November 30, 2004

White Lights. White Trash.

I don't like them either.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:16 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

Another Brick

From A Small Victory comes yet another reminder of how old I am. Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of Pink Floyd's The Wall. Like a lot of people, I have a history with this album. Like a lot of people there are some parts of that history I don't remember too clearly.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:38 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

November 29, 2004

Let's Try Reading

Robert at Let's Try Freedom has an interesting idea for spreading the wealth around the globe. The wealth of knowledge that is. Create a central clearing house for donated books. he estimates it shouldn't be too hard to have a collection of 40 million books.

There are some books I'd be glad to share, and others I would say "sorry, gotta keep these".  Let's use that level of generosity as the assumed default:  it's nice and generous, but I don't have to actually be Jesus to pull it off. 
I've got boxes of books that have been through 4-5 moves without seeing the light of day. If I looked at them with Robert's standard in mind, I bet I'd be willing to part with at least half of that.

Head on over and read the whole thing. and leave him some encouragement to get this started.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:30 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

November 28, 2004

Updating The Lists

A bunch of new folks have been added to the sidebar who should have been on there long ago. If they're not on your reading list already, check them out.

The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Desert Raspberry
Design Observer
Dissecting Leftism
Got Design
Greenie Watch
Let's Try Freedom
Stones Cry Out
Transterrestrial Musings
Vastly Important Notes
The Volokh Conspiracy
What's Your Brand Mantra?
Wide Awake: Notes On Life

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:00 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Father's Tough Love Bites Back

Here's a tip. If you're going to try the whole scared straight thing on your kids, make sure to clean up your own act first.

A man in Newark, N.J., who wanted to teach his daughter a lesson about drinking has ended up in trouble himself after calling the police.

Kevin Winson, 46, had called police to his home after one of his daughters came home intoxicated. However, his attempt to teach his 16-year-old daughter a lesson took a bizarre twist.

When police arrived at his home, the girl informed the police that she was afraid, because of what her father was hiding in their home.

The young girl led police to a crawl space where her father was keeping a stash of guns and hundreds of vials of illegal drugs.

Police said the man was arrested and charged with illegal possession of semiautomatic firearms and possession of a controlled substance.

And another thing. if you're the kind of parent who keeps a stash of illegal weapons and drugs in the crawl space, don't pretend to be too upset about your 16-year old going out drinking.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 09:38 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

November 27, 2004

Construction Update - Interior.

I haven't posted an update on our construction project for a long time. Te reason being that things have been going very very very S L O W L Y. Last week we saw a tremendous burst of progress,. Drywall is up and taped, the first coat of paint (the walls should darken with the second coat) and even some trim. So it's time to share photos.

This photo gives a pretty good idea of the color scheme. The storage areas are the result of covering some structural anomalies in the original house. The reason one section is bigger is because the bottom cubby (the one with the lamp in it) was built to hold one of those mini office/dorm refrigerators. No bedroom should be without one.

This picture is from just about where my head will be while lying in bed watching TV. The plywood floor will be covered with hardwood in a dark finish.

Progress should be fairly rapid next week so more updates coming soon.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:22 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

November 26, 2004

Death or Growth - The Market Changes

Bear with me while I stick my toes into somewhat unfamiliar waters. I haven't studied economics since college and that was... a while ago. Nonetheless, I will wade in to take on some people who are probably a bit more versed in the topic. I am responding to this post from Glenn Reynolds in which he cites a passage from The Angloshpere Challenge, an article in The Economist and a bit of his own writing, to highlight his agreement with the statement that capitalism ended in the 1990's. Here is the excerpt from the Angloshpere Challenge he cites:

The first indication came when the falling price of computers crossed the point where the average programmer could afford to own a computer capable of producing the code from which he typically earned his living. This meant that, for the first time since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the ownership of the most critical tool of production in the most critical industry of the world's leading economy was readily affordable by the individual worker. Throughout the first three decades of the Information Age, the individual worker was still dependent on his employer for his means of production, just as any textile worker in Manchester or Lawrence was in 1840.

Suddenly, this changed. Now it is as if a steelworker could afford his own blast furnace or rolling mill, an automobile worker his own assembly line. By strict Marxist definitions, capitalism ended sometime in the early 1990s. This is a development that has not received adequate attention.(emphasis added)

Mr. Reynolds also quotes a bit of his own thoughts web video that echo the same sentiments:
The cost of a facility for Webcasting is far less than the cost of a facility for television broadcasting. At some point in the relatively near future the quality of the webcast will be as good as, if not better than, that of broadcast television, and the cost of a webcasting facility for high-quality production will be within the range of many individuals. Just as the personal computer capable of producing first-rate software is revolutionizing the work relations of software, the personal webcasting facility will change the nature of the broadcasting media. It also changes the dynamics of production.
The Economist article he mentions presents much the same arguments about the relationship of blogs and the mainstream media.

Here's where I dive in: I think they are all wrong.

Since all three example put forward are in support of the same idea, I am going to deal with the first example specifically with the thought that my arguments would then necessarily apply to the other two.

It is certainly true that the decline in cost of personal computers coupled with the growth in their capabilities has indeed put the tools for developing commercial software within the reach of individual developers. The days of the "traditional" manufacturing center for software development of a large company able to provide the necessary hardware are surely on the decline. You don't need access to a sophisticated mainframe to write software any more. This does not mean the end of large software manufacturers. Companies like Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle etc. will continue to employ their own programmers. Likewise, not all programmers, even though they can afford the hardware to do so, will want to attempt to make their living as freelancers or starting their own companies in their garages.

There will be some who will. The result of that will be that the person hired as a freelancer to code a new feature for company A, would then move on to write code for company B. The better freelance software engineers would be able to demand a higher price, and companies wanting the best, would be willing to pay it. A new market emerges.

Then there will be those programmers who decide to go into business for themselves. They will set up shop in their basements, garages and spare bedrooms. They create targeted software. Filling in the gaps that the big names leave uncovered. Their product will be distributed over the web for little cost to them.

For example, this post and every word on this site for the last several months, was written using a nifty little program called Ecto. Ecto exists to serve as a front end for blogging to a number of systems including Blogger, Moveable Type, Typepad, Wordpress and more. It is a clean efficient interface available for both Mac and Windows. The cost $18.

The first response to this is, "Yeah shareware. It's been around forever." Exactly my point. But look at it from another perspective. The authors have written a program targeted at a vibrant and rapidly expanding community. One of the reasons for that part of nature of the blogosphere is the extremely low cost of entry. If the people at Kula Co., Ltd. tried to sell Ecto for $150, they would have priced themselves out of their market. I don't think that at $18 they are charging what the market will bear, I would have paid a bit more, but the point is the market is there.

Another illustrative example of how the democratization of the means of production results in the emergence and growth of new markets is the field of design in general, and graphic design in particular. It is particularly relevant because it is be further along the process than programming, video production, and certainly blogging. With the advent of desktop publishing and the postscript laser printer in the early 80's, pundits of the design industry were predicting the death of graphic design. I will grant that in the hands of amateurs and professionals alike, new technologies have produced some truly awful design but there has also been an explosion of great design.

The cost of entry is a bit higher than that of blogging, but probably considerably less than Mr. Reynolds do it yourself web video studio. You don't need top of the line equipment. (Don't tell my boss I said that) For $1,300 you can get an iMac with a 17 inch flat panel screen and a 1.6GHz G5 processor. You would probably need to spend a couple of hundred more to boost the memory from the off-the shelf 256MB but many of the catalogs typically offer a free memory upgrade. You'll need to invest about $3,000 for the industry standard software, Illustrator, PhotoShop, Acrobat and Quark Xpress. Maybe another grand for a half decent printer. For about $5,000 you are in business as a design studio. If you have talent and the ability to generate contacts, you will have work.

If you have the talent and don't have the $5,000 (or you don't want to put that much an a credit card) freelance work is available. There is an entire "industry" of companies that exist to provide freelance design talent to companies and agencies. You provide the talent, they provide the contacts. They of course get a cut of the bill.

The point is that barriers to entry into the field of graphic design have been eliminated, but graphic design is not dead. The market for design evolved and grew.

Capitalism is not dead and it will not be killed because caffeine saturated programmers can afford to own the means of production. New markets may emerge which in most cases will exist along side the old markets. Cable TV did not kill the networks, and web video will not kill either. The markets for programming, video and information will expand, and we will all be better for it.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 08:09 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

November 25, 2004

Desecration of Independence

Political Correctness has gone too far and it needs to be stopped now. It should have been stopped long ago by those of us who looked at it's speech codes and sensitivity training and saw the danger to come. We did not do enough. We did not fight back hard enough then so we are fighting battles over the Pledge of Allegiance and now we find ourselves once again fighting for the Declaration of Independence.

The principal of the Stevens Creek School in Cupertino, California, has barred a history teacher from giving a copy of the Declaration of Independence to his fifth grade class because it contains a reference of God. The teacher, Steven Williams, has filed suit. Williams filed his suit for discrimination claiming that the principal's actions singled him out for his religious beliefs, but this incident points to something far larger than discrimination against one Orthodox Christian teacher.

The principles on which this country founded are being sacrificed to the mythology of political correctness and the deliberate distortion of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

This case, unfortunately and perhaps inevitably, will make its way through the federal courts in California. So I have little hope that the courts will make it right. Among of the claims made in the suit are:

38. Other teachers are not required to submit all of their lesson plans and supplemental handouts to Principal Vidmar in advance.

39. Other teachers are permitted to show films and distribute handouts containing references to God.

If these points are proven in court it would be pretty damning evidence of discrimination. It is not however beyond imagination that the court could rule in Williams' favor on the discrimination claim and order not that he be allowed to distribute the material in question, but to bar anyone from doing so.

If you think is an exercise in hyperbole to speculate that the court could rule the Declaration of Independence unconstitutional, remember that this is the same district whose courts ruled the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional for containing the phrase "under God."

This decision cannot be left in the hands of the courts. It needs to be made by the citizens. Or as the currently banned document states:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The extended entry has the full Declaration of Independence for your personal review. READ THE WHOLE THING.

Here is some potentially useful contact information:

Stevens Creek Elementary School
10300 Ainsworth Drive
Cupertino, California 95014   

Principal:  Patricia Vidmar
(408) 245-3312

Cuperrtino City Hall
10300 Torre Avenue
Cupertino, CA
Tel: 408.777.3200 or 408.777.CITY

Mayor's Office
10300 Torre Ave.
Cupertino, CA 95014

Cupertino Union School District
10301 Vista Dr.   
Cupertino, CA 95014
Santa Clara County

Phone: (408) 252-3000
Fax: (408) 255-4450

California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Questions, Comments and Complaints Form

Just remember that sober well reasoned comments and complaints are probably more effective that the vitriol and insults that may be deserved. But I'll leave that up to your judgment and the pursuit of your happiness. more...

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:58 AM | Comments (3) | Add Comment

November 24, 2004

Buying Blogger Books

Books by bloggers seem to be popping up all over. I think this is a good thing. I am half way through one blogger's book and loving every page, and I have another blogger's book on order. A friend was curious about the book on my screen when he walked in to my office so I'll report our discussion of the book that is currently on order.

The conversation went something like this:

What's the book you just ordered?

It's called Silent America: Essays from a democracy at war.

Who wrote it?

Bill Whittle.

Who's that?

He writes a blog called Eject! Eject! Eject!.

You read his blog so you think the book will be good?

I know the book is good.

How do you know that?

It's made up of essays he has posted on his site.

So you've read it already?


And your buying a copy.


Can't you just go back an read the blog anytime you want.

Yes. It's all still there.

So you've read it all already for free. It's all online for you to read again. For Free. And you're buying a copy of it anyway. How much?

It's about $30


Plus shipping.

Why would you do this?

Two reasons really. One. The essays are really good and I have gotten a lot from reading them. Easily more than $30 worth of enjoyment. Two. I don't see it so much as paying for the stuff I've already read, but hopefully convincing him to write some more.

It still doesn't make sense.

It's an exchange of values. He puts a lot of effort and thought into the writing and put a lot of time and effort into producing the book. I value the content of the work and the effort that went into it. He is offering the work for sale in this form. I value it enough that I am willing to trade $30 plus shipping to have it. Frankly I would have happily paid more.

That other bloggers book.

Here's a taste of the blogger's book I'm reading now:

If you look at this room long enough you can make up your own Love American Style plots:

Karen Valentine is in a tizzy - she's invited both Bert Convey and Ted Bessell over for supper on the same night, and they are both expecting sex. After all, it is their first date and it's 1971, and if the pink furniture doesn't scream "she''s as loose as the nickel slots in Reno," then everything we've learned from television is wrong.

Cue the perky Herb Alpert-derived brass, rev up the laugh track, and steel yourself for an inevitable guest appearance by Jo Ann Worley. Stay tuned for the news at 11:00: Vietnam and Nixon.

Still think the 70's were cool, kids?

The author of this brutally funny book about the horrors of 1970's interiors is blogger James Lileks. The Book is called Interior Desecrations and it is the perfect answer to those who think that the 70's are retro cool. The images were obviously scanned from old magazines and it is telling that some of the obvious moire patterns introduced in their reproduction actually blend well with some the room designs.

I highly recommend that both books be on your reading list. Buy at least on copy of each and help to make sure both of these guys are well motivated to keep doing what they do.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:49 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Let's Make a List

I've tried a few times to do the meme thing. I'm not sure I've eve successfully passed one along, but I'm also sure I've never actually killed one either. So I thought I would try it again with one I found at Desert Raspberry. more...

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:55 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment

November 23, 2004

Cashing In On Violence

I haven't written anything about the whole NBA riot episode and the subsequent suspensions of players because I really don't care. But I just went over to The Daily Recycler and watched the video of the episode. (Hat Tip to Baldilocks) As disgusting as the entire episode was, I am more disturbed by an NBA Commercial I saw tonight.

They were touting the up-coming Indiana Pacers game against another team I can't remember but I got the impression they were in first place. The ads said something like:

Can the shorthanded Pacers meet the challenge of the (insert team name)
For all its efforts at face saving by suspending a few players and making stern statements, the NBA has no compunction using the incident to try to boost ratings. Whatever respect they gained in the way in which they dealt with the situation they have lost it all in one 15 second commercial.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:51 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Why Blogging is Great

One of the great things about blogging is that if you are too worn out from the rest of your life to put any thought into anything serious all you need to do is read. Eventually, you will find someone who wrote exactly what you would have if you had the energy. Then all you have to do is cobble together a few perfunctory sentences and link to them.

UPDATE: I almost forgot to tell you to Read The Whole Thing.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:21 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Damn It's Cold

I was going to steal copy this entire post from Ramblings Journal, including the absolutely perfect graphic, but I'm just too tired. So I'm copying the meaty part and you'll have to go there to get the rest.

(NAACP President Kweisi) Mfume said, “Her counsel is respected and valued in her field and in the upper echelons of her political party.” Moreover, “Rice, a PhD and former Stanford University Provost, is an example of how far hard work, education and determination can take one to new heights,” said Mfume.

He went on to say that “attacks on Rice by the radio host and political cartoonists who use stereotypes and racial caricatures are just as bad as those who hide under sheets and burn crosses. This is something the NAACP has fought against for more than 95 years and something we will continue to oppose.”

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 06:02 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

November 22, 2004

Support A Marine

I'm number 4682 out of 6146 who have signed you should sign it too.

UPDATE: It's up to 160,558. have you signed it yet?

UPDATE: Now up to 219,043

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 11:43 AM | No Comments | Add Comment

November 21, 2004

Giving the U.N. The Boot

There is an organized effort to rid the United States of the scourge known as the United Nations. It is being lead by the group Move America Forward. They have even produced a 60-second commercial.

"Billions of dollars intended for humanitarian aid instead went to pay the families of Palestinian terrorists, and to buy weapons for Iraq-based terrorists. Millions more went to bribe journalists and officials in countries opposing Operation Iraqi Freedom, like France, Germany and Russia, the most vocal critics of the war. What a coincidence."

It continues by asking: "We tell other countries not to harbor organizations that support terrorists, why then do we harbor the U.N. here in America?"

You too can join in the effort to kick the terrorist appeasing weasels off our soil.

Sign the petition. I don't know if it will help, but it feels good.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 07:49 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

November 20, 2004

What's In a Name

Below are two versions of a news story. one is the original, one I edited.

Version 1:

PC fans go mad as store opens

Over a thousand PC fans have camped overnight outside computer giant Microsoft's first dedicated store in Europe.

They braved the cold to be the first inside the shop in London to try and take advantage of the opening day offers.

Microsoft Stores, which stock the company's Windows Software, XBox game systems and third-party software and hardware, already generate $1.2 billion in revenues in the US.

While only two of the 138 London employees - picked from 4,000 applicants - originate from the America, the language of the Microsoft Store remains resolutely Redmond.

So while rival stores like Comet and PC World try to stay focused on customer service the Microsoft Store wants to create a "community" for people looking to "Windows their lives".

The next two British stores will open next year in the Bull Ring, Birmingham and in the Bluewater shopping centre to the east of London.

Version 2:
Mac fans go mad as store opens

Over a thousand Mac fans have camped overnight outside computer giant Apple's first dedicated store in Europe.

They braved the cold to be the first inside the shop in London to try and take advantage of the opening day offers.

Apple Stores, which stock the company's iMac computers, iPod music players and third-party software and hardware, already generate $1.2 billion in revenues in the US.

While only two of the 138 London employees - picked from 4,000 applicants - originate from the America, the language of the Apple Store remains resolutely Californian.

So while rival stores like Comet and PC World try to stay focused on customer service the Apple Store wants to create a "community" for people looking to "iPod their lives".

The next two British stores will open next year in the Bull Ring, Birmingham and in the Bluewater shopping centre to the east of London.

Which one is real?

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 12:10 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

November 19, 2004

The Standard Double Standard

I have read a good deal about the stereotypical racial insults direct at Condaleeza Rice since her nomination for the post of Secretary of State. I have also read and heard numerous commentaries about the stunning silence from groups such as the NAACP and any of Jessie Jackson's organizations, and even the lack of criticism from much of the media.

But the ultimate double standard is to consider what the outcry would have been if any of what has been said about Dr. Rice had been said about any of the African Americans with high ranking cabinet posts in the Clinton administration.

Oh, wait. Never Mind.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 01:35 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

November 18, 2004

Hillary Clinton Lies

New York Senator Hillary Clinton has begun the process of trying to re-invent herself for the 2008 Presidential Campaign. The National Review is reporting on comments she made to Light the Lamp!, the monthly newsletter of the Holy Flame Pentecostal Church of Little Rock, Ark.

I'm here spending time at my husband's library," she told the Lamp when we caught up with her after a Sunday camp meeting, "and of course, I always take time to worship God in as evangelical a way as is feasible, given time and location constraints. As you know, I consider myself an evangelical Christian, really a Christian conservative, if you want to know the truth, so it's nice to be 'home' again in the South, which I really consider my quote-unquote home even though I live in New York most of the time. Well, Washington, D.C., most of the time, actually, but if I'm not there I'm in New York, of course, but always thinking about being here, in the South, my spiritual home, where I shared so many wonderful evangelical . . . moments and . . . events. Can you read that back to me?"
If Hillary is a Christian conservative what does that make George Bush? I hope there a really few people who believe one word of this garbage.

Except, of course for the voters of New York. The Republican Party should file this quote away for the benefit of whoever runs against Hillary when her Senate term is up in 2006.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:50 AM | Comments (1) | Add Comment

November 17, 2004

Support A Marine

I'm number 4682 out of 6146 who have signed you should sign it too.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 05:01 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

Technology Saves The Day

This may be the most wonderful technological breakthrough in the last 10 years.

Researchers at electronics giant TDK have developed a tough new coating that promises to make scratched DVDs a thing of the past and that will help usher in an emerging data storage format with 10 times the capacity of the current DVD standard.

In a test conducted by CNET, a DVD treated with TDK's coating survived a determined attack with a screwdriver and a Sharpie permanent marker with no effect on playability--a remarkable feat considering how easily standard DVDs can be damaged, for example, by children.(emphasis mine)

If this technology ads $2.00 the price of a DVD I would have to buy a lot of movies to equal what I've spent replacing damaged discs.

There's a lot of stuff in the story about something called "Blu-ray" that lets you store like 50GB of data on a DVD. Apparently they can do this now but the discs are highly susceptible to damage. this coating could make 50GB DVDs an everyday item. Whatever, I'm just thrilled to know that the next copy of Shrek I buy may be my last.

Posted by: Stephen Macklin at 03:14 PM | No Comments | Add Comment

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