Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TV Calendar, a Website For the Couch Potato

One of the great things about Usenet, really about all forms of Internet discussion is that you never know where they'll lead you. A recent Usenet post lead me to TV Calendar, a website which does exactly what it purports to do. It displays a nice monthly calendar with all your favorite TV shows. In this age of TiVo, we sometimes forget how useful the humble TV show grid can be for organizing and planning our leisure time. TV Calendar is definitely a useful tool for those of us who watch way too much television.

A History of Government Bailouts

Slate has another great article on our frakked up economy. More importantly it links to ProPublica's History of Government Bailouts which as it's name implies, has neatly listed and organized all of our government's past and current attempts to save dying industries since 1970. It's a good resource for people who want to know where our money has gone in the past and where it will go in the future. 

Spoiler alert: from a quick perusal of the Bailout Aftermaths list suggests that the government tends to lose money when it bails out the financial industry and makes money when it bails out other industries. It kind of makes the double standard where we pour money into Wall Street banks with no strings attached and place heavy demands on GM and Chrysler seem unfair. On the other hand, perhaps this is why the government tends to do better when it bails out non-financial industries, because the government actually demands accountability of the Lockheeds and Chryslers of the world while letting the Morgan Stanleys do whatever they want with the taxpayer's money. I'd like to think that things will be different this time around but I'm not optimistic.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Red River Flooding

turnleftonpapug has a link to some amazing footage of the flooding on Red River along the Minnesota-North Dakota border.

Screaming For Blood While Rome Burns

FARK's slogan is "It's not news, it's FARK" but as with other fake news outifts like the Daily Show, there are occasional turds wisdom excreted from its bowels. One recent shouting match turned up some interesting mind pellets. It was attached to a link to Matt Taibbi's rant telling off an AIG executive who wrote an open letter bemoaning his company's reaction to AIG's recent bonus scandal. The ensuing thread went as you might expect with people dividing neatly along idealogical lines with right wingers defending the AIG executive and left wingers defending Taibbi. But a half way down the thread, there were links to two interesting Slate articles examing AIG from another angle. By taking a look at one of AIG's deals with Goldman Sachs, the articles point out that while we are all screaming for people's heads over $160 million dollars worth of bonuses while AIG funnels billions of taxpayer funded bailout dollars to its trading partners which themselves have also received billions of taxpayer funded bailout dollars. 

In other words, we have one scandal which is essentially distracting us from something much bigger and much worse. Taibbi sees this as one big conspiracy designed to shift power and money to Wall Street. But it doesn't need to be a conspiracy in order to be an outrage. And that seems to be part of the problem. We are all so busy getting outraged over the latest Wall Street scandal that we are ignoring the real problems which have lead us into the economic hole in which we are stuck.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Joliet Amtrak Station

Some sights from seeing off relatives...

These are shots from a mural inside the station, alas taken rather hastily.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Manuel Perez Jr. Plaza

This is a small public park on Kostner and 26th Street in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. Very spartan but it does have some nice murals.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WebOS Developer Webcast

It's been up for about two weeks but I finally got around to viewing Palm's hour-long developer preview webcast on Palm Infocenter. To no one's surprise, it turns out that programming for Palm's upcoming webOS, the operating system which will power the Palm Pre, is a lot like programming for the web. The information was very basic but it looks like webOS will be very easy to program for traditional PIM applications like Calendars and Contacts.

But what about more elaborate applications? People keep asking about games but I'm thinking more in terms of other classes of applications. Suppose I want to write a Usenet client for the Pre? It would have to connect to a Usenet server on the Internet and download articles using the NNTP protocol and install them into a database on the Pre. That should be no problem for a decent programmer (it might be beyond my abilities but that's another story). But what about other tasks that a good Usenet newsreader needs to perform like filtering, sorting, and purging articles? Will it be doable on webOS and will it be fast?

Another question is how easy will it be to add things that Palm leaves out of the Pre. Specifically, I'm thinking about a PalmOS emulator and Graffiti support. While I understand Palm's decision to not support legacy PalmOS applications, that doesn't mean I have to like it. So how long will it take to get a PalmOS emulator to run on webOS? I don't suppose that an application like WINE which is not an emulator in the strictest sense but does allow Linux to run many Windows applications is possible for running PalmOS apps under webOS?

And would it be possible for an enterprising developer to add custom gestures which would allow for character input—in other words a replacement for the PalmOS's old Graffiti character recognition system? A year ago, this probably wouldn't have mattered to me but then I upgraded my phone from my Treo 680 to a T-Mobile G1. Suddenly, I found myself using my Palm TX a lot more for tasks where my G1's Android OS didn't measure up to the PalmOS. And thus I rediscovered Graffiti. It sure would be nice to have a webOS Dashboard that could pop up a Graffiti like input area for times when I only need to enter a few characters and don't want to open the Pre's keyboard. I'd probably never use it after a while but it would be nice to know that it was available.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Continuity Error, Or Mistaken Identity Extra?

There was a "blink and you've missed it" moment in last week's Battlestar Galactica episode where the camera pans around the CNC and shows a woman who looks very much like Anastasia Dualla, Lee Adama's ex-wife who committed suicide in "A Disquiet Follows My Soul." I don't think that this is stock footage of Kandyse McClure, the actress who played Dee that somehow slipped past the continuity police. The woman in last week's episode looks a little "butcher" to me and is wearing a uniform that I've never seen Dee wear. But people on Usenet are asking and it's only fair to compare.

Unidentified (but sure looks like Dee) black female from last week's "Islanded in a Stream of Stars:"

Dee from "A Disquiet Follows My Soul:"

I dunno, maybe.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Political Twittering—The Sound Bite Goes Digital

And to think that all I ever use Twitter for is for following NASA space probes. Now Twitter has been embraced by both politicians and the "mainstream" media. I guess it was only a matter of time. TV news, particularly on the cable news, has always been dependent on sound bites. Those short pithy lines that politicians are only too happy to provide because they are easier than talking about and solving complex issues. I think that John Stewart probably has the best take on this issue:

One of the most depressing thing about both politics and about the news people who follow it is their eagerness to constantly dumb themselves down for the masses. This is probably why politicians always complain about "pork barrel" spending and make fun of things like planetariums and volcano monitoring. These things are usually obscure projects which people don't understand and are more likely to disapprove of. So they make easy targets and it's easier to talk about them than to actually fix this country's problems. It's also more fun for journalists and pundits to talk about these things than to sincerely research and analyze complex issues. So it makes perfect sense that politicians to embrace Twitter and its 140 character limit as the next big thing for blathering on and on without saying a thing....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Trek Through Time Sequel Is Coming

About a week ago, Rick Kelvington, author of the excellent Trek Through Time mash up, e-mailed me a link to the picture you see in this post. Rick's original Star Trek/Dr. Who mash up was one of the best I've ever seen and I'm looking forward to next one....