Older blog entries for rcaden (starting at number 73)

Cyber-Cowboy Post-Apocalyptic Kung Fu

I found a great "cyber-cowboy post-apocalyptic fu" music video on another blog this morning. Watch for the appearance of Col. Wilma Deering, the Planet of the Apes Statue of Liberty and the film crew in a mirror:

This video for Muse's "Knights of Cydonia" is the work of Joseph Kahn, a prolific music video director whose next project is a film based on William Gibson's Neuromancer. (Via Stan!.)

Syndicated 2008-10-28 13:44:11 from Workbench

Local Blogger: 'Barack Obama Loathes My Kind'

I mentioned earlier that some of my neighbors in North Florida are having trouble accepting the possibility of an Obama presidency. One of them is Kim "Velociman" Crawford, who's going to flee to the Georgia mountains if Obama wins:

... I firmly believe Barack Obama absolutely loathes my kind. This man will not be content to win the presidency. He will spend his waking hours thereafter not pursuing the legitimate goals of state, but punishing those who would dare to oppose him. ...

Did I mention this man hates me? You and me? Yes he does. Why? Because he can. Yes He Can. Beneath that cool persona is a megalomaniac. Cool? Like Stalin after a purge, emotionally and sexually spent. Like Saddam after a torture session, dozing in his chair with someone's genitals curled in his fist. Like Pol Pot after a petit mal seizure, mumbling a litany of the dead. Cool that way.

So I will cast my pathetic vote, and ramp up my relocation to the mountains. Reduce my footprint. Carbon? That will be a nice byproduct, but I mean my personal footprint. My credit footprint. My interface with authority footprint. I'm researching micro-hydro water turbines for that stream, windmills for water, a half-acre patch for vegetables, a few goats, and a bison. Just because I want a fucking bison.

Velociman's our region's greatest crank, which ought to be an official ceremonial position like poet laureate. One of my favorite posts of his gave a primer on how to speak Southern:

... we talked like many people in southern or rural areas talk. You make eye contact when you address each other, then you look down, at the ground, and spit in the grass, and rub it absent-mindedly with the toe of your shoe. As if to say, I enjoy your company, but not that much. I ain't gay, trucklehead! Talk, spit, rub. Had many a conversation doing that.

Syndicated 2008-10-27 13:46:08 from Workbench

Apache HTTP Server 2.2.10 Released

This afternoon I upgraded the servers that run the Drudge Retort and SportsFilter to Apache 2.2.10, a minor upgrade released on Oct. 15 that fixes a cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in FTP URLs discovered by Marc Bevand of the network security company Rapid 7.

The rest of the changes in the new version look like minor bug fixes.

I compile the Apache web server from source code on both servers, a process that was difficult the first time around but has been easy since then. After I download a new version, I upgrade with three commands:

  1. ./configure --prefix=/usr/local/apache2 --enable-rewrite --enable-so
  2. make
  3. make install

Syndicated 2008-10-27 01:10:15 from Workbench

Arguing Politics During My Vasectomy

To give you an idea of how tough my wife is, she delivered two of our sons via natural childbirth, skipping out on epidural anasthesia in the belief it's better for the baby. One son was 11 pounds and three ounces. When he hit the birth canal, her screams were so loud that I asked for a sedative to calm my nerves. Nurses stuck around after their shifts to find out how much he weighed.

To give you an idea of how tough I am, I researched vasectomies for five years before consenting to the procedure. You can't be too careful about these things. I wanted to give the medical community time to work out the kinks.

So it's last Friday, and I find myself at Planned Parenthood in Jacksonville, lying flat on my back with my pants around my ankles, trying to find my happy place. A urologist begins handling up on my junk, explaining each step in the process with the unabashed enthusiasm of Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Desperate to change the subject, I look away from my imperiled dingus and tell the doctor about a problem I had completing the online registration on his web site. The components of the web form disappear on Mozilla Firefox when you begin to input data. I had to switch to Internet Explorer to get it to work. He seems interested. We lament cross-platform browser incompatibilities and get into a debate about whether Safari or Firefox is the second most popular browser among users. He lays a surgical drape around my genitals. I let him win the argument.

I tell him that I publish sites, and when he asks which ones I am faced with a socially difficult decision: Do I tell the person approaching my wang with a cauterization tool that I publish a stridently liberal web site?

Keep in mind that we're in conservative North Florida, where doctors and just about everybody else are rock-ribbed Republicans and the presidential campaign's getting angrier by the day. Some of my neighbors in this right-wing community are finding it difficult to accept that a Democrat might win the White House. They thought a cure had been found for that disease years ago.

I bite the bullet and tell the doctor about the Drudge Retort. My wife, who's in the room observing the surgery without an ounce of squeamishness, visibly winces.

The doctor's Douglas G. Stein, a Tampa urologist who offers a no-scalpel, no-needle vasectomy procedure that's advertised throughout the state. His web site offers more reassurance to fearful patients than my wife was ever offered before childbirth. I'm not the only guy with a heightened sense of anxiety regarding my tallywacker.

How is vasectomy done without a scalpel?

No-scalpel vasectomy instruments, used in China since the mid-70's and introduced into the United States in 1989, are simply a very pointy hemostat, used initially to make a tiny opening into anesthetized skin of the scrotal wall, and a ring clamp, used initially to secure each vas tube in turn beneath this opening. The pointy hemostat is then used to spread all layers (the vas sheath) down to the vas tube itself and to then deliver a small loop of the vas through the opening as the ring clamp is released. In turn, the ring clamp is used to hold the vas, while the pointy hemostat spreads adherent tissue and blood vessels away from the vas under direct vision, so that the vas can then be divided with a fine surgical scissors and the upper end cauterized with a hand-held cautery unit so that it will seal closed.

How is vasectomy done without a needle?

Traditionally, a local anesthetic has been injected into the skin and alongside each vas tube with a very fine needle, as small as diabetics use to inject themselves with insulin. One could feel a tiny poke in the skin, then a bit of a squeeze as the anesthetic was applied to each vas tube. However, most people do not like needles of any size ... especially there!

A MadaJet is a spray applicator which delivers a fine stream of liquid anesthetic at a pressure great enough to penetrate the skin to a depth of about 3/16", deep enough to envelop the vas tube held snugly beneath the skin. Each vas is positioned in turn beneath the very middle of the front scrotal wall and given two or three squirts. That numbs the skin and both vas tubes adequately for 99% of men.

Stein becomes so animated talking politics that he doesn't announce the cauterization of my first vas tube. I figure it out when I spot a small wisp of smoke rising to the ceiling above my bits and pieces.

When I mention with excitement my recent Obama rally trip to Orlando, he asks if I saw the following billboard on my drive down Interstate 4.

McSame billboard bought in Florida by vasectomy doctor Douglas G. Stein

I say that I did, still unsure whether the doctor -- who has one testicle to go -- leans left or right.

At this point, Stein offers a final bit of reassurance: "Those are my billboards."

As Florida blogger Jim White recently discovered, Stein replaced several of his vasectomy billboards across the state with the cutting message "Stop McSame." Stein tells me with great excitement the interest his effort has generated. White calls this campaign "preventing unwanted presidents."

I relax, to the extent that it's ever possible to relax while a stranger applies scissors to your mantackle.

Syndicated 2008-10-25 21:23:15 from Workbench

Henry Hey's 'Palin Song'

Before you dismiss Palin Song as a slam against the candidate, listen to it a few times to see how jazz musician Henry Hey stalks her speech with his piano.

The song takes me back to Mister Rogers neighborhood. (Via Michael Sippey.)

Syndicated 2008-10-23 22:18:30 from Workbench

Going to Buckethead at Jacksonville's Freebird Live

Last night I took my 12-year-old son to see Buckethead at Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach. In the past year all three of my sons have developed an appreciation for, and I hope I'm using the term properly here, people who can shred an axe. They acquired this taste by spending most of their waking hours and some REM sleep playing Guitar Hero.

To give you an idea of how out of place I was at this event, the last musician I saw perform live was Janet Jackson at the MGM Grand in Vegas back in 1994. Yes, I'm a part of the Rhythm Nation. When I mentioned that I had attended this concert to my son and his teen-aged friend and nephew on the drive up, they didn't know enough about her to be mortified.

For those not yet familiar with Buckethead, he's a former guitarist for Guns N' Roses who plays his own instrumental guitar songs, most of which are thundering heavy metal riffs played at such a ferocious pace they're perfect for masochistic pattern-recognition videogames. I first discovered this performer when his song Jordan was played around 1,000 times in my house as an unlockable bonus track on Guitar Hero II.

Buckethead performing at Jacksonville's Freebird Live, photo by Anders LindquistBut you really don't know Buckethead until you've seen Buckethead. He played Wednesday wearing his usual attire -- a bucket on his head, expressionless Michael Myers mask, one-piece work dungarees and Converse All-Stars. Last night he wore a plain white sandpail instead of what we were expecting, a KFC bucket scrawled with the word "Funeral." Although I read somewhere that his outfit's a consequence of shyness, the presentation makes him look like someone who has killed and will kill again.

I'd never been to Freebird Live, a concert venue owned by Judy Van Zant-Jenness, the widow of Lynyrd Skynrd founder Ronnie Van Zant. The place holds around 700 people, who can either watch downstairs or from a balcony that overhangs the stage. We watched upstairs from a perch close enough to drop a cameraphone on Buckethead, because I know that if I ever enter a mosh pit I will fall and break a hip.

Apparently there's a protocol for moshing at Freebird that allows it at some performances but not others. Early in Buckethead's set, a guy in his early twenties began banging around, clearing out a widening circle between himself and a bunch of unhappy people who held up the universal hand gesture for "step off, motherfucker." When a bald guy finally showed up and reciprocated his desire to become human pinballs, they had just gotten started when giant security guards wrapped them up and dragged them off.

This was probably for the best. When only two people are moshing, they look like the preliminary rutting ritual of adolescent male elk. I would not be surprised to learn they're now dating.

Considering the location, I was shocked and disappointed that nobody yelled "Freebird".

I'm afraid of liking a band for fear it will ruin them for my kids, but Buckethead rocked. We didn't bail until after he played "Jordan" around midnight, and I can still hear the song in my tinnitis. The bass was so loud downstairs I was afraid it might alter the electrical impulses of my heart. I went to bed twitching like Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.

Credit: The photo from last night's concert was taken by Anders Lindquist.

Syndicated 2008-10-23 16:22:38 from Workbench

Obama Rally Brings Thousands to Orlando

I made the two-hour trek to Orlando yesterday to attend my first Barack Obama campaign rally, an event that brought 40,000 to 60,000 people to a plaza outside Amway Arena. Arriving around an hour before the event, I knew to avoid the streets around the arena and parked my car at the Citrus Bowl, where buses were available.

Most of Obama's speech was so familiar I could have delivered it myself, as someone who has seen every one of the 30-plus debates he has participated in during this long campaign. One of his new remarks was a response to Sarah Palin's recent comment where she objected to the McCain campaign's use of robocalls. Obama said you'd have to go pretty far to violate Palin's standards for negative campaigning.

Father and son attending the Barack Obama campaign rally at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida. Picture by Rob McCulloughHillary Clinton, making her first joint appearance with Obama since July, gave a sharp 15-minute speech that tied John McCain to President Bush's economic policies and touted the record of the last Democratic president on the economy. She coined a new slogan, "Jobs, baby, jobs!", that was chanted a few times by the crowd. For some reason, chanting is harder in person than it seems like it would be on television. I couldn't keep up with the speed of the crowd racing through "Yes we can!" and "O-BA-MA!", and I found myself wishing that Democrats had a few more well-practiced exhortations in our repertoire, like "U-S-A!"

Both Clinton and Obama focused almost entirely on economic concerns. "At this rate, the question isn't just, 'Are you better off than you were four years ago?'" Obama said. "It's 'are you better off than you were four weeks ago?'"

I needed too much personal space to get close to the stage, relying instead on a giant screen to follow the speeches. (You can find me in Flickr photographer Rob McCullough's crowd shot, where I'm an unshaven gray-haired smudge with a tree growing out of my head.) Throughout the event, black families, some with aging grandparents and young children, gently moved through attendees to get closer. Although the crowd was racially and generationally diverse, you couldn't miss the emotion of blacks who had come to see Obama's first event in the city. As an adopted Floridian who has learned the tragic history of race relations in the Sunshine State during my decade here, I had to marvel at the progress that brought some of the older Americans in attendance past central Florida's Rosewood massacre, Klan lynchings, poll taxes and the civil rights struggle to this amazing moment in time.

Despite the size of the crowd and the zeal of some attendees to get a better spot, I can't recall a large event I've attended where people were in a better mood. Even at the Citrus Bowl, where more than 2,000 people were still in line to get on buses 15 minutes before the 6 p.m. start of the event, I heard no complaints.

Stories from early voting sites across Florida and other states this week describe huge lines where people aren't leaving, no matter how long it takes. Looking at the bus line in Orlando and the faces of the crowdgoers who made it to the rally on time, I think there are millions of Americans who regard casting their vote this year as one of the biggest milestones of their lives. Turnout this year will be massive.

On the way back to the Citrus Bowl, as we drove through a dodgy neighborhood right on the outskirts of downtown, a car avoided an accident by swerving towards the bus and stopped a few feet from riders seated behind the driver. Even that near-miss didn't sour the mood.

Credit: The photo from the Obama rally was taken by McCullough.

Syndicated 2008-10-21 15:54:38 from Workbench

Hosting Unlimited Blogs with TypePad Premium

Matt Haughey, the founder of MetaFilter and one of the pioneers of blogging, recently moved his self-hosted personal blog to TypePad:

I really like Typepad and though I'm giving up things like custom .htaccess redirects for old posts and my old permalink URLs, I'm gaining things like the easiest to use posting UI available and most importantly, I'll never need to update any software by hand ever again.

It's been a long, frustrating week with several days spent trying to move off Wordpress (I was tired of my weblog app chiding me for upgrades every two weeks) followed by several days trying to get MT to work followed by brief experiments with Textpattern followed by giving up and finishing here.

I made the same journey, installing several weblog publishing programs on my server before throwing in the towel because of frequent security and feature updates. I finally decided last year to buy a $299 yearly subscription to TypePad that gives me unlimited hosted blogs, each of which can be published at its own domain, use guest authors, and employ advanced templates.

I'm still publishing Workbench with software that I wrote, but all new sites that I create begin as TypePad blogs. I love being able to turn an idea into a web site in five minutes, particularly when I'm creating sites with other people. Now, when I pester somebody I know to begin a blog, I fire up TypePad and create one for them to show how easy it is.

So far, I've only run into one area where using TypePad was problematic. The service makes it easy to incorporate content from other sites on a blog using widgets, but I couldn't find a widget for adding Google AdSense or any other ads to a blog. I had to put the ad code in a TypeList and give the list an empty title containing nothing but space characters (" ").

This workaround is awkward, because you end up with a bunch of no-title TypeLists containing ad code for different blogs. Finding the code later, when changes need to be made, will be an enormous pain in the ass.

Six Apart has been extremely responsive to new developments in blogging, adding new features to TypePad as they become popular in other publishing tools. It was one of the first companies to adopt the recommendations of the RSS Profile, such as including an atom:link element to identify a feed's URL.

Syndicated 2008-10-21 14:22:59 from Workbench

Michelle Malkin, Commercial Good

I just noticed today that Michelle Malkin is a registered trademark:

Goods and Services: IC 041. US 100 101 107. G & S: Online journals, namely, blogs featuring commentaries, opinions and original reporting about news and current events. FIRST USE: 20040608. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20040608
Standard Characters Claimed
Serial Number: 78716788
Filing Date: September 20, 2005
Current Filing Basis: 1A
Original Filing Basis: 1A
Published for Opposition: September 19, 2006
Registration Number: 3180093
Registration Date: December 5, 2006
Assignment Recorded: ASSIGNMENT RECORDED
Attorney of Record: David Zibelli
Type of Mark: SERVICE MARK
Live/Dead Indicator: LIVE

I have the strongest urge to use Michelle Malkin inappropriately.

Syndicated 2008-10-16 17:45:13 from Workbench

McCain's Attacks Missed Target in Third Debate

During Wednesday night's third and final presidential debate, the former fighter pilot John McCain proved that he doesn't know how to land an attack. Whether due to discomfort or ineptitude, McCain brought up ACORN and William Ayers in a way that had to be utterly baffling to people who don't follow politics closely.

Picking up a week-long Republican campaign against the voter-registration organization ACORN, McCain said this during the debate:

We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy. The same front outfit organization that your campaign gave $832,000 for "lighting and site selection." So all of these things need to be examined, of course.

That's the entirety of what McCain said about ACORN. Though it sounds bad, the attack is less credible because McCain skimps on details. ACORN, which wasn't even an issue a week ago, now threatens to destroy democracy's fabric -- we must elect McCain to be democracy's seamstress!

Because McCain was so short on specifics, Obama stepped in and explained the ACORN controversy to the debate's audience in a manner that's likely to retire the issue entirely. "ACORN is a community organization," Obama said. "Apparently what they've done is they were paying people to go out and register folks, and apparently some of the people who were out there didn't really register people, they just filled out a bunch of names. It had nothing to do with us. We were not involved."

McCain's reference to "lighting and site selection" was so obscure that I only could find one reporter who tried to explain it in his debate story. Paul West of the Baltimore Sun wrote:

[Obama] did not respond to McCain's charge about $832,000 that Obama's campaign spent during the primaries for what it says were canvassing activities.

The Obama campaign originally had said the expense included "lighting and site selection," as McCain pointed out, then later filed an amended spending report.

The $832,000 was paid not to ACORN but to Citizen Services, a campaign services firm affiliated with ACORN, according to an August Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article. The firm, which collected signatures and managed past minimum-wage ballot campaigns in four states, was paid by the Obama campaign for work conducted during the primaries from February through May. The campaign amended its FEC filing to indicate the payment was for "get-out-the-vote" efforts.

Though the relationship is worth examination because that's a large campaign expenditure, no evidence has been uncovered to suggest anything improper occured. A Democratic politician hired a political firm affiliated with the largest voter registration organization on the left. I've read several right-wing bloggers who allege that Obama's campaign tried to hide an attempt to pay ACORN by hiring Citizen Services, but their affiliation has never been a secret. A 2006 ACORN publication described the firm as "ACORN's campaign services entity."

McCain did little better with details on Ayers, claiming that he's a "washed-up terrorist" who launched Obama's first run for political office in his living room and said in 2001 he wished he had "bombed more." McCain also said that together the two men "sent $230,000 to ACORN."

Republican partisans have believed for months that Ayers was a relationship so toxic that any attempt by Obama to explain it would just make him look worse. But as Obama explained accurately last night, Ayers was an education professor respected by Chicago's political establishment by the time he met him in the '90s. Republicans and Democrats alike served with him on boards and funded his educational initiatives.

Because McCain gave the shorthand version of the Ayers controversy, Obama filled in the details for him:

Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, he engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts. Ten years ago he served and I served on a school reform board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan's former ambassadors and close friends, Mr. Annenberg.

Other members on that board were the presidents of the University of Illinois, the president of Northwestern University, who happens to be a Republican, the president of The Chicago Tribune, a Republican-leaning newspaper.

Mr. Ayers is not involved in my campaign. He has never been involved in this campaign. And he will not advise me in the White House.

Ayers did some loathsome things 40 years ago and continues to hold obnoxious views about his actions, but he was never convicted of a crime -- prosecutorial misconduct hindered the effort. He used that opportunity to rehabilitate himself and carry on a distinguished career in education. Anyone who finds it unacceptable that he was welcomed into Chicago political circles should explain the post-crime treatment of G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, who continue to be heroes to the right.

If politics is about defining somebody before they define you, McCain's clumsy attacks on ACORN and Ayers just gave Obama the opportunity to address them in his most favorable light. Voters think those subjects are distractions from the economic mess. The days the McCain campaign spent on them have left him with a double-digit deficit in most polls and a 1-in-20 chance to win, according to the poll analysis site FiveThirtyEight.Com.

During the debate, all McCain got out of the attacks was the sour response of CNN's independent voters. Every time he mentioned Ayers or ACORN, their opinion plummeted faster than the Dow Jones Index.

Syndicated 2008-10-16 17:00:18 from Workbench

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