700 billion = the number of stars in seven galaxies

This popped up on the quote of the day (actually, it’s three-quote-of-the-day) section on my customized iGoogle home page:

"There are 1011 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers."

- Richard Feynman

Seems appropriate considering events lately, eh? Congress just blew more money than there are stars in seven Milky Way Galaxies. No wonder the stock market is tanking.


I better never hear a Republican use the phrase "tax and spend Democrats" EVER again

Republicans like to use the phrases "small government" and "reduce taxes" and "tax-and-spend Democrats" during campaigns.

Then they proceed to run up the national debt, then change the law so they can do so. This is wrong, this is illegal, this is treasonous. Yet we let them get away with it.

They did it under Reagan, and now Dubya and his pack are doin' it.

New Rule (as Bill Maher say): Republican's don't get to use those phrases anymore. And Democrats can now use them against Republicans. Fair is fair.

It's all hot air anyway.

They wouldn't have needed to do this if they weren't involved in a useless war in Iraq that had NOTHING TO DO with the so-called "war on terror". Anytime you see the government use the phrase "War on (something)", hang on to your wallet....you're being snookered.

I'm not addressing the possibility that the war is justified. You can justify anything, given enough power and control. But this one just wasn't necessary. We should be concentrating on Afghanistan and Al Quaeda, not on Iraq and etc. We should be concentrating on North Korea. We should be concentrating on Iran. Instead we're wasting time, money and lives in the quagmire of Iraq we should have never gotten into in the first place. Sure, Saddam was a baddie. There are lots of baddies. We can't afford to justify them all.

Frankly, I think that everyone in government should be required to give all their salary beyond minimum wage to the war effort and paying down the deficit. Or at least beyond the average middle-class wage. Let them see how it feels to live with the results of their policies. Right now they don't. And this should be a law. That'll drive out the rich playboys and girls. We probably won't get anyone to replace them, though.

I don't see the Democrats doing much to fight this spending spree or the administrations trampling of the Constitution. It's true...there's not much difference between the Dem and Reps anymore. They aren't in touch with the people, only big business.

I think it's time for new political parties. The Dems and Reps aren't serving the people anymore. Time to vote ALL of them out of office. I'm not going to vote for either of 'em next time. I just hope there are some independents to vote for.

Frankly, I think it's time to outlaw ALL political parties and radically reform campaign financing, if not eliminate it all together.


Stacey Kent comes back to Minneapolis

Went up to see Stacey Kent, probably my favorite singer (she even supplanted James Taylor) perform at the The Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis. I was going to go see her last year when she was there, but work intruded. Apparently she's been there several times before and was the first performer at the new (current) location of The Dakota.

Stacey's show was FANTASTIC. She's one of those performers that's even better live, like James Taylor. I had such a good time I stayed for her second show, too (hey, it was that or sit in my hotel room on a Sunday night...that wasn't a tough choice!) Their pianist (Art) was outstanding too, as were their bassist and drummer (both local boys, Gordon Johnson and...I think...Phil Hey.)

I got to meet and talk with Stacey and her husband Jim Tomlinson (her sax player), after the first show, and picked up a signed copy of Jim's new CD, "The Lyric" (not out in the US yet, only Europe, and featuring Stacey on 11 out of 13 songs) They were doing mostly new material and a few requests (including a few things not on any album yet) so that was great too.

She was surprised that I drove all the way up from Iowa. I stopped by after the second set and thanked her for singing "Surrey With The Fringe On Top" (she made it her own) from the musical "Oklahoma", mentioning that I'm originally from Oklahoma (Muskogee, no less!)

The forecast changed to say there would be snow in Minneapolis late in the week, though. Argh! The day was not bad, though rainy, and I was hoping that we weren't going to get any snow, as it STILL hadn't started by the time I went back to the hotel at about 11:30pm Sunday night. But I woke up about 3:00 am though and it had started, and by 6:30am they had about 6 inches. I should have blown off the hotel room and driven back after the show. Maybe even the first show...although her second show WASN'T a duplicate of the first show...only one song overlapped, which was great.

Stacey was probably happy, though, as during one of the shows she asked "where's my snow?"

According the TV morning shows, the roads were pretty bad and slow (there were quite a few transit busses stuck on the freeway, but there are a LOT of freeways in MPLS, not just 35), but they said the snow was supposed to slow and stop about noon, so I waited until checkout time (11am) to leave and then promptly got stuck in the (uncleared) parking lot when I backed out and stopped to switch from Reverse to Drive! Some guys tried to push me but it didn't help. So I switched on 4 wheel drive, even though you're kinda supposed to be moving forward, and of course I then drove right out. I love my 4WD! Kept it on all the way back.

They said on TV that this was the worst storm of the winter. Figures.

I-35 was pretty nasty. Busy as hell though, even so. Didn't look like the snow plows had even been over it! In fact, I later saw two of them in the ditch! There were plenty of cars in the ditch too, but considering the speed some idiots were going, I'm not surprised. Most of us were going about 25-40 through Minneapolis, and no higher than 50 or so the rest of the way through Minnesota (I didn't turn on cruise control until well into Iowa). But there are sections in Minnesota where they've lined the west side of I-35 with big evergreen trees...and they need to do that ALL the way, because wherever they were, there was literally NO snow on the highway! Perhaps it just kept the blowing snow off after they cleared it (there was a lot of that, with frequent whiteouts), but it sure was nice!

I didn't really have any problems, just a few scary moment changing lanes (I always seemed to do this when there happened to be a large pile of slush piled up down the center line....that wasn't visible when I started the lane change)

Once I got back into Iowa, the snow went away quickly and the roads were clear almost immediately after Albert Lea MN, but then the damn high winds damn near blew me off a couple of overpasses. Actually blew me into the other lane once on a bridge (gusts were up to 50mph).

I got back about 3:30 or so, so the snow only added about an hour to my drive time. Still, it was NOT a fun drive. Going up there was much nicer, even though it was raining. The new Jim & Stacey CD was a calming influence after I got out of the worst of the snow and ice. I needed it!

The show was worth the bad weather, though. I'm probably gonna go back the next time she's in Minneapolis (she's there about once a year) although I may take more than one day off just in case. Might even go up earlier in the day and look around downtown, it looks interesting. The hotel was very nice (Holiday Inn Express, and it was even the cheapest I could find at $81 on Orbitz). There was WiFi (non free) or wired high speed internet (free) so I could check my email and such. And only 2.5 blocks from the jazz club! Across the street from the club (which is in a "transit mall" like we have downtown) there is the offices of the Church of Scientology. Pity no one was there...I'd have enjoyed laughing at them through the big windows.

A lot of the folks at the club had obviously been there before. Stacey went around before the show started and was talking to many people, apparently she has a lot of friends there. The gentleman and his wife I sat next to and struck up a conversation with while waiting for the show to start up described her well: "Stacey's just a doll", he said. He's right. She's a charmer. She and Jim are very well matched in life, and it shows in their performance.

Check out Stacey and Jim. If you don't like 'em, you don't have good taste.

UPDATE: Here's a review, with photos.

UPDATE: If you want to check out Stacey's music, she has a free MP3 available on Amazon.Com's Free Music Downloads



Motorola phones are getting names like RAZR (razor), SLVR (Sliver), ROKR (rocker), PEBL (pebble) and so on.

Then there's the photosharing site Flickr, the blogger text-to-speech blog site Talkr, and more.

What's wrong with vowels, especially "e"?


Watermarking instead of DRM?

TechDirt mentions an article about replacing DRM (Digital Right/Restriction Management) on media like music or video or other digial content with watermarking. Basically the file would be marked as being owned by you. You could give it away...but they could find out who it was from.

This has possibilities, big ones, but as they point out, there are downsides too, both from the vendors standpoint and (I think) from the user standpoint. What if someone stole your data and gave it away; how do you prove you didn't do it? Also, what about some of the more open e-boook and other digital standards (MP3 for example); you could easily remove the watermarks.

The closest I've seen to a "watermark" form of DRM/copy proection is the eReader (formerly Palm Reader formerly Peanut Press) method of securing your e-books. When you open it for the first time you have to type in the credit card number of the card you used to purchase it. This has problems too: 1) what if they go out of business and their reader software (available for Mac, Windos, Palm, and PocketPC, but nothing else such as Linux, Symbian, etc) stops working at some point in the future? And what if you forget your credit card number...what if you need to type it in years form now and have lost it? It happens.

No, all of this stuff is NOT going to be accepted and will ALWAYS be broken instantly. The proper method is to do what companies like Baen Books, artists like Jane Siberry and others are doing...trust the customer. You don't copy protect paper books and those can be digitized easily too. You can always break audio file proection by the simple expedient of simply re-ripping the audio; use program like Audio HiJack to take the output going from iTunes or RealPlayer or Windows Media Player to your speakers and turn it into an MP3.

In short, corporate folks, the simple solution is to give up. You can't win. The harder you try the worse it will get. People don't like being told then can't do what they want with what they've purchased (and no, I don't mean give it away to all and sundry...I mean fair use, which DRM also inhibits, and the expense of the Constitutional guarantees!) Instead of inconveniencing your customers (if not outright endangering them like Sony did with it's "rootkit" copy protection disaster), try trusting them instead. It seems to be working for all the folks who ease off (iTunes) or remove (Baen, and to some extent also Fictionwise) their copy protection schemes.

I have no problem with simple watermarking, but don't make a big production out of it. Marking the ebook with "From the Library of John Smith" might work, but I can't see how useful it'd be for MP3s or video or graphic files; graphic files already get watermarked when printed to make sure the Feds can tell whick printer was used to produce counterfit currency (so it's been revealed recently). Adding another layer will just be worse.

MPAA, RIAA, et. al: GIVE UP. YOU CAN'T WIN THE COPY PROTECTION BATTLE. You CAN lose your customers, however, as Sony is finding out, if you persist in treating them like criminials. They are 100% right when they say that DRM only causes problems for inconvenient customers. THere hasn't been a DRM scheme out there that hasn't been broken, and quickly.

Worried about movies getting out on the internet within hours (if not before) of the movie's premiere? Then release the damned thing on DVD at the same time. Most folks would rather drive to Best Buy or the video rental store and pay a few bucks than waste house downloading and assembling and burnign what are usually rather bad digital copies. People WILL pay for convenience. THAT'S where to get them. That's why iTunes is so successful.

Have the Cylons infiltrated Amazon.com?

Just got two boxes from Amazon.com where I'd ordered 3 "episode guide" books for Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, and Battlestar Galactica and two CD's by Stacey Kent's hubby, Jim Tomlinson. Oddly, they were shipped separately (though ordered together) one by UPS, one by USPS, about one day apart, but arrived simultaneously (well, on the same day anyway).

The Battlestar book and the two CD's arrvie together. They were shrinkwrapped to a piece of cardboard, and this cardboard is the exact same shape as the the photos and printouts used on BSG. In a typical BSG bid to make things seem similar but NOT QUITE the same as earth-humans, the printouts and photos and other "pieces of paper" on BSG have their corners clipped at a 45 degree angle (sort of like movie tickets/raffle ticket). The sheet of cardboard the BSG book was shrinkwrapped to was clipped exactly the same way. Weird coincidence!


This guy's got a point...where's the iPod PDA/Tablet Mac, Apple?

I agree with the author of this post. The iPod edges close and close and close to a PDA. Cellphones edge close and closer to iPods....and are already PDAs. Hell, my PDA had an MP3 player years ago.

And while there's something to be said for discrete devices (same argument as agains all-in-one printer/scannner/fax combos....with separate devices you don't lose ALL the functions if one ofthem breaks) there should still be quite a market for an all-in-one device. It's not like it'd be hard to create; in fact, they have made them....merge the Palm Treo smartphone with the large screen and hard drive of the Palm LifeDrive and you have the ultimate iPod/PDA/Video+StillCamera/Cellphone/ combo.

Then have a 12" iBook verison of it for the tablet/eBook crowd.

Hopefully one day with a roll-out flexible OLED screen.

And best of all....one designed and made by Apple for the absolute best out-of-box experience.


I don't know whether to cry or wish he'd inspected MY house

What with all the high-tech job layoffs and outsourcing and stuff in recent years, this article about a former Lunar Module engineer now doing home inspections for a living makes me very sad. And very angry at our government. And our people.

You know...the people who caused the death of the lunar program because they were upset that flights to the moon (to the MOON!) were interrupting their re-runs (RE-RUNS!) on TV. Despite the fact that every dollar we put into NASA has come back tenfold in research that has improved out lives and health and everything else.

And now we're to the point that we don't have the ABILITY (or even the designs, so I'm told) to make a spacecraft that will go to the moon. They just recently thought to start preserving the last remaining Saturn 5 boosters, which had been laid out on it's side to rust for the last 30 years. Idiots.

Jerry Pournelle once said that he always knew we'd go to the moon....he just didn't think we'd do it and then STOP going.

I've long been disappointed with our government....and with our people for letting them slack off. There is no vision anymore, like Kennedy had for putting a man on the moon. Though even that was part political...gotta keep up with them Commies!

I've got to find that saying my dad had framed and hung on the wall from his office. It's by John F. Kennedy, and I think it's from his book "Profiles In Courage":

"Where there is no vision, people PERISH."

Outsourcing all our manufacturing AND high-tech jobs to other countries all in the almighty name of profit is WRONG. It's TREASON, if you ask me. It's short term profit-taking decisions like these that will be the death of this country if we don't watch out. Overzealous "Communism" was ultimately the death of the Soviet Union. How ironic would it be if overzealous capitalism was the ultimate cause of death of the USA?