December All-In-One Super Blog Bundle

by havoc

Up to all sorts of things this month, but apparently not writing blog
entries until today.

Intelligent Design

I haven’t been following any of the media coverage of Intelligent
Design, since I generally have better things to do (not good
things mind you). Tonight though I found myself (for example) trying
to burn up moldy cheese with a half-evaporated bottle of bad brandy,
and rather than document it Federico-style, I read
the Dover court opinion on ID
which turns out to be pretty
fun. Whether you take the science or religion side of things (or as
the judge often suggests, don’t see the two in conflict), you have to
admit it’s sort of amazing that grownups are playing this game.

The Dover school district declared that prior to teaching evolution,
teachers had to read a few paragraphs to the class stating that
evolution was just a theory and that to learn about Intelligent Design kids
could read the panda
book
. In practice, all the teachers refused to read the
paragraphs, so an administrator had to come into the room and read
them. Just think about how silly everyone should feel during the
following:

  • Parents had to submit permission slips indicating whether their
    child could be in the room during the reading of The
    Paragraphs.
  • The administrator comes in the room and sends out the kids
    whose parents didn’t give permission.
  • Administrator intones the Paragraphs, trying to keep a straight face
    while telling 9th-graders to read a book called Of People and Pandas.
  • Administrator then informs students that their teacher can’t answer
    any questions about the Paragraphs, and they are not to discuss the
    topic further in class.
  • Everything goes back to normal.

To enable those 5 minutes of bizarreness, there were hundreds of
letters and editorials, public hearings, a mass mailing to the whole town, the
permission slips, a 21-day trial, …

The ever-popular Rick Santorum was
“troubled
by testimony indicating that religion motivated some school board
members to adopt the policy”
– not the sharpest tool in the shed,
this guy.

In the 80s, apparently pretty much the same thing happened only they
called it “creation science.” The authors of the panda book it turns
out literally went through their manuscript and replaced all
occurrences of “creation science” with “intelligent design” after a
1987 court decision banned teaching “creation science” in public
schools. You laugh, but it fooled Rick Santorum.

Content

Hoping to enrich my life by providing me with digital
content
, Amy gave me this
Sufjan Stevens album
, described by Amazon as:

Illinois sounds like The Sea and Cake collaborating with the
high-school band from a Wes Anderson film on banjo-driven, pulsing
meditations on Vince Guaraldi’s music for Peanuts.

That description is pretty accurate. The album is cool. Check
it out.

Christian
didn’t like Shadow of the Wind
too much, but I thought it was very
enjoyable. The ending is a bit tacked-on IIRC but you can
decide to ignore the last chapter and still have a satisfying book, if
you so choose.

I signed up for Rhapsody which is
pretty nice for listening to multimedia content (aka “music”) at work,
and now works on Fedora Core 4 with Firefox 1.0. I found a couple bugs
but nothing major and Linux seems on par with Mac/Windows. Worth
checking out.

Tripleverb

I bought the domain tripleverb.com early in the month. What is a
tripleverb you ask? del.icio.us has
a good one right now:

Please email me your awesome tripleverb finds. I want to be #1 in the
tripleverb space. Or sell the domain to whoever is, at least.

Non-Designer’s Design Book

If you haven’t noticed, my blog looks like ass. I got a copy of the
Non-Designer’s
Design Book
hoping to teach myself to fish, and it’s a pretty good
book. That said I think I’m hopeless and will end up begging or paying
someone talented.

Technology Industry vs. Reality

Increasingly starting to believe that “conventional wisdom” in the
tech community has almost nothing to do with the mainstream. (While
before I would have admitted it was “possibly loosely related,” if
pressed, now I’m going more radical and claiming that most of what we
talk about around the water cooler is just pure navel-gazing.)

The fastest-growing web
sites
in November were PhotoBucket, MySpace, Facebook,
Memegen.net, Slate, M&M’s, LimeWire, Heavy.com, Wikipedia, and
Mate1.com. Only Wikipedia is dorksville; the rest of these have
nothing to do with Ajax or Web 2.0 or anything like that. Heavy.com is
highly-un-PC, just Flash, no HTML in sight. Popular sites like MySpace
and Xanga in my experience regularly crash Firefox, or don’t work
properly, because Firefox users never go to them and the bugs don’t
get filed, and the sites are full of bad HTML and Flash and who knows
what.

Ask a typical GNOME or Firefox developer (or venture capitalist) to
name a photo site, they will say Flickr. But PhotoBucket, Kodak,
Shutterfly, Picasa, iPhoto, etc. are probably all better-known in the
world at large – and better-suited for what a lot of people want to do
with their photos than Flickr is. Not picking on Flickr, it’s a good
site and well-suited to many, just an example. (“All photo sites are
the same category” is itself tech industry lazythink, as PhotoBucket,
Flickr, and Shutterfly for example have pretty different design
centers. At least I didn’t lump all “digital content” sites together!)

Many will find this obvious: there’s a sharp line between the
mainstream and some of the things we engineers might think are
important. But if I had a nickel for everyone who argues otherwise on
an open source mailing list…

Head First Series

If you need to teach someone programming via Java,
I thought Head First
Java
was really good. The author’s
blog
rocks too. If you’re considering this book, be warned you may
be culturally incompatible with it; in fact the more you disagree with
my above punditry on the tech industry, the more you’ll probably
hate this book. 😉 Also, Joel
says
real men only program in C while walking to school uphill both
ways in the snow.

XM Radio

I got Amy an XM radio for Christmas, and I’m pretty impressed with
it. Good stations and the device itself is inexpensive and
well-designed. The main practical problem is the same one as the iPod,
cars just aren’t designed for these things and you end up with wires
everywhere and having to pipe the sound to your speakers via a bad FM
transmitter.

Woot

Woot.com, pretty
awesome if you haven’t seen it. I don’t think they ever have anything
I’d buy, but it’s fun to read the FAQ.

Laptop

Starting to think about a new laptop, as my X31 is over 3 years old.
Oddly, the latest X series isn’t really very different; I guess the
battery and size limitations squish Moore’s law like a bug. I’m
traveling less than I used to, and doing more coding instead of just
mail/web, so I think I want to get something faster and with a larger
screen. Probably I’ll just go with the large-screen version of the T
series. The Z series is cute, but the Z60t has too small a screen and
the Z60m is too big and heavy. In general I can’t handle the full-on
“desktop replacement” sized laptops, they are just too luggable. I
haven’t seen any non-Thinkpad models that look all that appealing but
if you have suggestions I’d appreciate them. Anyone tried the Dell
D610?

Niece

We have a new niece:

Happy New Year

Should be interesting…

(This post was originally found at http://log.ometer.com/2005-12.html#30)

My Twitter account is @havocp.
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