Thursday, December 23, 2010

Amazon saves Christmas

Not that Christmas is even a big deal for me, but it seems fun to say.

This year I'm donating money to charities and foundations in the names of friends and family members because I don't believe that a rational human being can ethically do any kind of business in America anymore.

However, I am not an ideologue (okay, maybe a little bit). And I did compromise my principles to make a couple purchases. One of which was a book for my family and friends about anthropogenic climate destabilization -- in other words: humankind's ongoing and deliberate destruction of the planet's tiny layer of organic material and gases.

Those books never made it to me.

Of course, the tracking status says that they were delivered:
DateTimeLocationEvent Details
December 20, 201012:09:00 PMSan Antonio TX USDelivered
December 20, 201012:21:00 AMSan Antonio TX USOut for delivery
December 20, 201012:21:00 AMSan Antonio TX USArrival Scan
December 17, 201005:29:00 AMOklahoma City OK USDeparture Scan
December 16, 201011:22:00 PMOklahoma City OK USArrival Scan
December 16, 201007:13:00 PMTulsa OK USDeparture Scan
December 16, 201006:36:00 PMTulsa OK USShipment received by carrier
December 16, 201011:44:22 AMUSShipment has left seller facility and is in transit

That means that the UPS parcel delivery person apparently drove his truck into my gated apartment complex without dialing the apartment number at the gate. Then parked outside my apartment building. Then took my package out of the truck. Then placed the package in front of my door... and then walked away.

Meanwhile, I was just getting back to work from lunch, completely unaware that someone was stealing the package of books off the ground outside my apartment.

Should have specified that a signature was required, I guess. Duh.

But that isn't the point. The point is that UPS was paid to deliver a package to a recipient. They should be held accountable for their complete lack of care, concern or competence in getting that job done. In my opinion it is their responsibility to deliver a package to a recipient. Because otherwise, what's the fucking point?

If they bear no such responsibility, then why don't they just deliver the package to a landfill? What is the difference between a package that gets delivered to a landfill, and a package that gets abandoned on the ground at an address that may or may not be correct with nobody around to witness its delivery? Is the difference just some words recounting a particular event? That is meaningless. Unless I actually receive the parcel, the delivery is worthless. In fact, it is less than worthless, it robs me of the time that I wasted expecting a delivery when I could have spent that time ordering the parcel from an alternative source with an alternative delivery route and process.

These questions are rhetorical, but fair and reasonable.

It is clear that UPS should be held accountable for the cost of these items, and the re-shipping.

I contacted about this matter, and they promised to ship the order again, this time with overnight delivery -- without any cost to me. is amazing.

This still doesn't get UPS off the hook. It is foolish of the UPS delivery person to have refused to leave the parcel with someone in the office of my apartment complex.

Update: So I got the second package from Guess who they used to send it. Yeah, that's right. So apparently the fella delivering the package this time around didn't care to make sure the package actually got into the hands of the recipient either, and he just ran off after dropping it at my door.

Oh well. It's that time of year I guess. He must have had a ton of other parcels to deliver, and he was probably completely overburdened. I would have given him a tip, but I didn't feel like running after him in the cold.

You know what? Screw you, UPS, for overloading your drivers so much that they can't even wait for someone to answer the door. UPS, you are a $42.6 billion business. Your profits have been down 28% since 2008 to (boo hoo) $2.2 billion in 2009.

You're telling me that you couldn't hire a few dozen extra part-time drivers for the holidays, at the Scrooge-wages of $8.50-$9.50? That would have been about $50,000 to hire 36 extra drivers during the month of December. You could have afforded it, and it would have covered your demand for San Antonio and balanced the workload enough so that your delivery persons could actually wait for people to answer their door before they ran off, leaving the parcel alone and unsecured.

You surely have a quick on-boarding process considering that you almost certainly have a ridiculously high employee churn -- I mean, given that you over work your part-time employees on the holidays by assigning them with routes that are too long, and with truckloads that are too full. You sure don't have enough full-time employees.

If you did have more full-time employees, then maybe you would be able to hire fewer part-time employees to fill in the gaps during the holidays. This would allow you to focus on what it is that you actually do for your customers, both senders, and recipients -- ensuring the transportation of products all over the country. But instead, all you care about is the money. Merry Christmas, UPS.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ubuntu username fail

So Ubuntu is pretty easy to use most of the time. But I've installed the system probably about two dozen times now, and each time I forget that I cannot add a username with a dot without doing some somersaults.

You cannot use the Gnome users-admin control panel to add a username such as "nels.nelson". Oh no. That would be horrible.

Instead, you have to use adduser.
sudo adduser nels.nelson --force-badname
Adding user `nels.nelson’…
Adding new group `nels.nelson’ (1002).
Adding new user `nels.nelson’ (1002) with group `nels.nelson’.
Creating home directory `/home/nels.nelson’.
Copying files from `/etc/skel’
Enter new UNIX password:
Retype new UNIX password:
passwd: password updated successfully
Changing the user information for nels.nelson
Enter the new value, or press ENTER for the default
Full Name []: nels.nelson
Room Number []:
Work Phone []:
Home Phone []:
Other []:
Is the information correct? [y/N] y

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Installing Ruby 1.9.2

tar -xzf ruby-1.9.2-p0.tar.gz
pushd .
cd ruby-1.9.2.p0
./configure \
--prefix=/usr/local \
--with-arch=x86_64 \
--program-suffix=19 \
sudo make install

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Why Grails sucks

Why Grails is the worst web application framework I have ever used in my life, and I've used some pretty bad ones

Here's one reason:
Compilation error: Compilation Failed
Application context shutting down...
Application context shutdown.
Soooo sorry, but that's nothing but 100% grade-A pure American male cow manure.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Lykke Li - Get Some

Lykke Li's two new tracks from her SP Get Some are as good two pop songs as any that I've heard lately.

The track "Get Some" is certainly not for those with particular sensibilities, given its subject matter. But prurience and a good beat have always been a sure hit in the music biz, and I can't imagine this single will be any exception. This track is simply a guileless promise of sex to an unnamed lover.

As if to perfectly balance the album like a coin on its edge, "Paris Blue" is a lovelorn missive to an ex-lover. Poignant, haunted, and self-deprecating.

If you have an e-mail address, you can download the two tracks for free at the Lykke Li official website.

[ YouTube - Get Some ]

Monday, November 01, 2010

The Koch Brothers - Sociopathic Lying Murderers

The Koch brothers have been in the news lately for...
  1. Being discovered as a major source of funding for tea party activist groups who had been portraying themselves as independent grassroots organizations.
  2. In March of this year, Greenpeace published a report on Koch Industries and the significant and secretive financial role that they have had in the conspiratorial disinformation campaign and industry-exclusive denial of anthropogenic climate change.
A spokesperson for Koch Industries responded to the Greenpeace report. The Koch Industries response includes claims that the Greenpeace report "distorts the environmental record of [their] companies" and that they "have put tremendous energy into achieving sound environmental stewardship".

Here are just two examples that damningly contradict such statements. The safety and environmental record of Koch Industries could not be more clear.

From a January, 2000 report:
Koch Industries, Inc. unlawfully allowed some 3 million gallons of crude oil and related products to leak from its pipelines into ponds, lakes, rivers and streams, or onto adjacent shorelines, from 1990 to 1997.

Koch will pay the largest civil fine ever imposed on a company under any federal environmental law to resolve claims related to more than 300 oil spills from its pipelines and oil facilities in six states, the Justice Department and the U.S. EPA announced.

Source: The US Department of Justice
Koch Industries has also been found responsible for the deaths of two Texas residents.
In 1996, a pipeline managed by Koch Pipeline Company, LP (Koch) ruptured and leaked a butane vapor cloud into the surrounding residential area in the city of Lively, Texas. A teen-age boy and girl driving through in their pickup trunk were burned to death when the cloud ignited.

Source: The National Transportation Safety Board
Source: Serasota Herald-Tribune
On April 14, 2010 a spokesperson for Koch Companies Public Sector sent out an e-mail to a number of news organizations that preemptively and specifically denied any link to tea party activists, or foundations that provide them funding:
Because you have covered tea parties in the past and we imagine you will cover tomorrow's Tax Day Tea Party in DC, we want to reiterate some important facts.

Koch companies value free speech and believe it is good to have more Americans engaged in key policy issues. That said, Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch and David Koch have no ties to and have never given money to FreedomWorks. In addition, no funding has been provided by Koch companies, the Koch foundations, Charles Koch or David Koch specifically to support the tea parties.

Thanks for your consideration.

Source: Talking Points Memo
On July 25, 2010, New York Magazine published this article about the Koch brothers that completely contradicts such denials. In the New York Magazine article David Koch is quoted as saying, "I’ve never been to a tea-party event." And yet here he is speaking at a fundraiser event for the Americans for Prosperity Foundation that was attended primarily by the members of tea party activist groups. The video clip is from a recent documentary called (Astro) Turf Wars that exposes how supposedly "grassroots" political organizations have over the years been funded by big-business billionaires such as Charles and David Koch.

Then, on August 30, 2010, the New Yorker printed this article detailing how the Koch brothers have directly supported and bankrolled tea party activists through a chain of foundations and institutions. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation has been created by the Koch brothers for the sole purpose of secretly providing funding for the promotion of their self-professed Libertarian political agenda through the Heartland Institute which directly funds tea party activists.

The Heartland Institute insists that it is independent, and is not affiliated with any political party or business. And yet, on the very same website on which they make such denials, the Heartland Institute has a web page dedicated to talking points specifically for Republican tea party activists.

In the past, the Heartland Institute has worked with Big Tobacco to conduct disinformation campaigns about the damaging health effects of smoking. In the 1990s the group worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question the science linking secondhand smoke to health risks. Of course the official response from the Heartland Institute is to deny this too, in a patently similar fashion to the "set the record straight"-style of Koch Industries. Obviously, they are fully aware that the court of public opinion has ruled against Big Tobacco.

Koch Industries official website has a page dedicated to "setting the record straight" and combating the inevitable public perception that they are a criminal corporate citizen. There you will find paragraphs of double-talk and a narrative that makes no mention of the people it has injured and killed. It lists legitimate environmental organizations with whom it has affiliated itself and contributed to, but neglects to mention that such contribution was a court-ordered $15 million compensation stipulation as part of their settlement with the Justice Department.

Charles and David Koch are killing people, lying about it; destroying the environment, lying about it; and funding political organizations that promote legislation that allows them to do so, and lying about it. All while keeping a straight aristocratic face.

This behavior can only be described as sociopathy.

The Koch brothers will tell you that they have worked hard for their station in life. Perhaps. They inherited their wealth and ownership of their company from their father. Still, they must have worked very hard at staying out of prison, being the sociopathic, lying murderers that they are.

Friday, October 22, 2010

America, meet Karen Handel

This woman will be the next governor of Georgia.

Okay Mrs. Handel, we get it. You're a bad ass.

Ladies and gentlemen, the likes of these will be our elected officials. How does this image make you feel? Does it make you feel a little uneasy? Maybe it makes you feel secure and in charge, knowing that a strong white woman with an assault weapon is gonna be in charge of things. Aww.

Yep, she can carry that thing around with her wherever she wants. It's Georgia.

Update: The Vanity Fair article to which I link in this article is outdated as of August 2010. Nathan Deal faced Karen Handel (who had already resigned as Secretary of State of Georgia) in a tightly contested August 10, 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate primary and won by fewer than 2500 votes. The following day Handel declined to pursue a recount and conceded. In recent polling, Nathan Deal holds a 10-point lead over Democrat Roy Barnes in Georgia's gubernatorial race.

Tax dollars by caucus

When the Tea Party-augmented Republican party takes over the House and the Senate this November, I think the Dems will have to take from the experience the following lessons:
  1. Don't piss off folks living in rural America...
    1. by levying Federal taxes on rural America,
    2. and calling them uneducated rural Americans.
  2. Stop subsidizing rural America with Federal tax dollars and just let the residents of the rural states live with indigence and the neglect of public services. One of two things will happen:
    1. Either they will fulfill libertarian expectations by
      1. independently replacing public services with private ones and
      2. somehow surviving the depression of their agriculture-based economy free from Federal subsidy
    2. or they will continue to live in indigence until they revolt or die.
  3. Meanwhile, if Federal taxes are eliminated (LOL), then Democratic states can modestly increase their own state income taxes to replace their own relatively modest Federal subsidies, and to cover their state budget deficits.
Surely those are the lessons that should be learned from this tax infomap at, Tulsas of America, go ahead and keep on whining about your taxes. You will just be cut off from the Federal teat.

Remember the 2008 election? Just two years ago? This map reveals the dramatic difference in rural and metropolitan political leanings in that election:
Does it not beg the question: Why are metropolitan areas so much more better off than rural areas in terms of income and welfare, and why are they also more democratic? Are those two things somehow related?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Even a broken clock...

Until today there has been absolutely nothing that Glenn Beck has said that I did not wish I had never heard in the first place. His rhetoric is usually so inflammatory and stupid that it is impossible to escape it from either the reverent right or the lampooning left.

Surely you've heard about the plan hatched by Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center church in Gainesville, Florida to hold a good old-fashioned down home book-burning of exclusively the Islamic holy book the Quran on September 11th.

Apparently so has Mr. Beck, and he weighed in with his opinion in this blog post.
What is wrong with us? It’s just like the Ground Zero mosque plan. Does this church have the right? Yes. Should they? No. And not because of the potential backlash or violence.
Update: Okay, no. The mosque is not being planned to be built on Ground Zero, for one thing. If it was, that might be a little weird. Calling it the "Ground Zero mosque" is just a straight up lie.

And besides, burning the Quran, and building a mosque two-blocks north of Ground Zero are not the same things at all.

But go on...
We must be the better person. We must be bigger than our problems. Bigger than the times in which we live. Burning the Koran is like burning the flag or the Bible. You can do it, but whose heart will you change by doing it? You will only harden the hearts of those who could be moved. None of those who are thinking about killing us will be affected, but our good Muslim friends and neighbors will be saddened. It makes the battle that they face inside their own communities even harder.

This sounds measured and calm. It sounds well-reasoned. It actually sounds rather Christian in the idealistic turn-the-other-cheek sense of the word.

Well (almost) good for you Mr. Beck. You (almost) got one right this time.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Facebook is beating Google in the race to invade your privacy

The following write-ups are the reasons I have become convinced that Facebook needs to be stopped.

Top Ten Reasons You Should Quit Facebook:


Robert Scoble of Rackspace was kicked off Facebook for trying to import his personal information into a third-party app for synchronizing his contacts (his account was re-activated, but imagine if you *weren't* Robert Scoble of Rackspace):

All this, along with the most recent Facebook insanity packaged as "feature" and unleashed upon its users, to my mind makes Facebook the far and away winner in the race to eradicate our privacy online.

Google's still a contender, but somehow I still trust Google. I mean, Google has never intentionally locked me out of my e-mail account because of some perceived violation of its nebulous terms-of-service. Nor has Google prevented me from retrieving my contact information. In fact, Google has facilitated the transferring, exporting, copying, and sharing of my own personal data through the availability of its application programming interfaces and online software labs.

You simply must check out this rather frightening infographic which is found over at Matt McKeon's website. McKeon is a software developer in the Visual Communication Lab at IBM Research's Center for Social Software.

Also, from Boing Boing's fascinating post which lays out the exposition of Facebook's march towards its Orwellian market share of your personal information -- a quote from Tim Spalding:
Why do free social networks tilt inevitably toward user exploitation? Because you're not their customer, you're their product.
So, you tell me. What's the difference between a human product, and a slave? Remember, it is a fallacious argument to suggest that any rights to one's own personal information have been given up just because one voluntarily signs an EULA.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Michael Granger's blog mentions this awesome little piece of ruby database modeling/persistence tech called Sequel.

Sequel appears to be the best alternative to ActiveRecord that I have ever seen. Probably.

This is how you connect to a DB:
DB = Sequel.connect('postgres://localhost/blog?user=user')

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Ron Paul: Obama is a 'corporatist', not a socialist

Here's the text of an e-mail I sent to Representative Ron Paul (R-Texas) today.
Dear Representative Paul:

I have been an admirer of yours for years now. I was very disappointed that you did not win the presidential nomination of your party in 2008. I wish you the best of outcomes in the coming election. I believe our country needs people like you in our government, and it makes me hopeful that our government can be reigned in by the people, when we have representation like you.

I have a question regarding something that you apparently said during your time at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, as quoted in a Wall Street Journal piece a month ago in April.

You said, regarding President Obama, "In the technical sense, in the economic definition, he is not a socialist, [...] He’s a corporatist, [meaning he takes] care of corporations and corporations take over and run the country."

I was wondering, could you please expound on this?

I am also against corporate interests having as much influence as they do on our country, particularly how much influence corporations seem to have over the USDA, the FEC, the FDA, the FCC, and the Federal Reserve.

I understand how you might believe that President Obama is interested in continuing a government-planned economy (which I am against in principle), but I am having trouble understanding why you think that the President is a corporatist in light of his response to the landmark Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. (2010) during his State of the Union Address this year.

Can you help me understand your opinion on this matter?

Thank you, and God bless,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Facebook doesn't care about your privacy

Today I pulled up a web page in my browser to read its article on Google Buzz links, which turned out to not be the info for which I was looking (why does Obi-Wan's Jedi mastery not imply mastery of English grammar?), and what did I see?

What the hell? How does it know that none of my friends already clicked the thumbs-up icon button to indicate that they liked that web page? If my friends had liked the web page that I was viewing, how does it know who my friends are?

Facebook's new "Personalization" web feature. The Personalization feature is a little bit of code that web authors and bloggers can put on their web pages.

This code "phones home" to Facebook every time you access that page. This is not very new. Trackers and web hit counters do this all the time and generate marketing information and ad success rates. But the key here is that Facebook knows exactly who you are and what precisely you are viewing on the web.

Sites accessing the Personalization feature have access to all your public Facebook information, which includes your name, profile picture, gender, and friend and fan page connections.

Considering that Facebook's Personalization code can be placed on any web page on the Net, it seems that this has some pretty broad privacy implications. I have turned off the feature in the privacy settings of my Facebook account. It was on by default, and the introduction page that was splashed on my profile announcing it's arrival did not explain how to turn it off.

Protect your privacy -- turn off Facebook's Personalization feature that tracks your activity on the web by following these steps:
  1. Go to your profile, and bring up the "Account" menu, and choose "Privacy Settings" from the drop-down.
  2. Click on the "Application and Websites" link.
  3. In the section "Instant Personalization" for "Control[ing] how select partners can personalize their features with my public information when [you] first arrive on their websites", click the "Edit Setting" button.
  4. Make sure that the check-box for on this page is unchecked. Apparently, once you have removed the check from this box, your setting will be saved.
There is still no guarantee that Facebook isn't keeping track of every partnered website that you visit.

The cookie used by the Personalization widget is your Facebook cookie. That cookie is stored in your web browser. So every time the Personalization code phones home it sends your user name to Facebook, along with the URL of the website making the request to access your information.

Do you see how easy it is for Facebook (and other sites) to keep a log of every single website that you visit? So long as their code is used often enough by people who write the websites that you visit, eventually Facebook can collect a pretty good profile of your web usage.

It's one thing for Facebook to know who all your friends are simply because they help you keep in touch with them. But now Facebook can know things about you that are well beyond information about your social connections. As of this post, this is the default setting -- their new feature defaults to spying on you.

Are you comfortable with that?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gravity might be entropy

And entropy is a loss of quantum information in matter.

Tonight I read an article about some ideas on entropy and gravity that seemed to suggest that gravity is somehow an outcome of the complex relationship of the quantum information, or states, of the subatomic particles that make up matter.

Trying to understand this, I'm imagining that a chunk of space dust: not much matter, not many subatomic particles in various states of interaction. Big planet with lots of matter: lots of subatomic particles, all in various quantum states, all interacting in complex ways.

Jae-Weon Lee at Jungwon University in South Korea seems to have some pretty advanced ideas about gravity and quantum information. His theory seems to arise from Landauer's principle which suggests that data erasure or merging of computational paths results in more entropy. Entropy is basically just the loss of structure or information.

The article doesn't really get into the details of how changes to subatomic particles' quantum states actually causes gravity. I guess I'll have to do some more reading on the subject to get a better handle on the ideas.

But the article did remind me of some ideas I was playing with a few weeks ago now.

The Earth is a pretty bizarre place sometimes. Life on this planet seems to organize itself in ways that seem so, well, disorganized. Nature is almost always portrayed in stories and films as a wild, uncontrollable, random place where nothing makes sense, and everything is in constant flux. This idea seems to be deeply entrenched in Western thought -- the idea that the natural world of life on this planet is chaotic. Even deeper thinkers tend to imply that its patterns are spontaneous and simply the inevitable result of mathematical coincidence.

What if life itself is the result, or embodiment of entropy? The most chaotic environment I can imagine is when the universe was theoretically just a hot plasma soup. All that energy began to condense into matter and collect in gravity pools and spin around singularities. Eventually matter seems to have somehow organized itself into reproductive patterns -- life. But why?

What if the mathematically chaotic patterns that we observe in nature are a sort of response to gravity and the loss of information?

It almost seems as if this planet's life is itself intent on escaping Earth's gravity. Single-celled organisms writhe and wiggle about in fluid. Fish propel themselves through the oceans. Amphibians drag themselves ashore and lurk about. Insects burrow and crawl and dart and fly. Mammals run and swim. Birds soar. Anything, any movement, it seems. To ever stop is just to die.

As if gravity somehow represents death, while at the same time being the womb of life. As though the vastness of space were the ultimate destination of life, and the one true outcome of order from chaos. Every creature, toiling forwards, gazing upwards, arms outstretched, wings unfurled, desperate to escape the clutches of their origin.

As if life was intent only on filling up the voids of the universe with the energy represented and embodied by its patterns. The proportions of energy represented by an individual life form are astronomical when observed at the sub-atomic level, but spread throughout an organism, mechanically organized energy propels life into patterns of events that play out through time in what seems like nothing more than chaos.

Almost certainly, I don't know what I'm talking about, but ideas are fun to play with.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Stuart McMillen's cartoons

Stuart McMillen consistently produces delightful cartoons that capture the heart of the inquisitive and independent life. Some of them are very inspiring, and others convicting.

At the Recombinant Records website, you can find a selection of Stuart McMillen's works.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The pressure mounts on defrauder Blodget to explain why he is such a moron

Any failure of NBC to adequately cover the Olympic Winter Games is not a big deal for me.

What is a concern to me, is language like this: "Pressure builds on NBC to explain why it's ruining the Olympics"

The so-called pressure to which the author of this weird article refers, is the article that he wrote the day before in which he "asked" the very questions of NBC that he is claiming NBC is being pressured to answer.

This kind of illogical self-referential editorial "journalism" feedback is typical of the sort of dancing-with-smurfs nonsense talk for which certain entertainment-news channels are known.

On a blog that also hosts articles supposed to have been written by Sarah Palin, I suppose I can't be very surprised to find such stupidity.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Unable to watch the State of the Union address tonight

Because my AT&T High Speed Internet (DSL) connection is so utterly useless and incapable, I was unable to watch the President's State of the Union address tonight. I could not find a single solitary website that had an unbroken video stream of the broadcast of the President's speech.

I just deleted a profanity-filled rage letter to AT&T, but let me just say that I feel nothing but animus and resentment for this and every other telecommunications company with whom I have ever done business.

It makes me angry that AT&T collected US $6.4 billion in data service revenues this past year, and yet somehow, they are unable or unwilling to replace the copper wires in my neighborhood with fiber optic cables.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Snap software judgment of the day

As far as remote desktop connection software for Mac OS X goes, CoRD is the best.

CoRD > TSclientX
TSclientX > RDC


CoRD -
- Download size: 1.12 MB
- Install size: 3 MB
- Open Source? Yes
- Ease of use: Incredibly easy
- Installation: Drag to Applications folder

TSclientX -
Pros: Not Microsoft, Open Source
Cons: 40 Megabyte download

Remote Desktop Connection Client for Mac 2 -
Pros: ?
Cons: By Microsoft (not Open Source), comes as an mpkg (no uninstaller), 10 Megabyte download