December 30, 2003

Xmas Musings

Came out for Xmas to Michigan, which wasn’t actually so bad… except that I’m still here, and I want to go home. I had to wait a day so that Misha could redeem a coupon at a Salvation Army–type place, and then the didn’t accept it anyway. Bah. Hope my mom doesn’t read this or she’ll be mad that I didn’t go see her.

Which reminds me… since I’m not at one of my computers I had to look up my password to get in here on my Palm, and a few entries up from “Movable Type” was “LiveJournal”. WTF? When did I set that up? Am I going prematurely senile? Well, that’ll come in handy, in case I want to complain about friends/relatives/co-workers anonymously. And won’t it be fun to read? This blog will have all the political and music commentary and everything else and the anonymous LiveJournal will only be anonymous complaints about unidentified people. Heh.

Tomorrow morning we leave, finally, and we’ll get to do something I’ve always wanted to do, which is to take old US-12 from Detroit to Chicago. It’s also known as “Michigan Avenue”, although I don’t think it was ever called that for the entirety of the route, just in spots (here in Ann Arbor it’s called “Jackson Road”, and for much of western Michigan it’s the “Red Arrow Highway”). When I-94 was built, US-112 (which runs parallel 30–40 miles south) was renamed US-12 and old US-12 just became The Abandoned Highway. Which suits me fine. I hate the Interstates, but the old highways would probably be less charming if I had to deal with all the Detroit-to-Chicago or whatever traffic on them. This way, they’re like little time capsules, with 1940’s motels that have managed to stay in business, and we get them all to ourselves. That is, when we have 8 hours to make a 4 hour drive.

Had a good present haul—I got two books I’ve been meaning to pick up, Paris 1919 and Gulag: A History. Most exciting, though, was a complete set of Gutsman comics, brought to me from Amsterdam, and one of Misha’s gifts, a book on hacking Tivos. I had followed the Tivo hacking news for a while when I first got mine three years ago, but I kinda lost track and a lot has happened in the meantime. All the pages I used to go to are horribly out of date now, so it’s great to just have a book about it rather than scouring Google for hours. What a novel concept.

December 24, 2003

Candy bars

Apparently Saddam & I have the same taste in candy bars. According to The Scotsman’s inventory of his hideout:

A large and nearly empty cardboard box also revealed Iraq’s former president as a secret Bounty-bar fan.

Yum! I’ve been wanting some more Bountys ever since reading this. They’re not too well-known in America (they were only marketed here for a year or two), but they seem to be pretty common in Europe, so I’ll order a case every now and then. I wonder if they’re readily available in Iraq, or if only elites could get them since they had to be smuggled in or something. If the latter, then it’s a great thought that Saddam, hurriedly rushing from one of his palaces to hide out before the American army arrived, only grabbed a suitcase of cash and a box of Bountys. I know I would.

December 12, 2003

Capra and Sturges

One of my favorite movies from when I was a kid, You Can’t Take It with You, was on Turner Classic Movies last night. It’s interesting watching it now; the preachiness and the political naivete that went over my head when I was younger is insuffrably grating now. Of course I’m more conservative and cranky now, which probably adds to it—Grampa’s supposed-to-be-wise remarks about how nobody wants to live-and-let-live, everyone’s blaming “-isms” for their problems instead—“Communism, fascism, whateverism”… I just can’t watch that without thinking, this was filmed in 1938. Stalin was starving the Ukranians, Hitler was starting to round up the Jews and annexing Czechoslovakia, but we’re oh-so-above all those people crying wolf over these silly nonexistent threats. Sorry, it’s just not as charming as it once was. Grampa’s line about the battleships and Cuba is still pretty funny, but we would need battleships again, not very many years later.

It’s such a contrast from a lesser-known film of the same period, Easy Living, written by Preston Sturges. The plot structure in some ways mirrors that of You Can’t Take It with You, and it also has Edward Arnold as a powerful banker and Jean Arthur as his wayward son’s girlfriend. Easy Living, despite the resemblances, has a completely different tone. There’s some humor about Arnold’s being so rich, but it’s good-humored, and Arnold’s character is also written to see some of the ridiculousness of the situation. In You Can’t Take It with You, all of the bankers are presented as stone evil—animals, really—and Arnold’s redemption as a human being only happens after he renounces his career and former life. In Easy Living, the happy ending is when the banker’s rebellious son comes back to the fold and proves his mettle as a master stock manipulator, like his father. Sturges’s sophisticated, light-hearted teasing is so much more pleasant, so relaxing compared to Capra’s mean-spirited rabble-rousing. Arnold in Capra’s film is a munitions-maker who greedily plots the doom of his former friend and is surrounded by heartless yes-men, but all the downtrodden in the jail are angelic salt-of-the-earth.

When I was younger and watched it, I was worked up enough about the financier baddies taking away the home of the kindly old man that I didn’t notice that Arnold, by reneiging on the giant merger, has caused his subordinates’ bankruptcy (one of them says that he has everything riding on this deal); now I view his act of redemption as one of betrayal. Lionel Barrymore also betrays everyone in the neighborhood by agreeing to sell his house when he promised them he wouldn’t—and this only a couple weeks after they all chipped in to get him out of jail! There aren’t any villains in Easy Living; the banker has a loyal wife and secretary; he’s not a snob and he treats his employees well. Children respond better to two-dimensional ogres in films, but Sturges wrote scripts for grown-ups. It makes jokes about the rich without attacking them, and never succumbs to rabble-rousing and pseudo-populism. It was rare then and even more so today; the only modern film I can think of that manages the same trick is Clueless, also a favorite of mine.

Nonetheless, I’m still quite fond of You Can’t Take It with You. When it’s not preaching (or, indeed, attempting to advance the plot at all), it is a tremendously charming film. Little jewels stick out, like the scene where Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur are taught to dance the Big Apple by the kids in the park, or any of the times where Ann Miller ballet dances to the xylophone in the living room, or the two old men experimenting with the fireworks in the basement (they remind me of my father and his friends, always experimenting with machinery or explosives). I could watch just those scenes over and over again. Too bad the film’s not just like that all the way through. So many movies are ruined by the attempt to add a plot.

December 9, 2003

Poor Cathy

I never much liked Cathy, but now I’m worried about her.

December 6, 2003

Relativester

I know a few pairs of siblings who are both on Friendster but not “friends” with each other. They’re not on bad terms, so what’s up with that? Do people just feel uncomfortable about calling a brother or sister a “friend”, or are they close enough that they don’t even think to add them, or what? I’m an only child, so maybe I’m missing some sort of insight here.

December 4, 2003

Why Bush shouldn’t be President

None of which is to say that I really think Bush should be president. While he’s managed to go his entire term so far without alienating me on foreign policy—indeed, I keep waiting for him to screw up and he continually impresses me—there are still problems with having a president who, at bottom, is inarticulate and not very smart.

I’m thinking about this now because the bigest concern neocon fans like me have at the moment is that we’ll pull out of Iraq too soon, leaving it in an unimaginable state. I know Bush doesn’t want to do this, but the CW is that Americans won’t stand for casualties or a long-term commitment. We shall see, but it surely would help if we had a president that could inspire us to make short-term sacrifices. We need a modern FDR, and we have a president that can barely form a coherent sentence on his own.

Not that he isn’t trying. Bush’s prepared remarks on democracy are deeply moving, but it helps if you read them rather than hear them.

Another example of the problems of Bush’s general lack of thinking ability was his initial description of the war on terror as a “crusade”. Obviously, he didn’t mean that literally—it’s questionable he even knows the original meaning of the term—but the TV clip has been replayed endlessly on Arab TV. They know what it means. A small thing, but, again, one of the requirements of being the leader of the United States should be the ability to think of the implications of what one says.

Oh well. It’ll all work out eventually.

Latest Michigan Trip

Well, I went to Michigan for Thanksgiving and had a reasonably good time. I came out of the closet to a few people, though—I told some friends and family that I would probably vote for Bush (now that I don’t like Edwards anymore and it’s pretty doubtful Lieberman will get the nomination). It was not taken well.

I’m starting to realize that I may be a Republican. This is really difficult for me. The process seems somewhat akin to what a homosexual must go through; through my formative years I always assumed I was a Democrat, then I started to vote Republican but I kept telling myself I was a Democrat who just voted Republican occasionally, then I was telling myself that I was a Democrat who generally agreed with Republicans and disagreed with Democrats… now it’s looking like I’m a Democrat who’s going to vote for Bush. Compare.

I don’t mean to trivialize the experiences of some gays, who in many parts of the world face ostracization and even death were they to admit they were gay. But that’s not true in my social circles; as my friend said, “I would much rather you said ‘I like to give men blowjobs under tables’ than ‘I will vote for Bush’.”

November 23, 2003

Twilight Zone

I read many years ago that “Twilight Zone” was originally an obscure WWII-era aeronautical term. So I was very surprised when I ran across this in the 1908 Democratic Platform:

[W]e are opposed to the … suggestion … that the powers of the General Government should be extended by judicial construction. There is no twilight zone between the Nation and the State in which exploiting interests can take refuge from both…

I had never heard anyone mention that the expression was that old, so I was very excited at my discovery… for about five minutes. Sadly, somebody beat me to it. Oh well.

November 12, 2003

In other news…

I’ve been quoted in Slate. Slashdot and Slate in the same day!

Slashdot

Ooh, neat. Slashdot just accepted my submission.

November 3, 2003

Schmuck of the day

From the New York Times:

“For there to be a genuine recovery, it’s got to happen in more than economic statistics,” Senator Joseph I. Lieberman said on Thursday on the campaign trail in Buffalo. “It’s got to happen in the lives of America’s middle class and those working hard to get into it.”

In other words, statistics don’t count; only anecdotal evidence does. This is one of the dumber things I’ve heard any of the grown-up candidates say.

October 31, 2003

Overheard on the bus today

“…actually, I do know somebody who installed Linux with no problems. But he’s not normal.”

October 28, 2003

Another illusion punctured

I haven’t posted in a while because I was on vacation, and that put me in a nice relaxed mood and I didn’t really feel like complaining about anything. That has now worn off.

What the hell is up with John Edwards? Some people in Congress opposed the war but now think we should pay for its reconstruction. This is an honorable position, and it makes sense logically—“we shouldn’t have gone in at all, but having done it, we should at least follow through.”

Others opposed both the war and the funding bill. This is less admirable but still is a defensible position—“I never wanted us in there in the first place, and I’m not going to start encouraging this quagmire now.”

The weird position, however, is the one Edwards takes. He supported the war and then voted against reconstruction funding. WTF? So he thinks we should have gone in there, toppled their government, and then just left them to their own devices? This makes no sense logically or morally. And it’s not meant to—it’s just a straight-out pander. What a slimeball.

I can’t believe this was my candidate. I even had his bumper sticker on my office door! Well, no more. At least he managed to betray me before getting elected, unlike Clinton.

Not that he has any chance of getting elected. This pander reminds me of the old “it’s not your father’s Oldsmobile” ad campaign years ago. It was disastrous; it alienated their entire customer base of older drivers, who now felt like old fogies, without attracting any new ones. Edwards still has no chance of getting the hard left to vote for him because he voted for the Iraq war, but now he’s alienated all the centrists on top of that. It reminds me of what Alan Keyes once said about Bob Dole:

You see, this must be a terrible feeling. You make a decision based on expediency, and it doesn’t work. And then you are left without expediency and without principle. With nothing.

October 1, 2003

Earnest Montana Youngsters

This is just so goshdarn cute.

My favorite line:

I have brown hair and I want it to grow really long like all the way down my back but sometimes i wish it was short like Winona Rider but BUT…..i guess she was caught shoplifting.

September 29, 2003

Bull Mooses, cont.

Apparently there already is a “Bull Moose” group (see below), although it isn’t actually a third party. I dunno; I haven’t read the whole site yet, but they don’t seem to really in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt. Really more of a libertarian Republican group, who apparently took the “Bull Moose” term simply to indicate that they’re a “moderate” group. This part especially stands out:

…Civic Responsibility argues that our American citizens – not government – are the best means to solve social problems. Economic Opportunity epitomizes the belief that free markets, education, and low taxes are the keys to ending poverty – not government.

That doesn’t sound too much like the original Progressive Party to me. TR absolutely believed that the government was the best way to solve all sorts of social problems, and to an extent never seen before his presidency. No libertarian ought to be a fan of his. The original Bull Moose party platform included planks for government-mandated eight-hour days and minimum wages, somewhat at odds with these folks’ “second pillar”.

Meanwhile, this whacko at least puts TR in the liberal tradition, judging from the pictures (the text burns my eyes). Still, he seems to hate Dubya, who probably has the most Rooseveltian foreign policy of any modern president.

Some thoughts

“In 1864 there were in the North some hundreds of thousands of men who praised peace as the supreme end, as a good more important than all other goods, and who denounced war as the worst of all evils. These men one and all assailed and denounced Abraham Lincoln, and all voted against him as president. Moreover, at that time there were many individuals in England and France who said it was the duty of those two nations to mediate between the North and the South, so as to stop the terrible loss of life and destruction of property which attended our Civil War; and they asserted that any Americans who in such event refused to accept their mediation and to stop the war would thereby show themselves as the enemies of peace. Nevertheless, Abraham Lincoln and the men in back of him by their attitude prevented all such effort at mediation, declaring that they would regard it as an unfriendly act to the United States. Looking back from a distance of fifty years, we can see now clearly that Abraham Lincoln and his supporters were right. Such mediation would have been a hostile act, not only to the United States but to humanity. The men who clamored for unrighteous peace fifty years ago this fall were the enemies of mankind.

“These facts should be pondered by the well-meaning men who always clamor for peace without regard to whether peace brings justice or injustice…”

—Theodore Roosevelt, “The Peace of Righteousness”, November 8, 1914.

September 26, 2003

Bah

In a perfect world, computers would work and people would leave me alone about stuff I don’t give a shit about.

I should get some sort of credit for having a lower paradise threshhold than most people.

September 13, 2003

Party Time

I’m generally in favor of the two-party system, partly because I do feel it provides a good deal of stability to democracy but also partly out of sheer contrarianism—all the usual suspects take it as a given that the dominance of two parties is a Bad Thing, so it probably isn’t. But I’m in an uncharacteristically wavering mood today, so I started thinking about a possible third party and how it would be kinda nice.

Of course, most people who want a viable third party want one that’s more extreme on the left or right, either a powerful Green Party or some kind of pure Christian Right party like the Taxpayers’ Party or whatever’s left of the Buchanan wing of the Reform party. But I’m the aggressive moderate so of course I want a new moderate party. Basically liberal domestically and neoconservative abroad (which I don’t view as a contradiction in terms, but oh well). Sort of a modern equivalent of the Bull Moose party (we could even call it that). It would include McCain, Lieberman, Edwards, Wolfowitz, Rice… then the Democratic party could just swing to the left as the Naderites want it to and the Republicans could be taken over by Keyes & the Christian right and everybody would be happy. Of course the Bull Mooses would womp them both but the losers would probably still be happier; as evidenced by the left’s support of Nader and now Dean, they’d rather be ideologically pure than win. So heck, give them the party. A moose is a better mascot than a donkey anyway.

Of course, this new alignment leaves out a few people; namely the old-line “country club” Republicans like Bush Sr., Scocroft, Gerald Ford and people like that, who don’t much like the neo- or theocons. But oh well, they’ll all be dead soon anyhow.

Another fun thing would be to have the lunatic fringe of both parties join forces and start the I-Hate-the-Gummint Party. This is actually more likely; signs of it are already starting to happen. Buchanan and Nader were allies in the fight against NAFTA, and both were against the Iraq war. Most of the Seattle hippies’ complaints against the WTO are echoed by the Idaho bomb-shelter crowd; both groups dislike Israel; they both are fighting the Patriot Act. You see references to Ruby Ridge even in the Socialist press, and Mumia Abu-Jamal wrote a piece sympathetic to the Branch Davidians. Really, the only thing keeping them apart is abortion (that’s a big thing, though).

September 10, 2003

I Hate Solaris/I Hate Windows

Solaris and Windows are constantly battling in my head for the title of Most Hated Operating System (which is unfortunate, since my primary job function is maintaing Solaris boxes and secondary is maintaining Windows boxes).

Today I spent a bunch of time trying to get Jrun4 to work, until I finally figured out that Jrun4, like many other Java-based server programs, depends on a local xserver on the box. WTF? This box doesn’t even have a frame buffer, for God’s sake.

Of course, Microslop is not to be outdone. I’m trying to figure out why HFNetChk is telling me that the Microsoft VM patch is invalid… something about a bad checksum… so I go to the MS Security page for that patch and find this little gem:

“There are two different versions of the 816093 update. The one for Windows 2000 and Windows XP will not run on a computer with Windows 2000 SP4 installed. The one for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition will run on Windows 2000 SP4.”

Yes, it’s true. The Windows 2000 version of the patch will not work on Windows 2000. You must use the Windows 98 version for Windows 2000.

Grr grr grumble grumble. Why do people do things like this? If I could have one super power, it would be the ability to psychically determine what individual is responsible for whatever is making me pull my hair out at the moment and remotely throttle him like Darth Vader.

September 9, 2003

Hey, wait a minute

Something that occurred to me while riding my bike to work today:

I understand angels don’t carry money, so he couldn’t be directly helpful that way, but… why didn’t Clarence at least tell Jimmy Stewart that Potter had the deposit money? Wouldn’t that have been more helpful?

Come to think of it, Clarence really didn’t do too much in general. Yes, he saved Stewart from suicide, but the archangel could have just woken up the bridgekeeper to accomplish the same thing. All the rest really did was keep Stewart distracted until the Hee-Haw guy came through with the money. It seems to me that he’s the real guardian angel. If that telegram had come through a few hours earlier, everything would have worked out the same and Stewart wouldn’t have had to be scared out of his wits by an incompetent angel.

August 29, 2003

MTV Video Awards

Why does anyone take the MTV awards at all seriously? It’s such a bizarre farce. Very few musicians have anything to do with the actual production of a video aside from hiring the people to do it (and I would imagine that even that is handled by the studio much of the time). And yet the New York Times solemnly reported the other day that Johnny Cash took home the award for “best cinematography”. Huh? Johnny Cash was sitting there on the set, setting up the cameras and the lighting, planning the shots with the director, overseeing the cameramen, etc.? No, of course not. Why does everyone willingly participate in this bizarre farce? What does the real cinematographer of that video think about that award on Cash’s mantel? And how come everyone was so upset that the fake Milli Vanilli singers won a Grammy but not when the every award is going to the lipsyncers?

August 28, 2003

Corporate Bureaucratic Fun

I’m one of these guys you see who pays for $3.50 charges with a credit card. Yes, I know it annoys people, but I don’t have an ATM close by, so when I take out cash it has to last me awhile; I try not to spend cash if absolutely necessary.

The other day I tried to make a $6.00 purchase at a local grocery and was told there was a $10 minimum charge for Visa purchases, so I had to pay cash. Now, according to Visa’s site, “Visa merchants are not permitted to establish minimum transaction amounts”.

Here’s the fun part. They also say that if you run into this you should “notify the financial institution that issued you your Visa card”. So today I did just that.

The customer service rep at Bank One tells me to call Visa. I read her the web page. She transfers me to her manager. The manager tells me to call Visa. I read her the web page. She transfers me to her manager. He tells me to call Visa. I read him the web page. He says that maybe that’s true for Visa credit cards, but I have a Visa debit card. I tell him that’s absurd, and anyway they’re violating the policy for everybody. He puts me on hold and calls their credit card division. He comes back and tells me I’m right, that is a violation of Visa policy, but I have to call Visa. Sigh. He actually gives me an 800 number to try at Visa, so okay, whatever. I call Visa. The Visa woman says that I need to talk to the issuing bank. Surprise! I say that I was just on the phone with my issuing bank for 45 minutes, and relate the story above. She says “hold on” and contacts Bank One herself. Then she takes me off hold and says she’s gotten ahold of someone at Bank One who understands the situation and can help me. I say “great” and she transfers me over. The new Bank One woman says “so you have a charge you wish to dispute?” My heart sinks. “No, I don’t have a charge; that’s the point.” I explain the entire situation again. “Oh. Well, we can’t help you with that,” she says. Sigh. She transfers me to the “Chairman’s Office”, which sounds promising. I explain the situation once again to Chairman’s Office woman, who says… drumroll… that there’s nothing she can do about it and that I need to contact Visa. Grr grr grumble grumble. I recap yet again. She doesn’t get it. I recap again. She sort of gets it, and tells me I need to go to my local branch office. “The local branch office is miles away, and if I go there, they’re not going to know what I’m talking about and will tell me to contact Visa,” I say. She agrees to contact the branch first and make sure they have the form available, and then, after a long hold, she gives me the number of the local branch. Local Branch Lady says that she needs to contact Visa to get the form (if Visa has the forms, why couldn’t they just have given one to me?) and can I call back in ten minutes? I wait for 12 minutes. I call back. “They said I can get a copy of the form in the Customer Service Handbook, and I was just looking for that when you called.” “Great,” I say. “It’s a charge dispute, correct?” ! Steam comes out of my ears. I explain again. “Oh, you need to call this number for that.” She gives me the Visa number again. “No…” I explain again. “Well, let me call you back.” She doesn’t. Nobody ever calls back, in any situation. So I call back an hour later. She’s actually very helpful and friendly but still can’t find the relevant form. “We’re still searching through the system,” she says, making “the system” sound like some ancient temple from Raiders of the Lost Ark. So I have to call back tomorrow.

Why is everything like this? Making people jump through endless hoops to accomplish simple tasks must satisfy some primal bureaucratic drive.

August 21, 2003

PDF Documents

Why is every Adobe Acrobat document in the world in such a ridiculously large font? I assume PDFs are for easy printing; otherwise, people would use HTML, right? So whenever I get a longish PDF that seems interesting, I print it out—and it’s in gigantic Times New Roman, double spaced, with these insanely large margins. It’s like some high school kid trying desperately to get his paper to the maximum page-length before he turns it in. Do people just think Acrobat users have poor eyesight? Excessive amounts of paper and toner? What is up?

If I ever write anything worth reading and I put it in a PDF, I’ll be sure to make it look like something more like a real printed article.

August 7, 2003

Party-Line Voting

This post from Eugene Volokh on party-line voting has been bugging me for the last couple days. Something seems wrong about the argument, but I can’t quite put my finger on what. There definitely is something to what he says; last election, I voted for the Republican candidates for Congress because of the Democratic candidates’ opposition to the Iraq war, and then found myself disappointed that the Republicans had held on to both houses. (“What the fuck is the matter with you?” was my girlfriend’s comment.) But, still, did I do the wrong thing?

I guess my objection is related to Consequence B in the post (gotta love lawyer blogs, with their highly-organized posts). Although I still consider myself a Democrat (stay tuned, though), I definitely will vote Republican if the Democratic candidate annoys me sufficiently. That probably makes me one of these “swing voters” we hear so much about. The more extreme left disproportionately votes in the primaries, so there’s always a danger in primary elections for the most extreme ideologue to prevail. What stops this from happening most of the time is the fear that we swing voters will defect rather than support the lunatic extremist the PETA & NOW folks foisted on everyone. If we all did like Volokoh and voted for the party candidate no matter what, wouldn’t this crucial counterweight disappear?

Of course, this all applies to the Republican party too; since the Christian Coalition folks vote more than anyone in the Republican primaries, the main thing stopping them from nominating crazed fire-and-brimstone preachers every time is the fear that the libertarian wing will sooner vote for a moderate, pro-business Democrat than somebody too rabid.

If everyone who voted in the general election also voted in the primaries, than Volokoh’s philosophy would be less objectionable. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Chicago Hours

One of the things that annoys me about Chicago is that none of the business owners here seem to grasp the concept of business hours. More often than not stores buy open/closed signs and then never turn them over; you’ll be walking down a street at two AM and every store will still say “open”.

Worse than this, though, is when you call a business and ask how late they’re open, and then go down there later to discover they just decided to close a half-hour earlier than what they’ve told you. I’ve had this happen to me three times, and I saw it happen to some poor patrons of Margie’s Candies the other day. “I don’t want to have to stay here until 12:30 closing up,” said the man locking the door at 11:30, as if that somehow invalidated the posted closing time of 12:00.

Why is this so hard for people here? I never had these problems in my hometown of Ann Arbor, but I still don’t know if this is a big-city thing or a Chicago thing.

August 6, 2003

Solaris Stripdown Fest

My Solaris installation philosophy is to get rid of as much Solaris as possible. Thus:

kjs# pkginfo | wc -l 
43 

Yes, I don’t need Netscape 4 in Thai on my server, thank you.

August 4, 2003

Mike Tyson owes me $50,000

Well, not me, but “Kim Scarborough”. Actually, it’s “Kimberly Scarborough”, so the joke is sorta lost. But I’m easily amused, at least today:

August 1, 2003

Ho

[Ho]

July 30, 2003

Today’s amusing computer error

telnet: Resolver Error 0 (no error)

I like the idea that the lack of an error is in itself an error.

Screwups

I have really screwed up a lot today. I’ve broken things on the servers here three times today, totally chewed out a co-worker for an e-mail without actually reading it (I assumed he was asking me about something compeletely different), and managed to delete a semi-important SSL certificate. And the day still has four hours to go.

I’m not the most dazzling professional in the world, but I do usually manage to keep from breaking everything I see in the course of a day. So what’s wrong today? Not totally sure, but I do have a theory. Yesterday, they announced the annual raises for our department. They were low, but that was okay (well, not okay, but they had warned us earlier that they would be so it wasn’t unexpected, and times are hard, etc.). But they were also the exact same percentage for everyone in the department.

I was thinking about this this morning, and I realized that by giving an identical, across-the-board raise to everyone, they had completely divorced performance from compensation. No matter how well or poorly I did last year, it didn’t matter, as long as I managed to keep above the so-incompetent-you’re-fired line.

Oh well. That’s the nature of working at a university. At least I don’t have to wear a tie and I can put weird cartoons on my door. I went on and stopped thinking about it—but I’ve screwed up everything I’ve tried to do since thinking that. My subconcious is hexing me.

Economists presumably would not be surprised by this; I remember an experiment where test subjects would drop an unexpectedly hot cup of coffee if they thought the cup was cheap but not if they thought it was expensive. Not that that helps me out of my dilemma now. Not sure what I’ll do. I need to force myself to forget the nature of our pay scheme, or get my boss to threaten to fire me if I don’t quit screwing up.

But wait! Why do I care if I screw up or not? After all, I get paid the same… Boing! Brain feedback loop…

July 28, 2003

Caffeine

I read somewhere (on the internet, so it must be true), that there are no health repercussions from having up to 450 mg of caffeine a day. I’m only at 200! I’m not getting my RDA! Must boost intake.

July 25, 2003

Condos

I don’t believe in condominiums. They say you own them, but don’t you believe them. The rule of ownership is this: if you can blow it up, you own it. I own my computers, my TV set, and my furniture; I don’t own my cats.

July 20, 2003

Country Kitchen Aesthetic

I wonder if there’s been any analysis by one of the many pop cultural monitors out there of the whole Country Kitchen/Holly Hobbie aesthetic. You know the kind of stuff I’m talking about—weird floral designs, bonnets, big wooden forks, oak trim, goose clothes. Lots of yellow and creme colors.

The people who are into this tend to be older than the baby boomers; not old enough to be their parents, but maybe older siblings. People who are in their mid-to-late 60’s these days. I don’t know any baby boomers who are into that bizarre pseudo-frontier settler style, so in the next ten years, we’ll see a complete end to that look.

Well, not “complete”. It will disappear for ten years or so, and then will be resurrected by hip ironic teenagers and twentysomethings, and then fashionable vintage shops will start selling it. Just like today’s collectors of the Keane sad-eyes stuff.

July 18, 2003

Mysterious Sign

I’ve been puzzling over a sign I saw yesterday all morning. It was posted on the window of a barbershop: “Barber Available”.

Now, does that mean that their barbers have up to now had 100% of their time filled by appointments, but are now in the highly unusual position of having some free slots, so now a barber is available to give haircuts to anyone who walks in? Did they leave out an important word when attempting to put a sign saying that a barber’s position was available? Or did they just fire one of their barbers, and then put up a sign letting the world know that he is wandering around, available to anyone else who wants him?

July 15, 2003

More Bootleg Brilliance

I’m adding the Beach Boys to the list of bands that are better on bootlegs. I just downloaded a fan’s remix of their unfinished album Smile, and I’m blown away. I always liked Pet Sounds and I’ve owned it for a long time, but I’ve never heard any legit releases of theirs that sounded as good as this. I can’t stop playing it.

A lot of reviewers say that Smile’s allure comes from its abandoned status (like this particularly annoying essay), but I think that’s nonsense. You can tell when something’s brilliant event if only fragments exist—go watch Greed sometime if you don’t believe it.

July 14, 2003

Villains

It’s strange how every dedicated fan following for a given musician or band has designated somebody the official “villain”. Yoko Ono is blamed for the Beatles’ breakup, Colonel Parker for Elvis’s career degeneration, Mike Love for thwarting Brian Wilson’s avant-garde direction for the Beach Boys, Doug Yule for subduing the Velvet Underground’s sound, Courtney Love for somehow causing Kurt Cobain’s suicide, or something, etc. What is it about the fanboy mentality that makes them view everything in these Star Wars good vs. evil terms? None of the above examples are accurate representations of what really happened, but somehow it soothes people to be able to shift the blame for performers’ stupid decisions on to a scapegoat.

July 12, 2003

Great Minds

Ken Wheaton has the same name for his blog that I used to have for this one, and he also comments on the mysterious lack of concern among our anti-war friends far the people of Iran, albeit much more articulately.

July 11, 2003

My 15 minutes of fame

Lessig is catapulting my name to the heights of recognition. People are stopping me on the street. Reporters are calling me at work.

Well, maybe not. But I do get to see my name in Japanese.

Dated Strips

Ever since Charles Schulz died, the syndicate has been re-running Peanuts from around 1974. In the last three days it’s had references to Peggy Fleming and Nehru jackets. It’s hard to imagine more dated references, but somehow I doubt it’s going to be pulled from any newspapers.

So why can’t we have original Ernie Bushmiller Nancy comics? Bushmiller would occasionally make a reference to contemporary events, but far less often than Schulz would. And who cares anyway? What’s so horrible about indications that something existed in a particular time period? Why is “dated” bad and “timeless” good? Doesn’t anyone think period references add to the charm? I don’t understand why we have to put up with an endless procession of crappy third-rate Bushmiller imitators when we could just have the originals.

While I’m on the subject, while it’s great that they are re-running Schulz Peanuts instead of getting a new artist to do it (a horrifying thought), I wish they had gone back a little farther. The early 1970’s were right when Peanuts was starting to run out of steam. There still were some nice moments, but Schulz was clearly past his prime and starting to repeat himself. By picking the very end of the period in which the strip was good, we’ll now have the depressing spectacle of watching it slowly turn to crap over the next 5–10 years (by 1980 it was unreadable). Why couldn’t they have started it at the begininng, or at least in the late 1950’s so we could watch it improving?

July 9, 2003

News from Iran

For some reason I was added to a mailing list run by the “Iranian Renaissance Movement” a couple months ago. Dunno if somebody thought I’d be interested, or they’re just spamming everybody, but I’m glad I’m getting it now. I’ve gotten three dispatches today. The latest one (typos intact):

In 30 Tir street one Bank has been set fire1

In nazy Abad neibourhood angry youth raided Basij headquarter and fierce ckashes have been break out !

Shooting have bween heard in Nazy Abad.

Foreign reporters have beed banned to enter hot points in Tehran!!!

So there you have it. Not a lot in the news about this yet, but then the coverage of Iran has been stunningly small for the last year.

Here’s a little blurb from Sky News.

Iran

It really disgusts me that Chicago was home of some of the largest anti-war rallies in the country, but apparently there’s nothing today in support of Iran’s general strike for democracy, as there are in several other cities. Apparently people here only are moved to action when they’re fighting the establishment of democracy.

New Music

I’ve really lucked out on music lately. First, because of a video I saw last month on one of my favorite TV shows, I discovered Scream Club, a Colorado group founded by someone named “Cindy Wonderful”. I sent her some money and she sent me their CD, a tape by her previous band (Rainbow Sugar), a videotape with 12 episodes of her community access TV show, and a 7″ single with her and Wesley Willis. Whatta deal! All the music is great, and I was listening to it constantly until…

WCBN-FM played some incredibly catchy noise from a mysterious band called “Life Is Meat”. Apparently the CD had gone out to a bunch of radio stations in 1997 with no contact information at all on it. I had a very frustrating time tracking it down until finally I managed to find the person behind it and wrote him… he sent me free copies of both his CDs; I would have paid a lot for them. They may even go on my desert island list. Anyway, some of his MP3s are here.

I’m famous, sort of

Lawrence Lessig mentions me in his blog because of a cool radio show I discovered the other day and sent to him. I’m very flattered; Lessig is one of my heroes.

July 1, 2003

The hardware store was fresh out of crescent moons

An amusing postscript to a sad story:

Aurora carpenter Greg Zanis, who has delivered wood crosses to the site of the Columbine High School shootings and the E2 club stampede, arrived at 9 a.m. with 12 crosses.

After realizing one of the victims was likely Muslim, Zanis returned with a dozen teddy bears that he displayed in a prayer circle.

Naturally.

Later in the day, he said he heard at least one of the victims was Jewish and hoped the prayer circle could serve as an alternate memorial for Jewish victims as well.

“I didn’t want to offend anybody,” Zanis said. “It’s the same thing—there’s only one God. We’re all in this together.”

I’m tempted to write him and tell him that one of the victims was Zoroastrian.

June 27, 2003

Music to cheer you up

When drugs don’t work:

Try some Guido Deiro.

June 20, 2003

We Have a Winner?

An early favorite for the 2003 Nobel Prank Prize:

These DJs who apparently managed to prank call Fidel Castro.

He apparently didn’t take it too well. Dictators never seem to like being made fun of. Funny how that works.

June 19, 2003

ISO Dream

I have the nerdiest dreams of anyone I know. Last night I dreamt that I was looking at the ISO’s web site and that they had standards for giving people directions and for ordering at restaurants.

Come to think of it, neither of those are bad ideas.

June 16, 2003

A Hopeful Article

This article makes the point I’ve been trying to make in my not-always articulate fashion. When people look back at this time period, it will be viewed as a golden age; the time when most of the people of the world stopped having to live in regions controlled by thugs. Why are people so blind? We are finally doing what we should have been doing all along—fulfilling our destiny as the bringer of Democracy to the world. And all the intelligentsia can do is carp about how we’re annoying the dictators, and that Bush is stupid. Oh well. The small-minded will be forgotten in any event.

Who would have guessed 40 years ago that most of the world would be democratic by now? And that the idealists would be called “conservatives” (albeit with a neo- prepended) and the reactionaries would be called “liberals”?

AP Half Full

“Supreme Court Allows Defendant’s Forced Medication” —Reuters headline today

“Court Limits Drugging of Some Defendants”—AP headline today

June 5, 2003

Robert Montgomery

Tivo taped two Robert Montgomery/Rosalind Russell movies from the mid-1930s for me the other day. I adore Rosalind Russell, but I never found Robert Montgomery at all likeable or charismatic. Is it just me, or is he one of these actors whose appeal just doesn’t hold up? I would put Robert Cummings in that category, too, and perhaps Ray Milland (although he got better as he got older).

It would be fun to make a list of which actors have held up and which haven’t. Fun for me, anyway. I really like making lists. It’s a weird habit, like watching bowling.

June 1, 2003

Democratic History

I’m doing some research for a new website I’m working on (more about that later), and I looked up the official Democratic Party history at their site. I was curious how they would handle the fact that the Democratic party was basically the pro-slavery party before the Civil War. The answer is… they don’t! They just skip over it. One paragraph talks about the founding of the DNC in 1848, and the very next paragragh begins “As the 19th Century came to a close…”

Heh. You’d think they’d be able to put some kind of spin on it, or say something about it. How about, “In 1856, the Democratic Party nominated the only gay presidential candidate in American history”? That ought to be worth some points nowadays.

May 30, 2003

Google Hits

Heh. My last post caused my referrer logs to fill up with people searching for “Chloe Sevigny” and “blowjob”. There may be a market for the movie after all…

Of course, now that I’ve said that, I’ll probably go even higher in the results for that search… commenting on your own referrer logs kinda invokes a mini–Uncertainty Principle.

May 24, 2003

French Revenge

I’ll say one thing for the French; they definitely outclass us on the petty revenge front. Over here, the best we can come up with is “Freedom Fries” and smashing a Peugot. What they did was to pick the worst American movie they could possibly find and make it the only American entrant for the Golden Palm at Cannes. Vincent Gallo’s The Brown Bunny is by all accounts, an astonishingly terrible movie; apparently the only reason Gallo made it was so he could get a blowjob from Chloe Sevigny. He must have been pleasantly surprised when Cannes picked it up; little did he know that it was just a giant Carrie-type mindfuck. After watching half the audience walk out during the show and the other half booing when it was done (with “the loudest round of boos I’ve heard in my 12 years attending this festival”, said one reviewer), he started crying and said he was going to take his toys and go home. Yet another civilian casualty in the culture war.

(See Ebert’s review)

May 22, 2003

Another Amendment

Oops, forgot about another constitutional amendment I want (this will be the 31st Amendment, at least in the Bizarro world where everybody listens to me). Every week, the President must be questioned by members of the House of Representatives, just like “Question Time” in the U.K. Wouldn’t that be fun? That one amendment by itself would prevent dumb, thin-skinned people like Dubya from becoming president.

May 21, 2003

Constitutional Amendments

I know, everybody in their spare moments sits around and dreams of future constitutional amendments. Mine, unfortunately, have no chance of passing. Oh well, why let reality interfere with a legitimate desire to avoid work?

  1. Repeal the 17th Amendment. I’m surprised I don’t see this discussed more often. It would go at least part way towards solving the problems that people say McCain-Feingold and (more questionably) term limits will solve. If senators didn’t have to run in direct elections, they wouldn’t have to be begging for money all the time, and senators would probably be smarter too, since state legislators of any stripe would presumably be more receptive to subtle political points than the general populace.
  2. Now that we’ve fixed the Senate, let’s fix the House. The biggest problem with the House today is that gerrymandering is out of hand. In theory, every one of the 435 seats should be up for grabs every two years. In practice, there’s about 20 every term; the rest are “safe seats” because the districts are drawn to guarantee incumbency. Politicians hypocritally complain about the lack of engagement by the populace; bringing competiton back would do more to fan political activity than any “motor-voter” laws.

    Iowa’s constitution says that no county can be broken into more than one district. Furthermore, their law says that redistricting authorities can’t look at racial composition, voting history, or political affiliation of residents, or addresses of current legislators when redrawing the lines. Let’s make something like this federal.

  3. A hard limit for terms of copyright. The constitution says that Congress shall establish copyrights for “reasonable” terms; since the Supreme Court has said basically it’s not their business to interpret “reasonble”, we’re going to have to get more specific. I’d like to see terms limited to life of the creator plus 20 years for individuals and 50 years for corporations, but that’s negotiable. As long as it’s set in stone and not the current method, which everything pre–Mickey Mouse is public domain and everything after it is copyrighted, forever.

Whee!

May 20, 2003

Another exciting day in the big city

So on Saturday I went out to get something to eat and then I went to this comics store I like but I couldn’t find anything I wanted so I decided to go to this art movie which was a retelling of Dante’s Inferno with Walgreen’s advertisements or some such at this little film co-op thingie even though it sounded kinda boring because it was made by this guy I used to know back in Michigan and he was going to be there but when I got there the tickets were $10 which seemed pretty extreme for some little dinky shot-on-video show in a loft and the filmmaker didn’t remember me anyway so I suddenly remembered that I needed to stop at an ATM machine before I could buy a ticket and I left and went to a Starbucks where I called my friend who wasn’t home and then I called my cousin’s brother who was in some suburb and I couldn’t understand what he was saying on his cell phone so I hung up and went across town to this coffee shop I really like and found out it went out of business six months ago. And that was my Saturday.

May 16, 2003

Movie Reviewers

I’m sick of getting tricked by movie reviewers. I’ve tried to read reviews intelligently, to keep track of which reviewers have decent taste, but I keep getting screwed. The most recent bummer was Charlotte Sometimes, a deadening, pointless piece of crap which all the reviews said was a thoughtful exploration of modern Asian-American culture blah blah blah blah.

So I’ve decided to get more scientific about it. I picked 15 movies from the last 10 years that I either loved or hated, and that a lot of people seemed to disagree with me about, one way or the other. Now I’m making a chart which I’ll keep adding reviewers to that marks whether they liked a movie or not. It’s color-coded to indicate at a glance whether the reviewer agreed with me on a given movie or not.

My goal is to find a reviewer that either consistently agrees or disagrees with me; which one doesn’t really matter. If it’s somebody who always disagrees with me, I’ll just see the movies he says suck.

I’m just getting started on this, but my best discovery so far is Jeffrey M. Anderson from the San Francisco Examiner. I hadn’t heard of him before, but he’s the only reviewer that I’ve found so far that hated The Truth about Tully and Laurel Canyon, both inexorable pieces of drek that have enough indie cred that they managed to hoodwink most reviewers into thinking they’re Insightful. Barf. So he gets extra points in my book.

The chart is here if you care—I really only made it for myself, so it may not display right for you. Specifically, you have to have your browser set to use a font that includes the unicode angry face character, which a lot of unicode fonts are missing for some reason (they all seem to have the happy face).

May 13, 2003

Artists better on bootlegs

Musicians whose best work is on bootlegs:

Post a comment if you can think of others.

May 11, 2003

In the news

Palestinian leaders have put aside reservations to parts of the U.S.-developed plan for peace with Israel and are ready to get started on it, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday, heeding an appeal by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

“We have accepted the road map,” Abbas said at a joint news conference with Powell…

—Lede paragraph from this morning’s AP story

Secretary of State Colin Powell ended a critical round of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Sunday with no sign of progress toward persuading them to begin implementing a peace “road map.”

—Lede paragraph from this morning’s Reuters story

May 6, 2003

Questions and comments for the Angry Economist

I was looking at the Angry Economist blog, and was wondering about a couple things. So, in true blogosphere spirit, I’m posting them here.

  1. (Re: “Vouchers drain money”, May 2) I have some sympathy for the vouchers argument. After all, something has to be done about the appalling state of education in this country, and the preferred Democratic solution (just give the schools more money, no strings attached) is inadequate, to put it mildly. And I do agree that markets produce better results.

    That said, something about the voucher system bothers me. In a free market, people with less money get less quality items. I have no problem with that generally. But in a free-market situation for education, which vouchers would theoretically produce, the poor would get the worst quality education of anyone in the country. Do we really want that? Since all the studies say that education level is the best predictor of future income, wouldn’t we be setting up a system that ensured a permanent lower class? It seems like we’d be denying the poor the single most important antidote to being poor.

    I’m sure many people reading this would argue that the poor are already getting a terrible education. That’s true, but so is almost everyone in America. Even if you grant that vouchers would improve the quality of the education of the poor, which I believe it would, it wouldn’t do much good in the financial world (leaving aside the intangible benefits of a better education). Why not? Well, there’s only so many jobs. If the best 30% of jobs go to the 30% best educated, then it won’t wake any difference if we improve the education of the poor if it doesn’t increase in step to the other economic classes. We’ll just have better educated McDonald’s workers.

    Am I missing something here? I hope so. I think the best solution to the educational crisis would be to delink school spending with property taxes, which produces the same sort of perpetual underclass I describe here, and instead federally fund it. But that’s not currently politically viable, so vouchers seem to me a second-best solution. Still, things like this bother me about vouchers. If I’m not wrong with this objection, or not completely wrong anyway, then would making the amount of vouchers given out inversely proportional to the household income eliminate this problem? Or am I just a total idiot? I’d hate to further incur the wrath of the Angry Economist.

  2. (Re: “After Email dies”, April 23) I’m on a bit firmer ground talking about e-mail and web stuff than economics. Mr. Angry comes up with a an intriguing theory about what to replace SMTP with, on the theory that spam will soon overwhelm the current mail system and we’ll have to do something else.

    First, I’d like to take issue with the premise. I don’t think spam is an unsolveable problem, even leaving in place the current “receiver-pays” system. It’s true that the total amount of spam is increasing; this has been getting lots of play in the media and it’s obvious to anybody who gets e-mail. What is less obvious to everyone except the nerdarati is that the sources of e-mail are decreasing. This is for a few reasons. Just six or seven years ago, every SMTP server was an open relay, meaning that they would take mail from anywhere and send it to anywhere (I used to have fun with this by sending e-mail to people in my office and routing it from Chicago through France, Japan, Greece, kentuckyfriedchicken.com, Japan again, South Africa, and then back to Chicago). This made spam almost impossible to trace.

    Nowadays, however, all the major mail server packages ship as closed relays, meaning administrators have to go in to the configuration and specify what computers they will accept mail from and to. If somebody uses their machine to spam, it will presumably be by somebody they can trace (i.e., an ISP’s customer) and take action against. The number of open relays is now so low that it’s feasible to maintain a list of almost all of them, and configure your server or mail filter to deny mail from them.

    The other thing that’s changed in the last decade is that everyone’s more internet-educated. When the internet first started to catch on, the most common kind of spam was Ponzi-scheme chain letters sent generally by ignorant college freshmen discovering the internet for the first time (it also was common on usenet newsgroups). You don’t really see this anymore; kids are on the internet now long before college, and everyone understands that huge mass-mailing, especially Ponzi scheme mails, is a big no-no. This also extends to legitimate businesses; you used to often get mass mails from reputable businesses who ignorantly thought spamming was a legitimate form of advertising. No marketing department is this naive anymore. So the only companies spamming these days are the bottom-of-the-barrel, quasi-legal entities selling penis enlargement pills and porno videos.

    There’s a relatively small number of these people; it seems like there’s millions of them, but that’s just because of how much spam they churn out. I would be willing to bet that most of the spam one gets is from the same 100 people. (As an aside, I don’t think they’re mostly motivated by profits; all evidence indicates that they tend to be anti-social malcontents that just enjoy angering everyone. Sort of like lower-stakes versions of the guy who poisoned the Tylenol bottles. The fact that they can make some money doing this is just gravy.) Since this is coming from a limited base, it’s easy to filter yet more based on some of their “safe havens”, and still more on the common phrasing that their mails share. It’s a winnable battle, and we are winning it (my less-than ideal spam filters catch more than 95% of the spam I get).

    That said, let’s go on to the proposed solution. If the technical procedure is worked out, this would mostly eliminate spam in the short term. Probably the notification procedure would be some sort of stripped down form of SMTP that would only send headers and was only meant to be read by mail clients/web browsers, not end users. It could add a required header for the message URL. The idea that the message would be hidden by means of a “hard to guess” URL is a bad idea. This kind of thing as known as “security through obscurity”, and it doesn’t work. There are dozens of ways the URL could be guessed (brute-force attacks where browsers try to hit every possible URL according to the established pattern, sniffing HTTP GET requests, which are sent through plaintext, looking at referring URLs in web logs, just to name a few). A better way of doing it would be just to require PGP encryption on every message. Then it wouldn’t matter how many people loaded the message; only the possessor of the private key could read it. This would have the advantage of making it more secure than current common mail practice (as hardly anyone other than nerds use PGP currently). The disadvantage would be that you would need to put up seperate pages for everyone you sent a message to, but that might not be such a big deal since it’s just plaintext.

    The short-term advantage of this to combat spam isn’t even covered in the proposal; it’s that a theoretical spammer’s web server would be quickly overwhelmed and crushed by the load that a spam run of current numbers would put on it. This is a much more effective limiter than relying on people keeping track of the number of notifications (which is vague but sounds unwieldy). However, this problem would go away eventually as bandwidth becomes cheaper, pipes get fatter, and CPUs get faster.

    My main gripe with this system is that it makes it obvious if and when you’ve read somebody’s mail. I don’t want people to know that. It’s none of their business. I don’t want people who write me to know if I’m blowing them off or if I’m just away from my computer. I think most people would have similar objections, or at least enough to make this system unfeasible.

May 4, 2003

Latest Music Purchases

My music purchases have fallen off a bit as I’m trying to save up for a Vespa, but there have been a couple things I had to pick up.

First was Michelle Shocked’s Texas Campfire Takes (my third Michelle Shocked CD in three months). Apparently her first album, The Texas Campfire Tapes, was released without her permission, or her cooperation, or something (details are vague—I have yet to find a full story about what exactly happened), so she’s been annoyed with the whole thing for years (although it was what first got her a label contract and put her on the map). Anyway, she got the rights to the album back and just rereleased it last month, speed-corrected, with missing songs added, put back in the original order, and the song titles corrected. It’s allegedly remastered, although it sounds more muffled than the original to me. I suppose I shouldn’t pass judgement on sound quality on anything until I get these crappy cheap speakers that we got at a garage sale or something replaced. I’ll do it one of these days. (Did I mention I was saving up for a Vespa?)

Anyway, I’m really glad she did this despite her hostility to the album. When people put together compilations or release only part of a live show, they invariably leave out the best stuff. It’s weird. I guess not everyone can have my flawless judgement. In this case, the original Mercury release left off “When I Grow Up” (my favorite song of hers) and “Fool for Cocaine”, both much better than a couple tracks that did make the cut. So hooray for rereleases.

The other recent arrival was Natacha Atlas’s Ayeshteni, on vinyl. I’ve had her version of “I Put a Spell on You” stuck in my head ever since a friend played it for me at a Christmas party, so I finally ordered an Italian import of it. Yay.

April 23, 2003

Real Conversation

I swear to God that my girlfriend actually asked me this morning if Schröedinger was still alive, giving me the opportunity to reply “all we know is that he was dead when they closed the coffin lid, and that he is either dead or alive at the moment”.

April 22, 2003

If God existed…

…pi would be a rational number.

April 12, 2003

Cakewalks and Quagmires

Okay, the U.S. has now been in four wars since 1990. Before each of the first three, there were tons of bright people talking about what a bloody catastrophe we were in for, how this would be a quagmire, a new Vietnam, etc., etc., etc. There wasn’t much of that talk before this one, but two weeks after it started, all that talk suddenly spewed out for mysterious reasons. The thing is that nobody ever seems to remember what people said the last time around when weighing their current pronouncements. I know one of the great things about America is that it’s the land of second chances, but shouldn’t there be some accountability? People adjust their expectations of baseball players and racehorses because of their prior records; why not pundits?

Well, I have Nexis access now. I’m going to make it my goal to find writers that are 4-for-4: people who said the battle-hardened Iraqi army wouldn’t be driven out of Kuwait without a brutal fight, that U.S. air power alone wouldn’t stop the Bosnian slaughter, that the U.S. would meet the fate of every other power who tried to conquer Afghanistan, and that we would be forced to fight house-to-house once we got to Baghdad. I’m sure there are several.

April 10, 2003

Unethical Republicans

As much as I hate modern leftism, there’s not much danger I’ll ever consider becoming a Republican. Not when they keep pulling crap like this.

The Patriot Act was originally set up so that it would automatically expire in five years, and would have to be explicitly renewed. This seemed like a reasonable compromise; it’s probably best to reassess laws passed during a state of emergency some time later, to see if they’re really still necessary. Many people supported them because of this “Sunset” provision, and that’s probably what got it the votes to pass.

Now, guess what. Asshole Orrin Hatch wants to just do away with those pesky expiration times now that the bill’s actually a law. How can people be so unethical? Anyone else would be too ashamed to pull such a crass double-cross, but it seems like it’s turning into standard operating procedure for Republicans. This is pretty much what they did with the tax cuts. They set them up in such a way that they expired in ten years so that they could minimize the effect they would have on the budget, got them passed, then a year later got rid of the expirations. Aren’t any Republican voters bothered by such sleazy behavior? I mean, even if you’re in favor of the tax cuts or the Patriot Act, wouldn’t such blatant cheating by elected officials bother you? I’m pro-choice, but that doesn’t stop me from being disgusted by the ridiculous power grab that was Roe v. Wade.

Dearborn

Sounds almost like V-E day in Dearborn, Michigan, near where I grew up. Wish I were there now.

Wrong, wrong, wrong

I realize gloating should probably wait until the fall of Tikrit, but I can’t help myself. Take a look at this particularly idiotic article. When this was posted to a mailing list I’m on, a friend of mine and I had the same reaction: “Dogs and cats, living together…” Anyway, I’m going to keep a copy of this locally in case the author ever gets tired of feeling stupid and takes it down.

Let’s see. I count 25 specific predictions in there, 4 of which were for after the war. That leaves 21, of which 16 are completely wrong, 4 were true but way overstated in their significance (yes, there was some fighting in Baghdad, and yes, the deficit increased as a result of this war—all of our spending is deficit spending, why pick on this particular one?—and 1 that’s still up in the air (Saddam staying in Baghdad). Do people like this ever get embarrassed? Guess we’ll find out.

New Music 4/2003

I’ve had a bunch of great records and CDs arrive just in the last few days:

Hmm. I think I’m forgetting something, but I’m not sure what.

Alienation

So I was late for work this morning waiting for them to pull down the Saddam statue in downtown Baghdad. I finally had to leave; they managed to get it about an hour later.

I’ve been in a good mood all morning. It seems pretty clear that so far, what I’ve believed to be true has indeed turned out to be true: that the war would be brief and as bloodless as it’s possible for a war to be, and that the Iraqis would welcome U.S.-led liberation. I said to myself before the war started that I would put up articles on my door that described scenes of Iraqis welcoming the Americans; it’s now nearly covered. I’m very tempted to make copies of this article about Americans freeing children imprisoned by the Iraqi regime for refusing to join the Baathist Youth and start shoving it in the faces of everyone who was against the war, saying “you did everything you could to prevent this from happening”.

I won’t, though. My politics are alienating enough people as it is. An old friend told me recently that the only people who agreed with me were “inbred”; another told me I was a cold-hearted dilettante, making wisecracks about the war for my own amusement and that she would never sleep with me (I hadn’t realized it was even on the table).

So I’ve been trying to lay off the politics for a while. It’s a bad habit, and hard to break. I was much easier to deal with, no doubt, back when I went months without reading a newspaper (which doesn’t seem real—was I really that disengaged? I wonder if heroin addicts have similar trouble remembering eating). It won’t work, I know.

I do feel some regret, though, that my half-hearted attempt to stop writing about political matters meant that I didn’t go more on record here as saying what bullshit all the media’s “quagmire” talk was. I always felt that, but it’s less impressive to say it now. I did post about it to a mailing list I’m on, though, so I guess I get half-credit.

April 1, 2003

Mysteries

Boy, it’s stunning how dumb some of these reporters are. From an AP story today:

Saddam has delivered two televised addresses since the war began March 20. It was unclear why the Iraqi leader did not appear Tuesday.

Yeah, that’s pretty unclear. Or at least it would be if you hadn’t noticed that the “two televised addresses” had been taped before the war started.

March 27, 2003

Taxicabs

I didn’t think I’d ever want to rise to the defense of cab drivers, but I was annoyed the other day by a network reporting on taxis taking people from Baghdad to the Iraqi border for the equivalent of $1500. I don’t remember exactly what they said, but the point of the story was that these cab drivers were somehow taking advantage of people and unscrupulously profiteering.

Look, if you’re going to take a fare over 350 miles through contested territory in a war zone, for God’s sake, I should think you’d be entitled to charge a hefty sum. Ask yourself how much they’d have to pay you before you would drive a sedan through a desert in the middle of a war.

Heck, according to the City of Chicago’s Department of Consumer Services, cab fare where I live is $1.60 a mile. That makes it roughly $575 here to go the equivalent distance, and that’s not figuring for traffic delays or other waiting time. Is charging a little less than triple that because there’s a strong possibilty of being blown up by an artillery shell really so unreasonable?

Thugs

Overheard at work today:

“I have a hard time with this whole ‘support the troops’ thing. I just view them as the hired thugs of the Bush regime.”

This from a mild-mannered, older professorial-looking type who always is friendly and seems like a reasonable fellow.

Meanwhile, I feel like I’m falling deeper and deeper in the rabbit hole. What world are all these people living in? The same thought keeps occurring to me: either every single person I know is insane, or I am. The funny thing is that I’m not sure which possibility is more alarming.

March 26, 2003

Teachers

I saw a bumper sticker yesterday that said “It’s too bad the people who know how to run the country are busy teaching school”. At first, I took it at face value, but now I’m starting to wonder if it’s a sort of nyah-nyah snide remark along the lines of “Those who can’t do, teach”. I rather like it better that way, but perhaps I’m just projecting.

Objective

Why do people put “Objective” on their resumes? Does anyone care? I’ve never been a position where I hired people (and probably never will; nobody ever seems to think I’m management material. Probably because I usually look like an angry caged bear whenever I’m forced to sit in a meeting), but if I were, why would I care how my company fits in your career plans? I just want to know what you can do for my company. If anyone reading this has ever had to hire somebody, please post a comment telling me if I’m missing something here.

March 24, 2003

Propaganda

The other weird thing about this war is how most of the outlets seem to take Iraq’s propaganda at face value. Again, I don’t think this is an ideological thing, although I guess you never really know. It just seems like a weird lack of skepticism, like when the Raelians claimed to clone a baby and it got a bunch of play. It’s left to the U.S. miltary to point out that the part of the river that Iraqi soldiers were firing into was about a block away from the Information Ministry and that it’s rather unlikely that the most sophisticated model of military helicopter the U.S. posesses was shot down by a farmer with a machine gun.

Auctions

I went into a bit of an Ebay frenzy on Friday and dipped into my Vespa fund. Oh well. I won a bunch of auctions for records I’ve been wanting for awhile:

I’m most excited about the Crafts LP. I’ve been trying to get my hands on that sucker for over 10 years now. I don’t even remember what it sounds like anymore. Unfortunately I got outbid on a John Berberian LP I really wanted. Oh well, I guess it’ll be good to have money for groceries this month.

Rumsfeld

I wish I could tell my Tivo to figure out when Rumsfeld is on a news show and tape just him. He seems to say something that amuses me and makes me want to applaud all the time. First it was calling France and Germany “old Europe”, then he said “Cuba, Syria, Germany, countries like that”… and yesterday there was this gem on Meet the Press:

MR. RUSSERT: Yesterday in New York City, some 200,000 Americans took to the streets and protested—there’s video—across the world. What would you say to those protesters?

SEC’Y RUMSFELD: Well, this is a free country. People can have their own views and they always have. In every war there have been protesters. The American Firsters filled Madison Square Garden repeatedly with thousands of people before World War II, while Europe was in flames, while millions of Jews were being killed, and the chant was: “Don’t get involved in a war in Europe.” It’s a natural human reaction for people to want to avoid war.

Hee.

War

I haven’t posted in a while, but now I have a bunch of work to do so I think I’ll start again.

I feel like I’m missing something. So far we’ve lost less than 20 men due to enemy actions (as opposed to friendly fire or mechanical failure), It’s been less than a week since the start of the war and we seem to be ⅔ of the way to Baghdad from Kuwait. So why is the media spinning this like it’s Stalingrad? Just because there was some fighting? Any fighting means that we’re hopelessly bogged down in a quagmire? It’s really strange. The BBC said yesterday that the combat deaths showed that this wouldn’t be a bloodless battle like the 1991 Gulf War. Huh? We lost 148 people in that war. Do they not count as deaths because nobody really remembers that, or because we didn’t have “embedded” reporting then?

Probably a lot of people who have noticed this weird media habit attribute it to wishful thinking on the part of the biased media. That’s probably the case for the BBC, but I think it’s a bit more benign for most other organizations; they probably just do it for the same reason football announcers try to make a game still sound competitive even though one team’s leading 56–14 in the fourth quarter. Not that that’s a totally accurate analogy, mind you; I know there’s still chance we could get bogged down and encounter heavy fighting. But I wish people would stop pretending like it’s already happened.

March 13, 2003

Unilateral

Okay, I now officially have no clue what “unilateral” means. From an AP story today:

The British leader could face a revolt from members of his own Labor Party if he joins the United States in unilaterally launching war.

Two countries joining up and performing a unilateral action, eh? That would be quite a trick.

Stupidity

France’s stupid intransigence at the U.N. has given a hick Republican congressman a stupid idea which has inspired Slate’s Timothy Noah to write an article with a stupid analogy.

March 10, 2003

Idiocy

Another reason not to vote for Howard Dean:

“What is to prevent China, some years down the road, from saying, ‘Look what the United States did in Iraq—we’re justified in going in and taking over Taiwan?’”

Said Dean on This Week. Hmm…. what’s to stop the Chinese from doing that? The threat of war with the U.S., perhaps? Does Dean really think that if the Chinese decide to ignore our unequivocal commitment to protect Taiwan in case of attack and invade, they would be stopped by the fear of annoying the U.N.? Does he think at all? If they decided to do that, the U.N would be the least of their worries. It’s sad that some clown without the most basic knowledge of foreign affairs wants to be president. Oh well.

Pleasure

I really like lining up colums in plaintext files with tabs. It’s a weird kind of soothing pleasure, like popping bubble wrap or watching bowling. There should be a term for those kind of things. Amelie introduced every character by listing those particular weird pleasures of the person, as I recall.

March 4, 2003

Snippets

There are a few songs that I listen to just for a small snippet (5 to 20 seconds) that is so good it sends chills down my spine, even if the rest of the song is just okay. I shall list them here.

That’s all I can think of. Guess I’ll go back to work now.

February 28, 2003

Czar

If my research is correct (and I spent nearly 45 minutes on it, so it better be), this guy is the heir to the Russian throne, or would be, if there was one. Wouldn’t you put something like that on your resume? “Experienced in Word and Excel, future Czar of Russia”…

Spies

I can honestly say I never thought of this. What a good idea.

February 27, 2003

Liberal

Does it bother the peace activists, even a little bit, that they’re devoting all their time and effort to ensure that the peopl of Iraq by condemned to live in a prison state for at least another decade? Don’t any of these people care at all?

Why don’t I know any liberals? I’d like to meet some. A liberal supports war in Iraq, because that means liberation for the Iraqi people. If there were many liberals, the marches in the street wouldn’t be against the Iraqi war; they’d be for increased aid to Afghanistan and for demanding that the United States sticks around and establishes a democracy in Iraq. I’m not generally a marcher, but I would join that march. Liberals would care about the people of Afghanistan and work to ensuring that this first chance they have in decades of a decent life not be squandered. But the peace activists don’t talk about Afghanistan at all; they’d rather the issue just be dropped, because success in Afghanistan would mean that American miltary action can make for a better life for people in oppressed countries, and that is the conclusion that must be avoided at all costs. It’s a fact that most antiwar activists would subconciously rather that Afganistan fall back into tyranny than succeed. It’s better that people be enslaved so that they don’t have to question their beliefs. The sheer cynicism of these supposed idealists, the combination of self-rightousness and ignorance, makes me shake with anger sometimes. And these are my friends! All the people I work with, that I grew up with, that I’m friends with—all of them are either actively working towards or at least passively in favor of the perpetuation of tyranny. What the fuck is going on? I feel like I’m in a Twilight Zone episode, or one of those experiments where everyone except for one person agrees ahead of time to say that the longer line is shorter.

Do these people have any idea what it’s like to live in that kind of environment? Does it give them pause that the people who have the most to lose in the short term, the Iraqis, are in favor of the war? Aren’t we on the left supposed to be on the side of the oppressed? These questions are so basic I can’t believe I have to ask them. I just want to shake everyone I know. You fucking idiots! If you were devoting a quarter of the effort you are towards stopping the war towards ensuring increased foreign aid, you’d actually be making a difference. AIDS is infecting a third of the population in some parts of Africa; a plague is killing millions of people there, and we’re doing virtually nothing about it. This has been known for years. Why the fuck aren’t people in the streets about this? Why weren’t any of my friends marching to insist the U.S. stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia? They only marched when we finally, after entire segments of the population were wiped out, did something about it. Do any of you realize that you’ve been working for tyranny and oppression nearly non-stop for an entire decade? What happened to liberalism? Why didn’t I get any e-mail petitions urging the U.S. stop the slaughter of Tutsis? What is the matter with you people? If we were marching in favor of a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, Democratic congressmen would be pressuring for it and they probably would succeed. If the marchers’ signs read “Democracy in Iraq” rather than “Stay Out of Iraq”, Democratic senators would have been emboldened to make the Bush administration unequivocally promise to establish a democracy in Iraq, and stay for as long as necessary to do it, a condition for support of a war. Instead, they either supported it and tried to drop the subject as quickly as possible, or opposed it completely, because they were scared of offending you idiots. Now it’s completely Bush’s decision what we do over there after the war is over. Do you trust him to ensure the people don’t screwed again? I don’t. He’ll conduct the war perfectly, but who knows if we’ll leave them in the lurch again, or with a friendlier dictator. This could have been prevented! That is, if there were any real liberals anymore.

I hate you all. All of you fucking comfortable fashionable academic intellectuals with your fashionable hatred of Bush overriding everything else about the world. I hate you because you betrayed liberalism, I hate you because you are my peers, and when I listen to C-Span now, I have to agree with all the gung-ho pro-life redneck right-wing cowboys. I hate you because I can’t go to a fucking arts film festival without having my hand stamped with “No War”. I hate you because I have to feel like a mutant because I don’t want some lunatic terrorizing his people anymore or blowing us up, or blowing up Tel Aviv. You have made the left hand over concerns about human rights over to the right, and I hate you for it. I hate you because the party of Wilson, FDR, Truman, and Johnson—the party that used to stand for active opposition of tyranny—is now scared to even talk about foreign policy. I hate you because you are my friends and family and coworkers and I can’t slap you all. Or even ignore you.

Blog redesign

Well, I started to redesign this blog. I still want to do a lot more but at least it doesn’t look exactly like every other Movable Type blog in the world now. I’ll do more eventually but design isn’t my strong point. What is my strong point? Who knows. I fool myself sometimes into thinking I have something to say, but then I find somebody like this 18-year-old writing articles like this that say everything I want to say only a hundred times better and I just get depressed.

February 24, 2003

Thinning the herd

We probably ought to subsidize these folks. Be sure to check out the FAQ.

FreeBSD Java Crap

So at home I have this FreeBSD box for my desktop, and unlike the other FreeBSD machines I use, I use the ports system to manage the software. To compile java from source, you have to already have a copy of the java executable, so the first time you compile it you have to get a binary copy to bootstrap it with. Since Sun doesn’t make a FreeBSD java binary, you have to download and install the Linux java binary and run it under FreeBSD’s Linux emulation layer to compile a native FreeBSD java executable. Once you’ve done this, however, you can use your new FreeBSD java to compile upgrades and you can get rid of the old Linux one, as long as you set NATIVE_BOOTSTRAP in /etc/make.conf. Which is what I did, and it all worked fine until today when I tried to upgrade and I got this error:

Your BOOTDIR environment variable does not point
to a valid Java 2 SDK for bootstrapping this build.
A Java 2 SDK 1.3.1 build must be bootstrapped against any
1.3 build. Please update your ALT_BOOTDIR setting, or
just unset it, and start your build again.

So I spent about a half hour trying various ways to set BOOTDIR and ALT_BOOTDIR and constantly getting that error. Finally I tried running the silly sanity-checking shell script directly and found out that java wasn’t working at all.

What had happened was that I upgraded a while ago from FreeBSD 4 to 5, which among other things upgraded libc.so.4 to libc.so.5. They say to leave the old libraries installed because stuff built under 4 would need them, but I figured I was too smart for that: after upgrading the system, I deleted the old libraries and then just mass-rebuilt all the ports. Which worked great, except I apparently didn’t notice that java didn’t rebuild itself since I had deleted libc.so.4 first, which the old java needed to run and the new java couldn’t be built without the old java because I removed the old Linux stuff. So now java was failing because libc.so.4 was gone, but the stupid shell script was giving me a completely misleading error. Grr.

So now I’m back in the boat of needing the Linux java binary to bootstrap it, only since the last time I downloaded Linux java it’s been upgraded, so now it wanted to download it all over again, which sucked because I’m on a dialup line and I would have to wait an hour to get something which I was just going to delete after using it once. I still had the tarball of the old Linux java even though it wasn’t installed, though, so I went to FreeBSD’s cvsweb and generated a reverse diff to downgrade the Linux java port back to the version I had, then I installed the old Linux java, then I built the new FreeBSD java, and then I bootstrapped the FreeBSD java with itself just to make sure it worked, then I deleted Linux java again. And that’s my dumb story.

February 21, 2003

Latest CDs

More of my CD orders have come in. Best purchase so far: My Robot Friend’s Hot Action. Nobody’s heard of this guy but it’s the best CD I’ve gotten in months. Do yourself a favor and listen to the MP3s at his poorly-done website, and if you like them, which you will, send him $10 (cash; robots can’t cash checks).

Worst recent purchase: Great Jewish Music: Marc Bolan. I thought this was a sure thing—a Bolan tribute album produced by John Zorn, featuring good artists like Marc Ribot and Elysian Fields. For some reason, though, it’s dreadfully boring. Even the Gary Lucas track is a failure. And what’s the deal with the cover?

Iraq Rollcall

Interesting article from Slate with responses from a random group of writers and other famous people on their thoughts on Iraq. It would be too much trouble to go into detail, but one thing really strikes me: how many people use as their reason that there are other threats (Al Quida, North Korea, in one case Pakistan) more pressing. It’s strange that people think this is a clinching argument, or even a very relevant one. Even granting that, say, North Korea is more of a threat than Iraq, why does it follow that we have to “take care” of North Korea first? (It’s also telling that nobody ever says what exactly we’re supposed to do about North Korea, but never mind that for now.) Who on earth only takes care of problems in reverse order of severity? The fact that I’m stuck in a career that I really don’t like is a more important issue than that I don’t own the Young Ones DVD box set; does that mean I can’t get the DVD until after I get a law degree?

Okay, that’s kind of a weird analogy. The point is that it’s ridiculous to say that you can’t take care of probem D until problems A, B, and C are solved, even if problem D is easier and quicker. Either D is a problem or it isn’t. There’s no point in bringing up all this other stuff unless your only goal is to filibuster.

February 15, 2003

More Terminology

Looking over my previous entry, I’m wondering if the term “full circle” went through a similar transformation. In my sentence below, without changing the meaning you could replace “full circle” with “180 degrees”, which is of course a half circle. Shouldn’t “full circle” mean it’s gone back to where it was in the first place? And yet I always see “full circle” used the way I just used it, i.e., stupidly. I think I’ll try to stop using that expression completely from now on.

February 14, 2003

Terminology

Why does it seem like every time English gets a good, descriptive term, the meaning gets fuzzier and fuzzier over the years and we’re always left with something that’s either meaningless or redundant? One example is yuppie, which originally was a descriptive term for a particular cultural breed of upper-middle-class baby boomers but now is just a vaguely negative term people use to mean “rich people”, or maybe “people I don’t like that have some money”.

Another term I’m sad to see garbled is “politically correct”. It was coined as a stingingly ironic term to describe the particular kind of groupthink found among liberal intelligentsia, particularly on campuses. It was an almost perfect expression, at once tart, sarcastic, and funny. I remember one of the earliest usages I saw of it was a comic strip about a superhero: Politically-Correct Man, which started with him saying “excuse me, that’s Politically-Correct Person.” (The joke is a bit trite now, but at the time is was quite amusing.)

Gradually, this started slipping away. I saw a fax making the rounds (before e-mail was popularly in use) which had “politically correct” translations of phrases that contained swear words. But that wasn’t what it was supposed to mean; swearing was never verboten under PC thinking, only things that were (very) broadly deemed to be sexist or racist. The more popular it got, the less it meant; finally people were just using “politically incorrect” to mean anything that might offend somebody, somewhere (i.e., the Maher TV show).

Now, with this comic that was published the other day, we’ve gone full circle. “Politically correct” now means right-wing groupthink! I think this means that the term is now officially meaningless, and we should declare it dead.

February 9, 2003

Orange Alert

Now that we’ve gone from “yellow” to “orange” alert, do you feel more informed, more alert, safer? What, exactly, is the point of this ridiculous color-coded alarm system other then to terrify people? “Be more alert”, they say. More alert than what? I thought we were already supposed to be alert. What are we supposed to be alert to? More specifically, what are we supposed to be doing differently than we were last week, back in those carefree “yellow” days? Well, let’s see what Tom Ridge says! From the Homeland Security press release:

We do recommend that individuals and families, in the days ahead, take some time to prepare for an emergency.

Aha! Good solid advice. My family certainly hadn’t been prepared for an emergency, but now that the color of a big background decaration has been changed, we’ll be sure to do just that.

But wait! What’s the best way for us to prepare? What are some of things my family should discuss when we take that emergency-planning time in these brave new orange times? Secretary Ridge?

[T]ake the time now to get informed. There are so many available sources of information that you could refer to that will give you and your family and your businesses and your schools some comfort to know that in the eventuality, with the possibility that something might happen, you have taken some precautionary measures or taken some steps to minimize the damage or perhaps to avoid it altogether.

Ah yes. It’s no mystery why this fellow gets such high praise and a plum new cabinet position. “Get informed.” I will do that right now. He doesn’t really say how to get informed, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. I’ll just type “information” on Google, and pretty soon I’ll have a bunch. And then my family will know what precautionary measures to take against an unspecified threat on an unspecified date in an unspecified location. Not only will this save us from a terrorist attack, but, more importantly, it will give our businesses comfort! As my grandfather used to say, nothing’s worse than a discomforted school, especially when the discomfort is caused by my family’s failure to minimize the damage of whatever it is that damaged whatever it did because we failed to take the precautionary measures or steps due a lack of alotted time to get informed about whatever we were supposed to be informed about. Buck up, P.S. 139! My family is pencilling in some good old-fashioned informing time for next Thursday. As long as the terrorists wait another week, we’ll be all set.

February 7, 2003

A “Comintern” of Democracy?

For a long time, I’ve felt that the overriding goal of American foreign policy should be to make all of the countries in the world democratic. In its early days, Bolshevik Russia felt that it was spark of a political fire that would engulf the world, and that it was their responsibility to do all they could to encourage and abet Communist revolutions around the world. I’d love to see the United States adopt a sort of Bizarro version of this, only for democracy. We should be funding democratic insurgents in dictatorships; we should be denouncing authoritarian regimes, even when they’re our pals; if we have a good reason and opportuntity to set up a democracy somewhere where people are oppressed—like we did in Afghanistan and do in Iraq—then we must do it.

This is why George H.W. Bush’s presidency, with his worship of “stability” as the #1 goal, disgusted me, and it’s why I’m getting more nauseated by the day with modern “liberals” who, while living safely and comfortably, are so busy denouncing American “warmongering” that they refuse to actually sit and think about what living in a regime like Hussein’s Iraq would be like. In Iraq, people are being tortured for political reasons as you’re reading this, and guess what: it’s not because of sanctions. What kind of “liberal” would put his dislike of American machismo ahead of us hatred of oppression? Answer: Hey look! You’re on the same side as Pat Buchanan.

But I digress. This is an exciting time to be watching American foreign policy, because we finally seem to moving, or at least stumbling, towards a truly idealistic foreign policy like we should have had all along. At the end of Bush’s first term, we will have replaced two of the world’s worst dictatorships with democracies (and under a President who famously denounced “nation-building”. What a long time ago that was).

The reason I’m thinking about all this now, aside from having eaten too many oreos and not being able to fall asleep, is Andrew Sullivan’s new article about what he calls “The Anglosphere”. It’s a clunky term (Sullivan’s a good writer, but not much of a phrasemaker; he got tired of “hawks” and “doves” and tried to rechristen hawks “eagles”, but that was just stupid and he eventually dropped it), but an interesting concept. It talks of the new alliance that has formed with the United States, all the countries I’ve been trying to list (I forgot India, by the way, so now we’re at 21). It would be great if it could be formalized in some manner, a modern NATO for today’s enemy. A “Demintern” pact, if you will. (Ugh. That’s even worse than “Anglosphere”. Guess I can’t think of good catchphrases either. Oh well, what do you want? I’m a computer nerd, not a writer.)

February 6, 2003

A month of music

When I was in high school, it was my dream to have a music tape that was a month long. You could play it for a month straight and not hear the same song twice. This was unfeasible, but it’s very possible nowadays to store that many MP3’s worth on a decent-sized hard drive. So my long-ago dream is close to being realized. My record collection is in storage, but I have encoded all of my CDs (considerably fewer), and gotten a bunch more MP3s from—ahem—various sources. I totaled it up today and I’m at 409 hours, 13 minutes if I don’t cheat (i.e., include my Joe Frank collection). So I’m past the halfway point. I’ll keep you posted.

New CDs

I went a little crazy on Monday and ordered seven CDs, four books, and two DVDs. Just means I’ll have to wait that much longer to get a Vespa, but oh well. They’re already starting to trickle in: yesterday I got Kind Hearted Woman by Michelle Shocked and Hatsu-Koi by Space Streakings. Not sure which one I like more yet. Both are beautiful.

Multilateralism III

Hey, look: nine more countries have signed on to our “unilateral” action. That makes twenty. At some point all the people who were complaining about the U.S. going off without the support of the international community will have to find a new tack. Well, they can always say there’s no evidence of chemical weapons. Oh wait, no they can’t. They can say there’s no evidence of an Iraqi-Al Quida connection. Oh wait, they can’t say that anymore either. Let’s see… “no blood for oil!” There we go. That will always work, as long as the wells in Iraq don’t dry up. And, like all good mantras, it’s immune from reason. Good to see there’s a fallback.

February 5, 2003

Amusing things I’ve heard lately

“Metaphors are like goldfish: sometimes they’re completely irrelevant to what’s being discussed.”

“Same circus, different clowns”

“Old machines never die—they just get replaced by emulators”

February 3, 2003

More weird computer associations

Now it’s half.com being bizarre. I just bought John Cale’s Sun Blindness Music, a collection of his mid-1960’s minimalist work that he did while studying with the avant-garde composer Lamonte Young, and half.com just sent me the confirmation e-mail. In the sidebar, it says “People with similar tastes also enjoyed..” and then lists the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs DVD and The Essential Billy Joel. What the hell?