indeed.com is what i had imagined disemployed would become, which sucks as there's no way i can complete with two people doing the same thing as full time jobs. on the bright side, at least i finally have some validation that it was a good idea. it's too bad good ideas don't pay anything.
earlier today i was doing laundry and watching C-SPAN. i don't have cable at home, so when i go to do laundry at my dad's house, i take the opportunity to watch some cable, and i usually end up watching C-SPAN, which is ironically available online.
on C-SPAN today was eric brende, the author of better off: flipping the switch on technology. he talked about how a lot of "time-saving" technology actually makes us lose time because we have to spend time working to pay for it, and then we have to schedule seperate time for exercising and socializing, both of which we previously did simultaneously with whatever work the technology is now performing for us.
that all made sense to me, so i of course went home and started working on yet another web application to save myself some time. my friend jj has a new weblog on myspace.com, but myspace.com doesn't have RSS feeds. i'd like to know when jj writes something without having to waste a few minutes every day checking this page, so i wrote a script to scrape the page and make an RSS feed. i think that took me a little over an hour, so this may be a good example of where "time-saving" doesn't.
but i made it so it will work on any myspace.com weblog, so hopefully i can save someone else enough time that this was worthwhile. if you want an RSS feed of the weblog of the lead singer of weezer, for example, you can get that here. or you could just read the web page, but if you're not going to use perfectly good RSS, you might as well become amish.
if you don't have an account on randomchaos.com (and you don't because only i do), you may have tried to create one by clicking on that "[Register]" link at the top of every page. if you are one of the hundred or so who did that, you found that it didn't work. it said it worked, but then you couldn't login using your new account, because it didn't really work. sorry about that. next time something like that happens, let me know and i'll fix it. but now it works, so you can go make an account and then add your name to your account and then when you go to leave a comment on the weblog, it will automatically fill in your name whenever you're logged in.
i discovered this because my friend jj wants to use my otherwise unused photo album tool to publish some of his photos, and i had to create an account for him so he could do this. so if jj does his part, some day soon the photo tool will be full of photos.
here is the view out my window, updated on the hour. i bought an isight camera a few weeks back. i'm not sure it was a good use of my money, as none of my friends with video cameras are ever available to videoconference. so i'm trying to make some use of my investment, and that means you get to watch my neighborhood. if only i had done this a little earlier, you could have watched a house being moved into that far lot from across town. i'll make sure to notify you well in advance the next time that happens.
i have a car i'm selling, if you are or know anyone in the market. it's a red 1988 honda accord two door hatchback stick shift with about 67,000 miles. i think it's a good, cheap car, but i don't know much about cars. i've had it for about 9 months and had only a few minor problems with it, but i just inherited a nicer car so i'm selling it now for $1000. the blue book price is $1580. you'd need to pick it up in bloomington, il, and ideally you'd be someone i've spoken to before. email me for more details if you're interested.
last night i could be heard saying "i'm not too concerned about security." this morning i got an email from yet another kind visitor pointing out that my .inc files, including the one with all my passwords, were being presented by the server as plain text when called directly. so anyone could get my database password, my del.icio.us password, and my google api key. suddenly i became concerned about security.
i added the following line to my .htaccess file to make the server parse .inc files just like .php files (as my previous server did):
AddType application/x-httpd-php .inc
which solved the problem. then i changed all my related passwords. no harm done.
so now i'm back to not being concerned about security. after recovering from my initial freak-out mode, i realized that access to the database is restricted to certain IP addresses, so the password alone will not do much unless you are one of my neighbors sharing my IP address. and my del.icio.us posts are now automatically backed up on the links page, so no worries there. and my google api key is pretty much worthless. but still, putting passwords in a publicly-viewable text file is probably not a good idea.
"they can steal your cookies!" the protector of bakery goodness replied. that's when i knew i had to take action. "NOBODY STEALS MY COOKIES!!" i shouted as i edited a few lines of code to prevent XSS attacks. and thus it was that the great cookie thievery of ought four was prevented.
if you've ever considered getting some recording software, i highly recommend you get tracktion while it's free (was $80). i've been testing it for the past week or so and it's the easiest fully-functional recording software i've ever used. it comes in both mac and windows versions. and now it's free.
some people - okay, one person - had pointed out that my virtual tom coates script tended to time out in it's attempt to spit out twenty words. i've made some improvements, and now it can spit out hundreds of words without timing out. it still has a lot of room for improvement, but even if i can't make it any better, i should still be able to make a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month.
a google search for "phpsessionid valid xhtml" currently returns 13 results, none of which explain how to produce valid xhtml with php's automatic phpsessionid. it took me a while to figure it out, so hopefully this post will show up in those results soon and help someone else out. what you need to do is put this at the beginning of your script:
ini_set( 'arg_separator.output' , '&' );
ini_set( 'url_rewriter.tags' , 'a=href,area=href,frame=src,input=src,fieldset=' );
the first part will make the automatic URL rewriting for sessions use the HTML entity & rather than the default &, which is invalid XHTML. the next line will add the hidden form input (which is valid XHTML) inside a
<fieldset> rather than the default, immediately after the
<form> tag, which is invalid XHTML. if you don't already have them, you need to put
<fieldset> tags inside all
<form> tags to get forms to work with PHP sessions. this will change the appearance of your forms, but you can change it back with some CSS styling.
it's national novel writing month again. you may recall last year i entered the fray, with the intent of composing an entire novel from strings of text found on google. i kept running into problems and after exhausting my daily limit of searches on the google API, i had to wait until the next day to start work again. as i tend to hit my unpaid web development in binges, this didn't produce a novel within the month.
a couple weeks ago, tom coates posted five years worth of his writing on plasticbag.org in the hopes that someone would create visualizations of it, and so it was that i gained the source material for my second attempt at a computer-generated novel. what i have so far is "virtual tom coates," though currently it would probably be better titled "virtual drunk tom coates" as it tends to speak in incomplete and/or incoherent sentences -- though i must admit i have never even met tom coates, much less experienced him inebriated. every two adjacent words it spits out are found together somewhere on plasticbag, but that's the current extent of the similarities between tom coates and virtual tom coates. here's an example of the output, which is different every time the page is loaded:
Of work on is finally my hair cut suits my stride the short-lived before the best project I'm going to
there's obviously a lot of room for improvement. since i have no significant limits on my work, i will only have myself to blame for any failure to produce a 50,000 word novel based loosely on the last five years of writing by tom coates. and if all goes well, i should have a system i can then apply to any text source to produce similar text.
if you'll direct your attention over to the music section, you'll notice everything is free. i'm still taking donations, which will hopefully help pay for the cost of hosting the music. music by people who aren't me has been removed until i can okay the new pricing with them. i'm uploading more music as i type. enjoy.
i have made the links searchable, which isn't especially useful given the current links, but will be more useful (for me, at least) when i start syncing my del.icio.us links to randomchaos. the search is quite nice, if i do say so myself. here's how it works:
it does full word matching, so if you search for "men" it won't find results with words like "entertainment." leaving a space between two words will find results that contain both words. so far, this is how del.ico.us works. here's where it goes further:
if you put a pipe "|" between two words, it will find results that contain either word. if you put a minus sign before a word, it will return results without that word. for example a search for "entertainment -humor" will find everything that is entertaining, but not funny (according to the assigned tags). if you put parenthesis around words, it will do that part of the search together before combining it with the rest. for example, a search for "(entertainment -humor)|interesting" will find results that are entertaining and not funny or results that are interesting. you can combine all of these options to create just about any search you might want.
i expect i'll probably use the same technique to improve the weblog search, but first i'll need to add the ability to search for whole phrases in addition to individual words.
about a month ago netnewswire author brent simmons wrote "My hope is that somebody will take this as an opportunity to do something cool and write an enclosure-downloading script (perhaps an AppleScript Studio app?) that other folks can use." and other people have already, but the solutions have required a bit of geekiness to enable. today i'm releasing netmuswire, an applescript that combines netnewswire, ical, and itunes into a scheduled mp3 aggregator. netnewswire does the aggregating, ical does the download scheduling, and itunes does the playing. there's an installer that sets everything up to run automatically, but it's easy to adjust if you don't like the default schedule - just change the ical event times. if you have netnewswire 2 and a broadband connnection, please try it out and let me know if you find any problems. it's released under the GPL in the hopes that someone will use it as a template for something else - maybe a photo aggregator, a video aggregator, an event aggregator, or a contact aggregator.
imagine you own a store, and you hire a new manager for your store. in his first month of managing the store, the store is robbed and an employee is shot. the police say the robber is known to live on the north side of town, but the manager spends half of the store's monthly income to hire a private investigator to find the robber on the south side of town. he has to fire another employee to pay for this. nobody is coming to your store anymore.
you don't think the manager is doing a good job, but you're busy with another store you own for the next month, so you don't have time to do interviews for a new manager. one of the remaining employees offers to do the job, but the current manager says this employee just wants to steal the remaining store funds.
who do you want to manage your store for the next month: the currrent manager or the employee?
yesterday, the votemaster over at the electoral vote predictor wrote
Some people have asked for a method to make their own maps selecting only pollsters favorable to their candidate. While this is theoretically possible, the computing load it would place on the server would be too much. that's only true if he's using bad software. tonight i made a rough working tool to do this. it will pull the polling data from the electoral vote predictor every six hours. i'll add some more options later, but you can already see how removing certain pollsters affects the results.
the electoral vote predictor provides a much better idea of the state of the presidential campaign than the national polls we see in the news every day. as some of us learned in civics class, and the rest of us learned in 2000, the electoral college determines who becomes president. the electoral vote predictor provides a wonderful free service by translating state polls into a national electoral vote tally. but why settle for wonderful when we could have...um...fantabulous?
a recent article in the american prospect points out that incumbants rarely get a larger share of the vote on election day than they get in polling right before the election. so if on november 1, bush is polling at 48% in a state, and kerry is polling at 44%, kerry will very likely win that state on november 2. why? because that 8% undecided in polls will overwhelmingly go for the new guy. wouldn't it be swell if the electoral vote predictor would take this into account?
but they do enough work already with all those nifty graphs. they are also kind enough to provide the raw polling data they use, so we can do this work ourselves simply by applying "the 50 percent rule" (or, as i like to call it, "the newer of two evils rule") to this data. so i did that, and included it in an RSS feed. i had a hard time believing the results (as much as i'd like to), so i also made a "49 percent rule," by which i give bush the electoral votes of any state in which he has 49 percent or more of the current poll. he still loses this way, but not by as much.
i have no idea if the 50 percent rule will hold true in this election, but i certainly hope so.
the daily show RSS feed now links directly to the windows media files. sort of. most of the files are in predictable locations, and those are linked properly. but some random ones are in odd locations and those links don't work right now. but the descriptions have a link to the page containing the obfuscated windows media files, so if the first click doesn't work, click, click again. or if you really want to see some ads, you can go to the page for that as well.
this short tutorial is as much for myself as all the other PHP developers i know:
- search for prior art that does X
- you skipped step one, didn't you? don't skip step one.
brent simmons wrote in a post today
we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. a good search suggests this is an old saying, but i've never heard it before. i expect i'll use this many times in the future, as i tend to hang around a lot of people who often let the perfect be the enemy of the good. and i'm sure i do too.
i don't buy a lot of software. i rely mostly on what was on my computer when i bought it and what i can find for free. one of the free applications i've been using for a long time is netnetswire lite. it's the free version of netnewswire, but it's a fully usable application with no nags to upgrade to the paid version. that's one of the main reasons i upgraded to the paid version today.
i had been meaning to do that for a while, but i finally did it today because of the recent release of netnewswire 2. among the new features in version 2 is an embedded browser. i expected this to be nice, but i didn't realize how nice. it's so nice that i don't need safari anymore. so i'm also switching to firefox now.
as i've said before, one of the main things i don't like about firefox is the ugliness of form elements. but because netnewwire's embedded browser using the same display engine as safari, i can use that when i want things to be more pretty, and use firefox when i want things to be more functional (e.g. use the del.icio.us extension).
only one major roadblock remains in my quest for a better browsing experience: the daily show. i watch the daily show clips often, but their website staff seems to be searching for the worst video format available. they originally had real video, but that wasn't bad enough, so now they use windows media. believe it or not, microsoft isn't especially quick to develop plugins for firefox on macs.
there is no windows media extension that works on mac os x. safari would at least prompt me to open the files in windows media player, but firefox just says it can't find a plugin, leaving me to either sift through multiple pages of source code searching for the actual file address, or open safari just to have safari open windows media player. i'll probably do the latter until i write a script to do the former for me.
If there was a consensus that emerged from two days of conversation, it's the notion that race is a cultural construct. great. oh wait:
If all the experts in the world suddenly announced that there's no such thing as race, and if newspapers ran the story on the front page, it still wouldn't change the way whites and blacks interact. hmm...maybe weblogs?
i think everyone and their mom is already using del.icio.us. i'm going to start keeping all my links that may be remotely interesting to anyone else on my del.icio.us page. i've been hesitant to start this because del.icio.us doesn't have any easy way to export, which means no easy way to make a backup of my links. but i find i'm increasingly using the web from different locations and different browsers, and it's not looking like i'm going to get my homemade link application into a usable state any time soon, so i'm going to use del.icio.us for now. if you are someone i know and you start doing the same, let me know so i can start stalking you online.
peter schurman of moveon.org writes
On Monday, September 13th, at midnight, the national ban on military-style assault weapons will expire, allowing these murderous weapons back on our streets. Congress is feeling the heat and is prepared to renew the ban, if the president will only ask. and they want me (and everyone else) to send a letter to the president urging him to urge congress to write some legislature. i'm all for some reasonable gun control, but i'm more for separation of powers. i don't want my president legislating, and i won't encourage congress to further ignore its constitutional responsibility by waiting for the executive branch to propose legislation. why isn't moveon.org sending letters to members of congress asking them why they aren't doing their jobs?
religion is a virus among the computer brains of children says richard dawkins. it's interesting to see how a darwinian tries to explain the evolutionary value behind religion. but dawkin's explanation doesn't hold water. in my experience at least, children - unlike computers - don't believe everything they are told by their parents. and assuming what they are being told is a lie, those who do believe should be less - not more - likely to survive and reproduce than those who don't believe. whereas with religion the opposite appears to be true.
i previously wrote about the multi-search functionality in firefox, and how it doesn't allow the full range of searches it could. this, along with a few other annoyances, caused me to continue using safari. unfortunately, safari doesn't have multi-search functionality. enter acidsearch, a free plugin that gives safari multi-search functionality and even allows for more searches than firefox. for example, i was able to make a search component for php.net, which is impossible in firefox.
a few days ago, dan gillmor wrote
Of course, not even Microsoft's wildest partisans will claim that SP2 will turn the safety switch to "on'' in an all-encompassing way. robert scoble proved dan wrong by responding
When he says "not perfect" that means that he believes it has a flaw that'll let an attacker in from the outside. That simply IS NOT TRUE. yesterday, information week reported
Another flaw in Internet Explorer has been uncovered by Danish security firm Secunia, which said that the gaffe left all PC users open to attack, even those who had updated Windows XP with the massive Service Pack 2 upgrade. clearly dan has made a major error in underestimating just how wild microsoft's partisans can get.
the catholic church has a rule that communion wafers must be made of wheat. but some people are allergic to wheat. so what do you do if you're catholic and allergic to wheat? luckily, the chuch has been around a long time, so there's a rule for everything. in this case, the proper procedure is as follows: option (a): ignore your allergy, eat the communion wafer anyway, get sick, and die. if this option does not appeal to you, you can elect option (b): go to hell. god thanks you for your inquiry.
jon udell wrote (yet again) today about how there's no easy way to point to a URL for a clip of a video. he points out that it's entirely possible to do with real clips, but it's a tedious process. computers are good at tedious processes. real didn't see fit to enable this functionality for their users, but they did see fit to include a bunch of handy applescript hooks in their player (in version 9 at least), which allows a short bit of applescript to do the job nicely: here's some sample code. that applescript isn't especially useful as is, because it doesn't allow any gap between the start time and end time. doing that would require the script to continue running while the video clip runs, plus a bit of interface (a button or two). i don't have time to figure out how to do that right now, but if someone else does, we'd have exactly what jon wants:
It needs two new buttons: Start Clip and End Clip. When you click Start Clip, it notes the start time of a clip. When you click End Clip, it notes the end time and gives you the URL of the clip.
here's the code if you're interested:
tell application "RealOne Player" set wrapper_url to GetPlayingURL set start_time to GetPosition set start_seconds to round (start_time / 1000) rounding down set start_hours to round (start_seconds / 3600) rounding down set start_seconds to start_seconds - (start_hours * 3600) set start_minutes to round (start_seconds / 60) rounding down set start_seconds to start_seconds - (start_minutes * 60) set end_time to GetPosition set end_seconds to round (end_time / 1000) rounding down set end_hours to round (end_seconds / 3600) rounding down set end_seconds to end_seconds - (end_hours * 3600) set end_minutes to round (end_seconds / 60) rounding down set end_seconds to end_seconds - (end_minutes * 60) set real_url to do shell script "cURL " & wrapper_url set ramgen_url to real_url set AppleScript's text item delimiters to "/" set ramgen_parts to text items of ramgen_url set item 1 of ramgen_parts to "http:" set item 3 of ramgen_parts to item 3 of ramgen_parts & "/ramgen" set final_url to (ramgen_parts as string) & "?start=" if (start_hours > 0) then set final_url to final_url & start_hours & ":" end if set final_url to final_url & start_minutes & ":" & start_seconds & "&end=" if (end_hours > 0) then set final_url to final_url & end_hours & ":" end if set final_url to final_url & end_minutes & ":" & end_seconds end tell
If you have never logged in to AllegisBenefits.com before, your Username and Password will both be your social security number. Simply enter your social security number without dashes in both entry boxes and then click the "Login" button.
ordinarily i would point out that they could remove the dashes themselves rather than waste users' time, but they can't even make a remotely functional website, so they probably need all the help a user can give them. so i entered my social security number (noting how easy it is for anyone to get my social security number) and clicked the "Login" button, and i then got an error message, which helpfully explains "LOGIN ERROR!" with a flashing exclamation point. i tried again, and this time got the first error message "If you need help using this Web Site, please call your dedicated service department". the thought of navigating a phone system made by these people frightens me enough that i use the email option. so far no automated response, which is either a good sign (someone might actually get my message) or an indication that their email server is as useless as their website. if you were wondering what their motto is (unfortunately not "worst website ever"), they have a flash animation which covers a third of the page to tell you: "people. service. performance." i'm still waiting to experience any of those.
a metafilter post points to a wikipedia article on the uncanny valley, which is something i previous knew nothing about. apparently human responses to robots are increasingly positive as robots become increasingly human-like, up until robots are almost indistinguishable. at that point, our reactions to them take a steep negative turn, until the robots are complege indistinguishable, at which point the reactions are again positive (as they would be with humans).
i wonder if this same phenomenon affects issues such as racism, sexism, or homophobia. do we also react more negatively to people who are very similar to us, but slightly different in some way? for example, do men react to feminine men more negatively than to women - is there an uncanny valley of emotional responses to gender stereotypes? i'd be interested to see similar graphs with emotional response mapped against masculinity, skin color, age, and so on.
after reading encouragement from both jonathon delacour and shelley powers, i'm trying my best to like firefox. but i'm not having much luck. as i mentioned in comments to both those posts, my first problem was form elements. they were ugly enough to turn me away before i even used a form in firefox. but now as i'm trying to type into a textarea, my text is restricted to an area much smaller than the text area (for some unknown reason), yet the textarea doesn't force wrapping, so longer URLs create a horizontal scroll bar that makes me regularly lose my cursor while typing. ugh.
but that's just the beginning. in little time i've wandered to a page that for some reason displays as source rather than a web page. maybe the server is sending a bad mime type or something, but i don't see any way to change this. ugh. the search bar is nice, so i installed a bunch of engines, such as the one for php.net. php.net has this really nice feature that allows me to type in a URL like php.net/time and go directly to the page explaining the "time" function. i use this quite often. it's sort of like googles "i'm feeling lucky" feature. but because it doesn't put the search in the query string of the URL, it doesn't work with firefox's search engine format, so instead the php.net engine searches the site using google, and then i have to click on the result i want. ugh. maybe if i get through the other problems, i'll make a server-side application to convert a URL like randomchaos.com/php-net.php?q=time to php.net/time. the annoying thing is, i know the developers know how to make searches without using the query string, because the functionality is available in search keyword bookmarks, but that moves the search to the address bar (confusing) and forces me to type an identifier for the engine. that's scarcely simpler than typing the full URL php.net/time.
the only other problem i've had (in the less than an hour i've been using firefox) is the user interface for closing tabs. safari takes the (i think) rational approach of putting the tab close button on the tab to be closed. firefox for some reason has a single button off to the side to close the frontmost tab. this means i can't close tabs that aren't frontmost. but because the butotn is attached to the window rather than a tab, it also means (for now at least), i'm always unsure that clicking this button won't close the hole window, and i waste time worrying about this even when i'm closing the frontmost window. ugh.
i'll give it another day or so and see if the nicer features, like the web developer toolbar (which i just discovered disables text input whenever menus are open - ugh), overcome the problems.
here's a quiz for you: which of the following is an african american?
- Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the UN [pictures]
- Bob Marley, musician [pictures]
- Naomi Campbell, model [pictures]
- Teresa Heinz-Kerry, wife of presidential candidate John Kerry [pictures]
the correct answer is Teresa Heinz-Kerry. Kofi Annan is not american. Bob Marley was neither african nor american. Naomi Cambell is not american. of the choices, only Teresa Heinz-Kerry is an american born in africa.
the computer-generated poetry will now evolve. now two poems show up instead of one, and when you vote for one of the two, that makes future poems more like the poem you voted for (and less like the other). it does this by remembering which words are together in poems that you like (as well as the poems you don't like), and putting words together based on that information. there's still some randomness - mutations to allow for poem evolution rather than mere poem cloning. i have no idea how well it will work. but that's what makes it fun.
tired of a partisan executive branch? vote bush-edwards. electoral-vote.com says:
Thus if the electoral college is tied and the House votes, Bush wins. However, all is not lost for the Democrats. The Senate picks the Vice President, so if the Democrats pick up the two seats needed to recapture the Senate, we get a hybrid administration: Bush-Edwards. that would be interesting.
i find myself checking electoral-vote.com every day. i get a constant stream of polling information from various news sources, but - as many learned in 2000 - votes only matter in how they get translated into electoral votes. for example, recent nation-wide polling shows john kerry with only a very slight lead among potential voters, but that slight lead translates into a huge (118 vote) lead in the electoral college. i made an RSS feed of the more recent estimates from electoral-vote.com, so i can be notified of such important news immediately, and you can too.
i'm in the process of moving randomchaos.com to a new server, so if you post anything (e.g. comments) here in the next few days, it may get lost in the transition.
Initial attempts were simple: make a better milk by combining 2% with apple juice! juice is good...but it would be better if it were creamier...hmmm...milk is creamy.
almost a year ago, i wrote:
i don't believe there are currently any newsreaders that allow users to subscribe to an OPML file. i believe there are still no newsreaders that allow users to subscribe to an OPML file. but today infamous innovator dave winer wrote:
It's a subtly different kind of subscription list, because it will change, you should subscribe to the OPML not to the feeds contained in the OPML. sounds familiar. hopefully that will prompt someone to implement this feature.
the statistics page is rather buggy right now, but it shows the source page as among the most accessed on randomchaos.com. i have no idea who is viewing the source, but now these people can submit changes back to me. i'll review and implement the changes i like (and give credit to submitters). this makes the website much more like a regular open source project, but whether or not anyone participates remains to be seen. the new format also makes it easier to take the code and use it elsewhere. maybe i'll eventually add a downloadable file option. or maybe someone else will.
anyone can now register for a user account on randomchaos.com. after you register, you can create a profile, which currently consists of a first and last name. once you've done that, whenever you're on a page with comments (and logged in), your name will already be in the comment form. this is a step towards a re-vamp of the reversi game which will allow registered users to play each other.
some have criticized the associated press and liz sidoti for a recent article about the kerry-edwards campaign, which has absolutely nothing to do with policy or politics, and everything to do with the two men appearing to be a little too happy - gay, even. but one particular sentence shows the real problem with this article, which everyone else seems to be missing:
The two clap each other sometimes once, often twice, on the back with both hands. everyone knows the standard male-male "i'm not gay" hug has three claps (one for each word) on the back, not one or two.
okay, so markets are conversations. and politics are conversations too. but wars? wars are not conversations. conversations involve multiple parties talking and listening. this happens in functional markets. this happens (though less often) in functional politics. this does not happen in wars. no one listens in a war. wars are shouting matches. when a market or conversation is over, you've gained something (money, goods, services, information). when a war or shouting match is over, you've lost something (time, money, life).
so i have some gmail invitations, and i'm following tom's condition of how i must distribute them (lest i be considered a person without honour): if you say something funny before i run out, i'll give you one. and i'm going to go ahead a make that a viral condition: you have to do the same with some of the invitations you get on gmail, including passing on the condition. now be funny.
two recent bug reports for mail log are actually - as far as i can tell - bugs in safari. mail log doesn't work if the zip file is downloaded and unzipped with safari. if it is downloaded with safari (or any other browser) and unzipped with some other application, it works fine. this seems like an incredibly obscure bug, and i'm suspicious that i've diagnosed the problem correctly, but all evidence i have now points to safari's unzipping as the problem.
shelley thought i had a good idea, which she calls an "emotive" style sheet. it seems to me i don't have nifty ideas like this as much as i once did. daniel says
I admit it, my quiet is tied to money. makes me wonder if mine is too.
today jonathon commemorates the fourtieth anniversary of the day he became disillusioned witht he beatles. reading it reminded me of my own disillusioning experience with one of my favorite musicians, elliott smith, though my experience wasn't nearly so bad that i remember the exact date even a few years later.
for years i had bought every album smith had made, and listened intently as he painfully poured his soul out. (i recently found a genre for smith more descriptive than my previous "good at being sad": "miserablist.") then i had an opportunity to see elliott smith in concert in chicago.
he took the stage and played through his songs almost exactly as they sounded on the CDs. he paused between songs for just a few seconds, and scarcely even seemed to notice an audience was there. he never once spoke to the audience beyond a simple "thank you." after he played the last song, he walked off the stage, and the show was over just like that.
it was a big let down. the music was just as great live as it was on recording; that wasn't the problem at all. the problem was that i had come to believe smith meant every word he sang, that he was something more "real" than a standard pop musician. and probably he was back when he wrote the songs, but by the time he got to chicago something had changed. he didn't mean what he sang. he was just singing because he was a singer, and someone had booked him a show to sing. he didn't want to be there singing these songs for me, but i wanted him to want to be there.
i first got to know ann by suggesting that she get an RSS feed for her weblog. she writes her weblog by hand, so i didn't think my standard screen-scraping solution would work very well. but she has generally standard HTML. so until she changes formatting, my new screen-scraped ann maria bell RSS feed should work.
i'm a little confused after reading this in a seattle times article:
Bremer and Brahimi are trying to exert control over an unwieldy process in which individuals and parties represented on the U.S.-appointed Governing Council are jostling for posts. i understand that the "unwieldy process" is called "democracy" and that it's this "democracy" we're trying to bring to iraq. i also understand that we have this "democracy" thing here in america. what i don't understand is this: if the current authority can veto an election in one of these "democracies," why is bush wasting millions of dollars trying to get people to vote for him? why doesn't he just veto the election?
in PHP there are three control structures that could be used to loop through arrays: for, foreach, and while. foreach was made for looping through arrays, so it has long been my first choice among these three. last week i posted a code sample in response to a question on an email list, and someone responded:
This looks very useful--but one performance-related note. I've just finished doing a fairly heavy performance optimization review of a Web app at work, and it's amazing how expensive foreach () in PHP is compared to while...
i thought this was just someone with way too much interest in optimization until i ran some PHP array loop speed tests today. foreach is actually slightly faster than for, which didn't surprise me. what did surprise me is how much faster while is than foreach: on my local mac, while is 15,000 times faster. that means you could run up to 15,000 while loops in the time it would take to run through one foreach loop. on my server (which is both optimized and a newer version of PHP), while is only 3,000 times faster, which is still a huge difference. so i'll probably never use foreach again for anything in which speed is even a slight concern.
the comment page now has an RSS feed of the most recent comments, so i get notification every time someone posts a comment. i suspect no one else will want to use this just yet, but i hope to have topical comment feeds eventually, so you can post a comment to something, then subscribe to the feed, and get notified if anyone responds.
before the democratic primaries were clearly over, polls were being run pitting bush against "any democrat". "any democrat" did fairly well in this polling. back then, dean was the favored candidate, and i suggested his opponents might want to change their names to "anyone but bush." sadly, nobody took my advice.
today, salon reports some poll numbers:
The race for the White House remains tied, with Kerry at 49 percent and Bush at 47% among likely voters. More Americans disapprove (49%) than approve (47%) of the president's job performance. the poll numbers of kerry and bush are identical to the disapproval and approval ratings of bush. those who disapprove of bush will vote for kerry. and those who approve of bush will, of course, vote for bush. i'd really like to see a poll showing how many people (or better yet voters) don't like kerry but will vote for him anyway. right now kerry is leading polling almost entirely as an "any democrat" or "anyone but bush" candidate. no one cares what he says or does (or doesn't say or do). just as long as he's not bush, 49% will vote for him. go "any democrat"!
about six months ago, i wrote "when new content arrives, it will be automatically sent out to applications that can handle it." today, brent simmons, author of netnewswire, writes "The idea as I understand it is this: your feedreader, like your browser and email app, is a hub of information. It makes sense to want to route information from the hub to other applications." cool.
it's not clear to me whether such routing will be automatic (as i had imagined) or will require some action on the part of the user. the latter wouldn't be nearly as cool, but the former would require a level of labeling that most syndication feeds are lacking. if i have an RSS feed of events, for example, how would the feedreader know to automatically route those events to my calendar? i suspect in the near term, i'll have to tell it with each event. but at least that's better than copying and pasting the information.
america never signed on to the international criminal court (ICC). some say this is because america fears charges of war crimes. henry kissinger, for example, has been accused of war crimes, and the iraqi prison torture investigation may lead all the way up to donald rumsfeld, if not bush himself. but the official explanation of america's disinterest in the ICC is that we don't trust the court to differentiate between legitimate and unjustified claims of war crimes. so for the past two years, we've used our veto power in the UN to get immunity from the ICC.
our most recent attempts to renew this immunity come at a bad time. because we've recently committed war crimes in iraq, the official explanation looks increasingly like a mask for our fear of being held accountable for such crimes. which is what i suspect prompted tom coates to write today "The only reason to demand war crimes immunity is if you expect some of your people to purpetrate them." this statement is untrue. while this may indeed be the actual reason in this case, it's not the only possible reason. i suspect tom didn't put much thought into this statement, and would revise it more if it were part of an essay rather than his link log. i'm just pointing out the untruth of his statement, because i think such overstatement hurts a right position as much as a wrong one.
my position on this, if not already obvious, is that i don't think america should seek or receive immunity from war crimes prosecution in the ICC. there may be legitimate reasons in support of such immunity, but i think they are in any case outweighed by the benefits of demonstrating that we are willing to follow the rule of law. especially because we don't have to.
i just came back from an interview with en-vision america, a local company i'd never heard of before seeing a help wanted ad in the local paper for someone to do database work. it's hard to tell what my chances are of getting the job because i was the first person they interviewed, and the job description is rather vague (a little of everything). but whether or not i get the job, it's a cool company. they make product identifiers for blind people. currently they have two products: one scans bar codes and the other reads RFID chips. both use text-to-speech to read product descriptions to users, ranging in detail from a simple product name to more information like cooking instructions for food or prescription details.
i've never used moveable type, so i'm not in the market for a new publishing system, but it seems like all the cool kids are headed over to wordpress because of moveable type's new terms. brad sucks gives some more information about wordpress, which may be another reason to move to wordpress, or it may be a reason not to, depending on how paranoid you are: they know who you are.
a BBC article on STD rates in america suggests that either virgins are somehow getting sexually transmitted diseases just as often as non-virgins (hard to imagine how that could happen), or kids (and particularly christian kids) are betraying their pledges of virginity. i'm not surprised that STDs exist among pledged virgins, but the apparent rates are surprising.
a "relative counselor" is one who spends all day trying to make other people (and especially family members) feel better about the fact that one doesn't have a job.
an "informal slow-down strike" is what happens when a company sends employees home when the work is done, and the work begins to magically expand to fill the day.
yesterday i turned down a job teaching english in japan. the pay was decent, the hours were short, and it had health care and free housing. but it was in japan.
so now i'm working at a sheet metal factory. and i might be joining a local band. and i'll probably be re-joining the board of directors of a local organization. now i just need some health care. and some free housing would be nice too.
i'm generally a skeptic of the belief that "animals have feelings too," but these pictures sure look like a bird mourning the death of its friend.
on march 20, i was at a peace demonstration in chicago at which one of the speakers yelled "long live the intifada!", encouraging the crowd to repeat the same. today i got an email from gabe gudding, who attended yesterday's demonstration against caterpillar's sale of the bulldozers israel uses to demolish palestinian homes. in his account of the events, gabe mentioned that someone at the demonstration yelled* "long live the intifada". (* after i wrote this, gabe wrote to correct me: this wasn't yelled, it was on a sign.)
maybe the caterpillar demonstration was different than the chicago demonstration, but i got the impression in chicago that most of the crowd had no idea what "intifada" means. one young man a few yards behind me had the presence of mind to boo the chants of "long live the intifada", but most people just stood there looking a bit confused.
it is my opinion that the intifada is not something anyone interested in peace in the middle east should support. wikipedia has a good explanation of what "intifada" means. at best, it can be seen as a peaceful demonstration that, against the wishes of most of its proponents, fell into the cycle of violence that has been going on between israel and palestine for too many decades. at worst, it can be seen as the palestinian half of that cycle of violence. in any case, there have been two palestinian intifadas, and palestinians have nothing to show for it.
so i'd like to never hear "long live the intifada" at a peace demonstration again, but if i do hear it, i hope i'll have the presence of mind to boo.
doc searls asks
Are these people(s) ready to govern themselves? and i just want to throw up. surely the british once wondered: "is india ready to govern itself?" and came to the same wrong answers to which so many americans are coming today. my question is: if we decide the answer to doc's question is "no", are we ready to govern iraq? more to the point: who is better able to govern iraq: iraqis or americans? the longer we stay there, the more we'll convince ourselves that the answer is americans. but in truth it will always be iraqis who are best able to govern their own country, whether they're ready or not. readiness is not the key requirement of functional democracy. if it was, we'd call it "ready-cracy". the "demo-" means "by the people", and americans are not "the people" in iraq.
can anyone explain to me any of the following? 1) why does lisa rein bother posting daily show clips to her weblog when the same clips are already available on the daily show website? 2) why do other sites link to her when she posts these clips, but not to the clips on the daily show website?
i was up in chicago on march 20 at the big anti-war protest. there were a lot of different people handing out different socialist newspapers, and when i was offered the fifth or six different socialist newspaper, i asked the person "why are there so many different socialist newspapers?" that person was stephen edwards, president of AFSCME local 2858 and proponent of a workers' party in illinois. today i read a metafilter thread about the work less party of vancouver. rather than "workers of the world unite" it's "workers of the world relax". they've got good slogans, but i'm still waiting on the newspaper.
a quick google search for an RSS feed of the daily show clips comedy central offers turned up nothing. this surprised me, because i regularly see references to these daily show clips around the weblog world. i don't have a television, so this is an important source of entertainment for me. today i finally got tired of checking the website every day, and decided to make an RSS feed of the daily show clips.
i'm watching CSI episodes on DVD and one character just said "scent triggers memory more accutely than any of the five senses." this caught my attention because i have a poor sense of smell (anosmia) and a poor long term memory. a while back, tom coates, who also has anosmia, clued me in to information about anosmia with an essay on the topic. from the comments, he seems to have helped quite a few people with anosmia down a path of discovery about the problem. i'd be interested to hear how many of these people have poor long term memory as well.
here's a idly speculative theory i just came up with. absent the boogie man of communism, american politicians are now free to combine the "ownership is good" principle of capitalism with the "ownership is bad" principle of communism. the result could be twice as good or twice as bad. a good politician would say "ownership is good for you and bad for me." but sadly most american politicians seem to be saying "ownership is bad for you and good for me."
ownership is decision making ability as far as economics are concerned, and how politicians view decision making ability in the economic realm tends to reflect how they view decision making in other realms. bush, for example, seems to support competition, except where his own interests are at stake. then he supports state-sponsored monopolies (like haliburton) that look an aweful lot like how things work under communism. he likewise voiced support for states' rights to make their own decisions regarding gay marriage, until they started making decisions he didn't like. then he supported taking that decision making ability away from them. similarly, he supported the judicial branch's right to interpret the constitution when their doing so gave him the presidency. but then they began interpretting it in ways he didn't like (gay marriage, affirmative action, etc.). now he calls them "activist judges".
the new division in politico-economic thought after the fall of communism - according to this theory - is no longer "communism vs. capitalism". it's "more for me" vs. "more for you".
for those who don't know, ebay owns paypal now, allowing me to do two rants in one and appear to be one the same topic.
first: why doesn't ebay just embrace fake ads? people are always selling things like "iraq" on ebay, which goes against their terms of service. why don't they make a special submission form for fake ads and not take bids (or take bids, but don't follow up with payment requests) on such ads. that would provide a cheap way to draw in users, and it would remove any confusion for those people who don't get the jokes.
second: why does paypal allow me to make a transaction drawing funds from a bank account that has been closed for months? i thought i was drawing funds from my credit card. i suspect this is going to cost me three or four times the transaction amount to deal with this.
josh occassionally sends me toothpaste for dinner URLs, which are always funny, but it's just so much work to visit a site every day to get the new funniness. so i made an RSS feed of toothpaste for dinner. then i thought "i wonder if someone else has already done this..." which a wiser coder would have thought before starting, because as it turns out two people already have. but mine includes the full content, and the others don't. so enjoy the funniness delivered to your RSS reader.
sometimes i close my eyes at night and see what i can best describe as cloud skeletons. imagine a circle, and then imagine the inverse of that circle, which would look something like a cross, only a bit more arched. now imagine the same thing with a cloud. and now the same thing with a bunch of clouds. the inverse clouds - the cloud skeletons - make new clouds, which then fade into their own skeletons, and this cycle continues. this is the closest thing to a recurring nightmare i can remember having, but it happens when i'm still awake. then i open my eyes for a bit before trying to sleep again. eventually the cloud skeletons go away.
jonathon delacour has returned from his long absence from writing. i suspect the "where is jonathon?" post i had in mind would have been typed out in the next few days, but we'll never know for sure now how many days i can tolerate an unexplained absence of jonathon. anyway, he brings up a few topics in his return on which i have something to say. and in the great tradition that started this whole webblogging craze, i now say it here. first, on drinking, he writes:
I respect the resolve of those who, around the same time, decided to quit but I was after something different: I wanted to drink less and, when I did drink, I wanted it to be from choice rather than habit. For me, quitting would simply mean replacing one type of obsessive-compulsive behavior with another.
i think the same was true for me when i swore off alcohol in the past, but i never realized it until reading this. so i thought i should look at the other popular things i don't do, but i don't think any of them fall into the same category. i don't do any drugs, but i think that's based on some pretty objective sources suggesting that drugs would be quite harmful to my health (particularly so because i'm thin and diabetic -- your mileage may vary). i don't eat meat, but i don't think i can really be non-obsessive about that. if you don't eat meat for a while, your body adjusts to treat meat as an inedible substance. eating meat causes sickness for anyone who has been vegetarian for as long as i have. i'm sure there are ways of re-introducing meat into my diet that wouldn't cause sickness, but i never much liked meat when i did eat it, so i think between that and the sickness factor, i'm pretty safely outside of obsessive-compulsive behaviour here. i don't think i have any other unflexible habits, but i trust my readership will let me know if i'm mistaken.
on to the next point of comment. this time jonathon quotes jeneane sessum on the growing perception of an elitist culture within weblogging:
Yes, I do think a divide is emerging within a medium that attracted us initially by its flatness?no one really wielding any more power than another except through the quality of their writing and ideas and the strength and power of their individual voice?
i have two comments on this. first, i think this divide has been emerging as long as weblogging has, and what's been emerging more recently is recognition of the divide. i'm reminded of being told once (i don't know if this is true, but it makes a good story either way) that the american government has only ever broken monopolies after they've destroyed themselves already. i think we might be recognizing the divide in weblogging after it would be possible to do much about it. i think the all-stars of weblogging have already left the rest of us with no reconciliation in sight. those of us further from these all-stars aren't particularly bothered by this, but the claims of impartiality are getting a bit tired.
my second comment is that this is exactly what happens with any group that is critical of another group's unfairness but offers no solution to it more substantial than "put us in charge." the communists were critical of capitalist unfairness, only to be unfair themselves as soon as they gained power. the democratic criticisms of bush's abuses of power sound an aweful lot like republican criticisms of clinton. and now the webloggers were critical of big media keeping them out only to be later accused of keeping others out. power is routinely abused, and anyone who doesn't recognize this and put systems in place to prevent it is no less likely to abuse it. they're just more likely to do so believing they are doing otherwise, which is even more troublesome.
with both alcohol and power, it seems moderation is a good idea. because both can too easily shift from means to ends.
ever since spending my first day in taiwan, i've found myself trying to counter the myth that taiwan is basically the same country as china. i don't know or care enough about the political issues to be declaring who is "right" - i suspect no one is - but a single day in taiwan should make it clear that it doesn't matter. taiwan is culturally distinct from china. older taiwanese resent china, and younger taiwanese don't even realize they share an ancestry with the chinese, causing a form of racism that seems absolutely absurd to the outside observer. anyway, i'm happy i no longer need to make these more complex observations, and can now simply point to the fact that one million (that's about one in every twenty three) taiwanese held hands across the entire country in a show of support for taiwan as a sovereign country. regardless of the political reality, taiwanese people clearly believe they are not part of china, and no amount of political posturing is going to change that.
a post on kuro5hin starts with
Japanese is the perfect language for nerds. and goes on to explain japanese as if it were a programming language. this was basically my approach with my daily japanese lessons, though not as explicitly. but like the author of this article, i think japanese has an unwarranted reputation of being a complicated language. you can do far more with single words in japanese than you can in english, and the number of exceptions to linguistic rules is much lower in japanese than english. if there were more japanese textbooks written entirely in romanized japanese, i think it would be an easier language than spanish for most american high school students.
in my previous post, i wrote
the only amendment to the constitution that ever removed rights like this one threatens to do, prohibition, was later repealed. while that was true, it turns out that history holds an even better analogy to bush's divisive amendment. ernie writes:
In December of 1912, an amendment to the Constitution was introduced to abolish racial intermarriage. we don't hear much about this one, because it didn't pass. hopefully, 90 years from now, they won't hear much about the current embarassment either.
i acknowledge the deeply pessimistic and potentially alarmist tone of the previous post, but will do my best to balance it here.
so, abandon not all your hope, for we can break away from nuclear power and still keep the lights on. we have an excellent opportunity to start right here in illinois, where the renewable energy portfolio standard (rps) bill,sb 2321, is currently before state legislators. also, the state's first wind power vendor, the crescent ridge project, is currently setting up shop.
the crescent ridge wind-power project will soon become the single largest property tax payer in bureau county, illinois. It will also bring significant income to farmers who have agreed to have turbines on their land- at $5,000 annually per turbine.
illinois has an opportunity to encourage more of this critical economic stimulus by passing senate bill 2321. sb 2321 would establish a rps as has already been done by thirteen other states- even oil-rich texas.
rps sets goals for the utility market to incorporate clean, renewable energy sources like water, solar, biomass, and wind with the non-renewable and highly toxic sources like coal, gas, oil, and nuclear they are using now. the attainable standard before our state senate would require utilities to obtain just 3% of total sales from renewable energy sources by 2007 and 10% by 2012.
illinois must act now, as this legislation will bring much needed economic boosts: new income sources for farmers, thousands of new jobs for workers, and tax revue for the state. go ahead and let your legislators know you want them support to senate bill 2321. dan rutherford and bill brady are especially in need of a phone call, as they haven't supported the bill yet.
public dialogue about improving energy is increasingly important as the floundering nuclear power industry attempts to revive itself, much to the detriment of ratepayers, public health, and rural areas.
beginning with expensive uranium mining, plagued with recurring safety violations (leading to plummeting tax value), and ending with radioactive waste for which we can foresee no feasible containment, nuclear power is a disappointment, or rather a nightmare come true, for individuals and communities.
a friend of mine wrote
i was actually kind of wondering what you thought about bush's statement about gay marriage, which surprised me because i think i've been rather predictable on issues of gay rights ever since i wrote "it's not okay to hate gay people" in my high school newspaper.
on the one hand it's depressing that bush can think this will improve his electability, that there are enough people out there who want discrimination to be enshrined in our constitution that this political stunt was seen as worthwhile. on the other hand, it's just a political stunt. a constitutional amendment is very hard to pass, precisely so ridiculous crap like this doesn't get through. the only amendment to the constitution that ever removed rights like this one threatens to do, prohibition, was later repealed. it would take years to get this through, and in those years, americans are going to meet more and more openly gay people and discover that they are less of a threat to "the sanctity of marriage" than, say, divorce.
my only question is whether we'll come to that realization before or after the election this november. if it's not until after, things are going to get even worse.
a friend of mine from san francisco sent me an email, stating how proud she is of her city for making a bold stand for equality. today burningbird writes:
Watching the story online and on TV about Gavin Newsom's carefully planned act of defiance against the State of California, the weekend of gay marriages in San Francisco, the ecstatic faces of the people married -- among all the bad news lately, it is a true bright spot.
i'm reminded of scott mckenzie's song "san francisco":
If you're goin' to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're goin' to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there
For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair
All across the nation
Such a strange vibration
People in motion
There's a whole generation
With a new explanation
People in motion, people in motion
For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
right now, it is indeed a love-in there, and that's great and all, but i think it's important for those of us who support gay rights to recognize that it's going to get worse before it gets better. andrew sullivan, a gay conservative writer who is in favor of gay marriage, writes:
I'm sure many of those newly married couples would also gladly go through the arrest procedure. Being thrown in jail for loving and committing to another person for life would highlight much of the injustice that now exists. The arrests would further the groundswell of empowerment that is now dawning on gay America. So bring it on. We shall overcome.
and thus ends the love-in. it's easy enough for sullivan to say "so bring it on. we shall overcome" as he stands on the sidelines watching this culture war play out. clearly he's not going to be arrested, or even brought to court to explain why he feels he deserves to be treated like a human being, but he at least recognizes that it's going to get ugly. the tears of joy are going to turn into tears of pain, as millions of americans are bluntly told that they are not deserving of the full rights granted to the rest of us.
it's getting better, but it will get worse.
a few weeks ago, i heard dr. janie leatherman speak on "engendering peace", the recent (and late) arrival of feminist/women's studies thinking to the scholastic field of peace and conflict resolution. this field of study, directly concerned with the prevention of war, has long been lacking representation of women. as wars are started and fought primarily by men, the lack of women in peace studies is particularly ironic.
there's only so much one can say about a lack of women. dr. leatherman spent most of her lecture talking about where feminist thinking has begun to work into the overall framework of conflict resolution thinking. she described three different approaches to peace theory, only one of which focused on a balance of power between states, such was the "peace" we experienced during the cold war. this approach presumes non-intervention in the affairs of another state, and as such isn't fertile ground for feminist thinking. dr. leatherman illustrated this point by making the analogy between a genocide campaign within a country's own borders and a husband raping his wife. following the logic of non-intervention, nothing should be done to forcibly prevent either activity.
part of the rise in feminist thought within peace studies is due to the rising status of women in larger society. but another part is that the state-focused approach to the field is becoming increasingly irrelevant as states lose their grip on "the monopoly of violence." there was a time when it would take an army to bring down a skyscraper in another country. increasingly, this task can be accomplished not only by international terrorist organizations, but also by organizations such as the WTO, IMF, world bank, UN, EU, and international corporations like mcdonalds or shell. none of these actors are as well-known for violence as al queda, but all have been accused of some form of violence that was once solely perpetuated by countries. and more troubling, all of these actors seem to have more propensity toward violence than modern states. with by far the largest military in the world, america could easily be considered a model of state-sponsored war, and america's wars are increasingly farther apart with fewer casualties. meanwhile these non-state actors seem to be increasingly violent as they are increasingly powerful.
a large reason for this gradual shift away from war in america is that america is democratic. those citizens who remember and regret vietnam, for example, are unlikely to vote for representatives who seem likely to repeat that kind of war. but if the vast majority of the world's citizens oppose the actions of the IMF or al queda - and i would guess that they do - these organizations are not structured in such a way that their actions will reflect changing cultural views toward organized violence.
in "a history of warfare", john keegan writes:
I am impressed by the evidence. War, it seems to me, after a lifetime of reading about the subject, mingling with men of war, visiting the sites of war and observing its effects, may well be ceasing to commend itself to human beings as a desirable or productive, let alone rational, means of reconciling their discontents...Throughout much of the time for which we have a record of human behavior, mankind can clearly be seen to have judged that war's benefits outweighed its costs, or appeared to do so when a putative balance was struck. Now the computation works in the opposite direction Costs clearly exceed benefits.
john keegan is optimistic about the end of warfare, but his vision of this end doesn't seem to take into consideration the new non-state war-makers, which are less compelled by what most human beings think of war. i am less optimistic. it seems plausible to me that keegan is making the same mistake in his optimism that he accuses clausewitz ("war is the continuation of policy by other means") of making in his own history of war - that of not recognizing that modern actors and tactics of war are not the only possible means of making war. it may be war will not end, but merely shift from an activity of the state to an activity of emerging non-state actors. and if that is that case, the world may be worse as a result.
i'd like an email client that had a "done" button rather than the standard "send" button. then when i click "done", it would ask me what my mood is, with choices like "happy", "angry", "sad", "tired", and so on. some of these choices would send the email and others would save the email to be reviewed later. this would keep me from sending emails i might later regret, and as a side benefit, it could keep a record of my moods for later inspection. it could even integrate with filters. i could have a special inbox for email that will probably make me sad.
if you know where (in iraq, mind you) there are weapons of mass destruction (and not just "weapons of mass destruction program-related activities", mind you) but have been waiting to share this information with the CIA because they didn't have a convenient form on their website for doing so, wait no longer.
jon udell has an interesting post about "programs that write programs", writing
It can sound like the drug-induced fantasy of some idealistic tree-hugging Birkenstock-wearer who isn't living in the real world of Enterprise Software Development. but it shouldn't sound so bizarre. we regularly use language to describe language. this is just using programming language to describe programming language. i suspect this will become more common and more interesting.
The harm from deficit spending comes from what it does to the interest rate -- by raising rates it crowds out private investment and this is bad for growth. But the problem is not the deficit itself -- that can be rolled over indefinitely. i'm no economist, but it seems to me this ignores what's actually happening. it's questionable that a deficit can actually be rolled over indefinitely, but whatever you think about this assertion, the fact remains that the US deficit is not simply rolled over. the US federal government spends over 300 billion dollars each year just to pay the interest that results from the enormous national debt. that's about 13% of the entire budget. 300 billion dollars is a lot of money that could be better spent on education, health care, or defense.
i've been getting gradually less anti-war over the past two years, but i haven't yet supported any war. i watched a video last night from democracy now, in which it was casually mentioned that civilians always suffer the most deaths in war. if that's true, i might never support a war. but i'm not sure that's true. anyway, the war i think i'm most likely to support is one against north korea. the government of north korea has now combined all of the negative features of communism (which from all historic evidence is inevitably totalitarian) with the worst of the nazis. short of photographic evidence of dealing directly with the devil, i can't imagine how they could make themselves a better candidate for war with america.
i should really create a separate weblog for all of my geekiness, but for now, i'll just notify you the reader in advance that this is a geeky post. i've been paying a little attention to the development of the atom format from the sidelines. it seemed at a brief glance to be a clearer standard than RSS, but clarity alone broad adoption does not make. now i see an application of the atom standard that i can't imagine ever happening with the competing standard(s). jerry steele writes:
I have just completed a prototype of an iPhoto2Typepad interface. That means that its now possible to select photos in iPhoto and directly export into a Typepad Photo Album. This is basically my Holy Grail of digital photo convenience. Now the same program we use to import, and organise our pictures can send them right to Typepad.
brad sucks writes
I post my songs to Somesongs to get rated and my feelings hurt. Now there's Somesongs radio and it's pretty awesome. i first heard about somesongs through brad, and posted some songs there last week to get rated and my feelings hurt. actually, the music itself was better recieved than i had expected. mostly just the recording quality was criticized, so i'm learning how to use a more complicated audio recording application now, and hopefully i'll have some better recordings to show for it soon. anyway, i'm not sure if the music i submitted is on somesongs radio, but it's good (and free to download) music in any case.
update: i just heard one of my songs on the stream. it's almost as exciting as being on analog radio.
a friend of mine who visited europe was telling some americans about the trip and was asked: "are there a lot of african americans in europe?" if the ridiculousness of that question isn't imediately apparent (and it took me a while), you're likely a fellow american. i was remembering this question as i read a CNN article about a school punishing a south african student for campaigning for the school's "distinguished african american student award." (via metafilter)
a few weeks ago, i wrote in "vote in your own country":
do whatever else you want to push your political agenda. the world votes is a new website that is taking a non-binding international vote on the upcoming US election. i think this is a fine idea, because it's only an indirect influence on the actual election. however, i don't expect this will do a very good job of representing the world's opinion on the US election, as it is limited to those with internet access (which most people don't have). judging by the registration numbers, it would be better titled "europe votes".
my political leanings are summed up nicely by postel's law:
Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you send. i'm generally liberal in what i accept of others, but conservative in my own actions. this seems to disqualify me from belonging to either the "conservative" or the "progressive" political camps. conservatives are by definition not liberal in what they accept, but neither are progressives, in my experience.
i know a lot of self-labeled "progressive" people, but i'm not one of them. i probably would consider myself progressive, and not think much about it, if i didn't feel such a consistent rejection from progressives when it becomes clear to them that i don't trust democrats any more than republicans (though i do agree with dru that democrats are more efficient), i don't drink coffee (much less smoke pot), i'm not gay, i have no tattoos or piercings, and i didn't take the opportunity to go to graduate school. i don't have a lot more in common with progressives than the inclination to criticize conservative ideology. this allows me to pass as "progressive" sometimes, but inevitably the truth comes out when i start to criticize standard progressive ideology, stating beliefs such as "smoking pot does have harmful effects", "abortion ends something important, if not life itself", and "educated people do bad things just like uneducated people". as i say these things, i am repeatedly kicked out of the "progressive" club. so i call myself "liberal" instead.
but i believe in progress. jonathon delacour wrote a long essay a few weeks ago that i found myself mostly agreeing with until he stated quite plainly:
Progress is an illusion. jonathon is, by american standards, liberal (though rather moderate by australian standards). and that's just the beginning of the long list of what we have in common. so why do i believe in progress while he does not? i'm still not sure.
jonathon's essay focuses on the difference between "constrained" and "unconstrained" visions of human nature - beliefs as to whether or not human immorality is part of human nature. immediately after reading the essay, i thought my belief in progress stemmed from holding an "unconstrained" vision of human nature. but i think immorality is part of human nature, which would suggest i have the "constrained" vision along with jonathon. my constrained vision leads me to an entirely different conclusion than jonathon's regarding progress.
jonathon cited the following passage from cold mountain just before he stated that progress is an illusion:
A song went around from fiddler to fiddler and each one added something and took something away so that in time the song became a different thing from what it had been, barely recognizable in either tune or lyric. But you could not say the song had been improved, for as was true of all human effort, there was never advancement. Everything added meant something lost, and about as often as not the thing lost was preferable to the thing gained, so that over time we?d be lucky if we just broke even. Any thought otherwise was empty pride.
jonathon then wrote:
As I wrote back in March, 2002, that passage floored me, crystallizing beliefs I’d held unconsciously for years:
- Everything has a cost.
- Our gains rarely, if ever, outweigh our losses.
- The past is precious.
- Progress is an illusion.
i agree with the first and third points here. i've already mentioned i disagree with the last, and it seems to me the last is dependent on the second, which i would only change slightly. my beliefs are:
- everything has a cost.
- our gains slightly outweigh our losses.
- the past is precious.
- progress is slow.
to further clarify, i don't agree with the passage jonathon quoted, starting with
But you could not say the song had been improved, for as was true of all human effort, there was never advancement. when i play a song someone else has played, my performance is different, but the original performance is still there, either in recordings or in the minds of those who listened to it. so the difference means something is added, but little or nothing is lost. and this is true of all human effort. all effort creates new experience from which we can all learn, and we do so often enough to create progress.
the immorality in human nature is tempered by memory. when we remember we've made a mistake, we won't make it again. social conformity, an aspect of human nature recently cited well by paul graham, amplifies one person's memory into cultural memory. soldiers come back from wars and recall how horrible war is. when the next war comes along, these memories have pervaded the culture, and things are a little better. despite what many progressives tell me, i believe iraq is not analogous to vietnam - it's a little better. this is one place where i see progress. it's constrained progress, but it's progress.
i find graham's points thought provoking, especially this passage:
No one gets in trouble for saying that 2 + 2 is 5, or that people in Pittsburgh are ten feet tall. Such obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.
i don't have to look far to find examples of these fear-induced taboos, and neither does tom engelhardt of tomdispatch.com (a national institute project). engelhardt intersects with paul graham's article concerning the need to repress dangerously different conversation using carefully devised bits of language, especially in times of war.
he has written on the topic of new, often orwellian rhetoric entering the english language. in his post, "'extraordinary rendition' and other terms of our times," engelhardt takes up terms created by the bush administration and other elements of what he calls "bushworld" that seep into daily use of a much wider population. his follow up to this is a post titled "the opposite of pax americana is..." in which he includes many of the "bushworld" rhetoric eagerly submitted by tomdispatch readers.
"bushworld" rhetoric is certainly a timely and public example of this tactic, but by no means the only one. i have been virtually silenced in conversation after being labeled "alarmist," and i have thrown many "ist" stones myself. practically everyone uses these devices at some point, no matter what their arguments. what i hope of engelhardt and graham readers is that we begin to observe such rhetoric so that we may question the motives behind its use, regardless of whom the speaker is.
i did my senior thesis on suicide (PDF), motivately largely by reading what i thought was a rather flippant reasoning given for suicide. people don't kill themselves casually. they have serious reasons, even if we fail to take those reasons seriously. i feel like the following quote from this reuters story on suicide indicates a lack of understanding of these reasons:
"Fighting this kind of war is clearly going to be stressful for some people," Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder told reporters in an interview.
how are they going to do anything about it, if "stress" is the best description they can come up with for the cause?
sigh...there was a time when i couldn't have come up with an example of mark pilgrim being wrong about a technical issue. but either the times or i have changed. mark wants to do a "thought experiment", but without comments. lucky for me, i have my own weblog, in which i can point out how wrong mark's thoughts are.
mark's article starts by suggesting that the people who are calling for strict parsing of atom feeds don't themselves have valid markup. but this is entirely confusing the issue (and either it's intentional, or mark isn't as bright as i had thought). tim bray specifically stated:
This [strict parsing] works because Atom doesn?t have an installed base. RSS and HTML have installed bases of invalid markup, so strict parsing doesn't work for these formats. mark ignores this part of what tim is saying and goes on to point out that the (X)HTML of people who are promoting strict parsing is invalid. but no one is arguing here for strict HTML parsing. the other factor mark is conveniently ignoring is that HTML is primarily produced by people whereas atom markup would be primarily produced by computer programs, which we can reasonably hold to a higher standard of strictness than people. RSS is much more like atom than HTML, and all but one of the people mark points to have valid RSS (and the one only has one minor error). mark seems to have made a better argument for strict parsing of RSS than for liberal parsing of atom.
but mark goes on, imagining that the comparison between atom and HTML is at all valid:
But imagine that all browsers worked this way, regardless of MIME type. even pretending that is a valid comparison, this hypothetical situation is still ridiculous. to see why, just look at how long it has taken the web standards project (which mark is a part of) to get all modern browsers to properly display standards, which doesn't even involve enforcing standards. all atom browsers are never going to be equally strict.
if mark is so horrified by the idea of a strictly parsing atom format browser, why doesn't he write his own browser? he is an experienced developer, after all. and if he's right about this, there's a market waiting to be taken. but if he's wrong about this, then brent simmons, someone who actually makes a popular RSS browser, is right when he emphasizes:
Every minute I spend making my Atom parser more forgiving of not-well-formed XML is a minute taken away from working on features people are asking for, things like searching and synching and everything else.
and nick bradbury, another developer of another popular RSS browser writes:
Rather than wasting our time working around validation issues, aggregator authors such as myself can spend our time coding the features our users really want.
to me, this is the most compelling argument for strict parsing of atom, and mark doesn't even address it. there are two possible outcomes to this situation: mark is either wrong and we'll have his detractors to thank for a generally valid XML format, or he's right and we'll have him to thank for . . . well . . . being right. to paraphrase camus: it's better to be wrong by strictly parsing than to be right by invalid markup.
ariel sharon has long acted as the spokesperson for israel's failed policy with regards to basically all of its neighbors, leading to the inevitable comparisons to hitler. (note: i'm not making that comparison here. i just thought this was a good opportunity to use the link.) i won't claim to be knowledgable about internal israeli politics, but as israel is a democracy (with the exception of its ruling over disputed lands full of people who aren't allowed to vote) i'm assuming sharon's policies are prompted by internal israeli politics.
and something about these politics seems to have changed recently, as sharon is now taking positions in contrast to his previous positions (by which i mean that i would now consider his positions reasonable whereas before i considered them unreasonable). specifically, sharon recognized that israel's neighbors are primarily bothered by israeli settlements outside of israel's established borders, and that the only way to end israel's conflicts short of killing every single citizen of a neighboring arab country is to end these settlements. which of course was met by protest from israelis who would apparently prefer the only alternate course i see (kill them all).
and then sharon offered to meet with syria to restart peace talks. and, of course, syria refused, saying "We need a serious response..." implying that sharon's statement, "I invite President Assad to come to Jerusalem to seriously negotiate", was not "serious" enough, but - like the israeli protestors - not offering any alternative course forward.
i point all of this out because it's not often that i have an opportunity to say that i think ariel sharon is right. now i need to find an instance in which i think george bush is right. then maybe i can finally make some conservative friends.
i'm spending the weekend in burlington, iowa. i'll leave tomorrow with new friends i've made via bloomington-normal meetup for dean. we're going to help create a "perfect storm" to encourage iowa voters to attend the january 19 caucus (and vote dean!!)
we'll walk around in the cold and knock on strangers' doors along with thousands of other americans. and we'll say why howard dean is appealing enough as a candidate to drag us out into cold on a weekend.
brent simmons asked
What new web services would you like to see? rogers cadenhead answered
one Web service I'd like to see in every newsreader is the ability to filter an incoming feed. i've been doing this locally through a PHP script for a few months. now that i realize someone else might be interested in doing this, i've posted my RSS filter for all to use. if you've ever thought 'i wish i could filter my RSS', you'll find this handy. if you've never thought that, you'll probably wonder what i'm talking about.
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i wouldn't be in any hurry, but bitpass warns me every time i log in that if i don't accept the user agreement by january 15, i'm going to lose my account. so bitpass has 12 days left to allow me to opt out from spam, or lose me. i hope they'll meet this deadline. i also hope they'll develop a bit more interest in customer service.
we quite drinking is
A blog by and about people who have chosen to not drink alcohol. i'm not quite one of these people, but i'm close. i don't drink alcohol around anyone i don't know. i've read enough about alcoholism, and i'm paranoid enough about the unintended consequences of my own behaviour on others, that i worry drinking in public may enable some alcoholic near me to relapse while i sit there entirely unaware of that happening. i mention this not so much to suggest others might do the same, but rather to point out how strange i am. i'd also like to point out that i'm fully aware of how conveniently my position on drinking aligns with my discomfort with being in bars, the health risks drinking poses to a diabetic, and several other factors. but when i talk to myself about why i'm not drinking (mentally, of course - i'm not that strange), i do so in terms of unintended consequences.