There Is No Cat

A huge orangupoid, which no man can conquer

Thursday, October 31, 2002


Every other Mac-using weblogger seems to be linking to this, so I guess it's my duty too. This parody of Apple's Switch set of ads (QuickTime format, about 3.4 MB) is dead on with the varied camera shots, the somewhat hip and dissheveled protagonist, and the music, which isn't the same as Apple's but works perfectly in setting the tone. And I have to say, the sentiment expressed in the movie mirrors mine about OS X almost exactly. (I say "almost" only because after 15 years at Bell Labs, I do know how to use a UNIX computer. I just don't want my Mac to be one.) Neat stuff. (Found on Zeldman's Daily Report, among other places.)

Posted at 6:46 PM
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Do I really need to add anything to this?

Albania and Russia are sending observers to monitor elections in Florida.

Posted at 4:43 PM
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A sufficiently advanced technologist

Brian Kernighan, the legendary programmer and one of the people responsible for foisting C on the world from his perch at Bell Labs, is now teaching liberal arts students at Princeton about computers (New York Times link). I don't think many people at his level of programming would be able to step back and make computers understandable to non-professionals. If they were, I would never have been able to make a living as a technical writer. I think it's pretty cool that he's able to demystify them for an audience that otherwise wouldn't have distinguished them from magic (in the Arthur C. Clarke sense).

Posted at 8:45 AM
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Campaigning on the Buddy System

The Democrats have instituted a clever and innovative program to help inexperienced candidates win seats in the House. They've got current House members with safe seats mentoring new candidates (New York Times link, registration required). It's interesting to read what kind of help they're giving. One candidate is getting tips on how to approach voters as they eat their breakfasts without seeming pushy. Another is being tutored in steps he can take to reach out better to his black potential constituents. Neat stuff. Maybe it'll make the difference.

Posted at 6:01 AM
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Lojack and Kojak

Mark Pilgrim has a lengthy and interesting post on the latest trend by spammers; blog comment form spamming. These bastards have no shame. There's no net medium too small or insignificant to avoid their greedy leeching. I like his analogy comparing different solutions to the problem to The Club vs. Lojack. Lojack makes auto theft less appealing overall, while The Club makes the theft of your particular auto less appealing and redirects the thief's energies to another, presumably Club-less car.

I have yet to find anything about the type of (e-mail) spam attack my server is under anywhere on the net. I guess I took the Kojak approach on this one; grunt-like detective work to search the logs, see a pattern, and put something in place to prevent further crime. All 403 messages all the time, but he still comes back for more. Another 8000 useless hits yesterday. <sigh />

Posted at 5:35 AM
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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Mars Attacks!

My host seems to be under attack from some low-life scum-sucking leech trying to spam through my web server. Very odd. I'm getting thousands of hits every day since yesterday from five machines with IP addresses in the through range, all requesting a file named "CONNECT [random IP address here]:25 HTTP/1.0". Port 25 is SMTP, where e-mail is sent, so it's clear that these hosts are trying to hijack my server to spam, but they're apparently too stupid to find an actual SMTP server. My web server supposedly won't allow them to access SMTP. Oddly, though, until I blocked access in my .htaccess file to the IP addresses they're using, every request would return a 200 code and 32632 characters. When I try to access the URLs they're trying, I get a 404. So I wonder what they are getting (or were; now they get a 403 code and 198 characters, so that should save some of my bandwidth quota....) I contacted my hosting company, who are very proactive about spamming, and they said they looked into it and the hits aren't having their presumed desired effect. They didn't seem worried. But these hits are filling my logs with krep: more than 15,000 hits since 7:30 am yesterday, and no sign of stopping despite the fact that they ain't gettin' no love here. Bastards.

I wonder what kind of server does accept such a goofy URL and allow leeches to spam....

Posted at 8:23 AM
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Sunday, October 27, 2002

Revisiting a classic

I spent much of the weekend re-reading my favorite book, Soul of a New Machine, by Tracy Kidder. (My computer at my previous job was named after the author; I'm sure some of my cow-orkers thought it had that name because of my fondness for jokes....) Laura asked me over dinner tonight why I'm so fascinated by the book. One reason is that in my first project at AT&T lo! these many years ago, I found myself in a similar situation to that of the engineers in the book, working 60 hour weeks week after week with a bunch of other young, naïve people to finish projects in an atmosphere where we weren't given all the information about the situation by our bosses (likely for good reasons). That was a crazy time. The other reason is because Kidder is just such a damned good writer. I have a decent understanding of the inner workings of computers, and have worked as a tech writer and struggled to bring clarity to the obscure, and I have to say that Kidder's explanations of how computers work and what the engineers are doing are simply exceptional in their clarity. His sense of pacing and how to tell a story are wonderful. When I read books like this, I wonder why anyone bothers to read fiction when non-fiction provides such compelling books. I've read almost all of Kidder's books, and my opinion of his craftsmanship just grows with each one. I think I'm going to have to dig up my copy of his book Old Friends, about life in a nursing home, next.

Why did I pluck the book from the shelf this weekend? Well, I was looking at the websites of Jessamyn West, whose blog I've read sporadically for a few years now. I didn't realize it before, but it turns out she's the daughter of the main protagonist of Soul of a New Machine, Tom West. She's got a nice page about Kidder on her site. With my new job at a small startup, I had been intending to re-read the book to see if I could glean any new insights. Reading about Kidder on Jessamyn's site just reminded me that I wanted to revisit the book. Thanks, Jessamyn!

Oh, and there's one neat link (among many) that Jessamyn points out to an article in Wired that provides a "where are they now?" for some of the main characters in the book. Fascinating stuff if you're a fan of the book.

Posted at 11:17 PM
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Saturday, October 26, 2002

Practice attack

I'm glad to see that the hostage crisis in Moscow is over, but troubled to see that the Putin government took advantage of it to attack their foes in the media. The Moscow Times reports that one TV station was shut down and attempts were made to shut down the web site of the radio station Ekho Moskvy. Interestingly, one of the stations the government intimidated was its own Mayak, which was long available on shortwave and which can still be heard occasionally with its beautiful rendition of Mussorgsky's "The Great Gates of Kiev" as its signature tune.

Posted at 4:57 AM
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A Decent Man

The New York Times ends its obituary of Senator Paul Wellstone with this telling anecdote:

Mr. Wellstone was one of the few senators who made the effort to meet and remember the names of elevator operators, waiters, police officers and other workers in the Capitol.

James W. Ziglar, a Republican who was sergeant at arms of the Senate from 1998 to 2001 and who is now commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, remembered today "the evening when he came back to the Capitol well past midnight to visit with the cleaning staff and tell them how much he appreciated their efforts."

"Most of the staff had never seen a senator and certainly had never had one make such a meaningful effort to express his or her appreciation," Mr. Ziglar said. "That was the measure of the man."

Words can't express how sad I am about what happened to the senator yesterday. It's to the great credit of the state of Minnesota that they sent such a man to Washington twice.

Posted at 4:27 AM
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Sweet anxiety

The New York Times has a nice piece on how Ohio State's football team seems to choke every time they have a national title in their sight, and the anxiety this tends to produce in their fans. I particularly liked this quote from the end of the article:

Janein Slater, 22, a senior majoring in zoology, looked over the current schedule in a convenience store and said she was worried. This is what it means to be a Buckeyes fan. As the season progresses, so does the anxiety.

"When it's Penn State or Michigan, we freeze up," she said. "People start thinking, 'Oh, no, we can't do it.' "

It seems to me that's a sweet kind of anxiety that's just intrinsic to rooting for any team.

Posted at 4:03 AM
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Thursday, October 24, 2002

The Hobgoblin of Little Minds

I used to be a big baseball fan. I loved the Detroit Tigers, and I loved visiting interesting stadiums. The last game I saw live was at Fenway Park in Boston, a week before the strike of 1994. That strike absolutely killed my interest in the game. The installation of owner/stooge Bud Selig as Commissar was an appalling move by the owners. My interest has been transferred to college football and World Cup soccer. So I couldn't care less about the World Series. But when I read this article in Salon by Keith Olbermann about how Jason Christensen was forced to refrain from wearing a baseball cap that contained a tribute to his good friend Darryl Kile, the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who died unexpectedly of a heart attack, my opinion of baseball and Bud Selig dropped to a new low. The people who run baseball are absolutely freaking tone deaf. They have no humanity. Every time they make a move, my decision to tell baseball to go to hell looks more and more like the right move. In Bud Selig's hands, the former national pastime looks like a dying sport. I, for one, will not be among the mourners at its funeral, because for me it died in 1994.

Posted at 8:47 PM
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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Another senseless death

Stavros the Wonder Chicken's friend Rick, who was injured in the Bali terrorist attack and who I mentioned here last week, died from his injuries in Melbourne. There's got to be a special circle of hell for people who cause this sort of pain to innocent people.


Posted at 8:37 PM
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Monday, October 21, 2002

A real war on terrorism

Robert Wright had a fascinating, if very long, set of articles in Slate last month, originally published over a week-and-a-half, on what it would take to actually wage war on terrorism, as opposed to what the current administration is doing. He makes it easy to read by bolding the problems and italicizing the solutions, so if you're in a hurry, skip over all the normal text. His basic thesis is that we've got to help the less developed parts of the world to democratize and globalize and make it possible for intelligent people to make a decent living and express their urges in a constructive manner. If Mohammed Atta, for example, had been able to find that urban planning job he was looking for in Cairo, maybe he wouldn't have piloted a plane into the World Trade Center. He also makes the point that if we don't find a way to do these things, the advent of information technology like the Internet is going to make it much easier for ad hoc terrorist groups to form, whether in Saudi Arabia or in Montana. The basis of all this is that humanity is at a crucial turning point, with momentous technological and societal changes happening, and we can either understand and adapt to them, or we can muddle through and suffer the consequences in the form of major attacks for a few hundred years before we understand and adapt to them. He draws a parallel with the advent of the printing press in Europe, and how it stoked religious wars in the 16th and 17th century, and nationalist wars well into the 20th century, before Europe finally maneuvered itself into a position where internecine war is basically unthinkable (fringe countries like Yugoslavia notwithstanding). It's not a hopeful series of articles.

I find Wright's articles fascinating. I've been following his writing for a long time, mainly because my mom knew him something like twenty years ago when he was a cub reporter at a now-defunct newspaper called The Register here in New Jersey. Mom was the night typist at the paper, and I remember her telling me at the time about how she would have these fascinating philosophical conversations with this young reporter. That was Robert Wright. It's been interesting to watch his rise to prominence.

Posted at 10:57 PM
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Hardest surface known

When I asked Laura to marry me, I also asked her if she would consider something other than a diamond for her engagement ring. She's got a lovely ruby on her finger. I find the diamond trade revolting, with a history of guerilla groups in places like Angola and Sierra Leone, for example, financing brutal wars with diamond mining. Then there's the fact that diamonds' prices are artifically inflated thanks to the marketing efforts of the DeBeers diamond cartel, the leaders of which can't enter the United States for fear of being arrested for their efforts at controlling the diamond market. I don't buy all that bull about how you should spend two months' salary for a diamond, and you shouldn't either. It's not a tradition; it's a creation of DeBeers' marketing department. Now, an article in The Observer gives an even better reason for avoiding diamonds: Al Qaeda is deeply engaged in the diamond trade, changing much of their assets from cash into easy-to-smuggle diamonds. Buy a diamond, finance a terror attack. No thanks.

Posted at 12:40 AM
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Crossed wires

UK Sunday paper The Observer has an interesting rundown of the mainstream domestic (US) opposition to Dubya's War Chant. His own church is against war, saying flatly that "[i]t is inconceivable that Jesus Christ would support this proposed attack." Sadly, I don't think Dubya's talking to Jesus. He thinks he's talking straight to God, but I think the wires were crossed.

Posted at 12:26 AM
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Sunday, October 20, 2002

Open Source Application Foundation

Dan Gillmor breaks the news that Mitch Kapor is funding and running a new foundation that's creating an open-source personal information manager. The idea appears to be to make something that does something similar to Microsoft Exchange/Outlook (e-mail, calendars, etc.), except better and open. And more, like instant messaging (something I've never taken to, personally). It'll be interesting to see what they come up with. If it's just a fancy e-mail client, then ho-hum, I'll stick with Eudora. It looks like there might be something more to it, though, so I'll keep an eye on it. Also interesting is that Kapor, the man who started Lotus and made such software classics as 1-2-3, as well as one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has started a blog to cover the progress on the application.

Posted at 12:34 PM
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Saturday, October 19, 2002

A fine whine

College football was all abuzz this weekend with the idea that Ohio State's fantastic freshman running back, Maurice Clarett, might try to move to the pros after only one season playing in the college ranks. The ESPN Magazine article that started this particular firestorm is pretty interesting. Clarett told everyone they should read the article, because they were making too much fuss over it, and that he had just been answering a hypothetical question. He's right. All he said was that it had crossed his mind, and after reading about the kind of life he had growing up, you can understand why it would.

Posted at 8:43 PM
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Friday, October 18, 2002

Pay no mind to me, I'm just a minor threat

The Independent has an interesting interview with Ian MacKaye of Fugazi, the most independent band in the world. MacKaye has run Dischord Records for more than 20 years, putting out challenging music and making a decent living at it:

"What we do is supposed to be idealistic and untenable. Well, we've been here for 22 years. We employ full-time staff on full benefits, including healthcare. We own our own houses and have families. We're all alive and doing fine. The American theory of expansion insists that if a business isn't growing, it must be dying. That's just nonsense. An excuse for greed."

For some reason, I've never gotten into Fugazi, although I loved Mackaye's earlier band, Minor Threat. I suppose I should pay some attention. In any case, I've got a ton of respect for the man.

Posted at 8:45 PM
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Wednesday, October 16, 2002

A distinct lack of intelligence

Julian Borger writes in The Guardian about how the CIA is being sidelined by Dubya and his crowd because their intelligence information contradicts what they want to hear in the White House about Iraq. It looks like the roots of this conflict go back many years, with people like Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle being involved in ideologically-driven end runs around the CIA in the past. The whole thing makes the already paper-thin case for intervening in Iraq look even more threadbare. They use what intelligence supports their desired outcome and throw away what doesn't support it. This seems like a sure recipe for disaster.

Posted at 7:29 PM
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Slow on the draw

There's an interesting article in The Guardian's World Dispatch section about Indonesia and how they're finally doing something about terrorists. Unfortunately, they seem to have gotten around to it a bit too late; the article was published two days before the attack in Kuta.

Posted at 7:13 PM
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Tuesday, October 15, 2002

It's a small world, after all

Metafilter regular Stavros The Wonder Chicken has been posting about his friend Rick, who was in Bali at the time of the recent terrorist attack. Not only was Rick in Bali, but it turns out he was at the site of the attack and was badly injured. He's been evacuated to Australia, and is now at a hospital in Melbourne, where things are looking up. Meanwhile, the BBC's Talking Point section has a page where victims and others witnesses to the attack have been posting.

I wouldn't say I know Stavros well or anything, but I've certainly read his blog semi-regularly over the past couple of years and participated in a number of threads on MeFi with him. It just points out how the world has gotten smaller that I find a connection to a terrorist attack literally on the opposite side of the world. As a resident of the suburbs of NYC that were so severely hit by the WTC attack, my thoughts are with all the victims. One poster from Perth mentions that it seems like everyone in that city will know someone affected by this, and that sounds exactly like the kind of pins and needles experience living in this area was like a year ago.

Not that it gets much coverage here, but it appears that most of the victims were Australian. I think it's taken a while for this story to get traction even in my internationally-aware brain, what with initial reports saying things like that there were between ten and twenty killed. Later reports make it clear that this bomb was freaking huge. In Australia, 10/12 is going to have the same kind of resonance 9/11 does here. Jonathan Delacour has a number of links to stories about Australian reaction.

Posted at 9:29 PM
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Give It To The Soft Boys

I knew this was coming, but I guess I'm just too far out of the loop or something. The Soft Boys have a new album out as of last month, only 20 or so years after the last one. And in typical RH kollectorskum fashion, there's a bonus single only available with the LP version, and there's an album of outtakes, available on the tour and afterwards from the web site. Robyn Hitchcock really knows how to stretch things out and extract maximum cash from the wallets of the faithful. I myself have bought their classic album Underwater Moonlight no less than three times, a number exceeded only by the number of times I've bought a few dB's-related records that I wore out in vinyl.

Posted at 8:32 AM
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Monday, October 14, 2002

Family surprises

Mark Pilgrim found out this weekend that his father had another brother who he never knew about, and that said brother, who died young, was the source of his father's name. This is actually pretty common. I didn't know it until I started researching my family history, but I'm actually the fifth Ralph Brandi in the family, not the fourth. My great-grandfather, Ralph Brandi Sr., had a son in 1912 who only lived to be four months old. When my grandfather was born in 1919, he was given the same name. That's quite common in Italian families; Laura's great-great-grandmother Lucia Nannariello was the second girl of that name born to her parents. The first one was born in 1850 and died in 1852. Laura's great-great-grandmother was born in 1855. I see this sort of thing over and over in my family tree.

Posted at 6:13 PM
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Columbus Day doggeral

Climbed the mast, and split his pants, and pooped all over the crew.

Posted at 5:46 PM
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Sunday, October 13, 2002

More on the The Mouse

Monday's The New York Times offers a brief take on the chances of Eldred v. Ashcroft as seen from the perspective of the plaintiffs' luncheon after arguments at the Supreme Court last week. The article suggests that they'll likely lose the case. That's in contrast to lawyer Lawrence Lessig's own take on the experience, as posted at his blog. The so-called most pessimistic man in America seems downright optimistic. (Is it just me, or is it pretty astonishing that the man who argued one of the most important copyright cases ever before the highest court in the land has his own blog?)

Posted at 11:59 PM
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Saturday, October 12, 2002

Webcasters stabbed in the back by their own

Damn, it gets so depressing some time when you realize how stacked the deck is against the little guy and in favor of the big conglomerates. Doc Searls points to this article by Andrew Orlowski in The Register detailing how small webcasters were betrayed by their larger brethren on the bill in the House of Representatives that would place a moratorium on the station-killing royalties imposed by the Library of Congress on Internet radio. The bill, H.R. 5469, was originally two paragraphs that said that the royalties wouldn't be imposed for another six months. But literally minutes before the bill hit the floor of the House, small webcasters who had supported the original bill were amazed to find that it was now thirty pages long, and described a deal worked out with the biggest of the independent webcasters and the RIAA to pay royalties at a level that, as Orlowski's article quotes Congressional correspondence, would "seal the fate of this industry to be dominated by big webcasters". You can read the article and find out who were the Judases who sold out the industry. (Note that Thomas has both versions of the bill available, so you can compare and contrast.)

The saddest thing is that unlike over-air broadcasting, there's nothing inherent about the net that says it has to be this way.

The defining characteristic of mass broadcasting in its first century has been a scarcity of spectrum. There are only about 200 channels in each the AM and FM bands. Stations serve local or at most regional audiences. Stations on the same or even adjacent frequencies have to be a certain distance apart to avoid interfering with each other. In many areas of the country, the bands are full. There isn't room for any more stations, and there hasn't been for decades. The AM band was expanded a few years ago to add ten more channels at the top end of the band, but there's not much more room to add channels there, with maritime communications below and a ham band above the AM band. FM can't be expanded at all, with television channels 2 through 6 taking the band directly below FM and short-distance aviation communications starting directly above FM.

By contrast, there are no boundaries on the net. The analogous thing to the frequencies that radio stations inhabit would maybe be IP addresses, although for the most part, it's not possible for hosts to have the same IP address in different locations (NAT-ed intranets excepted). As opposed to the 400 or so channels available in any given region on the defined broadcasting bands, there are over four billion IP addresses available in the current version of IP, with an ungodly number of addresses available under the next generation of IP. In short, unlike spectrum, there is no shortage of IP addresses. And with the huge amount of fiber placed in the ground in the past few years, there's no bandwidth shortage to speak of, either. In short, there is no reason to limit the number of broadcasters.

That's why tilting the field so dramatically against the little guys makes no sense. The only explanation for it is that the big guys don't want the competition. So since there aren't any natural barriers to the little guys like there are in traditional broadcasting, they have to erect some artificial ones.

It's not enough that Clear Channel and Infinity and the like own broadcasting in this country. Now the big hope for finally giving the little guy a voice is being strangled in the crib. And every time it looks like the small webcasters are on the verge of a victory, the big guys claw enough back to ensure their continuing dominance and suffocate the possibility of grass roots broadcasting. We saw the same thing in spades when the commercial broadcasters and NPR combined to snuff out low-power FM, which was a way to squeeze a few more stations into those limited broadcasting bands I mentioned above.

It's starting to feel like the only way the kind of grass roots explosion of web-based broadcasters we've seen in recent years is going to survive is either offshore or so-called "pirate" radio. In the past, when faced with artificially propped up monopolies, for example the government broadcasters of Europe of the 1960s, dedicated enthusiasts found a way on to the air, either offshore on ships, or on land with low-powered transmitters. In England, the BBC was forced to create a pop music station, and hired many of the best pirate broadcasters. Today, the FM band in London is full of pirate stations that post posters and stickers around their coverage areas to let their constituencies know when and where they'll be on the air. And the BBC is still hiring some of the best of them to reach communities they have a hard time reaching. Here in the US, stations have popped up in most cities without the benefit of licenses, usually on the FM band, to serve ethnic communities and other underserved groups. So if, for example, can't survive here, maybe they could from servers in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands, or some offshore data haven. Pirate stations could use software like Icecast and Shoutcast to broadcast on erratic schedules, much as the shortwave pirates do today on 6955 kHz, or the community-based micro-power FM stations seeded by the likes of Stephen Dunifer.

That sort of hit-and-run, catch-as-catch-can broadcasting might provide an outlet for frustrated small fry webcasters. But it's not likely to give the kind of explosion of diversity we've experienced in the first years of the webcasting revolution. The sad thing is that it doesn't have to be that way. There's absolutely nothing inherent in webcasting that imposes these kind of limits, only the greed of two industries (music and broadcasting) that have finally woken up to the fact that the gravy train they've been riding for decades is in danger of derailling. I don't think we'll see that diversity, and I think that's a tremendous loss. But I do think there will continue to be alternatives for the nuts who have no choice but to continue to get their voices out there.

Posted at 6:02 PM
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Friday, October 11, 2002

The Bushwah Doctrine

My friend Ray forwarded me an editorial from this week's National Catholic Reporter that takes issue with the Bush Doctrine recently put forth by the Dubya regency. I think it does a nice job of crystalizing all the objections I had to this Pax Americana when I first read about it. It describes Dubya in none-too-flattering terms:

Ironically, presidential candidate George W. Bush two years ago called for a degree of humility in our dealings with other nations. Since he took office, he sounds and struts like a 21st-century Napoleon....

Strong, confident leaders need not be arrogant leaders. The National Security Strategy smacks of a frightening new U.S. arrogance. Bush comes across as the little guy on the playground now walking the grounds with large bodyguards and enjoying his new and threatening power.

I can't help but agree with the editorial that this new American imperialism seems destined to create many more Iraq situations. The whole concept, with its insistence that might makes right and that the rest of the world has no choice but do things our way, seems intolerant and downright un-American to me.

Posted at 6:46 PM
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Thursday, October 10, 2002

A Stark Vision of War in Iraq

Wow, California Democrat Pete Stark pulled no punches in his speech on the floor of the House in opposition to the Gulf of Tonkin, er, Persia resolution.

The bottom line is I don't trust this president and his advisors.

He then calls Dubya on the lack of evidence offered so far as to whether Sadaam is an imminent threat:

What is most unconscionable is that there is not a shred of evidence to justify the certain loss of life. Do the generalized threats and half-truths of this administration give any one of us in Congress the confidence to tell a mother or father or family that the loss of their child or loved one was in the name of a just cause?

Is the president's need for revenge for the threat once posed to his father enough to justify the death of any American?

I didn't think any professional politician would have the cojones to attack Bush so directly. Stark takes no prisoners.

Posted at 11:43 PM
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Terrestrial Radio Goes Digital

Well, despite my skepticism, the FCC approved in-band on-channel digital AM and FM radio today. Of course, they didn't ask me. I guess we'll see what this means. I think a lot of people are going to be unhappy to have to buy new radios or hear their favorite stations covered by a lot of digital crud. I suspect it'll sound a lot like playing a CD-ROM in your stereo. Or maybe not. In any case, most radio will still be crap, no matter how good it sounds.

Posted at 9:36 PM
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Wednesday, October 9, 2002

Freeing the Mouse

One of the better beat reporters covering the Supreme Court, Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times, says that Lawrence Lessig faced an uphill battle to convince a generally sympathetic court that extending copyright was not only a bad idea but unconstitutional. I don't think it bodes well for a case that's lost at every level, but I still hope for a positive outcome. It's been interesting to see in coverage elsewhere that a lot of reporters are saying that Mickey Mouse as a character would still be protected under trademark law, so that it wouldn't be possible for others to use him in egregiously harmful ways, which is something I thought was probably the case. But saying that you want to free the mouse is a great slogan, so there you go.

Other blogs are covering today's arguments before the court much better than I ever could. I'll just point to this item on Doc Searls' blog that has pointers that will get you to most of the other important stuff.

Posted at 6:15 PM
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A different kind of Bookmobile

Brewster Kahle is my hero. I just think this is so amazingly cool.

Posted at 2:37 PM
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Tuesday, October 8, 2002

Hommage au frommage

Making one of my rare forays into watching the idiot box (hey, how often do you get to see college football on Tuesday night? I can't remember it ever happening...), I saw a commercial for Lee jeans that was a total, um, hommage, to one of the greatest movies of all time, Raising Arizona. They've got the commercial up on their site. The site is in Flash, so I can't point directly to the commercial, but go to the link above and click on the item that says "Cheese".

Posted at 8:32 PM
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Ford has pulled the plug on its electric car, Think. I didn't even know they had an electric car, which may go some way toward explaining why they only sold (or leased) a thousand of them. GM had a similar car a few years ago, the EV1. One enthusiast managed to drive his EV1 from his home in California all the way to Detroit, and documented the trip on his web site, Charging Across America. He had a fascinating trip and met a lot of people on the way, which was kind of necessary given how often he had to stop to recharge the car. His stories of trying to find appropriate outlets for his charger are pretty interesting. All the EV1s were leased, not sold, so when GM stopped supporting the car, all they had to do was refuse to renew the leases. I didn't see anything about whether Ford had done something similar.

Posted at 10:05 AM
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Monday, October 7, 2002

Stare with your ears

I hate having a cold. The one (really minor) compensation is that I now have Ken Nordine's voice. And after taking some cold medicine, I might even have Nordine's brain. The only thing that's missing is the little device that makes my voice alternate between being here and being inside my head. I hope to be giving Mr. Nordine his voice back soon; I know he has some radio shows to record.

Posted at 8:58 AM
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Saturday, October 5, 2002

That's spelled H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E

Hmm, now how did Doug Forrester get on the Republican ballot in the first place? Oh yeah, he was named as a replacement for someone else when one of the candidates in the Republican primary withdrew from the race in disgrace. (New York Times link, registration required.) And there were fewer than 51 days until the primary. His lawyer at the time made exactly the same arguement that the Democrats are making now. Pot, meet kettle.

Posted at 6:12 PM
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Thursday, October 3, 2002

Must be something in the water

Continuing on the theme of crucial scientific research performed by British scientists, it's now scientifically proven fact that men don't make passes at girls with glasses. (Link found via Joey deVilla's The Adventures of Accordion Guy.)

(For the record, I find girls with glasses extremely attractive, to the point where I'm marrying one....)

Posted at 9:56 PM
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Hard working scientists have discovered the World's Funniest Joke. Oddly enough, when I tried it out on a cow-orker this afternoon, he didn't laugh. Then again, he didn't get why the joke that nobody found funny was funny either. The World's Funniest Joke seems to puzzle other people as well; The Guardian actually asked a British comic to explain why the joke is funny. In fact, they seem to have worked up a whole package on the topic over two days, including a selection of jokes that are funny regionally.

This whole thing reminds me of nothing so much as the CD that David Soldier did with dadaist artists Komar and Melamid a few years back that contained the World's Most Wanted and Most Unwanted Songs. The Most Wanted Song was some bland pop R&B concoction that lasted about four minutes. The Most Unwanted Song was over 25 minutes long and included the aspects of music that people hated the most, including opera, country and western (the opera singer singing "yahoo, yahoo, yahoo!" was particularly memorable), accordions, bagpipes, tubas, children, holidays, and commercials, among other things. The holiday bits were hysterical, with groups of children chanting things like "Yom Kippur! Yom Kippur! / Self-reflection and atonement / Yom Kippur / That's what for / Do all your shopping at Wal-Mart!" Apparently I'm one of only 200 people in the world who enjoy The Most Unwanted Song. Unfortunately, I couldn't get through to the scientists' web site at all today to see if they're joking or deadly serious about this study.

Posted at 9:39 PM
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Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Can we call for a moratorium on this phrase?

A prominent member of the Bush administration called for regime change in regard to that most evil leader, Gerhard Schröder of Germany:

A newspaper in Germany quoted a Pentagon adviser as saying the best thing Gerhard Schröder could do to ease relations with the US over Iraq would be to quit. "It would be best if he resigned," Richard Perle said.

(Never mind that messy bit about Schröder having just been democratically re-elected.)

You'll have to scroll down to the end of the article to find this, though. It's buried at the end of an article about how the Bush administration is calling for regime change in the United States Senate. Except that the Senators trying to tamp down his war fever are as likely to be Republican as Democrats. One wonders what kind of treatment Dubya has in store for the likes of Richard Lugar and Chuck Hagel. Presumably regime change.

Posted at 10:37 PM
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He regrets that he has but one job to give for his weblog

A year ago, Mark Pilgrim got fired for his weblog.

A year later, things seem to be going just swimmingly for him, and there's a business in North Carolina that's too clueless to gain the benefit of his knowledge. Go figure.

Posted at 8:17 PM
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This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi. (E-mail address removed due to virus proliferation.)

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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