Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Digging digg

So yesterday a colleague turned me onto as a better-than-slashdot place for geek linkage. Sure enough, I'm diggin it. One link that I'm in the midst of learning from is this one that gives a very brief scan on how to disinfect / protect your PC: gHacks ? Beginners Guide to Securing a Pc:

You'd probably heard this before. Everyone should secure his personal computer. You read stories like this in every other computer mag, your geeky friends probably tell you the same and even name some programs that you should use because they are the best and most secure. I know that you would like to have a secure computer, well a secured computer, there is nothing like 100% security if you are on a network or the internet. Keep that in mind.
It's not the simplest cookbook to use -- if you don't know what safemode is and how to boot into it you probably won't be able to use some of the more useful and obscure tools they link to.

But I'm in the midst of trying to expunge some nasty web filth from the upstairs machine. Wish me luck. And check out digg. There's fun in there too -- like this picture of an astronaut holding a "For Sale" sign during a space walk. That's my desktop background now.

Seymour Hersh's latest

Be sure to read this one:
Where is the Iraq war headed next?

Laura Rosen on US sponsored terror in Iraq

Laura Rosen, author of the War and Piece blog, is one fire about the turn of events in Iraq. Check out two recent posts:

Death squads, torture squads ... :

Is this what Rumsfeld and Cheney were going for? Are the neocons satisfied? Is this enough organized application of violence for their tastes?
"The Salvador Option.":
So the US is no hapless bystander to the Shiite death squads we are seeing, but they are the product of deliberate Pentagon policy? Is Cambone going to be hauled before Congress or what? Talk about missing the black helicopter crowd. One cannot but long for justice for these guys. Could some forward looking European nation please arrest them next time they stop over, just to give them a scare? A little Pinochet-like unpleasant episode, if not a full fledged trial?
You knew it when the same despicable characters that brought us the El Salvador and the Contras during the Reagan administration were put in positions of power in Iraq and the GWOT that detestable horrors would ensue. Sure enough. It looks like they are dragging the good name of the USA through the mud again. This time it seems even worse. Not that we can tell by reading the press.

Fred Kaplan on Bush's Can't-Lose Reversal

Over on Slate, the ever readable Fred Kaplan offers some predictions in Bush's Can't-Lose Reversal - Wednesday's speech will set the agenda for withdrawal from Iraq:

Brace yourself for a mind-bog of sheer cynicism. The discombobulation begins Wednesday, when President George W. Bush is expected to proclaim, in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, that the Iraqi security forces—which only a few months ago were said to have just one battalion capable of fighting on its own—have suddenly made uncanny progress in combat readiness. Expect soon after (if not during the speech itself) the thing that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, just this month, denounced as near-treason—a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.
Any move to de-escalate the Iraqi insurgency, particularly by removing the primary fuel feeding the fires—US troops, is to be welcomed. But I doubt that Bush's moves will be anything more than political cover. At Kaplan concludes in his article,
More to the point, does the president have a plan for all this? (The point is far from facetious; it's tragically clear, after all, that he didn't have a plan for how to fight the war if it extended beyond the collapse of Saddam.) Has he entertained these questions, much less devised some shrewd answers? If he's serious about a withdrawal or redeployment that's strategically sensible, as opposed to politically opportune, we should hear about them in his speech Wednesday night.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

'Just World News' by Helena Cobban: Modalities of imperial retreat

Helena Cobban has been blogging about the inevitability of a military draw-down for months now, way before the current consensus emerged. She is a dedicated pacifist, a Quaker, who will not be satisfied with anything short of complete withdrawal -- which I just do not see in the cards. But she was the first person I read who anticipated the pragmatic necessity of the coming troop reductions.

Today she has a powerful post, Modalities of imperial retreat:

[...]the loss of Algeria was nonethless part of a worldwide retraction of French imperial power. Britain's worldwide empire was also very busy indeed retreating in those days. Both those formerly sizeable global powers were losing global power at a rapid clip between 1950 and 1970, and it is important to remember that.

Now, the same kind of erosion of global power is happening, to some degree, to the United States' globe-girdling military behemoth. And all of us who seek a world that is not dominated by military force and that is not structured to provide privilege to the US citizenry over and above everyone else in the world should be very clear about that fact, and should welcome it.

I'm less of a pacifist than she, and I don't really embrace the idea of the coming decline of Imperial USA. But she is very persuasive. Check it out. Also check out here most recent post, Christian Peacemakers abducted in Iraq.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Funny start to Thanksgiving

Doesn't look like the start of the best Thanksgiving ever, does it? But there it is, lying on the living room floor just a few hours before 19 of us sat down to my best Thanksgiving yet. A whole Costco sized bottle of Ketchup all over e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Spectacular.

After Sam and I stopped laughing, which took a while, we took a few anspshots, hurriedly clean up the mess, and got back to work. OK, Sam sat on the couch watching the tube. I kept jamming.

I love Thanksgiving. I love hosting it at my house. I love sharing it with friends.

Just about my favorite day of the year.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Manufacturing in the Bush Era

I found this over on Brad DeLong's blog. Does Manufacturing Matter?
Manufacturing employment has gotten hammered to an unbelievable degree in the Bush era:
Pretty dramatic, and damning.

A compforting map

Today we're getting all graphic on ya! Kos gives us this: The new map
How can Utah and Idaho be so stubborn?

Worst President Ever?

Love the graphic. Don't you? I found it here: Worst President Ever?, where there is actually a pretty interesting discussion on the proposition Turns out there have been some spectacularly bad presidents that give W a run for the title. Somehow I find that comforting...

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Fly on Engadget

The secret product I've been working on over the past year+ is finally on the shelves. It hasn't really been a secret for months now. We showed it off at lots of trade shows and gave peeks to lots of press. Now we're selling it and selling it hard.

And the press is lapping it up, and the retailers are pimping it hard. Here's an offbeat clip from Engadget LeapFrog Fly pentop computer reviewed by New York Times:

LeapFrog’s much-ballyhooed Fly pentop computer has finally made it onto retail shelves — just in time for the holiday shopping season — and David Pogue of The New York Times has a review that highlights some of its features, many of which will attract adults as much as the kids LeapFrog hopes will use this. The Fly can, for example, be used as a scheduler, with remarkable ease: write down the time and date of an appointment, and the pen will turn itself on and speak a reminder at that time. Need a quick calculator? Draw one with the Fly and start using it immediately. Of course, kid stuff is what LeapFrog has built its name on, and the Fly includes plenty of kid-friendly features... Ultimately, the edutainment features are what will determine whether the Fly, er, flies off of shelves this season, but we’re already looking forward to picking one up off of the playroom floor and snagging it for ourselves once the kids get bored with it.
I hope he's onto something. We would love nothing more than to have grown kids crave this one. No matter how grown they might be.

TPM: Murtha on Cheney

OK, so its a few days old now. So is the relentless, shameless, bald propaganda counterattack by the Cheney Administration. So let's revist TPM quoting Mutha on Cheney:

'I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.'

Intel Dump in defence of dissent

Here is a powerful rebuttal by J.D. Henderson at Intel Dump to the administration's FUD campaign against the newly energized war critics: They spoke the truth then and they speak the truth now

Questioning the president on such vital issues does not mean I am in favor of pulling out of Iraq in defeat - I think we will be better off with a stable Iraq that does not threaten us - precisely why I favored containment in the first place. And questioning a president's possible deliberate deception of the American people is NOT questioning our troops. That he dares equate questioning his policies and decisions with lack of support for the troops is craven and cowardly.

Mislead on, Mr. President. But beware the words of another republican president - you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

Daily Kos: . . . Meanwhile In Iraq

Dusting off another good one from my recent blog grazing. Here's Kos with . . . Meanwhile In Iraq:

Does Bush even know what is going on? Who can have any confidence in this Administration on Iraq? It becomes virtually impossible to even discuss the relative merits of alternate strategies when the Bush Administration is involved.

This is the worst President and worst Administration in the history of the nation. The situation would be near impossible to manage for the best of Presidents and Administrations. When we are governed by the worst, it is little wonder that folks like John Murtha advocate withdrawal as soon as is practicable.

Worst Ever.

Time to Leave - Krugman

Sorry about the TimesSelect link, but I can't stop quoting Krugman, can I? Here's a quote from his latest, Time to Leave:

Mr. Bush never asked the nation for the sacrifices - higher taxes, a bigger military and, possibly, a revived draft - that might have made a long-term commitment to Iraq possible. Instead, the war has been fought on borrowed money and borrowed time. And time is running out.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Nosy sons save mom

Engadget is not my main source of news. But this is pretty interesting: Nosy sons save mother via webcam

If you thought webcams were only good for video calls, monitoring coffee pots and traffic conditions and, of course, pr0n, think again. Karin Jordal, a 69-year-old artist was recently rescued by her far-flung sons after they discovered, via her webcam, that she had collapsed in her California home.
I know my mom, in her final days of living independently while fighting cancer, detested the idea of wearing one of those emergency call necklaces, the I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up gizmos. Even when she we really needed it, she refused to wear it since it was a sign of weakness. The image of weak frailty and incompetence used to sell the device in their ads turned her and her friends off in a big way. I'm pretty sure she would not have objected to a webcam monitor.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

TPM - Kerry on Cheney

Kerry on Cheney:

'It is hard to name a government official with less credibility on Iraq than Vice President Cheney. The Vice President continues to mislead America about how we got into Iraq and what must be done to complete the still unaccomplished mission.'

Avian Flublog on flu policy

The post-Katrina trauma led to a spastic surge in media attention to the pandemic danger. That media alarm seems to have subsided a bit, which is a good thing. But the science and policy risks of bird flu are very real. The one source I rely on for bird flu news and analysis is the blog, Avian Flu - What we need to know. Tyler Cowen, on of the blog contributors, posted an interesting synopsis of, My avian flu policy piece:

To combat a possible avian flu pandemic, we should consider the following:

1. The single most important thing we can do for a pandemic—whether avian flu or not—is to have well-prepared local health care systems. We should prepare for pandemics in ways that are politically sustainable and remain useful even if an avian flu pandemic does not occur.
2. ...

We should not do the following:
1. ...
5. We should not obsess over avian flu at the expense of other medical issues. The next pandemic or public health crisis could come from any number of sources. By focusing on local preparedness and decentralized responses, this plan is robust to surprise and will also prove useful for responding to terrorism or natural catastrophes.
There are so many good reasons to invest in our public health infrastructure. Now we can add bird flu to the equation. When will we fix this health care system?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sunlight = Disinfectant

Here's an interesting Political Animal post that's already scrolled off into the archives: Sunlight = Disinfectant:

....Barney Frank has introduced a piece of legislation that I like. Executive compensation has been taking a bigger and bigger bite out of corporate profits over the past decade (up from 4.8% of profit in 1993 to 10.3% in 2003 just for the top five executives at the average company), and he thinks that companies ought to be a wee bit more open about who's getting all this dough.

To that end, he's proposed a bill that does nothing at all to tell corporations how much they can pay their executives, but does force them to be open with shareholders about how much they're shelling out.

I'd love to hear more about this. It is the kind of idea that I think fits well with the notion of a new progressivism that Kevin Drumm is championing. Don't put the burden on government or regulators. Instead, empower individuals with the information they need to act effectively.

Skiing + Google Maps = Happy geek!

Ok, so this is not as exciting as actual snow and the start of the new ski season. But this makes me very happy. Here is a Google map mashup showing ski resost data on a google map: Ski Bonk - Ski Resorts, Live Weather Conditions, and more on a Google Map.

Now, can we have some snow please?

Quantum biomechanics, anyone?

Here's some really cool research. WorldChanging reports on a new type of microscope that has been used to observe protien folding related to DNA transcription — in real time. Pretty amazing stuff.

Tackling the Central Dogma with an Optical Trap:

...But this technology can do more than resolve some existing biological questions; it may well kick off entirely new fields of study and application.

'If I look in my crystal ball and see where this is going, I think this blows open the field of single-molecule biophysics,' Block says. [...] Not only are we doing all this with one molecule at 1-angstrom resolution, we're doing it in real time while the molecule is moving at room temperature in an aqueous solution.'

... This new tool enables us to learn how biological mechanisms work at an unmatched scale and resolution, a scale where effects previously only of concern to physicists start to come into play. It could allow us for the first time to explore deeper questions about how we function at the scale of the atom.

Don't expect to "see" single-angstrom resolution imagery or movies from this microscope – not if I understand this correctly. That's not the point. It is able to make real-time measurements of single atoms as they undergo reactions. This promises to unlock much greater understanding of quantum physical phenomena in biological systems. If there are images, I would expect them to be figurative, like the quark images above.

This will take a while to sink into our collective subconscious. But it sure feels like a significant breakthrough in our ability to perceive our phsical world. Very cool.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

New Progressivism: Live Free or Die!

Whoa. Here's a meme I hope to hear more of. This is a vision for an updated progressivism that really appeals to the little-l libertarian in me. From Kevin Drumm we have, THE NEW PROGRESSIVISM....

E.J. Dionne ponders the mission of the Democratic Party today and offers up this quote from Franklin Roosevelt:

"The issue of government has always been whether individual men and women will have to serve some system of government of economics — or whether a system of government and economics exists to serve individual men and women."

....Government's task, Roosevelt argued, was to intervene "not to hamper individualism but to protect it" by helping the less powerful confront economic difficulties and abuses of the system by the powerful.

Whatever message Democrats come up with, they will continue to lose ground and be untrue to what's best in their tradition if they fail to stand up for this affirmative government role in enhancing both individual liberty and self-sufficiency.

Dionne's inspiration for this idea is a package of stories in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly. Its theme is simple: protecting people against corporate abuse is a longtime progressive mission, but Democrats need to figure out ways to do this that empower individuals to fight back, rather than relying solely on centralized federal agencies and ever increasing government regulation.

Empowering the individual. Protecting them from the predation of global capital. That's worth developing. More on this soon, I hope.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Arnold the One-Term-inator

Kos nails it with CA-Init: Arnold the One-Term-inator:

To call California a disaster for Arnold is the biggest understatement of the year. Schwarzenegger spent $50 million of taxpayer money in an election in which every single ballot initiative failed, and failed handily (the closest prop, the parental notification one, failed by over 5 percent).
As I mentioned over on the sfschools blog, this good election news could quickly turn into disaster if SFUSD and the SEIU cannot avert a strike. There is so much at stake for SFUSD — and for my kids! I'm obsessed with the conflict and holding my breath, hoping that we will have more good news soon.

Doing Iran's bidding

In her most recent post, Movies and Dreams..., Riverbend lays out a thesis I'm hearing a lot of these days — that the unintended consequence of the Iraq was has been to advance Iran's power in the Middle East.Baghdad Burning:

The agony of the long war with Iran is what makes the current situation in Iraq so difficult to bear- especially this last year. The occupation has ceased to be American. It is American in face, and militarily, but in essence it has metamorphosed slowly but surely into an Iranian one.
I heard Richard Clarke on an KQED broadcast making the same point. And other Iraqi bloggers see it the same way. We have done what Iran failed to do in the Iran Iraq war. Allow me to quote extensively from the broadcast:
What were the war aims of Iran (in the Iran Iraq war)? They were:
  • To throw Saddam Hussein out of office.
  • To eliminate the Iraqi military threat, including its weapons of mass destruction
  • To take the Shia religious group inside Iraq, which was the largest religious group, and have it become the largest influence in the running of the government
  • To allow the Iranian people to come and visit the shrines in Najaf and elsewhere
  • And finally, to have the revolutionary government in Tehran have great influence in the government in Baghdad
Those were the war goals. [...]

We have no created the circumstance, at the cost of all of our dead and all of our money, we have now created the circumstance where all of the Iranian goals have been achieved. And Iran, probably at this point, is either the second or third largest contributor to the coalition, although it's not formally a member of the coalition. But Iran probably has, after the United States and Great Britain, more troops and intelligence officers in the country than anybody else -- covertly. And overtly giving billions of dollars in assistance to the new government in Baghdad -- the new government in Baghdad that consists of so many people who spend the last twenty years in Tehran.

When the defense minister of Iran visited Baghdad earlier this year, he held meetings with his Iraqi counterparts, and they all spoke Farsi. And the Iranian defense Minister said, "The United States will eventually leave. And when it does, we will still be there." So we have made Iraq safe for the Ayatollahs in Iran.

Clarke makes many good points about our goals and our options in Iraq. His views are pretty close to mine, and not too far from the phased withdrawal plan that people like Kevin Drumm, and now John Kerry have been advocating. If you have the bandwidth, I recommend downloading the broadcast and listening to the whole thing.

The Future of Flying?

WorldChanging caught my eye with this post: The Future of Flying is Batwing:
Airline passengers of the future will have to do without window seats and fly in "batwing" aircraft as a result of aviation industry proposals to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from flights.
Seated 40-across in the body of the wing? Sounds cool to me. Seems like we've been flying the same 7x7-like contraptions for way too long. I hope I live long enough to fly in such a craft.

Krugman on U.S. health care

Once again, the worsening labor conflict in my kids' school district really underscores for me the critical need to deal with the national health care fiasco. So this recent Krugman article really struck a chord with me: Pride, Prejudice, Insurance(TimesSelect article, sorry):

Why does American medicine cost so much yet achieve so little? Unlike other advanced countries, we treat access to health care as a privilege rather than a right. And this attitude turns out to be inefficient as well as cruel.

The U.S. system is much more bureaucratic, with much higher administrative costs, than those of other countries, because private insurers and other players work hard at trying not to pay for medical care. And our fragmented system is unable to bargain with drug companies and other suppliers for lower prices.

Employment-based health insurance is the only serious source of coverage for Americans too young to receive Medicare and insufficiently destitute to receive Medicaid, but it's an institution in decline. Between 2000 and 2004 the number of Americans under 65 rose by 10 million. Yet the number of nonelderly Americans covered by employment-based insurance fell by 4.9 million.

The funny thing is that the solution - national health insurance, available to everyone - is obvious. But to see the obvious we'll have to overcome pride - the unwarranted belief that America has nothing to learn from other countries - and prejudice - the equally unwarranted belief, driven by ideology, that private insurance is more efficient than public insurance.

It's so hard to imagine any current politician having the guts, the vision, and the power to move this issue forward. But it is possible to imagine lots of major, disruptive changes in the near future. Who knows when the door will open. Hopefully soon.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Torturer in Chief

Another excellent post for Laura Rosen at War and Piece, Torturer in Chief.

From the WaPo's Dana Priest and Robin Wright:
Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials...
If he had been supporting the very same policies he is now advocating while representing a regime like Serbia's, the big man would be in a Hague jail cell. The same support for torture. The same naked contempt for democratic processes. The same contempt for law. The same contempt for their people.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, another man of honor

We have a new blogger in the family! When I got home tonight, Beth is asking me if I'd heard the news. One of Powell's staff is spilling the beans!

Damn. Beth, as far as I know, won't even read this blog. Now she's my source. I can handle that. Cool. So thanks to Google News, I figure out that she heard Larry Wilkerson on NPR.

And here it is. First the Editor & Publisher report based on the NPR interview. Then we have links to the audio interview itself.

Check it out. Really. Listen to the interview. He names names. David Addington in particular. This is important stuff.

First the news report, that puts the interview in the context of Wilkerson's other recent revelations. Wilkerson Charges Cheney Responsible for Prisoner Abuse:

His initial blast, on Oct. 19, at a luncheon in Washington, D.C. drew wide press attention. Now Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, is at it again. In an interview for National Public Radio he charged that Vice President Cheney's office--and new chief aide David Addingtoon--was responsible for directives which led to U.S soldiers abusing prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Here is the NPR interview: Ex-Powell Staffer Discusses Cheney Role in Iraq War:

Steve Inskeep talks with Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, about the influence of Vice President Dick Cheney's office over Iraq war policy. Wilkerson claims the vice president and others bypassed the rest of the government to control key decisions.
I transcribed what I thought was the high point. But there were many other blockbuster allegations. On the role of the VP and SecDef in detainee abuse:
I'm privy to the paperwork, both classified and unclassified, that the Secretary of State asked me to assemble, on how this [detainee abuse] all got started, what the audit trail was. ...It was clear to me that there was a visible audit trail from the Vice President's office through the Secretary of Defense down to the commanders in the field that, in carefully couched terms -- I'll give you that, that to as soldier in the field meant two things. We're not getting enough intelligence. And you need to get that evidence. And, oh by the way, here're some ways you probably can get it. And even some of the ways that they detailed were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the Law of War.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Clinton: fight back

Here's a good one from Steve Gilliard's prolific blog Clinton to Dems: Don't Fear Tough Issues:

Democrats can't be afraid to talk about hot-button issues, including abortion, and should fight back against personal attacks from conservatives if they want to regain power in Washington, former President Bill Clinton said Saturday.

'You can't say, 'Please don't be mean to me. Please let me win sometimes.' Give me a break here,' Clinton said. 'If you don't want to fight for the future and you can't figure out how to beat these people then find something else to do.'

read the rest here.

A bouncy wish come true

Boing Boing has this post from last weekend, "TV commercial of 10,000 250,000 superballs let loose in San Francisco" that is a dream come true for me. In July I posted a link to a Boing Boing story about the same thing: mass releases of superballs on steep SF streets, and I commented, "I want to see the video" The Flickr shots of that first shoot were just a tease. There had to be more. No one would go to all that trouble without taking lots more imagery.

And now here it is. Totally. Awesomely. Cool.

Even if it is an ad.

Way better than whatever happened in July. That must have been a demo, or a test. The streets are changed. It's shot in both Potrero and Nob Hill. They obviously did multiple ball drops. Way better light. What they have in the add is just beautiful.

Check out the Sony ad site here. And here are some direct links to the adds. The Really Big One(19.2M). Less big one. (Warning, the big one requires the latest QT, and my old home PC is simply unable to play it smoothly even with that. Too much information for its old brain.)

For lots and lots of stills, click on these images. We have various ad pages and Flickr sets from the photo shoot. Wow. How I wish I had been there...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gmail and Blogger outages?

What is up with gmail? And Is this a bad day for google IT? Sure seems like it from where I'm sitting.

Last night I couldn't get emails at my address. Today they're so slow. And I can't post to my other blog ( due to ftp problems. (I think.) And the emails to support are bouncing... And there are other blog reports of problems. Lots of them now, by the time I'm posting this...

Looks like a bad day. But maybe it was just my bad luck to get hit with two outages. I'm not seeing other complaints of outages... but I sure am having sudden, new problems with one of my blogs...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

2005 Nikon Small World - Photomicrography Competition

With a tip of the hat to Boing Boing, where I found this site, I bring you more cool sciencie pictures! 2005 Nikon Small World - Photomicrography Competition:
Small World is regarded as the leading forum for showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope. For over 30 years, Nikon has rewarded the world's best photomicrographers who make critically important scientific contributions to life sciences, bio-research and materials science.

2005 Bernal Soapbox Derby

I'm so bummed I missed it: 2005 Illegal Soapbox Derby
A proud Bernal Heights neighborhood tradition, the Illegal Soapbox Derby Society enforces only one rule: Every car must have a beer holder.
I've seen it other years and both the crowd and the racers are a trip. Check out the Flickr photoset to get a pretty good flavor for the event. And what I like best of all is the way the racers all pitch in before the race and thoroughly clean the roadway, sweeping and shoveling away all the gravel and sand that washes over the road. And they leave the part pretty clean too. These people know how to party!