Tuesday, November 29, 2005

On Apple crashes and backups

I found this photo (and it's caption) quite entertaining and interesting. The author makes a great point about redundancy.

It's a question of scale

You really, really have to be a huge geek (like me) to appreciate this web page. And let me tell you, I really did appreciate it.

Say good bye to the grid

For whatever reason, I pay a lot of attention to alternative energy solutions. It's not like I'm a hard core environmentalist, but I still find it compelling to create energy in ways other than burning fossil fuels.

I've talked a bunch with people I know about setting up a collective energy generation station type deal where a group of people would all fund a power plant that they could all benefit from. So, for example they could set up a big windmill or a big solar array or a big natural gas powered fuel cell. This way they would not be dependant on the grid and would be able to sell excess power to the power companies.

The problem is finding a group of like minded people and then organizing, buying houses near each other, etc.

The alternative is to do green power on your own. This is possible in some cases, in NJ you can do solar really cheaply if you have enough South facing roof area (like I talked my family into doing at a house of theirs in NJ). In other cases you can do wind if you have a bunch of money to throw at it, or geothermal if you have the right location, etc.

Now, in Massachusetts, there is a pilot program being set up to test single home power plants that use natural gas to generate 1Kw of electricity and generate heat as well. This is a growing thing in Japan where 20,000 of these units are now in use.

This is cool stuff. I wish we could get our PA lawmakers to push for something like this. PA, unlike NJ is really behind the times with alternative energies and when I build my new house in a few years I may actually do it in NJ since I can get so many credits and cool rebates for doing it Green.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fuck seti@home

A long long time ago when they first started out, I signed up to participate in seti@home. For those of you who don't know it is a distributed computing platform that was analyzing date for the SETI program.

I had it running on 4 machines at one point and it was really tough to manage since they didn't allow you to register the machines asa group. You had to have seperate email addresses for each account. That wasn't too much of a problem for me at the time since I had 4 email addresses. I was able to at least group my results in what they called a 'team'.

The problem was that to manage the accounts I had to deal with their incredibly slow web server. It was a pain. As a group I had completed hundreds of work units (each unit took about a day to complete). It was tough to manage them all since I chagned email addresses sometimes and I couldn't have easy to remember passwords on their site.

Finally I gave up and stuck with one account. All of that work was useful for them, but I had no way of gaining recognition for my work. The account I stuck with had over 500 units completed at the time. I had it running for a year or two after that point and the problem was that I had changed my email address and forgot to let them know. I had also lost the password they gave me. That meant that there was no way to log into the account and change the email address to my new one. I let the program run anyway.

A couple of years ago I found the password and changed the account to my new email address.

Seti just changed the way the do processing and are migrating accounts to their new system and sent me an email about it. I haven't run the software in a while and thought, hey, I can get back into this. I logged into their website to try and migrate my account.

Guess what, their web server is still slow as shit and it took 10 seconds per page change to work. That would be find if it would accept my account info. It didn't. It said at one point "a registration key will be mailed to your account email address, enter it here". I waited, and waited, never to get the email. I tried all kinds of ways to get into my account, any account. I tried all my old accounts, everything. All told I spent 2 hours trying to get set up. No luck.

Finally I tried to contact them. Surely a longtime user (early adopter nonetheless!) would get some help. Nope, no way to contact them. They do have a help message board, but of course you need your account info to log into it.

I've got a machine that runs 24/7 that could totally be helping the cause, but they can go fuck themselves!

Ok.. I'm really going on vacation now. bye!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The elusive equal sign sticker

So let me tell you about something that has been a bit of an obsession for me over the past 6-8 months. I have seen this sticker on cars that has no words on it, just a symbol and I've been trying to figure out what it means. I have tried numerous times to find mention of it on the web (don't get me started on how the "Internet as an information source" has failed me yet again) to no avail and I haven't found a person who could help me either.

I've given up and I'm asking you guys to help me out. The sticker is a simple one. It's a yellow equals sign "=" on a dark blue square. That's it.

Today I came close to a breakthrough. I'm driving along and low and behold I see the sticker on a car in front of me except this one has writing below it. I needed to get closer so I could read it. The problem was that I had decided previously to let a car in ahead of me. I had to let the guy in and of course I lost sight of the car in front and the sticker mystery continued.

That is until about 2 minutes later when I found myself behind a car with an anti-bush sticker. I of course raced up to check it out. It said quite simply "George W. Bush, you're fired!". The interesting part is that at the bottom there was a tiny yellow equals sign on a blue square attached!

Ahaa! I exclaimed.. Mystery solved... it's simply an anti-Bush sticker of some kind. Of course when I got home I started looking for anti-bush bumber sticker sites. I actually found a huge one here (along with a number of other great stickers for the anti-red state cause). Who knew that there were so many anti-bush stickers?

Of course, I couldn't find any image that was even close to the equal sign. Perhaps they borrowed the image from some other movement for their anti-bush sticker? Perhaps it means something else like anti-war? You got me.. I still can't find this damn image anywhere..

This is really frusterating. On the one hand, I love that there is a symbol out there that means something and the popular culture machine hasn't gotten a hold of it, yet on the other hand I hate that there is something cool out there that I can't participate in before it gets subverted by the popular culture machine.

Well, I guess I'll just keep on wondering. Have a happy holiday everyone, I'm gone for a while.

The way we vote in America (repost)

note : the following is a repost of something I wrote in one of my old blogs on 11/4/04. The original post is here.



I've got a lot on my mind lately so I'm going to try to get it out in chunks. This first thought is about voting in America. I've complained a bunch about this issue here in a number of ways, from a number of angles, but here I want to just get it out all at once.

I could complain about voting and elections on local and state levels but I think that by focusing on complaining about and trying to fix presidential elections, any changes that happen will trickle down and help those smaller elections implicitly.

So, there are 4 main issues that bother me about voting and elections. They are (in no order):

- The machines
- The primary process
- The voting math
- The Electoral College

The top two issues should be combined and become sub-headings in a main issue called : "Letting States each have their own process". Lets talk about that first.

I've argued before that there is no need for states anymore. We are way past that phase of our existence. If you think way back to before our founding, you will see that we were simply a group of states, all with similar values but each with different local ways of doing things. Uniting seemed to be a good idea in the face of opposing forces like England so that's what we did way back in 1776. At the time, there were differences of opinion on how things should be handled at the state level so states got to keep a bunch of power and were allowed to make tons of decisions. That made sense and in our infancy as a country it was a good thing because the states had a serious hand in shaping what collectively would be our national focus and image and belief... (see civil war)…

But now, states are about as useful politically as our appendix. In fact, I feel that states end up causing more problems for our growth then they solve. When a group thinks “me first” all the time, the group as a whole suffers. I could go into this more and provide examples, but this is a post about voting and elections, not the abolishment of states, so I will leave it as an exercise. But think about it for a moment, what does having states gain us as a country? Think more about how cool it would be if as a country we had, say, a federal driver’s license, one where everyone driving had the same test. Staying on driving, think how much more competitive the auto insurance business would be if it could offer the same product in all of America instead of tailoring each offer to the states myriad of laws and regulations…

So states have all this power over federal elections and it’s very odd to me. Each state can decide on how to record the peoples votes, they can decide when to hold the primary elections, they can decide how to hold the primary elections, they can decide how to tabulate the votes and all oversight belongs to them. Now, why should a federal election be decided by a bunch of different methods? Why is this logical at all?

So, back to the machines. Says Mark Christian Miller in Salon today:

“Talk to anyone from a real democracy -- from Canada or any European country or India. They are staggered to discover that 80 percent of our touch-screen electronic voting machines have no paper trail and are manufactured by companies owned by Bush Republicans. But there is very little sense of outrage here. Americans for a host of reasons have become alienated from the spirit of the Bill of Rights and that should not be tolerated.”

This is true. 80% of the new computer voting systems are completely unaccountable. If there is a recount, the people who do it press a button on the machine and it spits out the results again. There is no way to be sure that the votes are valid (meaning, what the voters intended). I’m a computer guy and I feel that with some work I could probably personally come up with an ideal voting machine in software, but in today’s climate, that will never happen with Diebold and the other voting machine makers. They have proprietary code that can’t be checked or verified by anyone external to the company. This is just silly. But it is accepted because there is a huge market. There are at least 50 separate groups of people deciding on which machines to use and within those 50 states, there are in some cases individual counties deciding. If we had one standard voting machine, then there would be one debate on which to choose and the chances of it being the best choice would go up considerably.

There are a few resources to check on this issue. First is an article in the Jan 04 issue of wired about the battle over putting new machines into a county in California. Second is a great website called Black Box Voting that is a watchdog over all these different machines. Third is a great article in Scientific American called “Fixing the Vote” (October 04 issue).

The Primary process in America is a mess. These elections are the foundation of the general election and in my opinion, much more important since they determine the candidates. What I don’t like about the process is that it happens on multiple days. This is an enormous problem for two reasons, it gives certain individual states too much say in the process, and it encourages fear in candidates. The two problems are related to each other as you will see.

So, there are a ton of candidates before the primaries. They all have different points of view and different qualities, some agreeable, some not. But each has his or her own agenda, their own plan. Each is a separate candidate. It is up to us, the members of the party to determine who we think best represents us. It’s up to us to decide who we think can win in November. This sounds like an ideal process doesn’t it? It is.

Lets look at who I could vote for in my primary in Pennsylvania… John Kerry. That’s it. By the time the election got to me and the rest of America, every other candidate had dropped out of the race. Why? Because in the first few primary elections, they lost, or didn’t come in first or second. So they figured they would have no chance. They got scared and their money dried up (since the backers got scared) and had to stop campaigning.

So, because we let some states hold primaries well in advance, the election is held mostly in those states. The rest of America has its choice made for them by Iowa. We are, in a sense disenfranchised from the process. How is this the best way to hold an election? It should be on the same day, the same way, everywhere in America.

Now, I know you’re going to complain and say, “Well those states would otherwise be ignored by the candidates”. I will counter and say this “of course they will, they have low populations”. But I will add this statement to that. In America, with television and the internet and radio, we are in touch with the candidates messages like never before, we don’t need them to come and pander to us. I could care less if a candidate came to my state. I have their websites. I can read their messages and make my decision on my time, in my own home.

So, in my world, we’ve got 10 candidates running together. Can we have a fair election with 10 candidates on the ballot? Have you ever thought about this? Say there are 1001 voters and 7 candidates got 100 votes, 2 candidates got 90 votes and the 10th got 120. In our current system, that candidate (with 12% of the vote) would be the winner. Is this fair? Let’s look a little bit deeper at this…

Say your candidate in the above election was one of the ones with 90 votes, let’s call her candidate A. The winner, candidate X, is someone you, and a bunch of your fellow A supporters, completely despise. If you, and they, knew he was going to win, you would have supported candidate B which was one of the ones with 100 votes and you may have swung the election. This is analogous to the Nader factor in the 2000 election. Most of those voters would have voted for Gore if they knew Bush would win. In a sense, by voting for someone they wanted, they helped someone they didn’t want get elected. Their vote had more power than it should have.

This is a very well understood problem and one that is very heavily studied by mathematicians. There is an amazing article on the subject in the March 2004 issue of Scientific American titled “The Fairest Vote of All”. It seems that most experts on the subject agree that the plurality system we use now is the worst of all the possible choices. This needs to be studied not by mathematicians but by election boards.

And lastly my favorite whipping post, The Electoral College. I won’t go into this too much since it’s been brought up so many times by so many smart people and, like the vote counting systems, it is roundly considered antiquated by the math people. In the 10/15/04 issue of “The Week”, they have a briefing on the College and say that it was developed as a way to stop bigger, more populous states from using their population to elect one of their own as the commander in chief:

“When the founding fathers were drawing up the Constitution, in 1787, there were no political parties, and no real national media. The founders feared that uninformed citizens would simply vote for “favorite sons” from their own states. This prospect particularly alarmed small states and the South, who assumed that Virginia, New York, and the most populous states would elect their own leaders as chief executive every four years. To dilute the big states’ power, James Madison and several other framers devised the elector system. They assumed that the electors would be selected from the ranks of the educated and politically involved, so their choices would presumably be more high-minded and less provincial. To ensure this, the electors were required to submit the name of at least one out-of-state resident in their choices for president and vice president.”

Well, we see that the intent of the system, while good, is a) not how it works today and b) hardly necessary now. If you agree that states are not as useful now as they were in 1787 and agree that every persons vote should count equally (which it doesn’t by the way with the EC.. the same article in The Week explains “a sparsely populated state such as Wyoming—with just 500,000 residents—has one elector for every 165,000 people. California—with more than 33 million residents—has one elector for every 600,000 people. In other words, a vote cast in Wyoming has about four times the weight in the Electoral College as a vote cast in California.”), you would think that the system should be scrapped, or at least changed in some significant way. The election of 2000 and a few others were won by people who didn’t even get the majority of the vote. Is this right? Hardly.

So, that’s my rough outline of what I don’t like about the way we vote here in America and if you agree with me in any way, you have to do something about it. You can’t just sit back and say “yea, totally the way I feel”. You have to amplify this message. You have to write about it yourself, or talk to others about it, or contact your senator or congressman or sate government. We as a people have to change the system for the better and by just reading about it and saying to ourselves that things are fucked up we do nothing. I know there are a lot of people who agree that we need to change the system. The roots of change are certainly becoming evident, but we have to do more. So do something people. Link to this post if that’s all you can do. We need to change things and I’m sick of just getting mad about it.

Diebold is an Evil company

A while ago I talked about how Diebold virtually gift wrapped the Ohio election for GWB last year. Diebold is a company more well known for their ATM systems (I can't for the life of me say ATM Machine since it is redundant) but also makes voting machines. There is a piece in ARS about how Diebold is trying to subvert the amazing (read : I wish we had it here) legislation for electronic voting machine transparency in N. Carolina. Now I don't know the details of the case but it seems like Diebold is up to their old tricks of making the voting process a black box that only they control.

I have argued this point before. There is absolutely no reason for there not to be an open source voting system that is universally accepted by the government. Let Diebold build the machine, but let the software be transparent and of course make all persons votes be verifiable by the voters!

Sonic

Someone made a flash version of Sonic (from Genesis days) that is pretty impressive. Check it out.

"How I Met your Mother" part 2

A little way back I reccomended that you check out the show "How I met your mother". At the time, the show was edgy and dry and pretty good. Since then the show has been going downhill by my standards so I don't reccomend it anymore.

I think that as of about 3 episodes ago, they (the network) decided that the show was a hit and then totally got thier grubby paws into the writing of it in some way. I'm not sure exacly what changed about the writing, but it has changed. It is getting more clean and the jokes are getting more obvious and cliche.

I've noticed that they are also quickly getting away from the "how I met your mother" concept and are cutting the kids time in the front on a weekly basis. That part is fine with me, but it does show quite clearly that there is re-tooling going on so my idea of wiring changes isn't totally out of left field. You can be the judge, but the show is off my list. Damn network suits!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Wanted : Ted or Alive

I love the show "Wanted : Ted or Alive" on OLN. I love it not becasue it has guns or a hot babe as a contestant. Not becasue it's fun to see Ted Nugent toally fucking with people.

Nope, I love it becasue it's on the air and that's amazing to me. Here is a show where Ted puts guns in the hands of people and haves them shoot at tv's. Here is a show where Ted forces people to hang on crosses. Here is a show where Ted has people kill their own dinner. And yet, the religious right and PETA haven't tried to kick it off the air!

Perhaps it's becasue Ted has American flags everywhere. Maybe (and I'm guessing) he's a replican donor? Whatever, this show is crazy and a bit offensive, but I'm amazed at its bravery so I give it my thumbs up.

Now that's the way to advertise

It's not that I hate advertising. It's that I hate bad advertising... a lot. I like that advertisers and marketers are trying new ideas. One of them, from Budget Rent A Car seems to feature our wonderful city.. Cool no?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Adult Swim

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Adult Swim Rules! Adult Swim is a set of programming on the Cartoon Network designed for adults. Not your normal adults mind you, adults that have a very non-american non-sit-com sense of humor.

Originally I found Adult Swim when I started watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force a number of years ago (I've now seen just about every episode). Anyway, this season I started watching Boondocks (which is pretty good so far) and then saw promos for two other shows: 12 oz. Mouse and Squidbillies.

First off, Squidbillies is pretty funny. It's surely quite odd so beware, but it's really funny so I reccomend it.

Now, 12 oz. Mouse is another story. A while ago in one of my previous blogs (I can't find the post) I proposed a show idea for network tv that was going to make no sense at all to the viewers. The shows sole purpose was going to be attempting to be something that tv is not. Hard to quickly explain but the idea was that every week you would be compelled to watch so you could figure out what the hell was going on. My first episode was going to be 30 minutes of a non moving camera in the living room of a house with no sound. It was going to be completely odd and fucked up.

Well, 12 oz. Mouse is close to that concept. This is the most fucked up thing I've ever seen on tv. At first if was hysterical, then I realized that it was funny becasue of how strange it was. Soon the strangeness got so bad that I noticed I was staring at the tv in silence with my mouth open. When it was over I wasn't sure what the hell the point of the show was. But, I will be watching next week and you should too. We need more fucked up tv stuff.. Enough with the cookie cutters!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Childsplay

Ok.. If you have been following the Eagles this year at all, you will love this animation.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hate to say I told you so

Went to the Eagles game last night. First off it was amazing to me that in a stadium filled with 70,000+ fans I counted 2 T.O. jerseys. If I had had one I would have worn it. It seems to me that I am one of the few actual fans the guy has. I'm one of the few people who think it was an aweful mistake to have gotten rid of him. I'm one of the few people who think that people are total sheep and just follow the cues the media gives them. Does anyone think for themselves anymore?

I'm not here to make an arguament that T.O. would have made a big difference in the game yesterday. He would have, but I'll leave it there. I'm here to point out that yet again #5 has let us down. McNabb at times is a really good quarterback, but to me it feels like most of the time, he is simply just terrible. And this was my argument back during last season (as an example check the Feb comments on the superbowl in my old blog) as well.

McNabb is really not a good quarterback. In my mind the primary measure of usefullness and value in a quarterback is consistancy. Sure, brains and talent are important, but consistancy is the key to it all. And this quarterback has never been consistant. Ever. And the sooner we realize that, the better.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Drive Right - Pass Left

I've argued this point in the past. It's one of my pet peeves. I made up a cool phrase for it (see post title). It's something I think is super important for some crazy reason.

It's the fact that not enough people drive in the right lane. It's the fact that people call the left lane "the fast lane" and not "the passing lane". It's the fact that people are complete idiots and they proove it to me daily and that's just not something I can deal with.

So, I came up with a concept for a bumper sticker. I was planning on having an artist clean it up since I'm not an artist. I was planning on seting up a website and selling them online. I was planning for once to actually make good on one of my ideas.

But, more than one person told me not to bother, that most people don't care about the left lane infractions. That I wouln't make my money back and that I wouldn't change enough minds with the stickers. I kind of agree so I gave up the plan.

So, I submit the sticker art to you all. Maybe you can take up the cause instead.

In Defense of T.O.

Though I don't agree with Bill Simmons calling T.O. "insane" and "an idiot" and "a jerk", I do think he makes some good points and there's some funny stuff in this piece of his.

The 3 points he makes that I agree with are : 1) T.O. isn't the only one at fault here, 2) T.O. is an amazing player and was incredible in the SB when McNabb was shit, and 3) it would be pretty cool to see T.O. as a "pluggable" reciever

Friday, November 11, 2005

Yea Baby!

I was pretty upset when I started to hear that the battle for Intelligent Design was being waged in my backyard here in PA. But I have to admit, I hadn't been following this issue too closely. So you can imagine my happiness when I read this in a column today on the MSMBC website:


In voting Tuesday, all eight school board members up for re-election in Dover, Pa., lost their seats after trying to introduce "intelligent design" to high-school science students as an alternative to the theory of evolution.


The column is actually pretty interesting. It talks about how Pat Robinson has scolded the entire town for having "just voted God out of your city".

In this case, the voters were lucky that all 8 spots were up at the same time and that the election was so close to the debate. Next time we may not be so lucky. People, do your research and vote against these crazy people before it's too late!

Pro Bowl

Well, TO is probablly not going to be an Eagle much longer, but he does deserve to play this year. If he doesn't get the change in the regular season there's always the pro-bowl. I say we vote him in immediately...

Ikea in Europe has a sense of humor

Saw this post today in SugarBank and thought it made a great point. Why is it in America we have such a shameful view of sex? Do you think maybe this shamefulness contributes to society in a bad way? I do.

Human Upgrades

Someday the future will bring Human Upgrades..

Thursday, November 10, 2005

My Religion Quiz

Well, I usually don't put things like this into my blog, but I'm very anti-organized religion and I thought that this quiz was kind of fun.. Although the questions weren't as well written as they should have been (very vague and in some cases I knew what they were trying to get at and answered that way instead) and the results weren't 100% accurate I still came out as an Athiest leaning towards Agnostic..

3 Inventions

Want to get these out there before I forget them. I came up with 2 new ideas today and also want to rehash a 3rd I came up with about 6 years ago.

First up is my concept of the progressive snooze bar. I think that alarm clocks should have a snooze bar that works for less and less time after each push. For example, first off it snoozes for 10 minutes, then 8, then 5, then 3, then 1, then it won't work anymore. This way you can be use the sneooze bar and not feel as guilty and it also protects you from using it so long that you are late.

Second is a simple idea. I think that on the edge of the sleeve in mens suits they should have a word embroidered in that faces out so when you shake hands with someone, they will see the word. It can be anything, perhaps your initials. In my dream state this morning when I thought it up I had the idea that on an honest sales guy the word would be "Honest" but the more I think about it, that is simply a terrible concept. Ok.. forget it..

Third is a good idea that I had a long time ago. I think that Companies should install small 4x6 LCD monitors in their employees cubicals and then sell the space on the screens to advertisers in 5 minute blocks. This way, a company like Coke could come in and put a visual ad on the screen of all the employees in a company at a time of their choosing. The company could charge a ton of money for this service. During a typical 8 hour day, there would be 96 blocks to be sold. That's a lot of eyes and that's a lot of ads.

Hmn.. maybe we could sell the space on our suit sleeves out to advertisers. Hmn.. now theres an idea!

TO

In Philly this is a huge story. I'm a Hockey fan, but I have been a football guy for a long time as well and here's my take on TO. I post this only becasue someone just asked me in an email and I formed a worded response that makes sense to me so here it is :

I think that football is about winning and TO makes us better so we should suck it up and put the guy back on the team. I also think it's sad that great talents in some cases (Tyson, Iverson, Moss, etc.) are recognized more for the social skills they lack than for the incredible achievements they make in their fields. I also think that the fans are a bunch of sheep being herded by the media. This is the same guy that played in the SB after an incredible heroic rehab and now we all hate him? I don't get it. We should be hating McJackass since he clearly is a detriment to our team (and lost us the SB) for whatever reasons. But we love him because socially he more of a better communicator. This is a sport about precision and performance and the players should not be judged on any other level than how good they play on the field. These people are not normal humans and they shouldn't be treated as such. They are not role models and heroes, they are robots that play a game for millions of dollars. Who cares what they say off the field? It's painfully sad to see this circus go the way it's going.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hung Up

I've always had a crush on Madonna and I haven't seen her too much lately. But a friend told me to go find and check out her new video for "Hung Up" and I have to say I'm quite impressed. For a 40+ woman, she looks fantastic. She's obviously quite proud of her ass and I for one can say that she has nothing to complain about.

A good thing

Here in Pennsylvania a bunch of folks have been angry about a pay raise that the state judges and legislators got a few months ago. There has been this crazy, grass roots effort to repeal the bill that enabled it. Personally I was for the bill since judges hadn't had a pay raise in like 12 years but whatever, who cares, I abstained from the argument.

The interesting thing is that the electorite here in PA actually directed their anger appropriately and voted out a sitting supreme court judge! This is actually quite amazing because of the way these elections are staged. For judges in PA, the incumbants go up for retension which means that they are unopposed and the voters give them a yes or no vote. It's pretty much unheard of for someone to get more no's than yes's becasue usually nobody votes either way and the small group that is the judges support group generally votes yes.

In this case, the people actually spoke. From the John Baer colum I linked above:

This is not good news for incumbent politicians who face the same electorate in 2006.

"Apathy is beginning to melt," says former central Pennsylvania state Rep. John Kennedy, a maverick and long-time advocate of legislative reforms.

He's right.

It is absolutely un-Pennsylvanian for anything like this to happen. It could well mean a new era of voter awareness and participation in a state where government has run amok unnoticed for at least a generation.

"This is the worst of all fears for incumbents," says Matt Brouillette, president of the conservative think tank Commonwealth Foundation. "I think this says that despite legislative efforts to repeal the pay raise voters are saying, 'we might forgive but we won't forget.'"

He's right, too.

The fact that so many folks said "no" indicates a willingness to say "no" to many more.


Lets keep it up!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sadly I know they are serious

I saw this in Playboy and had to see it for myself.. it's a form used by the Parents Against Bad Books in School group to determine if books should be banned. Anyway, the funny part is how they suggest one classify the level of "graphicness" of a books sexual content. (I hope kids aren't reading the site) :

For each type checked above also indicate level of vividness/graphicness using the following as a general guide:

Basic (B): large breasts

Graphic (G): large, voluptuous bouncing breasts

Very graphic (VG): large, voluptuous bouncing breasts with hard nipples

Extremely graphic (EG): large, voluptuous bouncing breasts with hard nipples covered with glistening sweat and bite marks

Amazon Mechanical Turk

How cool is this idea? Ok.. let me explain. There are problems that are extremely difficult for computers and software to solve, yet are almost effortless for humans to do. This fact makes building software quite difficult at times. Amazon has facilated a service called the Amazon Mechanical Turk that connects regular people like you and I to software systems.

So as an example say I'm building a piece of software that for some reason sorts photos into two sets, the first is photos with cars in them and the other is for photos with no cars in them. Determining if there is a car in a photo is pretty easy for you and I but crazy hard for a computer. So the software sends out the photo to the amazon service where some person somewhere determines if there is a car in it. This piece of data "Is there a car in the photo? Yes/No" is sent back to the software automaically and the problem is solved.

The human brains on the Amazon side of the equation are all compensated and eventually will be rated for the quality of their work, etc.

Essentially the service enables humans to become part of active working software. If this becomes big enough and commoditized enough I can see a piece of software being 50%-80% run by human brains instead of CPU's. How cool would that be?

At the moment, this is cool for you and I since we can apply to the service and get paid to solve simple problems in our spare time.

One final note, if you comment on this blog you will see the word jumble thing at the bottom to validate yourself. This is an example of a problem that is easy for a human but really hard for a computer. That's precicely why it exists. The interesing thing is that a spammer could concievably use Amazons service to counter this security measure. And so the loop is connected yet again.

Stupid, stupid people

Yea.. There was a post on C-Net about a bill in front of the Westchester City Council (outside of NYC) that would require by law that anyone with a wireless access point would need to rout its Internet connection through a firewall server of some kind (hardware or software).

This is just silly on any number of levels. First off is the obvious one: Who are they to tell me that I need to protect my network? Are they going to then require that I secure my house with an armed guard 24 hours a day? This has to be some kind of infringement on my rights.

Secondly, how are they going to enforce this law? Are they going to psysically come into my house and inspect my network? What's to stop me from installing a Firewall, but turning it off or making it do no filtering? Are they going to then decide what ports and types of data I need to filter?

This bill will be struck down by the courts in about 2 seconds. Or maybe it won't be. Yet another reason our govenment is simply fucked.

Dark Tower Comic Book

For those of you who have taken my advice and read Steven King's amazing Dark Tower series, here is something that should be interesting to you. It seems that SK is teaming up with Marvel to make a Dark Tower Comic Book. How cool is that?

Election Day

Today in America it is election day. I would imagine that this knowledge puts me in the minority. Sure there has been a huge increase in lawn posters and negative attack ads on tv, but I would bet that most people have no idea that the election is actually today. Of those who know, I would bet that only about 50% are actually planning on voting. This is the sad, but true fact of the American electoral process.

I want to address each of these points. Instead of separately talking about them, I'll do it at the same time since they are totally intertwined. They are tied quite obviously in the fact that most people don't care about voting (or the government) so they don't know (or care) when election day is.

Why don’t people care? That’s a huge question, but it’s easy to see the answer in broad strokes: people feel like no matter what they do they can’t change anything, people don’t care about the day to day of government and only the big ticket issues that they are fed by the media (I’m including church and friends as media messengers here), people like to complain because it’s easier than actually working for change, etc.

I believe that the real reason people don’t care is that they don’t understand how important their vote is. I don’t think they get that government will keep running the way it is if the people in it have no fear of retribution. We voters are the check against government that doesn’t go the way we want it to. When we see congress interfering with things and we complain, it’s too late. We put these people in office.

If you don’t vote you can’t complain. I vote so I can. In fact, every election I do something some would find quite odd. With a few small exceptions I vote out every incumbent and my vote goes to the least publicized and financed opponent. I do this because I’m sick of the everyday politician (democrat and republican). I do this in hopes that someone who isn’t a politician will get elected. My ultimate dream is that we as a people will elect a group of these idealist candidates into office and they will be able to make some changes in the way things work in our capitals.

Anyway, we need to instill upon the people in this country that their vote really counts. We need to educate them. This is our central problem: People just don’t know.

I suggest we do something that hasn’t been done in quite some time (if ever).

First we need to teach our children how the government works. We need to make sure that every child by the time they get to high school knows the following facts:

1) The 3 branches of government and how they check and balance each other
2) The fact that we live in a Republic and what that means in terms of representation
3) That as a citizen there is only a few ways that you can interact in the governing process and the most direct is by voting.
4) That you are part of a group, a community, a society and that if everyone were to vote, your vote would count (even though you may believe otherwise) since you would be representing your group and you will help them realize their voice.

Secondly, we need to educate the public on the same facts as Election Day nears. We need to make the poor and the disenfranchised see that they will always remain where they are if they don’t vote. We need to make the complaining middle class understand the same thing. The system can work if we all participate.

I would propose an FCC regulation that TV networks need to spend an equal amount of time promoting civics and the election as they spend airing political ads. Think how amazing an hour of election education on each network would be for our process. Think how many more activists we would generate. Think how much more power the people would have in deciding who governs them.

I do my part in trying to change the world. I am active as a citizen, as an educator and as someone who hopefully fosters debate on issues (both from this tiny blog). I urge you to do the same if you care about our country. I urge you to take some of what I’ve tried to say here and pass it on to others. We as a people need to improve our country and our American society and the only way to do it is by doing something yourself instead of just saying "yup, I agree".

Friday, November 04, 2005

Peter Gabriel Be Dammed

My favorite video from back in the 80's was Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer". At the time it was just amazing that they had gone through all that work to make it. Who would have thought of a stop motion video? Well, Daniel Levi has topped "Sledgehammer" with his awesome video for Plan B: "No Good" . I think you should check it out.. It's way cool.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Uh Sorry

.. At what point are the voters going to complain about the infringement on the rights of these rehabilitated ex-convicts? First it's limiting where they live, next it's banning them from leaving their houses on Halloween, and now it's GPS Tracking.. I am horrified that nobody is coming to the defense of these people.

Ultralights

As someone who has taken quite a few hours of instruction in flying (40+, did solo flight but I never got the chance to finish) I think I'm qualified to say that flying is really hard and really dangerous if you aren't properly instructed. Having said that, I have to now tell you that the current regulations by the FAA reguarding ultralight flying are simply insane.

The regulations are simple, there is no regulation for ultralights. No licence needed to fly them at all. Amazing no?

I've personally heard of 4 fatal (or almost fatal) crashes by ultralights (most reciently here) and I can't figure out why the FAA allows people to buy, assemble and fly these crafts without any licence. It's simply insane to me. How is it that our government doesn't belive that these planes are as dangerous (if not more dangerous) than flying a regular small plane?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Punkin Chunkin

Dammit! I totally forgot about my favorite outdoor event that I've never actually made it to.. Punkin Chunkin. I was reminded by Ryan in a comment that it's going to be on tonight at 6pm on the Discovery Channel.

It's an even that is near here and I really want to do since I'm a gun, catapult, trebuchet fan and well, how cool of an event is this to go to? Huge guns and contraptions built specificaly to heave pumpkins far distances..

Next year I'm going.. promise!

Civ 4

Ok.. like I said, I have Civ 4 sitting in front of me. I am having trouble installing it since I know, I know it will envelop me and I'm not sure I want to be obsessed right now.. I'm not sure I want this game ruling my free time.. I know I have no will power.. Hmn.. what to do...

Music

Bought the new Depeche Mode CD.. not very impressed..
Bought the new Fiona Applie CD.. not impressed at all
Bought the new Sigor Ros CD... yea.. not too good
Bought the new Coltrane CD.. half - note.. yea.. this is good..