Friday, April 27, 2007

Global Warming Solved, If Only Congress Will Act (snort)

El Reg does it again. As you can clearly see, it's all Congress's fault for extending DST by an hour. But I gently want to point out to the Democrat Gazette editors that the headline s/b "Daylight exacerbates warming. With an "M".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You Go Jane!

Jane Smiley in Huff Post [emphasis added by moi]:

Sometimes, journalists portray Bush as recognizably human. Even I ended up, after that Tipp City article, thinking that there must be some mistake here -- maybe it would be enough just to get rid of the guy.

But no, blithering or not, we have to investigate, impeach, indict, and imprison. If we don't, the right wing corporate ubermenschen will be back with a bigger plan, a cannier mode of attack. We cannot allow the sorts of things Bush has done to remain a part of the political landscape, to remain options in the political game -- it's not just that they are unworthy of Americans, it's that they transform American democracy in a profoundly cynical and destructive way into a tyranny. Bush has to be the example of what happens to Presidents, no matter what their excuse, when they forget who they are and whom they work for.

How To Close Down A Democracy

Naomi Wolf, writing in The Guardian, has a real chiller for American patriots. I think she's pushing it on a few of them, but her overall point is perfectly valid. It's not W himself that's the danger, it's the systematic erosion of democracy that has occurred under his watch. His "legacy" could be much more damaging even than endless war with the Islamic world. Sauce for the goose; Republicans should fear a system where Hilary can declare herself Führer every bit as much as Democrats should fear Emperor Giuliani.

Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.

They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Interesting Editorial on Alternative Energy Sources

Part of a dialog between experts; he touches on solar thermal, photovoltaic, nuclear, geothermal...

The Rush To Judgement

Here's a story about a high school student who spent twelve days in jail for phoning in a bomb threat. Which he never made -- the story points out that he's never had so much as a detention. The school officials and police arrested him based on caller-ID timestamps. What they'd forgotten was Daylight Savings Time. When the student protested his innocence, he says the principal responded: "Well, why should we believe you? You're a criminal. Criminals lie all the time."

Whoa! Did the Rapture already come and go?

See Bob Harris's post at This Modern World.

Don't Bother Your Pretty Little Heads, Ladies

I don't have the original for this, so it could be a hoax. But the nice little dumbed down pink search page for American Airlines is aimed specifically at you ladies. Nice to know they're hip to these liberated times.

AppForge, We Rather Liked Ye

Still breaking news at this point, but it does not look good for AppForge, makers of the very fine (Jolt-winning) Crossfire multiplatform mobile development development tools and VM.

What's known for sure is that AppForge's domain name now sends a browser to the Oracle main page (no explanations, no news about the company). And The Register, bless them, tried to call and got a recording.

Moving to somewhat less firm ground (could be a prank, but the likelihood is vanishingly small), a little Googlage turned up some forum entries, one of which pointed to the Hayes Financial Consulting website, containing eye-opening documents like:

I also unearthed a blog forum in which AppForge customers vent about having customers left dangling, unable to activate their applications on end users' PDAs.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Register: "Horny Teens Refrain From Abstinence; Billion-dollar sex education a total waste of time"

We knew that, but it's nice to see some actual data backing it up. Mathematica Policy Research surveyed a couple thousand teenagers to determine the effectiveness of abstinence education.

In a word: nil. (Graphs reprinted from the original report without permission, for heaven's sake go there and read it!)

Thank you, thank you, right-wing nutballs, for wasting ten years and around a billion bucks on this nonsense. Can we get back to fighting STDs and teen pregnancy now?

Register coverage; PDF of original report; Mathematica Research home page.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm Ready To Buy the Book, Too

An email from my excellent buddy Dennis said:

I have no idea if the book is any good, but I LOVE the website:



I did too.

You will too.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

OK, This Makes It Clear

I recall agonizing a month or two ago about how to vote in a McCain/Clinton matchup in 2008.

No longer.

I give McCain credit for guts in defending the war. Just not heart. Or brains. Not that Hilary's exactly wearing ruby slippers, mind you. Draft Feingold in 2008!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Quantum Effects in the Macro World?

Wired reports on a fascinating experiment in prospect:

Monday, April 09, 2007

From Wired: NASA Ames Engineers Launch Open-Source Effort

An interesting idea: Two twentysomething NASA engineers have a Second Life island set up to facilitate open-source projects. The article says the wishlist includes mission-planning and flight software.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Even More (And Better) Lake-Ice pics

What can I say, I was always a sucker for sunsets. If this be treasonably cliched, make the most of it!

Friday, April 06, 2007

More Ice Pix up on Thoughts Aloft

Cold, but fun!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Baby, It's Cold Outside

And win-dy! Wooh!

Took these coming in this morning.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Ah-OOO-GAH! Security Alert on Wi-Fi!

Well, we all knew "Wired Equivalent Privacy" was a rather baldfaced lie. But now 104-bit WEP can be cracked in just a minute or two's worth of capture time, and three seconds of subsequent processing.

A quick scan does not clue me as to how the 3 seconds of processing time (that on a 1.7 GHz single-core laptop) would scale as one moves from a 104-bit to a 128-bit key. If it goes up by a factor of 2^24, that's not so bad, almost a year and a half of compute time. Assuming linear parallelization and an eight-core, 3.4 GHz machine, a little over a month. But that's a long string of assumptions.

Guess it's time to go buy that WPA-capable router. Sure hope that's what our university IT Wi-Fi is using...but I bet it's not.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

3000 Readers of SFX Mag: Serenity Better Than Star Wars

The Register again; according to the poll, the top-ten sci-fi movies are:

  1. Serenity
  2. Star Wars
  3. Blade Runner
  4. Planet of the Apes
  5. The Matrix
  6. Alien
  7. Forbidden Planet
  8. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  9. The Terminator
  10. Back to the Future

George Monbiot on Environmental Impact of Biofuels

As we saw in Bill's excellent lecture series last year ("What Would Aldo Leopold Think Of Corn Ethanol?"), biofuels, which sounded so lovely, turn out to have worse impact on the planet than burning petroleum.

Sheesh. I have to admit that I bought the premise early on: Cycle carbon, don't dig it out of the ground! Only trouble is that to fuel our appetite for moving people and things around, we'd have to devote so much acreage to fuel production that we'd (a) starve and (b) lay waste to what remains of Earth's ecosystems.

We really need that hydrogen fusion, guys and gals. Or...conservation? Naaa!

El Reg Slams Alberto To The Mat

Ow, ow, ow. Or is that "go, go, go!"? As a preamble to a piece on a World Trade Organization ruling against the U.S., Burke Hansen led with this:
As Alberto Gonzalez, loyal Bushie par excellence, stares up at his own sword of Damocles, his record of mediocrity has sharpened into focus. Memos advocating what the civilized peoples of the world consider torture, a misplaced priority on public morals prosecutions at home, suspension of habeas corpus rights, FBI investigations run amok, politicization of the US Attorney’s Office – his failings as Attorney General are as numerous as they are dispiriting.

The Register, 3 Apr 2007

The full piece offers a disappointing amount of repetition (the word "moralistic", in particular, is ridden till lathered), but is worth a read for schadenfreude value alone. One wonders what kind of law practice Hansen has, and whether there is personal history here...or just a lawyer who happens to actually care about the rule of law. In the Gonzales era, that's more than enough.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Two Pranks I Missed at SD West

In honor of yesterday, two classic prank opportunities I missed at SD West last week:

The first was at the show party, where in the din of conversation and darkness, I made my way through the crowd wearing my Tilley Hat because I was cold. (It's not much of an insulator, but it's something over my Milwaukee-sized bald spot.) A random show attendee accosted me eagerly: "Hey, you're Scott Ambler, right?" (Note the hat--a Tilley T3--in the photo, which he is rarely seen without at the conference.)

Oh, the possibilities. I mean, I started reading Scott...geez, must've been sometime the previous century. So I figured I could sound reasonably glib. I could have sold this guy anything from an earnest defense of the waterfall development model (inspired, of course, by Scott's wonderful waterfall2006 April Fool website, so it would be fair turnabout) on to a firm dictum to concentrate on your tools first, worry about the project later. But I restrained myself. I think the reason had less to do with decency than with the realization that I couldn't come up with anything funny enough to do homage to Ambler's wicked sense of humor. Not to mention that said sense of humor is a weapon I'd just as soon not see pointed my way...

Then there was the fellow from stpSoft who gushed about my wonderful posting about (mumble). Did he say "blog entry?" Wait, there was something about the Jolts in there; how the hell did he get access to private inter-judge commentary?!! And WHAT product is he talking about? So there was a priceless Inspector Clouseau conversational fumble, mutually genial but completely clueless. It wasn't until he wished me a safe trip back to Hawaii, by way of farewell, that the light dawned -- I had just missed an opportunity to masquerade as Larry O'Brien, too! It was he who raved about Storyboarding in his blog (after it won a Jolt, but in a category I didn't judge...oh yeah, it's all coming together now).

Neither Scott nor Larry looks anything like me (for which I trust they are duly thankful to a generous God), so what was with these guys at the conference? Must be that palpable aura of erudition and programming brilliance. I'm sure that was it.

Maybe I'm Glad I Didn't Jump Into Ajax With Both Feet

Saw this on Slashdot: Fortify (the security-source-code-analysis people) say that Ajax apps are vulnerable to an entirely new class of attack, and that the common libraries all contain the vulnerabilities. Safari isn't supporting the rich-text editor right now, so you'll have to C&P the link:

(Small-world note: The Fortify guy cited in the piece, Brian Chess, co-taught a nice class on code reviews and static analysis tools at SD West. I learned useful things there. Good on ya, mate.)

Google Paper: An Idea Whose Time Has Come!

That time being April 1, of course.

Thank you, Stan, for this hilarious story:

Do go and read the "More" link. It gets better!

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