Regularly Posting Since 2000

The Financial Crisis: Why Have No High-Level Executives Been Prosecuted?

January 10th, 2014 @ 4:29 am
Friday Five: Disney Characters

GoofyMy five favorite Disney characters:

  1. Goofy
    Goofy will always be my favorite cartoon character of all time. When I was a very little boy, I had a stuffed Goofy that was my constant companion. I hugged him so long and so often that his nose fell off. My mom stitched him a new one from an old beige sock and he became known as “Sock-Nose Goofy”. I still have him.
  2. Mickey Mouse
  3. Donald Duck
  4. Jiminy Cricket
  5. Dumbo

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History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.
George Santayana

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January 3rd, 2014 @ 7:18 am
Friday Five: Fave Floyd

The WallIt’s difficult to choose or rank your five favorite songs by an artist that you love so much, but here’s a shot. I have quite a collection of Pink Floyd albums in iTunes, but all five of these are from The Wall.
I can’t tell you how many times as a teenager I laid on my bed, wearing my bright yellow Sony Sports Walkman headphones, and blasting this album into my brain from start to finish.

  1. Young Lust
  2. One of My Turns
  3. Mother
  4. In the Flesh?
  5. The Thin Ice
January 2nd, 2014 @ 6:42 pm
Genetic Memories

Have you ever heard of planarian worms? These little guys exhibit the remarkable ability to regenerate (like starfish) if you chop them into little pieces.

That in itself is a pretty nifty trick, of course. But what really makes planarian worms seem like something out of science fiction is that — unlike starfish — they regenerate from both pieces. If a starfish loses an arm, it grows a new arm and the other one floats away and dies.

If you chop a planarian worm in half, both halves regenerate what they lost and you get two planarian worms.

And now here’s the part that should really freak you out: Both new worms appear to retain the memories of the original.

In the unlikely (and, of course, horrible) scenario that you had your head chopped off, you might hope that one day “science” would be able to give you a new body and you’d get to keep being you. But you’d probably never even considered the idea of your old body growing a new head and that being you, too.

Swamp ThingA report on NPR a few days ago broke news about how we’ve confirmed that planarian worms do just that. But I don’t understand why this is news now, because I swear I remember reading about (and being amazed by) this magic of planarian worms in a Swamp Thing comic book in the early 80s.

January 2nd, 2014 @ 7:17 am
Dealing with My iPhoto Library

iPhotoI have about 40,000 photos, which makes iPhoto impossible to use. I don’t mean, “It’s difficult for me to use.” I mean, “I can’t use it at all.” It crashes on me constantly; And on the rare occasions I am able to even open the application, its performance is too unbearably slow and unresponsive to actually use.

A few months ago I decided to spend $29.95 to purchase iPhoto Library Manager from Fat Cat Software, primarily because of the hundreds of references to it on the Apple iPhoto Support Forums. I used it to split my original iPhoto library into eleven smaller iPhoto libraries, each containing only a single year’s worth of photos, and one which contains the few hundred photos I have — mostly scanned ones — from before digital cameras because commonplace.

So far so good, I thought. But then …
Continue reading …

December 31st, 2013 @ 7:26 am
iTunes Tuesday: My Beatles Smart Playlist

iTunesIf you include solo albums by John, Paul, and George, and things like Wings and the Plastic Ono Band, I’ve got over five hundred tracks in my iTunes library that I consider the work of The Beatles.

I love The White Album indescribably, but even I don’t want to hear Rocky Raccoon ten times in the same week. So I have a smart playlist which I use to organize everything done by The Fab Four to make sure I don’t ever get sick of anything.1 I don’t usually listen to this playlist directly, but I do use it as a component of other smart playlists so I get a little shot of them just about every day, but on a much more clinical rotation than a radio station would ever play.

The trick here is to click the <option> key while pressing the little plus button when adding parameters. That lets you “nest” your playlist qualifications.

Here’s how I do it:
Beatles Smart Playlist

(click the image fora larger version)

You’ll see that I’m limiting the genre to “Rock” because I don’t want to hear Happy Xmas (War Is Over) or Wonderful Christmastime (both set to the genre “Holiday”) in July. I’ve got the primary limit set to “least often played” so that I don’t hear one song a thousand times and another song only ten times. The setting “Last Played” keeps the rotation fresh, and also means if I add a new Wings greatest hits CD (or something like that), it won’t overwhelm the playlist until the play counts “catch up” to the others.


1 When I was a teenager I worked at Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips in Daytona Beach, Florida for a while. For some reason I heard Penny Lane twice each night, every night, for over a year. It started to drive me crazy.

December 30th, 2013 @ 10:10 am
Bad News for Resolutionists

Nike Free 4.0Starting in the next few days, you’ll start to see them. They’re the resolutionists, and they’re going to invade your local gym. But new studies show some bad news for everyone working a desk job, and not just for the ones suddenly motivated to start lifting weights or getting some cardio “this year”. Those of us who try mightily to exercise every day might be fooling ourselves, too.

Check out some of the frightening low-lights from this article from New Scientist:
Workouts Are No Antidote to Death by Desk Job:

  • “Long periods of desk work or TV viewing can slash your life expectancy, even if you work out every day.”
  • “[I]nactivity, particularly in the form of sitting, is really bad for your health.”
  • “Sitting still for hours at a time is a health risk regardless of what you do with the rest of your day.”
  • “[P]eople who spent hours sitting had a higher mortality rate even if they worked out for 45 to 60 minutes a day.”
December 29th, 2013 @ 6:00 am
Bury My Heart

Sitting BullToday is the anniversary of the massacre at Wounded Knee, which took place in South Dakota in 1890. Twenty-three years earlier, the local tribes had signed a treaty with the United States government that guaranteed them the rights to the land around the Black Hills, which was sacred land. The treaty said that not only could no one move there, but they couldn’t even travel through without the consent of the Indians.

But in the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Black Hills, and the treaty was broken. People from the Sioux tribe were forced onto a reservation, with a promise of more food and supplies, which never came. Then in 1889, a native prophet named Wovoka, from the Paiute tribe in Nevada, had a vision of a ceremony that would renew the earth, return the buffalo, and cause the white men to leave and return the land that belonged to the Indians. This ceremony was called the Ghost Dance. People traveled across the plains to hear Wovoka speak, including emissaries from the Sioux tribe, and they brought back his teachings. The Ghost Dance, performed in special brightly colored shirts, spread through the villages on the Sioux reservation, and it scared the white Indian agents. They considered the ceremony a battle cry, dangerous and antagonistic. So one of them wired Washington to say that he was afraid and wanted to arrest the leaders, and he was given permission to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was killed in the attempt. The next on the wanted list was Sitting Bull’s half-brother, Chief Big Foot. Some members of Sitting Bull’s tribe made their way to Big Foot, and when he found out what had happened, he decided to lead them along with the rest of his people to Pine Ridge Reservation for protection. But it was winter, 40 degrees below zero, and he contracted pneumonia on the way.

Big Foot was sick, he was flying a white flag, and he was a peaceful man. He was one of the leaders who had actually renounced the Ghost Dance. But the Army didn’t make distinctions. They intercepted Big Foot’s band and ordered them into the camp on the banks of the Wounded Knee Creek. Big Foot went peacefully.

The next morning federal soldiers began confiscating their weapons, and a scuffle broke out between a soldier and an Indian. The federal soldiers opened fire, killing almost 300 men, women, and children, including Big Foot. Even though it wasn’t really a battle, the massacre at Wounded Knee is considered the end of the Indian Wars, a blanket term to refer to the fighting between the Native Americans and the federal government, which had lasted 350 years.

One of the people wounded but not killed during the massacre was the famous medicine man Black Elk, author of Black Elk Speaks (1932). Speaking about Wounded Knee, he said:

“I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.”

from The Writer’s Almanac

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“A well-composed book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter in any other way.”
Caroline Gordon

December 27th, 2013 @ 8:56 am
Friday Five: Raiders of the Lost Ark Tibetan Bar Showdowns I’d Like to See

Raiders / Marion

  1. Raylan Givens vs. Eric Taylor
  2. Homer Simpson vs. Ernest Hemingway
  3. Marion vs. Lois Lane
  4. Ron Burgandy vs. Richard Branson
  5. Hunter S. Thompson vs. Johnny Depp
December 25th, 2013 @ 6:15 am
Baby, It’s Cold Outside

My wife is pretty awesome.

December 24th, 2013 @ 8:12 am
Christmas Eve, 2013

tree.01This is our second Christmas without mom. Last year I wrote a little bit about our Christmas Eve traditions, but I don’t have it in me this year. Christmas will be exactly 500 days since she died, which is simultaneously meaningless and important.

I miss her so much.

December 24th, 2013 @ 7:06 am
iTunes Tuesday: Building a Smart Christmas Playlist

iTunesThe only really annoying thing about the holidays is that most radio stations play the same ten or so songs over and over and over again. No matter how much you love the song, nobody wants to hear Baby, It’s Cold Outside five times in the same day.

You’ve got plenty of Christmas music in your iTunes library, right? And you’ve been updating your library and properly setting the genre of every track, right?

Open iTunes and click FileNewSmart Playlist …. Then set these as your parameters:

smart.playlist.holiday

What do we have here?

Obviously we want to set the genre to Holiday so we’re only including Christmas music.
Don’t play anything we’ve skipped in the last five days. This way if you have thirteen different versions of Jingle Bell Rock in your library, once you’ve heard it one time, if you fast forward / skip to the next song, that track will be put in purgatory for a few days.
Don’t play anything you’ve already heard today, of course. One rendition of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer is plenty for any Tuesday.
Don’t play anything with one or two stars, which should be reserved for tracks you are planning to delete or tracks you just can’t bring yourself to delete but don’t ever want to hear.
And, finally, limit your playlist to the twenty-five songs you’ve heard the least frequently. You can change this to least recently, instead, if you want to rotate tracks more often. I prefer to go by play counts instead, but that’s just me.

Another trick is to use the grouping property. (Read all about it!) I have many holiday songs which are decidedly Christian and which are not always appropriate to play in every environment. So I have added the keyword .Christmas. to those tracks. Then I can add a parameter to the smart playlist of “grouping does not contain” and limit the list to only secular Christmas songs. (See what I did there?)

December 23rd, 2013 @ 7:55 am
Jingle Bells in LA

At my son’s winter sing-a-long this year they added a great verse I’d never heard to Jingle Bells:

Christmas TreeWe’re going to the beach
And playing in the sun.
We haven’t seen an icicle
since 1921!
We cannot build a snow man,
or go dashing in a sleigh.
But we will never freeze because
We live here in LA!

December 20th, 2013 @ 7:20 am
Friday Five: Awesome Things About My Dad

DadToday is my dad’s birthday, so this Friday Five is dedicated to him. Here are five completely random awesome things about my dad:

  1. He can effortlessly play the guitar, mandolin, violin, and piano, and has the uncanny ability to learn new instruments with ease.
  2. He is a fantastic photographer.
  3. He taught me to love making frozen orange juice in a blender.
  4. He walks faster than anyone I know.
  5. He completely surprised me by falling in love with a silly little white dog.

Happy birthday, dad!

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One of my favorite quotes was first published two hundred and thirty-seven years ago today:

MinutemanThese are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.

Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, Number I — December 18, 1776

Oh, man. If you haven’t already seen them yet, pause for three minutes, break out the Kleenex, and watch these ads from Apple and Coca-Cola. They’re two of the best commercials I’ve ever seen.