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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June 2009
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Saturday in Iran

It is now Sunday in Iran, having just passed midnight about 15 minutes ago as I start to write this post. So I thought after 8 hours of almost continuously reading Iran coverage, I’d post a few thoughts.

First of all, even here, from many thousands of miles away, the day has been an emotional roller coaster, with almost every 15 minutes bringing new developments that grab you and toss you between hope and fear and sadness and anger. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to actually be present in the middle of such events.

Second, despite of, or perhaps even because of, the regime’s attempts to squelch the dissent, the moment seems if anything to be gaining momentum. Now, I admit, the views into this we get are almost certainly biased toward the protesters, but it certainly seems that despite not being able to congregate in one big mass as planned, vibrant displays of dissent still happened all over Tehran, and there have been reports of similar activities in other cities. And the violence perpetrated against the originally peaceful protesters seem to have just made them angry, and steeled their resolve… and caused them to start fighting violence with violence. This is not over, and it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Third, I did eventually turn on TV News when I saw a number of reports that there might actually be something to watch. Fox and CNN have both had wall to wall coverage all day long. (MSNBC is completely absent.) Now, the coverage is still pretty horrible compared to online sources… they suck… but they are at least trying, which is more than could be said last Saturday when this was starting to break.

One of the many ways in which the coverage has been subpar has been the extreme reluctance to say anything definitive. As an example, there was a period of time where the anchors were over and over describing the techniques being employed against the demonstrators and saying things along the lines of how the regime was being fairly restrained, using non-lethal techniques, etc, although there were “some unconfirmed reports” that there may have been some use of gunfire.

Meanwhile, anybody who had remotely been paying attention online had, like I had, within the previous hour watched a vivid and explicit high resolution video of a teenage girl who had just been shot bleeding out and dying in her father’s arms.

And yes, while technically speaking the video was not authenticated with a chain of custody and an exact knowledge of exactly when and where it came from and what the situation was surrounding it. But in addition to the video itself, there were multiple reports from people claiming to have witnessed that event from different perspectives. Can we dispense with the hedging and refusing to state plainly what is almost definitely happening? Sure, in some cases things will turn out to have been wrong in retrospect, but so be it. I don’t care that you can’t confirm it directly through a reporter talking to a known source that they trust. Screw that. There are other ways to know things. (And yes, everybody knows the way in which anecdotal stories and pictures can show something that is not actually representative of the wider situation. Duh. That doesn’t mean we have to be protected from them.) Things don’t need to be beyond any reasonable doubt to be reported. Say what it seems pretty clear is happening. Clean up the inaccuracies later.

Also, please, please… especially if you are going to put thousands of caveats on any of the thousands of direct reports from the scene… don’t in the same breath accept at face value and report as fact things being said by the Iranian government controlled television station. I mean, really?

They are trying though. And I note although I did not see it, I have read reports that CNN actually aired the video of that girl dying at least once unedited. I don’t know if they did it on purpose or by mistake, but I give them credit for that. It may be incredibly disturbing, and it may be anecdotal, but it is an invaluable part of understanding what is really happening. And these direct pictures and videos from people who are actually involved, do that in a way that could never be captured in any other way, even if there were live international network coverage still present.

Overall though, while there have been compelling and shocking reports of violence and loss, the overall feeling is that people are not backing down. That there is a real movement here for change. It may well still be put down. But not yet. There will be more of this tomorrow, if not overnight.

Also, there has been another thread with people going after Obama for not being aggressive enough in supporting the protestors. Give me a break. That would be the worst thing he could possibly do. He has slowly ramped up his statements, and that is probably appropriate. And I’m sure additional things are being done behind the scenes as well. But being bellicose would not help things here, it would make them worse.

For those who have not been riveted to this all day long like I have been, the best single place to catch up would be the Daily Dish Day 8 Liveblog. Be warned though, it does include the vivid pictures and videos of people injured, dying or dead.

Iran Sources

What I’m monitoring this morning:

And adding more occasionally when I notice several other people linking to them as sources.

Iran Video

The first video is starting to make it out. From BBC Persian and from a seemingly random YouTube user linked from Twitter.

Small peeks, but consistent with the other news filtering out. Looks like a lot of chaos, with authorities getting violent. We have yet to understand how widespread this kind of thing is.

New news is sporadic, unreliable, contradictory… it will take awhile to understand what is really going on.

Conflicting

Just smatterings of conflicting reports on what is going on so far. Urgh!

Anyway, awake and watching.

The Day of the Green

It is just under four hours until the scheduled Saturday rally in Tehran. The expectations seem to be strong that today may be a decisive day given the Supreme Leader’s statements Friday. It is the middle of the night here in Seattle. It will still be hours before sunrise here when things will happen… if they happen… perhaps things will just dissipate without a major event… but that seems increasingly unlikely. Despite the time of day in my part of the world, I find myself compelled to try to watch as close to real time as I can. I may nap some, but my alarm is set just in case I fall asleep. Watching Twiterfall, there is not much new at the moment, and not much on other sources. Everybody is just waiting for 4 PM Tehran time (12:30 UTC). I’ve given up on TV news. I won’t even turn it on unless I hear from other sources that there is something worth watching. I have BBC World Service radio on… but they have something non-live and not about Iran at the moment. I suspect even if things start happening, I’ll hear more faster online.

In the meantime, I just spent some time scanning through Andrew Sullivan’s latest Live-Tweeting The Revolution post. Of course all the usual caveats about interpreting raw information of this sort apply in spades. You need to be have a bit of healthy skepticism. And of course I know that if I were to discuss specific issues and ideas with the people demonstrating, I’d almost certainly disagree with them strongly on more issues than I agreed with them. Never the less, what has been visible over the last week has been moving and inspiring. It is worth reading all of the tweets Sullivan has collected. You also see other moving things in other places which are reposting things written by people on the scene.

One particularly memorable example, from an Iranian blogger at balatarin.com translated by NIACBlog and linked from Sullivan:

I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…

I hope for something like the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I fear that it will be more like Tiananmen in 1989.

We shall see.

In the mean time, my thoughts and attention are with the sea of green in Tehran and elsewhere in Iran.

Saturn Milestone

iPhone 3.0 Bug with Shuffled Podcasts

After happily popping around my iPhone exploring the update, I finally settled down to listen to stuff on the iPod. Soon thereafter I discovered a bug which makes my normal way of listening to my iPod completely impossible. It has to do with what happens when you have a playlist that includes Podcasts and you try to listen on shuffle mode. Most simply put, it does not work any more. At least for me. There is of course always the chance that only I am screwed up. Previous to the 3.0 upgrade it worked perfectly.

In case anybody with Apple contacts happens to come across this post, here are the details:

  • I have a 16Gb iPhone 3G (White)
  • Normally podcasts have the “Skip when shuffling” option selected, so they are not included in shuffling. You have to explicitly set this option if you want Podcasts to be able to shuffle. In my case, I have an Applescript that runs hourly that unchecks this option on all podcasts, so all podcasts are always eligible to be included when I shuffle.
  • I have a smart playlist set up to include all my unplayed podcasts. I have this playlist set to sync with the iPhone.
  • I have another smart playlist which includes the 10% of my music library that I have listened to least often. My full library is too large to fit on my iPhone, so I sync this smart playlist, but not the source (a playlist that includes almost all the music in my library).
  • I have a third smart playlist that combines the two playlists above. This is the playlist I use most often, and exclusively on shuffle mode.
  • If I go to the Unplayed Podcasts playlist and hit shuffle, if an audio podcast is chosen, it will play for about 1 to 3 seconds, and then most of the time it will stop playing the podcast that was chosen at random and it will immediately start playing whatever podcast is actually first in the playlist and will play that normally. Occasionally, the iPod application will simply crash instead and I’ll find myself looking at the main iPhone screen. The exception is if the podcast that comes up is a video podcast, in which case things seem to work normally until the podcast ends and the next thing shuffled in is audio.
  • In my combined playlist that includes both music and podcasts, it will shuffle normally until it gets to an audio podcast, at which time the iPod application will invariably crash after I hear the first 1 to 3 seconds of the podcast. Once again, video podcasts will work normally.

I had at first been very excited to see the new podcast controls in the iPod app that allow you to skip back 30 seconds, email the podcast to a friend and play the podcast at double speed. I can see those being useful. (I’m not sure how I got to see them properly, if I picked a podcast manually it was an accident, I don’t usually do that, I use shuffle mode almost exclusively, there is a chance I suppose that the first podcast I got actually worked properly, but I have not been able to reproduce that since on shuffle mode, only when I pick a podcast by hand.)

I note without knowing if it is relevant, that the screen real estate used by the speed selector for podcasts is in the same location as the shuffle control usually is, but in video podcasts (which work fine) the speed option is not available, so the shuffle control still shows. So the cases where there is a problem are only those where the speed control is available and taking up the normal shuffle real estate.

I know I may be an oddball here with a non-standard usecase, but I subscribe to a lot of podcasts, and I like to be able to just go into my unplayed podcasts, put it on shuffle and hear what comes up. Intermixing with music may be odder still, but I like the variety of the occasional talk interspersed with music.

Anyway, the iPod app actually outright crashes on a reproducible basis here in one scenario, and in the other produces oddball behavior other than what the user requested, so even if my use case isn’t super common, I hope there will be a fix in an update before too long.

In the meantime, if I want to listen to a podcast, I have to pick it by hand rather than just saying “pick me something!” and mixing in podcasts with my normal music mix won’t work either. Since these are my two normal ways of using my iPod, I’m basically stuck with either not using the iPod function on my iPhone at all… perhaps going back to using an iPod shuffle for this… or completely changing the way in which I use it…

I don’t want to have to choose if I am listening to music or podcasts, or choose which podcast I want to listen to first second or third. I want to shuffle damn it.

Please fix this.

PS: Also, if anyone has handy a link to an official way of submitting a bug report for the iPhone rather than just posting it on my blog, please forward it on, and I will submit this that way too.

(Note: Made minor edits at 18:10 UTC.)

Thirteen More Weeks of SemiProductivity

Back in March I last posted stats on my “things I want to do at home”. They are here.

Last time around in 14 weeks I managed:

  • 20 hours of catching up on putting things in Quicken and/or paying bills (43%)
  • 10 hours of reading (22%)
  • 7 hours of random things from my projects list (15%)
  • 5 hours of genealogy stuff (11%)
  • 4 hours of catching up on old email (9%)

That averaged to 3.3 hours per week.

This time I only have 13 weeks on my chart, covering 8 Mar 2009 to 6 Jun 2009 because I wrote bigger on my whiteboard or something, but I ended up with:

  • 10 hours of catching up on putting things in Quicken and/or paying bills (59%)
  • 4 hours of catching up on old email (24%)
  • 2 hours of random things from my projects list (12%)
  • 1 hour of genealogy stuff (6%)

That is only 17 hours total in 13 weeks. This is only 1.3 hours per week. Much much worse that the previous 14 weeks. Bad Sam. Bad Sam.

I must do better in the next batch of weeks.

So far I am not. In the 11 days since the next batch started, so far I’ve done 1 hour of this stuff.

Oops.

Of course, I’ve been doing some of the email stuff outside of this system. Maybe I need to stop that.

Toasting Television

On the heels of this weekend’s powerful demonstration that American TV News no longer has anything at all valuable to add to the mix, a reminder that the same is basically true of the rest of television.

Brandy and I have been actively debating if there is any point to continuing to subscribe to DirecTV, or if it is time to just rely on the Internet plus Netflix for all of our video needs. At the moment the balance seems to be (barely) on the side of keeping the DirecTV, but it is a close call, and could shift at any moment.

My last real reason for having it was live breaking news. That is gone now. Amy and Brandy still have some reasons to want it though. Especially Amy it seems. We shall see.

The TV Business Is Toast
(Henry Bloget, Huffington Post, 16 Jun 2009)

The traditional TV industry — cable companies, networks, and broadcasters — is where the newspaper industry was about five years ago:

In denial.

There are murmurings on the edges about how longstanding business models will come under pressure as Internet distribution takes over. But, so far, the revenue and profits are hanging in there, so the big TV companies don’t really care.

Specifically, the TV industry’s attitude is the same as the newspaper industry’s attitude was circa 2002-2003: Stop calling us dinosaurs: We get digital; We’re growing our digital businesses; We’re investing in digital platforms; People still recall ads even when they fast-forward through them on DVRs; There’s no substitute for TV ads. Traditional TV isn’t going away: Just look at our revenue and profits!

After saying all this same stuff for years, the newspaper industry figured out the hard way that you can’t stuff the genie back in the bottle. And over the next 5-10 years, the TV industry will figure this out, too.

The rest is worth reading too.

Open Wide!