This is the website of Abulsme Noibatno Itramne (also known as Sam Minter). Comments here or emails to me at abulsme@abulsme.com are encouraged... or follow me on Twitter as @abulsme.

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September 2007
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Window Shopping at TJ Maxx

Brandy and Amy were on the way to TJ Maxx to look at school backbacks for Amy (her old one had a hole in it)… They had looked at Target, they were going to TJ Maxx next… Amy was hungry so they stopped at one of the mall food places. While they were there eating whatever it was they bought, a few hundred feet away a car crashed through the section of the TJ Maxx where they would have been shopping if they hadn’t stopped for food.

Car Slams Into TJ Maxx Store In Bellevue
(AP & KIRO)

Bellevue police said one person is being treated for minor injuries after a car crashed into the front of a T.J. Maxx store in the Factoria area of Bellevue.

A teen was injured after getting struck by a clothes rack when the car plowed into the store.

According to Bellevue Fire, a woman in her 40s was driving the car and was allegedly in competition with another driver for the parking spot and hit the accelerator instead of the brake, sending her car forward.

Amy and Brandy came home at that point rather than continuing to shop for the backpack.

History of Africa News

An interesting article, actually an excerpt from No Easy Victories, the book coedited by my father which will be out in October, was recently published on AllAfrica.com as well.

AllAfrica.com evolved out of what was the Africa News Service, which both of my parents were heavily involved in during my early childhood. I have a few memories of being in and around the Africa News offices from around ages 5 to 9. And perhaps a few after that, as didn’t leave the area for good until around age 12. But mainly those earlier years. The article gives a brief history of the organization from its roots in 1969 up to the AllAfrica of today. Interesting stuff.

Africa: Durham, Durban, and AllAfrica
(Reed Kramer, allafrica.com)

Around 1976, we started producing for broadcast through direct telephone feeds rather than printed news scripts. We immediately heard from our nonmedia subscribers – church agencies, libraries,government offices, anti-apartheid groups – who said, ” Wait, we still want this news.” That’s when we started a print publication, which became a biweekly newspaper. We continued to produce, edit, and consult for radio and television. We still report occasionally for public radio or appear on CNN and other networks.

The newspaper continued until 1993, when issues of sustainability forced us to move more aggressively to become an online service. We had begun electronic publishing in late 1983 on the NewsNet bulletin board, almost a decade before the emergence of the World Wide Web, and in 1991 on LexisNexis. Around 1993 we were approached by the newly formed America Online (AOL) and had extensive discussions. They wanted us to create a closed channel for them, but in the end we thought it better to be on the open Internet. So we launched a Web site instead.

The complete book is available from http://www.noeasyvictories.org and http://www.africaworldpressbooks.com.

Gadget Lust Quenched

An iPhone this year was not going to happen. But in my head, I was thinking onve the first major revision came out, probably next year I imagine, I’d be all over it as long as they upgraded the email client a bit (the main thing that seemed to weak for my needs based on all the reviews I’ve read).

Now, if I’d gotten one already, there is no way I would have done the “unlocking” thing to move it off of AT&T. I wouldn’t have been interested in that option. But I have no doubts whatsoever that I would have done the jailbreak to get the third party apps. Because they were cool, and added quite a lot to the functionality of the phone.

And if I’d done that, and then done the update this week, they would all be gone, and the phone would be back to its original state. It wouldn’t be bricked as it would be if I’d done an unlock. But it would still be back to factory state, with no abilitty to run the thrid party apps.

Apple is making a huge mistake by not just officially opening the phone to third party apps. Let alone by stopping these “unofficial” efforts. They can do whatever they want of course. The hackers knew they were doing something Apple could shut down if they wanted to. But Apple is making a huge mistake by doing so. They are making their product far less attractive… especially to the type of users who would be major evangelists.

Gizmodo’s revised iPhone review sums it up nicely. It is worth reading the whole thing.

iPhone Revisted (Verdict: Don’t Buy)
(Brian Lam, Gizmodo)

Screw the unlock for a second. Let’s talk about the those third-party apps. While my 4GB iPhone is a brick, and the 8GB phone, which I kept on a totally legit AT&T contract, is now stripped down. Programs like the faux-GPS, IM clients, Flickr Upload, and NES emulator—what did they ever do but make the iPhone far better than the stock original? They made it far more competitive with open-platform superphones like the Nokia N95, to which I will now be switching. I flew back from NY to SF today. While there, I would have liked to have pushed my photos from the trip to flickr; I would have liked to have played NES games on the subway. I would have liked to have used the Navizon GPS thing to figure out where the hell I was at any given moment, and when I used one of those web 2.0 IM clients, my battery took a huge hit, and I missed a lot of messages because Safari couldn’t tell me I was getting IMs while out of the browser. Very annoying.

I look at my iPhone with version 1.1.1 software on it compared to the old hacked one. I’m happy for the iTunes Store, which we’ve been waiting for. But it’s not more important than fixing things, and adding capabilities such as copy/paste and email search. And it’s certainly not better than all those programs I can’t use anymore. Here’s the comparo chart, from Rob Beschizza at Wired based on a chart from 9to5:

That chart is just sad. Bad Apple. Bad.

But I Like Needless Detail…

The 8 Most Needlessly Detailed Wikipedia Entries
(Matt Blair, Cracked.com)

They say “knowledge is power,” but “they” seem to forget that most of our knowledge is devoted to subjects that are completely useless and retarded. If you could somehow harness just the brain power that’s currently being spent on, say, memorizing fantasy football stats, you could probably cure cancer.

Nowhere is humanity’s obsession with the inconsequential more obvious than on Wikipedia, where even the most obscure topics get propped up on enormous blocks of text. Here are the most depressing–and somewhat frightening–examples.

(via Digg)

Hammer Clock Raccoon

Convention Time?

I normally disagree with most of what ends up on the blog I’m about to link to, but I found this post particularly amusing. And although I’m not ready to advocate a coup or anything, it makes some good points:

If Congressional Approval Falls Below 10%, Do We Get to Have Another Revolution?
(John Bambenek, Stop the ACLU)

The latest Zogby poll shows that only 11 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. This is contrasted with Bush’s underwhelming 29% approval rating. These polls show that Americans of all political stripes are losing faith in their government. Congress’ all time low (prior to this poll) is 18% approval. Do we get to disband the government and write a new Constitution if it falls below 10%? For comparison, most foreign governments suffer a coup at these approval ratings.

The partisans on both sides will likely use this poll to show how the other party is ruining America. That’s what they do and most people have adopted this approach. It doesn’t matter who has the most coherent policy, it just matters how you can spin things to show the other party as a moral evil. This line of thinking misses the point.

The poll shows that the average American and the average politician are simply disconnected. The concerns of the average American aren’t represented inside the Beltway and it shows that what’s huge news on the cable news channels and in the latest partisan shouting matches isn’t what matters most to Americans. And America is fed up.

It’s not about a single issue, it’s about the sum total of all the issues that America cares about that go ignored or are actively worked against by our politicians. Our candidates are pre-selected by party insiders where people who aren’t “team players” (i.e. party hacks) are actively discouraged from running. Sure, they’ll take your money but they want yes men in office.

We have representatives from every corner of this country in D.C. Yet all issues are effectively nationalized. How does a representative vote on a particular bill? With his caucus, not with the intentions of his constituents. There are rare exceptions, some of those are honest principled men, many are just media whores who like the press image of being a “maverick”. And America is fed up.

In every direction one looks, one can find a promise of government to help and that promise being broken. Corruption is rampant in both parties and the talking points that one party is more corrupt than another are simply absurd. Looking at the field of 2008 presidential contenders, it looks like it’ll be more of the same. How much lower do approval ratings need to fall until Americans insist that things change?

11% for Congress and 29% for President is indeed pretty sad. Wouldn’t a sign of a properly functioning democracy be approval ratings over 50% at least a decent fraction of the time?

Last time the President was over 50% was in early 2005 right after his reelection. Congress hasn’t been over 50% since 2002.

So the public hates the whole lot of them. But even when new people get voted in, we seem to hate them just as much. Doesn’t this indicate we’re voting in the wrong people? Not a Democratic/Republican sort of thing… just people of all political stripes voting for people they don’t actually like. If people would only stop doing that “lesser of two evils” thing and instead pushed for and voted for other people en masse, maybe things would change a bit.

Of course, that won’t happen. Cause voting for someone without a chance of winning is a “wasted vote”. Bleh. Of course it isn’t really wasted. It is the one and only time you get to register your opinion on who you think should have the job. Vote for who you think would be best. If they are on the ballot, great. (Definitely consider third parties and independents there!) But if you dislike everybody on the ballot, don’t turn up your nose and pick one anyway… think of someone you would approve of and write them in. It is better than voting for someone that you know you don’t like. And if enough people did it, it WOULD be noticed.

But of course enough people never do.

Sad.

Time is not Enough

Sometimes, things take a lot longer than you wish, and other times you have a lot less time than you wish. Most of the time both are true. And that kinda sucks.

Music Widget Thingy

In my continuing quest to fill this website with junk nobody wants to see that makes it look all out of kilter, I’ve added a last.fm music widget which tracks the last few songs I’ve listened to on iTunes at home (or on my iPod, although those don’t show up until I get home and sync). You can see the widget on the right under the AbulReading section and above the blogroll. I’ve only had it there a few minutes, but so far I’m not too thrilled with it. It is much more obtrusive than the Google reader thing, and much less customizable. I’ll leave it there for the moment, but I may pull it off again after a few days if I find it too obnoxious.

Echos of Sling

Although I guess I should reserve judgement for awhile, my initial reaction is that this can’t be a good thing for those of us who love our Slingboxes.

Sling Media To Be Acquired By EchoStar; Deal Valued At Approximately $380 Million
(Staci D. Kramer, paidContent.org)

This just in … EchoStar (NSDQ: DISH) is acquiring Sling Media in a cash-and-options transaction valued at approximately $380 million. The deal announced late Monday evening, is subject to the usual closing conditions; it is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

(via Techmeme)

Although of course since there is no subscription or anything existing boxes should not be effected at all… just potential future new products.

Political Clarification

I got an email recently from a regular reader of this blog in Canada with the following question:

Can you please tell me why a Bill would have two or more totally different items on it. For example H.R. 1905 has lets give DC representation and “Amends the Internal Revenue Code to increase (from 110% to 110.1%) the estimated tax payment safe harbor percentage for determining the amount of estimated tax payable by individual taxpayers whose adjusted gross income for the preceding taxable year exceeds $5 million.”

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand why they do this. It’s like quid quo pro but why have the people of United States tolerated it for so long. It is so obviously manipulative it’s baffling. A vote on these two topics on their own is the only true way of serving best interests of the people of United States.

Democratic Senator from California, ” I want to protect the Albino Chipmunk”

Republican Senator from Ohio, “Well throw in a new pork belly subsidy and you got my vote!”

Well, I have no extremely profound answer to that question. As mentioned, why it is done is obvious. It is a way for everybody to get what they want by bundling it with what other people want. There might not be enough support for item A on the merits of that item alone, but stick it to something else that people want, and maybe you can make it happen that way.

As to why it is tolerated? Well, mainly because very few people pay attention to what is going on at that level of detail, and most of those who do accept it as “just how things are done”. Every once in awhile you get someone proposing solutions to this sort of thing, or to bills that are thousands of pages long that no human being ever reads all of (at least not before voting). But none of those proposals ever go anywhere. Why? Because of the people who could make the changes directly (the rules committees in congress, etc) it would not benefit any of them, because they all take advantage of the existing system. And experience has shown that the public doesn’t care or notice, so they don’t have to worry about it come election time either.

It is a bad system. But it is a system that reinforces itself and resists change. If it ever did become a huge popular issue in the public consciousness, perhaps there would be change. But this sort of thing is so wonkish and inside the beltway that it would take massive abuse on a huge front and center issue right before an election for anybody but the news junkies to ever notice… and perhaps not even then. And of course even if you DID have the right combination of political events to enact some changes, they would probably be superficial and start to be rolled back as soon as the public looked the other way again. (For examples of this see the post-Watergate restrictions on Presidential power, and the immediate resumption of budget deficits almost as soon as there had been a balanced budget for a couple of years.)

Anyway. Yes, this is an extremely frustrating thing. They really SHOULD only vote on single issue bills that are in easily digestible chunks. But I’m not thinking that will ever happen.