Saw it, wearing my BuyNLarge corporate logo t-shirt. (http://buynlarge.com). Those who didn't realize I was a ridiculous fanboy before the movie started certainly knew by the first 2-3 minutes of film. The WalMart derivative megalocapitalist corporation is everywhere.

Now to the movie. It lives up to the hype. I am not sure there is much more I can add to that and the reams of e-paper that have lauded the coming of this flick. It is Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. good. And it is that good without the presence of dialogue in over half the movie.

Go see this movie - you will certainly like it. The visuals are fantastic, but, as with all pixar movies, it's really the story and characters that carry it, as they should.

We few, we happy, sore, exhausted few...

Paintball this weekend at www.pevs.com was nothing short of amazing.
Lessons learned:

1. 5 minutes alone in a lookout tower being stalked by members of the
other team feels like a LOT longer.

2. Starting a game with 4 minutes of dead silence as you flank the
other team makes the air taste sweet and tingly with their nervous

3. I run like a girl through the woods.

4. So does everyone else.

5. 5 hours is a long time to play under the canopy in long sleeves and
90 degree heat.

6. But 20 second of dashing across the stream to storm the other bank
is plenty refreshing.

7. I want to go again. Of course, I already knew that.

(I invite the rest of 'we few' to add their lessons)

read the "small thoughts" blog



..had this wonderful piece. [www.failblog.com]

Gun Activists

I need to read the decision, but all the reports indicated that the majority of the Court actually held that there is an individual right to own a gun laid out in the Second Amendment. I have read it time and again, and I think the Second Amendment is too convoluted to permit any conclusions. Basically, either you think the militia clause means something, or you think it is a meaningless lead-in. Which translates into: based on your dogmatic bias for or against guns, you support one or the other.

Here is my quibble: Where are the (classically right wing) cries against an activist judiciary now?

SCOTUS didn't have to enumerate an individual right to own guns. It didn't do so last time, or indeed at any time since the drafting of the Constitution. It could easily have decided that the Second Amendement clearly permits some right to own a gun in some context, so a categorical ban on certain guns in all circumstances is unconstitutional. That's a measured, narrow interpretation. The fact that Scalia and others sought to go beyond that is just dogma winning out.

Oh, and one note on Justice Scalia's argument that guns are there for personal protection: Perhaps you can believe this if you are an originalist, and imagine yourself a rugged hunter/trader in the backwoods of the great western territory. But at what point does the outdated and romantic notion have to give way to the reality that the mayor and police chief of every single metropolitan area in America for gun laws? What about the pitifully few number of firearm defense stories buried under the thousands of handgun related accidents and crimes of passion, not to mention stolen guns used in crimes?

p.s. And don't go touting Israel to me - Those M-16s are huge, buried in the back of people's closets, and unloaded. Also, they earned the right to carry through rigid military training. You want a gun - fine. I'll send you the enlistment papers.


Blow Dry

Shooting down Storrow drive in Boston with 75 degree air pouringthrough a permanently open taxi window feels like rushing past photosfrom the not-too-distant pass. I am on the way to a meeting so I worrythat this is messing up my hair. A check in the Langham hotel lobbyreveals a pleasant, wind-swept look. Sweet.Back tonight.


Floods Fair?

Bits and Pieces posts this set of questions wondering why the Iowa floods aren't getting nearly the attention - either from the government or the media - that Katrina got. He has a bit of a point - I don't see this getting too much attention compared with other natural disasters, but I think there are good and bad reasons for it.

The bad reasons: there is no racial angle here, no business angle, no major sports angle, and no celebrity angle.

The good reasons: scale. Katrina displaced many more people from a much smaller land area. These people were already too poor to have insurance and their community was in no position to rebuild. Second, expectation - the Iowans understand that risk of flooding and have contingency plans when it happens. Their levies are there with the knowledge that they may not always work. The Army Corp of Engineers built N.O.'s levies with the thought that they would never be topped. That may seem like a folly, but it changes the dynamic.

Also, the commenter is wrong on his facts and assumptions: the fact is the president did get on TV and reach out to Iowans. The government, via FEMA or some other program run through the states, is providing and will continue providing aid. Indeed, I would imagine that areas affected by these floods will be rehabilitated long before N.O. comes back to its old self. What the complaint boils down to is a lack of media buzz - and that - along with the needed ongoing support for N.O. - died down shortly after Katrina, while the city continues to languish. Do you prefer that fate?

Deus Ex Machina

WaPo's RSS political news feed is the on the fritz. Instead of serving up 2008 fare, it's been serving up this and this - Gore campaign stories from 2000. WaPo, you really know how to bring a Dem down don'tcha?


Political Tidbit

Campaign finance on the brain.

I make no secret of my liberal leanings, lest you think them suspect following my next comment: I am not happy that Barack Obama opted out of public financing. I know that he is a fund-raising machine.

I know that opting out was the only way to keep Blue money coming to him instead of 527's and special interests - two groups he has specifically attempted to stymie on the Democratic side both in his statements to the DNC and in his more radical efforts to consolidate the party at election HQ in IL.

I know he makes a good point that the financing system is "broken" - a term I don't like either. I'd prefer we admit that it is too easy to circumvent. A "Broken" one would launch an ERROR 404 when you hit "Submit Contribution" at http://www.barackobama.com/.

And, finally, I know that he has a great counter to any jab from McCain (for those wondering what that defeaning silence was from the right following this announcement). McCain opted in to public financing for the primary, then he opted out, all of which was muddied by the loans McCain may or may not have gotten using the promise of public finance as collateral. The legality of that is both practically moot and completely up in the air. To use Obama's term, the FEC is currently "broken."

Still, Obama stands in part for fixing the problems of government not by dismantling it, but by doing away with cynicism and using government the way it was intended. Here he is opting out of that government - so I am not completely happy with the decision, though I understand that it very much the right one.


Holy crap, here it comes! Did you see it? I think it's nearly here. I thought I caught a glimpse of it. Just there. No, to the left. Yeah, OOOOH! (garbled "eep!"s and "woo!"s)

Who's coming with?


Out for the weekend.

...not that I post on the weekend anyway. You just won't see as many posts today and Monday.

Too Good To Pass Up.

It isn't just the subject matter of this IM, or the fact that it took place on a public computer...it's the matter-of-fact manner in which he asks for it. Curious? Click here to read the transcript.


Oil Profits

There has been a lot of back and forth about oil company profits rising about 30% this past quarter. Obama wants a windfall tax; in response conservatives claim that oil company's profits per dollar of revenue are only $.094, while companies like Microsoft make around $.27 of profit per dollar sold.

I don't understand all the complexities of this, but there appears to be a simple error in the argument: We shouldn't measure oil company profits per dollar, but rather per gallon. Using that anlasis:

At about $3.10 for regular this time last year, Exxon made $.28 per gallon.
At $4.10 for the same gallon today, Exxon makes $.37 per gallon.

There is no indication that producing a single gallon costs these companies any more money today than it did before. Even though the prices of a barrel of light sweet crude has gone up, many of these companies drill their own oil, so they don't pay these prices. Even when they do buy from others, their prices are determined by contracts often signed long ago. Need proof? Exxon's profits per dollar didn't change much from last year, indicating that costs didn't change much. The only difference - the number of actual dollars spent on gas went up 25%.


Backing up the back up.

Western Digital, maker of drives for years now, has released the MyBook Mirror edition. It's an external hard drive (yawn) that houses 2 drives (double yawn) and includes a Raid 1 card (a wuh?). RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Drives) comes in many flavors and it's main purpose is to protect data by creating some degree of redundancy. One of the simplest ways to do this is to copy the same data onto 2 drives at the same time. One drive dies, the other lives on with your data. That's called RAID 1.

What's the big deal? Well, I have an external drive, and it holds my photos, music, hopes, dreams, etc. Because drive space is so abundant, I don't have copies of these photos and songs elsewhere, but if the drive goes down, so does my data. Enter the RAID 1 of MyBook Mirror. If 1 drive dies I am good.

My question: to you techies - Drives generally die from either a power surge or some internal failure (many times mechanical). If both drives are housed in 1 unit, a surge will kill both, no? Is there a better way to get mirrored data without having to remember to back it up all the time?

Political Tidbit

You may have noticed that media attention on the candidates has simmered a little - some about Michelle Obama, some about the smears - but generally very little. Why? Well, the story arc is supposed to be veeps, and neither candidate has rushed to judgment so the media is in a holding pattern.

My 2 cts.

HP, Really?

HP is currently the leading US PC manufacturer, shipping 14M units in Q4 of 2007 compared to Dell's 11M. Thing is, I have never worked for a company that is HP/Compaq-based, nor do I know of anyone else who does. Does anyone out there have an HP or Compaq box on their desk?


Texas, Let's Just Make It A 'Whole Other Country

The Texas Republicans held their state convention, where these beauties were for sale. I respectfully request that the RNC denounce these pins and promise that they won't be allowed at the next event.
Before you get all up in arms: I am not arguing that we suppress the speech. You wanna make these pins, go ahead. I just want the other major party in this country to acknowledge how destructive such rhetoric can be and take efforts to remove it from their campaign message.
If I were the dems, I'd be running to the pundits to make this McCain's flag pin.
[EDIT: Per the comments, credit to Flippish for confirming that this is a real pin. http://tpmelectioncentral.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/06/texas_gop_we_didnt_know_about.php.
Comment away.]

Even For This Crowd, This is Too Much

There are a LOT of single malt lubbers in Georgetown. No surprise there; collections routinely top $450, and some travel well into the four figures. Well boys, here's one you cannot afford: Ardbeg Double Barrel. 2 single malt bottles, 1974, in a custom shooting bag with eight silver cups.

It'll set you back $23,000.

[EDIT: I got some comments that said, "Oy, but the packaging makes it SO expensive." Another HT to Flippish for passing along an offer from our own Calvert Woodley - Macallan 55. Only 420 bottles ever made at $11,000 each.]


Roots of a Landmark

Per www.kottke.org, these are the original sketches for the Exxon logo. Powerful design becomes iconic, and icons become part of the landscape. Their ability to so penetrate our vision as to become completely mundane is incredibly powerful. Seeing their origin is like peeking behind the curtain.

Can You Believe This Jerk?

http://www.canyoubelievethis.com/ asks, "Can you believe this jerk?"

Imagine HotorNot.com having an all-too-regrettable get-together with "Extra!" and you get the idea. Post a photo + a story describing how you were screwed over and let people vote on who the real jerk is. Oh, and did I mention that there's a rebuttal function?

We're reviving this project - started at my first company out of school in 2001 - so come help us! Post em if you got em!


Hulking Mass of Crap

The UK's Guardian's review of The Incredible Hulk - 1 star. The start:

"Hulk. Smash!" Yes. Hulk. Smash. Yes. Smash. Big Hulk smash. Smash cars. Buildings. Army tanks. Hulk not just smash. Hulk also go rarrr! Then smash again. Smash important, obviously. Smash Hulk's USP. What Hulk smash most? Hulk smash all hope of interesting time in cinema. Hulk take all effort of cinema, effort getting babysitter, effort finding parking, and Hulk put great green fist right through it. Hulk crush all hopes of entertainment.

More here.

Sports Tidbit

If you did not have the pleasure of watching the Celts come back time and again from 20+ point deficits last night to beat the Lakers, you should find a friend with an overactive Tivo and plan to watch live Sunday. The overpaid Lakes got overplayed. It was beautiful.

The deficit is the largest ever overcome to win a game by a team in the playoffs.

In the spirit of numerical analysis: baseball teams are now losing on the road at a higher rate than seen in decades. Why? Jonah Lehrer thinks it might be withdrawal - from amphetamines and steroids.


No politics, no humor. I realized that there hasn't been very much of me on this blog in a long time, so I'll share a moment.

I had a big firm moment the other night. I had gotten to work early, slammed all day, worked through lunch, finished after 8pm, hit the gym, and cabbed to a bar to celebrate the coming nuptials of a buddy. I was over-caffeinated, tired, and - by the end of the evening - toasted beyond the point I had originally intended. It felt oddly nostalgic. I traded in the big firm job almost a year ago. It had been full of 8+ p.m. nights, 24 hour turnaround assignments, and the kind of frenetic desire that makes you wander what - rather than if - someone is trying to prove to someone from their past. I was often tired and stressed.

Don't get the impression that I don't work hard. My billables are at or above those of many big-firmites, particularly in a light market, but the hours are qualitatively different now. I hadn't felt that "perpetual onset of heartburn" in a while. I might even say I was nostalgic for it, if only because I knew that tomorrow the feeling would pass.


Stands Hair On End, Prevents Cancer

LA just dumped 400,000 of these babies into its reservoir (the Ivanhoe) as sunscreen. The sun combines Chlorine and Bromide to produce a carcinogenic compound. Solution - create shades for the reservoir. Now to find out what chemicals the balls will leach into the water...

Video at LATIMES
HT: www.gizmodo.com.

Capitol Camps Are Capital

Went on a Shavuot retreat at Capitol Camps - www.capitolcamps.org - amazing. The camps is built both for kids and adults (they like to call it a retreat center). The mess hall, complete with an installation from www.bigassfans.com complements the lodges, some with a/c, the pool (slides and diving board too!), basketball courts, ropes course, softball fields, lake, hiking trails, tennis courts, and even a roller hockey rink.

Two days of services, friends, food, and pickup games were amazing, even in the 95+ degree heat. And a big props goes to the organizers at www.dcminyan.org.


B-2 Crash from Feb.

This video will and should be everywhere. I initially thought that the US govt might not want it out for what it would show - but after seeing it, I think it doesn't let anything out that you couldn't see from a photo of the plane.

HT www.wired.com which id'd the cause of the crash is water on several of the craft's 24 sensors, causing the avionics dependent craft to think it was in a different orientation than it was. The black box strikes again!

Occam Switchbacks [Edited thanks to MS - pinko!]

Origo announced that they'll recapture CO2 from your car's exhaust, store in on-board in a tank, and have you offload that to an algae-rich unit at home which will feed on the gas and convert it to Bio-fuel. Simple, isn't it?

This makes little sense.

Economically, they claim it produces a max of 2500 liters, or 660 gallons. That sounds a bit high - but we'll see. $660 gallons are worth $2640 at $4/gal. If the unit costs less than that great - trouble is, it won't. More likely, the unit will cost at least double that and will incur costs in upkeep. Moreover, the diesel produced has less energy than petrol, so you won't get as far on it.

For users, there is the added hassle of emptying the CO2 tank every day when you get out of the car. I just don't see people doing that.

Environmentally, how much of a car's emissions can you really trap? If it isn't a large portion, we aren't reducing the carbon signature that much. We'd just be reducing the amount of new oil needed to fuel cars, but they'd still be spewing the gasses.

Further to that point - syphoning the exhaust will likely require an air pass-through more strenuous than an exhaust. When you slow the air from the motor, you hurt performance and efficiency. We are ok with the trade-off now because the noise pollution would otherwise be atrocious. Add this device and the loss in efficiency from the motor may cause you to use even more gas per mile, which will have to offset your bio-diesel miles gained.

Finally, there are safety and engineering problems. If your exhaust goes to a tank, how do you prevent the system from backing up into the motor when you are idling? What energy do you use to compress the gas in the tank? How do you seal the tank? How big is the tank? How heavy is it? and so on and so on and so on.

Bottom line: the solutions for efficiency that will work will also be simple and elegant. Let's not forget that.


Stop Complaining, Just Not on My Show.

Oprah.com writer Martha Beck says that there are two types of people in this world - those who relive past experiences to teach and relate and those who just do it out of self-pity. Oh, and she'd like the second group to 'shut up.'

Ms. Beck, your employer's media empire is built on a parade of vocal self-pitiers and the voyeurs who love them. My daddy committed incest - "Oh, how awful?" - and it ruined my life - "Well, of course it did" - and I wanted to share my story - "Dr. Phil should tell her how to pick up the pieces!"

Oprah, better shut Ms. Beck down before people start taking responsibility for their own well-being.



www.youvebeenleftbehind.com will send up to 62 of your closest damned friends a reminder that you are indeed holier than they. If none of the site's 5 admins log in within a set period, the site will know that they've been sported up to heaven as part of the Rapture. Six days later, it will send you their personalized "wish you were worthy to be here." Cost to you: $40/year.

This is a lesson in scienter (intent). Ponder this: I don't believe in the rapture, but I know others do. I am committing fraud, or am I acting unethically, if I were to offer this service to cater to the belief of others?

HT www.wired.com.

Guilty as charged.

Wired writer Lore Sjöberg says that there are 7 basic blog posts:
  1. Be Upset
  2. Buy a Thing
  3. Animals are Cute
  4. People are Dumb
  5. Something I Like, Only Different
  6. Weird Science
  7. Me, the Blogger.

I think the first and the last are so broad as to encompass almost every blog post ever. I am not sure it is a bad thing - weblogs are supposed to be something like a diary, so posts about me aren't necessarily out of place.

Political Tidbit

Story arc completed: Dem Nominee (Obama) selected.
Next story arc: Veepstakes.
Next expected arc: Dem Unity or Speculation about the General.

Question: Months ago, we asked whether the "dream ticket" would be bad because it would give the GOP both a Clinton and a Liberal Black Man as targets. I don't hear anyone complaining now that HRC could be dangerous for Obama. Has anything changed?

The counter-argument is HRC's track record in calling voters to the polls - nearly 18M of them. Will they come out for her in the same numbers if she is veep in Nov? Do her impressive numbers shift the balance in any of FL, OH, or PA?



Some PA high school students got a nasty surprise when their yearbook got run through a spell-checker before it was printed. Yup, some idiot put a bunch of proper nouns through a spell-checker.

Check out the results.

How in the World?

Nova has a special on deciphering ancient Mayan pictoglyphs. There is an interactive glyph here where you can see individual marks, see their translation, and hear them read aloud.

1. Mayans used a base-20 number system. Fingers and toes people. Fingers and toes.
2. The glyphs are big!...and complicated!
3. How did anyone ever decipher the meaning of these things? They look like complete gobbledegook!

Political Tidbit

It is nearly 6:00pm June 3, 2008. There are now reports that Clinton has told NY State lawmakers that she would be willing to take VP.

Cynical: She knows Obama won't pick her, so she is making his rejection public. This provides an excuse to either continue the fight or to withhold some type of support.

Non-cynical: This would be a monster ticket and, if well conducted, the key to healing the party. Of course, now the GOP machine would attack a Clinton (they'll mess themselves) and "the most liberal person in the Senate." Oh, wait, I this was supposed to be non-cynical...


Hacking Old-School

Two hackers took down Comcast's webpage last Thurs for over five hours - no mean feat given the security plus the traffic volume they had to contend with. Detect a note of respect? Good - these guys hacked the old-fashioned way. They found a weakness, they called Comcast and told them the weakness, and they were told to shove it. So they did - right up Comcasts collective internet pipeline. I know the act should be illegal, but there is something wonderfully cavalier and bad-old-days-of-the-internet about this attack. It is not done to harm, but done to wipe the corporate smirk off Comcast's face.

Also, "social-engineering" is becoming a prevalent term. This is like phishing (emailing/contacting someone and posing as a company rep to get their contact or login information). A hacker makes a call into a company, acts like a functionary in some remote support division and gets someone to help him/her. Usually the help sought goes outside the bounds of policy - but people want to be nice and they certainly don't want to be blamed for holding up 'Company Business' so they help out. Of course, the hacker-turned-prank-caller is manipulating the person to create a security gap and...voila.

Prosecute All You Want, But Do It Respectfully

N. Charlston, South Car. city prosecutor Dale DuTremble needs a lesson in propriety. He refused to prosecute an assault charge made by one undocumented immigrant against another. Amongst his other reasons:

I also have learned that neither of you have a green card and are in this
country illegally. I further have been advised that it will cost the City of
North Charleston a great deal of money to hire an interpreter whose
qualifications meet the requirements of both sides in this dispute. I have no
intention of asking the City of North Charleston to spend any money at all for
two grown women who, despite being in this country illegally, cannot observe the
basic courtesy expected of both citizens and guests of this country. This
includes the courtesy of obeying the law. I have decided to refer both of your
names to ICE; more specifically, to the office of Detention and Removal, in
Atlanta, Georgia, with a request that they begin deportation proceedings
immediately. Once deported to your country, you will be free to fight with each
other on a daily basis, and since you both speak Spanish, you will be right at
home in the court system of your native land.

Mr. DuTremble, we don't treat perps with respect because they deserve it, we treat them with respect as a sign to the rest of society that our government can be trusted to carry out its police power - that most dangerous when subject to abuse - with dignity.

Thanks to prawfsblawg.