Archives: July 2007

Mon 30 Jul 2007

A Nice Place for a Hike


Abulsme - Mon, 30 Jul 2007, 21:49:01 PDT
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Sun 29 Jul 2007

That Thing

You know that thing where you have something you need to do... or several somethings you need to do... but you just want to sleep, or at least veg out watching mindless TV?

Yeah, that's me, right now.


Abulsme - Sun, 29 Jul 2007, 20:43:22 PDT
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Isolationism

For those who listened to this week's podcast, the below is the article on isolationism that I referred to.

The isolationist beast stirs in America again
(Andrew Sullivan, Times Online)

Since the 1930s, isolationism has rarely had a real chance at achieving the kind of ideological dominance it once had in America. The second world war and the cold war – with the fascist and communist threats always in the front of American minds – kept America enmeshed with the wider world. The first Gulf war seemed to presage a new form of engagement – multilateral, order-oriented, pax Americana.

The Bill Clinton years can be seen in retrospect as a kind of neutral zone – with much-reduced military spending, a policy of globalisation and free trade, but with sporadic intervention in various trouble spots: Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo. Then Bush II – and the launching of the New American Century, galvanised by 9/11.

At first blush, 9/11 seemed to mean the end of even the dream of leaving the rest of the world behind. After all, terror had now reached American soil. War had been declared. What choice did Americans have but to fight back?

But the gruelling, soul-sapping war in Iraq has unsettled that idea considerably. Many Americans look at trying to coax democracy or even stability in the Arab world and conclude that it’s a mug’s game. If this is interventionism, could isolationism be much worse? The lead-up to the war disabused Americans of any notion that they could easily corral global support for their policing the planet. The follow-through has convinced them they cannot do it by themselves either. You can see why opting out has begun to appeal.
(via The Daily Dish)


Abulsme - Sun, 29 Jul 2007, 17:02:28 PDT
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Curmudgeon's Corner: You do not Exist while I Warble

A few minutes ago I released the 9th Curmudgeon's Corner of the year. Once again Ivan bailed (some vacation or something) and I had to improvise. You will, as usual, get insightful and exciting commentary on the most pressing items facing the world today. Uh, and other things. In any case this weeks topics:

  • LinkedIn
  • Magazines
  • Solipsism
  • Isolationism
  • Non-Sensical Warble
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Abulsme - Sun, 29 Jul 2007, 16:28:24 PDT
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Sat 28 Jul 2007

Iraq Stories

I've checked in occasionally on Michael Totten's Middle East Journal for his independent reporting on the middle east. Most recently a few months back when he was reporting on the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. And a while ago he posted some good material from Kurdistan. His entries are relatively long by Internet standards, but they tend to be worth the read.

He is now in Baghdad. His reporting from there has started. He is "embedded" so not a complete freelancer of course and what he sees is going to be somewhat controlled. But it is still fascinating. I'm linking to the articles so far below, and will be checking his site for the continuations as they happen.

I've been meaning to post these for the last few days but just now got to it. Do check it out. Totten is a good story teller and gives flavor you don't usually get from elsewhere.

Also of note, the picture he paints (at least so far) is a bit more positive than what you hear elsewhere. Of course, as mentioned, that is undoubtedly related to the specific places he is. Anecdotes never give a complete picture.


Abulsme - Sat, 28 Jul 2007, 21:16:41 PDT
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Queen and the Zodiacal Dust Cloud

Queen guitarist wraps studies for doctorate
(Reuters via Yahoo)

Brian May, the lead guitarist from rock band Queen, is close to earning his doctorate in astrophysics -- more than 35 years after quitting his studies to become a rock star.

May arrived on the island of La Palma in Spain's Canary Islands several days ago to conduct astronomical observations in support of his thesis, according to a statement by the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands.

His thesis, "Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud," is the last component of his PhD studies, and May expected to complete his work on Wednesday.
(via Slashdot)


Abulsme - Sat, 28 Jul 2007, 11:21:47 PDT
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Fri 27 Jul 2007

Ivan and Alberto, Secret Twins?


Abulsme - Fri, 27 Jul 2007, 21:56:38 PDT
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Ehbat Rapnetabaci

For those of you who have known me a long time (that means since college), check out who the host of this TV show is. Blast from the past, eh?

Mission Good Nutrition

Mission Good Nutrition is an exciting half-hour TV program on PCTV Channel 27 brought to you by the Pottstown Area Health & Wellness Foundation. This locally produced show is designed to promote healthy living and healthy lifestyles. Each original show brings you delicious, nutritious recipes your family will love . . . fitness tips . . . plus great ideas from experts to help you feel your best!
There are video clips available in the show archive.

(Yeah, I was Googling a few people I haven't talked to in a long time to see what I would find, I admit doing it, doesn't everybody? I also found Geoff, but that wasn't quite as interesting to me.)


Abulsme - Fri, 27 Jul 2007, 19:46:25 PDT
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Spock Lives

This kinda scares me.

Nimoy to Reprise Spock Role in 'Trek' Film
(Sandy Cohen, AP on Chicago Tribune)

Leonard Nimoy isn't through with Spock yet. The 76-year-old actor will don his famous pointy ears again to play the role in an upcoming "Star Trek" film due out Christmas 2008.

...

Nimoy was joined by the newly named young Spock, "Heroes" star Zachary Quinto, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Nimoy.
(via Slashdot)


Abulsme - Fri, 27 Jul 2007, 16:20:37 PDT
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Working at Home

I don't know what it is about my desk at work lately, but it has seemed like it is not the right place for me to be to get things done. I don't know why. Yesterday I left work a bit early, so that early today I could sit at home in a nice comfortable chair (a Poang... I love those chairs) and popped open my laptop and spent the next few hours (the rest of the evening until bedtime really) being focused and productive in a way I hadn't been able to manage at my actual desk at work.

Having said that, it isn't just work vs home. Even at work I've found I can get more done sometimes grabbing the laptop and finding a comfortable quiet place to sit and then just crunching through stuff. And it isn't just interruptions. Yesterday was pretty quiet in terms of that, but yet my rate of productivity probably doubled in my chair at home as compared to my chair in my office.

I think this pattern has probably always been there to a degree, but I've particularly noticed this week. Maybe it is just a "getting into the swing of things" thing after returning from vacation. But I'm thinking maybe the real answer is that I need to put a Poang in my office and use it and the laptop in my lap instead in a docking station on my desk.

Yeah, that's it. In the mean time, maybe I'll try spending some time sitting on the couches down the hall from my office and working there.

:-)


Abulsme - Fri, 27 Jul 2007, 11:12:53 PDT
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Wed 25 Jul 2007

Ubuntu LiveCD

A couple of days ago Brandy's Dell laptop crashed and crashed hard. When it tried to boot just a blank black screen. All the diagnostics you could get to from the BIOS said everything was fine though. But when you tried to boot into Windows... nothing at all. And because it was a budget Dell laptop, no Windows restore/install disks either.

And of course there was no recent backup of her stuff. So the fear was the drive was completely dead and all her stuff would be gone.

This of course happened to Brandy in the middle of the night and she woke me up because she was distraught. After the usual things failed, I decided to try booting from an Ubuntu Live CD. I spent the next three hours or so downloading the ISO image and then burning it to CD.

Then I pop it in the drive, hit F12 while booting to get the menu letting me boot from the CD, and zoom... the disk whirs a bit and up comes Ubuntu just fine. Not only did it pop up right away into a desktop where I could easily find all the things I was looking for, but it automatically mounted the hard drive... which turned out to appear to be completely perfect... all of Brandy's data was there. Then I easily found in a couple clicks that I could mount the drive in my iMac through ssh right there in the GUI and have it pop up nice and easily. (I of course immediately started copying all the relevant data files "just in case".)

All the file manipulation was just there. Firefox was just there. It was all clear and pretty simple to use out of the box with no messing around with the config. Well... one exception... I couldn't get the built in wireless card to work out of the box, or even after searching online for instructions on how to get her specific wireless card to work with Ubuntu. So the laptop needed to be plugged into a wired connection for the networking to work. Which kind of sucks on a laptop. But still... it beat my expectations.

Don't get me wrong, I'd probably get frustrated pretty quickly if I tried to use Ubuntu as my primary OS... it ain't no Mac OS X. But having not tried Ubuntu before, I was impressed by how far the effort to make a usable (for a non geek) desktop Linux has come compared to all my prior Linux exposures (including regularly at work). Pretty good.

Of course, the next day when Brandy called Dell tech support they led her through a series of steps to try to fix the machine, and only resulted in making the hard drive (which had been fine before) completely unmountable from Ubuntu, while still not making it able to boot into Windows. So they mailed her a set of restore disks that will put the laptop back to the exact state it came from the factory in. (Theoretically... well, except for the missing keys on the keyboard that Roscoe broke off... a software update won't fix that.) The disks arrived in yesterday's mail, but she is supposed to wait until they call her to touch it... even though I'm sure she could pop the first disk in, follow the instructions and be fine... but they have to walk her through it. Whatever.

I'm just glad I backed up all her data before she called Dell tech support. Bleh.

And I was impressed with Ubuntu. I'll have to explore it a bit more.

(And yes, I'm partially just making this post right now because I found a small bug in my email notification thingy mentioned in the last post and want to see if the tweaks I made in the last hour or so fixed it.)


Abulsme - Wed, 25 Jul 2007, 22:13:39 PDT
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New Post Notifications

For years whenever I've made new posts on this blog I've sent out an email to the current Email Top Ten to let them know about the new post. That has always been a manual process for me. I've finally taken the time to automate it. So now when I make a post it will automatically generate those emails for me. Woo.

(Well, that is true as long as I post in the "normal" way. If I pre-publish so that a post will automatically get posted at a time in the future I have it set to just send an email to me. Same if I post something but for some reason mark it as "Closed". Also, if I ever get the blogger API thing working again so I can post from a blogging app on my phone, it won't send the email then either, although I think I now know how to add that... if only that functionality would work at all any more. It hasn't since a MySQL update a few months ago.)

Anyway, I've been wanting to do this for awhile and finally did. Go me.

Now, I only need to catch up on my counting for the email top ten so that the current list of people emailed isn't the email addresses who won it in October 2004... two of which are now invalid and always bounce. Oops.

One more note of interest... this is the first time in quite some time I've made a second post in a single day. I'd been sticking to the "one post a day" thing, but maybe I'll switch that to "at least one post a day". Of course, regardless it is only a matter of time until I get busy one day and miss a day entirely again. But that will be OK.


Abulsme - Wed, 25 Jul 2007, 21:30:08 PDT
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iPhone Sighting

It finally happened. Yesterday at work I saw an iPhone. It was only for a couple of seconds, as someone half pulled it out of his pocket to check something and quickly put it back. I did not see it in full use, it was only a glance, but it was long enough to verify it was indeed an iPhone.

So, my milestones so far:

  • 2007 Jun 29 22:00 UTC: iPhone goes on Sale
  • 2007 Jun 30 02:42 UTC: (4 hours 42 minutes later) I see my first iPhone bag in person
  • 2007 Jul 9 11:35 UTC: (10 days, 13 hours, 35 minutes later) I get my first email sent from an iPhone
  • 2007 Jul 25 17:33 UTC: (26 days, 19 hours, 33 minutes later) I glimpse my first iPhone in person
This is a lot slower than I expected. I figured for sure I would have seen one in the first week. Instead it took almost 27 days. And that was just a brief glance.

This is of course only for viewing it "in the wild". If I'd seen them at the Apple store or something that wouldn't count. But I haven't been to one since it launched anyway, so it all turns out the same.

One other note about the email I got from an iPhone. I *got* it on the 9th... but it was SENT on the 4th... not sure if that says something about mail on the iPhone, or something else entirely, most likely the second, but just wanted to point out that delta.

OK, see, a non-political post. Hope you all enjoyed it.

Now I am being called to dinner.


Abulsme - Wed, 25 Jul 2007, 18:07:19 PDT
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Tue 24 Jul 2007

Gonzo Speaks

I was going to lay off the politics and switch to something else, but I couldn't let this go. Alberto Gonzales testified again yesterday. And he made a complete mess of things yet again. Can this man dig his hole any deeper? As usual, TPM Muckraker had the wall to wall coverage. Here are quick links to all the relevant stories:

Whew. That's a lot. I wasn't able to actually listen to the hearings yesterday (work and all), but these summaries get the gist of it and there are video clips of the best parts. Even the Republicans are getting increasingly upset at Gonzo, and he seems to insist on continuing to lie directly to their faces. The Senators are getting more and more fed up. The question is, will they actually do anything about it? And if so, will enough cross the aisle to be able to make it stick?


Abulsme - Tue, 24 Jul 2007, 19:45:12 PDT
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Mon 23 Jul 2007

Paul Yes Votes

On this weekend's podcast, Ivan asked me to name some things that Ron Paul actually voted "yes" on in congress. Since he is only known for voting "no" I said I had no idea without doing some research. Feeling obligated to follow up, here are the 10 most recent things Ron Paul voted "Yes" to in the House. (My source is here.) Note that the first couple directly contradict something I said in the podcast. Oops.

  1. 2007 Jul 23 - Vote 689: H RES 519: Honoring the Life and Accomplishments of Tom Lea on the 100th Anniversary of His Birth
  2. 2007 Jul 23 - Vote 688: H RES 553: Mourning the Passing of Lady Bird Johnson
  3. 2007 Jul 23 - Vote 687: H R 404: Federal Customer Service Enhancement Act (To require the establishment of customer service standards for Federal agencies.)
  4. 2007 Jul 19 - Vote 672: H R 3043 - Davis of Kentucky Amendment (An amendment to prohibit funds to be used to pay a bonus or other performance-based cash award to any employee of the Social Security Administration or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services who holds a position to which such employee was appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, or a Senior Executive Service position.)
  5. 2007 Jul 18 - Vote 668: H R 3043 - Flake of Arizona Amendment 15 (An amendment numbered 15 printed in the Congressional Record to prohibit the use of funds for the American Ballet Theatre, New York, New York, for educational activities.)
  6. 2007 Jul 18 - Vote 666: H R 3043 - Barton of Texas Amendment (An amendment to strike the proviso on page 36, beginning at line 5 which states that within the amounts provided for part A of title XXVI of the Public Health Service Act, funds are included to ensure that the amount of any funding provided under such part to a metropolitan area for the program year beginning in 2007 is not reduced by an amount that is more than 8.4 percent, and the amount of any funding provided under subpart II of such part to a transitional area is not reduced by an amount that is more than 13.4 percent, relative to the amount of the total funding provided under such part to the metropolitan area or transitional area, respectively, for the program year beginning in fiscal year 2006.)
  7. 2007 Jul 18 - Vote 665: H R 3043 - Dingell of Michigan Amendment (An amendment to prohibit the use of funds be used to pay the basic pay of any individual serving as Deputy Commissioner of Social Security, Social Security Administration, whose appointment to such position has not been confirmed by a vote of the Senate pursuant to section 702(b)(1) of the Social Security Act. )
  8. 2007 Jul 18 - Vote 662: H R 3043 - Lamborn of Colorado Amendment (An amendment numbered 56 printed in the Congressional Record to strike line 7 and all that follows through the comma on page 104, line 12. )
  9. 2007 Jul 18 - Vote 661: H R 3043 - Shadegg of Arizona Amendment No. 55 (An amendment numbered 17 printed in the Congressional Record reduce appropriations for the Corporation for National and Community Service. )
  10. 2007 Jul 18 - Vote 660: H R 3043 - Price of Georgia Amendment (An amendment numbered 65 printed in the Congressional Record to reduce funding for the Student Financial Assistance account by $64,987,000. )
So that's actually 10 yes votes in under a week.

The full total of Ron Paul votes in the last 7 full days (2007 Jul 17 to 2007 Jul 23) is:
  • 28 - Yes
  • 15 - No
  • 14 - Not Voting
That gives a 26% no record, 35% if you don't count the times he didn't vote... but still not a 95% no record as I stated in the podcast... at least in the last week of votes. Oops again.

In my defense though, looking at the 10 listed above, you can see that even the Yes votes look like they are amendments which are actually against things. So even when voting yes, he is voting against something. But I guess that is always true in a way, so I'll just shut up now.

Well, maybe not quite yet. One more set of stats from this last set of votes. Not counting the times he did not vote:
  • 18 votes - Voted agreeing with Repub position against Dems
  • 13 votes - Voted agreeing with position supported by both parties
  • 9 votes - Voted opposite from position supported by both parties
  • 3 votes - Voted agreeing with Dem position against Repubs
Interesting I guess. Note though that if you look at the list of "Important Votes" from Project Vote Smart instead of just the last week of all votes, you see a much larger percentage of "No" votes.


Abulsme - Mon, 23 Jul 2007, 19:04:15 PDT
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Sun 22 Jul 2007

Curmudgeon's Corner: Planes and Politics

I'm going to start using the Episode title in the blog post title rather than the date. In any case, this is our 8th Curmudgeon's Corner of 2007. This time we did much better from a technical perspective, and you won't hurt your ears listening.

One quick note: Ivan gave me a heads up that he will be out of town and unavailable next weekend, so if anybody wants to volunteer to co-host, let me know. I record Sundays at 16 UTC (That's Noon Eastern, 9 AM Pacific) although the time can be a bit flexible. All that is required (I believe) is an AIM compatible IM client that can do audio chat and a willingness to spend half an hour or so talking about current news or tech related issues. If you are interested, please let me know. If not, next week will be another Sam monologue.

Anyway, this week Ivan and Sam talk about:

  • Garage Band
  • The Plane Crash in Brazil
  • Sam's Breathing
  • The Subpoena Fight
  • The Bar for Impeachment
  • Ron Paul
  • Ivan's Candidate
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Abulsme - Sun, 22 Jul 2007, 17:24:30 PDT
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Sat 21 Jul 2007

I Like Paul

It should be no suprise to anybody who has followed me or my blog for awhile... for instance this post from February this year, but I am liking Ron Paul more and more as the campaign continues and I see more of him. Sure he has some views I disagree with, but so do all the candidates, and the percentage I disagree with seems by far the smallest with Paul.

The New York Times has a detailed profile (free login may be required) in this weekend's magazine:

The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul
(Chirstopher Caldwell, New York Times)

Paul represents a different Republican Party from the one that Iraq, deficits and corruption have soured the country on. In late June, despite a life of antitax agitation and churchgoing, he was excluded from a Republican forum sponsored by Iowa antitax and Christian groups. His school of Republicanism, which had its last serious national airing in the Goldwater campaign of 1964, stands for a certain idea of the Constitution — the idea that much of the power asserted by modern presidents has been usurped from Congress, and that much of the power asserted by Congress has been usurped from the states. Though Paul acknowledges flaws in both the Constitution (it included slavery) and the Bill of Rights (it doesn’t go far enough), he still thinks a comprehensive array of positions can be drawn from them: Against gun control. For the sovereignty of states. And against foreign-policy adventures. Paul was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in 1988. But his is a less exuberant libertarianism than you find, say, in the pages of Reason magazine.
(via Andrew Sullivan)

He has no chance of winning the Republican nomination of course. That is unfortunate, but true. Despite all the hoopla on the Internet, his support remains solidly in the single digits amongst potential Republican Primary voters (see pollster.com down in the "others" section). But I still like him.

My normal view toward primaries is that I am not a member of any party, because I dislike them all equally, and a Primary is the time for a party to choose its candidate, and therefore out of principal I do not participate in primaries even if the state I am in allows one to do so without registering with a particular party. I am now seriously considering the possibility of voting in the Republican primaries when they come along, just so I can vote for Ron Paul.

As the time gets closer, I may even decide to donate something (small) to his campaign.

Would I put up a poster in my window or on my lawn? Nahhh... that would be going too far.

Depending on who the major candidates are in November 2008 though, I might consider voting for Paul anyway, even if I have to write him in. If he runs as a third party (Lib or otherwise) after he loses the Republican nomination, I'd be thrilled, and would almost certainly vote for him.

I just signed up for his mailing list on his website. He better send me real stuff and not spam stuff though, or I'm out! :-)


Abulsme - Sat, 21 Jul 2007, 18:11:12 PDT
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Executive Power

Looking back, it has been a while since I posted something news related, but earlier today I was reading the following article:

Broader Privilege Claimed In Firings
(Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein, Washington Post)

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege.
(via The Volokh Conspiracy)

The Dems of course are outraged as usual, but will do nothing because they don't have enough votes to make anything stick. But what leaves me baffled with this and a lot of the overreaches by this administration... all along, but ESPECIALLY in the last couple of years or so... is that congressional Republicans are still just saying "Oh, OK". Because this sort of issue goes beyond the specifics of the issue at hand today, but goes to basic organizational principles of the government, separation of powers, and checks and balances.

OK, fine, you're a die hard Republican and agree with the President on this specific issue today and think that the congressional investigations are just partisan harassment. Fine. Consider that point granted. In future years however, be it in 2009 or in another 4, 8, 16, or 32 years, there will be an administration that you oppose that has done something you believe may be against the law. Perhaps even in a way more serious than the issues at stake today. Do you REALLY want to set the precedent that any president can essentially say "No" to almost any congressional investigation of his or her staff?

If Hillary wins, several years later after it becomes clear that her staff is also full of corrupt slimeballs who have been pushing the limits of the law and may well have stepped over the line (as I'm sure will happen pretty much no matter who wins, because it seems like that is one Washington constant one can count on), do we really want there to be no way to investigate that when she claims privilege?

This same argument applies to ALL the places where there has been expansion of Executive power and reduction in the power of Congress or the courts. The President decides who is going to be able to declared an "unlawful enemy combatant" and therefore has essentially no rights? Really? OK, you like this when the President is W. Would you really like this power to be in the hands of President Kucinich? (OK, so we know THAT is not going to happen, but you get the point.)

Fundamentally, it is critical that when making decisions about who gets to decide things, in what way are they decided, and how such decisions can be revisited... that the decision about the PROCESS is made independently of any considerations of the specific issue at hand, and the specific political balance of the day. If you make decisions about the limits of executive power, about what can be appealed and what can't be, about what issues should be decided at the federal level, which at the state level, and which at the local level, about how laws should be enforced after they are passed, about what can be decided by the courts and what needs to be legislated, about what level of discretion prosecutors should have... etc. If you make any of these decisions based on what is the easiest way to get the policies you support in place TODAY, then you are almost guaranteed to be screwing YOURSELF in the future when the tides of power shift.

When you give power to an entity, you should NEVER be thinking about how that power will be wielded in the hands of your friends. You should be thinking about how that power will be wielded in the hands of your enemies. If you are not happy with that thought, then it should not be the way things should be organized now either.

Congressional Republicans should be just as outraged as the Democrats if W stonewalls against a Congressional investigation. Even if they disagree with the investigation itself. Because regardless of the issue at hand, this sets horrible precedents for the future if allowed to stand. Can Congress serve as an effective balance to the power of the president or not. Do you REALLY want a President with almost unlimited power and a Congress which means nothing?

There should be a long and hard think before something like that is allowed to stand. And your position on the particular rights or wrongs of this specific Congress, and this specific President, should be absolutely irrelevant to the decision. If not... regardless of where you stand on today's issues... you are putting the future in danger.


Abulsme - Sat, 21 Jul 2007, 12:07:17 PDT
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Fri 20 Jul 2007

SamCyn



We just got back from leaving Cynthia at the airport. Within the next few minutes her plane should be taking off to take her back home to the east coast. It was great to have her here for a week. I'd taken the whole week (and a day) off work, so we had time to do a lot of things together. It was a fun time and I miss her already. I wish we'd been able to keep her longer.

She's my favoritist sister ever. :-)


Abulsme - Fri, 20 Jul 2007, 13:12:52 PDT
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Thu 19 Jul 2007

DVD: Roswell: Season One: Disk One

Earlier today the four of us finished up watching the first disk of the first season of Roswell. Cynthia had never seen it before, I've seen sporadic episodes as had Amy, and Brandy is a big fan. It is not the DVD I would have chosen, but Cynthia is here she gets to choose. And it fits into my "DVDs we own but I have not watched yet" category. So all is OK. (Although I really should have been watching a Doctor Who this time around.)

Anyway, as is typical for this type of show I guess, the DVD had four episodes:

"Pilot": Introduces the concept of the alien kids in hiding at Roswell and puts them in peril by almost revealing their secret.

"The Morning After": Um... I don't remember much about this one. And I just watched it a couple days ago. Oops. Ah yes. They go breaking into the Sheriff's office.

"Monsters": Maria is scared of the aliens, but protects them in the end.

"Leaving Normal": A grandmother dies, and Liz breaks up with the one guy, presumably so she can be with the other guy.

Anyway, it is a fun little series. So far from the first four I'm only at the "it is kind of cute" mode and not at the "I must watch all three seasons right away!". But I'll probably watch more at some point. After all, Brandy liked it so much she actually went to a Roswell convention at one point. Or so I hear.


Abulsme - Thu, 19 Jul 2007, 09:40:34 PDT
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Wed 18 Jul 2007

Jelly


Abulsme - Wed, 18 Jul 2007, 12:24:30 PDT
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Tue 17 Jul 2007

AmyCyn Shopping


Abulsme - Tue, 17 Jul 2007, 10:20:01 PDT
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Mon 16 Jul 2007

Curmudgeon's Corner 2007-07-15

OK, this is the 7th Curmudgeon's Corner of the year. Fair warning though... it sucks. It sucks pretty badly. We had a lot of technical difficulties this time, with parts or all of the recording getting zapped a total of three times. The last time, we were actually recording it simultaneously in two different ways, and when one crashed we still had the other. But the other was extremely low quality, with my voice way too loud, and Ivan's way too soft, and recorded all on one track so I couldn't just correct both volumes once and be done with it. Instead I had to boost the volume when Ivan was talking, and pull it way down when I was talking. This is somewhat sloppy. I did my best, but it still sucks and is pretty hard to listen to.

There are several effects of all this, but the MOST noticeable is what is responsible for the name of this episode. This episode is entitled: "Darth Sam Breathes on Ivan".

This week Sam and Ivan discuss:

  • iPhone (but you can't hear it)
  • Sam's magic touch with tech (but you can't hear it)
  • Windows Vista
  • Office 2007
  • Republicans in Revolt
  • John McCain
  • NeoCon Delusions
  • Protests in Iran
  • Exploding Recordings
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Abulsme - Mon, 16 Jul 2007, 11:52:46 PDT
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Sun 15 Jul 2007

Cinema: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Saturday we went to see the new Harry Potter movie. Well, "we" in one sense anyway. Amy saw it with a bunch of other kids as part of a birthday party for one of her friends. Brandy, Cynthia and I sat in the back. Cynthia had already seen it, had not been very impressed by it, but agreed to come and watch it again anyway.

Anyway... thoughts... it was a Harry Potter movie. One must see them all out of completeness. It was OK. It seemed a little disjointed at times though. I'm thinking it is just a matter of exactly what was cut from the book and what was left in not being quite as smooth as one would have liked.

Overall the usual for a Harry Potter film. Special effects, magic. The final fight scene reminded me more of a Star Wars film what with all the force lightning and such.

The actors are all aging very quickly. You can tell they haven't kept up with the one movie per year.

Hmmm... I guess I don't have all that much to say about Harry Potter. And I'm in a bit of a hurry, so I'll leave it at that I guess.


Abulsme - Sun, 15 Jul 2007, 11:52:04 PDT
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Sat 14 Jul 2007

DVD: Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut

Earlier today we decided to watch a DVD. According to my current system, it was time to either watch a Doctor Who, or one of the DVDs I actually own but have never watched. Since Cynthia is here though, I let her pick from all the available DVDs in the house that I haven't watched yet including all of the other Netflix ones besides the categories I mentioned. But she ended up picking one in the "Own but haven't watched" category anyway. Not the one I would have watched next on my own, but that is OK. She's a guest and all. :-)

Anyway, she picked Donnie Darko. Years ago I had seen it at a midnight showing in a theater with Rebecca and company in DC. A few years later it was given to me on DVD for Christmas or my birthday or some such, and I watched it fairly soon thereafter. I remember assuring Brandy that it was a family safe movie, but then five minutes in two of the main characters start using some highly amusing, yet not 8 or 9 year old safe language and Amy started hiding her eyes and covering her ears. Oops.

A little later they released a Director's Cut version. I bought it as soon as it was available, but then it sat on shelves and in boxes for two and a half years until we watched it today.

First lets start with I liked the original quite a bit. The Director's cut adds a LOT. The Donnie Darko page on Wikipedia has a listing of the differences. When we finished the movie I was saying that they must have added "about half an hour". I was close. Turns out it was about 20 minutes of new scenes.

For the most part I like the additions. There is an argument that can be made that some of the appeal of the original version was just how confusing it was, whereas some of the things added are attempts to clarify what is going on... especially the places where the text from the time travel book is shown... and that this takes away from the "WTF just happened?" feelings that leave you talking and wanting more when you are done. Like too much explanation spoils it.

Having said that, it isn't like they end up spelling it out cleanly. You still get some of that effect. And for the most part I liked the additions. But I think I am glad I saw the original version first.

Cynthia saw it for the first time in extended form. I'm thinking it was still odd and disturbing, but perhaps not quite so odd and disturbing as if she'd seen the original version.

Oh yeah, right as the dramatic tension was building near the end, Roscoe started baking uncontrollably from the back yard. He had treed some sort of animal that hissed back from above. We couldn't see it because it was dark, but we had to pause for about ten minutes to get him back inside and stuff. Threw things off a bit. But not too badly. Then the sound got messed up (by my needs to be replaced A/V system) right at the end when Mad World was playing. Hated that. HAd to keep getting up to kick the system to fix the sound. Grrr...


Abulsme - Sat, 14 Jul 2007, 11:23:57 PDT
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Fri 13 Jul 2007

CynArrive



About 13.5 hours ago Cynthia arrived. Now we have to figure out what we will do for the next week or so.


Abulsme - Fri, 13 Jul 2007, 10:48:35 PDT
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Thu 12 Jul 2007

Thousands of Columns

I've noticed a trend lately that seems to be most prominent about "blogs" that get big. What would that be? Really crappy redesigns that add more crap to the page, and detract from the primary content. I could list a bunch of them, but instead I'll just tick off some of the features that really annoy me. Now, many of these may just be me, and other folks may love it, but...

#1) "Click to read more". Yeah yeah, you get another click and more page views, and you can fit more on your front page. But these really piss me off. I want to go to your front page, scan down for new things, and read any postings I am interested in. I shouldn't have to go anywhere other than your front page unless I want to dig into your archives and find something old... or perhaps if I want to read the comments and discussion. But not to read the primary content. That just annoys me. But more and more places are using it more and more often. Too many to list. But I hate it everywhere. This is a big deterrent to me, but if the content is good it hasn't yet stopped me from going to a site. But it is close. I don't care if you right something long and I need to scroll a bit to read it... or to see the stuff below it. If I am coming to your site, it is because I like your content and want to read it. Don't make it harder for me.

#2) More and more columns. People. No more than three columns. Come on. I've seen sites recently with four or more. You need one big one for your main comment. You need one for secondary navigation. (Primary should probably be up top.) And I can even buy a third one for an ad bar or some additional interesting feeds or something if there is a compelling reason. I've considered adding a right hand bar to this site for a few things I want to put there. But no matter what your main content column should be prominent and none of the other columns should distract from it. One of the big advantages to a blog is the clear and central chronological organization. There are several sites I go to that appear to be going for an old fashioned newspaper layout with several columns, all of which get new content through the day. Sometimes not always with the newest at the top. It makes my eyes hurt and confuses me. Stop. Talking Points Memo just did this. I think they are imitating Huffington Post. With HuffPost I just can't stand going there the layout is so annoying, doesn't matter if they have good content or not. TPM was one of my regular daily stops. It may not be any more. The main content column is now less than half the width. No. Just to give both sides of the political spectrum some time, Michelle Malkin did this recently too. Only three columns, but two of them are content columns. Lead story on the left, other stuff on the right. WTF? JUst give me one column with the new stuff on top please.

#3) Little side blocks with summary information about the post. Gawker just did this with all their sites. Instead of putting the little "Posted by bob at 5:15" thing at the bottom of each post, they are putting it at the side, thus creating huge blocks of wasted white space. This won't stop me from going to engadget or lifehacker, but it is just stupid and annoying. It takes up more space this way. It wastes space. It makes the main content column narrower than it needs to be. Again, please put it back how it was.

#4) Too many links to yourself. There are places that in a post make some words links. For instance they mention President Bush or the Whitehouse or the iPhone or something. When I see links like that, I expect to be sent to the actual website of the thing being mentioned. Or perhaps a wikipedia entry or some such. If you link these words to a listing of your own posts that you tagged with that word it pisses me off. If such a thing is really useful to the post, have a feature with a list of tags that people can click on that is clearly marked as such. Don't use inline links for this.

#5) Inline Ads: Yeah, yeah, I know, you want to make money and these are more effective that ads in the sidebar or whatever. But they are annoying as hell. Keep your content bar where your content bar goes. Keep the ads somewhere else.

OK, I could probably pick more things to rant about, but I need to finish up a few things and then get to work. So I'm done.


Abulsme - Thu, 12 Jul 2007, 08:22:21 PDT
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Tue 10 Jul 2007

In Case it is Needed


Abulsme - Tue, 10 Jul 2007, 20:30:44 PDT
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Mon 09 Jul 2007

Mount R


Abulsme - Mon, 9 Jul 2007, 21:23:36 PDT
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Sun 08 Jul 2007

Curmudgeon's Corner 2007-07-08

The sixth CC of the year, released late yesterday, is entitled "Law, Law and the Law". Ivan had technical difficulties this week, so this week Greg Haverkamp joined me, and we spent the first half or so of the show discussing his response to last week's podcast. Then we moved on to another legal issue Greg has been researching recently.

So this week Sam and Greg discuss:

  • The Apostrophe in the Title
  • First Amendment Incorporation
  • 14th Amendment Due Process Clause
  • Literalism in the Law and in Life
  • 4th Amendment Protections on Email
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Abulsme - Sun, 8 Jul 2007, 17:30:30 PDT
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Moody Balloons



Earlier today we went to a Moody Blues concert. This is becoming an annual tradition in the Minter/Donaghy/Roney household. This time it was outdoors at a winery. Some hot air balloons floated overhead during the concert. I think I liked them a bit better in the enclosed sort of venues from previous years. But it was still fun. Amy brought one of her friends from school as well, and a good time was had by all.

Especially at the end. Amy and her friend had gone to the designated "dancing area" near the stage for the last few songs of the concert. Then when the band came out and got on their bus, the kids happened to be right at the closest spot you were allowed to be as the bus turned and started to drive away. Nobody else seemed to be paying any attention at all. But Amy and her friend started waving frantically at the people in the bus. John Lodge saw them, looked straight at them and started waving back at them. Then suddenly other people around the area noticed that the waving was going on and started waving too.

But the girls (and Brandy) were very excited that they were waved at, and that they had been the only ones waving at first, so he was waving at THEM. :-)

Anyway, it was a fun time.


Abulsme - Sun, 8 Jul 2007, 10:01:34 PDT
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Sat 07 Jul 2007

DVD: Independence Day

Given the week, we thought it was a good time to watch this movie. Um... OK, that's not true. It just happened to be the next Netflix movie on my queue, and I'd had it on my desk for quite some time. But earlier today we decided to watch it. I had never seen it before.

I'm not sure how exactly I went more than a decade without actually seeing this, but I did. As it turns out, I enjoyed it. It was fun for that sort of movie. Amy also had never seen it and was getting quite into it and very animated. Thus, it was a good family movie night over all.

Brandy needed to point out all the inaccuracies about the planes of course. I refrained from mentioning the whole virus into an alien ship with a couple of hours of analysis thing. But it all really doesn't matter, cause technical accuracy is certainly not something this film was interested in at all. You don't need to in order to have an aliens attack, they are winning, then we fight back movie.

Worth a watch. Fun. Will probably never watch it again.

Oh yeah, we watched the Special Edition, which had something like 10 minutes of extra footage, apparently mostly character background development near the beginning.


Abulsme - Sat, 7 Jul 2007, 10:42:30 PDT
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Thu 05 Jul 2007

Two Minters on the Ferry


Abulsme - Thu, 5 Jul 2007, 23:14:26 PDT
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Wed 04 Jul 2007

A Visit from Dad



My father is currently in the midst of a 64 hour visit. About 31 hours into it at this point actually.

On Tuesday he arrived and the day ended as we were driving home from the airport.

Wednesday we did the tour of the house, the four of us went out to dinner (Mexican) and then chatted for a bit at home before everyone turned in. After sleeping, we went to a National Forest and drove around a bit looking at mountain scenery and even dipped our toes in a stream. After that was just lounging around at home.

So far today while Amy and Brandy went to see 4th of July fireworks (which for some odd reason is happening early on the fifth - shrug) my dad and I went for dinner (Chinese) then chatted a bit about one of the projects he is involved with.

Now he has turned in for the evening and I am waiting for Brandy and Amy to return. After sleep, the plan for the rest of today is to show him where I work, then explore downtown Seattle a bit, then maybe take a ferry somewhere in the afternoon.

Then Friday we'll probably do the Space Needle around dusk, then after sleep it will be an early wake up to get him to the airport and then I'll head to work as usual.

In any case, it is good to have my dad visit. He never got a chance to visit while I was in Florida, which was a shame, but here we are now. Good visit so far.


Abulsme - Wed, 4 Jul 2007, 22:46:07 PDT
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Tue 03 Jul 2007

Mary Ann Mendenhall

Just a short time since the last ancestor this time, but never the less it is time for another one. Mary Ann Mendenhall is my mother's father's father's mother... #25 in my ahnentafel.

I do not know much about her at all other than the fact that she lived in Darke County, Ohio all her life, she married Robert G Brandon and had 10 or 11 kids with him, 7 of whom lived to adulthood. Her third child was my great grandfather David Clement Brandon.

Does that sound a lot like what I know about her husband Robert G? Yup. This is one of those cases where pretty much all I know is that the two of them married and the list of their children. And some dates and locations. But no real biographical information. Maybe someday I'll turn up more info along those lines, but I haven't found that sort of info yet.


Abulsme - Tue, 3 Jul 2007, 21:50:09 PDT
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Schizophrenic Bumblebee


Abulsme - Tue, 3 Jul 2007, 00:36:00 PDT
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Sun 01 Jul 2007

Curmudgeon's Corner 2007-07-01



Yesterday the fifth Curmudgeon's Corner of 2007 was released. This episode is entitled "The Long Made Short".

This time Ivan and I talk about:

  • The UK Bombings
  • The Great Erasure
  • iPhone
  • Supreme Court
  • Ron Paul
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Abulsme - Sun, 1 Jul 2007, 17:51:24 PDT
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Sat 30 Jun 2007

Allergic Reaction



So I presume that this means that any day now they will announce that no private vehicles will be allowed within a one mile radius of any airport, and we'll all have to take the bus if we want to fly, right?

Oh wait, there were also car bombs in the city so this means we shouldn't allow any cars in cities at all, right?

Those aren't any sillier than the restrictions and fake security that have already been put in place, which result in no actual extra security and just loss of freedom and increased inconvenience for everyone.

As of last time I checked (a few hours ago) they have yet to announce exactly what new "enhanced security" they will put in place after these incidents, either in the UK or here. But every time anything happens I fear the reaction is going to once again, like the reactions to almost all of the previous incidents in the past few years, be in the allergic reaction category where the response of the system to the attack (or even just perceived attacks in some cases) ends up causing far more damage overall than the threats which are supposedly being defended against.

Sigh.


Abulsme - Sat, 30 Jun 2007, 17:33:52 PDT
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