Violence and Presidential Politics

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

— Isaac Asimov, Salvor Hardin in “Foundation”

I came across this quote a few days ago while browsing through quotation pages. It strikes me how true this is surrounding the current situation in Iraq and the leadership that caused it. I’m not trying to point fingers here — merely suggesting that we don’t always listen to history or the things that others tell us when it comes to making historic decisions on the behalf of entire nations.

With the President losing backing from previous supporters and yet still being very highly ranked in this year’s Presidential race, this is definitely something to consider. There’s no question at this point that there are only two votes to consider here: Kerry or Bush for the next President of the United States. Don’t bother with Kucinich (who’s in it for his own image more than vested interest in this country’s future) or Nader (as my father put it, “A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush”, well evidenced in the 2000 elections). It’s down to those two — to me, it seems unquestionable that Kerry is the best choice, what with Bush’s track record on the war.

Is it too late for a write-in campaign for Joe Lieberman?

Gmail as Status Symbol

It’s interesting to look at the status symbols of society — such as it is — and to see what is “all the rage”. At the moment, this seems to be accounts on Google’s Gmail service — at least online. This service is actually one of the best-sounding opportunities in free e-mail anywhere — minimal advertising, and even when there is advertising, it tries to be related to the messages you read and the content of e-mails.

Now, to offset the people who are saying this is an invasion of privacy: quite frankly, bullshit. By that logic, virus scanners or spam filters are an invasion of privacy. Oh, but we’d hate to have our privacy invaded in order to stop our computers from crashing, wouldn’t we? In my eyes, this is no different than Hotmail doing virus scanning or spam filtering, and that could be argued to be a violation of privacy as well, since it also scans the body of messages. We don’t hear about Microsoft being sued (at least, not on that issue).

Anyway, back to the point. Gmail accounts are, at this point, very much a status symbol — Google has been somewhat secretive about it, and those who use it could almost be concieved as an elite cadre. When Google opens the service to the public, it would be interesting to see if they keep the current system of requiring people to be allowed in via referral from another member. This would greatly reduce the chances of spammers being able to use legitimate accounts on the system to send out e-mail. They can still spoof, but there is an implicit trust relationship in relying on a referral sign-up system. LiveJournal used this kind of a system for a while, but switched off of it. It doesn’t perpetuate very fast, and to become a member, you have to know someone who is already a member. But once the number of users gets high enough, this isn’t really an issue.

The question that comes to my mind is what can be said of this group of beta testers. Are they simply beta testers, or the first ones in the door for what is quite possibly one of the biggest service launches in the history of the Internet? Do they report bugs, or are they somehow assuring that this service takes off? Being secretive while still allowing people in has this sense of enticing people into the middle of a mystery novel. You can’t really be sure where the story has been; all you can be sure of is that you’re a part of where it’s going. Of course, sooner or later the glitter will wear off and Gmail will simply be another free e-mail service, but until then, it’s a badge of social status. Let’s see what happens.


50th entry!

Apparently, Bill Gates is going to start a blog — interesting, but I’m not really sure what to expect here. Great musings about how Microsoft will take over the world? Details on how he got a pie thrown in his face? This seems to me like a PR move for Microsoft — increase visibility of their chief architect to ramp up the already obvious visibility of the Microsoft name. This could also be a move to compensate for bad press. What better way to refute things than to blog about it as the chief software architect for one of the biggest software firms in the world?

I’ll wager anything he doesn’t talk (positively) about Linux. Oh, well — as long as it’s not called “BillBlog” or some stupid thing like that.

On an unrelated note, if anyone’s interested in setting up SETI@Home under Linux that hasn’t done so already, there’s an excellent tutorial on how to do it that provides both a binary and a cron file. It works, though it doesn’t use the latest SETI@Home version because later versions slow down work unit processing speed.

Furniture, Pillows, Chairs, and CSI

Well, this is absolutely not what I started out to do within the last 15 minutes or so, but here you go.

I’ve been looking around at furniture most of the day and have decided that most of my apartment room furniture will come from Target. Wait, now, before you get all annoyed at me for thinking cheap and on a budget, I’m talking a desk plus hutch plus printer stand only, which comes out to somewhere around $250. The stuff does look pretty good. I’m looking mostly at their Mission Collection Computer Desk ($100), File Cart ($50), and Hutch ($60), plus a QBits Maple Combi Cube ($50). This seems like a good start (all of these are listed on my wish list).

Amanda and I were mostly wandering around waiting for my mother to finish donig what she was doing, so we wandered over to Cost Plus World Market after looking at Target. I’m in love with papasan chairs. Seriously. I’m thinking about buying a frame from Cost Plus ($50 or so, wondering if I can get it cheaper) and a cushion from Pier 1 Imports (the Loden papasan chair cushion is the one I like best from there – item number 01973195). Seems like it would make a really nice living room chair.

After visiting Cost Plus, we went over to Linens and Things (all in walking distance, which was nice). I got Amanda a blue Moshi pillow. These things are cool — it’s a therapeutic pillow with little microbeads which is absurdly comfortable. She only got a square pillow, but apparently they sell Moshi neckrests too. I might want one of those for myself as well, since I do have problems with neck support when I’m sleeping. We’ll see on that one. I did, however, pick up a metal mesh colander and a spoon rest for the kitchen next year. Drove home after getting a nice raspberry mocha at Barnes and Noble, then watched the remainder of CSI Season 3. A good night, all in all.

The Last Two Days

Well, I just got back from spending two days in Olympia sitting through meetings. It was nice-bordering-on-uncomfortable weather – 88 degrees Fahrenheit late Thursday afternoon. Quite nice for me, though some seemed to suffer. It’s nice to be home after sitting through all that information and discussion about information and agenda planning. I have to go all the way back down on July 1st and 2nd. More of the same, I’m afraid, though to say I’m not enjoying myself tremendously would be a lie.

I spent a lot of the time reading Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, which I’ve read part of before but never read in full. I finally decided that I might as well read the dratted book so I know what it’s about and can claim I’ve waded through its 500+ pages. It really is quite an engaging piece of work � I’ve always enjoyed Kingsolver’s novels, particularly Prodigal Summer. I’m hoping that this summer doesn’t mean death to my reading habits, as it has been in the past due to academic burn-out. Of course, these habits would necessarily pick up again next academic year, but I do so little recreational reading now that it’s almost embarrassing.


On an unrelated note (or maybe related, if you consider my hobbies), I’m still really enjoying using my laptop now. I can watch DVDs, compile documents, screw around on the Web, and read e-mail with relative impunity. I only wish I had my girlfriend with me – she opted out of coming down this weekend, although she didn’t need to and would’ve been completely welcome. She always is. (Yes, that is a hidden message. Whoops.)

Linux and Love

Well, my Dell Inspiron 8100 laptop, autumn, now runs SuSE Linux 9.1 Professional, with some library upgrades and software additions. I’m finding this transition quite fun, and it’s convinced me that you can safely replace Windows XP with Linux. Though I admit that I have previous Linux experience which has assisted me greatly. The only thing not working at the moment is my laptop’s wireless card, which uses an annoying proprietary chipset (acx100, for those who are interested – I have yet to get the drivers provided by the ACX100/ACX111 wireless network driver project to work properly with the card, which I suspect is complicated by SuSE’s weird hardware configuration modules).

Other than that, I’m using Ximian Evolution (apparently now Novell Evolution), GAIM 0.78 for IM, xine for DVD playing, Mozilla Firefox 0.8 for browsing, and OpenOffice 1.1 for word processing. It’s working well.

On an unrelated note, I was watching CMT’s 100 Greatest Love Songs and one of the people speaking about one of the songs says the following:

“Oh, you can be in love with someone you’ve only known for a week and a half or a night… alcohol helps.”

— Unknown

How true, how true.

Advertising and Completing the Year

I have to say, I really love television ads that guilt you into doing things. Think Christian Children’s Fund, anything selling “ab-crunching machines” that are “medically proven” to work (anyone knows we can manipulate numbers — it’s called statistics), and weight loss ads. I should also note the extreme sarcasm in that statement.

Really, why do people think that tugging at the heartstrings (or at the fat or at the look or at the wallet) works? Easy. It does. The sooner we stop buying into this stuff, the sooner it all stops. Oh, I don’t disagree with the mission of the Christian Children’s Fund, in fact, I completely understand it; I just don’t believe in the advertising tactics.

Anyway, in case it wasn’t obvious, I’m done for the year. Moved out on Tuesday after going to my evaluation appointment and finding out that I got all 48 credits (plus 4 upper division programming credits) in Data to Information. Thanks to Amanda, I got moved out quite well, though we had some trouble getting everything into the car. That’s my fault for having so much crap in the first place.

Now that I’m home, I’ll just be doing mini-projects all summer and taking care of things that need to be taken care of. Top of my list are getting my room organized and getting my license. I’m hoping it’s a slow-ish summer, though I already have things on my calendar, including going back to the College for a few days this summer and going camping in late July.