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User Journal

Journal Journal: Why no recent journal entries?

Because I have a blog at

It kind of makes the whole journal thing redundant. If you really want to see what I have to say about random things, by all means, you're invited to the blog. If not, well, it seems you're in substantial company, if nothing else. :)

User Journal

Journal Journal: One of those poignant losses

18th October, 2007, we lost a dear old friend, a (mostly) Siamese cat yclept "Gwai-loh." Gwai was quite vocal, as are many Siamese; he also had some strange characteristics, for instance you could hold him upside-down on the ceiling and he would walk around - inverted - for as long as you were willing to hold him up there. For years, we kept him around the office, and he had a habit of coming up for affection when whoever he was approaching was on the phone. So he'd come up to you, get right up to your face (and the phone) and let loose with a really loud meow. Which you would then have to explain to the customer. One time I was on the phone with a rather famous Hollywood special effects dude when Gwai let loose with this, we had a good laugh over it. Eventually, we put up a web page on our site with a .wav of Gwai's signature meow, and a picture of him staring at a screensaver on a ginormous (for the time) monitor. A surprising amount of the code in WinImages was written with Gwai warm and settled either in my lap or across my arms.

Well, eventually, the old boy's liver failed, and I put out a rather startling amount of money to see if we could get around that, and amazingly enough, it worked. We got two more years of Gwai, all of it of quite high quality, before he finally laid down for the last time. His last couple of days were spent purring and head bumping while all the while refusing to eat or drink... finally, he just didn't wake up.

I miss him terribly. Sometimes it hits me right between the eyes and I can't even think straight. I can't dig over a decade and a half of unconditional love and affection out of my system with any amount of rationalization or any other flavor of self-bullshittery. Here's to my grizzled old friend. I only hope he knew how much I loved him in return.

The Internet

Journal Journal: Mouseovers - as bad as popups? 8

Is anyone else as annoyed as I am by words and phrases in web articles that pop up boxes because my mouse pointer happened to cross them, temporarily hiding the content I was reading in the first place? I didn't click on anything, and consequently, I don't want a context change. I find these annoying to the point of noting what the site is and not going back. Anyone else feel the same? Anyone have a defense of the practice?

I went to this article today to read it in response to a slashdot posting, and managed to accidentally activate the wireless mouseover / popup as I was reading. Bam. Content hidden, thought stream interrupted. Isn't this essentially popups, revisited?

User Journal

Journal Journal: Cold War, Version II 2

So I wake up this morning, and Putin has dissolved his government.

Then, same morning, Russia announces a bomb with nuclear-level destructive capability. But they say they're not escalating.

Then, later the same day, the US announces they have a matter-antimatter (proton/positron) annihilation laser, which, they say, is to normal lasers as nuclear weapons are to normal bombs.

At the same time, Bush, old "We'll never pull 'em out", is about to announce a troop pullback in Iraq.

Oil's hovering around $80 a barrel. The dollar is in the outhouse, and we've basically had many of our civil rights eliminated or made irrelevant.

Did I miss something here?

User Journal

Journal Journal: More on Global Temperature Change

As always, there are rumbles of discontent from the scientific community with regard to global warming. This article (vile email registration required) from R. Timothy Patterson, professor and director of the Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University, lays the overriding mechanism of climate change squarely at the feet of the various solar cycles. In the article, he explains that solar energy impacting the earth is part of the mechanism, while the sun's solar wind drives cloud formation in a complementary cycle that enhances the effect of the actual heat input. But that's not the kicker. The interesting part is he is predicting global cooling, rather than warming.

But wait; there's more. This months Discover Magazine (print version also) has a lengthy article about this same mechanism, that is, cloud formation driving the climate and the sun driving cloud formation by way of modulating the effect cosmic rays have, by Henrik Svensmark, the 49-year-old director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen.

Svensmark says that we are in a warming trend, so his conclusions are at odds with those of Patterson; but they both agree that CO2 isn't nearly the looming threat that it has been made out to be with regard to climate change.

The Courts

Journal Journal: Montana surprises us again, this time on Eminent Domain 4

Recently, Montana legislators made news when they passed legislation outlawing Real-ID, calling it a threat to privacy and liberty. Now, legislation making the taking of property by eminent domain for the purposes of increasing tax revenues illegal has been passed and signed into law by Montana's governor. For more on why this is a serious issue, check out the Supreme Court's "Kelo" decision, named after a Connecticut woman who (unsuccessfully) fought to keep her home from city plans to arbitrarily take it and subsequently turn it over to private developers with the objective of collecting higher tax revenues from the property.

Montana has a 2% unemployment rate at present, and maintains a balanced budget, something the feds might want to give some consideration to. I have to say that although I am typically very cynical about government, and although Montana has made some very serious mis-steps in terms of liberties in the last few decades, the state seems more interested in doing the right thing than the wrong thing at this point in time, and I am feeling very pleased with my representatives right now as a long-time resident.

Technology (Apple)

Journal Journal: Has Apple made a costly miss-step? 4

With the recent news about cellphone activity allegedly being the underlying cause for the sudden loss of large numbers of bees, an insect that forges an absolutely critical and irreplaceable part of the food chain, is Apple's iPhone doomed to enter the market just as cell phones face severe clampdowns, or even wholesale replacement?

Cell phones operate at microwave frequencies for a pretty good reason; basically, microwaves enable small equipment. They also do a decent job of penetrating many types of structures, if not through the walls, then at least through the windows. However, there are other frequencies available, lower frequencies that have been busy for many decades without any significant observed effect on bees or other life. People already understand how useful cell phones are, and there are manufacturers with significant experience in VHF radio, to name one technically possible replacement band — so an interesting market shake-up is certainly feasible. Excellent VHF transceivers are marketed by amateur radio manufacturers, for example.

Normally, we would assume that an established, profitable market similar to the cellphone market would be stable and have a long, healthy life expectancy based on the functionality offered to the market. However, if the bees go, we will too - and that, ladies and gentleman, is an outcome that not even Steve Job's legendary reality distortion field can deal with.

Perhaps Apple should get back to working on OSX, and forget the iPhone. I have this nagging feeling that the iPhone is going to be this year's "politically incorrect" device. I know I've stopped using my cellphone for anything but emergency calls; how about you? Seen any bees lately?

Desktops (Apple)

Journal Journal: My Mac finally crashed.

I bought my daily-driver Mac, a mini, pretty much when the PowerPC mini was released. I was tempted beyond belief by that form factor, and the price. I loaded it; a gig of ram, bluetooth, wifi, modem, big drive (for the day), the superdrive, and so forth. I bought every option because the more that was jammed into the box, the more I liked the form factor. I know it's a little weird, but there you have it.

Since then, I've used the little box daily, for just about everything. It's been powered up since I bought it (thanks to a UPS.) This year, a couple of months ago, I bought a Mac laptop - a top of the line 17" Mac Pro - but I still use the mini every day. I've rebooted the mini many times, almost always in response to an Apple upgrade or security modification, once when I went from 10.3 to 10.4, never as an attempt to fix a problem. I've never had any problems of that kind, frankly.

Today, without any particular warning, my Mac dimmed the screen, locked my mouse and keyboard, popped a black rectangle up which informed me in no uncertain terms that I needed to reboot. Now. I lost a long post I had been writing for, and I failed to even reach the level of being annoyed about that because it was just so astonishing to me that the mini had actually - gulp - crashed.

I just want to say that I hadn't even realized that my expectations had been silently and sneakily leveraged to be so astonishingly high. After years of being screwed with, and over, by Microsoft operating systems, I no longer expect that an OS should, or will, crash. Massive kudos to Apple.

...and my little PPC mini came right back up, and yes, I'm using it right now, and I still don't expect it to crash. :) I was using a beta version of a web browser and my guess is it was just a little too beta.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Best slashdot comment ever encountered 1

Best slashdot comment, ever:

Russia's Biggest Spammer Brutally Murdered

Posted by timothy on Monday July 25, @11:48AM
from the but-what's-the-motive-detective-columbo? dept.
Karellen !-P writes "Vardan Kushnir, a notorious russian spammer who headed the English learning centers, the Center for American English, the New York English Centre and the Centre for Spoken English, was found dead in his Moscow apartment on Sunday, Interfax reported Monday. He died after suffering repeated blows to the head."
Should have opted out. (Score:5, Funny)
by Tackhead (54550) on Monday July 25, @11:54AM
> He died after suffering repeated blows to the head.
From a hidden microphone at the scene of the murder:

"You are receiving *WHAM* this blow to the head *WHAM* because you are part of a *WHAM* specially-selected list of *WHAM* people who agreed to receive *WHAM* blows to the head *WHAM*.

To stop *WHAM* receiving these *WHAM* blows to the head, please *WHAM* email us at no-more-please@optout.blowtothehead. com and *WHAM* we will remove you from our list of *WHAM* blow-to-the-head-club members *WHAM* (heh, we said "club"!) *WHAM* within 24 to 48 hours.

Journal Journal: Slashdot needs some fixes

Slashdot is fun and useful and all, but there are some pretty annoying problems with the site. They constantly come up in an "off topic" manner, and consequently get (sort-of) appropriately modded down - this journal submission is intended to give them a legitimate home. I submitted it as a story, but - of course - it was rejected.

These are the things that seem most obvious to me, but I am sure there are others, given how annoying the issues I have in mind are to me. Please feel free to add your thoughts to all this, shoot my ideas down, whatever.

Moderation is anonymous

I say this is a Very Bad Thing. You can compare this to Kuro5hin, where you can easily see who did what to whom. Moderation with accountability allows anyone to see when a vendetta is being pursued, or when someone is systematically modding a subject down because they disagree, rather than because the issue is actually off-topic, a flame and so forth. I cannot begin to count the number of comments I have seen that have been modded down because they were contraversial, as opposed to offtopic, flamebait, or whatever else the down-mod claimed they were. The site's editors are also anonymous and that provides a hidden power structure which isn't a particularly good thing in any venue. I have read multiple claims that this poster or that poster cannot get mod points "because they modded something [a slashdot luminary] posted some time ago." If this is an illusion, exposing who did what to whom will in turn expose the illusion. If it is not an illusion, then exposing what happened should reduce the problem, because such action would rightfully be condemned by readers if it is inappropriate. I find the idea that the site's editors might be sneaking around and quietly muzzling moderators in a punitive manner more than a little disturbing.

So my first suggestion here is simply to lose moderation anonymity. My second is that if and when mod capability is removed from a user, the date of, and reason for, that action be posted right in their user page.

Many - perhaps even most - down mods are punitive or inappropriate

I suggest that the meta-moderation process be adjusted to include the ability to flag down-mods as obviously inappropriate, and to remove moderation privileges from those who commit such down-mods, as well as the down-mods themselves.

Up-mods don't need metamoderation

I suggest the outright removal of metamoderation of up-mods; if someone considers something interesting (or whatever) positive characteristic, who are we to say that this isn't so? That's the moderator's take on the comment, and up-moderation is a (very limited) opportunity for a moderator to "uplift" the story to the rest of us based on that perception. Upmods aren't harmful the way down-mods are - quite the contrary - and it seems to me to be a complete waste of time to metamoderate upmods for that very reason.

With mod points so scarce (and I agree they should be) we are forced to pick the things we really appreciate to up-mod. I rarely see an honest need to down-mod (obvious "first post" and gay/nigger trolls excepted), but I simply do not see a need to counter an up-mod. Someone thinks this, that or the other thing is insightful or interesting or sexy or whatever? Ok, that's at least notable - and that is exactly what an up-moderated and hence higher point comment does, it becomes more notable - not more interesting, not more insightful, but more notable. It might not actually seem that the applied moderation is accurate to us on reading the modded comment, but it is interesting that so-and-so (or at least "someone", if moderator anonymity remains preserved) thought it was worthy of a mod point. Comments can argue the issue if a poster is so motivated, and that seems like plenty of recourse to me. We see this all the time anyway; why not simply make it the official means of argument with an upmod?

Metamoderation is a scarce resource - put it where it does the most good

The removal of up-mod metamoderation could allow multiple meta-moderation of down-mods so that a reasonable, multi-user consensus that a down-mod is innapropriate can be reached. It seems to me that it should not be a light thing to say that someone is abusing the moderation system; you want to be reasonably certain. A meta objection to a down mod should cause that down-mod to immediately rear its ugly little head in a bunch of other meta-moderation queues so that consensus can be reached - and then corrective action taken if the mod is widely deemed inappropriate. This last point is important: It is a real shame that reasonable posts are permanently lost to the default view because some moderator was being a twit.

Fix the comment point system

There are several things wrong with this area of the site. The first is simply exposure, like authorship of moderation. Anyone who looks at the summary of points in a profile and tries to figure out what happened to a heavily moderated comment in a story is doomed to failure. It's Byzantine at best, and opaque and threatening at worst. Expose it.

Next, The math behind up/down mods is bizarre, to say the least. At a minimum, fix it so it is linear; or if not, then at least expose each and every mod point and show what it did to the story (along with the inflicting member - again, see Kuro5hin for a nice example of how this should be done.) Of course, if only this is done, an outcry will probably arise to fix the math, for the obvious reasons. :)

Expand the moderation choices

I have also seen lots of very good suggestions for additional moderation reasons. I'd like to see the readership discuss that here and perhaps a poll be subsequently created to see which new moderations should actually be added.

Story submission is entirely in italics

How is one expected to visually check the HTML of a story if the story preview enforces italics for the entire body? Why not use dark blue on white, and let italics flow according to the story tags so we can actually see what we're writing? You know, that radical new concept, "WYSIWYG"?

Sign the Polls

Stories are signed so we know who to thank (or blame) for the story. Sign the polls too. As I write this, there is a poll up for "favorite writing instrument" and the poll fails to include "keyboard" as an option. Somebody should have some digital egg on their face for that one. Maybe accountability will result in better quality polls. One can hope, anyway!

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