28 June 2005

House panel backs ban on all wine shipments

Just remember, some guy in Brighton thinks he knows better than you. Invoking the "For the Children" mantra, Representative Chris Ward of Brighton introduced a bill to ban shipments of wine both in-state and into the state. All shipments would be banned unless, of course, you pay for a distributorship. Good luck getting one though.



Oh, and if you're a small winery who depends on not being under the predatory pricing that distributors use as standard operating procedure, now would be a very good time to start explaining to your customers what this bill would mean; the State is not your friend.



Pam Byrnes, the MI House representative for Ann Arbor, Chelsea, and much of Washtenaw country, co-sponsored the bill, House Bill 4959. You can contact Rep. Barnes at:



pambyrnes@house.mi.gov

Phone: 517-373-0828

Fax: 517-373-5783



Her website is here.

Google Earth launched

Aside from the pretty pictures and faux spy-craft, I don't see a market for earth.google.com. I'm not saying I won't play with it, I just don't see where they make money from me. Maybe all will be clear when I can install it (damn lowest privileged user account!).

Google Earth - Home

27 June 2005

Jesus, this movie must really suck

With the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes distraction going on (I refuse to link to that idiocy), I figured War of the Worlds would suck. But if Spielberg is comparing his movie to 9/11... wow, that's gotta be one hell of a stinker of a movie.

Happy Luddites day!

So, it was a banner day for the legal process here in the States. Our Supreme Court managed to tell everyone in the world that, in the most uncertain terms, they're pretty sure that, maybe, file sharing is bad, unless you meet an "intent" test, after which you might be sued. Ernest Miller has a good round up and opinion. What the Court didn't manage to do was draw the line from the famous Sony decision up through, say, 1990, so that computers can find a place in that ruling.



Further missing the point, the Court also handed down a mind-bogglingly stupid decision on line sharing for cable providers. You know, like DSL is forced to do. Oh, and if you think the Grokster decision was scary, this one will make you crap your pants. Brand X basically allows the FCC to control all internet protocols via cable by classifying any and all communications as either telecommunication service or information service. By classifying cable modems and the internet service they provide as an information service, the FCC retains control over any protocol used via cable modem. All. Of. Them. IM, email, http, ftp, gopher, telnet... they all now fall under the control and regulation of the FCC. Happy dreams.



In yet another ruling (non-tech related but just as ass-backwards as the rest), the Court legitimized all of our fears that the court system only works for those with the money to help themselves by stating that local law enforcement cannot be sued in Federal court for failing to protect people with restraining orders. This quote, from the NY Times, says it all: "Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of the court order against her husband, the court said in a 7-2 opinion." Brilliant, that should make all the battered wives and threatened families feel much better. Why didn't they just make restraining orders illegal and get it over with?



And just to round out the day by stepping on someone else, the Court refused to rule on whether reporters can use anonymous sources for stories. Judith Miller of the New York Times and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine will face up to 18 months in prison for contempt of court charges stemming from a twisty path around WMDs, Iraq, and CIA operative. Robert Novak, who coughed up Valerie Plame as a CIA spook, walked.

25 June 2005

Dutch Quote

niet geschoten altijd mis



Coffee has two virutes; it is wet and it is warm.



Rest in peace, my grandfather. This cup's for you.

Firefox extensions - the downside

I'm a huge fan of Firefox extensions; it's high on the list of reasons to never stop using the browser. But there's always a downside, and my paranoid side has found it.



I love the Greasemonkey extension; try it and you'll find so many uses you'll wonder how you can write your own. Greasemonkey has one weakness, however; it runs on Javascript.



After installing the NoScript extension, which blocks all Javascript on a page, I found this weakness. You can't run Greasemonkey scripts on pages that you don't allow Javascript to run on. I noticed it when I went to BoingBoing's home page. There's a Greasemonkey script that strips out all the non-content on BoingBoing. NoScript blocks it.



If there were a way to allow Greasemonkey scripts, that would be ideal. However, that requires two independent developers to collaborate and continue to work together as features change or are added, a likelihood that's pretty low.



I'll be getting rid of NoScript; it was an experiment anyway. It's just disappointing to see good ideas step on each other.

Blogger offers free 300MB of photo space

Title says it all.



Link

23 June 2005

Screw Theocracy, We Have Real Problems

In the continuing assault on your rights, SCOTUS ruled today that local governments can seize private land (read: your home) for private development.

I love this little tidbit.

Local officials, not federal judges, know best in deciding whether a development project will benefit the community, justices said.


The test was whether city officials know better than federal judges? What about community members? Where's the input of the community?

This decision is just begging for abuse and puts the jack boot of self-serving local governments on the throat of anyone they deem a problem. Don't like that a-hole who is causing an increase in calls from his neighbors for doing really annoying, but completely legal, activities (like having a workshop)? Just seize his land and put up anything else. Problem solved.

Or, in this case, when businesses throw enough money at a city government, they can tear down any neighborhood they want. I'm sure no money made its way into the city council members' pockets in this case.

What a sick, shameful decision.

Link

Good Ideas vs. Conflict of Interest

This is an interesting dilemma. If I subscribed to the a magazine with an ethics column, I'd suggest this as a topic.

Joe Welinske (who, in full disclosure, I am not a big fan), has started a Yahoo! Group called Reform STC. The group is a place where STC members past and present can discuss how STC should reform itself to appeal to people better. Joe, as a member of STC, has an interest in seeing STC continue to succeed. STC is hemorrhaging members faster than the Titanic and they certainly could use the reform. In this light, I applaud Joe for giving a central location for people to come together for meaningful discussion (hopefully) about an organization many feel very passionately about. I was to be a President of one of their chapter less than a year ago, and now I'm no longer a member. Net effect to my career? Zero. Obviously, a discussion needs to happen.

However, there's a little wrinkle. Joe is President of WritersUA, who's highest profile income generators are their conferences. Given that the technical writing community is fairly small in number, and most writers don't have funds they can use indiscriminately to attend any and all conferences they want, Joe has a vested interest in seeing STC falter or lessen, if not fail, in order for more people to attend his conference. The shadow of a conflict of interest starts to creep into the picture.

No one seems to have raised this on the list, and I'm loath to do it for nothing other than the flame war it would start on the list. But I know a few of you reading are STC members. What do you think?

21 June 2005

ScrapBook Extension for Firefox

Is Firefox the greatest browser or what? The extensions are the best part of the browser, making it a real tool, and an ever-adpatable one at that.



Take this extension for instance, ScrapBook. Highlight a section of a page, right-click and save the clipping locally. Never loose that snipet of information or the source. Very cool tool.



[via Lifehacker]

20 June 2005

Another pointless Top 20 Album report comes out

Despite my penchant for bad music, I do occasionally listen to good music and consider myself appreciative of music I may not listen to all the time. So, it's always a good laugh when some magazine/newspaper/webzine/blog comes out with their Top $QUANTITY Albums of the Last $TIMESPAN.

Toady's entry is SPIN magazine, who I thought had been relegated to the test grounds for the improvement of bird-poop targeting systems years ago. Apparently, I was wrong, and they managed to turn the tables on their would-be bombers by foisting this turd onto the world.

Their top album of the last 20 years? "OK Computer", Radiohead. Uh, yeah.

Don't get me wrong. I think some of Radiohead's songs are really good; in fact, if SPIN had to choose a Radiohead album, I would have gone with The Bends. But that's just me.

But the article also mentions that the top grouping consisted of the aforementioned OK Computer, as well as Nirvana's "Nervermind" and Public Enemy's "It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back." Where the hell did that last one come from? Public Enemy compared to Radiohead? Come on. Thom York and co. may have inspired a thousands knock-offs (and thanks for that, by the way), but Public Enemy was on the very visible, very influential spearhead of a new and different form of music. It hardly compares to a band that has tweaked the standard rock/indie format into something slightly more profitable than their predecessors.

Link

Stupid Banking Tricks

Some days, I really, really want to hate someone over this.

If you use your debit card at a pump that does not require a PIN, the station regularly will block out an amount -- often $50 or $75 -- on your card.


From the great minds that brought you "Anyone who listens to music is stealing" and "If we Encrypt It, They Will Come", comes the latest and greatest hit, "Every Fill Up Could Be a Drive away."

I know they're doing it, so it must have legal footing, but how in the world can this be legal? When the hell did this country go from "Innocent until Guilty" to "You're a Filthy Theif, Consumer"?

Must be Monday... I always hated Mondays.

Link

19 June 2005

New Blog (national politics free)

So, J-- and I are moving to Chelsea in a few weeks, depending on the affordability of certain moving companies or the availability of anyone we can scam of kind family members to help us.



In doing so, I hope to focus more on my new adopted hometown. Since I don't have an original thought in my bones right now, I started a blog called (again, creatively) Chelsea Blog.



I've also been poking around looking for other people who blog about Chelsea, and found a link to the city manager's blog, The Chelsea Report (damn, now that's a much better title!). Mike Steklac has been blogging in Chelsea for a couple months, but he's also in the city government, a very cool aspect to his posts. I notice no one in the Ann Arbor government blogs. Hmm.



Anyway, the focus of Chelsea Blog will be on local happenings in the Chelsea area and my impressions of living there. I may cross some of my experiences with Ann Arbor (as I still work here and have to come into Ann Arbor for some stores), but mostly, I want to cast Chelsea in as good a light as I can, unless the situation warrants some negative press. I hope you'll check out Chelsea Blog as I start to ramp up the posting there.

The Linux Car Dealership

Someone (warped23) posting on this story on Slashdot left a killer comment. The poster will probably get modded down since this thread has turned into a "my distro is better than your distro" and fact-checking free-for-all, but it sums up nicely what Linux maniacs are unwilling to acknowledge: Linux, to the average user, in inaccessible.



Hi folks, you say you want a new Linux car? Step right into our training room where we will go through our special course "How to buy and configure your new Linux car 101", and we will have you out and ready to actually select and buy your new car in just a matter of hours! What? You think you want to purchase that Dodge Caravan at the dealer down the street? Hell no! You don't want that!! Why, don't you realize that our Linux vans can be configured with no less than 23 different kinds of seats? We will even give you a map to show you the way to the 23 different aftermarket Linux car parts shops that sell them! OK, enough talk of other inferior cars! Come on in, take a seat, get comfortable. Let's go through the overview of what we will cover in the course..let's see..frames..yep, we will go through the 12 different kinds of frames and what associated parts and components you can actually buy in install on each. Engines.. great module .. we go over the 9 different engines you can buy, and also the many differrent carberator, cooling, and air conditioning systems available for each engine option, just terrific stuff.. what? yes, questions? Oh, you say you've really no mechanic experience? Well, don't worry! We provide a full set of Snap-On tools (of course, you could also choose Craftsman or one of our other 3 brands) and even let you borrow a car lift to make installation a breeze! Does that answer your question? Great! Now on to the next module, Suspension and Tire options...we'd better hurry if we are going to make it to the interior seating module by the end of day...can I get you folks some coffee?...hey! Where are you going?!? Come back! Don't buy that Dodge, they only have 3 models..come on, they don't give you the 38 differrent kinds of headlights that you can put into OUR babys! THEY EVEN FORCE YOU TO TAKE DELIVERY WITH THE STEREO SYSTEM ALREADY INSTALLED!! HEY, COME BACK!!!......


I've said it before and I'll say it again. Linux will never be a major player on the desktop until someone can bend the will of a lot of people to create a simple, easy to understand, user-friendly version of Linux that even my brother can learn to install and use.



Link to comment

17 June 2005

Can you impeach governors?

Jeb Bush seems to be leading the cause if you can't.

Come on Florida, you already have your own tag on Fark, what else do you need? You own Darwin-style award?

By the way,...

...if you think American soldiers are like Nazis, you're a fucking idiot.



Sorry, you needed a reality check.

The best tech show you're not watching

First clue. It isn't on TV.



It's Systm. Kevin Rose and Dan Huard, two refugees from the long lamented TechTV, have started Systm. They are also thebroken. System is a videoblog on steroids, television without commercials. It's tech for tech heads and newbies alike. In short, it's what TechTV used to be; ground breaking but informative and accessible by many, many people.



Systm is two episides old, but both Kevin and Dan have a decent amount of air time between them, so the polish is almost there. The information, however, is top notch. The first episode has both of them running around Silicon Valley looking for open video nodes. The second episode demonstrates how to build and configure a MythTV box.



Check it out.

The Best Popcorn on the Planet

This is the best way, short of a kettle full of oil, to make popcorn.



You will need:


  • 1 sandwich-size paper bag

  • 3 Tbl Popcorn

  • 1 Tbl Olive Oil

  • 1 Staple


Put the popcorn and oil into the paper bag. Add salt if you want. Fold the bag over once, staple shut. Microwave for 1:30-2 minutes or until about 3 seconds between pops. Remove and put in bowl.



In my microwave, it takes 1:40 to make a bowl of popcorn. Thanks J-- for a great idea.

Guilty pleasure moment

My musical tastes are kind of odd. I've been working through about 6 gigs of SXSW music off and on for a while, but I'm firmly rooted in a lot of corporate rock. Having spent a lot of time with ex-pat Brits/Scots in college, I became completely addicted to Oasis. Now that your revulsion has passed, remember that Oasis was pretty damn popular way back when, then hit the States, then became over-rated, all in the span of about a week. "Cigarettes & Alcohol" still hits the occasional jukebox, even if this stuck-up town.



That said, one of my guilty pleasures is listening to Oasis. They're one of the few bands I have the vocal range to hit and, sometimes, they get it right. My current favorite on their latest album is "Keep The Dream Alive". Lyrics like this still get me for some reason.



I'm at the crossroads waiting for a sign
My life is standing still but I’m still alive
Every night I think I know
in the morning where did it go
The answers disappear when I open my eyes


I’m no stranger to this place
Where real life and dreams collide
and even though I fall from grace
I will keep the dream alive
I will keep the dream alive


All those years and an English Lit degree wasted on one band. Oh well, what's an Anglophile to do?

15 June 2005

Finally, someone gets it - MSN and China

Props to Darren Barefoot and Shelley Powers at Burningbird for finding the real problem with the criticisms of Microsoft with regard to their policy of censoring certain words on the Chinese verion of MSN Spaces.



Ethan, we condemn Microsoft for making a monetary decision, but we’re not willing to examine our own buying habits, and what these help promote.



Yet Microsoft’s actions cause less harm than buying an iPod from Apple, when one doesn’t know exactly what are the circumstances under which it is built.



We have a lot of ties to the existing state of affairs with China. Wal-Mart wouldn’t exist without the state of affairs in China. If we feel right to condemn one such tie, while still maintaining the others, doesn’t this make our self-rightousness a little suspect?



I sincerely wish that there was no censorship of these words in China. Or that our manufacturers wouldn’t need to be sending censoring software and hardware to that country.



I also wish that women weren’t treated as property in Saudi Arabia, but I still buy gas…



Indeed


Link to Darren's post


Link to Shelley's comment (also the post's thread)

New thing to try

Jason Calacanis was detailing his new regimine for weight loss and mentioned Chana Dal. He linked to Bob's Red Mill (which makes the best Wheat Bran) where you can order this stuff. Anyone ever had this?



I'll probably try this anyway, but I'm curious since I'm guessing Kroger or Meijer's doesn't carry this particular Bob's product.

One more round with Terri Schiavo

Because this country can't be distracted enough, the Terri Schiavo autopsy is big news today. Apparently, baffling dozens of experts and hundreds of pundits, Shiavo's brain was found to be half the size as normal for a woman her age. She was also blind. There was also no morphine in her system, which her parents contend she was administered in an attempt to hasten her death. In fact, every, single conclusion backs up the husbands story. How could they possibly have to come to such a conclusion?



The autopsy included 274 external and internal body images and an exhaustive review of Terri Schiavo's medical records, police reports and social services agency records.


Uhm, ok. I guess they did their homework. But what of those who are convinced she could have been saved?



In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the autopsy did nothing to change President Bush's position that Schiavo's feeding tube should not have been disconnected


At least we can get rid of that pesky science and stick to our guns. I can't wait until this topic comes up at the next family get together. (Checks calendar.) Oh good, looks like Saturday will be fun.



Link

14 June 2005

Repeal the... 22nd Amendment?

Hat tip to Stupid Evil Bastard for this one. Seems Rep Steny H Hoyer (D-MD) introduced this bill, calling for Congress to repeal the 22nd Amendment (that would be the 2-term limits for Presidents). The comments when he introduced the bill are even better



[Quoting Alexander Hamilton] We do not have to rely on rigid constitutional standards to hold our Presidents accountable. Sufficient power resides in the Congress and the Judiciary to protect our country from tyranny.


Wow, Democrats really think they have a good shot when Bush is done. Visions of FDR floating through someone's head? Not to mention the complete reversal on a few years of rhetoric; does the President have to live within "rigid constitutional standards", or is it ok if he twists some facts to enable a war? Hmm?



Too bad this bill seems to languishing in Subcommittee. It could be an interesting debate if it gets some legs.



Bill H.J.RES.24, if you're interested.

11 June 2005

Japanese papercraft spacecraft

This more a link for myself, but Boing Boing posted this today and some of these are pretty cool. Need to get some heavier paper and then try it out. Always need something cool for the ole desk.

Link

08 June 2005

Kwame wants to shut down Channel 7

I missed the New York Times article on the Kwame Kilpatrick/Steve Wilson drama, so this is a few days old. The article rehashes the basic row that Kwame and Wilson have had to this point, covering the collusion between the city of Warren and the CIty of Detroit to basically silence a critic in the press. Granted, Wilson has it in for Kwame, but he hasn't lied about anything. You know, like a Lincoln Navigator.



But buried in the article is this little gem.



"Why don't they accuse somebody visiting Las Vegas of this?" said [Warren's deputy mayor, Mike] Greiner, who plans to challenge WXYZ-TV's license renewal this year. [Jamaine Dickens, executive producer for the cable commission] said Detroit was considering joining the challenge. [Emphasis mine]


That's right. If they can't fight Wilson's reports with the truth, they'll just shut down his voice (along with the voices of all the people who work at Channel 7). Nice strategy. If this was happening to someone on CNN, the server with the story wouldn't be able to handle the outraged comments. You may not like Steve Wilson, you don't have to oppose Kwame, but this is bordering on state-sponsored censorship. If the City of Detroit and the Mayor's office have facts they want to present to counter the reports on one television station, let's hear them. Otherwise, stop running that craptacular piece of faux documentary on the access channel and fix the damn budget. Detroit is close to bankruptcy; Kilpatrick has more important things to do than swat flies.



Unless, of course, the flies are telling the truth.



Link to NYT article (get it before it goes behind the pay-wall)

Get Your Beethoven

The Beeb is giving away Beethoven's symphonies as MP3 downloads. Get while they're hot.

Link

06 June 2005

New (to me) camera

On our weekend trip to J--'s parents, I was bold enough to ask about a camera we found while turning the basement upside-down. I consequently inherited a Minolta X-700, about which I know nothing. My primary camera for the past 4.5 years has been an HP C618 digital, which has since been eclipsed by digital cameras they give away as mid-level Bingo prizes.



So, if anyone is so inclined, is this camera worth tracking down a) a battery to replace the dead one that currently inhabits the base and b) worth investing time and money into film/classes/emotional ties into, or is this the equivalent of trying to learn guitar on a Yamaha electric with modified pickups. (Note, I tried that once at I still hate the thought of trying to learn the damned guitar.)



Advice? Pointers? Help.

I'm Inspiring

So, over on the right side of this site (for those of you not using Bloglines) is a link to a Auchtoon, my friend John Auchter's website. John's a cartoonist (and a damn good one, too) who has a regular gig doing Op/Ed panels for the Grand Rapids Business Journal. His latest is related to a post of mine about the wine distribution decision. He didn't actually say that I was the inspiration for this comic, but come on, it's in between the lines, right?



You know what, it doesn't matter. Go check out John's cartoon, it's a good one.



Link

05 June 2005

Apple on Intel

I couldn't care less if chips for Apple computers were made by Peruvian children in a dark cave, but the zealots in the Apple camp are sure coming out with some interesting arguments about what could happen with the impending "switch to Intel". One of favorite quotes is from Jason Kottke:



but when you look at how Apple protects their hardware business, it's hard to imagine that they'd let any old cheap x86-based computer run OS X


Oh God no! We can't have OS X running on *gasp* any old cheap x86-based computer! I mean, then the masses could have the experience of running OS X on a computer *gasp* that they built! Proles with OS X? Not in my lifetime!



Guess I'll just have to get BSD myself an run it on my cheap ole' x86 and not pay the Apple tax to run the OS.



If Apple was smart, they'd realize that hardware, while cute and all, is hardly the bulk of a computing experience. And since much of the focus of late has been on OS X (the software), maybe making that software run universally would be a Good Thing. The zealots can still go buy their $3000 G5 to run OS X, but I can dump it on my (calculating) sub-$1500 AMD64 homebrew and get the benefits of a "secure OS". Either that, or the argument that we should buy Macs for the "secure OS" needs to be retired.

02 June 2005

Anakin Skywalker Switch Parody

Go watch this before these guys get a C&D from Lucass (yes, I know it's spelled wrong) or Steve "iSue" Jobs. Flash, but funny.

Link

01 June 2005

Whoa... intent-driven searching

Want to know what Google killer looks like? Check out Yahoo!'s Mindset Searching. Adjust the slider to adjust the search results based on the intent of your search (are you shopping or researching?) Very cool idea.

Will it really kill Google? Of course not. But it does demonstrate that the Next Big Thing is just a URL away from hitting the web. Mindset doesn't relate to a Google product; it's also not something that Google has ever talked about doing. A couple of innovative ideas are all it takes to topple an internet company these days, especially one that is pretty much a one trick pony.

Sidenote: Don't spam the comments with how Google is diversifying; Google == search. They've sold themselves that way forever and are now introducing features that Yahoo has had for years in an effort to stay competitive. Even Google knows that just being a search company guarantees that someone will do search better someday.

Which brings us back to Yahoo! Mindset. Obviously this one beta will not dent Google much, but it could develop quickly into something very, very useful, making it yet another solid product on a very diverse, well-known site. On it's own, Mindset isn't the fell swoop that will brush away Google, but it is one more decent swipe at the market share and one more in a list of things that Yahoo does that Google does not.

MT Cheatsheet

Page is in German, but a link English versions are toward the bottom of the page.

Link