Wednesday, 30 January 2008

links for 2008-01-30

posted at 8:21 AM in links
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Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Things you won’t see in Star Tours at Disneyworld

As a Star Wars geek, I love one-offs and mashups of Star Wars-related stuff. Ceth Stifel, aka “Thumper-001” on deviantART, inspired by a recent trip to Disneyland and the Disney/Star Wars figurines one can purchase there, has created a unique set of mashup art combining my favorite movie franchise with the Disney characters millions have come to know and love.

Boba Ducks Trophy by *Thumper-001 on deviantART

Donald Duck as Boba Fett, Goofy as Darth Maul, Mickey as Lando Calrissian, as well as a host of other Star Wars characters, Chip and Dale as Wookies. Great, great stuff.

posted at 2:26 PM in Star Wars , fun
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A timely reminder

“It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf.” — Thomas Paine (The American Crisis, No. 1, 19 December 1776)

Reference: Thomas Paine: Collected Writings, Foner ed., Library of America (97)

Just seems like something to keep in mind regarding our jihadist enemies…

posted at 1:20 PM in national security , quote
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Monday, 28 January 2008

links for 2008-01-28

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Sunday, 27 January 2008

links for 2008-01-27

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Saturday, 26 January 2008

Guess which way we’re going to go

Bruce Henderson:

One of the reasons that house prices got so high here is that people could get crazy financing for huge amounts without adequate resources to pay it back. So “dumb money” bid the price too high, and now no one can buy or sell because they can’t finance their homes.

So there are two ways to fix this - the healthy way would be to let the market forces bring the prices down to what people can reasonably pay. This is the best for everyone long term as it levels out who can live in California.

The second way would be to use the government backed entities, Fannie and Freddie, to prop up these insane prices. This is akin to providing an alcoholic with discount coupons for the corner liquor store.

posted at 11:57 PM in finances , politics
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“Ouch” is right

Tony Woodlief:

I never thought I would have to hold a package of frozen peas on my son’s penis. They don’t tell you this may be a possibility in parenting class. It’s all breathing and learning to count to ten and not freaking out when they get a diaper rash. But penis bruises? Nowhere in the manual.

posted at 12:21 PM in parenting , quote
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links for 2008-01-26

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Friday, 25 January 2008

links for 2008-01-25

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Thursday, 24 January 2008

links for 2008-01-24

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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

With or Without You

My pal Dan turned me on to this fantastic cover of U2’s “With or Without You” by Japanese pop star Hikaru Utada:

Don’t fear: she may be speaking Japanese at the beginning of the clip, but she sings the song in English. It’s really good, a great arrangement, and awesome voice.

posted at 12:15 PM in music , video
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links for 2008-01-23

posted at 8:20 AM in links
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Sunday, 20 January 2008

links for 2008-01-20

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Saturday, 19 January 2008

All in a day’s double standard

Joel C. Rosenberg:

[T]he world seems to have all but forgotten an Israeli town situated on the border with Gaza that has been under withering and nearly non-stop attack. Sderote has actually been hit with more than 100 Palestinian terror rockets and mortars this week and with more than 1,500 rockets since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June. Yet where is the outrage? Where is the international condemnation of the terrorists and the states who support them? How can either side — the Israeli people or the Palestinians who do want peace and security for both sides — ever make peace until these radical Islamic jihadists are stopped?

posted at 11:14 AM in national security , politics
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It’s true: bacon makes everything better


posted at 1:12 AM in food , fun , video
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Friday, 18 January 2008

links for 2008-01-18

[Wave of the phin to Lee for the latter two links.]

posted at 8:20 AM in links
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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Macworld Keynote impressions

So the big news in the tech world yesterday was what Steve Jobs talked about during his keynote address at Macworld Expo in San Francisco. The annual technology conference geared toward the Mac OS, and all things Apple, Inc., is often used for the announcement of new products from my favorite fruit company. Yesterday was no exception. Here are some of my thoughts on what was announced:

Time Capsule

If I hadn’t bought an Airport Extreme Base Station last year, to replace a router that died, I’d be buying a new 1 TB—yes, that’s a T, for terabyte—Time Capsule right now. Merging an Airport Extreme Base Station with a “server-grade” hard drive, the Time Capsule allows for wireless backups from all of your Leopard-based Macs via Time Machine. Jobs called it a “back-up applicance”.

Time Capsule photo

Backing up your data is very important, and too few people do it, realizing the value of doing so only when it’s too late. Time Capsule is a dead-simple way, for most people, to ensure their Macs are getting backed up. Plug in and power on the Time Capsule, open up Time Machine on your Mac and point it to the Capsule, and you’re done.

Time Capsule comes in two sizes, the 500 GB version for $299, and the aforementioned 1 TB version for $499. That’s an amazing bargain, a terabyte of storage and a full wired/wireless router for five hundred smackers. As I said, if we didn’t already have the AEBS router, my credit card would have already seen one of these charged to it.

iPhone Update

Today was the 200th day the iPhone had been available for purchase, and Apple’s sold 4 million of them, an average of 20,000 iPhones sold per day. This means that in terms of United States smartphone market share, Apple has nearly 20% of the national smartphone market.

The rumors of a 1.1.3 update to the iPhone proved to be true. The home screen can now be customized, and the Maps application—the underrated killer feature of the iPhone in my humble opinion—is now even more super-powered. The new Location feature in Maps is great. Combining data from Google and Skyhook Wireless, your iPhone can now, without GPS on board, triangulate your position within a couple of blocks. It pulled up my location at home with no problem.

You can, finally, send a SMS message to more than one person, something my lowly Motorola v557 was capable of two years ago. The WebClips functionality is pretty neat; you can create a WebClip from any web page or portion of a web page and pop it on to your home screen, so it’s easy to just go to Google, or The New York Times, or whatever web page you wish, with one touch.

I’ve had quite some fun this afternoon playing with all of this new stuff, and it’s almost like getting a new iPhone for free. All in all, it makes the iPhone an even better communication device.

iTunes Movie Rentals

In addition to buying movies through the iTunes Store, you can now rent them as well. Library movies (viz: older titles) are $2.99, and new releases are $3.99. From the time you click “Rent Movie” in the iTunes Store and it downloads, you have 30 days to watch the movie. From the time you click “Play” on the movie, you have 24 hours to watch it. You can also transfer the movie to another device, such as your iPod or iPhone, and watch it there as well, before your 24 hours or 30 days, depending on where you are when you perform the transfer, are up.

The thirty days requirement is pretty decent, but I find the 24 hours one to be a little restrictive. It should be at least 48 hours, and 72 would be better, with 96 being the ideal.

Going hand-in-hand with the new rental service is an updated Apple TV, or as Jobs put it, “Apple TV Take 2”. Whereas the original Apple TV pretty much required you to have a computer to sync it up with, the new version acts as a stand-alone box. You can rent movies from the iTunes Store in HD through the Apple TV, for only $1 more than the standard resolutions. So library titles go to $3.99 and new releases are $4.99, and no trip to the mailbox or corner Blockbuster is required.

I’m still not convinced that we have a real use for this in our house, given our movie viewing habits. For now, Netflix will continue to suffice, but I’ll be keeping my eyes on the Apple TV, and I’m sure I’ll try out the new rentals even without the new box.

MacBook Air

This had all the buzz, and was the announcement I was most looking forward to. I was ready to pounce on ordering Apple’s new subnotebook, provided it met my personal expectations.

Apple has created the world’s thinnest notebook computer. At its thickest point, the MacBook Air is 0.76 of an inch, and it weighs only three pounds. It comes with a full-size keyboard, a 13.3-inch LED backlit display, and a 1.6 or 1.8 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor. Two gigabytes of RAM, an 80 GB hard drive, 802.11n wireless networking, Bluetooth, and a built-in iSight camera. A pricey option is to ditch the standard hard drive for a 64 GB solid state drive (viz: no moving parts), and when I say pricey, I do mean pricey: $999 on top of the base $1,799 cost.

You won’t find much in the way of ports on it, either: MagSafe power port, a single USB port, headphone jack, and a micro-DVI port which requires adapters to hook up to external displays. That’s it. The trackpad is larger than on previous MacBook versions, and features multitouch, so you can perform some of those pinch, zoom, and rotate gestures you may have seen with the iPhone.

MacBook Air photo

The downsides to this incredible piece of tech? For me, the hard drive size is the first. I put a 160 GB drive in my four year-old 12-inch PowerBook last year, and have gotten quite used to the extra room it gave me. I’d hate to step back down by half. Only two gigabytes of RAM? And no way to upgrade it? My two year-old iMac is maxed out at 2 GB, and some times I bump against that particular ceiling. I’d really prefer a machine that can handle up to four. The battery is also not replaceable by the user. This might be okay on an iPod or iPhone, but in a full-size computing system devoted to the ultimate road warriors?

Ultimately, I decided this was not the next notebook computer for me. It’s a really awesome system, and if someone were to buy one for me, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it, but that’s not happening. I think I’ll be better served ultimately by a MacBook Pro, and with seven and a half months since the latest edition of those came out, they’re due for a refresh, even a “silent” one like we saw with the Mac Pros last week.


In the end, it was what I would call a typical Steve Jobs Macworld Expo keynote address. There were the requisite ooohs and aaaahs, Apple’s making some evolutionary gains in all facets of its business, and there was a great new product introduced that has the entire tech world talking. It wasn’t a blow-me-away sort of keynote, as was last year’s with the announcement of the iPhone, but then they can’t all be like that. Still better than anything Bill does on stage.

posted at 12:46 AM in Macintosh , iphone , movie , tech
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Tuesday, 15 January 2008

links for 2008-01-15

posted at 8:18 AM in links
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Monday, 14 January 2008

Proud geek dad moment

This past Saturday, the missus and I took the little phisch to see The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything. The film was released by Universal, and had the studio’s latest audio-visual intro at the beginning, as is the norm for motion pictures. The little phisch leaned over and whispered to me, “Daddy, what music is that?” I told him, and we settled in for a fun time.

That little exchange immediately took my mind back a few weeks before, at the end of 2007, when the missus and I took the little phisch to see Alvin and the Chipmunks. That particular film was released by Twentieth-Century Fox, and its extremely recognizable audio-visual intro rolled at the beginning. Then, the little phisch leaned over and excitedly exclaimed, “Daddy, it’s the Star Wars music!” I smiled broadly, and assured him, that yes, it was indeed “the Star Wars music.”

Amazing how those blaring trumpets and the monolithic wording have become synonymous with Star Wars for him, just as it did for me when I was a boy. To this day, whenever I see or hear that intro, I’m half-expecting the “Star Wars Main Theme” to follow shortly thereafter, or to see “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” centered on the screen.

posted at 4:20 PM in Star Wars , fun , love , movie , parenting
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links for 2008-01-14

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Sunday, 13 January 2008

links for 2008-01-13

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Saturday, 12 January 2008

links for 2008-01-12

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Friday, 11 January 2008

Who they are and what they’re about

Brent McKinney, A Few Thoughts On Jeremiah:

I think absolutes exist. In other words, if we “miss the mark,” there’s an implication that there’s a mark to hit. A truth that is “right” and to wander away from that is, by implication, “wrong.”

I think like the “1d1” definition regarding sin, that there’s a “way” to go and to deviate from that—wander away— is somehow tied to your identity as a human being. That we “miss” or “lose” our very selves. My guess is that we’re created in the image of God Himself, and to wander away from that…or get lost…is actually a denial of who we are and what we’re about.

I think that most followers of God have no idea who they are and what they’re about.

I think that most followers of God, if they knew who they are and what they’re about (and, in order to get that we would have to know God and what He’s about) would take sin a great deal more seriously than we do.

As usual, when Brent’s thinking deep thoughts, the entire thing is really good.

posted at 7:58 PM in God
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links for 2008-01-11

posted at 8:22 AM in links
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Thursday, 10 January 2008

Zero Tolerance = Zero Intelligence. Example #4,219

The TSA detained and searched a five year-old boy.

Read that again. It was a case of mistaken identity; a five year-old boy has the same name as another individual who is on the no-fly list. The Consumerist adds:

When his mother went to pick him up and hug him and comfort him during the proceedings, she was told not to touch him because he was a national security risk. They also had to frisk her again to make sure the little Dillinger hadn’t passed anything dangerous weapons or materials to his mother when she hugged him.

For those of you wondering, “Why the heck would they do all this?”, Bruce Schneier has the answer:

The explanation is simple: to the TSA, following procedure is more important than common sense. But unfortunately, catching the next terrorist will require more common sense than it will following proper procedure.

[Emphasis added. —R]

It’s all theater. It does nothing to protect the public; it simply pulls the wool over the eyes of those who choose to not think about it, to make those sheeple feel better. Five year-olds do not pull off terrorist acts, nor are they engaged in chatter with sleeper cells, which land them on a no-fly list. Any five year-old could figure that out. Okay, that’s not fair. Five year-olds might have a hard time figuring it out. But I know an eight year-old who’d know it was wrong…

[Wave of the phin to Lee and Tanner Lovelace.]

posted at 8:49 PM in national security , video
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links for 2008-01-10

posted at 8:19 AM in links
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Tuesday, 08 January 2008

I figured Vader as more of a chopper guy

Photo by Andreas Matern

At least it’s not one of those girly-looking Vespas.

posted at 8:59 PM in Star Wars , fun , photography
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Three times is charming

“Enjoy It Again! LSU Wins 2007 National Championship, 38-24”

LSU's Matt Flynn throwing against Ohio State
Photo courtesy of Associated Press

It was certainly a great night for the Tiger fans here in the Phisch Bowl. We had some fellow alumni over, as well as friends who are just college football fans, and their kids. We grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, had Zapp’s potato chips and Abita beer (Amber and Turbodog), even some king cake. We ate well, we cheered hard for our Tigers, and cheered harder still as the clock ran down in the fourth quarter.


posted at 1:19 AM in football
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Monday, 07 January 2008

links for 2008-01-07

posted at 8:19 AM in links
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A reality show I’d actually watch

I make no bones about my disdain for the reality shows which litter network television. The only one I’d consider watching on a regular basis would be The Amazing Race. From the few bits and pieces I’ve seen of the various shows, it’s the only one that didn’t annoy me after thirty seconds.

One of the things that annoys me about some of the reality shows is that they’re not originals. They’re just re-hashed versions of something popular in another country, most notably the United Kingdom. Well, if we’re going to retool reality shows for the American audience, my vote is we roll with this one from Japan:

posted at 12:46 AM in fun , video
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Saturday, 05 January 2008

links for 2008-01-05

posted at 8:18 AM in links
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Friday, 04 January 2008

Gifts that keep on giving

Yesterday, I put to good use the Barnes & Noble gift cards I received for Christmas and my birthday. (I get at least a couple every year.) The “big” card was used online a few days before, to purchase two other items which were on my wish list:

The in-store Barnes & Noble shopping resulted in:

  • The Shooters, by W.E.B. Griffin. The fourth in Griffin’s Presidential Agent series, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed to date. W.E.B. Griffin writes some of the best military fiction out there, and this current-day, antiterrorism series is no exception.

  • Spirit of the Wolf by Shaun Ellis and photographer Monty Sloan. Wolves are among my favorite animals, and I believe a lot can be learned from their pack behavior. (Especially when you have a dog, and therefore a pack, of your own.) Sloan’s got some stunning photos in this coffee-table book, and I’m looking forward to reading Ellis’s commentary.

  • Star Wars Jesus - A spiritual commentary on the reality of the Force by Caleb Grimes. Any book that combines the movie franchise which impacted, informed, and defined my tweener childhood (and which continues to impact and inform my son’s childhood), and the Author and Finisher of my faith, well, that’s just something I’ve got to give a whirl. I think all of my other book reading just went on hold…

So my thanks to my family members who were very generous this year with the gift cards. They were well invested, I assure you.

posted at 9:37 PM in fiction , fun , movie , non-fiction , read
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Thursday, 03 January 2008

links for 2008-01-03

posted at 8:18 AM in links
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Wednesday, 02 January 2008

ATPM 14.01

The January 2008 issue of About This Particular Macintosh is now available to help you ring in the new Mac year.

Mike Chamberlain looks back at the first of 2007, and how his desire for a “MacPhone” panned out, and surprisingly so, later in the year. Mark notes how smaller cars might not always be a good thing, but smaller iPods are, and wonders what lies ahead for Apple’s music player line. Mark’s also thankful that FileMaker has remained easy to use, lo these many years. ATPM reader Tricia Roach becomes an ATPM contributor, with a Segments piece on how she uses her Mac’s video capabilities to stay involved in the lives of her grandkids.

This month’s desktop pictures are courtesy of ATPM reader Jennifer Curry, from her 2006 trip to Cuba. They feature the island nation’s buildings and cityscapes. Meanwhile, Angie flashes back to 1984 as she and Cortland face off against Lisa in the Mudrix for a final showdown.

Linus takes Baseline, a utility which helps you look at file and folder sizes on your Mac, through its paces. Ed uses BusySync to get things done, allowing others to subscribe to or read his iCal calendars, thus assuring everyone’s on the same page. Chris Lawson tries out, and really likes, the Fin Laptop Handle/Stand, while Lee pairs his iSight up with Iris for some fun. Reader Mark Stoneman contributes a review of Mellel, a word processor I’m fond of, and a must-have for those who work with right-to-left languages such as Hebrew or Arabic.

This issue marks the entry in to the fourteenth year of publishing for About This Particular Macintosh, and we hope it’s a great year for our readers, and Mac users everywhere!

posted at 12:39 AM in Macintosh
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Tuesday, 01 January 2008

Movies 2007

A friend from college got me in the habit of saving my movie ticket stubs, and I have a glass mug stuffed with them, going back to the very early `90s. I’ve never really kept a running yearly tally before, however, until I was encouraged by my pal Brent, who keeps his own tally of those sort of things. So here’s my list of movies seen (in theaters) in 2007:

Amazing Grace
Blades of Glory
In the Land of Women
Knocked Up
Ocean’s 13
Surf’s Up
Live Free or Die Hard
The Bourne Ultimatum
3:10 to Yuma
The Kingdom
Michael Clayton
Fred Claus
Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium
No Country for Old Men
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Alvin and the Chipmunks

My pick for best movie? It’s a really tough call to just pick one as the best overall. From a purely cinematic perspective, I’d have to go with No Country for Old Men. I laughed the most during Blades of Glory. For a book adaptation, Shooter was pretty good, though like most book adaptations, it falls short of what can be crammed in to two hours on screen. The worst movie I saw was Superbad; I guess if I were thirteen, I would’ve enjoyed it more, but given that I liked Knocked Up, and to a lesser degree Walk Hard, all by the same crew, perhaps it wasn’t just my age that was a factor. I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, 3:10 to Yuma, Ratatouille, Surf’s Up, and Transformers.

Best movie? A tie, simply because they’re such totally different movies, and my favorites for two vastly different reasons. The Bourne Ultimatum is just flat-out entertaining, visually appealing, a real “thrill ride” as the critics would say. I was initially skeptical five years ago of Matt Damon taking on the role of Jason Bourne, but he took it and ran with it, owning the role. He is Jason Bourne. Though the movies have little in common with the plot lines of the books, they are still among my favorite action thrillers.

The second movie in the tie is Amazing Grace. William Wilberforce showed how one can positively affect the cultural and political culture while remaining grounded in faith in Jesus Christ. His efforts toward ending the slave trade the British Empire was engaged in paved the way for slavery’s abolition in the United States, and continues to be an inspiration to this day. Slavery still exists in our modern world, though the euphemism “human trafficking” is the nom du jour. Amazing Grace is a reminder the battle for human freedom and dignity still goes on.

posted at 1:47 PM in movie
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