Archives: June 2009

Tue 30 Jun 2009

Curmudgeon's Corner: Freaking Huge

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Iran
  • Honduras
  • Dead Celebrities
  • Johnny Carson
  • Governor Sanford
  • Red Line Crash
  • Big Bills
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Note: For those using the "View in iTunes" link, it often takes iTunes quite a few hours to show a new episode after the episode is posted here. So if you are looking for the podcast very soon after I post this, use one of the other methods to find the new episode. For those who are subscribed, your Podcast software should pick up the new episode next time it checks for new episodes on its own, or you can always force a refresh. For those using the XML feed directly, the new episode is now there.

Abulsme - Tue, 30 Jun 2009, 10:31:37 PDT
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Somalia Crossroads

An article by my father in this month's In These Times magazine...

The Somalia Crossroads
(William Minter and Daniel Volman, In These Times, 29 Jun 2009)

In October 2008, Human Rights Watch rated Somalia the most ignored tragedy in the world. Almost 1.5 million Somalis are internally displaced, and an additional half million are refugees. Two decades of instability, including a U.S.-backed intervention by Ethiopian troops in December 2006, have failed to put Somalia on the map.


It took the drama of high seas piracy to bring Somalia back into the media spotlight. The hijacking of a Saudi supertanker in November was followed by the capture and sensational rescue of U.S. merchant ship Captain Richard Phillips in April.


After Navy sharpshooters rescued Captain Phillips, killing three pirates in the action, the media clamor abated. Once again, the debate on Somalia retreated to inside-the-beltway obscurity. (You can view the spike in public attention by searching for “Somalia” on Google Trends at

But for Somalis, the crisis continues. So does the danger that Washington may be tempted into military intervention that would be damaging for Somalis, for U.S. relations with Africa and for U.S. security. That risk exists, despite commendable caution thus far by Obama administration policymakers, who are aware of the potential for military actions to backfire.


Abulsme - Tue, 30 Jun 2009, 09:14:43 PDT
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She Be Sunk, Cap'n

While I was asleep the news broke that the folks who run The Pirate Bay have seemingly finally caved and are selling. (This is everywhere now, but I first saw the news at TorrentFreak.) In the Pirate Bay's confirmation of the news they do some weak justifications and some talk about how things will move forward, but in the end the news is the same. I don't think anyone would seriously believe that being owned by a public company won't fundamentally change most if not all of the things that made the site interesting. (Most prominently or course being a blatant disregard for the law... OK, not quite, they always claimed what they were doing was perfectly legal in Sweden, and they just disregarded laws elsewhere... but still, that was the flavor of things.)

Of course as usual with such things, in the end it will have little or no effect on actual internet piracy, it will just move it around. But it is somewhat more disappointing in this case, as the way in which these folks had been completely defiant and mocking of the entertainment industry was just... entertaining. And they couched everything in terms of higher principals which they were defending. In the end though, I guess years of legal battles and a few big losses on that front can wear you down.

Oh well.

(Oh, and if this deal actually goes through, I'm guessing the buyers will soon find their purchase useless and without much value... either they will fundamentally change and lose most users and the value of the brand, or they will try not to and get crushed by legal pressure that a small scrappy private outfit with a "mission" could tolerate but a public company never could. The press release from the company seems to indicate the first possibility rather than the second.)

Abulsme - Tue, 30 Jun 2009, 06:21:17 PDT
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Sat 27 Jun 2009

Hold Up, Wait

Abulsme - Sat, 27 Jun 2009, 21:44:55 PDT
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DVD: Jerry Maguire

This week it was time for another movie from my own Netflix queue. And this time it was Jerry Maguire. This is a movie I had once started to watch back in 1997, but had not finished. When we started to watch it this time, I didn't really remember even a single minute of it, so I must not have gotten very far at all.

Anyway, it was cute. I liked it. It seems it got nominated for a bunch of award, and I'm not sure if it actually was good enough to deserve that, but it was a fun little movie, with some cute moments, as well as the handful of famous lines from it. I had fun. And Brandy and Amy enjoyed it and laughed a decent bit too. And of course you had the nice emotional happy ending thing.

I'm trying to think of more to say about this, but there really isn't a huge amount that comes to mind. Nice little romantic comedy crossed with a little bit (but not annoying amount) of sports. Cute kid. Worth renting.

Abulsme - Sat, 27 Jun 2009, 14:05:38 PDT
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Tue 23 Jun 2009

DVD: From Here to Eternity

This last weekend was time for another movie from my own Netflix Queue. And specifically, it was once again time for me to resume my climb through AFI's 100 Years 100 Movies list which I have slowly been working myself through since the list was released in 1998. I had previously watched #100 up to #53. It was now time for #52, which was this movie.

For those who don't know, it is about a bunch of soldiers in Hawaii in the run up to Pearl Harbor. I must admit though, it didn't do all that much for me. I know it won lots of awards and such, but... I just never really connected with any of the people. They seemed to just be walking through things. And making decisions I couldn't quite understand. Well, sometimes. I got why the main character didn't want to box any more, and how he would just to just take the various indignities pushed on to him. But at the very end why he would take a short cut rather than the direct route? And why he would just run when confronted? Dunno. Mystery to me.

Anyway, I guess there were some interesting bits. And some funny moments. And it was fun to note things like "Hey, there's the guy from Airwolf!". (Knowing of course that given his long career, the fact that I remember Ernest Borgnine most for Airwolf is kind of a shame, but, well, that's how it is.

Overall though I'd probably pass on this. It was OK, but not memorable.

Abulsme - Tue, 23 Jun 2009, 08:49:02 PDT
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Mon 22 Jun 2009

Curmudgeon's Corner: News of Thunder

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Storms and Power
  • Nortel
  • Steve Jobs
  • Healthcare
  • Media Coverage
  • Events in Iran
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Note: For those using the "View in iTunes" link, it often takes iTunes quite a few hours to show a new episode after the episode is posted here. So if you are looking for the podcast very soon after I post this, use one of the other methods to find the new episode. For those who are subscribed, your Podcast software should pick up the new episode next time it checks for new episodes on its own, or you can always force a refresh. For those using the XML feed directly, the new episode is now there.

Abulsme - Mon, 22 Jun 2009, 09:41:05 PDT
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Sun 21 Jun 2009

Slower Day

So last night I decided to actually sleep, and ended up having a nice long sleep in contrast to the one hour the night before. Since getting up in addition to normal morning routine things (Eggo's... yum!) I've spent time catching up on what all has happened in Iran since I went to sleep. Bottom line, a less eventful day than yesterday. There have been reports of some protests today, but mainly they stayed peaceful it seems. Is it petering out and winding down? Is this done? Or are people just taking a breath to prepare for more in the coming days? Who knows. We'll see how it plays out.

In the meantime, two Iran related items...

niacINsight posts this correspondance from someone in Iran describing their personal experience on Saturday:

A Day in the Life
(niacINsight, 21 Jun 2009)


Then at Towhid Square the scene changes drastically. The streets to Azadi are blocked. But this time, people don’t change their path. They fight for it. There’s a shower of stones. Tear gas. Fire. People jam the sidewalks. The battle scene is huge. We cannot see the limits but it extends to nearby street. My student is keener to go forward than I am. Her mother could persuade her to stay home for two days, but now allows her to go out on the most dangerous day. The people shout, ‘Down with the dictator’. The anti-riot police are also throwing stones. People don’t run back anymore. I grab a broken brick and throw. I’m amazed. I never thought I’d do it. I should practice. It was a very bad shot. I grab another one, the size of a pomegranate and keep it with me, hiding it behind my back. My feeling is a mixture of a university teacher and a hooligan.

Read the whole thing. As usual with these types of things, it is just a slice, not a way to understand the whole situation. But stories like this give a different human sort of view into what is going on.

Second, while I was driving around town yesterday, I was listening to the most recent episode of Dan Carlin's podcast Common Sense titled "The Persian Rapprochement". It was recorded BEFORE the events in Iran over the last week, but for the first part of this episode Dan talks a lot about Iran and the possibilities for change in Iran, and the potential American approaches to Iran. It was a good discussion, and in many ways as he was speaking, I thought how nicely some of what was being said foreshadowed and gave at least some insight into what is going on today. It is worth taking a little time and listening to it.

Anyway, I'm still tracking the various sources I've been tracking over the past few days in order to pay attention to what is happening in Iran. But it is already near midnight there, and I am just doing things a little more slowly than yesterday, and spending a bit more time doing other things. But I'm still watching. We'll see how things play out.

Abulsme - Sun, 21 Jun 2009, 12:09:01 PDT
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A Thought on the Actual Election Results

It seems like the evidence is pretty strong (although not beyond any doubt) that the election results were tampered with to inflate the Ahmadinejad totals. It is however nowhere near as clear that Ahmadinejad didn't actually win. It may well be that even if the results hadn't been cooked, he would have still won, just by a much narrower margin. Or maybe he lost. My expectation at this point is that this is actually now a completely unknowable question. The relevant evidence that would be needed to decide such a thing is probably long gone.

At this point the events in Iran have moved beyond the just this particular election and the results thereof. Who will actually be Iran's President over the next few years... and who will be in charge in a broader sense, will be determined by many things... but who got the most votes last week is no longer one of those things.

Abulsme - Sun, 21 Jun 2009, 01:47:57 PDT
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Being Careful

A note from a reader, responding to my previous post:

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

And yes, while technically speaking the video was not authenticated with a chain of custody and an exact knowledge of exactly when and where it came from and what the situation was surrounding it. But in addition to the video itself, there were multiple reports from people claiming to have witnessed that event from different perspectives.."

- believing everything you see leaves you open to be mislead. That video and the eye-witness accounts could be from anywhere. I agree that Iran could be in the midst of an almost Berlin Wall moment but truth must tell us this, not random internet downloads.

Our views of Iran will now shrink. Iran knows the eyes of the world are upon them and they will shut out the light. We need the truth. Your page looks for the truth. Please find it.
As I mentioned later in that same paragraph:
And yes, everybody knows the way in which anecdotal stories and pictures can show something that is not actually representative of the wider situation. Duh. That doesn't mean we have to be protected from them. Things don't need to be beyond any reasonable doubt to be reported.
My entire point here is that everybody KNOWS that initial reports of the sort you get when you are looking at "raw" stuff coming from tweets and blogs and youtube and the like is chaotic, without full context, and subject to massive grains of salt. And yes, it is easy to manipulate opinion if you can decide which of these things gets seen and which does not, in order to show a few of the world that helps your own cause and hurts your opponents. The responsible reader sifts through the things that come in, cross references between what is heard from different places, learns what sources to trust and which not to, etc. Some of this becomes clear almost immediately. In other cases it may be days, weeks, months, years... or never... before one truly sorts out things. And one will never truly *know* what happened in some sort of absolute way... even the people directly involved will never have that whole picture.

Would having it known that the video was taken by a particular person in a particular place in an authenticated way make it more trustworthy? Maybe. When this video first came out, was there any way to really know that it wasn't completely manufactured (unlikely) or that it wasn't actually old footage from some previous conflict in some different place, unrelated to the events of the day (more possible), or that what you saw was real, but the context was different and who committed the act was not who you would assume it to be, but was something else (maybe). If any of those things were true, evidence to that effect would probably surface before too long.

In the mean time though, you must interpret things with the information you have, and with a healthy use of Occam's Razor. Is it possible this wasn't what it seemed? Certainly. And there have definitely been reports of various things over the last week that have turned out to not be true, or to not be what they initially seemed to be. To even know this means that in relatively short order, evidence surfaced contradicting the original reports and convincing people of the original error. Some other things that have been coming out will probably also turn out to be false, but it may be a lot longer before that is known. But that is what you expect out of news coming out of a chaotic situation. You get a perception of "truth" that is fluid and changes and moves as more information surfaces, and as you interpret that information using more and more inputs and you hear what other people think about the same information and you hear and evaluate their arguments. That is normal and to be expected. And is a positive feature, not something to be avoided. You make the best judgements based on the information you have, when you have it at any given moment. When you get more information, your judgements and perceptions of reality may often change. And that is OK.

A media that does not believe that anything can be reported until it is "known" with almost metaphysical certainty, is not an information source worth paying attention to, at least for this kind of news in the short term. By the time things are in that state, the world has moved on and the information is perhaps useful for historical curiosity, but it is often no longer relevant in the moment. But the person paying attention to such chaotic sources does indeed have to be very aware of the nature of these reports and evaluate them accordingly, and be open and willing to adjust perceptions based on new information that comes in. For those who do not have the time or inclination to do so... not only shouldn't they not pay attention to these sorts of moment by moment first hand accounts, they should probably not even read a daily paper or a news weekly, they should wait a few years until some nice well researched histories come out on the topic. And even then, they shouldn't fool themselves into thinking that what they are seeing represents any sort of pure "truth". In all of these time scales you have the same difficulties, just to different degrees and manifested in different ways.

And not to mention that any reasonably intelligent person with some critical reasoning skills and the ability to do some of their own research could make judgements on the credibility of some of these sources at least as well as the crowd doing it (badly) on TV. The bias in the major media that something is more likely to be "true" if it comes from an official source, or from someone with a title, or from someone they know and therefore "trust" is just as much a narrow and partial view of what is going on than is looking at these other direct sources and evaluating them one by one based on partial information. And most likely just as likely to be proved "wrong" in the long run.

In the case of this particular girl, if there are significant doubts that it actually happened yesterday, that she was not actually on the periphery, shot most likely by basij militia, but possibly by other pro-regime elements, has not yet been disputed. Meanwhile more about who she was has surfaced... or, to add the appropriate caveats, unverified reports have surfaced with claims about who she was that may or may not bear out to be true as additional information becomes available in the future. But it seems... for the moment... that this was what it seemed it was.

Oh, and as for our views shrinking... it was already harder to get information out on Saturday than it was on previous days. It will probably be even harder Monday. But it will be very very difficult to shut off the information flow completely. And it may be too late. Even if all contact with the outside world were cut off, the events that have been put in motion may already be unstoppable.

Or it may be able to be stopped easily by cutting off communication and then cracking down even harder.

I was speaking to someone in person about this earlier tonight. They mentioned my post where I said: "I hope for something like the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I fear that it will be more like Tiananmen in 1989." They thought that it was looking more like Tianamen and getting worse by the hour. My response... the situation sits on a knife's edge. It could still go either way. Every moment and every confrontation that happens, every decision made by the leaders and even by individual protestors and police officers, could push it over onto one side or another. The next hours and days will be critical.

[8:42 and 9:01 UTC - I made minor edits after posting to correct a couple of small errors on my part.]

Abulsme - Sun, 21 Jun 2009, 00:41:43 PDT
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Sat 20 Jun 2009

Saturday in Iran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abulsme - Sat, 20 Jun 2009, 13:44:58 PDT
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Iran Sources

What I'm monitoring this morning:

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

Abulsme - Sat, 20 Jun 2009, 07:20:22 PDT
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Iran Video

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

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

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

Abulsme - Sat, 20 Jun 2009, 07:04:49 PDT
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Just smatterings of conflicting reports on what is going on so far. Urgh!

Anyway, awake and watching.

Abulsme - Sat, 20 Jun 2009, 05:41:22 PDT
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The Day of the Green

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

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

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

I will participate in the demonstrations tomorrow. Maybe they will turn violent. Maybe I will be one of the people who is going to get killed. I’m listening to all my favorite music. I even want to dance to a few songs. I always wanted to have very narrow eyebrows. Yes, maybe I will go to the salon before I go tomorrow! There are a few great movie scenes that I also have to see. I should drop by the library, too. It’s worth to read the poems of Forough and Shamloo again. All family pictures have to be reviewed, too. I have to call my friends as well to say goodbye. All I have are two bookshelves which I told my family who should receive them. I’m two units away from getting my bachelors degree but who cares about that. My mind is very chaotic. I wrote these random sentences for the next generation so they know we were not just emotional and under peer pressure. So they know that we did everything we could to create a better future for them. So they know that our ancestors surrendered to Arabs and Mongols but did not surrender to despotism. This note is dedicated to tomorrow’s children…
I hope for something like the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I fear that it will be more like Tiananmen in 1989.

We shall see.

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

Abulsme - Sat, 20 Jun 2009, 01:37:05 PDT
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Fri 19 Jun 2009

Saturn Milestone

Abulsme - Fri, 19 Jun 2009, 10:15:37 PDT
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Thu 18 Jun 2009

iPhone 3.0 Bug with Shuffled Podcasts

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

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

  • I have a 16Gb iPhone 3G (White)
  • Normally podcasts have the "Skip when shuffling" option selected, so they are not included in shuffling. You have to explicitly set this option if you want Podcasts to be able to shuffle. In my case, I have an Applescript that runs hourly that unchecks this option on all podcasts, so all podcasts are always eligible to be included when I shuffle.
  • I have a smart playlist set up to include all my unplayed podcasts. I have this playlist set to sync with the iPhone.
  • I have another smart playlist which includes the 10% of my music library that I have listened to least often. My full library is too large to fit on my iPhone, so I sync this smart playlist, but not the source (a playlist that includes almost all the music in my library).
  • I have a third smart playlist that combines the two playlists above. This is the playlist I use most often, and exclusively on shuffle mode.
  • If I go to the Unplayed Podcasts playlist and hit shuffle, if an audio podcast is chosen, it will play for about 1 to 3 seconds, and then most of the time it will stop playing the podcast that was chosen at random and it will immediately start playing whatever podcast is actually first in the playlist and will play that normally. Occasionally, the iPod application will simply crash instead and I'll find myself looking at the main iPhone screen. The exception is if the podcast that comes up is a video podcast, in which case things seem to work normally until the podcast ends and the next thing shuffled in is audio.
  • In my combined playlist that includes both music and podcasts, it will shuffle normally until it gets to an audio podcast, at which time the iPod application will invariably crash after I hear the first 1 to 3 seconds of the podcast. Once again, video podcasts will work normally.
I had at first been very excited to see the new podcast controls in the iPod app that allow you to skip back 30 seconds, email the podcast to a friend and play the podcast at double speed. I can see those being useful. (I'm not sure how I got to see them properly, if I picked a podcast manually it was an accident, I don't usually do that, I use shuffle mode almost exclusively, there is a chance I suppose that the first podcast I got actually worked properly, but I have not been able to reproduce that since on shuffle mode, only when I pick a podcast by hand.)

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

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

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

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

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

Please fix this.

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

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

Abulsme - Thu, 18 Jun 2009, 10:08:56 PDT
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Wed 17 Jun 2009

Thirteen More Weeks of SemiProductivity

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

Last time around in 14 weeks I managed:

  • 20 hours of catching up on putting things in Quicken and/or paying bills (43%)
  • 10 hours of reading (22%)
  • 7 hours of random things from my projects list (15%)
  • 5 hours of genealogy stuff (11%)
  • 4 hours of catching up on old email (9%)
That averaged to 3.3 hours per week.

This time I only have 13 weeks on my chart, covering 8 Mar 2009 to 6 Jun 2009 because I wrote bigger on my whiteboard or something, but I ended up with:
  • 10 hours of catching up on putting things in Quicken and/or paying bills (59%)
  • 4 hours of catching up on old email (24%)
  • 2 hours of random things from my projects list (12%)
  • 1 hour of genealogy stuff (6%)
That is only 17 hours total in 13 weeks. This is only 1.3 hours per week. Much much worse that the previous 14 weeks. Bad Sam. Bad Sam.

I must do better in the next batch of weeks.

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


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

Abulsme - Wed, 17 Jun 2009, 21:44:19 PDT
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Tue 16 Jun 2009

Toasting Television

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

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

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

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

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

In denial.

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

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

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

The rest is worth reading too.

Abulsme - Tue, 16 Jun 2009, 10:03:20 PDT
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Mon 15 Jun 2009

Open Wide!

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 23:39:36 PDT
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The Dish on Iran

Mentioned it before, but one of the best sources of up to date information on Iran is Andrew Sullivan. If you aren't checking there periodically, and you care about this at all, you probably should be.

The above assumes you are not prepared to give yourself a seizure trying to follow all the Twitter action in real time on Twitterfall or the like.

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 11:27:10 PDT
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It Doesn't Help

By the way, I just have to say, having CNN on in the background right now as I get ready to take Amy to school and to go to work, it doesn't help at all that with perhaps a handful of exceptions, the people "anchoring" on the various American TV News networks are dumb as rocks. Most of the ones with any actual depth of knowledge or insight or even just raw smarts left years ago. So even when they do decide to pay some attention, they still sound like idiots... even when they are talking to someone who DOES have good information and knowledge they act as a hinderance to getting the good information out of them instead of helping to facilitate it.

Oh, and as others have pointed out in comments, all of this is really about the American side of things, and there may well be good international alternatives... but I do not have easy access to see them streaming 24/7, I just see bits and pieces of them, so I can't judge how they are in real time. Even BBC TV News, which I watch fairly regularly, I only get at a few times a day, and only on weekdays, and that just isn't the same.

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 08:10:02 PDT
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Yes, Partly, but...

One take on why the mainstream media completely fell down for most of the weekend on Iran...

The Missing Iran Coverage
(Megan McArdle, The Atlantic, 15 Jun 2009)

One of Andrew's readers asks where the MSM is on Iran. The New York Times and numerous internet sites have wall-to-wall coverage, including Andrew's sterling work. Other outlets practically ignored the biggest story currently going on in the world over the weekend.


But I think Andrew's reader's question is ultimately a business story. Why doesn't the MSM have more coverage? Because they don't have the manpower. The cable networks are hamstrung by the fact that they don't have much footage of what's going on in Iran.


The print media is hamstrung by the fact that they've slashed their foreign bureaus to the bone--and then amputated the bone. There are too few journalists in too few places to cover a big story like this.
Yes, the above is all true. The "assets" needed for reporters "owned" by the main stream media to report directly from the scene just are not there like they might have been decades ago, because both television and print have pulled back massively internationally because over the years the profit model for keeping those resources just didn't hold up. (Although I will say, CNN *did* have assets on the ground and just was slow to deploy them and give priority to this story.)

HOWEVER.... if anything the events of the weekend have proven that you can get quite a lot of information without having ANY assets on the ground... by doing a good job of aggregating sources that ARE on the ground, and by finding and presenting true experts where they exist, and by acting as an intelligent filter on top of the masses of raw information available. A number of online sources, including Andrew Sullivan who was mentioned above, have been doing an incredible job of that. And this includes plenty of compelling pictures and video that could have been used on TV nicely.

There is a lot that the mainstream media COULD have done... all with no assets directly on the ground, just with a handful of smart people making use of the information that was available and digesting and presenting the best of it to the people watching.

This STARTED to happen by Sunday afternoon, but Saturday this was completely and totally absent. From not just CNN, but from pretty much every "traditional" news source.

It has been obvious for quite some time that such sources were no longer a "good" source of news relative to the newer alternative sources in many many cases. (Although some of the original reporting for print has still remained valuable.)

This weekend though television media in particular proved that it no longer had any value at all in the realm of important live breaking news, the one area where it was still relevant and potentially valuable. They have now ceded even that ground.

Sure, they might not have been able to do it the same way they did Tienanmen Square because of lack of their own resources on the ground. But there would have been ways they could have done it. But they don't know how. They are done.

Now the only remaining place where the TV news networks are useful is when you need something droning on in the background while you do other things, but want to keep an ear out in case something important happens... and actually, radio (probably via the internet, not the airwaves) is better for that. Oops.

Bold Prediction of the moment: Unless they completely and totally transform into something unrecognizable, in 10 years there will not be any American "24 Hour News Network" any more. Not one. They will all be gone, because they have no remaining value. It will just take awhile for enough people to stop watching for them to actually get the message and go under.

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 07:29:32 PDT
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Less Than Seven

Hey, I posted the podcast less than 7 hours after we finished recording it. I can't even remember how long it has been since the last time that happened. More often recently it has been more like three or four days. So anyway, go me for timeliness.

Of course, now it is way past my bedtime.

Time to go to sleep.

On the other hand, the big rally in Iran is supposed to start in just about two hours, and I wouldn't want to be asleep for that, would I?

Hmmm. Tough choices.

But I do have work in the morning, so I guess I should probably sleep.


Note added a few minutes after the above: Yes, I know there have been some reports that the rally has been canceled or postponed. There are other reports saying that is not true at all. I suspect that regardless, there will be something happening anyway. When you have a movement like this, having anybody say "Oh, never mind" stops some people, but a lot will still continue anyway.

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 02:29:48 PDT
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Curmudgeon's Corner: Breaking News

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Sick Ivan
  • #CNNFail
  • Iranian Election Aftermath
  • Twitter
  • New iPhone and Stuff
  • Uighurs
  • Sports
1-Click Subscribe in iTunes

View in iTunes

Podcast XML Feed

Note: For those using the "View in iTunes" link, it often takes iTunes quite a few hours to show a new episode after the episode is posted here. So if you are looking for the podcast very soon after I post this, use one of the other methods to find the new episode. For those who are subscribed, your Podcast software should pick up the new episode next time it checks for new episodes on its own, or you can always force a refresh. For those using the XML feed directly, the new episode is now there.

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 02:28:39 PDT
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DVD: Dune

It was time for a Brandy DVD. The one that would have been next on her Netflix list was a later season of a TV show that neither I or Amy had been watching. Since that wouldn't work for movie night, she pulled forward on her list this lovely gem of a movie. I very vaguely remember seeing it when it came out, or soon thereafter. The only thing I remembered was one scene involving the villian and his pus. I remember being disturbed by it.

Watching this for the first time in years, I did remember other bits as they came up, but it was mostly fresh. And, well... this isn't a great movie. It tries to be all epic and such, but it also tries to cover the material from the long and complex book in just a single movie... a long movie, but still just a single movie. It might be possible to do this well, but this movie doesn't do so. Things move from scene to scene with you never getting to care about any of the characters, and in a very disjointed way that always makes you feel like there are major things missing, that if only they were explained would make the whole thing make a bit more sense. But they are not there, so you just constantly feel like you are missing something.

Sure, you get to see people riding worms. You get to see Sting scowl and jump around some. And you get to see the creepy little girl at the end. But in exchange you have to see the disgusting Baron Harkonnen. And really bad special effects on the shields. And just generally be going "Huh?"

It seems what we watched was the Theatrical Version, but there is an "Extended Edition" that was produced later, that included a bunch of deleted scenes... but also removed some things and made a bunch of other edits. You would think that some more time and exposition might make this film a bit better, but from the reviews I've read, it actually makes things even worse... longer without adding much of value.

There was a TV Mini-Series also made out of this in 2000. It is longer. And it is better if I remember it properly. OK, admittedly, I probably watched it once when it was on TV, and don't actually remember much about it... but it had to have been better, right?

Of course the best choice here is to forget the movie versions, and go read the book.

The book is a classic and worth reading. The movies... not so much.

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 01:50:09 PDT
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Kindle Ratio for 15 Jun 2009 - 45%

The percentage of the last 20 books I have read that are available on Kindle holds steady at 45%. I've said I will officially want one after this percentage is more than 50%.

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 01:38:35 PDT
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Book: Ender's Game

Author: Orson Scott Card
Started: 9 May 2009
Finished: 30 May 2009
324 p / 22 d
15 p/d

For Christmas Brandy gave me the most recent book from the Ender universe, but it had been a long time since I had read any of the series, and I hadn't read all of them, so I decided I needed to reread all of them before reading the new one. So here we go.

For the benefit of anybody who has NOT read Ender's Game before, I will attempt to be spoiler free, because Ender's Game is one of those books that has the most power the very first time you read it, if you read it cold with no prior knowledge. The quick summary is that it is about a young kid being trained to be a leader in a big war.

Even rereading it after having read it several times before, many parts of this book resonate with me. Some of the bits about Ender and his family. Some of the bits at the battle school. And then the last two chapters get me in the gut emotionally every time.

This is a classic. If you haven't read it, you should.

Abulsme - Mon, 15 Jun 2009, 01:05:47 PDT
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Sun 14 Jun 2009

To Be Fair

Coverage on the major US networks of Iran is much better today than it was yesterday. A bit slow to the punch, and still no where near what it should be. And still completely eclipsed by various online sources. But better.

Abulsme - Sun, 14 Jun 2009, 14:10:51 PDT
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Sat 13 Jun 2009

Useless News Networks

All kinds of stuff is going on in Iran right now. There should be wall to wall coverage. There isn't. Just flipped through all the cable networks. What do I see right now?

Fox News: A report on sunscreens
MSNBC: Some court case in Texas
CNN: Palin vs Letterman

REALLY? You have got to be kidding me.

Meanwhile of course, I can find all of what I need on this online and in the blogs I follow, but really? Really? Come on.

I mean, this could blow over and be nothing, or it could be Iran's Tiananmen square, or a coming revolution. Or, once again, nothing. But in any case it has potential to be huge. And Fox was sitting there talking about sunscreen? And CNN about Sarah Palin?

All of these networks really do deserve to go away and die completely.

Abulsme - Sat, 13 Jun 2009, 14:53:49 PDT
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Thu 11 Jun 2009

Curmudgeon's Corner: Invisible Pens

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Pens and Bugs
  • WWDC
  • Bing and Alpha
  • Air France Crash
  • Obama Trip
1-Click Subscribe in iTunes

View in iTunes

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Note: For those using the "View in iTunes" link, it often takes iTunes quite a few hours to show a new episode after the episode is posted here. So if you are looking for the podcast very soon after I post this, use one of the other methods to find the new episode. For those who are subscribed, your Podcast software should pick up the new episode next time it checks for new episodes on its own, or you can always force a refresh. For those using the XML feed directly, the new episode is now there.

Abulsme - Thu, 11 Jun 2009, 14:25:45 PDT
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Sun 07 Jun 2009

Yo Ho Ho!!

Bring on the Pirates!

Pirate Party Wins and Enters The European Parliament
(Ernesto, TorrentFreak, 7 Jun 2009)

When the Swedish Pirate Party was founded in early 2006, the majority of the mainstream press were skeptical, with some simply laughing it away. But they were wrong to dismiss this political movement out of hand. Today, the Pirate Party accomplished what some believed to be the impossible, by securing a seat in the European Parliament.

With 99.9% of the districts counted the Pirates have 7.1 percent of the votes, beating several established parties. This means that the Pirate Party will get at least one, but most likely two of the 18 (+2) available seats Sweden has at the European Parliament.
OK, so this is very tiny in the big scheme of things, but it is a good sign. May they continue to have electoral success in the future.

And if they ever show up on a ballot I have an opportunity to vote for, they almost certainly have my vote.

Abulsme - Sun, 7 Jun 2009, 21:10:10 PDT
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Fri 05 Jun 2009

What's Up With That?

US Swine Flu death rate rising nicely over the last few weeks.

Of course it is still very low, and considerably lower than the world death rate, which is itself not that high and still dropping.

Abulsme - Fri, 5 Jun 2009, 12:29:16 PDT
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Wed 03 Jun 2009

Curmudgeon's Corner: Life on TV

Sam and Ivan talk about:

  • Stealing Ivan's Stuff
  • Big Graduation
  • Bye Bye GM
  • TV Moments
  • New Media in Crisis
  • Sotomayor
1-Click Subscribe in iTunes

View in iTunes

Podcast XML Feed

Note: For those using the "View in iTunes" link, it often takes iTunes quite a few hours to show a new episode after the episode is posted here. So if you are looking for the podcast very soon after I post this, use one of the other methods to find the new episode. For those who are subscribed, your Podcast software should pick up the new episode next time it checks for new episodes on its own, or you can always force a refresh. For those using the XML feed directly, the new episode is now there.

Abulsme - Wed, 3 Jun 2009, 09:41:28 PDT
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DVD: Doctor Who: The War Machines

It was time for another Doctor Who, and this time it was time for The War Machines, a First Doctor Story from 1966. Actually the last of the First Doctor stories that is available (mostly) intact, since all the rest after this were lost when the BBC decided to trash a bunch of old stuff to make space.

This was four 20 something minute episodes, and it took us three weeks to watch it, because we kept falling asleep. So yes, this story sort of sucked. Well, it had its moments I guess, like they all do, but basically it sucked. There was the usual slow pacing of the stories from this era. There was the usual really bad special effects. And you expect all that of course. But it also had things like being the only story in the 46 year history of the show where The Doctor was actually called "Doctor Who" on screen... because the writers screwed up. Oops. I'd say even out of the First Doctor stories, which are most definitely not my favorites, this is one of my least favorites.

There was one really good bit though, which was one of the DVD Extras. Now, I often don't watch these, but I did this time. One of the extras is actually a documentary about how this story was reconstructed. Because this was actually one of the stories that at one time was "lost". But over time, bits and pieces of it were found from a variety of different sources, including edited copies that had been used for broadcast in various countries, as well as audio recordings made by fans straight off their televisions. The little documentary goes through how these various bits were found, then how they were combined in order to reconstruct the original episode, basically as it was originally aired... the exceptions being a few seconds here and there where they only had audio, so they "patched" the video with generic shots from elsewhere in the episode to make it seem like things were continuous and nothing was missing. There were also bits about how they dealt with the differing quality of the video from the different sources. It was fascinating stuff. Uh... way better than the episode itself.

So... if you're watching all of these for completeness like I am, you will of course watch this. If you're just looking for something fun to watch though, you can probably just skip it.

Abulsme - Wed, 3 Jun 2009, 00:03:44 PDT
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Mon 01 Jun 2009

Nice Deposit

I did a deposit to my bank recently. I forget the exact amount, but I was surprised when I got in the mail a note saying that the amount on my deposit slip did not match the amount of the actual deposit, but they noticed the error and fixed it. Too bad, because apparently they had me trying to make a deposit of over $9 million dollars. I wish I had made a deposit like that. I really would appreciate that.

However, the explanation is of course more simple. Whoever processed the deposit put my account number into the deposit amount. Oops. (I know it wasn't me, as I use a standard form for any deposit I make with the account number pre-filled.) Anyway, oops.

They could have just given me the $9 Million. I would not have complained.

Abulsme - Mon, 1 Jun 2009, 20:51:58 PDT
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