Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Sasha Royal Payne Diaz

I guess this is from a half-page ad in New York or something:

The Daily Show Cordially Invites George W. Bush

Posted by mike at 11:35 PM | Comedy , Daily Show | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Saturday, September 4, 2004

Congressional Medal of Idiot

On Wednesday, I went to the fair with my brother in the afternoon. I suppose neither of us are really party animals, so I guess it wasn't the most exciting thing ever. Had some decent food, though I was surprised that the chicken pita I ordered was cold, with a filling kind of along the lines of potato salad. Whatever.

We discovered that if you take the regular city bus to/from the fair, you get the shaft. It's much better to just drive to the U of M lot and take the shuttle from there. We had to wait ~15 minutes each way, and end up paying $3 in total for tickets ($1.25 there, $1.75 back because of rush hour—though we got $2 off on fair admission), but the shuttle was leaving at a rate of about once every 90 seconds. Other than that, the bus worked out pretty well, since he lives just off Como Ave.

So, I guess I'd propose that Metro Transit make the regular buses that go past the fair free too. Like that'll ever happen.

I don't remember Thursday at all, but, oh yeah, that's because I brought some work home. I shouldn't do that.

On Friday, I figured the most exciting thing I'd do would be to add some oil to my car. It's been low for a while, and the engine seems to have been running rough. It seemed a little happier with fresh oil added, but I should really get an oil change soon anyway. I should have just found a Jiffy Lube. I guess I want to wait until I get paid for the last two weeks.

My boss put in my time on Thursday. Fortunately, he changed the amount of time I had in the system up to 80 hours, but some of the other guys who don't have such consistent time sheets kind of got shafted for a day's work. I was thinking that I might get paid early, but with Labor Day on Monday, the money will probably still get transferred on Tuesday. I like that I get weekends off, but why can't other people work then? ;-)

Anyway, so after planning to do nothing other than possibly eat on Friday night, Adam called me and said he was moving out. So, I helped him move stuff over to Adam Nu's place, and then almost accidentally stole his laptop (or at least a black laptop-sized briefcase—I presume that was his laptop). It was in its black case, in the back of my car, in the dark, so it was kind of hard to see.

Kari is theoretically moving in with Erin once they find a place, so it's almost a wife-swapping type of deal. Er, or maybe nothing like that at all ;-)

Aha! I just found the little thing to tweak on my browser to get my fonts displaying correctly in Galeon again. For some reason, the mimimum font size was set to 4, but then there were two other settings that had been stuck at 14. That explains why I could never see any difference when people used <small></small> tags. Anyway, I just went to about:config (which works in any Mozilla/Gecko-based browser, I guess) and tweaked the setting. Conveniently, those two things were in bold, though I don't know why that would be…

Hmm. This might also let me finally fix the fact that pretty much all font sets except for Korean show up correctly (er, I think) in my browser. I just end up with these little rectangles with the Unicode character number in them instead of actual characters.

Posted by mike at 11:04 AM | Adam , Car , Erin , Family , Internet , Kari , Software , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

In Search of the Fabulous Life of

Big Trouble is a really funny movie. A victim of unfortunate timing, I think. So many good actors in that flick… Dennis Farina, Rene Russo, Janeane Garofolo, Patrick Warburton, Zooey Deschanel, Jason Lee, Andy Richter, that guy from The New Guy, and several running gags like having everyone mention Martha Stewart in some way ;-)

FBI Agent Sykes: The president thanks you for your selfless act of courage.

FBI Agent Greer: Because he can never admit to what happened here, in lieu of a medal of honor, he'd like to send you a pair of cowboy boots with a “W” on them, and a hat.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Zell on Earth

I was flipping through the channels last night, and, as sometimes happens, I ended up watching a pretty fascinating seminar on C-SPAN. The speaker was Thomas Barnett (or Thomas P.M. Barnett when he wants to act all hoidy-toidy), who has worked as a military consultant and more recently has been a professor at the Naval War College. It was actually recorded in mid-summer, originally partly for the promotion of his book, The Pentagon's New Map.

Anyway, there was a lot of interesting stuff, much more than I can squeeze into a reasonably-sized space on my website. Which is why he wrote the book, I suppose. He had written an article for Esquire in early 2003 that outlined many of the same ideas. Of course, that was the time of “Mission Accomplished” rather than “Mission Continuing,” though he did take a realistic view and recognize that keeping the peace in Iraq would be a long-term thing:

Taking down Saddam, the regionís bully-in-chief, will force the U.S. into playing [the Leviathan] role far more fully than it has over the past several decades, primarily because Iraq is the Yugoslavia of the Middle East—a crossroads of civilizations that has historically required a dictatorship to keep the peace. As baby-sitting jobs go, this one will be a doozy, making our lengthy efforts in postwar Germany and Japan look simple in retrospect.

Part of Barnett's way of viewing the world is doing the fairly basic job of drawing an outline around the places where there have been significant conflicts or stand-offs in the past decade. Not surprisingly, it includes most of Africa (excepting South Africa, which is still not the happiest place in the world, but has stabilized considerably), a good chunk of the Carribbean and Latin America aside from “the ABCs” of Argentina, Chile, and Brazil, and then a band of countries stretching westward from the Mideast and Africa into southeast Asia and Oceania (it looks mostly like Indonesia to me).

For the most part, the countries outlined there do not interconnect with the rest of the world very significantly other than being sources of raw materials for the industrialized world. He noted in his C-SPAN talk that investment in actual goods from the Middle East (not oil) has gone down in the past two decades. There are several other patterns that appear in this region, which Barnett calls the “Non-Integrating Gap” or just “the Gap.” Per-capita income is generally less than $3000. Disease (including the big one, AIDS) is often rampant. The narcotics trade is widespread.

Some of the big countries (well, “big” is relative) that he left out are kind of interesting. Many are what he would consider “seam states,” which are kind of the buffer zone between the “Functioning Core” or simply ”Core” countries. India and Pakistan remain tense and have issues, but they've become largely integrated in the rest of the world. China has also been considered as the new big bad mo-fo for a long time, but he figures we can essentially buy them off of the idea of starting World War III (or IV, depending on what you count, I suppose). They've also become major players in the world economy, and they probably don't want to jeopardize that.

The only non-functioning state that Barnett said was outside of this Gap is our good old friend, North Korea. Barnett mentioned that around the time the Iraq war was warming up, Kim Jong-Il popped up and basically said “Hey! Look at me! I'm still crazy!” I wonder if he stole that line from Jon Stewart ;-)

From what I could understand, Barnett is advocating basically using the containment strategy we had for the Soviet Union during the Cold War and using that to progressively shrink the Gap region. Set up military bases in and make strong treaties with the seam states, encouraging investment, which is the real motivator for change—not actual use of our guns and bombs. It seems to me like a reverse Domino Effect.

Kim could potentially cause trouble, distracting the U.S. from filling in the Gap, but we've been sitting on his fence for the past 50 years and he doesn't really seem to be going anywhere soon.

Barnett also recommended essentially splitting the military into two pieces, a warmaking component he dubbed “the Leviathan,” and a peacemaking component with a “System Administrator” role. For the Leviathan, you want the soldiers to be, “young, male, and a little pissed off.” On the peacemaking side, people would be a little more settled, more educated, and the force would be more gender-balanced. The two forces would have significantly different partners when they did their jobs, too.

The Leviathan force would work with the other big militaries of the world, Britain, France, Canada, and so on—after all, there are few forces on the planet that can keep up with the pace of the U.S. military.

On the other side, the peacemaking force would work with smaller militaries, often regional ones since a lot of forces around the world can't really project power at the distance we can. It seems to me that this is the military that many people want, since forces engaged in that type of action (or inaction, sort of) are more interested in staying in the military long-term. People enjoy helping out more than they like killing—not really surprising. It's certainly an idea I'd support whole-heartedly.

However, he suggested that the Marines be associated with that force, to act as the “teeth” or guard dog. He actually made a reference to that when talking about the Marines, with a line something along the lines of, “A marine is like my terrier. Every day, he wants to get up, dig a hole, and kill something.”

Anyway, I've written way more than I should have, but I really think this guy is a smart cookie. I won't be surprised if his ideas essentially become the bible of the U.S. military through the next several decades. Also, his vision isn't really incompatible with the pacifist in me (who am I kidding—that's all of me). I've always felt that getting rid of terrorism is fundamentally an issue of making people's lives better, rather than trying to kill them. 95 to 99% of this wouldn't require big military action. It's building partnerships, trust, investment, and economic security, not blowing shit up.

He's expecting a moderate bounce in book sales, and not without reason. I'm thinking of picking up a copy.

Posted by mike at 09:24 AM | Politics , War | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Yeah! Hell Damn Fart!

Hmm. I've been starting to watch The Thin Blue Line on channel 2 at 10:00 when The Daily Show isn't on or isn't new. It's got Rowan Atkinson (in an actual speaking role unlike Mr. Bean), and it's had some pretty funny moments.

I think there was at least one word that was bleeped/silenced last night, though. Public broadcasters used to be largely exempt from that at least in (non-?) “safe harbor” hours, but not anymore, I guess.

Posted by mike at 08:40 AM | TV | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Rap I Learned on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

If I could pound one word out of the British vocabulary and replace it with the American counterpart, it would be “manoeuvre.” Sheesh. “Maneuver” is hard enough to spell as it is.

Cross-posted to the twin_cities LiveJournal community.

On Thursday evening I went to an open house held by the Red Rock Corridor folks. The corridor itself is actually a wide swath running from Minneapolis to St. Paul (served by Interstate 94 and surface streets) and from St. Paul southeasterly toward Hastings, roughly along the route of U.S. Highway 61.

It turns out that, despite the fact that they pretty much started off as a group researching the idea of commuter rail (an idea that their Phase 1 research suggests would be feasible along that corridor), they now essentially have to take a step backward for the “Alternatives Analysis” phase and research all of the different possibilities for getting people from one place to the other. And they underlined all. I guess they even have to take a look at things like ferrying people along the Mississippi and someone had recently mentioned to them the idea of flying people between destinations.

It does appear that they have at least narrowed it a bit to the mostly ground-based transportation options, though. They had boards up discussing various bus options (regular express bus service and bus rapid transit or BRT) along with various rail options (personal rapid transit (PRT), light rail (LRT), what they call heavy rail (aka subway or metro service), commuter rail, and high-speed rail) Now, a lot of those ideas are pretty silly for a corridor of this length. It's probably too long for PRT, and too short for high-speed rail. (However, that same area is being considered as a route for high speed trains going between the Twin Cities and Chicago, so there might end up being some cross-pollination.) It's hard to say if light rail would end up being an option, since new rail would have to be laid (the busway and commuter rail options would mostly be extending existing roadways/railways).

It was kind of hard for me to get any specifics of what is going on, since they are just starting this phase of the process and are still looking at many different routes. It was an open house, so they were somewhat more interested in hearing the ideas of the community rather than discussing each option in depth (since, well, planning just hasn't gotten that far yet).

So, I got some general answers rather than the specifics I had hoped for, which is okay considering that this won't appear for several years yet. They would probably have to add some dedicated lanes to certain spots on the highways involved if they went with buses. I asked about whether they'd need to make a tunnel anywhere to get around traffic or big obstructions, like what the Hiawatha Line does at the airport or what will most likely happen with the Central Corridor near the University of Minnesota, but they weren't really prepared to answer that. However, it was noted that the rail corridors being considered are largely grade-separated, so they wouldn't have to be modified too much.

I asked about whether any train option would likely be diesel-powered or electric. Since the trains running along the corridor already are diesel (it's actually one of the busiest routes in the nation with more than 60 trains a day if I heard them correctly), it would be hard to see a transition to electric power. Also, the catenary wires would likely get in the way whenever cargo haulers wanted to bring through really big stuff.

With the existing rail route being so busy, a lot of new rail sidings would be required so that trains could pass each other if necessary. I imagine that the high level of traffic could end up being a downside to the route, but I don't know enough to say much more about that.

One thing that is a bit of a concern is the fact that the Central Corridor is probably going to add a light rail line, so having two roughly parallel rail options going between Minneapolis and St. Paul might seem redundant (well, at least to politicians and people opposed to such things—we definitely have more than one road going between the two). Optimally, whatever is chosen for the Red Rock corridor would connect directly with Northstar, although the maps they had at the open house indicated they are considering running it from a start point near Lake Street (I think it would be the eastern edge of the Midtown Greenway). Someone wanting to go from Northstar to Red Rock would then have to take the Hiawatha Line between the two.

I did suggest to the planners there that they be sure to consider that some people would want to head out from the downtown region rather than commute in from the suburbs. I'm one of those weird people who lives in Minneapolis yet has a job down in the southeastern metro area, so I'd certainly be interested in seeing trains run both directions in the morning and evening (and actually that is a plus for them since a train can't magically teleport from downtown back to Hastings in order to carry the next load).

Okay, I think that's about all I can say now. I hope that's at least mildly understandable.

Posted by mike at 11:36 AM | News | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Ich Bin Ein Krispy Kreme

It's gotta be around here somewhere:

Comedy, or tragedy? You be the judge.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite

I walked out to my car after work today and thought, “Hmm. Tornados.” So, we'll see. A big line of crap is showing up on the radar right now, but I don't know how much will come through here. It was a really strong south wind this morning. My car was wobbling around much more than normal as I drove into work.

Unfortunately, my workmate seemed to have a faint bit of that sickening type of BO you sometimes see on old hermit-like guys on the bus. I think it was causing me to sneeze a lot, but it might have just been hayfever or something. I seem to be allergic to something, but I'm not sure what exactly. It seems like a few factors have to be going on at the same time for me to really start sneezing.

Or, the sun just has to come out. Maybe the sunlight affects the nerves in your nose or something.

I went to Best Buy afterward and got some CDs. We'll see if they're any good. I didn't have any list with me, so I didn't have anything to search for specifically.

I want to get a PDA again soon, but I want one that at least has Bluetooth. As far as I know, Palm software still seems to work better in Linux than WinCE stuff (or whatever they call it these days). Unfortunately, I think my requirements will make the device quite spendy (and I probably wouldn't even use any MP3 capability since I'm a Vorbis man myself). I'd probably be best off getting something cheap at Target and spending my money on something important like dual drives so I can get RAID on my desktop (Yeah, it'd just be RAID-1, but I think I need something. Ugh, and I'd probably need to get a PCI IDE card so the RAID doesn't fail whenever I rip CD audio...)

Oh, and Wikipedia is running an article on the Holy Foreskin.

I'm not kidding.

Posted by mike at 09:16 PM | Hardware , Music , Weather , Work | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Managed Intensive Grazing

Ugh. The Linksys gateway we have at work is FUBAR. It only talks to the Internet for about 30 seconds before being quiet again. It still talks on the local network, just getting anywhere else is problematic. That'll be fun tomorrow. I wonder if our old router is still laying around somewhere. Feh.

I moved into an adjoining office today, which is probably why this all happened. Then again, the box seemed a little unhappy earlier. I've had to reset it a couple of times in the past.

Theoretically we have a static IP now and aren't stuck behind the firewall anymore. Maybe there's a weird worm out there that is causing the router to flip out, although there aren't any new firmware updates on Linksys's website. Not that that necessarily means anything—there are bugs in the software as it is…

I guess they have some big Sonicwall box out there somewhere, but the network behavior has been really funky. The routing paths in and out don't seem to make any sense—probably because of the firewall. We were having some really bad latency for a while, though it seems to be better now. Our ISP said they were having trouble with ARP storms. Fine fine, whatever.

I really recommend avoiding working with XO Communications if you can.

Posted by mike at 09:00 PM | Hardware , Internet , Work | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, September 17, 2004

Jennifer Tilly Versus Joey Lauren Adams—Fight!

The simple things about being human still continue to amaze me every once in a while. The interconnectedness of thought is one of those things that is both a blessing adn a curse. I had a thought process something like this today:

  • St. Anthony Main was an attempt at building a shopping mall in or near downtown Minneapolis (depending on where you draw the line).
  • The Twin Cities Area has some significant historical data points for shopping malls, claiming to have the first modern mall and the largest mall in the country.
  • The region's notoriety led Kevin Smith to film parts of Mallrats in the area (kind of a dubious distinction, but hey)
  • Hmm. Mallrats was her favorite movie, wasn't it—well, after she had originally liked Clerks so much.
  • Ah, crap…

Yeah, well, so that's still there, sort of. I figure she's moved on to a different movie by now, though. Maybe even something that isn't from View Askew!

Did I mention that the only girl who was in the office space we share with another company left a few weeks ago to go back to college? Yay for a job in the computer industry. However, the upside of that was that we got to expand our operation into the room she had used, so I'm significantly less cramped at work now.

Yesterday, I discovered that the power supply fan for our server was seized up. Other than a CPU fan, there was no airflow in that case. The power supply was an AT one rather than an ATX one, and I didn't want to mess with the stupid power switch on that. So, I went and got a new ATX case instead (which hopefully I'll be reimbursed for). Of course, the new case doesn't have any extra fans either, so the hard drives (which are the important bit) don't seem to get much airflow. Oh well, at least both sides of the case were off last night, so just the ambient air should be enough for now. We've got to get some case fans, though.

Posted by mike at 07:48 AM | Hardware , Self , Work | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Globe Trekker

I figure I'll probably go see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this weekend—most likely as a matinee at Block E. I figure its an effects movie, and the reviews so far seem to bear that out. So, if I'm getting about half a movie, I figure I should only pay about half as much.

I thought there were a bunch of movies out now that I wanted to see, but looking over the listings doesn't produce much interest. I might go out and get THX-1138, probably along with the new Prodigy album.

I was just thinking of how some of the material on my headphones has started to wear off. The thin rubbery coating on the big foam pads is coming off in little black bits which occasionally scare me. I suppose they worry me a bit because little black things usually signify insects of some kind for me.

Speaking of which—there was a huge bug on one of the cars outside work. I suppose there's a non-zero possibility that it was fake, but it looked pretty monstrous. Seemed to be a beetle with a long and thin body, pretty much all black, with long legs about 1.5 inches long. The body of the thing seemed to be about the size and shape of a Sharpie marker.

I decided to leave it alone.

Posted by mike at 09:24 PM | Movies | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Your Guide to Democracy Inaction

Well, I succumbed to the will of the Force during lunch today. Not that it was really intentional. I went to Best Buy with the intention of getting the new Green Day album, but I was sucked in by the Star Wars music playing and everything, so I ended up getting the box set too.

After getting out of there and heading to lunch, I realized that I had yet again forgotten to go by the post office to get some stamps. I ended up getting some Buckminster Fuller ones, although they're pretty huge for stamps. Kind of unfortunate to realize that they'll mostly be going to pay bills (well, if they aren't too big for my envelopes).

Posted by mike at 02:40 PM | Movies , Music | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, September 23, 2004

So Soo Me

I downloaded some really big fractal images the other day and started using one for my desktop at work. Check them out here—they're even public domain ;-)

Posted by mike at 09:58 PM | Internet | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, September 24, 2004

Pray to Sony My Soul to Keep

Woo

Kind of dreary out today. Oh well.

Posted by mike at 08:39 AM | Comedy | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Not Quite Like Television

Heh. If “pledge enforcement van” ever enters a dead-tree dictionary, I will be very happy. I just saw a Village Voice article use it in reference to Wikipedia's current fund drive.

An advantage of my newly-reduced hours at work is that I will be able to be home for the evening run of The Simpsons. Too bad there still won't be new episodes for a while (but that's on weekends anyway).

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the fact that my boss has cut me down to 25 hours per week. Of course, two weeks ago he asked if I could go up to 50, so whatever. I have to do the resume dance again. This time I'm trying to use the XML Résumé Library. Okay, so no businesses care about that, but hopefully it will mean that I can generate decent text, HTML, and PDF versions without too much trouble. Hopefully.

And no Word format, I guess (but I think my attempt at that with OpenOffice probably just ended up causing trouble since the font metrics probably didn't line up quite right between OO and Word…)

And this won't help me when I have to re-enter the information for all of the fifty-thousand different job sites out there.

And XML usually means Java. I don't really understand why that is. XML and Java seem to both be for people who like to do things The Hard Way™ (okay not that, say, C/C++, is all that better, but whatever).

Oh, and Cargill's Talent Recruiting program is still e-mailing me about Administrative Assistant/Accountant/Clerk positions. Maybe if I tweak that entry of my info they'll finally pick something slightly more my style.

Hmm. I guess WCCO radio is turning 80 years old (well, there was another station that existed for about two years before then). Kind of neat, although the only time I ever really listened to it was when Mr. Boyum would have it on in the morning before math class in high school. AM and I just don't get along, especially since I have big, noisy (radio-wise) CRT monitors sitting on my desk.

Posted by mike at 05:09 PM | Work | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, September 27, 2004

Not Quite Pan Am

Wow.

Richard Branson + SpaceShipOne = Virgin Galactic

And, according to Wikipedia, the first ship will be the VSS Enterprise

Posted by mike at 11:13 AM | News | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Spinsanity

Turns out I miscalculated on the hours I've been working. I had been doing 6 hours instead of 5. I knew my day didn't seem to be the right length somehow. Anyway, I guess I'll make up for it by just having a short day tomorrow.

Kerry won the debate. Anyone who says otherwise wasn't really paying attention. But, in the “marketplace of ideas” I suppose you can think whatever you want. I think it's likely that Kerry will “win” all of them, but I don't know if it'll change much of anything.

Upon the recent revelations that viewers of The Daily Show are more on top of things than just about anybody, there's anecdotal evidence that post-debate interviews with the spin-meisters are getting interrupted a bit more frequently with tough questions. I guess the test of that will come in the next few days. If The Moment from this debate turns out to be a silly little foible, the media hasn't yet started to change direction. But, if something substantive sticks, I think someone has started to pay attention to the fact that American news media is a pretty messed up group at the moment.

On that note, there's a great Fresh Air interview with Jon Stewart that was done today.