February 2004 Archives

Sunday Thoughts

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There wasn't a lot to talk about in the news this week. It was mostly just more of the same on Iraq, duelling war records, and duelling Democratic candidates. And I am gay-marriaged-out for the time being. Thankfully, the departure of Dean last week (yay!) seemed to lead to Ralph Nader's announcement that he is, once again, running for President.

Ralph Nader

I don't even have a lot of thoughts about Nader in particular. I hate listening to him, and disagree with his politics (those are orthogonal for me). I don't anticipate he will get many votes, and if he does, more power to him; I don't care much about that, though of course I am glad he'll take more votes away from the Democratic candidate than the Republican.

I really don't think it will make a difference this time around, and I am unconvinced it made a difference last time around. People assumed the votes Nader got would have gone to Gore, though it's clear that some of the voters would have note voted, and others would have voted instead for other third-party candidates, and we have no idea where those numbers break down.

But I don't really care either way; it's how the system works, and I didn't cry about it when Bush lost "because of" Perot, and I didn't begrudge Perot when he "took votes from" Dole (though Dole wouldn't have won anyway, in my opinion).

So I don't have strong feelings about Nader being in the race; but with his entrance, my thoughts turn toward one of quadrennial annoyances: the undemocratic Commission on Presidential Debates. This nonprofit, "nonpartisan" (read: "bipartisan") organization has "sponsored" (read: "controlled") all general election debates since 1988.

It is co-chaired by a Republican and a Democrat (hence, "bipartisan"). It has no legal authority whatsoever to perform its powers, but the two major parties (again, "bipartisan") agree to only participate in debates they "sponsor," and they only "sponsor" debates where the candidates fit their rules (hence, "controlled").

There are three criteria they establish. The first is that the candidates meet the legal requirements for being the President. That's perfectly reasonable.

The second is that the candidate must be on enough state ballots to have a mathematical possibility of winning enough electoral votes to win the Presidency. While theoretically it is possible for someone to win the Presidency without meeting this criteria, I believe -- as most people would, I imagine -- that this, too, is reasonable.

The third is that the candidate must have at least 15% of the vote, as determined by the average of the most recently published results of five national polls. For those of you with your jaw hanging open right now: no, I am not kidding.

Here's the essential information you should allow to sink in:

The two major political parties are in collusion with each other to exclude third-party candidates from public exposure, and they use poll data -- which is unreliable and imperfect, not subject to any public scrutiny, and subject to change -- to determine which candidates the public will have access to in debates, a clearly important part of the democratic process.

The CPD kept Nader out of the debates the last time, and I, for one, would prefer that it didn't happen again. Since Nader is running as an independent, it's possible he won't even meet the second criteria anyway, let alone the third. But if he does, he should be allowed in the debates.

Now, some of you are probably thinking I just want Nader in the debates so he will pull votes away from Kerry (OK, "or Edwards"), to help the Republicans/hurt the Democrats. Nothing could be further from the truth: I blasted excluding third-party candidates from debates back in 1997 when Perot, who was poised to hurt Dole, was the one being excluded. This is not a partisan issue with me.

The issue for me is not that Nader might hurt the Democrats, but that the public is being denied access to information about candidates. In another piece I wrote back in 2000, I quoted the Democrat co-chair of the CPD, Paul Kirk, who admitted as much: "Our role is not to jump-start your campaign and all of a sudden make you competitive."

The arrogance behind Kirk's statement about jump-starting campaigns is astounding: if the people see Nader and like him enough to vote for him, how can this possibly be, in any way, a bad thing for democracy? That's the whole point of a general election debate.

The 2004 Iowa campaign becomes particularly instructive in this discussion: both John Edwards and John Kerry were at or below 15 percent in every poll I could find that was taken within a month before the first debate. And nationwide, they were even lower. It is most likely the case that one or both of them would have been excluded from the Iowa debates, if the CPD rules applied; instead, they finished the top two in that state, and one of them will win the party's nomination.

Yes, a primary race is different than the general election race, but the principle is the same: going in you don't know who you like best, and the debate gives everyone a chance to find out. By refusing access, you are refusing citizens the opportunity to make up their own minds.

You can make all the arguments you want about how you don't like third parties or our election process but none of that matters to this point: people are running for President under the law and the two major parties are colluding to prevent us from getting access to them.

Why am I bringing this up now, when the debates are so far away (they likely won't happen until September at the earliest)? Because if we don't talk about it until later, it will be too late. Maybe some intrepid reporter can ask Kerry and Edwards what they think about the CPD, and whether they plan to participate only in CPD-controlled debates.

Maybe they could even be asked if they see a conflict of interest in the fact that the two parties agree to be in only CPD-controlled debates, and yet the CPD is controlled by the two parties, or asked if they would have supported a system which would have excluded them in the Iowa debates.

I can dream. slashdot.org

Patriots Super Bowl DVD

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I just got my shipping confirmation, it's on its way! use.perl.org

Fixing Trade Imbalance

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I think America's trade is imbalanced, to the detriment of the nation as a whole, and I believe the solutions are not forthcoming from the free market alone, that regulation is necessary, and that it is the federal government's responsibility to do something about it. I think our government has done much to harm our trade imbalance and little -- including under Bush -- to help it.

What do you all think of Warren Buffett's Import Certificate Plan? It sounds like a good idea to me. slashdot.org
More Democrats than Republicans in the House of Represenatives voted for Bush's No Child Left Behind Act. Republicans were 186-34-0-1 (aye-no-present-not voting), Democrats were 197-10-0-3, and independents were 1-1-0-0.

In the Senate, it was Republicans 44-3-2 (yea-nay-not voting), Democrats 43-6-1, Traitors^WIndependents 0-1-0.

The Democrats who voted for it include Gephardt and Kucinich in the House, and Kerry, Edwards, Lieberman, and Graham in the Senate (that is, all of the Democrats running for President who were in office).

And note that Kerry and Edwards have been strong critics of it, as have all of the Democrats.

Just something to think about when the Democrats rail against NCLB.

For the record, I'd have been one of the few voting against it. :-) Not only because it is an unfunded mandate (that those Democrats all voted for), but particularly because I think it is an unconstitutional usurpation of power by the federal government. USURPERS! slashdot.org

Speaking of MIDI Software ...

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MidiPipe is way cool. You can basically filter all your MIDI data in various ways: like restrict the velocity to a certain range, reroute channels, split the keyboard between multiple channels, etc.

The main place I wanted to use this is with some of the bass guitar sounds in GarageBand. If you have maximum velocity (or close to it), the played note "slides" up to the actual note, for a kinda cool effect, but I don't want that effect, so I clip the velocity at about 120, and I don't get it ... in theory. GB just accepts all data coming in over MIDI, so MidiPipe apparently doesn't work with it. I'm still working on a way.

So to play around with this, I used Mighty MIDI to play a MIDI file to MidiPipe Input 1, then added in my pipes (Midi In, then Velocity Modifier, then Midi Out ... you can stack as many pipes as you want), then ran SimpleSynth, setting it to receive its data via MidiPipe Output 1.

I didn't even have to set the instruments in SimpleSynth, it just played the programs that Mighty MIDI told it to play. use.perl.org

Mac-Glue-1.17 Released

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Mac-Glue-1.17 has been released. Download it from the CPAN or SF.net.

(Note: it may take time for the release to propagate to the various download mirrors.)

* v1.17, Wednesday, February 18, 2004
   Added option to target by PID, explicit option to target by
   bundle ID; cleaned up docs. (has)
   Only allow data type to be set to typeUnicodeText if Encode
   is available.
   Don't include BOM in UTF-16 data (use big-endian instead).
   (Bill Birkett)
   Fix documentation on ERRORS handler, and handling of error
   description.  Add error code (e.g., "errAEDescNotFound").
   Add an optional default ERRORS handler (setting it to a value
   of 1).
   Added typeLongDateTime (convert to/from Mac OS); added
   Time::Epoch. (Lars Eggert)
   Make AE records guess better at types.
   Export %MacErrors in addition to $MacError.
   No longer use Mac::Path::Util; we only used the module to
   convert from Unix to Mac paths, and we sucked those few
   lines we needed from it into Mac::Files.
   Fix incorrect printing of some debugging information when
   debugging was not on.
   Fix some spurious warnings.
   Make folder class work like file in %AE_PUT.
   Added getdata() method to fetch the data in a returned
   AEObjDesc (see docs).

Posted using release by brian d foy. use.perl.org
Mac-AppleEvents-Simple-1.11 has been released. Download it from the CPAN or SF.net.

(Note: it may take time for the release to propagate to the various download mirrors.)

* v1.11, Wednesday, February 18, 2004
   Added typeComp (coerce to float).
   Added typeLongDateTime (convert to/from Mac OS); added Time::Epoch.
   (Lars Eggert)

Posted using release by brian d foy. use.perl.org

Mac-Carbon-0.64 Released

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Mac-Carbon-0.64 has been released. Download it from the CPAN or SF.net.

(Note: it may take time for the release to propagate to the various download mirrors.)

* v0.64, 18 February 2004
   *Export* typeApplicationBundleID target type constant.
   Remove Mac::Path::Util dependence and add _Unix2Mac to Mac::Files instead.

Posted using release by brian d foy. use.perl.org

MIDI Over My Head

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I have been playing much music lately (especially check out Sunshine, recorded with my sub-2-year-old daughter on vocals). I had an old Yamaha YPR-9 keyboard that I did MIDI stuff on, but it was kinda crummy. I wanted something smaller and more flexible. So I got an Oxygen8 MIDI controller, a 25-key controller with modulation and pitch wheels, and a programmable slider and 8 knobs.

The only downside to it is that it has no internal synth, so I can't use it unless it's connected to something else. But I don't want GarageBand running in the background 24/7, eating up my memory and CPU. Enter SimpleSynth. It's lightweight and just does the right thing. The default sounds are just Apple's built-in non-GarageBand crummy sounds, but I just use it to bang out some tunes here and there, not for real work.

Other recommended MIDI software for Mac OS X includes the aforementioned Dent du MIDI for converting MIDI files to a form GarageBand can import, and MIDI Keys for turning your computer keyboard into a MIDI controller. use.perl.org

Fair Trade

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Sunday Thoughts

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First things first: there's no evidence John Kerry ever had an affair, or that Bush was AWOL, so everyone please shut up about it.

And even if Bush did have problems with his attendance, I couldn't care less, because clearly the military had no problem with it when they honorably discharged him. I don't second-guess the military unless I have a damned good reason to, and the only reason to second-guess them here is to justify partisan attacks.

Let's talk about real issues, shall we? There's so much going on that matters. And frankly, the best way for the Democrats to lose this election is to make it about Bush's past or his personality. If they call him AWOL or a deserter, if they say he is disengaged, if they chant "Don't Forget Florida" over and over, they will only annoy people.

The only way to beat Bush is to convince people that Kerry will improve trade, jobs, health care, education, homeland security, and national defense. I doubt Kerry can win on the final couple of issues, but he can on the others, but only if that is what the voters are actually thinking about. But hey, don't let me stop you from annoying the voters you want to convince.

It's the same thing with campaign financing. Kerry lies when he says that he doesn't accept PAC money; he does, but only in individual contributions, so they are not filed as PAC dollars. Dean lies when he says Kerry takes more special interest money than anyone in the Senate; he gets more individual contributions, but not overall special interest money. And while Bush's campaign didn't lie about Kerry's record -- and it is valid to show how Kerry misrepresents himself -- it is being deceptive in making it sound like Kerry is somehow owned by special interests, when he gets a lot less special interest money than Bush does.

Again, there's real issues out there. So let's get to them!


A big spending bill is coming before the President soon, and it goes over the limit he set for it. Will he veto it? Probably. He gets to look like a fiscal conservative, and the Senate already has enough votes to override the veto. Oh well.

Ed Gillespie, chair of the RNC, said on Meet the Press, "When the President first put forward the tax cuts, we didn't know we were going to be in a world after September 11, we didn't know we were going to have to have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan ...". The last big tax cut was introduced in February 2003, and signed into law in May 2003. It sounds like Gillespie is admitting tax cuts were the wrong thing to do if you knew about the big budget problems that were coming, but they did know about them for the most recent tax cuts. So ... huh?

John Edwards' witticisms notwithstanding (what does "outsource this administration" even mean? That we will get a President from India?), we clearly have problems with jobs going overseas. George Will on This Week was in fine form as he told us the recent focus on the problem was caused not by job loss, but by who was losing the jobs: the blue collar workers have been "replaced by the articulate." Heh.

I'll give both Edwards and Will a pass on this, and simply note that while Bush clearly is not to blame for the tide of job loss overseas that we're seeing -- he didn't have anything to do with NAFTA or the WTO; he didn't create the tech bubble, nor did he burst it -- he certainly hasn't done anything substantive to help slow the losses, that I can see. His fault is not causing the job loss, but in not doing anything about it.

You could say the tax cuts are slowing the job loss now, which is possibly true, but more direct action could have slowed the losses earlier.

Last week, someone in the Department of Labor said the outsourcing is a good thing, that we'll see 20 million jobs created because of it. Maybe it's true; I'm not smart enough to judge. I am convinced that this is something that we can't stop, and still have successful businesses, and that in the long run we'll be fine; however, I do wish that our government would have taken measures to slow down the job loss, to lessen its impact, that we could change over to this new economy more gradually.


And while we're overseas, let's talk about how we're doing in Iraq. Al Qaeda associate Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi wrote a letter noting that the terrorists are focusing their efforts on Iraq, that they are coming together and doing everything they can to destabilize the country, because they know a stable Iraq is a huge defeat for them.

The main thing this letter does is validate the not-so-eloquently expressed stategy of President Bush when he said, "bring it on." That is, our troops are in Iraq, and more than anything we want to kill the people who want to kill us, so if you're going to attack us, it's best for us if you do it in Iraq.

The terrorists in Iraq have been talked about by some as though any terrorist in Iraq is in addition to ones already elsewhere. No, it doesn't work that way. They are concentrating their efforts in Iraq, which means we are pulling them out of hiding. We want to kill them, and they are coming to us. This is better than them not coming to us.

The letter also validates what I was talking about last week, that Hussein's regime benefitted the Islamist terrorists, even if indirectly, and that his removal is a huge benefit to us in the war on terror.

Gay Marriage

I've been saying since the SCOTUS decisions last summer that the gay rights activists need to be careful not to reach too far too fast, or they will get their hand slapped. We're about to find out if I was right.

Rather than fighting for civil unions or some other means to get rights, in many areas the gay rights activists are attempting to secure marriage rights. But the country isn't ready for it, I think, and so we're seeing states like Ohio and Massachusetts rushing to make laws and amend Constitutions, and even Congress is talking about an amendment. Some activists viewed the Massachusetts court ruling as a victory, but if it ends in the state amending the Constitution, it will ultimately be a colossal failure for their goals. It's a huge risk for them to have taken.

Frankly, I think the Massachusetts decision is indefensibly wrong. I can buy the argument that gay couples should get rights afforded to married couples, but I cannot find how the logic leads them to "gay marriage". The idea that this is similar to "separate but equal" is extraordinarily specious. When a black man had to use a separate drinking fountain, that was a clear violation of his rights. But the whole idea of a civil union is that the exact same legal rights would be provided. There would not be separate water fountains, or lines at the DMV, or ... I don't know what.

And worse is the mayor of San Francisco who knowingly, willfully, violates the law. I don't know what can be done to punish the mayor, but whatever it is, it should be done to him. What if a Massachusetts mayor decided that -- once the court decision goes into effect -- it would refuse to give marriage licenses to gay couples? Would that kind of civil disobedience be acceptable? Not to me, but I strive for consistency.

And many of the people praising the mayor also slammed the Alabama judge who violated the law with his Ten Commandments in the courthouse. This is precisely why we have laws and a system for enforcing, upholding, and interpreting those laws. Civil disobedience may be justified in some situations, but for crying out loud, reserve it for those situations where our political system has failed to produce results, at the very least. To violate what you think is an unjust law while we are in the process of changing that law just makes you look like a jerk. Which, Mayor Newsom, you are.

[As to the potential court stay, I can't see how any rational court could think the harm of granting possibly illegal marriages is not greater than putting off those marriages while the issue is decided; if they can be married, they will be, but if not, then you need to revoke thousands of marriage licenses, annuling them, which will be a chaotic nightmare.]

As I've noted in this space before, I decided some time ago that I am against the government defining marriage at all. This does not mean they would allow anyone to get a civil marriage, it means civil marriage would not exist. It would be replaced by something with a different name that fills a similar function, and keeps marriage as a separate social entity.

Nothing would change, except that people would then be free to define marriage in any way they wish for themselves, and the government would open up civil union contracts to any two people who wanted them, as long as they fit some basic guidelines (perhaps defined by a combination of cohabitation, children ... I dunno, it doesn't really matter right now).

I personally think marriage should be between a man and a woman. I would be adamantly against homosexuals being married in my church. The problem is that most people can't or won't separate civil marriage from social marriage. When you say to someone that you're changing the definition of civil marriage, it says to them that you're changing the definition of the social institution they entered into, and it offends them.

And this feeling isn't entirely irrational, despite civil and social marriage being separate. When marriage became a legal entity, it was not government creating marriage, it was government granting legal recognition to an existing social institution. So of course, the laws about marriage followed the social institution closely, and people don't recognize a significant difference. But today, the nature of our living arrangements has changed from what it was, and a consistent legal policy would adapt to recognize those new institutions.

We need to ask ourselves not whether marriage is or is not something in particular, but in what ways people sharing each others' lives and resources benefit society, and in what ways they have a reasonable expectation of legal protections. That people share a house, food, a car, all benefits society. And that they decide to become a family means they care for each other and have a reasonable expectation to be able to visit each other in a hospital.

These are no-brainers, and we don't need to change marriage -- whatever that means -- to accomplish them. We need to recognize that the government only recognized marriage in the first place as a matter of convenience, and that it is no longer convenient to do so, and that we need to change what it is that government finds valuable in the marriage relationship, and recognize that instead of marriage itself (whatever it is).

The Powell Smackdown

One thing that anyone who's worked in Washington should know is that Colin Powell doesn't take crap. Last week -- after it was proved that Bush was not AWOL, not that it mattered much in how Powell reacted -- Congressman Sherrod Brown (D-OH), in a hearing about WMD intelligence, attacked the President on the issue. It was completely off-topic to the hearing, clearly a partisan attack, and it is something Powell would never comment on anyway. The exchange was most excellent.

BROWN: We count on you. The President may have been AWOL. The Vice President said he had other priorities during Vietnam, other high administrative officials never served. You understand war, we absolutely count on you and I think a lot of us wonder what happened between that Post interview and your statement the next day when you said the President made the right decision.

POWELL: First of all, Mr Brown, I won't dignify your comments about the President because you don't know what you're talking about. Second, let me get to the points that you were raising.

BROWN: I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean Mr Secretary.

POWELL: You made reference to the President...

BROWN: I said he may have been AWOL...

COLIN POWELL: Mr Brown, let's not, let's not go there. You know, let's just not go there, let’s not go there in this hearing. Do you want to have a political fight on this matter that is very controversial and I think is being dealt with by the White House fine, but let's not go there.

Basically, Powell said, "I'm not stupid, I know what you're doing, and maybe you think you're in control of this hearing because you're on the committee, but I won't let you get away with it." It was a beautiful moment. slashdot.org


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I was hoping I would see this movie and say, it's a great movie for anyone to watch. I was hoping it would do a great job of putting the movie in its proper historical context, of showing what it really meant to America at the time.

It tried to do that, but it just didn't succeed. The majority of people who are not sports fans who see this movie will come away thinking it was the Mighty Ducks vs. Russia.

I did like the movie, but I was hoping for something a bit more. It told the story of a legendary coach, a great team, and their against-all-odds victory, and it told it well. The acting and action were excellent. The movie flowed well. It was exciting, entertaining, and even uplifting.

But while the movie is based on a great story --one of my favorites -- its form isn't all that unique. David beats Goliath, and does it with team chemistry and hard work. We see it all the time, and it is a wonderful story, but what really sets this story apart is the surrounding context, and I just don't think it was really nailed. It is certainly mentioned -- the opening titles focuesd solely on American history of the six years prior to the events in the movie -- but it was mostly lip service.

Well, there was the one scene where the assistant coach and team doctor are waiting in line for gas, and every once in awhile someone mentions how this is more than just a hockey game, or how Americans really needed something to feel good about, etc. But I didn't really feel it, I didn't experience it like I wanted to.

So, I like it and recommend it to anyone who wants to see it, and I will surely buy the DVD, but I am just disappointed, as I think it could have been better. use.perl.org

Wrist Surgery

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Back in early October I hurt my wrist (probably playing hockey), and after two trips to the family doctor, one to an orthopedist, three x-rays, one MRI, and then a trip to a wrist specialist, it's been determined that I have damage to the TFCC (cartilage between ulna and hand) in my left wrist.

The symptoms are primarily a nagging, constant pain that I could possibly live with, but also include signficantly reduced strength and increased susceptibility to significant pain, when twisting or lifting. Plus, I can't type for as many hours in the day as I used to.

Possible treatments include waiting for it to heal (it's been over 4 months), cortizone (not permanent), arthroscopy, and osteotomy.

Osteotomy would involve removing a section from the ulna, shortening it (my ulna is a couple mm too long, which may have predisposed me to the injury, and shortening it might relieve the pain and also help prevent further injury). It would also be a significant surgery that would lay me up for months.

The clear winner here is arthroscopy. They want to try to repair it, but that's usually not an option for this type of injury: first, because it's been so long and the tissue probably can't be repaired, and second, because it's in the center of the cartilage, so it is hard to get to for repair. So, they'll likely remove the damaged portion. From what I understand, I'll take 1-2 weeks off from using it for typing, and another 2-3 months for full recovery, and return to hockey.

Surgery's scheduled for March 12. I go out to a Slashdot meeting in MI on March 18 anyway, so that gives me a little more time to not type. use.perl.org

MIDI ... Old School

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I wanted to work some with an old song I did in '92, using Electronic Arts Deluxe Recorder. So I pulled out the old LCII, found the file on one of the hundreds of old floppies I had lying around (it's a good thing I was anal about labelling things), copied it from floppy to the hard drive, popped in the DRecorder floppy, opened the file (man, that screen shot makes the software seem so ... old), and saved it as a Format 0 MIDI file.

So far, so good. Now, how to get it to another computer? One option would be to copy it to a floppy that the Linux box can read, since it's the only machine on my network with a floppy drive, but I don't have the software, that I know of, on this old LCII box. I do have a LocalTalk (PhoneNet)-to-Ethernet adapter, but for some reason that just wasn't working. The AppleTalk wasn't getting from one computer to another.

So I pulled out an old Power Mac 7100/66. This computer was my main axe for years, but now it is in a bit of disrepair. I couldn't get DRecorder working on it (the software was built for System 6, and it's running Mac OS 9), but I could copy the file via floppy, and then copy it to the Mac OS X Server box via AFP. Of course, to get the floppy in, I had to pull the cover off the computer, because it doesn't quite line up with the case ... so now I have computer parts and cables strewn all ove the room, but all in the name of art, right?

This has convinced me I need a USB floppy drive. You can get them for under $40, and I have a ton of floppies lying around, some of them with important old data from school etc.

And it worked; I got my MIDI file, and using Dent du Midi I got all five tracks imported into GarageBand. Now I've just got to clean it up in GB and play with it, which will take some time. I just wanted to get the data now while I still have my wrist.

Oh yeah, I should mention my wrist ... next entry. use.perl.org

Mixed Messages

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Two spam subjects I just got, back to back in my inbox:

Re: You still look the same!
Re: You look great!

Well, which is it? use.perl.org


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In Mac::Glue, I have some code to automatically convert text to UTF-16 if typeUnicodeText (utxt) is expected. It uses Encode, and it seems to work fine for stuff like setting the iChat status message.

But when a user tried to send Unicode text to Adobe Photoshop CS, it failed. Hm.

After some experimentation, I found that if I sent the text without the BOM, using UTF-16BE to encode (big-endian is assumed without it ... though I am not sure if it will work that way should Mac OS ever run on a little-endian platform), it worked.

I found a technote describing how some apps couldn't handle the BOM when it was placed on the clipboard. I guess some apps have trouble with it in Apple events too, which is why I found that utxt data created by AppleScript and the like doesn't have the BOM either. use.perl.org


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I think Dean's strategy comes down to waiting until Edwards drops out so he can say he finished second in some of the bigger states. :-) slashdot.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Every single bit of major U.S. political news this week is just rehashing of the same old things. We already new Kerry was going to win the nomination. We already knew there were intelligence failures, and that there would be an investigation. We already knew Pakistan had sold nuclear secrets to North Korea. YAWN.


So I am going to start this week with something you may not have heard of. The Comptroller General of the United States, David Walker, was on John McLaughlin's interview show last week, and he lambasted the spending of the Republicans. He didn't single out the Republicans, of course, but they are the ones in control. Head on over to the GAO web site and read his speech to the National Press Club.

One of the most interesting things he talked about, which is also in the speech, is that while we have a debt of $7 trillion ($1t in assets, $8t in liabilities), we have many trillion more in liabilities in various borrowed-from "trust funds," and other things like promised benefits which have yet to be funded. Walker says the actual liabilities are about four times the $7 trillion figure we often hear quoted, closer to $30 trillion.



Speaking of debt, someone on This Week commented that personal debt is at an all-time high, and George Will quipped, that's because there's never been a better time to be in debt. He's got a good point. We create a society where being in debt doesn't really hurt you, for the most part, so people are, unfortunately, more likely to be in debt.


What happened in Pakistan this week demonstrates why Pakistan is a good case study for those -- like Howard Dean -- who cannot understand why we would invade Iraq over WMD, regional security, etc. but not other nations. Pakistan has admitted to selling nuclear secrets to enemies of the Western world (well, they say it was only the one scientist who did it, but they pardoned him, which is telling), and we are doing nothing against Pakistan. Why?

Three major reasons: 1. it isn't continuing to happen so there's no reason to go in with guns blazing; 2. we need Pakistan's help in the transformation of the region; 3. Pakistan would be much harder to transform itself, as it has a much higher concentration of Islamist extremists and terrorists, to the point where the U.S. does not want democracy in Pakistan at this time, and fully supports the man who removed the democratic government with a military coup.

In other words, there is no upside to invading Pakistan, booting Musharraf, or otherwise acting against his government. It's all downside. And if it looks like Bush is just allowing them to get away with something bad they did, it is because he is. There's nothing else he can do right now.

Bush Meets the Press

President Bush met the press this weekend, and he gave a fine performance. His answers on the economy weren't great, but no one really cares: all they care about is more jobs, and that is something we either will or won't have in 6 months.

I'm not saying the economy is not important, and that everythging he said about it is OK, just that in political terms, voters don't care about the deficit or debt, as long as they have jobs and can afford a house.

His answers on the war in Iraq were the best I've heard from him in a long time. I was disappointed by the recent speeches where he reiterated his reasons for war, but this interview was good. He did repeat himself too much, and he is really hurting himself by appearing defensive (I've never seen such a defensive State of the Union), and that didn't stop, but his answers were better.

What I was most pleased with was that he went back to his argument that getting rid of Hussein and transforming Iraq into a "free Iraq" is key in the transforming of the entire Middle East region, which is key in combatting the Islamist terrorist threat.

Now, perhaps I am biased here, as this is has always been my major reason for supporting the war, but it also happens to be, as best I can tell, the main reason we went to war in the first place. Not because of WMD, not because of the "grave and gathering danger" posed by Iraq's WMD knowledge, not because of humanitarian concerns, but because Iraq was controlled by a "really bad guy" who, as long as he stayed in power, would both directly and indirectly contribute to the spread of Islamist terrorism in the region, which all of us agree is a significant threat.

It's something I would not have supported before 9/11, but something I fully supported in late 2002 and continue to support today, because I was stupid, ignorant, and arrogant before 9/11, thinking that we had a much better handle on the world than we actually do. The intelligence failures in Iraq only serve to further convince me: we clearly don't know when someone is going to attack us, and we should work to change the region from the inside.

Anyhoo, enough of my yakkin'. On Chris Matthews' show, some of the pundits commented they didn't think the American people could have been sold on such a "Big Idea" for going into Iraq. David Brooks disagreed, and said the WMD case was used not because the American people couldn't buy the other argument, but because they needed a legal argument for the U.N. I think that is a big part of it, but I think Wolfowitz also made it clear in his oft-quoted statement that not everyone agreed on the "Big Idea" reason, while they did agree on WMD.

Give It A Rest

George S. asked John Edwards, once again, if he would accept the VP nomination. And then again. And then again. Why does anyone think that such a question is required to be answered? If he doesn't want to answer it, grow up and give it a rest.

Unfortunately, Edwards did answer the question in the end, after about George asked the question for the eighth time or so. I wish he had stuck to his guns and not answered, or better yet, said, "George, please stop wasting everyone's time. I've given the answer I have, and if you don't like, that's your problem."

Indepedent Investigation

When Kay et al started asking for an investigation, I said I was against such a thing, because, in my ignorance, I didn't know how a truly independent commission could have the access needed to do a proper investigation. As it turns out, the commission is not all that independent, as it has elected political party members heading it up. I am not going to question their integrity, but I just don't see how "bipartisan" equals "independent."

And I am also dismayed it is going to take so long to get results. Since it won't be done until after the election, the British investigation might be a huge part of the U.S. elections.


I guess I should mention the primaries, so, I'll ask: why hasn't CNN announced Clark as the winner of Oklahoma? I guess it doesn't matter, especially since the notion of a "winner" in the caucuses is misleading (since Kerry, Clark, and Edwards all got about the same number of delegates), but I'm curious, and have been unable to find out. slashdot.org

Not Joining Orkut Now

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Going To 11

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Because I can! Just a simple trip to Interface Builder for /Applications/GarageBand.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/DfAmpSimulation.nib. use.perl.org

News You Should Know

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You've probably not heard -- I've seen no stories on it yet and heard about it only on News Hour -- but the six-party multilateral talks about North Korea's nuclear program will resume on Feb. 25, again in China. I think this is far more important news than the primaries or ricin or whatever other else is going on ... but hey, what do I know? slashdot.org

Super Market

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Some turd on TV the other day suggested that the the stock market will go down this year, because an AFC team won the Super Bowl. He apparently didn't realize that the stock market did very well in 1998 and 1999, when the AFC Denver Broncos won, or that it did poorly in 2000 when the NFC St. Louis Rams won.

According to official interpretations of the "rule," the Baltimore Ravens were originally an NFC team, so their win in 2001 also incorrectly predicted a good stock market. The AFC Patriots correctly predicted a poor market in 2002, but the NFC Tampa Bay Buccaneers falsely predicted a good year in 2003.

So we have only one the last six years correctly predicted by the Super Bowl, yet I've seen a dozen articles about it. Can we please put this stupid thing to rest? KTHX.

And by the way: Patriots r00l! use.perl.org

Sunday Thoughts

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Super Bowl

I am quite glad that kept the political ads off the Super Bowl. I wish they'd have kept other ads off too, as well as the halftime show, but as Howard Fineman said, the Super Bowl has become an American secular holiday, and most people don't want to watch political ads.

Chris Matthews added, if the anti-Bush went on, you'd see an arms race, which would just ruin the Super Bowl. Can you imagine? Instead of waiting until Iowa, or New Hampshire, or South Carolina, we'd wait until the Super Bowl before candidates would drop out. They'd have a special Super Bowl fund. It'd be ridiculous.

Matthews' two guests who don't care about football thought the ads should air; no surprise there, I suppose. Norah O'Donnell said something inane, though: she said if they have the money, they should be allowed to have an ad. That's not how real life works. People have the right to refuse your money, and when the money is that big, that right is often exercised. There is no right for these ads to be accepted, nor any right of the viewers to have them shown.

Not that any of this really matters: the Patriots won! All else is just irrelevant.

Democrats for President

It's over; Kerry's won. He may not sweep this week, but he's won. Dean won't win a single state. Edwards and Clark might win one apiece, but Clark probably won't.

Kerry certainly isn't invulnerable as a candidate against Bush, but he has the best mix of experience and respectability and ideas. I'm sure we'll see mostly lame attacks on Kerry's post-Vietnam-war record and his first marriage. I'm also sure we'll see less lame attacks on his voting record in the Senate, and his ties to special interests. (I am hoping we also see real debate about his views, and how they differ from Bush's; it could happen!)

Kerry is far less vulnerable than the other three candidates left (sorry Joe, I can't include you). I suppose Edwards' lack of experience makes him less vulnerable to the attacks Kerry will be open to, but I think it's a net loss to him.

Dean, One More Time

Speaking of vulnerability, I love how it's now been shown that Dean favored unilateral action in Bosnia even though NATO and the UN wouldn't act, despite now saying such a thing is anathema. And he wanted to do it for reasons unrelated to any American interests! So he goes around using the word "ideological" as an epithet, and it is telling: he has no ideology, no principles, no guiding philosophies. He changes with the tides.

Let's be clear: there's not a damned thing wrong with ideology. Kennedy was very ideological. All of our leading Founding Fathers were ideological, except for maybe Benjamin Franklin. The question is not whether you are ideological, it is what your ideology is. Frankly, a man in power without ideology scares me, which is why I have been so adamant in my opposition to Dean these many months, and why -- despite the fact that I want Bush to win, and that Dean would be an easy candidate to beat -- I am glad he is finished.

He was on Meet the Press for a final interview this weekend. He was better than his previous attempts: more confident, quicker and more certain answers. But he still flunked in some serious ways.

The best part -- and that which sinks him as the party favorite -- was his hiring of Roy Neal as his new campaign manager. This guy was the assistant chief of staff to Clinton and chief of staff to Gore in the White House, and went from there to the head of the U.S. Telecom Association, a DC lobbyist group. This is precisely what Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-LA) is attempting to do, but for a medical industry PAC instead, and the Democrats are ready to use that against the Republicans this fall.

There's no way to sugar-coat it so that Neal's deal is acceptable and Tauzin's is not. His answers to this were horrible: when Russert asked him about going to be a lobbyist directly from being a top White House staffer, Dean replied that he's been a college professor the last few years, as if that made it OK. Russert noted that he lobbied Congress, giving money to Gingrich and DeLay; Dean replied, "What's that got to do with being a college professor or working for several years under Clinton and Gore?" Nothing, Howard, nothing at all.

And then Dean was asked about his charge that Cheney "berated" CIA agents "because he didn't like their intelligence reports." Russert asked him for evidence, and Dean refused. The fact is, there is more evidence of WMD in Iraq than there is that this incident ever occurred, but that won't stop Dean from impugning Cheney!

Despite looking more confident and certain, he also exuded a strong stench of desperation. And desperation is never attractive, whether in a singles' bar or a voting booth. It's a sad end to an entertaining campaign.

Speaking of the DNC ...

Terry McAuliffe really needs to stop going on TV. He makes the Democrats look bad. Not that I am a big fan of RNC head Ed Gillespie, but Ed went out the other day and attacked Kerry's Senate record for votes on national security. McAuliffe said Kerry's patriotism was questioned. No, it wasn't: Gillespie was questioning his suitability to be commander in chief. There's a difference. Kerry's patriotism was not questioned by Gillespie. It didn't happen.

Then -- and this was one literally made me laugh out loud -- McAuliffe accused Bush of going negative against Kerry first, implying that now the gloves are off, and Kerry is free to attack Bush. He must not have heard any Kerry speech over the last half year, where he's consistently launched very nasty atttacks at Bush, calling his administration inept and the like. Anyone who believes Bush went negative against Kerry first -- where negative is saying bad things about the other's positions and policies -- either hasn't been paying attention, or is intentionally blind to the facts.

I've always disliked McAuliffe, but I have to think this sort of thing doesn't help Kerry at all.

Iraq's Threat

A lot of people have questioned what Kay meant last week when he talked about Iraq being a greater threat than previously thought. Kay was on Fox News Sunday and discussed it; I quote him here, without comment.

I think Iraq was a dangerous place, becoming more dangerous, because in fact what we observed was that the regime itself was coming apart, it was descending at the worst part of moral depravity and corruption. Saddam Hussein was isolated in fantasy land, capable of wreaking tremendous harm and terrorists on his individual citizens, but corruption and money gain was the root cause. At the same time that we know there were terrorist groups and states still seeking WMD capability. Iraq -- although I found no weapons -- had tremendous capabilities in this area. A marketplace phenomena was about to occur -- if it did not occur -- sellers meeting buyers. And I think that would have been very dangerous, if the war had not intervened.

Chris Wallace: But what could the sellers had sold, if they didn't have actual weapons?

Kay: The knowledge of how to make them, the knowledge of how to make small amounts, which is, after all, mostly what the terrorists want; they don't want battlefield amounts of weapons. Iraq remained a very dangerous place in terms of WMD capabilities, even though we found no large stockpiles of weapons.


I am not smart enough to know how feasible an independent investigation of the intelligence failures is. One thing I am smart enough to know is that we do need to have an investigation, independent or not.

But what troubles me is that so many Bush-haters (you know who you are! I SEE YOU!) are willing to pass judgment without facts. Al Hunt, a big-time liberal, said this week that everyone he knows, including sources from both the Bush and Clinton administrations, told him that they were sure Hussein currently had WMD (only Scott Ritter and Bob Novak believed otherwise, he said). He isn't going to jump on Bush for the failures of intelligence until actual information justifies it.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey and former UN weapons inspector Richard Holbrooke were on This Week, and both agreed we need an investigation of the WMD intelligence, as pretty much everyone does (Bush will supposedly make an announcement about this soon, if he hasn't already). Both asserted we should seek to find out what went wrong, not whom to point fingers at. Imagine that. It sounds positively archaic!

Holbrooke wants an investigation immediately; Woolsey wants to wait a few months, as there are several active investigations in both the executive and legislative branch, that he'd like to see wrapped up. I doubt that will happen; the public wants a response immediately, with answers as soon as possible, and for good reason.

But we don't have answers yet. It's pretty ridiculous how Bush-haters jump from "the information was wrong" to "Bush deceived us." What's wrong with waiting to find out for sure?

And so too with the Joe Wilson matter. In this, we actually have an ongoing investigation. Would it hurt so much to just wait for its results?

In other words: chill. Have some patience. I know the upcoming election brings with it a sense of urgency to "get Bush," but your hatred combined with the political urgency is driving you to madness, and you need to let it go. slashdot.org
<pudge/*> (pronounced "PudgeGlob") is thousands of posts over many years by Pudge.

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

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