Browse Month: May 2006

05/26/2006

I’m creating a flyer for an ultimate league, and went to my trusty graphics companion software, the GIMP. When I chose “Create New Image” and looked at the list of template documents, I realized one of the options is Toilet Paper (US, 300dpi) which struck me as extremely funny.

First, what kind of person would design a document to be printed on toilet paper (and how the heck do you feed that into your printer, anyway)?

And second, this is apparently the US format of toilet paper– does that mean other countries have other standard sizes? I had no idea.

05/23/2006

Yesterday President Bush was in Chicago speaking about (surprise!) immigration and (even more surprise!) the “war on terror”, and he said this:

I am going to continue to remind our hemisphere that respect for property rights and human rights is essential for all countries in order for there to be prosperity and peace. I’m going to remind our allies and friends in the neighborhood that the United States of America stands for justice. I want to remind people that the United States stands against corruption at all levels of government, that the United States is transparent. The United States expects the same from other countries in the neighborhood, and we’ll work toward them.

Thank you very much. I’m concerned — let me just put it bluntly — I’m concerned about the erosion of democracy in the countries you mentioned.

Wow, you can just smell the irony dripping from his lips, can’t you? He speaks of property rights (hello, eminent domain!) and human rights (hello, rendition and waterboarding!), goes on to recall justice (hello, PATRIOT Act, goodbye habeus corpus!) and “transparency” (hello, state secrets!), and finally ends with concern about the erosion of democracy (hello, PATRIOT Act again!).

Do people really believe anything he says any more? In my mind, the United States has lost so much face with the international community that for us to stand up and preach to other countries about democracy and justice and human rights is not only ironic, but insulting.

05/20/2006

From today’s Washington Post (emphasis mine):

At the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing Thursday on Gen. Michael V. Hayden’s nomination to head the CIA, Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked the nominee a simple question: Is “waterboarding” an acceptable interrogation technique? Gen. Hayden responded: “Let me defer that to closed session, and I would be happy to discuss it in some detail.” That was the wrong answer. The right one would have been simple: No. Last year Congress banned cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of detainees; one of its explicit aims was to stop the CIA’s use of waterboarding, which induces an excruciating sensation of drowning and is considered by most human rights organizations to constitute torture. So why couldn’t Gen. Hayden say clearly that the technique is now off-limits?

It just gets worse and worse. Why is the Bush administration so afraid of the truth?

05/19/2006

“Okay, maybe I’ll take a break from writing about politics and write about something more fun next time. Like puppies.”

— Moby

05/18/2006

“There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals. When there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

— Ayn Rand

05/16/2006

Below is an awesome (real) sign from someone’s Flickr photoset. There was a contest on Fark to caption it, and some of the results were riotous.

Don’t transport pebbles in your mouth; you could sink the boat.

When that rolling tire slams you into the rail, you’ll surely blow chunks.

No running on the deck! We have determined the precise “ball racking” height of the guardrails.

Danger! Do not run into groin-level railing when escaping.

Be careful not to bump your head on minor constellations.

05/16/2006

Here’s an awesome shot of the International Space Station:

05/15/2006

According to today’s Denver Post, the city of Boulder is considering a taxpayer-funded “hate hotline”. This hotline will allow residents of Boulder to call and report racist language. Apparently they think that will put a damper on “hate speech” or something.

Yeah, so if I’m standing on the Pearl Street Mall and some guy is shouting epithets about blacks, Jews, Hindis, Republicans, short people, panhandlers, or whatever, I guess I’m supposed to whip out my cell phone and call the hotline. I’m sure it’ll stop him cold when he realizes what I’m doing. And I’m sure the police will drop everything to rush to the Mall and cuff this guy.

As David Harsanyi, the Denver Post columnist says,

The council should realize, however ugly it may be, Americans still have the constitutional right to be racist, homophobic, Jew-hating or even to make bad jokes.

Even more to the point, he goes on to say

Phillip Martinez beat up a 22-year-old African-American mechanical-engineering student named Andrew Sterling last year in Boulder. He was sentenced to the maximum of 16 years in prison. The jury wisely decided to drop “ethnic intimidation” charges.

Would a hate-line have helped Sterling? Martinez was from Lafayette, not Boulder. He was drunk. He may not have even cared that Sterling was black.

Should everyone keep the hate-line number on their cellphone speed dial from now on? And remember, only call if your attacker uses racist or insensitive language while beating you to a pulp. After all, according to hate-law advocates, it’s not genuine hate unless the perpetrator makes fun of your heritage.

I guess we’ll see how the city council vote goes tomorrow. For now, I just shake my head and wonder who comes up with this stuff.

05/13/2006

It looks like AT&T will be changing their corporate logo…

05/13/2006

In a rousing discussion on Slashdot about whether the government should be permitted to compile a DNA database of all citizens for criminal investigations, one comment caught my eye.

The problem here is that we can’t trust the government. We already know that. They said that the SSN would only be used for social security. They said that there would be no new taxes. They said that there were weapons of mass destruction. They said that eminent domain was a tool never to be used for commercial interests. They said that no citizen could be held without a right to a hearing or the ability to contact a lawyer. They said that no person’s privacy could be invaded without a warrant. They said the patriot act was only to fight terrorism. They said that they would make no law regarding the establishment of religion. They say that intrastate commerce is magically interstate commerce. I could go on for pages.

They lie. They lie all the time. They’re not lying for our benefit, either– they lie to do us harm, to hide things from us, to get certain people into office (or keep them there), they lie to take our property, our freedom, to erode our rights, and to diminish our ability to hold them accountable.

Anything you do to extend the power of the government will be misused. Anything. Our government is completely, utterly, absolutely out of control.

05/13/2006

Today’s spam message (only one!) was the usual source of “enhancement” drugs, but I thought it was interesting that the dummy text used to fool the spam filters was a little snippit from The Hobbit. To stoop so low…

05/12/2006

So just for kicks, I created a login on the RNC web site under the pretense of hosting a crazy GOP House Party. Here’s the e-mail message I received after I completed the registration:

Welcome to the GOP Team! GOP Team Members are empowered to share the Party’s message with friends, neighbors, elected officials and the media as well as garner support for candidates and the President’s and our Party’s agenda.

Stay tuned– we’ll be in touch shortly. With your help, we’ll bring new faces and new voices into the Republican Party and maintain our majority for years to come.

Awesome. I’m “empowered to share the Party’s message”.

For some reason, though, seeing Party capitalized like that makes me think of the Communist Party, and suddenly I feel like I’m the propaganda minister for Red China or something. Now I have to go wash my hands.

05/12/2006

Hey kids, if you’re bored this weekend, why not host a GOP House Party?

According to this page on the Republican National Committee’s official web site, you can quickly and easily organize a party for all of the people “who support the President and the Republican ticket”. Of course, with the latest polls showing Bush’s approval rating at 29%, and Congress sitting at a juicy 18%, it will probably be a fairly small party.

But that’s not all! If you tell the RNC about your party, you’re entered into a drawing for a Special Edition iPod. I kid you not. Here’s the shot from the web site:

05/12/2006

From a discussion on Slashdot today:

I’ve come up with a way to reduce– perhaps even eliminate– our dependence on foreign oil as an energy source. As more and more civil liberties are trampled upon, faster and faster will the Founding Fathers spin in their respective graves.

If we attach magnets to each Founding Father, then wrap copper wire around each of them, we should have a potentially unlimited energy source. Well, at least until the Libertarians get elected in significant numbers– so yeah, come to think of it, it truly is unlimited.

05/12/2006

Apple has a new set of ads comparing Windows computers to Macs. They’re quite funny, but I think the best comparison is simply in the image they use on the page. It makes a great distinction between the kinds of people who use Windows and the kinds of people who use Macs.

(I shudder to think what the Linux guy would look like, but maybe Red Hat or someone will make some ads too.)

05/11/2006

Like many people in the Denver area, I gripe about Qwest and their terrible customer service, installation hassles, and unasked-for packages on my bill. But today I can cheer for them, as it’s been revealed they were the only one of the four major telecommunications carriers who stood up to the NSA in late 2001 by refusing to hand over a database containing call records for everyone on their network.

Last December we all learned that Bush had been authorizing warrantless (ahem, illegal) wiretaps on American citizens. I’m still waiting for that story to play out in court– although most likely it won’t. At the time, he made it abundantly clear that the NSA was only investigating international calls, because everyone knows that’s where the terrorists are. I guess we were all supposed to feel better that people calling Pakistan and Afghanistan got a little extra love from the NSA, but the rest of us were free from Big Brother.

Not so. Now we learn that the NSA has been collecting call records (number called, time, and duration) for 200 million Americans since fall 2001. It’s the largest single database in the world, and they’re doing it all because they want us to be safer from terrorists. Keep in mind that domestic surveillance of this nature is almost certainly illegal, although cynics like me know the Bush administration will find some way to spin it as a legal move because the President can do whatever he wants in a “time of war”.

In any case, it turns out that when the NSA came a-knocking, three of the major phone providers– AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth– opened right up and handed over their confidential customer information. They’ve continued doing so for the past four and a half years, providing the NSA with periodic updates so the database is complete.

Well, not quite complete. Qwest told the NSA to blow it out their ears, and not to come back without a court order. The NSA made some thinly-veiled threats, waved the banner of patriotism, and invoked the tired “national security” argument… all to no avail. Qwest refused to hand over their data, and after almost three years of negotiations, finally broke off all talks with the NSA. Now, a few years after that, they remain the lone holdout.

Good for them. At least the list of the thousands of phone calls I’ve made for the past four years isn’t sitting in an NSA computer somewhere.

05/10/2006

Apparently there’s a new rage in footwear these days: Nude Sandals.

Basically, they’re nothing more than thin rubber soles that stick to the bottoms of your feet using a “special water-based adhesive”. They peel off at the end of the day (without leaving a sticky residue, thankfully) and you can stick them back on tomorrow.

I’ve never been the best-dressed guy around, and it’s well known that I spend the vast majority of my days barefoot. So it’s a bit baffling why this is so revolutionary. Why not just go barefoot in the first place? Since the sandals are essentially invisible, there’s no practical way to tell if someone is wearing them or just prancing around sans footwear.

I suppose I should be grateful, actually: if these really catch on and people start going to stores and restaurants in them, there’s no reason why I couldn’t just walk around barefoot all of the time. These days I keep my sandals in the car, just in case I need to slip them on at a store… in the new world order, I wouldn’t even need to own shoes!

05/09/2006

Here’s a hilarious shot from Flickr: the seldom-seen life of a ninja blogger.

05/09/2006

It’s not much fun to be a kid these days, particularly in Portland, Oregon. The Portland public school district has officially adopted a policy that says playgrounds cannot have any of the following:

  • swing sets
  • merry-go-rounds
  • tube slides
  • jungle gyms
  • teeter-totters
  • And, of course, playing tag is against the rules, as is running. That’s right, elementary school kids aren’t allowed to run on the playground. Without any of the fun equipment above, and without being allowed to run, I’m not sure what’s left– a thrilling game of marbles or something?

    Sorry, kids. Old people and overprotective parents suck.

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