Monday, June 25, 2007

Mixed Emotions

So, I really like Opera. I don't know that there is any explaining it- it is simply the state of affairs. On Reddit a while back I saw a link to this video of a fellow named Paul Potts (no- not Pol Pot) and he's not half bad (but oh lord does he underscore the stereotype about the Brits and their teeth). He's singing Nessun Dorma from Turandot, and like Pavaotti, (who has one volume - full) who's gotten plently of mileage out of this number, Potts treats it with surprising finesse. Here's my beef- WHY THE HELL DO THEY EDIT THESE DAMNED SONGS SO BADLY? This performance is about 35% of the piece. It's a beautiful composition with lovely movement and deserves better. If he sucked, they could stop him- I've seen them do that on American Idol before. And if they'd dispense with the bullshit fluff pre- and post-performance, we could get the whole enchilada. I'm only left to assume that television sucks everywhere.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007


Alright, relax, this is the last post of the day. I was a little pent up, what can I tell you? This post is on the idea of ecologically friendly technology (where most consumer technology isn't). I used to have two servers here at home- one for Exchange (mail, calendaring, contacts, and the like) and the other was a simple Linux system for filer server usage with SaMBa. This only changed with the death of the Linux system hardware, and I replaced it with a small appliance that was essentially a hard drive in a box with an Ethernet jack. Well, it works, but it's damned slow, and cannot be used for any other/additional purpose. I really liked how much less power it used though, and this got me on my current track. I wanted another Linux box, but didn't like the idea of paying for another ~300+ Watt power supply that runs 24/7.

Here's the thinking- in most areas the utility companies charge about $.09 per kiloWatt hour. A kiloWatt is 1000 Watts of power, and an hour is an hour. Run a 100 Watt light bulb for 10 hours and that'll suck up one kiloWatt. You'll pay $.09. With me so far? Great. Computers have power supplies that tell you the maximum Wattage load. A 650 Watt power supply seldom draws 650 Watts- it may draw 300-400 depending on things like how many hard drives or whatever other components get their power from it, and even then the needs of these components can vary. Unless you have metering equipment, you probably won't know for sure exactly how many Watts your computer uses. I'm confident that my server that runs Exchange is sucking down 300 Watts easily, and this means that every 24 hours it's consuming 7.2 kiloWatt hours of energy (300 X 24 hours = 7200 / 1000). That means that I pay almost $.70 per day in electricity for that server. Starting to see where I'm going with this? And this is just the server- not the monitors and printers and such. I'm not looking to eco-friendly here at this point.

In general I try to be as low power as possible around the house- the television isn't on very often, and the other systems in the house are in low power mode when not in use. All the screens are LCD, and the lightbulbs here are (almost) all compact fluorescent. Why bother? Read this. So into this scene I want to add another 24/7 system. Dang. I really don't want another >300 Watt nasty, and was having a hell of a time finding a low-power (and low noise) solution, but I finally succeeded. I bought a second hand Dell laptop. (Dell? Laptop?) Yes, that's right. A laptop. A 3GHz system with enough RAM to handle whatever I throw at it, and I don't have to worry about a backup battery or monitor. This pedestrian lappy has a max draw of 180 Watts, and I've not measured it, but when the screen is off (I usually access it remotely) I'm sure it's considerably less. Next, I added a USB hard drive. Mine is a no-name "Happy Lucky Kung Fu" sort of brand that is lean on specifications, and these things can vary, but I'd expect to spin one drive should only require 30 to 40 Watts, and if in standby mode, maybe 20 Watts.

By my reckoning, this arrangement is drawing at or under 200 Watts and gets me back to my Linux-happy-place. The performance is good (particularly compared to the Ethernet-drive-in-a-box appliance, which is good for about 60-70 Watts) and it is so much more useful- I setup MRTG on it too, so I can get a sense of my Internet bandwidth usage and file transfer needs from system to system.

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Best Headline of the Week

What? Three posts in one day? What the hell happened to Stucco? Well, I'll tell you - I slept till noon. I'm feeling my oats now, so look out! Heh.

I know I need to update my links and all, but this site is great- The Consumerist. I don't want to spoil the setup, so if you didn't hear about the fiasco with a Continental trans-Atlantic flight, read this first.

Once you know the back-story, click here for the headline



In Case You Care, Your Freedom Is In Peril

In case you still like to vote (I'm not getting into the debate about the futility of voting), you might want that vote to be counted. You remember that line about those who don't remember their history are doomed to repeat it? Here's a little food for thought:

For the benefit of those among us that went to public school (I went to public school, but learned history on my own) and may have missed this little nugget of reality, that's a cartoon of William M. "Boss" Tweed. If ever there was a patriarch of modern power manipulation, he's got to be it. He realized that the votes don't matter- the COUNTING of the votes matters. Read all about him and Tammany Hall here.

Fast forward almost 150 years to today, and we see a company called Diebold now being contracted to run some elections. Incidentally, is there nothing in a society that SHOULDN'T be privatized? They have an electronic system that counts votes. Great- right? Who doesn't like efficiency? Well... Here's where the problems begin. The software that controls these vote counting systems is copy-written and secret. You can't review the code. Fuck only knows what the instructions are really doing. They know the history of Tammany Hall, and are gaining ground on the control over vote counting.

The "news" organizations are feeding you all the Paris Hilton, Anna Nichole Smith, and TB-guy "news" you can lap up like good little proles. They exist, not to inform, but to keep you frightened and afraid. Turn them off and read, and then research. Don't take things at face value. Insist on sources, not opinion. Insist on proof. From me too.

There is a fellow who I first started paying attention to in the context of Information Systems Security and encryption. I'd been in IT for a while, but in a real general manner- learning whatever came my way, but not making much of an effort to refine my interests. Then I read Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson and an interest was sparked. Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is fiction, but referred to real places and some real people- this guy among them. His name is Bruce Schneier and his writings are well worth reading, even for those outside of technology circles or interests. He has spent a lot of time on the Diebold issue, and was where I first heard about the impossibly easy ways to change the count on these systems. Have a look for yourselves

So, in the spirit of re-kindling ACTUAL patriotism (you know- the kind where you actually give a shit about the health of the nation and its inhabitants- not just wearing a damned flag lapel pin and saying jingoistic, belligerent, idiotic, and offensive things like "we're the greatest nation on Earth"), I encourage one and all (overseas readers as well) to turn off the "news" and vet the editorialism you hear, and think about how we can make sure our voices are heard- no matter your ideology or leanings.


Almost ... Baseball

Well, I mean it was really Baseball Thursday night. We went to see the Mariners play the Pirates, and I more or less went under duress. I gave up on Baseball in 1995, and haven't opened my heart to the filthy bastards since. I went because tickets were proffered via a local school as a fundraiser, and the wee beasties wanted to go. Once there I noticed that almost no one was there (disclosure: I grew up in the St. Louis area, where the Cardinals loom larger than fresh air or clean water), and that the stadium (1st base side) has a lovely view of downtown. See?

Well, so no one really paid any attention to the game, and that was good, because dear lord it was boring. A. has a friend from school named D. and her dad brought her to the game. I'd met him before and he's an honest-to-God hippy. It's really fun to talk with him- not just because he drives a VW Vanagon (*insert sound of me weeping for my old Vanagon*), but because he INTERESTING. His name is T. and he works for a local competitor to Walgreens, and was telling stories about some of the more "unusual" things that he'd witnessed in the downtown stores. It began when I commented about the incredibly small flip phone he was using (imagine a bit-sized Halloween candy). He said this was a response to his last phone, which was also a flip phone (of conventional dimensions) that had the top part ripped off while he was calling 911. Huh? Yeah- the person about whom he'd been calling the murderous-bastard cops grabbed the top part of the phone and ran off with it. He told other tales of urban lunacy, but my favorite one was the inexplicable case of a man and woman who entered the store and went down an aisle with laundry supplies. The man licked his finger and ran it along the top of a box of Tide powder detergent and gathered up loose particles of soap, and then stuck his finger in to the mouth of the woman. T. was of course more than a little surprised and called out to others nearby to watch this couple, and damned if they didn't do it again.

Made me feel pretty mainstream, I have to confess. Sometimes my thoughts alarm me a little, but I can in clear conscience tell you that I have never thought about shoving a finger covered with anything non-edible into anyone else's orifices. Well, in public, anyway...

So other school folks were there and one of them was the sister of the fellow who wrote Grosse Point Blank. I happened to love that move. It was interesting to hear her take on that industry, as I'm thinking about making the time to write down/flesh out a story/screenplay for a move from an idea I had a few years ago. I really don't know if I want to commit that amount of time to create it only to them have to fight such an uphill battle to get it in the hands of movie makers. You know, but if Paris Hilton wrote a "Hot" script about something or another, THAT would get too much attention. To revise Warhol- In the future, all the wrong people will be famous.

So, in the end there were 9 innings played an the Mariners won 3-0 and no one seemed to care. National Past Time my ass.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Like Aristotle said- "All Things In Moderation"

All things in moderation, except for the love of family. Some things are best when given to reckless abandon. To all the other Fathers/Dads/Daddies/Pops/Poppas, I hope your Father's Day is as enjoyable as possible.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Has Anyone Ever Gotten Anything From AdSense?

I turned off AdSense, as I have not heard from them ever and I can't log in to check my account. This got me wondering- has anyone with an ordinary (read: not seeing 10K's of page views daily) ever gotten a damned thing from these AdSense people? I know I'm a cynic, but now I'm thinking that people who say zany shit on their blogs, do so because they are hit-whores. Regardless of the motives, is this AdSense thing for real?

Saturday, June 09, 2007

"We Have Met The Enemy, And He Is Us"

I'm so ashamed of us.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Racist Testing

"Your data suggest a slight automatic preference for African American compared to European American."

That result statement is a link to a Harvard test about racial inclinations. I happen to think the methodology is crap, but whatever - I'm wired oddly about race. I probably do lean away from "whitey", but not so much that I have self-loathing or anything. I grew up among all black people (we were poor- go figure) and I was actually bussed to the white kids school. Me and one other white kid named Randy in a bus with 30 or 40 black kids. There were some Vietnamese kids in town, but they lived somewhere else. There were NO hispanic or latino people anywhere. I never met any until I moved to Denver.

Once we moved out of the "hood" (I'm exaggerating, but not much), I ended up going to school and work in downtown St. Louis. Once again, I was surrounded by black folks. Apart from walking into a gunfight one night, it was safe, comfortable, and normal. More to my point, it was real. I don't mean like "I'm keeping it real" or any of the other cliche bullshit- I mean I saw cops when they showed their true colors. I saw countless cabs NOT stopping to pick up my friends. I saw bona fide racist people harass and attack my friends, co-workers, fellow students, and passersby. I saw the way this country works.

That being said, I think it's important to make and keep friends of all sorts, and give them undue influence on your world view, or else you may notice the way we continue to shaft New Orleans, or institutionalize discrimination, and your soul might die.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I Weep For My Mother Tongue

So, I'm watching the podcast today of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates talking shop, and I'm amazed at how these people are all (I include the two underwhelming interviewers) are making the same grammatical mistake repeatedly. Basic subject/verb agreement shit. Two of these people are demonstrably not dumbasses (although one of the hosts clearly is- Jobs, on the subject of his disinclination to comment on new things said he'd previously been chastised by employees who had described Apple as a "ship that leaked from the top". There was a pause as she thought about that and then said that she didn't "get it" and that a "sweater with no sleeves is a vest" Fucking idiots...).

So, as a free service to the best and brightest of Silicon Valley, here are the grammatical rules that were broken:

There is, or "there's" goes with a singular noun. Example- "There is the fucking moon"

There are. or "there're" if you are committed to contractions or mumbling, goes with plural items. Example: There are a bunch of assholes.

I heard sentences like "There's computers that will... (fix my fucking atrocious grammar?)" throughout this show. Billions of dollars in the bank and they can't speak like a native (as in "native English speaker" - don't get off on a racist tangent here). I mean honestly- what do you learn in any foreign language study right away? The words for being- "I am", "He is", "You are". This is basic stuff, and I'm amazed at the allegedly smart people that have yet to learn it.