Friday, December 30, 2005

The beauty of media consolidation

Conan + Walker = Comedy Gold!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Winning Ticket

I'm not a big fan of practical jokes, as my friends know. BUT. This one is pretty awesome. And, since it wasn't on me, it's funny!

Link (video)

Thinking about opening a coffee shop (or small restaurant)?

Read this first.
The failure of a small cafe is not a question of competence. It is a sad given. The logistics of a food establishment that seats between 20 and 25 people (which roughly corresponds to the definition of "cozy") are such that the place will stay afloat—barely—as long as its owners spend all of their time on the job.


Nanochips on the way?

The transition to a post-silicon era is forecast in a report called the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors, to be issued Saturday. The report, which is produced cooperatively by semiconductor industry associations from Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the United States, is used by the semiconductor industry as a planning tool to determine how best to spend research and development money for new technology.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The schizophrenia of red America

Boggles the mind...

Quicktime Link

Amazon’s Price Drop Policy explained

Did you know that if the price on something you buy drops, within 30 days of your purchase date, will credit you the difference if you ask for it? It’s a not-advertised price drop policy that most people don’t know about and it’s saved me tons of money over the last few years.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

By whatever means neccessary

And I mean whatever means...


Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Matt Taibbi gets into a white house press conference

After hearing McClellan talk for what seemed like the thirtieth time about our continuing efforts to spread democracy, I finally felt insulted. Giving in to the same basic instinct that leads people to buy lottery tickets, I raised my hand. I figured I'd ask nicely, just give him a chance to come clean. C'mon, man, we know you're lying, why not just leave it alone? I asked him if he couldn't just admit, once and for all, that we didn't go to Iraq to spread democracy, that maybe it was time to retire that line, at least.

"Well," he said, "we set out the reasons we went to Iraq, and I would encourage you to go back and look at that. We have liberated 25 million people in Iraq and 25 million people in Afghanistan . . ."

"But that wasn't the reason we went --"

"Spreading freedom and democracy," he said, ignoring me. "Well, we're not going to re-litigate why we went into Iraq. We've made very clear what the reasons were. And no, I don't think you define them accurately by being so selective in the question . . . that's important for spreading hope and opportunity in the broader Middle East . . ."

"Just to be clear," I said, exasperated, "that's a different argument than was made to the American people before the war."

"Our arguments are very public," he said. "You can go look at what the arguments are. That's not what I was talking about."

He smiled at me. There's your strategy for victory in Iraq: Fuck all of you -- we're sticking to our story.


"Help me DVD Jon... You're my only hope!"

Hee hee.


The Miscreant Dynasty

Former Times executive editor Howell Raines rips into the Bushes.
Starting with Senator Prescott Bush's alliance with president Eisenhower and continuing through the dogged loyalty of his son, George H. W. Bush, to two more gifted politicians, presidents Nixon and Reagan, the family has developed a prime rule of advancement. In a campaign, any accommodation, no matter how unprincipled, any attack on an opponent, no matter how false, was to be embraced if it worked.

The paradigm in its purest form was seen when the first president Bush, in 1980, renounced a lifelong belief in abortion rights to run as Reagan's vice-president. To this day, any mention of this sell-out of principle sends the elder Bush into a rage. His son surpassed the father's dabbling with pork rinds and country music. He adopted the full agenda of redneck America — on abortion, gun control, Jesus — as a matter of convenience and, most frighteningly, as a matter of belief. Before the Bushes, American political slogans of the left and right embodied at least a grain of truth about how a presidential candidate would govern. The elder Bush's promise of a "kinder, gentler" America and the younger's "compassionate conservatism" brought us the political slogan as pure disinformation. They were asserting a claim of noblesse oblige totally foreign to their family history.

But whether Bush the father was pandering or Bush the son was praying, the underlying political trade-off was the same. The Bushes believe in letting the hoi polloi control the social and religious restrictions flowing from Washington, so long as Wall Street gets to say what happens to the nation's money. The Republican Party as a national institution has endorsed this trade-off. What we don't know yet is whether a GOP without a Bush at the top is seedy enough to keep it going. Dating back to the days when they talked of making George Washington a king, Americans have had an ambivalent attitude towards their aristocrats. They have also believed that dirty politics originated with populist Machiavellis such as Louisiana Governor Huey Long and urban bosses such as Chicago mayor Richard Daley. The Bushes, with their minders such as Rove, Cheney and DeLay, have turned that historic expectation upside down. Now political deviance trickles down relentlessly from the top. The next presidential election will be a national test of whether the taint of Bushian tactics outlasts what is probably the last Bush family member to occupy the executive mansion.


How this scandal will unfold

Courtesy of the Daou Report.

I think he missed the final stage:

11. Once the story has blended into the long string of scandals, Bush will issue a smirking, weary, "mistakes were made - we all know that"-type "confession" during a press conference in order to cue the media that they truly may not speak of this scandal anymore. No one will be fired, policy will not change, and yet the story will finally disappear.

And he missed another step. Let's call it 4.5 - the old "Clinton and Carter did it too" defense. In this case, relying on readers (like me, sadly) to not look into what "Pursuant to section 302(a)(1)" means. Hint: That section requires the Attorney General to certify is the search will not involve "the premises, information, material, or property of a United States person.


Ten most needed circuits for the DIYer

This is a great little resource for EE hobbyists.
via BoingBoing

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A few links

Busy at work, but here are some quickies:
1. If you haven't seen this clip from SNL yet, you've been living in a cave.
2. ID dies in Dover
3. Bush in deep doo-doo over illegal wiretaps. If this article at Ars Technica ever gets un-slashdotted, I'm sure it will be illuminating.

Monday, December 19, 2005

My letter to John Conyers

To my dismay, I read that John Conyers (yes, that John Conyers) has introduced The Digital Transition Content Security Act, which is the latest attempt by Hollywood to plug the "Analog Hole." I sent him this message:

Hello Mr. Conyers -

As someone who has admired your work in congress, from investigating voting irregularities in Ohio to fighting for single-payer health care, I was dismayed to hear about your introduction of the Digital Transition Content Security Act. As someone who is both an electrical engineer in the consumer electronics industry, and a musician in a band, I think I can speak authoritatively on this issue, and with a unique perspective.

Currently, the music, television, and movie industries are completely hysterical about the ramifications of illegal copying on their bottom lines. They have enlisted the help of electronics and computing industries to create more and more consumer-unfriendly "features" such as CDs that cannot be turned into MP3s, music downloads that can only be burned to CD a certain number of times, and many other schemes that range from irritating to dangerous (no doubt you've heard of the Sony copy protection software that completely took over users' PCs without their knowledge). Even with all of this nonsense, the one thing that savvy customers could count on is that no matter what happened with these clumsy attempts at limiting fair usage of content, there was always the "analog hole." In other words, if, for example, music bought from a download service didn't play on a user's iPod, they could burn a CD and re-"rip" it to their hard drive in a format that an iPod could play. OR, WORST CASE, they could re-record the music (that they purchased) with their microphone jack, into a format that their iPod could play. This bill (The Digital Transition Content Security Act) attempts to stop such "copying."

The ridiculous thing is that there are already widely-used copyright infringement laws which allow these companies to sue any infringers for large sums of money. The RIAA has sued all sorts of people, from children as young as ten years old, to eighty-year-old grandmothers, for sharing their content on p2p networks. Rather than having to deal with this expense and bad PR, the RIAA and others would rather spend tax dollars enforcing an unworkable technology mandate from the government.

How is this unworkable? Because the equipment that does not obey The Digital Transition Content Security Act already exists. And because it exists, and the internet exists, illegal copies of content will always be available on the internet. All this bill will do is make new equipment less desirable, and create a "flea market" economy for older, non-compliant equipment. And it will push otherwise law-abiding citizens toward the illegal filesharing communities once they find out that the content they bought won't play on their device.

The "content" industries have business models which they like (ad-supported, copy-protected, etc), and they would like to codify these models into national criminal law. This WILL stifle innovation, and in some cases, it already has. I worked for ReplayTV a few years ago, and watched the company wither away, its stock price held hostage under threat of lawsuit for a commercial-skipping feature that had been available on VCRs for twenty years. Members of the MPAA have even mused that going to the bathroom while commercials are playing shouldn't be permitted.

However, as someone who is also in an independent band ( ), I can say that, for myself, I have no problem with people sharing my music on a p2p network. In fact, I would wager that for 90% of the bands out there (the 90% who don't belong to one of the 3-5 major media companies), they don't care either. The RIAA/MPAA would have us ban entire product categories to protect their profits against what they see as lost sales.

As someone who truly believes that our healthcare system is broken, and that the best way to fix it is through a single-payer system, perhaps you will be more receptive to an alternative to this bill:

Rather than trying to impose a false sense of scarcity on a non-scarce resource, we could get back to solving the REAL problem: How do artists and creators get paid? One answer is a single-payer license fee for digital content. Everyone who uses broadband (or heck, even all taxpayers, if you think that could work) would pay a monthly fee (say $5-10/month). An entity (government or NGO - right now a company called "Big Champagne" already does this) would track peer-to-peer downloads, and divide up the pool of money proportionally. People could then feel free to make use of the wonderful potential that digital copying offers our culture.

Now I'm sure that there would be resistance to such an idea, but I'm guessing that you are starting to get a taste of how taxpayers are extremely (and uniformly) opposed to these Hollywood giveaway bills, so maybe this idea won't sound so crazy.

The other thing that we, as a country, need to resolve is the conflict between the right to fair use of content (for backup copies, criticism and academic discussion, time-shifting) and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which declares the removal or bypassing of any copy controls to be illegal. There is a major conflict between these two concepts. The Digital Transition Content Security Act would resolve these conflicts to the benefit of the copyright holders, but at the expense of the public and our shared culture.

Please withdraw this bill immediately.

Noodling in a music store?

PRS (British version of ASCAP) says "PAY UP!"

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cute Overload

Title/URL says it all


Who killed the electric car?

A new documentary is coming out about the much-beloved EV-1, and what led to its cancellation.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

AmericaBlog to American Family Ass.: "You got PWN3D!"

Ford addressed and resolved each of our three concerns regarding the above:

1. Ford announced that it will continue to support gay organizations and gay events in the coming year and beyond.

2. Ford is going to run advertisements in the gay media NOT ONLY promoting the Jaguar and Land Rover brands, but the ads will promote ALL of Fords brands, by name, including Jaguar and Land Rover.

3. Ford states unequivocally that it will continue to tailor its ads for the specific audience it is trying to reach, and then goes one step further. Ford challenges us to keep an eye out on their upcoming ads in order to verify that they will in fact be tailored.


Interview with Paul (you know, from The Bible!)

Fascinating transcript.
BRIAN: What are your letters about?
PAUL: God.
BRIAN: Which god?
PAUL: The true God.
BRIAN: Which true god?
PAUL: Jesus...the Son of the true God.
BRIAN: Some people feel this Jesus was a reforming Jewish rabbi.
PAUL: They’re wrong.
BRIAN: What god is this Jesus the son of?
PAUL: Yaweh.
BRIAN: The Jewish god?
PAUL: Yes.
BRIAN: Why would the Jewish god suddenly have an interest in what are known as “gentiles”?
PAUL: He just does.
BRIAN: the Jewish books..their god is petty, insecure, vindictive, bloodthirsty and intolerant.
PAUL: That’s right.
BRIAN: Yet in your letters...the same god is all loving, all caring and all forgiving...what happened to him?
PAUL: Uhh...he is who was... and will be.
BRIAN: So this is one of those “faith” things then?
PAUL: Yes.
BRIAN: Your Jesus is the son of god?
PAUL: Yes.
BRIAN: Did he ever make that claim for himself?
PAUL: Not as strongly as I am making it.
BRIAN: Were you a close friend of Jesus when he was alive?
BRIAN: Friend?
BRIAN: Acquaintance?
BRIAN: Hang out together once in awhile?
BRIAN: Ever meet him at all?
BRIAN: So this is an unauthorized biography then?


The end of copyright

This article by Ernest Adams succintly encapsulates many of the thoughts I've had about copyright.
There’s no intrinsic reason why someone should continue to get paid for something long, long after the labor they expended on it is complete. Architects don’t get paid every time someone steps into one of their buildings. They’re paid to design the building, and that’s that. The ostensible reason we have patent and copyright law is, as the US Constitution says, “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.” But travesties like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act don’t promote the progress of science; they actively discourage it. So do software and biotechnology patents. The patent system was intended to allow inventors to profit for a limited time on particular inventions, not to allow huge technology companies to put a stranglehold on innovation by patenting every tiny advance they make.

After addressing the "how will artists get paid" question, Adams makes the most important point in this debate:
Of course, some alternative distribution models still rely on copyright, and publishers will still be trying to prevent people from redistributing their content. But sooner or later that model is doomed. The perceived value of a thing is inversely proportional to the ease with which it can be duplicated. If the public simply refuse to acknowledge that copying books or movies or software is wrong, then in a democracy, it will eventually cease to be wrong. People elect the legislators, and legislators make the laws.


Big news in SF cuisine

Daniel Humm is leaving Campton Place to go to New York, James Ormsby is leaving what appears to be ALL of his Plumpjack restaurants, and Miss Millie's in Noe Valley is moving to Rockridge, due to the difficulty of running a small business in San Francisco.


Surprise! Bolton wreaking havoc at the UN.

Bolton’s tenure at the United Nations will last at least until his recess appointment concludes in January 2007, and until then we can expect to see more of the same. On November 14, Bolton treated the Jesse Helms Center at Wingate University, 35 miles east of Charlotte, North Carolina, to a lecture on UN reform. The venue could not have been more appropriate: During his long and destructive reign as the Republican leader of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Helms was the Senate’s chief UN antagonist-in-residence (a title that now belongs to Minnesota’s Norm Coleman). Helms was a key booster of Bolton early in his career: Bolton began his public service as Helms’ aide, and the two share a warm -- some might say eternal -- relationship. During Bolton’s 2001 confirmation hearing as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, Helms famously referred to him as “the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon.”

As the featured “Jesse Helms Lecture Series” speaker, it was Bolton’s turn to return the favor. He launched into a point-by-point critique of the United Nations that took one of Helms’ most famous invectives against the world body -- that it is full of “crybabies [who] whine about not receiving enough of American taxpayers’ money” -- one giant rhetorical step further. “Being practical, Americans say that we either need to fix the institution or we’ll turn to some other mechanism to solve international problems,” Bolton told the audience. Two days later, he clarified his remarks for the Financial Times. “The UN is simply one of many competitors in the global marketplace for problem solutions and problem solvers,” he told reporter Mark Turner. “If it is not good at solving problems, Americans will look to some other institution; some other organization; some other framework.”

As if in a nod toward diplomacy, he added that he hoped that those who want a stronger UN would “see the logic of our argument.” But his remarks to another British reporter just one week prior were probably more to the point. After listening to a tirade from Bolton against inefficiency, corruption, and supposed anti-Americanism at the UN during a private dinner, a Sunday Telegraph reporter in the audience asked him what he enjoyed most about the UN, to which Bolton replied, “It’s a target-rich environment.”



Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What happens when a billionaire reads Kuntsler

Richard Rainwater doesn't want to sound like a kook. But he's about as worried as a happily married guy with more than $2 billion and a home in Pebble Beach can get. Americans are "in the kind of trouble people shouldn't find themselves in," he says. He's just wary about being the one to sound the alarm.

Rainwater is something of a behind-the-scenes type—at least as far as alpha-male billionaires go. He counts President Bush as a personal friend but dislikes politics, and frankly, when he gets worked up, he says some pretty far-out things that could easily be taken out of context. Such as: An economic tsunami is about to hit the global economy as the world runs out of oil. Or a coalition of communist and Islamic states may decide to stop selling their precious crude to Americans any day now. Or food shortages may soon hit the U.S. Or he read on a blog last night that there's this one gargantuan chunk of ice sitting on a precipice in Antarctica that, if it falls off, will raise sea levels worldwide by two feet—and it's getting closer to the edge.... And then he'll interrupt himself: "Look, I'm not predicting anything," he'll say. "That's when you get a little kooky-sounding."

Rainwater is no crackpot. But you don't get to be a multibillionaire investor—one who's more than doubled his net worth in a decade—through incremental gains on little stock trades. You have to push way past conventional thinking, test the boundaries of chaos, see events in a bigger context.


Is "Space Cadets" a joke on the viewers?

I think this meta-reality show concept would be a big let-down compared to the original idea of tricking people into thinking they've gone into space. I mean, what are they going to do, film people watching the show as they find out they are the ones being duped? Whoopee.


How to eat sushi

It's more complicated than you think...

Quicktime link

Another Quicktime link

Thursday, December 08, 2005

RU Sirius interviews Jay Babcock about Arthur Magazine

Yay Josh's brother!


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Been playing with Pandora

The people behind the Music Genome Project have created a super new web app called Pandora, which will create custom radio stations for you, based on artists or songs that you enter. For example, I have a Timbaland/Neutral Milk Hotel station that is playing Bright Eyes, The Ladybug Transistor, Naughty By Nature, and the 504 Boyz.


O'Reilly goes beyond self-parody

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. And we have succeeded. You know we've succeeded. They are on the run in corporations, in the media, everywhere. They are on the run, because I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it. There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Diebold insider speaks out

That this may be true is scary. That nobody seems to really care is truly shocking, and disgraceful.



Seth MacFarlane's first cut (from 1995). Sort-of.

Don't dilute organic!

This is super-lame, and so typical. Rather than try to make their food organic, conventional farms and dairies want to change the meaning of "organic."
So now when a consumer looks for a purely organic product there will be less certainty, because the rules of organics, which should be as strict as kosher labeling, have been changed. Government is infamous for abusing terminology, altering definitions and deceptive labeling to trick the public and obscure the truth. The trickery is one of the greatest threats to an informed public and sound policy. The USDA seal of approval should stand for something, but now that is questionable. It should be simple — organic products are organic and synthetic ones are not. How did this truth get lost? Mr. Ames put it this way: "If someone buys certified organic, damn it, it should be certified organic."

Damn right!


Dano serves up the goods

With a link to some crazy japanaclaymation.


Donald Rumsfeld is mad as a hatter

Nice hit-piece from Alternet.
Don got so nutty during his weekly news conference last week that Joint Chiefs head, General Pace, had to reel him in; not once, but twice. The first time was when Pace used the accepted term, "insurgents," to describe the indigenous fighters in Iraq.

Rumsfeld interrupted, waving both hands over his head, to announce that over the weekend he had had an epiphany. We've been using the wrong term entirely to describe the Iraqis killing our troops over there, he pronounced from on high. They are not "insurgents," they are "Enemies of the Legally Elected Iraqi Government," or EOLEIGs. (Guess we know now why Donald never made it as a corporate jingle writer.)


Singer for OK Go weighs in on copyright

The truth is that the more a record gets listened to, the more successful it is. This is not just our megalomania, it's Marketing 101: the more times a song gets played, the more of a chance it has to catch the ear of someone new. It doesn't do us much good if people buy our records and promptly shelve them; we need them to fall in love with our songs and listen to them over and over. A record that you can't transfer to your iPod is a record you're less likely to listen to, less likely to get obsessed with and less likely to tell your friends about.

Luckily, my band's recently released album, "Oh No," escaped copy control, but only narrowly. When our album came out, our label's parent company, EMI, was testing protective software and thought we were a good candidate for it. Record company executives reasoned that because we appeal to college students who have the high-bandwidth connections necessary for getting access to peer-to-peer networks, we're the kind of band that gets traded instead of bought.

That may be true, but we are also the sort of band that hasn't yet gotten the full attention of MTV and major commercial radio stations, so those college students are our only window onto the world. They are our best chance for success, and we desperately need them to be listening to us, talking about us, coming to our shows and yes, trading us.


Ouch! EFF gets another editorial beat-down from the Register

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is renowned for its impeccable taste in the battles it fights on behalf of consumers, and for its uncanny ability to stuff every case up in ways that lead to permanent injury for everyone except the entities they oppose.

So it's with some trepidation that we report their latest foray into inevitable - and for you and me, costly - failure. EFF is taking on Sony BMG over the infamous XCP "rootkit" distributed as a surprise DRM package in several of its music CDs.

The legal outfit has filed a class action lawsuit over Sony's XCP malware, and its MediaMax malware for good measure, demanding that the company repair all of the computers it has infected. And well it should.

This is a very good cause. Sony installed stealth spyware on many thousands of Windows computers (although calling it a rootkit is an exaggeration), and it's crucial that the company get its bottom spanked quite painfully as a deterrent to its sister cartels in the entertainment racket.

This is, in fact, such an important matter that the worst possible development would be to find the EFF arguing the case. That's because EFF will do what it always does: lose, and set a legal precedent beneficial to the entertainment pigopolists. By the time these pale vegetarians get finished, spreading musical malware will be considered a spiritual work of mercy.

Lest readers think this prediction too pessimistic, let's review EFF's major accomplishments.

They sent Lawrence Lessig before the US Supreme Court to make a muddle of Eldred v. Ashcroft, an important case that's now settled in favor of the media pigopolists.

They persuaded Princeton University Computer Science Professor Edward Felten to withdraw from a talk on the old SDMI challenge, and later trumpeted it as an example of speech being "chilled" by DMCA threats. (Yet, once he'd enacted that media stunt, Felten delivered his talk at a different conference and survived without a scratch.)

Meanwhile, EFF sued to get a research exemption to the DMCA - a worthwhile cause to be sure - and, predictably, blew that as well. There's another precedent for the other side.

They defended two amateur online journos against Apple's ham-fisted effort to silence criticism, and got beat down severely: another bad precedent.

They also defended 2600 publisher Eric Corely, who was barred from posting or linking to the DeCSS DVD descrambling utility of "DVD Jon" fame, and they lost.

Now, I think what the people at the EFF do is noble, but Snoutintroff makes a good point. It's one thing to be on the right side, it's another to be able to articulate your position to anyone other than the true believers. I think the EFF has done a great job of netroots organizing, but their courtroom track record has been poor, and, more inportantly, damaging to their cause.
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