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Month: November 2002

Wild and free, my Irish PDA

This is much closer to what I want than Microsoft’s Tablet PC. Not quite there, cause I still want the keyboard, but pretty close. There’s nothing really aweinspiring about the technology; it’s just X Windows for Microsoft. Still pretty sexy.

There’s actually no reason Apple couldn’t do something like this for the Mac, although they’d need to provide remote display capabilities in Aqua. Still, why not? PDF might be a little heavyweight for transmission over WiFi, I suppose.

The real “digital hub” revolution comes when WiFi gets built into the television, DVD player, and so on. However, free-roaming lightweight devices that leave the computing power in various hubs are an important part of that. The DVR talks to the central processor, which runs the portable display, and so on. Gotta be small, gotta be light.

Thinking more on roaming devices, what might be useful is some sort of standard database discovery protocol. You want to be able to tell roaming devices in your vicinity what sort of information you’ve got, and allow them to do queries based on that. Perhaps you do need some intelligence in the device after all.

Would that intelligence be appropriate for home use? Sure; a lot of what you want to do/know with the DVD and the DVR and so on are lookups anyhow. You probably need a discovery process for procedures you can run, as well. The real trick is the higher level UI stuff, that knits it all together into a coherent whole.

“Borders Hub is offering the database Books in Store with the description ‘Books available in the store.’ Subscribe?” Tabs, maybe, to flip between databases. Some standard query interface stuff.

A glimpse inside

I’m not really a huge Bob Woodward fan, but Bush at War looks kind of interesting based on this piece. I can’t say I find Bush’s attitude to be inherently distasteful, but I am interested in his management style.

“I do not need to explain why I say things. — That’s the interesting thing about being the President. — Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”

Woodward’s got an agenda, even if it’s only “I want to be the guy who reveals shocking things,” but still. Interesting stuff. It’s not often you get a good view into what a President is thinking, and for whatever reason, Bush seems to have opened up to Woodward.

This, that, some tabasco

Saturday was busy; Sunday was pleasantly quiet. Either way it wasn’t a talkative web weekend for me. I woke up at 4:45 AM on Saturday for some network maintenance at work, which went very well indeed; I went to bed around midnight, after the Ring of Honor show. Lotta video games in between. Sunday I just slept and caught up on movies and watched wrestling. You know how it is. (I feel a little like I should belch around here.)

Raiders beat the Patriots last night. The Pats managed to score 20 points with no offensive touchdowns. Tom Brady had best be using this year as a learning experience; he gets a free pass for a year for winning a Super Bowl but god help him if he doesn’t improve next year. The Bledsoe trade may wind up driving Belichick out of New England yet.

Greg Beato takes the time to analyze Glenn Reynolds’ readership claims. My. I’m going to have to visit his weblog more often; he does a better job of skewering Professor Reynolds than I do.

Speaking of which, a friend on LJ asked me why I read this stuff, referring to the rants of Mischa and others. My answer may be found there, but boils down to “I think it’s important that someone goes out and points out the inconsistencies, the hatred, and the poor logic. Criticisms must exist, and they must be discoverable.”

The subway gas scare in London may have been unjustified. London police are saying that there’s no evidence the three men arrested were planning on gassing the Tube, and they did not actually possess any gas. The terrorist materials for which they were arrested were false ID papers.

Winter has come to Boston. I am glad of the winter jacket I bought last week.

Short memories, perhaps

There’s been some discussion of a certain controversial painting of late. Interesting topic. James Lileks claims that a hypothetical “Self-Portrait of a Racial Cleanser” wouldn’t get the same treatment on campus. “The painting would be draped in a day.”

How quickly we forget. In 1998, Stephen Hunter trashed Tony Kaye’s American History X in the Washington Post. He called it “rank, repelling hypocrisy.” He accused it of allowing “its fantasy versions of American Nazis to spew their blackest, cruelest vomitus of hatred” while taking “energy and vitality (and ticket-selling notoriety) from the electricity of that hatred.”

These are the same objections Lileks levels at “Self Portrait of a Martyr.” He is simply wrong when he claims that his hypothetical skinhead painting would receive different treatment. We’ve seen that painting, and it drew the same sorts of objection. There’s no double standard here.

That's not a fish

I got a cute spam this morning:

To: Durrell <>
Subject: Notification of PayPal Limited Account Access

PayPal is constantly working to ensure security by regularly screening the accounts in our system. We recently reviewed your account, and we need more information to help us provide you with secure service. Until we can collect this information, your access to sensitive account features will be limited. We apologize for the inconvenience, and we would like to restore your access as soon as possible.

For more information about the status of your account and for instructions on how to restore full use of your account, please log in using the link below:

And so on. Good grammar, smartly constructed. The domain is owned by Justin Young, at 2780 Fairlane Avenue, Columbus OH, 68601. This is in no way similar to either Paypal or Ebay. Naughty little scammer.

There’s also a phone number. So I called it. I got Justin Young’s wife, who either doesn’t know what her husband did or who is a good liar. But she gave me his work number, so I’ll be calling over there later.

How stupid do you have to be to run a Paypal scam and leave your real contact info attached?

Multiple choice, even

Pop quiz!

What’s the difference between attending a rally organized by some pretty unpleasant Communists who support Hussein (a hard core dictator) and supporting the dictatorial Putin?

Apparently, a week or so. You know, Putin cheated in his elections too. Just saying.

Another pop quiz!

What’s the difference between supporting Putin’s right to crush his rebels however he wants and supporting Iranian students threatening an uprising? Just a day, in that case.

Does Putin have more moral ground than Iraq or Iran? Oh, sure. I don’t actually think that the Chechen rebels are precisely as admirable (or despicable) as Iranian students protesting the Iranian regime. But please, let’s make our praise of Putin a little more sophisticated then “Our country, our dead, our solution.” Cause that line of reasoning applies to the dictators you don’t like, too.

I begin to think that “Anti-Idiotarian” is code for “low rent Rush Limbaugh.”

Shambling along

It never ever dies. Senator John Warner, the probable new Armed Services Committee chairman, wants to review the Posse Comitatus.

I’ve written about this before, elsewhere, but since LiveJournal has no search function I’m not gonna track it down. Suffice it to say that military training does not correspond to police training, and that there is no compelling reason to involve the military in law enforcement. “It would be nice” is not a compelling reason. Neither is “it might be handy.”

The big redhead

I’m a big fan of Bill Walton, for a few reasons. First, he was a great basketball player who’s never been bitter about the health problems that kept him from dominating the league. Second, he got the Celtics a title. Third, he’s a free spirit and he says what he thinks.

He wrote a piece about Michael Jordan yesterday, focusing on the sixth man role. It’s exceptional. Walton’s erratic as a commentator, because he gets impatient and his passion can lead him to overcriticize. But this is exceptional, because it’s Walton telling Jordan how he felt in 1985 when he accepted the sixth man role with the Celtics. He never says it, but he’s not talking about Michael Jordan. He’s a proud man talking about what it took to go from Portland’s savoir to Boston’s sixth man. (We’ll skip the unfortunate steps inbetween.)

“As the sixth man, you’re at the mercy of the coach, who might forget about you, and subject to the chances that someone else lets go by. You are plagued by uncertainty and often have to turn a garbled jumble into Mozart. And just when you’ve got it right, you’re back on that bench again — watching, waiting, hoping, dreaming for the coach’s call so that you can have a chance to determine your own fate.”

Bless you, Bill. Celtics fans still remember you, you know, and we still appreciate what you did. Don’t forget that.

Darkness, I hardly knew thee

I was expecting to write a snide little comparative review of the new Matthew Scudder mystery, Hope to Die, and the new Jessie Stone mystery, Death in Paradise. I was probably going to throw in some comparisons between Spenser and Scudder, since they’re both aging detectives, as well. Woulda been a beauty. I’d have contrasted Lawrence Block’s gritty realistic approach to alcoholism and his honest approach to the aging of his main character with Robert Parker’s increasingly self-indulgent treatment of the same issues. I am blogger, hear me roar.

Unfortunately, while Death in Paradise wasn’t all that great, Hope to Die was kind of unimpressive as well. I believe I’ve discovered one of the signs of a mystery series on decline. When an author starts indulging in chapter intros told from the point of view of the criminal, things are getting bad. If those intros happen to be in italics, it’s worse. If they cleverly don’t ever give away the criminal’s name — well.

That was a problem with Hope to Die. The basic trappings are still pretty much there: Scudder is an alcoholic, but it isn’t the focus of the book; Elaine is a dear; T.J. continues to be an important presence. I liked the thread of family obligations that wove through the story. Scudder’s obligations to his sons were a good counter-part to the criminal’s attitudes towards certain characters.

However, the ending is deeply unsatisfying and requires us to believe that Scudder has suddenly discarded his keen intelligence. The darkness that’s integral to the Scudder mysteries comes by way of plot contrivance rather than through Block’s writing. It’s a pity. I wouldn’t say the series is dead, but I really hope the next book isn’t what I think it’ll be.

Oh — Death in Paradise is about what you’d expect from a mystery series whose author is willing to name a town Paradise for the sake of catchy titles. There is not actually a town named Paradise in Massachusetts. Just so you know.

The nature of the opposition

Katha Pollitt’s Letter to an Ex-Contrarian (from the Nation) is very much worth reading. Context: Christopher Hitchens is a leftist — former socialist, in fact — who’s been pondering the nature and necessity of our war on terrorism of late. He left The Nation because he wasn’t comfortable there any more. A complex guy.

The first paragraph of Pollitt’s letter is mean-spirited; a man ought to be able to call himself a contrarian without being required to spend his life absorbing brickbats and stones. If he wants to quit writing for The Nation, he should go ahead and do it.

The rest of the letter is a nice recovery. It’s not just directed at Hitchens, of course; it’s directed at every right-wing pundit who claims that the anti-war protestors don’t count because the protests were organized by Communists. It’s 2002 and McCarthy is alive and well in America. Communist organizers taint the protests, but Bush’s views on privacy don’t taint his actions? Odd standards indeed. Pollitt skewers them.

(Link by way of Electrolite.)