The people complaining about the iPad not having Flash sound a lot like the people complaining when the original iMac was released without a floppy drive. The product is going to fail, how can people get along without such a requisite technology, etc.

Well, people did, and finding a computer with a floppy drive has become rather difficult these days. Flash is a resource-hogging, bloated security risk on computers these days, and while technologies like HTML5 might not be a complete solution just yet, Apple leaving Flash off of such devices as the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad are a nudge in the correct direction.
Another compilation of a couple of Glenn Greenwald articles that have caught my eye.

In 2004, Donald Rumsfeld directed the Defense Science Board Task Force to study something I have been talking about all along - the theory that our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq - as well as our actions at Guantanamo Bay - are actually creating more terrorists than we are "eliminating". I am pleased, if a bit surprised, that Rumsfeld ordered such a study, but I would be even more pleased, and even more surprised, if anyone actually took action based on its findings. (.PDF)

What, exactly, did the report find? )
I recommend you read the entire lj-cut, but if you do not, here it is summed up:
American direct intervention in the Muslim World has paradoxically elevated the stature of and support for radical Islamists
Another PDF worth reading is a resignation letter from a former Marine Captain who was the the senior U.S. civilian in the Taliban-dominated Southern Afghanistan province of Zabul. One of his points is that most insurgents do not fight for the Taliban, but rather just against foreign soldiers.
So Facebook announced a change in their Privacy Controls. I am a big privacy advocate, and I was excited to see a change in what I have considered a confusing and difficult to use system for controlling who sees what on your profile.

One of my biggest issues has been with the "transition tool" that Facebook is requiring all users to go through this week.

An image under the cut... )

The problem? I had my facebook profile locked down pretty tightly.

In the middle we have a list of objects on a facebook profile, with options regarding who can see what. Facebook seems to be suggesting that opening up my profile so more people can see things would somehow be more secure. In addition, I have no way of seeing on this page what my "old settings" are. How am I supposed to make an informed decision with this complete lack of information?

On the right side I am told that facebook now shares, with everyone, *more* information than previously, and I have no way of controlling or limiting that access.

So how, again, is this helping me controlling my privacy?
This evening, I let my emotions get the best of me when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill. While I disagree with the president's statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.

-From South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's apology for yelling "You lie!" during the President's speech to Congress

Have we gotten to the point where one of the two major parties seems to campaign and run using falsehoods? I would say that it started with the Swift Boat campaign against John Kerry, but I realize that one could look at the justification for the invasion of Iraq as maybe the first salvo. Either way, we are now faced with people at these town hall meetings yelling complete falsehoods. Where, for example, did this idea of Death Panels come from? More importantly, though, how are members Congress bringing up the idea of Death Panels as if there is any basis in fact for them?

What bothers me so much about the above quote from Rep. Wilson is this one line. I want to repeat it and give it emphasis again:
I disagree with the president's statement
So Rep. Wilson is still calling the President a liar? I can really not get any other meaning out of this quote from his statement. Is there any other possible meaning?
A random list of things that really bug me on a very regular basis, in no real order at all:

1) Web pages that insist on opening links in new windows. Really, I use tabs. I am a power user. I can do window management on my own. I really do not need some random web developer somewhere trying to determine when I need a new window open. The worst was a web page I went to to today for a retirement fund of mine. About the only link on the home page? "Member Log-In". That link opens a log-in page in another page. What is the use of that? Why do I need to keep the original home page open in a background window?

On a related note, I use Safari for web-browsing. Why is there no option for "ignore open in new window"?

2) Sinks that have a huge basin but a short faucet. I am using "short" to mean the distance from the rear wall of the basin to where the faucet actually has water come out of it. I have seen countless sinks that have huge basins, but I still bang my hands on the back of the basin when I am rinsing my hands. Why do faucet manufacturers not take advantage of the ever-expanding basins they are being installed in?

3) Baby pictures as profile pictures. I have been trying to track down childhood friends of mine on Facebook. I have a a difficult enough time trying to remember people's names, not to mention trying to recognize faces that have aged many, many years. Add to that when people put their new baby's face (and only the baby's face) up as a profile picture and my job has just gotten much more difficult. Why not just put up a picture of you HOLDING your baby instead?

4) Web pages asking for credit card information that refuse to realize that most every credit card has its expiration date listed as numbers, not a month written out. If my credit card has an expiration date of 5/11, I should not have to count through the months to remember that May is the fifth month because I have to choose it in a list consisting of January, February, and so on. Why not instead write them as numbers? Or, even better, write them as "1 - January, 2 - February" and so on? Make it easier on everyone!

On a related note, why does every credit card entry page require me to tell them what kind of card it is? Do they not realize that the first couple of digits of the actual credit card number indicates what kind of card it is?

5) Bike riders on sidewalk/one-way streets. As someone who has been without a car for over five years now, I use a lot of alternative forms of transportation. In the last year or so I have been riding my bike more and more. As a result I have started paying more attention to how other bike riders choose to ride. The ones that stand out as bothering me the most are the ones that choose to ride on sidewalks when there are a lot of pedestrians. In several cities it is illegal to operate a bike on the sidewalks, and yet here they are. Get on the road.

And while you are on the road, do not go the wrong way on a one-way street. it is dangerous, and gives bike riders everywhere a bad name.

The worst, however, are the bike riders who choose to ride on the sidewalk when there is a bike lane! I realize that a bike lane is not the ultimate in safety, but use it!

Anyway, those are my rants for today.
So I decided to replace the lightbulbs in my ceiling fan with some CFLs. Easy enough, I figured, just make a quick trip to Ikea or Target. Having been to both of these places, I returned home without any CFLs. Turns out that the fan uses a rare sized light bulb and neither place carried a bulb that would fit.

I did some research and found that I was not alone. Looks like this was due to a loophole in the Energy Policy Act of 1005 that required, among other things, that ceiling fans that have lights ship with CFLs to fit inside all medium sized bases (E26). The loophole is that if the fan does not have any medium-sized bases, the fan can ship with whatever lights it wants provided they do not use more than 190W.

What does the fan industry do, as best seen by Home Depot and their Hampton Bay house brand? They switch their fans from Medium bases (E26) to intermediate bases (E17). That allows them to ship with the cheaper (energy-wasting) incandescent bulbs.

Home Depot will make it up to you - they are just about the only place you can buy an E17 CFL bulb. So first they save money on the fan (and avoiding the spirit of the Energy Bill), and then make more money on you when you want to get CFLs for the fan they sold you.

(As a point of reference - the fan in question shipped with four 40W bulbs - a total of 160W. I am looking to replace them with bulbs between about 7W-10W, for a total of 40W)
For some time now I have been meaning to write an entry talking about the glaring differences between Obama the Candidate and Obama the President. A political blogger, Glenn Greenwald, did a fairly good recap of the hypocrisy of the Obama administration, at least with regards to Obama's campaign "promise" to bring more openness and transparency to the government.

Obama's administration, for all of you campaigning so hard for him last year, has seemingly embraced the Bush administration's stance on dozens of very important policies regarding secrecy.

Most bothersome, and as Mr. Greenwald points out in later entries, is Obama's acceptance of torture. You might be saying to yourself "But CIA-sanctioned torture ended under the Bush administration!" I would agree, although with some reservations given both administrations' views on keeping bad things secret so far. Obama, however, endorses torture by not investigating the people responsible for what most people agree was probably against the Geneva Convention and international law, if not in fact than at least in spirit. If Obama sets a president by which we say that we will not investigate past war crimes committed by US politicians, it opens the doors for current and future politicians, Obama included, to continue to ignore these laws.

We hold other countries accountable to international law. We berate Iran for violently putting down protests. We urge China to get better about human rights. And yet we cannot even investigate the possibility that we went against these very laws ourselves?

No, this is not the "change" people were expecting when they voted for Obama. This seems to be a continuation of Bush's policies.
So I have written about my lifestyle before. I have often run into issues with government identification. I have often wondered why a driver's license requires an address (which in turn has fairly strict proof-of-residence requirements). Tax forms become difficult. Most years I have income from three or more states.

When my addresses change on more of a monthly basis than yearly, it is one thing to update addresses in various online places so that tax forms, shipping addresses, and so on find me. Updating my driver's license becomes an expense and time-waste I do not need in my life.

So now I find myself updating my passport. I am not a fan, since the new US passports contain RFID chips and other troublesome technologies. My lifestyle and desire to travel out of the country requires me to do this, however, and so I start the process.

I start on the paperwork only to find that there is now a required field labelled "Occupation". There is another one, optional, labelled "Employer".

What kind of question is that? Why is this needed at all? What should I list, given my current lifestyle and the fact that the passport will be good for ten years?

Any suggestions from the peanut gallery on what I should list in this field?
Why, oh why, will the stupid cat not eat?

Just eat the food!
So Verizon apparently does not want us to have Internet access here in the apartment. Five phone calls later and I am still stuck with a DSL modem blinking uninformatively.

Going to go with Comcast, I think, although that will be next week before they can arrange an appointment to hook us up. RCN apparently cannot figure out if they can service our address.

How difficult is this?
What does Apple have against PHP?

First the default PHP install on Leopard does not include GD Library, then I learn that Leopard also does not include PEAR by default anymore, either.
So there is a good number of runners here in the Athens area. As someone who has been running for 20+ years, I do have some advice for the runners I see out on the streets:

1) If you are running with a friend, good for you! But wearing your iPod headphones while running with them seems a bit rude.
2) If you really want music while you run, I would suggest that instead of spending $30+ on an armband for your heavy iPod Video, iPod Classic, or iPhone, you instead pony up the $49 for an iPod Shuffle. Imagine - an iPod designed with things like running in mind! Lighter weight, with a built in clip and everything!
3) It is an unwritten rule around tracks that slower people stay in the outside lanes. That means if you are walking on the 8 lane track, you should generally be in lanes 5-8. If you are jogging, lanes 3 and 4. Leave lanes 1 and 2 open for people who are doing speedwork.

Also - one of my biggest pet peeves is bike riders who ride on the sidewalks on roads where there are dedicated bike lanes. In addition, Any person who is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk shall yield the right of way to any pedestrian.. This means if you are riding your bike on the sidewalk, you have to yield (get out of my way) to me.
A few interesting stories:
The US government is doing all of this on behalf of you, gentle reader. While you might think "the Republicans are doing this", remember that the outside world makes no such distinction. The outside world sees a budding dictator grabbing power, while pushing other countries around. The US is not beyond holding "prisoners" from other countries indefinitely, without trial, and while torturing them.

You, fair reader, are a US citizen. These things are being done on your behalf, in your name.

And $11.2 billion for some helicopters? That is simply insane.
So a guy on facebook was asking about being an RC. I wrote him back saying he could ask me any questions. He sent me a few questions, and then I rambled on some answers.
I'm tossing between an RD job at a university and a RC job at IMSA.
What is the institution like as a workplace? Are they truly receptive to change or my voice?
What sort of a leadership role did you have? Was it necessary to be an enforcer, checking beds, etc.?
It strikes me that there might be a vibe of arrogance amongst the faculty and students, is this the case?
What is the best/worst part of you job?

A few answers:

As a disclaimer, I have been gone from IMSA for four years, and there has been a bit of a change at IMSA during that time (new president, slight change in the Res. Life staff), so my experiences should be taken with that in mind. That said, I do not foresee IMSA having changed some of the things I will comment on.

In addition, my experience prior to IMSA was not in Res. Life, it was with gifted/talented student. This put me in the minority in the Res. Life staff, as most came from higher ed. Res. Life.

1) The institution, in my opinion, has one big problem: It has been too successful for its own good. It has completed its mission of improving math/science education in Illinois. As a result, it is suddenly not the only place for a student to go to get a good education in Illinois. As a result, IMSA is facing applicant shortages and therefore has to face difficult questions like "Do we take less qualified applicants in order to keep our enrollment up?", "If we take fewer students, how do we justify our budget to the state?" and so on.

This directly effects any employee who works "front-line" with students. A student who probably deserves to be kicked out (and sent home to his/her home school) might not be - IMSA cannot afford to lose too many students. Power dynamics, which I will go into a little more detail later, shifts dramatically, as suddenly parents and students have a lot more power and say in the school.

As an RC you have very little say in the overall issues facing the school. The Res. Life staff has quite a bit of latitude when it comes to "small picture" changes, but some of the larger "This is an issue that is effecting all IMSA students, and needs to be changed at high levels" will be largely ignored. To some degree the Res. Life department is treated as a compartmentalized box within the institution, and not really integrated into the institution. Again, this was under the older President, and things may have changed with the new one.

2) As I said, my background was working with gifted/creative teens in a variety of settings, including residential settings. As a result I was used to what my day-to-day job requirements were. I did see some people with higher ed. Res. Life backgrounds come in and have a pretty serious shock.

As an RC, you are in charge of a wing of 20-24 students. These students will generally be broken up into equal parts sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Most of the students in your wing will be fairly self-sufficient. They will be able to get themselves up and showered every morning, and will get to class. They will generally do their homework, and get reasonable grades. You will still be a lot more involved with their lives, however, than you were in a higher ed. position. If you are working, you will be checking each night to make sure they are in the building. You will be talking to them about bad exams, and you will be used as a resource a lot more often when they are having issues with their girlfriends and so on.

The sophomores (first year IMSA students) will require some "training" to get themselves to be self-sufficient enough to be able to do that routine without someone over their shoulder. Your involvement in their lives will be more significant as a result, at least for the first few months of the school year.

In all it is a much more hands-on position than in a college residence hall. That said, you are really not tucking them in at night, and you are generally only there to correct things they are getting behind on. They do not report good grades to you, but each week you will get a list of all your students who have done poorly that week (be it not turning in homework, failing an exam, or falling asleep repeatedly in class). It is then your job to follow up with the student, talk to him, and either come up with a plan of change between you two, or direct him to the numerous resources IMSA offers students (be it academic or otherwise).

3) There is definitely a vibe of arrogance. Students all think they are going to go off to MIT and be a leading scientist. Each year a couple will do that. The other 150+ will go off to the University of Illinois and lead fairly routine lives. A good number will fail out of the U of I, having been burned out on academics at IMSA. Students will think they are smarter than you are. At times they might be academically more intelligent, but the students will assume this means they are also more common-sense intelligent, and more real-world intelligent. Obviously this is not the case.

Faculty think of themselves as more college professors than high school teachers. There are some exceptions, but by and large they leave academic assistance up to "someone else". In general they are supportive, but aloof.

When it comes down to it, there are several blocs all vying for power at IMSA. There is the "main building faculty and staff" (employees not in Res. Life), there are students, there are parents, and there is Res. Life. Each is trying to exert power over the others. Res. Life is definitely at the bottom of the totem pole in this struggle. Anytime any two of these groups gang up on another group, they win. For example, anytime parents and students agree on something, in general the administration will cave, at least a little bit. It seems strange to say it, but there is definitely a bit of faculty vs. Res. Life struggle, as well, and more often than not Res. Life walks away the loser in that one.

4) I realize thus far I have painted a fairly negative picture of IMSA. I actually generally enjoyed my time working there. My favorite parts were the students, and my coworkers. I worked with some amazing Res. Life staff members, and I worked with some amazing students. I am still in touch with a number of students. Some of them are going off to graduate schools now. It is amazing to look back and realize "wow, for three years I basically raised these kids."

They come to you when their girlfriend dumped them, and they come to you when they are giving a presentation and want you to be there. To large degree you are their older brother / parent for three important years.

I suppose, looking back now, that it was too easy to get caught up in the "larger picture" issues at IMSA. When I simply concentrated on the students, things were going pretty well. Of course part of the position is being an advocate for your students, and that requires sticking your head up and trying to get things done.

Anyway, that is my little ramble. Let me know if you have any other questions.
So we learned yesterday about Heath Ledger. I am somewhat amazed at the responses I have seen from people. Disbelief, outpouring of sadness, and everything else. I suppose, more than anything, I have been surprised at the amount of emotions displayed about the news.

I suppose this is where Uncle NoWalmart takes a seat in his rocking chair and says "Back in my day..." and other "Ehh, I am old!" sort of things, but I feel the need to say them.

I suppose each decade sees a fairly well known figure die before his/her time, and each teens/20-somethings cohort takes it as its own. Some are obviously bigger than others - the deaths of JFK, RFK, and MLK in the span of a five years, for example, were much more culturally significant that any group of people who died in the 1970s. The 70s did have at least one very notable death - Elvis Presley.

The 80s started off with a bang, seeing John Lennon shot to death less than a year into the decade.

The 90s had its fair share - JFK Jr. Jerry Garcia. Princess Diana.

For me, however, the celebrity death for me was 8 April 1994. I even remember where I was when I heard that Kurt Cobain was dead.

That first celebrity death did have an impact on me. As time went on, though, celebrity deaths meant less and less to me. The death of a stranger that I only knew from the skewed perspective of the mass-media? Really meaningless to me at this point. I feel bad for his family and friends, but no more than any other individual who died before their time.

I suppose I should not be overly surprised by the emotion and attention surrounding Heath Ledger's death - the first decade of this millennium has been somewhat lacking in celebrity deaths.
So I was looking for vacuum cleaners online. I checked Overstock.com, and then went to Amazon.com. I found the categories I wanted at Amazon (Upright Vacuums and Canister Vacuums). I knew about the price range I wanted, so I sorted based on price, from low to high. Two issues become quickly evident.

1) Amazon's categories are not always even close to correct. Canister vacuums have almost two pages of range pans and oven elements.

2) "Sorting" is a rough estimate. For a long time I thought that the sort was based not on Amazon's price, but on the silly "Used & new" price they also list. If I am going to Amazon's site it is because I have purchased through them, I trust them as a merchant, and I want to buy from them. No where in my preferences does it have a checkmark for "Never show me used and non-Amazon merchants". If I wanted that, I would be looking at eBay.

Look at this picture, though. Note in the top right it is sorted low to high, and then tell me how the items numbered 51, 52, and 53 are in some sort of order.

As a result of all of this I generally end up using Amazon to order exact items I know I want. When "browsing" for an item, though, I get frustrated and usually end up buying elsewhere.
So most Americans feel that we should have a timetable for a withdraw from Iraq.

President Bush says that doing so will tie the hands of the generals on the ground. That doing so will mean that the insurgents/terrorists have won.

I have written before that I do not know what "winning in Iraq" would look like, and I think that most Americans are coming around to asking just that question. I do not think it is so much that we want a certain date when the troops in Iraq will be brought back, but rather we want to know under what conditions the troops will be brought home.

President Bush seems to be waiting for us to "win", but between the fact that Iraq seems to be in the middle of a mild civil war (how does an outsider not choosing side "win" a civil war?) and the fact that our very presence seems to be causing some of the fighting, what does "winning" mean in Iraq?

Americans may seem to not remember things, but I think the fact that we have a sizable number of troops in both Germany and South Korea is still in the back of our collective minds. Then we can look at Vietnam. Sure, Vietnam is not doing *extremely* well, but we have to question if our withdraw from that country helped everyone out in the long run.

So tell us, President Bush, what does "winning" in Iraq look like, and how long are we going to have to wait for that to happen?

In other news, Governor Corzine has paid his $46 fine for not wearing his seatbelt. The taxpayers of New Jersey should be relieved. I mean, I am sure it is their hard-earned taxes that are paying for the hospital bed he had moved into the Governor's Mansion. That $46 will go a long way towards helping with the costs related to his selfish decision.

The vehicle's "black box" reports that the Suburban was traveling at 91mph at the time of the crash.

All of this demonstrates two preconceived notions: 1) Powerful people believe themselves immune from normal "problems" like car wrecks, and 2) The police believe themselves such good drivers that they are able to somehow drive a vehicle weighing near 6000 lbs. at 90+ mph in traffic for extended times and not have something happen.
Sometimes I wonder why I post political posts here. It seems to me that the vast majority, if not the entirety, of my readership is composed of people who might not agree with the solution, but who do agree with the fact that there are enormous problems with the current administration.

Maybe just as fuel for any possible Bush-supporter you run into?

Anyway, today's latest is actually from a couple of weeks ago. It is an analysis piece written by a United Press International correspondent.

If you have been following the news regarding the Congressional spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, you already know that the Armed Forces are getting close to completely running out of money. SUre, there is talk here and there about being able to shift money around here and there, but ultimately, sometime in May or early June, regular operations such as training might have to be suspended until a spending bill passes.

President Bush is using this as leverage. If the Democrats pass a spending bill with requirements regarding the U.S. getting out of Iraq, he is saying, he will have no choice but to veto the bill. That will prolong the time before the proud men and women in the Armed Forces are able to get the money to continue to even operate.

President Bush is basically saying that there is no time to play politics with the money, and is able from his weakened position to show that the blame should be placed on the Democrats in Congress. "I am going to veto it", he is saying. By making that a given, the timing problem is, at most glances, the fault of the Democrats in Congress.

Ahh, but the article I linked to draws issue with that. Turns out that the reason we are under the time crunch to begin with is due to the White House. Turns out that starting in 2002, the Pentagon's budget has been submitted for approval 12 months later than it was before 2002. Because of this, there is little time for Congress to, you know, debate the spending bill each year before passing it.
I have decided to make it official - Never again will I work at a school. After this May, there will be no more substituting, no more support position, nothing.

I will continue to tutor and do other things in a one-on-one setting, but no more kids in group settings, at least in classroom settings.

I am just tired of the arguing, the obnoxious nature, the lies, the "you are a teacher, so my life is necessarily better than yours" attitude, and everything else.

I know this is simply symptomatic of adolescence, but every time I work at a school I end up hating it. I am making a promise to myself that I am not going to put myself into this situation again.
Vice-President Cheney, talking about how Democrats should not exert their Constitutional powers:

“The terrorists don’t expect to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have. They’re not likely to try. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission.” New York Times article, (registration required).

So, should I ask how we can win? Because I am not really seeing a way. I am not even sure what "winning" in Iraq would look like.

Also in the article:

And when those lawmakers seek to impose time limits on the American presence in Iraq, Mr. Cheney added, “they’re telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out.”

That is what "the enemy" is doing now! That is all they have to do!
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