Friday, October 29, 2010

Nearing the end...

It's almost November, and the stone cold sobriety keeps me awake.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trooer Werds Was Never Spoke

Thanks and a tip of the Hell No Hat to Pat Oliphant!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rubbish Fills Streets of Mars!

Hmm. I misread that headline. Should have read that as "television screens of America," not Mars. Anyway it was Marseilles.

On another tack altogether, Ubuntu's latest version 10.10, the Maverick Meerkat, was touted for a few obvious new features (an annoyingly in-your-face Ubuntu One "cloud" being one of them) — as well as a lot of small fixes behind the curtains and under the hood. Yesterday, I found one of them! The Linux calendar utility was broken by 10.04, in such a way that it produced arbitrarily truncated output in one of my cgi scripts, although it worked ok from the terminal.

Works now. Thanks, Ubuntu. I've turned off updates until the next LTS, though — the rumors about "Unity" in Natty Narwhal (11.04) have me spooked. Nobody asked me if I want some loon dorking around with my desktop interface. Get a clue.  I want to chose my own wallpaper, and I want to find it where I left it on my laptop before the last @%$#! Ubuntu update went on!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Nasty Halloween

My favorite dirty trick this time around is not Push Polling, but Puke Polling. That's when you get a rude, obnoxious, bullying voice on the phone, who is unfamiliar with the words Please or May I and who uses a Brooklyn, Bronx or ghetto rap accent to peel off what seem to be Democrat-favorable questions — but it's actually a GOP hired gun performing suppress-the-vote street theater by smearing the Democratic Party brand in the eyes (or ears?) of Independents. The never-ending poll with at least 9,000 annoying leading questions is another version.

I saw it coming and voted straight Democrat as soon as I got my absentee ballot. The hell with Karl Rove!

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Facts On The Ground

I get a feeling those 544 Israeli homesteads going up in East Jerusalem — Jerusalem's Palestinian neighborhood — are going to have their own mortgage foreclosure problems on November 3, the day after elections. We've already updated the Saudi Arabian air force, and truth to tell, the Israelis have drifted perhaps too far into the old Yiddish joke, "God will get us for this!"

Have you noticed Greece, England and France are having budgetary crises? Who props up the Israeli economy? With that many nukes laying around, and no nuclear power (except that one we don't talk about in Dimona), hydroelectric resources or petroreserves to speak of (except for that British-owned natural gas drilling platform Ariel Sharon bombed in offshore Gaza), wouldn't you expect a gross imbalance in the old guns and butter equation?

Not even AIPAC has pockets deep enough, so who's siphoning dollars into Israel? A country the size of New Jersey has a GDP ($194 billion) half the size of New Jersey's GSP ($440 billion)? A hundred nukes is only about $100 million, not counting U.S., British and/or French atomic research and the spies required to carry it away, but that standing army, now... That seems kind of high maintenance.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Striker Pratchett

I got Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals for Christmas last year, and just pulled an all-nighter to read it. I've given up criticizing Pratchett's work, except in egregious cases of cut-and-paste composition no editor should tolerate, considering the heavily soldered seams — Going Postal comes to mind. U.A., on the other toe, is a gripping romp composed of three or four long strips of narrative laid side by side and clamped together at the denoument. There is Juliet's Tale, A Likely Story, Glenda and the Nutt Case, Foot the Ball With Wizards, Foot the Ball With Shove & Mayhem, High Hats and Dudgeon, Bully Lads, Old Sam's Obligatory Mention, Havelock and Margolotta Make Out, Fashionistas At Large and the usual slurry of Pratchett's Best Orangutan Glue holding it all together. Good book, good night's read. Wit 6, Wisdom 4.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Drawing a blank...

Beautiful October day. Too nice for wyrds.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Muffy gets it wrong again

O'Donnell seems to be the intellectual product of too much Disney channel, which worships the D average and understands its own demographic to a faretheewell.

[Update] What's hilarious is, the Witch of Candor thinks she's scoring points against her opponent, Democrat Chris Coons, instead of exposing her bare nekkid brain.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I got good at a few things in my 65-plus years, but chess, Go and long distance running were not among them. Chess seems a little passé to me since the days of Deep Blue and Gary Kasparov. Marathon running is just a personal joke, in my case. But Go, now... I've always wanted to get good at Go. It's one of those deceptively easy-looking games, like fighting with straight razors — death comes swiftly. There are men and women of my acquintance who play at a level I barely comprehend, although I understand the result. It seems to be a knack for knowing the one right move out of, say, 40 billion, that will advance their position and undermine mine.

Go aesthetics are lots easier to appreciate. The equipment is beautiful. The silence is beautiful. Even the opponents, compared, say, to snarky dorks who laugh when you play a chess move, even the opponents are... copacetic. Speaking of which, there's an AGA-sanctioned Go tournament in Peoria, IL on October 30. I probably won't go (arthritis, can't drive that far), but I'll sure be wondering about it. They expect players from ten states.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Lightbulb joke

Q: How many paparazzi does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: They don't. Paparazzi screw in goldfish bowls.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Still Alive (song from Portal, credits)

We takes our comforts where we Cannes.

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I Like McCain (Meghan, that is)

Progressive Republican, as the cadet McCain calls herself, makes a ton of sense to me, even if I'm a bit hazy about what that means, exactly. As I think I see what she's saying, she shares a lonely hilltop with Dwight Eisenhower, Colin Powell (assuming he's not a Democrat), the mythical good-at-foreign-policy reconstructed Nixon, and maybe Nelson Rockefeller and possibly even the more palatable mcnuggets of Barry Goldwater. I didn't think it was possible for a Republican to loathe Ann Coulter, but she clearly does, for all the right reasons. And in Meghan McCain's book, Christine "I Am Not A Witch" O'Donnell, is a simple "nut job" as well as an embarassment to her party.

John McCain, her old man, clearly belongs to another era, but if there's a "mavericky" Republican out there, it's Meghan — and not Sarah "Moose" Palin or the teaparty blunderbusters to her extreme right. I'd even trust McCain on SCOTUS, and I can't say the same for Alito, Scalia, Roberts or Thomas.

Meghan's Mom, Cindy, is pretty cool, too. There really is a real Republican party out there somewhere!

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Aren't the come-backs obvious?

I may have to concede that Harry Reid is fed up with Congress. Sharron Angle hit him with a "Man up!" and Reid ducked. He should have said, "What, ho! Are those TWO boobs I see before my eyes?" If he was in the mood for a good one-two, he could have suggested she lay off the pink Viagra until the election's over. Or more politely, simply said, "No, thanks, Sharron. I'm happily married."

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Friday, October 15, 2010

First impressions, Maverick Meerkat

I run Ubuntu on this Dell Inspiron 1525 laptop, which, in the past, has been no easy task. This morning, I backed up our data and installed Ubuntu 10.10, the Maverick Meerkat.

First impressions? Hate the font, but it's legible. On the plus side, the Meerkat seems to have a ton of minor fixes and improvements, including relatively new versions of many applications you would normally update through the Synaptic Package Manager. On the down side...? Doesn't seem to be a lot of down side.  The Software Sources dialog is hidden (probably "a feature, not a bug"); but the Sysinfo menu option doesn't work (the window closes when you select the top item), a silly glitch (belongs to Gnome?) I've also seen in Firefox, but nothing major seems to be broken — WiFi works fine, especially.

So far, so... well, uhh...


Stupid Maverick Meercat!  What have you done with my Wallpaper collection!

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Thursday, October 14, 2010


I used to know when my U.S. House candidate had a lock on November. It was not a gut feeling, just a weird sense like looking down a long hall into the far future. Almost spooky, but these last few years, at least since Reagan, I've lost the vision.

An odd gift at best, and a bit untrustworthy. But were I to venture a guess about this November, I'd say the winners are Grassley (in Iowa), and Democrats nationwide. The sweep might be stupendous, pushing House Republicans down under 40%, while the Senate remains safe for Democrats.

I can't predict Culver vs. Branstad, although the former Governor Braindead has an edge unless old-timers suddenly remember what his last year in office was like. Conlin's race is forgettable and inexplicable, at best. Her loss in November borders on Democratic Party malpractice — she should never have been nominated.

Clinton in Iowa would be a waste of charisma. Go save Harry Reid, Mr. Bill.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wearing Midnight

Pratchett's been uneven lately — you could feel the stitches in his crazyquilt Going Postal, e.g. — and I still have to go back and read Unseen Academicals — but I think I'll make an effort on this one.

Everything except buy it for myself before Christmas.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

30 Minutes to Escape the Rabbithole

Alice just had to wake up. The Chilean miners will endure "one last horror" as they escape from their underground prison, up through a tunnel in a one man per trip elevator cage so small it's standing room only, a one-way trip estimated to take 15 to 30 minutes.

"Horror?" I dunno. Miners with claustrophobia don't last past their first paycheck, if that.

And anyone who's endured 45 minutes inside an MRI cylinder will probably have some inkling of what's actually in store. My guess is, the trip up will seem like 30 seconds to any miner who's just made it out after being underground since early August.

Reports that the miners seem to have gone stir crazy and taken to riding the machinery recklessly around the crib get a big innnterresting... out of me. That was one of the nutcase symptoms in Bruce Dern's classic 1972 SciFi movie, Silent Running.

Mission to Mars, anyone?

[Update: Wednesday, October 13, 11 PM] I gotta admit, getting all 32 mineros and 6 socorristas out of that mine looked like the old NASA all right, very well done. I was glued to the set, flipping back and forth between CNN and Univision. When the 32nd miner made it to the surface, Univision's 24/7 wall-to-wall coverage dropped off the cliff edge — leaving the six lifeguards who'd gone down to organize the rescue still underground. CNN kept up their incessant motormouth drivel until the last man was out, but at least the video was still there.

Is that a cultural or a fiduciary difference? Univision had superb visual coverage, with lots of actuality in their audio. CNN spent millions putting experts in boxes and rattling on about "what you're seeing" with virtually NO live audio (even though some of us understand at least some Spanish!) and the live video crammed into an even smaller box in one corner of the screen. I give CNN a C+ for their coverage, and Univision an A — until the climactic moment the last trapped miner made it out. CNN continued coverage. Univision dropped the story like the other six men's lives didn't matter. Maybe they just couldn't afford the live feed from Chile anymore?

Chile did a fantastic job, right down to the TMI about one miner's love life. The real NASA might have glossed that over some, 'ey?

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

多良間島産 * 黒糖

My daughter brought back a bag of fossilized kitty litter clumps from Okinawa last summer, after her school trip. It's actually black molasses, and it's like eating unrefined brown sugar. Not recommended for us Type II diabetics, but fun, in its way.


Friday, October 08, 2010

War bees!!? OMG!

Why are "military scientists" studying honeybee die-offs? Do military scientists (!) and entomologists really have a clue to honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder, or just another hypothesis to be tested and perhaps added to the cauldron a-boil?

The good news is, yes, there does appear to be a cold-and-damp-loving virus/fungus combination that affects honeybee morbidity. That's an addendum to the body of developing knowledge all right — so far, so good. It's not a solution, of course, until beekeepers have strategies to save their bees — and the third of annual bee-pollinated world agriculture that goes with.

The weird news is, entomologists in Montana and military scientists in Maryland teamed up to make the discovery! Is Colony Collapse Disorder a weapon? If so, ours? Or theirs?

Wotthehell, though. If Dr. Strangelove wants to solve the Colony Collapse problem, more power to him, I guess.

See also...

"Honeybees are Nature's rugged robots." - Los Alamos National Laboratory PR video

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Brain Wash, 25¢

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


You may need a parrot who's learned the ropes to turn up the last few hidden puzzles in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. I called mine, "Archimedes." Good name for a parrot.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2010


I was listening to an NPR discussion about the use of autonomous robots in war.

It occurred to me, what is the possible meaning of programming ethics into autonomous war machines and then agonizing endlessly over untoward consequences, as if one has not thought long and hard about the reasons we go to war at all? Do we actually foist our inconvenient ethics onto our own created tools, and blame them for acts we cannot bear to be responsible for?

The hypocrisy of thinking men and women sanctimoniously discussing savageries they endorse (when "ethical" of course) causes neck-breaking double take in calmer souls.

The causes for war generally seem to be bound up in the human condition: Two groups violently loathe each other on religious or other cultural grounds. A good, toned-down, non-violent example is the Indian and Pakistani display of stylized mutual contempt at changing of the guard ceremonies well-attended by tourists on both sides of the border.

Although sometimes, war happens when the logic of the past is applied to the illogic of the moment — World War I, and other Guns of August insanity — it can't be said that Pearl Harbor was the reason Americans entered the Second World War. American racial loathing for non-caucasians was already at such high fester (remember the Zoot Suit Riots of 1943, and the fact that the KKK still wore their sheets and burned crosses openly in 1941) that the loss of a few outdated battleships in an American colony in mid-Pacific (annexed 1898) was all it took for Game On!

Wars are fought by apes. Apes think there are Laws of War...! (Almost right. There's only one, just as there is only one side in any conflict. It takes unusual dispassion to discern another point of view in times of war. The postulate about apes and their alleged "laws" stands.)

The primate origins of our conflicts are so at odds with our "better angels" (Lincoln's words) that the eventual annihilation of our species seems assured. Yet almost all religions teach us it is right to fight — in a "just cause." The Baghavad Gita, e.g., is God's assurance to the archer Arjuna, culture hero and reluctant warrior, that he possesses an immortal soul not subject to the vicissitudes of soldierly calamities; therefore, he must oppose evil; therefore, he must fight.

Attention Jane Goodall: Apes think they live forever.

Personally, I'm rooting for Skynet to clean this mess up.

Hawaii gave us ukuleles. We gave them Spam.

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Monday, October 04, 2010

cool, icy dumb people

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Late on Layton News

The next Professor Layton puzzle compendium for Nintendo DS has jailbreaked Japan at last. I'm late with that news. I gotta say, compared to the first two editions, this one seems to be in danger of burgeoning incoherence. The plot is a small melange of poor players who strut and stumble near their marks, full of squeak and aggravation signifying little.

The puzzles are droll, though. One's time is spent in a little flood of fun, and Flora has showed up in mid-game, reprising her role in Volume 2 to the evident annoyance of The Professor and both Lukes. Oh, well. We'll see what happens.

Predictably, the puzzles are even easier than they were in Volume 2. Gotta dumb down for Americans, I guess. It's amazing what passes for gray matter in this country. In Australia and the U.K., this Volume 3 is the "Lost" Future. If we Merkins plugged into Disney Channel, Faux Snooze 'n EmmTeeVee get any dumber, it'll be the "Lost" Paradise.

So far, the low watermark in this opus is Puzzle #34, The Mysterious Memo. The puzzle is, paraphrasing, your roommate left you a note reading "101 x 5 =" on a slip of paper NEXT TO A CALCULATOR (emphasis provided by official hints). What could this mean? The answer is SOS, or "Help," as you prefer, because "505" looks sort of like ess oh ess. This is a perfect example of the Agatha Christie Sociopath Plot Device, because the real conundrum is why has such an urgent appeal been disguised in a calculator keyboard pun written on a (stop me if you've heard this one) SHEET OF PAPER?!?!!? What has happened to my roommate, Dr. Millmoss?

Oh, well. My favorite genre of Layton puzzles is the Princess-in-a-Box variety, otherwise known as Sliding Block puzzles. The DS is a perfect platform for these, of which there are hundreds or thousands, ranging in difficulty from the merely brow-creasing to the Zen meditation toys which may be solved in months or decades. The one in the game at hand that caused me a few extra moments was #86, The Impassable Gate.