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



June 2008

Electoral College: New Hampshire Flips to Obama

Trends in the last few days just have not been favorable to McCain. And today just continues that. A new poll flips New Hampshire from Leaning McCain to Leaning Obama. Obama’s lead is under 5% though, so New Hampshire is still a swing state.

Current Summary:

McCain Best Case – McCain 303, Obama 235
Obama Best Case – Obama 378, McCain 160

And if everybody gets their leans (and Obama gets DC) – Obama 276, McCain 262

That FISA Thing

I pretty much agree with the EFF 100% on this, so I’ll just repeat their statement on Friday’s events:

House Falls Down on the Job
(Hugh D’Andrade, EFF, 20 Jun 2008)

The House of Representatives today has fallen down on the job. By passing the FISA Amendments Act (293-129, with 105 Democrats in favor), they voted to give this lame duck President an undeserved parting gift by passing immunity for telcoms that helped the President violate the Constitution by participating in the NSA’s massive and illegal spying program.

While Speaker Pelosi and President Bush describe it as a “balanced bill” with “bipartisan support,” the millions of Americans whose privacy rights have been violated by the President’s illegal spying program seem to have been left out of the equation.

Senator Bond’s gloating statement to the New York Times showed the true picture: “I think the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped to get.” The Washington Post wrote that the bill “hands President Bush one of the last major legislative victories he is likely to achieve.” And the San Francisco Chronicle, writing from Speaker Pelosi’s home district, called the vote “weak, timid, spineless.”

To say that EFF is disappointed in the House Leadership’s support for this bill is an understatement. Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer, so vocal in their opposition to telecom immunity last March, capitulated to a dangerous “compromise” that gives the telecoms and the Bush Administration what they have been demanding for over a year: Protection from court cases that threaten to uncover the extent of the President’s illegal spying program.

Many Democrats stood up for the rule of law, and they deserve our thanks. Senators Conyers and Nadler have been consistent and vocal in their staunch opposition to immunity. Senator Feingold has spoken out as well, saying that the bill “is not a compromise, it is a capitulation.”

Republican Senator Arlen Specter has shown himself more supportive of the rule of law than Speaker Pelosi on this issue: “I am opposed to the proposed legislation because it does not require a judicial determination that what the telephone companies have done in the past is constitutional. It is totally insufficient to grant immunity for the telephone companies’ prior conduct based merely on the written assurance from the administration that the spying was legal.”

As the fight moves to the Senate, we now look to Senators Leahy, Dodd and Feingold to lead the opposition to the immunity provisions in the Senate version of the bill. Contact your Senators now and tell them to stand strong.

I will add that I am highly disappointed in Obama’s statement on this issue. It either shows that Obama agrees with an expansive view of what proper executive surveillance power should be, or that he has a complete lack of spine. Either way, it is a big negative for me. Not like McCain would be better on this. and I’m not sure what Bob Barr is saying on this these days, but I don’t think I’d trust him.


Electoral College: Georgia Weakens for McCain

More bad news for McCain. His lead in Georgia now slips below 10% putting Georgia into the “Weak McCain” category. Georgia still isn’t a swing state. But it is getting closer.

The summary stays the same though:

McCain Best Case – McCain 303, Obama 235
Obama Best Case – Obama 378, McCain 160

And if everybody gets their leans (and Obama gets DC) – Obama 272, McCain 266

DVD: Stardust

Last weekend it was time for an Amy Netflix movie. (Once again damn you Netflix!) Her movie this time was Stardust. I had never even heard of it, so I had no idea what to expect.

And it was, well… odd… and that meant I kind of liked it. It had a little fantasy magic thing going on. With your standard sort of predictable setup with the hero thrown in with a girl and at first they don’t like each other, but eventually… well, you know.

And there were ghosts, and a flying ship, witches… and a falling star that is really a girl… and it was all very tongue in cheek and funny.

Oh yeah, and Robert De Niro dancing around in women’s clothes. There is something to be said about any movie that has that. I’m not sure exactly what, but something.

It was a cute movie. Entertaining. Light hearted. I little bizzare. Not taking itself seriously at all. But fun.

This is one of the types of movies I tend to like. So thumbs up and all of that.

And all three of us watched it together. Which is always good.

Electoral College: Bad News for McCain in Florida and Wisconsin

In terms of state by state polls, this is a very bad day for John McCain.

First of all, Wisconsin strengthens for Obama. Obama’s lead is now more than 5%, taking Wisconsin out of the swing state category. McCain may still be able to bring these 10 electoral votes back into play, but it would take work.

Second, and a bigger deal, Florida weakens for McCain. His lead there is now under 5%. That is 27 more electoral votes off the list McCain can feel pretty good about and into the “fully in play” category.

Current Summary:

McCain Best Case – McCain 303, Obama 235
Obama Best Case – Obama 378, McCain 160

And if everybody gets their leans (and Obama gets DC) – Obama 272, McCain 266

The “everybody gets their leans” numbers still remain incredibly close. But the best case scenarios are getting more and more unbalanced. Obama’s best case is now getting into landslide territory. McCain’s best case is just barely more than squeaking out a victory by a margin of a couple of states.

There are 140 electoral votes now in the “leaning” category that can easily go either way.

Assuming Obama gets all his strong and weak states and DC, that gives him 238 electoral votes. Which is 32 electoral votes from the win. That is only 23% of the electoral votes in the swing category. He only needs any two of Florida, Ohio, Michigan or North Carolina in order to do that. Two out of 12 swing states. (Or instead he could get a bunch of the smaller states…).

By contrast, if McCain gets all his strong and weak states, he only has 160 electoral votes. He needs a full 110 electoral votes from the swing states to win. That is 79% of the swing state electoral votes. From the big state side of things that means McCain would need all of these: Florida, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana and Missouri. Eight of the 12 swing states.

A lot of Obama’s gains in the last few weeks can be attributed to a “bounce” from clinching the nomination. If the trend continues, and McCain doesn’t manage to fight back a bit, and Obama manages to flip a few more states in his direction and out of the swing state category… we might actually end up with McCain’s best case scenario being a loss…

…or Obama may start to peak and then things get closer again.

It is still early. Anything can happen. But the recent poll results are ones that the McCain camp should be very worried about. They have some work to do.


I have no idea if Spore itself will be fun at all, but the Spore Creature Creator was good for a couple hours of goofing around yesterday. Fun stuff. I’ve just loaded the free trial so far (on both my computer and Amy’s) but the paid version is actually somewhat tempting. You get more choices of eyes and legs and mouths and stuff. :-)

Damn You Netflix, Damn You

I got an email about this from Netflix at 0:16 UTC today, but was actually going to wait for tomorrow to blog about it, but since it is hitting Gizmodo already…

Here is the the email Netflix sent out:

Important News Regarding Netflix Profiles

Dear Samuel,

We wanted to let you know we will be eliminating Profiles, the feature that allowed you to set up separate DVD Queues under one account, effective September 1, 2008.

Each additional Profile Queue will be unavailable after September 1, 2008. Before then, we recommend you consolidate any of your Profile Queues to your main account Queue or print them out.

While it may be disappointing to see Profiles go away, this change will help us continue to improve the Netflix website for all our customers.

If you have any questions, please go to or call us anytime at 1 (888) 638-3549. We apologize for any inconvenience.

– The Netflix Team

All I can say is that this is bullshit. Profiles are a critical part of how we use Netflix. Each member of the family has their own queue which they manage separately. (Plus we have one extra queue for other stuff.) We each return our DVDs when we want and get our new DVDs. We have it set so that while I have the 4 disks at a time plan, each profile gets one disk at a time. This makes it easy for each of us to get what we want without having to worry about reconciling our queues into one single list. As far as I can see, to get the same effect in the future we would have to actually have four separate accounts, billed separately, at no doubt a higher total monthly rate.

The economics of Netflix at this point are barely worth it at the rate we actually watch DVDs. With this change we would either have to move everything to one queue, with all the additional confusion and complexity that would add, or we would have to pay a lot more for separate accounts. This is likely to make Netflix no longer an attractive option.

If they don’t reverse this decision before the feature is scheduled to go away, I can easily see us canceling our Netflix account. It just would not make sense any more.

I’d be willing to pay a little more monthly to keep this feature (although not four separate accounts more)… please Netflix, figure out a way to keep this. Or we may well have to say goodbye.

Death of an iSight

My external iSight seems to have died. On Monday at 2:18 UTC my webcam spontaneously flipped from the external iSight to the internal. At 7:40 UTC I switched it back to the external after unplugging it and plugging it back in. At 11:01 UTC it started showing video artifacts. It got worse and worse until at 12:56 UTC the video signal died completely. I found it and switched it to the internal iSight at 15:19 UTC, where it has stayed ever since.

The video above is the timelapse of that fateful day.

I didn’t get a chance to see if I could get the external working again until just now. No luck at all.

This blows, as even though I don’t do it often, I like to keep the internal iSight free for video iChat and such. Plus the external camera is more flexible as to where I can point it, and I like to change it up for the AbulCam.

So I go looking for what a new iSight costs these days. Can’t find any in the online Apple store. None directly from Amazon either, although some third parties have them at way high prices. There are rumors of an iSight HD coming soon, but nothing out yet. I’ve also wanted a 802.11 wireless webcam for awhile, so that I could put the thing further from my computer, but those still cost too much to be worth it really. Plus since my usecase is non-standard, I never feel like I know for sure if it will work for the way I want to use it until I try it.

I suppose I could go buy a cheap $25 external webcam. Dunno.

For now, I guess the AbulCam stays on the internal iSight. But I won’t want that to be a long term solution.

Curmudgeonly Note #2

We talked a bit on the podcast about how to interpret general election polls. With Ivan saying they were meaningless at this stage because they weren’t good predictors of the election results, and me saying they did matter because they reflect the state of the race NOW.

The analogy I should have used was that of a sports event. The score at any given time in the game does NOT tell you with any certainty who will win. It is an indicator. If one team is way ahead, then the other team would have to do something really extraordinary to win… and they probably won’t, but they might… but fundamentally the score in the middle of the game does not tell you who will win, it tells you the state of the game NOW. And that is not irrelevant or meaningless… it just tells you something different.

This is how general election polls should be interpreted. Not as predictors of the winner at the end of the game (the election) but rather as a snapshot of where things are RIGHT NOW. Which is different.

And of course, looking at national popular vote polls *is* irrelevant. That is not the game that is being played. The game being played is the electoral college. You need to look at state by state polls only. The national popular vote DOES NOT MATTER.

Curmudgeonly Note #1

Although in the show we determined that Ivan probably listened to the original version of last week’s show, in reality he listened to the fixed version. And it still sucked.

In this week’s show I still have a few issues. Before exporting to MP3 it sounds OK, but as an MP3 Ivan’s got some ringing on his voice that is annoying. And I’m already late putting this out, so I’m not going to delay another day to try to adjust it more.

We’ll continue to try to improve this stuff in future weeks. We need to get it so both Ivan and I sound decent consistently, and we’re not quite there yet. But it isn’t horrible I don’t think. Not like last week’s first version.