It was 25 years ago today

Things I forgot about: first in a series.
Back in 1980, gas came in two flavors: leaded and unleaded. “Regular” had lead; these days, “regular” is unleaded.
When you paid for something with a credit card, the clerk would put it into a little gadget, then place a credit card form on top. A roller would move over it, causing the embossing on your card to imprint on the form.
Plus, they’d check your credit card number in a little book. If your number was listed in the book, your card was declined. Imagine… you could steal a card, and use it for at least a week or so before the book was printed up and distributed to merchants across the country. See how the communications revolution changed the world?

Mate in 2 moves

Now, the conspiracy-minded among us can start to piece together the plot.
Bush nominates Harriet Miers, an obvious non-starter. But why?
Easy. She was a sacrificial lamb, sent out to draw fire (Bush has done this many times, sending people out to drain the energy of his opposition). She was picked specifically because she had no judicial history to pick apart and she was a woman.
Now that the first act is over, he can justify his real pick, an anti-abortion conservative who will be the key vote in overturning Roe v Wade.
Not a woman? Hey, he already nominated a woman and you didn’t want her!
Not qualified? Hey, Alito has the same — if not better — qualifications as John Roberts, who sailed through confirmation!
Too conservative? Hey, don’t question the president in a time of war!
You’d think that by now the opposition would understand that Karl Rove and the Bush White House always think a few steps ahead in their broad plan to finish the conservative takeover of our government. I am convinced that this nomination was part of that careful plan. This is the the secret information that James Dobson had: that Harriet Miers was a smokescreen and the real candidate was on the way.



I just got back from a walkthrough of the house, where a horror was uncovered: ants. Not just a few, not a little line marching across the floor (although that was in evidence) — no, upon opening the fridge there was a huge infestation, thousands, perhaps millions, clumped in the freezer. Yes, I’m sure most of them were dead, frozen, but there were plenty more marching in and out. It creeps me out no end, and even though I will be having the place fumigated, I’m not ever gonna want to put any food in that refrigerator. So, I’d better order a new fridge tomorrow.

Paper or plastic?

Last week I complained about the inadequate and annoying technology at the San Jose Public Library. Yesterday, I discovered that library patrons can “check out” e-books via the library website, and I thought this was rather cool, especially for books that were out of print. So, I downloaded a history of San Jose.
And then I once again ran into a common problem: in the name of “security,” companies — in this case, Adobe — have made the experience so mind-numbingly complicated and unworkable that the whole concept is ruined.
When I tried to open the e-book, I was told that my software needed to be activated. This necessitated a trip to an Adobe website where I had to establish an account. (Um, I already have a library card, why do I need another account somewhere else?) Then, no matter how many times I clicked “Activate,” it just generated messages that it couldn’t download some needed file. I quit Acrobat, then tried again — this time it activated. (There was no useful help on Adobe’s site for this problem.)
Feeling like I’d finally cracked it, I tried to open the e-book again. No dice. This time, it tells me that I hadn’t established ownership of the book and my choices were: a) I own this book and copied it from another computer or a backup, or b) someone else gave it to me and I would like to own it. Choosing option A just transports me to a “help” page that says I must reactivate my software using the computer I originally downloaded the e-book on. (I am using that computer.) Choosing option B gives me an error.
Finally, I tried to get rid of the book altogether by choosing “return to lender.” Again, that just gives me an error.
This is especially frustrating because it all smacks of a Windows-centric way of doing business — unhelpful error messages and a totally unintuitive way of working… or not working, as the case may be.
The San Jose Public Library has found yet another high-tech way of making it as difficult as possible for me to get information. As for e-books? I’m not surprised they haven’t caught on if the publishers treat their readers as criminals and making them jump through such hoops just to read the material. They deserve to have this format crash and burn along with any other DRM-laden formats that won’t work for ordinary consumers. I don’t have to create an account or authorize my DVD player to play a movie, and even the restricted iTunes music plays without me having to leap technological hurdles.
So, until I can find a paper copy of the out-of-print History of San Jose, I won’t be reading it.

With help like this…

Here’s the sort of story that fuels my anti-religious tendencies.

Hurricane victims who wanted water had some difficulty finding it at a relief station in Clewiston Friday. The volunteer group running a supply center doesn’t like the company that donated the water, so they decided not to give it to those in line for help.

Twenty-two pallets of the canned water, distributed free by beer company Anheuser-Busch, bears the company’s label – and members of the Southern Baptist Convention refused to hand it out to those in need.

Resident lined up for miles to receive food and water at the distribution point. But the water was left on the sidelines by the Alabama-based group.

“The pastor didn’t want to hand out the Budweiser cans to people and that’s his prerogative and I back him 100-percent,” said SBC volunteer John Cook.

The SBC felt it was inappropriate to give the donation out, and they weren’t happy when NBC2 wanted to know why.

“Why do you want to make that the issue? That’s not the issue. The issue is that we’re here trying to help people,” Cook said.

Travel from the Beyond

As always, I find that the networks of Discovery Channel tend to be less informational and more tabloid.
They’re showing a ridiculous program on Travel Channel right now, “Most Haunted Live!” from London. First question: why in the world is this on Travel Channel?
Next question: does Discovery have any credibility left? They try to position themselves as a psuedo-educational network, but their programming more often then not is about UFOs, the paranormal, and sharks. This is what’s so ridiculous about conservatives who claim that Discovery duplicates PBS programming and therefore PBS should be eliminated.
I watched a little of this silly program, where a bunch of people are sitting in the dark, videotaped by low-light cameras, using a Ouija board. Gee, the glass moved! It must be a spirit! Hmm, the spirit must be tired… ‘cos when the leader of this group took her finger off the glass, it stopped moving. Surely only a coincidence, right? They’re in Tower Bridge, and when a hanging piece of flotsam starts to slowly swing, they assume it must be a spirit… not the thousands of cars passing above them on the bascule.
I enjoy the silliness of paranormal nonsense, and the pleasing creeps it causes. But I worry when people start to think that it’s real, that it is a science of some sort. And for this program to be on a Discovery channel rather than, say, the SciFi channel is just really annoying.

Is it Ops or Engineering?

It’s so much fun to see a Star Trek concept make it to reality. From flip phones to bio beds, Star Trek has inspired a lot of scientists and designers. Now, here’s the next concept to make it to reality: the configurable workstation.


Doesn’t this look just like a Star Trek panel? According to Engadget, it seems to be using OLED to generate the keyboard, which could then be easily reconfigured.

In Honor

I think it’s just so appropriate that Rosa Parks will lie in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. She will be the first woman to do so; and the symbolism of having this woman, who simply got tired of being treated as a second class citizen, honored in this way is very powerful.
I have to say, though, that we need more Rosa Parks courage in the gay community. People who do not sit in the back of the bus and do not put up with the evil and hatred spewing forth from yet another discriminatory era in this country.
Who will be the first gay civil rights pioneer to be honored by Congress and the nation?

Audience Participation: let’s do laundry

I’m looking at washers and dryers for the new house, and need a little advice. Has anyone ever used one of these combo machines that washes and dries in the same unit? I know that they are fairly commonplace in Europe, but not so much here.
I gather that, because they use a condensing system to dry, they take up to 4 hours to do a load of laundry. I also gather that this still uses less water and energy than a conventional washer/dryer pair.
Now, that seems like a long time, but since I often put in a load of laundry then walk away and forget about it until the next day, I have to wash the load again because it has been sitting there damp all night. So, perhaps this is the way to go? Plus, never underestimate the attractiveness of a cool and unusual new gadget where I’m concerned.
What do you think?

Lies and Misdemeanors

Oh, the joy of indictments. The really fun thing is predicting who’ll get ’em, even though sometimes it is fairly obvious.
“Scooter” Libby. Tom DeLay. Soon, Bill Frist. And of course, the man who accepts indictments as other men accept annual physicals: Marion Barry.
That’s right, bitch set him up again.
From ABC News:

Former District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry was charged Friday with failure to file his income tax returns a misdemeanor charge that could bring a year-and-a-half in prison if he is convicted.

Barry, the former four-term mayor who is currently a city councilman, has refused to discuss the charges since they surfaced earlier this month. The charges cover the 2000 tax year, prosecutors said.

Those tax charges are not the 69-year-old Barry’s first brush with the law.

I swear, every day I wonder why we, as a citizenry, are so completely inept when it comes to choosing our leaders.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Republican

You know all those Republicans who were gleeful about the possibility of perjury charge against Bill Clinton in the matter of his affair with Monica Lewinsky? The ones who jumped up and down and did little happy dances over the technicality related to his personal affair?
If one more of these guys keeps harping on how Scooter Libby is innocent until proven guilty, how Tom DeLay is innocent until proven guilty, how Bill Frist is innocent until proven guilty… I’m going to throw up.

And another thing that pisses me off: when a politician — say, oh, Orrin Hatch — bloviates on CNN saying that well, perhaps Ambassador Wilson outed his own wife in some liberal publication, but, well, I can’t say anything about this. After, of course, he said it.

Let’s play “find the talking points!”

One more down

How nice that the media is taking notice of the corruption of the Bush administration at last — they’re not a liberal media as the conservatives would have you believe; but they are simply quick to pounce on any event or person that has some element of crime or pain.
Anyway. I’m not gonna talk the whole Plamegate thing to death, partly because it’s been made so complicated that I can’t quite figure out what’s going on; secondly because everyone else is covering it.
I do want to point out one thing that seems obvious to me: if it was Cheney who told LIbby about Plame, then isn’t it obvious that Cheney — the architect of the whole Iraq boondoggle — gave Libby his marching orders?
Now here’s one significant omission: no indictments on the actual leak itself, the naming of a covert operative. What’s up with that?
Meanwhile, this “Situation Room” format on CNN is rather annoying. We already have too much stuff scrolling, blinking, and rotating on the screen. Now we have a dozen screens in the background as well, and it’s all too much. Plus, while Wolf Blitzer is blathering, you can clearly see a news conference going on at the Justice department on one of the screens — but they don’t go to it, they just keep letting blowhards talk about it, including one guy who keeps hammering home “innocent until proven guilty” and that perjury is not that bad. Thankfully, the guy next to him pointed out that it would have been nice to hear the same platitudes from him back during the Clinton scandal.