personal photography

Can’t Get a Break

You really have to feel for cops nowadays. Its getting to the point that they just can’t beat the shit out of anyone these days without a video showing up on youtube. Not only that, but now they’re in danger of losing their jobs over it. Life’s just not fair.

Now the FBI’s going to get involved because of it. Also, the SJPD is going to start testing over the ear cameras, but I doubt that’s going to help, since the footage in such a case will get “lost” or “corrupted” or they’ll have “forgotten” to start recording.

More links:

Herhold: Phuong Ho interview offers key to beating case

4 San Jose cops put on leave after video shows student beaten

Editorial: Beating video calls for strong city response

Mac personal

iTunes 9 Review

I didn’t rush out my iTunes 9 review, simply because I felt the need to actually use it for a while to see how I felt. Also, I’m not a gadget blog, so I can take my damn time. Anyway, my feelings and wants for iTunes are no one’s but my own. Anyway, I wrote a little wishlist before Apple’s music event, which if I had to sum up, was for iTunes not to suck anymore. While that didn’t entirely come true, iTunes 9 sucks a hell of a lot less than before.

First of all, iTunes 9 plays much, MUCH nicer with my dying iPod than 8 did. It manages to sync the first time, almost every time. It may not seem like much, but its a vast improvement. Its also quite a bit faster with the 3GS. It still beachballs for a second when I connect the phone, but it takes (subjectively) less time than before. Switching views from Music to Podcasts to Applications is very fast, with no beachballing at all. Note that I have just shy of 10,000 tracks with 984 artists, 45 podcast subscriptions, and 96 apps. ITunes 9 seems to have pulled a lot of its speed by drawing icons on the fly after the view switch. I’d far rather switch fast and see the icons drawn while I’m interacting with the window.

Which is not to say that I don’t have problems. The first and worst is that smart playlist sync seems to be broken between iTunes 9 and iPhone OS 3.1. I mainly listen to podcasts on my iPhone, and exclusively while commuting. I set up a smart playlist that grabs podcasts as they’re downloaded, and I’l go in and manually arrange the order. I did this because my car’s iPod connector only sees playlists, artists, albums and songs, so I had to make a playlist to listen to my podcasts in the car. It actually turned out to be a really convenient way to consume them. The problem is that the podcasts showed up in a random order after the update. This seems to be a problem with iTunes, rather than the iPhone OS, since turning off live updating solves the problem. Its annoying to have to do additional steps, but I’m sure a fix is coming.

I only had one crash, right after I updated. I still had to wait while iTunes checked the library, but it only took about a minute. I’m sure that this is a result of iTunes’ Carbon-ness and inability to use Core Data. (I’m making the assumption that Core Data will handle crashes more gracefully than whatever it is that iTunes does now. We all know about assumptions, right?)

As far as the rest, I can’t use Home Sharing, because I have one updated machine and almost nothing from the iTunes Store. I tried Genius Mixes, and while the feature is cool, its not my cup of tea. I love the ability to arrange apps from iTunes and really wish it had been there last year, but what can you do? Clearly, Apple didn’t expect people to put hundreds of apps on their phones, so it took a while. I don’t like the white background behind the icons. The black background provided more contrast and was easier on the eyes. Maybe a background preference?

So, yeah, I’m really happy with iTunes 9, and hope that it just keeps getting better. ITunes is home to a lot of stuff and it takes some serious UI mojo to keep everything simple and tidy and fast. While I still say that iTunes has some suckage to work out, its with the understanding that a lot of work goes into it.

Mac personal

Music Event Wishlist

I’m not going to predict anything about tomorrow’s event, mainly because other people are far better at it than I. That, and I could give a shit about the Beatles or even new iPods. Although I might pick up a current-gen Classic if it gets the cheap refurb treatment, since my 4th gen is dying. No, I shall again engage in pointless and useless speculation. This is what I want from tomorrow’s event:

I want iTunes to not suck any more.

That’s it. iTunes is slow, oh so slow. It takes forever to load, to check the library, to switch between music, podcasts and iPhone apps. God help you if it crashes, because it has to “check the library” until I get a gray hair.

I don’t care how Apple pulls it off. I don’t have to code iTunes, so I don’t care if its Carbon or Cocoa (even though it has to go Cocoa sooner rather than later because everything has to go Cocoa) or if its a glorified WebKit shell talking to a CoreData blob. (Like my mindless name drops there?)

Just let iTunes not suck. This not not involve adding a fucking Facebook or Twitter button to spam everyone with my favorite embarrassing music or anything stupid like that. We’re in the Snow Leopard era here. Less is more. Smaller and faster is better. That is my wish, and I’m not even sure I’ll get that.

personal stoopid


So, there are a bunch of dipshit Pretards on Twitter who feel the need to constantly search for any mention of the Pre and butt in regardless of how appropriate or not it might be. They also seem to be more thin-skinned than freetards, Macmacs or even Trekkies. Anyway, here’s a sad little exchange I had a little while ago. I was only inspired to do al of that copy and pasting because @vara411 had the same exchange with @bynkii tonight, and I just had to get it out there.

I should also point out that I don’t have anything against Palm or the Pre. I just happen to think that its not the right solution for me and Palm has some issues to work out both with their hardware and their OS. Oh, and I don’t give a shit what phone you use or why either.

Played with a Pre today. Slow as shit compared to the 3GS. Palm needs to get their shit together. 7:08 PM Aug 8th

@dssstrkl That’s the 1st Generation pre. It took Apple 3 generations. And yes I do own an Iphone. Switching over to a Palm Pre. 7:15 PM Aug 8th

@GuttaMoss Whatever. Apples to apples = original iphone to Treo 700. Pre has same guts as 3GS, so there’s little excuse. 8:41 PM Aug 8th

@GuttaMoss BTW, I don’t really care what you use. I only care about my experience/needs, and the Pre doesn’t do it for me. 8:42 PM Aug 8th

@dssstrkl @GuttaMoss Palm Pre is plenty fast if u multitask. But hey I understand. As an iPhone fan you wouldn’t know anything about that. 8:14 PM Aug 8th

@vara411 I multitask pretty well on an iphone. I also like being able to answer a phone call without waiting for the phone app to boot. 8:43 PM Aug 8th

@vara411 Meaningless PR terms don’t do much to sway my opinion BTW. 8:44 PM Aug 8th

@dssstrkl Let me guess?….your needs are for more useless apps (iBeer) rights? Palm Pre and it’s WebOS is light years ahead of iphone’s. 10:01 PM Aug 8th

@GuttaMoss What’s with the assumption that I even downloaded shit like that? Light years? Really? Care to elaborate? 10:08 PM Aug 8th

@GuttaMoss Seems to me that Palm seriously needs to work on their optimization. I can move between apps pretty quickly on a 3GS, but just… 10:08 PM Aug 8th

@GuttaMoss loading anything on the Pre takes forever. Maybe because I don’t waste time on Facebook and IM. 10:08 PM Aug 8th

@dssstrkl You know what the competition between the two is great for us consumers. 10:03 PM Aug 8th

@GuttaMoss I like competition. Palm has some good ideas. I just think their implementation needs a lot of work. 10:08 PM Aug 8th

@GuttaMoss Hence, “they need to get their shit together.” 10:09 PM Aug 8th

@dssstrkl I’m sorry “meaningless PR terms?” What exactly are you getting at? 9:23 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 Do you even know what the word multitask means? Go look it up and tell me how you used it incorrectly. 9:47 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 Then think about how you wanted to use it (ie using more than one app simultaneously in userland) and explain exactly how one does 9:47 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 that one the Pre. Seems to me like you use 1 app, then go use another. Again, meaningless PR BS. 9:47 AM Aug 9th

@dssstrkl Wrong again but I forgive u. GPS nav + Pandora + txt + Twitter + multiple emails… simultaneously. THAT’S Palm Pre multitasking. 10:30 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 BWAHAHAHA! Really? You can do all that at the same time? When I tried, I had to move from one app to another since you can only 10:41 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 interact w/ 1 app at a time. Hope you’re not texting while driving! BTW, you clearly still don’t know what multitasking means! 10:41 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 Also, why are you even engaging? I still don’t give a shit what phone you use or why. 10:41 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 Ah, 4451 tweets since 5/1? All about Pre? You’re clearly a Palm plant. You should ask @chuq how to evangelize w/o being a dick. 11:07 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 Don’t bother answering. I’m clearly not going to have an interesting convo w/ a marketing drone. 11:07 AM Aug 9th

@dssstrkl LOL suit urself. Yeah I’m a fanboy but no employee. Honored you’d look me up like that tho. Just remember who’s being a jerk, here 11:29 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 Don’t be too honored, it took about a minute, drone. You started this, so the jerk would be you. Look up multitasking yet, drone? 11:44 AM Aug 9th

@dssstrkl I’m “engaging” b/c ur obviously a jaded, angry little iSheep who likes to rant but then gets all defensive when someone answers. 11:43 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 iSheep? LOL, that worked out pretty well for Sandisk, didn’t it? 🙂 Jaded & angry? Wow, does the Pre come with a psychology app? 11:59 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 You’re clearly engaging because you’re a marketing drone. Your twitter account is 100% Pre and you’re a dick to people who disagree 11:59 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 with you. Again: I DON’T GIVE A SHIT WHAT YOU USE. I’m not you and the Pre doesn’t work for me. The Pre has some serious flaws that 11:59 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 need to get ironed out, primarily that apps boot REALLY slow and the hardware feels cheap. Smartphones don’t live in some zero-sum 11:59 AM Aug 9th

@vara411 game that one needs to lose for the other to survive. Even if you’re some psychotic fanboy jizzing over his gadget, you should 12:00 PM Aug 9th

@vara411 recognize that other people have legitimate reasons for choosing something other than what you have. But resorting to name calling 12:00 PM Aug 9th

@vara411 in the absence of any actual or reasoned argument is just sad. Your inability to use a dictionary & resorting to calling me an 12:00 PM Aug 9th

@vara411 Apple fanboy indicates that you have no actual points of comparison between the iphone or pre and that you have no idea what you’re 12:00 PM Aug 9th

@vara411 talking about. Grow up and look up multitasking. 12:00 PM Aug 9th

@dssstrkl Hey douchebag I just read ur conv w @vara411. U talked shit abt da Pre, he called u on it and now ur running ur fukkin mouth STFU! 12:07 PM Aug 9th

@dssstrkl I turned in my iPhone 3GS for a Palm Pre and have no regrets. Mostly hated AT&T. Wat, u gonna talk shit to me too? Go fuk urself 12:08 PM Aug 9th

@danmiam No, but I will block you for being boring. 12:25 PM Aug 9th

@dssstrkl That’s what I thought ass wipe 12:30 PM Aug 9th (After I blocked him. This guy says he’s a med student. Right.)

@dssstrkl I do in fact have point of comparison. Owned the original iphone for 1.5 yrs. Palm Pre suits my needs better. 12:10 PM Aug 9th

@vara411 Sorry, I just don’t believe you. Know what multitasking means yet? 12:26 PM Aug 9th

@dssstrkl Cracks me up that an iPhone fanboy like yourself would dictate to me what multitasking is. Run along, iSheep. We’re done talking. 12:34 PM Aug 9th

@vara411 Thats rich, calling me a fanboy. All I did was point out that you don’t know what the word multitasking means. 12:37 PM Aug 9th

@vara411 Not my problem if you’re not too proficient in English. 12:38 PM Aug 9th

@vara411 Also, learn the diff between fanboys like yourself and people who hold other opinions & have diff needs. 12:38 PM Aug 9th

So if any other Pretards feel like butting in, I still don’t give a shit which phone you use or why. Get over it. 12:52 PM Aug 9th

People who go around advocating shit really need to learn how approach others. Its not like acting like a douchebag and telling me how I’m doing shit wrong is going to win me to your side or anything. On what planet does contacting random people to tell them that their life choices (really, since these clowns live and breathe the Pre) are ugly and wrong, but then get all pissy when people respond in a way other slavish agreement or fellatio. There are few things in this world lamer than fanboys, and this is just another example of that.

personal politics science stoopid

Invading Ideas

When I was going through my Twitter feed this morning, i happened across this: Extinction & invasive species are PART of nature. Things change. Why r we obsessed with freezing current ecology? and this: “Survival of the Fittest” means that, unfortunately, that some of our favorites will be pushed out. It’s not “Survival of the Cutest.” and this: Every species u see now pushed another species out. And those pushed out the ones before them. No such thing as “original” or “native.”

I responded with some rather insultingly rude comments @scottsigler Natural invasions occur at a fraction of the rate of human caused invasions. Its not freezing ecology, its protecting diversity and @scottsigler You seriously need to bone up on your populations genetics. The shit you said was stupid. As is laughably incorrect. Its rather hypocritical of me to call someone else out for saying talking shit without backing up my own. Invasive species occur all over the planet, in all manner of ecosystems. My experience, as well as the article in question, is mainly marine, so most of my examples will be as well.

The problem is not so much with the assertion that natural invasions don’t happen, or that extinction isn’t a part of life. Its with the complete disregard for the very real damage that invasions do to local and regional ecologies and the disregard for the differences in the rate between natural invasions and those caused by human activity. I’m going to consider the kelp species mentioned in the article. Assuming that no one reading this has ever seen a giant kelp species in the flesh or know anything about their life cycle, it goes something like this. Kelp, as an algae, reproduces via sporulation. Unlike plants, which have tissues analogous to animals, all kelp cells are effectively the same and all produce spores. I have personally forced kelp to sporulate in the lab and collected from seven blades, enough spores to change the consistency of 1L of seawater into something more like syrup. That’s a concentration high enough that it needs to go through several dilutions in order to be at a low enough concentration to be useful for the experiment we were conducting, about 1E12 spores/mL. If I can generate that many spores from seven blades in 20 minutes, imagine how many spores an entire kelp forest releases during a season.


Kelp spores


Sand dollar larvae. Most broadcast spawners have larvae about this size.

Now consider how tiny kelp spores are, at the micrometer scale. In order for a Japanese kelp to invade California, especially to the point where it can out-compete native species, these spores must cross the Pacific Ocean by riding natural currents, which run through the Arctic Circle and then down the California coast with the cold California current. Any such invasion would likely start north and work its way south, with the currents. Now consider, instead of some space spores managing to survive that trip, a container ship sitting in a Japanese port. Well, it doesn’t just sit there. As containers are being loaded, the ship is loading its ballast tanks with a few hundred tons of coastal seawater, which is filled with not only kelp spores, but a host of other algae species, fish, crab, mollusk and echinoderm larvae. This ship will then cross the Pacific in the best time possible. These ships are required by US maritime law to stop mid-ocean and cycle their ballast tanks, but rarely do, as the fines for failure to comply with the law are less than the cost of stopping. Thus, when the ship reaches port its ballast tanks will be full of all sorts of foreign beasties who are ready and often at the perfect stage in their life cycle to colonize.

This can be problematic for local ecosystems, especially when low level members of the food chain get out-competed by invaders. Not only can food stocks radically change, but things like seagrass height can prevent birds from nesting, an invading clam that reaches the adult stage a week before native species and consumes resources, a marauding crab that rampages through the tidal zone, and on and on. I can also safely assume that no one reading this has ever inspected a cargo ship’s ballast tanks, or even boarded or been close to one. You really have to personally experience it to internalize the scale.

Besides the havoc that such invaders can wreak on native ecosystems, but they can cause massive economic devastation as well. Fisheries can be wiped out, mussels can clog outflow pipes of power plants, clams can bore into mudflats and massively increase erosion, threatening all sorts of human communities and commercial facilities.

As for the Survival of the Fittest comment, that’s social Darwinist bullshit. That’s not a scientific concept or something that’s ever brought up in scientific literature. Natural selection is cruel and impartial, but works on populations in entire ecosystems. It also works at a particular rate, usually called evolutionary time (like how geological processes function at geological time). That’s kind of why they’re called ecosystems, since they are functional systems. If you start introducing massive disruptions into any system, it will collapse. That’s not natural selection, any more than climate change is a natural process. The fact is that there was no massive invasive species problem before the advent of fast trans-oceanic shipping. The only major cause of species invasion before that was deliberate human introductions. Unless anyone thinks that rabbits just happened to pop up out of nowhere in the Australian outback. Or that most of the lust Hawaiian vegetation that we all like is invasive, and happened to show up after European colonists showed up (which was after Polynesian colonists showed up). I could go on, but the fact is that natural invasions are so rare and mild that they can be absorbed by the ecosystem with minimal disruption.

Next, there’s this comment: Every species u see now pushed another species out. And those pushed out the ones before them. No such thing as “original” or “native.”Wrong. There are plenty of examples of empty niches being filled in by opportunistic species. Classic example: early mammals didn’t exactly wipe out the dinosaurs by themselves, now did they? I don’t know what Scott meant by original, since that’s not a word we use in the context that he was using. There is, however, such a thing as a native species. What constitutes a native species is even defined scientifically. All one has to do is look it up.

@pcharing there is no “permanently disasterous” in nature. One species’ apocolypse is another’s gateway to dominance of the open niche.I think the dinosaurs and trilobites would disagree with you. An apocalypse tends to effect more than one species at a time, and extinction, at least in nature, doesn’t just happen. Again, we’re dealing with systems with lots and lots of interdependencies. For example, it would really suck for us if phytoplankton stopped fixing nitrogen and the atmosphere turned into poison.

@niltiac afraid that isn’t true, as proven by the FIVE mass extinctions in Earth’s history. 5, yet life flourishes, including all u see now.Life that tended to be quite dissimilar to that which preceded it. Sure, it all has DNA, but the first life forms in this planet (who dominated far longer than any eukaryote) thrived in what was an alien planet with a toxic atmosphere. Its lucky for us that they fouled their nest by filling the atmosphere with a toxic, caustic gas that eventually drove them off the face of the Earth. Sounds familiar, yes? Except oxygen gas, at atmospheric pressure, isn’t toxic to life forms like us. What makes you think that we could survive the next mass extinction? Maybe we should be less blasé about it.

@j0ni “balance” is a myth. Extinction is the rule. There was no balance before us, there us none now. Equilibriums are temporary in nature.Yes, there is no such thing as a perfect equilibrium in nature, and yes, its a model. Yes, given enough time, everything is temporary, even the universe. But, statistically, its an accurate model that predicts how ecosystems function. If you’re going to dismiss an accepted biological model with decades of support, please offer some evidence to back up your claims. Creationism is a myth, equilibrium is science. The difference? One is supported by observation, correct predictions, and cold, hard math, the other, not so much.

@CJWellman Most “native” Galapaos species are “invasive” from long B4 man arrived. Native state is barren. When did “native state” start?Its hardly invasive to colonize a barren rock with lots of empty niches. If you don’t think there’s a difference, go ask an indigenous person, anywhere in the world, what he thinks of being colonized, then go ask a Martian what he thinks of us sending all those probes and planning to colonize Mars. Oh, wait, there’s no life on Mars. There’s no indigenous life to get pushed out. When did the native state start? When life started growing there are formed an ecosystem. Barren is the state of there being no life, no ecosystem. Native state requires life.

@j0ni “Fatalism?” Please. Life goes on. Just not this snapshot of life. Good luck stopping time, nature and evolution.Look at Mars. The conditions for life existed there once, but no longer. Think that can’t happen here? Besides, there’s no such thing as a snapshot of life. Life is always in motion, always evolving, us included.

@DomonicMongello so if species arrives on Galapagos from wind or ocean currents, that’s okay, but on ship (from man), that’s not?Again, its a matter of scale and time. You can’t honestly compare wind-borne seeds landing on islands to the Dutch bringing coffee to Java. If you really don’t understand the difference between the mechanisms, then there’s not much I can say to convince you otherwise.

@j0ni show me one example of equilibrium, “balance,” that did not replace a previous state of “balance.” Ergo, balance is temporary at best.
@j0ni no straw man. U say “balance” is observable phenomenon. I ask for permanent example in nature of your statement. Do u have one?
There’s no such thing as a permanent ecosystem. Anyone who would suggest such a thing is ignorant of how they work. However, that doesn’t mean that equilibrium doesn’t exist, or that ecosystems can’t persist for periods of time longer than the existence of human civilization.

All ecosystems function in a state of equilibrium, or else they collapse, extinctions occur, opportunists move in, and a new equilibrium is formed. Equilibrium in environmental biology is not some biblical harmony. All it means is that conditions are stable enough for biological niches to be filled, allowing the native organisms to go through their life cycles. Every single organism depends on a stable and functional ecosystem in equilibrium to thrive. That includes us. We require far more equilibrium and stability than most species. Our food supply is dangerously homogenous, depending on only a few species for our staples. Imagine a virus that attacks grain spreading around the planet, wiping out wheat, rice and corn. Think about just how tenuous our food supply really is, especially when you also consider the havoc that we’re wreaking on the atmosphere, the water supply, the soil. Look at the food you have in your house, think about where it came from, and then tell me, with a straight face, that equilibrium isn’t real or that its doesn’t matter.

Scott challenged me to point out what was laughably incorrect. At the very least, the vast difference between natural aquatic invasions and ballast tank discharge fits the bill. I could stand to be more polite in the future, but I can’t make any promises.

hardware Mac personal


Right now everone’s publishing thier WWDC predictions. I’m not going to do that this time because a) I again have absolutely zero real information and b) it’s gotten boring. Instead I’m going to go totally pie in the sky and publish my wish list. There are no predictions here, and I seriously doubt that this stuff will happen; this is all fun and games.

Now, I am assuming that the iPhone late 2009 version will be announced tomorrow, and Snow Leopard will get talked up. That’s as safe a prediction as saying that I need to see an optomotrist tomorrow. Which I do. So here we go!

Background processes

I think that iPhone v.3 will be powerful and robust enough to allow full background processes. The current 3.0 OS hasn’t seen an update for over a month and is stable on my original iPhone. For all intents and purposes, it seems to be done (minus miscellaneous bug fixes for the final release). So what has Apple been doing all month?

Background support! Yay! Assuming wishes come true, this will only work on the new hardware with it’s increased CPU, RAM and battery life. Teardowns on the Pre indicate that modern chipsets allow for significant reductions in logic board footprints. Smaller, more efficient circuits could allow Apple to both increase battery life and physical battery size. Serious optimization combined with a 1300, 1500 or (O-face here) 1800mAH battery would make background apps a real possibility here.

Also, Apple is clearly not afraid of adding features which will not work on older hardware. MMS, terhering and full A2DP Bluetooth are not available for the original iPhone. This would be a great point of differentiation for the iPhone v.3. If Apple could pull this off AND have a battery life increase would rocket the iPhone ahead of the competition.

Apple TV

I have no idea what the hell Apple is trying to do with the Apple TV. Right now it’s just a dongle to stream iTunes content to an HDTV. I have lots of iTunes content and an HDTV, but I just don’t have any desire to buy one.

Why? Well, quite simply, because my old Rev A Macbook Pro from 2005 is so much better. With the addition of less than $20 of cables and adaptors from and my Harmony 880 remote, the laptop makes a far better solution. I can play DVD, but mote importantly, I can play EVERYTHING ELSE. I can get Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Skype, Internet, everything. I can fire up the NES emulator and play MegaMan 2. I can do all sorts of things with a Mac that I can’t with an Apple TV.

Well, updated hardware and an awesome sdk could fix that. People have suggested and rejected such an sdk recently, but it was always about Apple turning the thing into a game console. I agree that the console route is the height of stupid, but there is so much more. An sdk would allow Netflix and Boxee to be first-class citizens. I would imagine that games would happen, with an iPhone / iPod touch as the favored controller.

As for hardware, Apple needs to replace that Pentium M. Maybe they could scoop up a few of those mobile Core 2 Duos that Intel is so desparate to dump on someone. Also that awful integrated graphics chipset might be good enough to drive a set-top box, or Nvidia might give Apple a deal on 9400M chips.

I have no idea how feasable any of this is, or how hard it would be to release an Apple TV sdk, but it sure would be nice. On the other hand, I’m not going freak out and call lame if none of if comes true. Unlike some people, I can tell the difference between things that are likely to appear and the shit I just made up.


Radio Killed the Radio Star?

I sometimes find myself worrying that in my increasing old age (pushing 30 *shudder*) that I’m going to end up like my parents and so many in their generation and just stop listening to new music. I have just shy of 10,000 tracks from just under 1000 artists in my collection. If you want to go old school, that’s 1553 albums, a bunch of singles and unsorted stuff, for a total of 26:14:13:34 listening time. Not including audiobooks and podcasts, that’s almost a month of music without repeating. Yikes!

Now, while I already have more music than I can reasonably listen to, I still like to discover new stuff. The tried and true way is to see what’s playing on the radio. I tend not to do this because Scion was very thoughtful and included an iPod dock connector that routes directly to the head unit. I tend to turn on the radio when I happen to have unplugged the iPod and forgot to plug it back in. When this happens, the head unit defaults back to the radio, since there’s no other input. (It does have a CD player, but I’ve only ever put one CD in once, when a friend gave me a burn of Human by the Killers to listen to. iPod > CD to the point that I haven’t listened to a CD in forever. CDs go straight to iTunes and then go on the shelf.)

When I hit the radio one of two things happens. There’s a commercial on or the idiot DJ is talking, I realize my mistake and immediately plug the iPod back in. Or an actual song is playing. When this happens, I usually find myself wondering if I’m back in college or even high school. My default station is Live 105 in San Francisco (105.3 FM), which is the alternative/new rock station. The problem is that their playlist is even older and far more limited than mine. I’ve bounced around some of the other local stations on occasion and its the same everywhere. The radio is no longer the place to find new music!

What the hell happened? Is there nothing new? Clearly something is going on, because I manage to discover new music all the time. The problem with new music and the radio is ultimately the source of all of today’s problems with music: the corporate recording industry. All that I’ve seen coming out of this cultural cesspool is a string of pop culture garbage that’s aimed at pre-teens and young teenagers, a notoriously profitable group. There’s nothing wrong with seeking profits, but they’re not doing anything to advance their art.

Of course the people running the recording industry are the same type running Wall Street and the auto industry. A bunch of “professional managers” with high power MBA’s. These are people who went to Harvard or Stanford business schools and come out with the arrogant notion that they can run any business and know better than anyone else, including people with specialized knowledge about those businesses. Just like how Wall Street executives seem to know nothing about how to run a sustainable bank, recording industry execs know nothing about music. They know how to make lots of money and how to promote artificial groups and artists to impress the kids, but they know shit about music.

Several people have noted that a large percentage of the recording industry’s income comes from their library. That’s either people re-buying things or people discovering older music and slurping it up. What this requires though, is artists with lasting power, not a string of one hit wonders or groups that you loved when you were 12, but horribly embarrassed that you ever listened to when you were 14 and up. The problem is, good, real artists are hard to come by, hard to recognize, and generally have a more limited audience that every 12 year old girl in the US. Its simply not as profitable to nurture talent as it is to manufacture it.

So what am I supposed to do about it? Do I just accept that fact that I’m old and all the good music has been recorded? Ummm, no. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to the radio, and it just happens to be the thing that the industry claims is killing music. I don’t need to enumerate what I use to find new music, since I’m sure everyone reading this already uses them (Pandora, Last.FM, RCD LBL, etc). The point is you have really work to find good music, and then do some more work to actually buy it. Its almost as if the music corporations don’t want us to find any new music. That is to say, they don’t want us to find any new music that fits our tastes and is good. Its like they want us to just mindlessly buy the extremely profitable manufactured music that they shit out every year. But that can’t be it, can it?

In any case, I’m glad that the relative lack of new stuff on my iPod isn’t due to the fact that I’m becoming an old fart, but because, yet again, the recording industry sucks.


Mixed Feelings From the BSG Finale

Before I get started, I’d just to mention that I totally called the ending back in January, so credit where credit’s due, bitches!

Now that that’s out of the way, I’m going to tempt fate by admitting that I was mostly satisfied by Battlestar’s finale. I thought that the colony battle was spectacular, with some of the best VFX I’ve ever seen. There are only two possible ways that BSG could have ended. Everyone dies or the fleet finds “our” Earth. I was assuming that the show would end on the latter, if only because of the teaser at the end of the third season. Given that, the question becomes, when do they find Earth, and what condition would it be in? If the fleet shows up in 2009, the we end up with BSG:ID4 or V or something like that. Introducing an advanced alien, yet human element to our world would be incredibly destabilizing and could lead to an interesting story, but probably poorly executed. Having the fleet show up in the future would be even worse. You’d have BSG:TNG or BSG: Robotech.


Having the fleet arrive in the distant past is the best way to end, even though I would have done things differently. This is not what I have a problem with. Some things about the finale jumped out at me immediately, but that I was able to get over, but after a few days’ reflection (and a second viewing courtesy of The Pirate Bay), there are more things that bother me. I’m still not as upset as some people, but I find myself more than a little disappointed.

What the Fuck is Starbuck?!?

Since Razor, we’ve known that Starbuck is the Harbinger of Death. Wow, that’s pretty badass, especially since she already died and came back (never mind that Razor took place before she died in reel time). Three separate hybrids told her that, including Anders. I thought that there was going to be some huge shit surrounding her, but no.

While she performed admirably helping the fleet get to Earth (including jumping Galactica into Earth orbit), that’s not what I would expect from the Harbinger of Death. In fact, she kinda turned out to be the opposite of that. Lots and lots of buildup that became nothing. Especially when she vanished in the middle of a conversation with Lee.

As I said on Twitter: What. The. Fuck. Which leads me to my next point.

The Head Characters and Tech is teh Badz

Head Six and Head Baltar were really angels of God? God is really guiding humanity’s path? This whole show, which had some of the hardest science of any mass market scifi ever, was really a show about magic in space? The last scene in present-day New York City spelled that out pretty clearly. That’s so lame. Really, I can’t get my head around how disappointing and frustrating that is.

What they also made fairly clear is that technology and scientific advances are bad and will eventually lead to out destruction. Um, what? In typical religious determinism, human free choice doesn’t really exist. Apparently, if we build robots, they will rise up and kill us.

Well, all this has happened before, and will probably happen again. Why?

Because evil robot stories make money and because scifi authors and TV producers tend not to understand either how computers or the brain work. Why does AI always want to kill us? Why is it always this:


Instead of this


or this


All these characters are equally unlikely to ever occur, simply because AI based on computer logic and hardware will always act like a computer. Asimo is not going to turn into a Cylon. I hold this notion in the same contempt that I hold singularity nuts. No matter how many computations per second that a processor can manage, it will still not act like a human brain. And this leads to to:

Technological Abandonment

People have made a big deal out of the fleet’s total abandonment of their advanced technology, including the actual fleet. As much as people may not like it, it was needed for the sake of the story. If people had retained access to such advanced tech as artificial gravity, massive generation of electricity, FTL tech, communications, etc, then they would have been able to rebuild a robust space-faring society within a few generations. I’m assuming a while to rebuild simply because the fleet had little or no industrial capacity and after so long in space, I imagine that the civilian ships were in pretty bad shape. Not necessarily as bad as Galactica, but without serious time in drydock, all the ships would eventually suffer catastrophic damage, probably sooner rather than later. Additionally, Galactica herself suffered such intense damage that she was structurally unsound and would have been scrapped even under the best of circumstances.

I personally would not have gone with the Luddite route. There are plenty of conspiracy theories of ancient advanced civilizations that flourished thousands of years ago only to mysteriously disappear. There are even stories of ancient, global societies that build impressive cities using the same unit of measurement. I would have gone in that direction.

Certainly there are dangers with leaving unstable weapons of mass destruction in Earth orbit, but rather than shooting everything off into the sun, we could have left the fleet in, say Jupiter orbit? That way, instead of a human/cylon mitochondrial eve bullshit, we could have ended with the discovery of a mysterious fleet in deep space, which held the promise of an incredible story. That would be cool, and I think HAL 9000 would approve.

personal politics

Why the Fuck Do I Pay Taxes?

Its the question that I ask every time tax season comes around. Well, actually, its what I ask every time I look at my paycheck and figure out just how badly I’ve been raped this time. I don’t like dwelling on it, because, as I’m sure everyone else who’s the not filthy rich CEO of a bank or other parasitic institution, the thought of how much I pay, and how little I get back, just gets my rage on.

While the apparent amount of taxes I pay doesn’t seem as much as some people, it is quite a bit. I’m not going to get into the details, but there’s quite a bit of money that gets flushed down the toilet of government. In theory, taxes are a vital part of a society. Tax money keeps government running. Taxes fund social goods like public schools, public roads, public transportation, infrastructure and the like. It even puts food on my table, since my paycheck comes from a taxpayer-funded NIH grant, so I can add public health to my list. So, given my own list of all the good things that my taxes help pay for, how could I possibly be pissed about having to pay?

The answer’s quite simple: most of my tax money doesn’t go to the public good. In fact, the public good the always the first thing to get cut when government funding gets lean. No, the reason why I’m pissed is because most of my taxes are wasted on bullshit. Even before the financial collapse, your know, the one brought about by Wall Street’s immense and insatiable greed, most of our tax money didn’t go towards the public good. The vast majority of the federal budget goes towards the military. No, that’s not right. Most of that money goes towards the military-industrial complex, which is basically Lockheed, Newport News Shipyard and the like. I wouldn’t even really be that upset, if not for the fact that these corporations charge insane amounts of money, but can barely deliver. Navy and Coast Guard ships are late and so below standards that ships are being rejected. Soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan have been chronically short of all sorts of supplies since the start of both wars. There are no sci-fi weapons for fuck’s sake!

The point is, for all the money that gets flushed down the Pentagon toilet every year for the past few decades, there is very little to show for it. Aging equipment, shortages, massively over-budget (and aften underperforming) new projects all beg the question: why is there no oversight? Now combine the chronic irresponsibility of the military budget and combine it with two horribly managed wars, in which $9 billion (with a B) in cash simply drove out of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, flew to Iraq and disappeared.

What. The. Fuck.

Now combine that with the financial meltdown, the state of American healthcare and the state of American infrastructure. The fact of the matter is that Congress allowed the financial services market to become too large, while allowing specific institutions to become to large. Congress keeps dumping more and more money on these thieves, who caused all their own problems by hurting us and who, instead of using that money to help us, are predictably, helping themselves. This is of course at the expense of virtually everything else. Hell, the government could give every single person in the US a billion dollars (with a B) and it would be cheaper than what’s going on now.

So, what do we do about it?

Unfortunately, not much. Congress is in charge of tax law, and they’ve proved themselves to be quite resistant to any reforms that help we the people over we the super rich bankers who pay for your fucking campaigns. We could do like Larry Lessig and try to change Congress, but that’s much easier said than done. You could always refuse to pay your taxes, but that tends to not end well. There’s another option, but I’ll not speak of it, since only right wing shitbags get to talk about violent insurrection against the government without getting in trouble, so I’ll avoid it.

So in the end, I pay taxes because I have to. I don’t know what to about this problem, but I don’t care to have the FBI come and blow up my house and kill my family, nor do I want to go underground. Both of those seem worse than my current situation, but the question remains how to make real reform and make the government work for we the people. Congress and Obama have shown that they’re not going to go anything for us unless they have to. I’m going to make more noise, but that’s not going to be enough.


Growed Up

So I finally went and got my own domain and hosting. I’d like to think its because I’m taking all this more seriously, or that I’m starting to mature as a person, but probably not. Its just because I wanted to. I wanted my own space, so I got it.

I’m still playing with layout and setup, so I’ll likely be changing the way everything looks and feels until I like everything. That might take a while, but its all in good fun.