Ah, there’s nothing like Halloween to make me want to be an Imagineer.

Turn the clocks back, turn the server forward

Wow, what a long, drawn out, confusing weekend that was.
It all started last week when I stopped receiving email. Zero. Zip. None at all. I mean, I generally get a few hundred junk mails a day — although last week, I had one day where I got 3,000 in an hour.
Anyway, email stopped working for no apparent reason. This meant a call to my friend Jann, since I have no clue what’s happening inside my little server. Since he was fixing it anyway, I figured it was time to update the server software, which was three versions old.
Well, after the update the mail barely worked at all, the server was gummed up and slow, things were nuts. N-V-T-S nuts.
So, plan B: completely wipe the server and start again, which I like to do every so often anyway.
Okay, so wipe, install fresh OS, and copy over the backed up stuff. After a very long night, email and web were back online… but the blogs, not so much.
Because updating the server OS meant that my 2-year-old blog software needed to be updated as well.
Hours later, around midnight on the last day of October, that software is finally working. I’m happy to say that despite all this frustration and screaming and pain, everything seems to be working and we didn’t lose anything!
Now, there might be a few things still left to fix here and there, but I’m sure people will complain if something is still broken.
So, a public thank you to Jann for spending the last three days pulling his hair out, taking out his frustrations over the server on my ear drums, and managing to get it working.
And welcome back! Did you miss me?

Fear of Losing Power

Now, I’d chalk this up to the absolute terror running through the Republican party at the prospect of losing their permanent majority; but they’ve pulled this kind of thing for more than a decade anyway — the smearing, libel, and outright lying that they do when campaigning. And once again, they are trying to pit Americans against Americans.

GOP ads warn of ‘homosexual agenda’ from S.F.
Edward Epstein, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Saturday, October 28, 2006

Republican charges of a San Francisco “homosexual agenda” and allegations that a liberal “San Francisco majority” in Congress would endanger the nation have emerged as themes in the final two weeks of the Nov. 7 midterm election campaign.

The latest salvos are variations on a constant GOP refrain this year, tied to the prospect that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a “San Francisco liberal,” would become speaker if Democrats make at least a 15-seat gain in the midterm elections.

“You know, they use me all over the country, my radical homosexual agenda,” said Pelosi, in San Francisco Friday before heading to campaign stops in Colorado and New Mexico.

“I’ve never seen a situation where a national party has run against a particular part of the country. It makes me wonder what the Republicans in San Francisco think about the assault that they are making on our city. But it doesn’t bother me,” she said.

A 60-second radio ad by Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., who is locked in a tight race with the Democratic candidate, county Sheriff Brad Ellsworth, is the latest attack tied to the anti-Pelosi theme. The ad points out that an Ellsworth victory would help make Pelosi speaker and links the candidate and Pelosi to Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., the openly gay congressman from Boston.

“Pelosi will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank’s home,” says the narrator.

“Go ahead, vote for Brad Ellsworth. Make Nancy Pelosi’s day,” the ad concludes.

“I don’t know what it is,” Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said of the “homosexual agenda” referred to in the ad. “But Barney Frank is the ranking member of the Financial Services Committee, so perhaps Hostettler is talking about securities and exchange law.”

If the ad is referring to same-sex marriage, Ellsworth, the Democrat, and the incumbent Republican say they oppose it.

The ad is adroitly written, linking Frank’s reprimand to gay sex without ever claiming that was the issue behind the disciplinary action.

In fact, Frank was reprimanded by the House in 1990 for fixing parking tickets accumulated by Stephen Gobie, the congressman’s former companion, and for writing a misleading letter to a probation officer for him. But the House Ethics Committee rejected Gobie’s claims that Frank knew Gobie ran a gay prostitution ring from the congressman’s apartment.

Since then, Frank’s constituents have re-elected him seven times.

Another new line of attack comes from House Majority Leader John Boehner of Ohio. In a recent statement, he equated a Pelosi speakership with higher gas prices, because during the 1990s Pelosi voted to raise the federal gas tax, and with higher taxes in general.

“What would a San Francisco majority led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi mean for American consumers?” he asked.

“Not just higher gasoline prices, but more taxes to boot. If you look at Pelosi’s voting record, she voted to raise gasoline taxes at least five times: in 1991, twice in 1993, 1996, and 1998,” Boehner added.

For years, conservatives have used San Francisco as a symbol of the kind of liberal politics they scorn — for abortion rights, gun control and gay rights and for government social programs.

Pelosi said Friday that she is proud to represent San Francisco.

“All of our children in San Francisco have health insurance; the minium wage is over $8 an hour. … We have respect for individual rights and rights of privacy. I’m very, very proud of San Francisco values,” she said.

The Republican attack on so-called San Francisco values has broadened in 2006 to include the allegation that San Francisco is soft on national security.

Republicans from President Bush on down have warned that a Democratic Congress would make America less safe in the war on terrorism.

“There is a difference of opinion, and our voters in Iowa and across the country must understand that the Democrats have a different view about this war on terror, a view that I think makes America less secure and makes it harder for us to do our job to protect the American people,” Bush said Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa, as he campaigned for Republican House candidate Jeff Lamberti.

The battle over national security policy continued Thursday as Bush signed legislation at the White House authorizing, but not paying for, 700 miles of fence along the border with Mexico.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said that Pelosi “has never visited the border. She claims to understand the needs of those on the front lines but has never visited those agents and offers no solutions.”

Pelosi’s staff said Hastert was wrong, pointing out, for example, that she visited the Mexican border most recently last March when she toured a section with Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, whose district runs along the border. Reyes served in the Border Patrol before winning a House seat.

No Gray (Matter) Areas

Vice President Dick Cheney said this week that dunking terrorist suspects in water during questioning is a “no-brainer,” prompting complaints from human rights advocates that he was endorsing the use of a controversial technique known as waterboarding on prisoners held by the United States.

Well, at least Mr. Cheney correctly summed up the total brain power of the Bush administration.

Kill the Television

An excellent story on eater.com:

Every room, be a bar, restaurant, or lounge needs a point of focus, a central design element that draws the attention of patrons and grounds the space. Every great room has it, some as obvious and eye-catching as the Buddha ice sculpture at Megu or subtler like the curved cantilevered leather wall at Craft. For many restaurants, the bar provides this key element, with its bustling crowd and towering backdrop of shinning bottles. Unfortunately, over the past year or so a new design feature that has long conquered the rest of the country has started to make serious in roads into Manhattan. That evil interloper is the flat paneled television.

… TV’s are distracting. Evolution has tuned our hunter-gather eyes to pick up movement in the periphery. Servers and guests alike are pulled out of their dining experience and jobs by the presence of a TV. It’s an unwanted guest, demanding attention, and drowning out conversation. New Yorkers don’t have much in the way of private space. Unlike most of the country we don’t have long solitary commutes by car or spacious suburban dens to decompress in. We rely on bars and restaurants to be our personal parlors, to entertain and bond with our friends or have a solitary moment with beautiful glass of wine. In this sacred space there is no room for Judge Judy or the PGA Golf Championships. They are not worthy of being in that central focal point.

I’m really getting tired of TV screens everywhere we go — and I mean, everywhere. In men’s rooms, in checkout lines, in every corner of every restaurant, huge plasma displays showing ads in the mall, hanging from the ceiling of every airport gate, and on the sides of freeways in the form of huge LED screen billboards.
The pretty colors and lights draw us away and rivet our eyes to the screen, no matter what else we might be doing — people suddenly become zombies, staring at the screen instead of paying attention to the groceries on the checkout line… blankly staring at CNN Airport Edition instead of keeping their kids from dumping fruit punch on other passengers… gawking at ESPN instead of paying attention to one’s dinner companions.
Hell, they’re even in cars now, a hypnotic mechanism for keeping the kids quiet and alleviating the parental responsibility of talking to kids.
When future archaeologists unearth the remains of our civilization, what will they think? That these glass screens were altars, where we worshipped?

I’m disgusted

Will people ever get tired of desperate politicians manipulating voter bigotry in order to cement their power?
Now, tell the truth — when the news of the New Jersey ruling that people deserve equal rights was announced, didn’t you immediately think that the Republicans would immediately jump on the anti-gay bandwagon once again?
There is just as much blame to assign to the “American” citizens who think that one segment of the population should be treated as less than human.

Our World Today

I present a sampling of today’s headlines. Judge for yourself what’s happening in our world.

Bush’s ‘Benchmarks’ for Iraq Sound Familiar — President unclear on how new initiatives would be different from previous times when U.S. has set intentions, only to back down.
Rewriting history again: the White House claims that they never said “stay the course” and that all along, they’ve been changing their strategy constantly. Which makes things worse, because if this is the result of constantly tweaked strategies, we need some new strategizers.

Exxon Announces $10.5B Profit — Oil giant posts second-largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company.
And we trust them to come up with new energy sources? There are plenty of right-wing shills out there explaining how this is completely proper and understandable, but anyone with a third-grade education can do the math.

Worst U.S. Death Toll — Number of troops killed in Iraq war reaches highest monthly total in a year, after five die.
More than 2,800 of our citizens have been killed there now. No telling how many Iraqi citizens have been killed. Seems like Bush and his warmongering cabal are now responsible for as many deaths as al Qaeda.

Big Tumble For U.S. Home Prices — Median sale price falls 2.2 percent from 2005, the largest year-over-year decline on record.
I should have rented.

Bush Signs Border Fence Bill — GOP seeks to show voters a tough stance on illegal immigration ahead of midterm elections.
The police state continues unabated. I’m wondering if this fence is to keep people out, or us in?

And this last one is very interesting:
Iraq’s Fate Silences Rights Activists — Horror at the bloodshed accompanying the U.S. effort to bring democracy to Iraq has silenced public demands for democratic reforms in Syria.
In other words, the idea that the action in Iraq will bring about democratic reforms in other Middle Eastern states is yet another discredited strategy by the Bush administration.

I don’t think that’s the consumer message they expected

Should I feel weird about watching a air freshener commercial that shows an elephant who’s married to a centipede, and thinking “how in the hell does that work in the bedroom?”

What was wrong with a slip of paper?

Ah, voting machines. The greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the citizenry — machines built by corporations that donate millions to the Republican party, machines with confusing interfaces and insecure mechanisms, aimed at a populous that really doesn’t understand how it works. Does anyone really trust our elections anymore? I mean, since 2000, our trust in this process is falling steadily, and these fraudulent machines don’t help.
The latest story: back home in Northern Virginia, the voting machines are so poorly designed that the display truncates the names of the candidates.

U.S. Senate candidate James Webb’s last name has been cut off on part of the electronic ballot used by voters in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville because of a computer glitch that also affects other candidates with long names, city officials said yesterday.

Although the problem creates some voter confusion, it will not cause votes to be cast incorrectly, election officials emphasized. The error shows up only on the summary page, where voters are asked to review their selections before hitting the button to cast their votes. Webb’s full name appears on the page where voters choose for whom to vote.

Election officials attribute the mistake to an increase in the type size on the ballot. Although the larger type is easier to read, it also unintentionally shortens the longer names on the summary page of the ballot.

Thus, Democratic candidate Webb will appear with his first name and nickname only — or “James H. ‘Jim’ ” — on summary pages in Alexandria, Falls Church and Charlottesville, the only jurisdictions in Virginia that use balloting machines manufactured by Hart InterCivic of Austin.

“We’re not happy about it,” Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd said last night, adding that the campaign learned about the problem a week ago and has since been in touch with state election officials. “I don’t think it can be remedied by Election Day. Obviously, that’s a concern.”

Here’s how the candidate names appear:

James H. ‘Jim’
George F. Allen

James T. ‘Jim.’
James P. Moran

In other words, the incumbents somehow manage to get their entire name listed — without, interestingly, their party affiliations because of the same problem. This especially helps Republican George Allen, who can only benefit from not being identified as a Republican, I think. Democratic Senate candidate James Webb, who has the same first name as three other candidates in this election, is going to bear the brunt of this problem, don’t you think?

Early Adopters Snookered Again

Ah, this disease I have, this early adopteritis has gotten me into some jams. The latest one? Another Apple jam. Or is that Apple jelly?
I bought a new MacBook Pro this spring, the fancy-schmancy Intel-powered Mac laptop. I was a little disappointed that it didn’t come with a Firewire 800 port like the model it was replacing; it was, as always, chintzy on memory and I had to spend a couple more hundred dollars to bring it up to par. Stiil, it is faster than the original model Aluminum Powerbook that I’d had for three years or so.
But today, boom — only six months since the introduction of the first model, Apple has updated the MacBook Pro. And added memory, a Firewire 800 port, and a faster processor.
And I certainly can’t afford to buy a new one, I haven’t quite figured out how to pay for this one yet.
Lesson learned: it would probably be better to rent your Mac than buy one.

Square to circle

Ah, the end of an era — the passing of the torch — the big switch.
BBC One has changed their channel idents, phasing out the “dancing” IDs they’ve used for years in favor of a new look. I really loved the dance idents, the common use of red and the different arrangements of the music; the cultural aspects, British locations, and emphasis on the arts were a wonderful way to brand BBC One.
Here’s the last appearance of the BBC One dances:

And now, the new look of One:

I’ll reserve judgement for a bit. I like the new type treatment for the BBC One logotype; the music and cinematography are great… but I don’t get a sense of cohesiveness like I did with the dance IDs. I will say, however, that the “moon” ID is really charming. Problem here is that these IDs aren’t specifically British — the “moon” segment was filmed in Croatia; “surfers” was filmed in Mexico.

I wish we could get really gorgeous network idents in the US, here the only thing that stations do to create a brand is burn a logo into the corner of the screen.

Halley’s exhaust

Right now, Earth is passing through a field of debris shed by Halley’s Comet. This debris is raining down on the planet — but burning up as it hits our atmosphere, and I’ve been outside in the backyard, lights out, watching for the streaks of light across the sky.
I was out there for about 20 minutes, and saw one bright meteor. I’d stay out there longer, but my neck is now very sore from staring up at the sky.
There’s something very cool about meteor storms, probably because it is so rarely that we see a “shooting star” (outside of Steven Spielberg movies, that is).
Ironically, I was watching “War of the Worlds” tonight. I was a little disconcerted staring at the sky waiting for incoming streaks of light.