Joe Russack writes about bad building materials. I sometimes wonder why it seems like houses are built today basically in the same way that they have been for decades (with some fringe exceptions), but I guess a lot of the little parts and materials have changed a lot. Apparently some of them are changing in ways that are very unhealthy.
We visited my high school friends Peter Hopewell, Aaron Blum, and Eric Biber at Peter and his wife Liz's place in Pacific Grove, CA (next to Monterey). We had a really nice time and even entertained Peter's son Jack with some Star Wars Battlefront II action on the PS2 that we brought. I hope we can make it back down there soon. Here are pics.
On Sunday we visited Carmel and Santa Cruz. Nice places, but not somewhere I'd want to live for too long. Carmel and Pacific Grove make San Francisco look positively affordable; Santa Cruz is even more new-age-y than SF. Great for visiting, though. I think Carmel is going to have to be added to the "places to take East Coast visitors" list, even though it's pretty far away. It's just so darn hobbity. I had no idea what Peter was talking about when he was drawing the map for us to go from his house to Carmel, and he said it would start to look like hobbit houses around this area. Um, yeah. Exactly. Little cute one-story ranch houses in the Shire cost about $3-5 million.
FSF debuts fully-free Ubuntu/Debian variant called gNewSense. Um, is that a homonym with nuisance? Or is that just accidental? Anyway, I agree with the free software movement in general but when I need something non-free, and I've made an informed choice to try and install it, I want it to be straightforward. I applaud the Ubuntu folks for generally staying free except when it'd be a royal pain in the ass for users. There's a connection between being preachy and obstinate about free software, and the lack of Linux adoption on the desktop, m'kay? But I'm glad they forked it. gNewSense lets people stay in happy 100%-free-land if that's their choice, while Ubuntu lets us dirty pragmatists get stuff done with a dash of evil corporate proprietary lock-in from time to time, when that's the right choice.
On the other hand, we've stopped using Pine at home in favor of Squirrelmail, because Pine's license was so annoying that even the Ubuntu folks couldn't legally include it in a painless installer. Sometimes the annoyance of switching to a free package is less than the annoyance of manually installing and maintaining some proprietary doodad. It's just email, man. Squirrelmail is much better anyway.
Cool: I don't listen to Rush much anymore, so every now and then I forget what a kick-ass drummer Neil Peart is: RUSH / Grace Under Pressure - Distant Early Warning (YouTube). I might finally be over being over them (I was a total Rush freak until about age 18). Maybe I should start building up my collection again, with CDs this time instead of audiocassettes. :)
Wow: Sun Open Sources Java Under GPL. They previously had used a half-assed sorta-kinda open source license called the Sun Community Source License which nobody was really excited about. Now it looks like they're doing it for real, finally. This is really a big deal. It's likely that within 12-18 months, a fork will appear that tears out some of the ugly bloaty cruft that's in Java 1.5 now.
I bought a Logitech USB headset a few months ago for Skype purposes and I've been sorta kinda happy with it. Skype had pretty bad sound quality (all the people I called complained about it) even at 384Kbps upstream bandwidth, but as headphones they sound OK, and the microphone isn't too bad either. However, the drivers are a different matter entirely. They're the drivers that come with Mac OS X, so presumably they're Apple code. Sometimes plugging in the headphones will lock up the computer utterly. Sometimes my iPod (on a hub attached to the same USB port) won't mount, or the USB keyboard stops working, or my USB-attached Treo won't hotsync. Unplugging and replugging fixes it in that case. But yesterday it did something new: the headphones made the DVD player application skip. The DVD was readable but somehow the audio was unable to play and that made the DVD playback choppy and ultimately it stopped playing. Unplug/replug and it plays smoothly. Freaky. So, like, maybe stick with normal headphones if you can.
I've spent some time in the past trying to find decent stereo Bluetooth headphones with a microphone but apparently not only are there manufacturing quality and design quality problems with everything on the market now, but there are inherent problems with Bluetooth audio standards that make the audio quality awful. I'd take the plunge if it weren't $150ish to get the 'best' headphones, which are the ones that people say work really well until they fall apart, or maybe the sturdy ones that sound terrible.
I just ordered some V-Moda Bass Freq headphones 'cuz lots of reviewers like them, they probably won't make me look super dorkulated, and they aren't $300 like the fancy Shure ones people seem most happy with. A 500% price jump is kind of a lot ($50 vs. $300) compared to a moderate quality difference.
Cool: Cornstarch experiments.
I'm very happy to be wrong about my pre-election prediction. Arnold is still in office, and Prop 83 seems excessive to me, but generally the results are very pleasing. I just hope the Democrats remember what to do when they have the wheel. A little bit of Howard Dean's enthusiasm will hopefully go a long way here.
I've been working with singer/songwriter/pianist Leila Motaei for a few months now and at last there's some evidence. I'm on the "Clockwork Heart" trio recording, which can be found on her music page (direct MP3 link). That track, along with the solo recordings of Perdition and Sam the Rocket, are the three songs I submitted to SXSW 2007 this week (surprise, I'm the computer nerd in the band, so I get to be the upload monkey). We'll find out if we were accepted on or before February 7th.
In the course of long and involved conversations about musical influences with Leila, she mentioned that she was obsessed with Led Zeppelin lately. I felt obligated to introduce her to the other two members of the classic heavy metal triumvirate, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. I noticed that - dude! I have no Deep Purple in my CD collection! I remedied that by grabbing Machine Head off of Amazon.com. I had always like Jon Lord's organ tone and style but I forgot how awesome he is. Forget Smoke on the Water, it's all about Highway Star. Actually, that whole damn album kicks ass.
Funny. It's all over the entertainment news: Neil Patrick Harris is gay. Okay, whatever. But Doogie Howser was also gay, according to Neil. The things Neil did to try and make Doogie more obviously gay are pretty damn funny.
I know I'm not going out on too much of a limb here, but I thought I'd make the call before it happens. I predict lots of fishy results (polls wildly out of whack with official results) and smoking guns all over the place proving voter fraud, and Republicans will retain control of the House, and people will grumble, and nothing will change.
Pessimistic? Perhaps, but answer this: have the problems with electronic voting machines been acknowledged and addressed? Have past voting irregularities and outright crimes been taken seriously and followed up with criminal consequences? Or are the foxes still guarding the henhouse and telling us they're doin' a great job, Brownie?
Ubuntu Linux (the least painful Linux I know of, and the one I use now) has been updated from the 6.06 (meaning June 2006) release to the brand new 6.10 (meaning October 2006) release. Some folks have had problems, including virtual private server problems. I've had no problems at all - the apt-get method worked for me. (I didn't install the ubuntu-desktop package because my Ubuntu systems are all servers.) Anyway, the dreaded OS-upgrade-in-place has gone as well as I could have hoped for, on three different installations of Ubuntu.