31 January 2005
Sorry, I know you don't have a costume. But, you were thinking about it. However, you're unable to make that leap and actually, you know, make a costume. Have no fear, my space epic-loving, slightly off-kilter, friend. Rebelscum has your opening-night, identity-obscuring needs covered. Whether for just you or your family, attend the latest chapter of George Lucas' continuing cash stockpiling in style.
28 January 2005
Later, a far more cynical man sat the monkeys down and said, "you want bananas? Each of you go get your own. I'm taking a nap." That man, of course, was German philosopher Hans Capitalism.
As long as everybody gets their own bananas and shares with the few in their Monkeysphere, the system will thrive even though nobody is even trying to make the system thrive. This is perhaps how Ayn Rand would have put it, had she not been such a hateful bitch.
The Law of Monkey
Congratulations, UAW, you just earned yourself another layoff and more jobs going offshore. When you wonder why, make sure to re-read this article.
10,000 idle autoworkers pocketing $1.3 billion
27 January 2005
Just got off the phone with my brother about the passing of someone we used to know quite well. He wasn't someone we'd seen in a while, but he was a friend none the less. I haven't seen him since I left town, but I always hoped the best for him. 26 years old, dead of a heart attack.
My condolences to his family and friends. Mike was one of the most unique people I can think of. Rest in peace.
Someone named, and I'm not making this up, Joel Hoard, Oh Yeah? has written an op/ed piece in the Record that is so unbelievably disconnected from any point, it's painful to read. His politics aside (and he's merely the latest cog in the Record's agenda wheel), his argument about the "debate" (a term even I'll use lightly) between Creationists and the scientific community is, uh, lacking.
In fact, he succumbs to the same thing of which he (rightly) criticizes those promoting Intelligent Design; he has a conclusion already drawn and he's writing from that perspective. I'll give him a minor pass because it's an op/ed, of a sort, and that's a frequent technique for these things. My criticism is more concerned with the unstated and unaddressed conclusions.
He raises the issue that creationists use the excuse that there are missing links in the evolutionary record. His rebuttal basically amounts to "Yeah, duh". Wow, what a convincing argument. I'd never thought about it from the perspective that, as a non-biologist versed in evolutionary theory, I would know that. To quote from his article, I should call everyone in my Creationist camp with "Oh shit, dude. Turns out Darwin was right."
You know what, I was going to point-by-point this op-ed, but I don't have the time or energy. I'll boil it down to one, fundamental problem. Mr. Hoard, you're blind to your own faults in this discussion. I know you're probably a really good student, get lots of accolades from your profs and all that. Hell, you might even be published. I didn't Google you so forgive my uncaring attitude to your potential literati status. But damn, man, you accuse the other side of "trying to dictate the personal lives of free-thinking adults", when really, at the core of your argument, you're doing the same thing.
You're telling people who, whatever your view of the world, have decided and believe that something or someone had a hand in making this world. I know it's really hard for you to step down and wallow with the common man, but like it or not, a majority of this country believe in a god of some kind, be it Allah, Jesus, or just Creator. You're telling them, no, you're accusing them of not only stupidity, but insinuating that if they don't subscribe to your worldview, they are ignorant morons deserving of the world's ridicule. That's a very progressive, enlightened, rational attitude.
For a long time, the world over, a whole hell of a lot of people have considered the act of creating the universe a pretty big deal. If I had to ask you one question, it would be the only one you don't seem to have an answer to: Is nothing sacred anymore?
Taking Intelligent Design out of the discussion for second, evolution actual doesn't contradict a creationist worldview. Science needs to learn something that religious people (who aren't all on the Right, by the way) learned well a long time ago: you don't get to have it all at once. Evolution as a theory is a solid scientific cornerstone, to that there is usually no doubt. What the many in the scientific community, and you, miss is that you immediately jump from "creatures evolve" to "there is no God". As someone who understands evolution, try applying the same evolutionary patience to convincing someone of your views.
The Michigan Daily - Joel Hoard: The evolution of creationism
It's not something tangible, it's something so emotional that only... "Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Ani DiFranco" can tell us what it means.
A fourth reason is the emotional impact on the community. Many graduates have a visceral attachment to this building and demolishing it destroys memories and our link to the past, which Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Ani DiFranco notes "reinforce our humanity."
There must be a ton of graduates who have lost their memories because the University has probably demolished more than it's share of buildings in the 188 years it's been around. Maybe students should have visceral attachments to something besides the buildings.
It's not like they need a new dorm. Oh, wait...
26 January 2005
First up, Penny Arcade does it again, taking the major sports leagues to task for these idiotic exclusive deals with various game companies. Why is this bad for video games? Because.
And Auchtoon does it again. Now, I'm no economist (and nowhere near retirement) so this social security thing hasn't blipped too much on my radar (I know, I know), but Auchtoon takes a decidedly local spin on this issue. Hell, even I chuckled. Link
And, of course, Dilbert is killer this week as well. Well, Sunday was anyway.
Not only did it memorialize the year of Adams' death (2001) and his initials (DA), but it also referenced the number 42 — which is absurdly meaningful in the "Hitchhiker" saga as the "answer to the Ultimate Question."
It's an honor far too long in coming, but well deserved and appreciated by his millions of fans. I know I personally want to thank Adams for giving me the spark to read and write, showing me that brilliance, humor, and science are not mutually exclusive things.
25 January 2005
Much has been written about the New Journalism; that somewhat revolutionary way of publishing that boggles the minds of many newspapermen and cheers the fanboys to no end. I don't profess to be Dan Gillmore (or, for that matter, any of the people who rank in the Technorati), but I was a journalism-type person at one time and earned recognition as a writer at one time (now, long past, I'm sad to say).
This issue, is a blogger a journalist, has taken on a life of its own. The debate has centered not around when to abide the same protections given a journalist to a blogger, but when to deny a bloggers ability to publish what would be acceptable-or, not to put to fine a point on it, required-of a journalist.
The examples are piling up everyday. Dan Rather. The Kerry Vietnam films. The Bush Vietnam record. Ken Jennings. The damage being done to the 1st Amendment is beginning, and the freedom of the press, that esteemed fourth estate, is next in the sites of the sharks.
But is every blogger a journalist? Of course not, and anyone who implies otherwise either has an agenda or is an idiot. Want proof? Surf any random page on LiveJournal. Nothing against the people who live and breathe the community that is LiveJournal, but it's not exactly the Times. If any random user posts something to their blog, are they automatically entitled to the protections, both legal and social, that any credentialed journalist is entitled to? I don't believe so. Many would agree, some would not.
But there's no getting around one thing. Libel is a real threat and one little understood. Bloggers may be the pajama mujahadeen, but they aren't well represented by their lowest common denominator.
And therein lies the problem. While journalists on the whole share a common trait (the attempt at factual reporting) they also have drawn a line-both in the legal arena and in the public eye-of where a real journalist starts and where they end as well. No one believes Weekly World News when they print something like "Aliens Claim Jacko is Their Son: And They Want Him Back!" But they do believe CBS when they report that the incumbent President lied about his service record. CBS is also protected from libel because they *cough* honestly *cough* believed that the report they aired was true.
CBS took a beating because they are a major, reliable, constant source of hard news. And they have been for decades. WWN doesn't get that same truck with the public because, well, they're a rag. This line, this difference, is evident. Now, I picked extreme examples, but the fundamental point is the same: not all newspaper writers are journalists. So too, not all bloggers are journalists, or should be accorded the protections inherit in being a journalist.
So, really, what we have is a problem outside of the argument of what protections bloggers should have. We have a problem defining who gets that protection. I have few answers to my own question and, honestly, I would prefer to draw that line pretty low. Too high and people like me get left out on our own.
I have the creeping suspicion that the answer is not a good one, that it lies somewhere in the realm of the answer to "How do you identify art?" You just know art when you see it.
Applying the same test to bloggers and protection is a problem. Is Jason Kottke a journalist? Not in the traditional sense. But when he broke the Ken Jennings story (identifying when Jennings would loose on Jeopardy!), he certainly entered that realm, reporting current events in a timely, relevant, appropriate manner. In fact, he did it so well, he got legal attention from Sony, who owns the Jeopardy! franchise. But, interestingly enough, the Washington Post, who ran with the same story, didn't. Many have speculated that this was a symptom of picking on the source with no funds for a defense. While that's an obvious play for the legal team at Sony, I suspect a part of the decision to lay into Jason was that no lawyer at Sony had the first clue who Jason Kottke was. Hence, he was an easy target because he didn't have "LLC" tacked to his website.
I don't believe there are easy answers to this debate. In fact, I think it's going to take something fundamental, something at the Supreme Court level, to honestly and finally decide that online publishing is protected. That's a scary thing to say because really, at the base level, everything said here on this blog, or on any blog for that matter, automatically fall under the protection of the 1st Amendment. But really, as Mr. Kottke illustrates, they don't. There is a fuzzy area, one that creeps wider every year, that envelopes publishers on many fronts. Too many laws now contradict each other; laws that were never designed to deal with a world completely connected. A world that transmits a fact around the world, back again, and relegates that fact to yesterday's news in a matter of hours.
I hope the answer is settled soon. I hope the web really does transform the world. It won't be Utopia because Utopia is a construct. But the future reality, for the first time in a long time, can be better than that which spawned it. But that's only if we find our way to talk about it.
I'm talking about a lot of groups here, but the one that struck me was someone defining themselves via their feelings on the current administration. While that can of worms threatens to explode all over the place, I'll leave it alone since I have problems with Bush an Co. myself (asta la vista Ashcroft; don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out), but seriously, when you define yourself, who you are, with something you hate, that's a serious issue.
These same people would come out of the woodwork if I went around defining myself as someone who's not to keen on the current state of minority rights. It feeds back into the attitude around blogs that as long as you conform to some pre-defined way of being (hate Bush, crusade for gay rights, call America "Jesustan", anti-DRM, pro-iPod, etc), you're ok. Hate all you want. Define yourself that way; no one is going to call you on being a bigot in your own right. As long as you're "right", according to the bulk of the Technorati Top 100, it's ok.
I saw a great quote (and I can't find it now), but it really speaks volumns. "Republicans think Democrats are wrong; Democrats think Republicans are evil." There's a lot to that, more than the chuckle you just had reading it.
24 January 2005
While the goal is reducing plastic bag pollution, paper was added so as not to discriminate.
Thank god all those paper bags aren't being discriminated against. Well done, San Francisco.
22 January 2005
J-- and I signed up for the trial of Blockbuster online, basically a NetFlix knockoff for about $3 cheaper (for now). A friend of mine in Grand Rapids had NetFlix and raved about it. The office was buzzing about Napolean Dynamite, so we figured what better time to get a couple free movies on trial then now. We queued up our first movies on Monday; they were in our mailbox on Wednesday. Not bad. We'll see if it keeps up.
Now that we actually have an online movie service, I wonder about how we'll use it. We are the classic want-to-watch-something-good people, but we're also the too-lazy-to-go-to-the-video-store people as well. And Blockbuster or Hollywood Video are literally 5 minutes away. (Yes, it's sad.)
But now, with the movies immediately available and automatically rotated, I have the feeling that popping in a movie isn't that big of a deal. We've watched two of the three we have out already and would have mailed the two back if the damn weather wasn't godawful. (Update, 7 inches in the AA area).
I actually have high hopes for this... not that renting movies is going to be a life-changing moment, but it will deliver some different options once in a while. Or, at the very least, it'll put decent pictures on that HDTV.
Oh man, looks like Detroit mayor Kilpatrick is squirming like he's Bill Clinton. He even found someone to fall on the sword for him. Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings is copping to the purchase of the vehicle and claiming... wait, let me quote it, it's classic:
"I’m not sitting here in retrospect saying it was the best decision in the world," Bully-Cummings said.
Wow, this guy is like Teflon... non-stick AND bad for your health.
This just gets better and better. Channel 7, the local ABC channel here, went to the city Purchasing Department and asked to see requisition number 177316, a public document used to lease the Lincoln Navigator under suspicion. Guess what. They "lost" it. In the words of Dr. Evil, riiiight.
The mayor is going to make a public statement at 1pm today. Should be an interesting lie.
21 January 2005
Basically, the mayor's office leased, for one year, a Lincoln Navigator, allegedly for the mayor's wife. Price? $24,995, exactly $5 under the amount that triggers a review by the City Council. Length of lease? 1 year. Oh, but Lincoln doesn't actually offer a 1 year lease, so the lease was for 2 years with the understanding the it would be returned in a year. Oh, and the lease (and the story) broke about three days after the mayor went on TV and told the city that more than 700 people would get laid off due to budget problems.
One of the local TV stations got a hold of this and sent the in-your-face "On Your Side" reporters to check it out. Lies ensued ("It was for the police", "It's a coincidence that it's the same plate as the mayor's wife's car from last year".. that kind of stuff) and the reporter followed the mayor to DC for a mayor's conference. His in-your-face style got him slammed into a corner, on camera, and basically guarenteed that the mayor and his thugs get front-page, top-of-the-hour coverage, until the stations and papers get blood.
To get a taste of the venom and righteous rage being hurled at the mayor's office, check out Brian Dickerson's column in the Detroit Free Press. Great stuff. Happy hunting, Detroit press.
20 January 2005
19 January 2005
18 January 2005
But, I have to link to this; a review of Iron Chef America. I should have said something about this as we actually watched it. This review pretty much says what I would have said: It's not the original, but what the hell.
Seriously, if you haven't watched Family Guy, do yourseld a favor and rent or buy the first seasons. It is hands down the funniest show Fox had. Think Simpsons (before they started The Plunge) and then make it even more irreverent. No where else could you have the lead fat guy character lick his own nipple and have you falling off your chair laughing (that's a real joke, by the way).
This version seems to add some nice features, like sharing and collage. I may have to try this out again.
17 January 2005
I still have comment moderation on, so you won't see your comments right away, but they will show up--eventually.
16 January 2005
I love sushi; I think I've mentioned that before. Grand Rapids had one fairly decent place to go for sushi--Shogun. The Alpine Teriyaki & Sushi wasn't bad, it was just easy to get to for us when we lived there, hence the frequecy of visiting (two days in a row sometimes).
Here in the alternate reality of Ann Arbor, there's only one place to go (well, so far); Godaiko. They have really good rolls (tight and not too big) and the sashimi is usually pretty good, as long as you stay away from the whitefish. (That's not a dig at Godaiko, it's just a mid-range sushi restaurant issue all around.) Miki is ok, but it's overpriced for the quality you get and, well, it's downtown so you have to deal with that if you want to go on a weekend. Saica, on Plymouth, had potential, but we just keep going back to Godaiko.
Of course, that's all well and fine. But now I have a new bend on the whole sushi-love: making it myself! J-- got me a bunch of stuff for Christmas and we've made it for ourselves twice now. I'm finally getting the hang of rolling, although my sushi rice skills leave a little to be desired. But, the best part is we can make so much more of the kinds we like, such as Tempura Shrimp Rolls.
Oh, Tempura Shrimp Rolls, how we love you! Even with the big PITA that you are to deep fry and remove from skewers, your flavor and texture makes up for it in the first bite. And yes, to make you we even move towards the redneck sushi by mixing spicy chili sauce with mayonnaise, spreading the sauce over the rice, adding scallions and then rolling with the tempura shrimp, but your so good that way, we can't help ourselves.
So, with a little up front investment (a good knife, a bamboo rolling mat, and a rice cooker), you really can do well making this stuff. For about the price of going out once, we made enough sushi for 2 meals, if not more. Plus, it's one more thing you get to tell people about that they likely haven't done.
11 January 2005
Plus, I now have a license for Office 2003 (legally, believe it or not; perks of working for the University) and it's possible to go back Outlook. Yes, yes, I know, Evil Empire, Neo-Commies and all that, but the damn application works like I want it to (well, almost. When can I display my tasks along with my Inbox?)
Anyway, this post details one persons attempt to get his mail from Thunderbird to Outlook and I'm linking so I don't loose the resource. Just in case.
Kidnap suspects, victim all land in jail
A kidnapping and beating were bad enough for a 20-year-old Grand Rapids man, who Sunday night was eating at McDonald's with his girlfriend when three captors took him away.
Next came the ransom demand -- a paltry $800.
Five hours later, the victim was rescued by police -- and then thrown in jail along with his kidnappers. He had an outstanding charge, police said.
Here's a shocker; police "believe" it was drug related.
Fark has a "Florida" tag for weird stories like this that come out of The Sunshine State. It's already been proposed in the forums that Michgian get one as well. Articles like this aren't helping prevent that tag from appearing. *sigh*
Grab a copy before Slashdot posts a link. I also have it housed on my Comcast site (Right-click, download)
Home - Ciphire Labs
09 January 2005
In my constant surprise that there are people who not only don't get it, but openly and adamently opposed those who do get it, I have yet to see the old and new clash in full view of the public, and not just the blogosphere.
Case in point, Wiley, the guy who writes Non Sequitur, one of those comics you used to read but don't anymore because the characters long ago ceased being actual characters and started being mouthpieces for the artist. (Yes, I had that attitude before the events to-be-commented-upon.)
In short, Wiley doesn't like web comics, specifically PvP, which I mentioned before. He doesn't like the fact that Scott Kurtz is giving away his product for advertising revenue. And now he's taking public pot shots at Scott and web comics in general in his strip.
Penny Arcade has a great rebuttal. Warning: They like to swear, but they make a great point.
08 January 2005
07 January 2005
A Virginia state representative, John Cosgrove, has introduced legislation that would require women to report all miscarriages within 12 hours. ALL miscarriages...within TWELVE hours. Link
or, the actual text of the bill
When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. [Emphasis NOT mine]
What is the purpose of this? I get the on-our-way-to-banning-abortion tack to the Bill, but the Bill itself is a bit... uhm.. retarded. Natural miscarriages are, unfortunately, not that uncommon. They're also damned traumatic. Why anyone sees the need to add more trauma by requiring a legal requirement to report it is bordering on insane. And not hyperbolic insanity either; there is a serious disconnect in this requirement, or even coming to this conclusion.
It does open up the possibility of lots of other mandatory reporting, though. Ah, the comedy gold-mine that could becoming. Class A felony for not reporting a cut made by knife (don't skip in the kitchen!), 90 days for failing to report a nosebleed (hey, you could be on cocaine), make sure you go to gesundheit.gov every time you sneeze (their traffic exceeds even Slashot).
Apparently Fark needs a "Virginia" tag.
Text of Bill
Ayn Rand is, well, whatever you think of her, she's rich. Which is pretty much what she set out to be. She's rich in that Scientology kind of way, with an "institute" and a pseudo-philosophy. She's also celebrating 50 years of living with Whittaker Chambers' too-long lost review of Atlas Shrugged, 1,110+ pages of, well, I'll let Mr. Chambers describe it:
Out of a lifetime of reading, I can recall no other book in which a tone of overriding arrogance was so implacably sustained. Its shrillness is without reprieve. Its dogmatism is without appeal.
And that's not even the good part. National Review has posted this landmark book review (?) on it's website to commemorate the 50th anniversary of it's publication.
Of course, not everyone agrees with Mr. Chambers. Someone on Blogcritics, who classified his post (amoung other things) as being about Books:Spirituality, post this excuse-laden article in defense of the book and of Rand. The post is a classic believers rebuttal-all bluster and no meat. After getting done attacking Chambers, the author raises the party lines:
This infamous money quote of the piece has been quite justifiably cited for years by Rand supporters as the textbook example of the dishonesty of her critics.
Ok, tell me about that. Explain to me why it's "textbook example of... dishonesty". The author doesn't. I suspect because he can't.
Anyway, read the two articles. I'm sure most people already have an opinion about Rand so rehashing 50-year-old arguements won't change many minds.
06 January 2005
Clean up! Ryan's keyboard.
"20.1-inch 16:10 widescreen LCD display has a 1680x1050 WSXGA+ resolution, 4 USB 2.0 ports, a thin bezel, a 600:1 contrast ratio, 12ms response time (great for gaming), picture in picture capability, DVI, S-Video, and composite inputs, and an optional speaker sound bar [...] pick one up for around $600 with Dell discounts or coupons"
05 January 2005
The director of a Detroit food bank wants to know what happened to 60 turkeys -- 720 pounds of frozen birds -- that his charity gave to members of U.S. Rep. John Conyers' local staff two days before Thanksgiving to give to needy people.
Conyers' Detroit office promised an accounting of any turkey distribution by Dec. 27, but the Gleaners Community Food Bank had received no paperwork as of Tuesday, said the charity's director, Agostinho Fernandes.
Fernandes said he became suspicious that the turkeys didn't get to poor people after hearing from a friend that a federal court worker had said he was offered free turkeys from a member of Conyers' staff.
Computer Arts website also has a great download section with lots of tools.
04 January 2005
My movement is this: shut up or I'll sick my mom on you.
03 January 2005
JPL has a really cool Flash retrospective on their site and people on Slashdot are bitching that it's all a PR stunt. Yeah, 'cause it's easy to stage a successful mission.
Link [via J-Walk]