The New Colisseum

I expect that at any moment, cable news channels will begin displaying a countdown clock, ticking off the minutes until Saddam Hussein is put to death.
I’m not a big fan of the death penalty, not specifically for moral reasons but because it just doesn’t work. Deterrent? Please. And in this instance, do we think that hanging Hussein will deter other despotic dictators? Even the ones that our government has traded with and done deals with and propped up?
Anyway. I’m certain that some CNN composer has already developed a bit of theme music called Countdown to Justice, the graphics department has crafted some title sequence that includes the beheading of the Saddam statue.
And we call them barbarians.

Best ironic quote of day: “Our respect for human rights requires us to execute him.” Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
It’s almost Bushian in its construction.

The Last Decent Man?

I sometimes think that Gerald Ford was the last decent Republican president — in terms of just plain humanity. He was open and honest; and while he did not really make a mark legislatively, he did preside over the end of the Vietnam war and have the courage to pardon Richard Nixon, sparing the country the divisive circus that was sure to erupt. He also appointed John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court, who became a voice of moderation — sometimes liberally so — on the court.

Still, looking back at the Ford era one can see the early underpinnings of the current culprits in the White House. Witness the ascension of two young politicos named Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Cheney, both to serve as Ford’s chief of staff.

When searching the Ford library for appropriate photographs, the duality was clear: the photo above speaks volumes today; but I chose something more sentimental for today’s banner.

A billion dollars cents at a time

Phone companies just burn me up. They’ve been nickel and diming us out of huge sums of money, collectively, since… well, for a long time. Think back to the days when you were not allowed to buy a telephone, but had to lease it from the phone company. Their excuse was that connecting “unregulated” phones would damage the network. Flash forward to today, when the phone companies — now in the mobile realm — keep saying the same thing. Of course, the recent ruling that cell companies must allow customers to “unlock” their phones means that we may find that the old “subsidize the phone then charge huge sums under contract” model is on the way out.
Still, they find ways to make tons of money in tiny increments. Take the brouhaha over Cingular’s price hike for SMS messages. Text messaging is a huge cash cow for these mobile companies — as of January, Cingular will be charging a whopping 15¢ for each message, both outgoing and incoming. It’s worth noting that you can’t simply shut off incoming SMS messages or choose which ones to accept.
There’s simply no way that it costs 15¢ to process a short test message through the network; the data transmission is so much cheaper and easier than voice traffic; I’d bet that an SMS message costs the company a small fraction of a cent.
Still, every message is generating huge profits. Think about it: if I send an SMS, I’m charged 15¢. And the recipient is also charged 15¢. Multiply that by, say, 59 million subscribers (as claimed by Cingular) and you have $17,700,000 in SMS charges if each subscriber sends a single message.
I’m just saying.

Grim Milestone

I’d have thought it would result in far more media attention than it has — the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq has now exceeded the number of people killed in the September 11 attacks. How Christmasy.
Of course, no one really has a count of how many Iraqi civilians have been killed. How many September 11ths worth?

Dreaming of a White Out Christmas

Merry Christmas from the foggy San Jose version of a “White Christmas”…

Guess that means “nature” won over “nurture”

Even the most whacked-out right-wing nut cases can’t seem to be consistent in their message of hatred toward homosexual people. They make outlandish claims about gay people — how they’re out to recruit children, how they chose to be gay as if it were a checklist provided to you at birth. As to the latter, here’s a bizarre screed against soybeans by the freakish Jim Rutz, one of those World Net Daily creeps and the chairman of Megashift Ministries:

I have nothing against an occasional soy snack. Soy is nutritious and contains lots of good things. Unfortunately, when you eat or drink a lot of soy stuff, you’re also getting substantial quantities of estrogens.

Estrogens are female hormones. If you’re a woman, you’re flooding your system with a substance it can’t handle in surplus. If you’re a man, you’re suppressing your masculinity and stimulating your “female side,” physically and mentally.

In fetal development, the default is being female. All humans (even in old age) tend toward femininity. The main thing that keeps men from diverging into the female pattern is testosterone, and testosterone is suppressed by an excess of estrogen.

If you’re a grownup, you’re already developed, and you’re able to fight off some of the damaging effects of soy. Babies aren’t so fortunate. Research is now showing that when you feed your baby soy formula, you’re giving him or her the equivalent of five birth control pills a day. A baby’s endocrine system just can’t cope with that kind of massive assault, so some damage is inevitable. At the extreme, the damage can be fatal.

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That’s why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today’s rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t homosexual.” No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can’t remember a time when excess estrogen wasn’t influencing them.

In other words, Rutz is undermining the ridiculous right wing/fundamentalist stance that being gay is a “choice.” His claim that soy causes homosexuality means that it’s not our fault and that the blame should be placed solely on the shoulders of massive agribusiness — such as that Republican stalwart, Archer Daniels Midland.
So, if big Republican business is what made me gay, and I had no choice in the matter, why do these people still want to discriminate against me in every conceivable way, and worse? Doesn’t matter. I believe that the choice of being conservative (nurture, not nature) means that a person is supremely talented at reconciling dishonesty and inconsistency. (One just has to contemplate the oxymoron gay Republican to see that.)

Spice Boy

You know, I don’t really drink sodas — it’s the one empty calorie that I have no trouble avoiding.
But still, I have to ask: why did the Pepsi company tease and addict me with Pepsi Holiday Spice, then never bring it back?
Damn them. Now I have to drink egg nog, that other seasonal addiction filled with all the best unhealthy stuff.

Mad for Video

Sneak peek! As I told you earlier today, I am working on a music video. The computers (that’s right, I have a couple of them crunching numbers right now) are still rendering video, but I am so thrilled at the way this project is coming together that I can’t wait to show you! There are about 8,460 frames in this music video, and here are three of them.

Where’s the quantum computer already?

This is the 21st century, right? Where are the incredible computers that can do everything instantly and feature the Majel Barrett voice?
I am a sucker for the latest marketing ploys about computer speed. I remember back in the late 80s when Apple’s Mac IIfx came out with the slogan “wicked fast.” That computer, by the way, ran at 40MHz.
Years later, I have a dual-processor G5, which runs at 2000MHz. It’s still not even close to fast enough. One of the projects I am working on right now is a music video. Time is of the essence, I want to get it out into the world quickly; but I also tend to go overboard on imagery. I always come up with ideas that are just too difficult or time consuming. The computer has been rendering one 15-second scene in this video since Wednesday, and it is only halfway done. This is, of course, my fault because the scene in question, built in a 3D program, shows hundreds of mirrors, all reflecting each other and a haunting image of a girl looking into them. The worst thing is that when it is done, I might not even decide to use it in the finished video. Life is cruel that way.
What I really, really want is a computer that connects directly to my brain. Wearing a silly helmet, I want to think of the finished product, visualize it in my mind’s eye, then eliminate all the computer work. I just want to computer to translate my visualization into reality. Instantly.
Is that so much to ask?

Consumer Commuting

I live near Santa Clara University, on the border between San Jose and Santa Clara. I drive by the University every day to and from work. In the last few days, I’ve noticed an uptick in traffic. Today, I discovered why: Santa Clara University is serving as a satellite parking lot for the mall.
The mall is something like 3 miles away, and features large parking lots and garages. Still, it’s not enough evidently as the waves of Christmas shoppers descend. To give you some idea of what lengths people are going to to find parking spaces, here’s a map to illustrate their desperation.

Dodged a blizzard

Well, sometimes I do get a break.
When I was trying to put together plans to fly home for Christmas, today was the day I was due to fly out.
And chances are that I would have been right in the middle of the air system chaos resulting from today’s blizzard in Denver; a slew of United flights was canceled today at San Jose airport…

The Long Darkness

It’s that day — the “shortest” day of the year. This morning I got up and went in to the office before the sun rose; when I came home in the late morning there was still no sun due to rain. And now, at almost 5pm, the sun has moved on without putting in an appearance at all today.
It’s a little depressing; but those who are of the “half-full glass” persuasion — and that doesn’t include me, of course — will note that from here on out, every day will have more hours of daylight.