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User Journal

Journal Journal: Pissant A.C. criticism

Some pissant A.C. seems to think it is his (or her) job to insist that I not "sign" my posts the way I always have. Why would anyone listen to criticism from a pissant A.C?


User Journal

Journal Journal: Packaging, the scourge of the 21st century

Packaging, in the broadest sense of the word, is starting to really piss me off.

Let's start with physical packaging. Whatever happened to the days when a fish would be packaged in yesterday's paper, small parts (screws and bolts) came in a little cardboard box or paper bag, and some stuff wouldn't be packaged at all? These days, some packaging (most notably the so called blister packaging) can be deathly dangerous to open. I'd like to propose one single, simple rule for packaging: one should be able to open it by hand. I'll make two exceptions: stuff that is notoriously easy to steal can go into blister packs, and it's acceptable to require a knife, key or any old sharp implement to cut packing tape.

Then there's labelling and pricing. Another simple rule: either provide a label or price tag that comes off clean, or don't label at all. When I buy a present for someone, a book, a DVD, a bit of wood that I intend to finish properly, a glass ornament, whatever, I would very much like the object in question to look nice. So why is it that shops insist on using labels that will tear when removed, and will leave a nasty gooey residy that won't come off no matter what? I can kind of understand putting such labels on packaging or on paperbacks... but not on expensive gifts.

And finally, there's the matter of "packaging" software. Some more rules:
- I DO NOT WANT software that I run only "on demand" to install some resident "helper" software to check for updates or whatever. You can check for updates when I start your program. Are you listening, Apple?
- I DO NOT WANT to answer the same questions over and over again whenever I install an update of your software. An update should be just that: replace the software that is already there with no questions asked; do not treat it as a more or less fresh reinstall. Are you listening, Zone Labs / Checkpoint?

Major issues to be sure... Come to think of it, if this is what I worry about, I suppose I have a pretty good life.
User Journal

Journal Journal: Response to signature criticism

I found this citation in one of columns in today's Rocky interesting:

"To date, other Western countries have been more successful in covering all citizens at a lower per capita cost, but they have done so only by limiting the availability of high-technology medicine." So writes former Colorado governor Richard Lamm and co-author Robert Blank in their recent book, Condition Critical. A New Moral Vision for Health Care. And these guys are on Polis' side of the single payer debate.

"Every single payer health system has at its core some form of health-care rationing, including strict limits on expensive care, such as organ transplants, chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants, and long waiting lines for elective surgeries." Lammand Blank honestly acknowledge.

The columnist pointed out that such limits and rationing don't apply to the very rich like Polis, who can afford to go outside the system for care. Sounds like my signature.


Journal Journal: Outdo Microsoft Word 2

Despite years of development and an almost universal grunt of dismay from geeks, there is no F/OSS tool that can replace Microsoft Word. It comes up short for several tasks (simple data management, spreadsheets, page layout) and is overkill for many others (simple note-taking or letter writing), but it's in a class all on its own when it comes to what it was intended for: writing.

Feel like you can prove me wrong? Know a program that can be my pen-and-paper better than I'd ever believe? Here's the chance to give it a new user and advocate. The program must:

  1. Be a Win32, .Net/Mono, or simiarly windows-friendly App. Java and other add-ons are OK, but Linux-native isn't.
  2. Take either .DOC or a similar equivalent (.HTM, .DOCX, or some standard flavor of .XML). Batch converters are ok, but see below.
  3. Count the words in any arbitrary section of text, including the text as a whole
  4. Track the changes I make at least as well as Work 2k (only the last writing session is all I really need)
  5. Have an on-the-fly spellchecker
  6. Have a built-in or hooked-in thesaurus
  7. Have an some option to fix common typos as a type
  8. have some similiar option to undo accidental typo-corrections easily
  9. Be able to either export to .DOC or have a Palm OS companion that can read and at least commonent upon an RTF-style version.

OOo passes 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, and 9, but fails pretty miserably at 3, 6, and 8. I don't use OOo.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Laptop Update - FYI

For the record, I did get a laptop a few weeks back. I considered Acer and a few others, but was wooed by the HP/Compaq Turion and "big familiar name to heckle support to." (I checked the post-merger quality by a geek who had, and would still have if not for divorce, a Compaq laptop.)

Thanks to a sale at BestBy, I picked up the Turion, WXGA, 15.4 (.1?) HP Paviliion dv5000. A quick newegg upgrade to 2 GB ram, and it's now my primary PC, where I waste many hours playing City of Heroes with "good enough framerate for an RPG."

The Almighty Buck

Journal Journal: Cheap Laptop Advice Wanted 20

Brief news update:

As of March 23, I am now a card-carrying, Grade 11 permanent New York State Tax Department Employee. Being as New York State pays its employees one month after they work, I am only now getting the "slightly" bigger paycheck for this illustrious new position. (It'll continue to grow for the next 2 1/2 months, actually.)

By way of celebration, I've decided to splurge on a new laptop. By "new" I of course mean "a" laptop, my previous portable PC being a used Pentium computer whose hinges have long since died away.

So, if you've got any nuggets about the lower-end of PC laptops (~$750), please dig them out and share. Does anyone have any recommendations, or relevant horror stories? Has anyone had any experience with AMD's Semprons and Turions, sufficient to advice one over the other?


Journal Journal: The right cliche for OSS 3

(Why oh why isn't there an F/OSS icon?)

It occurs to me, after reading CyranoVR's latest jorunal, that the right axiom (or "cliche") for OSS isn't "you get what you pay for" or "beggars can't be choosers", but rather the following:

Scavengers must make do

So, the right guidepost for free computing is "scavengers must make do." Or, to translate: if you're not paying for it or writing it yourself, make do with what you find.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Amending the Constitution, take II 46

As I've said before, we should come out and amend the constitution to make this a better country.

A short recap of previous amendments:

D1: The ERA
D2: Define Marriage and give federal weight to Civil Unions
D3: Let Congress protect citizens (end-run around the commerce clause)
D4: Abortion

To add to this list of good ideas that we really should consider, I'll add a fifth stolen right from The West Wing.

Amendment D5: Voting Rights
All citizens who reside in these United States shall be counted and persons for purposes of proportional representation of members of Congress, and for all federal elections.

All citiens so counted shall be alloted to cast one vote, in a manner decdied by Congress and the several states. Citizens younger than the age of eighteen or otherwise in need of a legal guardian shall have their votes cast by proxy by their legal guardian, save for those who specifically register to vote on their own.

In any case where a real citizen and that citizen's guardian both cast otherwise valid votes on the citizen's behalf, the vote of the real citizen shall be deemed valid and the guardian's proxy vote discarded.

Let's given children the vote. All children, even newborns. We value children too poorly, and parents not enough.


Journal Journal: Serenity 4

Short, short review:

It's a good movie. Not as good a Orison Scott Card says it is, but still good.

Why do I say this? Because Whedon's choice of how to heighten the tension in the final act (after they land on the last planet) is a cheap trick. Or an expensive trick, if you want to nitpick. But still, a trick that made me stop living the movie and remember I was watching a man's work.

I'd say more, but it's only been out a week.


Journal Journal: 3 Political Axis 4

After discussing things with Chacham, it occurs to me that we have not two, but three political axis in this country.

Right Wing vs. Left Wing: This is the major arc, one that I have previously described as "Righteousness over Liberty vs. Liberty over Righteousness."

Liberal vs. Conservative: This is a minor arc, but one that gets misused very often. The proper use, by the actual meaning of the words, would be "against the status quo vs. for the status quo."

Optimist vs. Pessimist: This is the least spoken and most important arc, and there are likely better terms for it. Some politicans believe that people are fundamentally good, and that the rest of us just need to get out of the way and keep wickedness at bay. Others hold that people are fundamentally evil, and need to be taught and restrained lest they bring ruin to us all.

Republican advocates (by which I mean, pundits) have sucessfully maligned the liberal/conservative arc as new names for left wing vs. right wing. This deprives us of needed vocabulary, and leaves the words "Judge Roberts is a Conservative Right-winger" as meaning the opposite of what they really mean--someone who values righteousness over liberty but will not change the status quo.

And this isn't something that only damages the left, either. George W. Bush should have ran as a "Liberal Republican", willing to change the way the system works for the better. He did, in fact, run on that idea both times, he just didn't admit it.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Grammar Checker 4

Random Front Page Story

My answer?

"A useful gramamar checker needs to be able to watch a user write, and adapt to their writing style. This should be its primary function--watching the user, noting where they vary against the 'norm', and varying the norm how the user varies it."


Journal Journal: Random Wisdom - sexuality 5

Please accompany me for a moment on a thought experiment. By the end, you might just be able to make my point for me.

Imagine yourself as a virgin, who has never had sex before. (Some of you may not have to imagine. Others will have to think back to grade school.) Now, picture that one Friday night you and a classmate find a quiet room somewhere, get naked, and have absolutely mind-blowing sex.

After finally getting home on Sunday night, you lie in bed, no doubt thinking about the experience and how your life has changed. You might fret and worry over the taboos you've crossed. You might be relieved at passing another of life's hurdles. You will almost certainly be thinking of the person you had sex with, and wondering if you can do it again next Friday night.

Now, with that thought firmly in mind, think about what would be different if you were a different gender, or if your virginal mate was a different gender. You'd still be thinking about them. It would still impress upon you the "wow" of sex, and should you and your virginal partner seperate you would likely seek out a person of a similar gender and orientation to your virginal mate.

The point?

Humans are designed to want to fuck whatever we first fucked pleasurably.

In fact, the underlying principle goes even further. Those of you who aren't finally re-taking Psych 101 this semester can probably list a litany of other instances where humans seek out repetition of situations they enjoyed.


Journal Journal: A perfect example of science's shortcomings. 23

If you don't know about it already, go read up on the Monty Haul problem. Bear in mind that computer simulation proves Marilyn Vos Savant right.

Now, then, why exactly is she wrong?

A natural inclidng is to jump up and say "she's got to be wrong; there's no way that can be right." A scientific inkling is to say "Planesdragon, you've gone off on a silly Christian rant again. Why must you prove how stupid you are?"

The answer, of course, comes in a closer examination of the problem.

If you choose to always switch, you will win 2/3 of the time.

If you choose to not switch, you will win 1/3 of the time.

But, the desicion to switch does not come until Monty asks his final "will you switch" question. Either you've got the car or you've got the goat--a new possibility that has exactly two outcomes.

I'm just a lowly college drop-out, but I believe that this is an example of "the law of independent trials."

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