Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My eyes, they make me angry

Part of me thinks the Blip Festival looks like a really interesting and cool event that I would like to check out. Another part of me thinks if they really wanted me to come, the wouldn't put diagonal stripes behind white text.

Air Duct-en

If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe your lying eyes. There are limits to my faith in duct tape.

All The World Loves a Meme...

I am a pure-bred New Jersey boy with a long-standing New York disposition. Why don't I have an accent?

Also, I hate conversations of the form, "How do you say closet?" Why did I take this quiz?

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The South
The Northeast
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Emerging Atheist Majority

MY drops some, er, science:

It's only a kind of rhetorical overreach on the part of atheists -- pitting "religion" versus "not religion" as the key disagreement -- that creates the appearance of a large majority in favor of "religion." There's clearly a significant human predilection for not-supported-by-science beliefs of various sorts -- in the existence of a god or gods, astrology, fortune-telling, alien visits to earth, the healing power of crystals, etc. -- but there's no particular convergence of these beliefs on anything in particular. Meanwhile, on many of the particular question you might ask about religious subjects, atheists are going to be in the majority. Like most people on earth, atheists don't believe that Jesus Christ died for man's sins. Similarly, just like most people, atheists don't believe that Muhammed was Allah's greatest prophet or that the Hidden Imam will return. And, again, like most people atheists don't believe that you'll be reborn on earth after death in a new body.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Nancy Pelosi, Will You Marry Me?

This is exactly what I was talking about. (Via Unfogged)

Edgy Eft-ing Sound

This is kind of weird, coming two weeks after I upgraded, but my audio card just completely stopped working. At first, I thought this was one of those little Linux driver farts---I spent half the summer restarting X to get Skype working again---but a reboot didn't fix it and there were no relevant error messages to speak of. Following these directions fixed it. The key part, I think, is making sure asound.conf exists---it seems that somebody (not me) had deleted it. In fact, I can't find a Ubuntu package that wants to take credit for installing asound.conf, much less one that wants to take credit for deleting it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bad Eating in Italy

This is strange and a bit sad: NYU Florence students complain about bad food. I studied at NYU in Florence in 1998 and it was probably the culinary high point of my life so far. Of course, I didn't live "on campus" and I don't even recall there being a "dining hall"---we shopped at the grocery store in the neighborhood, which had good, fresh bread and good, cheap wine. It's unclear if these kids are getting a sub-standard product or if they're just little whiny carb-counters---either way I feel sorry for them...

Kids, leave the villa, walk 50 meters up the hill and go into the grocery. Tell the guy you want mozzarella e pomodoro on foccaccia. (He'll probably correct your pronunciation.) Doesn't cost more than a few bucks and I'm still craving it to this day.

Also, kids, don't be stupid: Pane e Olio is ten minutes away, Cibreo makes the best polenta and pappa in the world, and there are about ten thousand other great places whose names I forget. Go forth and get fat on good food.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Two Things That Should Have Occurred to Me

1) The plastic delivery container from the comfort-food take-out place might melt and dissolve in the microwave.

2) Chicken pot pie crust won't reheat in the microwave anyway.

P.S. Can you imagine how much work I'm getting done today?

In Non-Election News...

You know those cardboard sleeves that come with CDs these days? The kind that wrap around the jewel case and are always kind of hard to slip the CD into and out of? The ones that you end up leaving around empty and crushing under a stack of jewel cases on the shelf?

Does anyone not hate those?

I can think of exactly one thing in their favor (and it's a small thing): CDs that come in cardboard sleeves don't usually have the barcode stickers of death along their top edge. (BTW, the barcode sticker of death is pretty manageable if you just always have a knife handy.)

POSTSCRIPT: It occurs to me that I might be the only person left on the planet who still buys CDs, a possibility that is reinforced by the fact that Tower Records is closing its doors. Which leaves me with only the rather-inconvenient Virgin Megastore in terms of corporate CD buy-ery. But that's OK, because I buy almost all my CDs at Other Music, in either the In, Then, or La Decadanse sections (I can't remember which).

POSTSCRIPT (2): Which reminds me that I bought a copy of Cometbus fanzine there the other day. Can you believe that paper fanzines still exist? As there are photocopiers in the world, Aaron Cometbus will carry on...

Sorry, Lois. Sorry, Diane.

PA-6 has been called for Jim Gerlach. That gives me an 0-3 record doing GOTV at the federal level. Boo.

How is it that the Democrats can pick up almost 30 seats in the House and lose in moderate districts in PA and CT? I mean, arithmetically, is that possible?

Am I Dreaming?

It's like Christmas and Halloween are giving me a massage and the crystal meth is just kicking in... Rumsfeld resigned!?! Somebody in the vicinity of the White House is aware of and responsive to objective reality?!? Oh, brave new world!

More (bad) advice for the Democrats

First bill out of the House: Nancy Pelosi gets to kick George Bush in the balls! On national television!

A Little Schadenfreude

My favorite part of all of this is seeing Rick Santorum, that frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter posing as a U.S. Senator, get his ass handed to him.

My second favorite part is that, even if he ends up winning---which we apparently won't know for sure until December---George Allen, my bete noir, has had his presidential aspirations dashed. (If a Republican can't win by more than a few hundred votes in Virginia, he can't win the presidency. Sorry, sucker.)

Advice for the Democrats

Don't screw this up. Be the party of competence.* You've got to be more Catholic than the Pope (I'm not sure who the Pope is in this metaphor): pass a balanced budget without egregiously raising taxes, don't climb into bed with the lobbyists, and forgo earmarks for at least one election cycle. And please just sit out the culture wars: show people you can engage the real issues directly, without throwing red meat to your base.

Good luck! I love you! (For now!)

* I don't mean run as the Party of Competence (*cough* Dukakis)---just be the party of competence.

Democrats! Yay!

Can we all now admit that Karl Rove is not a genius? The Repulicans' strategy for this election was: (a) try to convince the average voter that the economy and Iraq are both fine, (b) if that fails, slime the opponent with negative ads and robocalls, and (c) if that fails, suppress and/or steal the vote. If the voters believe that your party's governing philosophy is basically sound, this can work (see: 2004); if the voters are convinced that your party's leaders are incompetent and out of touch... Bzzt.

Good for you, America!

My record on volunteering is decidedly mixed. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a candidate for New York State Senate in Westchester who I volunteered for kind of by accident, won her race by a nose. Lois Murphy in Pennsylvania's 6th is down by about 3,000 votes as of this writing but the race hasn't been called. (Presumably, they will look at the absentee ballots.) [CORRECTION: I originally mistook Lois Murphy for Patrick Murphy and reported the results for Pennsylvania's 8th district: Murphy up by about 1,500 votes. Right now it looks like the Dems will pick up the 8th and fall short on the 6th. Fingers crossed.] Diane Farrell in Connecticutt's 4th is down by about 4,000 votes with 93% of precincts reporting; the race has been called for Chris Shays. You can add these to my 2004 record working for America Coming Together in Independence, MO: John Kerry lost Missouri by about 200,000 votes. (But he did win Jackson County!)

Maybe I'm a jinx. Or maybe this GOTV stuff doesn't really work. Seeing it up close, it's hard to believe that it does: the lists are sloppy, the voters are jaded, and the numbers don't really work out. Yesterday, I probably visited 100-150 households with 200-250 voters. There were a few dozen volunteers like me, meaning we contacted a few thousand voters. If, say, 5% of them voted when they otherwise wouldn't have then we produced a few hundred extra votes in an election where nearly 200,000 votes were cast.

I don't know if the Republican's have some magical better way of doing things (maybe it looks something like this)---I know the Democratic volunteers are convinced they do. (But the Democratic volunteers are convinced that the Republicans stole the last three elections, murdered Paul Wellstone, and have better snacks.) Clearly, the Republicans turn-out machine is not so magical that it can completely subvert the popular will (which is essentially what Karl Rove was trying to convince us of, up to and including yesterday).

Weirdest voter reaction from CT-4: "We're not voting for Diane Farrell. We have friends!"

Monday, November 06, 2006

Assateague (hee)

Assateague (hee)
Originally uploaded by C+H.

Last weekend, H and I took a road trip down to Williamsburg, VA to attend Lou and Brandi's wedding (not pictured). Along the way we stopped in Virginia Beach and Assateague Island, MD (not to mention various waffle houses, Arby's, and a barbecue joint). Enjoy.

Some Notes on Canvassing

For the campaigns:
I think I heard somewhere that the "dirty secret" of political campaigns is that there's not enough work to give to the volunteers. If this isn't true, campaign staffers sure act like it is, given the disorganized pile of crap they usually dump on their fresh-faced volunteers. Now I don't want to make too much of the noble sacrifice of, you know, people like me, but I will say this: I have other things I could be doing with a sunny afternoon. I want to feel like my efforts are making an impact (even if it's not true). Get your shit together. Do not waste my time. This will benefit you in at least two ways: (a) I will get more things done for you in the time I have to give, and (b) I will want to give you more of my time in the future. Dig it.

  • Coordinate your efforts. Keep track of who you have called and where you have knocked and do not call or knock again for an appropriate period. Do not send two people to knock on the same door on the same day. This annoys voters and volunteers alike.

  • Clean up your data. Today, I was knocking at the doors of Democratic precinct captains who were running election day GOTV efforts, asking them to please remember to vote. They were incredulous. Yesterday, I was walking 200 yards uphill to knock on one door. This micro-targeting stuff might work, but it's hell on the volunteers. Don't send me to visit people who don't need my visit, or who have moved, or who are dead. Don't send a man on foot to do a man in a car's job.

  • Give me a route. Oddly enough, I've never been to precinct 12-1 in Lower Merrien, PA. I don't know my way around. Campaigns have caught on to MapQuest, but they need to take this one step further: map the houses I'm supposed to visit and the order I should visit them in. Give me the list of addresses in route order. (In the campaigns' favor, this requires more than the average Excel-jockeying that seems to go into their list management. A note to the entrepreneurial hacker: you should be able to get a few hundred dollars out of every political campaign in the country if you provide a tool that makes this easy. I imagine the Google Maps API would get you half-way there.)

  • Buy me lunch. You want me to meet you at 9 AM. At 11 AM you hand me a clipboard and a bottle of water and you ask me to be back by 4. What do normal people do between the hours of 11 and 4? Sack lunch! It's a no-brainer!

For the suburbs:

  • Put numbers on your damn house. Do you ever have food delivered? Would you like an ambulance to find you in case of emergency? Do you want campaign volunteers to knock on your door every weekend in October? Just put some numbers on your damn house.

  • Put the numbers in order, or something. I mean, seriously. Is this a problem? Also, streets are continuous thoroughfares: they may curve, but they may not halt and recommence in another location. If it ends and starts again somewhere else, it's a different street. Period.

Best Republican dirty trick I saw with my own eyes:
A yard sign looking exactly like a "Casey for Senate" sign, but which said instead "Casey for Amnesty.org". Curious voters will be surprised to discover Bob Casey wants to give ice cream and nuclear weapons to Mexicans who have sworn to destroy us.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Edgy Eft-ing Swap

Major Complain the First has been addressed by the magic of the Internet. It seems the Ubuntu developers decided to change the already-cryptic Linux disk naming scheme and make it even more cryptic---my swap disk used to be /dev/sda5; it is now UUID=68c2346f-f652-429a-a974-2abac9b7ffbd. Then, to top it off, they didn't bother to update /etc/fstab or the initramfs settings.

Hibernate is back! Hurray! Suspend still doesn't work! Boo!

Broadcom, Nvidia: the ball is in your court.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Drawing for LaTeX

Is this (God help me) the figure editor I've been dreaming of? The one with a graphical interface and really nice Postscript output, suitable for inclusion in my LaTeX documents? (xfig doesn't cut it, pstricks is like programming in assembly.)

I think it might be!

POSTSCRIPT: Trouble on the make the easy things easy front: I want a box or a circle with text centered in it. How?