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May 18, 2007

the first/last time i'll be typing the word 'atoosa'

Thanks to Gawker for keeping tabs on people like Atoosa Rubenstein so we don't have to.  For those whose lives are too full to follow such trivia, Atoosa is one of those public figures known for something no one can remember -- editing some magazine or some such.

Those days are gone now, as she can now be known for being the first member of the New York media elite to come out and say what dumb people have been thinking to themselves for centuries -- reading is hard.

Finally, morons everywhere have someone speaking for them.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:50 AM

i'd like to not imagine wolfowitz having sex anyway

The Paul Wolfowitz/World Bank story is boring.  Most stories about banks are boring as well, unless they involve gunpoint and dye packs.  But thanks to the Associated Press, the story just got a whole lot boringer.

As the AP offers up the tangled story of Wolfowitz's resignation and the retroactive restoration of his ethical well-being, they run this paragraph of exposition:

Wolfowitz a day earlier announced that he would step down at the end of June, his leadership undermined by a furor over compensation he arranged in 2005 for Shaha Riza, a bank employee.

You may have noticed that "furor" might have been a racy choice of word for a paragraph so sleepy.

You may also have noticed that Ms Riza, described as a bank employee, is not described as Mr Wolfowitz's "companion", which is surely pertinent to the scandal, and would validate the use of "furor" is such relationship were to be disclosed.  (As it is not disclosed in the rest of the piece.)

Perhaps this is one of the terms of Mr Wolfowitz's settlement with the World Bank, that the fact he was fucking the employee he arranged excessive compensation for would be excised from the public discourse (or at least the Associated Press)?

[UPDATE, An Hour And A Half Later.]  In the time between when I wrote this and when I posted this, the AP has added two words to the end of the passage I quote above -- "...and girlfriend".  While I am glad that the AP has decided to abandon their sin of omission, I would also like to mock and deride them for a clumsy and awkward edit, which reads like a Mad-Lib.]

Posted by mrbrent at 8:33 AM

May 17, 2007

charles stross wants a driverless jetcar

Here, have some future.  Novelist/smart guy Charles Stross recently addressed a convocation of engineers, projecting how information technology will bend the coming years.  He then published it, so that we who are not engineers may also enjoy it.

It's very long -- so long, in fact, you'll forget that you're reading it on the Internet -- but it's sharply written, and goes a long way towards demystifying some of the more arcane tech issues that we laymen deal with even without naming.  Like solid state data storage.  How fun is that?

It is in fact so tightly composed that it's hard to summarize.  So, if you are interested in the growing ubiquity of location, and the prospective death of history by overfeeding, then you might could give it a glance.

And as a special bonus (to me), I reproduce this passage, oddly the only passage in the speech that wanders out in the weeds a bit:

In the future, the 20th century will be seen as a dark age — while previous centuries left books and papers that are stable for centuries with proper storage, many of the early analog recordings were stable enough to survive for decades, but the digital media and magnetic tapes and optical disks of the latter third of the 20th century decay in mere years.   And if they don't decay, they become unreadable: the original tapes of the slow-scan video from the first moon landing, for example, appear to be missing, and the much lower quality broadcast images are all that remain.

Which is exactly the sentiment I bore my friends with when the subject of archival media comes up (yes, more often that you'd think).  After a couple decades of digital-this and digital-that, hopefully them that actually care about where their information will be in thirty years will realize that their discs/flashdrives/etc. don't take up so much space, but sadly are not big enough to use as paperweights, which is all they will be useful as in ten years' time.  I learned this lesson the hard way, as everything I wrote from high school up to about 1995 is stored on those comical little floppy discs (the ones that were actually floppy), and, accordingly, unavailable to me.

Except for the stuff I printed out, on paper.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:53 AM

ah, the peculiarities of headline shorthand

Alarming news from the little box of headlines on the Yahoo! page:
• Air bags may be dangerous for tall, short people

Air bags dangerous?  Sure, everyone knows that -- any technology designed to protect 200 lb meatbags from injury caused by rapid deceleration in an environment full of sharp/point metal, glass and plastic is bound to have its risks.

I'm just shocked that there are tall, short people out there.  How tragic, to go through life, tall, short.

For kicks, we will call them "Schrödinger's People".

Posted by mrbrent at 10:56 AM

May 16, 2007

hitchens speaks ill of the dead

To follow up on the death of Jerry Falwell.  First off, yes -- still dead.

I was expecting to see a good deal of backlash to the open, honest exchange of ideas on how one does a jig when a bad person dies, but not so much.  Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places.  Most notable is this bit of finger-waving by a scolding columnist, which is deftly fielded by Balk at Gawker.

And in the I-Wish-I-Said-That Department, Godless heathen Christopher Hitchens appeared on Anderson Cooper's little show last night to comment on Falwell's shuffling off this mortal coil.  Predictably, Hitchens did indeed bring a gun to a knife fight.  It's remarkable what a working knowledge of the English language, whiskey and a British accent can do .  There is video for you in the previous link, and if you are moving-picture averse, the entire transcript is worth reading, though please have, as these are the Internets, a free taste:

COOPER:  Do you believe he believed what he spoke?

HITCHENS:  Of course not.  He woke up every morning, as I say, pinching his chubby little flanks and thinking, I have got away with it again.

COOPER:  You think he was a complete fraud, really?


This is not exactly the loftiest, or even the passage with the most metaphorical violence -- I just admire its sentiment.  And "yes" is the perfect answer to the question of Falwell's total fraudulence, especially coming from a man who speaks in complete paragraphs.

There are many viewpoints of Hitchens that I disagree with - his paranoid views of the Iraq Occupation, and his belief that women are not funny -- but when he's verbally assaulting someone with whom you disagree, you do feel a little warm inside.  It makes me consider typing "strange bedfellows" and "Christopher Hitchens" in the same sentence, which of course I'm not going to do.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:58 AM

gonzales won't let pressure keep him from doing a bad job

You woulda thunk that the Attorney General might have a lot on his plate right now.  He spends at least a day a week not remembering things in front of congressional committees, and he's only got one or two underlings at the Department of Justice that haven't yet resigned under a cloud of pleading the Fifth Amendment.

But actually, AG Gonzales still cares about law and order issues that affect you and me on a daily basis -- he is proposing to strengthen copyright laws, before someone gets hurt:

If the attorney general has his way, copyright law will work more like drug laws: The government could seize your personal property, wiretaps in counterfeit cases would become legit, violators could face lifetime prison sentences, and, in an ambiguous and far-reaching provision, the mere attempt to violate a copyright would become a crime.

So the next time you are walking down a dark alley and all your music gets copied, or someone breaks into your apartment and burns all your DVDs for sale on a dirty sidewalk somewhere, know that the Department of Justice cares.  And if Justice gets its way, the intellectual property of inconceivably powerful business entities our individual health and safety will be protected by the full force of law.

Admit it -- the current copyright regulations are toothless artifacts of an age where the seriousness of making a mixtape went unnoticed.  Soon, all that empty, wasted space in America's prisons will be filled with BitTorrenters and scofflaws uploading their old VHS collection of "Alf" onto YouTube.

And finally, copyright-loving Americans will sleep the sleep of the safe and righteous.

Posted by mrbrent at 9:13 AM

May 15, 2007

jerry falwell's body rejects his soul

My first instinct is the high road.  I blame my upbringing -- apparently, mom and dad raised a wuss.  Besides, it's not tasteful to speak ill of the dead.  Even the worst among us will leave behind those who will struggle to cope with their loss.  Civility, civility, blah blah blah.

Fortunately, I have more than one instinct, and it is in the spirit of my second and third instincts I link to apt and fitting news of the death of Jerry Falwell.

Personally, I'm just wondering what exactly it was that Falwell did to earn God's wrath.

He leaves this world a better place than he found it.

Wait, I screwed that up -- his leaving leaves this world a better place than he found it.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:52 PM

i wish someone would call *me* a terrorist

It is now official.  Calling your opponent a "terrorist" is bereft of meaning, the craven act of desperate souls losing arguments.

Or "crybabies", if you will.

And this is not a "because I said so" declaration.  No, it has been put into writing by those whose authority exceeds mine:

There are many crybabies these days who cry "terrorism" when criticized.  It's a sickening new trend that needs to crawl back under the rock from which it came.  I think boing boing should point out these losers whenever they play the "terrorism card," making light of their cowardice.

So it is written; so shall it be.

Accordingly, the only proper response to someone who calls you a terrorist is to call them a crybaby, and then do the little "a-huh a-huh" pretend crying dance where rotate your balled fists in front of your squinted eyes.

Granted, to respond in such a way sinks the discourse to levels not fit for adults.  However, if the best one can do is to try hang one's dialectical partner by impugning "terrorism" as their motive, then the right to have an adult conversation is waived, and it is only appropriate to meet juvenile ad hominem with escalating juvenile behavior.

And just as a guideline, let's agree that it is only proper to drop "terrorist" on a person to the extent that the person attempts/achieves violence against people and/or property in order to publicize a political cause.  To do otherwise would be to cry "Hitler" in a crowded movie theater -- behavior we can all agree better suited to the witless.

Or the crybaby.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:25 AM

May 14, 2007

usa robocalls seconds later

With regard to the post immediately below:  The US Attorney's office in question has very quickly issued a denial, and there is no reason to doubt it, as the egregiousness of the robocalls, while not outside of the parameters of potential Bush Administration behavior, is still off the scale.

However, the questions remain -- were these calls made, and, who made them?  It is still a story worth following, as the text of the call (below) does not fit the profile of straightforward "Election Day is on Wednesday" voter manipulation.

"Voters alert!" said the taped message. "Please note that it is a federal crime to be paid for a vote. I repeat, it is a crime. If you or your neighbor have been offered payment, please report it immediately to the U.S. Attorney's Office at 856-757-5026."

Yeah, sure the story implies illegal shenanigans, but it is also weird, which is why I shall take it home and water it and walk it twice a day.  I think that I shall call it "George".

Posted by mrbrent at 4:31 PM

usagate robocalls

There is a very good reason that you have not recently read so much about the unfolding US Attorney scandal in these "pages".  Namely, Talking Points Memo is not only leading in breaking USAGate stories but also in aggregating coverage concerning USAGate.  I am still following the news very closely, as I am of the belief that it ("it" being " Bush Administration rigs elections" is central to explaining the unease shared by people falsely diagnosed as "Bush hataz" by those more interested in winning than they are being right.

Sadly, all the good good shit is coming from TPM, so I'm figuring that if you are of the interest in the USAGate, then you too are tracking it on TPM, and what's the point of me parroting TPM?

Having said that, a story on TPM today did pop up that is odd enough for highlighting, not so much USAGate-related as relating to the Department of Justice in general.  In Camden, NJ, which could be generalized without hurting too many people's feelings as a poor neighborhood of Philadelphia, robocalls were received by voters prior to a May 8 election for city councilman.  While robocalls are commonplace, the provenance of these robocalls is not -- the local US Attorney's office. 

The calls reminded voters, in an overwhelmingly Democratic area, that accepting money for one's vote is a crime.  The entire event strikes Josh Marshall as odd, mostly that a US Attorney's office would contact constituents by automated phone call.  I would add that even odder is that a US Attorney's office is contacting a constituent at all, unless said constituent is somehow involved in an active investigation undertaken by the office.  For example, I cannot recall a US Attorney's office contacting the sitting congressmen in a district to notify them that accepting money for a vote is illegal any more than I can recall a local sheriff's office contacting the menfolk to remind them that getting shitfaced and slapping one's significant other around is against the law.

It's just not how laws are prophylactically enforced in these United States, and, with the general backdrop of a Justice Department dogged by allegations of efforts to manipulate elections, it's a big smelly fishy situation.

Of course, in the interest of wearing my reason on my sleeve, the possibility exists that the calls are fraudulent attributed and do not actually originate from the US Attorney's office.  But it bears looking into, right?

Not that TPM has a record of breaking (or calling to attention a story reported by the Philly Inquirer, in this case) news stories with nation-altering implications or anything.

Posted by mrbrent at 2:19 PM

wherein you learn about ukrops

And now I'm back from Virginia.  It was a near-total absence of media for me (unless you count endless hours of televised professional golf watched with the family as media), so there is only one little nugget of relevance worth sharing:

In Eastern Virginia, there is a chain of supermarkets called "Ukrops".  While it sounds like something from Jack Kirby's Fourth World, it is an upscale grocery, something like Whole Foods filtered through Piggly Wiggly.  I spent too much time in two different Ukrops, as provisioning my family unit is tricky business, what with our dietary concerns and diva-ish gourmandism, and in this time I learned something ominous and something hopeful.

First, if you go looking for a magazine in Ukrops, you will see that the traditional supermarket magazine display -- at least two four foot units with three to six shelves each -- has been cut back to this ugly little cubicle with about half the display space of a single unit.  (The second Ukrops had two of these displayicles, but half the space on the second was devoted to mass market paperbacks.)  Being an old fashioned devotee of literacy and information in general, this made me sad.  Fewer purveyors of the printed word equals encroaching stupidifying, unless someone knows something I don't.

The hopeful news is, however, that each Ukrops has dedicated aisle space for what they call "gravy".  More gravy leads to a finer world.  Hopefully we in the godless megapolis will follow this lead.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:31 AM