Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Harry Dresden

I went and picked up Dresden Files #2 a couple of weeks ago even though I was less than thrilled with number one. This one is Fool Moon, all about werewolves, liked this one much better. Harry still got beaten, battered and shot throughout the book but it made more sense this time and didn't come off making him look pathetic, like he was lucky to be alive, let alone come out the victor. In this one he was facing some really difficult situations that anyone would have trouble with, but if he doesn't get better at not getting hurt he isn't going to be alive much longer. Like a quarterback who shortens his career because he runs more than he passes and gets tackled a lot. Of course, with Michael Vicki it really didn't matter in the long run, career is over anyway.

I was at the bookstore yesterday and was surprised that I made a bee line straight to the B's for Jim Butcher to see if I could find book three. I did, Grave Peril,
and bought it right then and there. Usually I wait to order online because it's cheaper but I didn't want to wait, I wanted to start reading it last night. Guess I liked #2 more than I thought. I really wasn't thinking about Dresden at all and was at the bookstore purely by accident. It surprised me how quickly I scooped up the book and how much was I'm looking forward to reading it last night.

Also picked up a copy of Skeptic only to find they have a book review of Dawkins “The God Delusion” by, amazingly, Deepak Chopra. I tried to talk myself into this being a good thing, you know, the hearing both sides argument, but I couldn't buy it and am much annoyed that they would put in Skeptic.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Just found a great application called Journler, click on the picture for a larger view. I recently heard it had undergone some changes so I downloaded it and started playing around. It's good for a daily journal or diary but even more than that is it can sort things into various Smart Folders as well as preserve links to files, images and web sites. You can really organize ideas with this thing. I'm writing this in it and in the resources panel to the right I put both images and the web site link, and it will also take audio and video files. This would be great it you are doing research.

My needs are simple, I just want to keep track of things. Like when I first use a new contact lens. They're supposed to last 30 days but after a week (I think) I completely lose track and have no idea when to expect it to go bad or if I'm getting more or less wear out of it. Same for flea stuff on the cats. Darcy just told me it has been over a month since I put it on, supposed to be once a month but I'm sure I only do it every three months. But I can write it in Journler when I do something then do a search for it and have an exact and reliable record.

It actually is much more powerful than that but since it's free I can use it anyway. Maybe I'll think of new ways to use it later. For notes I already have Yojimbo, which is great, so I don't need that. Writing blogs? Supposed to be able to publish a blog right from the app but I haven't found a program yet that can do that as well as Blogger itself. Hard to believe it's free, it's almost as powerful and feature filled as Yojimbo and I paid $40 for that one.

One serious limitation is it doesn't sync through .mac like Yojimbo does to keep work and home computers the same, but it does have an alternative. I copied its data folder out of Library/Application Support to my external hard drive, which is portable and I take back and forth to work every day. I then opened Journler and it asked me to locate the database and I selected it on the external. So I just arrived at work and copied the app over to the Applications Folder and the preference to Preferences Folder, started up Journler and everything I did over the weekend was right there. Which is very cool, maybe even better than .mac syncing. I just have to make sure I never forget the external.

Resign Gonzales

John Edwards is looking to send a petition to Gonzales demanding he resign:

Dear friend,

Today, we need your help to send a message to insiders like George Bush's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who have no respect for the rule of law, our rights and freedoms, or the Constitution.

Gonzales, the man who helped enable torture at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and illegal spying on Americans, is now facing a possible perjury investigation for lying to Congress.

President Bush may be incapable of admitting when he makes a mistake (yes, too many to count)—but you and I and the American people still have the power to tell Gonzales that it is time to go!

We may not be going for impeachment of Bush and Cheney but this is a good fight as well.
Go here:


Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tidbits #2

If I was a joiner I'd join up with the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) because I've read Dan Barker's book and because of the commercials for it on Air America with Janeane Garofalo. I love how she ends the commercial: "Proud to be an atheist - Janeane Garofalo." I like how she makes extra effort to make her atheism clear and known to all. Way to go, girl!

Macenstein is an interesting web site I just found that is all about Macs.

Well, not ALL about Macs, they do have Mac Chick of the Month:
"This month we present you with the lovely Andrea Grant, a fashion model and Camel Cigarette girl who also happens to be a comic book author, in addition to being an Apple fan." A model who smokes and likes Mac's and comic books - fantastic!

Ally stories: She's 6.5 now and a definite - and odd - personality is beginning to emerge. But if there is anyone who appreciates odd it's me. Both grandkids were staying over last weekend. At night we sent them into the bedroom to watch TV while Darcy and I watched the good TV in the living room. When we were ready for bed we would move them back to the couch for the night. Ally, holding her pillow, blanket and stuffed rabbit, walks up to Darcy and says: "GrandDarcy, if I'm asleep when you move me I need my head on the pillow, my rabbit in my arms and my blanket over me." She was very intense and somber when she said it, showing the degree of importance she put on these detailed instructions. Later in the week she is driving around with her mom, who is SuperMom and always has them doing something, when she suddenly says: "Mom, why don't we go home and be lazy? We never get to be lazy."

What an amazing week for news. I'm so glad for Keith Olbermann and DVR. I've got the timer to record Countdown and watch him when I get home an hour or two later. He's the only one on TV actually doing real news. This week we had Alberto Gonzales blatantly lie to the Senate and they are talking about perjury charges against him, then they issued a subpoena for Karl Rove, as well as contempt of congress charges against Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten, the current Chief of Staff to Bush. But Bush has ordered the Justice department to do nothing about these things. I would see this as a showdown but we know congress will cave and it will all be for nothing because they are so spineless.

I've talked about Transmit before but I just learned something new about it - droplets. I knew they could be done but didn't really appreciate what it was. But now that I have my own domain with lots of disk space I'm using a folder just for my blog pictures so I don't link to someone's site and cause problems and so I'm not filling up my limited Blogger disk space. So I made a droplet for it, I just drag and drop each picture to the droplet and Transmit immediately connects to the right folder on my site and drops off the image then quits. Just takes seconds.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Kansas Classroom

Here is a great cartoon on the state of our education these days thanks to the fundie, science and knowledge haters. Click once on the image to get a larger view that is more readable:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The YouTube Debates

I really hadn't been paying much attention to the debates, the first two told me what I needed to know and merely confirmed what I already thought; that I like Edwards best, followed by Obama then Hillary, but I would be perfectly happy voting for anyone on the stage. The one surprise was Mike Gravel, I didn't know he would be there and he came off as the court jester, the guy who would say all the things everyone wouldn't say. The court jester has always served a very important function as the teller of truths.

I knew this was the YouTube Debates but didn't think too much about it, then I just happened to turn it on by accident. Surprisingly, it's been really good. Instead of the canned questions that everyone is expecting and the canned answers prepared in advance it was much more lively and everyone was at the top of their game. Some revisions of my opinions, too. Edwards lost some ground with me by saying he did not agree with gay marriage because of his faith, the absolute worst thing he could have said, in my opinion. But then he said it's a question he does feel deeply torn about, and it seemed a very sincere statement. I don't expect people to be perfect, but I do feel better about it when their imperfections trouble them. Still, he lost ground, but then the subject went to health care and he spoke with real passion. Let's face it, that's a far more important issue, and I'm still struck by one glaring fact; only Edwards answered all the questions put to him as honestly as he could without spinning or dodging. This was also true in the earlier debates and I'm surprised no one ever comments on that.

Probably the one who rose highest to me was Hillary. She was asked how, as a woman, she could be taken seriously by the Arab countries. She talked about all the travels around the world she made as First Lady, then as Senator, then she said there isn't anyone who doesn't take her seriously. She scared me for a moment and I had no trouble believing her. I have to say of them all she is probably the most qualified to be president, but that means she is also beholden to corporate interests. This is why I like Edwards the best, he seems very independent, he's speaking hard truths even when they don't make him look good or might hurt him in the election. Obama is new enough that he hasn't been totally bought by the corporations, but he's too slick in playing the game, I'm afraid he might be bought by the time of the general election, but at the moment I see him as being in between Edwards and Clinton on this, which is why they get my support in the order they do. That hasn't changed even though it was a fun debate.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Atheism On The Rise

From a Toronto newspaper:
(Quotes are blue, my comments in black)

A City University of New York survey found the number of non-religious adults grew from 8% to 14.3% between 1990 and 2001, to more than 29 million Americans. The current issue of The Atlantic magazine cites a study that showed 14% of Americans "were distancing themselves from organized religion as a symbolic gesture against the religious right." A 2006 Pew study found that 20% of today's 18-to 25-year-olds have no religious affiliation or are atheist or agnostic, up from 11% in the late 1980s.

Ah, there's hope for the next generation.

In Canada, the number of people who categorize themselves as atheists, agnostics, humanists or no-religion rose to 16.2% in the 2001 census, up from 12.3% in 1991, and 7.4% a decade earlier.

That "no religion" designation is a tricky one. I've known some hardcore Christians who say they have no religion because they don't belong to a specific sect or congregation. So we can't necessarily say that category means they are atheist or agnostic (I consider both of those the same thing).

There are now dozens of atheist groups in the United States and Canada, under such banners as the Atheist Alliance International, the Secular Coalition for America and the Humanist Association of Canada. Membership in these groups is still relatively small, usually in the several thousands. Most report a leap in interest since the books came out.

It began in 2004, with The End of Faith by Sam Harris, followed two years later by Letter to a Christian Nation, which intended "to demolish the intellectual and moral pretenses of Christianity in its most committed form." Then came The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, who espoused an aim "to raise consciousness to the fact that to be an atheist is a realistic aspiration, and a brave and splendid one."

And the only one of all the books that I've read. I usually find atheist literature boring, I read to learn something and often I can write the same thing in the books only better. In fact here (10 myths—and 10 truths—about atheism) is another blog of mine where I did that very thing with something Sam Harris wrote. But Dawkins is always a good read, I'm usually in total agreement with him in these matters and he is one guy who writes better than I do. And he managed to say a few things I didn't know, too. Very good book, I even wrote a review on this blog: The God Delusion.

The most recent addition was Why God Is Not Great, by Christopher Hitchens, which paints religion as a collective form of idiocy. The New Yorker calls them "atheists with attitude;" the publisher behind a new collection to be called The Portable Atheist (edited by Mr. Hitchens), said we are living in "atheism's moment."

I have so many books piled up to read I will probably never get to all of them, so I'm going to pass on Hitchens' book because I hate the guy. As vigorously as he attacks religion, he just as vigorously supported Bush's disastrous invasion of Iraq, and still does. Then he turns on his new neocon buddies and blasts their religion. I do kind of have to admire a guy willing to piss off everyone . . . but that doesn't mean I want to give him my money.

I don't think these books are converting people to atheism, although there must be a few. What it is mostly doing is taking the stigma out of being atheist. I think there are a lot of people in the closet, people who think they don't know any atheists, that it's weird, that their family will disown them - they stay hidden for all kinds of reasons. But when Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins go on TV looking intelligent and confident, and they read the books which give them a basis for being atheists, something they can argue with, they become more confident and more willing to come out.

I also think there are a lot of people who don't really call themselves atheists but deep down really are, or they follow their faith entirely out of habit and lost all belief years ago. Sometimes they are lying to themselves, sometimes they are just scared of being different, or perhaps haven't even thought about it much. When these people read the books it also gives them confidence to accept what they already
know is true.

Dawkins says something similar in the article:
In describing the collective impact of the new atheists, Mr. Dawkins recently told CBC Radio, "I'm not that optimistic that I am shaking people's faith ... What I think I, and Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are doing is making it easier for those who are already skeptical to come out and admit the fact."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Non Sequitur

I saw this cartoon on Pharyngula and had to post it here. And here is the link to the Non Sequitur web site:

The Departed

I finally got to see it. I've been annoyed for years that Scorsese didn't win the Oscar for best director for "Gangs of New York", my favorite movie of his. I was glad to see him finally win for this movie but I was certain it couldn't be as good as Gangs. Now that I've seen it I'm not sure, I still like Gangs better but Departed might be the better movie. Everyone in it was brilliant, especially DiCaprio. He is really coming into his own as an actor as he ages, this one and Blood Diamond have been his best work by far at the grand old age of 33. Matt Damon was also good but not as good as his Bourne character, a role he seems to have been born for (pun intended).

And of course Jack Nicholson was Jack, need we say more? Mark Wahlberg & Martin Sheen weren't spectacular but certainly not bad either. They really didn't have enough screen time to shine too much, especially Wahlberg who got his role severely cut even though he was a key character.

It was long, I'm not sure how long but it kept my attention every minute, the movie never seemed to slow down at all and went through many plot twists, especially at the end. I really can't say anything about the plot without giving too much away and it's the kind of movie you have to see without knowing what it's all about. All I will say is that DiCaprio & Damon were the stars and their characters were the opposite sides of the same coin but in a very unusual way. Scorsese clearly liked this strange connection between them, the similarities and differences, because he would constantly switch back and forth, showing both their lives in parallel.

A very interesting concept and done well, would anyone expect less from Scorsese? I would definitely say this was worthy of the Oscar.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I've been way too busy with work to post here and now there are so many interesting things to write about I thought I would just do some short snippets.
Dick Cheney is president today. Kind of gives you chills to read that doesn't it? It's like Darth Vader being president, even though Darth is a pussycat compared to Cheney. He's acting president while Bush is sedated for a colonoscopy (I will refrain from the obvious jokes here). At first I thought it was horrible to think of Cheney in charge but after thinking about it I realized it's not really any different than its been for the last 6 years, which also includes Bush's condition.
Keith Olbermann has a new commentary where he tells Bush to go fight his own war, it's another really good one. Aren't they all? I won't post it this time but will just post a link to the video on YouTube. And a link to Keith's website where you can get transcripts.
Here is a great Alternet article entitled Neocons on a Cruise: What Conservatives Say When They Think We Aren't Listening. They are crazier and more disgusting than we think they are.
The last Harry Potter book is now out amidst great excitement and fanfare. Doesn't mean much to me since I haven't read the books. I read the first one and thought it quite good and I could understand why kids love it so much. But it was very obviously written for kids so I found it too boring to continue to read the series. Darcy loves it though and has all the books and put in a pre-order for it at Barnes & Noble months ago, so we should be getting it this week sometime.

Michael Vick: What an uproar the news of him being involved in dog fighting caused. Once again I'm reminded why I really don't want to know any personal info on famous people, I just want to see them work. Usually if I do find out something it's not good and that cuts down on my enjoyment of their work. I'll never be able to watch Vick in a game again without thinking about dog fighting, which is completely disgusting and cannot be defended in any way. It's amazing how much this has pissed people off, yet everyone doesn't get nearly as upset when they hear that 10 of our troops were killed today and 100 Iraqis. What we need to do is create some dog-soldiers, send them to Iraq and get them blown up. People will be so outraged the war would end soon.
Robert Byrd: He was one of those guys who was outraged by Michael Vick and gave an impassioned speech on the floor of the Senate. I haven't seen him on TV in quite a while and all I can say is the guy is WAY past time to retire. The term doddering old fool comes to mind. I've never liked Byrd, he is one of those old-time southern democrats - from 2 or 3 generations ago - who are really just Republicans in disguise. Most of the rest have become Republicans by now. Byrd is a racist southern boy but I have to give him props, back in 2002 (2003?) when Bush was looking for the authority to attack Iraq, Byrd was one of only about 3 or 4 Senators who voted against it. He mentioned the Gulf of Tonkins back in the 60's that got us into Vietnam big time. He voted for it then and deeply regrets it today and he didn't want to make that same mistake again. Too bad no one listened to him, any more than Byrd listened to the few voices of dissent back in the 60's.

Friday, July 20, 2007


Summer TV is a great wasteland, especially since game shows and reality TV have become popular. At least we have the Closer on TNT and Dr. Who on Sci Fi. Now there is a new one that seemed to spring out of nowhere - Burn Notice.

This is quite a clever show, about a spy named Michael Westen who gets notified of his burn notice on his cell phone while trying to make a deal with some Middle Eastern looking characters. What is a burn notice? It means a spy is done, he is out of work, they drop him in a city and freeze his bank accounts as well as all ID's. He's got nothing and can't even leave the town they dump him in.

Westen is very well played by Jeffrey Donovan. Much of the show is done with him narrating which really adds quite a bit of interest as he explains how and why a spy operates. He has some good supporting people but Donovan pretty much IS the show and he is definitely up to the task. I first remember him in a remake of a British police show called Touching Evil. Donovan's character was supposed to be a little crazy due to a gunshot wound to his head, and he really does have a crazy look about him.

But in Burn notice he goes it one better and adds in humor. He's brilliant at the low key humor and that crazy gleam in his eyes makes him believable as a deadly spy. But the best part is his narration, he gives us a blow by blow of what spy's do and why, how they manipulate situations to their advantage. Often with an idea like this the execution isn't nearly as good as the idea but in Burn Notice it's actually better than the idea. He does stuff you really think a spy would do, like instead of facing the bad guys directly he changes the situation to surprise the other guys and give himself a major advantage. A real spy would know that no matter how good he is he just might encounter someone better or that mistakes can happen and would take steps to make sure the odds are always in his favor, and that is exactly what Donovan does in this show. He is trying to find out who put out the burn notice on him so he can do something about it, in the meantime he has to hang out in Miami, where they dumped him and his home town. He takes on small jobs to earn some money and usually ends up helping people, and the FBI are watching him constantly.

Concept, writing and acting are all just right in this one, and that was right off the bat. Often a new show has potential but needs some time to find their rhythm, but Burn Notice hit it exactly on from the very beginning and has maintained that same level through 3 shows so far. So it has become my new must see show for the summer.

It can be seen on USA channel on Thursday nights, plays at 9 pm in Southern California.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Olbermann Special Comment

Keith gave his best, and angriest, commentary so far yesterday:

Monday, July 2, 2007

The new iMac

Rumors have been flying about a new iMac coming out at the end of July, beginning of August. Of course, they were saying it would debut a month ago, too. People are speculating what it would look like and I found this picture, some one thought it would match the new iPhone. Looks very cool.

I need new computers now and was just looking to buy when I saw this rumor, now I'm waiting. It seems reasonable that a new one should come out, last revision was Sept. 2006, they just upgraded the MacBooks and the Mac Pro about a month ago so they should be doing iMacs soon. Some are saying they want it now for the back to school crowd, others are saying Sept. when Leopard comes out. I think sooner, in fact, they are behind schedule as far as upgrades, almost a year for the iMac when they usually do it every 6 months. I think it was supposed to come out a month ago but got pushed back because of the iPhone the same way Leopard got pushed back because they took their top people off of other projects and put them on the iPhone to get it out in time.