Thursday, March 31

A little technical business

Two things:

  1. I updated my RSS feed to use FeedBurner. Mostly just because I'd like to see how many users are reading my blathering. :-)

    So those of you out there reading off the RSS feed, please update the RSS URL to:

    If you're not using RSS and would like to start, click on the appropriate link to subscribe:
        Subscribe in NewsGator Online  

  2. Blogspot seems to be barfing badly today. I had written a nice long post only to have it get eaten by a server timeout. <grumble> Is anyone else having problems with really slow page loads here?

Tuesday, March 29

realsupergirl: One more thing about the Terri Schiavo case

As usual, RealSuperGirl has come up with a fascinating insight on an under-represented facet of the whole case:

realsupergirl: One more thing about the Terri Schiavo case

Monday, March 28

I remembered a camera this time!

Lookie! I finally remembered to take the camera on a road trip! OK, so it was just an overnight trip out to the coast, but still!

Actually, I've been digital camera shopping. Unfortunately, I'm far pickier than my budget allows and really want an optical through-the-lens viewfinder. Much to my dismay, that feature eliminates the vast majority of affordable digital cameras out there and leaves mostly just the pro-grade SLRs. Fortunately, my friend Jim loaned me his Canon EOS Digital Rebel (!!!) for a few days so I could give it a test drive. These pics are my first attempts with it. I was playing with all the various program settings, so the results were a bit inconsistent quality-wise, but I'm getting a feel for it.

The jury is still out on the camera. It's a very nice digital SLR. Lots of features, full manual to a plethora of full auto modes. Lots 'o brains.

Hey ... my primary camera up until now has been a Pentax K1000, so none 'o yo lip! I got it when I was fifteen and it still works perfectly.

The 15-55mm lens is good enough. I think its range is too narrow to be very useful as a zoom lens, though. The wide is not wide enough and the zoom is not enough longer than a normal lens to be worthwhile. I found it to be only slightly better than a fixed-length lens and a bit distracting. I would probably take better pictures without the distraction. I don't care much for the built-in flash. Not because it's weak, I could care less about that, but because it is difficult to control when the flash is enabled. Several times I went to snap a shot and had the flash pop up unexpectedly (and unwanted). On a couple of other occasions when I wanted it to use the flash for some foreground fill, it wouldn't pop up no matter what I did - preventing the camera from shooting at all. Which leads me to my second dislike - the camera thinks it's smarter than I am. If it doesn't like the exposure, it won't shoot. Period. Grr. I missed several shots because it overrode me and didn't snap when I hit the button. Now, I'll be the first to say that I have not learned all the modes yet, so this may not be a problem if I have the right mode selected. But Al also needs to be able to use the camera and if I can't make it behave even after reading the manual, there's no way she'll want to use it.

Hmm ... .I'm noticing my "dislike" list is longer than my "like" list. That's not really a fair comparison, though. It really is an excellent camera. Likely some of my dislikes will go away as I figure out the subtleties of the various modes. Is it worth the price? I'm not sure yet. Stay tuned ... more pics and more feedback coming as soon as my Flickr quota resets.

Friday, March 25

NPR : Religion and the End of Life

I heard this story this morning on the radio while I was trying to convince myself to get out of bed:
Religion and the End of Life

Great story. I highly recommend listening to it.

The two points of view that I found the most interesting were the Jewish and Muslim ones. The concept mentioned by the Rabbi that the person is "already in the process of dying" and that a feeding tube may be seen as an "impediment to death" and not fundamentally causing death since the person is already dying. The concept referred to by the Imam is also deeply though-provoking - what is the definition of alive? Is it bodily functioning? Or is it brain activity?

Donate your body to ... politics?

Heh. Apparently Craigslist has already taken this down, but I think it's the perfect antidote to the fundie hysteria:

UPDATE: Here's the original full Craigslist post:

Boing Boing: Persistent Vegetative States can and should be use to advance many causes

Ain't sarcasm beautiful?

Thursday, March 24

Gunner Palace

I heard about this film from TofuCactus last night: Gunner Palace.

It looks like a fascinating film. I wonder if I can find where it's playing in town ...

For some reason this clip of the soldier playing a Hendrix-like rendition of The Star Spangled Banner made a really powerful impression on me.

Hidden message?

So I was surfing around on my lunch break and found this amusing little time-waster. Enter a text string and it searches Yahoo for images to spell out the letters.

Heh. pretty cool. So I put in my agency name just to see what it did:

Umm ... should I be wondering what the Universe is trying to tell me about the relative intelligence of the organization?

There's a Flickr version too. It seems to give a greater variety of higher-quality images (and source code to use them, too!) but it's not nearly as amusing after my first attempt.

Letter RRpDCIMG3708

Thanks to Wil Wheaton via BoingBoing for brightening another day in cubicle hell.

Tuesday, March 22


Hello ... Congress? Are you listening?

Apparently not.

What he said

As usual, someone else found a way to say what I'm thinking better than I could ever hope to achieve. The editorials in the L.A. Times yesterday and especially today do a pretty good job of it.

The Midnight Coup

Republican leaders, eyeing an opportunity to appease their radical right-wing constituents, convened Congress over the weekend to shamelessly interject the federal government into the wrenching Schiavo family dispute. They brushed aside our federalist system of government, which assigns the resolution of such disputes to state law, and state judges. Even President Bush flew back from his ranch to Washington on Sunday to be in on what amounts to a constitutional coup d'etat.

Life, Death and Cynical Grandstanding

I cannot remember a time when Congress and the president have acted with more egregious political opportunism and shameless trafficking in human misery than last weekend, leaping into the 15-year-long Terri Schiavo saga at the last possible moment as grandstanding defenders of the defenseless.

Although Schiavo's relatives on both sides of the issue are assuredly acting in good faith, national politicians certainly are not.

Please. Read them.

Good fellow

I like this guy. For two reasons. One, he posted a nice comment out of the blue on my blog even though he hasn't the first clue who I am. Two, he used my favorite word - jingoistic - in a post.

That's enough to put him on my good karma list. :-)

Psst! Hey Brett! How come you didn't enable comments on your blog? Isn't half the fun of riling up the freaks reading their offended squawking and watching the fur fly?

Monday, March 21

As if we had any doubt ...

... this memo turns up.

Oh yeah. 10th Amendment? States' rights? Pshaw! Let those silly little things get in the way of Important Missions From God™ to undermine and reverse things like Roe v. Wade or Skinner v. Oklahoma or re-affirm Buck v. Bell? Never!

Not when "This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue" and "This is a great political issue"!

Think about it. If Congress manages to weasel their way into being allowed to intervene by the courts, who says they'll stop there? Why not seize this take down some other niggling petty stuff about personal medical rights while they're at it? After all, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough" right?

By the way, why isn't the illustrious Senator Frist, M.D. pointing out the fact that the recent MRIs show the poor woman's cerebral cortex is liquid?* Did he develop some miraculous neurological cure in the Senate cloakroom? Why isn't anyone who is calling her husband cruel and uncaring pointing out that he was threatened with a restraining order because he was too insistent and demanding to her doctors regarding her care?*

* According to Jay Wolfson, court-appointed guardian ad litem in an interview on ABC News Nightline, May 21, 2005.

Saturday, March 19

Advance Directive

There are far more eloquent and numerous out there regarding the tragic disaster surrounding Terri Schiavo in Florida. I won't try to comment any further than saying that I am thoroughly and completely disgusted by the so-called "Religious Right" and their callous opportunistic seizure of this woman's life (and death) for their own astoundingly-selfish political reasons. The sheer colossal gall of it is revolting to me. In response I have a few important points:

  1. SHAME on you, Congress. Your actions have been despicable and beneath contempt. How DARE you meddle in this woman's life like this? What ever happened to the conservative standard of getting government "meddling" out of the average citizen's life? Or does that only apply to CEOs and big donors?

  2. I voted for Death With Dignity. Twice. If I am terminally ill, no damn political hack with an axe to grind in D.C. is going to tell me whether I get to live in suffering or die in peace. I firmly believe my mother, when she was in the last stages of her battle with cancer, came to Oregon specifically so that she could die in a state that was willing to let her choose when and how she died.

  3. Every single court has sided with Ms. Schiavo's husband. Every single one. Think about that. The blatant desire to discard or ignore huge parts of the Constitution by the Florida Legislature, Governor Jeb Bush, Congress, and the current administration is a deplorable example of a triumph of rhetoric and neo-conservative fundamentalist dogma over the supreme law of the land and basic human rights. Of course, the extreme right has been doing its best to force their morality upon us and deprive us all of even the most basic human and civil rights.

  4. Everyone ... and I mean you ... should have an Advance Directive. Get one. Now. I'm guilty of postponing it far too long. I've downloaded one and am filling it out before it's too late.

  5. Al knows this. Just about anybody who knows me knows this. But I want to be unequivocally clear: If I'm terminally ill or permanently unconscious, pull the goddamn plug.

%*#@(!%!*@^*$ Furnace

I so felt like Darren McGavin's character from "A Christmas Story" the morning as I descended into the basement to do battle with the furnace. There I was, standing in the basement in my pajamas cussing a faulty flame sensor that was turning the burners off before they even had a chance to heat anything. Fortunately, our furnace isn't a 1940's vintage oil-burner. So at least there were no big black clouds of soot.

Damn thing.

Thursday, March 17

Obligatory St. Patty's Day Post

So is this funny or just poor taste?

Wednesday, March 16

Choose life?

Saw this on Craigslist. I felt an urgent moral imperative that I share it with y'all:

(The haiku on the page the pic came from is pretty damn funny, too.)

Fun with Oreos

Everyone's favorite bleeding heart lefty liberal frozen bovine byproduct buddy (AKA Ben Cohen) is at it again. This time it's the federal budget.

Of course, Ben being obsessed with high-calorie dessert treats, he uses Oreo cookies to illustrate.

40 × $10 billion cookies go to the Pentagon. The next largest expenditure anywhere in the world is Russia with a mere 7 cookies. Watch it, it's quite entertaining.

Then try the budget balancing act yourself with your own stack of multi-billion dollar cookies here.

Sunday, March 13

Hurrah for Global Warming?

This must be a sign of the coming Apocalypse or something. Two weeks of 70°+ days in in March! Surely the End is Nigh!

Just the other day I was joking that one of the easiest ways to spot a long-time Portlander is to look for the fish-belly white legs in shorts in March. (Looks down at his blindingly-pale legs sticking out of the shorts, then checks calendar.) Huh. Oh shit. Does that mean I'm going to show up at the Schnitz for an Oregon Symphony concert wearing Tevas (with socks!) and a flannel shirt?

I must offer apologies to my east coast friends. I'm really not trying to rub it in. I know how horrible you've had it this winter. I suspect we'll be paying the price come July when the whole damn state is on fire and we don't have any water to put it out.

Got marshmallows?

Wednesday, March 9

On the road again ...

I was back on the road again today doing another video equipment install. This week it was on the central coast.

I really enjoy these trips if for no other reason than it gives me some time to hang out with my always-entertaining co-worker Jim - both in the van on the road and then working with him on the actual installation on-site. Plus it helps me to keep current on what the state of the art is in videoconferencing. Never hurts to make sure one's skill set is as diverse as possible.

Two things of note this trip:

  1. Clear cuts - There were clear cuts everywhere. Every single hillside between and Florence looked to have at least one tract that had been clear cut. Most were hideously denuded, scarred by dirt tracks from the equipment and log trucks. It struck me as the ecological equivalent of road rash.

  2. Chowder - We were in Florence. At lunchtime. We had to stop at Mo's for lunch. After all, isn't that what you do in Florence? The verdict? It was good chowder, but Dooger's is better.

Tuesday, March 8

Anime + SteamPunk = STEAMBOY!

Now this looks entertaining.

Katsuhiro Otomo of Akira fame is back after a long hiatus.

From the Sony web site:

A retro science-fiction epic set in Victorian England, Steamboy features an inventor prodigy named Ray Steam who receives a mysterious metal ball containing a new form of energy capable of powering an entire nation. This young boy must use it to fight evil, redeem his family, and save London from destruction.

The UN plays hardball

Man oh man. (Boing Boing is a dangerous thing)

The UN has a new PSA about landmines that none of the networks here in the US seem to be willing to air.

It shows a girls' soccer game in the US. A mine explodes on the field, apparently killing & injuring players. It closes with a tag line over audio of parents and kids screaming on the field: "If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere? Help the U.N. eradicate landmines everywhere."

View the ad here or bittorrent here (Quicktime movie, ~8mb). Be warned, it is hard to watch.

Brutal. Effective and pointedly-truthful, but brutal. It's even worse if you watch the ad knowing what's going to happen beforehand. The question is, does the ad go too far?

My first thought was, it's too much. Too graphic. But after thinking about it more, I think it's exactly the sort of clue-by-four necessary to whack the complacent US public upside the head. Since when is it OK for children worldwide to be killed or maimed by these things but not OK if the victims are little white suburban girls in the US?1

1: Note that the US, Cuba and Haiti are the only nations in the western hemisphere who have not ratified the antipersonnel mine ban treaty

Contemplating a switch

OK, so I've been posting on LiveJournal for a while now. It's been working fine, but I occasionally find the lack of access to the HTML too limiting. So I'm tinkering with Blogger. We'll see if it works for me.