Archives: September 2007

Sat 29 Sep 2007

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.


Abulsme - Sat, 29 Sep 2007, 17:35:02 PDT
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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.


Abulsme - Sat, 29 Sep 2007, 13:40:27 PDT
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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.


Abulsme - Sat, 29 Sep 2007, 10:05:27 PDT
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Thu 27 Sep 2007

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)


Abulsme - Thu, 27 Sep 2007, 22:42:23 PDT
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Wed 26 Sep 2007

Hammer Clock Raccoon


Abulsme - Wed, 26 Sep 2007, 19:39:31 PDT
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Tue 25 Sep 2007

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.


Abulsme - Tue, 25 Sep 2007, 19:25:59 PDT
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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.


Abulsme - Tue, 25 Sep 2007, 19:10:56 PDT
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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.


Abulsme - Tue, 25 Sep 2007, 00:54:02 PDT
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Mon 24 Sep 2007

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.


Abulsme - Mon, 24 Sep 2007, 22:37:03 PDT
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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.


Abulsme - Mon, 24 Sep 2007, 21:26:11 PDT
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No Means No

Just had a call on my cell. I didn't recognize the number, so I let it go to voice mail. I have transcribed the full text of the message. The first word starts in the middle, so it is obvious the automated system had already said a sentence or two while my recorded "Please leave a message" thing was playing, so I missed the beginning.

From 877-778-2578 at 00:09 UTC on 2007 Sep 25:

... As you are on the DirecTV do not call list we are not able to contact you for these exciting offers. The reason I'm calling you today is to give you an opportunity to change your selections. If you allow us to remove you from the DirecTV do not call list please be assured that we will not share your information with anyone else. Please call 1-877-778-2578 to remove your account from the DirecTV do not call list. You will then be eligible to receive exciting offers in the future. If you prefer to remain on DirecTV's do not call list we completely respect your decision and your privacy and no action is required. Thank you for being a loyal DirecTV customer.
Excuse me??? I'm on your do not call list, so you are calling me to ask me to please take you off your do not call list? So you can call me about crap I don't want? Excuse me? EXCUSE ME? I already told you not to call me. Assholes.

We were already planning to switch away from DirecTV as soon as either of our two DirecTivos die since they are no longer manufactured and you can only get them on the secondary market for way over what was the market price when they were still being made... all since DirecTV decided they wanted to push their own second rate DVRs instead of real Tivos.

Anyway, this call just makes me not have any regrets on that planned move. It may even end up accelerating it. (Although I don't see us switching until early next year unless our existing hardware does die.)

What a crock.

More Internet comments on unwanted calls from this phone number here including at least a couple comments suggesting that it might not really be DirecTV. Dunno. Very annoyed regardless.


Abulsme - Mon, 24 Sep 2007, 17:32:32 PDT
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Sun 23 Sep 2007

Curmudgeon's Corner: Don't Steal Software

I screwed my computer up on Sunday, so this week's topics are:

  • "Borrowing" Software
  • Leads to Fubared Computer
  • Leads to Hijinks with Backups
  • Leads to Ikea (of course)
  • Leads to the Apple Store
  • iLife Happyness
  • Sucky Week
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Abulsme - Sun, 23 Sep 2007, 23:16:15 PDT
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Sat 22 Sep 2007

Rearranging

I think I am going to rearrange the furniture in my home office. It has been the way it is for quite a few months. Time for a change. You might be able to see these efforts on the camera. But then again, it has a fairly tight field of view. I wish I had a fisheye lens for it, but I don't. Also, and perhaps more importantly, I'll probably have to shut off the computer at some point to move it, which of course will turn off the webcam.

And of course it will be incredibly boring. A few minutes of me moving furniture. If I even end up doing it right now. That dragging thing is still going on, so I may be just as likely to just lie down and not do anything.


Abulsme - Sat, 22 Sep 2007, 20:50:05 PDT
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Haircut Time Again


Abulsme - Sat, 22 Sep 2007, 16:24:44 PDT
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Fri 21 Sep 2007

Week of Dragging

All week long I have been seriously dragging. No definable being sick or anything. Just majorly dragging. No energy, off and on aches and pains, difficulty concentrating, strong desire to just lie down. I'm plodded my way through work, saving most of the energy for meetings, and otherwise falling a bit behind at the stuff I need to just do at my desk as I am going slower than I should. Then each day when I've gotten home I've essentially immediately collapsed into bed rather than doing any of the stuff I usually try to get done each evening at home. Then waking up in the morning feeling a bit better, but still with low energy levels I know will peter out by early afternoon.

Don't know what this is, but I want it to go away now. I am glad it is Friday. I suspect I will sleep all day Saturday.


Abulsme - Fri, 21 Sep 2007, 12:09:01 PDT
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Thu 20 Sep 2007

Oops: 86273 grams

I'd been holding pretty steady for the last year or so, but I spiked a bit last night and this morning I hit an all time lifetime high for a single daily weight reading (although the moving average may or may not end up being a record, I haven't calculated it yet and I do a centered weighted average rather than the more traditional method, so I'll actually need to take a few more readings before I have the final value for that).

Oops. 86273 grams. Bad Sam. I really need to once again occasionally do something other than sitting at a desk or lying in a bed. Something involving vigorous movement every once in awhile perhaps. Hmmm....

(And yes, not all of those five digits are significant, the inherent error on the scale is probably about 100 grams, plus my daily variability is on the order of 1000 grams or more... which is why what really matters is the moving average, not a spot reading... but still... a new record... and yes, I could probably stand to lose 5% to 10% of the total mass to get to where I theoretically "should" be.)


Abulsme - Thu, 20 Sep 2007, 08:33:00 PDT
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Wed 19 Sep 2007

The DC Rep Thing

It got stopped in the Senate, but could one of my lawyer readers (you know who you are) explain to me the argument for how what they were proposing to do was possibly constitutional? Isn't Article I, Section 2 as amended by Amendment XIV Section 2 fairly clear that it is STATES that have representation?

Is the argument based on Article I, Section 5? "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members"? If that is the case it seems to open up the possibility of legislation adding Representatives for all sorts of other non-State entities. And that seems like it could be an absolutely horrible can of worms to get in to.

There is definitely a strong argument that people who live in DC should have representation. But it also seems clear (to me anyway) that an attempt to do this by statute is unconstitutional. A constitutional amendment, retrocession of most or all of DC to Maryland, or making DC a state all seem like options that WOULD be constitutional, but not this. The fact that a majority of both houses supported this and it was only stopped by filibuster in the Senate scares me. But then again, most legislation coming out of the congress scares me.

(For the record, retrocession is the only one of the options I would personally support. It is the ONLY one of the options that makes sense to me and does not seem to set bad precedents. I would leave a small federal district with no legal residents for the capital mall and surrounding federal buildings. But of the options it seems to have almost no political support and has not been looked at seriously in many years. )


Abulsme - Wed, 19 Sep 2007, 12:18:55 PDT
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Mon 17 Sep 2007

Goodbye Skittles



We thought Skittles was doing much better. After Cheese died he hadn't seemed to be doing well at first. But in the last few weeks he had perked up. He was looking very healthy. He seemed to be doing great. On this week's podcast you can hear him chirping in the background. And he would chirp along if music was being played. He was eating well. Last night he seemed fine. This morning we noticed nothing. He seemed like a happy little blue budgie again.

But this afternoon he suddenly started acting sick and started to deteriorate fast. Brandy noticed him puffed up and on the floor of his cage. At the first sign of trouble Brandy made a vet appointment for first thing in the morning. (The vet had already left for the day.) I came home about an hour early to help. But by the time I got home he was in very bad shape. There were bursts of activity, but he was not doing well.

About 25 minutes ago, with Brandy and I there, Skittles cheeped for the last time, turned to look at me for a minute or two, then closed his eyes. A few minutes later he took his last breath. He had seemed absolutely fine and healthy less than 12 hours earlier. Poor sweet little guy.

We'll take him to the vet to see if anything more can be determined as to cause for him or Cheese. The vet had warned that Skittles might have the same problem as Cheese, but we had thought we were just about over the hump and he was going to be OK. But that was not to be.

The vet also still has Cheese, who he was keeping in case more tests could have helped Skittles. When the vet is done with both of them we will bury the two of them together. They were best friends their whole lives. It is only fitting.

Goodbye Skittles. We'll miss you.


Abulsme - Mon, 17 Sep 2007, 22:03:18 PDT
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Sun 16 Sep 2007

Curmudgeon's Corner: The Wisdom of Youth

Ivan couldn't make it yesterday at taping time, so as a special guest, Amy co-hosted with me this week and also picked all of the topics. So, today's topics:

  • Sam's Birthday
  • Online Television
  • Microsoft and Verizon
  • Stephanie Meyer's Vampires
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Abulsme - Sun, 16 Sep 2007, 19:15:03 PDT
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13148.7192 Days

As I type it is seven hours and a couple of minutes until the exact time I'll be exactly 36 years old. It will happen at 14:13:38 UTC today. That's 7:13:38 AM Pacific, 10:13:38 AM Eastern. Wow, I sure am old. I'll probably be asleep when the exact moment hits. At least that is the plan.


Abulsme - Sun, 16 Sep 2007, 00:11:54 PDT
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Sat 15 Sep 2007

Month of Google Reader

I've been using Google reader for slightly over a month now, so I can now look at the monthly stats and have them mean something. I've been "sharing" every article that I actually read most or all of rather than just skimming past based on the headline. So, here are the top 10 sources I've been reading over the last month:

  1. Gizmodo
  2. The Daily Dish
  3. Digg
  4. The Huffington Post
  5. BoingBoing
  6. Talking Points Memo
  7. Engadget
  8. Think Progress
  9. The Corner
  10. The Unofficial Apple Weblog
Of course, those 10 account for 44% of the items I read. So there is still a lot form other sources as well. But those were the biggest ones this last month.

Also interesting is that there are a bunch in this group (and also in the next 10) that I didn't read at all before I was reading via Google Reader rather than actually going to the websites. The highest ranking of these is Huffington Post. I can't stand the website. I would never go there. But via RSS, I've obviously found a few things I thought were worth reading.

Anyway, interesting.


Abulsme - Sat, 15 Sep 2007, 19:27:58 PDT
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Fri 14 Sep 2007

Room to Room Video Chat



Walk 10 feet to the next room over? How silly!


Abulsme - Fri, 14 Sep 2007, 19:33:36 PDT
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Thu 13 Sep 2007

Not Iraq

The President did his speech thing a little earlier, but I don't feel like talking about it. So instead here is a link to Unusual Wikipedia Articles that was on Digg earlier. You could spends days reading the articles linked to from that page.


Abulsme - Thu, 13 Sep 2007, 20:40:45 PDT
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Wed 12 Sep 2007

Who Will Unbuild?

I think the point made in this article, and the one it links to is very pertinent...

The Master Narrative that Went Missing During the Bush Presidency
(Jay Rosen, Huffington Post)

Boston Globe Reporter Charlie Savage actually supplied at TPM Cafe the missing master narrative for the Bush years: "The agenda of concentrating more unchecked power in the White House." This was confirmed by the testimony of a former insider, Jack Goldsmith, who is out with a book about doing battle with the Bush forces inside the terror presidency.

In one of the first posts I wrote when I started blogging (Sep. 2003), I adapted the term master narrative to mean, in press coverage, "the story that produces all the other stories." Consider campaign news on the horse race model. There, the basic narrative is winning; what it takes to win the race is the "master" from which thousands of copies--the horse race stories themselves--get made.

My thought was: change the master, come up with a better one, and it changes the coverage. Well, Savage came up with a better one. The drive to concentrate unchecked power in the White House, commanded by Cheney, backed by Bush, centered in the Office of the Vice President, a radical project in governance that was mostly--but not entirely--hidden from view.
Read the whole article, and the TPM Cafe one. They are good.

But in any case, I think the point is correct. It may not be what the big issue becomes in the next election, but it is what the big issue SHOULD be... what the limits on the executive branch should be, and how to roll back the massive expansion that has occurred... frankly not just in the Bush Presidency, but for many decades before that. Executive power has been gradually expanding... well, OK, ever since George Washington... but it has accelerated lately. The balance has gotten way out of wack. And neither congress nor the courts seem to be particularly interested in reversing the direction. This is extremely worrying.

So, as the article asks, would your candidate roll back presidential power? I frankly don't see many of the candidates who are running that would. Certainly none of the front runners. And this certainly isn't a Republican vs Democratic thing. Would Hillary repudiate outright any of the power W has accumulated? Hell no. She would use it in very different ways, I am sure, but is she about to say, "You know, no, I can't push forward this agenda that I believe in deeply because I don't have the power." No, I don't think so. She would use every bit of power she inherited to do what she thought was best.

And more to the point, even if a new president actually did refrain, and didn't use any of the expanded powers, that would not be enough. Once the precedent is set, even if the power is unused, it is still there, ready to be used by the next president who DOES want to use it. No, to roll back expanded powers, you would actually have to actively seek to reverse it. New laws or even constitutional amendments to make absolutely clear the boundaries of executive power. Or aggressive prosecutions of members of the previous administration for overstepping their bounds (this might not even be possible in most cases). Just not using the power, just not enough. You would need to create new counter-precedent that explicitly reversed previous expansion.

And unfortunately, I just don't think that will happen, no matter who wins. Even the limits on executive power after Watergate were short lived. Congress (and the courts) just have not had the mettle to aggressively protect their own prerogatives and resist the expansion of the powers of the presidency. And that is a horrible shame.


Abulsme - Wed, 12 Sep 2007, 22:39:27 PDT
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Three Eye


Abulsme - Wed, 12 Sep 2007, 21:55:01 PDT
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Dome Light

So early today when I was ready to leave work, I headed down to the car and it wouldn't start. Brandy had to come and give my poor Saturn a jump start. I hadn't left the headlights on, which would be my usual excuse. This time I'd left the dome light on. I don't actually remember turning it on ever, so who knows how long it had been on. But in any case, it killed the battery.

Brandy came and rescued me, then we went out to dinner. Then we went home. I watched one TV show, and then immediately fell asleep for the night.

My productivity last night was obviously limitless.


Abulsme - Wed, 12 Sep 2007, 12:13:42 PDT
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Tue 11 Sep 2007

Watching MSNBC

For the last hour or so I've been watching MSNBC's replay of their coverage from 6 years ago. I turned it on after the main events. They are covering aftermath now and slowly trying to figure out what happened. But it is amazing how strongly watching this minute by minute replay, as opposed to the summary retrospectives you see elsewhere, brings back so vividly and strongly the emotions of that day. It was a profoundly powerful moment and still is to this day. And I don't really feel like saying much more than that.


Abulsme - Tue, 11 Sep 2007, 08:00:42 PDT
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Mon 10 Sep 2007

DVD: The Prestige

This weekend it was Brandy's turn to pick the movie. She'd picked "The Prestige" which I had never heard of. It is set in the early 1900's and centers around the rivalry of a couple of magicians. From the beginning I liked the inside look at magic. That was fun. And then they started talking about Tesla and a little latter he actually appeared as a character.

In any case, there were many twists and turns and it definitely kept my attention. I'd talk more about some of the specific items, as I definitely have opinions on them, but for anybody who hasn't seen the film (or perhaps read the book) that would just be spoiler after spoiler. So I shall refrain.

Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this movie. It was well executed and it explored some interesting ideas. It was worth the watch for sure. This is one of the rare movies I'd actually consider watching a second time just to see if I would catch things I didn't catch the first time around. I probably won't actually do that, but I'd CONSIDER it. :-)


Abulsme - Mon, 10 Sep 2007, 08:28:23 PDT
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Sun 09 Sep 2007

Diary of Hiram Harvey Hurlburt Jr: Chapter 2

I think it is strange as I look back seventy years and renew my acquaintance with things long past, and practically forgotton only to be brought vividly present by going over the ground in my mind.

One Sunday when at 5 years of age my aunt led me to the Quaker Meeting House it was a perfectly still day about the middle of June, we took our seats in the front, back at the pulpit desk sat Uncle Samuel Meeker and by his side Aunt Miriam his wife, (all called those aged Quakers uncle and aunt) then were seated next to Uncle Samuel a brother in the church - next to Aunt Miriam a sister, and so on were the sexes seated. It was so still the stillness could be felt; just the eternal roaring of the falls and the buzzing of the profane flies, probably I was never before so quiet in my life, not a whisper, it seemed to me in my agony that hours and hours were passing. Finally Uncle Samuel majestically rose up and at the same time Aunt Miriam his wife, they quietly shook hands, the other brethren and sisters the same, all quietly left the house, when we came home my aunt looked at the clock and said to my mother "The meeting was just an hour." I thought there was some mistake and I pledged myself silently that the next time I went, I would know by the clock the length of time, and even now I wonder if my aunt did not make a mistake of an hour at least. On my mothers inquiring farther about the service? - her sister replied "That the Spirit did not move."

As I was quite forward in children's studies, that fall there was a select school started in this meeting house by a Quakeres named Rebecca Weeks, among the scholars I was numbered. I had at home a Websters spelling book my parents were teaching me from; and the pronunciation was different from the Marshalls used by the Quakers. I was reading along and pronounced the word different from the Marshalls authority, the teacher has about the blackest of eyes - she gave me a look that was piercing telling me the correct way. I said, "I won't! For mother says it is so." Miss Weeks had a fine twig of birch just cut, she brought it down on my neck and shoulders - and it hurt. My heart was broken, and how long I was in the wilderness of grief I have no recollection. As soon as I was free I went across the street where my grandmother lived, I must have carried my sobbing with me, for my grandmother found out about the punishment. She found the horrid mark across the neck and shoulders as I only wore for a vest some cotton fabric. My grandmother doctored the long welt and took me over to Miss Rebecca to show her mark of her punishment. Then Miss Rebecca was to explain the cause. My grandmother was the most capable woman with her tongue that I am sure I ever heard. I am sure she said to her language that was entirely appropriate to the occasion - at least she was so eloquent in her manner that Miss Weeks was in tears - for we left her crying while my grandmother took me home. When my mother saw the mark and told the reason for it, I can see how white she turned. My mother had a very delicate complexion white and red - when she came to get her voice and speak it was "I will not send Hiram another day!" This did not hinder me from advancing in my studies.

My father was a teacher of vocal music. In the long winter evening he had a sing school and I use to attend and it seems to me that I did not have to hear a tune more than twice, when I would be familiar with the air or leading part. I remember attending church and standing on the seat beside my father and accompany him in the words and music looking over with him in the words and tune book.

The winter after I was six years old was a season of theatrical exibitions. They were called dialogies in which the actors would be resplendant in uniforms, swords and various trappings to designate the character acted. I was told to learn two pieces for one occasion. One was: "Sarag went to Boston and saw a negro." The other was, "You scarce expect one of my age, To speak in public on the stage, Don't view me with a critics eye, But pass my imperfections by." At the close of each piece the house was in a roar of cheering, to which I was in great wonder, But finally, concluded not to be frightened, as I walked back timidly to my station I had chosen beside the cheif violinist whose art had captivated my whole soul.

(The full diary will be located here when complete.)


Abulsme - Sun, 9 Sep 2007, 12:01:53 PDT
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Curmudgeon's Corner: Two Ends with No Middle

Today on Curmudgeon's Corner we once again had some technical difficulties, so you miss out on 10 minutes where we talked about Osama and his imitators as well as the original versions of our discussions on the lengths of podcasts and the debates. Oh well. In any case, what you DO get this week is Ivan and me talking about:

  • The Economy and Mortgages
  • Length of Podcasts
  • So Many Debates
Podcast XML Feed

1-Click Subscribe in iTunes


Abulsme - Sun, 9 Sep 2007, 10:26:14 PDT
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Sat 08 Sep 2007

MTurk Looking for Another Missing Person

In the future, is this going to happen every time anybody goes missing? Once again there is a Mechanical Turk project to help search and rescue find a missing person:

Help Find Steve Fossett
(kdawson, Slashdot)

An anonymous reader invites us to join in the hunt for the missing Steve Fossett using Amazon's Mechanical Turk. DigitalGlobe, one of Google's imaging partners, has acquired new high-resolution satellite imagery of the area where Fossett disappeared on Monday. The public can now go through this imagery and quickly flag any images that might contain Fossett's plane. Flagged images will receive further review by search and rescue experts.
I did some for a few minutes. I don't think I found him.


Abulsme - Sat, 8 Sep 2007, 18:15:23 PDT
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Fri 07 Sep 2007

Who is that Kid?



The book above is not available at all your normal book outlets. (At least not for the vast majority of the readers of this blog.) These are the memoirs of Valeriano Ferrão, who was Mozambique's ambassador to the United States from the mid 1980's to the mid 1990's. It was just published in Mozambique. He is the one on the right of the cover. In the center is Samora Machel the first president of independent Mozambique. And who is that on the left? Oh yeah, that's me. :-)

According to my dad, who just received an actual copy of the book:

The caption on the photo in the inside of the book reads:

O autor com President Samora Machel e Samuel Minter, filho de Ruth e Bill Minter, professores na escola de Bagamoyo

Translation: "The author with President Samora Machel and Samuel Minter, son of Ruth and Bill Minter, teachers in the Bagamoyo school."
I of course do not remember being there when this picture was taken. I do remember meeting Ambassador Ferrão a number of times when I was a teenager living near Washington DC. And I remember meeting President Machel once during those same years when I got to attend a reception for him while he was on a state visit to Washington. I remember him quite clearly saying something along the lines of "This is little Sam? He looks so much like his father. I remember you when you were THIS tall..." and showing his hand at a level about at my height in this picture. Not too long thereafter he was killed in a plane crash the cause of which is still controversial today.

In any case, I have now made my way to the cover of a book. Although I don't imagine I feature in the narrative itself at all. :-)

It is somewhat strange to me that at that age I was in the middle of some very interesting and historic events, but because of my age I have no memories of it beyond snippets of stories from my parents. (For instance, I know I was passed overhead from person to person to get me out of a stadium where there was a major rally celebrating independence to keep me from being trampled by the crowds... but of course I don't remember a thing.) I think I am now at an age where I could appreciate those memories and learn from them. But they are not there. I was a little too young to retain anything.

And even when I visited Mozambique again for a few weeks while I was in college, I was still a little too young and not quite ready to get a lot of value out of it. The culture shock was a little too big and the time too short. Perhaps someday I'll visit again. But probably not any time soon.


Abulsme - Fri, 7 Sep 2007, 23:15:27 PDT
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Pandora In Use



A little over 4 hours ago once Amy was back home from her class trip, she actually was able to use her computer for real for the first time. I had finished all the mucking with it I was going to do and moved it to the location it will live last night. So far she's been watching her Tivo via her Slingbox and then watching a DVD while IMing me and Brandy occasionally. She seems quite happy. Cool.


Abulsme - Fri, 7 Sep 2007, 23:06:40 PDT
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Back from Camping


Abulsme - Fri, 7 Sep 2007, 18:25:56 PDT
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Pink Walk



On the way to work today there were a huge amount of people walking across the bridge. A large proportion of them were wearing pink. I am guessing it was some sort of organized event and not just random. :-)


Abulsme - Fri, 7 Sep 2007, 11:01:00 PDT
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Thu 06 Sep 2007

If I Wrote Congressional Rules

Just some random thoughts:

  • No bills longer than two standard typewritten pages (with appropriate full definition on what exactly that means)
  • Bills must be self contained and not incorporate other content by reference
  • Previous laws can be repealed, new laws can be passed, old laws can not be amended
  • Any house or senate member can introduce any bill at any time
  • Bills introduced must be introduced by a single member only
  • The full text along with the name of the introducing member would be published immediately
  • No amendments
  • No debates
  • Each bill must come to a yes/no vote no sooner than 5 calendar days after introduction and no later than 10 calendar days.
  • If a bill passes in one chamber it would be automatically introduced in the other chamber and an up/down vote must occur within 5 calendar days
  • Once again no amendments and no debates, just the vote
That would be much better. The way they do it now is non-sensical. Oh, and add to that one more item that would have to be a constitutional amendment, not just a change in congressional rules...

All laws, without exception, expire automatically 10 years after they are signed into law. All existing laws will expire on the next 10 year anniversary of their original passage beginning 5 years after the passage of the amendment.

(OK, some of the others might have to be amendments too if they were to stick rather than just be guidelines that the congress could override for itself whenever it wanted.)

There ya go.

Of course, if I was going to do all that, I might go even further and require a 90% super-majority to pass any legislation at all. Then you'd only get the stuff where there really was widespread agreement and you'd have a government with a much more limited reach I think. Dunno.

OK, I'm done musing about my completely unrealistic notions of how I would structure a government. I've got other things to do tonight.


Abulsme - Thu, 6 Sep 2007, 22:23:33 PDT
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Update

Yout know, I've been thrown all off by the Pandora thing. I've still been messing with minor things on it each evening, adding a few more bits of software, cleaning out Amy's spam (not just deleting it all, but looking through it for false positives) etc. So I haven't been answering email and I didn't make a blog post last night. I was going to say something about the new iPods. But I didn't. So here is a random post about not much.

In the mean time, Amy is on the one day overnight class field trip that her school always does the first week of each school year as a way for the kids to spin back up (and meet the new people). So tonight I'll finish up everything I want to do. Anything I don't get done, I just don't worry about right now. I want her to have the machine and have me done with fiddling and such when she gets back from her trip tomorrow.


Abulsme - Thu, 6 Sep 2007, 16:37:22 PDT
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Wed 05 Sep 2007

Planning for Load

Looks like the little service that was supplying those map widget thingies I posted about yesterday and put up elsewhere on the site earlier today has fallen over and died under the increased load of all the people trying out the map thingy. Or something. http://whos.amung.us/ gives a nice little PHP information summary page rather than their website, and http://maps.amung.us/ just isn't answering at all any more. Cool.

I guess they got a bit too much traffic a bit too fast and melted their servers. Oops.

I'll leave their stuff up on my site for the moment assuming they will recover. If they don't by the time I get home tonight, maybe I'll comment out their stuff until they come back.

Hmmm... the maps one just answered... just REALLY slow and not quite functional. Maybe they are on the way back. That would be cool. I like the map thingy.


Abulsme - Wed, 5 Sep 2007, 09:11:24 PDT
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Tue 04 Sep 2007

Pandora Rises



The first (bad) picture of Amy with Pandora. Pandora is the chosen name of the new iMac. Seems appropriate in a variety of ways. Pandora is now busily transferring stuff from Amy's account on Cronus. In the meantime Cronus (and thus the webcam and AbulWiki) are down. This will probably last a few hours. She has 30 gig of stuff to move. Not as bad as when I moved from Zeus to Cronus, but still plenty!

Then after that stuff is all moved, I have a few other things I'll be setting up. Hopefully I'll be able to get it all done before TOO late tonight. I have a meeting at 15 UTC today, so I'll have to be up even earlier than that. I suspect even if this all gets done, it will be a day relatively light on sleep. This migration process takes forever, and then after that's done I'll probably be messing with it for a couple of hours before everything is set how I want it to be to hand over to her.

Anyway... we're in process.


Abulsme - Tue, 4 Sep 2007, 21:33:21 PDT
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Adventures of the Second Cousin

John Donaghy, a second cousin once removed of Brandy's... see, since I'm been doing that genealogy stuff I've got that terminology down... is having some adventures in Honduras...

Eye of the Storm
(John Donaghy, Hermano Juancito)

The crowd was ugly, obviously whipped into a fury. At one point they opened the back door of the van and began shouting and hitting the floor. It was a very tense moment but I took a picture. Looking at it later many of the people didn’t appear to be angry, but appeared as if they were just “having fun” by trying to terrify us. This was my first experience of a real mob and it was ugly. The police intervened and closed the door. The police slowly opened up a path for us, even while the mob banged on the windows. But as we slowly progressed, we noticed several people walking beside the van. The people from the blockade were walking beside the van. They had come to protect their bishop. What courage!

As we left the bishop said that he had thought of getting out of the car. Thank God he didn’t; he would probably have been beaten, at the very least.

I was a little shaken up – but more than that I have a sense of gratitude for having had the chance to accompany the bishop, the human rights office, and the people.
He's been posting a few times a month since he left Iowa for Honduras. It is interesting reading.


Abulsme - Tue, 4 Sep 2007, 18:54:23 PDT
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First of Seventh



Just a little while ago we dropped Amy off for her first day of 7th grade. For the last day or so she has been incredibly excited and happy that school was about to start again. This morning she was absolutely bouncing off the walls. It is VERY good to see her this excited about school. She really likes this school. It was a good choice. As much as writing the check each month hurts, it is a very good place for her.

Her new iMac also arrived this morning, adding to the wall bouncing. She squealed and jumped up and down as I signed the thingy for the FedEx guy. We will unbox it after I get home from work tonight. I'll spend the evening getting things set up on it and moving her stuff from Cronus. Tomorrow she will have her computer. And then I won't have to share. :-)


Abulsme - Tue, 4 Sep 2007, 12:37:20 PDT
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Map Widget Thingy Bop



OK, yeah, it is way past bedtime and I am playing with Site Visit Map Widgets. The above shows the location of recent visitors to this site... well, at least all the pages of this site where I've got the footer in place, there are still a bunch of old pre-2004 pages with no footer yet... and of course it only gets real site visitors, not people reading via RSS and the like, but still... it is cute.

I generally am a big fan of maps. Maybe I'll put a smaller version of this on somewhere on the front page permanently. Well, at least until I tire of it.


Abulsme - Tue, 4 Sep 2007, 01:22:00 PDT
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Mon 03 Sep 2007

Diary of Hiram Harvey Hurlburt Jr: Chapter 1

My birth day was March 5th 1827. I have it before me recorded by my father in his well known hand to me, in a small testament on a blank leaf. This testament was of very small type-size, three inches by five and one half inches, less than half an inch think. It was printed with the letter "s" like the italic "f" they seem to be arbitrary in their placing, one of the ways was; as when the letters came together of gan??ind, one will be one fashion. The printer evidently to avoid confusion so placed them.

It is penciled on the stingy margin to note many passages that seem precious to my dear father; whose hand placed my birth day on the blank page at the close of the volume. Once more he wrote the name of a brother, Henry W. Hurlburt June 30th 1829, whose death a few years later brought a cloud over the happy family. Then I was left along, when my little playmate had passed the company of kindred spirits where sickness and death do not enter.

I was not just rugged like some. Then I wanted some one to play with. I ??? little girl about my age across the street and how I came to wander to her yard I have no recollection, but that I did wander from the prescribed bounds I well remember, as my mother made me feel it from a squitch of curra?? bush - and that was enough! I did not disobey the parental order afterwards.

This is my only recollection of being punished in a corporeal manner by parents. It was necessary that there should be a limit to my wandering as the back of the house was founded on a precipice of Otter Creek with steep descent of at least thirty feet to the deep water, only three or four rods above the falls of thirteen feet which at times made great roaring.

When about three years of age my father bought a place across the ponds, a fine level of intervale land and moved to it. This eased my mothers fears for me a measure.

My mother took me over to this purchase before moving, to see the room. The lady then resident - had a small boy in her arms of two years, he interested me quite a good deal. His caretaker had been induced to bring him up as he had no mother living. His first name was the same as mine "Hiram", we were more or less mates as I was only one and a half years his senior. After we had lived in this new purchase a few years, this calling acquaintance became quite frequent, until I heard my mother say, that she caught the lady in gossip that was highly embellished. So she acquainted the lady with the fact. For reply: The lady said, "When I hear a story and it does not sound proper only to me, I add to it, to make it sound right." This answer was give in open countenance , as if it was a virtue to be distinguished. As I grew older, this did not seem in my view to greatly lower the lady's reputation. I would hear the remark. Oh! That came from Mrs. Abbott, and, we must make some allowance - Mrs. Abbott never makes a story out of whole cloth as-such a one can.

The word cloth was in frequent use, and I suppose why it was so common was that my father and his brother in law "John Robbins" were joint owners in a woolen factory for making broadcloth. This business was one of the necessary ones for this Quaker Village. It was quite in advance for the times, in one particular manner it excelled all others far and near - it had an indigo blue dye, of which the sitting up and getting in proper shape cost one hundred and fifty dollars. There was a secret process whereby the dye could be kept perpetually of which these ??? had exclusive knowledge.

There had to be a large copper kettle set in an arch of brick arranged for a fire underneath that would hold one hundred gallons - then convenient to ladle oil to a tank of wood that would hold the same amount. I remember well this tank of whose top was about four inches above my head, with a wooden reel above to run the cloth into the dye an almost endless job, as the pieces of cloth were attached together, so there could be an endless web of two hundred yards or more and its journeyings again and again. Then another reel over the copper in the arch for an immersion when the dye was properly heated.

This dyeing of cloth was almost a wizard business, the secret of preparation and keeping from year to year caused its reputation for durability of color to go far and wide - goods being sent from Troy and Whitehall N.Y. and north to the Canada Line.

There were three weavers employed - two English and one Welsh and their goods were well liked - having a ready sale.

In July 1830, a freshet occurred and swept away this four story factory. There were fourteen lives lost, from a village called Beamens Hollow in the town of New Haven, Vt. (now Brooksville.) Eleven of the bodies were found when the water fell on some islands below Quaker Village. The jacks and mule and looms were found on those islands broken and worthless. The loss of the factory was complete except the blue dye tank and the arch and kettle.

My father and Uncle soon had another substantial wooden structure erected. They went at carding wool and the coloring and finishing up of the cloth spun and wove by the thrifty families about them.

One of the first things I found to be useful was to care to care for the rolls as they came from the cards. To grasp the proper quantity from the receptacle as they were combed off from the machine, give the bunch the proper twist as they were placed in the pile on the cotton bed sheet to be when finished nicely rolled up and fastened with thorns that were plentiful on some pasture grounds. In gathering these thorns was one of my occupations. I had a set price at ridiculous low figures, but which to ???

(The full diary will be located here when complete.)


Abulsme - Mon, 3 Sep 2007, 23:36:22 PDT
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Over Already

The 3 day weekend is over already. Back to work in just about 16 hours. Which is OK. But I've gotten so much done at home this weekend. It was great. Of course, there is still tons left... there is always tons left.


Abulsme - Mon, 3 Sep 2007, 17:36:10 PDT
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Sun 02 Sep 2007

Labor Day

It is now Labor Day. It is good to have a day off.

Of course, there is always lots to do, so I won't be spending all the time sitting in front of the TV doing nothing or sleeping late. But of course there will be some of that. Perhaps a lot of that. :-)


Abulsme - Sun, 2 Sep 2007, 17:30:53 PDT
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Curmudgeon's Corner: Keeping it Short

I have officially run out of pictures of Ivan and I together, so no such picture this week. We'll have to get together in the same location again some day to get some more pictures. In any case, time for another podcast. This week Ivan and I talk about:

  • Keeping it Short
  • Larry Craig and Bathroom Laws
  • Bush's Response to Mortgage Crisis
Podcast XML Feed

1-Click Subscribe in iTunes


Abulsme - Sun, 2 Sep 2007, 14:49:18 PDT
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Sat 01 Sep 2007

Family BBQ



We just got back a few minutes ago from a BBQ at my cousin Maya's house. Along with some other friends of Maya and her boyfriend, my cousin Luca and his wife and two children were there as well. Turns out Luca now lives even closer to us than Maya. Who knew?

The picture above is Amy playing with Luca's oldest daughter Mia. They had a great time together.

It was a good time. I've got these two cousins on my dad's side, and one more cousin on my mom's side all living within less than a half hour drive from our house. We really do need to make a point of seeing each other more often.


Abulsme - Sat, 1 Sep 2007, 22:14:22 PDT
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DVD: Doctor Who: The Beginning: Disk 3

It was time for another one of these this weekend, so we watched the third and final disk from this three disk set. This has the story The Edge of Destruction which is the third story every produced. It was a short two episode "filler" story.

And it was very odd. And it had the actors trying to act odd. Which just came off as bad acting. It is 100% set within the TARDIS and with just the four main characters talking to each other and acting dazed, confused and paranoid.

It is pretty laughable. And not memorable really. Most of the other First Doctor episodes I'd at least heard enough about in the past to know what to expect. Not really true of this one. Sure, I'd seen it in episode guides and such, but I didn't have any preconceived ideas coming in.

And going out, I'll probably forget it pretty quickly, other than "that silly odd little story with no point". I guess it did drive forward the relationship of the characters a little bit. A little bit. It also showed more rooms of the TARDIS than are generally seen. I guess that is a good thing.


Abulsme - Sat, 1 Sep 2007, 12:46:28 PDT
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Fri 31 Aug 2007

Google Flight Sim

Very cool:

Google Earth Flight Simulator
(Marco's Blog)

Some time last week, Google expanded Google Earth with Google Sky. As fascinating as Google Sky is, that's not the focus of this post. Along with the latest update comes a hidden feature of which I cannot seem to find any other information about. It's not in the release notes and a search on Google produces no results. Seems Google have done one of their unpublicised updates they're becoming well-known for.

What I'm talking about is a flight simulator embedded within GE. Sounds awesome, doesn't it? If the thought amazes you as much as it did me, then might have run off and tried it for yourself. But there's a problem. Remember what I said above - it's a hidden feature!

First of all you'll have to install the latest version of GE. Once you've started it all up, explored Google Sky a bit, then all you have to do is hit Ctrl+Alt+A (if you're running OS X it's Command+Option+A).
(via Techmeme)

I'd been thinking for awhile that if X-Plane was combined with Google Earth how awesome that would be. This isn't quite that. The flight sim is pretty basic. But still fun. This is how scenery in those things should look... Cool.


Abulsme - Fri, 31 Aug 2007, 19:54:50 PDT
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