Archive for June, 2004

Evening in America

Friday, June 11th, 2004

It’s politics as usual for people to see two Bushes - conservatives see Good!Bush and liberals Evil!Bush - but with President Bush the judgment of history is not yet in. Hindsight is supposed to be 20/20, yet we’re still seeing double with Ronald Reagan.

Charlie Stross remembers him as the man who nearly killed us all. I also remember living in the shadow of nuclear war twenty years ago - it was a fear not peculiar to those trapped between two superpowers. Natan Sharansky remembers the man who spoke truth to evil, and no one has a better right to testify in the case than the victims. But the question remains: did Ronald Reagan bring down the Evil Empire or merely bait the bear?

Since we’re all still here and the Soviet Union is gone, we’ll never know whether a different foreign policy in the 80’s would have wiped out mankind or brought on that still-elusive Golden Age. It’s not that hindsight is 20/20, but that nothing succeeds like success. To the dead we can only give the benefit of the doubt: he was an optimist and his glass is now forever half-full.

Spam in a Can

Thursday, June 10th, 2004

WP plugin of the day: Belongs to Cat - I haven’t tried it, but it looks handy.

I’ve added a WordPress custom field for entry freshness, which so far I’ve used only on the canned entries. Custom fields are easy to add on the editing page, but getting them to display is another matter. The documentation is obscure as usual. What you have to do is put a the_meta() command into your template (index.php), and then style ul.post-meta, .post-meta li, and, optionally, span.post-meta-key.

What I did was add <?php the_meta(); ?> to the end of my feedback div in index.php, right after the line with the comments_popup_link command. To style the meta output, I added the following to my stylesheet:

ul.post-meta {
	display: inline;
	margin: 0;
	padding: 0;
	list-style: none;}
.post-meta li {display: inline;}
.post-meta li:before {content: ' | ';}

So now instead of saying this entry was spam in a can, I can do it automatically and the meta data will appear at the end of the post. (Wait for it…)

Just the Snark, Ma’am

Wednesday, June 9th, 2004

A few days back RJ Anderson posted an interesting Harry Potter theory about Evil!James. Since I’m not attacking a straw-woman version of RJ’s ideas, I can actually mention her name (RJ Anderson - is giving credit so hard?) and even (gasp!) link her original post. Should she happen to comment here, I will treat her with the respect any fellow fan deserves rather than ignoring her points while quibbling over a minor issue.

I’m no HP fan, so for a full-blown snark analysis of this glaring fandom wank, I will send you on to Narcissa Malfoy. In conclusion, I would just like to point out that there are only two possible explanations for this sort of behavior - stupidity or malice - and only one of them is excusable.

Today in WWII

Wednesday, June 9th, 2004

On this day in 1940, Norway surrendered to Germany. France had already been invaded, as well as swamped by refugees from Belgium, which surrendered on May 28th. Hoping to grab a chunk of France, Italy chose today to declare war on both her and Britain.

D-Day won’t come around for another four years. If you haven’t seen these already, I highly recommend the Beebvision reports at Silent Running (the blog with the cute no-tree-hugging icon). See how today’s BBC would report on the Allied invasion. The category is in reverse chronological order, so it may be simpler to wait for the PDF version.

Broken Windows

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

Beta of the day: QuickSilver β24 has been out for a while, but I missed it. The download is buried in their forums in accordance with QS’s current “drive potential users away” policy.
Statistic of the day: Infected Windows PCs Now Source Of 80% Of Spam (from Slashdot)

Daring Fireball reports that the latest Security Update (2004-06-07) closes the Mac hole completely. There goes our big vulnerability, and it never even got exploited. I’ll be keeping RCDefaultApp around for its handy file-type handling, but the days of running a real, leaky, hack-me-hard OS are over for my mac.

Just a few days back, Daring Fireball blogged an interesting “broken windows” theory of PC viruses and spyware:

My answer to question posed earlier why are Windows users besieged with security exploits, while Mac users suffer none? is that Windows is like a bad neighborhood, strewn with litter, mysterious odors, panhandlers, and untold dozens of petty annoyances. Many Windows users are simply resigned to the fact that their computers contain software that is not under their control. And if theyll tolerate an annoying application that badgers them with pop-up ads, well, why not a spyware virus that logs every key you type, then sends them back to the creator? (Thats a real virus, by the way, Korgo, which hit Windows at the end of May and is spreading quickly.)

The Mac is like a good neighborhood, where the streets are clean and the crime rate low. You dont need bars on your windows in a good neighborhood; you dont need anti-virus software on the Mac.

I think the issue is even more basic than adware leading to viruses in the way that one broken window leads to many broken windows. If I were to make the broken window analogy, it would be the broken windows sold by Microsoft that lead to both adware and viruses. If you expect the OS to behave erratically - chewing up your files, popping up mysterious error messages, crashing, and requiring frequent reinstalls for no adequately explained reason - then you already have the bad neighborhood that makes adware and viruses seem natural. You didn’t watch your lovely block going bad as the crack-ho’s moved in - no, you bought a fixer-upper in the ‘hood with your eyes wide open.

That is to say, you tolerated the broken windows by paying Microsoft for them in the first place. Mac users demand a functional OS not by our postulated eternal vigilance (of which there’s neither need nor evidence) against spyware, but by buying a functional OS in the first place. We’ve moved out to the ‘burbs.

Third Contact

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

Rant of the day: Ray Bradbury curses Michael Moore

It got cloudy in Boston around 6:30am, so I’m watching 3rd contact on webcams from Belgium and Iran. The latter page tells how Avicenna was the first person to record the transit of Venus.

[Update:] The Iran feed stopped feeding around 4th contact. Remember, Venus will be back in 2012 if you missed it this time around. I’m hoping to be someplace sunnier by then.

Seema Sighting

Monday, June 7th, 2004

Despite my fears, Seema has not been squished by the Red Line during her visit to Boston. She’s alive and well and wandering the mean streets of Central Square. Planning With Seema involves a lot of wandering. I tried unsuccessfully to involve the decisive Dr. Deb, but without her we were doomed to the fate of laid-back people: strolling around Boston, Brookline, and Cambridge, trying to resist the allure of used bookstores and candy shops with bins.

In the midst of our laid-back fun, Seema did get to Meet the Mac, experience the Joy of Newsreaders, and try out the rice pie. If anyone else wants to try the rice pie, here’s the recipe:

Italian Rice Pie

Filling (makes 2 large pies):

  • 1/2 cup raw rice
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 lbs ricotta
  • 2 cups sugar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon (1+1/2 tbsp)
  • grated rind of 1 lemon and 1 orange (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Cook, drain, and cool the rice.
  2. Beat eggs light and fluffy.
  3. Mix other ingredients into the eggs.
  4. Pour carefully into unbaked pie shell.
  5. Bake at 350°F for 1 hour.

Pie crust:

  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 7 tbsp softened butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (plus 1 yolk)
  • pinch salt
  • pinch grated lemon peel
  1. Mix ingredients to form a soft dough.
  2. Press half of dough into 9″ square pan or 10″ pie pan.
  3. Use other half for a criss-cross top or a second pie.

You can’t actually criss-cross the top for this recipe because the filling is too liquid. The crust is from another rice pie recipe that’s more solid before cooking, but involves scary pineapple. And I have a third recipe from my grandmother - both require milk and more rice.

I stole the yolk for the crust from the filling. I put some allspice in the filling because I like it, and skipped the grated peels because I had none to grate. I used Arborio rice, though that’s not necessary (and perhaps even counterindicated). I also used a 10″ quiche pan, and refrigerated the second half of the crust and filling until the first pie had been consumed and the quiche pan was free again. The filling is very liquid, but it won’t boil over - the main danger is sloshing on the way into the oven. It should be solid enough to turn (carefully) after half an hour.

Besides the milk and scary pineapple linked above, I’ve seen recipes with
cream or raisins (which is getting a little too far into rice pudding territory for my tastes). The rum and citron version sounds interesting, though the jimmies are a bit much IMHO.

Enjoy!

Transit of Venus

Sunday, June 6th, 2004

Cartoon of the day: D-Day 2004 by Mike Lester at Backspin
Missing sibling of the day: if you see Veronica, tell her to answer her email. Or her phone.

At sunrise on Tuesday morning here on the East Coast you can see the first transit of Venus in 122 years. See Space Weather for details by country, live video links, and the like. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you not to stare at the sun or put your retinas at the receiving end of any magnifying equipment pointed at said sun. Sky and Telescope has some information on solar filters - the most interesting one being the Pop-Tart wrapper.

The weather in Boston will be partly cloudy, so we may have to wait until 2012 to see Venus in action.

Feeler Syndrome

Saturday, June 5th, 2004

Scott at Gene Expression asks why the mental health profession is wasting time with Asperger’s syndrome, when it’s hardly a debilitating mental illness. Jason Soon replies:

People who enter the psychology/psychiatry profession disproportionately suffer from a pathological condition called Feeler Syndrome. Symptoms include a deficit in concentration abilities, deficits in forming genuine interests in things as opposed to people, a tendency to prefer style over substance in conversation and thought and general dependence on social milieu and the approval of others for sustaining a sense of self-worth. Notwithstanding these problems sufferers retain a high degree of functionality. This is reinforced by the fact that the skills they have overdeveloped to the detriment of others allows them to get into positions of social influence. As a consequence such symptoms also come with a tendency to label others as deficient. Nonetheless the condition is not a hard one, as the wealth created by normals with adequate concentration and conceptualisation skills allows for the redistribution of resources sufficient to sustain these sufferers and allow them to lead happy lives.

Another commenter links Niall Ferguson’s political diagnosis: America has got Asperger’s syndrome.

Line Breaks

Friday, June 4th, 2004

I’m having line break problems again here in WP 1.2. The fix that fixed 1.0.2 isn’t working as well as it did before. It still fixes the big problem of old Blogger line breaks in posts, but it messes up those posts in which I used MovableType’s “convert line breaks” option. (Maybe it did in 1.0.2 as well, and I somehow missed it.) Fortunately, I didn’t use MT linebreak conversion as much as I did Blogger, so I can go back and edit those posts easily.

The code to fix has moved to wp-includes/functions-formatting.php. Change function wpautop($pee, $br = 1) { to function wpautop($pee, $br = 0) {. This seems to cause some odd double-spacing inside pre tags, which I may try to fix in the future.