November 2004

All the other kids are doing it...

My official endorsement for President: Bush.

Why? Because the small percentage of his enemies, foreign and domestic, who are not already batshit insane will become so should he win decisively.

There are all sorts of things I dislike about Bush, particularly his domestic policies and the over-hyped but still real abuses committed in the name of “Homeland Security” (even though Gore would have done exactly the same had he won), but when it comes to foreign policy, there’s no contest. Bush has one, Kerry has none.

I love the suburbs

Just got back from voting. I had a 45-minute wait as the 30 or so people ahead of me in line deciphered the new connect-the-arrows ballots, but that gave me plenty of time to look over my fellow citizens, and I liked what I saw. Blue collar. Veterans. Parents.

And not a single parasitic “observer”. Just us citizens, exercising the franchise.

Sex in the workplace

The admin for our group just sent out email with the following subject line:

rack up for grabs

I think I’d get fired if I responded with the first thing that came to mind…

Kerry in Ohio?

Kerry and Edwards are determined to go down swinging, but down they’re going. Setting aside the inevitable frivolous lawsuits, their hopes are pinned on winning Ohio’s electoral votes, because they’ve already lost the popular vote.

Unfortunately, as of 5:09 AM EST, the vote stands at 2,791,912 for Bush and 2,653,046 for Kerry. That’s a lead of 138,866, with a projected 175,000 provisional ballots that won’t be counted until 11 days from now. Assuming that all of those ballots survive the inevitable challenge, Kerry needs to win 156,933 of them to tie in Ohio. That’s 90% of the expected new voters, just to muddy the results enough to make for a plausible lawsuit, and only if they’re all upheld as valid (which is highly unlikely).

Update: he’s toast. The official count of provisional ballots issued is 135,149, which is smaller than Bush’s final lead. It’s over, and the winner has a clear majority in both the popular and electoral votes.

Update: Highest nationwide voter turnout since 1968, first candidate to win a majority of the popular vote since 1988, and otherwise rational people are still saying things like “225 years is a pretty good run for a republic, historically speaking”. And that’s one of the saner sore losers I’ve seen today.

Poll nonsense

Despite the manifest failure of the pollsters to predict the result of yesterday’s election with any accuracy, today’s news is still filled with poll-fueled “explanations” of Bush’s victory.

I was never polled. There were no exit pollsters present at my designated voting location. There were also no monitors, observers, challengers, organizers, protesters, reporters, etc, etc. Just voters.

So, before you start believing the conclusions of the same pundits who were dead wrong yesterday, consider this Bush voter:

  • Native Ohioan, current Californian.
  • Age 37.
  • Single.
  • Straight.
  • Atheist.
  • Vaguely white (Native American, but never cared enough to fill out the required paperwork; also Polish, French, German, English, Irish, etc).
  • Speaks some French and German, currently learning Japanese, lives in largely Spanish-speaking community.
  • College-educated.
  • Employed, earning over $100,000/year.
  • Rode out the tech bubble just fine, thanks.
  • Fiscally conservative.
  • Believes in absolute equality of opportunity for all.
  • Strongly supports war in Iraq.
  • Strongly opposed previous war in Iraq.
  • Frequent Libertarian voter.
  • Voted for Schwarzenegger.
  • Homeowner.
  • Telecommuter.
  • Pro-gay.
  • Pro-gun.
  • Pro-choice.
  • Pro-drug-legalization.
  • Pro-America.
  • Pro-immigrant.
  • Pro-diversity.
  • Pro-environment.
  • Anti-ecoterrorist.
  • Pro-animal.
  • Anti-PETA.
  • Pro-hunting.
  • Non-hunter.
  • Passionately despises cigarette smoke.
  • Pro-smoker's-rights.
  • Pro-tort-reform.
  • Motorcycle rider.
  • Pin-up photographer.
  • Adult products consumer.
  • Habitual reader.
  • SF fan.
  • Anime fan.
  • Comics fan.
  • Music fan.
  • Music purchaser.
  • iPod owner.
  • Mac user.
  • PC user.
  • Gamer.
  • Poker player.
  • Casino gambler.
  • Dislikes beer and wine.
  • Collects single-malt scotch.
  • Enjoys cooking.
  • Eats red meat.
  • Dislikes organized sports.
  • Hosts Superbowl party every year.
  • Always carries a pocket knife.
  • Always carries a Zippo.
  • Has been on Internet since the Eighties.
  • Goes barefoot or wears sandals whenever possible.
  • Does not own a suit.
  • Has not worn a suit in twelve years.
  • Has shared breakfast with Hugh Hefner, at the Playboy Mansion.
  • Doesn't much care for kids, but gives away Halloween candy by the half-pound to every little monster who stops by.
  • Will drive 1,000 miles in a single day rather than take a plane, out of disgust for current airport "security" policies.

Kerry/Edwards never had a chance at my vote.

Now, Zell on the other hand…

I can't top this headline

Man tries to convert lions to Jesus, gets bitten

And I absolutely love the picture.

Fat Albert. The Movie.

No, really. I can say no more.

And they're calling us dumb?

Love the cover of today’s UK Daily Mirror (“Britain’s brightest tabloid newspaper”), with its wonderful headline “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”, subtitled “U.S. Election disaster”.

Scroll down a bit to see how intelligent and sophisticated their target audience is:

"Oi! I'm a mum...and I'm calling my baby Tallulah Lilac"
"Zara's palace love-in"
"Bridget Jones's Diet"
"Posh drops the pout"
"Harry Potty"
"Astro diet: use your stars to lose weight"
"Revenge of the bunny boiler"
"The night Richard offered sex with Judy for £3,500"

A fond farewell to Election 2004

Bad Haiku Edition:

Hatred and contempt,
empty suits, money, and Moore,
still can't rock the vote.

Yours for honest political cartography

The red-blue map is deceptive. The shades-of-purple map is actively counterproductive. The area-adjusted-for-population (“cartogram”) shades-of-purple map is simply absurd.

  1. Human beings are good at comparing shades of gray.
  2. Human beings are poor at comparing shades of color.
  3. Common forms of color-blindness render "shades of purple" indistinguishable.
  4. Human beings are good at comparing lengths.
  5. Human beings are poor at comparing areas.
  6. Human beings are even worse at comparing volumes, so don't even think of going there.

What to do? Produce two maps: one in which percentage of support for Bush is represented from 0% (white) to 100% (black), and another in which the same is done for Kerry. When the data becomes available, do this at the precinct level.

If you really feel the urge to adjust for population, then on both maps, project each county/precinct up by the number of residents who voted for that candidate, and publish the results as a true 3-D map (QuickTime VR, VRML, whatever) that can be rotated and zoomed. Resist the urge to project the opposition candidate’s areas down; comparing the length of lines going in different directions isn’t a good idea either.

Update: Source of and links to a bunch of deceptive El-04 maps here.

Update: this one is much closer to useful than the rest, although the perspective makes it difficult to fairly compare populations (give me a 3-D walkthrough!). Thanks, Bill.

county-level El-04 results with population on the Z axis

The first one's free

Just got back from lunch at Patxi’s, and discovered that Connie had never heard of such a thing as “Chicago-style deep-dish pizza”. Of course, I had to share the leftovers.

There was much rejoicing from her office.

Um, "what he said"

Dean Esmay answers John Perry Barlow. Personally, I gave up about halfway through the original, bored to tears by Barlow’s frankly one-dimensional characterization of the people he’s trying to “understand”.

sec2pdf: getting started

I often say that I’m not a programmer, I’m a problem-solver who occasionally writes code to eliminate annoyances. One recent annoyance was what passes for “state of the art” in creating star maps for the Traveller RPG.


Whom the gods would destroy, they first ask for directions

When I got up this morning, I realized that I was only two lessons away from the end of my first pass through Rosetta Stone‘s Japanese Level I course. At a conservative estimate, that’s 120 hours that I’ve spent learning to recognize, comprehend, and read realistic Japanese phrases spoken by natives. I have a great deal left to learn, but I’ve made substantial progress, to the point that this morning’s lesson was merely daunting rather than discouraging.

It looked something like this: ガソリンスタンドにはどうやってきますか。ガソリンスタンドへの閉鎖されています。って右折します。ブロックって右折して、ブロックって右折します。ブロックって左折するとそこがガソリンスタンドです。

Forty variations on asking directions to a place and being told how many blocks to go and which way to turn. New vocabulary. New kanji. Long, detailed instructions, fortunately accompanied by clear pictures. And I understood most of them right away. I figure I’ve got another 80 hours of drilling as I go back through Level I’s different modes, and then it will be time for Level II, which really piles on the grammar and vocabulary.

Self-study software can’t replace a good face-to-face language course, but the best software is definitely better than a bad course, and there’s a lot to be said for having infinitely patient native speakers available anytime, anywhere. I’ve been quite impressed with Rosetta Stone, both their learning model (which feels oversimplified at first, but is in fact quite sophisticated) and their quality control (I have spotted exactly two errors in the transcription of several thousand phrases, and both were trivial).

Update: turns out this specific lesson is included in Rosetta Stone’s free online demo, which uses pretty much the exact same Flash code that the purchased product does. It’s Japanese Level I, Unit 8, Lesson 10, titled ~にはどうやって行きますか.

Headline of the day

Heck, I could have told them this years ago:

Leaders pay tribute to Arafat

Oh, wait, they’re using the other definition of “pay tribute”.

...but my friends call me 'Spot'

Okay, which side in the red/blue culture war wants to claim this nutcase as a kindred spirit:

A Brazilian legislator wants to make it illegal to give pets names that are common among people. Federal congressman Reinaldo Santos e Silva proposed the law after psychologists suggested that some children may get depressed when they learn they share their first name with someone's pet, said Damarias Alves, a spokeswoman for Silva.

My Evil Twin

I didn’t know I had one, but then he ordered some Mac stuff from a Yahoo store and accidentally entered my .Mac email address instead of his very similar one. Since the shipping and billing addresses were in Boca Raton, Florida, and I’m in California, this looked an awful lot like identity theft, which makes for a lovely way to spend a Friday evening. After calling all of my credit-card vendors to check for suspicious charges, changing several passwords, and other financial fire-drilling, I thought to look up the phone numbers from the invoice with anywho. Sure enough, there’s a Jay Greely in Boca Raton, and he lives at that address.

Who knew?

Update: Just talked to Jay’s wife, and it turns out that they bought their first Mac yesterday, and he apparently misremembered their shiny new .Mac email address.

Still waiting for Java

Gamer friend Scott just discovered that the reason he was having so much trouble with PCGen under Linux was that the JVM was defaulting to a rather small heap size, effectively thrashing the app into oblivion when he tried to print.

Now, while it’s true that PCGen is as piggy as a perl script when it comes to building complex data structures in memory, it’s still fundamentally a straightforward application, and yet it exceeds the default maximum heap settings. He had plenty of free RAM, gigs of free VM, and here was Sun’s Java, refusing to use any of it unless he relaunched the application with a command-line override. Doing so not only fixed printing, it made the entire application run substantially faster. Feh.

I’d noticed a slowdown with recent versions of PCGen on my Mac as well, but Apple was good enough to compile their JVM with defaults sufficient to at least make it run completely. Sure enough, though, increasing the default heap settings makes it run faster, by eliminating a whole bunch of garbage collection.

In other words, with Java, Sun has managed to replicate the Classic MacOS annoyance of adjusting memory allocation on a per-application basis, and made it cross-platform!

PCGen is still the only major Java app I have any use for on a regular basis, although there’s another one that has recently entered my arsenal of special-purpose tools, Multivalent. I have no use for 99% of its functionality, but it includes robust tools for splitting, merging, imposing, validating, compressing, and uncompressing PDF files, as well as stripping the copy/print/etc limitations from any PDF you can open and read.

There’s another Java application out there that might join the list sometime soon, Dundjinni, but first the manufacturers have to finish porting it from Windows to the Mac…

Comment spam

Someone finally got around to automating a comment-spamming tool that evaded my trivial protections (rename MT CGI scripts, force preview before post). Naturally, they decided to send six different comments to three or four different articles, about a dozen times each.

Sadly for them, they put their web site into the commenter’s URL field, which I don’t display, so their efforts were in vain. Even worse, from their point of view, they sent them all from the same IP address, which meant it took about thirty seconds to clean things up. And another five to ban their entire netblock at the firewall. I didn’t even need to rebuild, since the comment pages aren’t cached (another trivial change from the defaults).

I think for the next pass, I’ll change the comment URL from /mt/hasturhasturhastur to /murfle/gleep. The best defense against automation is diversity.

Anime update: schoolgirls, assassins, schoolgirl assassins, nuns, witches, and more

I finally started watching Noir, and just finished disc 5. Great stuff that carves out a new niche in the “pretty girls with guns” genre, so much so that it’s not really part of it. Sadly, in the weeks between now and the release of Kaleido Star disc 6, the last two volumes of Noir won’t be enough, so here’s what I’m ordering today from Robert’s Anime Corner Store:

  • Seven of Seven, disc 3 --- I just can't escape this sweet, silly little series. The less-clean-cut manga version has now ended its English run, with an ending that I hope is different from the anime. Not that it's a bad ending, just not the one I was looking for. The person who wrote both created two very different stories, so there's room for this one to end differently. But not yet; it looks like they've split it across six DVDs. I can think of no reason not to buy them all.
  • Chrono Crusade, disc 2 --- 1920s New York City, sexy teenage nun who fights demons. What's not to like?
  • R.O.D The TV, disc 3 --- The first two discs have confirmed my impression that this is a worthy spinoff from the OVA. More, please.
  • Gokusen, disc 1 --- Blackboard Jungle with a female yakuza boss as the teacher. Sort of.
  • Burn-Up Scramble, disc 1 --- Hey, I liked the screenshots...
  • Please Twins, disc 1 --- I liked Please Teacher, but I've read enough about this series to be a bit wary, particularly of how it handles characters from the first series. Still, it's worth a shot.
  • Kiki's Delivery Service --- I have a Region 2 DVD of this wonderful film, but I gave my Region 1 copy to my mother, and decided to pick up another. Naturally I'll have to watch it when it arrives. :-)

Going into December, it’ll be Galaxy Angel Z, Tristia of the Deep Blue Sea, and of course more Kaleido Star and R.O.D The TV.

Dear Katy Rose,

What in Audubon’s name is a “humming dove”?

It's lasagna season!

I haven’t made my favorite lasagna for a while, so it’s going to be this weekend’s gaming dinner. Soon enough, the advance of the rainy season will lead us to make pot roast and lazy chile colorado as well. We already had the meat loaf last weekend.

Sometime soon I should really revisit my online cookbook project. I actually rewrote all the library routines about a year ago, but never got around to rebuilding the search engine to use them.

For the man who has everything...

breast variety pack

The award for Most Creative Use Of Spam In a Short Film goes to...

Before you move to France to escape Bush's tyranny...

…make sure you know what civil rights you’re giving up:

France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network. French anti-terrorism prosecutors and investigators are among the most powerful in Europe, backed by laws that allow them to interrogate suspects for days without interference from defense attorneys.

Please, crash for me

I have never been more annoyed at an application’s failure to fail.

We have this service daemon that performs various actions on incoming images. Recently, it’s been crashing at random intervals, leaving behind a core file that tells us precisely what function it segfaulted in, but includes nothing to tell us where the image came from. All we know is that somewhere out on the Internet, there are JPEG images that crash our copy of the IJG JPEG library in jpeg_idct_ifast().

Since this was affecting customer performance, we really wanted to know, so we cranked up the logging on one of the affected thirty-two servers, to capture the incoming request URLs. And it hasn’t crashed since.

Four days of crashes every hour or so, and now nothing. The good news is that our customers are less unhappy. The bad news is that our developers don’t have a test case to code a fix against.

So now I’m trolling the web, looking for corrupt JPEGs. I strongly suspect that the images that caused our problem were intended to exploit holes in a certain other OS, but I can’t be sure until I find some and feed them to our server. Sigh.

Anime Endings: Noir

Worth every penny I paid for the seven DVDs (but I am not, repeat not, buying the Noir otaku soap). There are a lot of things I could say about it, but I think it’s sufficient to say that the ending is driven entirely by the way the characters were developed during the course of the series. Nothing has to be explained in terms of “the director added it to make the plot work out” or “they needed a cool fight scene here, so X did Y”.

The plot does work out, and you definitely get the cool fight scenes, but it’s because the heroines and villains are doing what they should do, given the sort of people they are and the situations they’re in.

“Need a clue, take a clue,
 got a clue, leave a clue”