December 29, 2005

V.Smile

With some more research I found the V.Smile system. It's a $50 game console that has huge buttons and a big joystick that is very easy to use. The games cost around $20 each.

We tried it out last night and Megan was immediately in love with it. The unit comes with one game already, but I bought the Elmo game as well and she wanted to play that one. The games are very simple. With less than an hour of exposure she can turn the unit on and off, start the game, and she understands how to move the character around and answer the questions to play the game.

From what I can see watching over her shoulder there are things for her to learn. I think Lori and I are better teachers, but the game serves as good reinforcement. For example, she can't at the moment distinguish between large and small. I don't think the game can teach that, but it can reinforce it. Just as the game is reinforcing her current knowledge of shapes, colors, animals and numbers.

Lori forwarded me an article she found about these new kids video game systems that was critical of them. The point of the article was that time with the game should not be a replacement for time with a parent. Clearly. But I can see right away that if she is going to have TV time, then she is far more mentally engaged with the game than she is in watching an entertainment DVD.

For me it's a coin toss between educational TV, like Sesame Street, and the game. I think Sesame Street does a good teaching job, but the game does a good reinforcing job.

Certainly at this price point it's tough not to just try it out.

Speaking of entertainment DVDs. My work is giving me an iPod Video as a Christmas gift. I was certainly happy but didn't think much about it at the time. Now it occurs to me after dealing with Megan's car DVD player on the way down to Monterey, that I could rip several of her movies onto the iPod and have them around any time in a much nicer form factor. And given that the PSP and the iPod share the same video format I could also put the same movies on the PSP to get the larger screen size.

Posted by jherr at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2005

Something lighter

Now it's time for something lighter, like playing darts with cars.

Posted by jherr at 02:47 PM | Comments (2)

The sad state of kids games

One of the gifts I gave Lori for Christmas was a small video game controller that plays Sonic The Hedgehog 2. She has become hopelessly addicted to the game. I certainly wouldn't want her to see this.

Megan has been really curios as to what's going on with it, since it's on the TV and it is colorful and interactive. So we told her it's a video game and she has tried it, but the controls are beyond her at the moment. So yesterday we went to CompUSA and to try and find Megan Video Games. She immediately found the Simpson's Road Rage game, and being a serious Simpson-holic she wanted that. But again, that is beyond her on many different levels. (She reads Simpsons books and has never seen the show. Frankly I don't understand it. But something with her and the Simpsons just clicks.)

So we found a collection of games like Blues Clues that were supposed to play on Mac and Windows. Many Macs later, no joy. So I installed it on my work laptop. And Megan and I settled in for an hour or so to play her game. She was absolutely enthralled. This girl's appetite for knowledge is voracious.

So today I looked around a little bit and got even more frustrated. Xbox kids games? Your kidding right. PS2 kids games? Nope. Mac kids games in her age range? Nope. The best spot I found was Leapfrog and the little hand-held jobbie is for kids from 4-8. And the Leappad stuff doesn't interest her because it isn't a computer, and doesn't have a screen. She always wants to touch the laptops because she sees us on them all the time.

As an aside, the lack of Xbox games is a little upsetting. Obviously the market for kids games in the Xbox and PS2 demographic is small. I get that. But Xbox games are really easy to port from Windows. So it wouldn't be that tough to get Blues Clues onto the Xbox.

At this point I'm regretting having dumped the old PCs that I had in the garage. They probably could have held up and done a reasonable job. Maybe a few months from now I'll get her some $200 PC over at Fry's. In the meantime she can just wait until I get home with the laptop.

Posted by jherr at 01:44 PM | Comments (3)

What an incredible difference

Sometimes I just look back in awe at the seemingly un-bridgable gulf between Democrats and Republicans. Today we have Republicans cheering for their President over his abridging of their civil rights in the name of security. And why shouldn't they? They have been convinced that the only thing keeping them from being killed in the check-out line at Wal Mart is their beloved God-King tapping their phones and bugging the U.N.

Then on the left you poeple psyching themselves up for an impeachment. They say that Bush has already admitted to wire tapping for four years, all of which was illegal. Thus he is impeachable on that set of offenses alone. Forgetting the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the Plame leak, etc. etc.

How is it that we can have one group who wants to put their President on Mt. Rushmore, and another group wanting to impeach a man they aren't even convinced is the President? How are we ever to bridge this gulf? I love my country and I want it back together again. But I can't see myself ever wanting to give this man my allegiance. But neither do my counterparts want to bend. What to do. What to do.

Posted by jherr at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

WiFi iPod

I've heard some rumblings about an iPod with Wi-Fi. I think that is an awesome idea. For one, iTunes already knows about the podcasts you listen to. So if the iPod were given the feed URLs it could monitor those podcasts while you are at the gym or the coffee shop. That way when you finish with one podcast you could see two or three more that weren't there when you started! Cool.

But I think there are more possibilties than just podcasts. Think about Pandora and what is going on there. Imagine that you could tell your iPod the artists you like and have it download twenty or so songs. Then as you listened it would download more so that you would never run out. The never ending random playlist.

You couldn't burn the songs or turn them into MP3. But you could just click on one and buy it through the iPod and have it permanently added to your collection.

In addition your iPod could live stream from your favorite radio station. Or pick up locally crafted mix feeds.

One last thing I was thinking about was a Wi-Fi camera in combination with a Wi-Fi iPod. Your camera could automatically download the pictures as you take them to the iPod. With 40-80GB of space you could easily spend a whole vacation taking pictures without ever changing a video card or downloading the card to iPhoto.

Suffice to say, an iPod with Wi-Fi would open up an almost unlimited number of options.

Of course, that blurs the whole product image line with the iPod. A product image that I'm not sure I fully understand. For example, my step Father asked me while he couldn't just put MP3 files on the iPod directly as a disk and have it play them. I was at pains to try and justify that and basically gave up. Why can't you play just a random MP3 that I drop onto the iPod as a disk?

Anyway, a Wi-Fi iPod would bring it closer to the PDA devices and the PSP. Which is probably a situation Apple doesn't want, since frankly the iPod doesn't stack up favorably against the PSP. It's only advantage is the drive.

Posted by jherr at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2005

Mission Hills 9-hole course

I played a 9-hole round with Ethan this morning ahead of the coming nasty rainstorm. Mission Hills is a par 3 and 4 short course that was super muddy with all of the recent rains. Ethan knows the course so he had much better club selection. He and I hit about the same distance so after a few holes I just used whatever he used. He played a very solid game while my distance was generally ok but my accuracy was off. My best shot came on the 9th which is a par 3. I was a little long on the shot leaving it up the side of a berm about 15 feet from the hole. I pitched it very lightly and it trickled down to the hole and, then just dribbled in for a birdie. I was jumping for joy.

We might play later again in the week. It's so nice to have a friend that I can play some holes with and learn stuff from. He has a nice swing and awesome accuracy.

Posted by jherr at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Here is a present from Megan. Merry Christmas!

Posted by jherr at 05:50 AM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2005

Carolling Megan

Megan, Lori and I went carolling at Paddy's last night.

Posted by jherr at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

December 23, 2005

More Coulter Comedy

Ann Coulter is a freaking moron, as shown in this column (excerpt below):

...I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo.

For whatever reason some people find this funny. Once again I found no existence of humor of any kind in the story. But hey, the more lunatics like this keep babbling the more that moderates who lean conservative only because of the government's continuous campaign of fear will come over to our side.

Posted by jherr at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

Christmas Count Down

Two days left until Christmas day!

She can't wait!

Posted by jherr at 07:53 AM | Comments (0)

Thank You For Smoking

"Thank You For Smoking" looks great. I love the line at the end of the trailer about smoking in space. Awesome.

Posted by jherr at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2005

White Supremacists on Fox

Here is a nice puff piece that Fox ran in Carolina about a white supremacist web site.

Posted by jherr at 01:19 PM | Comments (2)

Lock'n'load Jesus

This is just so wrong.

There is no way Jesus would use an AK-47. He is an M-16 man all the way.

Posted by jherr at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

King Kong

I took some time out to see King Kong last night. I was completely blown away by this movie. My expectations were really high going in and I wasn't let down at all. Even the folks in the front row who loudly translated every line into Spanish couldn't take it down.

This is one of those groundbreaking films. Like Jurassic Park or Toy Story. Movies that not only were technically amazing, but also moved your heart. Ok, Jurassic Park might not be one of the great movies of all time, but remember when you left the theatre you were amazed. The days of go-motion were gone forever and computer graphics instantly became the new way to make action movies. Kong takes it up a whole notch again. The interaction between the actors and the creatures is absolutely seemless, and the action flows in a way that feels completely uncaged by technology.

I think Kong will be seen in the long run as a far better movie than the LOTR series. The LOTR series was comparatively fat. Kong, despite it's three hour length, is a very tight film that has a message and presents it clearly and succintly.

To me the movie really hit home when I looked at Kong's eyes and watched his expressions. They reminded me so much of Ripley. And I think the way that Kong and Ann shared moments together we all share moments with the animals we share our lives with. We can't communicate outright, but there are moments that you share when it's clear that you both together are sharing fun, or peace, or beauty.

Posted by jherr at 07:57 AM | Comments (0)

Classical version of Pandora

I really love the Pandora music site. The idea that you can give it a tune or artist and have it randomly select similar songs is fracking awesome. My only problem with it is that it doesn't do Classical. I would love to have a service where I could say, "I like Mozart's Symphony No. 25 and 41" and have it come back with suggestions for similar works. At the moment I have Mel who is Juliard trained and can tell me such things, but he doesn't have a web interface. ;-)

Posted by jherr at 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

Lestat Forum

As it turns out there is a discussion board on the Lestat musical. I posted my suggestions there to some reasonable response. Hopefully the producers read the board.

Posted by jherr at 07:34 AM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2005

Gladly giving up your rights

It's interesting to note this new talking point; "I would gladly give up my rights to George Bush if it helps him. Because if a mushroom cloud goes up over D.C. then nobody will have any rights."

Ah, yes. Well, as it turns out, that while that is personally interesting to note, your willingness to abandon your rights is neither important nor relevant.

You see, there already was a FISA court that Bush could have used to infringe on your rights. This super secret court took over 16,000 request to wire tap and refused only 4 (not 4 thousand, just 4.) In addition it allowed you to be wire tapped for up to 72 hours before the court was even asked to provide a warrant.

So, in fact, there was no reason for Bush to go outside the law to get wiretaps on you.

Oh, yeah, and Osama bin Laden, isn't an American citizen. He doesn't have so much with the rights thing. We can go around tapping him all we want.

No, there are only two questions. First, is the President breaking the law an impeachable offense. Why, yes it is.

And second, why did he do it? The options are:

  1. He didn't know about the FISA court - Clearly not. He mentioned it in his campaign speech.
  2. The court was too slow - Definitely not.
  3. It wasn't wire tapping in the strict technical sense - Hmm... Interesting. Tell me more.
  4. Somebody else ordered the program - Very interesting, given our boy enjoys his bike rides a little too much and has little time for the whole governationing thing
  5. Just because he could - Sounds the silliest, but probably the most likely.

I subscribe to the just because he could school. In my head the scenario plays out this way. It's just a few months after 9/11. His approval rating is 80%. We are in Afghanistan. Things are looking great. He is rocking. Somebody talks to him about wire tapping and he gets irritated by the fact that he has to go through some silly court to get permission to tap.

It's called imperial hubris and it's what lead to Watergate. At the time of Watergate the Republicans were asking, "Why would he do it? We won in a landslide." Good question. Turns out, he just wanted to do it. Why? Nixon was a power-mad paranoid freak. Not unlike our twitchy fearless leader. Nixon didn't need the bugs to win. He just wanted to hear them sob as they were defeated. It wasn't a need thing, it was a power thing.

As to why Bush didn't call it off when it was clear that his power had vanished and a leak of the program was inevitable? Probably just never occured to him. On a slowly sinking boat it's tough to know when exactly to jump overboard. There is always a potential that you could fix the boat.

As to the original point:

"Those who would surrender fundamental liberties in exchange for a little security deserve neither."
-Benjamin Franklin
Posted by jherr at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

Just the best video evah!

Whatever this show is, I want it. Top Gear, I think. It's freaking ridiculous. Blow cars off the runway with jet engines. Chase a Lotus around a track with an Apache helicopter. These guys just fucking know what the bomb is and bring it. I love, love, love this. Wow.

It's like "Dog and Butterfly", but much, much better. Actually, it's nothing like "Dog and Butterfly", but what do I care. It's Christmas time. Have a rubber and rotor sandwich.

Posted by jherr at 01:46 PM | Comments (0)

Coolest factory evah!

Leave it to VW to come up with a car factory that seems straight out of Ikea. A very clean, well organized, Ikea.

Posted by jherr at 09:06 AM | Comments (0)

Lestat

Lori and I saw Lestat last night. It was the third performance of the play. I found there to be a lot of unrealized potential. We had such a good talk about it on the way going home that I figured I would mail the guys who put the show on our suggestions. Here is what I sent:

I saw Lestat with my wife last night (12/20) and I have a few thoughts about it for you if you are still looking for input and tweaking.

By far the most important problem with the play is the lack of a central theme or conclusion. If the main theme about the play is living life to the fullest whether you have 100 days or 100 lifetimes then the ending needs work. Living life to it's fullest and not giving in are recurring throughout. But there is no conflict point where Lestat gives up and then learns again about living his life and is thus redeemed. Given the layout of the play it seems like the most logical point for this break would be the death of Claudia.

In addition, there are far too many characters and some need to be dropped. The play feels like it was written for the fans. If it could be honed down to four primary characters; Lestat, Gabrielle, Louis, and Claudia it would make the play far easier to follow. Lestat, Louis and Claudia are obvious choices. I mention Gabrielle only because she has some great numbers.

Some other comments:

  • The play was way too long. Everyone around us was yawning and uncomfortable late in the first act and through most of the second act.
  • The vampires never appear threatening. The turning of Lestat needs to be unexpected, brutal, vicious and scary. And Lestat needs to go to a far darker place before he realizes that he can use this 'dark gift' in his own way.
  • Overall the musical segments need to be shorter and tighter. There were several stanzas where the characters would merely iterate there ideas, and that just lengthened the play.
  • It would be far better to have the musical numbers move the story more and involve more than one character. The first number between Lestat and the violinist (I can't remember his name because he is completely insignificant) is a good example of this.
  • The violinist should be cut or greatly simplified (e.g. a hunting buddy). The related scene between Lestat and his mother in the beginning should be a two way conversation with Lestat going to Paris.
  • You can tighten up the second act by merging Claudia's second number about being a little girl with the burning of Lestat.
  • The boat scene should be dumped completely. It's a nice set piece, but it's boring to watch. He went back to Paris. We get it.
  • The character of Louis is far too weak. The book starts off with Louis as a very strong character who is much older and wiser in San Francisco. So we allow for him to be weak in the beginning so that we watch see him grow. In the play he just comes off as a weak-willed idiot that we don't care at all about. The point could be made more subtly that he doesn't care for Lestat's methods.
  • Claudia's death scene could be shortened.

On the positive side, the score, costumes, set design, and acting were all superb.

What needs work is the story. You need a non-fan editor to come in, find the central theme of the work, then chop it down until it becomes a coherent story that appeals to a wider audience and not just the fan base. There will always be fans who grouse about some character who wasn't given their due. But who cares?

Basically the problem with the play is that at the end you find yourself saying; "I just spent 2:30 minutes of my life for what?" It's all sound and spectacle with no redeeming value. Which, I suppose, is not dissimilar from the books. The books are fascinating, but what I recall from them are scenes where Lestat and Louis use a whore as a wine glass, and not any theme or lessons learned. A good Italian opera will leave you with a real life lesson, for example, "Don't fuck with clowns", is the lesson of "Cavalliera Rusticana".

I'm just sayin'... Don't fuck with clowns.


Update: Looks like Lori had the same idea I did this morning.

Posted by jherr at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2005

Rambly Rambly Rumsfeld

I just love Rumsfeld ramblings. Check this one out. Lemme see:

"I think it is interesting that we haven't heard from him in a year, close to a year," he said. "I don't know what it means. I suspect that in any event if he's alive and functioning that he's probably spending a major fraction of his time trying to avoid being caught.

It's the vagueness that I love. The complete lack of any factual information. Major fraction. What is that? 2/3? 3/4? 1/2? Does it even matter. Does it reassure anyone?

I feel much safer now that I know that Osama is spending a fraction of his time not getting caught.

"I have trouble believing that he's able to operate sufficiently to be in a position of major command over a worldwide al Qaeda operation, but I could be wrong. We just don't know."

This is a classic. Here are some ideas. They could all wrong. Nobody knows. He sure as hell doesn't know. Because, well, nobody knows. Who knows who knows. Nobody.

Earlier, Rumsfeld said he had authorized a reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding, from 19,000 to 16,000, largely because of an increase in NATO troops there.

Oh, so I see, we get a fact. That we are pulling out troops. Pulling out troops from the one place where all Americans want them to be.

Now it all makes sense, Osama is spending a major fraction of his time not getting caught by troops that aren't there.

The secretary did not appear concerned about an increase in activity by Taliban fighters along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Because they are just, like, the people who actually attacked us on 9/11. They aren't important at all.

"The levels of violence and incidents fluctuate over the past several years," he said.

"They tend to go up over key political periods. They tend to go up prior to the beginning of winter. And they tend to go up after the winter period ends. They also tend to go up as a result coalition activity against them."

This is the part that I love the best. It fluctuates. But if you follow his logic (if you can call it that) it just goes up and up. It fluctuates, going up during political periods, going up before winter, going up after winter, and going up after we attack them. In fact, well, it never goes down. Heh. Heh. Who knows?

Can you imagine what he must be like in White House meetings; "Rummy, should we attack?"

"Who knows? Maybe we should. Maybe we shouldn't. Who can say. There are just some things we don't know. And there are things that we don't know that we don't know. And other things that they know, that we don't know that they know."

"Thanks. Yer doin' a heckuva job!"

Posted by jherr at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

The big audio moment

With Clinton the right wingers had that "I did not sleep with that woman, Monica Lewinsky." Here is the same type of moment for Bush:

"...there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

This was from a campaign speech in April, 2004. Years after he started the illegal wiretapping program.

Wow, there are so many things in here. Unwarranted wiretaps are wrong. We can fight the terrorists without bending the Constitution. The wiretap issue is linked to the Patriot Act. Wow. It just goes on and on.

The big difference between this moment and the one with Clinton. This one actually matters and threatens our national security.

Bush must be impeached.


Personal aside: It's actually getting tough to keep up with the cronyism and corruption in the Bush White House. I watched the Jib Jab year in review Flash movie a couple of days ago. They listed issue after issue, and even it is out of date given the most recent revelations. I mean, seriously, think about it, we almost lost New Orleans this year, a whole American city, and that only makes it onto the top ten.

Posted by jherr at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

Article II

Mike pointed out, correctly, that I neglected the three later sections of article II of the Constitution. That was unintentional. Here is the complete text. He points out that the relevant clause is; "he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed". Probably so. It has been used to allow for executive orders.

But the proximity of that minor clause to the fourth section, which defines impeachment, tells me that the framers didn't excuse the President from the law.

Here are some talking points that I have heard from the right on this issue and my rebuttal to each:

Thank goodness the President did this. Otherwise we would all be dead.

This argument is disengenuous. The President did not have to skirt around the law to run these taps. He can tap any phone he wants as long as he goes to the leniant FISA court to make his case. He can even get permission to tap up to 72 hours after he had done the tap.

I wish Clinton had done this.

Nice to see that he is still the perennial whipping boy for the right. We actually don't know if Clinton used the legal FISA power to tap phone calls. He probably did. The position that Clinton was responsible for 9/11 is crazy. Read the 9/11 committee report. Clinton begged the White House to take Al Qaida seriously and Bush and Co. decided that the Chinese were much more important.

This is just like an electronic border patrol.

Yes, actually, it is. But that's not the question. The President had a legal way to use this electronic border patrol, but instead decided to circumvent the law.

Clinton did it.

Even if that is true it seems odd to me that you would be defending one crooked act with the act of someone you see as a serial criminal. Plus, just because someone got away with a crime doesn't mean that the law is gone or that everyone should get away with that crime.

All of this oversight hinders the war on terror.

Clearly not. The FISA law is very leniant. In fact the FISA court had never turned down a request until 2003. And as stated previously, he can tap all he wants for up to 72 hours before getting approval.

This leak damaged national security.

The FISA law has been on the books since 1976. Interested parties would realize that the government could tap international calls within the law. The fact that Bush has decided to go outside the law really makes little practical difference to our enemies.

The doesn't effect Americans, just Americans with ties to Al Qaida.

First, the statement is non-sensical. Second, can you prove that? Or are we just taking Bush's word for it? This is the same Bush who authorized torture. And the same Bush who authorized the FBI to spy on Quakers and vegans.

Clearly you wouldn't have given Clinton the same deference. How is Bush any different. And no, "Bush is God's chosen man." doesn't count.

He informed Senate Democrats.

So? That makes what was illegal legal?

It's World War II. It's World War III. We are in a war here. et al.

Again, a very friendly legal authority was provided to the Bush expressly for this purpose and he went around it. Oh, and, technically, we aren't at war. The "war on terror" is a slogan, like the "war on drugs."

As to the attacks this has stopped. Apparently the Brooklyn bridge attack is the only one. And that was a bunch of kooks with blowtorches.

These are just a few of the justifications I've heard for Bush's breaking the law. Clearly it's an open and shut case and these apologists are just that. Bush could do basically anything and these people would come up with some lame ass reason why it was the best thing for us.

The question I want answered but nobody is asking is why Bush went to all this trouble. There are two answers I can think of. The first is that he would be denied, again. Which means that he was spying on people that weren't bad guys. This is the simplest, and thus the most likely.

The second is that the program isn't technically a tap but something much larger, like Echelon. Where all outbound and inbound calls are monitored for words and phrases and then recorded. There are several clues to this, the citing of new technologies, and the use of the terminology; monitoring versus detection. If it indeed is the case that there is something like Echelon running, it is perhaps warranted, but it does require Congressional oversight. The Presidency is one branch of government. This is not a monarchy.

Posted by jherr at 07:09 AM | Comments (2)

December 19, 2005

Article II?

Bush just said he has the right to spy on people because it's provided by the second article of the Consitution. Let's take a look:

Article II

Section 1.The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same term, be elected, as follows:

Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest on the list the said House shall in like manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by States, the representation from each state having one vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two thirds of the states, and a majority of all the states shall be necessary to a choice. In every case, after the choice of the President, the person having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes, the Senate shall choose from them by ballot the Vice President.

The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same throughout the United States.

Um... George... this article covers electing a President. You don't have the right to spy on citizens without a warrant just because according to the Constitution we elect Presidents.

What amazes me about this is that it's such a blatant falsehood. I'm sure this is how it went:

"George, you were spying on people without a warrant. That's illegal."

"I know, but what do I say."

"Just say it was legal. Make up some crap about the second amendment. Nobody will check it anyway. And the talking heads will just spew it for months until anyone who says your wrong is pasted as a 'left wing moonbat'." "Oh, yeah, you mean business as usual."

"Right. You guys are doing a heckuva job! Heh, heh, heh... heh."

Posted by jherr at 12:59 PM | Comments (2)

Wire-tapping Debate

What seems to be lost with all of the right wing apologists I've heard so far is that the people being critical of Bush aren't saying that they are against wire-tapping. These guys are saying that Clinton should have wire-tapped Otta before 9/11. The fact of the matter is that he legally could have, and so could Bush. The FISA court is an express service which is almost a rubber stamp for this stuff. Plus you can get emergency warrants up to 48 hours after the actual tap. So in no way does FISA actually hinder legitimate investigations.

Nobody is saying that wire-tapping the bad guys is bad. The problem is that Bush, for reasons unknown, thinks he no longer needs the FISA court at all. Which one can only assume means that his personal definition for terrorist is far more leniant than the court. Which is bad.

Posted by jherr at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

Lori's Birthday Party

It was Lori's birthday party weekend. I surprised her with a morning massage. Pam took her to the spa and both of them got massages. While Yvonne and I helped the kids decorate the cake, then took them to the bounce house.

I gave Lori a new smaller telescope that she can share with Megan. Her older telescope is upwards of 80 pounds and huge, so it's tough to take on trips and such. This one we can put in the back of the car really easily. Unfortunately it was raining all last night so we couldn't get to see anything. But Megan is fascinated with the Moon and the stars. I let her play around with our binoculars and look at the Moon. She was amazed and spent a while sitting on the back porch looking up at the stars through these binoculars which are about half the size she is. It was very cute. She seems equally as intrigued with the new scope.

On Tuesday (Lori's actual birthday) we are going to the Lestat play in the city. (I tried to find the link for the show but couldn't.)

Posted by jherr at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2005

Impeachment time

Here is a fantastic exchange between Dana Rorabacher and Bob Barr. Rohrabacher is acting like some conservative talk show host going on and on about nuclear blasts destroying our constitution. While Bob Barr (who many of us recognize from the unjustifiable Clinton impeachment circus) appears to be on the consistent track here. He argues that the President broke the law and thus must be prosecuted.

Anywho, a recent poll I read was very interesting. It covered the previous ten Presidents. The most popular, Kennedy, followed by Clinton. The least popular Bush. Bush only won in one category, where people said that he would follow what he considered the right stance even if it was unpopular. Which, frankly, I think is just synonymous with being pig-headed.

Worst President ever. Must be impeached.

Posted by jherr at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2005

Cool music service

I checked out Pandora this morning. It's a service that given a recommendation will give you and infinite playlist just sitting in your browser of music that it thinks you like. Then you can pick and choose what you don't like to refine your listening pleasure. Here is the Indigo Girls playlist I started.

Posted by jherr at 07:47 AM | Comments (0)

Clooney on the mark

George Clooney was dead on the mark with this statement.

"I hate it when smart men and women are saying, 'Well, if I knew then what I know now.' The fact is: I knew it then and I don't have national security clearance. Basically, the Democrat leadership was scared (of criticizing Bush) and it's too bad, because it has come back to haunt them."

Ding, ding, ding! Iraq was not the right war, I knew it from the beginning, and it needs to be said. Politicians should be held accountable.

That being said, Syriana was boring. I love intelligent movies. But Syriana could easily have had 30 minutes of extra reel taken out of it.

Posted by jherr at 06:47 AM | Comments (0)

Just joining the show

For those of you pushed over the edge by recent revelations that your own government is spying on you, welcome to the club. Coming to the realization that Bush is the worst President ever, and wasn't even elected, can be difficult. We want to think that Bush is somewhat competent. But, in reality land, he is destroying America surprisingly quickly with a nasty combination of willful political divisiveness, crony incompetence, and a deeply twisted world view.

If you are just now coming to the realization that this man needs immediate impeachment let me give you a few more recent tidbits to bring you over to our side permanent like. Turns out we actually had Al Zarqawi in custody, but let him go. Makes you kinda wonder if we really want to win this war, don't it? Welcome to my world.

Oh, hey, yeah, and then there is the fact that it took months to come to a compromise on torture. Yeah! I know. A compromise on torture. You would think we don't actually torture at all. Because, you know, it's a crime and what not. Not to mention the fact that it doesn't work and it's just plain wrong. But, hey, that has never stopped the Bush crime family before.

Believe me, it's tough living in my world. I would love to live in ignorance and think that Bush actually cared about all Americans and wasn't just a brutal dictator surrounded by thugs. When I listen to the guy speak all I hear is his copious lies and distortions. As well as those of the King of Torture, Cheney, bubble girl sycophant, Rice, stand up lying stooge boy, McLellan, and freakish right wing nightmare, Rove. And then there are the right wing apologists like Hannity, Limbaugh and Coulter. Oy.

Posted by jherr at 06:16 AM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2005

A little Christmas fun for y'all

Make your own virtual Christmas cookie without all of the annoying baking and mess and what not.

Posted by jherr at 01:03 PM | Comments (0)

Diebold woes

Diebold is having more troubles in Florida according to my old friend Joe Block. The CEO of Diebold resigned. There is an investigation into the company. They are investigating in California as well. Plus there was the GAO report on election fraud in Ohio. And then there was the "What Happened In Ohio" report which clearly showed election fraud in every conceivable manner.

Obviously Kerry was a vulnerable candidate who didn't fight as well as he should have. The election should have been a Democratic blowout. Even so, Ohio shouldn't have been given up so easily. There are serious problems with the validity of elections in Ohio and in the country.

Posted by jherr at 06:48 AM | Comments (0)

KSFO promoting penis chopping

My local right wing talk radio station, KSFO, had Brian Sussman on last night around 6:20. He was talking about his views on torture and what torture he would like to perform. "I would hold a 9mm to his head and cock it. Then I would tell him that I was going to cut off a finger and then his penis." I had to turn off the station after that. It was just straight up sadism and cruelty described in graphic detail. From a man who calls himself a "theocon", and at a time when young children could easily be listening.

Where in the bible does it say that it's ok to cut a mans penis off? I think this guy is genuinely mentally disturbed. He has issues with violence and hatred in his life.

I mailed the FCC and KSFO about this, I also mailed the Raiders (KSFO is our Raider Nation station). Nothing will happen of course. I've mailed about KSFO before and I've never gotten so much as a receipt of delivery back. Clearly if you are on the right wing you can get away with saying whatever you like.

Posted by jherr at 06:36 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2005

Happy Birthday honey

For those extra special birthdays. Who says you can't have your first time twice.

Posted by jherr at 12:46 PM | Comments (1)

Freaking awesome video

In this video some brits drive cars behind a 747 at takeoff thrust, the results are very amusing.

Posted by jherr at 06:21 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2005

Just thought it up and did it

In a recent press conference Bush had this to say about his decision to go to war:

"And knowing what I know today I would make the same decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein made the world a better place and America a safer country,"

That's interesting because Bush and his apologists have long gone on about his not wanting to go to war. But now he is saying that the intelligence about the war didn't factor at all in his decision making. He just though Saddam was a bad guy, figured the world would be better off without him, and pushed the button.

Impeachment proceedings should start today.

Posted by jherr at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

New thoughts on the Iraq strategy

It's clear that both Democrats and Republicans want to get out of Iraq in 2006. The only difference is that Republicans want to be able to claim victory, while Democrats just want us out.

Here is one idea for achieving 'victory', whatever that is. A recent Iraqi poll found that 80% of Iraqis want us out of Iraq (and that 55% thought they were better off with Saddam, and 45% thought it was ok to kill Americans). Every time Democrats bring up the 80% number administration officials and Republicans throw up a smoke screen and run away.

One would believe from that they think it's a bad number. I think quite the contrary. I think they love that number, they just don't want people to know about it today. They want people to hear about it three weeks after the election when the Parliment holds a referendum on whether they should tell us to get out. Hopefully, the plan is that they will do that, tell us to get out, and we will start a withdrawl at that point. I certainly hope that's the case.

Frankly, I don't care whether they call it a 'victory' or not. It was a failure from the beginning and no speech or showcase political action is going to prove otherwise. There is a lot of evidence of failure, most recently notable are these poll numbers. 55% think they were better off under Saddam. That's amazing. I love when Hannity rants on about "Where we better off with Saddam?" Clearly, the people on the ground say yes. What trailer trash in Idaho think about Saddam, when they think Canada is in Europe, is not even relevant.

If it matters, on the question of whether we are better off with or without Saddam. I reject the premise of the question. I will answer this question; Given the outcome of the war, should we have continued the policy of containment, or followed the Bush war (and post-war) game plan? My answer is that we should have continued the policy of containment.

Recently the Germans said that their intelligence agency was telling the CIA that Saddam had no weapons. Just in the past days the French said exactly the same thing. And the British told us that the Bush administration was cooking the books on Iraq pre-war intelligence. Clearly, if Bush were impartial and had actually weighed the evidence at hand, we would not have gone to war. Obviously that was not done. Either Bush wanted to go to war. Or his bubble filtered all the intelligence. Or, he was just not involved in the decision.

Posted by jherr at 05:32 AM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2005

Death by meteor

Unless it's death by meteor.

Posted by jherr at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

Worst Active Ever

Amazingly, I've found a sound that is actually worse than fingernails on a blackboard, it's Bush's acting. Here he is talking do his dog, Mrs. Beazly, who is having some hijinks with her brother dog. Actually, it's really too stupid to explain. So if you want to suffer through it you can watch the video yourself. I was able to get about six minutes into it before I started praying for my own death.

Update: Some thoughts about this whole dog video thing. First, these things take time. As bad as the acting, the editing, the script, the lack of a plot, and all that was. It would take time to get this stuff even partially right. And the people in the video are heavy hitters.

Second, we are in a war, right? World War III if O'Reilly is to be believed. What are these idiots doing making awful Christmas videos. (Actually, holiday videos, using their terminology.) Seriously, first we have a video with Bush looking around his office for WMDs and snickering as our troops die. Now we have this. Shouldn't they be attempting to, you know, actually like make a plan for winning the war or something?

Posted by jherr at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

New RSS feeds

I've added some additional RSS Feeds on the left hand menu. These will give you feeds on particular categories of content, or allow you to subscribe to the most recent comments.

Posted by jherr at 09:32 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2005

Grandma's Boy

I just watched the R-rated trailer for Grandma's Boy. Lori and I saw a poster for that while we were waiting in line for The Ice Harvest. The film snobs behind us were ripping on it, but I figured it might be ok. After watching the trailer I'm definitely going to go. It looks like a lot of fun.

Posted by jherr at 07:14 PM | Comments (0)

Sleeper Cell

We have been watching Sleeper Cell on Showtime. It's about an Al Qaida cell in L.A. attempting various WMD style attacks. I think it's a mini-series. but it's not quite clear. It would be difficult to keep it going all that long without the terrorists either performing the attack or dying. But then, one could say that about the Sopranos, they keep plugging people and chugging alone.

Update: The show has a podcast. Very cool. Though I wish it were a talk-over like the Battlestar Galactica podcast.

Posted by jherr at 06:47 PM | Comments (0)

Stoner's plan for Iraq

Sadly, even this plan has more specificity than the White House plan.

Michael Reagan was on Hannity and Colmes recently and was asked what the definition of victory in Iraq was. His response, "When we win and they lose." NIce. Idiot.

He went on to say that we were fighting all these foreigner fighters in Iraq. Actually, no. Turns out even the most aggressive estimates have 7% of the fighters being foreigners. In a recent battle report there were 1,600 casualties where 0 were foreign fighters. For the math impaired 0 out of anything is 0%.

Posted by jherr at 06:42 PM | Comments (1)

Treasure hunting with Megan

It's been a while since I geocached. I think the last time was pre-Megan. But just as we were leaving South Carolina, Sharon and Carlos invited Megan, Lori and I to go geocaching on their boat. It was a lot of fun and Megan loved it. We called it treasure hunting and she was in absolute heaven.

So I took her out again this weekend for a geocache or two and she loved it. I decided the best thing to do were very easy caches. One turned out to be behind a baseball diamond, but it wasn't there. Megan walked around saying; "Treasure! Where are you?" The second cache we went to was a little tougher. It was located under a log and she found it after a litle encouragement. Once again, just elated by her find. She picked out a car and walked around showing it to everyone saying that she found the treasure. Very cool.

I'm looking forward to doing this more often. It's nice to get out and get some fresh air and exercise. And Megan just adores it. I'll get some pictures the next time out.

Posted by jherr at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2005

Hit the three of a kind

I just got my copy of PHP Hacks.

Should I go for four of a kind?

I know it sounds a little crazy to say after Podcasting Hacks took six weeks to write, but I did feel a little rushed on PHP Hacks. That being said, as I look at it I am really happy with the results. I think it shows a wide diversity of advanced topics that should really stretch PHP programmers when they read it. And that's what a good book should do, it should inspire you through showing examples of what's possible.

Posted by jherr at 05:50 PM | Comments (1)

The Ultimate Chord Book

Lori found this blog entry about the Ulimate Chord Book. It's nice to see that the site is still being used. I was thinking about phasing it out.

Posted by jherr at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

Dating Progammers

Here is a funny essay on dating computer programmers.

Posted by jherr at 07:14 AM | Comments (0)

Painkiller Jane

I usually follow the maxim passed down through the ages that "all Sci-Fi Original Movies suck". But I decided to watch Painkiller Jane and frankly, it's just not up to the task. The effects need to be take down several notches. Some of the effects in this movie are actually reasonable. It's certainly not up to the man in a monkey suit Sci-Fi standard.

The acting is tolerable, and the script, while formulaic, makes at least some semblance of sense without following into the usual fan rat holes that are a trademark of Sci-Fi Originals.

It's so disappointing to see a Sci-Fi Original Movie that treads into the region of almost good. Clearly this is a setup for a series, and I find myself in the unenviable position of hoping it becomes one.

Posted by jherr at 06:49 AM | Comments (0)

Transient acts of beauty

I think I love this twice as much because these works wont last.

Posted by jherr at 06:45 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2005

Megan pictures

Posted by jherr at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2005

Sudoku

Has anyone reading this blog tried Sudoku puzzles? They seem pretty interesting, but tough.

Posted by jherr at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

Memoir '44

This Memoir '44 game looks good. It sounds like a simpler version of Squad Leader that plays in the time of a conventional board game.

Posted by jherr at 02:01 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2005

New Look

Clean and centered is the new black. The three ring thing logo is a steal on the Guild logo from Dune. The old page was just too cluttered.

Posted by jherr at 10:08 PM | Comments (3)

Bush's only friends

The only creatures left who think Bush isn't full of shit:

Posted by jherr at 06:24 PM | Comments (22)

Great night of podcasting

I went into the studio for another round of O'Reilly podcast content with Danny last night. It was awesome. I had a great conversation with the author of Astronomy Hacks and Landon Noll about getting into astronomy.

The segment with Landon and Robert about astronomy may have some more legs. I talked with Landon after and both Danny and I thought he had a great presence and really made astronomy accessible. So we could envision doing something about astronomy hardware, software and what is coming up in the night sky on a regular basis.

Then I talked gadgets with Brian Jepson and we had a lot of fun with that. One thing he brought up was this little $130 PSP style device which is totally open source and has games written for it and can play video. I thought that was really, really cool.

I also had a chat with the author of Retro Gaming Hacks about his book and about playing the older console games. He had some great points about how the advent of 3D games abandoned a lot of poeple who really enjoyed gaming. And how it turned gaming from a family activity into a something more solitary. I remember playing Sonic with Lori and Micheal as a group activity and now those days are gone. Lori, who was an avid gamer, gets physically ill looking at the 3D graphics and is stuck with card games now. I'd love to see some legitamtely fun and new 2D games come out for the PSP and the major consoles.

Yeah, it was a great night. I used to be really scared about recording and interviewing, but now, it's so easy and fun. I was telling the producer at O'Reilly this morning that I can't wait to do the next set.

Speaking of which, it looks like I might get an interview with Brooke Gladstone, the host of NPR's "On The Media", about podcasting and it's effect on the media and our public consciousness. She was very helpful to me early on with research for Podcast Hacks. She is not only a great host and extremely funny, but she is a skilled editor and producer who can make digital editing tools sing. So that will be a fascinating interview.

Anyway, open forum, if you have any ideas for generally techy type topics that you would like to see covered let me know. The O'Reilly name gets me in a lot of doors. On my own list I have these:

  • Ruby on rails
  • The next steps in computer languages after Java
  • Digital audio and video production tricks
  • Fighting spam
  • Phishing and identity theft
  • Smart homes
  • Hacking your car, and maybe even import tuning
  • The programming behind computer graphics in movies (maybe with somebody from Pixar or Lucas)
  • The state of social networking
  • Something on both Windows PDAs and PalmOS PDAs
  • Composing your own music for podcasts

Anyway, these are just a few ideas. I can't keep my eyes on everything so if you guys have some more ideas let me know.

Posted by jherr at 07:35 AM | Comments (1)

December 07, 2005

Was 20 years, now just months away

I listened to a little Hannity yesterday. Oh, he of, "verge of victory" fame when it comes (very recently) to the war in Iraq. I remember listening to the Republican drivel-bots just last month telling us that this was going to be a 'multi-generational effort' and could last decades. Now, with mounting pressure, Hannity was absolutely clear that this would be done by the end of 2006. And the administration seems to be falling in line with that (suprising nobody).

All I want is for the troops to come home. At this point nothing more can be achieved militarily and all we are doing is sending home more body bags on a daily basis. I think it's ok to take hits for being a traitor, or whatever names they want to call us, if the effect is shortening the war and getting us out of there.

The only people that directly benefit from our staying is the Turks, who want to see a united Iraq so that they don't have problems with a Kurdish state.

I think that the Sunnis also benefit. Which may seem a little odd. Why? Because in the civil war that is currently being fought in Iraq, they would lose in a straight fight against the Shia and Kurds.

The only winner at this point remains Iran. And they won the day that we invaded Iraq.

What's the plan? The plan is to withdraw ASAP. We are in the middle of a civil war and we can either get out now with only 2,000+ dead, or we can do a Vietnam and pull out in a couple of years with 60,000 dead.

This whole argument that pulling out now would somehow tarnish our reputation avoids that fact that our reputation is already smashed. We went to war on a lie. We attacked a country that hand't attacked us. And on, and on. Quite the contrary, I think if we left now in the historical long term we will have shown our strength in deciding that this was no longer a military issue.


Update: Besides the fact that the end of 2006, as Hannity would have us believe is the date of withdrawl, is totally arbitraty. What is so special about that date? The only thing I can think of is the 2006 electins. So we are going to let our kids die until the 2006 elections for what?

So now it's ok for Republicans to set some abitrary date, but not for Democrats. Oh, the hyprocrasy. But, I don't care. I really don't. If the Republicans start putting a date on things, then we can move that around and start getting our troops home.

Posted by jherr at 07:46 AM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2005

Fresh new podcasting

I've started podcasting for O'Reilly. It's been really fun so far and it looks to get even more interesting. For example, sometime next week I'll be interviewing Brooke Gladstone of On The Media about the impact of podcasting on the media. And this week I'll be interviewing Landon Noll and the author of Astronomy Hacks about astronomy for the easy stargazing for the rest of us and what is coming up in the night sky next year. I'll also be talking with my Podcasting Hacks editor, Brian Jepson, on his favorite gadget gifts for this Christmas.

Posted by jherr at 07:31 PM | Comments (0)

The plan for Iraq

You know you that your management is bad when they need to go away for a couple of weeks to come up with a strategy for success. And you know it's even worse when they come back with a plan that is just a bunch of boiler plated bullet points with headings like 'Achieve' and 'Innovate', and where you as the plebe at the bottom of the triangle will be scored on your 'Achievousness' and 'Innovatability'.

Unfortunately that's just what we got with Bush's plan for victory in Iraq. Thirty five pages of bullet points and disconnected bullshit. If we had a board overseeing this government they would all be fired.

What's worse is where this plan came from. You can get a clue on that when you hear that generals told the media that the first time they heard about the plan was during Bush's speech on it. But it get's better. The New York Times found that the plan was actually written by a pollster. The same pollster who found that Americans wouldn't support endless war, but would support it if they could be assured of a victory. I can just imagine what happened next, with the MBA morons in the administration asking "How do we assure victory?", "With a plan?", "Who's gonna write the plan?", "Uhhh.... the pollster guy."

You have got to be kidding me. It's pathetic. It's tragic. It's horrible. It's obscene. Two years into this war. Thousands dead. A horrible quagmire. And we have... no plan. Agghh!!! Anyone, absolutely anyone, could do better than these idiots.

Posted by jherr at 07:31 AM | Comments (2)

December 05, 2005

Karmic balance

On the way home tonight I sat next to an elderly woman who at one point asked me where we were. We had a talk and decided that she had missed her stop. I then got off at the next station and helped her find the right train to get to where she wanted to go. All the while with her telling me that I was just like her son and that she wanted me to come over to her house to meet her daughters. ;-) Anyway, karma up for that.

When I got home I went karma negative by throwing a road flare into a plastic box with the mouse Lori and Oso caught in it. I figured the carbon monoxide would lull him into a sleep and death. But instead he foiled my plans by straying too close to the flame and ultimately shed his miniature mortal coil in a slightly less elegant fashion. Big karmic minus.

So I guess I'm karmic negative for the day. But helping the old lady did feel good.

Posted by jherr at 06:13 PM | Comments (1)

Aeon Flux

My four word review of Aeon Flux: It sucks, don't go.

There wasn't enough movie in Aeon Flux. Too much was left on the floor. The acting was bad. The effects were bad. There wasn't near enough skin. (And that's not my lecherous self, I was just hoping that they would be authentic to the original show.)

Posted by jherr at 02:57 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2005

First birdie

I made my first birdie in golf today. It was on the par 5 15th hole of my mother's home course. I used my Cleveland 460 Launcher to get about 260 down the center of the fairway. Then used a hybrid to go another 220 to be within a nine iron of the hole. I hit an absolutely perfect nine iron to within a foot of the hole. It was a tremendous feeling. I hadn't played well the first time we went out. But today, on the few holes we played, I played very very well. We started play on the 12th because of a shotgun format, and had to finish at the 18th due to rain. That's a drag because I was playing very well at that point.

Posted by jherr at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

Hubble Gallery

This is a beautiful set of images from the Hubble. You have to feel a little small when you see them. The universe is so large, and beautiful.

Posted by jherr at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)