Saturday, December 31, 2005

Time to Start on Ought Six

Well, it's almost the end of the year. I've actually kept up with the blog for two weeks. I have not done much (OK, any) original content, but I didn't really expect to. Soon we shall see how well I keep it up once I have actual work to do again.

Until then, happy new year and safe journeys.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Next Time Do a Story on Hawaiian Surfers or Something

Today's definition of deeply stupid. I'm glad he's OK. And this is America, so there are likely book deals and talk show appearances in his future. Sometimes it really is better to be lucky than smart.

Joss Whedon Interview Plug

So I discovered a while ago that I like Joss Whedon's work. I have the first three years of Buffy (a.k.a. the good years), all of Angel, and Firefly on DVD. There have been several interviews with Mr. Whedon lately after the poor showing of Serenity at the box office. And hey, he thinks Veronica Mars is the best show on TV at the moment and so do I (Battlestar Galactica comes in second and Lost is falling fast from it's #1 slot last year). Here's a linky to an interview with the man, which features some choice quotes that I am going to pull thus:

"...we'll never make Firefly again, because that was a thing that existed and is now gone. And Serenity isn't Firefly, and whatever comes next won't be, either." True that. It's also the reason I gave up on another Babylon 5 not long after Crusade was axed.

"You know, when I was at the height of my success, I was squashed like a cockroach by the very company who had benefitted the most from that success." That would be Fox quashing Firefly after the success of both Buffy and Angel as properties for them if you haven't been keeping track.

"The fact that they made four bad Batman movies is kind of a testament to the triumph of the human spirit, because it's, like, almost impossible."

"I wanted the character of Merrick to be played by Ian Holm. Nobody had heard of him, and nobody had wanted him. We got Donald Sutherland instead." [emphasis retained from original]

Government Debt

It seems the government wants to go deeper into debt. Now I really don't know much about this side of economics coin, but Snow seems to be saying that without the ability to go deeper into debt, that it would be harder to go deeper into debt in the future. That sounds awfully close to what happens to us citizens when we go too far into debt... Here's a wacky thought guys. Make a budget that is sane and works. Then stick to it. If you need to know how, check all those wiretaps to see if you got someone with a good credit rating...

Can't Suppress the Awwwww...

Need more cute in your life, checkout Cute Overload. And they aren't kidding with that title. If you can browse the archives without making happy noises of some sort, you need to reexamine your life.

Government Proposes Rules for Space Passengers

The dreams for the future take one step toward being the annoying everyday with the government proposing a set of rules for space passengers.

A Pointless Connection

Klaatu barada nikto. This nonsense phrase first entered the popular culture in the 1951 film "The Day the Earth Stood Still." It is a comand phrase used to keep the robot Gort from destroying the world. The film, by the way is a sci-fi classic, and it holds up extremely well.

For whatever reason, I realized this morning that I had heard the phrase in another cult favorite movie: "Army of Darkness." They are the words Ash can't quite remember to use when retrieving the Necronomicon (which itself is a creation of one of my favorite authors, H. P. Lovecraft).

Why this hit me this morning, I have no idea. I haven't seen either of those movies in a while, but the science fiction classics do have a way of being reused. Whether it's The Prisoner's "be seeing you" showing up in Babylon 5 or the myriad appearances of a nonsense phrase from the early fifties, the classics are classics for a reason.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Technology, Corporations, and the Government

I refer you to a couple of articles over at ArsTechnica today. The first is about the coming "digital rights management" wave. The second lists some of the topics with large tech impacts that congress will be looking at next year.

Obviously, I reference ArsTechnica quite often. I find them to be one of the best journalistic resources on technology on the web today. And they always cite their sources and are usually pretty clear about deliniating fact and opinion.

Sci-Fi in Time's Best TV List? How About at the Top

In Battlestar Galactica, TV finally has a remake that is better than the original. The campy 1979 version was great when I was ten, but it really, really didn't hold up over time. The premise of the story itself is one of my personal favorites: what happens the day after the world ends? The new Battlestar is everything that the Time writer says it is, plus space ships and evil, murderous robots. In short, it's the best example of good science fiction on TV at the moment.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Today's Quotation

"...waiting for them is a Colorado team with more internal problems than a week of Jerry Springer guests." Dan Scott in his Champs Sports Bowl Prediction article.

Is Clinton Already History?

Time has a tendency to march onward. With only one President since Clinton, he is already being documented in the history books. I certainly think the whole episode does merit mention as a unique event in American history. I might even declare the event telling or perhaps defining. From the reporting, I don't have an objection to how the whole sorry mess is going to be portrayed. It is interesting to note the acknowledgment of how text books affect our perceptions. Doubly so since I now have so much of what I learned in high school is essentially wrong. At least the math didn't change...

If You Pick the Right Channels

Watching TV can save your life. And he got to spend Christmas at home with his family.

What the War Will Hopefully Stop

If only the government had given the people of the U.S. enough credit to try and give us a whole range of reasons why deposing the former Iraqi government. Things like this could have been used to greater effect than the he's-coming-to-get-us scare argument.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Today's Quotation

"No one trusts beautiful people anyway, especially when large sums of money are involved." Scott Adams in today's The Dilbert Blog.

A Bad Year End in China

"Corruption is endemic in China..." I suppose I could say more about this if it wasn't also happening in the U.S. We just call our corruption "CEO Incentive Packages" and "political contributions" (see stories referenced in the previous Watching the Watchers entries).

In a time where globalization in increasing, it would be nice to think that ethics mattered. Oh well, on with business!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Seasonal Message

'Tis the morn before Christmas and I just want to say:
I hope you have a safe and joyful holiday!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Headline Hunting 22-Dec-05

And the winner of most unfortunate headline is: "Two New Orleans Cops Axed in Taped Assault." In spite of what the headline says, it's not a story about two cops being assaulted with an ax.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

More on Wiretapping Tech

I had a gut feeling the wiretapping issue was going to get bigger, and it is beginning to look like I may have been right for a change. ArsTechnica has a very interesting take on the potential technology behind the scenes. Hannibal raises some interesting questions. This could be the latest step in a long running attempt that has long term privacy implications. Whatever happens, this story is not going to go away quickly.

On the Way to Stillsuits

I wasn't expecting a story like this so soon after the potential body armor material one from a few days ago, but here it is. Humans plugged directly into vehicle air conditioning systems. It's both a story of innovation by necessity and a glimpse at the conditions our troops have to endure.

Watching the Watchers 21-Dec-05

More info on the DeLay excesses. It's also a pretty good example of why campaign finance reform is a joke. Hopefully this is an extreme example, but I suspect that such actions are fairly widespread.

The wiretapping issue continues to build. With word that grabbing domestic calls was essentially unavoidable, it may be time to break out the torches and pitchforks.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Somebody Call Kevin Bacon

Iran is banning western music from their state radio and TV stations. They should be careful doing such things. They might end up with a dance dance revolution on their hands...

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Broken State of the Union

Well, it is time for the first opinion piece. American politics have been getting scarier for a while now as the shrill ends of the political spectrum take over from the increasingly mythical center. Demagogues clash with propagandists, lobbyists carry more weight than constituents, and every idiot with a half-researched opinion can get on to a cable news network. Since the only research I am willing to take the time to do is read a few news sources, I just get to write on the web.

I was originally going to reference the slow death of fair use at the hands of the so-called “content industry.” The themes were going to be corruption and the greed of the few overcoming the rights of the many. It was to be a story about a segment of Big Business failing to keep up with technology and deciding the best way to continue would be to stop the technology. But unfortunately something larger is looming. People are suddenly talking about illegal wiretapping.

Politically, I’m what my Civics teacher might call a reactionary, in the sense that I would like a return to an older way of handling government. Farther to the right than the Right, if you will, more conservative than the Conservatives. Naturally, I hated President Clinton with a passion. Not the man, but rather what the man chose to do with the office of President. He embodied political expedience over principle, the feel good over the do good, and the use of other people’s money as the ultimate panacea. For a while I have considered President G. W. Bush the Republican incarnation of the ideas I hated about Clinton. And now comes the story about executive orders empowering an intelligence agency to eavesdrop on American citizens without any oversight. If the allegations are true, it is a worse affront to the values of the Presidency than even Clinton’s constant lying to protect himself. I believe that historically and constitutionally the founders of this country were pretty clear that the rights of the people were paramount. If the choice is between the rights of the people and the security of the people, the rights must come first. Period.

That said, remember that I am talking about the Federal government here, since I believe that the state and local governments should have a little more room to fit the whims of their communities (which is my reason why things like the death penalty and abortion should be handled at the state level). Also, the NSA has the right to tap foreign communications, so in my completely lay opinion, the tapping of calls coming in to the U. S. is probably legal. The question of whether calls that cross the borders of our country fall under the perview of the NSA is probably something that will have to be adjudicated. In any case, the choice of rights versus security at the federal level is one that has been decided in the wrong direction again and again of late.

American Style Democracy Already in the Middle East

I mentioned the ban on "western" music in Iran already. Like many directives of the American government, it is expected to be ignored by the populace in general. (Speed limits anyone?)

And just for fun, the apparent losing party in an election claims voting was fraught with fraud. Where have we heard that one before?

Today's Quotations

"The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone - but we're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history." --Vice President Dick Cheney (source).

"In case you ever consider getting off caffeine yourself, let me explain the process. You begin by sitting motionlessly in a desk chair. Then you just keep doing that forever because life has no meaning." --Scott Adams (source).

Moving to Real Body Armor

It has been a while since personal armor had any real chance against military weapons. Could this be a sign of that changing? In any case, I want some to wear while driving...

Cuddly as a Cactus, Charming as an Eel

Ahh, Christmas time in an overly politicized America. Once again the shrill minorities are giving the rest of us a bad name. I am a Christian, and I'm perfectly capable of having a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I will leave you with Mr. Kurtz's take on the subject, which I really, really like.

Watching the Watchers

Stuff like this is why some of us believe that politicians are corrupt. Sure, there is some charity happening there, but there is also funneling of money from corporations with political interest to politician's advisers, friends, and family.

This looks like a race that may shape up to be interesting, and also gives some eloquent commentary on how political campaigns are about appearances over substance at the moment.

And to wrap this depressing stuff up, here we have a pot/kettle situation.

When Shopping Isn't

The holiday seasons bring along the necessity of shopping for your loved ones. It's traditionally harder on the guys because we don't shop the same way women shop. The old hunter vs. gatherer motif is never more overused, or more accurate, than when comparing mens' and womens' shopping habits.

But apparently, if you give men food, beer, and pre-made wish lists, you will get customers. And isn't that what the season is all about?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Space on $8000 an Hour

Virgin Galactic announces New Mexico spaceport.

Could this be the first successful private venture into space? One hopes it isn't the last.

An Example of Content Free Media

Update: Well, the BBC expanded the story referenced below. As of the lunch hour here, it read completely differently than the way it did early this morning. So, I must say good job to the BBC, it appears that given some extra time they were able to address all of the issues I had below. The end lesson appears to be that reporting in the Internet age is much more dynamic than your daily newspaper.

I tend to believe there are only two categories of potentially viable long-term power sources, nuclear (including fission, fusion, and thermoelectric applications) and geographically limited (wind, hydro, tidal, solar, etc.). Unfortunately, nuclear power has been given a bad name. As the technology has advanced to the point where many of the shortcomings of fission power generation can be addressed, it is time to start overcoming some of the bad press that fission power gets.

Along comes this story. Go read it, I'll wait.

That is some pretty frightening stuff. It's also why I like seeing by-lines on stories. What exactly is this story saying? "...levels at the plant were half those recorded at the Chernobyl plant in 1986." Now '86 was the year of the reactor meltdown at Chernobyl, but I had to look that up. "Investigators said the radiation posed a danger..." What kind of danger? How wide an area does the danger cover? How long can people safely stay in the area? For that matter, what is causing the radiation? The quote from Kuznetsov seems to indicate that there is a stockpile of radioactive waste (spent fuel, low level contaminated material, what?) that is accessible to the public. Well, yeah, of course if people can wander into the plant that would be bad. The same is true of pretty much any power generation or distribution system.

Here we have a fine example of the news reporting a quote instead of getting the entire story. A better take on the story can be found here.

Protecting the Children by Annoying Me

I am one of those people that usually knows when the weather is changing because something hurts. Somethings in my case. They go by the fancy name of sinuses, but really they are just holes inside my head. Changes in atmospheric pressure, allergies, and who knows what else block 'em up. Blocked sinuses lead to pain and general crankiness. Thus, I take decongestants. And that is why proposed restrictions to the sale of pseudoephedrine based drugs makes me cranky. Like so many of the laws in the U.S. seem to do now, this will make the life of the law abiding citizen a little bit more annoying while not affecting the criminals a whit.

The fact that the restrictions are attached to the Patriot Act just adds symmetry to the whole story.

Pondering the Meaning of the 'Blog

So what exactly does one put for their first weblog post? Should this have been a manifesto staking out my claim to be an expert on some particular subject? Perhaps I could have written an elegant missive espousing my own personal philosophy? Maybe it should have been a detailed and well-sourced critique of the spread of yellow journalism.

Well, the first post isn’t any of those things because this ‘blog isn’t any of those things. I may touch on all of the subjects above, or I may spend hours writing about the wacky exploits my proverbial neighbor’s doctor’s cousin’s cat. See, it's all what I'm thinking about. Or just what looks shiny over in the corner.

Welcome to my bit-stream of consciousness. Swimmers beware, there are no life guards on duty…