July 10th, 2008

#1159: ...because he's a...a...big meany mean-head!!

That seems to be Purdue University Indianapolis' reason for continuing disciplinary procedures against one Keith John Sampson, who was caught reading a book about the defeat of the KKK in a 1924 riot. Because it had "KKK" in the title, and he read it in front of some black people, Purdue said Sampson had been "racially harassing" them.

The article quotes Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal:
"No reading of any book had anything to do with the charges against Mr. Sampson. This means, I asked [a school spokesman], that Mr. Sampson could have been reading about the adventures of Jack and Jill and he still would have been charged? Yes. What, then, was the offense? 'Harassing behavior.' While reading the book? The question led to careful explanations hopeless in tone – for good reason – and well removed from all semblance of reason. What the behavior was, one learned, could never be revealed."
So I figure that the university has decided that Sampson is a big meany mean-head, and that's why they want to punish him.

* * *

Ann Coulter--who I love--euologizes Jesse Helms.

I remember, sometime in the 1980s, seeing an AIDS activist denounce Jesse Helms, saying that he wanted Jesse Helms dead so he could dance on the grave and urinate on the tombstone. Ironically, the chances are pretty good that Jesse Helms outlived the AIDS activist, since life expectancies for AIDS cases in the 1980s were not good.

* * *

Need I repeat myself? Fuck no. No shock collars for law-abiding citizens. One of the founding principles of this country is the presumption of innocence. They can kiss my ass as it sits right now, which is on the toilet in the process of the final stages of colon cleansing for my colonoscopy today. (Hint: not exactly a taste treat.) (Sorry about that.)

* * *

A vaccination against Alzheimer's? Awesome. Proof once again that basic research always gets useful results.

* * *

UFO technology could help with energy crisis. I'm sure it could, if we had any. Which I doubt we do.

Look: the probability of a secret becoming non-secret is exponentially proportional to the number of people who know it. In order for the government to have kept UFOs under wraps for 60 years, do you know how many people would have had to have kept perfectly silent about it? Do you know how many questions would have had to have been deflected in order for this to be crackpot territory, still, after 60 years?

Believe me, no one would love it more if our government had, and had been studying, UFO technology for the past 60 years. But looked at realistically, it's so damned unlikely as to be impossible. Not when you've got the press in this country which digs and digs and digs until it finds something it can use. "Freedom of the press" alone is a good-enough reason this ain't so. Now add the Internet to the equation.


* * *

Larry Elder dispenses some statistics on gun control. I won't repeat them here; read the piece. It's good.

...except I will say here that the US gun death statistics are compiled different than those of other countries, which is why they frequently look much worse than they are. If you exclude suicides from US annual gun deaths, instead of 30,000 per year suddenly we have 13,000--homicides only, not homicides and suicides.

Deny someone bent on suicide a gun and he'll just use something else--pills, rope, building, car--so I fail to see how banning guns will prevent those deaths.

But of course it's never the person holding the gun; it's the gun itself. Guns are all equipped with mind-control modules which make you want to shoot someone, and if it can't shoot someone else it'll make you'll shoot yourself with it. (Alien technology is here!)

* * *

Today's Chicago Sun-Times has a front-page story about Jesse Jackson's "cut his nuts off" gaffe.

Here's a hint for Jesse Jackson, one he apparently has not learned in his 40-odd years of being a public figure: whenever you are in a TV studio, assume that you cannot make private remarks to anyone. That should avoid future gaffes.

Of course he wants to cut off Barak Hussein Obama's nuts. Think about it. If Barak Hussein Obama becomes President, the entire civil rights movement will take a kick in the testicles itself, because a lot of Americans will no longer take it seriously: "WTF are you talking about, 'America is still racist'? We've got a black President! STFU, dickhead."

* * *

...yeah, I'm blogging from the toilet. "Yeah, we're living in a modern world." (Jeff Lynne, "Calling America", 1985. Years before Al Gore invented the Internet.)

Second stage of colon cleansing is another glug of Phospho-Soda (actual product name) and more time on the pot.

I have had a headache for over 24 hours, too, damn it, due to lack of food. I am starving--literally at this point--despite the Jell-o and broth. Let's face it: "clear liquids" is not food; it's not even what food eats. It's nothing! Okay? It's like being on the water diet, where all you have is water! It fucking sucks, okay? Okay????

...sorry: low blood glucose levels make me really, really irritable, too.

#1160: I love it.

"Freebird" crashes department store's entire POS system for three days.

I like how many comments are left by people who think they know that this story is "impossible" because "it doesn't work like that".

Sure it doesn't work like that--now. But back then is a different story; in the 1970s, it most assuredly did work like that.

A modern modem uses all kinds of sophisticated technology to establish and maintain a data connection. It's necessary because the typical 56k modem is transmitting much more data than the typical phone line is designed to carry, and it's doing it by encoding data into multiple states.

The typical "analog" telephone line has a bandwidth of about 4kHz. That's not a really wide bandwidth, but it's about equivalent to the frequency bandwidth of the human voice, and it's all you need in order to understand what the other person is saying. (In fact, it could be even lower, but the speech would sound distorted, and some people would have trouble understanding what was being said.)

A 300 baud modem doesn't tax the bandwidth of a typical "analog" telephone line. (I put it in quotes because the modern telephone system is only analog as far as the switch at the telephone exchange; there the signal is converted to digital, and it stays that way until it gets to the exchange that the other telephone is connected to.) "Baud" refers to the rate at which the connection changes states; a 300 baud modem changes states 300 times per second. It doesn't quite mean 300 bits per second, but in the case of early modems they are approximately equivalent measures.

Where a telephone line can hadle--theoretically--4,000 baud*, a 300 baud modem transmits 300 bits per second. (More or less.)

I explain all this to put into perspective how low-tech a 300 baud modem is. It transmits data at less than 1/10th the theoretical maximum of the data channel; there is no need for complex error detection or correction.

And, in fact, such things weren't invented at the time this story takes place.

So for guys like me--who got into computers at the tail end of the "dinosaur era" of them--we can understand how playing "Freebird" on a data cassette drive connected directly to a freaking modem could crash a database. Guys who didn't get into computing until cassette decks and acoustic modems went the way of the dodo, they think it's "impossible".

Sure it is. Now. You're welcome.

*The interesting thing is that a 56k modem is actually a 4,000 baud modem. The phone line can only handle 4,000 baud, so the 56k modem encodes data such that it squeezes a throughput of 56k from 4,000 baud...but now I'm just confusing things for people not educated in communications theory. Which is why this comment is a footnote and not in the paragraph....

#1161: And that's over for five years.

My colon got a clean bill of health. No polyps, no other signs of bad-ness. No Chrone's, no irritable bowel, no ulcerative colitis, nada.

...whatever it was that was causing the long-term gut malf, I don't know, and the doctors don't either, but it seems to have mostly gone away anyway, so F it.

Doc told me, "Come see me in five years."

I guess you just can't beat that.

* * *

While waiting for the procedure, though, it occurred to me that a year ago on this day I was on my way to the Philippines. That was a depressing thought, because I had no idea what was coming a scant three weeks from then...and it sucks to remember being so happy and having such a happy future planned knowing how it all went since then.


Well, today's news was happy, anyway, because it means that my colon--however annoying it may be--is reasonably healthy. I guess that's enough.

#1162: Whoa. I'm glad this thing has ATI.

Nvidia G84 and G86 ASICs have bad substrates, which makes them sensitive to power cycling. Laptops apparently fail the most.

This machine has an ATI video card--an el cheapo Radeon X1300 with a mere 64 MB of video RAM--so this issue does not effect me. But I had to think about it before I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Not that my situation helps Pixy Misa one whit but it does make me feel better.

And it also ensures I won't buy an Nvidia card if and when I upgrade the graphics adaptor in this thing to run Diablo III.

Pixy's primary mistake was in buying anything made by HP or Compaq. They used to build great stuff; now they build junk. (And it's not just me saying it, either.) Every time there's a Best Buy flier in the paper, and I read through it, I see this or that Compaq and HP laptop at some great price, and think, "Hey!" ...until I see the brand name. I won't wipe my nose on either brand.

Actually, HP never really made great PCs. Compaq, at least, did, even if they were finicky about hard drives, but in my experience HP computers were a royal pain to work on.

On the other hand, if you wanted a printer, plotter, or scanner that just worked, approximately forever, HP was the way to go. People are still using HP LaserJet IIs and IIIs out there. (You can still get the toner carts at office supply stores, for one thing.) They use the Canon SX laser engine; and since I was a PC/printer tech in the 1990s I know that printer engine inside-out. I go so far as to say that I'm an expert on repairing them.

But a maximum print speed of 8 pages per minute, and 300 DPI resolution--they're slow and grainy by today's standards--they're obsolete. Heck, I got a printer for under $100 that prints 20 pages per minute at 1200 DPI to replace my Brother HL-8e, which used the same engine as the HP LJet II and III. The printer, over a decade old, still worked fine; I just wanted something smaller and more efficient to print with. Something I could leave on all the time without the lights flickering when the fuser switched on.

Compaq virtually started the business of PC clones. They weren't actually the first, but they were the best, and survived the early years when other manufacturers were almost 100% compatible with the IBM PC. For a good long time, if you wanted a PC but didn't want to pay IBM's prices, Compaq was your only realistic alternative. But in the late '90s, Compaq products turned to crap.

In 2001 I originally bought an HP computer at Best Buy. I got it home and went to install my preferred video card only to find that the thing didn't have an AGP slot--so back it went, and I bought a Gateway instead. (The video card that came with the Gateway was better than the AGP video card I had wanted to put into the HP. But the HP's on-board graphics controller was decidedly not better.)

And HP used to support the hell out of their products, too--when a new OS would come out, HP would build drivers for just about everything they ever made. These days? "Vista? Ah, just buy a new one."

The days when you could go to a place like Best Buy and peruse the aisle of flatbed scanners is over, douchebags. For me to get a new flat scanner, I have three choices: 1) buy a Canon; 2) buy a stupid "multifunction" machine I have no desire, use, or room for; 3) make the hour-long drive each way to Fry's to see what they have.

(Oh: 4) internet searches. Still.)

I don't want a "scanner/fax/copier/printer". I want a dedicated flatbed scanner. What I actually want is to use my perfectly fine HP ScanJet 4300C which I bought back when HP still made stuff that worked, but which won't function with Vista because HP would much rather sell me a new scanner.


...so that's put me off HP products of any kind, permanently.

As for Nvidia, the linked article makes me want to avoid them permanently, too. I know they make plenty of good products, but a corporation which pulls this kind of crap on people doesn't deserve my money. IMHO. Especially when there's still ATI.