Now This Log
day permlink Thursday, 3 September 2009

permlink Moving day

As of September 2009, this weblog has moved to the top level of the site.

Please update your bookmarks, if anyone still has one...

permlink   Meta

day permlink Friday, 5 December 2008

permlink Music; Perl

Oh my -- Suzanne Vega is blogging, along with several other artists, at a NYTimes weblog called Measure for Measure. How excellent.

2008 Grammy nominees are out! Great place to look for (likely) good music you've never heard of.

They Might Be Giants got a nod for their fun kids album Here Come the 123s.

Was not aware until I went through the list that Lewis Black has a new album (Anticipation), nor that Gwyneth Paltrow did a recording of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (and its sister books), which is one of Marcus' favorites.

For software folk: * 2008 Perl Advent Calendar * 2008 Catalyst Advent Calendar * Day 3: Sparklines in Perl!

I do not know what crazy person thought November was a good month to try and write something every day (NaNoWriMo nuts, I salute you). Holidays? Hello?

Suffice it to say that NaBloPoMo for me was a failure. But it was at least a useful one -- I did post more in November than in any other month for a long long time.

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day permlink Thursday, 20 November 2008

permlink ...

A man who is always asking 'Is what I do worthwhile?' and 'Am I the right person to do it?' will always be ineffective himself and a discouragement to others.
-- Mathematician G. H. Hardy, via Aaron Swartz

A Neil Gaiman interview [PublishersWeekly] on the occasion of Sandman's 20th anniversary:

Were there any Sandman stories Gaiman never got to tell? “God, yes,” he replied. There was one about the dreams of an unborn fetus, which Gaiman decided not to do, fearing it would be misused by opponents of abortion. He “would still love to do” a miniseries about Delirium, as well as Sandman Zero, the tale of the great battle that preceded the Sandman’s imprisonment in issue one.

Gene Weingarten (a sometimes funny humor columnist for the Post) on Twitter:

Brevity . . . is the soul of twit [WPost]

Once I joined, though, I discovered I was wrong. Twitter is not at all like a gathering of fops. It is more like a gathering of fourth-graders at Ashley's birthday party after way too much sugar has been consumed.

...a Berkeley grad student sent out a one-word tweet to his network of friends -- "arrested" -- as he was being hustled to jail in Egypt for photographing an anti-government protest. Friends alerted college officials, whose pressure led to the student's release. Also, reports from West Coast Twits apparently beat the Associated Press by nine minutes in reporting the most recent earthquake. But defining Twitter by those lofty milestones is like defining "dog" as a "mineshaft rescue engineer."

To test the idea that you can communicate any kind of complex meaning in 140 characters, he applied Twitter's limit to the Gettysburg address:

87 years ago, our dads made us free. Yay! Still want free, but hard! Fighting, dying, burying! Need more fight tho, so dead be happy.

Okay, twits, you win. Not much lost at all.

I thought of his column again today when I saw @brentsimmons sum up Jabberwocky:

Carroll rendered into Twitter House Style: Beware the Jabberwock, my son! He smells of half-chewed children and regret. Plus he’s stabby.

Why the Drudge Report is one of the best designed sites on the web [37signals] - I suppose.

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day permlink Thursday, 13 November 2008

permlink etc.

Some tech links I don't want to lose:

Can't really improve on Andrew Sullivan's sum-up of this:

The Reddest State
So red that schoolkids chant "Assassinate Obama!" on the school bus.

Really like this quote from someone I don't know who used my I Voted button.. it's in the context of a writing workshop where everyone was given the same beginning sentences:

Sexual Tension - it's not the sex [Terry Odell]

...the fun came as everyone shared their brief paragraphs, because no two people wrote the same basic follow up. This goes back to each of us having a unique voice. Some went with the romantic liaison, some with the woman seducing the man, others with her being captive. Or accepting a dare to appear in his chamber. Even given the same plot, we'd all write different books – but that's a digression.

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day permlink Wednesday, 12 November 2008

permlink this, that

Rumors only so far, and a couple of pictures, but apparently there's going to be a new First Car for the 44th President:

Presidential Power on the Road [NYTimes]

...television clips showing George W. Bush entering and exiting the rear doors of his limos indicate that the windows are at least 5 inches thick, nearly twice the depth of what was used on presidential limousines in the 1980s and ’90s.

...Large steel overlaps are also typically added to the body openings of armored autos to deter attackers who might try shooting through the door gaps.

...Aircraft tie-downs welded to the chassis allow the limousine to be transported aboard a military cargo jet, which also often carries the Secret Service’s Suburban escort vehicles and at least one limo used as a backup or decoy.

(Still not 100% convinced that A) the election is over and B) Obama won. My current thought is that I'm in a weird dream state. Or a coma.)

I did not know ... there's an asphalt shortage.

Asphalt shortage delays road repairs nationwide [AP/SeattlePI via GirlHacker]

Asphalt is becoming scarce as U.S. refiners overhaul their equipment to maximize output of highly profitable fuels such as diesel and gasoline, using inexpensive - and hard to process - crude oil.

...Dozens of road repairs were delayed last summer and municipalities around the country may face another shortfall next summer. Road-maintenance projects that have gone forward cost significantly more as the price of asphalt nearly tripled over the past year.

...[Some] municipalities are taking a second look at concrete, which for years was more expensive.

I would have thought the drop in oil prices would help out with it, but apparently not.

Handing out your twitter login & password to a stranger, even if they make nice-sounding noises about how they won't use it, really, cross their fingers, seems like a bad bad idea.

Gullible Twitter users hand over their usernames and passwords - did you get your Twitterank yet?! [ZDNet]

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day permlink Monday, 10 November 2008

permlink I did not know...

...that olive oil is regularly faked:

Slippery Business: The trade in adulterated olive oil [New Yorker] by Tom Mueller, via Flutterby

The investigators also discovered where Ribatti’s adulterated [seed+hazelnut] oil had gone: to some of the largest producers of Italian olive oil, among them Nestlé, Unilever, Bertolli, and Oleifici Fasanesi, who sold it to consumers as olive oil, and collected about twelve million dollars in E.U. subsidies intended to support the olive-oil industry. (These companies claimed that they had been swindled by Ribatti, and prosecutors were unable to prove complicity on their part.)

In 1997 and 1998, olive oil was the most adulterated agricultural product in the European Union, prompting the E.U.’s anti-fraud office to establish an olive-oil task force. (“Profits were comparable to cocaine trafficking, with none of the risks,” one investigator told me.)

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day permlink Sunday, 9 November 2008

permlink A bit of funny

Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job [The Onion]

As part of his duties, the black man will have to spend four to eight years cleaning up the messes other people left behind. The job comes with such intense scrutiny and so certain a guarantee of failure that only one other person even bothered applying for it. Said scholar and activist Mark L. Denton, "It just goes to show you that, in this country, a black man still can't catch a break."

Nation Finally Shitty Enough To Make Social Progress [The Onion]

[There are] already signs of the radicalism McCain and Palin warned the country about. [TPM] you can see, not only has the president been demoted to a position under the constitution. But the vice-president (as shown by the red arrow) has had his own fourth branch revoked and been reassigned to the executive branch.

Also, from September, but still relevant (both via Ritholtz, I think):

Tom Toles, 9/18/2008 RJ Matson, 9/19/2008

I missed a day! Oh noes. Will make 2 Sunday posts to catch up..

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day permlink Friday, 7 November 2008

permlink Other weblogs

If I wrote a political weblog, it would look a lot like what Steve Benen (at Washington Monthly; formerly of The Carpetbagger Report) writes. More often than not, if I think of a point I'd like to make about the topic of the day, I go read him and he's made it.

Except unlike me, he posts about a dozen times a day and covers a multitude of topics.

So you should check him out.

(Kind of freaky about the whole "Steve B." thing, I have to say.)

Another weblog you should visit regularly is The Big Picture by Barry Ritholtz. He knows a great deal about the financial sector and is good at explaining things.

He also has a finely tuned BS detector, which is a key thing to hone these days.

If you find yourself wondering why the markets are doing whatever they're doing, or whether the financial crisis or the housing slump is over like the TV people keep claiming, visit The Big Picture.

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day permlink Thursday, 6 November 2008

permlink Miscellany

No time to write a longer post..

Critic John Leonard has died, at 69. Damn.

I lost touch with his work over the last few years, but I've been a fan. He had a distinctive point of view, a vast store of knowledge, an unusual way with words and a wonderful cadence to his reviews on CBS Sunday Morning.

Here's an attempt I made once at conveying his spoken rhythms in text.

I recently bought an iPod Touch, because I was itching to get an iPhone.

The Touch costs $229, once, versus a couple of thousand dollars for an iPhone over the two years of your contract.

I'm very very happy with it, for reading feeds, following Twitter, following baseball, and much more; if you spend much of your day with access to wifi, it's frankly just as good as an iPhone.

With this, my 6th post in 6 days, I will note that I'm trying for NaBloPoMo - a post every day for the entire month. (I wasn't going to bother mentioning it until I could demonstrate some actual activity.)

Wish me luck.

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day permlink Wednesday, 5 November 2008

permlink Scenes from the election

Mark Penn, strategist/poller for Hillary Clinton, back during the primaries:

"All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light.

Save it for 2050."

James Wolcott, Vanity Fair

It amazes me how commentators, especially conservative commentators, can argue that (a) Obama is a socialistic avatar and a radical redistributionist and yet (b) that his election doesn't mean that the voters have been pulled to the left or bestowed a liberal mandate—that the U.S. is still (this week's reigning buzzphrase) "a center-right country."

The Poor Man:

...once you’ve made a narrative choice, you do have to stick with it - you can’t just keep bouncing around, or people become confused. If you are telling the story of a scary vampire, you can’t decide in chapter 2 that he’s also 500 feet tall and radioactive and bent on destroying Tokyo, in chapter 3 that he is actually a giant man-eating shark, and in chapter 4 that he is all this and a super-terrorist trying to plant a nuclear bomb in Los Angeles. All of these things are, indeed, scary, but taken together they add up to a muddle.

...It’s not just the McCain campaign’s problem ... it’s a problem for the entire wingnut noise machine. Obama is a Marxist Muslim Arab Jesus Black White Terrorist Technocrat Racist Do-Gooder Liberal FDR Stalin Hilter Commie Fascist Gay Womanizing Naive Cynical Insider Noob Boring Radical Unaccomplished Elite Slick Gaffe-Prone Pedophile Pedophile-Seducing Liberation Theology Atheist Etc. & Anti-Etc. with a bunch of scary friends from - wait for it! - the Nineteen Hundred And Sixties. It makes no sense. It’s a jumble sale of fears and scary associations from 50 years of wingnut witch hunts and smear campaigns, a flea market of pre-owned and antique resentments, and if one does detect a semi-consistent 1960’s motif running through it all, that’s because that’s when most of these ideas were coined.

Hilzoy, blogger @ Washington Monthly:

After eight years of assault on our Constitution, we have elected a President who teaches Constitutional law. I cannot express what this means to me.

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day permlink Tuesday, 4 November 2008

permlink Election night thread

Since Rafe isn't doing one, I will try it out..


day permlink Monday, 3 November 2008

permlink "I Voted" buttons

Just a reminder, anyone who wants to is welcome to use one of these voting button images. It's easy, all you have to do is use one of these image tags in a post.

Bigger: <img src="" align="left" width="154" height="154" hspace="4" vspace="4" border="0" />

Smaller: <img src="" align="right" width="96" height="96" hspace="4" vspace="4" border="0" />

(These two are the most popular; follow the link for more, including high-resolution printable versions.)

Just change the align="right" to left (or vice versa) to taste.

(I've decided that I'm OK with other people loading the image directly from I'm not a heavy-bandwidth user normally, so I don't expect it'll go anywhere near my limit.)

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day permlink Sunday, 2 November 2008

permlink Making Everyone Dumber; Reformed Maverick

This election article (from July) jumped with both feet into the category I call "Making Everyone Dumber":

obama-smith-mccain-wayne-photo.jpg Leading Men: Barack Obama and John McCain Want the Biggest Role in Politics, Yet Each Candidate Has Very Different Star Qualities to Offer by Stephen Hunter [WPost]

It's not hard to see Sen. John McCain calling the young, fresh-faced Sen. Barack Obama a "blankethead," [as John Wayne did] just as it's easy to imagine Obama interrupting his opponent in a debate with a hectoring, "Hey, old guy." [like Will Smith in Men in Black]

It is? Really? I didn't see any Obama debate performance in the primary (or since) that would make that easy to imagine. Is it easy to imagine just because Will Smith is black too?

You might consider it a lobbying effort not to win an election but to get a starring role in "The Next Four Years."

Or, one might not. One might be a movie reviewer trying really hard to shoehorn a political subject into one's area of expertise. And one might come up with nothing the least bit illuminating or useful in several hundred words.

Even looking at the picture which accompanied it in the print edition (above) can start to make you dumber... Associating Presidential candidates with superficially similar movie stars ("Yes, Will Smith is black too!") and then pretending the movie stars' qualities give you insight into the candidates is really... useless.


...practically designed to give results with little relation to reality.

What was the point of this article? What value did it add, to anyone?

The Post has pushed more than a few of these idiot articles over the campaign, often (but not always) in its "Style" section, famed home of fashion critiques of public figures. (Why such things are deemed worth printing: a mystery.)

Here's another, also from July:

'The One'? Take a Number, Sen. Obama by David Montgomery [WPost]

Wags in John McCain's camp reportedly have taken to referring to Barack Obama as "the One."

At least it's upfront about its source. It takes a weird claim which the McCain camp made up and trumpeted but which Obama does not himself make, then proceeds to both make fun of and scold Obama for not living up to the claim. Is this any way to run a newspaper?

Next, Obama's going to don a full-length black coat, like Keanu Reeves's Neo in the 1999 film, and start jumping really high in the process of saving mankind.

Uh... he is?

At this point I am now dumber for having read this article.

To pad the word count, it gets all Joseph Campbell on us, tells about the journey a "One" usually takes, and throws in several lines from The Matrix. Just because, I guess.

For good measure, the Obama headline is paired with pictures of: Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker, Keanu/Neo and Roger Daltrey as Tommy (??!).

Why this article was printed -- aside from giving free amplification to a nonsensical political attack -- is difficult to understand.

Thankfully I've stopped being exposed to much of this deeply stupid writing lately because we recently canceled delivery of the daily Washington Post (we still get Sundays).

If you feel you must associate a candidate with an actor, you really ought to work at it hard enough that you can draw more parallels than the most obvious & superficial. (Will Smith!)

The Daily Show did a more thorough job of matching John McCain's career with... Marlon Brando's.

John McCain: Reformed Maverick

When I saw this in September, the closing footage was really striking.

I remembered the 2000-era McCain somewhat favorably. He seemed to have at least some principles I could appreciate.

But he's pretty systematically dismembered that version of himself since then. See Steve Benen's list of McCain's position-switches in the last few years (currently holding at 76), almost all toward the right wing of the party.

I had read plenty of coverage of his reversals, but the clips the Daily Show used to contrast then (1999-2004) & now really brought it home to me.

He's really not the same guy at all.

If you were everything you say
things would be different today
-- Aimee Mann, "Say Anything", "Whatever"
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day permlink Saturday, 1 November 2008

permlink Tricking Voters

Virginia Republicans down in Richmond got balls:

Phony flier says Virginians vote on different days [Virginian Pilot Online, via TPMMuckraker]

A phony State Board of Elections flier advising Republicans to vote on Nov. 4 and Democrats on Nov. 5 is being circulated in several Hampton Roads localities, according to state elections officials.

In fact, Election Day, for voters of all political stripes, remains Nov. 4.

This part's nice:

In 2007, the General Assembly passed a law making it a Class 1 misdemeanor to knowingly communicate false information to registered voters about the date, time and place of the election or voters' precincts, polling places or voter registration statuses in order to impede their voting. The measure is one of the few such deceptive voting practice laws in the country, according to the watchdog group Common Cause.

Two seconds of thinking should lead people to wonder about several things:

  • Wait, don't we use a secret ballot?

    • And if we go on a different day based on the party we're voting for, that gives it away!
      • That doesn't make sense..
  • What if I want to split a ticket?

    • Do I have to vote at midnight, or something?
      • That doesn't make sense..
    • Are we not allowed to split tickets any more?
      • That doesn't make sense..

And of course, once you start suspecting it's bogus:

  • Funny how it's always the likely-Democratic voters who are told to come in after it's all over.
    • That makes a certain kind of sense.

But of course, lots of people just won't think that hard about it.

That's one reason I'm glad voting is always on the same weekday every time; makes it less likely someone can be fooled with "No, really ma'am, it's on Thursday this time."



Candorville (a Sunday comic here in the Post) replayed some well-worn anti-voter tricks last weekend (and look, this is the very first one!):

Candorville: Voting's Dangerous!
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