Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Top 10 Most Infuential Rock Artists Ever

I guess this would be my list (going historically, roughly):

  1. Elvis Presley
  2. The Beatles
  3. The Beach Boys
  4. Bob Dylan
  5. Jimi Hendrix
  6. David Bowie
  7. The Velvet Underground
  8. The Rolling Stones
  9. Led Zeppelin
  10. Radiohead
close calls:
  • James Brown
  • Chuck Berry
  • Pink Floyd
further down on the list:
  • Black Sabbath
  • U2
  • Nirvana

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Still looking for good cross-platform personal information manager (PIM) software

I've been on the hunt for a while now for a decent cross-platform PIM application. As of yet I've not found one. Of the ones I've tried, the below either come close or are worthy of consideration - even though none of them have exactly all of the features I want.

10 Ideal Features I'd like to Have in My PIM
  1. calender / schedule items
  2. daily diary
  3. decent address book with ability to tag, add pictures, etc
  4. to-do lists with reminders
  5. notes
  6. allows for attachments
  7. cross-platform
  8. portable
  9. allows for encryption of data
  10. freeware, but preferably open-source
5 Applications I've Tried
With the release of 0.7 of the Lightning/Sunbird this is one step closer to being what I want it to be. There is definite improvement. Unfortunately, though, it lacks features 2, 3 (this has continued to suck over the years), 9, and I'm not sure about 5 and 6.
I got really excited when I found out about this project... but then I tried it out. Its a whale of a program that runs really slowly, takes up too much of my system resources, and doesn't have all the features I would like - but the main problem I have with it is portability - I need to be able to run it off my flash drive when I move from computer to computer. Maybe this program will loose some bloat, but I'm not holding my breath.
Of all the open-source ones I tried, this is the one that I like the most. Its elegant, light (at least as light as a java program can be), cross-platform, I think its portable (though I never tried), and it has many of the features I want. The main features it lacks, though, are 3 and 9. Having a decent contact manager is essential for my needs, and being able to encrypt sensitive data is a major issue for me.
This program is absolutely insane, but in a way that I find sort of irresistible. Its a portable hodge-podge of useful functionality (some of which goes far beyond an ordinary PIM). Here are just some of its features: built in speadsheet functionality (a really good idea), store notes, passwords, images, bookmarks, contacts, money transactions, calendar events & tasks, iCalander events, and it has multi-layer encryption for various nodes within the program. Oh my! And it appears that its just one person developing it! Unfortunately, though, the interface is atrocious, and it only works on Windows. That said, I'm definitely going to keep my eyes on this program. Hopefully it will get a lot more attention in the near future.
Without a doubt this is my favorite PIM application out there, and if it were cross-platform, open-source, and had built in diary functionality, then it would be my dream come true. It's sooo well-designed, and has almost everything you might want. But, alas, because I can't get it to work on linux (even with wine) then its not going to do me very much use when I finally make the decision to go linux all the way. And I really, really wish it were open-source.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

My Favorite Firefox Extensions

If you use Firefox and haven't yet checked out the many add-ons that you can install into it, then I'd highly recommend trying (at least some of) the following. They really improve my browsing experience:

  • Adblock Plus with Adblock Filterset.G Updater - Now you don't have to constantly be bombarded with ads when browsing around. Highly recommended! (Question: I feel bad for those sites that use ads in a responsible non-intrusive way. I guess I wish there was a version that would white-list those sites, because hey - we all need to earn money. Any suggestions?)
  • Always Remember Password - If you use Yahoo email, then you know that they have disabled the ability for Firefox to save the password in the password manager causing you to have to type it every time. Well, now you don't.
  • CacheViewer - Exactly what the title suggests. Its a bit rough around the edges, but at least it gives the ability to view your cache.
  • Bookmarks - I've yet to be entirely satisfied with a way to organize bookmarks. This extension helps quite a bit. I'm also looking forward to what the new Firefox "places" improvements will add.
  • DownloadHelper - download videos from the most popular sites like YouTube.
  • DownThemAll! - Find a page where you want to download lots of things from a bunch of links. This will help.
  • Firebug - This is a very impressive extension for anyone involved in web development.
  • FireFTP - An FTP client in your web brower.
  • Flashblock - Block annoying flash animations.
  • Forecastfox - A nifty extension for knowing the weather.
  • FoxyTunes - Use Firefox to control what your listening to.
  • Gmail Space - Upload files to your gmail account.
  • Greasemonkey - An extension for further extensions. Great if you think a site needs more functionality than it presently offers.
  • IE Tab - Yes, its still the case that certain websites only support IE (unfortunately). Now you don't have to open IE in a separate window to view the page.
  • Image Zoom - If an image is either to big or to small to see the way you want to see it, use this extension to zoom in or out.
  • JumpKnowledge Webpage Annotator - Encounter something online that you feel you just got to comment on? Use this extension to annotate the web!
  • Launchy
  • LeechBlock - Visit certain sites too often when you're supposed to be working. This extension helps you to limit yourself.
  • Save Session - Need to close your browser for some reason, but want it to remember which pages you were viewing when you open it back up next time. Here is the extension for you.
  • ScribeFire - If you like to blog, then this is the best Firefox addon I've found for doing so. Very impressive!
  • TimeTracker - A simple but excellent extension for gaging how much time you send online.
  • Zoho QuickRead - An office suite in your web-browser. I'm definitely going to keep my eye on this one.

Monday, July 30, 2007

GPLv3 and Linux

Here is a fascinating discussion of the problems and complexities surrounding the adoption or non-adoption of GPLv3 by the Linux kernel developers. Definitely check out the comments. All in all, I guess I would prefer the Linux developers to go ahead and adopt v3.

Flight of the Conchords - Some Live Stuff

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Torrentspy Warning

From today on Slashdot:
"TorrentSpy, one of the world's largest BitTorrent sites, has been ordered by a federal judge to monitor its users. They are asked to keep detailed logs of their activities which must then be handed over to the MPAA. Ira Rothken, TorrentSpy's attorney responded to the news by stating: 'It is likely that TorrentSpy would turn off access to the U.S. before tracking its users. If this order were allowed to stand, it would mean that Web sites can be required by discovery judges to track what their users do even if their privacy policy says otherwise.'"

Rat's Neurons ( in dish ) learn how to fly an Aeroplane

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Short Political Commentary

After watching the two republican primary debates as well as the democratic primary debate ...

Of all of the Republican candidates, the only two I like are John McCain and Ron Paul. I really wish Hagel would join the race.

Rudy's recent shtick is that the Democrates are returning to a pre-911 mentality. ... Civil liberties do not seem to take a very place on his list of priorities

I really, really like Obama. I think he would be great for this country in so many ways. The one thing I struggle over most, though, is the issue of abortion. I am so conflicted about this issue, and I don't have any good ideas about a stance I'd like to see.

The absolute worst of the bunch fortunately don't have a chance anyway ....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

BBC and Scientology

If you missed the BBC documentary, "Scientology and Me," you can find it here. If there hadn't been a ruckus about it, then I never would have known about its existence. But when certain Scientology members - ever willing to intimidate, sue, or slander anyone who criticizes their organization - have now targeted the BBC itself, well... I had to find out what all of the fuss was about.

Listen to what John Sweeney, the BBC reporter in charge of this documentary had to say about his attempts to investigate Scientology:

"I have been shouted at, spied on, had my hotel invaded at midnight, denounced as a 'bigot' by star Scientologists, brain-washed - that is how it felt to me - in a mock-up of a Nazi-style torture chamber and chased round the streets of Los Angeles by sinister strangers"

Now the Scientology has come out with their own video coverage on John Sweeney and the BBC. It can be found here. What is great about this video is that it shows you precisely how you will viewed and treated by Scientologists if you don't paint Scientology in glowing terms. I'm sure this will work for head-baked scientologists, but man, all I see is the tactics John Sweeney pointed out in his documentary writ large in bold letters - you will be slandered and your motivations impugned if you dare to question certain Scientology beliefs and practices.

Monday, May 14, 2007

10 Up-and-Coming Open Source Projects I'm Very Excited About

I regularly hunt for new and better open source software to meet my various computer needs. Often I come across a really exciting project that is in the works, but that's still in the early stages of development. Sometimes a project looks so promising that I find myself continuously checking back with it to see if there is any recent news or updates. Below I'll listed the top 10 open source projects I'm most excited about (listed alphabetically). Let me know if there are any other open source projects still in the early stages of development that look very promising!

Beryl - This might mainly be a bunch of eye candy, but its great eye candy. If you haven't seen some of the great video clips on YouTube, you're in for a treat. [*nix]

Chandler - I've been looking for a decent open source cross-platform Personal Information Manager for a while, but I've yet to find one I'm pleased with. This one looks like its got some great potential for all your organizational needs. [cross-platform]

Filezilla 3 - No longer limited to Windows, we now will be able to experience the best FTP client in Linux as well. [cross-platform]

KDE 4 - Although I'm generally a Gnome user, I've got nothing against KDE (except their naming conventions) and often it seems that KDE apps have a richer feature set than their gnome counterparts. Well, with KDE 4 I might make the switch entirely. With this release, it will also be possible to port KDE to Windows (which will only make migration to Linux all the more easy). [cross-platform]

Perl 6 - OK, admittedly its been a loooong time in coming, but I doubt I'll be displeased when it gets here (which may even be this year, who knows?). Its about time for my favorite programming language to generate some buzz again. [cross-platform]

Rapid Serial Visual Projection - This isn't an application, per se, but I've found it to be a much better way to read things off of the computer screen. In fact I got so excited about this sort of software that I wrote my own RSVP application - WordFlashReader. That said, probably the best open source implementation of this type of application presently is Dictator. One of these days I'm going to re-write my app in wxWidgets. Anyway, check out one or both of these programs and see if they don't change your computer reading habits. [cross-platform]

Songbird - Its motto is: "Play music. Play the Web." It does both quite effectively. Look out iTunes, here is your next great up-and-coming competitor. [cross-platform]

UltraVNC - Wanna' access your home/office computer remotely? Or did you forget an important at home or the office? Try this program and you will no longer have to be located where your computer is to access its programs or content. [Windows]

- Why be limited by the OS you are presently using? Wouldn't it be nice to start up an OS like you would any other desktop application? Well, you can! I'm definitely going to keep my eyes on this one. [cross-platform]

XULRunner - Create and deploy powerful XUL-based apps. There are already a number of promising applications in the works based on this technology (Democracy Player, Joost, Songbird, etc.). Rumors are that this should be production ready with the release of Firefox 3. Who knows, this might be the future for cross-platform application development! [cross-platform]

Friday, April 06, 2007

Bill O'Reilly Yelling Match

verizon can kiss my ass

so verizon is trying to make money off of shit they they didn't invent. fuck you verizon. Here is the basic story as one slashdot writer so aptly put it:

Person A has a brilliant, rare idea. Person A invests years in refining and expanding said idea. Person A goes out and patents said idea. Person A opens a business with said idea, reaping customer praise and financial reward.

The patent has encouraged creativity and expanded the market.

Person A has a somewhat obvious idea. Companys B, C, D, and E without investing in refining or developing the idea run out and patent said idea. Patent is granted to Company B (and sometimes C,D,and E too). Company B sits on patent, preventing anyone else from opening said business in order to protect the large profit margins on their current offering. 15 years later Company B sells the rights to said patent to Clearinghouse F. Clearinghouse F takes the broadest possible view of said patent, and sues everyone in the business. Years of fun in courthouse G ensues.

The patent has prevented the use of the idea or object patented, and has been used to bleed money from companies who do produce things.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

WordFlashReader 0.98 released


- I've completely re-written of the user interface (I think it is much nicer now).

- It has better support of different text encodings.

- It now give you words-per-minute, amount of text completed, and time remaining.

- Much better configuration of fonts and various display colors.

- I've fixed a lot of bugs (but probably have introduced a few along the way).

Download it here.

France bans citizen journalists from reporting violence

This is some scary bullshit.

Download Flickr photos

Page source -> Search -> class="photoImgDiv"

the http://... that follows.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Another fantastic article over at Beliefnet.

In the present cultural atmosphere where people seem to think they must "pick sides", its nice to see an injection of fairness and modesty every once in a while. The article is here.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

What goes into the production of a steak

This is a graphic illustration of the process. If you eat meat, you should be aware of what you are paying for.

The evidential basis of the "Lost Tomb" of Jesus

Money quote:
In an interview, Mr. Jacobovici was asked why the filmmakers did not conduct DNA testing on the other ossuaries to determine whether the one inscribed “Judah, son of Jesus” was genetically related to either the Jesus or Mary Magdalene boxes; or whether the Jesus remains were actually the offspring of Mary.

“We’re not scientists. At the end of the day we can’t wait till every ossuary is tested for DNA,” he said. “We took the story that far. At some point you have to say, ‘I’ve done my job as a journalist.’ ”

Monday, February 26, 2007


Tacoma Narrows Bridge

And here is some great footage with a wine glass.

Look whose profiteering off of religion now..

Religious charlatans aren't the only ones. Now it James Cameron.

For some Wikipedia fun watch the Timothy Noah article grow and shrink at the press of refresh button

I'm an unabashed fan of Wikipedia. I go there for constant talk on science, technology, and all things pop-culture. Todays pop-culture fun can be found at the Timothy Noah article. On Slate, he recently posted this article: "Evicted From Wikipedia, Why the online encyclopedia won't let just anyone in", which, of course, has sparked a flood of discussion on his Wikipedia article. A couple of times today, if hit the refresh button and new sections have come into and gone out of existence. Most recently, this has popped up (lets see if it stays there):

In a February 2007 article in Slate, "Evicted from Wikipedia"[6] Noah opened a small can of worms by discussing the Wikipedia Notability Guideline. Noah's entry had been flagged for deletion review. His entry's re-instatement seems to be purely as a result of writing the article thereby raising questions about the fairness of the policy and the consistency of its implementation.

Here's a proposal (though this is off-the-cuff and I've haven't thought through it at all): Develop a sister project were there is no notability requirement that can then function as a repository for:

1. Non-encyclopedia notable entries - where, among other things, deleted entries can live on. (At present, the closest thing I've found to this is Wikidumper).
2. For personal entries, geneologies, tidbits, and so on.

In this way, it could function as, in a sense, the most detailed record of world history and be produced in real time. Ah, I've spoken too soon, a quick Google search yields The Genealogy of the World and (maybe?) Wikipeople.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Half-Hour News Hour - And how is this funny?

Uhhhh.... and the painful, painful, laugh-track

HA! Check out this asinine detention letter

The worst part of it is the last line: "In the future, Alex would be better off simply accepting my teachings without resistence."

Two cents to go until I make my first adsense dollar

Oh yeah baby, I'm almost there! All this hard work is finally paying off....

Password Security and Firefox

I was recently asked the following question: How secure is Firefox's Password Manager? I wasn't entirely sure, so I went checking. Here's what I've found. All things considered, Firefox's Password Manager (PM) looks fairly secure. Check out this post here. Given that the passwords are encrypted, they will be hard to recover. There is though, as the comments of this article point out, at least one security weakness in Firefox's Password Manager, but it should be fixed by the release, which will be released sometimes later this month (or so they say). So I guess its not the end of the world.

About brute force password recovery tools (like FireMaster), well, I'm not sure what to think. As long as your Master Password is a good one, then I suppose it will probably have difficulty cracking it (am I right about this, anyone?). Maybe I'll try it out and see how long it takes for it to crack my own password. Anyway, if you want to be paranoid about it - it looks like the best solution I've seen is Passwordmaker, which generates random passwords for you, and the interesting thing is that it doesn't store any passwords on your computer at all, but rather - as I understand it - it generates them on-the-fly when you access your various sites.

The most hard-core way to go is TrueCrypt (though its not specifically Firefox related) and I've seriously been thinking about using it to encrypt my entire hard-drive. But at the very least, I use it to encrypt all the electronic texts of mine that have any sensitive info on them (like SS numbers, tax info, bank-account numbers, and whatnot).

20 Percent of Americans believe that the sun orbits the earth?

I find this statistic hard to believe, but according to this article:

... over 40 percent of Americans do not believe in evolution and about 20 percent, when asked if the earth orbits the sun or vice versa, say it’s the sun that does the orbiting ...

Ok, I can believe the evolution statistic, but seriously, 20 percent think the sun orbits the earth?? That's 1 in 5 American adults. No way.... HEY, geo-centrists, are you really out there?

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Snickers Commercial Alternative Endings

Remember the Super Bowl commercial that had two guys eating a snickers until they kissed? Well, these two alternative endings caused a bit of an uproar from the gay community:

I think this one's actually pretty funny:

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Best Flash Games Online

Here is a pretty good list. I find this game of Virtual Pong addictive.

I love this interview with Chloe Doutre-Roussel, the author of the Chocolate Connoisseur

I don't know exactly why I love this interview... I do love chocolate, but I don't think that's the reason. I guess what I really like about it is that Doutre-Roussel's passion for chocolate is so apparent that its contagious, and when this passion is combined with her fantastic French accent and the particular way she uses the English language, well that's all it takes for me I guess. The interview is here.

Greater New Orleans White Pages, pre and post Katrina

A striking illustration of the aftermath:

Monday, February 05, 2007

The most ill intentioned seal I have ever seen

Scott Adams vs. a "self-important, humorless, autofellating, ass hat"

I love discovering flame wars like this online. Great entertainment value. On the one side, you have Scott Adams (you know - Dilbert) and on the other a biologist named PZ Myers. Scott Adams keeps a blog and, ever so often, uses it as a forum for philosophical speculation - but all in good humor. Its a good read when your taking a 5 minute break from work. Anyway, along comes PZ Myers, a in-your-face-credentials biologists who, apparently, can't stand someone even speculating about an intelligent designer. Well, I guess this post was too much for Myers:

I wonder how you can tell if an alien is “intelligent life.” Is there a test that fits all situations? For example, suppose we found a blob on Mars that moved under its own power and wasn’t a carbon-based life form. How could we tell if it was intelligent?
Suppose the blob on Mars beat you at chess. That would tell you that the blob can “compute,” but it wouldn’t tell you if the blob was intelligent “life.” A computer can beat you at chess if it’s so programmed, and no one thinks your computer is intelligent life.

What if the blob authored a book?

Don’t answer too quickly because it’s a trick question. Remember, a trillion monkeys with typewriters can write a book if you wait long enough. So let’s up the ante and say that the blob on Mars writes lots of different books. ...

It’s a trick question because atheists believe that the Big Bang did all of those things and more. The Big Bang caused the sequence of events that culminated in the Bible, the Koran, and most important – Dilbert comics. If the blob on Mars created literature, we would surely consider it intelligent.

So Myers can't take it, and has to be real ass about it:

We went round and round on this well over a year ago. Scott Adams, of Dilbert fame, wrote a shallow and ignorant argument that sort of shilly-shallied over a pro-creationist argument; I pointed out how stupid his reasoning was. The response was insane; criticize Adams, and his horde of Dilbert fans will descend on you like a cloud of pea-brained locusts. ... Basically, Adams just outed himself as a feeble hack making tepid arguments that only a creationist could believe.

Oh my! Calm down dude - its OK to speculate and throw ideas out there. And its not like he's forcing his ideas down anyone's throat. Or you can go ahead and brow-beat him next time he posts anything you find objectionable. This would be more entertainment value for me. And the more invectives the better! Oh, and thanks for turning my 5 minute break into a 20 minute break.

The Most Amazing Fold-up chair ever

This picture is absolutely amazing

(click it for a better view)

Rush Limbaugh Nominated for 2007 Nobel Peace Prize?

It's true.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Man Who Speaks In Anagrams

How Not to Embolden Terrorists

"01.31.07: Never Forget" devices throw Boston into a scare

Full story here:
Ten blinking electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for a late-night cable cartoon. At least one of the devices depicts a character giving the finger.

Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless.

"It's a hoax — and it's not funny," said Gov. Deval Patrick.

Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and parent of Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for the TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force"...

Here's the press conference of the suspects who are accused of planting these devices. Make of it what you will:

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Dollar Palace: The Convenient and Casual Place to Shop

Spam Made Up 94% Of All E-Mail In December

The story here.

News Flash: CNN Does its Job

Thankfully someone debunked this hogwash:

Allegations that Sen. Barack Obama was educated in a radical Muslim school known as a "madrassa" are not accurate, according to CNN reporting.

Insight Magazine, which is owned by the same company as The Washington Times, reported on its Web site last week that associates of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, had unearthed information the Illinois Democrat and likely presidential candidate attended a Muslim religious school known for teaching the most fundamentalist form of Islam.

Or here's the Fox report:

By far my favorite response to this story is the Daily Shows mockery:

Hey 110th, where are with the minimum wage increase?

In general it appears that many Republicans are on board with a minimum wage bill that includes certain tax incentives. Why, then, hasn't the bill yet been able to make its way through Congress? Here's the answer:

Aides to some House leaders say they would be willing to allow some of the tax breaks. But others, including Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York and the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, are insisting that they will not concede any tax cuts.

House Democrats say that by forcing a vote on a clean bill they would force Senate Republicans to put themselves on record as opposing a wage increase, which was a popular campaign issue in the midterm elections.

“We are still operating on the assumption or hope that the Senate will pass a clean minimum wage bill,” said Stacey F. Bernards, a spokeswoman for Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the Democratic leader. “If it doesn’t happen, it’s because a minority of Republicans held it up. It’s their fault.”

Ok, so let me get this strait - certain Democrats are holding up the bill so that they can win a couple of political points against Republicans? Come on! Stop wasting our time and pass the bill with the tax incentives. These incentives seem entirely legit:

Among the tax breaks would be a five-year extension of the credit provided to employers who hire people who have traditionally had trouble finding jobs, as well as a tax credit for hiring veterans disabled in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks; an extension through March 31, 2008, of a provision that allows businesses to deduct the cost of improvements to leased properties more quickly; and a permanent change to the tax code allowing small businesses to use the cash method of accounting.

The Senate Committee on Finance, which approved the small business tax breaks in the package being voted on, said the cuts would be covered by closing tax loopholes for companies and executives.

Time to turn the question on you, Mr. Rangel: Which of these incentives are YOU opposing?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Paleocons and Neocons

Check out this article "What is a Neocon Anyway?" over at the blog The Gay Republican. The author gives a fairly clear and succinct characterization of neo-conservatism and paleo-conservatism from a neocon point of view. Of course, this means that the article is slanted towards favoring a neocon perspective, but I nonetheless recommend reading it just to see this view from an insider perspective. By seeing it in this way, you can get a sense of the motivations guiding this view and why it leads it proponents to favor the policy decisions they often do.

Make sure you check out the FAQ on his sidebar - which, I think, is a fairly adequate reply to those who would claim that someone who is both gay and a republican must be self-hating (like this post here).

Also, check out this post for a brief review of The Gay Republican blog.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

A really quick guide to pop-ups in blogger

In my sidebar I wanted to link to Comedy Central's archive of The Daily Show videos and The Colbert Report videos. The problem is that once you start playing on of these videos your browser gets resized. So rather than turning of javascript, I wanted to be able to link to them by opening a pop-up window. Here's a link to the code I used:

Pop-up Code

Oh, and here is a link on how to display html code on your post.

A great (if somewhat freaky) illusion

Friday, January 26, 2007

Avoid Comedy Central's "Motherload" and watch these videos without a preceding ad

Here are links of where you can go to see a vast archive of Comedy Central Videos without having to first watch a 30sec advertisement:

The Daily Show
South Park
Comedy Central Presents
Chappelle's Show
The Colbert Report

UPDATE: I've streamlined the process a little bit by including the links to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report in my sidebar. These links open up pop-up windows to these respective shows (so that your browser window doesn't get automatically resized).

Dick Cheney vs. Nancy Pelosi: The Blink-Off

Picture Perfect - Car Hood

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Don't Miss Andrew Sullivan's debate with Sam Harris on faith and fundamentalism

Here. If I get a chance, I'll post some thought on the debate (but first, I got to spend the day with Aristotle).

WordFlashReader 0.94 Released

Its been a very long time since I've worked on this program. I released a copy of it about 5 years ago on Freshmeat (this old version can be found here for now - though it will probably be gone soon), but I haven't had much time to work on it since then. You can find the newest version here, and I've created a simple (and presently incomplete) webpage for it here. So far, I've only released a Windows version, but I'll soon update the Linux version on Freshmeat.

Basically, WordFlashReader is a Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP) program that makes reading things on-screen a lot easier on the eyes (at least once you get used to it). Feel free to distribute it, modify it, and so on (its GPL'd). Let me know what you think! Also, its still beta, so if you encounter any bugs - let me know, and maybe when I get a chance I'll be able to fix them.

From the Release notes:

This program is intended for anyone who has an electronic text or book they wish to read. It will flash each word of the text/book ssequentially, pausing at the punctuation. Not only is this way of reading off of a computer screen more comfortable on the eyes than the normal method, but also after a little practice you may discover that you can read at multiple times the speed you normally do.

Take a look at the following post if you want to know more about RSVP. Enjoy!

UPDATE (3/8/2007): WordFlashReader 0.98 has been released.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Donnie Davies' "The Bible Says"

This video is either incredibly offensive or sublimely satirical. It also seems to me this is exactly what this guy was going for (being flame-bait is a sure-fire way to shameless self-promotion). I'm leaning towards viewing it as being unflinching satire.

Consider some of the lyrics (the full lyrics can be found here):

"To enter heaven there's no back door..."
"Righteous man, get on your knees..."
"Jesus my savior is the only man for me..."
"Fill me with your love..."

Furthermore, this video is shot in very soft lighting, and this guy is wearing pink shirt, white pants, and has a brillian 'stache. Here is a great take I found:
This video reminds me that South Park episode where Eric Cartman becomes famous for singing vaguely creepy Christian pop songs—with lyrics that echo “fill me with your love,” and, “Jesus is the only man for me,” and, “righteous man, get on your knees.” That South Park episode nailed the blatantly homoerotic, completely freaky sexual obsession that some straight Christian fundy boys and closeted Christian fundy homos allow themselves to have ...

Oh, and here's another great take. After watching the above - the following video might help to shed some light on what's going on (though it does it in a very blatant way).

Update: Uff, the links keep changing, but I'll try to keep them up, at least for a while. Also, check out this take here.

And don't miss this new video either (Perfect line: "Thanks so much, Andrew Sullivan, for getting behind me". Also, notice the great irony concerning what he says about his weight problem).

UPDATE 2: I've updated the links again (1/26/07)

Changing the startup directory for the Command Prompt

In order to change the default startup directory for Command Prompt - do the following


Go here:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Software \ Microsoft \ Command Processor

If Autorun is missing, create a new String Value here. Change the Autorun value data in the following way:

CD /d C:\directory_to_folder

So, for example, I set my startup directory to:

CD /d C:\Documents and Settings\Jonathan\Desktop\dev

restart the command prompt.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Displaying a block of code in blogger

If you want to display a snippet of code within blogger, then this post is very useful. Basically, paste the following code near the blockquote code in the template.

code {
font-family: Courier;
margin:.75em 0;
border:1px solid #596;
border-width:1px 1px;
padding:5px 15px;
display: block;
background-color: #dedede;
white-space: pre;

Now just place the code you want to display inside the following:

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Soup up Microsoft's Command Shell

Recently, I've gotten back into programming. Its been a couple of years and the last time I was into it I was working in a UNIX environment. Now I'm in a Window's XP environment. I've already felt a bit frustrated with Microsoft's standard command shell (cmd.exe). First, it lacks many of the commands I have come to know and love. Second, it's tab auto completion is lacking - when you hit tab, it cycles through all the filename matches rather than displaying a list of all of the matches. And third, I want my command shell to preserve my command history across sessions. I've been searching around, and I've yet to find a free command shell in windows that has all of these features. Here is what I found:

cmd.exe: This is the standard command shell. Its not to difficult to get it to use windows ports of the UNIX commands I want with the help of unxutils. Here and here are useful instructions for setting this up.

Winone: This is the closest thing I've seen to what I want. In fact, it is exactly what I want - but there is no way I'm going to pay for a decent shell.

Powershell: The second closest. It definitely a leap in the right direction. Its even possible to get it to store the command history. I found instructions to do this here and here, but unfortunately, they are a bit outdated (and its sort of a pain). In order to get this to work, here are the steps I took. After installing Powershell, type "powershell" in the Start->Run menu. Type "$profile" (with the $). This tells you where your profile file is located. Mine is located 'My Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1'. I needed to create the WindowsPowershell directory and use a text editor to create Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1. When I restarted PowerShell, it gave me a message to the effect that the "execution of scripts is disabled". In order to fix this, type into PowerShell: "set-executionpolicy RemoteSigned". Then you can paste the following (slightly modified) code in the Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1 file:

$MaximumHistoryCount = 10000
function bye
{ Get-History -Count $MaximumHistoryCount |Export-csv ~\history.csv

if (Test-path ~\history.csv)
{ Import-csv ~\history.csv |Add-History

Ok - so now I can view my history, but I want to be able to USE IT. This is seeming like its hardly worth it.

That said, this is probably the future of the command shell in windows - and so its probably not a bad idea to start getting acquainted with it now. Here is a good quick start guide.

Win-bash: Major problem - doesn't seem to implement tab completion at all!

Cygwin: Still no automatic saving of command history across sessions. Uff!

GnuWin32: In order to install it, run download.bat (it will take a while) to download everything and then run the install.bat (again, this will take a while). Follow the directions (again, again, it will take a while). Now that I've spent all this time setting it up, it doesn't remember my command history between settings.

Now I'm just f-ing depressed about this.

UPDATE: I have found what I want. IPython has it all.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Federal Legislation: Section 220 in S. 1 - What the Fuck is this?

I just spotted this here on slashdot. According to the article being referred to it sounds like Section 220 in S.1 would be a severe blow to free speech:

"In what sounds like a comedy sketch from Jon Stewart's Daily Show, but isn't, the U. S. Senate would impose criminal penalties, even jail time, on grassroots causes and citizens who criticize Congress.
Section 220 of S. 1, the lobbying reform bill currently before the Senate, would require grassroots causes, even bloggers, who communicate to 500 or more members of the public on policy matters, to register and report quarterly to Congress the same as the big K Street lobbyists. Section 220 would amend existing lobbying reporting law by creating the most expansive intrusion on First Amendment rights ever. For the first time in history, critics of Congress will need to register and report with Congress itself.

A quick internet search seems to indicate that this worry is not without merit. Although there seems to be some indication that this section would only apply to "paid efforts to stimulate grassroots lobbying", I still find it very disturbing. Fortunately, many others do to. In fact, there seems to be a very broad array of groups opposing this legislation, from Focus on the Family to the ACLU. There is also legislation in the works that would remove the most threating parts of os Section 220 - an amendment by Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah). It is interesting to note that Bennett helped block the flag burning amendment proposed last year (which, again would have been a blow to free speech).

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

Seriously the most painful dance move I have ever seen - I hope this guy's ok

I could not imagine falling in a more painful way. And it was probably too quick that he didn't even realize what was going to happen until it was too late. I almost get queasy watching the slow motion.

Baby Jesus Prayer in "Talladega Nights"

Which has a better chance in the near future? A Black President or a Female President?

I think one or both of these will happen sometimes in my lifetime (and maybe fairly soon). If I had to put money on it, I would say that a woman has a better chance than a black man at becoming president at this time (though Barack is the wild card here).

In fact, there is some polling evidence that this country is becoming more and more open to either possibility.

James Dobson: " I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances"

His comments can be heard here: [mp3]. No doubt, James Dobson's unwillingness to vote for McCain will have a negative impact on his candidacy - given Dobson's tremendous sway in the republican party. Here is an question I have: Why do many people dislike McCain so much?

Pat Robertson's "Prophecies"

For years, Pat Robertson has been in front of a camera claiming to have supernatural revelations that people are being healed of arthritis, kidney stones, or whatever. By these so-called "words of knowledge" God is supposedly revealing to Robertson particular supernatural interventions he is performing through-out the (televised) world. Of course, these "prophecies" are never disconfirmed, and so I guess his contributors rely on what they perceive to be the character of Pat Robertson in order to believe that what he is doing is genuine. I mean, how could someone be that disingenuous to put words in the mouth of God? Well, now we can really put him to the test. Recently he claimed that God told him that late in 2007 the U.S. would suffer "mass killing" resulting from a terrorist attack. Well, fortunately for us, Robertson's prophecies have fallen short before. Who actually buys into this stuff?

By the way, Robertson should read Deuteronomy 18:19-22 again:
19 If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. 20 But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."

21 You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD ?" 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.

Also check out this post.

Updating to a New Blogger Template

Ufff! Its been a big pain in my ass. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) there have been enough people problems similar to mine that generally a google search would yield a solution. Here is a bit of what I went through. BY FAR, the most important thing you can do is save a copy of your old blogger template (that is, assuming you have modified it - if not, then chances are your upgrade will not be as painful as mine). You won't be able to use all of it, but you will be able to mine it for useful code here and there.

The first thing I wanted to do was to add a third column where I could place advertisements. Although creating a third column was not too difficult (its very similar to how you would do it on the old blogger - instructions here), populating it turned out to be a big pain. First, the GUI blogger builder obviously does not support the creation of new columns (no surprise there), so you need to edit the html. The problem is that the Beta Blogger either would not save my changes (when I tried to post an Amazon banner) or else the advertisement would not be displayed at all (when trying to display an Adsense banner). Although I've yet to figure out what is wrong with the Amazon banner, here is a useful post explaining how to get Adsense up and running the way you want.

Next, tried to tweak my profile using the GUI builder, but it has very limited functionality, so I ended up deleting my profile entirely. To really get what I want, I'll have to go and edit the code directly (note: much of the raw code is hidden in the normal Edit template mode, so make sure you "
Expand Widget Templates" - this took me way to long to figure out, and I'm still not convinced everything is shone). For me, this is considerably more difficult than in the old blogger because the complexity of the code has increased drastically. Finally, I wanted to insert links to Digg and Del.ici.ous - and fortunately a quick internet search yielded exactly what I wanted. That's where I left off. I have the basic functionality I want, so now its all about tweaking it what I have.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Rabbits Bread as Big as Dogs Used to Feed North Korea

A fascinating article here. I'm a bit confused about how this is supposed to alleviate hunger, though. According to the article, one rabbit feeds about eight people. Ok, but couldn't a LOT more people be fed merely with the food given to that one rabbit through the course of its life? Compare the following two quotations in the above mentioned article:
Each of his rabbits produces around seven kilograms of meat, says Szmolinsky, who was so keen to help alleviate hunger in the impoverished country...
The 12 bunnies he sent can produce 60 babies a year -- if the North Koreans find enough food to feed them properly.
Another random thought: I wonder if and when they will be sold as pets.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Letter to Senator Barack Obama Regarding Stem Cells

Senator Obama,

Time and again I have been impressed by your ability to bypass partisan bickering by first acknowledging the concerns on both sides of an issue, and then by offering a practical and clear vision of how you consider the issue in light of these concerns. And the fact that I keep finding your perspectives on issues of importance both thoughtful and wise gives me hope that great things are in store for you in the future. This brings me to my present concern. Just today I learned that a new source of stem cells has been discovered, and that these stem cells may hold the same promise as embryonic stem cells. I think this is fantastic news and should be applauded by all sides of the debate over stem cell research in this country. Many thoughtful individuals find the harnessing of embryonic stem cells morally suspect - even if it has the potential to yield tremendous scientific gains in the fields of health and medicine. I'm sympathetic with these worries - and this is partly why I see this as such great news. If we can achieve these scientific gains without engaging in practices that are ethically worrisome, then much of the current debate goes away - and everyone (by in large) gets what they want. Here all I ask is that you take notice and consider promoting this avenue of research as the way through the horns of the present controversy.


More info can be found here and here.