Monday, December 8, 2008

Revisit: 'Attack and Muder at the Drum Tower' [Updated]

Back in August, I wrote a blog entry about the attack that occurred in the second level of the Beijing drum tower.

I received a comment on that story that I deeply hope is true, but ... partly because it was anonymous (see update), and mostly because there have been no further news reports that I've been able to find, I have no way of being sure. Here is a copy of that comment:

"I am a Canadian who was in Beijing and had worked with the guide who was injured in the attack. I am happy to report that she is OK, and getting married very soon. While she underwent surgery shortly thereafter, she has recovered well from her wounds. Her brother is a doctor, and I can attest to the fact that she received excellent care, as I visited her in the hospital on two occasions. While I know she still experiences physical pain, this young Chinese girl has an indomitable spirit, and I am certain she will make a full psychological recovery. I too was frustrated that for 2 days while in Beijing I could find no information on her status. I feared she may have died, and hardly a day goes by that I don't think of the courage of my Chinese friend. Her name was Olivia."
By this, I understand that her chosen "English" name is Olivia and that she is fine. I do so hope this to be true. It bothers me still that there has been zero coverage of her story.

In any case, I thought this was significant enough to post.

Update: The comment came from Heath Sterling, who contacted me separately through another site. Now that the comment is no longer "Anonymous" to that level ... I have a much higher confidence that it's true. :-)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Meme

So my mother sent me this set of questions in e-mail. Like all internet memes, the idea is to copy the questions, and fill in your own answers, and send that out to all the people you know. I don't often do these, but it's Christmas time, so I figured it's good enough to go up on my blog (and, by extension, Facebook). So, here are the questions with my answers:

  1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

    • Wrapping paper (or Sunday Comics)

  2. Real tree or Artificial?

    • Artificial (by order of the Fire Marshall)

  3. When do you put up the tree?

    • Probably next year, not this year.

  4. When do you take the tree down?

    • After I put one up!

  5. Do you like eggnog?

    • Yes, but I like it thicker than most places sell it.

  6. Favorite gift received as a child?

    • Wow... so many to choose from.

  7. Hardest person to buy for?

    • Mom

  8. Easiest person to buy for?

    • Mom

  9. Do you have a nativity scene?

    • No

  10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

    • Wait, e-mail is a valid option?!

  11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

    • I actually can't think of a bad gift I've received.

  12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

    • A Nightmare Before Christmas

  13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

    • Soon (the procrastinator's answer)

  14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

    • Not yet

  15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

    • I can't think of anything I like that is only available at Christmas these days.

  16. Lights on the tree?

    • Yes, the smaller, the better.

  17. Favorite Christmas song?

    • Christmas at Ground Zero or
      I Believe in Father Christmas

  18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

    • Travel, if possible.

  19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's?

    • I get stuck, is it Donner or Donder?

  20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

    • Either is fine

  21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

    • Morning.

  22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

    • Repeating Christmas music everywhere

  23. Favorite ornament theme or color?

    • Anybody else's theme.

  24. What do you want for Christmas this year?

    • Just the things I need.

  25. Favorite for Christmas dinner?

    • Something simple.


Friday, November 21, 2008

China Memories

This was continuously one of my favorite spots on the road in China... It's not easy to see the street painted arrows below, but it mirrors the sign above.

I never saw anybody attempt to turn left at this point, and I'm glad for that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Address

I have a new place. I now live in Downtown St. Paul, MN at an apartment that is skyway connected. I have a 12 minute walk to work through the skyway, and I don't really need to drive much anymore.

This will be convenient in the winter, and even more when there's a snow storm.

I don't have an Internet connection at my apartment. I will, but not this month. Someday.

For now, I can use free WiFi at a few places around town, or I can come into the Office and use the Internet connection at work.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Driving Aircraft (part 2) [Updated]

Some of you may remember a previous post in a similar style. I saw this on Oct 22, but I didn't get a chance to post these until today...

I spotted it up ahead, and grabbed my camera. It's just an unusual thing to see...

I was traveling across the Minnesota River's Bloomington Ferry Bridge, and decided to take pictures while I could. He was going pretty slow.

Clearly, I was driving, and not taking great photographs, but I was doing the best I could.

For those who like to look up such things, I got a good shot of the tail number.

Well, that was my morning.

Looks like an unlucky Piper...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Saturday's Day Trip

I couldn't have asked for better weather. Sure, it's Minnesota and it's getting cool, but there was barely a cloud in the sky...

Darwin and Ray are some co-workers who are in town for a month, and this is their last full weekend in Minnesota. I had offered earlier to take them to see Lake Superior. Darwin, in particular, had mentioned how much he wanted to see the great lakes... so I figured I'd do the best I could, and show him the big one that's only a few hours drive from here.

I drove north on I-35, through Duluth first, and kept driving to Two Harbors. I have always been fond of the view of the lake-shore and the vastness of the lake that can be seen from there.
From Oct 4-Superior

We hung out along the rocky shore, ate lunch in Two Harbors at the Black Woods Bar & Grill, then we drove back into Duluth.

I took skyline drive from the north, along 7 bridge road. We stopped for a few minutes at the seventh bridge to take photos of Amity Creek and the surroundings. We stopped for a few minutes at hawk ridge. Then we went to Enger Tower.

After an hour at Enger tower, we headed to Canal Park to walk around, and get a closer look at the bridge.

Have fun looking around the photos I took on Saturday.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Eight Percent Lost

Washington DC

As the House of Representatives are pandering to the most resentful and least educated of their respective constituents, the economists on Wall Street started another sell off.

The results, about 8% loss. Of course, this depends on what index you are looking at, but 8% seems to be right about in the middle. The Dow is down 777 points or 6.98%. The Russel 1000 is down 8.69%. Nasdaq Composite is down 199 points or 9.14%

I also feel that there is some risk in the behavior of congress talking about bailouts. I get the feeling that some of the most recent bank mergers are so that companies with less exposure can gain more exposure, and get some of the bail-out pie. However, those are the breaks. The government either can get involved, and start buying companies that are "too big to fail" ... or the government can stop claiming that this is in the works.

For all the folks who are protesting about the largess of Wall Street and high rolling CEO types, keep in mind that it's not the CEO that approved his own golden parachute... the CEO merely signed up with the best golden parachute offered by the boards of directors that are out there. The CEO gets the golden parachute because they are being given a job where they know beforehand that they will be fired if something goes wrong. That's the nature of business, a certain amount of risk is necessary to move a business forward, and balancing that risk against safety is always a difficult proposition.

Any CEO or market manager who didn't try to take advantage of the forward market trends in real-estate (a rising trend for well over 10 years straight), was bound to get fired for not taking enough risk.

Either way, today is a day where the markets are down 8%. This is because of market panic, and the market panicked because it didn't expect that the government money was at risk of being taken off the table. Wall Street ALWAYS panics when something unexpected happens. I'm not an economist or anything ... I learned this from listening to radio shows.

Why have my congressional representatives not figured this out yet?

Full Text of current proposed law (as defeated today):

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Micheal Moore - Slacker Uprising

The movie is available for free download. The download is, supposedly, US only - - yet the movie also has an official bittorrent tracker. Last I checked, torrent doesn't care about what country you are in.

I made a copy of the tracker, here.

Bittorrent is available for free download, too.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Argh Matey!

Happy "Talk Like a Pirate Day" to ya.

Why, Talk Like a Pirate day, you prey ask!?

Well, Because the markets are crashin' around us, the gov'ment is in turmoil, the 'lections are about change - but not the kind that jingles, and because, well, It's September 19th, yet again.

So, "Argh!", "Argh!", I say!

Also, a Happy Birthday to Dede. Tell her so, if ya see her.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This Day in Gary's History...

September 11, 2001

I was on a consulting assignment to help install and configure a web based software product at Caterpillar in Pontiac, Illinois. I arrived at the Bloomington, IL airport on the morning of September 10th, and was asked to visit the headquarters in East Peoria on September 11th. To save the customer money, another consultant agreed to lend me his pickup truck for the drive to East Peoria (on the other end of the state).

I left the hotel after 7 AM Central time, and was heading south on I-55, then West on I-74 towards East Peoria.

About 8:20 Central, I get a phone call from Minnesota. My wife was telling me that I had to get to a television set, and that a plane has struck the world trade center, and it's terrible. While she is talking, she stops mid-sentence, and then says it's an attack. Both buildings have been hit. If you look at the time-lines, both buildings had already been hit, but she didn't know it until that moment.

Picture this, me driving North-West along this stretch of corn-fields towards East Peoria.

I'm trying to explain that there's nowhere to pull off, there's nothing to do. Eventually she hangs up, and I find a Radio Station that is reporting the news.

Then the radio reports that the Pentagon was hit. She calls back. She again tells me that there MUST be some place where I can stop and watch a television. I'm not about to go knocking on a farmhouse door. Especially on a day when everyone is thinking of terrorists.

A little after 9:00 AM, Central time, I finally find myself in East Peoria. I park the truck in a parking ramp near the Caterpillar headquarters, and I walk towards the building.

The first thing that came through my mind is, how would a security director convince the company president that the security guards need to have Uzi sub-machine guns available. I can't imagine they went to the gun-shop and picked them up in the hour since the news had been heard, and there's no way Caterpillar is important or controversial enough to have armed guards standing outside all the time.

I cautiously walked past them towards the door, expecting that maybe I'll be challenged. I was carrying a laptop case, after-all. Then I walked in, signed in, and went up to the floor where my contact was waiting. I caught a few minutes of video of the destruction in NYC on a TV that had been set up in a break-room nearby. I spent most of the rest of the day, working on the customer's software concerns. The last 45 minutes I was there, I caught some more of the news coverage, and then I drove back to Pontiac.

My assignment in Pontiac was through the end of the week, and I had a ticket for Saturday the 15th. This happened to be the first flight out of Bloomington airport, and I've never seen such a small airport so crowded with people waiting for re-booking opportunities. I actually felt bad that the events on this day had not inconvenienced me, as if by not having been directly impacted by the events, maybe I was cheating.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Back From New York

I've posted a few pictures online from the trip. Mostly business, didn't really get to see anything too exciting on such a short weekday only trip.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bad Speling Iz Ok Now?

This article has been in the back of my head, bugging me since I first read it. Mind, it's not the article itself that bothers me, it's the assertion that is being made in the article. Bad Spelling should be acceptable at the college level.

Spelling "truely atrosious," says academic (sic)

I've been mulling this over for weeks, and I've heard a few people make the argument that standardized spelling is a relatively new construct from a historic perspective. I occasionally misspell words, too. It happens, but I do try to correct it when I get a word wrong. Yet, I am still deeply annoyed that, in this, the day and age where computers will happily correct your spelling as you type that there would be a sudden lack of care about spelling.

When most correspondence was hand written, spelling was important. When most correspondence was done through manual type-writers, spelling was important. Now that machines can help us spell, it isn't?

This is a business problem too. With the globalization of the workforce, something I've dealt with first hand at my last few jobs, the person reading the message may not be a native English speaker. In fact, the person reading may not be able to speak or read English at all. Just as machines help us spell, machines help us translate one language to another. However, if I throw poorly spelled words into a translation engine, it will not try to translate the word at all (and rightly so). Passing the word right through in misspelled English.

I can see why this British college professor would be tired of correcting such misspellings, because in an academic setting, he can always expect that he is the primary audience, and his students must have a passing ability to communicate in English. However, if his idea is accepted, I would not want to hire the students that come out of his classes. They would do no good where I work. They would only serve to make communication more difficult with my co-workers from around the world, and worse - perpetuate the global feeling that the rich countries are becoming more stupid.

When someone who did not grow up speaking and writing English earnestly attempts to correct a misspelling by a native English writer, will that writer feel embarrassed? I hope so.

There's a whole different question about how someone who is unable to correctly spell words, made it past the college admissions exam, but I won't get into that now.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Beijing : Attack and Murder at the Drum Tower

I feel that I should begin by expressing how safe I felt while I was in Beijing. I felt safer in every part of Beijing than I do in downtown Minneapolis. The news outlets don't really say that enough while sharing this bit of news. Actual physical attacks on foreigners are very unusual in Beijing. Like any large city, crimes of opportunity are common, but confrontational attacks against foreigners are incredibly rare.

Todd Bachman, his wife Barbara, and their Chinese guide -- who's name has not been reported, as far as I can find -- were attacked and stabbed at the historic Beijing Drum Tower on 9 Aug, 2008 at 12:20 pm Beijing time. Todd Bachman died of his injuries. Barbara Bachman underwent emergency surgery, and is said to be in serious, but stable, condition.

To most of the world, as the China Daily reports, he was an American tourist, and family member to a US Olympic coach.

To the rest of the country, as reported by the New York Times, Todd was the Father-in-law to current Olympic US Men's Volleyball team coach, Hugh McCutcheon. Or, as the LA Times reports, the father of Elisabeth "Wiz" Bachman, former Olympic Women's Volleyball player for the 2004 US team at the Athens Olympics.

Of all the stories though, I prefer the one about the man, and not about who he is related to.

As many of you know, I live in Minnesota. Todd and Barbara Bachman also live here. Where I live, the local paper, the Star Tribune, reports that Todd Bachman is the CEO of a local and successful chain of Florist and gardening stores, called "Bachman's". By successful, I mean that that the business has survived for more than 120 years. As a point of perspective, I mention that this year marks the 150th year of Minnesota statehood. There wasn't much of a Minneapolis 120 years ago when they opened.

Extensive reporting on the assailant is available, his name, work-history, where he was born, and who his family is. He jumped from the Drum Tower's second level (where the attack occurred), and died instantly upon impacting the ground.

However, it bothers me that we know nothing at all about the third victim of this crime. Even in the China Daily report, she is known only as "a Chinese tour guide". I only hope her injuries are less severe than the other two, and that reporting on her is unimportant because she is now starting a new day of being a tour guide. I hope this, especially considering the injuries to the other victims. The only indication of her well-being, from China Daily, "The two injured women are in stable condition at a hospital," does not suggest she is back at work today.

Todd and Barbara's daughter, who was present, but not injured, has even been reported on. As a former Olympiad, I suppose that's natural, but that only makes me more bothered at the fact that nobody reports any details about the tour guide. She is also a victim of this tragic crime. I'm sure I'm not the only person who wonders about such things.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Javascript Toolkits; Web Programming

So I've started working with the Dojo Toolkit -- mostly because I ran the demo for it, and I was impressed by what it could do out of the box. It does have a very nicely featured demonstration set.

I've mentioned this to some friends and colleagues, and instead of thoughts or experiences with this toolkit, I got back a whole bunch of comments about why I chose to work with Dojo and not "my favorite toolkit, x," where X is either a larger distribution that includes Dojo, or a smaller, more specialized distribution that I've never heard of. The other suggestion I keep hearing is "Prototype".

That I've never heard of 'x', shouldn't be surprising. While I've been doing web pages and light web programming for some years, I've only done very lightweight JavaScript. I've never done anything with Ajax, for example. I've done pre-load and post-load things, but none of this requires a toolkit.

Anyway -- it's not that I don't want to hear about toolkits, but there is a certain undeniable power to a decent demonstration set -- not just a verbose description. And THAT is what got me to actually give Dojo a serious look.

Once I get what I'm trying to do fully functional, I'll be sure to post it here. So, far, I've only played around on my home computer.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Florida Bird Photos from Today.

Someone I know in Florida sent me some pictures of birds -- the pictures were taken today.

Black Bellied Whistling Duck
Green Heron
Little Blue Heron
Roseate Spoonbill
Snowy Egret
Woodstork w Roseate Spoonbill

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Spotted This -- had to link it.

subliminal messages obama is like superman

Just a Joke

The joke below was e-mailed to me recently, and I've entered it with the text that I received in the e-mail. However, it seems that the more popular version of the joke has the gender of the characters switched.

A man was leaving a convenience store with his morning coffee when he noticed a most unusual funeral procession approaching the nearby cemetery. A long black hearse was followed by a second long black hearse about 50 feet behind the first one. Behind the second hearse was a solitary man walking a dog on a leash. Behind him, a short distance back, were about 200 men walking single file.

The man couldn't stand the curiosity. He respectfully approached the man walking the dog and said, 'I am so sorry for your loss, and this may be a bad time to disturb you, but I've never seen a funeral like this. Whose funeral is it?'

'My wife's.'

'What happened to her?'

The man replied, 'My dog attacked and killed her.'

He inquired further, 'But who is in the second hearse?'

The man answered, 'My mother-in-law. She was trying to help my wife when the dog turned on her.'

A poignant and thoughtful moment of silence passed between the two men.

'Can I borrow the dog?'

The man replied, 'Get in line.'

It's just a joke, I thought it was funny.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Beijing 2008 - Olympics In The Air

Last October, during the beginning of my time in Beijing, I wrote this blog post that mentioned air quality with two comparative photos.

Since then, I've been following the blog of James Fallows who also has been posting photos for comparison.

In the last several days -- China has done several things to try to improve the air quality for the Olympics.

  • Temporarily shutting down most factories East of Beijing
  • Even-Odd car restrictions

Both of these are huge undertakings. Consensus, so far, is that the measures are not working. That said -- I heard it's supposed to rain soon, and there really hasn't been a decent rain in Beijing since the shut-downs and traffic restrictions.

James Fallows' "Weather" Photos for July

July 2, 2008 East or west, home is best Photo by James Fallows - July 2

July 12, 2008 With 26 days to go Photo by James Fallows - July 12

July 15, 2008 Something familiar, something new Photo by James Fallows - July 15

July 19, 2008 Everything changes tomorrow
Photo by James Fallows - July 19

July 26, 2008 Sunday morning Beijing Photo by James Fallows - July 26

July 27, 2008 Eleven days to go Photo by James Fallows - July 27

So, that's the view in Beijing. It's not really pollution, it's Olympic Spirit In The Air!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Strange Helicopter Transportation (photo)

I was driving into work this-morning, and I saw a helicopter driving down the road. Weirdest thing ever, so I absolutely had to take some photos out my window.

Quite unexpected. That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

For My Floridian Friends

Upcoming Hurricanes
comic strip theorizing upcoming hurricane names and paths

The XKCD web comic is one of my favorites.

Me and My Enneagram [Updated]

This is a bit of a meme that's been going around one of my circles of friends. It's this Enneagram test. So, after putting it off for a week, I finally decided to take the first (and longer) of the two tests presented at the link above.

I will not pretend that I've actually read through what this means or what it might mean, but - generally - I have a tendency of being very central on most personality tests, so -- I've linked the whole result set, with all of the scores, so that you can see the whole picture. Maybe one day, I'll try to figure out what it means myself. ;-)

[Update: Enneagram Info from Vahl over at the Daily Skew - - read the comments there -- Damian has declared that I'm not a 9, not sure what that's based on though. ]

Here are my results:

You are most likely a type 9.

Taking wings into account, you seem to be a 9w1.
No personality test is completely accurate. Although several measures were taken to make this test as accurate as possible, there's always a chance that you are not typed correctly by it. Therefore, when deciding which Enneagram type and wing you are, you might also want to consider the types with the highest test scores on the lists below.

(Note that your lowest scores may be omitted.)

Type 9 - 8.7
Type 3 - 6.3
Type 7 - 5.7
Type 2 - 5
Type 1 - 4
Type 8 - 3

Wing 9w1 - 10.7
Wing 9w8 - 10.2
Wing 3w2 - 8.8
Wing 1w9 - 8.4
Wing 2w3 - 8.2
Wing 3w4 - 8
Wing 8w9 - 7.4
Wing 7w8 - 7.2
Wing 2w1 - 7
Wing 7w6 - 6.6
Wing 1w2 - 6.5
Wing 8w7 - 5.9

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Song In My Head

First, it's a really good song. Musically complex, and very heart-felt. I would link to it here, but I didn't find a source that has a copy.

However, for two days I've had this same song going through my head. I've LISTENED to the song at least 12 times trying to satisfy whatever is making this song run through my head. It hasn't helped. So, I figure I'll try to give it to someone else, maybe the song will leave me alone for a while.

Artist: Elton John
Song: Tonight
Album: Blue Moves (track 2)

Tonight, do we have to fight again?
Tonight, I just want to go to sleep.
Turn out the light, but you want to carry grudges.
Nine times out of ten, Hmm, I see the storm approaching
Long before the rain starts falling
...Tonight, does it have to be the old thing?
Tonight, Ooh Its late, too late;
to chase the rainbow that you're after.
I'd like to find a compromise,
and place it in your hands.
My eyes are blind, my ears can't hear,
and I can not find the time
...Tonight, just let the curtains close in silence.
Tonight, why not approach with less defiance,
the man who'd love to see you smile
Who'd love to see you smile Tonight.

Tonight, just let the curtains close in silence.
Tonight, why not approach with less defiance,
Just let the curtains close in silence.
Tonight, Why not approach with less defiance,
the man who'd love to see you smile...
the man who'd love to see you smile...
the man who'd love to see you smile...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

First Life

So, you've heard of "Second Life"...

Clark Boyd over at "The World" (BBC / WGBH) posted a blog entry with a link to a REALLY funny site, so without further introduction

Get a First Life

Opinion: VMWare Server 2.0 Beta [Updated]

I've used VMWare Server 2.0 Beta for about three solid hours now...

Things I like.
  • Virtual Hardware v. 7 with USB 2.0 support.
  • Tomcat based VM monitoring, is pretty responsive.
  • Does NOT request or attempt to "require" IIS.
  • The Server interface, while different, remains similar.
Technical -- I've loaded VMWare-Server beta on two separate Windows XP host systems (I have an Ubuntu as well, but I've had problems in the past loading both "player" and "server" under Linux (as in - they try to delete each-other's drivers)... So, I'm not likely to try that.

What I do not like:

There is not a way to launch a Virtual Machine without using an Apache-Tomcat servlet through a web browser. This seems terribly inefficient when I am simply trying to load a local VM on a local machine. Inside the web based VMWare management tool, there is a button to create a link to this virtual machine on your desktop. This shortcut, once created, will attach to (and, if necessary, start) the virtual machine without needing to start a web browser. This is still slower to load than the old VMWare server interface was.

The "fat client" , player style interface that used to be available for VMWare Server 1.x has been replaced with a browser plug-in loaded console screen that is very painfully slow to load, it feels like bad java back in the day...

If launching a virtual machine console viewer from inside the browser interface, it takes a painfully long time to load and launch. The operating system will be having no problem starting up as I'm waiting for this thing to finally display. By the time the console opens for me, the login prompt is already waiting ... EVEN with a Windows XP guest OS. This is much better when launching from the desktop link.

Where I gave VMWare-server 1 (****) four out of five stars, I give the VMWare-server 2 (beta) (***^) three and a half out of five.

To be fair, I have little doubt that this console will be improved before the final version releases. I just wanted to let my early opinion be known.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Flamingo Hand

This came from one of those e-mails that people send around. It was a collection of "hand art". One that I'm sure has an online source somewhere, and if I find it, I'll link to that ... but, I thought this was interesting enough, so .. check it out.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Twitter by Proxy

So, I'm done with twitview.

Twitview uses the web server ( to pull my twitter data feed. Once pulled, I turn links into links.

The twittering view at the right side of this blog now uses twitview, as does the open-social app that I wrote for my iGoogle. I also added twitview to my main homepage.

Another advantage of this, is that my twitter feed is now also proxied, so will be visible in places where twitter may become blocked or banned.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Google Apps, iGoogle and Facebook

I've added Google Apps to my domain. I had already started handing pieces of my domain to Google when I started letting them host my blog. At the same time, I'm starting to take pieces back. More on that later...

I started playing with the Open Social API today. Really simple thing -- I realized that I wanted to put some basic, static HTML in a box on both my Facebook page and to my iGoogle page. So, it took me about an hour to create an XML container application that would work within Google's open-social specification.

Facebook's developer framework is far more complex, but - thankfully - there's an application for Facebook called "Open Gadget" that allows me to wrap my Open Social xml format into an application format for facebook. It's not perfect (it makes the user click to "activate the gadget"), but it does what I want it to do.


Second -- I have decided to "proxy" my own blog, locally. I'm doing this because my friends in China are not able to see my blog. So, if you are not already reading this through my proxy page, try it out...

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

It is, of course, the Fourth day of July.

After several years of tension, and many attempts by various colony-side groups to get the British parliament to listen to basic grievances, conflict arose.

The Colonists and the British Army started shooting on 19 April 1775 at Lexington - just outside of Boston. On 11 June 1776, more than a year after the war had begun, the delegates to the Continental Congress appointed a committee of five, and they got started on the serious work of making a formal declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson did most of the writing, and the decision to ratify a Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 2, 1776. Over the next two days, wording of the draft document was debated, and the final wording was approved after minor changes on 4 July 1776.

The war continued trough 1783. The Treaty of Paris was signed on 3 September 1783, and the last of the British troops left New York City on 25 November 1783.

George Washington left the office of Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in December 1783, and did not become President of the United States of America until 30 April 1789, 14 years after the revolutionary war started, 13 years after the ratification of the Declaration of Independence, and 5 years after the British left.

[edits: added links to Wikipedia Articles]

Saturday, June 28, 2008

SmokeStack Gone : The Video

So, here is the video that I took of the St Paul Smoke Stack falling...

Wait for it to load - Action starts during minute 5, so forward to there (half-way point). I haven't had a chance to edit it down.

SmokeStack Gone.

Well -- it was a crazy minute, but the Smoke Stack at the Mississippi River at the St. Paul High Bridge came falling down. It was described in the article as an implosion, but the way the video is shown, it seems very likely that they meant for it to tumble like a felled tree, as it did.

The smoke stack held a falcon box for several years, but that box was removed in January before the falcons returned from their winter journey.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Remembering the Silent Majority

Concerning my previous blog post: Why Most Politics Is Radical

I had been thinking for the last several months about Nixon's "Silent Majority" [1] [2].

The silent majority is usually described as the "mostly conservative" bulk of people who are not easily swayed by politics. Some discussions have suggested that this majority is simply gone, that it doesn't exist. However, I take it that - even while Nixon called them a "mostly conservative" group in his campaigning, I don't think this was accurate in the political sense of the word. "Mostly conservative", I believe, means "leave me alone, and don't try to change too much."

I know the silent majority is alive and well. We are not in an era of extremes - not as extreme as the late 60s represented. That was Nixon's time - and the call for "normal" was powerful and uniting then. I don't know if that call can be made again easily.

It's not easy for politics to call for common sense, and simplicity. Worse yet that the last time a politician succeeded in doing so, we got Nixon and the Watergate scandal.

[1] Wikipedia: Silent Majority
[2] Lassiter, M.D.: The Silent Majority

SmokeStack Implosion

Photo from Startribune Article

I am planning on going to the office, and filming this from the tallest building in St. Paul. I Think it will be really cool to see. It's early though. I've never seen anything like this in person though.

I worry about "foggers and water cannons" obstructing my view though.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


Well Summertime is here.

Click to play (doesn't work in some RSS viewers):

I went to a great summer solstice party last night, one of those parties where I only knew one person, but absolutely everybody was cool and easy to talk to. Had a wonderful time, and I got home really late.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Why Most Politics Is Radical

Status Quo

I firmly believe that most people are either, pretty much O.K. with the way most things are, or so apathetic to the possibility of change that they don't care.

Of this great majority, there is no reason to stand up and demand that things stay pretty much the same. Who would bother getting out of the house to vote for someone who doesn't think there's much to do.

The Press

The press is quick to seek out the exciting story, the political outsider that says something that sounds radical, but almost makes sense if you haven't thought it through. These radicals are the basis for our political system as it now stands. A candidate that says, "Let's try to carefully maintain what we already have," just doesn't make for a lead story.

There are political groups that regularly get press for saying poorly thought out ideas. Green Party candidates have a long list of decent ideas ignored after being quoted as saying something similar to, "everyone should be required to ride a bicycle to work." Besides the impracticality of this on an "everyone" scale, and the implications it would carry for public transportation, and those who don't know how to ride a bicycle - or physically can't ... This is the only idea that gets press. The one that is likely to alienate most of the voting public.

What Issues

So we are left with picking politicians based on issues. In my view, most important issues, have very few points of debate. It is usually a case where the desired end-point is well agreed, but the road to get there is hotly debated. This is like the primary rifts between Liberals and Conservatives. In any case, when the desired end-point is the same, it's really hard for anybody to really care what the differences are. That's when the road becomes an attack point by the other side. Why does the road become an attack point? See "The Press" above.

The side affect of attacking the road is that the issue becomes side-lined for the debate about how one road is inherently evil, while the other is inherently good. Those that follow these debates closely, and the only ones who would bother commenting, are the same ones who believe that the issue "is" the road, and not the end-point. These people, by majority, are radicals.

What Remains

What remains are the issues that are deeply entrenched, and unlikely to be solved by any single election or candidate. Abortion, Death Penalty, and War Ending. All are good for quick headlines, but all of these types of issues are the ones that a great deal of people have strong opinions about. In most of these cases, both sides are right about all of the issues that they talk about.

So, we are left with a system where only the radicals get heard, and only the skillful candidates that can express enthusiasm and empathy about nothing in particular are the most likely to be elected. How sad is that?

Win an election based on personality alone... a pretty radical idea, if you think about it. When that sort of person gets into office, the only voices they hear are the radical think tanks.

The Majority

The majority will not be heard, because the Majority does not think things need to be radically changed, and so few think it's important to speak out in support of what they already have. The majority loses again.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Web Ads

A few times in the last few months, I've thought to actually go out of my way and click on a Web Ad. In every case, the web ad was non-traditional and insisted on doing something which got it blocked. Seems that web ads would be much more successful if they didn't demand dumb user behavior...

Middle Click

In all latest version graphical web browsers, a middle button mouse click is available to open the link in a new tab. On the ads I've been interested in, Middle-click is either unresponsive or gets the "flash engine" to attempt to open a pop-up. If I'm interested in clicking an ad, then it should behave like any other link. If it doesn't I'm likely to give up just that quickly.

Goodbye to Revenue

In at least one of these cases, I was interested enough in what the ad was telling me, that I used a search engine to find the site, and loaded it into a separate tab. This means that the site I was using did not get the revenue for a click-through. Too bad for the web site... free advertising for the political candidate that I looked up anyway.

[In China... Moved]

Since I'm not in China anymore, that blog moved to