Bait shop.

In Belize. On the beach. No software in bait shops. No airports, either. And only bugs I can physically quash with one flip-flop.

Bait shop.

Smart move from Redmond

A previously NDA’d feature of Windows 7 has finally gone public; basically, Win7 comes with a virtualization-based “XP mode” that creates a virtual machine to host any apps that can’t run in a post-XP environment.

The real bonus here is that it allows Microsoft, like Apple before them, to make a break with backward compatibility. OS X was a quantum leap over System 9 precisely because they made no real effort to allow backward compatibility outside a “compatibility box” that was the next best thing to virtualization (since virtualization wasn’t really an option 9 years ago).

Microsoft has, so far, not made the same kind of break with the past, and that’s hamstrung the evolution of the platform. If they do this right, they’ll be able to make the same kind of leap with 7 or whatever comes after 7 that Apple made in 2000.

This is a good thing for everyone; I’m not a huge Windows fan, but I want Microsoft in the race in the same way I want the GOP in the race. Competition is good for everybody.

New Frontiers in Suck for Kansas City

Owing apparently to the departure of Northwest from the market, the Kansas City Airport’s C terminal now features ZERO food or drink vendors inside security. Nada. Nothing.

Since there are also no water fountains, it’s impossible to take water aboard a plane. Congrats, MCI, you’re Heathen’s new choice for Suckiest Airport in the Country. Even Jackson, Mississippi, sucks less.

In case you didn’t get it

The implications of the recently released torture memos are fairly deep and significant, but the press at large isn’t boiling it down or providing any real analysis. Fortunately, at least one person is paying attention. Paul Krugman breaks it down for you thusly:

Let’s say this slowly: the Bush administration wanted to use 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq, even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. So it tortured people to make them confess to the nonexistent link.

There’s a word for this: it’s evil.

Not much more to say about it, is there? Our government, working in our name, tortured people to get them to admit to things that weren’t true to justify a war unrelated to the assault we suffered on 9/11. And thus far utterly no one has been held accountable.

Dept. of Alarm Stupids

So, Heathen Central has always had an alarm with these people. Over the weekend, we had enough heavy weather in Houston that we lost our regular phone line, and the alarm started telling us about it by beeping.

Ever ten minutes.

Without stopping.

Clearing the error doesn’t work; it tries the phone line periodically to check, and as soon as the test fails it starts beeping again (unless the alarm is actually ENGAGED at the time, in which case the alarm goes off; this is less charming than beeping).

I called ATT, sure (we don’t actually use ATT for voice; the POTS line exists only for the alarm and failover reasons), but in the meantime what I needed was a way to continue to set and use the alarm, even in the absence of a phone line for monitoring.

Well, it turns out there’s no way to do that, and this is bone fucking stupid. An alarm works on several levels:

  1. The big ADT sign does some deterrence;
  2. If some douchebag breaks in and the alarm goes off, there’s a nonzero chance the miscreant will just run away. Someone DID try our (unfortunately unlocked) downstairs patio door at one point, which is on a zero-delay switch. They got it open half an inch and the alarm went nuts; exit bad guys.
  3. If both of those fail on you, then yes, the alarm DOES use the phone line to alert the monitoring service, and the monitoring service will dispatch the authorities.

By making it impossible to turn off the phone line check (for situations such as the one we’re in), ADT has made the alarm system 100% useless until ATT gets off its ass and fixes my POTS line. Given the power in case #2, above, that’s just dumb.

(Well; the signs still work; call it 95% useless.)

I think it’s probably time to shop for a new alarm system. In a city with a history of heavy weather, a system designed like the one I have seriously needs to get fired.

Why piracy will win in the end

Because, as this Slate piece makes abundantly clear, the movie people are just too bone stupid to realize they have to compete with it.

The days of controlling distribution with arcane contracts and weird periods of artificial scarcity are over. If consumers can’t legally watch what they want to watch when they want to watch it, it’s becoming easier and easier for them to do so in ways that result in zero revenue for the copyright holder. Do the math.

By the way…

…it’s the 66th anniversary of the most interesting bicycle ride EVER.

Albert Hofmann joined the pharmaceutical-chemical department of Sandoz Laboratories (now Novartis), located in Basel as a co-worker with professor Arthur Stoll, founder and director of the pharmaceutical department. He began studying the medicinal plant squill and the fungus ergot as part of a program to purify and synthesize active constituents for use as pharmaceuticals. His main contribution was to elucidate the chemical structure of the common nucleus of Scilla glycosides (an active principal of Mediterranean Squill). While researching lysergic acid derivatives, Hofmann first synthesized LSD-25 in 1938. The main intention of the synthesis was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant (an analeptic). It was set aside for five years, until April 16, 1943, when Hofmann decided to take another look at it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small quantity through his fingertips and serendipitously discovered its powerful effects before his bicycle ride home.

Shocking, a United Airlines policy change that doesn’t suck

It’s irrelevant to Houston-based Heathen, but it sounds like being squeezed into the bulkhead by a supersized seatmate is a thing of the past on United. Consumerist has the story:

Starting today, United Airlines has a new policy. If you can’t fit into a single seat, you need to buy another one or stay behind.

In order to fly for no extra charge, passengers now have to be able to sit in a single seat, buckle their seat belt (with an extender) and put the arm rests down. If you can’t do this, you’re going to need to buy another ticket — unless there is already a seat available with another open seat next to it.

Today’s weird Internet find

FLIP (Floating Instrument Platform) is the US Navy’s oldest, and most unusual, research vessel. Commonly referred to as the FLIP ship, it is actually a 355ft long, spoon-shaped buoy which can be flipped from horizontal to a vertical position by pumping 700t of seawater into the ‘handle’ end whilst flooding air into the ‘cradle’, causing it to rise up out of the sea.Once the 28 minute transformation from horizontal to vertical has taken place, 300m of the buoy are submerged underwater, keeping the 700 long-ton mass steady and making it perfect for researching wave height, acoustic signals, water temperature and density, and for the collection of meteorological data.“.

They don’t really want what they say they want

Or, why restating the problem can be the best possible thing you can do. The context of the link is software development, but upon reflection it turns out that there’s pretty much always some benefit to be had by turning the problem around a few times.

(Of course, my answer to the actual dilemma linked would’ve been “join,” but that’s because I think in Perl.)

Andy Sullivan Gives The Smackdown

This time, the victims are the TeaPartyTards. Check it out.

I spent the better part of an hour earlier today scanning the various sites and blogs to try and understand what specifically the Fox-Pajamas tea parties are about. Having absorbed about as much of the literature as I can, I have to say I’m still befuddled.

Option 1: It’s a protest of the bank bailouts orchestrated by Bush and now Obama. But surely these tea-partiers understand what would happen if we didn’t bail the banks out. Are they advocating letting major banks fail? Or are they advocating a Krugman-style government take-over? No idea.

Option 2: It’s a protest against tax hikes. But there have barely been any! Are they arguing that the planned return to Clinton era marginal rates is an outrage worthy of the colonists … only months after an election in which the winning candidate ran on exactly that platform?

Nice. As Jon Stewart said earlier this week, all these hysterical wingnuts seem to have confused “tyranny” with “losing.”

This is the coolest thing EVER

Pervasive computing is getting there, but the problem right now is that getting to the cloud of data involves the awkward process of hauling out your phone or laptop and doing a manual query. What if you didn’t have to, and what if you could solve the problem without spending more than $400?

I can’t possibly explain how cool this is. Just go watch.

(Yes, the MIT Media Lab is made of WIN.)

Catan goes Mainstream

Have you played Settlers of Catan yet? The German-made game has become a global hit; my guess is Heathen Nation probably has a higher percentage of gamers — and thus folks who’ve seen it — than the public at large, but it’s interesting that Wired has noticed. It’s also interesting that Wired’s notice feels late despite the fact that I’ve seen no other mass-media treatment of it yet.

Godspeed, Lord Pomplemoose

moose-in-blue.jpg Longtime Heathen “Attorney” writes to inform us of the untimely passing of the Chief Mastiff Correspondent Pomplemoose, late of the Sue Barnett district of Heathenstan. Here he is, all ten stone of him, enjoying his native Texas Bluebonnets.

Pomplemoose was not yet 10 when he bounded off this mortal coil on Tuesday, quite unexpectedly. We’ll miss him, as we know all the Acostas will as well — particularly Miss ~.

Why the AP is doomed

Two from Jeffrey McManus.


The AP’s power used to flow from their role as a syndicator — they would hook up any member newsroom with a communications cable (the literal “news wire”) through which stories and other content would flow. Now that newsrooms (and every single other person on the planet) has a better wire called the internet, there may be no good reason for the AP to exist in its role as a syndicator, except for inertia. To put it in economic terms, it is a classic example of an inefficient marketplace.


the AP’s chairman decried the practice of aggregators linking to and excerpting AP content and got into some rather nasty name-calling (backed up by a Wall Street Journal executive who referred to “certain web sites” (cough Google) as “parasites”). Danny Sullivan had an excellent response in which he suggested that if the news services didn’t want Google’s attention, they’ve always had a simple way to reject it (through a file that bans search engines called robots.txt). But they won’t do this, of course, which is the reason why they’re now resorting to public whining and name-calling — it’s all they’ve got left. Traditional news businesses are stuck in a bear trap called the internet, and they can’t decide whether to saw their own legs off or slowly bleed to death.

See ya, AP.

What’s the matter with Kansas

Found on stall floor in client restroom: printouts from the Ayn Rand Institute. Ah, randroid wingnuts.

(Of course, it’s possible the sheets were meant for sanitary use, which would be appropriate if ill-advised; the client’s choice of paper products in said restroom is perfectly reasonable.)


It appears Microsoft is just not quite able to kill XP after all; leaked HP memos suggest that zombie OS may live on until 2010, nearly nine years after its 2001 release.

For reference, nine years prior to XP’s release, we were all using Windows 3.1 (b. 18 March 1992) — or we were, if we weren’t still using DOS.

Dept. of Good Things

Adults who love each other can now get married in Iowa no matter what plumbing they have.

From the unanimous Iowa supreme court ruling:

“We are firmly convinced that the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the institution of civil marriage does not substantially further any important governmental objective,” the court said in an opinion written by Justice Mark Cady. “The legislature has excluded a historically disfavored class of persons from a supremely important civil institution without a constitutionally sufficient justification.”