March 29, 2006

What *not* to do after you step on your dick on the Internetz



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March 26, 2006

Chase scene

Magic is the shade of gray inside the clouds that traverse the sky beyond the windshield in impossible silence, made structures of cold crystalline edges in my vision by the rush of adrenalin-pumped senses burning sugars out of my blood into sweat and heat.

Eight seconds before physics shakes its head and gently revokes my hall pass.

Although the seat is shuddering behind/beneath me, I cannot feel it. I can only know it. Sweat is pouring off my forehead and temples in a spray; the byproducts of unsustainable crisis consumption in my body leaching precious water as emergency coolant. The Lotus is crying in its rage around me, with me, now. Were I to look to my left, I would see metal, rust and dirt sliding past in a storm of disturbed grit and billowing junk. No time. No time. The magic locks my eyes. I know the car's pain and rage as it tells me about its struggle in the shudder of the yoke, the slight but even more telling shimmer in the boost collective. Somewhere in the world there is the sound of a 9mm round hitting a thousand-year-old wakizashi - a stone has struck one of the lift fans now raging to burn down my forward vector as they scream against the oncoming wall of air. Brief moment of humble prayer to stave off the demon FOD.

Six seconds left of unknown dispensation.

Grey is sliced from my view by darkness, hard-edged and brutal. Noise returns to my awareness as the acoustics wring a deafening distortion-based ripple from the roaring around me and the Lotus slides beneath the ancient highway bridge, still miraculously balanced on its forward turbine thrust with its lift fans' note rising as their blade pitch fines out, thrust dropping and speed rising. Instinct and quantum luck rule my left foot sliding the lift collective down its track, matching the deceleration started some seven seconds earlier by brutally yanking the nose of the car skyward and forcing its lift and the full shape of its underside against the momentum of four hundred kph of forward flight.

Light drops down underneath the bridge. The car has started to spin slowly. I can't do anything about that now, and it could work out for the best.

Just as I lose sight of the clouds, there is an eye-tearing burst of light and noise as four lawcraft rocket past overhead. Long trails of flame and vapor protrude from emergency braking rockets in their noses and curl back over and beneath chunky armored hulls. Their formation, once a perfect computer-controlled finger four, has begun to disintegrate. I have time to wonder if they have been dumped to manual in an attempt to stay with me, or if their carcomps have begun safety maneuvers to keep them from colliding due to one or more of them attempting to brake, before it's too late and the bridge takes them from my view.

The bellowing of the fans has dropped off to a multitimbral snarl of fully fined blades and the roar of fullburn boost out the back, blue flame washing off the old cracked tarmac beneath the car's rear to ignite forgotten petrochemicals stored in the roadbed in long orange flares washing out around me. I'm almost stationary, now, and it's time - the Lotus can't stay vertical much longer.

Two seconds.

Feeling is all I have. The nose starts to wobble as stability imparted by velocity evaporates. Before it can twist, I cram the lift collective back upwards, twisting my foot; the front fans come up slightly before the rear so that the nose falling back downwards is counterbalanced by their earlier impulse. The Lotus falls back flat as I yank my left hand back and cut turbines. Dirt billows out to extinguish the flames as the fan blades, already spinning near their maximum velocity, twist slightly to bite the air and grab. The computer, tested to its limits, juggles the fans and somehow manages to keep any of the car's corners from hitting pavement. I pull all my hands and feet off control and slam my palm down on AUTOSTABLE. Handed a mostly-stationary vehicle, the carcomp instantly pulls the Lotus into a perfect hover beneath the bridge, pointed at right angles to my previous direction of travel.

I look out my window.

A kilometer or so downlane, the four lawcraft are finally getting themselves sorted out. They're much larger than the Lotus, and the carcomp helpfully informs me that they're pissed, as well. Freqs are alive with all manner of warnings and threats both electronic and human. Laserlights and plain old spotlights are training back along their flightpath as they try to figure out where I went. They saw me go under the bridge, of course, but they're still looking along the lane to see where I came out the other side.

I give them a tight grin and turn to look out the windshield again.

Magic is the dark blackness, pierced by my front lasers, that hides the empty lost railway tunnel from my eyes.

Hands onto the yoke. Feet onto the pedals. Switch the hat to translate.

"Hey, car."


"I got it."

"Manual controls released."

Right hand to the main boost lever. Advance. Advance. Advance.

Blue flame in the dark.

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March 25, 2006

Calling Tuttle, Oklahoma

For the LOVE OF GOD, fire this idiot. Or at least take away his email access. He's making you all look like fools. (Thanks MeFi!)

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Tastily tasting tasty things

Despite a long hiatus due mostly to technical whoopsies coupled with inertia, I'm pleased to announce that Tastings is back online, albeit with a very slightly different URL. Come on by and see what happens when yuppies with questing palates get bloggin'.

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March 24, 2006

Hey Ladies!

Senator Bill Napoli has explained that you can't decide for yourself, so remember to always call him up and ask his help on every decision! (hat tip Secretly Ironic!)

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March 23, 2006

Remember, remember, the fifth of November...

V for Vendetta receives a thumbs-up from me. Adapting graphic art to a movie is not easy. Adapting Alan Moore's work is bloody difficult and has so far resulted in everything from the mediocre to the disastrous as far as I'm concerned. Add to that the complexities of a portraying a protagonist whose face and body are never seen, and a story which could easily fill a five-hour movie if done faithfully - and it gets hinky, to quote a certain U.S. Marshal.

To my surprise, the chopping and reworking, while visible almost immediately to anyone who has read the book, came across as almost apologetically tender as well as (pardon the term) graphic. Surgical, really. Big chunks of the story were missing, yes, but their excision was handled with deferential care. While they were obviously missing, their absence was not papered over with out-of-place shoddy add-on justifications. There simply hadn't been room (in movie terms, 'room' translates to 'minutes' which translates to 'money').

Ditto the additions. There are, of course, additions to the film which don't come from Moore's book. I'm sure some people will consider them revoltingly offensive - why add contemporary reference points to this story, when it is a classic by itself? That is a perfectly defensible position, and I would hardly say that the story would not be more faithful had they been left out. However, once the excisions had been made for time's sake, then props were needed - and the use of some contemporary references allowed the audience's imagination to 'fill in the gaps' without nearly as many screen minutes being dedicated to 'backstory', which itself would have been damaging to the flow.

This doesn't make the movie a 'great movie' or even a 'good movie.' It makes it, for me, an understandable decision, and makes the adaptation one which was (in my opinion) pulled off well given the limitations. I will say that it failed in one respect - it fit within the confines of its limitations so well that it drew attention to those very limits, rather than hiding or misdirecting the audience's eye away from them as a masterful stage show might. This of course is the magic of the Wachowski brothers' act - they are special effects men, and their first creation, the Matrix, was defined by its ability to live entirely within a box and make you believe that the world itself existed within a tight and narrow place.

So no, I didn't have any feel for the world outside where V for Vendetta actually showed us in its footage. On the other hand, we're never shown that in the book, either; that's the point. Britain stands alone. England Prevails.

And in the end, the backdrops and thrusts and drops and platforms holding up the stage are what Codename: V really wants us to see - right before he sets them aflame and kicks them over.

I enjoyed the movie.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason the gunpowder treason ever should be forgot.

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Wrong side of the fence

This (login perhaps required, sorry) is a good opinion piece about how medical care in the U.S. has become business-oriented and commoditized to the point where patients are treated as customers and no longer as patients. The physician writing the piece laments this, and urges patients to treat their doctors as their employees, and to "fire them" until they get the message - until health care improves.

This is a well-meaning position to take. The problem is that it's completely unrealistic for many people. I have to ask if the physician in question understands that. Let me offer a counterexample. I live in Cambridge, MA. I have health insurance, through my employer, and in that am fortunate. I have a primary care physician - however, that physician is mostly retired now, and spends a good portion of the year on the West Coast. I have been trying to find a new primary care physician whom I can relate to - one whom, in this piece's turn of phrase, treats me like a patient.

I have failed miserably.

Not in finding one who will treat me like a patient. In finding one at all.

In Boston, a city which some would argue is at or near the top of the medical profession heap in the United States, I cannot find a GP (General Practitioner) to take me on as a patient. I have spoken with seven over the past five months (or their staffs) on recommendations from my insurance company, my current physician(s), and friends. All have told me the same thing - their practices are full. One was unusually candid - he told me he was ceasing to practice medicine for insured patients, and moving into the realm of 'boutique' medicine - essentially becoming a doctor 'on retainer' for wealthy patients who could and would afford to pay premium prices for personal (i.e. 'patient') care.

We, the patients, are not the 'employer' of the physicians anymore. The HMOs and insurance companies and hospitals, etc. are. We are the customers of those businesses. There is a disconnect between we who receive the services and the doctors who provide it - and like so many businesses where there is a non-present middleman, that middleman is screwing with the provision of that service.

I'm not saying that there isn't an infrastructural cost to providing medical care which doctors alone cannot support. Hospitals cost money. Research costs money. And so on. However, there is a problem - and the advice to 'find another doctor' simply isn't tenable advice in some cases, because there aren't other doctors - at least, other doctors who aren't simply going to look at you and shake their heads and tell the insurance company, or HMO, or their hospital scheduler to simply send in the next patient to fill up those precious scarce minutes.

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March 22, 2006

Cameras in your homes. Now...

No being drunk in bars. What happened to bartenders cutting people off? I want to know what 'being drunk' is in this context. Did they breathalyze them? Did they arrest people who were drunk 'n happy? What?

Seriously, in a bar?

That's an insult to bartenders. Honestly. Thanks Texas for making sure I can't drive by arresting me while I'm still drinking.

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I need me a Jesus and Bacon Sandwich

Apparently the first time didn't get the point across.

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March 17, 2006

Ah, some back-and-forth.

Back on the issue of Apple Computer using TCPA/TPM in the Mac OS X/Intel kernel, LilBambi has posted on the issue, offering a roundup of both reactions to the announcement as well as some snippets of surveys of the various responses. LB's position appears to be that I (among others) am wrong in my reaction, as any acceptance of the use of DRM in products is in essence allowing a 'foot in the door' and should be fought from the beginning, as hard as possible in order to best protect our freedoms down the line.

Reading that article has forced me to re-examine my position. Note: re-examine means just that. It does not mean 'reach different conclusions' which is what many folks seem to mean when they use the term. However, I have thought about it more, from a viewpoint several months along. The basic question addressed: should I (I won't presume, here, to dictate to anyone else's conscience) take action to pressure Apple Computer to give up the use of DRM in Mac OS X, up to and including the use of a boycott of its products, in response to their use of the Trusted Computing hardware gained through use of Intel-based motherboards to 'tie' Mac OS X to their machines?

There are several questions I need to answer, here. First of all, do I believe that DRM is monolithically a bad thing? In other words, is the very existence of the technology inherently wrong? Let me be clear: no, I do not. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, I have difficulty passing value-laden judgements on a technology absent a use context. Second, I have (and may in future) work in environments involving the necessary protection of information for reasons other than 'intellectual property' or 'profit' concerns - and DRM technologies in many cases are functionally indistinguishable from technology used to secure information from casual or even determined access. I don't claim they are alwas successful, but they can be a valuable tool.

Do I believe that the use of DRM technologies to restrict the spread of 'content' information for profit maximization is wrong? This is more difficult. I believe it is technically (so far) infeasible - and that given the way information that is disseminated for profit must change hands, there is no amount of DRM tech that can 'protect' it by the nature of the transaction. Hence, its use for this is pointless and restrictive. I do not believe it should be illegal to try to do so - but I do believe the market should be allowed to punish those who do. I do believe it should most definitely not be illegal to attack the technical problem of breaking a DRM scheme. The DMCA is, in my opinion, a dangerous attempt to 'fix' a market - that is, to interfere with its function in favor of one group of participants - through blatant legislative capture, and should be abolished. While the actual act of illegally distributing content is a different matter entirely, the mere technical act of attacking or examining the protection systems is pure science, and should be treated as such.

Moving back to the matter at hand. In Apple's case, I consider the 'strong protest' response raised against Apple in this case to be counterproductive to the anti-DRM movement. This is why I raise objections to it, from a pragmatic point of view - not because, as LB suggests, I feel that Steve Jobs' use of whatever means to protect his baby is fine by me. In the first case, the real issue is not that the TPM is being addressed from inside OS X at all; the issue is that the TPM hardware is available inside the Macintosh in the first place. Complaining because Apple is utilizing the hardware to protect OS X from being copied (and not, I would point out, to encrypt even content purchased from iTunes, or user files, or anything like that) completely misses the point. If you are really worried about TPM invading the Macintosh, then protest the inclusion of the hardware. Otherwise, it just comes across as petulant whining, because it looks like you're trying to have your cake (faster cool Intel goodies) and eat it too (bitch about TPM/DRM issues that aren't really an issue yet but are only even possible because of those goodies making the Mac faster/more scalable etc).

The argument "we must protest it because once it is there it will be used" simply seems to make the above point for me. The problem, though, is that Apple really is just a convenient target. I'm not saying the protesters shouldn't complain about Apple all they want - that's their prerogative. But Apple didn't really chase Intel hardware because of TPM. They chased it for other, more pressing money-making reasons. Honestly, if their first priority was making sure their OS couldn't be run on cheap commodity hardware, they could have simply kept it on PowerPC - or moved to some other architecture, or anted up and invested money in the PPC roadmap, or shoved their marketing engine over to something entirely other than performance. Nope, they went Intel for performance and heat - and with Intel came a risk to their business model and something they could use to mitigate that risk - TPM.

So really, if you're concerned that "If TPM is there, it will get used for evil eventually" then the real culprit is Intel for designing the thing into the chipset and pushing to have it included in the reference platform, which is not Apple's fault. They just used it to try to minimize their corporate OS risk, without even trying to stuff it down your throat via iTunes - and don't believe the content providers wouldn't have loved for them to do that.

But no. We're not going to redouble our efforts to complain about the actual designers and pushers of the TPM hardware - we're going to complain about Apple. Because it's a big, fat, media-blitzed target, ripe for an iPod-and-OS X on Intel-fuelled backlash.

And because Cory-the-writer-with-flair said so.

That's why I think it's a silly issue. Because the 'protest everything at maximum intensity' approach leads to burnout response both in terms of allocating actual effectiveness, as well in terms of the response of those who you are trying to mobilize. Plus, if you stop buying computers which use TPM modules, what computers are you going to buy? It's not that the code to address it is the problem. It's that the chips are on the boards.

If you're that worried about the Mac, run Linux on it, for pete's sake. Apple isn't trying to prevent you from doing that. They don't even care if you run Windows on it. They just don't want you running their OS anywhere else. Not even their OS; their GUI and their PPC emulator. Which are not open source software, were not written 'by the community', and do not 'have to be free' - unless you're a software pirate.

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March 15, 2006

Evil Twin Theory?!?!?

So the new hypothesis in the Claude Allen case appears to be that it involves his identical twin brother Floyd. There are several ways this could be true, of course. One, it might have been Floyd perpetrating the entire series of frauds, and Claude was a mistaken target. Two, Floyd might have been guilty of the scheme using his brother's credit cards, making Claude a more-understandable mistaken target. After that, it gets into conspiracy theory la-la-land: Claude was guilty, and Floyd has been brought in to take the fall; they were in it together to provide alibis, etc. etc.

My question is the following. If in fact Claude Allen was not involved (i.e. it was Floyd, and Claude was a victim, which is the most likely way Floyd was involved) then why did Claude handle this by resigning abruptly and not explaining the situation to the White House staff? In that case, no matter what the fallout there might have been, it could not have been nearly as bad as what has hit the White House from being blindsided by the speculation and assumption that has occurred on front pages since the story broke. At the very least, the White House could have figured out how to handle the story better.

It is, of course, possible that Mr. Allen simply wished to shield his brother from the explosion of publicity. Prior instances of his assisting his less-fortunate twin, as well as being commendable, offer evidence that such a reaction would not be out of character. However, the manner in which he departed almost certainly guaranteed that national exposure to the story would occur, which would mean that if he (Claude) wasn't guilty, that fact as well would receive national attention when the actual details became available, as the fact that the White House didn't know what was going on would in itself be news.

I don't know. I don't agree with Mr. Allen, and I don't like his positions, but I have to say, it sounds like this was handled incredibly badly. I can't tell if that was because the situation forced it due to the pressure of events - but the whole 'he has a twin' speculation may or may not do him any favors, and if his twin really isn't involved, certainly does his twin - a man with his own problems, it appears - no favors at all. If Mr. Allen is the source of all his own troubles and resigned to cope with them without trying to bring anyone else into them - which would be a laudable impulse - then dragging his twin into them before any credible evidence linking him thus would be a disservice.

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March 14, 2006

Fucking whiner.

Seriously. "Passion of the Jew" was fine. Endless jabs at the Pope is fine. We can rip on Africans, Canadians, Chinese, Arabs, who knows what else, but oh, heaven forfend we fuck with the looney tunes. And after the history of South Park's prior egalitarian fun-poking, he fucking dares bring up his 'civil rights credentials' to get huffy about the fucking Scientologists?

Quoth Peter Pouliot re: Hayes and the situation: "Suck my chocolate salty balls."

Me? I say bring it all on.

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March 12, 2006

What is it with this set of Conservatives?

Claude A. Allen. Conservative. Ex-press secretary for Jesse Helms. Home schooling and abstinence education advocate. Bush Domestic Policy Advisor. And, apparently, alleged serial petty thief.

It'd be funny if it weren't so damn sad.

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March 9, 2006

Daddy's Friends Come Through

...and help GW never have to acknowledge the futility of that embarrassing head-in-sand veto threat by, erm, well, you know.

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Your Tax Money for Christian Evangelicals And Fraudsters.

Read this.

Now, please.

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Moments I Regret Not Understanding Japanese


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March 7, 2006

Why The Hell Isn't The Headline "Panel Rejected A Full Investigation Of the Program?"

"Liberal Media" my wide black ass. "GOP Senators Propose NSA Spying Bill" makes it sound like they're actually doing something about it instead of working frantically to sweep the entire fucking thing under the rug. Note that my proposed headline is, in fact, in paragraph four of the article.

Meanwhile, somehow it's now OK to search publisher's homes under warrants which it's illegal to even disclose exist, and to direct publishers and ISPs to hand over records on their clients (that would be reporters, and anyone who hosts websites) while making it a federal crime to even tell said people that the warrant has been served.

Oh, and 'classified information,' the disclosure of which can bring the aforementioned measures down on you, is anything the fucking Vice President decides it is. Without consulting anyone.

I agree, if Bill Clinton had just stamped 'CLASSIFIED' on his cock we'd all have been better off, no?

What the fuck is happening in my country?

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I Love Getting Evidence I'm Not Crazy.

I've been saying for years that the U.S. has or had a high-tech spyplane system to replace the SR-71 that it wasn't talking about, if for no other reason than the U.S. Air Force turning down funding to keep them flying. I mean, the day the USAF turns down money to keep what is (as far as the world knows) the coolest high-speed airplane on the planet running, organization theory tells you they have something cooler up their sleeve.

Well, Aviation, Aviation Week thinks so too.

Hoax? Possibly. Do I think so? No. Could I be wrong? Absolutely.

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March 6, 2006

Where's my Nemex

Every time I see a new 5 I'm minded of Shorn Associates' standard road kit.

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March 5, 2006

Unexplained Rez Event

Only because I'm far to lazy a fat bastard to do anything about it will I blog this, but this is a fantasy I just allowed to warm my small cold soul for a few minutes. Imagine that a design existed for a small bit of breadboarded electronics, sort of like the LED throwie. Imagine that instead of a LED, this bit of kit had a magnet and sticky for two mounting options, a power source, some 'tronics, and an RF transmitter. The transmitter would be weak, but designed to do one thing, if such a thing is possible: be picked up by the powered speaker wires of standard public address systems. The 'tronics would be a time chip and a basic music sample. Once you had the design worked out, you'd set all of the time chips to some point a couple months in the future and just travel around hunting down PA systems in public areas and hiding the chips near their feeds.

Then, at some point simultaneously, PA systems all over the place would suddenly start broadcasting a version of Underworld's incomparable rez/cowgirl.

The unexplained rez event.

It would rule.

Maybe if you were ambitious the kit would have speakers too. I dunno. Maybe for logistics purposes you could concentrate on one public area and spend a week planting 'em around that area, trying not to get caught and beat down for terrorist activities by our new security conscious overlords.

Still. It would kick.

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March 3, 2006

The Last Entry, and an apology to George W. Bush and the DHS

Hey Mr. President-

Aren't you glad I have a careful-as-hell suspicious lawyer for a brother who compulsively fact-checks my ass? I know I am.

If he's correct, then I owe President George W. Bush and the DHS an apology, which is heretofore offered in advance because, after all, it was my assumption which led to my rude behavior. Mr. President, Dept. of Homeland Security, I withdraw my rude remarks and assumptions of infringements on my liberty implied in the prior post. All were based on my own inferences from a single news story which, as my brother has pointed out, does not actually contain any precise references to law which would justify such a reaction from me. I will state that your innocence of any misbehavior (even if only in my opinon) must be assumed until proven with hard evidence and references thereto.

Please accept my apologies for my assumption and the rudeness based on that assumption. It was my error.

Posted by jbz at 4:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Whatever you do, don't pay your bill.

Because if you decide to one day pay off a credit card, well, that might bring down the DHS on your ass. Welcome to our safer society. Fuck you, Mr. President.

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