Archive for August, 2008

Twitter Updates for 2008-08-22

  • @tejananda Tripping, eh? I liked some Schnauss. Also b fleischmann. Are you into St Etienne? #
  • @tejananda I meant *St Germain*! #
  • @freebuddhist 1/2of them are accidental. Teething troubles! #
Posted at 11pm on Aug 22, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Apropos of nothing

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow

Little Brother Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is “young adult fiction” which I read on my iPod (in bed, under the covers!).

A rebellious young kid in San Francisco is indiscriminately swept up and badly mistreated by Homeland Security after a major terrorist attack, and then witnesses increasing government control and surveillance, and the “disappearing” of dissenters. He decides to help take back America by using his hacking skills to organize a campaign of civil disobedience. One teen (and his friends) against the DHS.

The premise is all too believable and should be a cautionary tale about the direction the US is headed in. The writing, in common with much sci-fi, tends to be rather didactic, with over-long descriptions of the hacking techniques used, but on the whole Little Brother is a gripping …

Posted at 8pm on Aug 22, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Apropos of nothing

McCain’s free pass

John McCain apparently has a special nay, magic, free pass that means he can do anything he wants and it simply doesn’t count against him — at least if you’re a Republican. See if you can figure out what it is from the following examples:


COLMES: Excuse me Sean. You’ve had your chance to speak, I’m up. John McCain cheated on his wife, right. Amanda? So how do we trust John McCain? He cheated on his wife, why do you have a double standard and John McCain’s running for President? John Edwards is not. John McCain’s wife was in a car accident. John McCain’s running for President, what about his affair?

HANNITY: After five and a half years in a POW camp.


“This is a guy who lived in one house for five and a half years — in prison.”
– McCain spokesman Brian Rogers, on McCain not knowing how

Posted at 7am on Aug 22, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics

Twitter Updates for 2008-08-21

  • Damn. My new tool for converting blog posts into tweets fires off if I simply open and save an old post. #
  • Installed a cool tool on Wildmind last night for people to email and bookmark pages. The last version I used slowed down the site too much. #
  • @dharmarascal Pandora’s awesome, especially being able to browse other people’s radio stations. Word is that it may be doomed too. #
  • @freebuddhist Music’s full of surprises. I’ve found lots of artists I’d never heard of or only knew by name. And as for other ppl’s music… #
Posted at 11pm on Aug 21, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Apropos of nothing

The Dawn by DJ Krush

This and the two three posts immediately preceding it (now deleted) were an experiment to directly import from Pandora, using their RSS feed, a list of songs that I’d “favorited.” The experiment wasn’t entirely successful because there’s no explanation of what this information represents (although there is a link to the song on, and because I’d naively hoped for a digest rather than a post for every song. Ah well, we live and learn. Next I’ll be playing with a plugin that displays some sort of Pandora info in my sidebar.

The Dawn by DJ Krush from the album Kakusei

More: continued here

Posted at 12pm on Aug 21, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Music

McCain unsure how many houses he owns –

McCain unsure how many houses he owns – Jonathan Martin and Mike Allen –

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said in an interview Wednesday that he was uncertain how many houses he and his wife, Cindy, own.

“I think — I’ll have my staff get to you.”

Posted at 10am on Aug 21, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics

Real life as a Role Playing Game

Following on the heels of Ikea as a fully immersive, 3D environmental adventure that allows you to role-play the character of someone who gives a shit about home furnishings comes the notion of Weightwatchers as a Dungeons and Dragons-style Role Playing Game:

As with an RPG, you roll a virtual character, manage your inventory and resources, and try to achieve a goal. Weight Watchers’ points function precisely like hit points; each bite of food does damage until you’ve used up your daily amount, so you sleep and start all over again. Play well and you level up — by losing weight! And the more you play it, the more you discover interesting combinations of the rules that aren’t apparent at first. Hey, if I eat a fruit-granola breakfast and an egg-and-romaine lunch, I’ll have enough points to survive a greasy hamburger dinner for a treat!

Even the Weight Watchers web

Posted at 9am on Aug 21, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Apropos of nothing

Twitter Updates for 2008-08-20

  • Joined goodreads, even though I barely have time to read books. #
  • Set up my blog so that it automatically pulls my reviews from goodreads and turns them into posts. Those then turn into tweets. Cool! #
  • The new book is going well. It’s easy to get stuck in the research bardo. #

Powered by Twitter Tools.

Posted at 11pm on Aug 20, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Apropos of nothing

Thank heavens for little loopholes

Hey, so a woman has found a loophole that allows her the right to ask a judge and jury to decide whether her inclusion on the no-fly list violates her rights.

A federal judge in San Francisco had dismissed the suit, citing a law that requires all challenges to TSA orders to be filed directly in an appeals court, with no right to present evidence or convene a jury. But the appeals court majority, led by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, said the no-fly list, though maintained by the TSA, is actually compiled by a branch of the FBI, which can be sued in a trial court like most other federal agencies.

Let’s take a look at that again: “with no right to present evidence or convene a jury.”

Why this half-hearted approach to violating civil rights and demolishing the constitution? Why not just hold military tribunals and have done with it?

SF Chronicle

Posted at 7am on Aug 20, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics

The logic of “enhanced interrogation”

A brilliantly logical piece in The Atlantic by Andrew Sullivan.

According to the logic that follows from the Bush administration’s claim that the “enhanced interrogation” techniques they use do not constitute torture:

No war crimes were committed against McCain. And the techniques used are, according to the president, tools to extract accurate information. And so the false confessions that McCain was forced to make were, according to the logic of the Bush administration, as accurate as the “intelligence” we have procured from “interrogating” terror suspects.

The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Posted at 6am on Aug 20, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics, Religion & Society

The Road

The Road

This was only my second Cormac McCarthy novel — I’d read and loved All the Pretty Horses some years ago. The Road is a splendid example of post-apocalyptic fiction (I almost said science fiction, but to many people that term is offputting) and could be described as "A Boy and His Dog" meets "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" meets The Odyssey.An unnamed man and his son are heading south through a landscape devastated by a nuclear winter, in which nothing lives except for wary survivors, and in which there is nothing to eat but increasingly rare scavenged canned goods — and of course other wary survivors.Some walk alone, others in small groups. Some have formed cannibalistic groups. All are heading south because there’s no other option….

Posted at 7pm on Aug 19, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Books

Wordless Wednesday, Aug 20, 2008

David Wallace

My great grandfather, David Wallace, born 1860.

Posted at 7am on Aug 19, 2008 | 17 comments
Filed Under: Wordless Wednesday

We’re doomed (Part 61)

The bad news is that the US public continues to wallow in TV-induced ignorance, as revealed by the latest Pew Survey on News Consumption:

The prime minister of Great Britain is not well known among the (US) public. Just more than a quarter (28 percent) can correctly identify Gordon Brown as the leader of Great Britain.

The good news is that those who watch fake TV news such as “The Daily Show ” and “The Colbert Report” (i.e. primarily young people) are more knowledgeable about current events than watchers of “real” cable news shows hosted by Lou Dobbs, Bill O’Reilly and Larry King, etc.

Comedy of Errors

Gordon Brown has only been Prime Minister for a year or so, so perhaps some ignorance is justified on that count. On the other hand I’ve twice taken letters addressed to some town or other in the “UK” to post offices here in the US …

Posted at 6am on Aug 19, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Apropos of nothing

Buddhists battle residents over temple development

There is much to enjoy in this account from Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald.

A resident of Wedderburn, Beatrice Alderden, has lodged with Campbelltown City Council her opposition to the Da Bao Monastery’s plans to expand its four-bedroom meditation retreat in O’Hares Road.

“It will really disturb our neighbours,” Mrs Alderden said yesterday. “It’s going to take away our peace, harmony, tranquillity and privacy.”

Buddhists battle residents over temple development – National –

Posted at 6pm on Aug 18, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Religion & Society

Creative captcha

“Captcha” images are those distorted words that you have to read and type into a form in the web in order to prove you’re a human being and not an automated “bot” working for a spammer.

I’d read before about computer-science professor Luis von Ahn’s work in harnessing the power of captcha images but it had slipped my mind (too much reading, not enough time spent reflecting).

But in essence what an article in today’s Boston Globe explains is that old scanned texts are filled with words that are, to a computer, unreadable but which, to a human, are more easily decipherable. You’ll have noticed this if you’ve ever used a scanner to perform Optical Character recognition – a “d” may well be read as “c l” for example, if the printed text is at all faded. So, von Ahn figured out that unscannable words from older texts that are …

Posted at 7am on Aug 17, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Technolust

The anatomy of the creative personality

I highly recommend this 1996 Psychology Today article by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the topic of the creative personality, in which he identifies “10 antithetical traits often present in creative people that are integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.”

  1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest.
  2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.
  3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
  4. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality.
  5. Creative people trend to be both extroverted and introverted. We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show.
  6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time.
  7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping.
  8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative.
  9. Most

Posted at 5am on Aug 17, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Meditation & practice

Malcontents Need Not Apply

Hilariously Kafkaesque posting from Nick Kristof today in “Malcontents Need Not Apply” in the NYT, in which he explains the workings of Beijing’s new system whereby those intending to hold protests must apply to Public Security. As Kristof points out, this saves a lot of time: where once the police had to hunt down dissenters, now they can simply arrest them when they turn up for an application form. Except that it’s not as simple as filling in a form:

Three police officers sat across from me, and the police videographer continued to film us from every angle. The officers were all cordial and professional, although one seemed to be daydreaming about pulling out my fingernails.

Then they spent nearly an hour going over the myriad rules for demonstrations. These were detailed and complex, and, most daunting, I would have to submit a list of every single person attending

Posted at 5am on Aug 17, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics

Jackson Browne versus McCain

jackson Browne is suing the McCain campaign because they illegally used his song “Running On Empty” without permission on an ad. The ad itself was a deliberate distortion of Obama’s perfectly accurate point that properly inflating our tires would save more oil than could be gained from McCain’s proposed policy of offshore drilling. McCain’s campaign was suggesting that a tire gauge was the sum total Obama’s energy policy, when in fact it was an illustration of the absurdity of McCain’s energy policy.

Browne, a lifelong Democrat, is seeking unspecified damages as well as a permanent injunction prohibiting the use of “Running on Empty” in any form by the McCain campaign.

So we have a deliberately deceptive ad, accompanied by stolen music. Way to go, John McCain!

Posted at 6pm on Aug 15, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics

Counternotions blog

Here’s a blog worth looking at if you’re interested in things techie and designy looked at from a thoughtful perspective: Countersigns.

There’s a very interesting post, for example, on why Apple doesn’t do “concept products” (you know, like those space-age cars that will never go into commercial production). Hint: “Real artists ship.”

There’s another good post taking Verizon’s CEO to task for having a business strategy that consists of hoping that Steve Jobs will “just go away” (he’s had a bout with cancer).

Posted at 7am on Aug 15, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Technolust

Approval Ratings: The Public v. McCain

This video really blows apart the myth of John McCain as a “maverick.”

Posted at 6pm on Aug 14, 2008 | no comments
Filed Under: Politics

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