Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Suspected Actual Abraham Lincoln Quotes

I haven't been able to find old Abe arguing for hanging legislative opponents anywhere, but here are some possibly authentic quotes from him.

When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad, and that is my religion.

'Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.

The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just.

Whatever you are, be a good one.

When you have got an elephant by the hind leg, and he is trying to run away, it's best to let him run.

Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?

If this is coffee, please bring me some tea; but if this is tea, please bring me some coffee.

Force is all-conquering, but its victories are short-lived.

He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I ever met.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.

No man has a good enough memory to make a successful liar.

No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent.

Tact is the ability to describe others as they see themselves.

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Bots Model Language Evolution

Researchers in Switzerland have done an interesting experiment in language evolution. Part of the experiment involved evolving virtual robots in a kind of genetic algorithm, with the final stage consisting of physical-ized robots using the pre-evolved genome from the virtual genetic hothouse. The story is reported at the Telegraph,
while the original research abstract can be found at

A summary of the findings is also reported at bitsofnews,
where they have an embedded video of the bots , the file is swf

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Congressional Nancy-Watch -or- Murtha, She Wrote

Moves continue, in the House of Reprehensibles and Sedatorial chambers, to end the war in Babylon and greater Mesopotamia, where the US sitting duck soldiers are dying for the lame duck's pride and daily strengthening the Persian empire as they do the dirty work for the Shia militias. This was the so-called New Way Forward (to death), which was not new, but same old same old, is not a "way" as it is not a method or a means to an ends, and is not "forward" either, as it is another step in the wrong direction, digging a deeper hole, our own soldiers' graves.

Ending an illegal war should not, in theory, be a difficult matter for the Congress, which can declare and fund or not fund wars, but the thin majority is so fractured that their pathetic efforts so far have faltered, betraying the wishes of the American majority who elected representatives to carry out the wish to end the war. Some say the congressional democrats have a "slow-bleed" strategy, death by a thousand legal paper cuts. In the Senate, Joe "traitor" Lieberman holds the Democratic majority hostage to his threats to defect to the other side if war funding is cut.

In their first effort, the Congress passed a non-binding resolution, imagining themselves as something more like a newspaper editorial board rather than the body which funds the United States government. Recent efforts documented in the Washington Post included a proposal that would require troops to have had a year's rest between deployments, have completed training, and to have been fully equipped before being deployed. This was apparently too radical for conservative Demograts and Republicants, who prefer to "support the troops" by forcing them to conduct the illegal war and occupation on extended deployments without adequate breaks, under-equipped, and improperly trained.

The newest effort, scheduled for this coming week, is to focus on the November 2002 resolution which authorized the pResident to use military force to find and remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq and remove the dictator there, who had not renewed the US approval granted to other local dictatorships such as the House of Saud and Pervez Musharraf. Legislators have noticed that the resolution to find WMDs and remove Saddam no longer describes or justifies the current occupation. Good thinking, Sherlock.

Personally, I would favor stronger tactics, such as shutting down the government until you get your way, a method used by Newt Gingri(n)ch. His Repuglicant contract killers held the neoCongress for 12 years, demonstrating that the public will not necessarily disapprove of strong-arm tactics. Unfortunately, it seems that these kinds of options are closed to Democrats, who have a wide range of opinions and diverse members. Democrats risk giving themselves a wedgie if they use Rovean wedge-issue tactics.

Nancy Pelosi inexplicably said that "Impeachment is off the table". Impeachment should be served quickly, hot or cold, before the Republicans have another coup, with Supreme Court approval, and do to the Democrats what one Reprehensible from Alaska has threatened (in a fabricated Abraham Lincoln quote) -- arrest, hang, or exile them. They also need to act before a new war in Iran kills millions. The Bushies could provoke a nuclear counterattack of some kind, and use the event as an opportunity to declare a national emergency and arrest their opponents in Congress. (Congress has been a thorn in Dick's side ever since Flight 93 failed to hit the Capital as planned.) Instigating a war is so much more convenient for them than strengthening and renewing the nuclear non-proliferation pact, which requires the existing nuclear powers to gradually disarm. Extraordinary rendition also beats having to talk to your democratic opponents, who continue to have their own opinions, different from the deer leader's, in many cases.

Do the Democrats have alternative proposals for Iraq? They have made proposals, but let's make it simple: If there IS a military solution to Iraq, it can not be performed by the United States troops, who now have earned a reputation for rape, torture, and killing. If peacekeeping forces are needed, these should be United Nations peacekeeping forces. There is universal support for the United Nations leading the way, in polls done in Iraq, the U.S., and worldwide. This will require going to the UN on bended knee (and with open wallet) to apologize for headstrongness (stubborn pigheadedness) and attempt to redeem ourselves for our errors. The US troops are not on US territory in Iraq, and hence are not subject to US law, but to international law, which makes them, their commanders, and their enablers war criminals. Removing US troops doesn't necessarily mean abandoning the Iraqis to local sectarian warlords. As each American is withdrawn, five Bangladeshi blue-helmets could be moved in, for example, paid for by the US. The US has responsibilities, and a price must be paid, but the price is not necessarily US lives.

If the Congress can successfully force a US withdrawal, which seems unlikely before 2008, they should support US troops by increasing, possibly doubling their pay, insuring that veterans and soldiers have free lifelong medical care and free lifelong educational opportunities. Everybody deserves these benefits, but perhaps veterans deserve them most and least controversially.

The idea that the US could be a world policeman is taking a beating (not unlike the beating you would get at the hands of a Los Angeles cop if you are black). World respect for the US is probably at a 100-year low about now. The US rushed into Iraq when there was no crisis, but ignored genocide in Darfur and Rwanda, among other places. Even in the US, probably only a minority still support "World policeman" policies, perhaps 3% of the world population, but certainly not a majority. We do not earn respect from stationing troops overseas any more than the Soviets did by having troops in Vietnam or Cuba. The "assistance" which overseas US forces provide is primarily the killing of people by bombing or shooting them.

The United States should withdraw all troops stationed overseas which are not part of a United Nations or NATO agreement. It could be announced that US forces would begin a two-year process of withdrawal, but where an internationally-recognized public referendum finds a majority support keeping US forces, the withdrawal would stop and refresh to prior levels. In this way, a review of the global deployment of US troops would insure they are not stationed where they are unwanted, but if countries like Japan decided to keep the status quo, they could. Done quickly, this would weaken the hand monkey's paw, of the chimperor-in-brief.

Certain NATO deployments are poorly thought out and badly implemented, too. The near-100% support for the death penalty for converting to Christianity in Afghanistan shows that the values of the Afghan people are quite different from ours. (Their religious fanaticism is a different religion, mainly.) Negotiations should aim at creating a reformed Taliban as a political party competing for power democratically, not as a military force. We (NATO?) only require that they recognize democratic procedures and not harbor terrorists. The current deployment can never end as it is now conceived, and will eventually cause a bigger war. Similar progressive thinking created the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan and the Christian Democratic Party in Germany. As you will recall, the US did not stay and fight remnants of the defeated regime indefinitely. It is simply more practical to negotiate an end to it -- even if you do plan on stationing your troops there.

As we continue to see the solutions to world problems as being killing people, that mindset will eventually return home. If the solution to political problems in Iraq and Afghanistan were to kill people, why won't those solutions work in the US, some veterans may wonder, and apply their knowledge of guerrilla urban warfare to the US.

As I have said before, the Department of Defense is not really concerned with "defense", but is a ministry for foreign aggression. If it were "defense", its duties would overlap with "homeland security" --although I guess you could argue that "homeland" is an internal security ministry like the East German Stasi. One or both of these agencies should be abolished or radically downsized. The Pentagon is an interesting building that would make nice artists studios, a Peace Center campus, or some kind of multifunction center. If 300 million Americans with the world's strongest military cannot defeat a popular insurgency in a nation of 23 million, what would it take for someone to successfully defeat and occupy the United States? Clearly there is no threat to the United States now. The massive agency dedicated to sending millions of Americans overseas to defeat the Nazis went against the previous 150 years of American history, and is not appropriate now.

What can the US contribute to the world if not killing foreigners in its role as world policeman? America can be a leader in the United Nations again someday when its reputation is restored. The US can make an improved nuclear nonproliferation agreement to replace the broken-down old one, rather than threaten Iran for doing what the US did 50 years ago. People around the world respect the American educational system (universities and graduate schools, research institutions), technology, and medical technology, so we can build hospitals and universities around the world, and pay for their staff and professors. In places like Iraq, the lives saved by American hospitals and university-trained medical professionals would eventually overtake the number of people killed by the US invasion.

Progressive policies will probably not take place until the Kucinich administration takes office. In the meantime, the congressional nancy-watch continues. Will they find the means to stop the illegal war and occupation, or fail at that and be replaced by more gutsy Republicans, such as Chuck Hagel, in the next election.

The fact that Americans, unlike most (really all) other countries, have an agency that spends hundreds of billions of dollars -- over a thousand dollars for every man, woman, and child-- projecting military forces overseas to kill non-Americans, while they have no agencies (unlike many countries) to provide free medical care, lifelong free education, or free childcare services, says a lot about the values of Americans. The values projected are that it is more important to kill foreigners that they dislike than to educate, care for, or maintain the health of their own people. This is, of course, both unethical and uneconomical. These values do not arise naturally but are encouraged and expressed by the corporate culture. After the department of death is dismantled, simply replacing the anti-human spending with pro-human spending will not be enough. Republicant sympathizers in the military complex will have to be fed contracts for the maglev rail system that will connect our cities and the windmills, solar cells, and wave/tidal energy systems to power the grid.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

iBook RIP (2001-2007) (700 MHz, 30GB)

The patient died on the operating table. To be fair, it may have already been in a deep coma. This morning it had the pulsating light of sleep mode but wouldn't wake up from sleep or restart. It may have been the fault of the Ubuntu system; I don't know if it deals with sleep mode and takes commands from the power button correctly, as it didn't respect the Eject button, either. It just kept pulsating, so I disconnected the battery and began to operate. I had to run out to buy some tools. They are all very small. I used this site as my reference.

Things were going fairly well, although it was a little beyond my imagination, but I stalled at the point of dismantling the display, finding I didn't have the Allen wrench or Torq wrench of quite the right size. I thought it might be changed just by messing with the wires. I thought maybe it would work again at 90 or 120 degrees open, and I could just lock it down in that configuration somewhere. I was getting tired of it, and went for re-assembly.

No luck with the display, and it lost the little functionality it had. It is now displaying all the interactivity of a brick. In hindsight, I probably should have just hooked it up to an external monitor and let it be a stationary computer. It could have run OS X or even OS 9. Maybe I was too greedy, but it would have been nice if it had come back to life. Maybe it still will. I'll keep the lights on for it. In hell.

Oh, the memoryz. I remember how OS X froze the first hour I ever ran it. I reverted to OS 9 but it wouldn't accept an English system so I ran a Japanese OS 9 for several years. What was I thinking? I upgraded to 10.2 and 10.3 (English) to run the Java application that handled the Rio Karma. 10.2 was the first version of X to equal OS 9; 10.3 surpassed it.

I ended up with a few of the 40+ screws left over. It makes the iBook lighter, an engineering improvement. Actually, it tends to swell a little now that a few bits like the electromagnetic shield are not bolted down in 12 places. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't try to become a surgeon.

I did salvage the AirMac Card. Realized the slot iMacs need an adapter. Wondering if I have one around. Must check sock drawer.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Georgia DEEPRESSO coffee. From Coca-Cola. Seems like a potential marketing disaster to me, but what do I know? Coke is a big company, and they must have done their homework, like they did with the New Coke a few years ago.

Antique Gadgetry and Software

I recently downloaded a build of Ubuntu Linux to test-run as a Live-CD on my old 2001 iBook. Version 6.10 ran much better than 6.06, which I test-drove last summer. Touchpad movements moved the cursor normally, vigorously, not in millimeter increments, and the wireless card was recognized, loading the latest crazed astronaut news from BBC in Firefox. I would have installed the OS on the hard drive, just for the hell of it, but I would need to partition the hard drive. I had just reinstalled an impersonal version of Mac OS X 10.3 with none of my data, and various software, after cloning its personality into a MacBook and wiping iBook's drive, so I hesitate to partition it and start over on all that. This machine is being retired due to a fault in the screen, the dreaded screen-blacks-out-if-opened-wider than-45-degrees fault common to many of this model. It already had the defective logic card problem, and the delete key fell off and is taped on. Strangely, when running Ubuntu, the screen no longer blacked out when opened! What? So is it a software problem, not hardware? No, instead of blinking out instantly, the screen froze and slowly stepped down the contrast until it had grayed out completely and then went black. Different, but still bad. Perhaps part of the inferior power management of Ubuntu relative to Mac OS. So it is not that the power or signal to the screen shorts out, but that the wire that tells it that the lid is open shorts out. (?)

I am planning to take the iBook apart to fix the screen glitch. I may change the form of it, taping it (or nailing it?) to a piece of plywood, for example. It's not so much a repair mission as a dissection. Other possible uses besides experimenting with Ubuntu are to use it to pick up my wireless connection and share internet with my non-wireless iMacs upstairs, to run it in target disk mode to give an old Mac a bigger hard drive to use (30 gigs vs 6 on my candy iMacs), or to cannibalize it in some other way.

Practically speaking, I think the functionality and bundled iApps of the Mac OS are superior to what comes with Ubuntu, although Ubuntu is spiritually better. I hope the MacBook doesn't have all of the problems of the iBook, or I will abandon Apple for Ubuntu (when it gets a little better) on a Lenovo (or whatever). Apple should license their OS to at least a few other makers or models; one company can't cover all configurations. Apple has no ultracompacts, for example.

In other news of antique, defective, and broken gadgets, I found (when packing it up to throw it away) that I had purchased a 3-year warranty on the POS (Piece of Sh-crap) known as the Rio Karma when I purchased it in March, 2004! It was expensive, so I had figured I could use the insurance. Later, I was gifted with an iPod Shuffle (which I use every day) and an early generation of Nano (-still way underutilized-), so I stopped using the Karma, realizing I didn't need a big device with 20 gigs of music for everyday use. By the time it developed the battery defect, I had forgotten the warranty.

Although Rio as a music-player maker is out of business, it seems that I will be given a Rio Unite 130 2G, a device dating to 2005. It was a Japan-only product, and although it is only 2 gigs, has line-in and voice recording capability as described in English here. I see that the price was about the same as the Rio Karma was. I am looking forward to getting an actual working device with recording capabilities to replace to bad Karma that was collecting dust.

Update 20070216: I initialized the drive, again, and installed Ubuntu 6.10 on the iBook. I have other computers with Mac OS on them anyway. It is hard to judge it fairly when I can only open it 45 degrees, but it seemed to run well, and updated itself with lots of free software. In some ways it is better and more configurable than the Mac OS. However, the Music Player didn't work, crashed, and wouldn't import tracks from an mp3 cd. The CD tray had to be opened with a clip, as the open tray button didn't work. There is no Skype that runs on this version, either. There is a Skype for Debian flavors of Linux which should fit the bill, but maybe it is the PowerPC processor that it doesn't work with. With no iTunes, Skype, and CD tray problems, I'd say OS X or even 9 is better. I will leave the Ubuntu OS on until after the operation to dismantle it. Uli will be my guide.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Podcast Listening

I have long been listening to the Notes Underground music podcast. Podmeister Mitch recently mentioned the Matador mp3 collection, which was really well worth visiting. I also subscribe to NPR - All Songs Considered. I have added some new feeds in recent weeks to keep a stream or at least a trickle of new music in my ears:
KCRW - Today's Top Tune
KEXP Song of the Day
MPR - The Current Song of the Day
Radio Three Sixty
NPR - Open Mic
I have finally retired NYUB - Not Your Usual Bollocks. I always found myself fast-forwarding through it. For a year. It is the usual bollocks. Or unusual bollocks, but not my kind of music. What was I thinking? Also retired Spacemusic but I think it died by itself first. You always think that someday you will actually listen to these or find a use for them. I archived some so that if I am ever hospitalized in a coma for a year or more, maybe someone could play them to me. I should leave someone a note.

In the news department, Democracy Now has no equal. It is strange to see how the podcast sphere went from no mainstream corporate media in mid 2005 to almost nothing but mainstream now. I am only speaking of the news sources now. You have to dig through the ABCs, CNNs, FOXes, CBS-walmarts, Newsweaks, and others to find Pacifica or anything non-corporate. I'm very bored with NPR - Most E-mailed Stories. Man, is that bad. Still not as dishonest as most of the other news reports, but very suburban topics such as Robert Plant's post-Zeppelin career as opposed to today's news of global destruction. I didn't get much out of the Washington Post, NYT, or BBC either. I guess I'd rather read them. Only Democracy Now is better listening than reading. (I'm too tired to link but you should search and subscribe in iTunes or another podcast-rss-feed-aggregator client.)

It's not NEWS, but Le Show is the best variety show or whatever you want to call it. Harry Shearer's regular voice features such as Dick Cheney Confidential and 41 calls 43 are the best. I am now adding Sam Seder of (just sold) AirAmerica after finding that Marc Maron is often on as a guest. I'll also give a listen to Ring of Fire. I can't stand Ed Schultz (but I would readily recommend him to anyone who likes the Rush Limbo "Limpboy" Experience as a low-fathead alternative).

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cedar Pollen 杉の花粉 (Revenge of the Trees)

The sneezing and burning sensations in the nose and eyes, similar to low-level tear-gas or pepper spray exposure, which residents of Japan may feel beginning right about now is the conjunctivitis and rhinitis symptomatic of kafunsho, 花粉症, or pollenitis. This epidemic is the unfortunate result of a large-scale cedar reforestation miscalculation in the early post-war era which led to massive quantities of pollen per cubic centimeter. Dense stands of cedar-only forests covering 12% of the national land area led to production of absurd levels of pollen. Not only are they much denser than a natural forest, but being all the same species packed together causes each tree to vastly escalate its pollen production to compete with neighboring trees. At the same time, the population became highly sensitized to allergic reactions due to sanitation (i.e. nobody has worms anymore, which gave a natural protection against kafunsho). It has been found to affect monkeys, too.

I have added some quick kafun 花粉 (pollen) reference items to the sidebar for quick reference, with a bias toward Kanto, Tokyo and Chiba, although navigating up a level from http://yklt.kafun-info.jp/html/kanto_s.html to http://yklt.kafun-info.jp/html/ will get you to a national pollen map courtesy of Yakult(!?), for example. This kafunsho season, not unlike a protracted cold, will last from mid-February to early May. Sometimes you can see the thick clouds of pollen blowing off the trees, or you can see it on the windshield of a car or anywhere where it would gather such as a windowsill. They look to be about 30 microns (30,000 nanometers) wide. Maybe. Here are some magnified pictures at 2500X. Here's an electron microscope image from here. Right is a picture from an Osaka government site.

I use a variety of methods to cope. First of all, the prophylactic principle is most effective. This means wearing a surgical mask to block as much pollen as possible. That cuts the symptoms by
25-75%. Next, eat all the pills your doctor gives you. This will have the unfortunate effect of making you borderline narcoleptic, able to sleep on a dime at anytime by just closing your eyes, if you aren't that tired already. That induced drowsiness is nice; since you feel miserable anyway, who needs consciousness? A third way to fight the pollen is with eye drops and nasal spray. I checked out the eye drops and found they were made of the usual anti-red-eye ingredient, the name of which I have forgotten. I found that the active ingredient of my nasal spray was hydrochloric acid. When your sinuses are completely blocked, yet oozing nasal mucus profusely, hydrochloric acid seems like it may be just the thing. I'll trust the judgment of the medical community. I would like to have some goggles since my eyes itch like crazy. I have often thought that oxygen tanks and an oxygen mask wouldn't really be such a bad idea. It could actually be an improvement on the surgical mask and goggles to have a transparent glass oxygen mask, or just go all the way and cover the head with a transparent helmet with positive air pressure from a clean supply. This would interfere with eating and drinking, but keep pollen out of your hair, too. You would want to take it off occasionally. If it were made lighter, either a gauzy veil-like envelope or a clear plastic type resembling a plastic bag over the head, that would have some advantages, too.

The very best solution is rain. Rain cleanses the air of all the organic and inorganic crap. If it rains, you get immediate relief. You will know when you wake up if the rain has stopped or started. Wind is the worst. I'll be hoping for rain until May. Last year, the rainy season began from May (instead of June).