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Journal: My take on Fahrenheit 9/11

Journal by Pinball Wizard

First of all, I'd like to confess that I'm somewhat of a Michael Moore fan. I've enjoyed his books and movies ever since Roger and Me, I've went to a booksigning of his just to meet him and get a signed book, and I made it a point to see Fahrenheit 9/11 on the first day it was out.

That said, I tend to look at most things, Moore's movies included, with a critical eye. The biggest problems I have with this movie are not with its content, but the way the content will be recieved. Moore has created an extremely powerful movie, but will it meet its goal of persuading people to change their minds about Bush or the war against terrorism? I really don't think so, and I'll explain why.

The crowd at the theater had already made up their minds about Bush. The movies main points - Bush was elected unfairly, Bush is an idiot who didn't know what to do for seven minutes after the second plane hit the tower, Bush diverted attention to creating a war against Iraq as soon as possible, and that he lied to the American people - were all applauded loudly by the crowd inside. Moore used an extreme amount of artistic licence and left out many facts to make his point, and the audience lapped up his viewpoint without question. This was not an audience that needed any additional persuading not to vote for Bush. Perhaps conservatives are seeing the movie in other theaters or waiting until the lines die down. But I didn't see them or hear any of them at the showing I attended.

The thing is, people who are still on the fence about who to vote for this November are likely to be those who need to understand both sides of the story. This movie deliberately sidesteps anything that could be used to question its points of view. Anyone who needs to see a different viewpoint about the things in Moore's movie will have to look elsewhere. When they do, it will become immediately apparent how Moore deliberately avoided lots of obvious things to make the points he did.

For instance, the movie states that with any possible recount, Gore would have been re-elected. That's a rather narrow viewpoint, because with both the recount the Supreme Court stopped and with the recount Gore wanted, Gore still would have lost. What Moore meant, but didn't say was that with any possible statewide recount with a certain arbitrary standard applied uniformly, Gore would have come out ahead. But we are made to believe that the Supreme Court stopped a process that would have resulted in a Gore presidency. Not true.

Richard Clarke appears in this movie where he states the Bush administration too quickly focused on Iraq, which weakened our war with Al-Qaeda. The movie also makes you believe that Bush was behind getting the Bin Laden's family out of the U.S. before the general ban on flight was lifted. What it doesn't say is that the flights didn't begin until the ban was lifted - and the authorization to get the Bin Ladens out of the country was made by Clarke himself.

Anyone wanting to dig a little will have no problem finding out that Moore was against taking action against Afghanistan when we did. But one of this movie's main points was that we didn't go after Osama hard enough and fast enough.

Moore portrays Iraq before we bombed it as an idyllic place, with children playing in the streets and happy citizens going about their business. This at the very least ignores the basic facts about Sadaam's murderous regime. For someone who really wanted to examine the facts, they could easily find out that more people were killed and maimed each year under Sadaam's regime than under the occupation. But this is opposite of the impression we get from this movie.

That's not to say this movie didn't score any points with this skeptical viewer. The scene of the contractors convention designed to teach people how to profit from the war turned my stomach. Watching the blank stare on Bush's face after he was told about the second plane made me seriously wonder about his competence. And I hadn't realized the extent the Bush family was involved with the Saudis.

As I said earlier, I don't think this movie alone will persuade anyone still on the fence to make up their mind one way or another. Although I made up my mind a long time ago who I would vote for(Kerry), I also supported the removal of Sadaam. This movie had too many narrow opinions, conspiracy theories and omissions to convince me my support of the war was wrong. And I suspect anyone else who hasn't made up their minds about the war or who to vote for will still need to look elsewhere for their facts.

All in all, Fahrenheit was an extremely entertaining movie. But it's just that - entertainment, and not the scathing political bombshell Moore hoped it would be.

Music

Journal: The full list(Blender's 50 worst artists) 6

Journal by Pinball Wizard

For those who read the article on yahoo today, and then followed the link to Blender's site only to find the bottom ten, rather than the full 50 worst artists of all time.

Of course, Kenny G and Michael Bolton are obvious. But ELP at #2?! C'mon, get real. Keith Emerson was the greatest keyboardist ever - not only an incredible live performer, but the only musician ever to play with both Jimi Hendrix and the London Symphony Orchestra. He took compositions by Ginastera and Holst and made them better(in fact Ginastera said so himself.) He was the pioneering synthesist, recording the first ever synthesizer solo(Lucky Man) not to mention working with Bob Moog himself.

Anyhoo, here's the list. Post your rants below.

1. Insane Clown Posse
2. Emerson, Lake and Palmer
3. Michael Bolton
4. Kenny G
5. Starship
6. Kansas
7. Asia
8. Vanilla Ice
9. Lee Greenwood
10. Air Supply
11. Latoya Jackson
12. Tin Machine
13. Mick Jagger
14. Yngwie Malmsteen
15. Yanni
16. Oingo Boingo
17. Benzino
18. Pat Boone
19. Dan Fogelberg
20. Howard Jones
21. The Alan Parsons Project
22. Primus
23. Creed
24. Bad English
25. Jamiroquai
26. Celine Dion
27. Colour Me Bad
28. Crash Test Dummies
29. Skinny Puppy
30. Richard Marx
31. Arrested Development
32. The Hooters
33. Japan
34. Live
35. Paul Oakenfold
36. 98 Degrees
37. The Doors
38. Nelson
39. Bob Geldof
40. Blind Melon
41. Whitesnake
42. Rick Wakeman
43. Mike and the Mechanics
44. Manowar
45. Gipsy Kings
46. The Spin Doctors
47. Goo Goo Dolls
48. Master P
49. Toad the Wet Sprocket
50. Iron Butterfly

User Journal

Journal: Where have I been? 9

Journal by Pinball Wizard

Wow, last journal was January 23. (pauses to sweep up the cobwebs) OK, where were we? The continuing effort to obtain my CS degree is going along quite nicely. 2 B's and one A last semester. I'm taking engineering stats now, should be another A, if I can keep it up.

Maybe my new toy will help. Any ticalc fans out there?

I can't believe this didn't get posted all over slashdot. The Real Sadaam Shady. It's pretty funny, although it would have been more funny two months ago. It's at the very least as entertaining as All Your Base or Soviet Russia jokes.

Concert of the summer(and Toronto's answer to SARS) Molson Canadian Rocks for Toronto. Rolling Stones, Rush, AC/DC, the Guess Who, but what really kicks ass is that Justin Timberlake is performing! Yeah, I'll suffer through all the old fogey dinosaur rock just to be able to see JT in person. (kidding) And the tickets are only $16 USD(!) Now if only round-trip airfare from Albuquerque wasn't $1,000, I could go. Is anyone going, so that I might live vicariously through you?

Oh yeah. Here's to you, Canada!

Does anyone think the new sidebar is an improvement? I now need three clicks to read the journals, unless theres something I missed. Worse, I can't log out and see other journals easily like I used to.

I took an IQ test recently and scored a full 10 points higher than ones I took in high school. I credit this entirely to studying math, logic, and computer science. I'm not trying to brag, just posting something I thought would be interesting to some and encouraging to others. If you've never read the Bell Curve, it's pretty damn depressing unless you happen to be among the 2 percent on the right side who will inevitably triumph over life's challenges, unlike the masses in the middle who are doomed to a life of repetition, boredom, and limited freedom working for those smarter than them. I now firmly believe, at least to the extent that IQ tests really gauge IQ, that one can significantly improve themselves by studying the aforementioned subjects. I drew a distinct coorelation between the way I've learned to think and my performance on the test.

Well that's all for now, folks. I'll try to keep this thing updated more often. Promise. ;)

User Journal

Journal: The Big-O value of "friends of friends" 6

Journal by Pinball Wizard
is n^2 if I'm not mistaken(as users increase their friends by n friends, their friends of friends increases by n^2. Roughly, up until the point that you and all your friends are at the limit => 200^2 = 40,000 friends of friends) Slashdot calculates these friend of friend values many times over each page we load.

Perhaps this is the reason for the slowness. An n^2 algorithm is one of the most unscalable algorithms you can have.

Thoughts?

Education

Journal: CS no longer a popular major? 7

Journal by Pinball Wizard
Back at UNM today, so here's the report. This semester I'm taking discrete math, non-imperative programming(eg Lisp, Scheme, functional, recursive programming), computer ethics, and a business class for my minor.

Discrete math is a required course for graduation in CS. Its usually taken in the sophomore year. There are upwards of 25,000 students at UNM. There was only one section open for this class.

I kid you not, there were less than 35 people there today. Prof. Luger said he was used to classes three times the size.

I haven't gone to my other CS class yet(its a MWF, school just started, and MLK day we had off.) But if this is the indication that means I'll graduate with less than 40 people - assumming everyone makes it. At one time CS was widely known to be a weed out program. Now I bet they're devising strategies to keep people in.

Is this the same for other CS students who frequent the journals? I wonder if the current economy has soured people from going into CS. Then again, I'm glad the people who are there are doing it because they like it, not because they heard it was the path to big bucks.

User Journal

Journal: Global warming: perception vs. reality 1

Journal by Pinball Wizard
Whether or not its the humans' fault, global warming is a reality. When you look at the stats, it doesn't seem so bad. The EPA site on global warming states that average temperatures have risen by 1 degree in the last century.

However, my own experience has been that its been worse than that. Where I live(Albuquerque, NM), temperatures haven't increased that much in the summertime - last summer for instance there were only five days it got higher than 94 degrees, which is normal for here. But in the wintertime, it has gotten much warmer on average than it used to be.

Here in Albuquerque, it used to snow every winter. I used to be able to go cross-country skiing out on the mesa. Now, our local ski area way up on the mountain(10,000 ft. altitude) hasn't even gotten enough snow to open, and my prediction is, it will not open at all this year. December and January have been our coldest months - with an average low of 24 degrees F. and frequently dipping into the teens. Now, it barely freezes - our lows have been in the low 30's.

If its not snowing in the Rockies, that spells big trouble. For instance, Southern California gets much of its water from the Colorado River. If there's not enough snow in the wintertime, the rivers eminating from the Rockies don't get replenished. I predict real trouble when Colorado and New Mexico start getting sued by their bigger and richer neighbors(California and Texas). All the water agreements specify specific acre-feet, rather than percentage of flow. If the rivers dry up, Colorado still owes California X amount of water each year.

So, how are things in your neck of the woods? Has global warming affected you in any way?

Microsoft

Journal: Palladium 1

Journal by Pinball Wizard
Well, the XBox hackers have finally thrown in the towel and given up on any hope of running unsigned code on the XBox.

Its really not that big of a deal that we will never see Linux on the XBox - that really was never the point of the project. The point is, we don't want to see computers out there that will only run what Microsoft says can run on them.

Unfortunately, Microsoft succeeded. Watch for computers in the next few years that will only run signed code. Since AMD and Intel have signed on to Palladium, its possible that PC's in the future will no longer run Linux or BSD.

Its not enough that the tiny Linux community is against this. We have to tell our friends and families to unequivocally refuse the DRM-enabled products that are certain to appear in the near future. Nothing less than the freedom of computing is at stake.

User Journal

Journal: The Value of Physical Labor 5

Journal by Pinball Wizard
Got outside yesterday and did some work around the yard(raking, trimming, pulling weeds, etc.) And you know what? It felt really good. There's been something I've been pondering for quite awhile now, probably since I saw Office Space, you know, the line where Peter says something to the effect of "man wasn't designed to sit in cubicles staring at computer screens all day". Well, sitting at a computer for ungodly hours is how I've spent the last six months between work and school, averaging 70-80 hours per week. As a result, my eyes hurt, I'm getting flabby, and my wrists/forearms are sore.

I think I've come to a decision. As much as I love programming, I don't think I will be completely happy doing it full time. On the other hand I used to work outside and do physical labor most of the time. I wouldn't be happy with that either.

So, what I really want to do in my heart of hearts is to have two occupations. One where I can do physical work and get fresh air and excersize, and the other where I can satisfy my need to use my brain.

A couple of problems present themselves with this goal. First, most employers want you full time, especially in programming jobs. Well, I realize that in order to acheive happiness, not to mention financial security, that I'm going to have to find work as an independent contractor, either doing consulting, writing shareware stuff and selling it, or something else to that effect. No problem, thats been a goal of mine for years. The second thing I worry about is that if I try to do two things part time I risk losing the edge to people willing to work 70-80 hours a week at one particular thing.

Any thoughts you might have on this subject are greatly appreciated. Regardless, I know I can't go through life sitting on my ass looking at a computer screen. At least not all day every day. I need other stimulation, in the form of physical work to be completely happy.

Quickies

Journal: Quickies 2

Journal by Pinball Wizard
Saw LOTR last night. If you haven't seen it, do so. Best. Movie. Ever. Im serious. That movie blew away every Star Wars movie I've ever seen, and even topped last year's FOTR. OTOH, if you haven't seen ST Nemesis, you may safely skip this one. Its worth a view at the dollar flicks or on video, but I wouldn't recommend paying $8.50(or whatever movies cost in your area) to see it. Really Nemesis was on par with a decent TV episode of the Next Generation, but thats about it.

I've gotta get this silliness off my chest: That commercial for SOCOM: U.S. Navy Seals. Looks like a great game. After the Navy Seal dudes kick the snot out of the Gen-Y hipsters one of the Seals says "like shooting fish in a bucket". I'm sorry but that's one phrase that needs to be stricken from the English language. First of all, its "shooting fish in a barrel" and even that one has major problems with it. Number one, if the fish are already in a barrel, why do you need to shoot them? You're just going to destroy the fish and put holes in your barrel, or bucket as the case may be. At any rate, I don't get it. How on earth did that become a recognizable phrase; its about the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

Education

Journal: 2 more finals 1

Journal by Pinball Wizard
and I'm done. This was my semester of electives. Why? Because I am planning on going through UNM's academic renewal program(I dropped out 5 years ago due to personal reasons and got 3 F's) and won't actually start there until next month. This semester, I got my brain back in gear at TVI. I am taking Spanish, Economics, History, and Public Speaking.

Assumming I don't freeze up on those last two finals, I'll have 3 A's and a B in Spanish this sem. The A in Public Speaking was very unexpected. Its not my strong suit, and I would have been happy with any passing grade. However, the instructor really felt I improved a lot over the semester. Moral: If you're a geek and you want to strech your capabilities, try something you're not good at. It can be tough, but it's worthwhile.

This is on top of working full time running an ecommerce site. Hey don't laugh. It may be small, but its profitable.

In other words I've been a very busy bee this semester. I don't expect it to get any better, but I'll try and post more during my breaks.

User Journal

Journal: The Geek News(that /. deemed unworthy of coverage)

Journal by Pinball Wizard
Get your Segway today!. I have to say, the Segway is cool, but not for 5 grand. They already said this thing could go for 3 grand(which is a much more reasonable price). So basically that extra 2G is price gouging. You're not going to get a world-changing invention if you're price gouging. The automobile didn't take off until Ford made them affordable. Personal computing has yet to become pervasive in households for the same reason. I only bring these examples up because Kamen's goal was to create a world changing invention and to fundamentally alter the landscape of cities.

Bin Laden associate warns of Al Qaeda cyberattack. Most alarming quote: "I believe that Osama bin Laden has earned his leadership and most [Muslim students] who are graduating in computer science and computer programming and IT technology are supporting Osama bin Laden." Personally I've met a lot of people from Arabic/Islamic countries in the engineering and science depts. I would never even think to imagine that the majority of these people are learning tech to take home to fight the country that educated them. I think perhaps this gentleman is overstating things, even if he is close to Bin Laden(maybe thats whats clouding his view). I would imagine that most Arabs and Muslims want nothing to do with Bin Laden, including those studying science and engineering.

And(gasp!) Microsoft does a good deed! MS, Apple, and others (A group of high-profile technology companies), lobbied Congress recently to ensure consumers aren't being slowed down unnecessarily by their providers. I have to say, the lack of cheap broadband did more to slow down the acceptance of the Internet than any other factor. I'd almost have to blame the dot-com bust on this factor alone.

It's funny.  Laugh.

Journal: Haiku Error Messages 2

Journal by Pinball Wizard

In Japan, they have replaced the impersonal and unhelpful Microsoft error messages with Haiku poetry messages.

Better Haiku, than Seppuku, I say. If you have any more to add, post away.

The Web site you seek
Cannot be located, but
Countless more exist.

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

Program aborting:
Close all that you have worked on.
You ask far too much.

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

Your file was so big.
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

Stay the patient course.
Of little worth is your ire.
The network is down.

A crash reduces
Your expensive computer
To a simple stone.

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

You step in the stream,
But the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.

Yesterday it worked.
Today it is not working.
Windows is like that.

The Almighty Buck

Journal: Macroeconomics 4

Journal by Pinball Wizard
Finally my critiques of capitalism will have some theory to go behind it. This is my first business or economics class ever. It's just that when I was in high school this stuff never interested me. However, having been stupid with money and having felt the consenquences, and also having been involved with growing a business has changed my outlook considerably. In fact I'm taking econ 105 now to keep my options open in case I want to minor in business.

So anyway, allow me to very briefly touch on some of the Macroeconomic wisdom my school has imparted upon me.

The basic goals of economics are as follows:

Economic growth

Full employment

Economic efficiency

Price-level stability

Economic freedom

Equitable distribution of income

Economic security

Balance of trade

To achieve these lofty economic goals, the prevaling wisdom is that you reach a point of economic nirvana called market equilibrium in which the circle of businesses, households, resource markets and product markets are each serving each other perfectly and thus fulfilled.

Unfortunately for us, as I discovered when I asked a few questions about our economy, we are far from attaining this state. In particular, having a monopoly of any type severely disturbs this equilibrium. Many of our most basic services like gas, electricity, and water come from a single source. 95% of media comes from 7 companies and a single company produces 90%+ of desktop software. These, among many other examples, have a deleterious effect on the economy.

At any rate, we're just getting started and both the professor and the book we use have a very traditional capitalistic approach to the subject. So I may be adjusting my view of capitalism in the near future. I will say however, it appears that capitalism needs a lot of government regulation to function correctly. I think perhaps the point I made previously about businesses cannibalizing each other(with a coincident harmful economic effect) until a monopoly emerges may not be so far the truth.

User Journal

Journal: Moderation rant 4

Journal by Pinball Wizard
I know I'm not the only one here who has experienced this, but it still sucks.

I can't remember the last time I was moderated down where the moderation was something other than "overrated". To paraphrase Jack Black from High Fidelity, the overrated mod is very pussy.

You just know that these people use this mod because they either don't like you or disagree with what you say. Yet they are too chicken to use something that will show up in M2.

With all the nice changes that have occurred around Slashdot lately, the "overrated" mod abuse is the one remaining glaring flaw in the system. There are undoubtedly people with several accounts that mod nearly every day - and if they are using the overrated mod, well they basically have free license to swing any discussion they way they want, without any checks against their behavior.

"Catch a wave and you're sitting on top of the world." - The Beach Boys

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