12.31.2006

New Years { Goodbye 2006

Hello 2007.

I haven't posted much, mostly because I have been working a lot and when I have sat down to post writer's block has been in the forefront.

Recap of 2006:

* thank the maker we no longer have Republicans controlling all branches of the Federal government
* I bought a bike
* I finished the basement (for the most part)
* I wasn't able to lose 30 pounds
* I enrolled back into school (haven't taken classes yet)
* fished, a lot, which makes me happy

Hopes for 2007:
* lose 30 pounds
* take classes
* no soda (rekindling something from 97-99 when I didn't drink any soft drinks, hello coffee and tea my old friends)
* see Europe
* fish more
* Bush gets impeached (come on Dems, at least investigate)
* never have to see Britney Spears' cooch again

12.19.2006

Blog { 'Don to Earth'

http://dontoearth.blogspot.com/

Found this via boingboing a while ago. I find it a good read.

Computer Games { Observations from the Peanut Gallery

I'm not a huge computer gamer. I grew up playing games in the 1980's. For me, say 'computer games', and my first thought is things like Wasteland and Sopwith. My brother owned a NES console, but aside from that, I never did the console thing. The only cartridges I ever owned were for my TI-99/4A.

So how am I to look at the state of vidgames today? They certainly are pretty. The graphics rendering technology has come a long way since Mystery House. What GPUs can do today is nothing short of astonishing.

I'm uncertain that games are any better. For sheer playability, imagination, and fun, a lot of games just come off as rehashes of old ideas, or poorly written or executed eye-candy. Or, in the case of MMORPGs, huge time-sucks.

I could talk about technical advancements, but I thought instead I'd just make a couple of personal observations:

1) The adventure game is dead. Rest in peace. Dreamfall doesn't a genre reincarnate.
2) First person shooters are boring and played out, except...
3) Bioshock looks SO DAMN GOOD I could pee my pants. Can't wait till end of June. There is just something compelling ,at a brain-stem level, in my running around trying to survive in an Art Deco themed post WWII retro-futurist underwater dystopia. Being the spiritual successor to System Shock 2 is not a bad thing.
4) There certainly seems to be a lot of MMORPGs in development. I would generally consider MMOs to be a huge time and money waster, but then they go and announce development of projects in the 'Firefly' and 'Fallout' (which itself was the spirtual successor of Wasteland...not to mention Post WWIII retro-futurism) universes. There is also a Stargate (played out as that series is) one in development.
5) I'm not sure if the Wii remote is a stroke of genius or utter craziness. Probably both.
6) The Playstation 3 is an overpriced hunk of overheating metal and plastic. $600 for a console!? Plus $100 for an HDMI cable (not to mention a high def tele that isn't instantly obsolete by whatever HDMI iteration they are on this week). Low-numbers available. Difficult laser diodes. Hideous DRM on the 'did we really need this?' Blu-Ray. How about this. Instead of the $1000 it will cost you for the system, a cable, the needed adapters, and say four games, why not instead buy a PS2 and then, oh say, the 50 best games ever written for it. Thousands of hours of entertainment for the same money. Or better yet, save your money.
7) It sucks that I have neither a decent game nor peeps to play deathmatch with.
8) My enthusaism for Spore has been a bit diminished. It does look great, but I'm not sure how much fun it would be to actually play. Yes, I know I'm just parroting Tycho.
9) While I try not to be a neo-luddite, I must admit that most of my passion for video games is in retrogaming. Old Infocom text adventures and old Sierra games pull me in more than 95% of the stuff out there now. Classic games are sometimes really fun and playable (and replayable).
10) The game that gets the most play is GnuGo and various graphic frontends for Go.
11) Starforce Sucks
12) Getting games from the mid to late 90's to run on modern OS is hard. Even with emualtion, a lot of stuff I own only works on legacy hardware and software. I hope I won't have to keep a computer around for each version of DirectX.
13) PC gaming is dying. This does not bode well for one who is reticent to say the least in making a plunge into the console world. I know XBox Live is great, but I really want no part of it.
14) What I really want in new games:

* a kick-ass scifi with compelling settings, characters, and storylines
* a kick-ass survival horror with real-time lighting and shadow, sound and music, all crafted with the single purpose of frightening me into a myocardial infarc.
* a kick-ass completely novel and replayable game that can run on anything and doesn't need bleeding-edge graphics or a supercomputer to run. Think Tetris, Katamari Damacy, etc, but NEW
* humor
* Jules Verne, rayguns, Forbidden Planet, robots, flying cars
* 1920-1938 or so.
* for game companies to keep hiring Jeremy Soule to do their soundtracks
* Machiavellian political intrigue in games
* obviously not all in the same game

12.15.2006

Casual Friday { World of Roguecraft

When I started playing WoW, there were two things I wanted to be since before release, a Rogue and an Undead. I didn't get WoW right away, because of various reasons. Now that I am playing, there are a lot of Rogues (and Warlocks). On PvP servers Rogues are 50+% of the classes (and not much lower on PvE). When I started I didn't know they were supposed to be the 'DPS Kings', I just like the class descriptions and Rogue is one of my favored classes in D&D (with Ranger). When I played Planetside, I played a stealthsuit. I just like stealthy characters. Playing a Rogue is easy once you understand the limitations and strengths and know how to manage energy.

Here are some excellent comparison videos:

Ep1: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7410095177695043805&q=world+of+roguecraft

Ep2: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1924309195372520571&q=world+of+roguecraft

Ep3: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4203756741355245537&q=world+of+roguecraft



Do I think they're overpowered? I can't say. I've only have 1 character and its a rogue. I've struggled, as would anyone new to a game. But are the overpowered? Only time will form my opinion.

(PS I hope the whiners do leave the Rogue class, it will help raise the maturity level of the class)

12.14.2006

12.11.2006

Word { I learned me my letterz

Your Vocabulary Score: B+

You have a zealous love for the English language, and many find your vocabulary edifying.
Don't fret that you didn't get every word right, your vocabulary can be easily ameliorated!



Your Famous Last Words Will Be:

"So, you're a cannibal."


Your Pirate Name Is...

Surgeon Beard of Maggots


Your Superhero Profile

Your Superhero Name is The Human Ghost
Your Superpower is Dance Dance Revolution
Your Weakness is Crystals
Your Weapon is Your Energy Ring
Your Mode of Transportation is Catapult


Its true, I take a catapult to work.

And this was nailed it dead on, which freaked me out:

Your 2006 Summer Anthem Is

Crazy by Gnarls Barkley

"I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind
There was something so pleasant about that phase
Even your emotions had an echo
In so much space"


And finally...duh:

You Are 12% Capitalist, 88% Socialist

You see a lot of injustice in the world, and you'd like to see it fixed.
As far as you're concerned, all the wrong people have the power.
You're strongly in favor of the redistribution of wealth - and more protection for the average person.



PS: I didn't intend for this to be a quiz post, it just sorta happened.

12.07.2006

Zen { 151 systems, daylight savings time, some coffee...

[rant]
Dear Congress who passed the 2007 Energy Bill which has a change to daylight savings time,

Fuck you.

Sincerely

The IT Support World
[/rant]

11.28.2006

Mood { Raging Against the Machines

Computers suck...verily.

11.22.2006

Musings { On the Eve of Thanksgiving I pause

...to remember what I have to be thankful for.

Nerdwife, my wife, for 7+ great years of marriage, we are above average now dear.

My friends, some of whom I've now known for over half of my life. Your support, friendship, both then and now remain a beacon through my ups and downs.

My life. While not without its ups and downs, I am thankful to have it.

My job. Though I grumble and complain, I am thankful to be employed and to have the co-workers I have and the management I have.

This blog. I didn't know what I was going for when I started this but I am pleased with how it is going and where it is going.

11.21.2006

Tech/Musings { When technology attacks

I am sad today. My beloved 21" SONY Trinitron is starting to show its age. This monitor was a birthday gift from Nerdwife many years ago (at least 5). It has had a long and distinguished service and has been my window into the virtual, allowing me to save the world, the galaxy, the universe (...as well as control them...) on countless occasions and through countless epic campaigns. But its machine spirit is starting to tire. It seems when it gets warm now the screen images get very very fuzzy. At first I thought the fan blew out on my Radeon, but the fuzziness remains even when the computer is off (when running the video test). I turned it off last night and went to bed. This morning it appears to be much healthier, the images are sharp, but the screen brightness is getting brighter no matter how much I turn it down and correct gamma. I have looked into a new monitor and have found a 22" Gateway TFT-LCD that I feel will suit my needs (ultra-high resolution and low latency <5ms) so it should suit me and my gaming habits as well as the fact it is energy star and uses less energy than my monitor (which is also energy star).

But this brings me to my next feeling, shame. Electronics are such wastes. They consume a lot of resources to make, they consume a lot of energy to use (especially older ones), and they can't be 'fixed' like things used to be fixed. You ship them off somewhere or to someone and they replace a board, often at the cost of what a new widget would cost. That is if you can find someone. The art of TV and monitor repair is disappearing. I use my gear well past its expected life of 3 years. I can often get 5-9 depending upon the piece of equipment. Video cards I get about 3-4, monitors 5-9, disk drives about 5, mobos about 4-5, CDROM/DVD drives, I used to be able to get 4+, but the last few have only lasted 1-3. OSes I tend to get about 5-7 years out of, I ran Win98 until 2003. I am still running Win2000 on another computer. WinXP has been treating me well and I will keep it around until someone can prove Vista is a better gaming platform, which I doubt it will be.

I don't know where I was going with this, upon re-reading apparently no where, but just felt like posting something random.

11.17.2006

Casual Friday { "Less Talk More Rokk"



Guitar Hero II, the song "Less Talk More Rokk" which I unlocked last night on my medium setting GH2. Awesome freaking song, Freezepop has joined Ladytron as my new crack lately. I can do ok with song on 'medium' and I tried on 'hard' and ran like a little screaming schoolgirl.

This guy makes it look easy on 'expert'.

Weather { Ragnarok

Avindair on his blog has described MN winters as Ragnarok and I agree with him (well I guess it will more be like Fimbulwinter). We aren't even officially in winter yet either. Here in Roch we haven't seen any glimmer of daylight other than a gray overcast for almost a week. Granted the sun may have peeked its head out, but since I work in a place without windows I missed it. Its been strange, the nights have been clear with the stars showing. It keeps feeling like snow or rain, yet none have fallen.

11.15.2006

Musings { This Week's Horoscope

From Free Will Astrology:


VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): The Delaware Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania has an outhouse that cost $333,000 to build. It's a two-hole beauty with a roof constructed from slate mined in Vermont, porch railings built out of Indiana limestone, and an indestructible cobblestone foundation. This is your symbol of power for the coming week, Virgo. May it inspire you to devote elegant, sumptuous attention to one of your most basic needs.



Hmmm, I need to build a solid foundation upon which to shit upon the world?

11.14.2006

Video { Manifestoon

Musings/Poem { Without People

Without people what is a government? Nothing.
Without people what is a society? Nothing.
Without people what is a factory? Capitalism.

11.13.2006

Musings { Fear and Loathing in Azeroth.

I have World of Warcraft. It was my rewards for finishing the basement and making it liveable. The game is very impressive. I've been playing for two weeks. I've played quite a bit, but nothing matching the time I used to spend on Planetside or Tribes 2. I play in the faction called 'Horde' and I am an Undead Rogue. I made level 26. Leveling is both a good thing and a bad thing. For example, I find it frustrating that I can't fish anywhere. But also it ensures that I won't be insta-killed by monsters if I stay within 'safer' areas close to my level. WoW as it is called is immense. Players choose from Alliance vs Horde factions and within each faction they have a choice of various races. Once you have a race, a variety of classes are possible from fights to magic-users. After you choose a classes you choose up to two primary professions. These are things like engineering, blacksmithing, enchanting, alchemy, skinning, mining, herbalism and are how you primarily make money in the game. As a rogue I thought it would make sense to be an Alchemy/Herbalist as I can gather reagents and make potions to help me with 'soloing' which is where you journey through the world and quests alone. This works for most quests and areas, but the game has content definitely geared towards group play, some 'mobs' a strange MMO term for 'mobile monster' will take more than one player to defeat. Groups of people can form a Guild which is a clanlike/tribal-like collection of players. Guilds have heirarchies and personalities of themselves. On the server I play most of the Horde guilds are devoted to helping others, which is great, since Alliance outnumber Horde almost 3to1 in WoW. I have chosen to not join a Guild, as I am still new to the game and Guilds can bring with them certain dramas and headaches that I do not want to deal with. So I've been soloing and joining 'pick up groups' with other players who are trying to complete the same quests as me. One of the strangest things I've met is the generosity of complete strangers in the game. Passing Priests and Mages will randomly 'buff' you (give you bonuses). In the groups I have been in, many of the other players are working on their sixth alternate and are willing to give you stuff they have in extra, or make you gear just to practice their skills. This struck me off guard as I am used to a world that works in which nothing is free. In cases where people have made me gear, I have at least tried to reimburse them. Some accept the donations or contributions of materials, others just smile and say 'no need.' It has left me conflicted. But it has also setup a kind of 'pass it forward' type of mentality. I now when passing through lower level areas often stop to help and chat with newer players and when I have the gear gifted them things I can't use (I gave a warrior a decent axe for a starting level because as a rogue, axes are not my primary weapons). This helped this player immensely and we started talking. He was an interesting person from Quebec and couldn't speak english well (and my french is non-existent), but none the less we had a great chat and I can now say I have a new friend and met an interesting person.

This can also lead to certain complications. Yesterday I joined another person in completing quests. This person was very nice and very helpful. A little odd, but we all are. We completed many quests and as she was a more experienced player I asked many questions about the game (and learned a few things like I can learn to use other weapons, I just need to find a weapons master). I gave her some materials and she crafted me a gun (a nice one) and both she and her husband helped me through ShadowFang Keep, a very very hard Dungeon and impossible to do alone. We 'power levelled' through it, meaning her husband ran her level 60 character as a meatshield/tank and we followed getting stragglers and looting. I picked up some nice gear (we both did). It felt wrong, but I had spent two days and had been unable to find anyone else interested in doing the Dungeon, so I was grateful for the chance. We talked for a while, and while I did not disclose much about myself (I prefer to be a little secretive, especially online and around people I have never met in person), but with her it was like a flood gate opened. I started feeling uncomfortable. I found out a lot about her, her kids, her husband, where she lives. I tried to get away, but the game has a nice feature where you can add people to a friends list and they can find you in the game. I can set an ignore flag, but honestly that is rude, and she has helped me, and I am just not a mean person by nature.

I won't be back in the game for a few days as I have many things to do, busy with work and I need to do a few chores around the house. I hope when I go back, she will have moved on. Her and her husband, as well as their Guild members have been pleasant helpful folk, she was just a little too flirtatious and self-disclosing for my taste. I should say something next time.

I have learned this since playing MMOs for many years. People are people in reality virtual or not. But the anonymity of the virtual world can make crossing certain lines easier. You need to be careful.

PS Gifting in WoW is tricky and make sure before you wear something you really want it or want to accept it. Once an item has been worn (or in some cases picked up) it becomes 'soulbound' and is now only usable by you. This makes it so you cannot return things. I think from now on I will not accept gifts unless I can recompensate the other player with either material components or a reasonable cash value (WoW's well developed economy uses gold, silver, and copper pieces). But also know their gifts were appreciated as it helped a newbie out a lot.

11.08.2006

Politics { My thoughts

I feel I can relax a little today. Democrats should take a taste of the sweet nectar of victory, and then get over it. Their work is just beginning and I can tell you the deck is stacked against them. They have to fight the grid-lock and make all the tough decisions that the GOP has refused to make the last six years and it will make them unpopular. But for the health and stability of this country those decisions must be made. The abuses of the executive branch must be investigated. The ineptness of the handling of Iraq must be investigated. The rampant corruption that has taken Washington must be investigated. The erosion of our civil liberties must be addressed.

Closer to home, the democrats swept Rochester, Walz for US House, Ann Lynch for State Sentae, Tina Liebling for State House, all this pleases me. Klobuchar for Senate, 58-39, not a small margin. I was happy to see Kiffmeyer removed form Secretary of State. I was happy to see Keith Ellison elected, a first for Minnesota. Hatch lost, but as I've said before here, I didn't think he was right for Governor, I would have taken him over Pawlenty, but I still think the DFL made a mistake, and I am now very sorry I compromised my conscious for him. It was a hard and tough decision for me. Bachman, was elected, so not all is great. I still feel she is a bit too much of a evangelical religious zealot for my taste and I think she can actually be worse than Kennedy was for MN. But she is up for re-election in 2008 along with everyone else, so we will see. With the GOP power reduced in the House, we indeed live in interesting times.

A theme that has emerged, and it is nothing new, is that Americans are sick of the negative attack ads. Well duh, but they keep falling for them and believing them. If they didn't we wouldn't see them anymore. But the Roveian tactics of negativity, fear, and hatred is starting to lose its effect on people. People can only be so scared for so long. They can only hate for so long, before exhaustion sets in. This year was a turning point in ways. Even though the gay marriage and abortion issues we tapped, slapped and flogged and paraded around to 're-energize' the base, they took less precedence this year as they did in 2004. People were more worried about the corruption, the war, the economy. Things they should worry about.

A lot has to happen now. And while I still don't feel 100% comfortable with the state of things, for the first time in six years I was able to relax, even if just a little.

11.07.2006

Politics { 2006 Minnesota Election

In Minnesota:

Klobuchar takes the Senate.

Keith Ellison wins in the 5th. Tim Walz is looking strong in the 1st. Okay so far.

Michelle Bachmann in the 6th. I need a drink.

Pawlenty and Hatch are within a breath of each other. Pawlenty will probably pull ahead for a bit. Hopefully Hatch will pick up some late wind from the Iron Range.

Bye-bye Mary Kiffmeyer. Don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. No need to show Mark Ritchie how to do the job, since he's already pretty much been doing your job for you.

Rebecca Otto gets Auditor. Lori Swanson takes the AG slot.


Nationwide:

Dems pick up the House. Senate is iffy at best. No surprises there. Hello Speaker Pelosi.

Holy Joe beats Ned.

Looks like the Virginia senate race is so close that we might have recounts into next week.

Not hopeful for the Dems in that nasty nasty Tennessee senate race.

Dems pick up some Governorships.

The anti-abortion amendment in SoDak looks like a no-go.

Voters in a number of states don't seem to be down with letting Gay people have the same rights as straight people.

More tomorrow.

UPDATE 00:03

Looks like that is gonna be Congressman Walz! Bye Gil! Go Rochester Democrats!

UPDATE 01:15

Control down to two Senate races, Webb in Virginia and Tester in Montana. If both win, the Dems own the Senate too. If either one loses, the GOP retains control.

92% Precincts reporting and it is still within a percent for the MN Gov race.

UPDATE 01:40

Looks like Webb won. Control of the U.S. Senate all comes down to Montana.

UPDATE 01:46

By my math, Hatch would need to maintain about 65% of the late counted votes (Iron Range, etc.) to beat Pawlenty. I'm not optimistic.

UPDATE 01:48

KSTP is calling it for Pawlenty. WCCO too. And KMSP. And KARE.

UPDATE 01:55

StarTribune calls it for Pawlenty too.

UPDATE 02:25 FINAL

Bleary eyed and going to sleep. CNN has Tester up by 2% with 76% of precincts in for the Montana senate race. If Webb's victory in Virginia survives the inevitable recount and electoral shenanigans, the Dems might have the US Senate too.

It was a sound victory in the House, a not so sound victory in the senate, and overall a pretty good night for Democrats nationwide.

But I'm not happy.

It wasn't a complete victory. I wanted a thorough overtake of the Senate by the Dems. Thorough as in 'the impeachment of the entire Bush administration will begin immediately, and we aren't going to have any nonsense about it, oi'

Sorry, that was incoherent.

Also, much of the results just reinforce my feeling that our electoral system, with its winner take all single candidate vote crap is just stupid. I should be able to put my full weight behind the Green party or really progressive folks, without it potentially giving the vote away to the candidate I want least. A prefferential balloting system would be a better, more democratic idea.

Also, the US Senate is, in the words of someone I spoke with yesterday, "The House of Lords...a complete joke". I love Vermont, but Vermont has two Senators and a population of less than San Fransisco, and California is stuck with the same two senators. Representation should be based on number of citizens, not arbitrary lines on a map. I'm not interested in your terrain getting a Senator.

America's statewide constitutional amendments and referrenda choices tell me that most people still don't get it. Stop moralizing and start worrying about things that matter, such as: our economy is a joke, our democracy is being eroded, our civil rights are being crushed, we're destroying the ecosystem, we're out of cheap, reliable fossil fuel energy, our infrastructure is a crumbling mess, our people are uneducated bumpkins, and we're putting war-mongering FUD spreading religious nutjob chickenhawks in control of policy.

I'm hopeful that things are better than they were yesterday, but we still have a long, long path ahead of us.

11.02.2006

Politics { 2006 Minnesota General Election - Tuesday November 07

Here are my final endorsements for the election on Tuesday. These are just my opinion and do not reflect on the other contributors to the Cubezoo blog.

Governor/Lt. Gov: Mike Hatch/Judi Dutcher (were it not so close a race, I'd probably be voting for Ken Pentel instead, but I'd prefer it if Pawlenty were gone)

U.S. Senate: Amy Klobuchar

5th Congressional District: Jay Pond (sorry, Keith, I just can't give you my vote. Ellison will win in any case.)

State Auditor: Rebecca Otto

Secretary of State: Mark Ritchie

Attorney General: Lori Swanson

10.31.2006

Festus { Happy Halloween/Samhain


Happy Halloween or if you prefer Samhain!

10.30.2006

Politics { Same Sex Marriage

I keep wondering if a good solution to this is to abolish all marriage
as being recognized by the gov't, basically if everyone wants to be
'married' in the eyes of the law, then they engage in a civil union.
'Marriage' can be defined and handled by the respective religions, as
even within religions some differences in the definition of marriage
exists. Basically extend the separation of church and state to
include the whole concept of marriage. Make civil unions be equal for
all, regardless of orientation, race, etc. A flaw with this idea
probably exists, and I am sure that many of the right-wing christian
base will cry foul as the gov't would be trying to outlaw the bible
and criminalize ministers (which it wouldn't). But it does seem like
a way to drive this issue out of the gov't while providing an equal
but equal footing for everyone. I know some religions have
reconciling and progressive movements that are making strides towards
allowing same-sex couples to be recognized as well as serve the
church. A complete civil union law would theoretically make them
free to perform same-sex couple marriages/civil unions if they wish as
churches are private institutions able to make their own rules (it
would also open the door for vehement oppression and abuse as well),
while the gov't exists for all and should discriminate against none.
It would also make marriages not legally recognized by the gov't. I
know its a semantics game. But since they want to make marriage a
legal as well as religious issue, the only solution could be to
separate the two halves.

Separation of church and state was one of the most forward thinking ideas the fore fathers had, and it was for situations just such as this.

10.25.2006

Tech { Firefox 2 Released

So far so good. It is a nice update. Larger search bar, cleaner look on Macs. Overall great effort, nice job.

Download link

10.24.2006

Politics { Santorum; Iraq = Mordor

From an article on salon.com last week:

Rick Santorum and the "Eye of Mordor"

In an interview with the editorial board of the Bucks County Courier Times, embattled Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has equated the war in Iraq with J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings." According to the paper, Santorum said that the United States has avoided terrorist attacks at home over the past five years because the "Eye of Mordor" has been focused on Iraq instead.

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said. "It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S. You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."

We're sure that we wouldn't either, if only we had the slightest idea of what Santorum was saying. The Courier Times translates for those of us who are not so conversant in spooky Tolkienese: The "Eye of Mordor," it seems, was "the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth."

To be fair, Santorum's interview with the editorial board wasn't all about fantasy. Well, at least not the Dungeons and Dragons kind. Santorum said that he disagreed with the notion that the United States is "bogged down" in Iraq. As for talk of a troop withdrawal? Santorum said: "I don't think you ask that question. I know that's the question everybody wants to ask. But I don't think anyone would ask that question in 1944, 'Gee, how long are we going to be in Europe?' We're going to be in Europe until we win."


Someone on boingboing.net contributed that what was meant is that by putting the troops at the 'Gates of Mordor', to be the bait, the terrorists fight them there, and not us here in the US. Seems like a stretch to me. I don't much like our troops being bait. Plus I think that person is giving Santorum a bit too much credit. Mr. 'Anal Froth' does not strike me as someone that hip (or nerdy).

If this is in fact the case Mr. Santorum, then who are the hobbits? What is the ring? I suspect you would say freedom and the American way. Here's my analysis, its a bit of role reversal. The Eye of Mordor, the all seeing powerful entity, is in fact the American public. The hobbits (Gonzales/DoJ) are carrying the one ring (the Constitution/Civil Liberties) to the fires of Mount Doom to be destroyed. Distracting us are evil-Aragorn (Bush) lead by evil-Gandalf (Rove/Cheney) at the Gates of Mordor (War on Terror/Iraq). The mouhtpiece of Sauron (the public Media owned by corporations) are treating with them (I would say they have a love affair, as Bush has not endured a fraction of the criticism previous Presidents have). While the Eye (us) are fixed on the exchange in Iraq (and the Spectacle that is Bush, glamoured by the illusions of Gandalfcheneyrove), the hobbits are carrying the ring to its doom, and with it will usher in a new dark age.

10.23.2006

Politics { Govenor Threesome

All three gubernatiorial candidates support increasing funding for police. But one of them already had that chance. Can you guess which one? Yes Pawlenty. As Govenor he proposes the budget (that the Attorney General uses) to the Legislature who then modify and approve it before he signs it. So you he's had this chance, why didn't he take it? Oh that's right, he wont 'tax' unless it is a Constitutional mandate (which are in the longer run bad for us, stop mucking with our constitution and assume the responsibility that the gov't has to fund service, and that means taxing).

10.22.2006

10.20.2006

Ouch { Contractors in Rochester

So as part of the carpeting, we were referred to a small-time carpenter who loves 'small jobs'. I like the people who did our carpet so I decided to call this carpenter. He came over and took measurements, we said we wanted to have a 1" high trim board installed around the base of the wall, stained if possible to the color of the existing trim on the doors. He said no problem, he would get me back a quote in a few days.

I got the quote today.

$1100.00

I had priced the material at Home Depot, and it would cost around $60 for the pre-made finished trim boards along the lines of what we are looking for, a little more to factor in the nails and my time to install. A good rule of thumb generally for accepting a work bid is 2xmaterials cost, that would have meant the quote should have been around $120-180. I had the quote done not because I probably couldn't muddle myself through this, but because I am running under budget and could spend $200 on professional work (as opposed to amatuer work that I do).

$1100 is an insult to my intelligence. Its also a rip off. A co-worker had a similar experience (not the same company) where they quoted $30000.00 to remodel his basement (a job that only cost $2000). He was livid and when he asked why they said it was because the job was too small. I find that insulting. Just say the job is too small and say 'no bid' and walk away. Giving out outrageous quotes accomplishes nothing save the fact that I will never again consider you. We had a lot of carpentry work planned for next year (deck, some new doors, etc.). You can guarentee we will never use you.

This has been a major irk of mine since coming to Rochester. The contractors in this town come in two flavors, good and expensive, bad and expensive. The contractors who have worked the best for us were found via word of mouth. They generally didn't advertise. But the ones in the phonebook are almost crooks.

There is a huge housing boom in Rochester (which I think is finally starting to slow down) so contractors have a lot of work now. This will not always be the case and many will soon be wishing for the 'small jobs'. Don't screw potential and future customers with insulting quotes.

10.19.2006

Politics { MN Congressional 6th

Our fellow Minnesotans in the 6th District need our support. This is the district where Mark Kennedy came from and is the home district of Michelle Bachman. It is a product of Gerrymandering and is a funny shaped district across the northern metro area, design for maximum conservative concentration. The DFL candidate is Patty Wetterling, who has decided to run again this election, which I commend. She was badly smeared by Mark Kennedy in 2004 in classic Republican attack dog style. She is Jacob's mom, which still resonates with people from Minnesota. Jacob was abducted one day, which sparked a nation-wide search. She dedicated her life to finding him and helping to prevent it from happening to others. She is relatively unproven as a politician, which in my eyes makes is a plus compared to some we've had. She can't do worse and she seems to honestly care. She has surrounded herself with smart people and has strive to learn about issues, what they are and how they work.

The City Pages had a great article about why Michelle Bachman is '10 kinds of crazy'. I recommend a read. She is one of the new breed of conservative that MN does NOT need.

10.18.2006

House { The Journey Is Nearing Its End

When we moved into our new house the basement was finished, or rather was once finished. It had wood paneling, 1950s era linoelum flooring, and an awesome fireplace. But the panelling was damaged by the great Rochester flood in the 1970s, and so the bottom six inches had a discoloring, the walls were covered in soot from the fireplace, evidence that the fireplace needs work. The linoelum was no longer shiny and in many places was chipped and had started coming up. It also had not been used in some time and the spiders had taken over and turned into something similar to Shelob's Lair. Every trip down was a quest, with the phial of Galandrial and 'Sting' by trusty flyswatter. It also had a smell that hinted that a cat's litter box had once been there (which is not good if you own cats, as they tend to go where others have gone before them). It was in short in sad shape.

Twelve months ago we decided each of us had a need for more space in our home offices, nerdwife for studying, and me for my game hobby and a place I can work from home. Originally we were to convert the two smaller bedrooms next to each other into offices, but the need for a home library was greater than the need for an office (we have a LOT of books) and so we moved our offices together. It is not a bad situation, but it also meant that we could not both use our 60s era desks, which are quite large. So thus is was decided the basement was to be remodelled.

In January I dug in and started removing the panelling, a closet, and decrepit cabinetry that once looks to house board games. It was dirty work that require much spider, millipede, and faux ladybug slaying. It took about six weeks of part time work to pull out all the panelling. Behine which I found sooty, pink painted, cement block, and, thankfully, framing adequate enough to hang sheetrock on.

I lost the will to go farther as it was now almost March. It sat like this until June when I took the panelling finally to the recycling center (3 full pickup truck loads). I started researching and cost estimating what it would take to sheetrock the basement. I found it would be beyond what I've ever done, and I didn't have all the tools. I decided I couldn't do it, well I could, but it would look terrible. I'm glad I didn't. We found a great contractor who did the work for $250 less than I had budgeted for a contractor to do and along the way I learned that I would have missed a lot, insulation, vapor barrier, and there was no way I could have made the mudding and seams look as great as he did. I wasn't able to schedule him until after Labor Day, but it was worth the wait.

Once the rock was hung and dry the quest for paint began. Originally I had thought it would look awesome in a dark red like the living room, but nerdwife pointed out that it would have given the 'Nerd Lair' as it was starting to be called a cave like feel as well as making it smaller. She was right, eventually we settled on a very light slate-blue that accentuated the colors in the fireplace brick work. It makes the room brighter and appear larger.

Once the painting was complete, which was, for the first time in my history of homeownership, not a terrible experience. Painting on sheetrock was effortless. A great difference from the 'textured' plaster walls of the old Victorian we had in St Paul, which required special rollers and gallons of paint. Things went smooth and it looked good.

Next step was the carpenting. Originally we had thought about getting carpeting from this company that specialized in modular carpeting, that is carpet in squares that you can lay down indvidually in your own designs. But it was expensive, and time is a factor, as both nerdwife and I have busy lives and jobs. We budgeted some more for carpeting and called 'The Rug Bug' a family run business who had recarpeted our library when we first moved in, they do exceptional work and are reasonably priced. I picked a berber carpet that had a mottled array of blues, grays, browns, beiges, and creams and it compliments the walls and fireplace nicely.

I have made arrangements for a carpenter who likes small jobs to come and give us an estimate on trimming out around the carpeting and fixing/replacing a few doors. I have also contacted a chimeny sweep to come look at both of our fireplaces and fix what is necessary to get them useable. I have also contacted professional movers to move my desk, which nerdwife found at the University of Minnesota Recycling Center and is a tanker desk. It is massive, beautiful and very 60s. It is also 250lbs. According to the guys at the RC, it is called a 'tanker desk' because it used to be used on Oil Tankers and it is heavy so that it did not shift around on the open seas. It is very heavy, so heavy in fact nerdwife and I can only move it a few inches. We decided professional moves, who are licensed, bonded, and insured should move it, because if we did it we would only hurt ourselves and probably the house.

The journey will be ending soon and I am looking forward to it.

10.17.2006

Politics { Do you know the difference?

The NY Times had an interesting op-ed piece "Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?" where the reporter had gone around Capitol Hill asking members of Congress and the various security agencies responsible for the 'War on Terror' and our security if they could tell the differences between the two groups. The results were less than encouraging.

I wonder if this reporter were to go back and ask these same people if they could explain the differences between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants in Northern Ireland if the results would be similar? This shows a seemingly 'brain drain' in our vital gov't agencies.

10.14.2006

Musings { The Art of War of Intolerance

Last night nerdwife and I went to the Twin Cities to see a play, 'Mrs. Man of God' directed by a close friend of ours Blayne Lemke. This play is about a 'man who loves a man who is in love with God'. It is a powerful and moving story about a gay couples life in the church told from the perspective of the partner to pastor. It was part of a GLBT in the clergy conference. The backdrop of the play was wall of stoles of clergy who've had their creditentials revoked for being gay. At this play I encountered friends I have not seen for years, from praxis, from when we used to go to plays, from the UMC, from United Theologian Seminary (where nerdwife studied for a time). We were greeted and embraced warmly and it was shown we were not forgotten and are still loved dearly. I still love these people. They showed me that religion does not have to be a tool of hate and oppression. They actively go out into the world with messages of tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and love. Love regardless of what you believe. This is the group of people who founded praxis, something that we were a part of for many years. Praxis did not convert me from Atheism, but it did shift my perception on religion, spirituality, acceptance, tolerance, wealth, love, politics, and understanding. At praxis we had communists and conservatives, atheists and pagans and catholics, many races, many ages, many sexual orientations, many genders, all coming together not to worship perse, but have a dialogue about spirituality, community, faith (which I posit is different than spirituality), religion (personal and organized), wealth, service and how to live together. Seeing these people brought back memories of praxis and it recharged my spiritual batteries so to speak.

I returned to Rochester with a feeling I have not felt in a long time. A feeling of hope. A feeling that the good fight is still being fought and should be.

The work yet to be done was illustrated this morning when nerdwife and I went out in Rochester for a cup of coffee and an pastry. In the back, as if often the case at this place, a heated discussion of politics was raging between two professional types. The crux of the argue was about the 'liberal' flogging of the Foley case for their own ends and why of all the scandals they picked did they pick the sex one? This sent me thinking. Rochester, even being the home of the Mayo Clinic, a world class organization devoted to the art and science of healing, is a very intolerant place. It is a conservative stronghold in an increasing purple state. Homosexuals and people of different races are not well tolerated by the residents, which seem at odds with the international stature of the city. Many are well educated and wealthy (many upper-middle class/upper class) residents, who seem socially liberal (focus on education, charity, volunteer work, etc.) yet are financially quite conservative (will tithe to church, will donate to charities, but will not accept increases in taxes). "Liberal", "Democrat", "Gay", "Atheist", "Communist" are dirty evil words here. No one is openly hostile against anyone as is the passive-aggressive nature of Minnesotans in general. But the hate and intolerance is there, festering just under the surface. You can't see it if you look directly at it, but you can catch it out of the corner of your eye, at a glance.

Don't let me seem like I am condemning everyone out of hand. A lot of good does happen here as well, Mayo and IBM do help those in need, they invest a lot back into their communities, generosity does flow outward. But it is amazing with all of this, that hatred, intolerance, fear, and paranoia exists. Well-groomed, and hidden. I call this intolerance when I can, I was instantly labeled 'the liberal', 'cosmopolitan', 'elitist', etc. when I arrived in town, labels I wear with pride. Its ironic, me, a farm boy from east-central Minnesota, whose only international travel has been to Thuder Bay Canada, has been labeled 'cosmopolitan'. I digress. I try not to actively convert people, because that is not what I am about. But I serve as an example, a counter-point, a presence. It has met with some success. If only one person has changed their perception about the larger world, I will have considered myself lucky. There are liberals, progressives, as well as those of non-traditional orientations here. A lot more than perhaps many of the ultra-conservative elements would like to believe. They have formed into close-knit groups who are, in my opinion doing good where they can. They are just not open about it, which down here is more of a survival trait than lack of will.

I guess this post has drifted in many directions, and the title is more a 'shocker' than anything. I am going to try and remember my friends in praxis and what we tried to accomplish in the years we were together. I am going to try and become more tolerant. I did not realize how far I drifted. This place has that effect, it wears you down like a stone slowly grinding on you.

I can sense a change in the wind, but I can't yet tell if it is for the better or for the worse.

Musings { A surreal journey through the desert (dessert?) of the real

Reality is a story your brain tells your consciousness based on sensory input.

Our experience of life is like watching a movie, on a delay.

10.11.2006

Cinema { Holy Crap



Robert Rodríguez + Quentin Tarantino + Retro Camp = f'ing nuts

oh, NSFW

Musings { Answers to Questions based on observations

Q: WWJD (What Would Jesus Drive)?
A: Based on observation analysis (i.e. while looking for a parking spot after being cut off by a SUV driving across parking spots), the biggest fucking SUV possible. Seriously. I see more Jesus fish on SUVs than any other class of vehicle. Jesus would drive a military-styled suburban assault vehicle. Two blocks. To get milk.

Q: WWJB (What Would Jesus Bomb)?
A: Based on various news sources and from musings by President George W Bush, who has said Jesus is his favorite philospher, which must mean he is well read in the works and teachings of said philospher, the answer is: Brown People.

Q: Why do hot dogs come in packages of eight and hot dog buns in packages of six?
A: The world hates you.

Q: How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
A: 17 before the candy develops slight ridges and fissures that are razor sharp and will slice your tongue open.

Q: Why is the sky blue?
A: Its a yellow consipracy.

Podcasts { Energy and Environment

Matthew Simmons (mp3) talks about the economics of petroleum/peak oil.

James Lovelock (mp3) gives a very pessimistic overview of global climate change (caused in no small part by the fossil fuel used to run the economy mentioned above), and his belief that we will have to seek out a global development retreat in order to be sustainable.

Politics { Rock on Olbermann

Keith Olbermann does a scathing (it would be funny in a Jon Stewart sort of way if it were not actually happening) critique of the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

10.09.2006

Bling { Enterprise-D model sells for $0.5M

The Star Trek model of the USS Enterpise-D made in 1987 for the title sequence and the episode 'Encounter at Farpoint' sold at auction for $500,000.00. Yowza!

Life { Happy Anniversary Nerdwife

Thank you for 7 wonderful years of marriage!

Idiocy { North Korea

Ugh.

So an isolated militarized (not to mention starving and miserable) nation run by a wingnut has tested a nuke and confirmed that they possess weapons whose only implementable use are as instruments of terrorism and fear.

Based on history, it will probably lend them bargaining power.

I wonder what the world response will be, aside from the obvious denounciations. Sanctions? Naval blockade? Incineration?

10.04.2006

Humor/Politics { Are you a sexy young stud...


Evil Bobby had an excellent cartoon on his site, so I decided to post it here.

[L'histoire] Déjà vu

Parallels in the NYT.

Typical { Mail Bomb

The NSA MUST be able to listen in on your phone calls. However we won't read the correspondence of convicted, dangerous, felons/terrorists in prision.

10.03.2006

Numbers { New Math in America

(911/2001) + (3162/2001) + (6166/2006) = 1984 = 1776

NSA { Minor Victory

The Senate adjorned last Friday without passing the NSA wiretapping legislation.

What does this mean? Not much, without investigations into the program by Congress we have no idea how or what they are doing, if they've stopped, and how we can prevent them from doing it again. Assume it is still going on, but don't live in fear of the gov't or the NSA.

10.02.2006

Politics { Interesting and Tragic...

Day starts off with news that a member of the House of Representatives sexually harassed under-aged pages and the GOP leadership covers it up, then suddenly all news coverage is focused on the shooting of six in Pennsylvania.

The shootings are tragic, never get the impression that I marginalize the loss of human life in such a violent fashion. However the conspiracy theorist in me is screaming to get out.

I wonder if anyone has done a correlation over the last six years to the number of times the shit hits the fan for the Republicans and suddenly we distracted by shootings, abducted blond-white girls in the Bahamas, or terror alert level increases (2003 saw a record number of what I would call 'chicken-little' scenarios)?

Politics { 2008 Twin Cities

We should protest the RNC in 2008. I wonder what it would take to organize something like that?

Politics { Infamy

Read this alternet.org article.

10.01.2006

Musings/Crafts { Strength, Sweat, Steel


I forged a sword today...ok well it wasn't a sword, it was a fireplace poker. However I forged it in the old ways, hammer, anvil, coal, sweat, steel and strength. The forge was stoked until the heat made the soul of the steel glow and pliable to the ministrations of the hammer. The steel was hammered, split, angled, and twisted. It was shaped to my and by my will. When its glowing thirst was quenched by the cool water, it was lavished with and lathered in oil (olive) and once more was it put back to the fire to complete the ritual and seal in the essence of the steel.

I felt something primal. I felt pride when I was finished, sweaty, sooty, and grinning.

9.28.2006

Books { 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins and 'Letter to a Christian Nation' by Sam Harris

I've recently picked up a few new books, and just finished reading two closely intertwined books on religion, atheism, faith, science, and reason. Both books are written by outspoken atheists. The first is "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins, who is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, not to mention probably the world's most outspoken proponent of both atheism and Darwinian evolution and natural selection. The second is "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience, and previous author of "The End of Faith". Both of these books are currently lingering in the top 10 ofAmazon.com's bookseller list.

These books have been written on nearly parallel tracks, and in fact reference each other, as well as at least one other book I picked up but have not yet read, "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" by American philosopher Daniel C. Dennett. Both Dawkins and Harris make similar arguments regarding the problems and perils of religious faith.

Dawkins makes a much more scholarly, scientific, and thorough approach, and clocking in at 406 pages, to Harris' 96 pages, one can see that these very similar books were intended for slightly different audiences. Dawkins begins with discussing respect, deserved and underserved, for religion. One of the central themes both authors have talked about is that in virtually all endeavors, we expect and respect things like evidence, conformity to reality, and verifiability. The major exception, they argue, is religion. Religion has been getting a pass where if it were any other subject, we would demand proof, especially in light of outrageous claims. We are told, from the earliest times, that religion is to be respected. That a person's belief should be respected, and that religion is sacred; that is that religion should not be questioned, or criticized, or taken to task when it is clearly spouting nonsense. Faith is to be cherished, and often in religion, where you have no proof that a thing is true, your faith in it, despite evidence to the contrary, is expected to be regarded as a noble virtue. Both conclude, as I would, that this is a very poor idea.

Dawkins goes into some of the current and historical arguments for belief in god, from Thomas Aquinas' 'proofs' to Pascal's Wager, to Bayesian probability arguments. He tears them pieces with wit, logic, and reasoning. He then goes into his argument why there almost certainly is no god. He lays the foundation of his own work and the work of biologists, physicists, and scientists: why our existance can only be adequately explained by naturalism, natural phenomena, and the long, slow ratcheting up of complexity through evolution and non-random natural selection, that 'the God hypothesis' (and it is a scientific hypothesis), is a failed one, and only evolution makes any sense at all given the massive amounts of evidence we've collected. He talks about his arguments with his longtime debater and fellow Darwinian, the late Stephen Jay Gould, who argued for NOMA (non-overlapping magisteria), in which Science and Religion have no overlap, and that both can quietly coexist without stepping on each other's toes. Dawkins clearly to my mind rips up this apologist nonsense, and shows there is a very real conflict, that faith and reason are mutually incompatible worldviews, and that to be intellectually honest you must choose.

Dawkins makes some conjecture as to the possible Darwinian reasons why religion might naturally arise, and his argument that our ability to conceive religion and faith are by-products of other structural and biological developments that have evolved over time, as our species grew out of previous forms, was quite interesting.

He addresses morality in the absence of faith, and that there are perfectly natural moral responses that come about without any supernatural belief, much less fear of punishment in a fictional afterlife. He points to the animal kingdom to show how moral and cooperative behavior comes about as adaptive and useful developments.

He does a short, if excellent critical analysis of the Bible (a more comprehensive treatment can be found here, and why much of the 'morality' discussed in the 'good book' is in fact horrid and repugnant. I agreed with his assessment in the beginning of the book, that

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic,
racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomanical, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."

He then goes to show that the New Testament is little better. He takes on the argument that several high profile atheists (and incorrectly claimed atheists) in history that have been bullies and butchers themselves. Finally, he
addresses, why it is that he seems so hostile to religious belief. He doesn't thrive on controversy, or try to be mean or seek conflict, but his arguments that religious beliefs are providing cover for violence and misery, subverting knowledge, science, reason, rationality are compelling, and I fully understand his controversial approach.

His conclusions that religious indoctrination of children is tantamount to mental child abuse is, in my opinion, uncomfortably spot-on. There have been a few outstanding arguments against faith and religious nonsense, and I would consider this book to instantly take a place among these arguments. Anyone attached to faith or religion, to a belief system they were raised with, which bears little resemblence to the real world, should challenge themselves to read this book.

Harris' book is a much shorter approach, containing many of the same arguments, but aimed at the fundamentalist Christian in America. I took it to be a kind of extended pamphlet meant to rouse the major points of argument against religious belief, but without the drier scholarship of Dawkin's book. Think of 'Letter to a Christian Nation' as a kind of Cliff's Notes take on the modern arguments against faith, and the dangers of religious dogma in the 21st Century. Both make persuasive arguments and points, but overall I preferred Dawkin's approach.

The sad fact is that I doubt seriously that many 'persons of faith' will read, much less allow these books to challenge their cherished belief systems. My experience is that most of the religiously devout are quite dogmatic and Pavlovian, that the memeplex of religion is a self-reinforcing and culturally-reinforced delusion, a metaphorical massive mental viral infection of false dogmas that are inocculated in the minds of children from the earliest days, taking advantage of their mind's plasticity and nature to accept whetever they are told as true, in thrall to Bronze and Iron Age nonsense, used to justify war, destruction, hatred, control, misogyny, and host of crimes too numerous to list. Add to this the increasing tendency toward seperatist culture by Chrisitan fundamentalists and evangelicals, and I doubt it will make their radar screens, except as an object of scorn.

I am living in a world where every day science and reason and knowledge are under attack from ignorance and irrationality. It has to stop. I have been told that I should accept religion, be tolerant of religion, and respect religion, even while religion is making me less safe, calling me the most hated religious minority (atheist), subverting knowledge, repressing women, sexuality, science, and destroying all the good and useful things in life. Respect is earned. Religious belief has done little to earn respect in the last thousand years, and it should not be beyond questioning, criticism, or verification with reality. If a few small details of the popular faiths were changed (change God to Zeus and Jesus to Poseidon and see how crazy religious texts sound), and put to you what your assessment of their belief was, you'd probably think most of the believers of the monotheistic Middle Eastern death cults were stark raving loons. It is time to stop tolerating attacks on reason and logic and rationality in the name of faith and tradition. It is time to draw a conversational line, because we can't afford this dangerous nonsense anymore. Its time to make reasoned and intelligent arguments against the dangers of faith. This is not hatred of the religious, this is tough love. A friend is someone who tells you the truth, even when it is uncomfortable. Going along with the lies of religious dogma isn't getting us anywhere. Most people have the capacity to think rationally, so we must speak against those false traditions and nonsense that is poisoning the minds of so many, many people.

I recommend both books for those looking for a framework of how to approach this. The world seems on the brink of a Christian vs. Muslim holy war, but the real philosophical conflict is reason and naturalism vs. faith and supernaturalism. Reason must win such a conflict, because millions will die and suffer if it does not, and at best we will reap ourselves a new dark age. Reason and science has expanded our knowledge of the universe in the last 200 years more than faith has done in the previous ten thousand. It has brought us abundant agriculture, computers, transportation, communications, mathematics, medicine, means to extend life, to eliminate harsh work, and to set ourselves free to live lives of quality and excellence. Your life is as rich as it is today because of these principles and methods. The supporters of reason and science are outnumbered ten to one, but this is perhaps the most important struggle the world has to face in the coming century. It is time for atheists and humanists to stop being quite so polite and to stand up for the principles of the enlightenment project, to organize, and not be silent any longer.

Fascism { The end of any lingering illusions that we are a just nation...

Military Commissions Act of 2006 - The Torture Bill

* Makes torture de facto legal.
* Suspends Habeus Corpus (unconstitutional), a bedrock of legal protection since the Magna Carta in the year 1215.
* Allows the President to interpret the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners to his liking.
* Eliminates judicial review of any of these abuses.
* Allows coerced evidence.
* Allows secret evidence to be used against someone.
* Indefinite detention without being charged with any crime.
* Applies to U.S. citizens. If the president says you are an enemy combatant, all your rights vanish under the guise of national security. He could send liberals who piss him off to Gitmo. This is basically a Sedition Act.
* Pardons Bush and his entire administration of war crimes they have comitted, including retroactively, since 2001-09-11

The House votes to adopt the Senate language of the bill tomorrow. It will almost certainly pass and be signed into law. Are these the acts of intelligent, balanced, and considered men and women? No. This is a work of utter treason. We failed to heed Nietzsche's warning.

Politics { The RNC at TC, part deux

Dear RNC and GOP,

Welcome to MN in 2008. We will gladly take your money. I understand you have a lot of it. You may also hear a lot of stirring speeches and welcoming words from your lackeys in this State. But try that hate filled, fear mongering that you did in 2004 in New York, and you will find us a very cold place indeed. That stuff may fly on the coasts but here in the land of 'Prarie Home Companion' we don't stand for it, sure we're passive-aggressive and won't say anything to your face, but that is when you need to start looking over your shoulder.

I was dreadfully disappointed in 2004 when I was unable to protest the visit of Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney when they visited Rochester, something about only party faithful could attend the rallies of the 'elected' leaders of our country. But hopefully this will not be a problem in 2008 right? Your party can handle a little criticism and protesting right?

Looking forward to making your stay in MN as uncomfortable as possible.

Sincerely,

A Minnesota Liberal

9.27.2006

Science { The Living Cell

Fascinating video.

Politics { Damn, I hope we can spray for them...

RNC chooses the Twin Cities for the 2008 Convention.

http://feeds.dailykos.com/~r/dailykos/index/~3/28420656/913

This means I will probably now have a criminal record when I am arrested by the police for protesting the Convention.

I was hoping the DNC would get here first, or actually they can still come. We have more than enough room, and they should hold the conventions at the same time. That would be awesome.

It is going to take years to get the stink of that many Republicans in one place out of here. We're still cleaning after Bush and Cheney's visit in 2004.

Politics { Olberman is my new hero

Watch this video.

Edit: update, the transcript for those who cannot view QuickTime: (from crooksandliars )

And finally tonight, a Special Comment about President Clinton’s interview. The headlines about them are, of course, entirely wrong. It is not essential that a past President, bullied and sandbagged by a monkey posing as a newscaster, finally lashed back.

It is not important that the current President’s "portable public chorus" has described his predecessor’s tone as "crazed."

Our tone should be crazed. The nation’s freedoms are under assault by an administration whose policies can do us as much damage as Al-Qaeda; the nation’s "marketplace of ideas" is being poisoned, by a propaganda company so blatant that Tokyo Rose would’ve quit. Nonetheless.

The headline is this: Bill Clinton did what almost none of us have done, in five years. He has spoken the truth about 9/11, and the current presidential administration.

"At least I tried," he said of his own efforts to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden. "That’s the difference in me and some, including all of the right-wingers who are attacking me now. They had eight months to try; they did not try. I tried."

Thus in his supposed emeritus years, has Mr. Clinton taken forceful and triumphant action for honesty, and for us; action as vital and as courageous as any of his presidency; action as startling and as liberating, as any, by anyone, in these last five long years.

The Bush Administration did not try to get Osama Bin Laden before 9/11.

The Bush Administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors.

The Bush Administration did not understand the Daily Briefing entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S."

The Bush Administration… did… not… try.—

Moreover, for the last five years one month and two weeks, the current administration, and in particular the President, has been given the greatest "pass" for incompetence and malfeasance, in American history!

President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs — some of them, 17 years old — before Pearl Harbor.

President Hoover was correctly blamed for — if not the Great Depression itself — then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the Stock Market Crash.

Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War — though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.

But not this President.

To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been President on September 11th, 2001 — or the nearly eight months that preceded it.

That hardly reflects the honesty nor manliness we expect of the Executive.

KO-Bush.jpg

But if his own fitness to serve is of no true concern to him, perhaps we should simply sigh and keep our fingers crossed, until a grown-up takes the job three Januarys from now.

Except… for this:

After five years of skirting even the most inarguable of facts — that he was President on 9/11 and he must bear some responsibility for his, and our, unreadiness, Mr. Bush has now moved, unmistakably and without conscience or shame, towards re-writing history, and attempting to make the responsibility, entirely Mr. Clinton’s.

Of course he is not honest enough to do that directly.

As with all the other nefariousness and slime of this, our worst presidency since James Buchanan, he is having it done for him, by proxy.

Thus, the sandbag effort by Fox News, Friday afternoon.

Consider the timing: The very same weekend the National Intelligence Estimate would be released and show the Iraq war to be the fraudulent failure it is — not a check on terror, but fertilizer for it!

The kind of proof of incompetence, for which the administration and its hyenas at Fox need to find a diversion, in a scapegoat.

It was the kind of cheap trick which would get a journalist fired — but a propagandist, promoted:

Promise to talk of charity and generosity; but instead launch into the lies and distortions with which the Authoritarians among us attack the virtuous and reward the useless.

And don’t even be professional enough to assume the responsibility for the slanders yourself; blame your audience for "e-mailing" you the question.

Mr. Clinton responded as you have seen.

He told the great truth un-told… about this administration’s negligence, perhaps criminal negligence, about Bin Laden.

He was brave.

Then again, Chris Wallace might be braver still. Had I — in one moment surrendered all my credibility as a journalist — and been irredeemably humiliated, as was he, I would have gone home and started a new career selling seeds by mail.

The smearing by proxy, of course, did not begin Friday afternoon.

Disney was first to sell-out its corporate reputation, with "The Path to 9/11."

Of that company’s crimes against truth one needs to say little. Simply put: someone there enabled an Authoritarian zealot to belch out Mr. Bush’s new and improved history.

The basic plot-line was this: because he was distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Bill Clinton failed to prevent 9/11.

The most curious and in some ways the most infuriating aspect of this slapdash theory, is that the Right Wingers who have advocated it — who try to sneak it into our collective consciousness through entertainment, or who sandbag Mr. Clinton with it at news interviews — have simply skipped past its most glaring flaw.

Had it been true that Clinton had been distracted from the hunt for Bin Laden in 1998 because of the Lewinsky nonsense — why did these same people not applaud him for having bombed Bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan and Sudan on August 20th of that year? For mentioning Bin Laden by name as he did so?

That day, Republican Senator Grams of Minnesota invoked the movie "Wag The Dog."

Republican Senator Coats of Indiana questioned Mr. Clinton’s judgment.

Republican Senator Ashcroft of Missouri — the future Attorney General — echoed Coats.

Even Republican Senator Arlen Specter questioned the timing.

And of course, were it true Clinton had been "distracted" by the Lewinsky witch-hunt — who on earth conducted the Lewinsky witch-hunt? Who turned the political discourse of this nation on its head for two years?

Who corrupted the political media?

Who made it impossible for us to even bring back on the air, the counter-terrorism analysts like Dr. Richard Haass, and James Dunegan, who had warned, at this very hour, on this very network, in early 1998, of cells from the Middle East who sought to attack us, here?

Who preempted them… in order to strangle us with the trivia that was… "All Monica All The Time"?

Who… distracted whom?

This is, of course, where — as is inevitable — Mr. Bush and his henchmen prove not quite as smart as they think they are.

The full responsibility for 9/11 is obviously shared by three administrations, possibly four.

But, Mr. Bush, if you are now trying to convince us by proxy that it’s all about the distractions of 1998 and 1999, then you will have to face a startling fact that your minions may have hidden from you.

The distractions of 1998 and 1999, Mr. Bush, were carefully manufactured, and lovingly executed, not by Bill Clinton… but by the same people who got you… elected President.

Thus instead of some commendable acknowledgment that you were even in office on 9/11 and the lost months before it… we have your sleazy and sloppy rewriting of history, designed by somebody who evidently redd the Orwell playbook too quickly.

Thus instead of some explanation for the inertia of your first eight months in office, we are told that you have kept us "safe" ever since — a statement that might range anywhere from Zero, to One Hundred Percent, true.

We have nothing but your word, and your word has long since ceased to mean anything.

And, of course, the one time you have ever given us specifics about what you have kept us safe from, Mr. Bush — you got the name of the supposedly targeted Tower in Los Angeles… wrong.

Thus was it left for the previous President to say what so many of us have felt; what so many of us have given you a pass for in the months and even the years after the attack:

You did not try.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your predecessor.

You ignored the evidence gathered by your own people.

Then, you blamed your predecessor.

That would be the textbook definition… Sir, of cowardice.

To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past.

That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair — writing as George Orwell — gave us in the novel "1984."

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power…

"Power is not a means; it is an end.

"One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

"The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power… is power."

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before the Fox ambush, speaking in the far different context of the closing session of his remarkable Global Initiative, Mr. Clinton quoted Abraham Lincoln’s State of the Union address from 1862.

"We must disenthrall ourselves."

Mr. Clinton did not quote the rest of Mr. Lincoln’s sentence. He might well have.

"We must disenthrall ourselves — and then… we shall save our country."

And so has Mr. Clinton helped us to disenthrall ourselves, and perhaps enabled us, even at this late and bleak date… to save… our… country.



The "free pass" has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush…

You did not act to prevent 9/11.

We do not know what you have done, to prevent another 9/11.

You have failed us — then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.

You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.

And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.

And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture — which doesn’t work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.And there it is, sir:

Are yours the actions of a true American?

I’m K.O., good night, and good luck.

Tech { Its 10am, do you know where your SysAdmin is? (part deux)

The upgrade saga continues. I think it is probably just me. After getting some sleep last night, and sleeping in way late due to a 4 hour power outage at 4am killing my alarm clock I have some fresh perspective. I followed the upgrade doc and it didn't work. I completely removed and reinstalled and it worked, sort of...I have a support call in to Symantec because post-install the vcs.war file, which is used by the internal cluster webserver is missing and I can't find documentation on how to regenerate or re-install it (anyone, if anyone does read this, and can help please leave a comment). If I had time here would be my next steps (but I don't have time, these systems go live Monday, and I still have to re-gen the shared zone and configure the user environments):

* re-jump the machines with a fresh Solaris 10 6/06 image
* install on the virgin image

I am scheduled to upgrade another host today at 11am. Hope it goes smoother.

9.26.2006

Tech { Its almost midnight, do you know where you SysAdmin is?

In his office upgrading a new production cluster to Veritas, I'm sorry Symantec Storage Foundation HA 5.0.

This is the first generation (along with NBU 6.0) that was developed post-merger. It doesn't totally suck, but it is bloated and top heavy. Minimal VxVM + VxFS install is almost 900MB add VCS into it and it is almost 1.2GB. Minimal 'required' (required by the docs, I am sure it can be trimmed, just too tired to look into it tonight) install if 41 packages. Installation of new client software (such as 'hagui' and 'vea') are required, at least with 4.1, I could use my 4.0 client to connect. Tons of 'security' features, that if they do as advertised are long overdue, however they require additional servers (Root Broker) and additional setup.

Like NBU 6.0 it feels like they are gearing this up with features that allow for centralized management via Command Central (another purchasable product).

In short Symanitas is pulling a classic Symantec where full functionality requires additional products.

The new GUI while a bit cleaner and shinier and very yellow, has some nice features (when you are working on multiple nodes, the active window only contains the host of your interest instead of all hosts you are logged into and it can be easily toggled). Back are also some features I've missed since the graphical days of VXVA, a volume view.

The upgrade from v4.1 did not go smoothly, the new version accepting, but then going flaky with the old cluster configs. I did a complete uninstall/re-install, this time bypassing the main 'installer' and installing VxFS, VxVM, VCS one at a time. The installers do not show you as much of what is going on as they used to, which is a negative and they do not let you selectively trim optional packages anymore, you 3 options, 1) Install what is required; 2) Install all of the packages for X; 3) Install the whole wad, everything plus every option. Ugh.

A tool that was easy to install, easy to configure, and easy to manage feels (final judgement is still out) like it was made unnecessarily complex. The old functionality and CLI are still there, but there is also a whole lot more, not all of it good.

Symantec, if I wanted VVR, I would install the package and license. If I wanted flashsnap, I will install the package and license. If I want I/O fencing, well you get the picture.

So now total installs if you do a full Solaris 10 + OEM install (which we do), minus Star Office, plus full SFHA install, you OS image is now close to 5GB. I know disk is cheap, but there is something to be said about less is more.

Horoscope { Fucking-A!

My horoscope for this week:

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Jeff Greenwald (www.ethicaltraveler.com) has traveled extensively all over the planet for the last quarter of a century. "Do the citizens of the world revile us Americans more each year?" I asked him. He said that while millions upon millions have come to despise the U.S. government, most don't actually hate us, the American people. That's because they know firsthand the corruption and tyranny of their own countries' politicians, and so they don't hold our awful government against us. Let this distinction serve as a guide for you, Virgo. The time is right for you to fight inept institutions and rotten traditions and bad ideas, but without hating anyone.


Bitching time for some player non-hating!

9.25.2006

Poem { Simple Love

gentle creature curled in my lap
you sleep so contented
so peaceful
you ask of me so little
food, shelter, love, and a warm safe place to sleep
I give to you my lap and warmth and comfort
you forgive
you do not judge
you help me focus on the now
to forgot, for a brief time the rest of the world
the struggle of life
for a brief period, I am calm

9.22.2006

Politcs { Hackergate? Come on people...

Hackergate

Refer to Godwin's Law. It seems like nowadays any political 'scandal' if left to run long enough, someone will called it 'something'-gate.

Creativity is dead.

PS: The Kennedy campagin is kind of like advertising. Stop watching/listening to it, and it will go away like the big giant scary billboards in that 'Treehouse of Terror' episode of the Simpsons.

PSS: I feel that the Klobuchar campagin acted responsibly, they went to the FBI first, fired the guitly party and once the investigation was no longer pending, released a statement to the press. The GOPs and the Bush Administration, as they like to point out oh so often, taught us that you can't comment on something if there is an ongoing investigation.

Casual Friday { White and Nerdy

Weird Al

9.19.2006

Video { Bush Rose Garden Meltdown

MSNBC Olbermann commentary on Bush's reaction to a question about Colin Powell's opposition to the Administration's stance on torture:

http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/41824/

Please watch this video.

Here is Powell's letter to McCain that is referenced in the news piece. (Note this is a copy of the letter provided on CNN)

Distraction { ITLAPD

Avast ye scurvy bilge rats!

P.S.: Ninjas are better.

9.18.2006

Morals { There is no compromise for torture

We should not torture, period. End of story. I can't believe we are even having this dialogue.

WAKE THE FUCK UP AMERICA!

(before you get all up in my kool-aid note I said torture, interrogations are a necessary part of law enforcement, but there is a difference between asking questions and asking questions while pulling someone's fingernails out)

Politics { MN DFL needs to brace for another 4 years of Pawlenty

Dear MN DFL,

I write as a concerned citizen who has served in the ranks and carried the banner of your organization. Please note that while Mike Hatch has garned the victory in the MN Primary, and has a name recognition, he is perhaps ill suited to be governor, having better chops to be Attorney General, and in a race against Pawlenty he will have a tough run. The two candidates are too similar and represent the status quo. Please be prepared to write off the Govenor's race and focus on getting Amy Klobuchar elected to US Senate, and to insure that the DFL (or non-GOP) candidates gain control of the State House and maintain control of the State Senate. Since I feel it will be tough to win against Pawlenty (as it will be hard to bring anything bad against him since he has done nothing...for 4 years, and more if you count his service in the State House) you must ensure that his ineptness at leading us is kept in check and minimized if possible, with a solid front in the Legislature.

Mr. Hatch, if elected, please remember that 24% of us voted for Becky Lourey and you would do well to get her involved some how, she has great ideas as well as passion and energy.


PS - Olmsted County DFL, you should take a page from the Senate Districts in the Twin Cities on how to run a DFL caucus. I almost left the party after serving as a delegate in the congressional district caucus. You have some serious internal issues that need to be fixed.

References:

MN 2006 Primary Election Results

Musings { But seriously

I know I have spent the summer posting YouTube and dodging commentary on the big issues. But I needed a break to be self-absorbed. Now that the mid-term election is less than 2 months away, it is time to get serious. I fear if we do not enact appreciable change and shake up the composition of the Federal Congress, and to a lesser extent the MN State Legislature, we will have lost our last chance to save what is left of our way of life. If we do not enact turnover, and remove from power those that have willingly handed our future, our economy, and our personal liberties to this Imperialist Administration, we may never get a second chance (check various news agencies, the next two months promise to be a flurry of legislation legalizing the worst of what the Bush Administration and its cabal have committed, from illegal NSA wiretapping to torture of prisoners). I send this call for removal to any and all members of Congress who have not had a stand against this Administration, who tow the Administrations line without question, and remain silent while atrocities on a level never before seen in this country occur to its own people. The status quo must be broken.

I have had in the last week, many poignant discussions with people who are ideologically on the other end of the spectrum. We were able to agree on some issues (illegal wiretapping, DM&E, and education) and come to agreements of disagreement on others (like abortion, I understand their religious feelings on the subject while not agreeing with it, and they understand that my point is from a personal liberties stance and that legislation reduces a woman's freedom) without resorting to name calling, sound bytes of vitriolic hate or lasting anger towards each other. Why can't our elected officials do this? We are all in this together. Stop grandstanding and start fixing some of this before it is too late.

Vote in November. Vote change.

Round up of my hot-button issues:
* NSA wiretapping (stop it immediately)
* War in Iraq (we should get out and should never have been there in the first place)
* Presidential abuses of power (from signing statements to torture policy, ITMFA!)
* Bring up the entire administration in an international court on human rights violations, we push for this against other leaders of other countries, because we are currently the biggest and baddest doesn't mean we can be held accountable
* universal health care
* universal access to anyone who wants to go to college
* separation of church and state (we need it for a reason, politicians are free to worship as they see fit but leave the sermon at church and out of legislation)
* stop to corporate welfare
* harsher penalties to corporate violators (on anything from EPA regulations to SEC violations) such as the removal of corporate chart and forced disolvment for the worst violations
* removal of corporate donations to political entities (corporations are entities, not indvidual citizens, they should not have the same constituational protections)

Ah, that felt good.


My fellow Americans. As a young boy, I dreamed of being a baseball, but
tonight I say, we must move forward, not backward, upward not forward,
and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

-- Kodos gives a speech, "Treehouse of Horror VII"