Capitulation

So I didn’t buy an iPhone last summer. Instead, I worked up a head of steam over “no 3rd party dev” and “walled garden” and “no 3G” and “no physical keyboard” and got something else that met my steam-headed criteria, and which I immediately found wanting. I’m sure the good folks at HTC aren’t completely to blame here, since the hardware is pretty much fine, but holy shit is Windows Mobile ever made of FAIL. As an example, here’s how you close a program in WinMo:

  1. Click the upper left start button
  2. Choose Settings
  3. Choose System
  4. Choose Memory
  5. Choose Running Programs
  6. Select the program you wish to quit
  7. Press “end program”.

No word of it a lie. Seriously. How in the big blue FUCK did Windows Mobile get to version 5 with this kind of shit in it? Is there NO QA or usability testing up there?

Also, the whole 3G thing? Wholly overblown, and — crucially — way ahead of the battery curve. Usable life on the WinMo phone was less than a full business day, and woe unto you if you hit a web page and then forget to kill the browser, as you may well look down at the phone at 2:30 in the afternoon and discover it begging for juice because the browser is too stupid to stop refreshing web pages when the display is off.

Sure, the phone did have some features an iPhone lacks, but ended up being so frustrating to use, and so unreliable, that I never did any of those things. In fact, some modern phone features — sending snapshots to Flickr, sending quickie SMS — were so much harder to do on it compared to my last two phones (a RAZR and a Treo 650) that I actually stopped doing them, more or less. Again: EPIC FAIL.

Today, about 8 months into my contract (with ATT, fortunately), I gave up and bought an iPhone. You know what? It just fucking works. It synced with my Mac out of the box (admittedly, only of interest to other Mac people, but being able to kick these losers to the curb is a fringe benefit), but I suspect the out of the box experience on Windows isn’t that much different. It synced down my mail config, so I didn’t have to key in IMAP servers and ports and whatnot, even.

Oh, apparently, it also plays music and videos, but frankly I couldn’t care less about that. I’ve got an 80 gig iPod; another 8 isn’t even interesting. And the iPhone is good enough at being a PDA that having the music and movie options is just gravy.

Good News in Texas

Nationwide, the 2007 foreclosure rate was 79% over the 2006 rate.

In Texas, though, the 2007 rate was 4.6% LOWER than the 2006 rate. Less speculative real estate price runups –> fewer folks overstretching to buy a modest home –> fewer folks in fuck-you ARMs –> fewer folks getting screwed now –> fewer folks in foreclosure. Score.

Dept. of Horrific Future

It occurs to us that, at a certain point, the growing commodification of culture coupled with the gradual yet inexorable physical decline of their aging fanbase will cause someone closely related to the band to notice that there is a natural advertising licensing opportunity for a particular song from Radiohead’s early catalog, and that soon thereafter — we’ll bet 2020 or so — we’ll see adult diaper ads on television to the tune of “Baby’s Got Depends.” Possibly even with Thom Yorke as a spokesman.

What we call a Big-Ass Win

Obama entered the South Proper, and routed Clinton tonight, 55% to 27%. Native son Edwards pulled in third. Iowa was not a fluke. According to CNN, Sen. Obama pulled more than 290,000 votes — nearly as much as all votes cast in the 2004 primary. He’s now got 63 delegates, vs. Sen. Clinton’s 48 and Sen. Edwards’ 26.

This just seems like a bad plan

One defense a small party has against a huge corporate SLAPP suit (or any bogus suit, particularly in this age of over-reaching copyright claims) is the publicize the legal bullying, and the first step has traditionally been to share the ill-considered and legally bogus cease-and-desist letters with the Internet at large, so that everyone can see what fucktards Big Company X is being.

Large corporate interests would prefer their bullying not be so widely known, so they’ve been working to try to find a way to keep it all quiet, inspired no doubt by the whole national security letter bullshit promulgated by the Bush administration. One particularly absurd argument is that the letters are copyrighted material, and that unauthorized distribution is an infringement on that copyright. This ought not even pass the risibility test, but, sadly, some judge has actually bought the argument.

If this ruling stands, the implications for free speech in America are dire indeed.

Thankfully, this time it’s another state being stupid

jaleo Of the many fine restaurants with the Heathen Seal of Approval, one of our personal favorites is the DC-area tapas (no, not topless) joint Jaleo, named for the striking Sargent painting hanging in (but thankfully not stolen from) the Isabella Gardner museum in Boston (small pic at right; the real deal is more than 7 feet tall and 11 feet long; go see it). Their food is fantastic, but their sangria is out of this world.

They’ve had enough success, even, that Jaleo has locations outside the District, in Bethesda and — and this is where the trouble comes in — in Virginia. As it turns out, Virginia still has post-prohibition-era laws that make it illegal to mix hard liquor and beer or wine, which means the sangria in the Virginia locations is, well, a crappy approximation of the real thing. People have noticed this bullshit law, and there’s an effort to change it, but the real shocker is that there apparently some goatfuckers in the Virginia legislature who think the law’s fine the way it is.

At least it’s not Mississippi.

For this, we’d have crossed the pond

Via a review in the New Yorker, we discover that up-and-coming actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (American Gangster, Inside Man, Children of Men, and, most notably at our house, Serenity) is in a production of Othello in London. Ewan McGregor is Iago. The run has been sold out for a while; tickets now go for $1500.

The same article notes something we find astounding: Laurence Fishburne‘s 1995 adaptation was the first film version in which the title role was played by a black man.

Due process at work

A Nebraska deputy pulled seized $69,000 during a routine traffic stop during which the driver was neither arrested nor ticketed.

Investigators don’t know if they will be able to connect the money to a drug operation, [Sheriff Tim] Hanson said, but the important work already has been done.

“The big thing is he grabbed 69 (thousand dollars) and took it away from them,” Hanson said of the money seized. “That’s going right straight to the heart of the matter.”

No, Tim, the heart of the matter is that you just stole money without any judicial oversight, finding of guilt, or other evidence. The heart of the matter is that you presumed a large amount of cash was illicit with no other indicators that was the case. The heart of the matter is that you’re making it de facto illegal to have a bunch of cash, unless the owner can prove the money is legit. That’s a long-ass way from “innocent until proven guilty,” don’t you think?

The heart of the matter is that asset forfeiture rules allow so-called law enforcement agencies to profit by confiscating what they want from suspects without trial or recourse. The heart of the matter, Timmy boy, is that people like you and your jackbooted deputy are causing far more harm to our nation than the drugs you claim you’re so zealously fighting.

(Via Radley.)

Heh.

Cracked.com gives us the Internet Party, a quick little video about a cocktail gathering amongst anthropomorphized Web 2.0 properties. I promise you’ll giggle at least a little.

Say goodbye to the Exclusionary Rule…

…and hello to waaay more police misconduct. At least, that’s the way Radley Balko reads the upcoming Supreme Court ruling. The case, involving a Virginia man stopped for speeding who was found to be driving on a suspended license:

Virginia law bars police from making arrests for misdemeanor traffic offenses. In this case, the cops illegally arrested the guy, then forced him to take them back to his hotel room. There they searched him, and found some crack in his pocket, for which he was arrested and convicted.

The Virginia Supreme court threw out the conviction, explaining that evidence obtained from a search following an illegal arrest can’t be used at trial. The state of Virginia appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. From the tone of the questioning this week, it looks as if the Roberts court is prepared to rule for the state–that evidence seized in searches resulting from illegal arrests should be admissible at trial. Which means the court is well on its way to either overturning the Exclusionary Rule, or limiting it to the point where it’s basically useless. Virginia’s attorney general was asked if, consistent with this case, someone could be (illegally arrested) for jaywalking, then have his home searched pursuant to that illegal arrest, then have the evidence found in the search used against him at trial. He said yes.

Previous court rulings have held that evidence gleaned from illegal searches must be excluded at trial, on the grounds that no other set of rules is likely to produce sufficient motivation for police to act properly. Segments of the Court, particularly Scalia, have disagreed, and seem poised to do so again. Balko continues:

I’ve argued that while the Exclusionary Rule isn’t perfect, it’s necessary, because it’s really the only effective deterrent to Fourth Amendment abuses. History has shown us that bad cops in fact aren’t properly disciplined by their departments or by prosecutors. The doctrine of qualified immunity and the tendency of judges, jurors, and police administrators to show deference to police, victims of illegal searches and excessive police tactics rarely if ever recover any damages–if their case is fortunate enough to even get by summary judgement.

Which brings me back to the Virginia case argued before the Court this week. The state of Virginia and the U.S. government (siding with Virginia against the Fourth Amendment) once again brought up the argument that disciplining and firing police officers who perform unlawful searches is a better remedy than the Exclusionary Rule.

That raised the question: What happened to the police who performed the illegal search in this particular case? NPR found the answer (listen to the tail-end of the audio). Not only were they not disciplined, one of the officers was named his city’s “Cop of the Year”–the same year he took part in the illegal search.

THIS is the kind of court we get when you fuckers vote GOP. Stop it.

Oh boy.

Remember that Federal case about California attempting to demand higher emissions standards from cars and trucks, and the EPA trying to stop them? Yeah, well, in the resulting lawsuit, the EPA is asserting Executive Privilege to avoid turning over unredacted materials, which basically makes the discovery process useless. Bush-Cheney’s 7 year Imperial Presidency is a cancer on our republic, and it’s clearly still metastasizing. It’s going to be a long year.

Football Heathen, Draft Edition

For Christmas, the Horne Heathen Collective gifted me with a fascinating book about football called The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis. Lewis we knew; he’d written, among other things, Liar’s Poker, about the culture of bond salesmen on Wall Street in the 1980s. Lewis’ work reads like long-form magazine articles, in depth and highly interesting, so I tore into it immediately.

I finished it about 48 hours later. It’s a strong and compelling book comprised of two main narratives: first, the development of modern NFL tactics and strategy, with an emphasis on the so-called West Coast Offense (precision, timed short passes to precise routes, basically, which turned passing into something drastically more important than it was previously) pioneered by Bill Walsh, and second (and most importantly) the story of Michael Oher, a nearly feral African-American kid growing up in Memphis. Oher has no real parents, and basically lived by his wits and attended school only occasionally until a family friend, fulfilling a wish from his own child’s dying grandmother, ended up taking them to a suburban Christian school in the hopes they’d actually get an education there. Oher has essentially no educational background to build on, but when the small school’s football coach saw him — six and a half feet tall, nearly 350 pounds, hugely powerful, but with running-back speed — they figured out a way to admit him.

Somewhere along the way, the parents of another Briarcrest child took notice of Michael. Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy first clothed and fed, then housed, and finally adopted Michael more or less because it needed doing, and they had the means. They took it upon themselves to help Michael catch up academically — and athletically. Playing organized football for the first time as a junior, Oher was immediately a standout; by his senior year, he was being actively courted by virtually every big-name collegiate program in the country because his size, speed, and skills made him a perfect fit for the “blind side” of the offensive line in the new post-Walsh world of the NFL. The new world order needed big, fast, smart men on the quarterback’s non-dominant side, which typically means the left. Defensive players like Lawrence Taylor (don’t remember him? Joe Theismann’s leg does) had made a game of sacking quarterbacks, and the offense had to have an answer for them. In the years since, the Left Tackle position has become the second highest paid job in football, behind only the quarterback. Oher couldn’t fit this role any better if he’d been engineered in a lab.

Oher is now in his junior year at Ole Miss, and has been contemplating his future these last few weeks. With three years behind him, he’s eligable for the draft, and is widely considered to be a first or second round prospect. His coach is gone, replaced by Arkansas’ Houston Nutt. Many folks thought he’d go pro, and in fact he initially indicated his intent to do so — but then took advantage of the 72-hour regret period. As it happens, Oher will play SEC football next year after all. I can think of lots of reasons why he might prefer this, among them the prospect of a better season (Ole Miss was helpless this year even with Oher’s All-American, All-SEC heroics). However, after growing up without a family, and then suddenly getting one as supportive and devoted as the Tuohys, I also wonder if the prospect of the NFL isn’t a bit much for Oher just yet. Oxford is close to Memphis, and in fact the Tuohys own a house there as well. Why not be a kid one more year? It’s worth noting that Oher’s prospects aren’t as stark as they would have been had he come to Ole Miss from poverty; he doesn’t need NFL money to buy his parents a home, or a car, or take care of any relatives. He has no real kin other than the Tuohys, and Sean’s bankroll is sufficient for all of them. That gives Oher options.

It also means Ole Miss will be more fun to watch in 2008, and that can’t be bad.

Anyway, read the book. Many smart people, including Malcom Gladwell, are fond of this book; you won’t be sorry. However, we are very concerned about the movie buzz surrounding Lewis’ work. For one thing, there are few plausibly teenaged 6′ 6″ 300+ pound actors in Hollywood.

Two from Bruce

Security Guru Bruce Schneier has a couple winners this week:

  • What do Chicago-fire era public fire alarm boxes and modern-day geiger counter regulations in NYC have in common? At the time of the Chicago fire, the public boxes were kept locked to prevent false alarms; as a consequence, the first alarm wasn’t pulled until the fire was already raging out of control. Today, in NYC, it’s against the law for private citizens to own or use chemical, biological, or radiological hazard for precisely the same reason. If there was a lesson learned in Chicago, it’s clearly been forgotten by the NYC authorities.

  • Bruce runs his network naked: “Whenever I talk or write about my own security setup, the one thing that surprises people — and attracts the most criticism — is the fact that I run an open wireless network at home. There’s no password. There’s no encryption. Anyone with wireless capability who can see my network can use it to access the internet.” Read more.

What you need to know about Mike Huckabee

It’s all over the net, of course, but the transcript is pretty simple:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

In truth, I suspect Mormon Mitt is no better.

Ow.

This video is completely safe for work, but will probably hurt your head anyway. The Japanese are different than you and I. (Thx, RN.)

Can’t Keep Us Down Nohow

WE LIVE AGAIN, sort of. A few things are broken or otherwise unavailable (most notably comments, but also some supporting files (they’re copying now) and the archive-and-census page) for now, but expect all to become normal relatively soon; this little crisis has me considering a migration to a different (more modern) blogging platform again, and I’m not going to spend time making Blosxom perfect again here until I’m sure I’m going to stick with it. However, the real message is this: we’re back, and you can resume your frantic page-reloads and therefore resume your previous level of workday productivity. Or lack thereof. Later, I’ll have much to say about any number of topics, since I’ve been without this fine virtual pulpit for several days now.

Inshallah and all that.

OH: the fact that all the Heathen entries and supporting files were easily on hand even after a major server crash should tell you something about backups and their efficacy. Go and do likewise.

The RIAA, Again, In Case You Were Slow

Threat Level is on it again. Here’s the part you really need to understand:

The RIAA believes that if you want to listen to copyrighted music you bought on CD on your digital music player, you should go to Amazon or iTunes and buy a digital copy there. Anything else is infringement in their eyes — even if they have no way of catching you do it.

The RIAA Are Still Weasels

There’s been a lot of talk and confusion about the Washington Post story in re: the case against an Arizona man being sued for sharing MP3s over the Internet. One bit of the story was rather shocking, and we said so: it included the notion that the RIAA believes it’s illegal to copy a CD to your hard drive or put it on an MP3 player.

This is actually pretty well settled law, as we understand it: it’s Fair Use. However, the RIAA apparently wants it to be different, since they asserted in the Arizona trial that the defendant had broken the law when he did so, even before he started sharing the music online, and even though it was only for the latter act that he was being sued.

Ever vigilant, Wired’s Threat Level blog has taken up the story, most interestingly in their attempt to get a straight answer on the basic question: is it or isn’t it legal, as the RIAA sees it, for a person to buy a CD, rip it onto their computer, and copy it to their iPod?

They won’t answer. Instead, they provide a link to a long, obfuscatory statement that appears to say “it’s not legal, but we probably won’t sue you for it.” When Wired tried to get clarification — again, it’s just a simple yes or no answer — they clammed up.

What assholes.

Sugar Redux

If the phrase “Sugar La Las” makes your heart beat a little faster, head over to Mohney’s place, as he’s got a few (studio, somewhat dry) audio files from that long-dead Birmingham band.

No Surprises Here

For the second year in a row, we have an SEC team and a Big Ten team in the BCS Championship Game, and once again the SEC dominated: this time, it was LSU 38, Ohio State 24 — and it wasn’t that close. The Buckeye’s final score came on a pro-forma last minute drive after LSU had gone up 38-17; with less than 2 left, it’s hard to believe LSU brought their best defense.

The game actually started with a completely different momentum vector; Ohio burst out to a 10-0 nothing lead in the first few minutes, and I will admit I was afraid the Tigers were choking. Turns out, they were just giving the Buckeyes a running start: LSU then notched 31 unanswered points before Ohio got back on the scoreboard.

The final AP poll is out, and it shows us something interesting: LSU has the top spot, of course, followed by Georgia, USC, Mizzou, Ohio State, and West Virginia. This is the first time a conference has had the top two spots in the AP since the Big 8 did it in 1971. And here’s the kicker: much was said about LSU being a 2-loss team, and that perhaps they didn’t deserve to play for the brass ring. Obviously, though, they’re not the ones who maybe didn’t deserve to be there.

Last night, Ohio State looked sloppy. We like our odds picking Georgia or Tennessee over the Buckeyes, too. We think West Virginia, if they played like they did in the Fiesta Bowl, would’ve steamrolled Ohio, too.

Our favorite stat: Ohio State is now 0 and 9 against the SEC in bowl games: quoth LSU safety Harry Coleman, “They don’t fight back like an SEC team would do.” Word. Ohio State went down quickly, and never recovered — this year, and last. That’s not SEC football, and it won’t get you the title. Try again, Vest-boy.

To Err is Human. To Really Screw Things Up, You Need To Be Sony

Sony made news recently by announcing they’d sell DRM-free music, thereby becoming the last major record company to abandon DRM.

However, get a load of how they’re doing it. Instead of a simple approach via Amazon or the iTunes Music Store (like their competitors), both of which provide fairly complete and seamless customer experiences, Sony’s decided to re-invent the wheel with an approach so utterly braindead that it beggars belief:

To obtain the Sony-BMG tracks, would-be listeners will first have to go to a retail store to buy a Platinum MusicPass, a card containing a secret code, for a suggested retail price of $12.99. Once they have scratched off the card’s covering to expose the code, they will be able to download one of just 37 albums available through the service, including Britney Spears’ “Blackout” and Barry Manilow’s “The Greatest Songs of the Seventies.”

In contrast, online retailer Amazon.com offers 2.9 million DRM-free tracks in MP3 format from the catalogs of EMI Group, Warner Music Group, Universal Music and a host of independent record labels. Apple’s iTunes Store has around 2 million DRM-free tracks in the AAC format supported by its iPod and many mobile phones. No store visit is necessary to download those tracks, and an album typically sells for $9.99 or less.

To recap:

  1. Only 37 albums will be available; and
  2. Customers must visit a physical retail store and purchase a $12.99 “MusicPass” card in order to download the MP3s.

Wow. Just wow. How could they have missed the point more? Why on earth would a music-consuming teen even bother, when nearly everything is on the darknets for free anyway?

Don’t miss John Scalzi’s take, by the way, which is hilarious. Sample line: “So to recap, what you’ve got here is a system that makes people leave their house in order to download music at their house, and makes them go to a store to get music that they could get at the store, somewhere else.”

Dear NBC: You’re stupid, and you suck

We here at Heathen HQ are slowly catching up on the new Battlestar Galactica, and finally got to the end of season 2 tonight via NetFlix.

Of course, it ends in a cliffhanger, so I figured I’d just snag the next ep — from their cleverly named “Season 2.5″ — from iTunes. Except, of course, BSG is a SciFi show, and NBC owns SciFi, and those goatfuckers at NBC decided it would be a good idea to pull all their content from iTunes so they can create their own online show-watching deal at Hulu.com.

Hulu isn’t actually live yet, and probably won’t work worth a damn once it does. For right now and the foreseeable future, then, if you want to watch NBC content online, you have to go to the so-called “darknets” full of pirated content because there is no other way to get it. This is a situation NBC has deliberately chosen because of their pissing match with Apple, and they deserve to suffer mightily for it.

As for us, we’ll have the 2.5 DVDs in a couple days, which means incrementally LESS revenue for NBC. If it had been available online right now for $1.99 at iTunes, I’d have bought the next episode immediately. As is now, I’ll just wait for the NetFlix DVD to show up on Tuesday.

Nice one, GE! You guys rock at teh Intarwub! Enjoy your impending doom.

Iowa as predictor, and a little history

Much has been made of the 1992 Iowa caucus, when Governor Clinton ended up with less than 3% and still went on to win the nomination, but few stories are painting the whole picture. Here it is:

1992

It only warrants mention since some news outlets and back-of-the-pack campaigns have been misleadingly calling attention to it, touting the fact that Bill Clinton received less than three percent that year, and yet still won the nomination with ease. What they don’t mention is that, for all intents and purposes, the caucuses didn’t take place in 1992, thanks to the entrance of favorite son Senator Tom Harkin. No candidate, besides Harkin, actively campaigned in the state, almost no one showed up on caucus night, and the final result–Harkin received nearly 80 percent, with “uncommitted” finishing second at 12 percent–was given about two inches of space in most newspapers the next day.