Tuesday, November 30, 2004

One Nation, Indivisible

Indivisible? Yeah, right. These days it seems like the only thing the red states and the blue states can agree on is how much they hate each other.

Red States: Love It or Leave It
Blue States: Leave It? We made It!

Oh, and since whether or not "God" should be in the Pledge of Allegiance, here's a brief history of changes to the pledge.

Thursday, November 25, 2004


"Woe to the leader whose arguments at the end of a war are not as plausible as they were at the beginning." -- Otto von Bismarck, 1815-1898

I've been reading Henry Kissinger's Diplomacy, a fascinating history of western relations from a diplomat's point of view. I just ran across the quote from Bismarck today, which seems particularly apt in light of current events.

This will probably be my "serious" reading for a while, since I take it a chapter at a time. So far it's a pretty good read, but I'll post a full review once I've digested the whole thing.

Monday, November 22, 2004

You usea dat penguin, we breaka you face

Last week, Steve "Kneecap" Ballmer of the Microsoftia threatened most of the world with a lawsuit if it chose to use Linux, and it would appear that the world did not take it well. Found an amusing quote in this morning's Register article:

"The trouble with walking into someone's restaurant and saying: 'Nice little place, would be a shame if it burned down, know what I mean?' is that the threat is empty unless you also send an enforcer around to collect," remarked one pundit. "Right now, even if the Asian companies Ballmer is blustering to feel scared, their only choice is to close down. They won't do that. They'll hang on and see how much protection money is asked, and how much muscle the protection gang can use."

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Speak Softly and carry a Carbon Fiber Stick

For most of my (short) hockey career, I've used wooden sticks, because they're cheap and I figured I wasn't good enough for them to make a difference. Also, in roller hockey, the surface you're playing on tends to chew them up pretty fast. However, lately I've noticed that everyone from the NHL down to the working schmucks I play with has a new, snazzy, carbon-fiber Synergy stick, so I've been upgrading my arsenal.

For a while I was using a composite shaft with a reinforced wooden blade, but two games ago somebody slashed my stick so hard it popped the blade out. So to replace it, I decided that I'd take the plunge and buy the expensive stick.

I went to Power Play hockey and looked at the Synergy sticks. Tried not to have a heart attack when I saw the $200 price tag. Turned out not to be an issue since their selection of right-handed sticks was terrible, and they all had curves I found unacceptable. I went to Logitech Ice to look in their pro shop, and pretty much came up with the same result -- the only curves they had in stock were Sakic and some other guy, neither one of which is the relatively neutral curve I prefer. So I caved and got another two-piece stick, since it seems the shops carry a lot more variety in blades than they do in sticks.

Whatever it is, it seems to have worked -- tonight in the new (ahem $180) stick's first game, I scored our team's only 2 goals. Unfortunately the other team managed to score four (they are the top ranked team in our division... And we're, um, not), for a 4-2 loss. Still new-stick mojo was apparently effective. My team said I need to keep buying a new stick for every game.

Instead, I think I'm going to claim that this one is my lucky stick and so I should never replace it.

Friday, November 19, 2004

The Odds of Dating

A lot of people ask me why I can't seem to find a date, since I'm employed, vaguely normal, and free of social diseases. One of my stock answers is that it's hard to get a date when you work in an all-male field.

Apparently someone else had the same idea, because he actually went out and did a study, the results of which you can find here. According to the study, the women of the valley don't have it that easy, either.

War on Drugs Actually A War

According to CNN, a recent U.N. report on Afghanistan shows that it's now responsible for 87% of the world's opium production, and called for the U.S. and NATO to get more involved. The U.S., however, has been unwilling to commit troops to fighting the drug producers, who, by the way, directly finance terrorist operations.


The U.S. is looking at changing its ways:

U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, recommended the creation of "counternarcotics battalions."

The Illinois Republican also said the United States and Europe should encourage Afghan economic development to stabilize the country by embracing "an Afghan trade preference" that would give Afghan products easy access to the U.S. and European markets.

Presumably these "Afghan products" do not include the opium.

Microsoft Outsources Jack-Booted Thugs

Microsoft, apparently having decided that spreading fear and insults will not, unfortunately, make Linux go away, looks like its changing tactics. The Register ran this article about Microsoft using the WTO to enforce its rapidly-expanding patent portfolio world-wide. And this comes not from any Halloween memos, but from a public speech by Ballmer to a number of Asian governments.

Also in the article is a link to what may become my favorite junk patent since Amazon's "one-click shopping" -- MS got a patent on implmenting the C "!=" (not equal) operator in BASIC. Ummm, hint, guys -- putting something in your language that every other programming language already has, and should have been in yours from the beginning, is not revolutionary.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Whirling Dervishes

Katie called me up yesterday, and asked me if I wanted to go see some Whirling Dervishes. I had no idea what this was all about, but didn't have anything cluttering up my Wednesday night, so why not?

The majority of the concert was musical, on traditional instruments. The group had three singers (chanters), one man playing a device which looked like a lap-harp (qanoun), one playing an oud (a guitar-like instrument), one on a wooden flute, one playing a tambourine-like hand drum, and four dervishes (the dervishes also variously chanted and played hand drums).

The whirling part was relatively small, time-wise, but was impressive. They whirled in groups (first two, then the other two, then three, then four) for about five minutes a pop. All the dervishes wear a long robe that's belted around the waist, that makes them shuffle as they walk as it drags along the floor. When they start to whirl, the robe bellows out. During the whole time they were whirling, none of them moved from the spot they started -- with all four of them whirling and the robes billowing out, they covered almost the entire stage. I also noticed that they don't use the ballerina trick of focusing on a single spot and rotating your head; their heads were always aligned with their bodies.

The parts I found most impressive were the instrumental solos -- the flute player had an somewhat haunting unaccompanied piece, and the oud player did a solo that would have made Satriani proud.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Internet Zero

Read an article in Scientific American while at the dentist's office recently talking about "Internet-0", which is some research into applying internet technology to smart home/smart building applications.

Found a draft of the paper here at MIT.

The paper goes into a lot of detail, but the basics are that it's better to build a smart home on top of existing Internet protocols, so that interoperation of devices with the global network is seamless. Very Neuromancer.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Beer Train

On Saturday, I went on my first Beer Train ride. Some background: this was the 7th annual Beer Train trip, and the basic idea is that you use CalTrain to go bar-hopping. We started in Sunnyvale at Scruffy Murphy's and hit four more bars, spending about an hour and a half at each bar. The time was fixed by the train schedule, since the trains run an hour apart on weekends.

The organizers made custom T-shirts for the trip, with different colors for organizers (uber-cool black), conductors (white), and cattle (tan). Everyone got pens to write on shirts (and people) with, which was half the fun. The first thing I ran into was that Kate (who I had not met before that night) and I share a last name, which others found confusing. So they wrote "Not married to Kate" on the back of my shirt. Then, later on, someone wrote "look for my husband Guy" on the back of Kate's shirt. We're still negotiating the terms of the settlement.

The big drawback to the beer train is that CalTrain doesn't run late, so in order to get everyone back home before they shut down, we had to start early -- at one in the afternoon. Scruffy's looked a bit surprised to have that many people pouring it at an early hour.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Hockey Photos

So, once per season (6 months), my hockey team gets to play a game at the HP Pavilion, where the San Jose Sharks play. This is pretty cool -- makes you feel all pro. Even better, some of the Shark's photographers come and take photos of you playing.

Hangin' Out
Team Photo

I also drafted Katie to come to the game and film it. I haven't pulled the footage off the camera yet, but hopefully there's some good stuff there.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Political Graph

I found an interesting political quiz on Badnarik's (the Libertarian candidate for president) web site. The interesting part was that it was a two-dimensional graph of the political spectrum, rather than being a strict left-right line.

This is used partly to explain how the Libertarian party is neither liberal nor conservative, but I also think the two axes (social and economic) view is more informative. I'm wondering where most of our politicians would land if you graphed them on this.