Been reading through the Slashdot story about the protests surrounding the Republican Convention. I wish I could be a few degrees less separated from that situation -- then I could at least be reasonably sure I'm hearing the truth or being told an all-out lie. Regardless, it reminds us in the United States that we really have to stay vigilant about our rights. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people disagree about the definition of `civil disobedience' and the degree to which it is useful.. 90% of the time, I think you can be heard without getting in the way of anyone else (ie, walking/sitting on the street and blocking traffic). More than 99% of the time, violence is not going to help you. Oh well, just my opinion.
Wired ran their own story about the stuff in Philadelphia and mentioned phillyimc.org, a site gathering the views of `independent' reporters. It's pretty cool to hear that it's running on Slash, and the Wired article said that it had been put together by some of the core Debian coders (though Wired may have misinterpreted something..). It's neat to see how Free Software is helping people who are interested in protecting the freedoms of Real Life. This continued merging and mingling is really neat, and I hope that the actions of the people involved in this stuff will have an impact upon governments everywhere.
I think I'll use ReiserFS on my computer instead of Global Filesystem. I like the work of the GFS guys, but ReiserFS is far more likely to be a supported filesystem the next time I have to upgrade or re-install my system. Of course, GFS should definitely go into any product targeted at high-end servers or clusters (well, once the GFS team considers it `stable'). They'll both work on anything, but Reiser will be best suited for PCs, workstations, and individual servers.
Hmm.. I see that I said `Palm II' instead of `Palm III' yesterday. Actually, it's a Palm IIIx... (Why didn't they call 'em `Palm ][' and `Palm ]|[' ? That would have been cool ;-)
Last night, I was asked to volunteer some time for the Minneapolis Independent Media Center. I think it's wonderful to have a media outlet that isn't influenced directly by corporate interests. However, the coverage that the various IMCs have been giving has been pretty heavily slanted towards covering protests and other action. It would be a waste for that to continue..
I remember watching the unveiling of Transmeta earlier this year (in RealVideo), and seeing how moronic the reporters were. The Transmeta guys went out and very clearly stated what they had done, and the reporters would go and ask questions that had already been clearly spelled out. Afterwards, I could tell which reporters had actually been there, and which ones were just reporting by reading reports.
The best reporters know a lot about what they're reporting on. Sometimes, the best person to report on a situation is not sitting there with a `Press' tag, but is just an interested observer.
Unfortunately, the IMC sites are just as susceptible to pranksters as Slashdot, kuro5hin, and Advogato.. I hope that they can find some fair-minded editors and contributors.
Hmm.. I'm probably spending too much time on diary entries. Better cut back. However, I just had to mention that Miguel de Icaza posted his OLS presentation. I knew that was what he was talking about, it's just that the people who reported on it in the beginning weren't very clear, and the Slashdotties went a bit nuts about it.
It's a wonderful article, and I hope Good Things will happen. However, I wonder how much of the old Unix/Linux will remain when it is all done.
I mentioned yesterday that there is a lot of interesting things going on in China. I see that there is now a story on the front page, and there was a Salon article about it today, saying essentially the opposite of what The Register posted yesterday..
I ended up riding my bike out to a theater in a nearby suburb in order to watch The Cell. It was both cool and not. Like with many movies, I'd already seen many of the best visuals in the ads, which was disappointing. Also, you could tell that Jennifer Lopez was trying to hide her accent, which was just annoying..
I remember that I had read too many reviews of The Matrix before seeing it, which spoiled much of the experience. It was still a cool movie, but I wasn't as surprised by what happened as everyone else was.
Seen on the web: LAPD Harassed Philly Mayor's Aide. ``We don't treat our guests in Philadelphia this way,'' the Mayor said. A lot of people would disagree.
I'm wondering if/when Kuro5hin will be resurrected. It was an interesting site.
There are a lot of different methods for distributing news and information popping up on the Internet. You have the traditional media, where the editors tell reporters what to do. You have places like Slashdot, where individuals tell editors about interesting things they've seen. Then there are places like Kuro5hin, where news is moderated before being released to everyone. Advogato requires a certain level of trust for people to be able to post news. The Independent Media Centers largely have an open policy where basically anyone can post.
In my opinion, a combination of these techniques is required. Certain reporters could gain trust and basically post whatever they want. People who are less trusted probably need to go through at least a thin layer of moderation and filtering. Perhaps everything should go through a kuro5hin-style moderation. Then again, it may be hard for the trust levels to work appropriately. For instance, if you have a general news site that suddenly starts getting input from a well-known reporter from a well-known newspaper, would they instantly become trusted and able to post anything? I suppose it depends on the audience.
If the readers get much of their news from corporate media outlets, they'd probably mark the reporter much higer than if the readers were more interested in the independent media.
Just some random thoughts..
Well, well, well. I was disappointed in the US Presidential debates. Only 2 candidates. Sheesh.
There was a small rally on campus for Nader, which I participated in. We got about 75 people. Not huge, but decent. There were a few reporters (at least one each for newspaper, radio, and TV), but I haven't seen much coverage yet [picture]. There have been polls saying that about 75% of the public thinks that adding a third candidate would have made the debates more interesting. I understand that Dan Rather essentially called last night's debates a snorefest...
Anyway, on to some non-political stuff. For one of my CSci classes, I (along with a group) have to write some simple malloc() and free() routines. It was really funny how we did most of the development -- Borland Turbo C++ version 3.0 for DOS. DOS does not have sbrk(). DOS does not have 32-bit pointers. Anyway, we moved the files over to a Unix box to finish things up. We got them to compile, and a test program appeared to not crash, so maybe it actually works. At any rate, we still have to put in some code for checking for overruns and underruns (we have special buffers that contain a particular pattern. If the pattern fails somehow, we know that there was a problem). Hopefully we'll get it done by the due date and time (midnight on Thursday).
The topic that won't die
Had a bit of a confrontation on IRC today, talking with someone from the LUG about the current wave of nationalism. He couldn't refrain from referring to our country as `ameriKKKa' all of the time. Got annoying after a while.
There is no doubt in my mind that there have been atrocities in this country, and that we've done un-good things in other parts of the world. However, I can't live if I think that the only direction this country is going is down.
Most of this country's founding fathers owned slaves. These people who promoted the ideals of freedom and justice had their dark sides. That can't be denied. However, they also knew that they were going to make mistakes when they wrote the Constitution that would bind the colonies together. The constitution can be amended. They strove to keep a balance between the different branches of government.
We have problems, but it's not like we haven't been working on them. It takes time, obviously, and there is that chance that we'll fail miserably at some point. However, at this point, I see a bright future for our country.
It's important to stay informed -- that's probably the biggest single problem we have. The media (mostly TV) is often sensationalistic, and can cause the public to be misinformed or uninformed. Then public opinion polls can be slanted in unusual ways, causing politicians to push ideas they may not believe in.
On a politics mailing list that I'm on, there has been recent discussion and praise for the `question time' that many European parliaments have. I saw the Canadian parliament doing it on C-SPAN a week or so ago. One hope I have is that this practice will come to the US in some form. Perhaps not a formal event in the halls of the Capitol, but any way we can get our congresscritters more animated is a good thing.
Of course, too much speed can be a bad thing. Knee-jerk legislation is an evil that we need to be watchful of. I wrote to one of my senators (at least I think I did -- I'm not sure if that web form actually did anything) and asked him to be careful about how he moved in this time. I requested that if he is not able to fully read proposed legislation before it is put up for vote, he should either not vote on it, or should vote against it.
Katz is going off on some strange tirade about pre-/post-9/11 movies on Slashdot. It got me thinking (for no good reason--It's a pretty poor review), and I realized I haven't written down my experiences of that day..
I don't remember when I rolled out of bed, but it was later than I wanted. My roommate had woken up and had left the room, so I figured it was time. I climbed into the chair at my computer, powered up the monitors, and started my daily morning browsing. I think I hit Slashdot first, and the top story was the first article of the planes hitting the WTC towers. I tried getting to some news websites, but couldn't get anywhere.
I turned around and powered up the TV and turned it to CNN. With my groggy morning eyes, I saw a wide-angle shot of the towers. It looked entirely fake, but I figured if it was on CNN...
I came out of my room and went into the den. I turned off the music my roommate had started up, and turned on the TV out there. I still wasn't fully awake, and could barely manipulate the remote controls well enough to get it turned to CNN. I tried to tell my roommate what happened, but I didn't know anything. Some big planes had hit the World Trade Center.
Anyway, nobody knew anything, so I took a shower. I can't remember much else that happened. I know that the sky was very clear and blue. I came into the business school building where I work, and saw a huge crowd of students watching TV, but I felt like avoiding the coverage until people actually knew something. I went into my office area and sat down at the computer, trying to do some work, but I was thinking too much.
I was chatting with people on IRC, and was informed when the towers fell. I didn't have a TV at that point, so I didn't know they'd pancaked. I just couldn't imagine it.
Anyway, I sat around at the business school for a while, but I was going a bit stir-crazy. I walked to Taco Bell, about 15 minutes away on foot. On the way there, I saw a small United States flag protruding from a building. September 11th was a primary election day, and the flag was there informing people that they could go vote.
That was probably the last time a flag really made me feel good. It was a puny little thing, only a few inches in size, but it meant so much that morning. I smiled, and kept walking.
I got to Taco Bell. One employee was on the phone, looking out the window at downtown. She said, ``I know they're going to target downtown.'' It never actually happened, but people were worried. Anyway, I ate and tried to remain calm.
I got back to my desk and tried to work again. There were still way too many things racing through my head, plus I got a little worried by the fact that the business school is a very shiny corporate-looking building. I decided to head home.
I got home and spent some time watching coverage, browsing the web and chatting on IRC. That day, classes were supposed to start late for me, around 12:30. I was hearing that they may have canceled classes. Before long, I found they had..
I walked to class, finding a notice on the door saying that classes after noon were canceled. I started heading back to the apartment, but decided to see if my brother was at his dorm room. We got some lunch and hung out for the afternoon, though definitely it wasn't the most entertaining time we'd spent together. I spent most of my time watching TV, while he played Civilization on my computer.
In a lot of ways, it was a very dull day. It was very strange to feel so affected by something that happened half a continent away.
Strangely, the events since then have made me less interested in the news. I'm sure there's a lot of stuff going on that I'd like to hear about, but it gets drowned out by `The War on Terror'. Hell, I just wish the cable news channels would get rid of all of that extra crap on the screen so I wouldn't have to get reminded of it as I flip through the channels..
Hmm. There are some other things floating around in my head, but a bunch of it has already been posted, so I don't want to re-write it..
Why have so many things over the last few years been named after the letter O? It's not even like all of the e-services or i-product names that have come out for electronic or Internet-related things. I'm not talking about predicates or suffixes, just one letter.
There have been movies, stories, magazines, and now performance routines.
There was even a court case that came up between Oprah's O magazine and «O», a fetish mag from across the pond. Apparently the fetish mag had been around longer, but I'm pretty sure a judge decided that someone could tell pretty quickly by looking at the cover whether it was an Oprah magazine or the other one.
Cirque du Soleil has decided that one word is too much, and has gone down to just calling their routine “O”.
There was the movie O that came out two years ago, apparently an update of Shakespeare's Othello (which I didn't know until just now). But I imagine the name has been used for other movies (porn, porn, porn..).
Anyway, I just find it interesting that people tend to name things similarly on occasion. This is just one weird example where the name is really short and extraordinarily non-descriptive.
At the time Private Jessica Lynch was retrieved from a hospital in Iraq, I was mostly watching The Daily Show, so I didn't hear much about it. The story was blanketing the cable news channels and other TV news outlets, though.
I smelled something funny with that story, and it looks like people who were suspicious of it were probably right. The BBC has a story explaining that her retrieval was a Hollywood-style stunt. Dr. Anmar Uday said this:
“It was like a Hollywood film. They cried ‘go, go, go’, with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital—action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan.”
It's possible the doctors were lying or stretching the truth, but I generally have a lot of respect for the BBC..
With all the screwed up news stories being discovered lately, I think The Daily Show will have to start giving out some sort of award for “Best fake news from a real news outlet.”
For most of the past two years, I've felt that the flag was taken away from me. It's a slight shadow of what my grandmother felt when the Nazis invaded Norway and took over the country.
Hmm. I guess I'd better stop that train of thought before invoking Godwin's Law on myself.
Anyway, the nationalistic fervor finally seems to be dying down. That makes me feel better. Seeing the flag tended to disgust me—especially when mounted on big black SUVs. That sight has slowly dwindled as the nation returns to normal levels of apathy.
Well, perhaps I'm not very different than anyone else. I mentioned in a distant journal entry that a small flag poking out of the side of a building near the Carlson School on the morning of September 11th was a comforting sight for me. Local primaries were being held that day, and the flag was advertising that people could vote there. A little sign of normalcy.
Later in the day, I decided to wander to Dinkytown to see if I could buy a flag somewhere, but I couldn't find one. I'd had the image in my head of walking home carrying the flag over my shoulder, the colors flapping in the breeze as I walked home down University Avenue. I'm not sure what would have really happened if I'd found one, though.
By that evening and the next day, the flag started to represent something abnormal, a discontinuity in the rules by which our society had been governed. The flag often appeared in association with “In God We Trust” and “United We Stand.” In a sense, those are nice sentiments, but they really seemed to go against what the flag itself stood for. The 13 original states and the 50 we have now don't always get along. The flag is in some ways an acknowledgement of that fact.
If I had mounted a flag in our apartment at the time, I wonder what slogan might have gone along with it. Probably nothing at first, but I probably would have needed to differentiate our mindset from that of the others nearby. E pluribus unum could work (I feel it would be less antagonistic than “United We Stand”), but would probably just be a cop-out. “Truth and Justice” would be more along the lines of what I would like to say, but “justice” can be a messy term (and so can “truth” for that matter). “Truth, Peace, and Justice”? Maybe, but that would probably just make me sound like a hippie ;-)
Anyway, the point is that I want my flag back. I think it's time again to see the positive things it represents rather than terrible events of the past.
Hmm.. Some flag regulations I found say that the flag can't be used for advertising. Maybe I can sue Fox News Channel ;-)
I'm working on encoding a very interesting conversation that was on NOW with Bill Moyers this past weekend. I'm thinking I might start putting up a “video of the week” on my website, though I'll only really be able to have one very compressed video put up at a time due to limited storage space. Hopefully I've found an encoder setting that will work with Windows Media Player so all you people without Linux can actually play the video ;-)
(Actually, it should be possible to get video made with my system's best encoder to work on Windows, but it looks like it'd be vastly too much effort for an ordinary human being. If more people had Macs, though…)
Also, I just noticed that Jon Stewart had been on NOW last week. Dammit. I wonder if I accidentally deleted that recording. Bah. Oh well, the consolation prize is a very good transcript.
NOW is a good television news magazine—what 20/20 and Dateline NBC wish they were. 60 Minutes is probably fairly comparable, though.
The show was hyped quite a bit by PBS when it first came out, and I didn't think it lived up to the hype then. However, it seems to have gotten better over time. I don't like all of the stories they do (some are just on topics I don't give a rip about), but a lot of them are very interesting.
Oh yeah, I need to donate some cash to PBS again once I start getting paid. Possibly NPR too. Bah. My money is being pre-allocated way too fast.
Well, after my last entry, the neighbor upstairs became eerily quiet. I ended up in my bed, and slept pretty well until 1 or so, but kept tossing and turning the rest of the night. Probably has something to do with the massive amounts of sugar I ate that evening…
I was really hungry after work, but went home to make a pizza. However, in the 25 minutes it took to preheat and then cook, I'd devoured some fruit snacks and half a bag of gummi Life Savers. Probably won't do anything for my waistline. Then again, neither will the pizza ;-)
I ended up just eating two slices of 'za and putting the rest away in the fridge. I suppose I can eat that instead of going out tonight and feel slightly less bad when I look at my bank balance after buying DS9.
I got some music at Best Buy the other day. I got a CD by Nickel Creek, because I'd heard their awesome “Smoothie Song” in a few places. Unfortunately, when I listen to the rest of the CD, I get the same creepy feeling I get when I hear Christian rock, so I'm not sure if that was the greatest purchase in the world. I got another disc by Maroon 5 (who are apparently billed as The Strokes of Hollywood). That one seems to be better overall, but it feels like they're playing tricks on me, using musical techniques that they know will get people's attention. A few songs sound amazingly like Red Hot Chili Peppers, while some others remind me a lot of Jamiroquai, other songs I can't place, but they sound very familiar…
I see Sarah has become one of the collective and started a LiveJournal account now. I think interlinked online journals are a really interesting result of giving everyone Internet access, although I'm sure more than a few people get freaked out by it at first.
Technology pundits (especially media consolidation apologists) have talked a lot about the Internet being a place where anyone can publish, but except for a relatively small number of sites that generated some traffic, few people really believed that it had any effect. Weblogs change the equation. Most sites still don't generate much traffic, but the important thing is that the people who do read the sites do so on a regular basis.
Or maybe I'm just sleepy and talking out my ass.
Heh. I like this story.
The Sci-Fi Channel in the United States has cancelled an Arnold Schwarzenegger day after the star announced his intention to run for governor of California.
Instead of Terminator 2, The Running Man and Conan the Destroyer, viewers will see a day of California disaster movies.
Over the weekend, I posted this story to Slashdot. While it seems like just another whiny “I want my open source!” rant, I guess a lot of people missed the point I was trying to get at. And that's understandable, as I only wrote one paragraph worth of stuff when I probably should have opted for two.
As any audio-, video-, or other technophile knows, the FCC has mandated that broadcasters in the United States transition toward digital transmission of television. However, the standard being used in the United States for actually transmitting the signal (how the binary digits are encoded in the air) is not well-suited for city environments. People out in the boondocks 70 miles from a tower will probably get better signal than city dwellers ten times closer. Companies are working hard to tweak their hardware to handle these situations better, but in the meantime, I started wondering about how digital cable will work in the future.
Right now, if you have an analog TV set, you merely plug it in and tell it that it's connected to a cable TV system. Ta-da! It works.
However, digital cable is a completely different story today. You need a digital cable box, and many of those boxes are sub-par devices. When I last used a cable box in Minneapolis, it was impossible to hide or remove unwanted channels&mdasheven channels we didn't receive! The guide would sometimes freeze up while it loaded data, and various other annoyances would bother me from time to time, but I'd deal with it because the guide was better than nothing, and it let me see another two or three channels that I actually liked.
Yeah, most of the channels on digital cable suck, so there's the growing idea that the entire cable TV system will transition to being digital. In some ways that's good, but, as my Slashdot post indicated, this will be another battlegrounds where the media conglomerates are pushing for more and more control.
I'd be perfectly happy if I could only get non-premium channels with a digital cable tuner that I put in my computer. I don't need HBO and certain other channels, and even if I felt the need, they've always been accessed via extra descramblers anyway. However, the prospect of having no direct access to the video stream bothers me. It's hard to describe why, but it's like having someone say, “You can't read this book, you can only have an approved person read this to you.” What is this, the Reformation? Is some distant descendant of Martin Luther going to plaster technical documentation on the Internet now?
I dunno, it just creeps me out. I know that at least one father of a friend built his own NTSC TV set, and it was treasured as a family heirloom. Big companies just seem to be pushing so hard against that idea of individual experimentation that I cringe. The future seems like it's going to turn into another dark age.
Well, maybe it won't happen. While the American people tend to be deaf, dumb, and sheep-like, they do eventually take notice of things when beat over the head with them. We'll see if the public keels over and gives up their VCRs in the coming years.
Hurricane Isabel is making landfall, so don't be surprised to see those silly television reporters standing out on beaches in the next day or so (I'm sure they've been doing it for a day or so already).
There's just something very strange about someone willingly standing out in the wind and rain, if only to show how hard it is to stand up.
I forget who it was (probably a “reporter” for Channel One), but I once saw someone doing a piece where he stood in a wind tunnel and stood up to hurricane-force winds. The big joke afterwards was that he had so much goop on his head that his hair stayed perfect through the whole thing ;-)
Heh. An interesting interview:
Ira Glass: […] Are you watching Smallville?
The Onion AV Club: No. Is it good?
IG: No. I have to say, this season I haven't gotten on the chain, because last season it moved so slowly. Occasionally, you get a show like that as an adult, where you find that you do want to watch each week, even though you don't like it. I never realized it until this conversation, but for me, Smallville is that show. While I'm watching it, I'm constantly saying “Get to something interesting! Be good!” My girlfriend watches it because she thinks the whole point of the show is this homoerotic thing that the writers are doing with Lex and Clark. They're constantly staring into each other's eyes and giving each other looks. She's watching basically for the hot boy-on-boy action. Then she'll say, “Why are you watching?” and my actual answer is an answer that a 12-year-old would give, which is “He's got superpowers! He can fly!”
According to a study by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, only 20% of the viewers of Fox News Channel are in touch with reality. In fact, none of the commercial TV news outlets can claim that over half of their audience knows the truth: CBS rates 30%, ABC 39%, and NBC and CNN are tied at 45%. Print media works out to 53%, and people who tune in to NPR and PBS rate at 77%.
Okay, it's wrong to say that these people are totally in touch with reality, but they did manage to correctly determine three things:
Anyway, there's more info in this poorly HTML-ized press release. Here's a nicer table of the data from that page:
|Network||No Misperceptions||One or More|
Okay, I'm a week late on this one. It turns out that, while Bush was making a statement about the capture of Saddam Hussein, a technician at CNN flipped the wrong switch and put a test message on the screen. Found the image here.
Update 12/21 3:26 AM: Whoa. Maybe we didn't actually capture Saddam. Well, we did, but he may have already been captured. Maybe. Then again, it must be true, since it's 3:26.
Heh. Here's another week-late entry. Paul Magers finished 20 years working at KARE TV on the 12th, and they have a sappy goodbye story. I only mention it because he's been around so long. Only a handful of on-screen personalities have worked in the Twin Cities for that long, and certainly no one has occupied the anchor desk for that much time (except Diana Pierce, who came to Ch. 11 with Mr. Magers).
I really respect the abilities of Paul Magers a lot. I always liked the way he delivered the news much more than any of the other anchors I'd see. There are rumors that he may get pushed up the chain at CBS (he's going to KCBS in California) and end up on the national newscasts, which could be really good. In my opinion, he's better than all of the national anchors I know of, though Peter Jennings is darn close.
Hmm. Actually, I think that if you take away the paradigm of silliness on The Daily Show, Magers and Jon Stewart seem to have fairly similar deliveries. Maybe that explains why I like that show so much…
Anyway, we in Minnesota will have to peek in on what he's doing out there in California every so often. I get the feeling that the Los Angeles market is still stuck in the clutches of cheap shock journalism. Maybe he can snap them out of it, but I guess I'm not holding my breath on that one.
Actually, from what I've heard, the Twin Cities' news departments are pretty good. I suppose it's an effort to break any ideas that people might have gotten from watching Mary Tyler Moore. I still think they could be a lot better (for instance, the last time I was home, we watched BBC World News on a PBS station, and saw a report from Minnesota, talking about stuff my parents hadn't really heard of).
Well, I hope things go well out there for him.
0.008 kilowatts. That's what Radio K's FM signal is. Correcting for decimal stupidity, it's 8 watts. 8! I can't even run a decent fluorescent light off that!
Hmm. I guess I should try to figure out how to stream Quicktime audio in Linux (and don't forget the fact that “Quicktime” is deceptively non-descriptive). I suppose it probably sounds better than Ogg Vorbis, but at least Vorbis is natively supported by Winamp as well as my favorite Linux player.
I wouldn't complain, but the commercial stations in town are killing me with the same stuff over and over and over and over and over again. Plus, the stations I hit most frequently (Drive 105, KS95, Cities 97, and 93X) have quite an overlap on their playlists, so I will hear the same song more often if I go channel-surfing than if I stay on one station (but then I have to deal with commercial breaks every two songs).
I need music, or a girlfriend. To support either habit, I need a job.
Ugh, the weekend goes by too fast, even when you don't do anything the rest of the week.
Apparently the halls of JPL have been abuzz with talk of “significant findings” from data being returned by the Mars rovers. There's going to be a press conference on NASA TV at 1 PM CST (though they have a knack for delaying press releases for one reason or another). Anyway, it might actually be interesting to see, so I'll be on Ch. 77 this afternoon. However, I imagine it's just something simple about water, so that would fulfill the missions' goals, but in the end I'm not sure if it will excite people very much.
Weird. I downloaded a video of Electric Six's “Gay Bar,” hoping that it was a larger version of this, but instead found it to be the regular version. It had been captured off of MTV2, and I noticed that the words “war” and “nuclear” were censored. What?!? A guy writhing around in various skimpy outfits with phallic symbols all around is fine, but mention war and you're out of the picture? Viacom is one messed-up organization…
First off, a fun little thing. I've contributed a book's worth of material to Wikipedia while I've been unemployed and bored so far this year. In a weird way, one of the most successful articles is what I wrote on progressive shifting. Honestly, I don't know if what I wrote is right—most places just say that progressive shifting involves a slightly higher RPM after each shift, which I don't say at all. It might be a correct observation, but I think it must be more of an effect than a cause. Anyway, I think the article partially explains the technical reasons why it's better, but there could be more info. Still, there is very little information out there on the subject.
I randomly wandered over to that page recently and decided to search for any information that I could add. To my surprise, the article showed up as the first entry in my Google search. This is kind of weird because within Wikipedia itself, the page is pretty much not referenced at all, except for a link in my user page. I guess people must believe the article is correct—they seem to have linked to it in order to have it show up at the top in Google. I'm most impressed because I only made one edit on that page—to create it.
Anyway, yesterday I went to a talk put on by the Minnesota Renewable Hydrogen Initiative. It turned out to be moderately interesting, though I was especially impressed by the talk Lanny Schmidt did on the ethanol-to-hydrogen reactor/reformer that got a lot of press last month. It's a really simple device, kind of the pulse-jet of hydrogen reforming—except that it's actually efficient (maybe that makes it the ramjet of hydrogen reforming).
When I first heard of the device, it seemed kind of silly. In a way, it still seems kind of silly. Well, actually, the silly thing is that it's meant to feed fuel cells that are fragile and expensive—the reactor is only silly by extension. If fuel cells can ever be made cheaply, it's a great idea. Hydrogen is difficult to store because of its extremely low density (I think I heard that even liquid hydrogen is less dense than air, but I'm unsure). Storing hydrogen in Ethanol instead is a much easier thing to do.
Schmidt also frequently repeated that we need to transition to using biomass-based fuels. There is no way around it. You can extract hydrogen from coal or oil for a while, but you'll just end up running out. In additon, the carbon that comes out in the process has to be put somewhere if you don't want the greenhouse effect to get worse.
There was a lady from the Department of Energy there who kind of got picked on after a while. She was from the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy office, which oversees a lot of the new energy initiatives going on at DoE. She put up a budget table that kind of skewed toward giving money to projects that produced hydrogen by using electricity from nuclear power and projects to sequester carbon from fossil fuels—both things that renewable energy folks really don't like to see because they still involve non-renewable energy. She had to defend herself by saying that a lot of the renewable fuel money comes in from different sources than the main budget she had listed.
Still, I was kind of disturbed by the amount of money the government was putting into the idea. It was a large sum, something like $1.7 billion, but there are individual car companies out there that are putting more money in than that!
Overall, I was fairly impressed by the crowd there. The presenters were much more in-depth than I expected. News reports I've seen about hydrogen and renewable fuels barely scratch the surface of what was discussed over the few hours yesterday—and yesterday's forum just barely scratched the surface of these issues in general.
There was a lot of good buzz at the meeting by industry insiders, but because of secrecy, they couldn't really say much. The DoE lady was the person who was most reluctant to believe that anything could happen quickly. I suppose this is partially due to the fact that she is looking at the national picture, which looks pretty bleak. In Minnesota, we at least have enough crop land to attempt to become self-powered through the use of biomass and wind energy, but this is a much more difficult thing to do nation-wide.
A comment that became cliché by the end of the seminar was, “the Upper Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of biomass and wind energy.” Actually, that comment was made in a few different ways. It was first mentioned by Lanny Schmidt, but I think about three other people also said it. The comment is probably somewhat inappropriate (since places like Brazil could out-biomass us any day of the year), but kind of a nice idea nonetheless.
Well, I could go on for a pretty long time talking about the seminar, but I suppose this is enough for now.
Like that title? Thank Jon Stewart, though I have no idea how The Daily Show can repeatedly use the word “douchebag” without getting in at least a little trouble. Makes me think of when they forgot to bleep “fuckers” a few weeks ago. I think that was on a Thursday—the next Monday, Stewart said something along the lines of, “We thought that [with all the Janet Jackson stuff] we'd get a call. But you know what? Nobody called!”
Always good to know the FCC is paying attention. Yeah, they basically give cable a free ride, in my opinion. On the other hand, I think the broadcast networks can get held back a bit too much from time to time. Well, except Fear Factor is on NBC. Sheesh, I don't know. I'm just generally displeased with television these days. Just give me PBS, TechTV, The History Channel, Comedy Central, and Cartoon Network, and I'll be happy. Okay, there are a few other shows I like. Say, Monk and Las Vegas.
Well, I just did my phone interview for that Medtronic position. I think it went well, though I imagine they'll have more qualified people anyway. I haven't used some of the software that they mentioned. But, those pieces are only moderately important, I think… Still, the position is only a month or so, though it's theoretically contract-to-hire (at least, that was the initial impression I was given).
Well, I have some errands to run today. I plan to finally buy an iron and ironing board, get a haircut, copy my cable bill so I can get that deduction when I pay rent, and maybe pay some other bills. Hmm. I should get one of those 12-pocket folders so I can save my pile of old bills somewhere.
It's time for Presidential Daily Brief Fill-in-the-Blank!
Here are my guesses based on the length of nearby text strings in the document (plus the fact that the second one was an “an” rather than an “a”).
told followers he wan
a British intelligence
exploit the o
te some of the more s
a Spanish intelligence
But, I really have no idea.
I listened to a few of the most recent episodes of This American Life today. The first two were really good, though I didn't really feel comfortable with the third one. I guess the first two were somewhat interrelated, since they deal with the current political climate. Actually, the only part of the third episode I liked had a political bent to it.
Episode 260 was largely focused on dissecting the court case that the Bush administration has been using to assert that they have the ability to hold Americans in this country who are accused of being enemy combatants. Back in World War II, the Nazis landed two groups of people in Florida and New York who were supposed to sabotage the aluminum industry in the months after the U.S. entered the war. One of the people was an American of German descent who found himself in Nazi-held territory when Germany declared war on the United States. The story goes that he just wanted to get home, so when he was given a chance to be part of an operation that would bring him to America, he took it. Anyway, he was tried in a secret military court. An appeal was made to the Supreme Court, requesting that the case be tried in regular criminal court, but the justices were pressured into quickly giving an opinion without any supporting arguments.
There's also a look inside the Zogby polling operation later in the episode, which kind of tells you what you already knew, but often forget.
Episode 261 is TAL's response to the whole gay marriage debate, though they handle it by spending more time examining the more traditional version. Adam Felber has a good little satirical story, which pretty much sums up the whole thing for me, and shows how the whole debate has been blown out of proportion for the most part.
The final episode I listened to today was pretty weird. The main story was not something I could identify with, though it's necessary to listen to it at least a bit to fully understand the title of the last story, which was much more interesting to me. Always good to know that the pharmaceutical companies seem to be charging about 40 times what they need to be on certain drugs…
John Troyer's column about a future American civil war is something important to think about. I've been getting an increasing sense that civil war is possible, though I doubt it would be likely. Our country is averse to sending large numbers of people to die.
At any rate, he's right to say that the wounds never fully healed after the first civil war. In many ways, it was still being fought 100 years later, and probably still is today. The Wikipedia article on the origins of the American Civil War describes many things that have parallels today. Of course, the Democrats and Republicans seem to have swapped ideals and allegiances since that time. Many similar tensions seem to be in place today, so I get a little worried from time to time.
Of course, this is not helped by media outlets that often seek conversation by idealists and zealots who have widely divergent viewponts on issues, rather than talking to people who are somewhat less out on the edge. The idealists and zealots should get their fair share of time, but when the public only sees these distant edges of the spectrum, things get very messed up.
I suppose that's why I respect shows like Frontline and Nightline. They talk to the people on the extremes, but also leave enough time to fill in the gradients in between. At least that's how I view them. I suppose others have different perceptions—conservatives still like to call PBS a “notoriously liberal network.” Okay, the artsy/indie shows and NOW with Bill Moyers could be classified as fairly/very liberal, but don't forget that this is the American home of Antiques Roadshow. If PBS is considered the great bastion of liberalism in the same world that plays host to Fox News Channel, someone has a broken calculator.
I kind of feel like I've been thrown into the universe of 1984. I could have sworn that Minnesota went Democratic with a significantly wider margin in the 2000 election. My recollection was that Gore got about 55%, Nader 5%, and Bush 40%, but that's not what the MN Secretary of State's website says. Maybe I just stopped tracking the numbers early and the late returns shifted things a lot. This doesn't seem like it should be a purple state.
An interesting note made in Frontline's “Jesus Factor” show last night is that the best predictor of whether people voted for Bush or Gore in the last election was the frequency at which they attended church. People who went at least once a week were more than 2/3 likely to vote for Bush.
Oh! Oh! You remember that Faith-Based Initiative plan? Turns out that the government is so far only supporting Christian and interfaith organizations, no synagogues or mosques or temples…
Oh. If you are dehydrated and then go drink two 20 oz. bottles of Mountain Dew, you will go into shock. After taking a shower last night, I tried to lay down and go to sleep around 9:00. Despite the fact that it was about 70° in my apartment, I was shivering even under a comforter (granted, the comforter has become a bit skimpy). I had to pull out a heavy blanket I generally only use in the winter, put my pillows under the sheets for warmth, raise my feet and lower my head in order to stop shaking. That was not so good. At least I knew what to do. The action of the caffeine finally slowed down about three hours later, but it still took until about 1:00 before I was able to get to sleep.
Hmm. I'm reading through the list of songs that Clear Channel banned after September 11th. It's pretty weird. Things like "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles and "Falling for the First Time" by the Barenaked Ladies were on it.
I've been working on a piece of wiki software for my own site. It uses Perl/CGI with SQLite for the database. The syntax is based off of what Wikipedia uses, since I use it all of the time and don't like having to remember different wiki styles :-p
The DB layout started off based on what Wikipedia uses, but I'm looking to make something that will have a weblog in it, along with comments and stuff, so it will diverge over time. I'll have to have some integrating SPAM-fighting capability, but it probably won't be anything fancy (it'll be fancier than what I have right now, however). I've got a very basic wiki running right now on my home machine. About 6kB of Perl code (not counting the libraries it's built on), so not too bad. It keeps old versions at the moment, but I don't have a history view yet or any way to do diffs (that'll be tricky). I'm not tracking links yet (and, well, I think I only have one page at the moment). I'm just working on the basics so far (what do you expect after only a few hours' work?).
I hope I'll be able to do security right.
The Daily Show folks have been all over lately. This is due to several factors colliding at once: Winning two more Emmys, having their audience get called “stoned slackers” by Bill O'Reilly, having their audience then be determined to be one of the smartest and most well-off groups of people around, and the release of America (The Book).
I saw them on (apparently a repeat of) Deborah Norville's show on MSNBC. I never watch her because I've always counted her among the media sources that TDS makes fun of all of the time. I dunno, maybe she was beginning to understand by the end of the show (which was still reasonably good despite her overexuberance). I kind of had the same reaction after catching a glimpse of one of the correspondents on Paula Zahn's show on CNN. Like two galaxies colliding or something strange.
I decided to delete KMWB (23, or 8 on Minneapolis cable) from the channel lineup on my TV, mostly because Sinclair is being stupid. I hardly watch it anyway, except that it provides a little escape when that Jennie Garth show is on ('cuz, well, it's Jennie Garth). But, considering that the show is on only about 0.2% of the week, it's not really worth it to me. Yeah, I can't stand all their stupid dating shows either.
Wow. Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire ended up being much different than what anyone expected. That's got to be the only time I've ever seen someone come on a show (as the only guest!) and totally eviscerate it. A few links so far:
Heh. That Mary Cheney debacle did turn out to be about a 48-hour bug, didn't it.
Hmm. Another October surprise. The new bin Laden tape is the major story today, and people are already forgetting about the explosives it seems. The media is following the bouncing ball, probably because bin Laden is easier to report on than the explosives story, which actually takes effort. Oh well, the thing will probably be a wash anyway, since on one hand it will remind people of terrorism, but it will also remind people that Bush didn't manage to find bin Laden.
Given the number of acts that perform around the city every night, there seems to be little reason why there couldn't be live performances broadcast on the radio on a daily basis. Heck, even one hour a week would be better than what we have now (as far as I'm aware).
Now that I finally think about it, it amazes me how little the TV and radio stations around here do to foster community. There is no equivalent of the op-ed section found in the newspapers around here. The only performances by area groups that I'm aware of to be broadcast with any frequency are the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and St. Olaf's Christmas program. When was the last time an area play was on TV? Well, I guess TPT sometimes broadcasts stuff like that on channel 17, but it's not something I see often. I'm not even sure if stations around here broadcast community calendars anymore. It's been a while since I last saw one (though I suppose they were mostly announced in the after-school hours, at which time I'm usually working).
Radio doesn't seem to be much different. About the best you get for community involvement is when KS95 does their afternoon “is there anybody who…?” call-in routine. But jeez, what does someone's story about being run over by a lawnmower tell me about the people who live around here? Occasionally a group will do a recording locally, but I think the stations are too concerned with trying to get big acts rather than finding a group that can simply put on a good show.
Well, I suppose some people would rather not have their play or performance broadcast so that people wouldn't have to pay for it, but I'm sure a lot of groups would jump at the chance. Broadcasts wouldn't necessarily have to be live—heck there are disadvantages to that like working around annoying people standing in front of cameras, or blurting out swear words during an audio recording, or the simple act of touching up technical issues and cutting out empty pauses where someone has to reload their sampler.
Of course, I'm hardly one to talk, since I can beat out just about everyone when it comes to lack of experience seeing shows and other community involvement.
I went to the FCC forum on media consolidation last night. I stayed until about 11:30 PM, at which point I figured I'd better catch the bus home. I did get a chance to speak, but I forgot one important point. What I did say amounted to this:
Anyawy, the point I forgot to make related to the sale of WCAL, and is something I've mentioned here before. The station was sold to Minnesota Public Radio. The other bid that St. Olaf received for the station came from EMF Broadcasting, owners of the K-LOVE and Air-1 Christian networks. While I think MPR is big enough, allowing one of those other networks to gain a 100kW station would have riled up far more people.
It was interesting to see how people at the meeting saw MPR, since it is partially funded by the Greenspring Company, which takes profits from the KLBB radio station and by publishing Minnesota Monthly. This money is filtered up through the American Public Media Group, then back down to MPR. In some ways it is innovative; in others, creepy. The folks at last night's event apparently felt that it meant that MPR could do things without being held accountable to their members. I think that's only partially true—MPR couldn't survive without them. Could MPR be more responsive to them? I imagine so.
Most of the people at the meeting represented a slice of about five or six percent of the listening public (by my really rough estimate, they represented listeners of KFAI, KUOM, WCAL, and maybe some others, which works out to ~150,000 people in a region with 2,500,000 listeners).
Well, fortunately, it wasn't quite as crazy as I'd been expecting. There was less talk of WCAL than I expected, at least at first. It seemed to pop up more often as the night wore on. There were some other interesting topics brought up. Public access cable channels are apparently being bought in some markets. KQRS actually did a relatively nice thing, though at midnight to 2 AM. Oh, and Mental Engineering is making a comeback, apparently.
There have been two post-event articles in the local papers so far. Kind of disturbing in their quality level, though. Jonathan Adelstein's name was spelled “Edelstein” by the Strib, which also misspelled Michael Copps's last name as “Capps.” The Pioneer Press spelled it “Kopps.”
Unfortunately, the meeting won't have a direct effect, but it was put in the public record. Previous similar events were credited with causing courts to reverse an FCC decision made last year. Now I just need to refine my ideas and put them into some comments regarding the upcoming renewal of radio licenses in Minnesota.
MPR announced WCAL's new format and the call letters the station will start using in January: KCMP. The station's program director will be Steve Nelson, who reportedly helped create Radio K back in '93. He might still have a close affiliation with that station, though he had been working at MPR recently. They also moved a guy from MPR's distribution arm over to be music director: Thorn Skroch, previously of Rev 105 back in the '90s (I guess Nelson worked there too). If you haven't figured it out by now, the station will pretty much be what many observers expected: a mixture of everything.
MPR has set up a weblog for comments on the format. A few people are concerned that the station will stomp on the toes of KFAI, Radio K, and other community outlets. Hopefully there will be some differentiation, though KCMP will have a definite advantage over the community stations since they have a 100kW transmitter, just like the big boys of commercial radio (even though it's located in/near Northfield, which is on the southern edge of the metro area). I'm glad they have a repeater in Rochester, though. Then I'll be able to listen to it when I visit home ;-)
The Strib already has an article on the station and the call letters. KCMP apparently doesn't stand for anything, though it rhymes ("KCMP 89.3"). I suspect it'll be hard for the station to differentiate itself from “triple A” outlets around the country (and even around here), though Nelson has been calling it an “anti-format” station. So, KCMP is trying to be the new Rev (with more wattage than they ever had). I'm still excited. And no commercials! (Er, dramatically reduced from what you get on Clear Channel, Viacom, and Disney, anyway).
More hurricane ranting: Why was so much of the emphasis on evacuating people via helicopter? Well, maybe it's just unreported, but there should have also been fleets of boats going around to pull people off of rooftops and out of attics. There was a fleet at least for a while, though that was primarily from civilians. I haven't see any more video of them in the last few days. I imagine they ran low on fuel and/or were told/forced to leave the area.
Well, I suppose much of the problem comes down to an intelligence failure. But this one can't be blamed on the FBI or CIA. Troops with radios, maps, and supplies should have been dropped every few blocks in the city to scout the region and organize people who were there. I've seen very little evidence of military presence outside the relatively dry downtown area.
A command hierarchy had to be in place immediately. That didn't happen, and people still don't know who's in charge. Within 24–48 hours, the forces in the city were reportedly given the right to commandeer vehicles, and they should have done that more extensively.
It seems to me that U.S. military forces have become dependent upon CNN and the other news channels to provide them information. It's okay for them to sometimes learn something new that way, but it looks to me that the frequency of this has just reached an unacceptible level.
This looks a lot like the early days of the invasion of Iraq, where the military was trying to act as a "transformed" force where relatively autonomous units would be acting together. A lot of bad things happened there, with small convoys getting lost in hostile territory. Here, it simply sounds like there wasn't communication. Now, you can argue that troops shouldn't know the overall picture when they're in a war zone, but the exact opposite is needed when attempting to help the public. In the very least, mid-level commanders should be available as purveyors of information.
Well, much of this is just conjecture, but I want to remember at least a few of these things, since questions along these lines these should help determine what went wrong.
On the other side, I'm halfway impressed with the news coverage. However, I'll note that TV schedules for days after September 11th were all confused, since news was being covered all day long. That, of course, is because it happened in New York. This disaster is on a much broader scale, but is not at their back door.
Some of the talking heads in New York (er, and Atlanta) have been willing to accept the tragedy and see the flaws in the relief operations. Others have not. I can see that reporters/anchors such as Shepard Smith of Fox News and Tucker Carlson of MSNBC (formerly CNN) have been changed by what they saw. Both of them wanted to rip out the throats of some of the people they were paired with on the split screen.
For a while, Fox News Channel actually became watchable. However, I think this actual news coverage by people who could really see what was going on is going to be shortlived—on all channels. Heck, for the first two days or so, MSNBC's weird wonk Rita Cosby was in Aruba, still there for that silly Natalee Holloway story. Well, maybe the daytime coverage is different. Since I work during the day, I don't see Wolf Blitzer, so I don't know how he's doing...
Edit: ...And we're seeing government officials lie through their teeth, just like they've been doing for years. It's startling to see how good they are at it, and how accepting reporters are from time to time. If you go and put Michael Chertoff next to Tucker Carlson in the same room right now, only one of them would come out alive. Chertoff has said (I think in almost exactly the same wording across multiple networks), "This is really one which I think was breathtaking in its surprise." Uh huh.
But he says it so calmly that people are taken off guard and just accept it. You have to think about it for a moment before realizing the guy just told you somehting that is patently false. This has been the masterful Bush administration tactic—just say it with conviction, and people believe you. Even if the people listening know it's not true, it just has a deadening effect.
The east coast is seized in fear as invaders from the moon are discovered throughout the city of Boston! Massive mobilization of policemen and firemen causes havoc for everyday Bostonians! The city is shut down with highways and waterways cut off! Wicked scary! Two men are held accountable as a mayor promises swift retribution!
The '30s newsreel tone seemed appropriate since this seems like a rehashing of Orson Welles' old War of the Worlds radio play. Except for the three-week delayed reaction... (plus the fact that these guys are "Mooninites" from the moon rather than Mars ;-)
The Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla marketing idea was neat, and I'd think it was cool if I saw one of the little signs somewhere. Unfortunately, guerilla marketing is of limited value, since it tends to use inside jokes to sell to people who already know about something, or it simply attempts to grab headlines. I think of the blimp that was floating around downtown Minneapolis a year or two ago with an obscure message. It turned out to be advertising the launch of an evening newscast on KMSP channel 9. Whee... How exciting...
There are regulations about various types of advertising, and this probably violated something. As for the terrorism bent to the story, the Boston officials just need to accept the fact that they overreacted. They want someone to pay for their mistake. Sure, the company that was doing the marketing should probably get fined for illegal placement of advertising materials, but I don't think the two employees who they put in jail should take most of the blame.
I'll have to count the number of times that this gets called a "bomb hoax" in the media from this point on, since that's not what it is. Actually, there'd been another campaign in the Los Angeles area for Mission: Impossible III last year which was much closer to being a bomb hoax, with electronic devices being placed inside newspaper stands which had microswitches linked to the box's door. It was meant to play the Mission: Impossible theme when the newspaper box was opened. The bomb squad got called out and did a controlled explosion on one of them.
But hidden black boxes with microswitches is one thing. Flashing Lite-Brite panels with a character easily identifiable to anyone who has cable TV and the occasional case of insomnia is something different.
The marketing folks should have notified the city of the boxes before they went up, but they didn't (well, at least I haven't heard that they did). Of course, it's 90% likely the city would either deny the request to put them up, or the marketers would have to wade through nine months of red tape to do it. I'm sure most people who saw them figured they were advertising gimmicks or discarded toys. I can't blame the person who eventually called it in, since it would definitely look weird to some people. Heck, it's a cartoon giving the middle finger—not something that a Boston urbanite should be surprised to see, considering graffiti and all, but I can understand the worry.
However, the reactions of city officials once the call got placed into the 911 operator and worked its way up the chain just caused things to go haywire. Someone should have been able to defuse the human side of the equation before the bomb squad got called in.
RRR! I'm annoyed at the way the Aqua Teen story in Boston has been getting reported over the last few days. Most of the reporting is leaning heavily in favor of the authorities, which is really annoying. There's usually a token blurb of someone saying "the city overreacted," but then that gets shouted down by the rest of the article with three or five references to officials saying otherwise. I want to go on a rant about the "mainstream media," but you've heard that all before...
Of course, it doesn't help that Turner is kowtowing to the city by promising to make some sort of payment. Sure, maybe give the city $10–25k as a token gesture—something that would cover the initial police response—but a million bucks? Come on! The police figured out that the boxes were harmless by early afternoon, but the city kept going on its witch hunt for hours after that.
Well, the legal case against the guys who put up the signs is pretty weak, so hopefully the case will get laughed out of court if the charges don't get dropped outright.
One last thing:
Huh, never knew about that.
Did anyone else have an image of Dr. Evil, that other villain to have a moon base, pop into their minds when they read that? I did. It's a gross overpayment: $1 million to reimburse cities for the activities of police and other agencies last Wednesday, and another million in "goodwill funds" for emergency preparedness.
You've got to be kidding me.
The Massachusetts Attorney General is still negotiating with lawyers for Peter Berdovksy and Sean Stevens. But really, when you get two and a half times the cost of the response back into your coffers, the guys should really be getting off scott-free with clean records.