Thursday, June 29, 2006


The supreme court has ruled that the "military tribunals" that were designed by our own little Napoleon are not legal. They violate military law and the strictures of the Geneva Convention.

But the rhetoric of the response from the WH is disturbing. Bush calls their decision a "finding," not a ruling. A "finding" is something that occurs in an advisory role.

"We take it seriously" is not the terminology you use when you are responding to a decision you intend to follow.
" I haven't read the whole ruling yet."...... "American people need to know this ruling wont cause killers to be put out on the street. I had a drive by briefing on the way here. We will seriously look at the findings... I will not jeopardize the safety of the American people. I will protect the American people..... I have not had a fully chance to fully review the findings. We take the findings serious. ......."
There is already legislation in the works to grant the king the power to have military tribunals, just like he wants to. Must have really pissed them off, to be told that they were wrong.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Expensive Tastes

We stopped by to pick up some beer for the holiday weekend - since we have houseguests who may want a cold one after househunting, we figured we'd cater to all tastes. We don't usually drink beer -- we're oenophiles (winos, that is), through and through -- but we keep a few bottles of beer around for barbecues and such.

And we're beer snobs. Microbrews and imported stuff only. I honestly don' t like beer...except Smithwicks. Tried it in Ireland and was hooked. I've tried some others and still don't really like them (I'll drink Grolsch, but it's really only for the cool bottles). Anyway, our local liquor store actually ordered Smithwicks specially for me. Yes, I'm spoiled.

So, we had dinner with friend of ours last week, and were discussing "expensive tastes". They mentioned that their son R (our housesitter!) only likes to drink Pellegrino foofy imported sparkly water and has expressed the sentiment that he "only likes Smithwicks" (after tasting it at our house) and that he preferred that over any other beer.

We all laughed, and noted that we all had expensive tastes when we lived at home and mom and dad bought the delicacies, but our tastes certainly changed when it was our own hard-earned pennies shelling out for the six-pack. Certainly, R's tastes would be "adjusted" when he had to pay for them himself.

Which got the Adorable Husband and I to thinking -- perhaps we should encourage expensive taste in beer. If you won't drink the half-water swill that most college students drink, wouldn't you be less likely to overimbibe? If you're shelling out ten bucks for a six-pack, you're not going to gulp it down in the volumes necessary to induce vomiting, like you would a pack of Schlitz, right? Maybe it would lower the incidence of college-student drinking parties if drinking your favorite brew meant that you didn't get to buy food or pay the heating bill or put gas in your car.

If you're willing to drink stuff that's four bucks a case, you probably will drink it. A lot of it, if I remember college students accurately. If you're unwilling to sully your delicate tastebuds unless it's imported german lager in hand-labelled and wax-sealed bottles lovingly brewed by buxom women in traditional farm-maid outfits, you probably aren't going to spend your nights with a beer bong.

Maybe it's a good thing.

Tab A into Slot B-3

My sister is one of the best gift-selectors ever. She puts a ton of thought into each and every gift, and manages to find just what people would like. For my birthday this year she bought me a lovely booksellers bookcase -- you know the kind with a middle angled shelf?

It's quite lovely, but I'm glad that I have the Amazing Fixit Husband to put it together. The instructions are in some odd Chinese-English translation, and there are really only three steps. Step 1 is pretty easy. Step 2 is...well, the exploded diagram is very nice, but it's the most complicated one seen for a simple piece of furniture. Perhaps diagrams to assemble rockets need to be this complicated. Click to have a larger look. It's rather impressive.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Convenient Leaks

Focusing on the whistleblowing as the crime is ridiculous -- and it's a distraction from the fact that it's the action being "outed" that is (possibly) illegal....not reporting it.

Does anyone else find it annoying that the white house classifies the outing of FBI agent Plame as OK, but outing the recent "banking record searches" is treasonous?

I think I understand: It's only treason and a threat to national security if it's information that might make the administration look bad. But they can leak anything they want to with impunity and it's treasonous to question it. Yeah.

Client of Doom

You know, I fit the definition of an idiot -- someone who does the same thing over and over and expects a different result.

And I'm paying for it today.

Sigh. Remember my client-from-hell? The one that very nearly made me have a breakdown? The one that prompted the several months off to decompress? They called again. Instead of saying that I was too busy, booked, or simply unwilling to I type this, I'm sitting in their office trying to fix problems.

Problems caused because they did exactly what I told them not to do.. As in, "If you do X, this will completely fail." No beating around the bush there. So what did they do? X. In spades. I'm seriously considering banging my head against the wall. it would be more satisfying to bang their heads against the wall, but probably less politically correct.

I'm only here for (at most) four days, probably less. But still...what was I thinking?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Sound Bite Politics

This is an old quote -- and an old issue, really, from 2002. But reference to this was posted in one of the forums I frequent, and I found the resolution of the issue to be funny, in a sad, twisted sort of way. Is lying the only thing that this administration can do? And how many people never thought to question Bush's statements?

Back in 2002, Bush made the infamous "trifecta" joke (war, recession, national emergency); it was tasteless at the very least, but he trotted it out so many times, as if this was somehow funny:
And we've got a job to do at home, as well. You know, I was campaigning in Chicago and somebody asked me, is there ever any time where the budget might have to go into deficit? I said only if we were at war or had a national emergency or were in recession. (Laughter.) Little did I realize we'd get the trifecta. (Laughter.) [remarks at a GOP luncheon, from]
Over and over in speeches, he has said that he promised during his campaign, that he'd only have deficits during time of war, etc. and that all of the current issues make it OK, even good that there is a huge deficit and that he, certainly, isn't to blame. Hey! It's funny, right?
I remind -- I want to remind you what I told the American people, that if I'm the President -- when I was campaigning, if I were to become the President, we would have deficits only in the case of war, a recession or a national emergency. In this case, we got all three. And, therefore, we're recovering from all three
Bush has said at least seven times that he made this statement in Chicago during his campaign. (October 3, March 27, March 28, April 30, May 14, May 20 and June 14). He didn't. I'm sure he wanted it to be true, but -- no.

The truth is simply too good:
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, July 2, 2002; Page A13
The mystery of the missing trifecta has been solved. Sort of.

In this space last week, it was noted that President Bush often tells audiences that he promised during the 2000 presidential campaign that he would allow the federal budget to go into deficit in times of war, recession or national emergency, but he never imagined he would "have a trifecta." Nobody inside or outside the White House, however, had been able to produce evidence that Bush actually said this during the campaign.

Now comes information that the three caveats were uttered before the 2000 campaign -- by Bush's Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore. The Post's Glenn Kessler found in the archives this promise from Gore: "Barring an economic reversal, a national emergency, or a foreign crisis, we should balance the budget this year, next year, and every year." Gore said that to the Economic Club of Detroit in May 1998, then repeated it at least twice more, in speeches in June and November of that year.

There is still no trace of Bush making such a caveat; in fact, shortly after taking office, he declared that "we can proceed with tax relief without fear of budget deficits, even if the economy softens." On the other hand, Bush can fairly argue that his top economic adviser, Lawrence B. Lindsey, endorsed the caveats during the campaign. When Kessler asked back then about Gore's three exceptions, Lindsey said the same caveats would apply for Bush.
Amusing, at least to me. Sometimes it's hard not to bash the chimp just a little.

XBox rules

Since I am pretty much getting everything I want in the basement (including purple carpet!), I thought that the Adorable Husband should have something he wants. So, with the "reward bucks" we got for buying all our equipment at Best Buy, I picked up an Xbox for him -- and a few games. He is very excited about the prospect of playing Halo 2 on the enormous screen in digital surround sound!

To "check it out", he hooked everything up to the TV in the living room -- and things started going horribly awry. First, I shifted the Xbox while it was playing one of the game dvds. Yes, it was unbelievably stupid, but I did it anyways and amid loud grinding noises and death rattles, the machine ate the DVD. Munged it badly. Then, the dog took a serious dislike to the cords and cables dangling from the front of the television and chewed them off.

Luckily, a new video and audio cable for the thing is only about twenty bucks, and Target is awfully good about taking things back even if you damaged them yourself. But it was one of the those situations where we were thinking, "perhaps we aren't meant to have an Xbox. This might not be a good idea".

I have to admit that I'm a bit worried that the Husband -- who has eyes that are magnetically attracted to any screen -- would head downstairs, turn on the xbox, and only emerge to search for food and diet pop. I might see him once every three days or so! He's been known to lock himself in his office and play computer games for hours on end. I can't really complain much; he finds it relaxing and decompressing, I guess. But the lure of a huge screen and a comfy recliner (and wireless game controller) might be too much.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Accents are fascinating -- listening to the difference between how I sound now and my family in Minnesota (I haven't lived in MN for seventeen years or so) is always a treat. Occassionally, I still sound like a midwesterner, notably when pronouncing words like 'hose' and 'lose', but the rest of the time I'm twanging with the rest of the Colorodoans. Except when I say 'bag'. The Adorable Husband laughs every time I try.

I also am fascinated by the varieties of accents and regional dialects of English around the world and discovered sounds files on the web that illustrate them. Personally, I could talk to a person with an Irish accent for hours. Just let them read the phone book, I don't care -- I can only hope that we sound as charming and lilting to the Irish ear as they do to us.

At any rate -- for a really interesting set of example of English around the world can be found at the International Dialect of English Archives . Sound files and interviews about English in the United States (by state) are also on the IDEA site.

I found a place to send in your own voice stuff, as well, to be part of the process. Cool, eh?

Dog Days of Erie

Last weekend was Erie's Bark in the Park -- a dog-filled Saturday festival with frisbee contests and a parade. We missed it, since we apparently didn't open the mail, but our local paper had a two-page spread on pictures. This one just made me laugh.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Strange Correlation

There seems to be a strange correlation between me being home and the contractors working on the basement. I thought it was just coincidence, but it experience bears out a simple fact: when I am travelling for work, there's only a 50-50 chance that anyone shows up to work in the basement. On the days I'm home -- well, there were FIVE trucks parked outside today.

The electricians finished today except for a stray smoke detector, the plumber installed all the bathroom fixtures (yah! Flushing toilets!) and the tile is down in the wine cellar. I assume they'll grout tomorrow and wrap up trim this week. I'll post pics tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Weird Sailing Factoid

I'm reading bits from Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick online. One of the interesting bits of information is that the Mayflower (of pilgrim fame) was a 180-tun ship -- not "tons". So called because of her ability to carry 180 of the 252 English gallon wine tuns (barrels).

A bit more poking revealed this:
In sixteenth-century England, the size of a vessel was estimated in terms of tunnage --the ships capacity to carry 252 gallon tuns of hogshead barrels of wine. A 50-tun ship could carry fifty hogsheads. The tun was a measure of volume, not weight, and it was hardly uniform. The capacity of a Spanish tun, for example, was considerably less than that of an English tun. Thus a Spanish vessel of 50 tuns was not the same size as a 50-tun English ship.

It was not until much later in the Elizabethan Era that tonnage was used, based on the size and weight of the ship and her displacement in the water. It wasn't a standard measurement for many years.

Powerful Tools

Like most of us, I was horrified to learn that the two missing soldiers had been captured and killed by insurgents in Iraq. There is nothing that can make that story less awful or possibly explain away what happened. But it really hit home to me how powerful the propaganda machine in the US is.

News reports I heard said that two American soldiers were kidnapped by insurgents, during an attack on their unit. Newspaper articles used the same terminology.

Military personnel participating in a military action/war are not "kidnapped". They are captured or taken prisoner.

I strongly suspect that the word "kidnapped" was used deliberately by the Pentagon to avoid the military connotations of these deaths, and the news organizations have carefully followed suit. The soldiers are described as victims of a criminal act, not an act of war as participants in a military action. If our soldiers were "taken prisoner" by the insurgents, than captured insurgents would be legitimate and would obviously have the status of prisoners of war -- and therefore the protection of the Geneva Convention. That doesn’t quite fit in with the current ideology of the government.

This doesn’t lessen the violence of the act, nor minimize the soldier’s participation – but it was one of the most obvious cases of spin I’ve seen lately. I don’t like it – words are powerful tools; they can be used to persuade or bully with surprising ease. The talking points from the military on this incident were carefully calculated to be emotional and have a specific effect – See how different the two statements below are:

Two soldiers were kidnapped by insurgents today

Two soldiers were taken prisoner by insurgents today

The first is the act of madmen who don’t play by the rules. The second is the act of a military force in war.

Without the ability to portray the “other” as terrorists and madmen who cannot be recognized as actual enemy combatants, it gets harder to make the actions of the US acceptable. Semantics, perhaps but powerful semantics.

Friday, June 16, 2006

In Good Company?

Jay Leno:
"Republicans in the Senate have announced they are moving on from gay marriage ... to a constitutional amendment to ban flag burning. ... We would join the only three other countries who have banned flag burning: China, Cuba and Iran. We can stand with our brothers on this issue."
Yup. We're in good company. Yet another ridiculous issue to draw attention away from the monumental failures of this administration --oh! Yes! Gotta stop those flag-burners. Yeah, that's an important issue. We're wasting time on this? Apparently the GOP wants you to believe that this a top issue for the public. It doesn't even show up on the radar for most people. Definitely in touch with reality, eh?

The Adorable Husband has very strong opinions about this -- and as someone who has actually risked their life to defend "the flag", I think he'sgot a point: want to burn the flag? Go ahead, as long as you bought the damn thing. It's just a flag. A symbol. Steal someone else's flag to burn it and he'll kick your ass.

I think it says a lot about the idea to punish flag-burning that the countries that have done this are some of the most appaling offenders of human rights, who value blind obedience and submission to the rule of the government as the most important thing of all. I don't want to be a part of that little clique, thank you very much.

Think about it this way -- one of the few ways to properly dispose of a ragged or dirty flag is by burning. The only difference between the Boy Scouts burning their flags to dispose of them and someone burning one in protest is what they are thinking.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Showcase DVDs for Home Theater

Each time we've changed our surround sound system, we've watched Twister -- yeah, not the best movie, but the sound effects are excellent and we can compare. However, I've seen a number of "recommended" DVDs to show off a new home theater, including Saving Private Ryan and Master and Commander -- both with fabulous sound.

So, in my search to find other movies for the marquee when we get things set up, I tracked down a list of DVDs that are fabulous in a home theater setup. We're going to be very busy.

For Color
Finding Nemo
Girl with a Pearl Earring
Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Singin' in the Rain
Blue Crush

For Black and White
Citizen Kane
Touch of Evil (restored edition)
The Third Man (Criterion collection)
Sunset Boulevard
Village of the Damned
Down by Law (Criterion collection)

For Picture Detail
Alien (Collector's Edition)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Lawrence of Arabia
North by Northwest
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Hulk
Starship Troopers (Superbit Edition)

For Surround Sound
Saving Private Ryan
Master and Commander
Das Boot (Superbit Edition)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
House of Flying Daggers
The World is Not Enough
Apollo 13
Jurassic Park (Superbit Edition)
Fast the Furious (DTS)

All Around Coolness
Kill Bill Vol 1
Spiderman 2 (Superbit Edition)
The Matrix (ultiate collection)
LOTR: Return of the King
Attack of the Clones
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Super Speedway
Days of Heaven
Apocalypse Now


Ah, last week at the client and -- as usual -- things have changed direction dramatically. Not a big deal, but it's been a busy week.

So I drove up to Cheyenne yesterday and back last CARPET! Yeah! Still a bit of stretching to go -- but isn't the purple fabulous? This is looking down towards where the screen will go in the theater:

I assume they'll be tiling tomorrow and wrap up next week with the plumbing and electrical stuff. I can't wait!!

And (you'll be surprised about this one) we added a huge bookcase in the sitting room, which I'm sure will be full as soon as we can move downstairs! I have four enormous piles of new books in my office that are slated for the "reading room" downstairs. Considering that it was a cool 65 degrees down there when it was 103 (yes, 1-0-3!) yesterday, so I imagine we'll be spending a bunch of time down there. Must buy comfy chairs.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Plague Monkey

Not much posting over the weekend, since the Adorable Husband brought the plague home from work and promptly gave it to me. I actually stayed home sick on Friday (and considering that I was working from home, I felt bad enough not to even try to work and just went back up to bed) and spent the rest of the weekend trying not to fall into a Nyquil-induced stupor. I'm fairly certain that my brain is liquifying and draining out my nose in the form of Snot. Lots and lots and lots of snot. Ugh. Then, of course, the coughing sets in. I slept on the couch most of the weekend.

We did get out and about a bit -- went to The Taste of Louisville on Saturday and wandered a bit along the main street until rain drove us back to the car, and then went over to make an appearance at Rainer's graduation open house before I crashed. We stopped at home only long enough to realize that the painters were trying to gas us out of the house.

Ah -- I should explain. The painters arrived on Thursday and sprayed the walls and ceilings downstairs. The purple is LOVELY. Then they came on Friday to paint trim. We went downstairs after they left and it was...awful. I don't know if it was bad paint, thinned too much, too thick, or what -- but the paint had just slid off the trim in some places, leaving rivulets and blobs and a completely uneven surface. It looked as if it had just been glopped on and when it was partially dry, another layer was sprayed on. I think that they tried to spray a second coat before the first was entirely dry? We took pictures and sent off an email to the contractor, basically asking, "what the hell?" Obviously there had been some sort of problem. I had no doubt that they were going to fix it, but 'fixing' in my mind was not just repainting, but sanding a LOT.

So, at 8;30 on Saturday, the painters returned and, apparently, were using solvent to remove the paint from the trim and start again. It smelled so strongly of paint thinner/airplane glue in the house we were a bit concerned for the guys in the basement. It was unbearable -- and even though it was 90+ degrees outside, we opened the whole house and fled.

But, it seems to have worked. After another day of work, the paint is smooth and neat. Much, much better. We've been very happy with all the work the contractor has done -- even if they don't seen to be able to stick to a schedule to save their lives. I know that it's a busy season, and that it's hard to get everything scheduled tightly, but....c'mon, people -- let's have a reasonable schedule and communicate changes. The Adorable Husband reminded me (just as I was going to launch into a truly great rant) that we did tell them that we weren't on a tight schedule, had basically said, "whenever" when asked when it needed to be done. So -- we reaped what we sowed, I guess. Perhaps if I'd been more pushy about sticking to the schedule before, we wouldn't have any problems now. I'm getting a bit irked that the contractor hasn't called me to "check in" at all in the last two weeks. I've been travelling, it's true, but they should still pop by to make sure things are going ok. I'm pretty much home full-time after this week (working on a local project) so we should see better progress, I hope.

There is still some touch up to do for painting, but I imagine that they'll have the carpet in this week and the electricians and plumbers back to wrap up. The purple velvet drapes (10 pairs) arrived last week, and the theater chairs are being delivered to a local moving company in a few days, to be delivered to us when the carpet goes in. Everything else is staged and ready to go!

Friday, June 09, 2006

I am Such an Enabler

The neighbors all have puppies, and I have to satisfy myself with The Daily Puppy.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Huh? Wha?

I am so embarassed that Wayne Allard is from my state. This is a guy who has supported (if not sponsored) just about every regressive, medieval, wackoloon proposal in congress. The current distraction from the administration? Marriage is under attack! Oh, yes. Those dastardly gays are trying to ruin The American Way by marrying, didn't you know?

Yeah, right. This pops up every time the poll numbers go down. I guess they hope that this will rile up the fundamentalist arm of the party and appease them so they vote "properly" in the next election. Don't we have better things to worry about?

I am stilll waiting for ONE actual argument as to how gay marriage would "damage" marriage. Oh, wait. Allard is trying to argue that gay marriage would contribute to the "epidemic of fatherlessness" in the US today. Huh? How would banning two men from marrying keep deadbeat dads around for their children? Really, can we at least try to make a coherent, logical argument?

Every "argument" that I've seen ends up being "Eeeu!". The ICK factor. Some people (who apparently think waaaay too much about what people are doing in the privacy of their own homes), are squicked out by what they think gay couples do. The whole 'defense of marriage' is based entirely on trying to enforce one particular religious view (that homosexuality is a) a chosen lifestyle and b) an abomination. Newsflash, people -- neither of these statements is anything close to factual, and not everyone agrees with your view. Making up "facts" and preposterous sky-is-falling hysteria is one sign that your position is wrong.

"We have lost our moral compass. We need to get back to the biblical definition of marriage!" they cry, awash in righteous indignation that we don't all take up pitchforks and pikes and storm the castle of rationality. The laughable thing is that they have rarely actually read the bible (except the teeny bits they are taught in church) and are woefully ignorant of just what it is they are espousing. Back to "traditional" marriage of the bible is not quite the Leave-it-to-Beaver model they seem to think it is.

First off -- let's understand that the one-woman-one-man model of marriage is a relatively modern invention and for most of human history, we have been polygamous. Men have had many wives as the norm for most civilizations. The bible doesn't abjure men to cleave to one woman, but to many. But, there are some interesting bits in the bible about the details....{the details here come from a number of posts, but I went to read the citations} Gen 29:17-28 , II Sam 3:2-5 Exodus 21:10 -- And more (Genesis 26:34, Gen 28;9, Dt 21:15, Judges 8:30...(check more here)

The reality of history in biblical times is that men had multiple wives. This was normal and acceptable. Because most (not all) societies have been male-dominated, and because women often died early in childhood, multiple wives made sense and was a cultural norm. It still is in some cultures. I don't know about you, but that's not going to work for me.

Oh -- and concubines? Sure! Can have those, too -- II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21. and many, many others. High-ranking men often had official wives (usually married for political reasons, which has been the reason for most marriages in history) and other concubines, if they could afford them. Once again, not really gonna work for me.

Only virgins can marry, of course (Deut 22:13-21) (for women only, and women who aren't virgins at marriage? Stoned to death. Men who are not virgins? Well, men are different, doncha know.

Is this beginning to sound familiar? Sounds pretty much like a middle-eastern religious-based set of laws, doesn't it? Sounds pretty much like the modern way of life in arab countries, right? Like the rules in Afghanistan? Well, it should. That is the environment in which the bible was written and collated, so that is the mindset it represents. In this particular worldview, sex is evil and women are most certainly not equal partners but should be viewed with deep suspicion and controlled completely. That's pretty much the story for most societies up to (and in some ways including) our own.

(and, if you argue that all of these citations are from the Old Testament and, well, we all know the new convenant makes those null and void...well, you better stop using all of those OT cites to prove your points in other arguments, too. Can't pick and choose.)

The people arguing for a "traditional" marriage are trying to create some made-up version of what they think marriage should be and are trying desperately and shrilly to force everyone to ignore the fact they they don't have any rational basis for their arguments. Nada.

It's all a worthless exercise, anyways. It's only on the table now to keep attention away from the problems Bush has with the war in Iraq, foreign policy, domestic policy, and pretty much everything else he's touched. The truly fanatical conservative part of the GOP is not happy with their golden boy -- he didn't merge religion and politics and government enough to please them. Hopefully, people see this whole thing for what it is: distraction and a pathetic attempt to pander to voters by lying to them.

Public Accountability? Nah


The Office of Vice President Dick Cheney has declared itself exempt from a yearly requirement to report how it uses its power to classify secret information. Basically, what they do is no one's business. Hundreds of thousands of pages are evaluated by the Information Security Oversight Office -- but only one teeny note arrived from Cheney's office explaining why he wasn't going to disclose anything...for the third year in a row.
Though not the only government entity to shrug off the reporting duties, Cheney's office is unique in that it has actually issued a public justification for its non-compliance. Cheney's office argued on Monday that its dual role in the federal government places it above the reporting mandate.

"This matter has been carefully reviewed, and it has been determined that the reporting requirement does not apply to [the Office of the Vice President], which has both executive and legislative functions," Lea McBride, a spokesperson for Cheney's office, told The NewStandard.

Cheney's press aides declined to specify to TNS how the office's legislative role effectively exempted it from the executive order, or why the office had complied prior to 2003.
And we live in a democracy? 'For the people, by the people" and all that? Really?

Way to much Time

Everyone has a hobby that they love despite the fact that it's weird or time consuming or expensive. Tying flies, collecting cows, building chairs, playing computer games..something.

But there are limits, you know? If your hobby includes dressing up a guinea pig, I think some invisible line has been crossed from hobby to bizarre obsession. Designing and sewing themed costumes for your guinea pigs must be a symptom of something. I'm not sure what it is, but can it possibly be good?

Actually, I'm more worried about the people who buy these little costumes -- although the expression on the guinea pig's face is priceless.

History of Dance

And now, the History of Dance [ video from ]

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Interface Design Patterns

If you haven’t checked out Safari Online Bookshelves, it’s definitely worth a look – hundreds (thousands?) of technical books online and readable from cover to cover. I’m in love.

I’ve also been reading an absolutely fascinating book on designing interfaces (called, surprisingly enough, Designing Interfaces, by Jennifer Tidwell). Even you don’t do this sort of thing for a living, it’s a really interesting look at how we approach new software or new objects that we have to interact with (from ATMs to programming your cellphone). It talks about how we use familiar gestures to interact with new objects (well, there was button like this on my last phone, so this must do the same thing!) to how our expectations of how things behave impacts our choices.

Yeah, my geek-o-meter is clicking wildly, but I love this sort of thing.

When All Else Fails...

Change the rules! That seems to be the idea in the current administration when challenged on their ‘torture policy’. A new version of the Army Field Manual contains very ambiguous statements regarding torture and allows the US to treat captured prisoners differently depending on how they are ‘classified’. And we all know that King Bush has determined that HE can decide who to imprison and what laws he has to follow.

Obviously, something needed to change to give clearer guidelines to soldiers responsible for the detainment of captured prisoners. But, arbitrarily deciding that the Geneva Convention can be suspended for certain types of prisoners – isn’t that what Bush and his cohort have been trying to do for the last few years?

…Pentagon proposal to have one set of interrogation techniques for enemy prisoners of war and another, presumably more coercive, set for the suspected terrorists imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, said Senate aides, who were granted anonymity because the discussions were confidential.
Obviously, we haven’t seen what the actual text is at this point, but it certainly sounds like it attempts to bypass the “uniform standard” required by the torture amendment passed last year. .And the Pentagon’s behavior in the last few days has been awfully suspect as well – when the content of the new manual was leaked, they suddenly decided that not everyone really needed to be briefed.
Lawmakers expected to see the new document last month. However, the Pentagon canceled those briefings and instead described the manual to only a handful of senior senators and aides. As the dispute with Congress has grown, the military has continued to delay the document's release — and defense officials say they do not know when they will release the new manual. [LA Times]

Most of the issues circle around torture – since we already know that Bush has exempted himself from having to follow the rules set out in the McCain measure via a signing statement (because he apparently didn’t have the balls to actually live up to his threat to veto the defense authorization bill if the amendment wasn’t removed), I’m not surprised at the current brouhaha.

The really unfair part about all of this? The assmarmots who are writing the new “rules” will never, ever have to live by them. They’ll never be held accountable. The only people being pilloried and blamed for torture are the lowest-level soldiers. If they follow the new manual, they are effectively being set up as war criminals by the very people who are supposed to be supporting them.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Casing the Joint

On Saturday morning, we saw a white van parked in front of our house, and I glimpsed a guy walking along the side of the house. With the basement work, we didn’t think too much of it initially, but then noticed that it was an eletrician’s van and no electricians were supposed to be working. Hm. Suspcious – but by the time we went outside to check, he’d gone.


The same day, we got the newsletter from the HOA – which included a notice to report a ‘strange white work van, parking on the street at night, and disappearig by 7am’.


When it was sitting in the culdesac this morning, the Adorable Husband called the police. The officer was still sitting by the van, waiting for the guy to return when I left for work. This person has apparently been casing construction sites and stealing stuff – tools, dryers, etc. They think he’s targeting the huge development behind us, which has half a dozen houses partially finished. Or, he may have been wandering around our house to see what was available.  The poor dogs are so confused about people in the house that I don’t think they’d bark at anyone!

At any rate, I had to call the basement people at six this morning to tell them that the house was locked up tight (we’d been leaving the basement windows unlocked, so they could come and go at will) and that they needed to lock it up when they left.  Fun. NOT.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Exclusionary Baseball

I'm not much of a baseball fan (not one at all, really), but this announcement by our very own Rockies team is just too much. They are apparently looking for "players with character", which in translation means: players who have "accepted jesus as their personal savior".

Oh, goody. They are going to be an overt "christian" team. They're going to issue "special vouchers" to christian fans for special concerts after games and testimonials by their god-blessed players. The team is quite sure that god has something to do with their winning record and will continue to give them an advantage over other teams because they have "more character."

I can't decide if this is insulting to everyone who is not christian, or just sad. From the author of The Nation's article,

The Rockies right now are a noxious reflection of a time in US history when generals speak of crusades and the President recounts his personal conversations with Yahweh. ("You're doing a heckuva job, Goddy!")

If Monfort, O'Dowd and Hurdle want to pray on their own time, more power to them. But the ballpark isn't a church. Smoltz isn't a preacher. And fans aren't a flock. Instead of using their position of commercial power to field a God Squad, the Rockies might want to think about getting some decent players. There was once this guy named Babe Ruth. Not too much for the religion, and his character was less than sterling. But I hear he could play some decent ball.

I wonder how this will really affect their attendance nunbers. I never went to a game, so losing me isn't even noticeable, but there are a lot of people here who are not so excited about the predominance of religion in public life. How difficult is it to understand that not everyone believes the same things, and that fact is a Good Thing?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Normandy, Shnormandy

In an attempt to (defend? explain?) the massacre at Haditha, Bill O'Reilly boldly asserted that US soldiers have committed atrocities in past wars; specifically that they had killed unarmed, surrendering germans at Malmedy in WWII.

You can watch the whole exchange (with Wesley Clark, starting at about 3 1/2 minutes) where he tries to argue that "it's ok" because:
"In Malmedy, as you know" Bill O'Reilly said Tuesday night, in some indecipherable attempt to defend the events of Haditha, "U.S. forces captured S.S. forces who had their hands in the air and were unarmed and they shot them dead, you know that. That's on the record. And documented."
Not only did he get it COMPLETELY WRONG -- it was Americans (84 of them) killed by Germans in Malmedy -- how in the hell is this supposed to "excuse" the behavior in Haditha? And he repeated the same story more than once. If it was a mistake, there are still some serious issues with the whole argument:

Arguing that it's ok to commit a crime because the same crime was committed in the past? That's just wrong -- morally, ethically,and intellectually. I'm quite sickened by the thought.

Arguing that it's ok to commit a crime because the opposing side has "done worse"? Who is setting the moral bar here? Us or them? This is also just wrong -- morally, ethically, and intellectually.

Equating the deaths of innocent civilians to those of combatants is off the mark as well. Civilians are to be protected, not attacked. It's wrong to kill a solider who has surrendered, but to attack and kill non-combatants swings so far over that line that it's just ...evil.

I really can't figure out just what O'Reilly was trying to do here. I really can't. Neither can most people. I don't want to believe ill of our soldiers -- but if this incident went down as reported, trying to justify it in any way is morally repugnant.

And, in an attempt to whitewash the whole problem, the transcript from FOX news changed Malmedy to Normandy. Olbermann discusses the entire thing here.

On, Blitzen!

American Family Association is starting early this year to beat the "War on Christmas" drum:

Don't let the anti-Christmas crowd kick Christ out of Christmas this year
Companies are now working on their Christmas promotions. [...]
Now is the time to let the retailers know that if they ban the use of the term Christmas, you will not be shopping with them during the Christmas season!

Yadda yadda yadda.

As I've posted before -- since when is rampant consumerism part of the christian tradition? And, more importantly, why do they think it's ok to demand that their particular winter religious holiday take precedence over every other one? Wishing people joy and happiness during a season with many different religious observances seems to me to be a Good Thing. Does it really matter how you do it?

If it's genuine (and frankly, the mumbled "greetings" of store clerks can't really be seen as anything more than politeness, certainly not meaningful disdain for christianity), then it should be taken in the spirit in which it was given. If I greet someone with a sincere 'Happy Holidays!' shouldn't that be enough? (I'll point out here that even as a godless heathen I still say Merry Christmas -- but I respond to any holiday greeting, be it christmas, kwaanza, whatever, with a smile and thankyou.)

I've never heard of anyone being shunned or criticized for actually saying Merry Christmas. Lots of stories of people being confronted for NOT saying it, though. Aren't there better things to be cross about?

So what if you say Happy Holidays. It's inclusive. Oh, wait -- maybe that's the problem. By acknowledging that there are people with different beliefs they somehow feel diminshed? Why? I really don't get it.

And the story NOW is...

Poor, sad, maligned JC-Hosting. Yeah, respond to a legitimate request for data on a site you shut down with no notice, and it's someone else's fault. You poor, poor baby. If, as you said, AW was over its bandwidth limits, then charge them -- that's what a professional hosting service would do.

James makes all these rather pitiful excuses for why they pulled the site (note he's now denying that Barbara Bauer had anything to do with it, which he's contradicted in several places) and blaming those awful people at AW for making him look bad. Oh, and he's also claming that this whole problem is actually increasing his business, because his new customers know that he won't allow spammers and scam artists to shut down their site. Um, like you did for Absolute Write? Yeah, I'm believing that.

Even if there were problems -- and to be fair, there might have been. AW is a large site with a lot of activity -- even deal with it professionally. You don't deny access to the site and data and you (gasp!) TALK to the offending webmaster. This whole screed sounds a bit like sour grapes and CYA for someone who made a bad decision and just can't own up to it. Far too many coincidences, if you ask me. Classifying a whole community of writers as "hacks" and insinuating that they are all annoyed "PA authors" (PA being Publish America, a huge scam publisher) is just the sort of ad-hominem attack I'd expect from someone trying to deflect blame and figure out what their story is. It's easy enough to prove one way or another -- claim that the webmaster sent you emails? Well, you still have them, don't you? (Although, to be sure, now that lawyers are involved (at least on AW's side), no one can do that. )

I definitely won't consider hosting with them, and will make sure to tell anyone asking me for advice to avoid JC-hosting.

On a lighter note -- it looks like they finally did (at midnight on the first of the month) allow the webmaster back in to download/backup the data and restoring and testing in progress. Hope it works.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Feeling Any Better Yet?

Well, Barbara Bauer, PhD (which is how she apparently likes to be addressed) has lots and lots of visibility in the web-world. I've been reading blog after blog today. The 20 Worst Agents list now comes up second on both Yahoo and Google when you search on her name. Only a few weeks ago, it didn't even show up on the first two pages. When this debacle started, it was somewhere around 25th.

Bet that's not quite what she expected, hey?

AbsoluteWrite is back up, and trying to get the forums working again.

Picking Fights and Losing

About a week or so ago, a writers forum that I frequent (Absolute Write) was yanked by the hosting company because a scam artist "literary agent", Barbara Bauer was a bit put out by her name being listed on the 20 Worst Agents list -- she called the hosting company and apparently threatened lawsuits and bad publicity and whatnot. Her reason? They "posted her email address and that caused spam" or some nonsense and she cited the DMCA as proof that the ISP would be liable.

This is not illegal, and it's not a DMCA claim.

The ISP shut down Absolute Write anyway. Her email is posted on her own site, so the idiot at the hosting company who responded by pulling the plug was ill-informed about law or just plain stupid. This same "agent" has threatened to sue for -- get this -- one billion dollars for the "use of her name" on Writer's Weekly forums.

This is utterly ridiculous. And to add insult, the hosting company JC-Hosting in Nashville, TN, has refusedto give the site owner access to the database so she can move the forum elsewhere. The forum is populated by 7000+ writers, and is extremely busy and the archives contain several years woth of people's writing and comments. Bad move.

They have changed their story several times on why they "pulled the plug" and each story is getting thinner than the last. Now, they claim that it was "bandwidth overages" and this was just the catalyst for their actions. Of course, they are "saints" to put up with this, and everyone on the AW forums are horrible poeple who just want to malign them. (Sound like any three-year olds you know?)

And to add a new twist to the story? The owner of the hosting company just opened up her own writing forum -- and apparently invited many people from the AW forums to join. Ah, no.

This has pissed off a lot of people -- and they are not the quiet type.

Making Light
Chatworthy Blog
Apocalypse Cow
DeborahWoehr Blog
The Good Web Guide
Miss Snark LIterary Agent
Technorati Listing of all blogs
NVCN id Vides


And a Technorati tag, just for fun:

and, quite literally HUNDREDS more posts and blogs and articles about this fiasco that are linked from those above. I'm sure that Ms. Bauer and her 19 worst-agent friends have spent a lot of time in the last few days throwing up.

Want publicity? You got it. It just ain't gonna be good.

It's simply not a good idea to pick a fight with the internet.