Christmas CD 2005

I dig music a lot, in case it hasn’t come through clearly for you. The track listing for Christmas CD 2005 is available online. This is the CD that I’ll be packing up and shipping out to various friends and relatives across the country in the next few weeks. OK, after the cruise, not before. I like the fact that Procol Harum did a Christmas song. Procol Harum, let that sink in a while.

Sober Worm

Looking at Norton’s activity log, for the past week I’ve been averaging 6 Sober worm hits each day. Contrast this with my usual 2 or 3 virus warnings per month, and you can imagine how much traffic this thing is producing across the entire internet.

What is the point of this stupid thing, anyway? I particularly appreciate the emails purporting to be from the FBI or the CIA warning me about my IP being logged while downloading illegal software/music/porn. Yeah, the CIA is tasked with domestic cybercrime. At least they didn’t send messages pretending to be from the NSA for a change. 🙂

Top 20 geek novels

So there was a small poll of the Top 20 English-language geek novels since 1932. Let’s see how I did – I’m bolding the ones I’ve read, and italicizing those I own.

1. The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four — George Orwell
3. Brave New World — Aldous Huxley
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? — Philip Dick
5. Neuromancer — William Gibson
6. Dune — Frank Herbert
7. I, Robot — Isaac Asimov
8. Foundation — Isaac Asimov
9. The Colour of Magic — Terry Pratchett
10. Microserfs — Douglas Coupland
11. Snow Crash — Neal Stephenson
12. Watchmen — Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
13. Cryptonomicon — Neal Stephenson
14. Consider Phlebas — Iain M Banks
15. Stranger in a Strange Land — Robert Heinlein
16. The Man in the High Castle — Philip K Dick
17. American Gods — Neil Gaiman
18. The Diamond Age — Neal Stephenson
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy — Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
20. Trouble with Lichen – John Wyndham

I guess my geek cred is still intact, although the fact that I’ve not read Brave New World is somewhat shameful. It may be worse that there are a couple books (Lichen and Phlebas) that I’ve never even heard of before.

West Texas Television

Here’s a new revelation from staying up to watch SNL for the first time in years – at the very first minute of Sunday morning, the local NBC affiliate plays a craptacular public access Christian show. It’s a teenager, sitting in a chair, extreme closeup. He’s ranting about what God wants you to do, and he doesn’t seem to have practiced much. Lots of “um” and such.

I really need to go to sleep now.

AOL’s In2TV

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, you may not know that television shows are being pushed into new directions lately. It seems that a lot of plans were just waiting for a catalyst, and Apple gave the world that catalyst with the video iPod. Now, AOL is going to stream old shows. Some stories are claiming up to 300 shows will be available, all of them episodes you can’t get on television right now. The two that jumped out at me: Babylon 5 and Spenser For Hire. Oh, yeah, that old Avery Brooks “Hawk” character is gonna be cool to watch again.

I’m betting that AOL’s push is a play to guage interest in specific shows, to help them decide which to release on DVDs or put back in syndication. Imagine the business meeting, “We know Welcome Back Kotter will be a hit for you, because 800,000 people watched it just last week.”

They will know you are Christians by your love

This has been a good week for idiots claiming God wants towns destroyed.

Pat Robertson warned Dover Pennsylvania that they shouldn’t turn to $DEITY in any emergency, because they rejected Him when they voted the idiots out of the school board. Of course, Intelligent Design has nothing at all to do with religion, isn’t that right, Reverend?

Bill O’Reilly told citizens of San Francicso that he’d be happy to invite al Qaeda to blow up the Coit Tower, because the SF voters decided they didn’t like the military hanging around high schools trying to recruit their kids.

John 13:34 and 35

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

That doesn’t seem ambiguous to me, but I’m a simple-minded fellow it seems. Apparently what Jesus really said was, “Love one another, unless you disagree about something, and then hope that person dies in a horrible and painful way.”

Veteran’s Day

Seriously, is Veteran’s Day really a good time to attack your political rivals? I know, every day is campaign day in modern politics, but give it a rest already! I spent twelve years in the Army, and I’m proud of that service. I’m also happy to live in a country where I can disagree with a policy decision or pretty much anything else, and do so in public without fear of arrest or other bad things.

Here in San Angelo, the local school district finally decided to recognize Veteran’s Day. This is something which has been a long time coming, and is really bizarre considering how much the local population actually likes the military (not something I was used to at other postings in the Army). So, the Boy and I went to the parade again. Last year, it was cold and we had hot cocoa while sitting on a bench beside the Federal Building, watching the relatively small parade go by. This year, it was nice out, we stood in the street near the Federal Building (until he got tired and needed to take a break on the lawn), and the parade was much larger. It’s not quite as large as the parade for Rodeo Day, but you take what you can get in West Texas. I’m sure if we had a High School Football Day, the parade would be astounding in its scope. Anyway, a few new pictures up at the gallery of the Boy and the Cat. We built a gingerbread house that looks less impressive now than it did while we were decorating it. The Cat didn’t help.

Star Wars III – Charlotte?

So I put the Sith DVD in the computer, expecting to get the usual autorun “what do you want to do with this disk” query. Instead, it autoruns and starts playing a front-end to its own playback software (like PowerDVD isn’t good enough for George Lucas?). I kill that and look at the disk in Explorer – the DVD is named “CHARLOTTE_DISC1” – what the heck?

Apparently, they codename movies while they’re doing the DVD authoring and mastering, but forgot to change the first batch of SW3 masters to something more appropriate.

MSIE Still Sucks

After helping way too many people unscrew their systems due in large part to Microsoft software inviting everyone into their hard drives, I’ve decided to do something drastic.

If you are visiting my webpage with Internet Explorer, it will now nag you to switch browsers. I’ve joined the Explorer Destroyer campaign, boys and girls. Oh, I haven’t gone totally ideologue on you – the site will still work for IE users, but mostly because I know people may not be allowed to use a secure and fast browser at their workplace. At home, though – please do yourself a favor and stop using IE. Not only does it ignore web standards (CSS2, PNG, etc), it’s a virus waiting to happen. I’ve had to use IE to access a couple sites recently – they almost invariably end up leaving some sort of electronic spooge on my system that takes me a half hour or more to remove. And I know what I’m doing. Other folks just say, “my computer is messed up” and eventually they stop using the machine entirely.

I’ve used a variety of web browsers over the years. When I first got a PPP internet account, I used Netscape (0.7 as I recall). As time went on, I tried IE 1.0, but stuck with Netscape. When Netscape stopped getting updates and became a giant bloated piece of dung, I reluctantly used IE for a while. When Opera came out, I grabbed it (even though I had to pay for it, it was better than IE). A while back, the Mozilla Project came out with Phoenix, which became Firebird, which became Firefox. They got sued out of their previous names, but I guess nobody wants to remember the Clint Eastwood movie so they’re safe now.

Firefox has tabbed browsing, built-in popup blocking (that actually BLOCKS everything, unlike IE’s attempt), and is fast. The program is significantly smaller than IE’s bloatware, but allows an impressive variety of extensions to be used. If you use Firefox, here’s the extensions I recommend:
Adblock – nukes any images from ad-serving web sites. Doubleclick, begone! Must-have for dialup users.
All-in-One Gestures – let’s you use the right mouse button to jump back a site, go forward, or do the hokey pokey. Until you use mouse gestures, you will not understand why people love them. once you use them, you’ll hate using a machine that omits them.
Flashblock – Allows you to decide whether to load that Flash-based content or not. Must-have for dialup users.

And here’s some that I like a lot:
TabBrowser Preferences – exposes many of the tabbed interface options that are hidden by default.
Forecastfox – shows a multi-day forecast at the bottom of your browser. Takes no space, and alerts you if there is a weather alert.

Election Day

Unsurprisingly, the “I hate gays” amendment passed overwhelmingly here in Red Neck Texas. If something is already illegal, why bother with amending the state constitution? Is it just a way to say, “no, really – we hate gays?” Of course, the way the Texas constitution is written, an insane number of things require amendments rather than laws – we’re up to 437 amendments, I believe.

California – what the hell is wrong with you people? You rejected every proposition, even the reasonable ones, just because Arnold liked them all? And, um…San Francisco banned all gun ownership? Damn, even the SFPD thought that was stupid. I realize that nobody needs a gun to go hunting on Fisherman’s Wharf, but that doesn’t mean the Second Amendment is irrelevant. What part of “shall not be infringed” is unclear?

If people don’t like a particular part of our legal framework, they’re perfectly welcome to attempt changing it. Just don’t circumvent it, eh? BTW, this applies equally to people finding legal loopholes to allow torture and indiscriminate imprisonment as it does to people who hate gays or guns. Some days, it’s hard to think of people as a group having anything like brains (Kansas, I’m looking at you!).

Downloadable Television – Why?

Apple came out with the latest iPod (with video, but not part of the name so nobody who isn’t in the know can possibly tell if it’s a “video” iPod or not on the shelf – WTF?) a few weeks ago. They accompanied the launch with a new offering in the iTunes Music Store – downloadable television shows. That’s right, instead of setting your VCR or TiVo, you can pay two bucks to get a 320×240 video of Lost or Desperate Housewives on your two-inch screen. Why?

This week, NBC announced a deal with DirecTV to offer commercial-free television shows for a buck an episode, delivered to the DirecTV Digital Video Recorder. You know, the box you can use to record the shows when they are played on television for free? Yeah. Why?

And, finally, CBS announced a deal to deliver television shows via the pay-per-view channel on Comcast cable systems, for a buck an episode. They won’t delete the commercials when they send you your copy, though. Um…Why?

I understand that television studios need to find new ways to generate revenue in the age of TiVo and the internet. Their standard commercial-supported model is going to have a hard time staying viable when people can easily skip the commercials. But, can’t they find some way to add value to their offerings, rather than removing the value that was already there?

I can rent a movie for a buck (three for a new release); paying two bucks for the episode of Lost that aired ten minutes ago seems kind of retarded to me. If you notice, none of these three networks is using the same system as any other. If you want to watch ABC shows, you have to use an iPod and iTMS. If you want to watch NBC shows, you have to subscribe to DirecTV satellite service. If you prefer CBS shows, move to a city that offers Comcast cable. Fox? Nope, not playing yet. And, the networks aren’t offering all of their shows on-demand – just a select few.

I don’t see anything here that I can’t do better with existing tools (TiVo, MythTV, ReplayTV, VHS tape) and without paying per episode. Damn, I already pay an insane amount for cable television – I’m not about to pony up another hundred bucks a month to watch the shows on a 2-inch screen.

Am I missing something vital here? Apple has sold one million downloaded videos, so someone must be watching them. More money than brains, as the saying goes.

Google Print kills sick children

If you haven’t been following the Google Print controversy, here’s the pinnacle of absurdity so far. A children’s hospital in England has a completely unique and unprecedented perpetual copyright (in the UK) on the sales and performance of Peter Pan in the UK. They are claiming that Google Print’s service will rob them of millions of pounds of income every year. Think of the children!

I wonder why they haven’t previously gone after the public domain work? You did know that the book is actually in the public domain everywhere but the United Kingdom, didn’t you? So, exactly what does the American site Google do that the American site Gutenberg Project doesn’t already do? Is it just a question of convenience?

(Via BoingBoing)