Sunday, October 31, 2004

Techblogging Sunday- Rotting Fruit Edition

I've been a huge fan of Apple computers for several years now. This is not really news to my friends, family and regular readers. However, I was a bit annoyed after I read this bit of news, that the new version of iTunes (4.7) deliberately blocks an app designed to download music files from your iPod to your computer.

I gotta say, Mr Jobbs, this new little innovation sucks. I understand you're under pressure from the draconian fobs in the Music Industry to incorporate DRM safeguards into your software that gives them the impression that they can control what music we listen to and where. But you're smarter than that, Steve. You know that no matter what software widgets you come up with, we'll find ways around it. But that you'd deliberately try to stiff your loyal users in favor of feeding pipe-dreams to corporate stooges who neither understand nor care about their customers is pretty shitty.

Lately, Elvira and I have come to realise that we've reached a software plateau with our respective macs. Her iMac and my Powerbook have ample speed and storage and all the software we need, in versions that we like, and do exactly what we want them to. So we've decided that we're no longer going to upgrade our software. We'll stick with iTunes 4.6, OS 10.3 and keep our iPods at their current versions. Thanks, Mr Jobbs but no thanks. We'll keep our money and our slightly outdated software and look for Open Source alternatives when we absolutely need to upgrade something.

Eventually, in a few years, our hardware will become incompatible, obsolete or damaged and we'll be forced to upgrade. Which means that we'll probably buy second hand hardware and switch all our OS to Linux, which, I've recently discovered, has a version that runs on Mac hardware. Plus, that penguin is just a lot cuter than some silly old apple with a bit out of it.

Hat tip to Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing for the link.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Happy Halloween!

Tomorrow night is the Night of the Veil, when the worlds of the living and the dead overlap and the spirits of our ancestors return. Celebrated throughout the world in various cultures, under various names, this night is the time for inward reflection, to stare into the bonfire and dance and dream. Or, a night to dress up in a funny suit and eat lots of candy, your choice. Tonight, some friends and I are celebrating a tad early. We're going out to a Goth Club to celebrate. I'm dressing up like the Devil.

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Halloween, the Mexican Day of the Dead and the original Pagan celebration, Samhain.

Don't forget to leave something out for the Wee Folk.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Catablog Friday


Almost Saturday. I tried to load this picture earlier, but Blogger was being persnickity. But all's well that ends well.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Scientists Discover Hobbits

BBC:

Scientists have discovered a new and tiny species of human that lived in Indonesia at the same time our own ancestors were colonising the world.

The new species - dubbed "the Hobbit" due to its small size - lived on Flores island until at least 12,000 years ago.

The fact that little people feature in the legends of modern Flores islanders suggests we might have to take tales of Leprechauns and Yeti more seriously.

Details of the sensational find are described in the journal Nature.

The discovery has been hailed as one of the most significant of its type in decades.

[...]

[H. floresiensis] shared its island with a golden retriever-sized rat, giant tortoises and huge lizards - including Komodo dragons - and a pony-sized dwarf elephant called Stegodon which the "hobbits" probably hunted.

[...]

Yet there are hints H. floresiensis could have lived on much later than this. The myths say Ebu Gogo were alive when Dutch explorers arrived a few hundred years ago and the very last legend featuring the mythical creatures dates to 100 years ago.

But Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature magazine, goes further. He speculates that species like H.floresiensis might still exist, somewhere in the unexplored tropical forest of Indonesia.

[...]

Because the remains are relatively recent and not fossilised, scientists are even hopeful they might yield DNA, which could provide an entirely new perspective on the evolution of the human lineage.

More about the Hobbit here.

If some DNA can be retrieved from this find, than we will gain a greater understanding of our evolution and human orgins in general, which is great. That it comes with the knowledge that we shared our recent past with tiny men who hunted pygmy elephants and battled komodo dragons is just plain cool.

Library Talk

Via Jessa at Bookslut, we have Dispatches from a Public Librarian. In this dispatch, Josh, who is a Library page, is interviewed. It's funny if you've ever worked in a bookstore (the super polished, ultra shiny mega corporate type, not the fun, musty dark independent kind) or, of course, in a library.

It's also funny if you go to Library School, because Public Librarians are the bottom of the proverbial Totem Pole. They're harassed, generally shit upon and the most embattled and embittered of all librarians. And they like it that way. That they are also the archetypal librarian, the image everyone conjures up when they think of the word Librarian with a face and a name, is an important detail, something that ultimately, all us librarians, even the male Academic/Art Reference librarians who work in IT have to confront. But it's funny! Ha ha.

Book of the Day

Newly added to my Amazon Wishlist: Planet Simpson: How A Cartoon Masterpiece Defined a Generation by Chris Turner. here's a review at the Globe and Mail.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

The Secret Revealed!

At last, I can tell you where I am, and the reason I'm here. Friday, I departed from Maryland for San Antonio to meet my wife and in-laws and visit with my sister in law, who is home for two weeks R&R from Iraq. The reason for all the secrecy is that we were staging an elaborate surprise for my mother and father in law, involving sister Naomi's friend, Jeff telling my in laws he wanted to introduce them to his new fiance and then having Naomi walk in, followed shortly thereafter by my wife and I and her older brother and his wife, all of who had flown in just for the occasion. The surprise went well, if a bit befuddled at times by the impossibility of a given flight to land on time, my sister in laws inability to remember the proper names of restaurants and the general confusion of trying to organise a large scale surprise among nine people in four states and a foreign war.

So that's what all the secrecy was about, a very good cause.

Now I just have to try and convince my Texas in-laws that voting for Bush is a horrible, horrible idea and that Kerry isn't really all that bad. Then, I'll single handedly end world hunger and find a cure for cancer, by Tuesday, when I fly back.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Super Secret Mission

I'm going on a super secret mission this weekend, to a place with no internet access. I can't say where, but it's certainly not to Texas to spray paint Liberal slogans on the barn doors of the Bush Ranch, and demand Halloween candy from the President. I honestly don't know where you got such a crazy notion. Nope.

Dr. Thompson Versus The Syphilis President

Hunter S. Thompson has a betting man's eye and a steel pole running through his soul. It works like an antenna, giving him an uncanny knack for gaging political presure systems. And he's backing Kerry with winner's odds:

Immediately after the first debate ended I called Muhammad Ali at his home in Michigan, but whoever answered said the champ was laughing so hard that he couldn't come to the phone. "The debate really cracked him up," he chuckled. "The champ loves a good ass-whuppin'. He says Bush looked so scared to fight, he finally just quit and laid down."

Ali has seen that look before. Almost three months to the day after John Fitzgerald Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, the "Louisville Lip" -- then Cassius Clay -- made a permanent enemy of every "boxing expert" in the Western world by beating World Heavyweight Champion Sonny Liston so badly that he refused to come out of his corner for the seventh round.

This year's first presidential debate was such a disaster for George Bush that his handlers had to be crazy to let him get in the ring with John Kerry again. Yet Karl Rove let it happen, and we can only wonder why. But there is no doubt that the president has lost his nerve, and his career in the White House is finished. NO MAS.

I haven't felt this confident in months.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

A few Quick Links

I have a mid-term hangover, so original content is going to have to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, there is a really entertaining Q and A with Neal Stephenson over at Slashdot. And if you're looking for something more meaty and slightly scary, Teresa Nielsen Hayden has an analysis of George W. Bush that will give you the blind staggers.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Dispatches from Iraq, Part 18

Christian Writes:

Baghdad - October 17, 2004

It is difficult to sum all of my thoughts and feelings regarding the bombings. I hope my following words strike close to the mark.

The past few days have seen the fall out from last week's events. By far, Thurday, October 14th, was the worst day to date in the Green Zone.

Two bombs exploded. Both suicide missions. The first target was the "Haji Mart". This was the local bazaar where we could buy cheap souvenirs, DVDs, and cigarettes. The bomb went off in Big John's, the general store where I bought the charcoal for my grill.

The second bomb destroyed the Green Zone Cafe - until recently our local watering hole and nearest restaurant. Both establishments were Christian which when viewed in the light of yesterday's church bombings reveals the religious intolerance of some of our enemies.

What is most disconcerting, is that this attack hit so close to home. I used to frequent the Green Zone Cafe almost everyday to eat chicken kabobs and enjoy a Turkish coffee. At night, we would drink Lebanese wine and smoke shisha while listening to the drumbeats of our Arab friends. I got to know some of the help and I still do not know who survived and who did not. The whole place is now only a memory. Smoky nights under the red tent will never be repeated and some of our friends are no longer with us.


Read the rest

Monday, October 18, 2004

"The problem with the Argentines is their imaginary weapons work."

Amidst my morning perusal of blogs and such, I found this astounding little piece of fiction by Chris Nakashima-Brown. It's a bit of Borges in a pop culture blender:

...The episode starts out as a typical variation of the formula. Following the eternally lounge Paul Williams theme, we meet the week's cast as they board. Barbara Billingsley plays a melancholy divorcee. Her kids have bought her a week on the boat; they didn't mention they bought one for Dad as well, played by Tom Bosley. Stella Stevens is Honey Spitz, a hard-partying Vegas girl searching for rescue from imminent spinsterhood. She will spend much of her time conferring with Tony Randall as Emmett Graham, a Capote-esque playwright who finds the muse in her story, and engineers a competition for her affections among Dick Shawn as a comical advertising executive, McLean Stevenson as a shy, sarcastic Midwestern arms dealer, and Marjoe Gortner as an aging rock star. And an enfeebled Jorge Luis Borges, as himself.

Four minutes in, Gopher leads the blind Borges up the plank in his incongruous vintage wool suit, hand-tailored by an Anglo-Italian master haberdasher in the Distrito Almirante Brown.

"So, Mr. Borges," says Gopher, "are you traveling alone?"

Borges' lazy, whitened eyes stare through the chipper Iowan, reimagining the universe in the nautical vignette cresting the Purser's cap.

"Can you not see the massing armies of the Heresiarchs?" queries the author.

"Uh, gee, fella, we have a lady who brought her Shih Tzu, but I don't think that's quite enough to make it an Ark. But you should talk about that with Dr. Bricker. Maybe he can give you something to help you take a nap."

As the episode proceeds, we learn that Borges and Mrs. Cleaver were married once, briefly, in the years between 1969 and 1970, adding complication to her efforts to explore a reconciliation with Mr. Cunningham. In the karaoke lounge, as Stella Stevens soothes the passengers with an otherworldly rendition of "Wichita Lineman," the episode takes a dark turn. The camera closes in on Borges' Magus eyes. The boom of nearby naval artillery rattles the ship, causing a panic. On the bridge, Captain Stubing radios out a Mayday when a squadron of Delta-wing fighters bearing strange insignia buzzes the Lido Deck. Romantic interludes are suspended as a dashing boarding party scours the ship, rounding up Robin Leach (as himself) and a handful of forgotten English character actors.

In the final scene, Isaac is in his cabin, drinking absinthe with Dr. Bricker and reading excerpts from a musty book Borges left in his cabin. The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia, Thirteenth Edition (Volume XLVI: Uqbar-United States).

"The Hrönir of the perpetually broadcast American television reruns are infinite in power and proliferation," reads Isaac, "enabling those who can discover them in plain sight to recast the subtext and reinvent the world."

"What the heck's a Hrönir?" asks Dr. Bricker.

"Darned if I know," shucks Isaac. "But says here they're some kind of imagination made real in some country in the Middle East called Tlön or Uqbaristan or something. Maybe some kind of terrorists, you think? Listen:

"'Centuries and centuries of Tlönian idealism have not failed to influence reality. In the most ancient regions of Tlön, the duplication of lost objects is not infrequent. Two persons look for a pencil; the first finds it and says nothing; the second finds a second pencil, no less real, but closer to his expectations. These secondary objects are called hrönir. . . . The methodical production of hrönir . . . has made possible the interrogation and even the modification of the past, which is now no less plastic and docile than the future.'"

Friday, October 15, 2004

Revenge of Cat Blogging Friday



High over the village, the mountain cat stalks, preparing to pounce on the unsuspecting people below.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Green Zone Turns Red

CBC News:

Blasts hit market, cafe in Green Zone; 4 Americans among 5 dead
01:57 PM EDT Oct 14
NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD

BAGHDAD (AP) - Insurgents penetrated Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone and detonated explosives at a market and a popular cafe Thursday, killing five people, including four Americans, in the first bombing inside the compound housing the U.S. and Iraqi government headquarters.

A top Iraqi official said the attacks appeared to have been suicide bombings. Witnesses said two men, each carrying a backpack but not the required ID badges, entered the cafe full of Americans and other patrons, drank tea and talked to each other for nearly half an hour, then went their separate ways and set off their bombs several moments apart.

The attack was an assault on the heart of the U.S.-Iraqi leadership of the country and a serious setback to the Bush administration's campaign to pacify postwar Iraq.

I just received an e-mail from Christian:

Considering the events of today and the e-mails I have received from numerous people asking if I am OK, I want to let everyone know that I am fine.

Today was a black day in the Green Zone. I used to dine at the Green Zone Cafe very frequently. I do not yet know who was killed but I undoubtedly know some of them.

I must go but will write soon with more details.

Christian

Here's the Guardian UK story. So far, only the foreign press has picked this up. it's still early though.

Update: 10/15

More exploding car bombs
Airstrike on Fallujah

Meanwhile, still nothing being discussed much by the Chimp in Chief or by Kerry. This nightmare has got to stop. I'd like to wake up now, please.

Spooky Lobster Hoedown

If you're going to be in D.C. next weekend, you have to check out The Lobster Boy Review:

Horrific vaudeville hosted by Lobster Boy! Satanic showtunes! Dancing serial killers! Homeland security! Underwater pumpkin carving! Men in rubber pants! Perverse door prizes! ! Don't miss the scariest shindig in town!

Blending brand new acts together from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., this tuxedo wearing lobster concocts a witch's brew so spellbindingly funny it will make you forget who to vote for. Either that, or it will make you vote for Lobster Boy!

Contemporary French social theorist Jean Baudrillard claims, "Halloween is not funny". He explains it as a "sarcastic festival that reflects an infernal demand for revenge by children on the adult world." To prove him wrong — we've decided to toilet paper his ivory tower.

And if that's not enough to convince you then I have six little words that are sure to make you come running: The Evil Tap Dancing Hate Monkey!

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Free Me From This Great Debate

Tonight is the final debate, people, and it's about doggone time. I lost any interest I might have had when, during the Vice Presidential debate, Cheney and Edwards both resorted to the "your facts are wrong" refrain. Once two debaters get to this point, it's so much white noise. Of course any semi-informed American (example: Yours Truly) knows that Bush and Cheney have botched the war horribly, that they have illegally doled out no-bid contracts to their weasely corporate sponsors, that they're horrible fascists, etcetera. We also know that both Edward and Kerry supported the war, are lawyers, and were bullied like spineless bed-wetters into basically making George's Bush's administration a military junta. And why? Don't buy the "we gave him the authority, not the consent" argument they so lamely attempt to make. They gave him the authority to go to war with Iraq because of the enormous public pressure from Americans post-9/11 who desperately wanted vengeance on whomever, wherever, as long as "they" suffered the way "we" suffered--a sentiment which, in actuality, I only ever heard come out of the mouths of media figures, borderline psychotics, and Country Music "Songwriters"...but I repeat myself.

I'll watch the debate (I just like to bitch), but I'm not expecting much from it. Kerry will look far more "Presidential" than his opponent, and Bush will look more like that slightly crazy, absurdly macho but nonetheless approachable High School Football Coach, and the individuals that respond, respectively, to each of those things...will already have decided months ago who is getting their vote.

Here's my pessimistic precognition: Kerry will win the popular vote, by even more than Gore in 2000. Bush will win the electoral vote, narrowly, but by enough to legitimate his second term, inasmuch as that is possible. That is a sad statement to make, I know, and hardcore Kerry supporters will likely call for my head if they read this, but nothing can be done for it.

I hope I'm wrong, I really do. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong. In fact, if Kerry is elected, I will make it a point to be active in the Democratic Party. (So that I can keep an eye on him.) But I really don't see that happening. Even with his recent gain in the polls--Me? Never been polled. You?--I don't think Kerry is a pill the American People want to swallow. Because he comes with the acknowledgment that things just aren't as simple as they seem to be. He, unfortunately, comes with an intrinsic demand on the intellectual capabilities of Joe Six-Pack. Or, at least, on his conscience. Kerry may, if you believe him, invoke images of Kennedy. He may seem as regal, as statuesque as Lincoln. It's sad, but it just seems to me that Americans, for now, prefer the wacky Football Coach, even if he insists on lining the field with land mines.




Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A Blessed Event

I've decided I don't like weddings. And it wasn't that my sister's was horrible or rotten or Very Bad, even. It was nice enough, as weddings go. It's just that I've come to realize that weddings, or rather, the wedding planning industry has taken a hold of young women's minds and filled them with all sorts of rubbish about how you need to have an elaborate expensive dress that you'll only ever wear once, force friends and family to put up with all sorts of hectic bullshit-- like making bouquets and organizing who marches with who and where and how tall the second groomsman is in comparison to the weird girl in the awful pink dress who looks horrible in that particular shade of rosy pepto pink anyway; and all for a single day of tense, never ending stress followed by lots of carting around of dying flowers and left over ham.

It's all simply too much. The stress far out ways the pleasure, which means it’s simply should be avoided at all costs. I will now and forever be a staunch advocate of elopement. Any friends, who feel the need to get hitched, can do so in front of a judge. I'll witness for them and then buy them dinner at a fancy restaurant. I'll tell the same to my daughter, if I have a daughter, and offer her large sums of money if she'll just run away and marry the lovely boy (or girl) of her dreams and just not cause her mother and I the hassle. It's not that we don't love you, as yet fictitious daughter. We simply have been to too many of these horrible things and want to save you the stress, hassle and hair pulling torment of having to make your best friends wear horrible clothes and march around while some dude in a pointy hat waves his magic wand over your head.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Weekend Hours

I'm going to my sister's wedding this weekend so no new posts until monday from me. However, maybe Kevin will use his spiffy new high spead connection at home to dazzle and entertain while I'm gone. And maybe Jason will stop by and say something witty and interesting as well. You just never know. Anything might happen.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Debate in My Head

I didn't watch the debates last night. I wanted to, I suppose, though more likely I wanted to want to watch the debates but just couldn't bring myself to get more than two degrees away from the actual watching. Instead, I drank tea and talked about life and nothing really important with a friend and am the better for it, I think.

But Kevin and I had dinner earlier yesterday evening and we discussed the debate we would have liked to see.

We were both hoping (almost wishing) that Cheney would loose it. That Edwards would riff on his Two America's speech and point at Cheney and say, "This man represents one of those Americas. Is it the one you live in?" Amidst hoots and claps from the audience, grown unruly at the restraint of so much decorum and politicking, Cheney's sneer would become evil and livid and grow into a snarl as Edwards continued to brow beat him about Haliburton and his still-secret energy task force. But mostly, about Haliburton. And graft. And corruption. Edwards would be gentile and elegant but also vicious as a snake in that way that only a Southern Trial Lawyer can be.

After an hour of defensive sneering and rambling incoherently about evil men with mustaches and our Precious Bodily Fluids, Cheney's left arm would go numb and he'd clutch his chest. paramedics would be called in as the audience claps and Edwards takes a bow. But just before they carried him out in a stretcher, Cheney's cyborg heart would explode sparks and big blood all over the stage and he'd bolt upright and spew prophetic gibberish, while his head spun like a wheel.

From what I've read, this isn't quite how the debates went last night. But they should have.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The Awards that Really Matter

Via Chris at Crooked Timber, I have just been informed of this years winners of the IgNoble Prize. Special congratulations go to "Ramesh Balasubramaniam of the University of Ottawa, and Michael Turvey of the University of Connecticut and Haskins Laboratory, for exploring and explaining the dynamics of hula-hooping."

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Soros Blog

George Soros has a blog:

On Tuesday I delivered a speech at the National Press Club in Washington explaining why I am involved in this election. In the coming weeks, I will be traveling the country to speak with more Americans about why I believe President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests and undermining American values. I have started this website and this blog to hear from you. I am eager to engage in a critical discussion about this election because the stakes are so high, and I welcome your opinions here and on your own blogs. I am looking forward to responding to the many comments that I have already received in the days ahead. Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Link via Cory DoctorowBoing Boing.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

All His Favorite Fruit

Over at Dispatches from Iraq, a few readers have posed direct questions to Christian in comments, which is an understandable impulse. However, I feel I should point out that Christian doesn't actually maintain that site, or ever read it, as far as I know. He sends the Dispatches to a friend of mine, who sends them to me, and I post them. I've only ever met Christian once, briefly, at a burlesque show in Adams Morgan, shortly before he left for Iraq. So, asking him questions in the comments is a little futile. However, if you want to send him an e-mail message, you can send it to me and I'll send to to someone who can send it to him. Sorry if this feels a little like table rapping or joining the Christian Iraq Tour Fan Club.

Along these lines, I'd appreciate some feedback concerning the Dispatches. Do readers think they are worth maintaining?

When I started reading the Dispatches, I had hoped we'd be privy to an insider's view of the inner workings of the reconstruction and occupation. Instead, it feels more like the travel diary of a Civil Servant at his place in the Colonies (within interventions distance of the embassy). I suppose one must have political sensibilities to get a job in Iraq and perhaps it was foolish of me to think we'd have our very own mole in the Palace of the Viceroy, smuggling out gossip and state secrets. But at times, Christian is passing along less information about the situation there than CNN or Reuters and even on occasion, what he is telling us sounds awfully close to the Happy Fun News that is being promoted in place of reality by GOP mouthpieces. Perhaps that is simply the nature of living in the International Zone of an occupied city. Perhaps not. Let me know what you think.