Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SF City Politics

This is a fairly interesting article about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

It comments on the salaries for the Supervisors (a mere $37,858 before legislation in 2002 bumped it to it's current $90,000) as well as the frequency with which they meet.

It struck me that one of the recently disgraced and now former Supervisor Jew's advisors made a particularly poor choice of words when she - describing the emptiness of City Hall during the holiday season - stated, "You can shoot a gun down the hall, and you wouldn't hit anyone."

Her connection to Ed Jew aside - that is a really awkward way to emphasize her point.

She may as well have said, "It was so empty that Supervisor Jew was able to shake down tapioca-drink vendors for tens of thousands of dollars right outside his office."


"City Hall was as empty as Supervisor Jew's alleged residence in the 4th District."

Either one works.

Lions and Tigers and...


I was reading an article on the city of San Francisco's response to the tiger attacks that occurred on Christmas day last year and came across this interesting excerpt:

"Animals whose escape would be rated a "Code 1" danger include lions, cougars, tigers and chimpanzees, Mollinedo told Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier in answer to a question."

The article explains that a "Code 1" danger would call upon use of a new siren system as well as the planning and coordination of emergency responses by police, firefighters and zoo staff.

I'm just curious as to why chimpanzees are considered in the same category as lions, cougars and tigers.

Is flying feces really that dangerous?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Political Campaigning - Bringing Families Together (and money)

Because Hillary Clinton was one of the most powerful First Ladies in recent political memory, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Bill has been pushing the envelope of spousal advocacy for his wife's presidential run.

I think that President Clinton would probably be supporting Obama if he didn't have such an obviously vested interest in Senator Clinton's campaign and while it's obvious why he is exerting his massive influence in her favor, I can't help but think that his behavior is somewhat ignominious for who should be such a distinguished member of the Democratic Party. While it is fine - and expected - of him to endorse a candidate, I do not think that he should be out shilling for one as tirelessly as he is for his wife.

As much as I like Bill Clinton and wish that he could run again - damn you, 22nd Amendment! - I do not think that a Hillary presidency will be tantamount to a Bill presidency. Voters need to realize this fact and that - matrimonial pacts aside - Bill might very well support another democratic candidate.

That was a lengthy digression...

I was very surprised to find out that the families of candidates are sometimes reimbursed for their "services."


"Records show that Joe Lieberman’s presidential campaign paid his wife, Hadassah, at least $22,000; his son Matthew received about $34,000 and his daughter Rebecca about $36,000. The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign paid Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary about $81,000."

Is that even legal use of campaign monies? If so, what would/do political contributors think about their donations being used to line the pockets of the families of their chosen candidates?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Don't you wish that you'd studied Latin in school...

...Not so that you could - as Vice President Dan Quayle desired - to speak with people from Latin America, but so that you could understand websites like this:

Pizza 2.0 : A Slice of the Web
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I came across this today and was driven to Wikipedia for an explanation as to why this is so commonly used by web designers as a placeholding text.

According to Wikipedia: "In publishing and graphic design, lorem ipsum is common placeholder text used to demonstrate the graphic elements of a document or visual presentation, such as font, typography, and layout. It is a form of "greeking".
Even though using "lorem ipsum" often arouses curiosity due to its resemblance to classical Latin, it is not intended to have meaning. Where text is visible in a document, people tend to focus on the textual content rather than upon overall presentation, so publishers use lorem ipsum when displaying a typeface or design in order to direct the focus to presentation. "Lorem ipsum" also approximates a typical distribution of letters in English."

If you were curious, it is from Cicero and it reads: (According to H. Rackham's 1914 translation)

"Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?"

Pretty cool - and a very interesting internet factoid - but how many people who use it are aware of its origin? It is interesting to think how many things are done simply because they were done before without any additional thought as to why they're done and whether they ought to be perpetuated.

This is probably a problem in most companies. New hires are taught how to do things the same way that the people who hired them were taught and unless feedback is explicitly solicited, it is unlikely to be divulged. So rather than constantly having the processes by which an organization is run fine-tuned and refurbished through repeated and perpetual evaluation, these companies stagnate and are forced to spend enormous sums of money on consultants and so forth.

It's not so hard to ask the Deming-esque questions without having to pay a "TQM consultant" thousands of dollars to prompt you.

Just stop every now and then and ask, "Why?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Facebook Users Should be More Like My Dad...


After much cajoling from my brothers and I, my father finally relented and created a Facebook account. With nothing but the most basic information in his profile, he sent me a message saying, "Ok, I have facebook... now what?"

I told him that now he needs to put up a picture and search for old friends.

He responded the next day with the following: "A picture? I don't think so. I don't think this was a good idea."

My father promptly disabled his account - presumably never to access it again.

Okay, so if more Facebook users were like my dad they wouldn't be Facebook users for long. I DO think that they should be MORE like my father in his awareness of the awesome - and potentially terrible - power that Facebook has to share information.

For example, I do not use any third party applications. From the moment they came out I steered clear. Generally this is pretty easy to do. I have no desire to SuperPoke someone when a good old fashioned poke will suffice. Nor do I feel the need to have a graffiti wall, or a specific bookshelf (after all, my favorite books are listed just above) and I certainly don't want to compete in an online Rocham-bull competition - although I'm remarkably good at the game for it's supposedly being a game of luck.

Even the one application that has seriously tempted me, Scrabulous, is being taken care of by Hasbro and Mattel.

Why am I so loathe to allow myself the simple pleasures of third party applications?

Because I don't want third parties mucking around with my profile and information.

This article validates my paranoia.

The vast majority of Facebook applications take your data - with Facebook's permission - to their own servers unnecessarily. They don't need much - if any - private data and yet cull the entirety of your Facebook profile for their diabolical purposes.

What are those purposes specifically?

The multitude of hypothetical answers to that question is why I don't use third party apps.

I've gotta run, my dad and I are going to play a game of REAL Scrabble...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Top 20 Images from Google Maps/Earth


Zion I at The Independent - 1/12

On Saturday night I went with a couple of friends to see Zion I perform at The Independent.

Let me first say that I've only recently begun listening to Zion I, but from the moment I first heard the seductive and catchy tones of "The Bay" I was hooked.

I was incredibly surprised that one of my friends was able to buy a ticket to the show at the door at 9:00 the evening of the show. I'd purchased my ticket in advance thinking that the show would almost certainly sell out. I thought that $20 was a pretty reasonable price to pay but perhaps Zion I doesn't yet have the name recognition to demand that sort of price.

I thought that the show would be especially popular because Zion I is himself from the Yay Area (Oakland).

The Independent is a pretty great little venue. I've seen a couple of shows there now and have not yet been disappointed. I've always been able to enjoy the show without worrying about it being too crowded, loud, dirty, etc. My first of only two complaints about the venue is that the men's room was pretty poorly kept.

The other complaint - which is more of a comment, anyways - is that there was a group of four young gentlemen who stood in the middle of the floor for the entire show smoking joint after joint. It was like Jesus' miracle with the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish... only with weed!

Each time they'd finish smoking one joint, one of the guys would pull another one out from his pocket, light it and start passing it around.

Moreso than by the veritable cornucopia of marijuana that was contained in their hoodies I was amazed at their brazen consumption of an illegal psychoactive drug.

Nobody seemed to mind particularly and it may even have added to the authenticity of the event.

The opening acts were both pretty good with my personal preference being the first performer whose name I've forgotten. He had a line that was something akin to: "Fools think they can step to this but I've been kicking these rhymes since I come out the you-ter-iss"

Pure magic.

The second opener - who was by no means bad - was a group called Honor Roll. These guys were better performers than the first act but not as talented rappers.

Zion I was amazing.

I was going to write more about Zion I's performance but I'd rather just encourage everyone reading this to attend one of his upcoming shows. He is smart, funny, and puts an incredible amount of thought and energy into giving his audience the best show that he can.

My next trip to the Independent? The Simpsons Movie on Monday night. Free with purchase of two drinks.

It doesn't get much better than that...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Free to be You and Me...

I really enjoyed this article from Wired magazine.

As someone who recently got an iPod Touch - and thus is dependent upon mooching off of free wireless networks nearby - network security is an important issue to me.

From my apartment I can view as many as 17 separate wireless networks but only two of them are not password protected. And my connectivity is sporadic at best. It's even worse at the laundromat where I'm forced to spend hours defending my clothes. Here - the Washing Well, if you're curious - there are no fewer than 22 separate wireless networks within range ONLY ONE OF WHICH IS OPEN. Talk about Tantalus...

Obviously I support the freeing of wireless networks but I think that this article evaluates the issues very thoroughly and logically.

I can only hope that my neighbors are convinced...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Online Action and Real Life Results

I found this extremely interesting article on techpresident.

Although I've only played WoW for about 15 minutes in my life (I had an orc warrior) I have friends who do little else. Some of them play WoW so much that their personal, professional and academic lives suffer as a result. I can't even count the number of times I've implored my friends to come see a movie, to dinner, to a bar or to the park only to hear the reply, "I can't. My guild is raiding ___ dungeon tonight."

"Well, how long will that take?" I ask, knowing full well that I will have completed my plans and gone to bed long before the raid is complete.

"I dunno... maybe 5 or 6 hours?"

Game. Set. Match.

I do not believe that my friends are unique in their attachment to this game. I'm sure that many of the 9 million other WoW users are similarly devoted/addicted/hooked.

Their online time is precious. They pay $15 a month for their account and they plan to get the most out of their investment. When some of my friends have quit their jobs and stopped going to class in order to play more WoW, I came to the conclusion that their online lives are more valuable than their real lives.

Now, what does this all mean in the context of hundreds of Ron Paul supporters holding a WoW rally online? I think that this may indicate that Paul's dungeon-raiding online supporters are even more zealous supporters than the Paulies who attend rallies and debates in real life.

While this sort of display doesn't necessarily manifest in votes on election day, it certainly calls attention to the dedication of Ron Paul's supporters as well as the need for more tech-accessible ways of interacting with the political process.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Interesting discussion of Twitter today on Techmeme.

This article in particular.

Why Startups Cost Less

Here is an interesting article that quickly summarizes why so many startups are born each day.

It's interesting that even though there has been considerably more scrutiny into the viability of startups since the late 90's, the severely decreased cost-to-entry has acted as a counterweight to that force. The result is that even without VC backing, companies are able to spring into existence. This is why we see startups flopping left and right and yet more and more keep coming. The ideas aren't necessarily better, the stakes are just smaller.


Clean Up the 'Nets

The earwax eating Australian Prime Minister who I wrote about a couple of months ago is now pursuing a massive internet censorship campaign.

There are a few thoughts I had while reading the article.

The first was that it was an opt-out censorship rather than an opt-in censorship. That means that an Australian internet customer must call their provider or - even worse - someone in the government and request that their pornographic websites be unblocked. This seems like it could raise privacy issues somewhere along the line.

My other thought was regarding the fact that blocked sites must be manually logged into the filter for them to be blocked in this censorship system. Even if you're able to filter all of the dirty sites one day, the filter wouldn't stop the most inappropriate site on the planet the next day as long as it was created - or its web address was altered - after the filter's original calibration. This means that someone's job (or some peoples' job) is to browse the net looking for newly minted porn sites and logging them into the filter.

Those would/will be tax dollars hard at work.