Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Jump, Jump!

Speaking of sharks, remember when that was a website and not just a cliche? The vast majority of people who bothered to vote seem to think The Gilmore Girls took a wrong turn sometime in the last two seasons (this is ignoring "Never Jumped" voters, who are ignorant pigs).

My own feeling is that the show started to decline in quality around the time that Rory started seriously dating Logan and did a nosedive after she became disillusioned and dropped out of Yale. Which, you'll recall, was the same time that she started flirting with DAR membership and stopped speaking to Lorelai---a more severe case of misunderstanding your own show's core appeal I have never seen. It was like sending the cast of ER to spend a summer at the happy puppy farm.

I watch too much TV! It's embarrassing!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Gilmore Girls are Tired

Has any show ever fallen farther faster than The Gilmore Girls? What went wrong exactly? Is it just the ineluctable storyline exhaustion of a sixth season? Is it, as Virginia Heffernan claims, the loss of "despotic creator" Amy Sherman-Palladino?

It's not just the on-again, off-again Luke-Christopher-maybe-Luke-again thrum of Lorelai's love life or the dreary attraction-dating-marriage-baby death-march of Lane and Zach. It's not even Rory's soul-killing romance with a callow trust-fund jerk. It's just... boring. It's flat where it used to be spritely. It's preposterous where it used to quirky. It's deathly dull and obvious where it used to crackle with intelligence.

And... sputter... I'm a man! I didn't ever even properly love this show the way it was meant to be loved.


I don't think the show was ever fated to survive Rory's departure for college. It's appeal was too much based on the central relationship between Rory and Lorelai to survive their physical separation, even with Rory driving home for an implausibly large number of laundry loads and local dance recitals. There's too many damn scenes with them yapping on the phone that are cut head shot, head shot, head shot, head shot, "Bye," "Bye," click, end scene.


In case you can't tell, I'm typing this while Hilleary watches the show against my will.


Comments in BibTeX

Be warned: there is a @Comment directive in BibTeX, but it doesn't appear to do anything.

UPDATE: @Comment works as expected so long as you use it outside any other directive. E.g., the following will not work,

@InProceedings{ key,
title = {\BibTeX comments considered harmful},
author = {Christopher L. Conway},
booktitle = {Procrastiblog Symposium on \LaTeX Arcana},
year = 2007,
@Comment{ This never actually happened. }
whereas the following is fine,
@InProceedings{ key,
title = {\BibTeX comments considered harmful},
author = {Christopher L. Conway},
booktitle = {Procrastiblog Symposium on \LaTeX Arcana},
year = 2007,

@Comment{ The above never actually happened. }

Monday, February 19, 2007

BSG 3.15: "A Day in the LIfe"

Roslyn to Adama: "I'd love to turn you on."

BSG gives off the vibe of a show where the stakes are high, but the only semi-major characters who have ever died were Ellen Tigh and Kat.* This is getting pretty unbelievable... How many planets has Starbuck crashed and been abandoned on? Cally and Chief aren't even in fighting trim... they're supposed to survive explosive decompression with nothing more than a burst blood vessel?

I have no use for these bonus scenes. Cut it into the episode or put it on the DVD. I don't need your leftovers.

* The Sopranos benefits from the same perception and suffers from the same problem. You think nobody is off limits, but the only long-term character to die since Big Pussy was Adrianna. Characters like Ralph Cifaretto are blatantly brought on to get whacked---the only surprise in that case was how long it took and why it happened. Would it kill you to lose a Paulie Walnuts just to maintain some believability here?

I assume that in the last season, we can expect a little more blood to flow. Though I also assume, since the idea of a Sopranos movie has been knocked around, that we can expect Tony to survive.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

On Wisdom

Paul Graham is both smart and wise. On the futility of seeking wisdom qua wisdom:

People seeking some single thing called "wisdom" have been fooled by grammar. Wisdom is just knowing the right thing to do, and there are a hundred and one different qualities that help in that. Some, like selflessness, might come from meditating in an empty room, and others, like a knowledge of human nature, might come from going to drunken parties.

Perhaps realizing this will help dispel the cloud of semi-sacred mystery that surrounds wisdom in so many people's eyes. The mystery comes mostly from looking for something that doesn't exist.

On the discontent of the over-achiever:

To me it was a relief just to realize it might be ok to be discontented. The idea that a successful person should be happy has thousands of years of momentum behind it. If I was any good, why didn't I have the easy confidence winners are supposed to have? But that, I now believe, is like a runner asking "If I'm such a good athlete, why do I feel so tired?" Good runners still get tired; they just get tired at higher speeds.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

BSG 3.14: "The Woman King"

I did not like this episode. Specifically:

  1. In partial answer to Query the Second, it turns out treason and sabotage won't get you court-martialed, but it will get you busted down to administering a refugee camp in the basement.

  2. The last thing in the world Helo needed was for his God complex to get a little boost. This episode would have been much more dramatically interesting if he had turned out to be wrong, if the stress of being the "man (who's not Baltar) who loves a Cylon" was making him paranoid and delusional. The episode could have gone in this direction right up to the last minutes, but opted for the pat, feel-good ending instead.

  3. The Mystery Disease could have been handled in more dramatically interesting ways as well. As Matt Zoller Seitz suggests, if the disease had been incurable, this could have led to an interesting long-term arc that would mirror the AIDS epidemic. If the disease had been more virulent, the theme of public health vs. religious anti-medical conviction could have been developed further.

  4. Where is the constituency that will rise up in insurrection if Baltar goes on trial? Baltar publicly collaborated with the Cylons in the enslavement of humankind. It's as if the writers just take it for granted "every event has a real-world parallel" (in this case, obviously, Saddam Hussein) without going to the effort of setting the parallels up properly: remember, guys, the Galacticans were the insurgency and Baltar was Ahmed Chalabi...

  5. What's the deal with the titles, lately?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Developers Can Be Dicks (It's True!)

Take, for example, this bug that I mentioned a few days ago: the Mac OS version of the Thunderbird mail client doesn't integrate with the Mac Address Book. Many people find this annoying and a good many cite it as the One Single Reason They Don't Use Thunderbird On Their Mac.

In a past life, when my Mac was my main computer and was getting on my nerves, I voted for this bug in Bugzilla. As a consequence, I am CC'd on any changes to the bug, which I find fairly annoying. Apparently, the maintainer find it un-bjørne-ably annoying:

Peter Van der Beken 2007-02-13 13:37:12 PST

is someone working on this with the intent of AddressBook integration happening sometime 'soon' (hint: not another 4 years, please ...)?

Yeah, I was. But comments like yours have finally made me decide that I'd rather not read more bugmail from this bug.

And, with that, he took his name off the bug and marked it UNASSIGNED.

A little history... This bug was first reported in April 2003. The first patch was committed in June 2003. Since then, there have been about 80 comments attached---a rate of less than 2 per month---and the patch has been modified more than a dozen times to fix bugs or keep it up-to-date with the trunk code. Over 400 people have voted this an important bug, making it the #5 most voted for open bug in the entire Mozilla project database. Despite all of that, there has been never an inkling that the bug fix will be incorporated into a release.

What gives, Mozilla? Has all maintainence been outsourced to unhinged maniacs?

Panser Anti-Bjørne

This documentary is now at the top of my Netflix queue. I suspect---just this once---Hilleary won't mind.

The quick summary: man is attacked by bear, man spends years building anti-bear armor, man seeks out Grizzly for a re-match, and then... ? I'll just have to wait and find out!

(Via Dave-of-the-Long-Box)

A Series of... Pipes?

Yahoo Pipes is pretty cool, though not, I suspect, as easy-to-use as advertised. The idea is that you can take RSS feeds and other "Web 2.0" content, process them in non-trivial ways, and end up with your own filtered, re-mixed, or mashed-up data stream. Things like: personalized Ebay price watches or Flickr photos inspired by New York Times headlines.

I've concocted my own, decidedly less ambitious Pipes: Overheard in New York w/o the Wednesday One-Liners (there's too many!) and Tapped blog posts by Mark Schmitt or Ezra Klein (all those other earnest liberals get boring). Here's another one, just for kicks: Grace's posts on design*sponge and BizBox in one feed.

If anybody can figure out how to make a Pipe that attaches headlines to headline-less RSS feeds, that would be sweet.

P.S.: I should probably give a "via" credit to TWiT---as if they need it---since I was inspired by their idle yapping to check this out.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ubuntu's GCC 4.1 and -fstack-protector

Ubuntu quietly made -fstack-protector (i.e., ProPolice support) the default in their GCC 4.1 binary. (I think it's also the default in OpenBSD.) Unfortunately, this breaks some builds, especially (I think) if you're trying to build a kernel module. If you get an error that mentions the symbol __stack_chk_fail_local, like the one below, you got bit by this bug.

/usr/bin/ld: .libs/cr_checkpoint: hidden symbol `__stack_chk_fail_local' in /usr/lib/libc_nonshared.a(stack_chk_fail_local.oS) is referenced by DSO
/usr/bin/ld: final link failed: Nonrepresentable section on output
collect2: ld returned 1 exit status

Either re-build your libraries with -fstack-protector or add -fno-stack-protector to CFLAGS. If this doesn't work, you can try gcc-4.0, which predates the introduction of ProPolice, but this probably won't work if you're compiling a kernel module, because they have to be compiled with the same compiler as the kernel.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fi, O Fi

When I cut-and-paste from PDF into Emacs, ligatures come out weird. "specific" comes out . (Note that I had to make that an image, because pasting the same text into a Firefox window renders the ligature correctly. The gobbledygook is a control code that is properly understood by the standard GUI fonts. Note also that the cut-and-paste version is a ligature (fi), but the version I type in directly is not (fi).) Of course, there's ligatures besides "fi", and hyphenation is always a problem. Is there a magic Emacs incantation to make this work correctly?

Pop-ups, a Third Way

If you set Firefox to block pop-ups, you get this message when a page requests a pop-up:

This is accompanied by a Preferences button with the following options:

Why only "allow pop-ups for this site"? Why not "allow this one pop-up that I'm pretty sure I want to see, but protect me from future nefarious pop-ups"?

This properly belongs in Bugzilla, but I'm sure the developers would tell me I'm stupid and ignore me. See, e.g., this bug that I voted for, like, two years ago.

UPDATE: As I suspected, Bugzilla has entries for why this isn't really a bug and why you don't want what you think you want.

The Congressional Work Ethic

Correct me if I'm wrong: are these Congressmen (of both parties) actually complaining about how hard, nigh impossible, it is to work five days a week? Is Jon Tester ("We shouldn't complain about a little inconvenience. I got a lot of people in my state working two five-day weeks") the only Senator who understands how ridiculous that sounds? There are poor people who work two jobs. There are middle-income and rich people (and graduate students!) who work nights and weekends (but not mornings!)...

Here's an idea: if you don't like the hours, you don't have to be a Congressman! I'm sure your top-tier law firms and lobbying outfits will give you a week off every month.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Animals Have Problems Too

Lots more fun here. (Thanks to Vijay.)

Argument by Animal

Ann Althouse wonders about the polar bears:

How many people look at that picture and think the polar bears were living on some ice and it melted around them and now they are stuck?

And, yes, I realize a polar bear can drown... if, say, it's exhausted and swimming over 50 miles. But basically, these things can swim 15 miles easily, at a speed of 6 miles an hour, and they use the edge of an ice floe as a platform from which to hunt. Where's the photograph of the bear chomping down on a cute baby seal?

And, no, I'm not denying that there's global warming, even as I sit here a double pane of glass away from -12° air. I'm just amused at human behavior, such as the way it is possible to feel arguments at us. In particular, we are susceptible to argument by animal. We love the animal, if it's pictured right, in a way that pulls our heartstrings.

I was kind of wondering this myself... I suspect the contextual implication of the picture below is completely false, but at the same time it somehow primes us to the deeper truth it signifies...

Pa, Pa, Pants Man!

(via Andrew Sullivan)

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Top Chef Post-Show

Now, that I've calmed down a bit...

I'm still a little perplexed by the decision. Ilan played it safe last week and very nearly got sent home. He played it safe again this week and took the title. According to my sources on the Internets (including Lee Anne Wong), several of his dishes this week and last were more-or-less straight from the menu of Casa Mono (including the bay leaf dessert).

By my count, they each had one miss (Marcel's salad w/o tear-drop vinaigrette, Ilan's angulas from a can), 3 strong dishes, and one "meh" (Marcel's dessert, Ilan's short ribs). The way the show was cut, I thought the diners were much more impressed with Marcel's food. And Marcel's "meh" was at least more creative and interesting than Ilan's.

Here are the good reasons to send Marcel home that I didn't hear come out of the Judge's mouths: the salad course and the missing hamachi showed poor planning and bad judgment (even if the non-hamachi dish ended up being a hit); he's probably less ready to go open his own restaurant tomorrow, considering his style of cuisine will only work in a high-end fine dining atmosphere and he's not quite there yet (Ilan, on the other hand, could probably open a successful downtown comfort food joint next week); in short, Marcel is less capable of realizing his grand ambitions than Ilan is of realizing his own modest ones.

Still, it was a completely uninspiring end to the season. They failed to pick the obviously best chef, which was Sam. And they chose a guy who was a self-regarding, small-minded, ignorant jerk. Seriously, I think that his part in the Marcel-shaving incident---notwithstanding the fact that he never laid a hand on him---was probably worse than Cliff's. Cliff was just physically following through on the logic of the moment, and he did so without excessive malice or force. Meanwhile, Ilan stood by shrieking and laughing, egging Cliff, Sam, and Elia on. He's the only one that seemed genuinely disappointed that Marcel escaped with his hair. And after several months to contemplate what had happened, he fell right back into bullying Marcel without a second thought.

It makes me sick to my stomach. It really does.

That and the big pile of barbecue I just ate.