Monday, January 31, 2005

 

Doubt begins only at the last frontiers of what is possible

The ongoing saga of my frummie friend's PC has taken a decidedly weird turn. My friend was about to throw in the proverbial towel, and ask me to rebuild the beast, but the intermittent nature of the problem was bugging the heck out of me. If it works some of the time, then there's obviously a reason why it isn't working at other times, so after booting the guest OS under VMWare and getting the same intermittent faults, I decided to haul out the heavy artillery, the Sniffer (well, Ethereal actually, since I'm very far from the physical box). Some really weird stuff was going down in the protocol trace. The query to the DNS server in the router looked fine, but the response was most interesting -

Transaction ID: 0x0016
Flags: 0x8100 (Standard query response, No error)
1... .... .... .... = Response: Message is a response
.000 0... .... .... = Opcode: Standard query (0)
.... .0.. .... .... = Authoritative: Server is not an authority for domain
.... ..0. .... .... = Truncated: Message is not truncated
.... ...1 .... .... = Recursion desired: Do query recursively
.... .... 0... .... = Recursion available: Server can't do recursive queries
.... .... .0.. .... = Z: reserved (0)
.... .... ..0. .... = Answer authenticated: Answer/authority portion was not authenticated by the server
.... .... .... 0000 = Reply code: No error (0)

The server responded back with the name servers for the URL in question. I've never seen a DNS server as screwed up as this one. Iterative queries are for server to server operations, not for end station queries. In fact, I can't find any reference to any registry value in Windoze that can be set to force iterative queries in situations like this. I wouldn't necessarily want every PC on my network doing iterative queries against servers from both the bandwidth and security standpoint, and I'm mystified as to why a major cable ISP couldn't pick something like this up - surely if it's happening to my friend, it's happening to other people in the neighborhood. Or are sheeple too inured to mediocre service to complain?

One correspondent suggested pulling the router, as he had attempted an nslookup against the very server in question and got back a correct result. I doubt it's the router, as the checksums were OK, and the server was providing the best known name servers for the URL in question in the response. I'll try it for grins and giggles, but it's absorbing too much of my time. He did provide another reasonably local DNS server on that ISP's network for me to try with my friend's PC, and I'll do that later after I've finished my nightly voodoo doll ritual with Mr. Gates' effigy.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

 

Ability is commonly found to consist mainly in a high degree of solemnity.

I decided to post a squawk about Gibson's current weirdness over on Blogcritics. Nothing I haven't said here before, but perhaps it might gain a wider audience via Blogcritics, and at the very least it might start a discussion.

My frummie friend with the farked network stack is running at wit's end, so the job du jour is to blow away the personal firewall (I'm extremely nervous about this, as I well remember an uninstallation of ZoneAlarm on a previous High Altar here that totally hosed network connectivity. ZA couldn't do an in-place upgrade, but the uninstaller failed with a totally cryptic message, and I found that my IP stack was totally blown away. I reinstalled the old version of ZoneAlarm, and the box was back to normal. Since then I've been very nervous about personal firewalls. Better off buying a used PIX on eBay, if you ask me). If zapping the personal firewall doesn't work (it just might, as I noted that on der kinder's PC, the parental controls software had inadvertantly managed to blacklist Disney), then I'm going to do something a bit over the top - we'll install VMWare, and I'll ship an ISO of an OS over GoToMyPC to the recalcitrant box, and this way at least there'll be a working VM for browsing. I'm reluctant to reload the OS on this machine, but my delicate inner sense of danger is telling me that it's going to be necessary down the road. Have I mentioned that I hate Dell's OEM OS builds?

Another friend is calling me this AM with a simpler problem, trying to get his brand new laptop to talk to his shared printer at home. ZoneAlarm came preloaded on the laptop and of course it disallows all NBT by default, but said friend isn't computer literate at all, so it's time to be a good guy (I should mention that said friend has been a good friend for over 30 years, but he presently lives in Southern California, and for some reason cannot find a single local resource who can help him out without charging an arm and a leg).

Thanks to the reader for the response on the GMail invite, however, a friend of mine scared one up for me yesterday.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

 

Prescription: A physician's guess at what will best prolong the situation with least harm to the patient.

The orthopedist gave me the bad news, torn meniscus. The office will call me on Monday to start scheduling the preliminaries and the procedure. Does wonders for my already irascible disposition. My cup runneth over....

My search for a new Proprietormobile took me to the local Audi franchise yesterday, where I checked out the A4. While a good friend swears by his A4, I was not so impressed with it. The driver's seat was singularly uncomfortable, perhaps some manipulation of the various supports and other gadgets might've made it a bit more user-friendly, but when one's lumbar and hindquarters immediately protest upon ensconsing oneself in the car (knee problems aside), it isn't a good sign. I tested the four cylinder 1.8 liter turbo model, which had a reasonable amount of pep, only a slight turbo lag when I accelerated to get on the highway. The highway drive was unexceptional, one exit, less than a mile, and gave no clue to the car's capabilities. The return drive took us back on a parallel road with plenty of traffic and no twists and turns to see how the car handled (the Bimmer dealer found a nice set of back roads for us to test the car with). The sound system, well, the quote unquote premium sound system is from Bose. I well remember cringing at the sound of Bose 901 speakers the first time I heard them, and my usual reaction to Bose is that their sound is mushy and muddy. This system didn't disabuse me of that notion. The six CD changer in the dash looks like a good idea at first, but then I remembered the ghastly multi-CD drive I put into my wife's PC years ago. That beast jammed and lunched several CDs, including the OEM software CDs from the PCs manufacturer that the Mrs. conveniently kept in there to avoid having to look for them in case of an emergency. It's not a bad car, not by any means, but as another friend pointed out, it's basically a gussied-up Volkswagen, and not that great a buy. The due diligence will continue with tests of the Acura TL and Mercedes C240.

Also, anyone got a Gmail invite to spare? Not for me, but a friend in need. Post a comment if you do.

Friday, January 28, 2005

 

RIP Jim Capaldi

'Traffic' Drummer Jim Capaldi Dies of Cancer
Jan 28, 9:19 AM (ET)
By Jeremy Lovell
LONDON (Reuters) - Legendary rock drummer and Hall of Fame inductee Jim Capaldi died on Friday after a brief fight with stomach cancer, his publicist said. The 60-year-old Capaldi, born in England of Italian immigrant parents, died in his sleep at the London Clinic in the early hours with his wife and family at his bedside.

Capaldi, whose driving rock rhythms and songwriting ability helped make groundbreaking band Traffic a household name in the 1960s and 70s with -- among others -- Steve Winwood and Dave Mason -- also had an illustrious solo career. "Steve rang me when he heard this morning. He is very upset. They were very close and had plans to record and tour again. He was praying Jim would recover from his illness," Winwood's manager Mick Newton told Reuters.

Capaldi was inducted into the U.S. Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame in March 2004, just five months before being diagnosed with terminal cancer. When Traffic finally broke up in 1974 after releasing 11 albums -- including the iconic songs 40,000 Headmen, Dear Mr Fantasy and Paper Sun -- Capaldi was already doing solo work. He moved to solo success with the albums Fierce Heart and Some Come Running while touring with his own band The Contenders. Capaldi was already working on his 12th solo album when Winwood -- who also scored major solo successes -- called him back to collaborate on a new album. One thing led to another and Traffic reformed in 1993 followed by a major five-month tour of the United States in 1994, including appearing at Woodstock and playing alongside The Grateful Dead. In 1998, Capaldi teamed up with fellow Traffic founder Mason to tour again.

Capaldi was five times winner of BMI or ASCAP awards for the most played songs in America and cooperated closely with Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Bob Marley, Carlos Santana and the Eagles among others. In 1975 he married Brazilian-born Aninha and spent much time with her helping the street children of her native country.

 

Cynic, n: a blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.

Sales Guy loves to call meetings about Esteemed Client without checking if people have free time. Of course, needless to say the meeting has "critical", "important" and other opprobrious adjectives attached to it, with the dreaded "Action Required" header. Of course, if there was any follow-up on the part of the Sales Guy, we wouldn't be spinning our wheels waiting to find out what direction to take. Needless to say, at the moment that this meeting of cataclysmic importance (whose breathless announcement gave it the importance of Potsdam or at least the Kitchen Debate) I will be having my bum knee being looked at by an orthopedic surgeon, the appointment for which required pulling strings in order to be seen sometime before the next (insert astonishingly rare event here). Sales Guy of course immediately asked if I could reschedule said visit with the physician, and upon being informed of the circumstances asked if I would dial in from the doctor's. They're gonna love it in the X-Ray and MRI rooms. I'm unsure if I'll have a project after this meeting, as frankly, Esteemed Client is in a bit of a corner due to version conflicts and tool capabilities, and bringing them up to the correct versions is a job for a package implementation specialist (which I'm not; the package that's involved here is relatively easy to get running from scratch, but since decisions were taken years ago with this thing and configuration and architecture changes are involved, I wouldn't touch the conversion effort involved. As I've noted before, I know a lot of what is involved here, but the key package isn't my bailiwick). That's why I like network projects. Binary solution set. They work, or they don't. The problem and solution domains are neatly defined.

I'd classify this one as the howler of the day if there wasn't a tragedy involved. CNN reports that the suicidal individual who caused the train wreck in Los Angeles may face the death penalty when tried. Of course, it's the height of absurdity as that would be acceding to his wish, no? Then again, some of the last executions in this neck of the woods, over forty years ago, were in essence with "volunteers". Eddie Lee Mays, who was the last ahem, satisfied customer of the hot seat in Ossining, had a chance at a plea bargain that would've gotten him off with a second-degree sentence, but being a stubborn cuss, decided to take his chance with a Manhattan jury, which of course in those days was a bit more inclined to deal harshly with malefactors. And over in the Nutmeg State, "Mad Dog" Taborsky decided to live up to his nickname in court, and basically dropped his appeals, thus earning the right for his mother to note "You never saw such a beautiful electric chair like they executed my Joe in!".

I wonder how many commemorations of the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz were muted or muzzled in our institutions of allegedly higher education because it would (in the words of one particularly egregious example cited on Little Green Footballs) impair "dialogue" with certain parties (you know, the kind who think the Adnan is a real toe-tapper). Just wondering.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

 

Clairvoyant, n.: A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron - namely, that he is a blockhead.

New toy arrived yesterday from Land Of The Rising Transistor, a Yamaha QY70 sequencer/sound module. I installed the file manager software on the PC with the MIDI interface, connected it up, and other than needing to switch the interface type on the box (there's a switch on the side to set it for the serial interface, a Mac interface which I don't see a port for, and MIDI) it connected first time. The filer shipped the Baba O'Riley sequence over in a few seconds, and I plugged in some earbuds to hear the results. The interesting thing is that the QY70 doesn't use Standard MIDI Format internally, so there was some conversion associated with it. The MIDI channel voicings weren't exactly right, although playing with the sounds (there's the usual GM suspects, not to mention Yamaha's XM sounds) got me closer to a synth square wave lead that's somewhat in the ballpark of the ARP 2600 used on the original recording. Only problem is that editing seems to (at least in the mode I'm working in) not save the patch changes the way I want them, but it's not the most intuitive user interface and I've only been playing with it for less than an hour, so I'll RTFM and see if I missed something. Gut check is that I'll probably just reload the sequence over from the PC, and set the voice without scrolling through them during playback.

For grins and giggles I might bring the Conquistador or Walk Away Renee sequences over to the QY70 and play it through an amplifier to see if the XM sound generator is decent (truth be told, it sounded a bit tinny on the earbuds), but one thing that I caught was that there doesn't seem to be a lot of memory in the QY70. It might've been just inexperience with the unit, but a 29K file shouldn't take up 29% of the available memory on the sequencer. I realize this is an older unit, and the QY100 is now the de facto standard for this sort of thing, but I'm going to play with this puppy for a while to see if I can make this happen. There seems to be some demand for them on eBay if it doesn't work out after all, but the alternative isn't that palatable. The alternative is a MIDI filer, in other words, something to just play an SMF file on a floppy into a sound module. Yamaha's MDF-3 runs about $350 from Musician's Friend, although I've seen the legacy MDF-2 on eBay while I was investigating this. Then, you need a sound module on top of that, figure a couple of hundred bucks for a Roland JV synth. Whatever happened to the days of a Tele through a Bassman?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

 

You heard it here first

I postulated on this back on July 28, but now the Sulzberger Entity confirms the very prospect:

Gov. George E. Pataki just might have a bridge he wants to lease you.


Buried in one of the bills accompanying the governor's budget proposal last week is a plan to give the state's Transportation Department, the Thruway Authority and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority the power to lease toll roads, bridges and even its subway lines to private companies and let them collect the tolls or fares.


Democratic lawmakers criticized the proposal here Tuesday at a joint legislative hearing on the governor's transportation proposals, which have already come under fire from transit advocates and elected officials who say they would not provide the M.T.A. with enough money either for essential maintenance or long-term projects. State Transportation Commissioner Joseph H. Boardman said after the hearing that the state was weighing "a privatization model or a partnership" for some toll roads and bridges, and added that the Tappan Zee Bridge could be a candidate for such a deal.



Would a certain appliance manufacturer be an appropriate choice?


 

Quote Without Comment Department

Yesterday's Opinion Journal had this beautifully succinct comment in relation to Senator Edward M. Kennedy's (Irrelevant Lardass - MA) vow to oppose Condi Rice's nomination as Secretary of State -
"Not the First Time He's Tried to Sink a Woman"

Hat tip to Kim DuToit.

 

Saint: A dead sinner revised and edited

We note that the United Nations' solemn commemoration of the Holocaust was attended by only half the member nations, and that the usual attempts to equate Jenin with Maidanek were cheerfully put forth by those member nations who have nothing better to do than bait Jews while their own populations rot in poverty, misery and filth.

We also note that a Hindu association in Britain is trying to re-legitimize the swastika, ever so gingerly reminding people that it was merely a symbol of good fortune up until certain recent unpleasantnesses. They face some resistance from the European Union, which wishes to ban the swastika, except when duly authorized and promulgated by its members. I actually learned the difference between a Hindu swastika and the hakenkreuz long ago (Hindu hooks point left, Nazi hooks point right), but I've seen flags on Indian merchant ships that to the uninitiated look very much like the hakenkreuz flag (dark solid background, white circle, swastika in the middle, although the colors fortunately are never red and black). They've got a wee bit of an uphill battle.

On the prurient front, we note that Deborah (better slash formerly known as Debbie) Gibson will be appearing in Playboy shortly to promote her new album. I'll actually admit to a certain fondness for her debut album, a nicely crafted piece of 80s pop fluff that had some cute songs, and I felt for her at the Atlantic Records 50th Anniversary show, where she took some heat from the audience who wanted nothing more than to see Led Freakin' Zep already (to be fair though, she kind of brought some of it on herself by not having just her sing with the band, but by bringing out Male Dancers Of Questionable Sexuality as part of the stage show; an audience such as that will have little patience for the pop stagecraft tomfoolery). I give Ms. Gibson credit for at least partially writing her tunes (and she's a credible piano player as well), so she's not your typical pop tart (every time I see Madonna with a guitar I'm reminded of that bit on Saturday Night Live when Steve Martin did King Tut and a Telecaster was flown down on wires so that Martin could hit a few triplets of an E chord). For some reason, I imagine that I will enjoy this layout far more than the recent Denise Richards pictorial. Oh, don't get me wrong here, Ms. Richards is quite pulchritudinous, but the pictorial was so artificial and forced it was a complete waste of time and money to look at.

I should note that I read Playboy very infrequently. Usually only when there's something seismically interesting (look, I may be a conservative, but Ms. Richards was cause enough for any red-blooded heterosexual male to at least peruse the article). The unfortunate thing is that there hasn't been a great interview in Playboy in decades, IMO. The William F. Buckley interview was a classic.

BlogExplosion's an interesting experiment thus far, as I've found several interesting blogs through it that agree with my position and temperament, but I'll at least give the others a few moments before clicking through to see if there's something that catches my eye. I've already caught several repeat showings of blogs, so I imagine the pool isn't all that big. It's certainly picked up some traffic, however, as to its overall usefulness, that remains to be seen. I certainly hope that some of the BlogExplosion readers will pick this up on their own, either through Blogmarks or searching for me.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

 

Against stupidity the very gods Themselves contend in vain

I'm taking a personal day today, so light posting.

Unfortunately, it seems that the salacious Johnny Carson - Zsa Zsa Gabor exchange is a mere urban legend according to Snopes. However, hundreds of hours of Carson tapes were erased in a monumental goof by an NBC technician (which of course is a bit of a redundancy, in that NBC was responsible for the gold standard of TV goofs, the Heidi Bowl), so it's possible that there was indeed some salacious exchange that might've slipped past the censors.

I had some very pithy comments prepared about the irony of the UN hosting a Holocaust memorial yesterday (the usual suspects were zinged with stuff like "France accidentally issued a strong condemnation of itself", and "93% of the General Assembly called a 'Do Over'"), however, it's a bit redundant to criticize the UN when it does such an admirable job of making itself look irrelevant and useless.

We note in brief an article in the Sulzberger Entity on how a homeless person managed to cripple the A train (and the C as well). Quoth the missive:
"This is a very significant problem, and it's going to go on for quite a while," said Lawrence G. Reuter, the president of New York City Transit. He estimated it would take "several millions of dollars and several years" to reassemble and test the intricate network of custom-built switch relays that were destroyed in the blaze, which officials believe began when the homeless person - who has not been found - set fire to wood and refuse in a shopping cart in the tunnel about 50 feet north of the Chambers Street station.

Unbelievably for the Times, no quotes from advocates and activists for the homeless, putting the blame on society. Perhaps because the Upper West Side will be hugely affected?

Monday, January 24, 2005

 

Absurdity, n.: A statement or belief manifestly inconsistent with one's own opinion.

The phone rang just after getting the driveway cleared from the massive snowstorm (it wasn't the worst I've seen by far, we got about 14"), and my frummie friend was calling to see if I could troubleshoot the recalcitrant PC. I signed up for the freebie of RemotePC, e-mailed the client over to my friend (the weird thing about this is that e-mail seems to work perfectly), and hand-held the installation. No cigar. RemotePC couldn't connect to the Internet. We decided to try GoToMyPC instead, and I gingerly handed them ye olde numero de plastico hoping that I'd finish before the 60 minute trial expired and billing kicked in. Again, e-mail and phone calls, but lo and behold, GoToMyPC connected, and I had control of the laptop.

Checked for the usual suspects, Discussion Toolbar, Working Offline, and ran AdAware again. Clean as a whistle. The laptop had a really weird symptom, being able to resolve some DNS entries, but not others. Obviously connectivity was fine, as GoToMyPC wouldn't have gotten through. Nothing in the Hosts or LMHOSTS files, and going out to a command line and pinging or telnetting would work about 50% of the time. Sites like CNN, IBM and Cisco would resolve, but some of my other preferred haunts wouldn't. This was starting to get seriously weird, and I poked into Control Panel for a minute just to see if anything was seriously farked in the configuration there. Other than both the wireless and the 10BaseT interfaces being live, everything was OK, and I disabled the Ethernet to see if by chance it was a funky Cat 5 cable. No such luck. Nslookup and dig were acting strange, able to find name servers, but not able to give me A records. After patzing through MSFT's Knowledge Base and Googling around, everything was pointing to a farked Winsock implementation. I tried the MSFT integrity checking (oxymoron alert!) tool, and everything came back copacetic, so throwing caution to the wind (and deleting IE's index.dat file to boot; some positive indications that that might've helped, but alas, no cigar) it was regedit time. I put in the entries to turn off negative DNS caching, no luck there. The only thing left to try after putting three hours into this beast was to force recreation of the Winsock registry entries (I found a small tool entitled WinsockXPFix to automate this for me), but time ran short for my friend and we had to call it a day. A reboot ensued, and when I checked back a few minutes later, IE still had the same bloody symptoms.

I should note that Firefox couldn't resolve stuff either, strongly pointing toward Winsock problems, but damn, if Winsock is farked, shouldn't it hose connectivity completely?

If through some improbable coincidence Mr. Gates reads this missive, I hope it proves instructive. I have no problem with MSFT when it works, and if it's the best tool, I recommend it. However, when something goes south and diagnostic tools are saying everything is cool, this isn't a good thing, and when my gut check tells me that the ultimate resolution of this is going to be a full OS reload, that isn't exactly cool. There should be some freaking modularity in the architecture to allow things to be decoupled enough to replace whatever corruption impairs functionality with minimal intrusiveness.

BTW, GoToMyPC functions extremely well. Their pricing model is well, expensive, and of course I was on long enough that billing kicked in, so I'm on the hook for twenty bucks a month until I cancel, but in a situation like this, it's well worth it (I figure it would've cost me a solid $45 in gas and tolls to get down there to fix it, and my friend has volunteered to reimburse me).

Sunday, January 23, 2005

 

RIP Johnny Carson

Damn, he could be funny. Carnac was always a treat, and one of the two most sustained laughs he ever got was from a Carnac bit where Ed McMahon set him up with "Sis boom bah", and the punchline was "What sound does a sheep make when it explodes?" (the other huge laugh actually happened over a commercial break, when Buddy Hackett told a particularly off-color joke that had everyone on the floor and Carson and the audience were reduced to incoherent laughter over that witticism). I always liked the Art Fern bit, Aunt Blabby less so. Most of the conversations were typical entertainment banalities along with nudge nudge wink wink references to bad behavior (I particularly remember one conversation with Carson and Sammy Davis Jr. that was obviously about substance abuse). However, Carson was always articulate and erudite, and made the show a pleasure to watch. The Tonight Show band was criminally underrated, Doc Severinsen and Tommy Newsome being top-notch musicians and arrangers and being good sports to put up with Carson's zings (Ed Shaughnessy was great on the traps, as well). The animal acts were always cute, and then there were the quips (the infamous one to Zsa Zsa Gabor that ended with "Well, if you get that cat out of the way...." comes to mind). Sometimes the guests were brutally funny, viz. Hackett and Joan Rivers. Sometimes, well, it was just there. It's one of those shows that couldn't exist in its form nowadays. Neither Leno nor Letterman has that brassy Rat Pack-ish vibe that Carson had all the way through.

 

Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum (I think that I think, therefore I think that I am.)

The SpongeBob brouhaha leads me to observe that some folks on our side of the aisle need to get a life, or in the words of Groucho Marx, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I suppose it's my libertarian instincts kicking in more than anything else, or my infantile love of animation in general (although I must admit to a serious dislike of the SpongeBob theme, since I have young'uns who watch the show incessantly and it plays ad nauseum here in Schloss Scheisse). I would suppose that Mr. Dobson would probably have conniptions at some of Bugs Bunny's many drag bits, and there would indeed be grief over the fact that June Foray voiced male parts (geez, even Mae Questel voiced Popeye in a couple of wartime shorts).

Animation of course is at its best when its subversive (constructively of course) or sheer mayhem results. In the case of Bugs Bunny, he straddles both categories in many cases, and the results are spectacular. The problem with sheer mayhem cartoons is just that there aren't too many of them, since Peggy Charren decided to take her terminal PMS public. There hasn't been a classic Heckle and Jeckle cartoon seen on broadcast television in ages (there were those ghastly New H&J cartoons sometime in the 70s, but of course every time you see "New" prepended to anything, as in "The New Dick Van Dyke Show", you can bet money that that entertainment fluff will fail miserably - assuming you can find a bookie to take the action, as they won't be able to find anyone to lay off bets on. This is known in the financial markets as hedging). All of these ahem, Parents Groups were responsible for Thunderbirds being pulled from syndication for the longest time, and being completely bowdlerized in its most recent airings (adding in politically correct live action kids sequences, airbrushing out cigarettes, that sort of thing). As a result, we tend to get some really good subversive animation here and there, which depending on its subtlety level can sail completely under the radar of the Morality Police.

The case of SpongeBob is interesting, in that it's a classic dumb buddy cartoon. It's at its best when Squidward is being frustrated by SpongeBob's inanities, or in the episode where SpongeBob and Patrick are conned by what seems a classic MLM type into a chocolate bar sales scheme. There were some rumblings a while back that SpongeBob was perceived in some quarters as being gay, or at having appeal to the gay community. This generates a big "so?". They're entitled to laugh at cartoons the same way anyone laughs at cartoons. There've been any number of classic comedy bits which an overly paranoid person could characterize as "gay-oriented" - how many times have you seen the Three Stooges all sleeping in the same bed? And let's face it, sometimes Costello was a bit too close to Abbott. Complete nonsense. It's a freaking cartoon. Sometimes it's quite funny. Sometimes it misfires badly. My kids love it.

I wonder if a lot of this arises out of Frederic Wertham's "Seduction Of The Innocent". That was the infamous book that called comic books the source of juvenile delinquency and the like, and caused the Senate hearings on comics that resulted in the Comics Code (and indirectly, gave rise to Mad Magazine, because of Bill Gaines' tussles with the publishers). Some pretty whacked out stuff came out of Wertham, ferinstance the accusation that Batman and Robin, were, well, you know, an item. The interesting thing was that if people like Dobson and such are using this as a template, they're actually using something from a liberal. Wertham was a classic liberal (in the Dorothy Schiff vein, if you're old or erudite enough to get the reference), inner-city do-gooder type, settlement houses, that sort of thing. I suppose the irony would escape them.

What Dobson et al. don't realize is that there is plenty of kumbaya stuff that is going to be produced, and they might as well just deal with it. There are plenty of more important things to worry about in this world than the kumbaya videos produced by the likes of the ADL. And the ADL should take a listen also. Making SpongeBob videos about tolerance while Jewish kids are getting assaulted in Paris and Antwerp, and being persecuted on college campuses by keffiyah-wearing terrorist sympathizers isn't the way to deal with a problem.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

 

Dolor Et Labecula

A seriously screwed up knee is sidelining me today, yet I've got Daddy's Taxi Duty plus band rehearsal, so I'm going to take it as easy as possible. Orthopedist can't see me until Friday, so I'll have to exist on ice packs, Naproxen and such until then. Ugh.

For sheer amusement when you get on the phone with Tech Support, if the CSR introduces themselves along the lines of "Bob from Memphis" and has only a hint of an accent, ask them what they thought of the Yankees' performance in this year's World Series. Just like smoking out German spies in those old WWII movies....

Took a test drive of a Bimmer 325xi yesterday on the back roads here in Whitelandia (as Ron Kuby would say). Rather nice, felt very tight, and a definite possibility, but not much elbow room on the price, at least at the moment. The Proprietor is toying with the idea of a new car at the moment, and the other two top choices on the list are the Audi A4 and the Acura TL. I know, I shouldn't be considering a Feiglinglandwagen, but to be brutally honest about it, there isn't a single American sports sedan worthy of the designation that I like. Last American car I owned was a Grand Cherokee, and that needed a new transmission at 61K miles (conveniently after the warranty on the power train expired); not an unknown phenomenon with that marque, but still majorly annoying. The BMW is a definite possibility, as the dealer is within 15 minutes of me, the salesman was honest and not unctuous, and the service department was so clean you could eat off the floor. I'll do my due diligence, but I gotta say that I was impressed a bit.

I've been experimenting with BlogExplosion to try widening the audience a bit. To those new readers, welcome.


Friday, January 21, 2005

 

Mayonnaise: One of the sauces which serve the French in place of a state religion.

A doctor's appointment looms this AM, plus some commitments over lunch and early afternoon make this a short shrift day at least until late this afternoon. I decided to hit Buy It Now on a Yamaha sound module slash sequencer on Fleabay, as I'm darned curious to see if I can make "Baba O'Riley" happen for the band. I've actually found two other very well orchestrated MIDI files, one for Procol Harum's "Conquistador" and the other for the Left Banke's "Walk Away Renee" which I'll play with on this thing eventually, but the Who song is my priority. Worse comes to worse it goes right back out on Fleabay again if it doesn't meet my needs, but hey, gotta have some fun.

My friend's office computer has been purged of CoolWebSearch and WhenU, and hopefully it'll stay that way. I bookmarked BOClean's site and dropped a gentle hint about it. My other friend's computer is acting totally weird, in that it can't get to certain sites, but there's no spyware infection, no Hosts file, the box is basically clean. Basic connectivity to the provider is OK, as e-mail is flowing between us, and I was able to ping my friend via Skype, but without taking a look at the box (it's a laptop) I have no idea of what's going on. Ordinarily not a problem, but said laptop is about 80 miles from me, and said friend is a frummie, Friday nights and Saturday are out for troubleshooting. I'm probably going to sign up for the free trial of RemotePC to help out, as there are no time limits on that free trial, unlike GoToMyPC's sixty minute hard stop.

Our Crack Sales Team is still trying to reach a Go/No Go with Esteemed Client on continuing our little endeavor. Esteemed Client is squawking about network latency, which in their case is laughable (Central Europe to the Boston metro area latency is about 125 ms, not bad at all), plus they've got beaucoup bandwidth (an OC-3, to be precise). Not my fault if they're using a chatty latency-sensitive protocol, we didn't design it, and we don't have the source to fix it. Not to mention their original idea was dismissed as utterly unsupportable by the central vendor. Needless to say I'm enjoying the relative peace and quiet of the situation right now.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

 

Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence

Very worthy of your attention, we find Top Ten Wrong Ideas That People Around The World Still Believe. Reminds me of the time during Mandatory Indoctrination (that's what passes for an education in the Northeast) when I pointed out that my favorite African folk tune was "Wimoweh" and not "Kumbaya". I was regarded as a hopeless Philistine (interesting enough, since Pete Seeger did "Wimoweh" way before the Tokens) and berated for not getting with the program. (And once again thanks to the Nation Of Riflemen for the tip!)

 

There are four kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy

Still waffling from Esteemed Client on how to proceed with the Project To Make Something Do What It Isn't Supposed To, so there's a tiny bit of limbo to be taken advantage of to enjoy the quiet. Supposedly updates were to come out sometime yesterday, but hide nor hair has been seen, suggesting that either Esteemed Client has come to its senses and decided to wait for the vendor to support what they're doing, or simple sloth on the part of Sales Guys. I suspect the latter.

Minor conundrum here, in that a couple of family friends have taken it upon themselves to designate me as Official Help Desk And Fix-It Guy. Ordinarily I would say no, however, these are close friends and it's a difficult situation, especially considering their normal support avenues are lesser than satisfactory. While they recognize the difference between shifting gears from say an Oracle implementation to making their desktops work, sometimes the phone rings a bit too often, and the situation is PEBKAC (Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair). However, I gotta draw the line somewhere, and since neither party is inclined to put in a VPN router for me (and frankly, finding a consumer-grade one that works is of course a huge PITA. I had very high hopes for the Linksys WRV54G but after reading some of the horror stories about it decided to pass. I hear Netgear is the way to go, however, to make a long story very short, Family Friend 1 won't spring for a new router considering their current SMC works just fine, and Family Friend 2 is on a cable modem and had some acquaintance configure their router, who didn't have the courtesy to tell them the router's password (nor for that matter the MAC address registered with the provider) - they've been through a PC upgrade or two before I got tapped to help, and as such it'll probably be a pain to replace their router (scheduling an on-site with them can be tough).

That leaves a remote access solution, my cheaper instincts wanting to go with QNext (at least until the public beta ends), however, since that needs ports opened on a firewall, we're back to square one as far as site visits go. Both RemotePC and GoToMyPC are possibilities, but if they want me to do that, they've got to fund it. I like RemotePC's pricing plan better, but since GoToMyPC is Citrix and a known commodity, I'd probably prefer the latter. QNext's integrated desktop and voice messaging approach is quite cool, and I will check it out as a remote support tool for Mom (I might take a crack at it tomorrow to see if it works; I hear generally good things about it, however, it's Java, so performance is porcine, and sooner or later they're going to start charging for the remote access function, so future prospects may be an issue).

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

 

Never trust a computer you can't throw out a window.

New toy du jour is Skype VoIP. Most previous experiences I had with consumer-grade VoIP have had been drenched in echo and latency (as opposed to some of the VoIP trader and back office voice installations I've helped put in, the perceived quality on those is better or at least equal to POTS voice). The thought of getting some of my old cronies together for a chat appeals to me (despite my inherent dislike of conference calls), and maybe it'll encourage us to keep the lines of communication open more. The price of Skype for in-network voice and chats is certainly right, and connecting to POTS isn't bad at all. I rather like the stealth feature for lurking (er, privacy), which is something I wish our all-too ubiquitous chat software at work has (that's basically got three settings, Don't Bother Me, Over The Hills And Far Away, and Drive Me Crazy).

Interesting CNN story yesterday about physical education in schools, a bit of a historic sore subject with me. Woody Allen absolutely nailed it when he said "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym". What a waste of tax dollars for these programs. Throw a basketball out, and let the strongest survive. Sounds like the old joke about Don King's new sports promotion, "Whuppin' Ass" (invite several thousand dazzling urbanites to a coliseum, promising a title championship boxing match; lock doors; inform audience there will be no match that evening; take bets outside coliseum on number of survivors). Problem of course with PE back in my day was that I was interested in only two sports (baseball and golf, neither of which were the school's strong points) and that I was thoroughly uninterested in participating in gym class football scrimmages (I got clobbered in one in tenth grade) nor basketball (there were many experienced, aggressive players who took sadistic pleasure in slamming you to the floor for the sin of not inbounding the ball fast enough). Three quarters of kids can barely add and subtract, and schools waste money on this nonsense?

I was giving some thought to a very minor problem I mentioned back in the summer, that of how to get "Baba O'Riley" into my band's set list. I've got a good MIDI file for the synth part, but I'm loath to take a laptop to rehearsals and the gig (not to mention dealing with the grief if something happens, as invariably it will with my luck). A quick perusal of the web reminded me that there are still hardware sequencers to be found out there, and that that they even read PC formatted disks (to give you an idea how ancient these things are, they specify the format as PC-AT). The "Baba O'Riley" sequence is all of 78K, so it'll easily fit on a single floppy. Only question is whether to go for a sequencer with a built-in sound module, pick up a used sound module (one of old Roland JV series would do nicely, but as long as it's General MIDI, it's fine), or plug it into the MIDI inputs of our keyboard player's new toy. For some reason I doubt Option 3 will work, as I don't know if he knows how to leave the sequence running and get the piano and violin sounds over it....

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

 

Random Gruesomeness

Other than an annoying Quicken bug that for some insane reason ignored two paycheck deposits when I was reconciling my last month's bank statement (which had been dutifully entered by me), it was an utterly quiet day Monday (Expressions of thankfulness emit here). Some assistance needed to be rendered to a friend's computers, and it was a doozy - WhenU, Blaster and CoolWebSearch - and that was on the good computer. I shudder to think what the quote unquote bad one looked like (Update - I'll find out on Thursday evening. Deputy Droopalong here has been shnookered into fixing these puppies).

A rather busy day today, but relatively quiet on the stress front, thank Providence. If anything pops up I'll report on it later. There was an article in the Forward I toyed with the idea of dissecting (and actually had my commentary in draft mode here) but I wasn't terribly happy with the way it came out and just didn't want to waste anyone's time reading it (I wonder if there's a Cialis equivalent for eloquence; I suppose I'll get that when my annual review happens next week, although I'm sure the venom will shine through).

Check back later, as something funky might pop up...

Monday, January 17, 2005

 

Serves me right to be experimental.....

I've apparently hit a bit of a limitation (if you could call it that) with my Boss DD-20 digital delay pedal. I started working out Glass Harp's "Look In The Sky", and there are plenty of cool volume swell, almost tape reverse like effects on that song. Not being a huge one for manipulating the volume controls on the axe other than the volume shift to and from solos (although I can do the swells at the beginning of Roy Buchanan's version of "Sweet Dreams" on my Telecaster's volume control) I thought I'd try the reverse effect on the DD-20, and frankly, it sucked. If you set the delay long (around 1500 ms.) you can get something that approximates the Hendrix/Keaggy type reverse echo/swell bit, but it's just too long to play in time with. The Line6 Echo Park has a better sound (the Boss unfortunately glitches somewhat, so you get a tiny bit of the sound without the swell/reverse attack before the effect kicks in), but I'm loathe to spend another buck and a half on an effect that I'll rarely use. I'd probably rather get a Prescription Electronics Experience, since its swell effect is fairly well regarded and it's designed to dial in a Hendrix tone easily, but these are even more expensive, and I've got altogether too many effects as it is. No bargains on either on eBay at the moment, but there are other items on tap more interesting that will be reported on next week on the guitar front.

And if you really, really want to get pissed off at the nincompoops who pass for educators in this country, check out this article on "Anti-Racist Multicultural Math" at Gene Expression (and a big thanks to Emperor Misha at The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler for the pointer). Hmmm, last I looked algebra was actually from some of the liberal idiots' more beloved peoples (you know, the kind that thinks that splodeydope is a great career for their young'uns).

Sunday, January 16, 2005

 

There is no sweeter sound than the crumbling of your fellow man

Excellent blues jam yesterday with the band and friends, cool stuff like Stormy Monday, and personal favorites like I'm So Glad and Hideaway. We cranked the amps a bit, it was a blast....

Minor annoyance du jour is the constant schnorring for charity for the tsunami victims. Frankly, I'm really, and I mean really reluctant to give any money that will be distributed by the UN or any related agency, because you know as well as I do that it will go to keeping some third world tinhorn pontificators in the nearest five star resort to the danger zone and that precious little will get to actual relief. To be brutally honest about things, Indonesia is a loose cannon of a country, a huge fraud center (a cursory perusal of eBay will confirm this), lots of seriously anti-Semitic and anti-Christian rhetoric there, plus a whole bunch of nasties at best in sympathy with the Islamofascists and at worst in leage with them. Sri Lanka? The folks who popularized suicide bombings as a political tactic? Spare me. Thailand? Sex tours and catering to real sickos? No thank you. If our military appealed for aid from us, something along the lines of what they do with Toys For Tots, I'd probably cough up a few shekels to help out the true innocents and unfortunates hurt by this horrible disaster, but with countries like this bearing the brunt of it, and Kofi's Merry Band Of Thieves wanting to ahem, coordinate, the thought of karmic retribution being involved somehow seems appropriate.

It wouldn't bother me to the point of blogging about it had it not been for the indoctrination of the little ones at school, hitting them up for a chunk of their lunch money to help the poor unfortunates. I learned my lesson about school charities with the constant "For The Children" refrain back in high school. As a kid in grade school, we were constantly bugged to contribute to Rosa Luxemburg's (the school's leftest left-leaning teacher) favorite charity cases, the types of charities where a donor "adopts" an underprivileged kid. The school had adopted three underprivileged kids, two in Vietnam, and one Native American. Needless to say, the war took its toll on the two kids in Vietnam, but when I was in high school, years later, I got a call from Rosa Luxemburg, knowing that I was somewhat of a guru with video (remember, this was the early 70s, and very few schools knew how to use the Sony reel video gear that was coming down the pike). It seemed that my old grade school had raised enough to bring the Native American kid to Brooklyn for a visit, and my services as a videographer were requested to record the event for posterity. I dutifully agreed, and found myself playing video auteur at my old school, recording every moment for an epic worthy of Eisenstein. The de rigeur ceremonies at the beginning of the program over with, the "adopted" kid was placed on the hot seat and made to answer questions. I noticed the kid was quite well-dressed. Not just neatly, but stylishly. One of the kids prompted to ask a question asked how the "adopted" kid got to New York, and the kid noted that she was driven to the airport by her parents in their car. A Caddy. For some reason my cynicism went into overdrive at that moment and I made sure the rest of the video was as unflattering as I could make it. I did however get a name-check in one of the big New York tabloids who dispatched a junior factotum to immortalize the event on page 72 opposite the ads from Waldbaum's.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

 

Short Shrift Saturday

I'm rather pooped out from all of the infighting this week, so today's going to be a short post. Album du jour is "Dark Matter" by IQ, a nice little neo-prog effort. Pretty depressing story line, but the music is rather cool. Lots of Pink Floyd-ish bits, at a tempo that's a bit more exciting than the languidness preferred by Messrs. Gilmour, Waters et al. and some cool bits that remind me of early King Crimson (I'd swear they used the same Mellotron sound as on "Court Of The Crimson King"). There are bits evocative of ELP and Asia as well on this.

Briefly, we note the passing this week of Spencer Dryden, of the Jefferson Airplane and New Riders Of The Purple Sage. Dryden took over the Airplane's drum throne from the late Skip Spence, and once fired, was asked to remain briefly to help with transitioning new drummer Joey Covington into the band. Dryden refused. Dryden was also known for his role in the ongoing game of musical bedrooms played by the Airplane. Read "Got A Revolution" for some of the more salacious details if you must.

Friday, January 14, 2005

 

Consulting

Reading Kim DuToit the other day, he had this commentary about his management consultancy and some of the trials and tribulations that arise as a result of being a small shop providing real value to a Very Large Client. I completely empathize with him, as I did the same gig, running my own shop for six years, and as soon as the opportunity presented itself, I ditched the alleged benefits of entrepreneurship for the alleged security and opportunity of working for a very large, well-known management consultancy. I was continually fed up with the constant chasing after money owed you for ages (I well remember subcontracting for a low-rent outfit on a job at a major Wall Street firm; the low-rent outfit was taking forever to pay me and I was running into cash-flow issues, and the only response from them was "You'll get paid when we get paid". After a couple of months of this I said angrily, "You've got an ironclad receivable from Large Wall Street Firm. Take it to a goddam factor if you have to but get me my money or I walk on Friday". I got a token progress payment late Thursday evening....). The nickel and diming that went on was unbelievable. I made the mistake of running a VAR operation as part of the business for a while, and a private asset management firm that was a client gave me constant grief on what I charged them for hardware. It got down to fighting over a literally couple of dollars on the cost of monitors. I showed them the Merisel catalog and they could see the pittance I was making on the hardware, and they basically told me that if I wanted the higher margin business from them (even though we were a three-person shop) I had to bend over on the monitors. I did so, and the next morning, arriving at the office, I noticed one of the principals in the firm pull up in a new Testarossa. I sat there fuming the entire morning that the hundred bucks or so they'd shaved off their invoice through hardball tactics was probably sitting in the Ferrari's oilpan...

The instant the legal types get involved with any consulting agreement there are huge chasms opened that immediately put the parties into an adversarial relationship. One of the classic tactics taken by the client is to demand liquidated damages be written into the contract, not hugely unreasonable in most cases, depending on the exposure, but in other cases, especially with large financial systems that interface with the marketplace, the potential exposure can be astronomical for the consultancy, and as such, they will either defer entering into a final agreement and start the work anyway, or implement a risk management regimen so restrictive and so argumentative that it will place a huge burden on the engagement team before any real work is done. This problem is usually compounded exponentially by the perpetual conflict between the client's desire for a fixed price engagement, and the consultancy's insistence on T&M. Usually, there is some compromise in the form of professional day billing, but being brutally honest about it, most large consultancies are notorious for underestimating the effort involved in a project (at least as far as what the client hears; I've been party to any number of internal discussions where for example, we would say it would take 24 man-months to do something, and the sales guys were insisting that we bring it down to 18 man-months to meet the client's price point). This inherently leads to "Work Late, Bill Eight", and given the unrealistic productivity targets assigned to many consultants, leads to a disaffected team that is liable to defections at any moment.

The problem of course is hugely magnified when a project is part of an overall program, and centralized decisions and standards are being applied to something that may just be a one-off. It's bloody well impossible to apply Six Sigma standards to something that is not productized, although perhaps individual components may be. While over the long term, statistics and metrics prove valuable and might even provide some targets to achieve, sometimes there's just no substitute for someone sitting there and manually verifying all of the work that's done. The trader who picks up his auto-ringdown damn well better get the broker-dealer on the other end, and he won't give a crap if someone screwed up a cross-connect or whether it wasn't verified by the person checking the turret when it was programmed. He's the profit center, and he's going to scream bloody murder. ISO 900x be damned, it better be right the first time. Squawking about metrics isn't going to replace good old fashioned due diligence. Unfortunately that means checking the checklist over and over again until just before go-live, and that's an expensive proposition, one that Sanjay and Apu can't do remotely from Bangalore. But it still doesn't mean that the consultants are necessarily going to get paid in full or on time for all of the over and above stuff that gets done. Clients know they're in the driver's seat, and unless you're talking C-level dealings (and even in that case that won't necessarily help, for example, the CEO of Colditz cordially hates Respected Employer as an entity) there won't be any easing of consultant-client tensions. And unfortunately due to shareholder pressures, that means contracts will be written to squeeze consultants, and Accounts Payable will have a labyrinthine maze of approvals designed to put anyone's 30/60/90/+ receivables schedule into the toilet.

And the hilarious thing is that consulting firms end up using their consultants as credit departments. I well remember being pulled into an AR situation, where I'd sold a very minor gig to Colditz (this was years ago, long before The Program From Hell) with only one consultant (not moi being staffed). Unfortunately, a third party was involved, as the specific project was really nothing more than a staff augmentation for something the third party was doing. I sent the young man downtown, and he did his work happily and productively, and I'd heard no more about the matter for months. All of a sudden I get a nastygram from AR where the invoices hadn't been paid for the project, and would I please collect from them. Not being Dun & Bradstreet (and believe me, Colditz and the third party are huge, NYSE-listed firms in very good financial condition, with huge bureaucracies) I waded into trying to resolve the situation, where I had two huge firms pointing fingers at each other saying "Invoice them!" (meaning the other firm, of course). It took several months to resolve, but after a while the check for the young man's first month's work came in. Twelve months after he started. It was several months before they were current (it ended up that the third party paid, rather than Colditz). Despite pointing out that I'm involved in client service, the AR department utterly didn't care and didn't want to do its own due diligence to track down its money.

On the more immediate front, we tracked down an SME in the technology we're looking at for Esteemed Client, and he said, well, yes, on paper it'll work. It's a complete contravention of the vendor's ideas and certified means of using said technologies, but it'll work. On paper. And that assumes that Esteemed Client can change its business processes (fat chance!) to make sure that certain long-running events don't get kicked off at inconvenient times. Sales Guy might just be thrilled. I still don't think it'll work from a practical perspective, and on top of it all, I have to play some games with load balancers and DNS that I really didn't want to get into, at least at this point. Sigh.....

Thursday, January 13, 2005

 

Some Fashion Advice For Prince Harry

You can find a real, honest-to-goodness Afrika Korps reproduction here.

Then again, if you were looking for the real shock value, you should've ordered this lovely ensemble.

And of course, to bring back the good old days with your cousins, this smart outfit is just the thing.

I come from a long line of tailors, so I know nice needlework when I see it.

</Sarcasm>

 

Glass Harp "Strings Attached"

For some reason, I'm compelled to note that Sophie Tucker was born on this day in 1884. One of my favorite American groups (you do get that joke, I hope...)



Also posted on Blogcritics:

Other than a certain legendary power trio that will be reuniting shortly, I've always had a huge affection for the legendary Glass Harp. I first made their acquaintance through a Guitar Player interview with Phil Keaggy sometime in the 70s, and was completely wowed when I heard their eponymous first album, with essential tracks such as "Changes" and "Look In The Sky". Glass Harp's original studio canon is difficult to find on CD, commanding premium prices for out-of-print copies. Glass Harp's members have occasionally reunited over the years for various benefit performances, and even mini-tours, and it's obvious listening to its new recordings such as Hourglass and Stark Raving Jams that the fire and passion are still there. However, Glass Harp is a band best heard live, and this album presents them wonderfully in not only a power trio context, but with horns and a full orchestra backing them as well, wonderfully filling out their sound.

Glass Harp's other live recording "Live At Carnegie Hall" is a great historical document of the band during its peak of success, however, like many live recordings of that vintage, the sonics and production don't showcase the band at their best, even though their chops are phenomenal. The Carnegie Hall show features the group's best-known songs, the aforementioned "Changes" and "Look In The Sky", "Do Lord", "Can You See Me", and "Never Is A Long Time". Since Glass Harp was the opening act for the Kinks that evening, they didn't have a chance to really stretch out the way they do on this set, recorded in 2000.

One thing I really love about Phil Keaggy's playing is his very subtle chord and picking style that avoids power trio cliches. He's one of the few players who uses volume swells really effectively (think along the lines of Duane, or Roy Buchanan). Phil's tone is so distinctive, it's hard to even describe, a soft overdriven creamy tone that breaks into warm distortion in swells. It's as distinctive as Santana's, without the brittleness. Some very cool EBow-ing and cool Beatle-esque chords on "Inseparable", as well. "David & Goliath" is a cool instrumental that's sort of an extension of Keaggy's "The Wind And The Wheat" themes and sound into a power trio format.

Naturally, the highlights of this double set include the aforementioned Glass Harp classics, as well as "John The Revelator", from Keaggy's Crimson and Blue album. "John The Revelator" is highly evocative of Cream on this set. It's an interesting contrast with Gov't Mule's version on The Deepest End, which is more of a New Orleans horn band arrangement (Hmm, Keaggy jamming with Warren Haynes, now that's something I'd like to see). Propers should also go to John Sferra and Daniel Pecchio, who form a great rhythm section which sometimes gets a tiny bit overlooked in the attention focused on guitar hero Keaggy. Indeed, Sferra and Pecchio are writers or co-writers of most of Glass Harp's classic originals.

The sonics and recording are quite good for a live recording, and it's a great listen.



Wednesday, January 12, 2005

 

Los Tiempos De Mierda

Instapundit found this interesting tidbit about the Sulzberger Entity's outlook from Business Week. Money quotes:
Advertising accounts for almost all of the digital operation's revenues, but disagreement rages within the company over whether NYTimes.com should emulate The Wall Street Journal and begin charging a subscription fee. Undoubtedly, many of the site's 18 million unique monthly visitors would flee if hit with a $39.95 or even a $9.95 monthly charge. One camp within the NYT Co. argues that such a massive loss of Web traffic would cost the Times dearly in the long run, both by shrinking the audience for its journalism and by depriving it of untold millions in ad revenue. The counterargument is that the Times would more than make up for lost ad dollars by boosting circulation revenue -- both from online fees and new print subscriptions paid for by people who now read for free on the Web.

It utterly galls me to pay for the dead tree edition, although as I've noted occasionally I do pick it up at the train station in the AM if the Journal isn't there yet (occasionally, I notice that the coffee concessionaires bring coffee out to the train crew at one particular stop, I'm wondering if I could prevail upon the crew to ask if they could bring a Journal out; wishful thinking, I know). I usually read the Sulzberger Entity online over morning coffee, or if circumstances don't permit, I wait until someone discards it on the outbound train and peruse it then. The reason I'm loathe to pay for it is obvious, given their bias and snootiness, but I suppose that they are entitled to some revenue. However, I'm not about to spring for a web subscription. No way. I don't do it for the Journal, a paper which I actually find useful and aligned with my opinions, and I'm certainly not about to do it for the Times.

The Times is dreadfully out of touch with its native environment. One look at its long-standing multimedia exercise will tell you that. The Times has owned WQXR since time immemorial and if you happen to be an opera fan, you're in luck. However, there are lots of classical fans who don't like opera (if I happen to hear it come on in any context I'll ask why they're playing the Luftwaffe Serenade?) Unsurprisingly I have very catholic (notice the lower-case 'c', not meaning the religion) tastes in classical music, Bach and Mozart being my preferred listening, although I've got soft spots for Handel, Vivaldi and Telemann. The problem with WQXR is that it's geared toward an aging audience who likes a very familiar set list ("La Boheme" is too much of a drag for me, thank you), and it's sound is awful, sort of like listening to a Dolby-encoded cassette with the Dolby circuit disengaged. There are plenty of exciting classical pieces out there that a good program director could sequence to actually interest people, but unfortunately the Times is only interested in establishing its pretentiousness through demonstrating its cultural superiority.

The Times' local coverage is spotty if anything happens outside its zone of comfort (meaning anywhere between the Battery and 96th Street). If some major event happens out in Bridge and Tunnel Land guaranteed the Times' story will be constructed in such a way as to allow the dazzling urbanites to understand what we the profanum vulgus do with our pitiful bungalows and non-enriching children's activities; while delivering nothing but contempt for those of us who merely use Manhattan as a place to work. Needless to say, the Times sells poorly in outlying areas, perhaps only increasing a bit on Sundays (the only things I consistently enjoy out of that paper being Safire's "On Language" column, a must-read, and of course the crossword puzzle, which has been devilishly tough lately). I don't suppose that anything will help the Times increase its share against the other tabloids in the area, which is a darned shame. The biggest problem I have with the tabloids is that while I generally agree with them editorially, the writing stinks. Oh, there are the occasionally reprints of glorious writers such as Victor Davis Hanson, but the vast majority is simply dull recitations, and call me an intellectual snob, I like the way people like Buckley and Safire write. In it's own way it's inspired me (although I wouldn't dare to compare myself to these gentlemen).

The advertising is of course an interesting indicator of how the newspaper is doing. If one eliminates the fungible ads (in other words, those that are duplicated or interchangeable between the papers, say things like cell phone ads from the major carriers) one notices an interesting dynamic in the ads. The Times' ads tend to be from high-end emporia, places like Bloomingdales and Fortunoff's (along with some declasse high class emporia such as Macy's and Lord & Taylor, even though they've committed the unpardonable sins of establishing beachheads in Bridge and Tunnel Land). Said emporia don't necessarily cater to we the profanum vulgus. Something which I find extremely funny, as I remember Fortunoff's original store on Livonia Avenue in Brooklyn (a neighborhood that is decidedly dicey now and was very iffy back then), and still think of them as nothing more than a glorified lamp seller. Lots of high-end ads for the carriage trade, but as anyone can tell you, depending on the carriage trade for your business can be a dicey model (it works OK for Nieman Marcus, but look at FAO Schwarz).

As to whether the Times survives in its online edition, I don't know. I can put up with a few pop-up ads (that's what Pop-Up Stopper is for, and if they do a redirect here, or some Flash thingie there, I suppose I can get around it) to read the Entity. It's simply a case of knowing the enemy. I should note that I make a point of reading the Editorial / Op-Ed page thoroughly, for as infuriating as it is, Krugman, Dowd and Friedman et al need to be read so that their nonsense can quickly be refuted before it becomes a gospel.

I can imagine the headline though, "Times Discontinues Online Edition; Women, Minorities Most Affected, Along With Cheapskate Conservative Bloggers"

The aggro quotient increases rapidly today. Updates later.....

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

 

Tout le merde en meine gescheft


I ended up scrapping this morning's post as the phone started ringing very early on, and needless to say the client and the sales guys are engaged in a vicious round of finger pointing over the fact that what they want to do simply won't work. Now, I can bring a boatload of resources to almost any project, some of which even know what they're doing, but in this case resources who understand the internals of the beast we're trying to tame just aren't there. They've either fled for greener pastures or been replaced by guys named Sanjay who understand the lower levels of the technology stack and can't articulate anything beyond the config file parameters. Me, I'm not an SME in this particular solution, I know parts of it very well, but I wouldn't call myself the go-to guy on how to make this thing do stuff it was never designed to.

Needless to say when the shit hit the fan, the Blessed Sacrament needed to be performed. You got it, conference call. I've basically been on the phone doing my best motorboat imitation (But, but, but) while the Sales Guy tries to cover for his egregious promises to the client. Needless to say, even though I've done my part toward keeping this thing as inexpensive as possible (unless you count a couple of Macallans at the hotel bar), everyone is all hot and bothered by the simple fact It Won't Work. Problem here is a sense of proportion. If a $20M ERP installation goes south, that's something to get aggravated over. What this thing is, is a proof-of-concept. Funding was practically non-existent. Basically, all you had money for was a smoke test (in other words turn everything on and if smoke doesn't come out, you declare a huge victory; if it fails, well, back to the old drawing board).

Err, oh yeah. Marvin's image is used courtesy of Warner Brothers, and all copyrights are the property of their respective holders. Thank you, JL.....

Monday, January 10, 2005

 

I've had great success being a total idiot

On the minor good news front, we've gotten the OK to work from home this week in lieu of on-site. Sales guys and various other lower forms of life are having a meeting to decide how to proceed given the fact that things likely won't work (hey, it isn't our fault, there's a vendor finger-pointing situation here. Not to mention that this is a really, and I mean really low priority for Esteemed Client).

Could be worse, as I could be entrapped into a long-term gig in the heartland. Not that the heartland is a bad place at all, but not knowing whether the client will agree to a 3-4-5 schedule (3 nights, 4 days on-site, 5th day at home) leads me to visions of late flights home on Friday, (with plane changes, yet) or worse and not getting home until well after everyone's gone to bed. Not acceptable.

We shall see if the aggro level rises tomorrow..

On the G.A.S. front, a bit of research has shown that the best price on a Gretsch 6122SP is available from a fine dealer in the upper Midwest (I bought my Gretsch 6119-62HT from this very dealer). I played one of these wonderful axes over Christmas week and fell for it, but as fine as the shop I tried it out in is, they're $200 over the Midwest dealer's price, not to mention the sales tax. Even with shipping it comes out to well over a $200 savings, and unless they're willing to accept an e-mailed price (not bloody likely) it doesn't seem as if I'd go with them, unless there was a (ahem) logistics question (read as sneaking the new toy into the house).

Sunday, January 09, 2005

 

Glass Hammer - "Lex Live"

As I've noted before there are some incredible chops on this DVD, yet it seems in many ways a pastiche of Yes, ELP, with touches even of Dream Theater and Renaissance. Many of the songs echo Yes a bit too much, to the point where I could've sworn I heard parts of "Heart Of The Sunrise" and "Close To The Edge". Keyboardist and auteur Fred Schendel effectively channels both Wakeman and Emerson, to the point of using every one of his keyboards with four different patches during each song. Schendel also does a Steve Howe-ism, playing lap steel on "Chronos Deliverer" (which actually works the best out of the songs on the DVD, IMSHO). Guitarist Walter Moore and bassist Steve Babb switch to keys for this song and guest guitarist/bassist Eric Parker takes over on bass. The steel works very well in the context of this song, and the more consistent approach to keys makes it more pleasurable to listen to, instead of trying to get every sound possible out of the rigs. The singers are treated better on "Chronos" as well, being a touch more prominent in the mix. I especially like Susie Bogdanowicz and Bethany Warren's voices on the entire DVD, however, the mix doesn't showcase them adequately for the most part.

Walter Moore's a good guitarist, channeling both Steve Howe and John Petrucci on the performance, a bit too effect-driven sometimes. Steve Babb's bass playing likewise channels Squire and Lake a bit, but he's got a crisp tone and drives the songs nicely. The big problem here is most of the songs, which have typical pretentious pseudo-Tolkein themes, just aren't memorable at least on the basis of a couple of listens. There isn't a hook in any of these. A lot of these songs have the assembled composition feel of Yes, lots of little pieces put together into one big piece, and some vague theme. It's a great excuse for showing off instrumental chops (and there's a nifty homage to The Nice's "Rondo" in "When We Were Young").

The show has some minor video issues, mostly with long shots from an audience-based camera. Most of the show is shot as closeups of the instrumentalists, which of course is my favorite type of concert DVD. It's definitely a musician's show, but it won't convert the uninitiated.

Extras include interminable footage of the band rehearsing in a hotel in preparation for a gig at NEARFest, plus a bit of recording footage. The main show on this DVD was filmed at Rhythm and Brews in Chattanooga.

There's actually quite a bit of good material here, and the show improves dramatically toward the end, "Heaven" being a major epic with a dramatic finish. I suppose it warrants digging a bit into the catalog a bit to see where they're coming from (the albums providing the source material for the show are "Lex Rex", "Chronometree" and "Perelandra". The thing that pleases me most about this is that there is indeed a sense of melody at work here, far more so than the annoying Dream Theater Budokan set list. Perhaps this will grow on me, but on first intense viewing, the bottom line is that the pastiche aspect comes through a bit too much for me to be a huge fan of it. Not to say that a pastiche can't be majorly grooving ("Lies" by The Knickerbockers, anyone?)......

Saturday, January 08, 2005

 

A cynic is a man who, when he smells flowers, looks around for a coffin

Finally home, and thoroughly ticked. Needless to say The Sales Guy and his cohort called at late afternoon meeting on Friday, pestered the hell out of me, and then called me on my cell phone as I was trying to resolve a minor personal emergency (it was resolved, thank you) trying to impart his alleged wisdom into how we're going to manage our relationship with Esteemed Client (Respected Employer has screwed up an eight figure project with this client already. my project is three orders of magnitude smaller and is utterly inconsequential in that it doesn't touch anything related to production, or test/dev other than needing to use some LoadRunner licenses for a day or so). And you know what really ticked me off? These guys started bragging about their golf games and how they got to take various clients to some very well-known courses courtesy of our sales budget. Me, my handicap is a phone number, and I got out on the golf course once this year. These clods couldn't manage a relationship effectively and they get rewarded. Paging Laurence J. Peter....

Minor but costly annoyance, as when I got home I flipped on the High Altar and suddenly found a black screen. I quickly plugged in a monitor from one of the other computers here and saw that everything was copacetic with the box, but needless to say I had to make a quick and expensive trip to Local Retailer to alleviate that symptom. I'm more than a bit pissed that a flat panel monitor that was all of two years old gave up the ghost (of course it's out of warranty), but the new one is a bit bigger and cost less than the first one. Least it could've done was to fail before New Years so I could've taken the tax deduction for it....

Next annoyance concerns insurance. Young'un needed a scrip for a skin condition. Doc prescribes something, wife goes to fill it, and because they hadn't sent us the new privacy-enhanced cards it didn't go through. Wife asks what it would cost out of pocket. Local pharmacist quotes a price somewhere in the general region of what the Apollo 9 mission cost. Called prescription provider to get privacy-enhanced information that should've been here last month, and when we return to the pharmacy we find that the co-pay is around $100. Fuck formularies. I should note that my last year's medical/prescription coverage was eliminated by Respected Employer because it "wasn't making targets" (the same reason we don't get compensation adjustments or bonuses because of Arthur Anderson-style accounting) and the only plan Respected Employer offers with any sort of applicability to a family (unless you're willing to live with an HMO) is about twice the cost. I shudder to think what COBRA for this plan would be.

Since things'll be quiet tomorrow around here, I'll finally be able to finish Lex Live and write it up.

Friday, January 07, 2005

 

Frogistan and Sulzbergeristan

Previously this week in the flying pigs department, I noted the Sulzberger Entity actually posted an op-ed from a National Review contributor on why France isn't necessarily a friend of the US. Unbelievable, in that they'd actually post an opinion that condemned La Belle Republique (spit, feh), but welcome. As I predicted, the readership would eventually comment on same, and sure enough it came today.

A lady from Manhattan writes:

America should be less worried by France than by the voices trying to discredit an ally and undermine a partnership that has served us well for centuries (while it has admittedly suffered some tensions).


In his day, Charles de Gaulle might have seemed like a bit of a curmudgeon, but he was a loyal friend, offering Washington unconditional support, notably during the Cuban missile crisis, and keeping Communism in check in Western Europe.


Mr. Miller fails to grasp our national interest: in today's world, America cannot afford to go it alone, and we can no longer assure our security solely with a strong military. We need allies to defeat Al Qaeda and to prevent nuclear terrorism. And let us not forget that France is one of the leading foreign investors in the United States.


For a lady with an obviously Jewish name, she forgot that little bit that de Gaulle pulled in the Mideast. Mirages, Ben Bella, you know, stuff like that. Communism in check? Hello, do the names Adenauer and Brandt ring a bell? Leading foreign investors? OK, AXA, and then what, BNP Paribas, Credit Lyonnaise, Credit Agricole? Lots of leading lights in finance there. AXA's the only solid one among them.

A guy with an obviously French name writes the following:

Charles de Gaulle merely understood that America is bound to defend France and that much power and influence in the world can be gained by opposing some of its policies.

Perhaps America is not viewed by France as a threat. Perhaps it is viewed as an opportunity.


Some truth in his statements.

An American professor in a European university writes:
In 1964, the French Gaullists told us to get out of Vietnam.
In 1995, they told us to fish or cut bait in Bosnia.
In 2002 and 2003, they told us that invading Iraq was unnecessary and counterproductive.
If the Gaullists seek only to undermine the United States, why have they given us such good advice?

Uh yeah. See my comments about Algeria and Ben Bella. If the French had seen which way the wind was blowing in Indochina, they could've co-opted Ho Chi Minh and made sure the place transitioned smoothly, more along the lines of India. And of course, the French are the ones who popularized bringing in gastarbeiter from countries much less placid than the normal sources.

Someone who's obviously from the Upper West Side writes:
The pleasure that John J. Miller (Op-Ed, Jan. 3) and others take in mining the historical record with an eye to discrediting our critics (here, the French, but elsewhere, the United Nations and so on) - but not their criticisms - is proportional to the likelihood that our critics' criticisms are valid.

There's no schadenfreude at work in Mr. Miller's piece, far from it. It's merely as the writer says, an examination of the history at work here. The criticisms as he puts it, are the expression of frustration and jealousy that the have-nots have against the US, and the writer's liberal guilt (while undoubtedly residing in a luxurious flat with a doorman and other forms of conciergerie) at being privileged is assuaged only by bashing the country that made it possible for him to be a success. Lots more classism at work in his beloved European countries.

Here's an interesting comment:

As a French citizen and a permanent resident of the United States, I do not think that the root of the problem is Gaullism. Rather, it is the fact that France is a very different country from the United States, with a sizable Muslim minority.


French government support of President Bush's policies in Iraq would inflame French Muslims. France's criticisms of the Bush administration have little to do with Gaullism and much to do with a pervasive fear that the ill-justified, botched Iraq war is a time bomb that could explode on French soil.


She's right in one way, that France does have a Muslim time bomb. Gaullism only encouraged that time bomb. And the adjectives about the war reveal her true agenda.

 

Grrrrrrrrrrrrr..........

The week finally approaching a deserved end, I'm taking my leave of Esteemed Client until Tuesday AM, as we need some vendor support to try and kludge around some of the problems we have. Needless to say The Sales Guy is insisting on a meeting at 3pm today to give His Exaltedness a Status Update (which if he hadn't farked up the account in the first place and was so sensitive to anything happening there wouldn't be required). Esteemed Client as I've noted isn't terribly bad, just they've got their own fires to fight and my project, which to be brutally honest about it would probably've never happened if it weren't for The Sales Guy mutching the client constantly, is a really low priority with them. However, a buzzword's involved, so The Sales Guy must push his Assigned Solution Set (an acronym that fits perfectly). A year or so ago, there was another Sales Guy who popped up into my normally uneventful life (ha!) and wanted to push Linux and another buzzword to Seriously Big Investment Bank, where I happened to have some minor connections. This guy (actually, for a Sales Guy, not a bad sort) kept referring in meetings to the "sitch" at the prospective client, and after a while I had visions of Dune dancing in my head (yeah I know about the missing 'e', but this guy was clueless and I needed some diversion to the incessant drone).

I have mentioned I hate business travel. It seems that my preferred lodging establishment when visiting Esteemed Client is no longer preferred by Respected Employer, forcing me to either lodge in another Chain Hotel nearby of lesser quality, or drive 15 or so miles to a place of sufficient quality. I'm firmly of the belief that if you've got to send your staff traveling, let them stay at very nice places and don't nickel and dime them. The idiots who send the road warriors off don't worry about things like strains on family life and homesickness, much less making it comfortable for the traveler. And then of course, it's a very good idea on the part of these betriebsverwalters to send people traveling in the height of cold and flu season, make sure they've got a hacking cough when they get home so as to keep them from actually hugging their loved ones.

I'll finally post a Glass Hammer review tomorrow. I'm too pissed today.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

 

Did Edison Have Moments Like This?

It ain't gonna work.

Interesting concept for the project I'm working on here, except for one tiny problem. Some parts of the technology stack aren't designed for what we're trying to do here. Without going into a huge amount of detail, a transaction manager (I wouldn't dare call it a TP monitor) is the sticking point. No easy clean way to make it handle emerging business requirements with all of the distributed features the biz wants. However, the idiot sales guys merely think this is a single-tier issue (it most certainly isn't, as there are at least three tiers of this application impacted by this transaction manager) and they decided to sell it using a buzzword du jour, we've got to come up with some way to make it happen. One of the vendors involved has one tier with the necessary functionality, but that rev of the tier doesn't officially support some of the technologies involved. Since there's a multi-vendor situation here, finger-pointing is sure to ensue. Gut check is to say, it isn't going to work, leave the buzzword technology alone until every party involved is ready to support it. Sales guys aren't going to like it. We could put hundreds of hours into an integration effort just to test for a proof of concept, but there's no guarantee everything will work. And I don't have hundreds of hours worth of budget.

Common sense dictates a hasty retreat. Conference call with Sales Idiots tomorrow. Let them make the call on how to proceed. Then again, if I told these guys they needed to instantiate a veeblefetzer on the box, they'd sell it.

Probably no post until Friday AM, as I'll be heading home tomorrow evening.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

 

A Quick One While He's Away

I seriously hate being on the road.

This hotel's Internet connection alternates between unbelievably slow and merely painful, although about once an hour it actually becomes usable. It's an 802.11b connection, not terribly fast but then again, I'm only just checking mail and posting quickly from here, so I can live with it for a couple of days. This is about the fourth time that I've tried this since knocking off work, and this is only the first time I've actually gotten to the posting page on Blogger. I've no idea if Blogspot's been having issues today, I haven't checked the site logs yet. Slightly annoying is that even though I enabled authentication based on my MAC addy on this cockamamie gateway for the few days I'm here, it just wants to keep reauthenticating me through the intercept page.

Hotel seems to be a bit quieter than the other one, although not quite as nice. Room's OK, but small.

Kept myself amused before dinner by watching "Team America" on the pay per view. Good stuff, although not always on the mark; sometimes the cheap shot jokes just misfired, but I guess it's the South Park humor. The homage to the Thunderbirds was indeed palpable, the scenes of Team America relaxing in luxury before and after missions drawing a big laugh from me, and Spottswoode (sp?) was a dead-on goof on Jeff Tracy.

Dinner was at a National Casual Dining Chain. Amazingly, the service was excellent. The expense gnomes should be happy, as it wasn't even that expensive. Selected only because of its proximity. I'm beat and I don't feel like driving all over the map, and the dining options here are much more limited than the other hotel.

Late posting again tomorrow, as Honcho has flown in for tomorrow's meeting. I've got the Lex Live DVD with me, so perhaps I'll finish it up and do a review, otherwise it'll have to wait until Friday. Got about 40 minutes into the concert, same impression as before. Lots of Yes and ELP-inspired licks. So-so audio mix.

Monday, January 03, 2005

 

In Other News, Pigs Fly. Film at 11

There must be some serious porcine aviation happening today if one goes by the Sulzberger Entity's Op-Ed page. OK, the author is John Miller of the National Review, so of course it's my kind of op-ed, but the fact that the farking Times printed it is unbelievable. Needless to say there will be at least six letters condemning this piece as somewhere to the right of Mein Kampf within the next day or two (most signatories on said letters originating from Manhattan, but undoubtedly from a few artists' colonies as well).

Some of the juicier bits:

Mr. Chirac's diplomats even spent October lobbying unsuccessfully for Iraqi insurgent groups - the ones now killing American troops and Iraqi civilians - to be represented at the international summit in Egypt in November. It is difficult to see how French interests are furthered in any way by this behavior, unless France is understood to believe that its own aims are advanced whenever American ones are thwarted.


Dean Acheson once was asked to recommend a course of action with respect to de Gaulle. He advised an "empty chair" policy - that is, French-American relations would improve only after de Gaulle had left the scene.
....
Condoleezza Rice, now Mr. Bush's nominee for secretary of state, was quoted in 2003 as telling colleagues that the United States should "punish France." This is a tempting tactic, for it holds out the promise of vengeful satisfaction. It was also the motive behind the recent campaigns to boycott French products. Unbeknownst to most of the participants, however, the consumer strategy was tried without much success in the 1960's. In truth, Paris isn't worth a boycott.

Thinking otherwise only buys into the Gaullist claim that France should occupy a place of reverence in the community of nations. But why should its views matter any more than, say, Italy, whose population and economy are nearly the same size?
...
Moreover, making an example of the French is precisely the wrong approach because it elevates France in the eyes of the world's anti-Americans, who will always be with us. The one thing France and the neo-Gaullists can't possibly abide is being ignored. Perhaps that's punishment enough.



 

An Aphorism Or Two

The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.
- Andrew S. Tannenbaum

There are three roads to ruin; women, gambling and technicians. The most pleasant is with women, the quickest is with gambling, but the surest is with technicians.
- George Pompidou

Technology is dominated by two types of people: those who understand what they do not manage, and those who manage what they do not understand.
-Anonymous

If you have any trouble sounding condescending, find a Unix user to show you how it's done.
- Scott Adams

If computers get too powerful, we can organize them into a committee. That will do them in.
- Bradley's Bromide

There are two major products that came out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX. We don't believe this to be a coincidence.
- Jeremy S. Anderson

The last good thing written in C++ was the Pachelbel Canon.
- Jerry Olson


GARBAGE IN---GOSPEL OUT
- Fairchild Research and Development, 1969

Any science or technology which is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Any technology that is distinguishable from magic is not sufficiently advanced.
- Gregory Benford

To be a nemesis, you have to actively try to destroy something, don't you? Really, I'm not out to destroy Microsoft. That will just be a completely unintentional side effect.
- Linus Torvalds

Windows is just DOS in drag.
- Anonymous

Needless to say, the road warrior follies have begun already. Making my reservation for my road trip this week I find that Large Chain Hotel Catering To Business Travelers is no longer in policy, and the other nearby Large Chain Hotel that's within policy doesn't have any available rooms at our Special For Friends Of Mr. Rick Rate. Therefore, it's either drive 16 miles (not in Boston traffic, I'm not!) or park myself at Slightly Lower Rent Chain With Much Less Amenities Near Large Chain. Je ne suis glucklich.

Probably a very late post tomorrow.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

 

Added Steven Plaut to Blogroll

In a typically ditzy move on my part, I neglected to add Steven Plaut's blog to the blogroll until now. He's well worth your attention. Some hard-hitting stuff from his 12/30 take on the current state of Reform Judaism:

Yes, like the tired plot of a late-night science fiction movie, the Reform movement has been taken over - by those who believe religion and liberal social activism are synonyms. While not every rabbi or every member of the Reform movement has been recruited into the Political Liberalism as Judaism school, enough have, and that school's philosophy dominates the pronouncements by the official institutions of the movement as a whole.

This is the philosophy also known as Tikkun Olam Paganism, due to its compulsive misuse of the notion of "tikkun olam" by holding that all of Judaism can be reduced to the agenda of politically correct liberalism.It is a form of political fundamentalism, impervious to challenge. It believes that the best chances of survival for the eternal and timeless religion of Judaism are through repackaging it so that it can appeal to college students in Berkeley, drag queens in Provincetown, and actors in Hollywood.
....
A few years back, the Passover cause celebre of the Reform establishment was Tibet, with Tibetan officials invited to Passover seders and Jews urged to hold Tibetan "freedom seders" to show solidarity. The eleventh commandment handed down by Moses is, in their opinion, "Thou Shalt be Trendy!"

The RAC is so radical it has motivated many an observer, just a bit unfairly, in my opinion, to question whether Reform Judaism should even be regarded as a branch of Judaism, rather than a form of leftist political agitprop, little more than a sister organization of Tikkun, A.N.S.W.E.R. and MOVE ON.But the Reform establishment goes beyond PC goofiness. In recent years it has been increasingly hostile to Israel and attempts by Israel to defend itself. The CCAR is on record supporting Palestinian statehood, eviction of Jewish settlers, and a return by Israel to more or less its 1949 borders.
....
The Reform establishment has adopted the entire agenda of the American Left, down to and including bashing Israel for daring to defend itself. It is barely distinct politically from the sages of the Tikkun-Renewal cult of Michael Lerner and Arthur Waskow. It is becoming so extreme that it increasingly resembles the old anti-Israel Reform break-off group the American Council for Judaism.

The Reform establishment opposes school choice for Jews; supports every wacky idea to emerge from the most extreme environmentalist movements; and endorses affirmative action programs even if they discriminate against Jews. The number-one item on its agenda these days is gay marriage. David Saperstein's comments opposing welfare reform were so outrageous that a few years back they were cited with approval by the American Communist Party newspaper.
.....
In an era when true believers in fundamentalist liberalism are an endangered species outside of Hollywood and parts of Manhattan and Massachusetts, the Reform establishment lobbies in the name of Judaism and biblical ethics to impose its leftist political biases on all Jews and, indeed, on the entire United States. It seeks to hijack Judaism, Jewish holidays and Jewish ethical authority on behalf of any given week's leftish fads and fancies.

The time has come to get these rabbis and other Reform leaders out of our bedrooms, out of our politics, and back to their proper roles.


I would dearly love my rabbi to see this article. He's not a bad sort, just naive.

 

The Fiskies

Charles at LGF has posted nominations for Idiotarian Of The Year (AKA "Fiskies"), so I thought I'd take a crack at sorting out who I'm going to cast my vote for. The list (and of course my comments):

Dan Rather: Front-runner for his sheer venom
Kofi Annan: Look in the dictionary under gonif and you see his picture
Baghdad Bob: Merely pitiful.
Jacques Chirac: Gold standard for idiots
Michael Moore: See entry for Chirac
Ted Rall: Venomous cartoonist, but only really cared about by the WaPo types.
Bruce Springsteen: Finally letting his guilt over draft-dodging Vietnam come out in the wrong way.
Seymour Hersh: Merely an idiot
SorryEverybody.com: Where's my apology?
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero: Manuel Tijuana Guadalajara Tampico Gomez, Juuunior. Also spelled N-E-V-I-L-L-E C-H-A-M-B-E-R-L-A-I-N
Al Gore: Perennial favorite idiot.
Markos Zuniga (Daily Kos): I wouldn't waste bandwidth checking this idiot out.
Maureen Dowd: Sulzberger entity tool. Need I say more?
Barbra Streisand: Should win a Lifetime Idiot Achievement Award
George Soros: That little party in central Europe in the 40s didn't really make an impression on you, didn't it George?
John Pilger: Non-entity
The Dixie Chicks: Even John Lennon started getting a clue before he died (read the Playboy interview for his favorable comments about conservatives handling money)
Noam Chomsky: Another perennial favorite. What the hell does a half-assed philologist know about geopolitics?
Jeanine Garofalo: Spectacularly unfunny.
Sean Penn: Spectacularly untalented. The name "Lord Haw-Haw" comes to mind
Linda Ronstadt: Hasn't done a record worth talking about in 30 years. Needs attention desperately
Chris Matthews: Unimportant
Al Franken: He wasn't funny on Saturday Night Live either
Mary Mapes: Irrelevant
Howard Dean: AARGH!
Democratic Underground: Reading this is like reading back issues of the Daily Worker
Ted Kennedy: Another Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Special prize of a week at the Betty Ford Clinic for the old geezer
Ramsey Clarke: The Mouth That Roared. Attention Whore. Makes Jimmy Carter look good.
Hans Blix: Combination of the Cliveden Set and Charles Lindbergh ca. 1940
Barbara Plett: Irrelevant
Keith Olbermann: Irrelevant
The Guardian: Automated translation of Al-Jazeera on editorial page
Lawrence O'Donnell : Irrelevant
Mark Morford: Irrelevant
Prof. Robert Jensen: Academic. Automatically irrelevant

So, who would be my top 10 idiots of the year? Rather, Moore, Annan, Chirac, Blix, Clarke, Zapatero, Streisand, Penn, and Chomsky. Much as I'd like to get Ted Kennedy into my top 10 list, it's a given that he'd be there by virtue of his makeup and genetics, so in all fairness to the other idiots out there, I'll refrain from putting the senior senator from Massachusetts into the top 10 of any annual idiot listing.

Picking a winner from this lovely list is a matter that takes the knowledge, taste and subtlety of a Bert Parks. Clarke is another perennial here, but since he seems to have channeled the shade of Joe Kennedy, it's hard to DQ him. Penn and Streisand being mere entertainment industry whores are probably the easiest to eliminate (and my intense personal dislike of anything Streisand makes it only fair to eliminate what should be an objective measure of performance metrics). Zapatero is probably just a reflection of Eurowussiness, not that excuses him, but he's more a symptom than a root cause. Chomsky is a mere kvetch (and the fact that he's a self-hating Jew earns my undying contempt, but the same way a shark knows only to hunt prey and make little sharks, Chomsky only knows to make idiotic pronouncements). The UN clods are idiots par excellence, trying to suborn our sovereignty, so they remain in the running. Moore and Rather's sins are well known. Chirac, well, delusions of suzerainty induced by excessive worship of DeGaulle, and sucking in anti-Semitism with his mother's mik, tough one to drop.

Were it possible to have a ten-way tie, I'd humbly suggest it, but obviously not possible, and of course, since I neither live in Chicago nor am registered as a Democrat, multiple votes aren't possible. As much as Rather's actions are galling, her's merely an entertainer in the same vein as Streisand et al, so I suppose he could be put into the also-ran file. Now that we're down to the UN thieves and Chirac makes a much tougher choice for me, but thinking about it, Blix is merely Mr. Magoo, and Annan is but the latest example of how a petty bureaucrat will steal given the opportunity. I suppose Chirac will get my vote.

Too bad the contest is for Idiotarian Of The Year, as I have several write-in candidates if it was merely the more general case of Idiot Of The Year.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Technorati search