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.