Saturday, February 23, 2008

Blog #24 Wiki Leaks, DVD Jon Strikes Again, Nightsong’s a wrap

From the Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama debate in Austin on Thursday night, at Clinton’s criticism of Obama using words from the governor of Massachusets during a rally, Obama said, “This is where we start getting into silly season in politics, and I think people start getting discouraged about it,” he said. Obama supporters getting discouraged? Not likely, with the delegate count running the way it is.

In her response though, Mrs. Clinton had the line of the night — which elicited a few boos from the audience: “I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. Lifting whole passages from someone else’s speeches is not change you can believe in; it’s change you can Xerox.” But then she went on to praise Obama for being passionate but said we need to unite country around specific goals.
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Watching Mary Matalin, the ultraconservative Republican adviser, smooze with Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday’s Situation Room and noting how her mind works and the directions it takes, makes you wonder what she and hubby James Carville, the rabid Democratic consultant, talk about nights at home, and especially during dinner. How many would bet it’s NOT politics? Sure enough Matalin’s Wikipedia page tells us that they do NOT talk politics at home. Incidentally Matalin felt (as do I) that Hillary Clinton would be the stronger Democratic candidate, though her expressing that is subject to suspicion as so strong a Republican partisan would never truly wish for the Groan Old Party’s candidate to run against the most formidable Democratic candidate.
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I’ll bet you thought Sony’s blu-ray technology won the war against Toshiba’s HD-DVD because it held more data? Well, it does hold more, but there is a lot more to the story than that. It turns out that there is a conspiracy theory behind the blu-ray and HD-DVD war that practically ranks alongside the conspiracy to kill JFK. As it turns out, most of the movie industry lined up behind blu-ray not just because of more space on the disks, but because aligning themselves with HD-DVD would have made Microsoft a power in the high definition world, and no company in their right mind wanted to be paying endless royalties to Microsoft for inferior technologies. The full story is fascinating, and it can be be found here:
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From’s tech column’s Linkpost 2.22.2008, in response to an article describing “bloatware,” came the following charming analogy from a reader signing himself Davesmall. Are you following Microsoft?

Once upon a time there was a nifty little sports car that customers loved.
The marketing guys figured that they could charge a lot of money for an upgrade.
And so a family sedan replaced those neat little sports cars
The marketing guys figured that they could charge a lot of money for an upgrade.
And so a large SUV was born
The marketing guys figured that they could charge a lot of money for an upgrade.
And so the SUV became a bus
The marketing guys figured that they could charge a lot of money for an upgrade.
And so the Bus became a tandem axle cross country truck

And now customers are driving that truck back and forth to the super market.
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The question of the week: Can a Swiss Bank acting in an American court on behalf of a Cayman Island branch order not just an injunction against a website devoted to publishing leaks, government, corporate, etc., but actually have the entirety of the website permanently shut down? That is a question posed this week by the ars technica website and the N.Y.Times. What follows first is from ars technica signed by Nate Anderson:

“Bank Julius Baer calls itself the “leading dedicated wealth manager in Switzerland” and as we all know, it is not good for wealth managers to be linked to scandal. On Friday the bank obtained a temporary restraining order against the site Wikileaks which is currently hosting a batch of documents from inside the bank. The bank was unhappy about material hosted on Wikileaks that appears to show corruption in the bank's Cayman Islands branch.

Since filing a federal lawsuit against the site in San Francisco the bank so far has been on a roll in the case. On February 15, the bank obtained a permanent injunction against Dynadot that requires the registrar to "lock the domain name" and to "disable the domain name and account to prevent access to and any changes from being made to the domain name and account information." Rather than just put a hold on the particular documents in question, the judge has instead attempted to remove the entire site from the Internet. Wikileaks was not present at the hearing where the decision was made, saying that it was notified only by e-mail and given just a few hours' notice. As is common in such situations, the order was essentially written by the bank and then adopted by the judge. The judge’s permanent injunction against Dynadot, the registrar of Wikileaks, demands that the site’s information be locked and its domain name scoured from the internet.

The story in the NYTimes was by Adam Liptak and Brad Stone, and noted that “legal experts said (the injunction against Wikileaks) could present a major test of First Amendment rights in the Internet era. The site,, invites people to post leaked materials with the goal of discouraging “unethical behavior” by corporations and governments. It has posted documents concerning the rules of engagement for American troops in Iraq, a military manual concerning the operation of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and other evidence of what it has called corporate waste and wrongdoing.

“The case in San Francisco was brought by a Cayman Islands bank, Julius Baer Bank and Trust. In court papers, the bank claimed that “a disgruntled ex-employee who has engaged in a harassment and terror campaign” provided stolen documents to Wikileaks in violation of a confidentiality agreement and banking laws. According to Wikileaks, “the documents allegedly reveal secret Julius Baer trust structures used for asset hiding, money laundering and tax evasion.”

“On Friday, Judge Jeffrey S. White (a Bush appointee, which may explain a lot) of the Federal District Court in San Francisco granted a permanent injunction ordering Dynadot of San Mateo, Calif., the site’s domain name registrar, to disable the domain name. The order had the effect of locking the front door to the site — a largely ineffectual action that kept back doors to the site, and several copies of it, available to sophisticated Web users who knows where to look. “The feebleness of the action suggests that the bank, and the judge, did not understand how the domain system works or how quickly Web communities will move to counter actions they see as hostile to free speech online.

Wikileaks maintains “mirror sites,” which are copies of itself, usually to insure against outages and this kind of legal action. These sites were registered in countries like Belgium (, Germany (, and the Christmas Islands ( through domain registrars other that Dynadot, and so were not affected by the injunction. Fans of the site and its mission rushed to publicize those alternate addresses this week. They have also distributed copies of the sensitive bank information on their own sites and via peer-to-peer file sharing networks.

“In a statement on its site, Wikileaks compared Judge White’s orders to ones eventually overturned by the United States Supreme Court in the Pentagon Papers case in 1971. In that case, the federal government sought to enjoin publication of a secret history of the Vietnam War by The New York Times and The Washington Post.

“The Wikileaks injunction is the equivalent of forcing The Times’s printers to print blank pages and its power company to turn off press power,” the site said, referring to the order that sought to disable the entire site. The site said it was founded by dissidents in China and journalists, mathematicians and computer specialists in the United States, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

“Judge White’s order disabling the entire site “is clearly not constitutional,” said David Ardia, the director of the Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School. “There is no justification under the First Amendment for shutting down an entire Web site.” The narrower order, forbidding the dissemination of the disputed documents, is a more classic prior restraint on publication. Such orders are disfavored under the First Amendment and almost never survive appellate scrutiny.”

A followup in the NYTime’s Bits column reports: “The records for Wikileak’s I.P. address indicate that it is hosted by PRQ, based in Stockholm. PRQ’s home page offers clues that it’s not just another hosting company. It paraphrases a quote from Mike Godwin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation: “I worry about my children all the time. I worry that 10 years from now, they will come to me and say, ‘Daddy, where were you when they took freedom of speech away from the Internet?’”

As it turns out, PRQ is owned by two founders of the Pirate Bay, the BitTorrent tracker site that is Hollywood’s least favorite online destination. The Pirate Bay guys have made a sport out of taunting all forms of authority, including the Swedish police, and PRQ has gone out of its way to host sites that other companies wouldn’t touch. It is perhaps the world’s least lawyer-friendly hosting company and thus a perfect home for Wikileaks, which says it is “developing an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis.”
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Are lights at night a cause for breast cancer in women? This is a question posed by Rick Weiss, a Washington Post Staff Writer. He reports: “Women who live in neighborhoods with large amounts of nighttime illumination are more likely to get breast cancer than those who live in areas where nocturnal darkness prevails, according to an unusual study that overlaid satellite images of Earth onto cancer registries. “The finding adds credence to the hypothesis that exposure to too much light at night can raise the risk of breast cancer by interfering with the brain's production of a tumor-suppressing hormone.

"By no means are we saying that light at night is the only or the major risk factor for breast cancer," said Itai Kloog, of the University of Haifa in Israel, who led the new work. "But we found a clear and strong correlation that should be taken into consideration."

“Scientists have known for years that rats raised in cages where lights are left on for much of the night have higher cancer rates than those allowed to sleep in darkness. And epidemiological studies of nurses, flight attendants and others who work at night have found breast cancer rates 60 percent above normal, even when other factors such as differences in diet are accounted for.

“On the basis of such studies, an arm of the World Health Organization announced in December its decision to classify shift work as a "probable carcinogen." That put the night shift in the same health-risk category as exposure to such toxic chemicals as trichloroethylene, vinyl chloride and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

“The mechanism of such a link, if real, remains mysterious, but many scientists suspect that melatonin is key. Secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, the hormone helps prevent tumor formation. The body produces melatonin primarily at night, and levels drop precipitously in the presence of light, especially light in the blue part of the spectrum produced in quantity by computer screens and fluorescent bulbs. In keeping with the melatonin hypothesis, mice in cages with night lighting have normal cancer rates if they get shots of the hormone. And blind women, whose eyes cannot detect light and so have robust production of melatonin, have lower-than-average breast cancer rates.

“Kloog and his colleagues took a previously untried approach to testing the link. They obtained satellite data from NASA that showed in great detail how much light was emitted spaceward from neighborhoods throughout Israel. Although the light levels that reached the satellite were about one-tenth their intensity on Earth, the approach provides an accurate measure of which areas are brighter or darker than others and by how much.

“The team then overlaid that map with local statistics on cases of breast cancer and, for comparison, lung cancer, which is caused mostly by smoking and so would not be expected to be linked to light. After using neighborhood data to correct for other factors that can affect cancer rates, including wealth, ethnicity and the average number of children in families living in those localities, the researchers found no link between night lighting and lung cancer, they report in this week's online issue of the journal Chronobiology International. But the researchers found the breast cancer rate in localities with average night lighting to be 37 percent higher than in communities with the lowest amount of light; and they noted that the rate was higher by an additional 27 percent in areas with the highest amount of light.

“Abraham Haim, a University of Haifa chronobiologist involved in the study, said the findings raise questions about the recent push to switch to energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, which suppress melatonin production more than conventional incandescent bulbs. "This may be a disaster in another 20 years," Haim said, "and you won't be able to reverse what we did by mistake." He called for more research before policies favoring fluorescent lights are implemented, and for more emphasis on using less light at night.

“Jim Burch, a University of South Carolina epidemiologist and biostatistician familiar with the study, called the approach and findings "fascinating." "The study has limitations," including not measuring levels of indoor lighting, "but it supports the overall idea," Burch said. "I think there is enough evidence to suggest we ought to be thinking about this more carefully."
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And from NewsBlog comes a post by Erica Ogg that reports that DVD Jon, the man notorious for cracking the DVD code and Apple’s FairPlay DRM is turning his expertise into a legitimate business venture. Beginning Tuesday the first product from his company, DoubleTwist Ventures will enter open beta. It is called Double Twist, and it’s a free desktop client that essentially allows any kind of music, photo, or video file to be shared between a long list of portable media players, and through Web-based social networks. Instead of iTunes songs or videos taken with a Nokia N95 remaining locked on the phone, DoubleTwist software allows for dragging, dropping, and syncing of different media formats no matter the device.

“The idea, according to DoubleTwist founder and CEO Monique Farantzos, is that media files should be more like e-mail. It shouldn't matter what service you create the file in, or on what type of hardware, it all should work together seamlessly, she says. Farantzos recruited DVD Jon, or Jon Lech Johansen, and the two have been working with about 10 others for the past eight months on the DoubleTwist software. Johansen says “DoubleTwist allows him to bring the success he's found to a wider audience.

"It's one opportunity to write something for your Web site for use by a couple thousand geeks," he said in an interview. “But with DoubleTwist, the idea is to hide all the complexity of making easy transfers of files from the user so that even non-techie types will understand. The goal is to make something your parents can use," he said.

It works like this: When a device is plugged into a PC (Windows XP and Vista only right now, Mac OS X coming soon), DoubleTwist launches and recognizes all the media files on the device. Any file can be selected, dragged, and dropped into DoubleTwist to be synched up to a separate device, or shared with other users you've "friended" who also use DoubleTwist.

DoubleTwist also recognizes and imports all iTunes playlists and will read instantly which ones are protected by digital rights management technology. The software automatically plays the song files in the background (sans volume) and re-records them as MP3 files so they can be transferred to any device. Note: DoubleTwist only does this for songs you own or are authorized to play in iTunes.

Farantzos says they're not picking on any one particular brand of DRM, especially since the entire industry, led by Amazon, is leaning toward a DRM-free policy.

"Digital media is dominated by two players, Windows Media and iTunes, and they each have their own agenda ... we see ourselves as the Swiss Army Knife of digital media. We are format and device agnostic."
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In other Little Eddy news, Nightsong as a Podcast (the first issue of which is called Nightsong Yet Again) is a wrap, and cd copies of it have been sent out to family, sons Daniel in Seattle, Washington, and Joel in La Mesas, Arizona, and in Houston Susannah, Dave, and Emma Nix (Susannah gets top billing here because she’s my niece, my late sister’s only daughter, and the mother of her only granddaughter.) Joel tells me that it’s now my job to find some site that posts podcasts so that both of you out there in cyberland (or is it cyberspace?) who might wish to listen to it can access it. The minute I do find a place to post it I will add a link to it. Meantime I thought I might throw a teaser or two out from the notes I wrote to go along with the cd of the Podcast.

It took two whole weeks to put Nightsong together but that’s not so long when you consider I had to learn to handle a whole new media, digital music, and a new computer program to handle it, Apple’s GarageBand. GarageBand looks impossible when you first check it out, but it is deceptively easy once you know what the hell you’re doing, and there’s nothing like finding out the hard way by just diving in and trying it out. Several PDF’s gave much needed guidance on how to make a GarageBand Podcast and they were very helpful, so I didn’t have to operate completely on my own.

The trick is finding your music in iTunes, and once you do you simply drag the piece you want to one of the tracks in the timeline. GarageBand then copies it onto the timeline. The same goes with sounds, and when you record voice, that goes onto another strip in the timeline. Once you get your material in you find you have perfect control of your material, setting volumes, fades, etc. just as if you had real turntables and real faders.

Digital music technology is amazing. Gone are the occasional pops of vinyl recordings, and the hiss and wave deterioration of tape. Copies in this digital age no longer carry the baggage of noise and quality loss. Much to the dismay of Cary Sherman and the RIAA, it is quite possible to reproduce music time and time again, exactly as it was recorded, with absolutely no loss by passing it through a computer. Since the computer is copying data rather than sound waves each copy is a perfect clone of the original.

At first the idea of doing radio without turntables and tape decks seemed a little strange, but after giving the result a careful listen I feel I was able to do virtually everything that I used to do in a well equipped radio studio with just an iMac computer and a microphone. And that even includes playing two performances at one time, one slightly behind the other, making the second one sound like an echo. At KPFT I had to use two turntables to have the Silly Sisters sing a duet with themselves, and when I did it on the air I didn’t have the luxury of having a chance to practice it beforehand; although through some miracle I somehow managed to pull it off live. But it was a lot easier to pull it off in GarageBand because each track lies in a visible space, and you can drag the echo track a bit this way or that until you get it at precisely the right spot in the time line.

GarageBand lets you save your creations seamlessly to iTunes, and I must say I was impressed when the computer at GarageBand’s direction sailed through the entire 57 minute timeline in about seven minutes, mixing the songs precisely according to my settings and with no further assistance needed from me. And after the conversion when I played this little baby in iTunes for the first time, my mind was thoroughly blown.

Listening to Nightsong is a trip that’s best taken at dusk or later, when you have a free hour on your hands and few distractions. Nightsong is like chocolate for the imagination, 57 minutes of music and audio stimulation. Rhythms pulse, voices purr and together they conjur up images and dreams, and just as you begin to hypnotically to nod out things happen, unexpected things. And you’re jolted awake again. Any decent stereo system will do fine for playback, but better is better. Little earphones and an iPod (or other mobile music player) makes for a nice mobility, you can listen outdoors while gazing at the stars. If you happen to have an Apple computer you can play it on your computer and run the iTunes visualizer while you listen, its spiraling many colored images make for a rare visual treat.

Note: the video embeds have appeared again. If you drop down to the bottom of the last post in this string, you can watch "Waterboarding U.S.A." And that’s a wrap. See you next week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Blog #23 Of Campaigns, Unions, and Sports

At the moment Barack Obama seems to be surging in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. If Hillary Clinton is able to get back on track it will be Texas and Ohio that will propel her. I listened to Obama’s victory speeches, and although he sounds good and he’s pressing all the right buttons, his thinking just doesn’t seem to me to be as well organized as is Hillary Clinton’s. I really would have more confidence in Hillary on Day One than Obama. Besides it is disconcerting to note support for Obama by Repugnant pundits Bill Bennet and Karl Rove, who certainly have no interest in a Democratic success. It is very true that Hillary has a large negative factor, and especially among Republicans, but most of them won’t vote for a Democrat in spite of their discomfort with McCain, no matter what nonsense Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh might prattle. And whereas in hindsight it was unwise and unbecoming for a former president to be his wife’s number one hatchet man, some of Bill Clinton’s points about Obama were well taken, and in the tradition of Tammy Wynette he can be said to have returned a previously extended favor. However, if Obama’s momentum continues and he ends up the eventual Democratic nominee, the party won’t lose an inch of support. And we may even gain some independents.

For this year the line of demarcation has never been clearer. Failure with a capital F is the current legacy of the Republican Party. Their Emblem is an elephant on its knees; the war in Iraq, the economy, you name it, the elephant has flubbed badly. The only thing they have left to run on is (to paraphrase FDR) fear itself; churning up a fear of Al Qaeda among voters, and spreading the fear that the dems will raise taxes. But it was Bush who crippled the war against Al Qaeda by invading Iraq where Al Qaeda WASN’T, rather than honing all of his resources in Afghanistan where Al Qaeda WAS! Of course, once we got bogged down in Iraq like the Wicked Witch of the East Al Qaeda magically appeared. And John McCain’s frequently expressed win-at-any-cost mindset promises years if not decades of more of the same, and you can bet your bottom dollar (if we have one left to bet) that we’ll be in Iraq for an unbelievably long haul. So let’s you and me make a pact NOT to get Swiftboated. No, never again.

And as for taxes, you can also bet that bottom dollar that the dems *will* raise taxes, however they will raise them only on the very wealthy who got an unneeded and completely uncalled for tax break from Bush, who after awarding it went on to invade Iraq, leaving the rest of us (and our children and our children’s children) to pay for his little extravagance. The dems’ Congressional majorities are razor thin but you better believe that once the they regain real power (and especially the White House) the middle and poorer classes will see tax relief and tax fairness will once again be restored to the national agenda. Lesson: the Republicans only care for those wealthy enough to afford their care, the Democrats are there to care for the rest of us. Enough of this running the federal government for the exclusive benefit of the rich already! It’s high time the rest of us got a break!
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Well, as we enter the #23rd week of this blog the writer’s strike is history. At an announcement on February 10, Writer’s Guild bigwigs announced that the striking writers would return to work on Wednesday. ABC’s broadcast of the Academy Awards show has been saved! New episodes of your favorite TV shows will rise like a flock of phoenixes in early spring! Next fall’s TV season has been resuscitated!

Franklin D. Roosevelt had a few skirmishes with labor leaders during the second world war, challenging the railroad unions and the coal miners, but in general he was a friend of the working man. In my opinion the U. S. president who has inflicted the most damage to the union movement in my lifetime was Ronald Reagan, who at an earlier time had himself held the title of president of the Screen Actors Guild. He completely broke the back of the Air Controllers union, had several of its officers carried away in chains, and union leaders in general became very timid after that. In fact, Reagan, still the darling of Republicans and Christian conservatives, was in my opinion the absolute worst president of the 8o year span of my life. During his regime the atmosphere was oppressive, burglaries flourished because the people at the bottom had lost all hope. As an actor he had been an “also ran,” and he played the part of the president as if the U. S. presidency was a black and white Warner Bros movie. And during his regime the Christian Right became a political force in this country, with its relentless attempt at shaping our nation’s morality into their own image.

Like Bush is doing now, Reagan did an end run around Congress, actively supporting oppression in Nicaragua and El Salvador and he got away with it for a long time, earning himself the nickname of the teflon president because nothing negative ever seemed to stick to him. When things finally caught up with him towards the end of his presidency he struggled through investigation after investigation chanting the mantra, “I can’t remember, I can’t remember.” Tip O’Neil, Speaker of the House during the first year of his presidency, called him the 3x5 card president, because all of his ideas seemed to fit on that size cards. It was reported that he slept a lot. And as it turned out, he was our nation’s first Alzheimer’s president.

Why do screen and television writers strike every few years? As new channels for their work open up (streaming on the web is the newest outlet for television shows), the writers and actors understandably want to share in the profits their work creates. But the production companies who produce and sell the programs will not voluntarily share in these newly found areas of profit (this is capitalism after all), consequently the only way for writers to achieve their fair share is to withhold their services. In a word Strike! Money has to be pried out of the production companies, a process akin to pulling teeth. The last writer’s strike produced the so-called reality tv shows, which to this day remain with us. The actors are smart. They let the writers lead the way. After the writers have won their right to share in residuals, the producers will quickly settle with actors on equal terms, rightly figuring that the public will not tolerate another break in their entertainment, for another delay will surely drive the public to seek out other forms of entertainment.

Why do the producers eventually give in and agree to share with the writers? Because the writers are the starting point in both movies and television. Without writers you have no program. No comedies, no dramas. Writers give words to the actors, and give shape to the characters. Producers know this, and they know they will eventually give in. Large tv events like the Academy Awards give the studios and producers an incentive to settle, for Hollywood loses in the pocketbook big time if the writers are still striking and actors won’t cross their picket lines at the Academy Awards. The Golden Globes was deciminated by this year’s strike. Hollywood wasn’t about t0 let that happen to their precious Oscars, it is too commercially important to the film industry. So understandably at the exact last minute the producers settled.

It is refreshing after these past seven years of oppressive Republican rule, to see unions begin to find their voices once again. For even though it is true that unions only represent a small percentage of the work force, the larger truth is that their presence influences the pay of non union workers and thereby benefits us all. We used to know this before the Republicans clouded our memory with their incessant sputtering of irrelevant blather.
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Roger Clemens; did he or didn’t he? Is it really anyone’s business? If he did it is his own body he violated, he didn’t hurt anyone else. Sports is such a ridiculously competitive mind set, particularly baseball and football. It’s true these players set an example for our youth, but so long as they don’t advertise what they are taking to get their edge what does it matter? Sure, it would be nice if baseball players earned their home run and pitching honors without the help of chemicals, but as long as chemicals are out there and other players are using them, their competitive nature will not let them not use them.

These Congressmen think these congressional investigations are doing some good for the nation. Wouldn’t it be nice if they would take a lesson from the boy scouts and *share* whatever it is they are smoking? I hate to be the one to break the bad news to them but that’s not the way many Americans are seeing these hearings. Virtually every email respondent to CNN’s Cafferty File on Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room reacted extremely negative. Most deplore that the Congressmen were wasting their’s and our time putting Clemens’ through the ringer when they could and should have been investigating what really matters these troubled times, which is the conduct of the Bush administration about the war in Iraq, waterboarding, the NSA reading the nations’ emails without warrants, well, you name it, they seem to have done it. (And Hooray! The DOJ finally had the nerve to declare that “waterboarding” is illegal.)

Clemens is being backed into a corner. Taking steriods or Human Growth Hormones is not, in itself, illegal. But what is illegal is LYING bout it. And most especially lying to Congress IS illegal and punishable by jail time and a fine. You are supposed to tell the truth to Congress, or for that matter to the FBI. Just ask Martha Stewart, she can tell you all about that. Of course, Martha’s main problem was that she was a Democrat, Republicans would have never sent a fellow Republican to jail for dumping a stock that was going to tank, no matter that they lied about their motives. Now the tide seems to have turned. The Democrats are back in power, and poor Roger Clemens is undoubtedly a Republican in distress. But have no fear Roger Clemens, and move over Scooter Libby, Bush will pardon.
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While we’re talking about professional sports have you ever wondered what the attraction is? Why a fan’s mood can swing from high and feeling no pain, to low with high intensity pain as his team is winning or losing? It’s weird, especially if you’re not a fan yourself, it’s something that seems beyond understanding. I have wondered at it myself many times, and especially when I find the Rockets in a streak of losing games because of careless play, or when they are on an eight game winning streak as they are now, and and my mood definitely swings with the tides of their fortune.

When I was a young man living in the University Settlement House in lower Manhattan we had a fellow named Jack who hung around the house who was a for real, dedicated communist. He could quote Karl Marx through and through, and he lived his talk except for one thing, he was an unmitigated fan of professional baseball, and particularly the New York Yankees. Back then I could not understand how a man of such high principles could forsake them by supporting a team in a sport driven by pure capitalism. A team loaded with players who make more money in a season than Jack will likely make in his lifetime. But as illogical as it sounds Jack was a devoted Yankee fan, no question about it. He knew every player, and would go on and on about minute fluctuations in their records.

Myself, I always poohpoohed professional sports until the year 1986. My son Joel was spending the summer touring Europe, the Houston Rockets were in the finals, and I promised Joel I would watch the games and send him reports in Europe. I did, the Rockets played well against Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, but in spite of their having the Twin Towers, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson, they were over matched and lost the series. However, in that month I got hooked and I have been watching the Rockets religiously ever since.

This year has been like a see-saw. They (it’s hard not to use the term “we”) started out the series winning five or so in a row, and our hopes shot sky high. But then reality began to set in, and it was a win here and a loss there, the two wins and three losses, etc. There was a new coach, and of course he was trying out the players to see which combination would work. Well, about ten games ago he began going deep into his bench trying out the rookies, and when he did he got a fire and energy that had not been there before, and suddenly the Rockets began winning.

They have played very well right up to the last game before the All Star weekend break. In that game against the Sacramento Kings they led the entire way and entered the fourth quarter with an 18 point lead, at which time they reverted to their earlier form and suffered a meltdown. Ron Artest, a Sacramento player, had 30 4th quarter points to the Rockets team’s total of 15, and he singlehandedly diminished the Rockets’ lead until with 15 seconds left the Kings had taken a 1 point, 87-86, lead. The Rockets had the ball. Tracy McGrady tried to get it to Yao Ming, who was well covered. Two players were covering Tracy when he flung the ball over his shoulder to reservist Steve Novak, who was standing behind the 3 point line and who had not taken much less made a shot all night. With 2.5 left on the clock, cool as the proverbial cucumber, Steve tossed in the 3 pointer. Nothing but net. At the other end Ron Artest was covered, and Brad Miller was forced to take the shot, and missed. And with that the Rockets won the game 89-87 by the skinny skin skin of their teefy teef teeth, as the saying goes. And the win streak is intact, at least for now.
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Blogrunner is a column in the NY Times Technology section that tracks news from blogs and publications from all over. On Monday it linked the reader to a fascinating story by Tim Bray about the development of XML. It was an article he had written in 1998 but only published now on XML’s 10th anniversary. In it he wrote about Ted (Theodore Holm Nelson, a “what-if?” type person who invented the word hypertext, the h in both HTTP and HTML), Tim Berners-Lee, sometimes abbreviated as TimBL, pronounced to rhyme with thimble, who invented the internet. Jean · Jean Paoli, a citizen of France but really Lebanese, a typical Levantine ethnic cocktail: dark, burly, hirsute, chubby-faced, and many others. “Jean worked at Microsoft and was a charter member of the XML project; the idea that Microsoft would actually pay attention to our dream was more than a little intoxicating.”

Bray originally titled the article “Good Luck and Internet Plumbing,” but now prefers its file title “XML-People.” It is a fascinating narrative which brings alive many of the creators of this internet language. Among other things it has a harsh, but many would say an honest, assessment of Microsoft. To whet your appetite I reprint a part of his assessment of Microsoft.

“Ned and Mick · Some of the people in this story are companies. Ned is Netscape and Mick is Microsoft. Yes, any company, au fond, is just a collection of people. But some companies, at some times, are more than that, and their representatives are both less and more than people. Less, because they perforce speak with a voice not their own, and more, because that voice is the voice of hundreds or thousands (of colleagues), and of millions or billions (of dollars).

“For example, while Jean was just Jean at the beginning of the process, once Microsoft got really interested he stopped being Jean and starting speaking with Mick’s voice. It’s hard to argue with a company, because they make their decision off stage, and their role in a dialogue is then to win their point, not to strive for truth. And as XML became increasingly successful, Jean’s role on our committee was filled by a succession of other Microsoft staffers, whose individual personalities matter little.

“Mick is a domineering, ruthless, greedy, egotistical, self-centered, paranoid bastard. Whether or not he’s actually a crook is, as they say, currently the subject of litigation; but he’s not good company or a good friend. The ruthlessness and greed would not be so irritating (we swim, after all, in late-capitalist waters) were they not accompanied, at all times, by Mick’s claim to speak not in his own interest, but selflessly on behalf of his millions of customers, whose needs only he understands. Thus, anyone who disagrees is conspiring against the interests of the world’s computer users.

“Mick’s other really irritating habit is constant grating prating about “great” products and “innovation.” Certain Microsoft executives are going to spend eternity fleeing around the bolgias of Hell from demons wielding branding irons on which “great software” and “innovation” glow white-hot. A very large majority in the computing trades think the products are mostly pretty poor, and see the company as the single greatest roadblock to innovation in our profession.”

A truly fascinating story for all with any interest in the web and its languages. It can be found in its entirety at the following URL:
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There’s a l0t of talk these days about Twitter, the service where you communicate, telling your story in a very few words. Many of the people who are into it find it quite addictive. The more long winded among us, like me, are skeptical, and wonder at having to express your thoughts in so slip shod a fashion. Silicon Alley Insider Tuesday published the Twitter Diary of a young man laid off from Yahoo. We reprint a part of it here while posing this question to you, should this new form of literature be called twitterature?

Y! layoffs today, I'm "impacted". I'm heading into work to pack my desk, get my severance paperwork and hand in my badge ... more to come. about 10 hours ago

On the plus side, my commute just got a lot shorter. about 10 hours ago.

Ironic that I just got my PC repaired yesterday. Won't be needing that anymore. about 9 hours ago.

Walking around saying good bye to some great people and good friends. about 9 hours ago

Waiting for the call from HR so I can go pick up my paperwork .... C'mon, c'mon! I'm busy here! Let's get this over with. about 8 hours ago

This is a serious downer. Trying to drown it in free lattes. Which I will miss. about 8 hours ago

Thanks to everyone sending the positive tweets. I've got plenty of free time now so just let me know if you want to meet up for lunch. about 8 hours ago

Ugh. I have a 1GB flash drive and 2GB files to back up. That is teh suck. about 7 hours ago

Heading into my HR meeting. The room is called Lucy. Cute, eh? about 7 hours ago

Finishing meeting with HR. Need to go clear out desk now. about 6 hours ago

Dammit. I was hoping to hook up the free Flickr Pro account before I got canned. Major fail. about 6 hours ago

Taking my last walk through URLs. Remember that time we sat in that booth to review ad yields? That was great ... about 6 hours ago

Lots of whispered conversations. Like people are afraid to ask who's gone. about 4 hours ago

Dear Blackberry, What great times we had. I'll miss you. At least until tonight when I stop on my way home and buy an iPhone. Love, Me about 4 hours ago

Oh ... and my badge. He's going to take that too. Will I be able to get a latte for the road still? about 4 hours ago

I'm going dark in a few minutes. The HR guy is on his way over to confiscate my laptop. about 4 hours ago

Last free triple non-fat latte from Beantrees. Sniff. about 3 hours ago

Signing off from Yahoo!. Fade to black ... about 3 hours ago

More of Ryan’s story is at:

And here’s an amusing story of one mother’s attempt to twitter her family:
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Our newest department here on the Little Eddy blog is called the Pipe Dream Least Likely to Fly Department, or please pass around whatever it is that you are smoking! Microsoft is our first winner with the announcement that a survey it has taken has determined that teens are less likely to download illegal files when they learn the law. Thus the Microsoft Genuine Advantage program will burst forth with an advertising campaign to educate the poor, the teenaged, the uninformed.
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My son Joel is doing his residency as a doctor in Phoenix, Arizona and in his spare time is busy pursuing his real passion, the acquisition of music processing tools by way of the internet before actually processing music for real. We were talking by phone the other night, and I was telling him how I was going to try and repair the blip in the copy of Tama, the song from TONTO’s Expanding Headband that I use as the theme for my radio program Nightsong which I am in the process of reviving as a podcast. He googled “ Tonto’s Expanding Headband bit torrent ” , and nine links down damned if he didn’t come across his own name. It was a link to the very first Little Eddy blog and had the words, “Thanks to Joel I went to Safari and opened that incomparable bit torrent search .... my old Nightsong theme song, Tama, from Tonto's Expanding Headband. ...” Imagine googling Tonto and seeing your own name come up? We both had a laugh at that. Ain’t search engines grand? What would the internet be without them?
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Speaking of Nightsong, my first podcast is finished. Well, almost. It is 54 minutes and thirty five seconds from start to finish. I was on a thirty minute call to Apple tech support today, to determine how to finish the thing so I could send it to iTunes where I can do things with it that are needed to share it with others. After repeated listening I have determined that the three vocal tracks are a bit loud, causing a slight clipping, but otherwise it is AOK. I will do them over again after I post this morning, then hopefully it will be a wrap.

It has been thirty-odd years since I have done Nightsong, and this one required learning a computer program to execute it as I have neither records nor tape machines these days. But I have listened to it three times all the way through and except for the three vocal tracks I swear it sounds just as good as did the original programs. And the technology is such these days that there is none of the scratch, hiss and distortion that you used to get with analog records and tapes back the the good old days. Nothing but perfect copies of the performances no matter that they have been copied and combined with others. More as I figure out how to distribute it.
By bye for now.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Blog #23: Of End Runs and Kiln Baked Bricks

Well, congratulations to us all. We managed to survive yet another Super Bowl; every moment of the pre-game hype, the not-so-golden oldies half-time show (no chance of a “wardrobe malfunction” on the part of Tom Petty and his one time Heartbreakers, thank a merciful god!), moment after moment of football’s self assured commentators pontificating as if what they were saying really mattered in a world skewered with presidential missteps, and a visual space littered with the most over priced commercials on television. All of this happened last Sunday, and it is now but a faded memory. In the game David defeated Goliath, but how much did it really matter?

We need to be very careful, though, and not get distracted. For the ball we really need to keep our eye on is the one George Bush is carrying to try an end run around Congress and the American people by locking the U. S. into a long term military commitment in Iraq. In Bagdad negotiators are quietly working towards this goal as we speak. It’s all part of Shrubby W’s desire to try and shore up his legacy by attempting to justify what to many of us is unjustifiable, our first actual invasion of a sovereign nation since our ill-fated turn of the century invasions of Cuba and the Philippines.

While the administration these days is not denying the fact that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, it continues in its attempts to justify that completely unnecessary invasion by saying that it was based upon information commonly believed at the time. My Dear Lord, of course the information was commonly believed at the time. From day one George Bush attempted with all his might to blame the 9-11 attacks on Saddam Hussein, and the administration’s propaganda machine went into high gear, planting false information day and night during the entire two year buildup lasting until the moment of the actual invasion.

As we reported in Blog #21 the Center for Public Integrity working with the Fund for Independence in Journalism has noted 935 false statements over a two year period. Bush led the pack with 259 false statements, 231 about Iraq having Weapons of Mass Destruction, and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaeda with then Secretary of State Colin Powell next with 244 false statements about Iraq’s WMD and 10 about its al-Qaeda links. And just when the returned inspectors had come close to ascertaining that Hussein did indeed NOT have WMDs, George Bush pulled the inspectors out of Iraq so he could proceed with the invasion.

And let the record show that the American invaders were not greeted by an Iraqi population bearing garlands of roses as promised by Paul Wolfowitz, the man generally perceived to be one of the primary orchestrators of Bush’s propaganda buildup to war, but rather they were met by strategically detonated roadside bombs, bombs which took a painful toll on many of our troops who had been forced to ride in vehicles without proper armor, thanks to Rumsfield's attempt to run the war on the cheap. Whereas it is perfectly true that Saddam Hussein governed through fear, all told his people enjoyed far more peace of mind as to their physical well being under his rule than do the Iraq people today under the regime we allowed to be set up to rule the country.

In their exuberance to justify the initial invasion of Iraq, which stands in full view along with a string of other wartime violations of the human condition such as the torture of certain prisoners and unmitigated home front neglect during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, this administration attempts to paint its doubters with the brush of the unpatriotic and the un-American. As if doubters and questioners were the ones tainted. And to a man Republicans are stuck with inheriting George Bush’s war, only Ron Paul has had the courage to call it what is really is, and of course he has not a chance in hell of getting the Republican nomination. A situation for which we can all be thankful, by the way.
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This year’s Super Bowl was followed by a super day of politics called aptly called Super Tuesday. It was the day when a whole slew of states, from sea to shining sea, voted their presidential preferences. War hero and Republican maverick turned number one Iraq war supporter John McCain’s eminent possible capture of the Republican nomination is causing some Republican conservatives acute heartburn. His initial characterization of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy as misguided and unneeded destroyed his boni fides with lapdog GOP conservatives even though at the present time as he feels the nomination within his grasp he is vowing to support continuing these tax cuts into eternity.

Right-wing gurus like Ann Coulter and right-wing radio’s favorite rabble rouser Rush Limbaugh seem to be excreting kiln baked bricks at the very thought of so unprincipled a conservative calling the GOP tune. They are even threatening, horror upon horror, to vote for Hillary Clinton to punish this misguided Republican party. OH, THE DELIGHT OF IT! But no matter who the eventual Republican candidate might be, all but Paul give an enthusiastic nod to the Bush policies on war and tax relief for the wealthy and all promise much more of the same, which certainly gives the country a clear choice come election day. Everybody should note that a Republican vote is a vote for never ending support for George W. Bush’s misguided invasion of Iraq and his uncalled for and unneeded tax relief for corporations and the very wealthy. Whereas Clinton/Obama promise a curt, early exit of the war and a return of the federal government to the business of serving the taxpayers, and especially those of the middle class and the poor.

The Republican and Democratic character traits can be roughly defined by two words, the individual and the community. And both of these are characteristics are within each and every one of us. Myself, I am a loner, always have been. I identify with a hero of my youth, The Lone Ranger (although I have always eschewed wearing a mask in public). And yet my beliefs in politics lean toward the community, for they were shaped by the presidency I grew up within, that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The two presidents that preceded him, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, both talked a great line of prosperity, “a car in every garage and a chicken in every pot” was Hoover’s slogan, but neither president had the imagination or intention to use his powers to do anything to promote the prosperity they gave so much lip service to, thereby allowing the country to slide into deep economic depression.

Roosevelt came to power during what was probably the worst depression in the nation’s history. Unemployment was widespread, banks were closing due to runs on them, investors were jumping out of buildings right and left, and many ordinary people were depending on food dished out by charitable organizations. Roosevelt responded by closing the banks while he set up a safety net for banking institutions, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. His administration also created jobs in the public area with the Works Project Administration, which even employed writers and photographers to document the period in words and photographs.

In short, although hated by the wealthy class, Roosevelt is generally perceived by historians as having saved American capitalism from either turning fascist or communist, as so much of the world was turning during the depression years. And while he was at it Roosevelt created the greatest safety net of them all for us old geezers, the Social Security Administration.
Roosevelt was rewarded for his efforts in saving the country from fascism and leading it in wartime by winning four presidential terms, although he died before completing his fourth term. His popularity caused Republicans to institute a national presidential term limit after the war, one which restricts the current president to just two terms. Thankfully “W” comes under such a limit, and his father was restricted even further by losing his reelection bid to Bill Clinton. And from all indications either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will be our next president, and our ship of state will do a sharp tack leeward towards waters of reasonableness and responsibility.

One thing to keep in mind as the political season surges on. The Republicans have virtually no successes to run on. The war, the economy, the Federal Government’s ineptness after Hurricane Katrina, especially as regards the city of New Orleans, a string of accomplishments that consist of one miserable failure after another. In order to have a chance they will have to rely on the only remaining arrow in their quiver, the Swift-boating of the Democratic candidates. May I remind all of P. T. Barnum’s dictum that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool us all of the people all of the time. Enough people fell for that bull dung in 2004 to cost Kerry the election; for sanity’s and our country’s sake let’s not let it happen again.

If you are interested in Hillary Clinton’s win Tuesday in California, we would direct you to a very thorough story in the Washington Post. It concerns four California Clinton supporters, film director Rob Reiner, Amy Rao, a Silicon Valley businesswoman adept at fund raising, Antonio Villaraigosa, the dynamic mayor of Los Angeles; and Dolores Huerta, a labor activist beloved in the dusty San Joaquin Valley, who had formed the Farm Workers Union with Caesar Chavez. It is a well written, fascinating account which gives the reader the feeling of having been there. It can be found and enjoyed at:
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The battle between the IFPI (the European version of the RIAA) and the Pirate Bay bit torrent website churns merrily along. A Danish court ruled in favor of the IFPI, ordering the Danish ISP “Tele2 to block all access to the popular BitTorrent tracker.” The Pirate Bay, currently ranked 28th in the list of most visited sites in Denmark, is working on countermeasures.

The court case was initiated by the IFPI - the infamous anti-piracy organization that represents the recording industry - and plans to force other ISPs to do the same. However, the TorrentFreak website reports that The Pirate Bay is determined to fight back, as usual.

The Pirate Bay team has already asked other BitTorrent admins to stand up against the IFPI lobby, and arranged a meeting with Tele2 to discuss the current events. Pirate Bay co-founder Brokep told TorrentFreak in a response: “I hope the torrent community understands what this will do to Danish people. It will also act as a very bad precedent for the European Union, and I hope everybody will fight this.” At the moment, The Pirate Bay team is registering new (Danish) domains, to make sure people can still download .torrent files from the Bay when the ban is activated later today or tomorrow. In addition the Pirate Bay will launch a campaign website, together with the Danish pro-piracy lobby “Piratgruppen”.

“It’s very frightening that IFPI can get through the courts with something like this. In Turkey and China its the state that decides what information the people can access and what should be censored. In Denmark its apparently the record industry,” a spokesman for Piratgruppen added.
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And on the other side of the Atlantic, in New York City, A New York judge is being asked to decide whether a company that gathers evidence on behalf of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) in illegal file-sharing cases should be required to have a private investigator's license in order to do so. The issue, which has come up in the past, is being raised again in a case involving Rolando Amurao, who has been charged by Lava Records LLC and other music recording labels with illegally distributing 528 copyrighted music files over the Limewire peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing network. The case is being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

A motion filed by Amurao's attorney, Richard Altman, on Jan. 28 asked the court to exclude evidence and testimony against Amurao that was gathered by Belcamp, Md. based Media Sentry Inc. In his motion, Altman said that Media Sentry had illegally collected information about his client because it did not have a private investigator's license, as required by state law. "Plaintiffs proceed in these copyright infringement cases based upon evidence of file-sharing or distribution derived from investigations conducted by Safenet, Inc., a private company operating under the name of Media Sentry," Altman's motion stated.

Basically, Media Sentry searches file-sharing networks looking for individuals sharing music files and identifying the IP addresses associated with the activity, Altman said. Internet service providers are then asked via a court subpoena to identify the individual to whom the IP address is assigned to. "That person then becomes the putative defendant and is sued, on the assumption that he or she is responsible for all activity occurring with that IP address, and that any music files which are available on the computer are infringing copies," Altman said.

“The work performed by Media Sentry and SafeNet on behalf of the recording labels requires a private investigator's license in the state of New York,” Altman said. “Doing such work without such a license constitutes a misdemeanor subject to criminal penalties,” he noted. "Accordingly, their testimony and evidence, being obtained in violation of New York law, should be excluded," he said. Altman said further that under New York law, a private investigator is someone whose activities can include checking out an individual's identity, habits and movements or collecting evidence to be used in a court. That work requires a license, unless it's being done by the police and, under certain conditions, those working for lawyers he said. "This is a private company. So I've asked their evidence be excluded," he said.
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Is Obama a Mac and Clinton a PC? This compelling question was asked in Monday’s N.Y. Times by Noem Cohen. Mr. Cohen notes that according to design experts, the candidates have left a clear blueprint of their personal style — perhaps even a window into their souls — through the Web sites they have created to raise money, recruit volunteers and generally meet-and-greet online.

On one thing, the experts seem to agree. The differences between and can be summed up this way: Barack Obama is a Mac, and Hillary Clinton is a PC. That is, Mr. Obama’s site is more harmonious, with plenty of white space and a soft blue palette. Its task bar is reminiscent of the one used at Apple’s iTunes site. It signals in myriad ways that it was designed with a younger, more tech-savvy audience in mind — using branding techniques similar to the ones that have made the iPod so popular.

“With Obama’s site, all the features and elements are seamlessly integrated, just like the experience of using a program on a Macintosh computer,” said Alice Twemlow, chairwoman of the M.F.A. program in design criticism at the School of Visual Arts (who is a Mac user). It is designed, she said, even down to the playful logos that illustrate choices like, Volunteer or Register to Vote. She likened those touches to the elaborate, painstaking packaging Apple uses to woo its customers.

The linking of Mr. Obama with Mac and Mrs. Clinton with PCs has already become something of a theme during the primary. Early in the campaign, a popular YouTube parody of Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl ad made Mrs. Clinton the face of oppression. This week on The Huffington Post, Douglas T. Kendall, the founder of the Community Rights Counsel, a public interest law firm, made the connection more explicit. But the designers believe the comparisons — but not perhaps the Orwellian overtones — are apt. In contrast to, Mrs. Clinton’s site uses a more traditional color scheme of dark blue, has sharper lines dividing content and employs cookie-cutter icons next to its buttons for volunteering, and the like.

“Hillary’s is way more hectic, it’s got all these, what look like parody ads,” said Ms. Twemlow, who is not a citizen and cannot vote in the election. Jason Santa Maria, creative director of Happy Cog Studios, which designs Web sites, detected a basic breach of netiquette. “Hillary’s text is all caps, like shouting,” he said. There are “many messages vying for attention,” he said, adding, “Candidates are building a brand and it should be consistent.”

But Emily Chang, the cofounder of Ideacodes, a Web designing and consulting firm, detected consistent messages, and summed them up: “His site is more youthful and hers more regal.” Mr. Obama’s site is almost universally praised. Even Martin Avila, the general manager of the company responsible for the Republican Ron Paul’s Web site, said simply, “Barack’s site is amazing.”

But the compliments are clearly double-edged. While Apple’s ad campaign maligns the PC by using its personification an annoying man in a plain suit, it is not clear that aligning with the trendy Mac aesthetic is good politics. The iPod may be a dominant music player, but the Mac is still a niche computer. PC, no doubt, would win the Electoral College by historic proportions (with Mac perhaps carrying Vermont).

While Mr. Santa Maria praised for having “this welcoming quality,” he added that it was “ethereal, vaporous and some one could construe it as nebulous.” He said there was a bit of the “Lifetime channel effect, you know, vasoline on the lens” to create a softer effect on the viewer. The “hectic” site that the Clinton campaign is offering could actually be quite strategic, exactly in step with her branding. After all, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly emphasizes how hard she will work for the average American “starting on Day 1.” If she comes across as energetic online, that may simply be her intention. If she shouts a bit more, typographically speaking, that may be the better to be heard.

On the big Internet issues like copyright, Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford law professor who is supporting Mr. Obama, said there was “not a big difference on paper” between the two Democrats. Both tend to favor the users of the Internet over those who “own the pipes.” He is impressed by Mr. Obama’s proposal to “make all public government data available to everybody to use as they wish.” In the long run, however, Mr. Lessig believes that it is the ability to motivate the electorate that matters, not simple matters of style. And he’s a Mac user from way back.
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Speaking of Apple, the online entity the other day exposed the origins of Apple Computer’s sleek designs. Noting in a recent article that the year 2008 marks the 10th Anniversary of the iMac, the computer that changed everything at Apple, and hailed a new design era spearheaded by design genius Jonathan Ive. What most people don't know, Gizmodo pointed out, is that there's another man whose products are at the heart of Ive's design philosophy, an influence that permeates every single product at Apple, from hardware to user-interface design. That man is Dieter Rams, and his designs for Braun during the '50s and '60s hold all the clues not only for past and present Apple products, but their future as well:

When you look at the Braun products by Dieter Rams — many of them are on exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art — and compare them to Ive's work at Apple, you can clearly see similarities in their philosophies way beyond the sparse use of color, the selection of materials and how the products are shaped around the function with no artificial design, keeping the design "honest." This passion for "simplicity" and "honest design" that is always declared by Ive whenever he's interviewed or appears in a promo video, is at the core of Dieter Rams' 10 principles for good design:

• Good design is innovative.
• Good design makes a product useful.
• Good design is aesthetic.
• Good design helps us to understand a product.
• Good design is unobtrusive.
• Good design is honest.
• Good design is durable.
• Good design is consequent to the last detail.
• Good design is concerned with the environment.
• Good design is as little design as possible.

Ive's inspiration on Rams' design principles goes beyond the philosophy and gets straight into a direct homage to real products created decades ago. Amazing pieces of industrial design that still today remain fresh, true classics that have survived the test of time. The similarities between products from Braun and Apple are sometimes uncanny, others more subtle, but there's always a common root that provides the new Apple objects not only with a beautiful simplicity but also with a close familiarity. The article linked below has many photographs of products of the two companies placed side by side for visual comparison.
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From TechCrunch comes word that three ex-Google-ites are starting up a website dealing in instructional videos. The three founders — Jason Liebman, Daniel Blackman and Sanjay Raman — are ex-Google employees who worked on Google Video and YouTube before they left eight months ago. They actually are going for a little more polish than YouTube, trying to bring some production values to the world of Web video.

Howcast is also announcing an $8 million series A financing, led by Tudor Investment Corp. In addition to their own site, they already have a Youtube channel (where they split advertising revenues with their former employer). The Howcast team also has signed distribution deals with Myspace, Verizon for its Vcast phones and FiOS TV, Joost, and ROO. JetBlue is the launch advertiser. Howcast faces competition from Expert Village, 5min, and Instructables (even though the latter uses step-by-step images more than video). The site is launching with professionally-shot instructional videos on everything from “How to Paint a Wall” and “How to Groom Your Cat” to “How to Get Laid.”

We anxiously await their video How to fashion a Podcast with Apple’s GarageBand. We could use all the help we can get.
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And so passes another exciting week. With the Democratic presidential race heating up, and the Houston Rockets riding a road winning streak home by decisively defeating LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers in the Toyota Center, each day is bringing just about all of the excitement that this old body can stand. And although we feel that Hillary or Barack would also stack up famously against Huckleby, we wish all the luck in the world to John McCain in his campaign to aggravate the likes of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, and the rest of the fruitcakes of right-wing talk radio. See you next week.

The Real Little Eddy

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Blog #22 A Select Petition, Vaporware, and Needles of Health

Let’s start this week’s blog on a high note. Have the rugged individualists of Brattleboro, Vermont finally lost it? Has the recent extremely cold weather up there sapped both their energy and their ability to reason? Some of us out here in the wilds of Texas say no, the good folks of Brattleboro are simply on the cutting edge of a new reality, seeing through the many layers of our current national political doublespeak, and in the process showing us the way to a higher plane of pure reason and true independence of thought. You might well ask why we would say that? Hear Ye This! The Selectmen of the town of Brattleboro, Vt. have submitted a petition to the voters of the township making President Bush and Vice President Cheney, should they dare show their faces in Brattleboro, subject to arrest for Crimes against the Constitution.

The petition, originally submitted by one Kurt Daims, has garnered more than 436 signatures, or at least the 5 percent of the votes necessary for it to be considered, and it was submitted Thursday and the town Select Board voted 3-2 Friday to place it on the ballot. It goes to a town-wide vote on March 4.

The petition reads: "Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictments for consideration by other authorities and shall it be the law of the Town of Brattleboro that the Brattleboro Police, pursuant to the above-mentioned indictments, arrest and detain George Bush and Richard Cheney in Brattleboro if they are not duly impeached, and prosecute or extradite them to other authorities that may reasonably contend to prosecute them?"

The measure has triggered a barrage of criticism in e-mail messages, voicemail messages and telephone calls. Outraged people are calling the measure the equivalent of treason and are vowing to never set foot or hoof in Vermont again. However, one e-mail message was intriguing. It read, "I would like to know how I could get some water from your town. It's obvious that there is something special in it."

Picture for a moment what might happen after the Township enacts the resolution. On Mar. 5th the president visits Brattleboro to stoke support for his Iraq surge among the local chapter of the Grandsons of the Green Mountain Brigade. The Township’s Police Chief arrives at Air Force One to serve a subpoena for the president’s arrest. Would the Secret Service allow the town’s police chief to serve it’s subpoena? Would the grandsons of the Green Mountain Brigade enter the fray supporting the town’s Selectmen? Or being descendants of the military, would they instead enter on the side of the president? What cell in the Brattleboro Jail would be deemed fit to hold the president of the United States? And if vice president Cheney happened to be along, would he have to be housed in separate facilities due to long standing rules calling for the separation of the powers that be? Tune in next week, same blog, for the next suspenseful episode of Selectmen from Mars, A Fantasy for Reality TV.
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All systems seemed go as Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton held their pre super Tuesday debate turned lovefest Thursday evening in the Kodak Theater, site of the Academy Awards ceremony in the heart of Hollywood. Each of the two Democratic hopefuls gave a performance which would have made past award recipients proud. The storied theater, which served as the venue for Thursday's forum, and the pre-debate spectacle on the streets outside rivaled Oscar night. Hollywood stars scrambled to get what was considered one of the hottest tickets in town, and while the audience was filled with luminaries of television and movies, according to reports many others came up empty-handed.

Both candidates were civil, bordering 0n being warm to one another, and instead of nibbling at each other, both turned their ire where it belonged, on Republicans, and especially president Bush and John McCain, the apparent GOP front runner. When moderator Wolf Blitzer asked the two about the possibility of a dream lineup, a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton ticket, Stevie Wonder was seen to jump to his feet applauding wildly. Obama handled the question with aplomb as he noted it was “far too early to think about a running mate,” but he was sure Hillary would be high on any Democratic candidate’s list.

Both candidates delivered memorable lines during the debate. Obama directed his at likely Republican opponent John McCain when he praised McCain’s first two rejections of Bush’s tax cut for the wealthy as being unnecessary and not extending tax relief to those who need it most, the middle class and the poor, and then he noted McCain’s present support for extending the tax cuts. "Somewhere along the line, the Straight Talk Express lost some wheels," the Illinois senator said, referring to the name of McCain's campaign bus. Hillary scored points when Jeanne Cummings of Politico quoted a 38 year old female questioner who said she had had nothing but Bushes and Clintons to vote for since she has been old enough to vote, and why in the world would she want to vote for another Clinton? With a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye Hillary replied, "It did take a Clinton to clean up after the first Bush, and I think it might take another one to clean up after the second Bush." The audience roared their approval.

Our assessment is the Democratic party could not be in better hands. Either candidate would obviously be exactly what the nation needs. Republican pundit Bill Bennett, obviously upset over what he perceived as a Clinton win, complained that Obama had not been as strong as he needed to be, and he reluctantly gave Clinton a 60-40 edge in the contest, an assessment which sounded about right to me. However as we further contemplate the evening we can’t help but reflect Stevie Wonder’s enthusiasm for a dream team, no way it’s gonna happen of course, but a Clinton-Obama ticket would truly be a dream come true.
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Speaking your mind as both candidates were doing Thursday night, and while doing it speaking the truth conjures up memories of the Dixie Chicks, and lead singer Natalie Maine’s remarks at a London concert just after George Bush invaded Iraq, lamenting the fact that president Bush was from her home state of Texas. That remark caused a stir, not just for its criticism of the president, but because it was made in the capitol city of a foreign country, which fact ticked off many just plain folks types, and particularly those of a country music persuasion. The uproar resulted in the subsequent picketing of group’s concerts, and caused their music to be banned from much of commercial country radio. But the group has held its collective head high through it all, and evidently they’re most decidedly still rocking and rolling. Word comes from Nashville, Tennessee that Martie Maguire and her husband Gareth are expecting their third daughter.

She announced her pregnancy on the group’s website on Monday, noting that her 3 year old twin daughters, Eva and Katie, “are excited to have a new baby sister. "Three girls, what a magic number!" Maguire said. She said the baby is due in late summer. The report was confirmed by the Chicks' publicist.

Maguire plays fiddle and mandolin in the trio, which also includes Martie’s sister Emily Robison on guitar and banjo and the compelling voice and outspoken convictions of lead singer Natalie Maines. Hits by the Chicks include Wide Open Spaces, Without You and Landslide. We say, “way to go, Martie! Keep the young’ems coming!”
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Many years ago, in the formative adolescence of personal computing, the Microsoft corporation invented what was later to be termed by others as Vaporware. It happened this way. Each time word would get out that a new product from another software company was in the offing Microsoft would instantly circulate a rumor to the effect that it, the Mighty Microsoft, was itself developing just such a program and people who were smart would wait for the Microsoft program to come out rather than take a needless chance with the upstart program. Microsoft did this enough times for the word vaporware to be coined. Sometimes, as it was in the case of Internet Explorer over Netscape, Microsoft actually created the product, and by offering it for free and wedding it to their monopolistic operating system, it was able to drive the creator of the original internet browser out of business. But in many another case Microsoft’s rumored entry has to this day remained in the vaporshere.

Concurrent with the almost universal disdain for Windows Vista, which was delayed for I don’t know how many years, and which in the first year of its release is still lacking drivers for many devices, and has attributes many Windows’ users seem to hate, rumors abound about the next build for Windows, which is said to be called Windows 7. (Perhaps Microsoft in its infinite wisdom has named it so because it believes “7” is a lucky number.) Some rumors have the new operating system arriving as early as 2009 or as late as 2011 or beyond. And now devilish posters have put up supposed early preview versions of Windows 7 on bit torrent sites. However, in the grand tradition of Microsoft the disk images are bogus, pure unadulterated Vaporware. Said one techie who downloaded it, “I downloaded 10% of it and opened it with a hex editor, nothing but strings of zeros.” Take that, Mighty Microsoft. Thy new operating system is nothing but Vaporware. That’ll teach you to stifle competition. ___________________________________________________
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Many years ago I had a respiratory condition for which I had no name, but from which my father suffered mightily and nightly. In fact one night in disgust I coughed so vehemently I could feel a hernia pop up from near my left testicle, a hernia which some years later I had to have corrected with surgery.

For awhile during the 1970’s I living in N.Y.C. and was an avid reader of the N.Y. Times. It was on Monday, July 26, 1971, that I first read of the Chinese traditional healing technique called acupuncture. It was in a column by James Reston, a Times columnist who happened to be stricken with appendicitis while on a visit to China. Reston wrote of his experience in his column in the N.Y. Times. Being the first mention of acupuncture it can be found online
and we heartily recommend that you paste that URL into your web browser and take a few minutes to read the full, remarkable story. There follows a brief excerpt from James Reston’s experience:

“In brief summary, the facts are that with the assistance of 11 of the leading medical specialists in Peking, who were asked by Premier Chou En-lai to cooperate on the case, Prof. Wu Wei-jan of the Anti-Imperialist Hospital's surgical staff removed my appendix on July 17 after a normal injection of Xylocain and Bensocain, which anesthetized the middle of my body.

“There were no complications, nausea or vomiting. I was conscious throughout, followed the instructions of Professor Wu as translated to me by Ma Yu-chen of the Chinese Foreign Ministry during the operation, and was back in my bedroom in the hospital in two and a half hours.

“However, I was in considerable discomfort if not pain during the second night after the operation, and Li Chang-yuan, doctor of acupuncture at the hospital, with my approval, inserted three long thin needles into the outer part of my right elbow and below my knees and manipulated them in order to stimulate the intestine and relieve the pressure and distention of the stomach. That sent ripples of pain racing through my limbs and, at least, had the effect of diverting my attention from the distress in my stomach. Meanwhile, Doctor Li lit two pieces of an herb called ai, which looked like the burning stumps of a broken cheap cigar, and held them close to my abdomen while occasionally twirling the needles into action. All this took about 20 minutes, during which I remember thinking that it was a rather complicated way to get rid of gas in the stomach, but there was noticeable relaxation of the pressure and distention within an hour and no recurrence of the problem thereafter.

“Dr. Li Chang-yuan, who used needle and herbal medicine on me, did not go to medical college. He is 36 years old and learned his craft as an apprentice to a veteran acupuncturist here at the hospital. Like most young apprentices in this field, thousands of whom are being trained, he practiced for years with the needles on his own body. "It is better to wound yourself a thousand times than to do a single harm to another person," he said solemnly.

The second occasion of my hearing about acupuncture came while listening to a radio interview with ex Beatle John Lennon, who told the interviewer that after several of his and Yoko’s attempts at having a child had ended in miscarriages, together they had gone to a combination acupuncturist and herbal dispenser and after several months of treatment Yoko got pregnant, came to full term and had their son Sean with no problems.

As I said, I had never heard of acupuncture until first reading the Reston article. And listening to the Lennon experience served to further make it real for me. With the profound frustration at my having this choking condition which my father suffered nightly from and for which I didn’t even have a name for yet, I decided try out acupuncture for myself.

It was in the early eighties that I had acupuncture in Houston from a middle aged oriental practitioner named Sophia, who charged $35 for an acupuncture session and used to spend at least twenty minutes with me inserting needles and hooking them to this battery operated device which caused the needles to sporadically vibrate. On several occasions she also administered cups, a traditional treatment where she heats the air inside the cups with the cigar-like herb Reston referred to above, after which she affixed the cups onto my chest and back where they provided suction. After each acupuncture session she also gave me herbs, but in pill form, not in the natural form dispensed by traditional oriental herbalists. The Sophia residence was always crowded with ill Houstonians desperately seeking improvement in their situation.

Considering I had no idea what my condition was (years later I found it had a name, “acid reflux” or Gerde’s disease) and although Sophia’s treatment didn’t cure me, her treatments both eased my condition and noticeably improved my morale. Later on when I was forced to drop acupuncture due to a shortage of money, I obtained a paperbound book by mail illustrating acupressure points, which is a kind of informal, do it yourself, offshoot of the needle regime, and I began administering the pressure points to myself daily. And to this day I continue to stimulate what the book refers to as bio-energy points, which I will describe as follows. One point is found in the fleshy crook of each folded arm, one a hand’s width below the naval and another one a thumb’s width below that, one squarely in the middle of the perineum, one on the pad behind each knee, and finally one on the outside of each leg a hand’s width below the knee bone, and one on the inside of each leg a hand’s width above the ankle bone. Although the book says you can use the fingers of a hand for pressure, I prefer to use a vibrator. I do the points once each day, at bedtime. I rotate the vibrator in a small circle for about twenty seconds at each point.

Who knows what help this treatment really is, if any? However, there was one day years ago when I felt deathly ill from some mysterious virus. I stimulated my pressure points and twenty minutes later all traces of my symptoms had vanished. Perhaps I would have gotten over them anyway without the pressure points being stimulated, although I honestly attribute the upturn in my health that day as having been kindled by the pressure points? Of course, the important thing is just believing in it. And I do keep it up to this day, kind of as you would keep up an insurance policy, just in case.
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Once upon a time finding a mate was deemed too important to be entrusted to people while under the influence of raging hormones. Their parents, sometimes with the assistance of astrologers or professional matchmakers, used to supervise courtship until customs changed in the West because of what was called the Romeo and Juliet revolution. Nowadays grown-ups leave the kids alone.

But these days there are some social scientists who have rediscovered the appeal of adult supervision — provided the adults have doctorates and vast caches of psychometric data. Online matchmaking has become a boom industry as rival scientists test their algorithms for finding love.

The leading yenta is, which pioneered the don’t-try-this-yourself approach eight years ago by refusing to let its online customers browse for their own dates. It requires them to answer a 258-question personality test and then picks potential partners. The company estimates, based on a national Harris survey it commissioned, that its matchmaking was responsible for about 2 percent of the marriages in America last year, nearly 120 weddings a day.

Another company,, is using an algorithm designed by Pepper Schwartz, a sociologist at the University of Washington at Seattle. And, which became the largest online dating service by letting people find their own partners, set up a brand new matchmaking service,, using an algorithm created by Helen E. Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers who has studied the neural chemistry of people in love.

These days as these potential matchmakers are competing for customers — and are denigrating each other’s methodology — the battle has intrigued academic researchers who study the mating game. On the one hand, they are skeptical, because the algorithms and the results have not been published for peer review. But they also realize that these online companies give scientists a remarkable opportunity to gather enormous amounts of data and test their theories in the field. EHarmony says more than 19 million people have filled out its questionnaire.

Its algorithm was developed a decade ago by Galen Buckwalter, a psychologist who had previously been a research professor at the University of Southern California. Drawing on previous evidence that personality similarities predict happiness in a relationship, he administered hundreds of personality questions to 5,000 married couples and correlated the answers with the couples’ marital happiness, as measured by an existing instrument called the dyadic adjustment scale.

The result was an algorithm that is supposed to match people on 29 “core traits,” like social style or emotional temperament, and “vital attributes” like relationship skills.
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And from halfway around the world, from the land of downunder, comes the story that after lo these many years when the parliament convenes next month under new prime minister Kevin Rudd the Australian government intends to apologize for the past mistreatment of its Aboriginal minority, addressing an issue which has blighted race relations in Australia for months. In a measure of the importance Mr. Rudd attaches to the issue, the apology will be the first item of business for the new government when Parliament first convenes on Feb. 13, Jenny Macklin, the federal minister for indigenous affairs, said Wednesday.

Ms. Macklin said she had consulted widely with Aboriginal leaders, but it was still not clear what form the apology would take. However, she said the government would not bow to long standing demands for a fund to compensate those damaged by the policies of past governments.

The history of relations between Australia’s Aboriginal population and the broader population is one of brutality and neglect. Tens of thousands of Aboriginals died from disease, warfare and dispossession in the years after European settlement, and it was not until 1962 that they were able to vote in national elections. But the most lasting damage was done by the policy of removing Aboriginal children and placing them either with white families or in state institutions as part of a drive to assimilate them with the white population.

A comprehensive 1997 report estimates that between one in three and one in 10 Aboriginal children, the so-called stolen generations, were taken from their homes and families in the last century until the policy was formally abandoned in 1969. “A national apology to the stolen generations and their families is a first, necessary step to move forward from the past,” Ms. Macklin said. “The apology will be made on behalf of the Australian government and does not attribute guilt to the current generation of Australian people,” she said.

What a welcome step indeed. One wonders when our land of the free and home of the brave will apologize for the slavery inflicted upon our African population from shortly after our nation’s inception until our own Civil War brought slavery to an end. Perhaps Hillary Clinton or Barrack Obama can put such an overdue apology on their agenda when the dust settles and the victor is in our sights.
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If you have an internet connection and live in Houston, Texas the chances are you have a Comcast internet connection. And if you do any bit torrent downloading, we suspect you’ll be very interested in this report. We have Dwight Silverman’s tech column at to thank for the following note of Comcastic interest:

“Ever since the Associated Press confirmed that Comcast is getting in the way of BitTorrent traffic – sending what amounts to a "this conversation is over" message between sender and receiver – users of the popular peer-to-peer client have been expressing outrage. And now, they have a chance to tell the U.S. Government all about it. The Federal Communications Commission has opened a public comment period on Comcast's behavior. A fascinating piece at Ars Technica shows just how angry some Comcast customers are. The complainers are not all pimply kiddies trying to download free movies or share hacked software. Many are professionals who have legitimate uses for P2P clients:

"On numerous occasions, my access to legal BitTorrent files was cut off by Comcast," a systems administrator based in Indianapolis wrote to the FCC shortly after the proceeding began. "During this period, I managed to troubleshoot all other possible causes of this issue, and it was my conclusion (speaking as a competent IT administrator) that this could only be occurring due to direct action at the ISP (Comcast) level."

Ars Technica writer Matthew Lasar says the FCC is accepting comments through Feb. 28. A "reply to comments" period begins on Feb. 14, and that's when Comcast is expected to make its case – if it chooses to at all.”
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And so we hereby wind down this week’s edition of Little Eddy’s blog. There will be no teasers on what will be in next week’s blog, for who knows what evil lurks in the heart of Republicans, or what we’ll be talking about in the coming week? In the meantime I continue to read up on and explore Peak and GarageBand as I continue to dream of the regeneration of Nightsong, my KPFT radio program of old, as a podcast. Wednesday in Garageband I managed to have an ocean full of Humpback whales singing along with The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” Can Chief Seattle’s Oration be far behind? On Friday I managed to splice the music for the opening theme song, Tama, which is from the album Tonto’s Expanding Headband. See you next week.

The Real Little Eddy