Tuesday, July 31, 2007

So, there seem to be a lot of congressional corruption scandals

But, it's mostly Republicans who are being implicated. I have to assume that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is bringing the hammer down on a few difficult-to-control members to keep the others in line.

I used to have a girlfriend

Sometimes, convinced of my unlovability, I forget. But, I was just pulling photos down from old emails, to mitigate the impact of The Great DVD Overwrite. And one thing is evident about our relationship.

We were very blurry together.


I've ordered more business cards. If you use that link to order business cards, I'll get a $2 credit. No pressure.

Monday, July 30, 2007

I've received an ecard from a Worshipper!

I ... uh ... wow. I've received greeting cards, birthday cards, notes and messages from classmates, neighbors, secret admirers and coworkers. I've been getting this one MadLib "You received a[n] [type of note] from a[n] [type of acquaintance]" spam message over and over. I don't know what virus sends it out, but it seems to target people who have one of my email addresses.

Still. A worshipper? Assuming that the guys who write these things don't speak English, there must be a spam-writing culture that has a common relationship which transliterates to English as 'worshipper.'

You've got to wonder who that could be and what it means.

I finished Al Gore's The Assault On Reason today

It took many subway rides. In the final chapter, he writes
Some [bloggers] have genuinely interesting things to say, while others do not.
It was hard not to feel a little singled out. Still, the book in general was well worth reading. The style and breadth had a lot of similarities with Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope, which my mother got me (and my roomate-at-the-time's mother got him) for Christmas, suggesting some overlap among interns. Apparently, capitalism and democracy have both been taken over by evildoers who constrict our public discourse. Who knew?

I'm a big fan of the post-Clinton Al Gore, I just can't help but wonder what he was doing while he was vice president. Reinventing government, sure, but you wonder how some people can even now say, as a dining companion did just 9 days ago, "Sure there were 70 degree days in January, but it's unseasonably cool in New York now, so I'm just not convinced about Global Warming," if the Clinton administration was giving clear signals for the eight years it was in power. What am I supposed to do, walk around with flip books of glacier satellite photos? I understand about the whole corporate control of media, but when you're in control of defense spending, you might expect to hold a little sway at GE's NBC.

He launches a lot of direct assaults on the Bush league (apparently not gunning for a post raising money during the next disaster,) which are always nice to hear, but I kept thinking back to that scene in Fahrenheit 911 when black congressmen were complaining about the disenfranchisement of their constituents and Al Gore did not allow the 2000 election results to be contested. Maybe he couldn't have changed the outcome, especially given the evident corruption of the as-yet-unimpeached Supreme Court 'justices', but I do feel like we needed him to have tried harder.

Right. So, obviously I went into this book with a lot of baggage. Anyway, besides harping on the evildoing of the current administration and the influence of corporate-controlled television -- both things that need far more harping on than they get -- Mr. Gore does get into global climate change a little.
[T]he entire Arctic ice cap could melt and be completely gone in Summer in as little as thirty-four years (p.204, Penguin Press 2007)
Now, see? We keep hearing internally inconsistent things like, "globally averaged temperatures have risen 0.3 Kelvin over the last ten years and are increasing exponentially! Sea levels might rise twenty feet in the 22nd Century or so." No Arctic ice cap in 34 years I can believe. It doesn't tell me exactly how high or when we need a sea wall around Manhattan, but at least it implies the requirement.

Password Picking

Now, as you might imagine, Kijamaa has a pretty strong password; at least eight characters including at least one of each upper case letters, lower case letters, symbols and numerical digits. While it's based on a word in a human language, the word's not on this list. But, I haven't been walking around with great guidelines to make good passwords, and have inadvertently made a few crappy ones.

Once again, Bruce Schneier rides to the rescue. The linked article evaluates a common password attack
So the first attack [AccessData's Password Recovery Toolkit] performs is to test a dictionary of about 1,000 common passwords, things like "letmein," "password," "123456" and so on. Then it tests them each with about 100 common suffix appendages: "1," "4u," "69," "abc," "!" and so on. Believe it or not, it recovers about 24 percent of all passwords with these 100,000 combinations.
And gives you solid password advice (below), but
[N]one of this might actually matter. AccessData sells another program ... that ... scans a hard drive for every printable character string ... [a]nd PRTK breaks more than 50 percent of passwords from this dictionary alone.

What's happening is that the Windows operating system's memory management leaves data all over the place in the normal course of operations. You'll type your password into a program, and it gets stored in memory somewhere. Windows swaps the page out to disk, and it becomes the tail end of some file. It gets moved to some far out portion of your hard drive, and there it'll sit forever. Linux and Mac OS aren't any better in this regard.

There's a digest -- which originally pointed me at the article, and in fact to Mr. Schneier's blog -- posted on Yahoo! It essentially suggests taking a word, misspelling it, and inserting a 2- or 3-character string into the middle somewhere. So,
might be a great password. And we've found a regime in which habitual misspellers have a natural advantage.

Oh! Remember how in Windows NT an 8-character password, or anything less than a 14-character password, would be less secure than an 7-character password, as Windows would snap the first seven characters off and hash them separately? That's no longer true, I found out while reading about this. That link advises password changes every three to four months, which I don't understand. I think you should only change your password after being forced by some circumstance to share it. I suppose the thought is that a password-cracking algorithm running for months will have already passed the subsequent password you choose, but that seems a little insane. If you can explain that, please share.

BigLap and the Power Settings

One of my coworkers pointed out that my laptop wouldn't really be named Kijamaa unless I executed "sudo hostname -v Kijamaa", so that's done.

Now, when I got Kijamaa, it came back on immediately when I opened the lid, and all I would have to do is type in my password. It also got very hot. Both of these things were due to the default power settings being to just turn off the display when I closed the lid. I went to Preferences/Power Management on the System menu, and set it to hibernate on close. That worked great; now when I open the lid and hit the power button, it spends some time coming back to life (there's some error with the progress bar, but it doesn't hinder me) and there I am, back in business.

I'd like to change my settings so that I needn't hit the power button when I open the lid. Let's see.

8:33 PM Kijamaa back up after I failed to get a window three times trying to execute 'Power Management' and Firefox crashed loading http://newyork.citysearch.com. Rebooting gave me the Power Management window (and a searchable citysearch), but there's only an option for what to do when the laptop shuts, not when it opens.
8:35 PM Start checking Ubuntu Unleashed, the book I bought with Kijamaa. It helpfully mentions a program acpi. "sudo acpi -V" gives me
Battery 1: charged, 100%
root@ubuntu:~# acpi -V
Battery 1: charged, 100%
Thermal 1: ok, 46.0 degrees C
AC Adapter 1: on-line
I guess if that's what I wanted to know, it'd be helpful. "man acpi" tells me
acpi Shows information from the /proc filesystem, such as battery status or thermal information.
so, I don't think that's it. It stands for advanced configuration and power interface, but doesn't seem to provide it. "gnome-power-preferences" is the name of the tool I set my laptop close behavior in, so let's see if we can find out more about that. The book suggests I start with http://www.linux-laptop.net and http://www.tuxmobil.org. The 'Advanced Power Management' section of the latter's Linux Mobile Guide suggests "dmesg | grep apm", which gets me [ 27.008000] apm: BIOS not found. That can't be good. "apmd" gets me No APM support in kernel. So, OK.

9:05 PM Finished reading Put Your Laptop To Sleep at Linux.com. The news isn't good.
To exit the hibernated state, simply power on the system normally.
'Power on the system normally' doesn't sound like 'open the lid.' What happens if I power down and then open the laptop?

9:17 PM Nothing happens. I have to hit the power button. So, that sounds like what I have to change. I got a phone call (and a text message!) in the interim, so I have to discharge a task ...
9:36 PM OK, that's done. How do I get the laptop to turn on when I open the lid?
9:43 PM Ubuntu forum posts are conspiring to make me think this won't happen. Does Microsoft Windows do this? Let me check...
9:47 PM No. I have to hit the power button after opening the lid on Windows XP as well. Strange. But, OK. I'm giving up on this task as well.

Office for Annoying Air Travelers (Bruce Schneier's interview with Kip Hawley)


Sunday, July 29, 2007

BigLap and the Canon Powershot A630

I'm giving up on Bluetooth. I don't seem to be able to do anything but scan local Bluetooth providers.
Next up? The camera. I recently purchased my first digital camera not built into a phone at B&H. At Consumer Reports' suggestion, it was an A630. So, I'd like to do 2 things:
(1) Store photos and videos on Kijamaa
(2) Set up a script whereby when I do put a photo on Kijamaa, it autodegrades it into a reasonably small file. It's an 8-megapixel camera, so the file sizes are huge. My vision is to have a photos folder* and a degraded_photos folder, and in the degraded_photos folder have smaller copies of all the photos in the photos folder. We'll stick with goal (1) for now.
9:47 PM To make it look like I listen, I'm going to try moving photos with the SD card first. The A630 comes with a 16 MB card, which holds about ten photos, but the B&H kit adds two 2-GB cards on to that.
9:49 PM I gave the camera to a tween girl at a barbeque recently, and I just saw all of the photos she took. I'd forgotten all about them. It's good that we're doing this.
9:52 PM In Johnson O'Connor Research Foundation tests, I was found to be in the bottom dodecile for finger dexterity. I've just now gotten the card out.
9:54 PM Stick the SD card in Kijamaa after removing the dummy plastic plaque. a friendly popup box tells me it was detected, and asks if I like to add them to my album. I select for it to always perform this action.
9:56 PM It's essentially immediate. Since I never believed in memory cards for phones, I'm going to try again with the cable.
9:58 PM I plug in the USB cable and get another friendly popup. It's almost identical to the last one, but says 'A camera has been detected' instead of 'A photo card has been detected.'
10:00 PM OK, you want to know why it was so fast to put the photos on my card into my album? Because it didn't involve moving the files. I'll have to watch for that.
10:03 PM All right! This time there's a little application that copies my photos down and deletes them from the SD Card (which is now in the camera.)
10:04 PM OK, that's finished. My photos are now on my laptop, and off my camera.
10:05 PM I play one of the 'Ask George' videos, which has come across as an avi file. It plays with sound! Yay! Now I need to get DVDs to do that. I have 'Singing in the Rain' from Netflix, and I'd really like to watch it.
10:06 PM OK! Unmitigated success! I'm off to Caffe Vivaldi.

* - In Windows 95, Microsoft started calling directories 'folders.' I don't know if this spread back into the Linux culture at all, but I like it, so I'm going to keep on doing it until I find out its wrong.

Tea's Tea

Itoen has started importing unsweetened tea of various flavors to Brooklyn. Now, buying iced tea in a bottle is a very yuppie thing to do, but I'm very yuppie. And I love the Golden Oolong flavor. But, its existence sort of confounds me. I gripe a lot about companies not making things to suit my taste, but who would really try to sell unsweetened smoky tea with added Vitamin C? Not only can I not imagine anyone else buying this, but I can't even understand why stores carry it.

In any case, it works for me, although they only have the green tea flavors in the 2-liter bottles. And they'l have a haiku contest in November. They (like the Haiku Society of America) do allow kumatagari and jiyuritsu haiku, but I plan to win with this:
Thirsty Summer Sun
A new need for refreshment
its smoky flavor

Saturday, July 28, 2007

ZAreason's BigLap & The Verizon VX9800, Part 3

10:32 PM OK, now for Bluetooth.
10:43 PM I have this problem. I'm not getting the pin request. The phone doesn't seem to understand that Kijamaa wants to talk to it.
10: 56 PM This looks useful for my next Bluetooth task, which is attaching my headset. He does say the headset doesn't always respond, maybe the same is true with my phone, and the trick is to try it over and over.
11:13 PM Stopped to order dumplings and maki from a place around the corner. This is the first time I'm getting food delivered. I've also sent a message to ZAreason saying I'm seeing this bug.
11:24 PM This guy says "when "hcitool cc" is issued I do not have enough time to type "hcitool auth", so I try "hcitool cc 00:12:56:DA:BD:EA;hcitool auth 00:12:56:DA:BD:EA [MAC addresses have been changed to protect the innocent]". This creates a displayable error! "HCI authentication request failed: Input/output error". So ... the connection command locks up the antena preventing the authentication command from completing?
11:29 PM Dumplings are here. I'm going to hit the hay.

ZAreason's BigLap & The Verizon VX9800, Part 2

When we last left our hero, bitpim was installed and he had to run off to Cooper 35 for $4 drinks and free edamame. We now resume out story.

8:06 PM Run bitpim! Type 'bitpim' in the terminal window. Then 'ctrl+z' to suspend the application, and '%1&' to resume it in the background.
8:08 PM Take the tour
8:09 PM OK, that was irritating. Bitpim is an application with its own window. And there's an underlined 'tour'. So, I click it to take the tour. And I click it again. And again. And againandagainandagainandagain. And each time I click it, Firefox loads a new tab with the tour in it But, since I'm not looking at Firefox, I don't know this has happened.
8:10 PM Actually start the tour
8:11 PM BitPim is a program that allows you to view and manipulate data on cell phones. This includes the PhoneBook, Calendar, WallPapers and RingTones, as well as the embedded filesystem (for expert users).
That sounds hopeful.
8:13 PM I'm ignoring the part about needing a cable. I'm going to connect my phone to Kijamaa over bluetooth, and see if the one can detect the other.
8:21 PM That totally didn't work out. Cable is now connected to phone, let's start BitPim again. (I have to kill it as it won't dismiss a modal dialog box it popped up when I tried to get it to automatically detect the phone before it was plugged in.)
8:23 PM OK, 'find phone' didn't launch the dialog box this time. It's green!
8:24 PM I ask it to get the address book, wall paper, calendar, ring tone, memo, SMS, Call History, and Play List. I expect the memo and play list to be pretty sparse.
8:27 PM It's still got a ways to go, phone list wise. It doesn't seem inclined to download my photos or movies, so I may need more solutions.
8:33 PM It's finished! I'm going to check out the data.
8:35 PM Sweet. It downloaded the photo of this girl I met in the PATH station Wednesday. This was, I hasten to add, not my wallpaper. I don't see the movie I shot of her, though. Maybe I didn't save it... No, it's on there.
8:39 PM You know, there is this big crown thingie with the right date on it. Maybe there's just no thumbnails in BitPim.
8:40 PM I saved it to a desktop, but right-clicking it doesn't give me an application to play it. Hold on, I'll look around for a player application. There's this. Not much practical help, but interesting.
8:48 PM Score one for Yahoo! Answers, which directs me to Best All Video Converter. Of course, I don't really know what I'd convert it to. What can Kijamaa play?
8:50 PM I find an application called 'Movie Player' in the Applications menu. It doesn't display the 3g2 file in its browser, suggesting it doesn't support the format. I'm going to look for a player, but I now have this fall back plan of converting it to different formats until I find one that Movie Player can play.
8:52 PM Hey, what about Real? sudo -i apt-get install realplayer fails with
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Package realplayer is not available, but is referred to by another package.
This may mean that the package is missing, has been obsoleted, or
is only available from another source
E: Package realplayer has no installation candidate
which suggests it exists somewhere. OK, that's another plan.
8:57 PM OK, this post in the Ubuntu forums says Totem player will work, but with no sound. I'll give it a shot, then convert.
9:03 PM OK, Totem player is the Movie Player I opened before, which took me surprisingly long to realize. So, I choose 'All Files' in the file browser, and load the 3gs file. It suggests I get me some new codecs, and when I send it to find them, warns
GStreamer plugins for mms, wavpack, quicktime, musepack
GStreamer plugins from the "bad" set
GStreamer is a streaming media framework, based on graphs of filters which operate on media data.
Applications using this library can do anything from real-time sound processing to playing videos, and just about anything else media-related.
Its plugin-based architecture means that new data types or processing capabilities can be added simply by installing new plug-ins.
Gstreamer Bad Plug-ins is a set of plug-ins that aren't up to par compared to the rest. They might be close to being good quality, but they're missing something - be it a good code review, some documentation, a set of tests, a real live maintainer, or some actual wide use.
Version: 0.10.4-1ubuntu1 (gstreamer0.10-plugins-bad)
9:06 PM I had to attest I'm using this for research purposes. Which I am, I guess, although it may see other purposes later.
9:08 PM It didn't help. Error box says I need the QCELP and MPEG-4 decoders.
9:16 PM Can't find these decoders, and wouldn't know how to get them into the player if I did. I'm going back to the conversion idea.
9:34 PM OK. That converter was only for Windows. The Ubuntu forums suggest replacing Totem with mplayer.
9:47 PM Yeah, that was for the Firefox plug-in, which I could conceive caring about at some other time. sudo apt-get install mplayer
rionn@ubuntu:~/Desktop$ mplayer *.3g2
MPlayer 2:1.0~rc1-0ubuntu9.1 (C) 2000-2006 MPlayer Team
CPU: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 CPU T5500 @ 1.66GHz (Family: 6, Model: 15, Stepping: 6)
CPUflags: MMX: 1 MMX2: 1 3DNow: 0 3DNow2: 0 SSE: 1 SSE2: 1
Compiled with runtime CPU detection.
Can't open joystick device /dev/input/js0: No such file or directory
Can't init input joystick
mplayer: could not connect to socket
mplayer: No such file or directory
Failed to open LIRC support. You will not be able to use your remote control.

Playing 0725072335.3g2.
ISO: File Type Major Brand: 3GPP Profile 2
Quicktime/MOV file format detected.
VIDEO: [mp4v] 176x144 24bpp 7.500 fps 0.0 kbps ( 0.0 kbyte/s)
open: No such file or directory
[MGA] Couldn't open: /dev/mga_vid
open: No such file or directory
[MGA] Couldn't open: /dev/mga_vid
[VO_TDFXFB] Can't open /dev/fb0: No such file or directory.
[VO_3DFX] Unable to open /dev/3dfx.
Opening video decoder: [ffmpeg] FFmpeg's libavcodec codec family
Selected video codec: [ffodivx] vfm: ffmpeg (FFmpeg MPEG-4)
Forced audio codec: mad
Opening audio decoder: [qtaudio] QuickTime Audio Decoder
Win32 LoadLibrary failed to load: QuickTime.qts, /usr/lib/win32/QuickTime.qts, /usr/local/lib/win32/QuickTime.qts
failed loading QuickTime.qts
ADecoder preinit failed :(
ADecoder init failed :(
Cannot find codec for audio format 0x706C6351.
Read DOCS/HTML/en/codecs.html!
Audio: no sound
Starting playback...
VDec: vo config request - 176 x 144 (preferred colorspace: Planar YV12)
VDec: using Planar YV12 as output csp (no 0)
Movie-Aspect is 1.22:1 - prescaling to correct movie aspect.
VO: [xv] 176x144 => 176x144 Planar YV12
V: 15.5 114/114 0% 0% 0.0% 0 0

Exiting... (End of file)
9:52 PM I need a joystick? OK, there was definitely sound. I can hear it on the phone. I guess I should read DOCS/HTML/en/codecs.html. Which could be a problem because "sudo find / -name codecs.html" has no results.
9:59 PM A site called '411 for sex' offers a lot of codecs. Wow. I guess there really is
porn on the internet.
10:13 PM Can we just recap? I've got BitPim installed, and I can download my calendar, pictures, address book, videos and what have you. I can play my videos, yet without sound. So, I'm going to table the sound thing and move on to Bluetooth.
10:21 PM I wonder what would happen if I put a memo on my phone? Ah. BitPim crashes when I try to save it. So much for indirectly adding phone features.

ZAreason's BigLap & The Verizon VX9800, Part 1

OK, so I have two goals, really.
(1) get pictures off my phone
(2) save the addressbook off my phone.

I'm going to try it first with bluetooth, then with the USB Cable. Ready?

4:41 PM Get this page from my email
4:42 PM Navigate to it.
4:43 PM Go to the installing BitPim in Ubuntu page.
4:44 PM Download the RPM -- Ubuntu's Debian-based, and doesn't use the RedHat package manager. This'll be my first conversion from an RPM file to a Debian install package.
4:47 PM realize I don't know my superuser password.
4:54 PM learned that my first created Ubuntu account has access to sudo -i
4:56 PM prdownloads.sourceforge.net is 404ing. I've got to be half a mile away in 34 minutes, so I'm thinking I'll stop this for now.
5:00 PM Started seeking other download sites for bitpim rpm.
5:00 PM There's a debian download available!
5:01 PM I think, "hey, maybe it's already installed." So, I try typing "bitpim" into a terminal window. The computer suggests to me that I try "sudo apt-get install bitpim", so I do. This seems to work really well. Heck with download links, what am I, a Windows user?

5:03 PM Computer reports it'll take another 41 minutes to download, so maybe I'd better grab that shower. Maybe the new laptop needs a name. I've historically given my laptops Swahili names -- Msafiri (traveller) and Mzito (thing that one carries) come to mind. 'Ubuntu' is from a South African Bantu language, and roughly translates into 'Ujamaa', Julius Nyerere's guiding principle for Tanzania. So, let's go with 'Kijamaa', which would be 'object that exhibits ... ah, familyness.'
5:11 PM Kijamaa finished downloading and installing bitpim six minutes ago; I got wrapped up in computer naming. And I've really go to cut this short.

Friday, July 27, 2007

First Post with the new laptop!

Everything seems to be going pretty smoothly. The laptop arrived as ordered and worked out of the box. I tried to build a comparable laptop at Dell, and a T90 with Duo T5500@160MHz, 2GB of RAM and a 160GB hard drive came in at $2673, although the warrantees are hard to compare. A MacBook would have been well over $3000, twice what I paid for this.

I've had two problems so far. One is that the Desktop froze when I activated my wireless antennae, and I had to restart the windowing system. The other is that I seem to have erased the DVD with my pictures and email, so, if I haven't gotten back to you, I'm not going to get back to you.

And I've forgotten what you look like.

Off to Xunta!

The sky is falling

One seriously underreported impact -- and I do mean impact -- of Climate Change is the increase in the freqency of megacryometeors. From the linked Newsweek story:
David Travis, a professor of geography and geology and an associate dean at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, ... is part of a research team that has documented more than 50 possible megacryometeor cases during the past five years. Some involve ice chunks the size of microwave ovens.
Travis' research team speculates the phenomenon could be linked to global warming, suggesting that climate change might make the tropopause portion of the atmosphere colder, moister and more turbulent.

So, if you thought you'd be OK, with the flooded coastlines, icelessness, depleted soil moisure, increased cloudcover, greater storm intensity, and overall increased temperature, I'd love to hear your plan for dealing with giant falling hunks of ice.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Josh Marshall finally comes around

Now, if the US Media will continue in its habit of following him, we're good to go.

We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area.

Now, when the military says that, don't you just assume they're lying?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

An African's plea: No more 'saviors'

I'll bulk up this text later, but I wanted to share the essay.

Women aren't the problem

The failure of the Susan B. Anthony dollar was largely attributed to its quarter-like size and appearance; it was originally hendecagonal to get around this very problem, but coin people would only take round. It was replaced with an identically-sized -- identical to vending machines -- Sacajawea dollar, which was gold colored, but proved no more popular.

I had a New Year's Resolution in 2006 to stop using paper dollar bills. I found that it was impossible to regularly replenish my store of dollar coins, and it lasted no longer than the average New Year's Resolution.

But, yesterday, I went to a postal vending machine. Along with transit vending machines, these are the only reliable sources of dollar coins -- seriously, even banks don't carry them. And, I had kind of a surprise waiting for me. John Adams was on my dollar. They'd given up on women! They're testing the waters to move into founding fathers full time!

Now, Mint, listen to me. I'd like to make two points:
  1. I don't have a problem with putting women on coins, and I don't believe it's your main barrier to acceptance. Lincoln, Roosevelt (the polio one -- March of Dimes, and all,) Jefferson, Washington, Kennedy ... it's not a sequence in which the next member is easy to guess. It's an important honor to be commemorated on the coin, but given who gets the medal of freedom, we're used to honors being handed out arbitrarily.
  2. They really are the same size as a quarter. I know metal is expensive and heavy to ship, but we need clear distinctions between our coin sizes. There are a world of sizes between the nickel and the quarter! The dime has already broken down the monotonic relationship between size and value! I know the vending machine people have already adapted to the SBA size, but they're not your main customers.
  3. Forget the previous points. The only point worth considering is that as long as you keep giving us bills, we'll keep using them. Voluntary dollar-denominated-currency switching is going to work as well as the Clear Skies Initiative. It's been twenty years since the SBA dollar, and that was pretty late in coming! You have to take paper dollars out of circulation.
Now, I think the way to make money on this is to find some better way to carry change. I do know someone who simply throws change away, as it's too much of a bother. I spend a lot of time struggling to retrieve change for a purchase, and sometimes accumulate great piles of it.
I'm thinking it's time to bring back the coin purse.

Monday, July 23, 2007

How far are we going to take the group marriage thing?

Now that the group marriage debate has been opened by The New York Times and the Weekly Standard, exactly how emboldened are the polyamorists? Now, I think this is a great idea. As Governor Dukakis pointed out in his presidential campaign (was he paid off by Massachusetts-based defense contractors to put Bush 41 in the Whitehouse? OK, that was a crazy baseless canard of a conspiracy theory. It's not like I can't identify them) it's impossible to raise a child in a 2-earner family. You've simply got to have more parents than that to make a family work.

As a country, we're tied to an old standard which expects a family to be supported by a single earner. But, with the theft of value by the rich continuing unabated and the collapse of the social safety net, that's simply not tenable.

So, the polyamorists are having a dinner Thursday, and the "poly curious" are welcome. Maybe I'll drop in and report back.

I posted a Craigslist personal

I'm getting what seems like escalating feedback that I don't seem serious about getting married, and if I did I'd be placing internet ads. So, there you go.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I'm a terrible long-term planner

I ended up not going Mac after all

Just got myself a new laptop. If you don't particularly need a tab key, you can join the bidding for my old one. Spending 70 per cent of my free time waiting for my computer to respond to me had lost its charm.

I going Linux! Not just Linux, but Ubuntu, and that from a volunteer-run collective in Berkeley. We'll see how this works out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Group marriage debate coming

This is your official warning.

A friend going to Kenya asked me for Swahli tips

So, this is what I said. If you have a friend going to East Africa, you can pretend you wrote it.

There's a good online dictionary supported by clock sales.

Jambo - 'Hi!' It's literally 'matter' or 'issue', maybe 'problem'. You'll hear 'taxi' and 'change money' a lot, but these are not strictly greetings. 'Hamjambo' is what you would say to a group. If they had some sort of a beef, they'd say 'tunajambo.' You can have the same conversation about sandwiches. "Hamsandwich"/"tunasandwich." But, say 'jambo' to everyone, and if someone says 'jambo' to you, the correct response is 'jambo.' If they use some wacky other greeting, especially one that starts with 'habari [news]' like 'habari yako [your news]' or 'habari gani [which news]', you'll be fine with 'jambo', although you can look more in the know if you reply 'nzuri [good]'.

Yeah. That brings up pronunciation. It's really a very foreign language -- look at the time sense. The same verb (kutafuta) means 'to find' and 'to seek'. It's not a language that admits failure. But, one aspect of its foreignness that may strike you right off is the way they slam consonants together. The 'n' in 'Nzuri' is one syllable. We'll try to get you saying 'Je mtu gani aana ng'ombe nzuri [which man owns the good cow]' tomorrow or Wednesday. That covers most of the tricky pronunciation you'll need to hear if you want to understand most simple vocabulary.

'Je Unasema Kingleza' - 'Do you speak English?' You don't need any follow up questions like, "I don't speak Swahili [Sisemi kiswahili]" or "Where can I find someone who speaks English. [Mtu yo yote akasema Kingeleza uko wapi?]" It's not Russia. People are intuitive and helpful. They'll grok that you'd like to communicate in English from the very fact that you've asked if they speak it. And they almost certainly will -- you'll only be speaking Swahili to ingratiate yourself.

And speaking of ingratiating yourself! 'Je una watoto wangapi' - 'How many children do you have?' Unless you eat children, there's no reason you'd want to know this. But, it's a great question because Kenyans like answering it. You can get numbers and stuff all over the web -- this has a link to a dialect map -- Gusii (Which is 'Kisii' in English, 'kikisii' in Swahili and 'ekegusii' in Kisii) is the local language I speak and it's a little dark blue patch in the Southwest, which grossly understates the number of people who speak it. There are probably 200 times as many Kisiis as there are Turkana. But, you'll probably run across mostly Luos and Kikuyus; Kisii have suffered gross economic discrimination, continuing retribution for their having killed a British Provincial Commissioner. Unfortunately, I don't remember any Luo, but 'hi' in Kikuyu, Kisii and Turkana respectively are 'Nik'wega', 'Imbuya ore [said as if it were one word with no 'a']' and 'E jok [sounds like 'a joke'. Turkana's the only language I ran across that ended words in consonants -- they're half mongol and have epicanthic folds.]'

'Mimi siwezi kula nyama' -- 'I can't eat meat.' You may find occasion to pretend.

The Daily Nation is the paper I read while I was there [Kenya Times was a party organ and The Standard was just trash] and they have a fine web site.

Just a note on Grammar -- I love Swahili, but I'd probably simplify the grammar. Having eight noun classes really lets you communicate shades of meaning well, but can get a little unwieldy. You can treat everything as n-class and singular, and just say '[pesa] ngapi' for 'how many/much [money]', '[chumba] yangu/yako' for 'my/your [room]' and '[ndizi] iko wapi' for 'where are the bananas?'

final link

Oh, and most people don't actually say 'je' before a question, but you should. It's optional, but a valuable clue to the listener -- Swahili speakers inflect questions in a way that you won't probably have time to pick up.

Monday, July 16, 2007


I've mentioned Sicko before, but I actually went to see it tonight, and it was pretty much what had been promised.

Utterly delightful. Michael Moore is the great articulator of our problems. These are all things you knew, at least partly, except for maybe that the French government will do your laundry. But, you know that medical debt is crushing or has crushed millions of families, medical coverage has retired retirement and broken social security's promise that you wouldn't have to house and feed your parents, and that HMOs spend a good deal of time and attention not delivering the services you believe you've purchased from them. You also know that what seems like every other industrialized nation has essentially free universal health care, and lives longer, healthier lives. And you know that health care and pharmaceutical lobbyists have overrun DC, and the whole establishment is beholden to them.

We elected Bill Clinton to solve this problem, and he delegated it to his wife for a year before -- like the BTU tax and full status for gays in the military -- he decided it was more expedient to drop the issues that had gotten him into office and focus on governing. So, that seemed like our last hope to really address the problem, right? My movie viewing partner decided right there to move out of the country, and I'm on my way out already. Senator Clinton and her main opponent for the presidency -- and really, if the Republicans take the oval office again, I think we can chalk American Democracy up as a failed experiment -- foresee a continued role for private insurers, although Senator Obama lets us wiggle out of it over time.

Well. It's a huge problem. And hearing about the USA's sorry state of health care coverage really makes one feel like all this talk over climate change, the occupation of Iraq, the housing bubble, instant runoff voting -- which I know I've been derelict in my blogging about -- energy, consumer debt and wealth distribution seem like a distraction. But, that's just how powerful a communicator Mr. Moore really is.

Thanks for making the movie!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

My Favorite Books

Several weeks ago -- well over a month -- I went to the Strand Bookstore to fail to find a copy Zoƫ Heller's Everything You Know; I entered a ballot to vote for my 5 favorite books of all time. Of course, like any election, your vote's more likely to count if other people agree with you, so they're really kind of asking you what the book you like most of those to which large swaths of people have been exposed. The pornographic novel my father wrote, which I think about (especially the phrase 'they had used each other is many ways as people can be used', which is roughly how pater's purple prose went) probably as often as any other book, wouldn't be a great choice.

They sent me a confirmation of my ballot today. So, I thought I'd share with you what I felt were my five favorite books on that day.
  1. Arrowsmith; Sinclair Lewis
  2. Wind-up Bird Chronicle; Haruki Murakami
  3. Idiot; Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky (Strand's only got the Constance Garnett)
  4. Titus Andronicus; William Shakespeare
  5. Keep the Aspidistra Flying; George Orwell
I am exceptionally fond of a large number of other books, and at any point my top five might be different*, but that's where I was then.

* -- you'll recall how unstable my favorites are

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Did I mention I got a new camera?

OK, maybe not ready for the move to full time video blogging. I really do rock when I talk, just like Bill Gates. And my faith in my own heterosexuality was shaken a little by viewing these. Also, the mystery of why people's eyes keep rolling off into the background is solved! They're reading!

Questions for George Miller

(1) What is the specific intent of the Democratic Congress to seek redress for the Occupation of Iraq? Companies like Blackwater, Bechtel, SAIC and KBR have been raking in the dough in the name of progress not made in Iraq. Will any effort be made to recoup these charges?
(2) What comeuppance need the Occupation of Iraq's architects and coconspirators fear? My great fear is that these base criminals after coopting the engines of our nation will be free to breathe the sweet air of liberty until their natural deaths. What comfort can you offer me?
(3) We are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens. Johns Hopkins estimated the number of extra deaths at 600,000 a year ago, well before the surge. What clear statement of accountability does the Democratic Congress intend to make?
(4) Why must our withdrawal be sugar-coated? Insisting the Iraqis govern themselves has never been more honest than Israel's similar demands of Palestine. It is clear to any observer that the government the Occupation has pasted onto Iraq will not persist longer than our presence. Pretending otherwise logically leads to our extending our engagement. In your own solicitation of these question, you claim that "Democrats in Congress are fighting ... to make sure the Iraqi people take responsibility for governing their country." The choices the Iraqis face are to govern themselves, live in anarchy, or be occupied by a diffferent country (or more likely some combination of Turkey, Iran, China and Russia.) The first choice doesn't seem the most probable. It's a bad situation, but we've created it, and I -- and I think I speak for my countrymen as well -- would simply like to see my government own that. Your characterization of the Iraqis of having somehow fallen down on the job of administering Iraq is deeply disappointing in this light. When will the Democratic Congress drop these specious onus?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

George Miller's looking for questions

So, to set you up for the next blog post, I'll give you this one. Representative George Miller (D-CA7) wants to start a virtual town hall on Iraq. So, he's looking for questions from Americans about the Occupation.

You can upload them to Google Video or YouTube (California's 7th does not include Mountain View, if you were wondering. It spreads from North of Oakland & Walnut Creek to East of Napa) or email him. Or you can tag your blog 'AskGeorge' and have at it.

I may have a question.

Oh, this is going to be a movie

  • Girl decides to kill father
  • Girl realizes this will need money
  • Girl, Boyfriend, et al., devise robbery scheme
  • Scheme involves front man wearing bomb as if he were forced to rob
  • Bomb explodes when man is confronted, killing him
  • Girl kills boyfriend to cover up plot
So, I guess the moral is two-fold
  1. Don't date girls who plot to kill their fathers
  2. Use a fake bomb if you don't actually want it to explode -- safety over verisimilitude!

Lixion Avila gets his way

So, I'm not really sure what to think of this. Bush-era appointee riles old department hands, and as President Bush's grasp of the Federal Government disintegrates, he resigns. This just played out in the National Hurricane Center, but for all that McClatchy's Carol Williams says
In the technology-intensive environment of forecasting, Proenza appears to have been considered an outsider grown distant from the hands-on work of scientists.
X. Bill Proenza didn't seem like a crazy or overly political choice. I suppose that maybe I shouldn't expect every appointment the president makes to seem insane, but if he put his cat in with strict instructions not to tie increased hurricane frequency to global warming, my world view would have been a little better enforced.

A lot goes on at the NHC that we don't hear about, and I'll just take it on faith that the staff who succeeded in ousting him were acting in the nation's best interest. The nature of the surface controversy is a little weird, though. From the Seattle Times:

Proenza has publicly criticized the government for failing to provide enough funding, particularly to replace an aging weather satellite and increase research. He also said NOAA had spent money on an anniversary celebration while cutting research money.

He said he was trying to ensure that his forecasters had the best tools and proper support.

Franklin, the forecaster, said Proenza had exaggerated the risk if a key satellite called QuikScat failed. It is past its expected life span, and Proenza has argued that tracking forecasts could be up to 16 percent less accurate without it.

"He has been very loudly saying if it failed, our forecasts for landfalling storms would be degraded," Franklin said. "None of that is the case, and he knows that we feel that way. The science is not there to back up the claims that he's making."

Now, does that sound like the kind of thing that would get the staff up in arms? Are they really pissy about him ragging on their party? Does it not seem to you that if a particular satellite is useful in a forecast, that the forecast would be worse without it? I feel like I'm being dense, but if you were a forecaster, wouldn't you want that satellite replaced? Wouldn't having your director stand up to the criminal redirection of funds from weather prediction to defense contractors in the name of some fanciful Mars Lander program be a good thing?

There has to be more to this story. Lixion Avila reveals what may be a little personal animosity, and revisits the rule that guided the first two or three years of life under Bush 43.

Avila and Franklin said they depend on QuikScat more for intensity information than to determine a storm's path. Avila said the satellite was like a BMW with leather seats: nice but not essential.

When asked if he thought Proenza misspoke intentionally, he said: "Don't attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I haven't won the headline contest in forever, but loyal fans can remember when I was quoted

Wednesday One-Liners Get Paid Friday
Man looking at the Metronome clock: I think that's the national deficit.

--Union Square

Employee: Shit, I don't have no pennies. Tell Dunkin' Donuts they owe you nine cents!

--Dunkin' Donuts, Graham Ave

Girl: Non-profit groups are, like, so non-lucrative!

--Fulton St

Overheard by: Pants

Spastic kid: All I have to my name is a cigarette and two Sacagawea coins!

--Webster Hall

Overheard by: Jess Cohennnnn

JAP on cell: I had a nightmare last night that Mom canceled my credit card statement... I know! It was the worst -- like, I woke up sweating!


Overheard by: glamourcharm

Chick: 'Insufficient fare'?! What does that mean?

--7th Ave subway station

via Overheard in New York, Dec 20, 2006

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I'm beginning to look like Philip Seymour Hoffman

Reich bitch slaps the financiers

So, I've been kind of a fan of Robert Reich's since The New Rich-Rich Gap clarified my professional track. And now he continues to validate me -- notice that we've both chosen the same color scheme on Blogger. Now, I like money, and I like power. And, I like doing math. And I could have a lot more of all three in finance. I'm not in finance because I enjoy the making of stuff, the concept that I'm bringing new things into the world. As the former labor secretary says
[O]f ... product entrepreneurs and financial entrepreneurs ... only one of them truly builds the economy. Product entrepreneurs find new ways of satisfying customers. Financial entrepreneurs find new ways of ... [ellipses his] well, making money off money.
Which is a lengthy way of saying they're assholes. Look at the collapse of the subprime lending market. There was this mass delusion that securitizing risky loans was a low-risk idea. Really, that if you give five-year balloon payment loans to enough poor people who are hoping to flip houses in already overinflated markets, that somehow you had spread your risk.
Competition in the real economy generates better products. But competition in the financial economy is often a zero-sum contest.
And Hedge Funds in general are just parasites on the temporary tricks our federal government uses to make the economy keep exanding. It's painful to watch all of these people make so much money on sucking the marrow out of our country's living bones and not be one. There's the point -- when everything crashes, they'll keep the money they made. The rest of us will be out of luck.

Fundamentally, I guess the problem is that we've lost the media. There's no watchdog to point to public policy decisions and call them out as disastrous. But, the upshot is that stupider, lazier, less well-connected people make more than me. As least Robert Reich thinks I'm a good person.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Can we stop with the hooey about how it's politically disadvantageous for the Democrats to impeach Bush?

In the link, Joshua Micah Marshall points out that with the Libby commutation, the President has used his powers to shield his own self from prosecution. But, you've heard a lot that this presidency should be left to expire on its own. Maybe you've said it.

This is a malefactor who's started two occupations, one of them arbitrarily. He's committed to breaking the army, presumably so private armies can take over. He's committed to global warming. He's committed to persistent popular penury. He's a very bad man, and he has the ability to continue to do very bad things.

Maybe this Libby commutation will finally let Congress realize that whatever it costs, we're better off with him and his cohort out of power.

I know we had a bit of a break last year

But Forecaster Knabb's up to his old tricks.
Now, with Yemyin, Gonu, George and their ilk, it looks like it's going to be a rough season globally.