Monday, October 27, 2008

What say you?

"And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need" - Acts 2:44-45


"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" - Karl Marx

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The type of conservatism I can appreciate and learn from

Conservatism has become more and more divisive, ideological, and narrow over the last decade. At least it has in its popular expositions exhibited in present political discourse. Conservatives, if they want to save their movement, need to take it back out of the hold of the self-proclaimed conservative exponents and pundits like Limbaugh, Hannity, and - in fact - the entire right-wing radio talk-show circus that only appeal to non-intellectual gut reactions of listeners who are either easly swayed by incendiary remarks or want to affirm some loose and vague notions like small government and/or social values.

Both todays conservatives and liberals are part of grand western democratic liberal tradition that they have forgotten about and that they need to re-appropriate in their thinking. Conservatives in particular need to be careful not to claim that only they have the monopoly the views of America's founding fathers (which are a significant part of this tradition) and they need to recognize the legitimacy of a spectrum of views that grow directly both out of the western tradition generally, and out of the founding fathers in particular. Not only are the vast majority of conservatives (and liberals as well) too ill informed to know what this tradition is (for example, which of you have actually read Hobbes's Leviathan or Locke's political philosophy) or the specifics of the views of Jefferson, Adams, Madison, etc, but they can't even accurately express the views of their contemporary opponents (as happens, for example, when conservatives claim that Obama is a socialist).

Here are two clips where Andrew Sullivan helps us to re-appropriate this rich tradition:

Friday, October 17, 2008

The McCain that I Love

I'm sad McCain's campaign soured me on him a little bit. This is the charming, good natured man that I really admire.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Reasons Christopher Buckley, the son of late Willliam F Buckley, no longer endorses McCain

He writes:
A year ago, when everyone, including the man I’m about to endorse, was caterwauling to get out of Iraq on the next available flight, John McCain, practically alone, said no, no—bad move. Surge. It seemed a suicidal position to take, an act of political bravery of the kind you don’t see a whole lot of anymore.

But that was—sigh—then. John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?
I have a hard time disagreeing with this sentiment.

How to discover the artist and name of music embedded in a video (in Linux)

It has gotten a lot easier to discover the artist of a song you hear on the radio or in a movie nowadays. Most of the times its sufficient to take down some of the lyrics and do a google search on them. But sometimes it is not so simple - think about electronica or other music without lyrics. I have a couple of clips on my computer which include samples of music that I would love to know the artist of. How, then can I find out? Here is one way that I've found (if there are better ways, please let me know by leaving a comment).

First, you need to extract the audio from the video file. For avi, mpg, or flv files you can do either:

ffmpeg -i my_video_file.avi extracted_audio.mp3

or

mplayer -dumpaudio my_video_file.avi -dumpfile extracted_audio.mp3

You may need to extract the part that you want using Audacity. Now the question is: How do we go about identifying the extracted audio?

The method I used was to install MusicBrainz Picard. which can use audio fingerprinting to identify the track. Install it and open it up. Click "Add Files" and upload your file. Double click on it and remove any potentially confusing metadata (it will assume that the filename is the name of the track). Click scan. If it has a match, it will bring up the album in which the track is found. If you have an unmatched file, right click it and do scan again. Hopefully it will identify the track in the album that you were looking for.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Streaming WLS 890 (out of Chicago) in VLC

This link seems to work in VLC, but I'm having problems getting it to work in mplayer and Amarok.

http://citadelcc-wls-am.wm.llnwd.net/citadelcc_WLS_AM

EDIT: The following works in Amarok:

mms://68.142.72.86:80/citadelcc_WLS_AM?MSWMExt=.asf

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Demonstrating the Inanity of Guilt by Association

Hannity gets his ass handed to him. That is what happens when you base your entire shtick on a tactic which is a classical instance of poor reasoning. Bravo Gibbs! And Colmes, whose admirable instinct was to defend his co-host from the charge of antisemitism should have also driven home the point that it shows the inanity of this entire line of reasoning.

Another Perspective on the debate

Neil Boortz does offer an interesting perspective on last night's debate. Check out the "Just So Frustrating" and "The Rich Should Pay Their Fair Share!" parts of today's post.

McCain said Obama "will increase taxes on 50% of small-business revenue."

Factchecking, otherwise known as due-diligence, is very important in evaluating the credibility of the candidates. Are one or both of the candidates willing to state straight-out falsehoods in order to win some cheap votes?

For example, McCain has consistently misrepresented Obama as someone who wants to raise taxes across the board, esp. on the middle class. The fantasitic site FactCheck.org has this to say about such a claim:
It's a pretty standard Republican theme: "Democrat X favors higher taxes and wasteful spending." But the McCain-Palin campaign has repeatedly pushed this line far beyond what the facts will support. Among the whoppers: that Sen. Barack Obama has voted to raise taxes on families earning as little as $32,000 per year, that Obama wants to tax your electricity and your heating oil, that he has voted for "higher" taxes 94 times, and that he will raise taxes for 23 million small-business owners. Each of these claims is false. ... As for Obama's actual plan: The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center says that 81.3 percent of all American workers and families would see a tax cut.
Last night he said that Obama's plan, "will increase taxes on 50% of small-business revenue." This is flat out blatently false (and not even close to the actual truth):
...according to the nonpartisan Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, a joint effort by two Washington think tanks, less than 3% of small businesses pay taxes in the top two brackets and could therefore see higher taxes. And for most of those small businesses, business revenue represents less than half of their income.
Other whoppers of 2008 can be found here.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Beer Review #7 (Shit Beer Edition): Busch Light


Appearance - Light yellow. Looks like ginger-ale with extra carbonation and fizz.

Smell - Corn, more corn, and sweet metal.

Taste - Corn and water, with the added flavor of the can (mmm... can). Nothing too offensive, but very boring and bland. Quintessential shit beer (they should win a prize for this).

Mouthfeel - Beer flavored seltzer water.

Drinkability - Why? I mean seriously. At least upgrade to Natural Light. Could be good for cooking (I think that's what I'm going to do with the rest).

F/1

Beer Review #6 - Rare Vos (Brewery Ommegang)



Appearance - Pours a light hazy amber with a large frothy white head that holds fairly well and leaves only a slight lacing. Lots of carbonation.

Smell - A somewhat sweet aroma, with apple notes and a little cirtrus hops.
.
Taste - A little sweet/malty, a little spicy, and ends on a sour note, though not as flavorful as the smell might portend. The most prominent flavor is that of sour apple.

Mouthfeel - Medium-bodied. Smooth, crisp, and even somewhat creamy. A little excessive on the carbonation.

Drinkability - Although somewhat muted on flavor, it's an easy and drinkable beer. I probably wouldn't drink more than two in a row, though, because the sourness gets to me

B+/7

Presidential Elections and the Electorial College going all the way back to George Washington



A fascinating trek through history (also don't forget to look at the election facts at the bottom).

American Beers and Breweries (and a little bit of autobiography)

It is only been in the past year and a half that I have come to realize that America does have some great breweries and produces some fantastic beers. Before this, I bought into the meme that almost all American beer is shit. And the fact is that like 50% of American beer sales (by vol) is from the Anheuser-Busch company alone (though is it still an American company?) - which absolutely does produce LOTS of shit: Budweiser and its derivatives (drinkable, but not really anything good about it), Michelob, Rolling Rock, Natural Light (bad beer flavored water), and Busch varieties (we're getting into the real shit).

Unfortunately, this is what a lot of Americans like. Maybe they've bought into the advertising campaign, maybe they just haven't experienced great beer, maybe they only drink beer to get drunk, or maybe they've dulled their taste-buds to the waterry sorta-beer-flavored macro varieties. You know that someone hasn't really learned to appreciate good beer when they think that Guiness (which I actually do love), Heineken, Newcastle, or Amber Bock are high-end beers (yes, I've actually had someone tell me that Amber Bock is high-end).

Nonetheless, the above is mainly what I drank until about the beginning of 2007. Then I fell in with the right crowd of people and started drinking some really good beer. I fell hard and fast for a good IPA (which is still my favorite type of beer), then I worked my way out to various types of stouts and decent APAs. I also started paying more attention to the breweries of some of my favorite beers. Below, which is by no means complete, I've listed my favorite American breweries along with some of my favorite beers from those breweries. A more complet list of great American breweries can be found here on Beeradvocate.

Stone Brewing Co. (Escondido, CA) - My favorite! For my money, consistently the best of the type of brews I like the most. Pick anything up from them!
  • Ruination IPA (DIPA) - One of my favorites. Takes Stone IPA to the next level.
  • Stone IPA (IPA) - A solid IPA. If you want a good introduction to IPAs, start here.
  • Arrogant Bastard Ale (American Strong Ale) - Check out my review here.
Rogue Ales (Ashland, Oregon) - Excellent brewer. I've yet to try a beer I didn't like from them (though I still have a lot to go).
  • Shakespeare Stout (Stout) - Smooth, dark, and balanced. I've reviewed it here.
  • Dead Guy Ale (Maibock) - Sweet and flavorful, emphasizing malt and citrus flavor.
Three Floyds Brewing LLC (Hammond, Indiana) - They have some great brews, but they also have some real doozies (at least for my tastes). Choose carefully.
  • Alpha King (APA) - Light amber, with a delicious citrus and hops flavor.
  • Gumballhead (Wheat Ale) - Citrusy (mainly orange) complemented with hops. One of my favorite wheat ales.
Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)
  • Ommegang Abbey Ale (Dubbel)
  • Hennepin Farmhouse Saison (Saison)
  • Rare Vos Amber Ale (Belgian Dark Ale)
Bells Brewery, Inc. (Kalamazoo, Michigan)
  • Hopslam (DIPA) - VERY hoppy, and high alcohol concentration. One of my favorites for sure!
  • Two Hearted Ale (IPA)
  • Oberon (Wheat Ale) - Not the best brew in the world, but considerably better than most american beer. In the same class as Samuel Adams Boston Lager.
And lets not forget...
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (APA) - I can afford to drink this often, so I do. A great session beer. I've reviewed it here.

Sneak Peak of Ryan Adam's new Abum "Cardinology"


Cardinology is due out Oct 29. If you want a sneak peak of what it will sound like, then there is a compilation of live versions of the songs here. Check it out!

First impressions: I agree with one of the commentators that it might be too jam bandy (as it was in a concert I saw him in about a year ago) and a bit more mellow than I might prefer. But even so I'm definitely looking forward to it.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Why I Like Neil Boortz

Even though he does parody other radio talk show hosts in certain respects (e.g., silly criticisms of Obama), he does have an independent streak in the way he looks at things. (Also, he is not boring, repetitive, or a propagantist hack for the right a la Hannity). I may not agree with what he says in today's Nealz Nuze, but at least it is a voice of fresh air in the conservative dominated radio talk shows:

JUST KEEP THE HATE MAIL COMING! (BY THE WAY, I'M NOT A REPUBLICAN)
Subject: Immaturity of American Voter
Name: Corbett

It's always some excuse with you Republicans. You present us with John McCain as your candidate & then call the American voters immature because they want nothing to do with the author of McCain-Feingold, the man who voted against tax cuts & the man who sabotaged the nomination of conservative judges.

When will you people grow up? Grown up people take responsibility for their mistakes. They don't blame others and they don't call people names for disagreeing with them.

You people nominated a sure loser. You knew he was a loser when you nominated him. Accept the responsibility for your actions & accept the inevitable defeat gracefully.

And be prepared to leave the country because Obama is going to destroy what little bit GWB has left of our liberty.

Thanks for not toeing the line (the more independent you are the better)!

How to Create a Modified, Updated Windows XP Installation Disk - A Quick Guide to Some Resources

Producing a shinny new updated Windows XP disk is easy if you have (or at least know about) the right tools. Assuming you have a XP service pack 2 installation cd (or iso), you can do any of the following if you like:
  • slipstream sp3 into it
  • incorporate hotfikes
  • incorporate, say, SATA drivers - if you want to be able to install in on many (if not most) new computers.
  • incorporate programs like: Firefox, VLC, WP11, IE7, etc.
If you want to integrate Windows Media Player 11, do this before following the instructions below. If you want to integrate drivers from DriverPacks, again, do this before using nLite.

First, make sure you have Net Framework 2.0 installed, and then get a copy of nLite and install it. Then copy the entire content of your WinXP CD in some local folder (e.g., C:\XP). Note: nLite will do copy it for you if you point it to the CD.

If you want to slipstream sp3 into the disk, download it from here.

Get all the programs you want to include in your new XP disc. You can find a ton of them at winAddons. If the program you are interested in is not here, then you can make your own using these instructions (the newest version of this program can be found here).

Although I haven't tested this, you can use this program to download hotfixes.

Download any drivers you want to slipstream (a more generic approach will be discussed below using the drivers at DriverPacks).

Alright, now you should have everything. (Again, if you want to slipstream WMP11, do this before using nLite).
Start nLite, and follow the directions. Some good tutorials on using nLite can be found here and here. I would recommend looking at all the options and getting a good sense of the program. Some more advanced resources about what you can, should, and should not do can be found here, here, and here. Also, don't forget about the MSFN forums (invaluable).

Below I'll discuss two not so obvious things you may be interested in doing when modifying the XP disk: including a large number of SATA drivers (so XP can support newer hardware) and include new files or portable applications on your new XP disk.

SATA DRIVERS

A common reason for slipstreaming XP is to include drivers that support SATA drives. If you try to install XP on your machine, but get the following error message, then this is your problem:



If you want to use nLite to slipstream the necessary drivers, you need to first download them (what they are depends on your hardware), extract them, browse to them in nLite, and select one or more .inf files to integrate.

Suppose you want to install XP on multiple computers with different harddrives? You could obviously download all the requisite drivers and follow the above instructions, but a more general approach would be to to download the SATA drivers from DriverPacks. In particular, you need DriverPacks BASE and DriverPack MassStorage. The BASE package includes a nice intuitive gui to guide you through the process.

INCLUDING ADDITIONAL FILES OR PORTABLE APPS

Portable applications are great. You can carry them around with you on a USB stick, or in the present case, you can include them on a XP installation disk if you know how. The most professionally wrapped portable apps are found here. I wanted to have the most functionality on my installation disk, so I wanted to include the Suite Standard. To do this, or to include any other files you want on your installation disk, you need to understand the $OEM$ options. An important guide for understanding this is here.

The short tutorial is that you create the $OEM$ folder parallel to the i386 folder. I wanted the Suite to be put in the "Programing Files" folder, so inside the $OEM$ folder, I created the $Progs folder and copied the extracted version of the Suite to this directory. You can use this method to copy any files or folders to the installation disk.

A more advanced tutorial can be found here.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

First Impressions of Intrepid Ibex



When Hardy first came out, I was somewhat disappointed. I was experiencing a large number of bugs and unusual system instability. I even listed some of my main complaints here and here.

I've continued to use Hardy, but I've had my eye on the next version of Ubuntu, code-named "Intrepid Ibex", which comes out at the end of the month (October). Rather than wait until it is entirely ready, two nights ago I decided to go ahead and update my entire system to Intrepid and file bug reports when needed.

(Although it is not recommended on production machines, the process of updating to the next version is really easy. It can be done running the following command: sudo update-manager -d)

So far, I've been pleased with my experience. There is nothing revolutionary about Intrepid, but it does feel a lot more stable than Hardy (ironically, even in its present alpha stage). In all honesty, it is the experience I was hoping for with Hardy. Better late than never, I guess.

For one, the whole distro seems to function better as a integrated whole. In particular I had lots of problems with PulseAudio in Hardy: crashing, applications not being properly configured to work with it, or worse yet, applications not even supporting it. Many of these problems seemed to have been fixed, although I'm still pissed with Audacity lack of PulseAudio support (come on Audacity developers - get with it already!).

One of my major complaints with Hardy was the continued instability of Flash on Firefox. I could hardly watch one or two videos on YouTube or CNN without my entire browser crashing. And its been 5 months, and it still hasn't been fixed in Hardy! But so far my experience with Intrepid has been a lot better - I've been browsing heavily for the past day and a half - watching lots of Flash-based video - and Firefox has yet to crash once. Bravo for fixing this! (Shouldn't you backport this fix to Hardy? Seriously.)

Regarding new features - there don't seem to be a great deal. They largely consist of the normal version updates on the applications included in Intrepid. For example the new version of Gnome is out, which offers tabbing in Nautilus among other things. Here are some other application updates I really like: VLC, Network Manager, and of course a newer Linux kernel. Nothing new really jumps out at me.

As of the version that I'm now testing, the Ubuntu developers have yet to finalize the artwork and theming to be included with Intrepid. They have updated the background to a darker grayish brown (which is ok, but nothing special) and they do include a new dark theme that I haven't really been able to get used to. Again, very incrimental.

There are some things that I was hoping would make it into this release but I'm doubtful will. OpenOffice 3 for one (though release candidate 3 just came out, so it might be). It has a bunch of new features that would make a nice addition to my Ubuntu experience, but even so I hope they don't decide to go with it anyway if it's not stable, like they did with Firefox last time.

I was expecting for more of a facelift of Ubuntu, with the addition of lots of good art and theming (or at least the ability to get themes easier). That said, I remain hopeful that more will make it in this release than is presently included.

I would also like major improvements to come to the Evolution client one of these days (though this is mainly work to be done for Gnome developers). In particular, I would like to see:
  • Two way syncronization with Google Calander and Contacts
  • Tab support
  • Better integration with other programs (e.g., Alarm Clocks support of birthdays should be able to access the ones in my contacts)
  • A list of other issues I've already mentioned here.
Overall, though, Intepid is a nice improvement over Hardy. In fact, my hopes for the Hardy release are now being satisfied by Intrepid. Kudos to all the Ubuntu developers!

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