

I mean, you never hear someone say, "She tried womanfully to ..." whatever.

Does this mean that men try to do things in other ways, and that it is therefore necessary to characterize the individual attempts?

Well, adverbs. Probably not worth making that big a deal over this.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I go paparazzi, v0.01

"Yeah, so my youngest got married like twenty minutes ago. Whatever. Now, as I was saying. Few people realize just how exciting a career in accounting can be ..."

Saturday, September 02, 2006

LA Stories

Right now, I'm eating breakfast at The Rumor Mill. Good coffee, good music, free WiFi. The crowd is a mixture of obvious computer geeks, hipsters, and hotties (all groups of which I am a wannabe member). What's not to like?


Went to a wedding rehearsal dinner yesterday. Tough trip at the start. Seventy minutes to go six miles. The PCH through Santa Monica on a Friday at 5 pm? Who was I kidding? At one point, I was moving at exactly the same pace, for five minutes at least, as a homeless guy walking along the side of the road.


On the first leg of my flight out yesterday, I sat next to a woman who was a self-professed nervous flier, so she was eager to chat. She was mostly pleasant to talk to, except for two deviations.

First was her love for crystals, which tied into how we're the descendants from Atlantis ("the Atlanteans," don'tcha know), and how, since computers are made from silicon, they're going to save our bacon, because silicon is . . .

Me: "Crystals?"

Her (with beatific smile): "Exactly."

I got out of that one by calling her attention to the view out the window, which resurrected her phobia, giving me chance to steer us back to Planet Earth.

The second bad part was her description of her dog. I have a cousin who once did not endear herself to me by describing her own pick of the litter -- "the shivering one in the corner." Evidently, the woman on the plane has acquired V2.0. The woman herself has been bitten three times by the dog, the dog must be locked in a back room when anyone comes to the house, a vet has repeatedly told her that the dog should be destroyed, etc. Apparently, the dog was returned as a puppy, after having been abused. The dog is now nine, and "has calmed down a little bit."

As they down South, bless her heart.


On the second, longer flight, I did what I usually do on long flights -- hang out in the galley. (I may look like the proverbial creep who loiters outside the Ladies' Room in nightclubs, but at least my knees feel better.) I got to talking to one of the flight attendants who was as bored as I was -- passengers are evidently cowed into asking for nothing anymore -- and she was talking about life as a flight attendant, what with the loss of the pension plan and all. While discussing 401(k) plans, she asked me in one of those verbal tics that people do, "... you know what I mean, right? I mean, how old are you?"

"45," I replied.

"Yeah, I'm 43. So we're in the same boat ..."

I had until two seconds previously been thinking that she looked like a well-preserved sixty. Managed to keep a stone face.

Uncle Keith heard this story last night, and had the best comeback, "Yeah, but she probably has a lot more miles on her than you do."


United, like most airlines, no longer gives away any food. They had some pretty good boxed lunch-type of things for $5. The one I chose gave me two fairly handy edged weapons: the top from a tuna can and a glass jar (hummus). Thank goodness I had no water to wash it down with, though, so we were safe.

The airlines are apparently making up for the space saved from not carrying much food by not carrying nearly enough bottled water. I guzzled a liter in O'Hare before getting on the flight, and I was glad I did. The good news is, you don't need to have bottled water, because the airlines carry plenty of potable water. And by "potable," I mean that it sometimes even meets the federal standards for drinking water. No exaggeration. I have read a couple of stories to this effect already. Maybe the plan is to incapacitate the turrurists by giving them Montezuma's Revenge.


Last night, I was out front of the restaurant, having a smoke and admiring the moonset over the Pacific. I got to talking to the head of the valet parking crew, whom I first took to be Mexican. So much for racial profiling -- he's from Afghanistan.

He told me that when he was still back in "my old country," he would get mad at his relatives who had already moved to the US and were sending back money: "They would send $120. I mad. You in America, can't you send like $200? $150?"

"I came here thought I would sweep $100 bills off the streets. Now I work 16, 17 hours a day. And I know better."

That made me feel a little guilty, so I gave him an extra dollar when I reclaimed my car. Call it my bit for spreading democracy.


Time for a refill.

Friday, September 01, 2006


From "New Pentagon Report Finds Rising Violence in Iraq:"

Iraqi casualties soared by more than 50 percent over the roughly three-month period ending in early August, the product of spiraling sectarian clashes and a Sunni-based insurgency that remains ?potent and viable,? the Pentagon noted today in an comprehensive assessment of security in Iraq.

In a grim 63-page report, the Pentagon chronicled bad news on a variety of fronts. One telling indicator was the number of weekly attacks, which reached an all-time high in July.

Those guys, they only report the bad news.