July 30, 2007

24 update

So the producers of 24 are going to have Jack Bauer before a Senate panel being investigated for his various, umm, questionable activities during season 6. Who are they kidding? Jack Bauer will rip their eyes out and piss on their brains, just for fun.

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July 28, 2007

Fixing Firefox

The guys at Samizdata mention a security fix for the Firefox browser, which you should definitely do if you're using Firefox in Windows.

To do this, start FireFox, enter the URL “about:config”, scroll down, and for each of the following entries make sure it is set to “true”.

If it isn’t, right-click the line and choose “Toggle”, which will set the value to “true”


This will at least give you a warning that Firefox is being asked to do something suspicious; you will have to judge for yourself whether it is nasty.

Thanks to Lastango for the tip.

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July 27, 2007

New Firefox tool

Ever go through the hassle of capturing your PC's screen, pasting it into paint and then saving the image? Well, things got a bit easier with Page Saver, a screen capture tool that works in Firefox; IE users need not apply. Excerpt:

Pearl Crescent Page Saver is an extension for Mozilla Firefox that lets you capture images of web pages. These images can be saved in PNG format or (with Firefox 2) in JPEG format. The entire page or just the visible portion may be captured. Options let you control whether images are captured at full size (which is the default) or scaled down to a smaller size. Page Saver uses the canvas feature that was introduced in Firefox 1.5.

Theres a Pro version for $15, but the Basic version is free and contains all of the things you're likely to need. Check it out.

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July 26, 2007

One of my pet peeves

As a programmer from the almost dark ages (my first PC work was on a TRS-80 and my first college class used punch cards), I've long considered the goto statement an abomination, one which too easily leads to ugly, unreadable code. It also allows the programmer to avoid thinking through a problem's resolution, since he always has the crutch to fall back on. I've even stated to my students that I would fail anyone who used one in a program. However, I will reluctantly admit that there are times when a considered goto statement can be useful. For example, you're been told to update some large production code to fix a a recurring bug. You wade through the program for days and finally find the error, deep inside multiple layers of nested conditions and loops. Do you (a), rewrite thousands of lines of production code so that you can gracefully back out of every level of recursion and iteration, or do you (b), add in an error label and insert a "goto error label" statement? Personally, I'd opt for (b). However, if I were writing the code from scratch, my answer would probably be different, as I'd have taken great pains to design my error handling routines properly. Not that you can make any program truly idiot proof; nature seems intent on upgrading idiots faster than I can upgrade my code.

Why do I mention this at length? There's a pretty interesting discussion over here at Kernel Trap. One of the participants in the discussion is Linus Torvalds, the father of all things Linux. He thinks that gotos are fine and dandy. I respectfully disagree. While they can, as I've mentioned, prove useful in a pinch, I think that they can prove a crutch which prevents programmers from properly considering a problem before moving directly onto the coding. And I disagree about his "they are often more readable than large amounts of indentation" comment. Then again, what they heck do I know?

Update: Speaking of programming, here's a nifty chart that diagrams the evolution of programming languages.

Update: I'm one of those morons of whom Ace speak regularly. I typed Linux Torvalds instead of Linus. Fixed now.

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The flying car is here! Of course, you're limited to heights of no more than 10 feet, but it's a start. It would be a cool way to cross a river or lake, though.

orget keeping up with the Joneses…now you can keep up with the Jetsons. Not just cartoons, but every “futuristic” movie ever made seemed to employ some sort of flying car to titillate and amaze the audience, and it always worked too! What will futuristic movies rely on now that the stuff of fiction will soon be parked out in the garage?

The Moller M200G Volantor, produced by Moller International is shaped like a saucer and can be used for a wide range of recreation and practical purposes. Moller has already started work on the 67 orders received so far. Ground-based obstacles don’t bother the Volantor, so its creators say it can be used for extreme off roading, or as a ferry between a yacht and the land, among other uses. But eventually they'd like to see the vehicle used as the ultimate commuter vehicle. The company says it could also be used by the military or government, who they suggest could use the vehicle for skyscraper rescues and fire fighting.

Here's a link to the M200 brochure. And it costs only about $125,000.

Heh. I said only. As if. Anyway, here's a link to the company's website.

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What he said

Bill Quick succinctly states what I believe is the correct position for the US to take regarding terrorists:

What I do desire is that they be so frightened of us that even the thought of attacking us, whether openly or via some terrorist surrogate, causes strong men to dampen their drawers, and women to run weeping from their bedrooms.

I'm thinking about printing the above quotation and distributing 10,000 copies here at work. Better yet, I'll give them out at the local hotbeds of leftism: the universities. The frightened stares from the students will warm my heart.

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July 23, 2007

awful news

Awful, awful news: Mike's wife Christiana was killed Friday while riding her Sportster. Go offer Mike your condolences. Let him know if you can help in any way.

Related update: When it rains, it really, really sucks. Jeff Goldstein's grandmother just passed away. Please stop by and leave a message for him as well.

Update: Mike posted a brief update to the post by Joe. It contains this bit of wisdom:

And if I may be so presumptuous, a word of advice, from someone who has now learned the lesson in the toughest school there is: treasure every moment with those you love; don’t waste time bickering over nothing, because there isn’t time for it. Cherish every smallest kiss, because you don’t ever, ever know which one will be the last.

Words to live by. The last thing I say to my wife before going to sleep, and the first words that I say upon awakening are "I love you". Ditto the kids. No matter what happens, my family will remember that they were far and away the best things in my life.

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July 19, 2007

software! get your free software!

Interesting article over at Datamation called 100 Open Source Downloads. Excerpt:

o, it’s not the “Top 100,” nor does this list contain the “only” 100 open source downloads you should consider – there’s a big ocean out there, so please keep swimming.

But this list does reflect the growing vitality of the open source ecosystem. It just keeps growing…and growing…

Feel free to browse the list – heck, the whole darn thing spans just a handful of pages, so take a moment, would you? I mean, what are you, busy?
Audio Tools

3. Audacity

Audacity allows users to record live audio, convert tapes and records to digital formats, or mix pre-existing digital audio tracks. Supported formats include Ogg Vorbis, MP3, and WAV sound files. Operating system: Windows, Linux/Unix, OS X, Classic Mac.

4. AC3Filter

This audio decoder and processor filter allows media players to play AC3 and DTS audio tracks from movies. It also allows you to mix audio tracks and adjust sound quality. Operating system: Windows.

5. MP3Gain

Tired of constantly adjusting the volume on your MP3 player? MP3Gain uses statistical analysis to gauge how loud songs sound in the human ear, and then modifies the volume appropriately without degrading the quality of playback. Operating system: OS Independent.

45. NASA World Wind

World Wind allows users to access satellite imagery to view the entire globe or zoom in on a particular area. It offers a number of different views and gives users the options of superimposing latitude and longitude lines, borders, and place name labels. Operating system: Windows.

There are a lot more. One hundred, remember? And while lots of them are Linux only, there are a large number that can be used on Windows and Mac OS. I use some of the tools at work. YMMV. Now go and look.

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I'm thinking of a different sort of punishment

A maximum sentence of three years for setting an 8 week old kitten on fire and laughing while it shrieked in agony?

A three-month-old kitten is fighting for his life after allegedly being set afire by two teenage girls last week.

The male shorthaired kitten, named Adam, received second- and third-degree burns over 75 percent of its body and was being treated at the Animal Hospital in Cotati, located in Northern California's Sonoma County, officials said.

The kitten has undergone two surgeries and had its tail and the tips of its ears amputated.

Two girls have been charged with cruelty to animals in connection with the case. They were arrested last Friday after allegedly pouring flammable liquid on the cat, only 8 weeks old at the time and setting it on fire.

A boy and his friend said they saw the smoke and heard the cat shrieking while the girls laughed.

The girls are being held in Sonoma County's Juvenile Hall. The maximum penalty carried by the charges against them is three years of confinement.

I dunno. The punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime. I've been thinking and come up with a few alternative punishments which I think would be better:

  • Paint them with honey and stake them out on an anthill. Sure, it's been done to death, but that doesn't make it any less effective.
  • Have a cage with a Tasmanian Devil tied to their midsection, with the cage open against their flesh. If they survive the devil's method of escape, they're free to go.
  • Use a paper cutter to remove their fingers, one millimeter at a time. When does the punishment stop? Like the kittens, as soon as someone hears the screams and comes looking, we'll stop. Unfortunately for the girls, we'll be on one of the more remote Bikini atolls. But hey, you never know.

I'm sure that lots of turds will come out of the woodwork saying that their lives have been hard. Not as hard as the kitten's, I'll wager. To anyone who wants to try and defend these girls, please be advised that you should go fuck yourself.

Update: Apparently this happened last month and the kitten is doing well. Here's more:

Adam is 12 weeks old now and doing well, said Wright. The cost of his care and medical attention at the shelter would normally cost between $20,000 and $30,000, she said. Anybody interested in contributing to the costs of caring for Adam can go to the animal hospital in the 500 block of E. Cotati Avenue in Cotati or call 707-792-0200.

A vet is doing the multiple skin graft pro bono, which is kind of cool. Give if you're interested.

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July 17, 2007

The wtf?! story of the day

The county sends you a tax bill for $1.63, only they mistakenly send it to the wrong address and it gets returned as undeliverable. You are listed in the phone book and can easily be found to rectify the mistake. Simple, right? Wrong. The home in question was sold via a tax sale in 1997. The couple who owns it didn't find out until they attempted to sell their house and someone else claimed it. Fortunately, the state's Tax Commission is helping the couple, nullifying the sale and defending them in court against the land company that wants the property for the $1.63 plus fees that they paid for it. Next up: the state supreme court.

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July 13, 2007

Word of the day

Paraskevidekatriaphobia. If you're hiding under your bed today, you may suffer from this affliction.

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July 12, 2007

We'll be waiting

If you haven't noticed, it appears that Jeff Goldstein will be taking an extended blogging sabbatical. Apparently, the bugfuck crazy bag lady cyberstalker is still screwing with him and his family and friends. Sure, the wheels of justice turn slowly, but perhaps no one would mind that much if the wheels bring a wraparound jacket and a padded cage. And a net; a big frigging net.

He's received lots of well wishes (and hopefully tips, you stingy bastards) from folks, which is to be expected since Jeff is a decent guy doing his best to protect his family. Anyway, he posted a followup today. Here's an excerpt:

Once I’ve cleared my head and completed this latest round of legal maneuvering, I’ll be back.

Hopefully some of you will stick around. But if not, I understand, and I thank you for supporting this site.

One day, the armadillo will dance.

We'll be here. Take care, Mr. Goldstein.

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BSG movie to air in November

Battlestar Galatica: Razor will be a SciFi original movie (not surprising, as BSG is a SciFi original series) to air this November. Nifty. It'll be good to see Ensign Rho, I mean Admiral Cain, again.

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When you absolutely, positively have to get online

Let's suppose that you have a wireless enabled laptop. Let's also stipulate that you don't have an EVDO card and that there isn't a wifi hot spot in sight. Is it possible to get your computer online? It is: use your cell phone as a modem. Excerpt:

While specific setups will vary depending on your phone, plan and carrier's software, turning my Sprint PCS phone into a wireless modem for surfing on the go was just about as easy as pie.

What you'll need

A PC or Mac
A CDMA phone
A phone to computer data cable

First, plug the phone into your computer using an USB data cable. My Samsung came with the cable in the box. If yours didn't, do a quick search for the cable that fits your phone model on Froogle or Cellular Factory.

Windows knows you just plugged in something new and wants to know what it is, so the Add New Hardware wizard appears, eager to get the question settled. If you're lucky, your phone came with a handy CD that contains your drivers. I wasn't so lucky, so I had to Google up the drivers for my particular phone model, install them, and then point the Wizard in the driver's direction on my hard drive. Once Windows says, "Oh hey Samsung [or insert your model here] CDMA modem," you're practically there. My Mac (running Tiger) recognized the phone as a modem right away.

Next you'll need connection software provided by your carrier. Again this might be on that CD that came with your phone, or you can download it from your plan's web site. Me, I grabbed the Sprint PCS Connection Manager for phone as Modem software from the Sprint site. Once that baby was installed, it was a matter of hitting the "Go" button and I was online using Sprint's data network at 230k (translation: slower than broadband but way faster than dial up.) Of course, depending on your location, plan and service, your mileage may vary.

No more driving around searching for dumbass open network broadcasters.

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Getting back the conservative soul

Jim Geraghty types a pretty strong essay detailing 10 different principles that, in theory, 90% of conservatives could get behind 9 of, hence the "9 with 90" idea. A lot of interesting ideas and possible policy implementations are contained within the bounds of his post. However, I am a bit troubled by one thing: how is it possible that a political junkie like me has remained unaware of this blog until now?

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July 11, 2007

Free Slurpees!

Head to your local 7-11 today which is, not surprisingly, 7/11 (7-11) day. Enjoy the frozen fruits of someone else's labor.

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A painful memory

First of all, let me wish Val a speedy recovery from her surgery. Everyone who wants to should stop by and wish her well.

However, her tale of woe is unfortunately too familiar to me. Before I get into the details, I'll give you a little bit of a related story so that you'll understand my state of mind.

About 24 years, while I was working as a su chef in a country club, my friend the clubhouse manager had taken several days off for repeated doctor's visits. One Sunday morning, while waiting for customers to arrive for the weekly champagne brunch, I asked him what was wrong. The following conversation ensued:

"So what was the matter with you?"

"Kidney stones."

"Bummer. I've heard that they hurt like hell."

"Yeah. They couldn't see 'em on the x-rays so they used a [cannot remember the name anymore] to take a look."

Being somewhat knowledgeable in medical stuff, I immedately grasped the implications of his comment and replied quite calmly:

"They shoved a camera up the inside of your dick?!"

"Yeah. What's worse is that they still couldn't find the damned thing. So then they tried bombarding my kidney with ultrasound to try and break up the stone."

"Did that work?"

::shrug:: "No idea. They still couldn't see it. So they shoved the [evil device] back in to take another look. When they didn't find anything again, they tried ultrasounding the little bastard again."

"Holy crap... well, you seem better. I guess that it's gone now?"

"Apparently. What the doctor said was 'The hole was probably enlarged enough so that it passed on its own.'"

I still cringe when I read that statement. Anyway, it's now a dozen years later and I awake around 5:00 a.m., experiencing some pain which, unlike others I had felt before, kept increasing in intensity. I couldn't stand, sit, or lie down in any position where it didn't hurt. However, if I stood hunched over like 95 year old man with back problems, I didn't have to try too hard to not scream. Anyway, I couldn't really drive in the postion, so I asked my mother to drive me to the hospital, all the while wondering in I was dying.

Fortunately, the guy checking people into the emergency room didn't waste any time. When I stumbled through the doors, he hit the nurse call button and had me fill out paperwork as they rolled me down the hallway.

Quick note: hospitals will not treat you with pain medication unless you've signed the consent form first thinking, rightly, that the medication reduces your ability to give proper consent. For the record, the pain was so bad that I'd have signed almost anything.

Anyway, the doctor asked a couple of questions about the pain and its location, and then followed up with the "I think you've got a kidney stone" comment. At least now I knew what made me long for the sweet release of death. And then, unbidden, came a memory which I wish had stayed forgotten:

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

Okay, so the kidney stone not only caused pain, it made me quite nauseated. The pain medication killed the agony, but it had one downside: it also caused nausea. However, pain free and vomiting was preferable to pain-filled and vomiting, so I didn't complain. Also, they were pumping in tons of stuff via the IV: the medication, fluids and dye for the stone which, hopefully, would make it visible on the x-ray.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

After having waddle around the x-ray machine with my IV jar in tow, they had me try to go potty. As it turns out, the massive quantity of fluids being pumped into my veins had made a beeline for my bladder. This was supposed to help me pass the stone.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

They gave me a paper cone with a mesh filter at the bottom, designed to catch anything that fell out. However, notwithstanding the pressure in my bladder, I simply could not go.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

So I went back to the table and waited for a while, at which point they had me try again. Once again, I proved incapable of a task that I had proven quite good at since birth. It was the third failure that made me whimper a bit though.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

It didn't take a seer to know that something bad was going to happen to me very soon if my body didn't do what I needed it to.

The hole was probably enlarged enough...

Finally, on the fourth try, a little pebble went ::plop:: into the cup. I think that I wept a little, although I'm not entirely clear on whether it was from happiness or pain.

In any event, I then spent a couple of hours sleeping waiting for my mother to come back. The pain went away and it hasn't returned yet. Hopefully it never will. One of the more horrible things that the doctor told me was there are some people whose bodies form kidney stones every few months. Every few months. I've sliced off the tip of a finger before (no bone, it grew back eventually) and the pain from that little mishap wasn't in the same ballpark as the kidney stone pain. It didn't even play the same game.

Anyway, go wish Val well. And wish yourself a kidney stone free life.

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July 10, 2007

When you're short on time

There's always a Movie A Minute. Here's Good Will Hunting:

Matt Damon

I'm smart, but so what? Let's start fights and pick up chicks.

Robin Williams

If you push people away, they can't be close to you.

Matt Damon

SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP you fixed me thank you I love you. (cries)


I guess that there's just no good reason to go to the theaters anymore.

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Something for your viewing pleasure

So I've been busy the last few days studying for my first challenge exam (out of eight). If I pass, I won't have to make a 3.5 hour roundtrip each day for 3 months to take the actual classes.

What, you might ask, does that have to do with the category of this post? Well, nothing actually, except for the fact that this is all that I have time to post right now. Enjoy some pictures of our favorite sexy Cylon; I know that I did.

Okay, I actually think that Grace Park is prettier, but Tricia Helfer sure is darned sexy.

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July 09, 2007

None shall pass

My geek credentials, that is. Trust me when I tell you that I was to women in high school/college as sunlight is to vampires. Then again, some vampires actively seek death, so they had a leg up on me. Anyway, this picture kind of sums it all up.

geek cred.jpg

On the other hand, I still have some way cool Ral Partha figurines, so I've got that going for me.

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