Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Another great Get Fuzzy

here. Which happy meal is Mayor McCheese™ in?

Ender's Game

Just finished re-reading Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I'd forgotten how good it was. I highly recommend it. The rest of the books in the Series(Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind) are also good, but are still not in the same class.


My old Yahoo email account got upped to 100 MB, all thanks to gmail(where I've also got an account). My paid email account OTOH is at 25 MB, which is an increase from 10, but is still less than both of the free ones.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Developments in Copyright

There is finally some money behind the DMCA challengers.

Hat tip Doom9

New Software

Hello. Finally thru with last week's unpleasantness. The first thing I did today was load the new Firefox and the new VI(version 6.3). VI is an ultra-powerful text editor, though it takes some practice to get real use out of it. If you have to do much editing and massaging of text data, like I do, then any and all improvements are welcome.

The new Firefox seems to be quicker, which is pretty amazing considering how fast it already was. Also, I've traded in the tabbrowser extension for the Single Windows 1.0, which seems to work the same way.

The new byline in from "The Kids in the Hall" first season.

Update: Looks like open office has ticked up another one(1.1.1 to 1.1.2) I'll get that tonight.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Busy Busy Busy

I had to take a day off yesterday, due to multiple factors to tedious to get into here. Anyhow, since I didn't get anything done yesterday(and I only worked a part-day on monday) I am up to my (eye)balls in work. So no blogging, and probably no surfing, till this gets done. See you Friday, I hope.


Monday, June 21, 2004


This seems just a little too much. All the wars the U.S. participated in were unnecessary? Immoral? Still, it kind of makes Bush look okay(by making all other war presidents look bad). It also makes me bring up a question I've had for a while. Would the people of Mexico today be (better off/worse off/the same) if the U. S. had continued to pursue territorial gain all the way to the Isthmus of Panama?

More Asimov

I re-read the Caves of Steel yesterday(partially due to Scott's comment from last week, partially due to the fact that it occurs "later" in Asimov's overarching timeline than most of the other robot short stories), using my father's day free time. I found it interesting that humanity is supposed to be pushing the earth to it's carrying capacity at around 8 billion people. While this is more than we have now(6 billion plus), it isn't so many more that I can believe that the extreme measures required in the book are plausable. Of course, this book is 50 years old, and people took Malthus more seriously back then.

Also, an idea I linked to a while back about extracting glucose from cellulose is used. The people of earth are fed a diet of mostly processed yeast, which is fed from glucose derived from tree cellulose. I just thought it was interesting that this idea has been around this long.

The great thing, of course, is that this book is actually a mystery. The futuristic predictions, both good and bad, are a backdrop for a good story.

Oil prices again

It has been a mainstay amongst conservatives/libertarians that part of the problem with oil prices is that new oil refineries are not being built because of environmental legislation. Clay Risen disagrees, he says that oil refineries aren't being built because this increases the price of gas.

A New Hope

The first successful privately funded spacecraft. I hope there will be much more of this in the future.

"We are heading to orbit sooner than you think," he said. "We do not intend to stay in low-earth orbit for decades. The next 25 years will be a wild ride. ... One that history will note was done for the benefit of everyone."

Friday, June 18, 2004

What I'm reading(have already read, actually)

I saw a preview for the new "I, Robot" movie. It looks like a travesty to me, though I thought they did a good job with "Bicentennial Man." Anyway, I decided to reread the stories, and so over the past few days I've been reading them one short story at a time. I've finished "I, Robot" and "Robot Dreams", of which the latter is just "I, Robot" plus some additional stories(including the original "Bicentennial Man"). After that I read a book called "Nine Tomorrows", which I bought at the old "Oxford Too" used bookstore(at least I think that was the name). I had never actually read it until yesterday, and I have to say I have to list it as one of his better works.

The best story, for me anyway, was one called "profession". In it, the people of the future are all assigned the profession that most fits their brain. They are actually trained in a day with an imprint(reminds me of the first Matrix) on their mind. The story is about a character named "George" who, though intelligent, is unsuitable to have any profession imprinted on him including the one he desires most, programmer. It follows with Georges refusal to admit he is "Feeble-minded", and comes to an interesting conclusion.

While looking for the links I used above, I found out that the Foundation novels are going to be made into a movie. I hope they do a good job, I love this series as well.

DRM is bad news.

Good long article on why DRM doesn't work, and is bad law for lots of other reasons.

UPDATE: Okay, the link is fixed.

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition

Alternative history of the Inquisition(the whole thing, not just the Spanish one) here. Interesting.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


I have three main reasons why I have embraced environmentalism. The first is that I've become convinced that anthropomorphic Climate Change(a.k.a. Global Warming) is real. I'm not convinced that it will necessarily be a disaster, but I'm cautious enough to want to stop it just in case. The second reason is Energy independence. If you factor in the two Iraq wars and various American military actions in the Middle east, as well as the cost of time and resources the extreme security measures we now must take, it seem to me that any and all methods we can use to remove funding from terrorist Muslim a**holes and their supporters seems justified. The third reason is that I have a geek's fascination with alternative energy sources.

There are two articles today in Salon that show some of the things we could be doing to alleviate our need for fossil fuels. The first article is about more efficient lighting. The sheer volume of energy wasted as heat in regular lightbulbs is astounding, though current replacements emit less aesthetically pleasing light. I've actually started using some fluorescent light bulbs at home, and I am planning for almost total replacement in the future. The second article is about a couple who decided to go all-solar and what they went through to accomplish it. These folks are wealthy, so obviously most of us can't do what they have done, but I think the direction of the California legislature is the right way to go. Encouraging solar in residential homes over a wide area would start the ball rolling to where we all get some of our electricity this way. While solar, since sunlight doesn't shine on us all the time, is not a 100 percent solution, there is enough power out there to cut our need for fossil fuels in half easily.

Another idea I like, though it is impractical from a cultural point of view, is to bury our homes. The soil temperature is a constant 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so, and a fully enveloped home can be climate controlled with a much lower amount of energy. Combine this with solar power, more efficient lighting, and other more efficient appliances, and you can see how the energy required for the average home could drop substantially. Plus you'd never have to paint the house's exterior, have the roof repaired, etc.

While I'm dreaming here, I might as well go for the whole thing. The one problem not solved by the underground home idea is transportation. You still need cars and gas to get around. I've talked about to the idea of using a bicycle for personal transportation. I think you could achieve decent speed by combining the recumbent bicycle with an aerodynamic shell and a small efficient electrical motor and battery. The basic idea is that you use human power to drive the vehicle, but enhance it slightly with the battery. You could also build in regenerative braking, to recharge the battery, and give the vehicle a longer range. I'm fully aware of the impracticality of this, of course, but I can't think of any scientific reason why it wouldn't work. Also, we'd no longer be arguing about fat and carbs, because we'd be burning them off. Cheeseburgers could be alternative energy. Mmmmmmmm... Cheeseburgers.....

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Firefox 0.9

Is out.

Energy Independance

There's a good article in Salon about the Geopolitical need for energy independance. This is another reason I support the Carbon tax.

The most important...

...work that science can do here. Registration Required.

Monday, June 14, 2004

More Miscellany

Florence King article from 1996, reviewing and endorsing several old books. Nothing I'd want to read, but I liked this quote:

If your loved ones object to secondhand presents, keep the old books and get some new loved ones.

I'm drawing a blank

Can't think of anything to talk about today. So I thought I'd relate something that I thought was funny/creepy from my weekend.

We had a guest pastor this week at church. He gave a typical baptist sermon. To his detriment(at least in my case) was that he looked an awful lot like that evil old guy/ghost(Kane) in Poltergeist 2. He had the same drawn skin and prominent teeth. I kept expecting him to shout, "You're all going to Die!!"

Friday, June 11, 2004


Going home now. It's been a fairly productive day blogging. I was going to curse Ryan for leaving me with trouble tickets(damn his eyes!), but now that I'm leaving I feel free to say it's been a great day. I've gotten zero tickets today, I only had to work three leftovers from later yesterday! Yeehaw!

One last line. P.J. O'rourke is great.

Paging Mayor Quinby

"I Hate You People! You're all nothing but a bunch of Fickle Mushheads!" -- "Diamond" Joe Quinby
"He's Right" "Give us Hell Quinby" -- the crowd he's addressing

Both quotes are from the Simpsons "Whacking Day" episode.

Reading this article. The money Quote(for me anyway):

Fifty-three percent of respondents said the situation in Iraq did not merit war, while 43 percent said war was justified. When the same question was asked for Times polls in March and November, the numbers were precisely reversed.

I can understand people who think we shouldn't have gone. I can understand people who think we should. But I despise these people in between. They are perfectly willing to be gung ho until things turn bad, then they get cold feet. If you can't stomach the situation now, and you have so little imagination that you think things were always going to go great(though how you can think things were going great in November and March I don't know), then maybe next time you should just not respond when the pollster calls you. Politicians modify their behavior because of these things. When Bush was planning this war, his ratings were fairly positive. If you were fer it then and agin' it now, you need to know that the thing you now oppose is your own fault. It's not like we hadn't been through enough real world examples to understand how hard this would be.


I have read two articles which compare Schwarzenegger to Reagan.

Both also compare the fact that Reagan was more effective at getting compromise legislation through than Bush has been. While I definitely agree that Bush is a more polarizing figure than either Reagan or Schwarzenegger, you'd think from reading these articles that the Left has gotten nothing out of Bush.

There are two huge things that Bush has produced that were gifts to the Left. The first one was the "No Child Left Behind" Act, which has send Billions to the Sates. The second is the new drug benefit that has been added to Medicare. This is guaranteed to balloon the deficit for years to come. Neither of these things is the product of a dogmatic conservative.

Another point not made in these articles is that Bush doesn't have to be as pragmatic as Reagan was and Schwarzenegger is. Bush has had a legislative majority in the Congress for most of his term. I'd imagine he would be more conciliatory if he had to work with hostile majorities.

That being said, I think it's a shame that Schwarzenegger can't run for president. He has a much greater presence as a speaker, and is simply much smarter than George. I think he is a solid fiscal conservative, while being socially liberal in most cases, giving him that warm "mushy-middle" feel that Clinton had before "diddle-gate". I could support an amendment to the Constitution to allow him to run, if he promises absolutely no "Terminator" references or quips during office.

Ray Charles on the ten dollar bill?

Or on all our money.

Link via Hit and Run. Quote:

...I like the idea of adorning our money the way we adorn our stamps: not (just) with dead politicians, but with dead artists, scientists, and other cultural worthies....

Thursday, June 10, 2004


Regarding my new byline, I totally agree. Is there any logical reason to keep prositution illegal? I'm posting this because I've reached Reagan Saturation, and I thought I'd bring up one of the few things I disagreed with him on.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

New Links

I have added two new blogs to my links page.

Cronaca - a general/science blog
The Smallest Minority - a pro-gun blog I found via Tim Lambert, quite verbose.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

The Cruise

It all started innocently enough. The wife decided that our "just the two of us" vacation this year should be a cruise. I've never been on one before, so I said "why not?" She handled most of the details, since saving money is a serious business for her, and I just can't put in the same effort. We got a good deal on Royal Caribbean, and thought we were all set. However, trouble had already begun.

Royal Caribbean decided to charter the entire ship, and kicked us off. No one told us though. Our deposit was returned to our credit card, but no mail or notice was sent to us by Royal Caribbean or our travel agent. In fact our travel agent did not know herself, much to our irritation.

The time came to get our tickets for the flight to Fort Lauderdale, and our travel agent worked with my wife to get a decent deal on the flight. I can't say it was our best deal ever, but it wasn't too bad. Later that day, our travel agent actually checked the status of our cruise, and found out we were off. Much panic ensues. The airline tickets are non-refundable, and so we've got to make another plan. We debated between going on a different cruise or going to Las Vegas. Our travel agent finally talked my wife into essentially the same cruise on Carnival. The only change was that we were leaving from Miami instead of Fort Lauderdale. We got the airline tickets changed to Miami, and we were all set.

Day One: Thursday - Debarkation
We had hectic morning. The flight out was at 8:00 A.M. We had to get up at five, and get ready and down to the airport by six-thirty. We got there in time, but neither of us had flown since before 9/11. I didn't know you had to have a boarding pass to get through security. We got to the front of the line, and had to rush to AirTran's counter to pick up a boarding pass. Despite this setback, we made it to the gate with some time to spare.

The flight was only ninety minutes, and we were sitting in Miami around 10:40 or so. We had eaten nothing, so we were eager to get to the ship for Lunch. We took the Carnival provided bus to the Port, went through another screening process, and wound up sitting in a lounge just outside the ship. We were not able to board the ship until around 1:00 P.M. due to some mysterious delay. Finally, we boarded and could eat.

After getting into our room and getting unpacked, we explored the ship. If you've never been on a cruise before, then you'll be amazed at the scale. The ship can hold around 3000 passengers and maybe 900 crew, and I was told that this was a small ship. The four lowest decks were for passengers(there were actually decks below these for the crew, but you were not allowed to go down there), and the higher decks contained dining rooms, a Showroom/Lounge, four swimming pools(none very large), a workout room, a sauna, a casino, innumerable bars, hundreds of deck chairs, a jogging track(11 laps for a mile). Lots of stairs to climb.

We watched the ship pull away from Miami, and then we decided to get ready for dinner. This is the only thing that bugged me about the ship. The dining room is semi-formal(corporate casual) and I had to wear the same damn pair of pants for four nights. They weren't the loose ones either.

Day Two: Friday - Key West
Good Morning, we are at Key West. Or, more precisely, we are anchored about a mile off of Key west, because the port authority will not let us dock. So, we are going to have to take boats the ferry us to the shore. These boats are usually used for charter fishing, so they are great for holding passengers. Also, you're going to have to sit on the boat for twenty minutes in the hot sun while we squeeze the maximum number of humans we possibly can onto it.

As we made our way to shore, I notice that there is, in fact, another cruise ship here that is docked on the pier. "What ship is that?", you may ask. Why it's the "Enchantment of the Sea", which is owned by Royal Caribbean, and is in fact the very ship we were originally slated to take until it was chartered. So not only did they screw up our original plans, but now they're taking the only available slot on the pier. Perhaps you'll forgive me for saying F*ck You Royal Caribbean.

Finally, we arrive at Key West. I've never been there before, but it's a very cool place. It kind of had a similar atmosphere to "Bourbon Street" in New Orleans. Lots of tourists walking around in the middle of the road and plenty o' bars. We did in fact find "Sloppy Joes" which was supposed to be Hemingway's favorite bar. Well he must of liked it so much that he asked them to lay his corpse in there, because it reeked to high heaven.

We walked around some more, and found a park. Inside we found the "little white house" where some presidents in years past had had summits, etc. Also, we saw a fellow who had painted his clothes and all of his exposed skin silver. He was posing like a statue, and spooking people who didn't realize what he was by hollering "boo" when they got close.
After around two hours we returned to the ship.

The rest of the day involved various shows and attractions which are too tedious to describe in detail. We watched people do some form of hip-hop line dance thing. We worked out in the gymnasium and I jogged on the track. We ate in the dining room again, etc.

Finally, it was time for the "Las Vegas" show. I forget the exact title, but it was apparently a celebration of America. The qualities it celebrated mostly were the fact that America(or the U.S.) is divided into Geographic units called "Cities" and "States". Basically every song was one you've already heard. "Georgia", "Chicago", "New York, New York", etc. Kind of cheesy, but the female dancers were quite attractive(and barely dressed), so I have to say I was entertained.

Day Three: Saturday - Cozumel
The highlight of the cruise, and my first time in Mexico. Watching the island approach was cool, especially from the bow where I saw some flying fish gliding over the water. We were enjoying the breeze when I looked down, and was amazed to see a fish jump out of the water, glide about 30 yards or so, and plop back in. I must have seen fifteen or twenty of them. The coolest part was that they used their tails after they were out of the water for propulsion. You could watch them create little swishing wiggles in the water as they drove themselves faster and faster, and then they would glide for the remainder of the distance.

In Cozumel we had a wide variety of excursions to take, and we settled on the basic "bus tour". It was the simplest and gave an overview of the Island. Cozumel is an island that sits just off of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.

The tour took us to three places. The first was a small shopping area that also had a Mayan ruin and old catholic church next to it. The "Mayan ruin" looked like the little caveman jail in that old Tex Avery cartoon about "The First Bad Man". I half expected a guy in a leopard skin to come up and say, "when ya'll gonna let me outta here man?" The church was colorful, and I took a couple of pictures.

The second location, was the beach. Cozumel is mostly coral rock and limestone, and in this case the beach was mostly broken up limestone. There was no sand. There were several beautiful coral formation arching out from the shore and plunging into the sea, and I took several pictures here. I hope they turn out. If they do, I'll post them here.

The final location was downtown San Miguel, which is the only real city on the island. It was kind of run down, but main street was nice enough. Lots of shops(seemingly owned by the same two or three companies), mostly selling jewelry. We walked around and looked a prices, and after much haggling my wife bought a small necklace.

We ended the day walking around the pier, which had a tremendous duty free store as well as more jewelry and knick-knack shops. We finally bought some T-shirts for the nieces and my son.

Day Four: Sunday - Fun Day at Sea!
Basically just cruising back the way we came. We took tours of the kitchen, watched a guy do an ice-carving, and took in a "Men's Hairy chest competition." Actually, just the wife watched that one. I sat far away tried to ignore it. From the few views of it I did take, I can offer the following comment. It could have doubled as a "Mens Flabby chest competition."

We also attended a "Debarkation briefing" where we were told everything that we had to have ready to leave the ship early, and everything that had to happen right in order for this to go off smoothly. This is called "foreshadowing".

We ate in the dining room one last time, and then we took in the second "Las Vegas" show. This one was a celebration of American "Rock-n-roll." We were right up front, so I got a great view of the ladies.

Day Five: Monday - Debarkation and coming home!
Not bad, don't you think. A couple of problems, but so far we've seen everything we wanted, and in general had a good time. Here is how it all fell apart.

The first thing I should tell you is that the ship was supposed to arrive around 7:00 A.M. We had booked a 6:00 P.M. flight on AirTran. They had an earlier flight at 10:30 A.M., but we felt it was safer to book a later flight and try to get on standby for the first one, than to have to deal with getting on the second after we missed an early flight. It was a good instinct.

We got up early, around 6:00 A.M. We had packed the night before, and we got cleaned up quickly and went to breakfast. We ate lightly, figuring that we didn't want to have too much on our stomachs so we could move quickly. The sun was coming up in the east behind some clouds and it was quite beautiful. I took several pictures, which I will post ASAP.

We get our luggage, and go wait in the "Express debarkation location." And we wait. Here we find out that the ship had engine trouble in the night, and the ship will dock an hour late. Then, after we dock, we wait some more. People who are supposed to be paying their taxes on their liquor are not showing up at the customs station, and some people who are not U.S. citizens don't check in with immigration. We wait longer, and still they are calling people to Customs and Immigration. Finally, and around 10:20, we step off of the ship. As we were going through customs, I successfully resisted the urge to scream, "I'm a coke Mule!"

With no chance of making the 10:30 flight, we take a cab to Miami airport, hoping that we can work out a way to get home earlier. No Luck, and this part was our fault. We knew that we might miss the early flight, but we didn't really consider just how long it is between 10:30 A.M. and 6:00 P.M. It's a very long time.

However, after being bummed for about twenty minutes we picked up our stuff and decided to explore the Airport. It's very small compared to Hartsfield, in fact I don't think it's as big as one of the Atlanta Concourses. It had the usual assortment of fast-food places, shops, and restaurants. We managed to while away the time, and it passed more quickly than I expected. Finally, around 5:00, we headed for the gate.

At the gate we discover that the flight has been delayed due to the rain in Atlanta. It is now supposed to leave at 7:00. Much consternation. We settle in and wait. Our actual time boarding was something like 7:20. Time of Take-off was 7:45. Time landing was 9:45. We were stuck in a holding pattern for around 30 minutes.

We are standing in the aisle, waiting to get off the plane. We have all of our luggage ready. The people in the seats in front of us are also standing up, and the people across the aisle from them are waiting in their seats(no room to stand up). I stood up and let my wife out in front of me. When the people in front of us finally get to move, my wife follows them instead of letting the folks across the aisle out first. I hadn't expected her to do it, but once she started moving there was no point in me calling her back. She was already past, and since I didn't want to get separated from her, I went ahead and followed. This all took about 4 seconds. The man stood up after I passed, and said, "nice of people to wait their turn." Now, I agree we should have waited, but it wasn't as if he were severely inconvenienced. I didn't say anything to him, but simply left the plane. I would, however, have happily killed him in that moment.

Time we arrived at home: 11:00 P.M. I could have driven home from Miami in less time than this took.

Overall, I liked cruising. Most of the problems I just described could have been avoided if we had used a different carrier for the return trip and selected a more reasonable departure time. But yesterday was enough to make me reconsider going to England next year.

I'm back

Got a huge post to make, but I'm catching up on everything right now. Had a good time, excluding the last day, which I will detail in full later. Major developments while I was gone:

Ronald Reagan Dies.
George Tenet resigns.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Innocence proved...

I'd been meaning...

... to post about this post of Scott's from his old blog, but I never got around to it. I think the answer to this guy's(link from Scott's posts) question is that the last time Republicans tried to act like Repbublicans, the voters burned them for it. Jacob Levy puts it more eloquently than I do, which is why I finally decided to post.

The government sucks, but it the sum total of our combined desires. We want to have our cake and eat it too(low taxes and high spending). Not individually, but as a group. Most Conservatives would willingly give up Medicare and Social Security to balance the budget, but they are not a majority, and so no-go-there. Most liberals would willingly raise taxes sky high, but once again the cosntituency for this while larger still isn't enough to get it pushed through. We can't have both forever, but we're too divided to do the right thing, whatever that is.


I've had a good long weekend, and am about to embark on another one. I'll be leaving(heaving?) an a jet plane to Miami to start a five day cruise. It'll be my first.