Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Or, as we call it around my house to my mother's grave disappointment, "Atheist Kids Get Presents Day."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Arrrgh!

I just walked through the living room where the teevee was on, and that minimal exposure to the D-bag Congresscritter from Missouri expounding on how the Big 3 automakers deserve huge piles of my money so that they don't reap the full benefit of their sh*tty decision- and car-making and go f*cking bankrupt was enough to make my head explodiate.

And now I am dead, with an explodiated head. Jebus farking christ on a stick.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted

I voted
Did you? It's important.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

World of Warcraft: Zombie Edition

The zombie invasion has started. I had begun putting together a post about being a zombie and starting your own invasion, but after Blogger ate it, I found this thread on the official forums instead. It isn't a complete overlap, but there's lots of good info there.

Friday, October 17, 2008

It could be worse

I just finished reading Zoe's Tale. As I was sitting in two airports plus a short plane ride in between reading, and sniffling, and wiping my eyes to the point that a passer-by asked me if I was okay and I lied something stupid about an allergy, I took small comfort in knowing that no matter how girly my crying was, Scalzi is even more of a girl for having written it in the first place.

Anyway ... go get it and read for yourself. Most excellent.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

DIY Wi-Fi Antenna

How did I miss this? The Ez-12 parabolic reflector antenna design, suitably simple to construct for kindergarten drop-outs such as m'self, is claimed to show up to 11dB gain in some cases. I'll have to try this out tonight and see how it works.

Friday, August 08, 2008

WANT! WANT! WANT

Well, to be honest, I don’t know that I want one $250 worth, but still … who wouldn’t want a 50 mph anti-gravity racecar?

Monday, August 04, 2008

WTF Is Up With England, Again?

I seriously do not understand what happened to these people. They used to be the forces of civilization, who carried the rule of law everywhere they carried their flag. Now, though, they sold their legacy for a mess of pottage.

I’m seriously disappointed. This is not the England that I knew.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Now That’s Novel

Blizzard got an injuction against MDY last week about MDY’s Glider bot. They have now followed that up with a request for an injunction preventing MDY from open-sourcing Glider, which is certainly a novel request.

On the one hand, I see Blizzard’s point. Once the bot source is out there and available for use, they will be unable (mostly) to detect all of the different ways that people could modify the core bot play. Sure, each person that used the bot would then be violating the terms of service, but Blizzard wouldn’t have much luck in identifying them all. And without identifying them, Blizzard can’t ban them from the game. And without banning them from the game, there’s almost no way to ensure that they don’t fix up the “super PvP” mode that Glider’s devs claim to be close to, which disrupts my game play.

On the other hand, I don’t think the courts should be able to prevent a person or company from open sourcing their software assets. MDY built their own product, and if they want to open source it, I think they have the right to do so.

SYTYCD: WTF again

There is no farking way that Courtney belongs in the finals. No way. She is teh suX0r. You people need to develop some judging ability and taste, for f*#$'s sake.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

And another thing

This is quite old, I know, but I was reminded of it by the STOP sign video link I just posted. So as not to have to go spelunking for it again the next time I think about it: National Flags of the World, with client's comments.

Friday, July 25, 2008

What If ...

What would it look like if the stop sign hadn't been invented by the gummint, but had been outsourced to a private marketing firm? Let's imagine, shall we?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

WTF Is Up With England, Part 2

Fox News is reporting more details about Christian Bale's arrest. He apparently is charged with a class 5 verbal assault, which, as far as I can tell, translates as "raised his voice in a surly or disrespectful manner." He's lucky he didn't "intend to cause alarm", because that would be a class 4 verbal assault, you see, and holy farking christ on a pogo stick we don't want to go there.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Love Dr.Horrible

Kathy and I bought a season pass on iTunes last week and downloaded all three episodes, but we didn't get around to watching them until tonight. Holy crap, that was amazing. Get some.

Neil Patrick Harris was perfect. He made me laugh, and cry, and really feel what Dr.Horrible was going through. Also, Nathan Fillion was high-larious. Go watch it again.

WTF is England's Problem?

Taking a photograph of a collection of hoodlums disturbing the peace outside your apartment results in a warning to the photographer and might lead to his arrest on assult charges. I've long wanted to visit the U.K. but crap like this makes me wonder if maybe that isn't such a hot idea.

Monday, July 21, 2008

You Did What?

He might be the only movie reviewer that the average man-on-the-street could name, but ABC doesn't much care if he doesn't work for them any more: Ebert and Roper are both leaving "Ebert & Roeper".

Friday, July 18, 2008

Ewww!

Wow. I sux0r at Photoshop, and even so I'm pretty sure I could beat this lame effort.

Tattoos Are Forever

I'm really impressed by people who go to all the trouble to get themselves inked up but manage (somehow) to screw it up. Case in point: The 10 Greatest Misspelled Tattoos according to "The L Magazine." Also, I'm not entirely sure about "greatest ever", but they're still pretty funny.

Friday, June 13, 2008

That's Just Wrong

There's no way that Jaime and Rayven should have been eliminated last night. Who the (*@($* are these people voting for Gev and whatshername that did the disco routine? They were lame lame lame. Lame.

Geez, people. Think before you start dialing. I haven't forgiven your idiocy last season in not giving Danny the crown he so richly earned.

Friday, May 23, 2008

I Might Have to Change My Mind

I've never been a big fan of Weezer. Until now. This is super-dee-duper meme-alicious:


Pork and Beans by Weezer

And if you missed any of the pop culture references, Valleywag gathered them all together for you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cheese Levels Are Dangerously High

We watched the American Idol final performance last night, and we commented to each other how amazingly atrocious the songs from the "write a sappy song" contest were. I blame the producers; if they hadn't picked such saccharine dreck the first time, we wouldn't be drowning in the hyper-focused syrupy twaddle three years later.

Anyway, Defamer summarized it thusly: David Archuleta Stops Weep-Giggling Long Enough to Pound David Cook into a Fine, Grungemo Pulp which is technically wrong but oh-so-right anyway. I thought David Cook took it in a walk, and DialIdol seems to agree with me.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Catchier than playing catch with a packet of ketchup

Title stolen straight from Best Week Ever, who got it exactly right:

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's a FAIL-A-PALOOZA!

I now have a lifetime supply of "FAIL" pics: The FAIL Blog

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Oh, My Aching Sides

I love it when poetic justice gets served, and I'm hoping that the courts are about to serve some up.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Warp Factor 3.6e-8, Mr. Sulu

Reactionless engines are a possibility? Cool! The Mad Rocket Scientist has the details, or some of them anyway.

The Disruptiveness of the iPhone

I got an iPhone, and it's now my indispensible portable device. I use it constantly. I can't wait until the 3G ships, so I can throw away my still-perfectly-usable $500 phone to buy a whole new $500 phone that does the Intertube faster. But here's the interesting thing: it's become indispensible in ways that I didn't expect it to before I got it.

Way back in the day, I used to compile all my sources with scripts. That lasted until I started doing Unix development, when I was introduced to "make". My first reaction was "why do I need that? I can write scripts to compile stuff." I was, of course, completely wrong. Completely, amazingly, agonizingly wrong. "make" was a whole different way of dealing with that particular underlying problem, and having once found "make", there was no way in hell I was going back to a non-"make"-having environment.

Same thing when we got always-on broadband connectivity (back in like '98 or '99). Up until then, we would occasionally go and dial-in to check email, but it was always a specific "go and check email" task. Once the broadband connection showed up, though, our network usage went way up. Not because we checked email all that much more often, but now the WWW was no longer unreasonable. And once again, having once found always-on connectivity, there was no way in hell we were ever going back to occasional dial-up access.

This pattern has repeated itself several times in just my personal experience: a technology comes along that beforehand I couldn't imagine why I'd want it, but afterwards became something that I couldn't imagine doing without it. "make", broadband, TiVo, and now an iPhone.

Kathy got the first iPhone in our house because she said I could take the birthday money she'd already gotten and just add the difference to get her one for her birthday. I did, because she deserves cool things in general, and whatever she wants I like to get her. I got one because I too deserve cool things, and she kept taunting me with "my phone's better than your phone."

Now that I have it, I find I use it constantly. Not for making phone calls, mind you. I probably don't use its "phoneness" more than I did my previous handsets. I use it all the freaking time as a portable Internet device. At this point I'm really glad that Steve and the Death Star made me get an unlimited data plan because I am sucking the bits out of the aether all the livelong day.

I can't even watch television anymore without my iPhone in hand (well, I'm watching TiVo, but you know what I mean). Previously I was unlikely to pause the show and wander off to the other room to look actors up on IMDB (one of the most common things we say while watching teevee is "I know that guy/girl/child from somewhere!"). Now that I have an iPhone in-hand, I do just that. All the time. I read my RSS feeds at the gym. I twitter. I facebook. I hardly even notice standing in line for random crap any more because I always have something to do while waiting to check out at the grocery store or whatever.

And I do all these things because they are now significantly more convenient for me to integrate them into the non-digital portion of my life. It isn't that they weren't there before, but they were previously walled off into their own domain. Now that they're everywhere that I am, I can use them to keep informed, to talk more loudly via twitter and blog, to research more deeply, to remember more broadly, and to listen more carefully.

I can't wait until The Steve invents an implantable iBrainPal so I can quit typing with my thumbs.

Wait ... what?

Japanese fertility festival, where you can worship the penis! Seriously ... I wouldn't lie about that! See for yourself if you haven't already over at The Jawa Report or AoSHQ.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

No heaven, but plenty of hell

Saw this on io9.com: underground fires that burn for decades, complete with pictures of what hell-on-earth looks like. That's freaky-cool, and if I'm ever in PA I'm going to insist on taking a trip to what's left of Centralia.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

My experience so far

Day #2 of my doctor-suggested weight-loss and fitness program: making myself go to the gym in the morning is not the hardest part so far ... it's the "only one lunch per day" rule, the "no pastries" rule, and the "no pints of Ben&Jerry's after dinner" rules that are the hardest part(s).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Go forth and consume!

I just ordered my copy of "Outside the Wire" on DVD, and I seriously think you should too. Go forth and consume!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

RPC == teh suXor

The more time I spend doing RPC, the more I realize that (a) it's the tool of the debbil, and (2) Indigo (a.k.a. Windows Communication Foundation) is an amazingly amazing piece of technology.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The one true lesson of software engineering

The one true lesson of software engineering is "engineers don't know jack sh*t about anything. At all."

Engineers are really bad at figuring out where their programs spend all their time. I don't know anybody ever who could accurately predict where the real bottlenecks in their systems were without using a profiler. I don't know anybody ever who could truly optimize their systems without profilers.

And engineers are super-duper especially bad at scheduling. I had always just assumed that it was due to a lack of interpersonal skills that caused developers to throw away their estimates because their managers said "I need it sooner than that." That's what I saw, anyway. No matter how much time the engineer spent coming up with an estimate, they would cheerfully throw it away in order to agree with their manager's schedule-oriented daydream (or their manager's manager's daydream).

It turns out that there's more to it than just an inability to say "I understand you don't like this schedule, but it is what it is": humans suck at planning.

I have no idea what to do about it, but I thought it was worth mentioning. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an RPC traffic generator to finish writing; I said it would be finished on Monday and now I have even more concern than usual that it will be late.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Moment It Clicks

I was going to say "Go right now and buy 'The Moment It Clicks' by Joe MacNally. Now. Right now right now." but you can't. It's out of stock at Amazon. Let me just add my voice to the chorus that this is an amazing amazing amazing book that you should have.

In any case, you should stick it in your shopping cart until they restock.

Monday, February 11, 2008

After-Action Report: Bogen Cafe with Steven Katzman

This past Saturday, February 9, I went to my first ever photography workshop. It was the Bogen Café with Steven Katzman event for Seattle, presented in partnership with Glazer's Camera. The speaker was Steven Katzman, whom I thought was a really nice guy and an excellent speaker.

The event started at 10:00, with Steven giving a short presentation about some of the lessons he learned over his career about how to be a better, or at least good, photographer. I took my notebook with me so I could write all this down, but the room lights had two settings ("off" and "OMFG that's bright") so I couldn't see well enough to record any thoughts during the presentation. I got the big point, which was to be empathetic and connected with your subjects but don't let that stop you from getting the picture.

The presentation included many shots from his new book, "Face of Forgiveness," as well as other photos from his catalog. He didn't lecture about any particular photo in terms of f-stop or exposure or even lighting setup. He mostly talked about the importance of feeling something, and connecting, and with telling the story. He showed photos from New Town and talked about how he got them, how the people in New Town and he came together, and how they were still affecting his life.

After the lecture portion of the program was over, the folks from Bogen and Glazer's led us back into a large studio space where they had set up three separate workshop areas with some serious high-dollar lighting gear and some models. Steven talked about the lights in general terms and named the equipment, but he wanted to talk about how to shoot a well-exposed shot with the gear, which quite frankly was far more interesting to me. His lesson here got me to use the histogram display on my camera far more than I've ever used it before, and I'm already applying the lesson there to the shots I'm taking at home. So yay! I got my money's worth! While we were ogling the lighting gear, and many of us were trying not to ogle the models, the Glazer's folk set up a fourth workshop area back in the lecture room with two more models.

Then they cut us loose and let us wander around taking turns being the photog at each station. All of the stations were set up with PocketWizards, so when it was your turn you just slapped the PW transmitter into your hot-shoe and off you went. Since I'd already shot a few hundred frames with my Cactus triggers, this was dead simple but a few other students hadn't seen wireless triggers and/or off-camera lighting, so the pace of the students through the process was quite uneven.

So here's station #1. You can see the ginormous softbox at camera right, and the edge of a big piece of white cardboard at camera left. The backdrop is just a cloth slung over a backdrop holder, and the models are members of the local Roller Derby team. The middle girl is holding a 90% white target so you can set the white balance in post-processing.

Here's what they look like when I was the photog and the light comes from that lovely lovely softbox and reflector instead of those nasty fluorescents. I managed to get each of the three girls with apparently completely different direction, so I apparently have a talent for something even if it isn't photography.

Station #2 had a single umbrella above eye-level at camera right and a second strobe about seven feet up at camera left. There was also a silver reflector in a frame handy, but I didn't use it (I'll come back to that shortly).

This was "Dirty 007." She tried so hard to look all tough and edgy. All of the roller derby girls tried very very hard to look tough and edgy. Maybe it's just that I'm old now or something, but they all looked as cute as kittens and about as ferocious. They were great. Anyway, I liked this shot because I got the specular highlight on the rollup door behind her head where I wanted it for a nice light-shadow duality thing.

I also got her to turn around so I could shoot her tattoos. She was all inked up and stuff, but still was just cute as a bug in a rug. My guess is that she's roughly the same age as the jeans I was wearing because I am just that much of an old curmudgeonly bastard.

Station #3 had one lightbox directly overhead, a white reflector angled up from beneath, and two lightstrips firing from behind the model angled in towards the center. In the setup shot, you can see the overhead lightbox and the two light strips (one facing you and one in profile). The reflector is there too, but it's in a frame and you're viewing it edge-on.

So this is what Marcus looks like when the lights fire. He looks great, and it's because the lighting setup was great so that I pretty much just had to be there to press the shutter release.



Station #4 had a beauty dish high at camera right, a white reflector at camera left, and a softbox firing into the backdrop. I forget the lighting ratio between main and backlight mostly because I failed to write it down in my notebook.



Megan and Lewis. These people are clearly aliens because no normal humans can be that gorgeous.



Don't believe me? Look at them. Tell me you're that good-looking. G'wan. That's what I thought you said.



So what did I learn?

  1. Be the director
  2. I was the photographer, certainly, but I provided almost no direction to the models. Consequently, the pictures I got were basically whatever they felt like doing. This might have been great, or it might have been slack, but in any case I wasn't controlling the outcome but was being swept along towards whatever happened. This is not the way to get good results, and I'll have to work harder at getting outside of the aim-fire-chimp mode next time.

  3. Connect with the models
  4. This is espeically ironic since this was one of the lessons that Steven was trying to get across in the lecture. I was taking photos, but I was treating the models as if they were still life objects instead of people. I didn't even get the names of most of the models. Next time I resolve to make sure I introduce myself, get their names and email addresses, and write them down. I'll also try to actually talk to them as people, but my small talk skills are somewhat limited so I don't know how well that part will work.

  5. Do something different
  6. Part of this is just the novelty of having models that aren't my children, but I just stood there right in front of them pushing the button on all of these shots. I didn't stand on anything, even though there were chairs and ladders to be had. I didn't squat down. I didn't sit down. I didn't really do anything except stand there like a spectator.

    The other part of this ties back to #1 above: I didn't direct the lighting either. I didn't move a single light from where it was when I walked up to the station. I didn't use any reflectors that the Glazer's folk hadn't already set in place. I didn't make the lights brighter or dimmer. I didn't do any of that.



I did, however, have a really good time. I learned several things, some positive and some negative. I've been able to apply those lessons in my other shooting around the house, and I even think it's helping. In short, this was well worth the measly $25 I paid for the class.

I've got more frames up on my Flickr page, by the way, in case you aren't already bored beyond belief.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Yeah, yeah, yeah ... what?

I'm reading through this short piece on the resurgence of 60's fashion crap and nodding my head and thinking "yep, yep, yep ... look at all of that dreck that the boomers are trying to bring back around." I'm not entirely sure that it's a bunch of twentysomethings trying to borrow this stuff to attract attention, so maybe we differ a bit there on the interpretation.

But then I get to this part: "Scared because on top of that, there’s a war going on that’s costing more than the military budget of the world…. combined." I don't want to pretend you're not afraid. Fear can be a real thing. But this doesn't even pass the laugh test.

First, it's very cheap to have legions of soldiers without equipment, so the lack of budget for the forces of the Sudan, for example, is hardly surprising. Add all of them up and you get a tiny dollar figure, but their troops are incapable of projecting power outside their own borders, and are occasionally incapable of projecting power to all parts within their own borders.

Second, most of the nations in the EU have approximately no armed forces because they don't need them; their expeditionary forces can handle small conflicts, and when large conflicts pop up they can always cry and wave for Uncle Sugar to come bail them out. We continue to have armed forces because (1) we don't really trust other people to guard ourselves and our posterity, and (2) it isn't all that expensive. In 2007, for example, our total military spending was 3.8% of our GDP ( National Defense Budget Estimates from the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense).

Let me repeat that ... 3.8% in 2007. The most astonishing thing about the U.S. military machine isn't how expensive it is, but how cheap it is.

It's BACON!!!!

Mmmmm .... bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon. Bacon. Yummy yummy yummy bacon.

Phone Envy

Yesterday was Kathy's birthday. I had been thinking about all manner of things to get her as a birthday present, when she mentioned that she was thinking about pooling her "money for birthday present" presents towards an iPhone. "A ha!" I said, so I bundled her into the car and off we went to the Apple store. I of course didn't tell her that's where we were going, so it was still a surprise to her right up until we were about 100 feet from the Apple store.

We walked in and I announced in a large voice that "my sweetie wants an iPhone, and I want you to get one for her." The clerk produced an iPhone in a box, there was some jiggery-pokery with the credit card and the handheld laser scanner / card swipe device the Apple store retail clerks use now, and then we were out of there.

Got home, plugged it into her computer, and activated it on our existing AT&T account (replacing her old and busted Moto RAZR), and she was golden. No problems. Not one. The whole process worked just like companies wished it always did.

And the phone! OMG it's gorgeous. And shiny. She just giggles every now and then from the delight of dorking about with it. After a bit she let me touch it so I could type in the access key for our wireless network at home, but then she wanted it back.

Now, of course, I have phone envy.

P.S. I tried to photograph it, but couldn't get anything I liked. Most of the shots looked like this promo from Apple's website, so here's a shot from Apple's website.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Amazon + TiVo = SCORE!

We were so busy over the weekend that we totally forgot the Super Bowl was on. Normally we'd have TiVo'd it and then fast-forwarded through the boring parts to get to the commercials, but we were busy and didn't even do that much. Tivo noticed that there was a "House" on afterwards, so it recoded it. As always, though, the live event ran long and we didn't get the whole thing.

Our first stop was iTunes, but we didn't see any episodes of "House" there. So we checked Amazon and, sure enough, there they were. I had to sign for the "Unbox" service, but that was easily accomplished. Drill down to the missing episode, hit the "1 click" button, and bob's your uncle.

We didn't wait for it to download, but went off and did other things. When we sat down tonight, it was waiting for us. It was only standard definition, but it was a good encoding and still looked nice. It also came without commercials, which was an unexpected bonus. If only we could get a fatter pipe from Qwest, this would be super-dee-duper. As it is, though, it's a strong recommend. I imagine we'll be buying plenty more episodes from unbox now that we're sensitized to it.

Friday, February 01, 2008

All the new WCF features for the web

Not that everybody needs this, but it's useful to have it all gathered in one place: Steve Maine's TOC for the new WCF Web Programming Model stuff.

Which of us are you lying to?

Raymond Chen notices something disturbing on many levels. I wouldn't have been tricked because I whine until Kathy buys real avocados to make guacamole, which she does because she's super.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

It's a cheeseburger. In a can.

I can't imagine this is good, but I've been wrong before: cheeseburger in a can. A can. Around a cheeseburger.

Yes, I know I'm repeating myself. I'm having kernel panics because now you can get canned cheeseburgers.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Amazing what you can do with consumer-level gear now

Mission: Restage the Omaha Beach invasion from D-Day.
Cast: Three actors
Time available: Four days.

Doomed?


I think not.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

First flash photos

Here's my sweetie on the phone. This was taken with the flash on-camera, but bounced off the ceiling. The flash was in full auto everything mode ("yellow" on the zone dial which I don't fully get yet), so this is what the flash and camera do without me really being involved very much. I added a touch of edge sharpening in post, but otherwise this is what comes out of the box.



Here's Kyra being completely nuked by the flash in manual mode firing into a silver 43" umbrella from about 6' away. Clearly I have lots to learn.



And McKenna, not so completely nuked by the flash firing at half power into the umbrella. A little closer, but I'm going to have to spend some time working through the exercises on Strobist.

My birthday present arrived today!


My sweetie-pie of a wife ordered me a "Starving Student Wireless Kit" from Midwest Photo Exchange. It arrived today. I'm giddy!

Woo hoo! Strobaliciousness ensues!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Serious SF for the 21st century

"Kiosk," by Bruce Sterling.

Yep, that's about it

Tony Woodlief sums up the campaign. Go forth and consume.

You're kidding, right?

These electronic contact lenses sound freaky-cool, but if you're thinking "HUD like RoboCop" instead of "all pr0n, all the time" then you and I are competely different kinds of people.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Yet more "Liberal Fascism" talky-talk

Yesterday I wrote about John Scalzi sniping at Jonah Goldberg. Today, I'm going to follow up on it sort of tangentially. This is as a result of reading this essay about fascism in general from Michael Ledeen.

Part of what I want to talk about is why this irritated me so much that I had to write something about it when I so easily ignore the vast majority of the BDS political rhetoric that Mr. Scalzi occasionally poops out. It irritated me because I have noticed that progressives scream "fascist!" or "fascism!" when what they really mean is "I don't like that!"

Now, it's perfectly okay to not like things. In fact, there's lots of things I myself don't like, such as progressives and other self-selected elitists screaming "fascism!" when they really just mean "I dispprove of this good and/or service!"

So I believe that progressives are trying to demonize their opponents in order to avoid having to actually debate against opposing arguments. And here Mr. Scalzi does exactly that, by wandering off to wave a word, "right" in this case, while loudly sneering at Mr. Goldberg instead of dealing with the proposition. Sneering at the opponent instead of the opposing proposition is our old friend the ad hominem argument, and is just preaching to the choir; it may get your fellow progressives to whistle and high-five each other, but it doesn't convince me to take you or your position seriously.

If you think Mr. Goldberg is full of crap, and he might well be, then point out how he's full of crap by refuting his argument. In this case, that would probably entail showing how the good and/or service in question fits the "fascist" label by referring to the characteristics that "fascist" entails. If it turns out that your definition of "fascist" is "anything proposed by a conservative and/or Republican," then we have all learned that we really don't have to take your objections seriously since you aren't really thinking very much about what it is you're objecting to.

In contrast, Mr. Ledeen constructs a much more valid refutation, by taking the argument seriously and responding to it honestly. Well played, sir.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'll have to read the book

So John Scalzi starts whapping Jonah Goldberg about fascism. As much as I like Scalzi's works, I disagree with him on almost everything political, and this is no exception.

If you want to claim that fascism is a right-wing practice, fine. Let's look at what that actually means and figure out to whom the label fits no matter where we sit in the assembly hall. Let's wander off to Wikipedia for a moment, mkay?

Wikipedia's entry on fascism includes these gems:
Anti-individualistic, the fascist conception of life stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only insofar as his interests coincide with those of the State, which stands for the conscience and the universal will of man as a historic entity.... The fascist conception of the State is all-embracing; outside of it no human or spiritual values can exist, much less have value.... Fascism is therefore opposed to that form of democracy which equates a nation to the majority, lowering it to the level of the largest number.... We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the 'right', a Fascist century. If the nineteenth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the 'collective' century, and therefore the century of the State.[10]

and
...a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination."[12]


Wow, so in fascism, individuals are completely subsumed by the state. Which party does this sound more like? Deference to authoritative elites, presumably those that went to the best schools (JFK School of Government, perhaps?) and have proven their eliteness by professing the "correct" set of beliefs, is a hallmark of (a) Goldwater conservatives, or (b) progressives? Believing that your group is the victim, or in fact believing that you are properly described at all by inclusion in a group is a hallmark of (a) free-market capitalists, or (b) progressives? Depending on the authoritative leader to tell the great unwashed what to do based on his superior instincts is a hallmark of (a) anarcho-syndicalists, or (b) progressives?

Once more to Wikipedia:
Fascists opposed what they believe to be laissez-faire or quasi-laissez-faire economic policies dominant in the era prior to the Great Depression.[27] People of many different political stripes blamed laissez-faire capitalism for the Great Depression, and fascists promoted their ideology as a "third way" between capitalism and Marxian socialism.[28] Their policies manifested as a radical extension of government control over the economy without wholesale expropriation of the means of production. Fascist governments nationalized some key industries, managed their currencies and made some massive state investments. They also introduced price controls, wage controls and other types of economic planning measures.[29] Fascist governments instituted state-regulated allocation of resources, especially in the financial and raw materials sectors.

Other than nationalization of certain industries, private property was allowed, but property rights and private initiative were contingent upon service to the state.[30] For example, "an owner of agricultural land may be compelled to raise wheat instead of sheep and employ more labor than he would find profitable."[31][32]


Blaming capitalism for society's ills? Nationalization of industry? Property rights contingent upon service to the state? Private land owners being compelled to use their land in ways suited to the demands of the ruling elites instead of how he chooses to use it himself? Which party does that sound like? Is that more like "It Takes A Village," or more like "The Automatic Millionaire"?

Also ... where else have I heard that "third way" rhetoric? Something other than capitalism or socialism. Clearly capitalism is bad, because we don't like it and it lets way too many people do whatever they feel will make them happy even if it doesn't fit our Kennedy School of Government-approved models. We don't want to go all the way to socialism, because we know Americans won't actually vote for anything that calls itself socialism. What could we possibly be about, then? Which party would that be?

Let's ask Wikipedia about that too:
The Third Way, or Radical center, is a centrist political philosophy of governance that embraces a mix of market and interventionist philosophies. The Third Way rejects both socialism and laissez-faire approaches to economic governance, but chiefly stresses technological development, education, and competitive mechanisms to pursue economic progress and governmental objectives.[1] Third way philosophies have been described as a synthesis of capitalism and socialism by its proponents.[2]

Past invocations of a political 'third way' have included the Fabian Socialism, Keynesian economics, Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, and Harold Macmillan's 1950s One Nation Conservatism.[3] A "Third Way" approach has been adopted by some social democrats and social liberals in many Western liberal democracies.[4] The most recent prominent examples being the Clinton Administration in the United States, the Liberal Party government of Canada under Jean Chretien, the Labour Party governments of the United Kingdom under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and the Australian Labor Party under Kevin Rudd.


Cool! So Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Jean Chretien, and Kevin Ruud are fascists! Thanks, John! This has been great and greatly educational.

Yes, I know John wants to talk about how Mussolini wrote that he intended this to be a "right" movement, away from individual liberty. Once more at Wikipedia, this time for the French National Assembly, the usage of "left" and "right" for political position comes from when the aristocrats sat on the right-hand side of the hall. The other side was used by the bourgoisie, the middle class (note: not the working class, the traditional poster child for Democrats and others who would like to claim to speak for the population thusly).

So we have the middle class separated from the aristocracy, that being the original left v. right divide. Aristocracy assumes that there is a better class of person; aristocrats are presumed to know better than the rest of us, and should tell us what to do. We should then go do it gladly, because now we know our mommies and daddies are looking out for us. As you might guess from my oh-so-unbiased characterization, I'm a lifelong aristocrat supporter.

"Do what your betters tell you to do" is the essence of Democratic policy. Progressives and other nanny-staters continue to try to assert that the nation should do their bidding because they care more deeply, and feel more strongly that whatever they say is right. Just some blue-blooded wannabe aristo feels that he knows how all 300 million of us should live our lives doesn't mean I have a duty to play along. He can take his opinion and a large pile of sand and pound both right up his ass.

And by "he", I fully include Mrs. Clinton.

I was totally wrong

Way back when, I snickered at Sony for designing the PS3 around a Blu-Ray player. I pointed at their disappointing sales numbers as evidence that their quest to control the living room was off to an amazing (-ly bad) start. I also figured that HD-DVD would be the eventual winner because the players were more readily accessible and cost less.

I was wrong. Not only has Blu-Ray won, but because of the whole "profile" thing, it now appears that the PS3 is the Blu-Ray player of choice.

I'll have to buy one, I guess, right after I get an HD TiVo (priorities, after all).

Friday, January 11, 2008

Penn Says




Penn Jillette certainly needed another outlet, right?

Not that I need this, but ...

It's still cool making little shiny bits: making iPhone style icons in Photoshop.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Joe McNally has a new book



He also now has a YouTube channel with videos like this. I can't wait for the book.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

In Stark Contrast to Seattle

Apparently the citizenry in Oslo can manage to get a fireworks display working. And how.

I Almost Built That One Myself

I built a backdrop frame out of PVC pipe myself not all that long ago. I suspect it's a rite of passage for budget-conscious photographers because I keep stumbling across other people's writings about how they built their frames.

For example, here's Jeff Geerling's page about his frame. I like the feet he built, and I like his solution for wrinkle-free material. When I rebuild my frame, I will cheerfully use those two design elements.

Why don't I just go buy some Autopoles and be done with it? I'm saving up my money for lighting gear and lenses. Duh.