Sunday, December 31, 2006

Auld Lang Syne

Although Auld Lang Syne is practically synonymous with New Year's Eve, I wonder how many people have really listened to the lyrics of the song. The World Burns Club has a nice history and translation of the song (from Burns' Scottish). It's beautifully and poetic piece of work and although well know, quite under appreciated.

My favorite recording of the song is Johnny Cunningham and Susan McKeown's version on A Winter Talisman. Most versions are two upbeat for my taste. This one really captures the melancholy nature of the song.

Johnny Cunningham died in 2003. I reget never having seen him perform live.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Bad Santa vs It's a Wonderful Life

I watched Bad Santa for the first time on Christmas Eve. I had originally thought it would be too cyncical a movie for Christmas Eve but I had Tivo'ed the Comedy Central showing and when I started watching it, found the film oddly compelling.

It struck me that Bad Santa has certain similarities to It's a Wonderful Life. In both films, the main characters are on the verge of suicide and only do not carry out their plans due to interference of unexpected other characters. I detest It's a Wonderful Life. I've never seen the whole movie because I can not get passed the lunacy of Clarence, an incompetent angel, being sent to save anyone. It drives me crazy as incompetent angels make no theological sense since existence of Clarence as bumbling moron suggests either that a supposedly omnipotent detity can not get good help or that the omnipotent deity wants to ineffectually interfere with humanity. Neither alternative. makes any sense Additionally, It's a Wonderful Life has a saccharine sweet quality that makes me ill.

I ended up liking Bad Santa and it's a much better film than It's a Wonderful Life. I saw a bit in The Week that A Christmas Story is now the favorite Christmas movie of Generation X and it's my favorite as well. Ralphie's adventures are just as funny every Christmas. I can only hope that It's a Wonderful Life fades away in the oblivion it so richly deserves or at least Ralphie shoots Clarence's eye out.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Aluminum Finish on Powerbooks/MacBook Pro

I've come to the conclusion that aluminum exterior of the Powerbooks and MacBook Pro's scratches too easily. I accidently placed my Macbook Pro upside down one of those plastic airport security bins and I got several ugly scratches on the top of it. Sure, I should have placed it in the proper orientation so it sat on its rubber feet. My only excuse is that it was late, I was tired, and airport security annoying demands all laptops are removed from their bags.

My next purchase will likely be a Macbook. The Pro is from work and it's really too big for airplanes. My personal laptop is still a 12' Powerbook which I've managed to keep in pretty good shape except for some scratches on the underside. Though having to baby a laptop is kinda of annoying. It really seems like Mac laptops ought to be tougher. Guess I'll find out whether the plastic ones are better when I spring for Macbook,.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Lessons on the hazards of occupation from Sparta

Back in junior high, I remember being taught about Ancient Greece and the Sparta and the Athens and how the Spartans were a cold, militaristic people and the Athenians were cultured and democratic. Turns out my education left something out, how Sparta became militaristic, which has great relevance the fiasco in Iraq. I'm listening to The Teaching Company's excellent course on Ancient Greek Civilization and found that Sparta became a rigid and militaristic people as result of their occupation Messenia.

Prior to this occupation, the Spartans were a more typical Hellenistic Greek society with art and culture. But Sparta's subguation of the Messenian people, which they called helots, forced their society to change. Professor Jeremy McInerney writes in the class notes:

fear of the helots encouraged the
Spartans to develop a close-knit social order directed
mainly toward maintaining the status quo. All Spartan
institutions were devoted to keeping the helots in

The Spartan society became an unpleasant place. Occupation has severe negative effects on the occupier. Something both America should consider as figure out what to do about Iraq.

All the Teaching Company courses, I've bought are excellent. I highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys learning or wants to fill in gaps in their education.

Disneyland, the mirror of America

I made my annual trip to Disneyland at the end of the October, about 2 weeks before the election. Going every year, I've come to find that if you want to see what's going on in America, Disneyland is the place to do it. This year the guests had a different mood than in year's past. The park was very crowded for a fall weekend and I got the sense that people were coming not so much to have fun but to escape.

While it may sound corny for an adult to say, one of the reasons I keep going to back to Disneyland is that place has a certain magic and normally the guests, from the kids to the adults get caught up in it. This year the guests were draining the magic rather than adding to it. They were their to escape something. I think it was the reality that the country is caught up in a un-winnable war where our actions have made the people our leaders claimed to be helping worse off.

After so many elections where the Democrats looked promising but failed to pull it out in the end, I refused to get optimistic about this one. My assessment of the mood at Disneyland should have given me some confidence. The public really is unhappy with where the country is headed.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

moron writing for the Washington Post

Big surprise, the iPod does not work at high altitude. Hard drives are not designed to work at 20,000 feet. Apparently the moron the Washington Post got to write this article, Neal Mueller, does not recognize that the equipment necessary for moutaineering is differrent from what is useful is normal life. This article is all too typical of the today's mainstream media as it shows no critical thiniking ability on the part of editors. Do their readers care if iPods are bad for climbing Everest? I seriously doubt it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Information on Congressional Candidates

[For Google's Benefit] If you want to join in.

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl
--AZ-01: Rick Renzi
--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth
--CA-04: John Doolittle
--CA-11: Richard Pombo
--CA-50: Brian Bilbray
--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave
--CO-05: Doug Lamborn
--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell
--CT-04: Christopher Shays
--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan
--FL-16: Joe Negron
--FL-22: Clay Shaw
--ID-01: Bill Sali
--IL-06: Peter Roskam
--IL-10: Mark Kirk
--IL-14: Dennis Hastert
--IN-02: Chris Chocola
--IN-08: John Hostettler
--IA-01: Mike Whalen
--KS-02: Jim Ryun
--KY-03: Anne Northup
--KY-04: Geoff Davis
--MD-Sen: Michael Steele
--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht
--MN-06: Michele Bachmann
--MO-Sen: Jim Talent
--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns
--NV-03: Jon Porter
--NH-02: Charlie Bass
--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson
--NM-01: Heather Wilson
--NY-03: Peter King
--NY-20: John Sweeney
--NY-26: Tom Reynolds
--NY-29: Randy Kuhl
--NC-08: Robin Hayes
--NC-11: Charles Taylor
--OH-01: Steve Chabot
--OH-02: Jean Schmidt
--OH-15: Deborah Pryce
--OH-18: Joy Padgett
--PA-04: Melissa Hart
--PA-07: Curt Weldon
--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick
--PA-10: Don Sherwood
--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee
--TN-Sen: Bob Corker
--VA-Sen: George Allen
--VA-10: Frank Wolf
--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick
--WA-08: Dave Reichert

Monday, October 02, 2006

Libertarian Democrats

I liked Kos' essay on " The Case for the Libertarian Democrat" over at Cato. The responses are interesting as well. To me, there are major components of the libertarian philosophy: personal freedom and economic freedom. I understand that many libertarians would not separate the two but I do.

Personal freedom is freedom of speech, civil liberties and the general notion that government should not interfer in my life. Bush's elmination of habeas corpus rights an anathema to personal freedom. If one person can lock you up indefinately without any judicial oversight, the rest of your rights are meaningless. Free speech won't do you a lot of good in Gitmo. Neither will the libertarian's cherished right to bear arms.

Gun control is area where many of the comments to Kos' essay say the Democrats are restricting personal freedom. I would argue that both Republicans and Democrats are for weapons limitations. Neither will let private citizens own nuclear weapons or F16s. Its matter of where the limits are set. Anyone who falls in the very tiny minority who thinks they should be own F16, shouldn't vote for candidates for either party. I'd argue assult weapons fall on the same side of the line as nukes and F16s. I understand libertarians don't agree but I have little respect for the notion that an assult weapon is going to allow an citizen to defend themselves from a tyrannical government with nuclear weapons and F16s.

There's fair case that no Democratic candidates belives in the extensive notion of economic freedom (from taxes, regulation, etc) that the true libertarian ideal espoues. I think it is also fair says the Republicans don't either and when they say do, they are lying. Just looking at the amount the pork, like the Medicare drug bill, that the Republicans have handed out special interests shows they don't beleive in markets. I believe in the markets when they work. They work for a lot of things. However, they have notiable short comings in some areas like health care. Markets by themselves also don't handle a lot of safety issues well.

Republican approach to tax cuts is bogus. The Bush tax cuts are just defering taxes since there were no spending cuts. Republicans really don't take less of your money than Democratics, they have just shifted to the future the time when your money will be taken.

At the end of day, personal freedom is alot more important to me than tax rates. Low taxes don't do you any good when the government is holding you indefinately without charge. I would hope libertarians will recognize the huge threat the Bush's adminstrations eviceration of the Constitution is and realize they can no longer trust the Republican party.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Time for the civilized countires of world to stand up

With the Senate passage of the Military Commissions Bill which strips habeas corpus rights from non-citizens US, it's clear to me that legal system of the US does not meet the legal standards of the civilized world. The Bush administration's quarrel is not even with the constitution but with the Magna Carta. Glen Greenwald's posts and tristero's posts on the subject do a far better of job describing how ominous Bush's evisceration of the Constitution is.

However, there's another angle beyond Democrats taking over Congress to dealing with these abuses of power. Foreign government should stop cooperating with the US in terms of extradition of any activity that may lead suspects being detained since being detained by the US now means no access to the courts, trial by secret and coerced evidence and torture. Just as Canada would not have sent Maher Arar to Syria to be torured, they should no longer cooperate with the US intelligence or law enforcement since the Bush administration will not follow international law or the Geneva conventions and tortures suspects themselves or renders them for torture. Same goes for the Europeans. I would hope these countries not only stand on principle and stop their cooperation with US law enforcement but publicly announce they are doing so.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The arrogance of journalists

I should stop being surprised that the arrogance of American journalists which knows no bounds. I've gotten used to this absurdity with political journalism. David Brooks bizarre hit piece, "The Liberal Inquisition", on bloggers supporting Lamont in the NYT this week no longer surprises. Brooks inhabits of world sophmoric pundrity so he can't surpise me any longer.

Foturne's article, "The New Rules" where a business journalist proceeds to rewrite Jack Welch's playbook is nothing short of astonishing. Welch's playbook brought GE amazing success during his tenture. What qualifies a writer for Fortune to so much as add a comma to Welch's rules I don't know.

The article then proceeds to try to pin corporate frauds on Welch's concept of shareholder value which is absurd. Emphasizing creating real value is not the same as cheaters and frauds who's only method to post good numbers is to cook the books.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hard Drive Surgery Successful

My new hard drive came today and I successfully replaced the dead one in my 12" Powerbook. Probably the most difficult computer repair I've ever done. I've built many PCs from scratch but there weren't many tiny little screws to worry about. I would have been lost without this really helpful guide from

After this expirence, I can say I'm glad on not a surgeon. This disassembling a laptop was hard enough for me.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Collector, another word for Jackass

I really hate the word "collector". If people who collect rare works of art are collectors. People who collect random junk expensive or not should be called jackasses.

MacBook Pro Whine

While my personal 12" Powerbook is dead, waiting for a new disk to arrive, I'm fortunate be able to use my work MacBook Pro. I've had the MacBook for about 2 weeks. While there's a lot to like about the machine, the whining noise that's been widely doucmented is really irratating. For me, it goes away when I load the cpu so for me it's definately from the processor frequency reduction.

Hoepfully Apple will do something about this soon. At a minimum, a config should be added to "Power Settings" in "System Preferences" When I'm plugged in, I'd like to disable the feature. Saving power is good but not at the cost of my sanity.

Personally, I think this problem is siginifacnt enough that buyers should hold off on discretionary purchases until Apple gets it resolved.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

S.M.A.R.T. Status: Drive Failing

In the process of copying all the data off my drive, thank you Carbon Copy Cloner, my S.M.A.R.T status went to failing. This was near of the end of the almost 24hrs it took for me to copy 65GB off the drive and I feel fortunate to have saved all my files. I shut the machine off once the copy completed so I don't know if the drive still works or not. The moral of the story may be that once your S.M.A.R.T status goes to failing, you probably really have very little time left to save your data.

A new Samsung 120GB laptop harddrive is on its way from NewEgg so I know I how I'll be spending my Saturday. From reading instructions about how to replace the drive, I'm sure I'll have a rant about how Apple should think about making their products more easily servicable. I thought about upgrading to a Superdrive while I was in there but you basically have to dissemble the enitre machine to do that so a Superdrive will have to wait till my next machine purchase.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Powerbook Hard Drive Failure

Turns out that yesterdays rant about memory bloat was misdirected. While memory bloat with Firefox and Safari is a really annoying issue and should be fixed by the respective development teams, the reason it was causing me so much trouble is that the hard drive in my Powerbook is dying. My machine has one of the Toshiba 80GB POS put in Powerbooks. MacTouch has documented how lousy Toshiba laptop drives are.

While it's true that disks can fail at any time, most of the disk failures I've had are all from models that had a massively elevated number of failures. Last drive failure I've had on a home machine was from an IBM Deskstar which was such a POS that IBM settled a class action suit over the Deskstars.

My backups of important stuff are pretty recent and I'm in the process of copying everything off the drive. It's going really slowly as I'm about 10 hours into the process and I've only got 19GB. SMART reporter still shows the drive as green so perhaps its got enough life left it to complete the remaining 40 GB on the drive.

Considering that Apple products are priced as premium products, using crap for hard drives is really irrating. Lying about it is even worse (see MacInTocuh link above). If used Windows machines, I'd certainly switch vendors on the next purchase.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Wanted: Mac OS X browser without memory bloat

I'm sick and tired of the spinning rainbow beach ball on Powerbook because it's swapping due to my web browser turning into a memory pig. Here's what Safari got up today for me (ps output, edited for column length):

0.0 17.2 841404 135104

That's a 821MB vmsize and I've often seen it over a 1GB. And while the resident size appears to be small, the working set is not evidenced by the constant beach ball from paging.

I use lots of tabs and this causes huge memory bloat on Safari and it's not just space for the tabs because Safari gets bigger as I use it even if I hold the number of tabs constant. Firefox does the same damn thing. There was a Slashdot thread about the Firefox behavior a while back. It gets better in Firefox with browser.sessionhistory.max_total_viewers config change detailed in the thread comments but it really just bloats slower.

Browser developers, I don't want ANY memory caching of ANYTHING in the history. I pay $45/month to my cable company for a 6Mbps connection. So if I need to go back to something in the history (which I rarely do because if I wanted to go back to something I probably left it in a tab), get from disk cache or the origin server.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Angelides vs Westly Debate

Caught the tail end of the Angelides vs Westly debate tonight. While I was already planning on voting for Angelides, I was surprised by how much I disliked Westly in the debate. With the all the talk about tax increases and small business, Westly sounded like a Republican and a petulant one at that. CBS 5 has a fact check up and it looks like Westly is a serial exaggerator. Reminds me that I used to work with some who went to Stanford with Westly and asked him what he thought of Westly and my co-worker replied "He's a personable guy but I wouldn't trust him with my wallet.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Best Job In America?

Money Magazine has declared Software Engineer to be the best job in America. Money is just wrong on this one. They overlooked that fact that software turns into a very poor career when you hit 40. They underrate the amount of stress. The stress factor depends on the company but unless you work for a very large shop, things tend to be stressful. They also overate creativiity. Sure there is some fun design work in most jobs but much of the time, software engineers spend their days adding boring check box features that no one will ever use because some product manager wants useless feature parity with the competitors. Money's methodology also heavily weights job growth which I believe they are dramatically overstating at 46% over the next ten years. The outlook for American software engineers has considerably dimmed as work moves to India and China. As such, I just don't believe 46% growth.

To add humor to their article, Money as says Release Engineer is the top job in the field. Clearly, these writers know zero about the industry. Just because their salary numbers inexplicably put release engineer at top of list does not make it true. Anyone with any experience in the industry will know that release engineer is neither at the top of the prestige ladder or the pay scales. Not the it's not a valuable function. I've really appreciated the talented release engineers I've worked with. The untalented ones just tend to get in the way.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

More on Justice Ginsburg

For what ever reason, the conservative hullabaloo about Justice Ginsburg's comments on referencing foreign law has really irritated me, more so than the usual conservative nonsense out of Powerline and the like. Perhaps it's 1984 of "Slavery is Freedom" aspect of this bloviating. For the all the ridiculous screaming about Tyranny On Horizonl, none of these sycophants has one example about how exactly liberal justices are leading us to to tyrannical state. However, Justice O'Connor has warned about how the Republican denigration of the judiciary can lead to dictatorship.

Thinking about the freedoms of the Constitutions as more powerful ideas rather than mere words will only protect against tyranny. Those who advocate literalism of the Constitution do not really mean it has they magically find inherent powers of the President that allow suspension of the Bill of Rights during war time. I'm still looking for the asterisk in the Constitution that says "the 4th amendment does not apply during times of discretionary war." Thinking about the experience of other countries only serves to enrich our ideas about freedom.

Then bloviators always go on to say to how the Court will impose policy choices. The court has only prescribed anything resembling "policy" remedies to address willful and long-running disregard of Constitutional rights. The only example that comes to mind for me is school desegregation.

The best test for conservative judicial philosophy is how it would have handled segregation. If true to originalism, a conservative court have may found nothing wrong with segregation since it had existed for over 80 years even with the 14th amendment so there's an easy argument that segregation allowable under the original intent of the 14th amendment. If any conservatives actually read this, they are sure to howl but consider their zeal to deny homosexuals equal protection under law. It's the same impulse as racial segregation. The only difference is that today open racial bigotry has become socially unacceptable. We can only hope its not too many decades till we can say the same about homophobia.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Idiots at Powerline

Powerline is complaining about a Justice Ginsburg where she defends using international law as a point of consideration in US jurisprudence. Powerline takes offensce at the idea that the Consitution is at it's core about basic fairness.

Not surprisingly their logic is utterly flawed. One claim is that liberal justices will shop for foreign law that suits them. Scalia and Thomas love to do with dictionaries when looking to finds words defined in ways that suit them. The hypocrasy of the law shopping argrument is even more galling than when one realizes that originalists should never use a modern dictionary and by their own login must use 1780s except when interpreting later admendments. Of couse, the morons at Powerline can find no examples of foreign shopping except a silly argument that homosexuals should be executed criminalized because thats what Mulism countries do and that's foreign law.

One my general critique of conservative thinking when it comes to the law is that conservatives apparently believe Americans have too many rights. They especially hate the right the privacy since it prevents telling other people how to live. The citing of Lawrence v. Texas is a great example of their obcession the private lives of others.

Unfortunately, our corporate controlled media never asks conservatives about the logical implications of their views. One is that many of the rights we take for granted like freedom for segregation are based on an expanded view of the our Constituional rights and not directly by admendment. Those who object to Lawrence v. Texas also ought to object to Brown v. Board of Education. Both found new meaning in clauses of the Consitution that were written over hunderd years prior. Of course, I 've seen a conservative even address this flaw in their reasoning. There are too busy trying ot make sure that no new rights are ever found in the Constitution.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Ice Dancing

Watching the Olympic Ice Dancing competition last night, I was stuck by both how awful in terms of style and how revealing some of the costumes were. I'm not a prude but the Olympics should be family entertainment. The couple with the worst attire fell so I'll refrain from from singling them out but suffice to say good taste was notably absent.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Food Porn

I've come across two good pieces on food in media recrently. One is On the Media's Pornucopia which shows the similaries between the Food Network and porngraphy. The bit about Iron Chef is particularly amsusing. The other is Food Slut by Ann Bauer in Salon. Bauer's pieces chronicles her journey from novice food writer to elitist food critic.