“I appreciate that you think I’m deep and all, but really, I’m just trying to steal from you.”

— Sam Summarizes Socialism

Sometimes, life really bites…

As a rule, I’m reluctant to contribute when bloggers seek donations; for the most part, I’m a “friends and family” giver. In the specific case of Kate’s teeth, however, it’s the timing that really makes her stand out from the crowd.

“Intelligent Design” vs. science

With Bush’s latest wishy-washy statement on the subject getting a lot of attention, I thought I’d repost my comment from the creationist “debate” over at Cold Fury:

Joe said: I see a building, and I can recognize that it was created by some intelligence, for some purpose. I may not know how it was built, or for what purpose, but the form and symmetry and structure (the sides are plumb and level, etc.) tell me it was created by intelligent design, and not a random occurance of stone and glass.

I answered: Setting aside the strawman nature of this analogy, imagine two men confronted with this building. One devotes his life to methodically studying what it’s made of and how it was built. The other guy sacrifices a goat in front of it once a month.

If you went to these men and asked them what they knew about the building, the first guy would show you his notes, explain his methods, and present the evidence for his claims. The second guy would ask if you had any spare goats.

Intelligent Design is what you get when the second guy pretends to adopt the methods and terminology of the first in order to talk you out of your goats.

The lesson that Jeff and I took away from this experience can be summed up as follows:


The Best Damn Keyboard You Can Buy

Friend and co-worker Jeff was an unhappy typist, suffering under the tyranny of mushy keyboards. Soon after I started my new job, he complained about the pain (both spiritual and physical) that these devices cause him. He lamented the passing of the Apple Extended Keyboard, code-name Nimitz, which reminded me that I’d blogged about its return more than a year ago. Jeff ordered one five minutes later. Ten minutes after it arrived, I ordered two. There was another suspiciously keyboard-shaped box sitting in his office today…

Pay no attention to the Mac-themed advertising for the Tactile Pro keyboard; it works just fine with “those other operating systems”. Pay close attention to the mechanical keyswitches that make typing a joy, and that fill the air with a reassuring clatter. My PowerBook isn’t bad, especially compared to the dreck Dell ships with their desktop PCs, but I’m seriously considering picking up another one for travel, even if I have to buy a bigger laptop bag to hold it. It’s that good.

We’ve been buying them straight from the manufacturer, but it turns out that SmallDog has them at a better price.

It does this and, it has and they are for ten thousand goodwill palpus う.

[Note the correction in red; see the update section for details on my mistake]

This is, of course, a bad translation of written Japanese, created by the SYSTRAN query tool supplied with Mac OS X Tiger. The original phrase was 「このはしは、もちのれんしゅうです。」, and it comes from the items shown below (the small white piece reads 「はしのおけいこ」, by the way, which is also the name of the complete product):

hashi no okeiko

The correct translation is left as an exercise for the reader. :-)

Update: the correct transcription would help. I goofed. If you click on the picture, you’ll see that the eighth character is actually 方, not 万. This makes the sentence so easy to translate that even SYSTRAN produces something mostly comprehensible. (or not. I forgot that I’d converted れんしゅう into the correct kanji; without that, SYSTRAN’s effort is still pretty bad)

The reason I wrote the wrong kanji is that, as printed on the chopstick, it looks like three strokes rather than four, and the three-stroke kanji it most closely resembles is extremely common. I noticed the visual difference, but disregarded it when I couldn’t find a better three-stroke match.

Update: to make up for my error, here’s another pair of training chopsticks, that teach a different skill…

Training chopsticks

For future reference…

Installing random Windows software under XP Home/Pro (for me, it was Minolta’s DiMAGE Capture software, that lets me control my A2 from a (Windows-only) laptop). InstallShield locks up, and has to be killed from the task manager. After dismissing several pointless dialog boxes, the error The Installshield Engine (iKernel.exe) could not be loaded. appears.

Eventual solution: completely delete C:\Program Files\Common\InstallShield

If that still doesn’t do it, nuke the directory again and follow the detailed instructions here.

Apparently, the person at work who built my new Alienware laptop (“Hi, Rory!”) installed something that left a broken version of InstallShield on the drive. In the fine tradition of robust software engineering, any subsequent installer built with that particular version of Installshield will cough up a lung when it tries to save time by using the cached version.

Adobe Version Cue 2: here we go again…

Apparently the folks at Adobe haven’t learned anything about computer security since I looked at the first release of Version Cue. After I installed the CS2 suite last night, I was annoyed at what I found.

Listens on all network interfaces by default? Check. Exposes configuration information on its web-administration page? Check. Defaults to trivial password on the web-admin page? Check. Actually prints the trivial default password on the web-admin page? Check. Defaults to sharing your documents with anyone who can connect to your machine? Check. I could go on, but it’s too depressing.

The only nice thing I can say about it is that it doesn’t add a new rule to the built-in Mac OS X firewall to open up the ports it uses. As a result, most people will be protected from this default stupidity.

Anime Endings: R.O.D The TV

The original Read or Die OAV was a Bond-movie spoof with superpowers. Like most of Roger Moore’s Bond films, the action, humor, and engaging characters kept you from getting hung up on the basic silliness of the plot. And, of course, Yomiko’s paper-mastery power was novel and visually impressive. I liked it.

I liked R.O.D the TV more, despite its flaws. Why? Like some of my other favorites, it’s all about the characters. The “big plot” that ties it in to the events of Read or Die is not only silly, but overexplained as well. Nearly an entire episode is wasted on clunky “as you know, Bob” exposition, and the villain doesn’t just gather the heroes for one final monologue, he gives them an open mic to all his henchmen.

The truth is, the series didn’t need a “big plot”, and it definitely didn’t need one that depended so strongly on characters from the OAV, while fundamentally altering their personalities. I like Nenene and the Paper Sisters, and I think they could have carried the show on their own. Deep down, I think the writers knew this, too, which is why the “slam-bang action finale” took up so little time in the last episode, and was followed by quiet scenes of the cast getting on with their lives. Ultimately, R.O.D the TV wasn’t about finding Yomiko, saving the world, or even paper-mastery; it was about these four women.

I knew up-front that the series would include Bond-ish clichés and a villain whose plans made Doctor Evil look sensible. I knew there’d be paper-mastery. I figured Yomiko had to show up eventually, especially when I discovered Nenene’s history in the manga. In those respects, the series met my expectations. In the way it handled the personalities and relationships of Michelle, Maggie, Anita, and Nenene, it exceeded them.

The way it presented Joker was jarring if you’d seen the OAV, but a bit less so if you’d also read the manga. Wendy’s change was poorly explained, and made even less sense if you’d read the manga. As for Gentleman, “well, that came out of nowhere”.

Apple iPod Store

We tried to stop at the Palo Alto Apple Store on Friday, only to find it closed for a brief-but-thorough renovation. It reopened today, and it’s very iPod-centric now. You can buy new Macs there, but if you’re looking for software, books, or other accessories, the shelves are pretty bare.

The optimistic interpretation is that they’re temporarily compensating for sluggish Mac sales caused by the x86 announcements.