Friday, October 29, 2004

Winning at any cost

Residents of a mostly-Democratic area in and around Painesville, Ohio received a letter claiming to be from the local elections board. It incorrectly indicated that anyone who had been registered to vote by the following organizations weren't really registered, and would not be allowed to vote until the next election:

  • Americans Coming Together
  • Kerry Campaign
  • Capri Cafaro for Congress (in Ohio)
What we don't know is whether this is a fraudulent attempt by a group of Republicans to get Democratic voters to stay home, or some Democrats sending it to make the Republicans look bad when the lid is blown off the whole mess (such as coverage in a local paper). Either way, it is a further sign that rather than preserving the Republic, some elements in this election are willing to win at any cost.

Here's a photo of the actual letter, at Jason Schultz's blog (via Boing Boing).

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Still an Undecided Voter? Then Watch This

Michael Moore publicly announced he supported pirated copies of Farenheit 9/11 on the internet... so I offer you this opportunity.

Mark Perkel invested $2000 to host the film on his website for the two weeks prior to the election (less than a week now) and you can get it here.

If you have already made up your mind how you will vote, don't bother. If you have your doubts, PLEASE WATCH THIS FILM.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The NaNoWriMo Cometh

Sounds like something Mork from Ork might say, but no! It's National Novel Writing Month! Isaac turned me on to this cool idea, and like an idiot, I jumped at it.

What is NaNoWriMo, really? Anyone who wants to participate has the entire month of November to write a novel that must be at least 50,000 words long. You must not write a single word until 12:01 am on November 1, and must submit your novel electronically for official word-counting before the end of the 30th.

Eschewing quality in favor of quantity, the main point of the whole thing is to get people not only to write, but to write a lot.

Blogger got involved in the process my setting up a directory (called NaNoBlogMo) for anyone who also wants to blog their novel as they write it. Here's mine (it's named for my working title): A November Like No Other.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Einstein Right Again!

NASA's Gravity Probe B spacecraft in orbit around Earth has allowed astronomers to confirm a prediction made by Einstein's theory of General Relativity. They were able to directly measure an effect known as "frame-dragging."

According to Einstein's calculations, when a large, massive body such as the Earth rotates, it tends to pull the surrounding space around with it slightly, just as sticking a spoon in a jar of honey and twisting it will tend to drag around some of the honey.

The effect is extremely small -- amounting to about 6 feet (1.9 meters) in the distance that satellites, moving at about 18,000 miles per hour, cover in their orbits in a year -- but it is within the ability of NASA's tracking instruments to detect.

Read more at TechNewsWorld about the Einstein Gravity Effect Demonstrated by NASA.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Neal Stephenson Comes Up for Air

Baroque Cycle author Neal Stephenson gave an interview on Slashdot recently. It's a great read, and I would love to see him create his own weblog when he's not buried under a writing project.

He provides some excellent illumination on the subject of literary vs. for-profit writers, and the apparent lack of respect literary critics have for the latter. Of course, everyone should read it for his response to the following question:

In a fight between you and William Gibson, who would win?
Please read the Slashdot interview of Neal Stephenson.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Yet another blog

I've decided to go back to school and work toward a degree in Anthropology, ultimately earning a Ph.D. in Archaeology. To chronicle my strange trip, and to provide hints and tips to those who might follow, I've created a new web log: Wanna be an Anthropologist.

I've included some photo galleries of archaeological sites I've visited, and I'll add more as time allows.

Saturday, October 9, 2004 is Yummy

If you have not yet checked out the on-line link database known as, I think it is time.

This very useful, and quite simple, on-line tool has become a permanent part of my everyday web usage. Here's what it is/does:

Storing Links

  • Lets you store links (URLs) you like in a database
  • Lets you associate as many category tags as you want with each link

  • Lets you add additional descriptive text about the link

Retrieving Links

  • You can view all your links
  • You can view your links by tag
  • You can view your links by tag combinations
  • You can see everyone else's links by person or by tag, or both
It is a simple to use system, but the documentation is minimal.

Fortunately, Brad Choate has posted a simple tutorial, which taught me how to combine tags. If you are going to register and use, it is a must read.

When I come across a web site that I want to visit again, I just click on the "Post to" bookmarklet in my bookmarks bar of my browser (you'll learn more about these bookmarklets when you register). The entry page is then displayed for the URL, where I can enter tags (many of my posts get the tag "readlater") and an additional description. Once I hit the return key, the link is stored in my database, and I'm returned to the web page I was previously viewing.

The "PAUL FREQUENTLY VISITS" area in the right margin of Lunch with George is the result of an RSS feed of my links (yep, publishes RSS feeds, too).

I think you should try it. It's yummy.

Friday, October 8, 2004

It's time to leave nested tables and spacer GIFs behind

One 5-minute visit to the website CSS Zen Garden, and I am completely sold that CSS is the way to go. The Zen Garden is a pleasantly designed web page, with clearly deliniated regions which provide a heading, a main body, a vertical nav bar, and a few other components.

It talks about the important lesson of the masters: Don't mix content with presentational data.

This is a great concept, much as the idea of separating presentation from business logic in a two- or three-tier architecture. But often the two start creeping back into one another...

But after you read the motivational words of wisdom, you discover a menu of other style designs from which you can select. Basically, clicking on one of the designs results in the re-display of the same HTML file, but using a different style sheet.

The results are stunning! It is as if you have visited an entirely distinct web page. But as you read the content, you realize it is the same... the content, that is.

Visit the CSS Zen Garden, read the wise writings, and move some of the objects around (i.e., select other designs), and you will see the light. There's no question that CSS is the ticket to site consistency, design control, significantly reduced development (and redesign) time, and faster load times for visitors to the site.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Crypto Expert Schneier launches Blog

Bruce Schneier, the author of several books on cryptography, the founder of Counterpane Internet Security, Inc., and the creator of the Solitaire encryption algorithm presented in Neal Stephenson's novel Cryptonomicon, has launched his own web log!

Bruce has been publishing a newsletter known as Crypto-Gram (which will still be available as a monthly e-mail newsletter) whose contents will now be available as he creates it on his new web log, Schneier on Security.

George and I read Cryptonomicon, and became interested in cryptographic methods (we actually carried around a deck of cards each for encoding/decoding messages for a while). I even presented a contest on this site where the readers had to decrypt a message using Solitaire to win a copy of Cryptonomicon, but it turns out I botched the encryption...

Check out Schneier on Security.

Saturday, October 2, 2004

A Great Chance to Learn to Climb

George and I attended the Arizona Mountaineering Club's Basic Climbing school two years ago, and it was a great experience. The instructors are experts at teaching as well as climbing, and the final graduation climb is a blast.

AMC is offering the Basic class again beginning October 12th, and there are still openings. The class runs for two weeks, with lectures on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and all day on the weekends. The cost is $160 per student, and the fees include the use of harnesses and helmets plus technical equipment you get to keep.

If you are interested, you can get more information at AMC website.