“Sadly, I know many people who used to smoke marijuana. None of them leads a happy life any longer. One is now employed as a rocket scientist and the other works for Microsoft. Nothing says ‘I used to smoke dope’ more than working for Microsoft.”

— Mr. Cranky reviews Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

Thanks for noticing…


So, I just received email from Apple, thanking me for registering iLife ’04 and GarageBand Jam Pack. Which I registered in January.

Out with the chad, in with the pencil


Just received the bilingual instructions for how to vote in Monterey County in the November elections. Apparently we’re abandoning the aging punch-card machines in favor of an optical scan system that requires you to draw a line completing an arrow that points to your choice.

They’re also encouraging everyone to apply for absentee ballots to avoid long lines due to the projected record-high turnout.

Pushing back the Borders…


I figure the best response to this, whether it reflects widespread Borders employee opinion or not, is to ride down there tonight, walk in wearing my motorcycle jacket and Call of Cthulhu Elder Sign t-shirt, and buy copies of Unfit for Command, Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man, a few gun magazines, a copy of Playboy, a red-meat-oriented cookbook, the latest issue of The Skeptical Enquirer, and a pile of translated manga.

That ought to confuse them.

As for the predictable outrage at discovering that chain bookstore employees tend to be virulently Leftie college students, I can only ask, “…and this surprises you how, exactly?”.

Of course, used bookstore employees lean to the Left in my experience as well, but at least they tend to be older and more well-rounded in their opinions. Like the guy who bored me stiff at ConQuest talking about San Francisco politics and the editorials he writes for a local communist paper, but who was happy to shift the topic to “guns that are fun to shoot” when my lack of interest in the Commies and Greens became obvious. Oh, and I hope he didn’t burn off too much hair lighting that cigarette; at our age, it doesn’t come back as easily.

“What if Bush wins”…


I’m still reading, but so far, I think every single member of this panel of experts assembled by Washington Monthly is, um, smoking crack. With a side order of rabies.

There goes my savings…


I’ve been so good recently. Really. My credit cards are clean, my home equity loan has plenty of headroom, I didn’t spend much in Vegas (although for a change I actually lost a few hundred, but still got the room comped), I haven’t gone wild on bike accessories like some Harley owners I could name, and I’ve even resisted the temptation to buy one of the new iPods to replace my now-obsolete 30GB unit.

So what happened? Minolta finally sorted out all the problems with their merger with Konica, and announced this:

Minolta Digital Maxxum 7

Full-frame 35mm CCD, 6.1 megapixels, optical image stabilization built into the body so it works with existing lenses, and based on the Maxxum 7 body. Pixel count might seem low compared to some of the alternatives out there right now, but this thing has been delayed for so long that it’s mere existence is good news, because it preserves my investment in lenses and flash gear. And 6MP is good enough for most common uses of 35mm, especially since I’ve been moving toward medium and large-format film for a lot of things.

My model shoots will work just fine at 6MP, and get processed for the web a lot faster. And the truth is that this thing won’t actually put much of a dent in my wallet; I’ve been waiting for it for quite a while…

Update: The official announcement is out now, with sample images and more details. This is a recompressed crop from a full-sized JPEG sample:

crop from Minolta 7D sample

Right now, the only compatibility limit they list to the image-stabilization is with the 16mm Fisheye and the 3x-1x Macro Zoom. I never bought the latter, and I can see why it would be tricky to stabilize the former. If it really does deliver the promised 2-3 stop improvement in hand-holdability with the rest of their lenses, though, it’s going to be a fantastic tool. With its matched 2x teleconverter, my 300/2.8 makes an excellent 600/5.6, but I’ve never been able to use it without at least a monopod. Very, very cool.

And then there’s the 500/8 Reflex, the 100-400/4.5-6.7, etc, etc. Actually, there have been enough times when I was losing the afternoon light while shooting ISO 100 film with my 80-200/2.8, that those three extra stops would come in handy for all sorts of lenses.

Nifty feature: RAW+JPEG, which allows you to record each picture in both formats, so you’ve got both a compact version for previewing, and an uncompressed, full-quality original to import into Photoshop (a 1GB CF card will hold ~76 of them). And they’ve put in a buffer big enough for 9 RAW+JPEG images shot at 3 frames/second. If you sacrifice the RAW image and adjust the JPEG size and compression, you’ve got a continuous shooting range of between 12 and 43 pictures at 3 f/s.

Only downside: APS-sized CCD, not full-frame (“wait for the 9D?”), so there will be some magnification from my lenses. On the bright side, this will reduce the cost a bit, and I’m not big on superwides anyway.

Minolta’s official sample images.

As mostly pointless, rarely enforced laws go…


…I’d have to say that this one is pretty inoffensive. It is now illegal in California to have sex with corpses. Multi-millionaires who haven’t quite kicked off yet are still fair game, to the relief of gold-diggers and their prey.

I was going to say that this was a law “I could get behind,” but that just sounds wrong somehow.

[technically, this one falls into the “Reasons to keep an eye on JWZ’s LiveJournal” category, but consistency gobbles the mind’s little hobs, or some such.]

Why is this news? Either part?


Today’s tempest in a teapot is the publication of recently-discovered memos that appear to demonstrate that a young George W. Bush slacked off in his last year of National Guard service, and the not-terribly-convincing claim that these memos are obvious forgeries created using the default settings in Microsoft Word.

It strikes me that both sides of this little newsblip are remarkably silly things to stake your credibility on. It’s not news that young W was a slacker, it’s part of his official biography. As for the forgery claims, they’re filled with misconceptions about typewriters (“no proportional fonts in 1973!”) and typography (“look at the kerning!”), and surrounded with a glow of “bloggers kick the mainstream media’s arrogant asses again, boo-yah!.”

One of the few cautious commenters on LGF got to the heart of it: the people dancing in their cubicles over this amateur sleuthing would absolutely crucify a Leftie who tried to bash a pro-Bush document with the same flimsy evidence. Why should it surprise anyone that the default template in Word is set up to resemble a good typewriter, with one of the most common fonts in the world?

The question for Right-bloggers to ask is not “how foolish can we make the Boston Globe and CBS look?” but “how foolish will we look if it’s not a fake, and CBS’ original holds up to inspection?“. It’s already been claimed that new copies of the documents have been provided by the White House after the AP made an FOIA request, although no one has provided a direct link to the new copies.

As for the Globe and CBS, the question is “Will anyone actually care about this, or will it just keep the focus on Vietnam, where Kerry already has plenty of problems?”.

Update: Belatedly, it occurs to me that the memo can be both authentic and word-processed. If Killian was working on his memoirs before his death in the Eighties, he may well have had someone transcribe his old hand-written memos.

Update: The most convincing argument for fraud, I think, is not Charles’ recreation of the memo in Word, but CBS’ inability to defend their source or their verification process. Even if they were caught flat-footed yesterday, they should have been able to respond today, even if their response was to say “your experts are looking at a scanned fax, and ours have the original.” They haven’t done that, instead issuing a CYA memo of their own, promising an investigation into the allegations.

There’s still a lot of misinformation floating around among the pro-forgery crowd that makes them look a bit foolish. Many of them have finally discovered that proportional type was not a creation of the digital age, although some still have using it confused with the difficulty of justifying type on a typewriter. Quite a few are still laboring under the delusion that kerning is somehow part of the smoking-gun proof, despite the fact that kerning is turned off by default in Word, and is completely irrelevant even if they’re forgeries. And there’s the poor expert whose statements were so garbled by INDC that he sounds like a complete buffoon who thinks that only digital-era Times New Roman has a “4” with a closed top and no foot, or, worse, that Times itself is somehow a new font.

In the end, I still can’t find much reason to care about this story. The biggest impact it has on me is slowing down popular web sites by flooding them with traffic.

Update: Apparently, Dan Rather has personally staked his credibility, integrity, and career on this story by going on CNN and defending the memos. CBS News is backing him up and insisting that earlier reports of an internal investigation were false. They’ve raised the stakes, but their opponents don’t have to take the same risk to stay in the game. Not smart, unless they’ve really, really got a secret weapon.

Reasons to vote for Bush, #347


Dateline, France:

If the world could cast a vote in the United States presidential election, John Kerry would beat George W. Bush by a landslide, according to a poll released on Wednesday that is described as the largest sample of global opinion on the race.

Some of Kerry’s biggest supporters? France, Germany, and Mexico. They apparently didn’t poll North Korea, Syria, or Iran, likely because Kerry would have gotten 117% of the vote in each. No fair making things too obvious for the readers…

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