Monthly Archives: September 2006

Media Weasels

Quick followup to my previous post on our new dark ages. I’m continually astounded at the weasel words journalists use, rather than just saying what is objectively true.

Many Democrats opposed the legislation because they said it eliminated rights of defendants considered fundanamental to American values, such as a person’s ability to protest court detention and the use of coerced tesimony as evidence.

Yes, they said that. Of course, a good newspaper would have said, “Which is 100% true.” Don’t just repeat that some say this and some say that; report what the actual law actually says, why don’t you? Yes, they did eventually say these things, but someone who skimmed the article would see a typical “two opposing and equal views” passage, rather than “one side is eviscerating the Constitution” passage.

And now the GOP will try to portray the Democrats as soft on terrorists because a few of them resisted the bill (and not very vocally – filibuster Roberts but not the removal of judicial review, habeas corpus, and the Geneva Conventions?). Of course, the Democrats, if recent years are any indication, will find no coherent voice to retort, “We’re not soft on terrorists. The Republicans, however, are anti-American, as they gut the Constitution and revoke 800 years of legal tradition.”

My elected representatives continue to prove they have no honor.

War on Terror Lost

On September 20, 2001, the President said:

[The terrorists] hate our freedoms — our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.

Well, I guess we’ve given in then. Those freedoms are now exclusively available only if the executive branch of the federal government allows you to have them. There is no recourse, there are no checks or balances, there is no transparency in government. Congratulations, Bin Laden, you won.

One Step Closer to Fritz the Cat

Most parents probably realize that the cartoons they show in prime time are not really meant for kids. Example of the day: American Dad. Stan comes home from work, and Francine says, “If I’d known you were going to be home so early I wouldn’t have taken care of myself in the bath earlier.”

As Quagmire would say, “Gigity Gigity Gigity!”

Update: And on Family Guy, “Spit on me. Now tell me I’m scum.”

Battling Interviewers

Two recent interviews are interesting. Watching former President Clinton being grilled by Chris Wallace was entertaining, especially when compared or contrasted with the interview that President Bush did with Matt Lauer recently (sorry for not finding a full transcript of that one).

What I took away from these, and I did watch them both in their entirety, not just excerpts or transcripts from different sources, is that our current President hates people questioning his actions and has no response other than, “trust me.” In contrast, the former President hates people spreading misinformation about him and responds with voluminous facts to back up his perspective.

Regardless of how much respect one has for the intellects of these two men, the fact that our current head employee seems incapable of defending himself with facts is distressing.

I do wonder why Matt Lauer had to interview President Bush while standing up and being poked at by the President, while President Clinton got a comfy chair and a smirking Wallace. Neither of the interviewers seemed to believe their subjects assertions much. Makes you wonder why the men agreed to the interviews.

Sandisk Sansa e260

I noticed that the “review” category has not had much activity, so I’ll remedy that.

In March of 2005, I bought a Rio Karma. This MP3 player was fantastic, with 20 gigs of storage space (enough for about 1/6th of my music collection), a fantastic interface, on-the-fly playlisting and all that jazz. It did not have an FM tuner or voice recorder, and it did depend on proprietary protocols to save music, but the ability to rearrange music and choose popular songs and all that were great. Sadly, the Karma is a delicate beast, with its hard drive not being the most durable they could find. Since it broke and Rio is gone, I was quite happy that I had paid for the 24 month warranty from Buy.

In June of this year, I replaced the Karma with the warranty money, getting a Sandisk Sansa e260 4 gig flash player. At the time, it was a 200 dollar player; it’s now routinely available for 150 or less.

With the most current firmware installed, the Sansa is a wonderful music player, although I do miss the Karma’s interface. The Sansa has two protocols: MTP and MSC (sometimes called UMS). In MTP mode, the player works only with Windows XP; in MSC mode it works with anything that recognizes USB removable media. Playlists are transferred only via MTP, although MSC mode is a faster system for simple transfers.

The Sansa also has a cool feature few players do these days: expansion. You can plug in a tiny little memory card, the microSD, to add up to 2 gigs of memory in theory (so far I can only find 1 gig cards at most). The expansion card can’t hold subscription content, and it’s not visible in MTP mode on the computer, but for music you want to keep on the player, or if you use MSC mode anyway, it’s another drive letter in Explorer.

That covers connections, but what about features? It has an FM tuner (and recorder), a voice recorder, and can manage videos (through a converter), photos, and either MP3 or WMA audio files. It supports the PlaysForSure stores, including subscription content, but I’m told does not support Audible files.

Playback is from a rather straight-forward interface, using a wheel and six buttons. Playlists from the computer are visible and usable, as well as one on-the-fly playlist on the player. I can’t tell you how well PlaysForSure works, as I refuse to participate in DRM. Thankfully, I can tell you that it works wonderfully with MediaMonkey in MTP mode. I don’t try to sync in MSC mode, so I’m not sure how well that works with MM; MSC mode is useful for clearing out old content you decide you don’t want to listen to, and it’s mandatory for firmware updates.

Photos are bright and sharp, although there is no zoom and a 1.5 inch screen is not exactly usable for a photo album.

You can play all your music, an artist, an album, a playlist, a genre, or a single track. In any of these, you can have shuffle engaged or not. There are several equalizer settings, and a custom equalizer (with latest firmware). Album art is displayed when you are playing a track, and you can cycle through a fairly useless spectrum analyzer, a larger view of the album art, and the next song in the queue. I rarely can tell what the next song will be before the player switches back to the default view, though. You have about three seconds to see it before it changes away, but it scrolls slowly through artist/album/track so if you have an artist and album with too many characters, you’re out of luck.

So, other things I dislike about the player? You can’t delete content on the player. The voice recorder button can’t be disabled without locking all controls; you will end up recording yourself without meaning to. You can’t edit playlists, except the “Go List” on the player. I really miss the “songs of the 80s” type playlists that the Karma had. Of course, with only 4 gigs of space, some of those modes are less useful than they were with 20. The videos are pretty pointless; not only is the screen only 1.5 inches, the videos are converted to an incredibly inefficient codec to play: the MJPEG format in Quicktime.

My son is able to navigate his playlist without any hassle, the radio works pretty well, and overall it’s a great and reliable player. Highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t already paid too much for DRM-infected files from iTunes Music Store.

Doctor Who Companion

Which Lovely Doctor Who Companion Are You Ashamed To Admit Your Crush On?

Looks as though you’ve got your heart set on the second Romana, as played by Lalla Ward! This tempting Time Lady conceals her inhuman cleverness behind a disarmingly enthusiastic and girlish demeanor. She’s an eclectic blonde who loves to travel and enjoy herself, and if you gaze too long into those summer-sky eyes, she’ll have you wrapped around her finger. Not that you’ll mind.
Take this quiz!

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Yeah, I can go along with that. I remember the Baker years.

Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller have a show on Showtime called Bullshit, where they debunk various things which people believe.  I’ve got them on Netflix, and the first disk of season one is in my player now.  During their ripping of “alternative medicine,” they convinced some people in a mall to put snails on their faces as a means of reducing wrinkles and stress.  Ah, placebo effect!

I was going to link to a post someone had with a few dozen episodes of the show that were available on Google Video, but apparently the copyright police got to them. So, rent ’em if you want to see ’em (or get Showtime, but that seems a bit excessive).


Tonight’s episode of the Scifi show Eureka is required viewing. Any show that involves Salli Richardson getting down to her lingerie is a keeper.

Pink Lingerie
Welcome Google Images users. Sorry Ms. Richardson is actually clothed.  I know what a disappointment that must be for you all.

No Fast Forward, ever!

The FX channel in the UK has decided to start displaying still images for 30 seconds during some of their ad slots. Apparently Sky+ PVRs don’t jump 30 seconds, they play at 12 times the normal speed when you want to skip commercials. ABC recently said they want to disable fast-forward on DVRs, as if that’s remotely possible from the non-hardware side of things.

In case you are unaware, there are PVRs that will let you jump forward, not just go faster. There are PVRs that will automatically mark commercials for skipping them without any interaction from the viewer at all. You just can’t buy these PVRs any longer. The one that was on the market was ReplayTV, which is gone. The good news is that you can still get the functionality, but you need to build it yourself. Look into MythTV – one of your geek friends can build it for ya for about 400 bucks; ABC and FX and everyone else will then have no control over what you can do with your own recorder, and you’ll at least have the same ability with your new machine that we had with VCRs in the 80s.

Pope Offends Muslims; Muslims Call for his Head.

Ok, seriously, what the hell is wrong with these people? The Pope quoted an earlier pontiff, saying that Muhammed was a violent and inhumane person. Even more shockingly for a religious leader, he appealed to reason to build a dialog. So, obviously, the next step would be to call for his immediate death. There’s no better way to convince people your religion is not evil or inhuman than by butchering anyone who claims otherwise. Yep. Good plan there.

Update:Just to prove how wrong anyone is who calls them violent and unreasonable, Muslims have now firebombed two churches (neither of which was Roman Catholic) in the West Bank.

Microsoft’s Music Plans, Version 3

I find it amazing that MS has still not figured out how to avoid punking their customers and partners. The wonderful DRM embedded in earlier versions of Windows Media Player is bad enough. Then came PlaysForSure, which many people say is more like “PlaysForShit.” There are many instances of the PlaysForSure files not transferring, or requiring multiple updates of software on the PC and firmware on the player. Plays For Sure as a slogan implies that your music will Just Work, but that is obviously not the case, based on how many complaints you can find online with mere seconds of research.

So, MS decided that the whole integrated solution thing Apple has going is a good idea. They partnered up with iRiver and MTV to produce the Clix and Urge. The device and service were designed together, to ensure that things actually would Play For Sure.  So far so good, even if it did effectively snub all the previous MS partners who had signed on for the Janus DRM train (anyone think it’s interesting that Janus had two faces?), as well as the hardware partners whose machines hadn’t been tested and certified for the MTV Urge service. They’ll probably work, but if it’s not marketed together, many people will assume incompatibility.

And now the latest change to Microsoft’s music roadmap – Zune. Not only does this get Microsoft involved in the hardware market for media players, effectively telling all the manufacturers who thought they were partners to piss off, it also introduces a new Zune-only store. That’s right, the Janus DRM-encumbered music you thought you owned from Rhapsody or Napster or whereever won’t play on Zune. You’ll have to buy it all again, if you want to play it on that new slick MS-branded player.

Might I suggest never buying any DRM-encumbered media? The result of ever buying any music or video from a service that puts DRM on it is that you don’t control your own property. You may think you own the latest Beyonce album, but if you bought it from Napster or iTunes, you don’t own a damned thing. You have a right to listen to it only on the device you bought it for and any new technology is likely to render your music collection so much junk.

Just for an added stab in the back of their customers, the Zune’s vaunted wifi sharing system will add DRM to any file, including public domain and Creative Commons files. For the public domain files, that’s just evil. For the CC files, that’s actually a violation of the CC license, which states unequivocally that no encryption can be applied to the file by anyone.

To recap, DRM is evil, Microsoft hates their customers, Microsoft can be trusted only to betray their business partners, and DRM is evil.

Eminent Domain for EVERYTHING

I’m sure this story will resonate with several people on my LJ friends list.  A town in Florida, in preparation for hurricane season, passed a law allowing them to seize any property from any resident for the duration of any emergency.  They acknowledge that this sort of law is ripe for abuse, but promise that they are benevolent dictators.

So, your incentive to be prepared for an emergency to protect your own property and family is what?

(Thanks, Diane)

Net Neutrality

I just saw an anti-net neutrality ad from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.  They portray Google and its allies on the pro-neutrality side as “multi-billion dollar tech companies” who just want more money from you, the poor consumer.  Why, we all know that the cable and telecom companies have always done what is best for the consumer, right?

Lots of people have spilled lots of ink over net neutrality in the past few months, but if nothing else this one ad would make me side with Google.  If it comes down to who I trust more, Verizon or Google?  Easy.  Which one of those companies has ever charged me a dime?  Which one of those companies has a history of near-whimsical pricing and abuse of government-sponsored monopoly power?  Yeah, exactly.  Hell, just last month, Verizon wanted to punk their cellular customers with an invented new fee to recoup the losses from the FCC cancelling the Spanish-American War tax.

Who do you trust?

No Processed Food, Ever!

I know I’ve never mentioned how unique my son is. Today, after eating some of the marvelous, only available one month a year, Pecos Sweet cantaloupe ice cream, he lectured me about how important it is to eat hand-made food instead of machine-made. He even generalized to say that hand-made things are better than machine-made things.

This, after we had scallops and shrimp on wilted spinach for dinner (which he ate without complaint, but did say it was only “a double” and not a home run). I love this kid; we obviously are raising him right.

Changing Paradigms

A friend once mentioned that his children wondered why he called Hastings a record store – what are records? It goes even further afield when I think of my son. He doesn’t really deal with CDs even; it’s all a playlist to him. In fact, his current playlist is posted online, just because I’m that kind of geek.

Proving that he is definitely my son, notice the totally eclectic nature of his choices. It’s important to note that I only add songs to his playlist when he asks me to. He recently asked for the Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” and I was astonished to realize that I didn’t have that ripped yet – soon that will be rectified.

Seriously, what other child nearing his seventh birthday wants Harry Belafonte and Elvis Costello and The Beatles? What other child has even heard of Ozomatli? I have a cool kid.

UPDATE: As noted in comments, Alex’s mother also has very eclectic musical tastes. One of our earlier conversations when we first met was our mutual astonishment that the other had heard of, much less listened to, Ani DiFranco.

Trip Report – Day 3

Friday, we had planned to go to the Kiddie Park and Witte Museum. The Kiddie Park is one of those seemingly anachronistic places you probably remember, but thought didn’t exist any longer. They have a carousel from 1918, and a bunch of rides that no adults can fit into. They even have a tiny roller coaster, just like they had at the park near my grandparents’ house in the late 70s. And it only costs eight bucks for the day. Alex wanted to spend every minute possible on the roller coaster, and was nearly inconsolable when it was being maintained at one point.

The Witte Museum has a nice variety of dinosaur skeletons, live and stuffed animals, as well as a great children’s section with hands-on areas devoted to air and electricity and weight and all that jazz. There was a bicycle on a high-wire that you could ride, and he did. Overall, a very fun day.

Of course, we spent much time in the hotel pool. For dinner, we walked across the UTSA campus and hit the Mercado. After a small amount of dithering, we decided on Mi Tierra, the oldest of the restaurants there. Alex had enchiladas, and I had the chicken enchilada in mole sauce. If you’re not familiar with mole sauce, it’s chocolate and spices together, and is very yummy. I’m not normally a fan of spicy things, but mole sauce sneaks up on ya, since it’s so incredibly rich and dark, then hits you with the pepper. Of course, the quart-sized margarita may have colored my memory a touch.