Friday, April 30, 2010

Too Short

Bruce KruegerLife's too short to work on shitty bikes.

-- Bruce Krueger, owner and operator of Bikeworks, Urbana, IL, December 2007 (and before and since)

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Forgotten bicycle lock in Stuttgart. Such objects are much less uncommon as one thinksWhen I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way, so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.

-- Emo Philips (7 February 1956-), American comedian

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bullet Points

US Navy 040605-N-6633C-002 Commander Naval Reserve Force, Vice Adm. John G. Cotton, is silhouetted in front of a Powerpoint slide mapping out the Naval Reserve Force's futureIt's dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.

-- Army General J. R. McMaster, on the growing use of PowerPoint presentations among military commanders, New York Times, 27 April 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What's Best

The flag of ArizonaI have decided to sign Senate Bill 1070 into law because, though many people disagree, I firmly believe it represents what's best for Arizona.

-- Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, signing a new law forcing police officers to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant, 23 April 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Embrace And Love It

As for old age, embrace and love it. It abounds with pleasure if you know how to use it. The gradually declining years are among the sweetest in a man's life, and I maintain that, even when they have reached the extreme limit, they have their pleasure still.

-- Marcus Annaeus Seneca (BC 3-65 AD), Roman philosopher, dramatist, statesman. trvth'ed in honor of my father's 93rd birthday 24 April 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Jerry Schweighart Has Company

New TDS PatchI invited my court martial, and today I stand ready to answer these charges. I was prepared to deploy if only the President would authorize the release of the proof of his eligibility. He refused, and now the court will determine the issue, and my fate. The constitution matters. The truth matters.

-- Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, court-martialled for refusal to obey orders from President Barack Obama on the ostensible grounds that Obama is not a natural-born United States citizen, in a press release issued by the American Patriot Foundation, 23 April 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day

Planet Earth within a HeartIf we do not discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us.

-- William A. Feather Sr. (1889-1981), American writer, publisher, and businessman

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Silverplate B-29 nose art of Necessary EvilOnce we assuage our conscience by calling something a "necessary evil", it begins to look more and more necessary and less and less evil.

-- Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986), journalist

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Twitter Fail WhaleThis is an entirely new addition to the historical record, the second-by-second history of ordinary people.

-- Fred R. Shapiro, of the Yale Law School, on an agreement by the Library of Congress to archive Twitter messages, New York Times, 15 April 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

You Know

Youtube Screen GrabI don't think he's American, personally. You know, if you're not willing to produce an original certificate like a birth certificate, then you've got something to hide.

-- Champaign, IL Mayor Jerry Schweighart at a Tea Party Rally, 15 April 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

50 Years Of Public Computing

[Edited to add: Here's a link to the video of the PLATO presentations made that day.]

I had a good time this morning at 50 Years of Public Computing at the University of Illinois where I attended the session dedicated to the PLATO educational computer system.

The panelists were Don Bitzer, Peter Braunfeld, and Lippold Haken. Half of the people in the audience could easily have served on the panel as well, and I had the pleasure of hearing many of them reminisce about those good old days. I saw Jim Kraatz and Celia (Davis) Kraatz, Rick Hazlewood, Paul Tenczar and Darlene, Jim Knoke, Jack Stifle, Rick Blomme, John Gilpin, Aaron Woolfson, Helen Kuznetsov, Mike Walker and CK Gunsalus, and many others (my apologies to those I've left out).

Here's a link to the dozen or so pics that I shot today. Sadly, I forgot to bring my camera, so these were taken with me Palm Pre -- no zoom, and today the background (thin drapes over a window) was brighter than the foreground ...

It was a lot of fun, and it makes me that much more interested in the PLATO@50 Conference coming up on 2-3 June 2010 in Mountain View, CA at the Computer History Museum. The conference is dedicated entirely to PLATO, with the theme "Seeing the future through the past". Here's a link to the Museum's page about the conference --

Presenters include:
Ray Ozzie (Microsoft's chief software architect)
Don Bitzer (initiator of the PLATO project at the UI)
David Frankel
Andrew Shapira
Dave Woolley
... and many others (as listed at the conference URL, above)

In addition to discussing the hardware and software of the PLATO system, there will also be a focus on the culture of the development team, and the online community that sprang up around the PLATO system.

Besides the conference itself, I'm interested in visiting with the people involved, many of whom I worked with (or went to school with) in times past. I started using the PLATO system while in high school, and was a student programmer on the PLATO System Staff at the UI in my teenage years in the late 70s. I was a software engineer at NovaNET (which PLATO evolved into, locally) for over 8 years, ending in 2002. I also worked on the PLATO system as a computer operator at the UI, and as a programmer for the Department of Defense at Chanute AFB in the early 80s. In all, I worked on PLATO and its descendant systems developing educational software and its related infrastructure over a 25-year period.

At the UI's CERL (Computer-based Education Research Lab) much of the work was accomplished by people who pursued their own interests, and then made that work relevant to the community at large. It was a pleasure to work in that culture.

I plan to go to the conference if I can manage it.

Unconscious Instruments

No greater mistake can be made than to think that our institutions are fixed or may not be changed for the worse. ... Increasing prosperity tends to breed indifference and to corrupt moral soundness. Glaring inequalities in condition create discontent and strain the democratic relation. The vicious are the willing, and the ignorant are unconscious instruments of political artifice. Selfishness and demagoguery take advantage of liberty. The selfish hand constantly seeks to control government, and every increase of governmental power, even to meet just needs, furnishes opportunity for abuse and stimulates the effort to bend it to improper uses. ... The peril of this Nation is not in any foreign foe! We, the people, are its power, its peril, and its hope!

-- Charles Evans Hughes (1862 - 1948), politician, Secretary of State, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Conditions of Progress in Democratic Government (1909)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


rememberDreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.

-- William Dement (1928-), US sleep researcher, in Newsweek, 1959

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Smolensk in western RussiaIt is a damned place. It sends shivers down my spine.

-- Aleksander Kwasniewski, former president of Poland, on the site of a plane crash in western Russia that killed the Polish president and dozens of Poland's leaders, that was also the site of a Soviet massacre of Polish officers in World War II, New York Times, 11 April 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

And Proudly

John Paul Stevens' signatureWhen I was the most junior Democrat in the Senate, I voted for John Paul Stevens. He was a Republican nominated by a Republican president who was going to be up for election, and we voted for him, and proudly.

-- Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT), now chairman of the Judiciary Committee, on his respect for the associate justice, who is retiring, New York Times, 10 April 2010

Friday, April 09, 2010

Money Is Property

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, official portraitMoney is property; it is not speech. Speech has the power to inspire volunteers to perform a multitude of tasks on a campaign trail, on a battleground, or even on a football field. Money, meanwhile, has the power to pay hired laborers to perform the same tasks. It does not follow, however, that the First Amendment provides the same measure of protection to the use of money to accomplish such goals as it provides to the use of ideas to achieve the same results.

-- John Paul Stevens (20 April, 1920), American jurist, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 1975, concurring, Nixon v. Shrink Missouri Government PAC, 528 U.S. 377 (2000); Stevens today announced his retirement from the court

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Ashes Vs Ashes

Ashes UrnA nuclear war does not defend a country and it does not defend a system. I've put it the same way many times; not even the most accomplished ideologue will be able to tell the difference between the ashes of capitalism and the ashes of communism.

-- John Kenneth Galbraith (1908 - 2006), Canadian-American economist and author, The Ashes of Capitalism and the Ashes of Communism, interview with John M. Whiteley in Quest for Peace: an Introduction (1986)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Palm Pre Trvth

Palm Pre PlusHere's an update on the Palm Pre, now that I've been using it for a little over 2 months.

Over Easter weekend, I used it on a trip to southern Illinois. Throughout the trip I used it for GPS, streaming music from the Internet, streaming that same music from the Pre to the bluetooth speakers in my car, and as a phone (all at once). With the Pre plugged into the adapter in my car, it's power draw was close to break even; the battery actually went down a little (from 100% to 80%) during a 2.5-hour drive. Additionally, it got a little warm while charging and running all of these radios & apps at the same time. Once I arrived at my destination, I was able to use WiFi connectivity for faster Internet.

Having always-on Internet in my pocket changes the way I use the Internet. When a point of trivia arises, instead of thinking "I could google that", I just go ahead and google it. I carry my Pre loose in my pocket, though I did apply a full-body Zagg (indestructible, thin, nano-tech) skin.

  • Always-on Internet, with easy access to Google, Wikipedia, Youtube, etc.
  • True multi-tasking, with notification area for updates from running apps
  • Automatic, background syncing of contacts, etc. with Internet services; no backups required. If you lose your device, a replacement device will have all of your apps/contacts/etc. automatically, within a few minutes of activation.
  • GPS with Google Maps built in, 802-11b/g WiFi, Bluetooth 2.1
  • Accelerometer for game control using tilt, shake, etc.
  • Attractive 3.1" 480x320 display w/3D graphics and 16M colors
  • Touch-active screen with multi-touch (pinch/spread to zoom, etc.)
  • Proximity sensor disables touch screen when you hold the phone to your ear
  • Video playback
  • Desktop-style web browser
  • Appears as a removable USB drive if you connect it to your PC, allowing file transfer via drag-and-drop
  • Ability to use the cellular Internet connection + WiFi to create a mobile WiFi-anywhere hotspot supporting up to 5 other devices (Verizon charges for this, and I haven't actually tried it). Laptop owners who don't mind the cost should love this.
  • Linux under the hood, with easy access to a root prompt for tinkering; WebOS is a joy to use
  • Well-developed community of users whose work provides features and enhancements otherwise pricey or not available
  • Palm App Store & community app store on the device; all software added wirelessly. It's possible to own a Pre and never use its USB cable.
  • 3M-pixel camera with flash and video capture
  • Regular software updates from Palm (from v1.3.5 to v1.3.5.1, and then to v1.4, since mid-January)
  • Best cellular connectivity I've had (I no longer need to leave the basement at home when a call comes in)
  • 16GB storage
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Hardware mute, LED notifications, hard volume buttons, all work even when device is sleeping
  • All-day battery life when you're not torturing the device; I torture mine daily, but I also charge it nightly, and can charge it at work if necessary.
  • Optional Touchstone charging system (wireless magnetic inductive coupling); I have one at home, and another at work.

  • Biggest problem - the keyboard sometimes bounces and/or drops keypresses, making proofreading a necessity
  • Lack of a 5-way navigator (up/down/right/left/OK), making editing out those typos more awkward
  • Touchstone charging devices are sometimes flaky, charging to only about 90% before losing connectivity; I have 2 of these, and one is flawless, the other flaky
  • Aggressive power-saving; when the device auto-sleeps, the GPS stops updating and needs to re-sync on wake. The background "cron" service also sleeps, though this is moot unless you're tinkering.
  • GPS draws a lot of power; continuous use of GPS (not plugged in, auto-sleep disabled) yields ~2.5 hours battery life
  • Streaming music from the Internet and re-streaming it via Bluetooth uses a lot of power; continuous use for music like this (not plugged in) yields ~4 to 5 hours battery life
  • No expandable memory, though I use a tiny fraction of the 16GB capacity; if I added movie-length videos this might matter.

    [Edit -- writing this review was a good exercise; I now feel even better about owning/using my Palm Pre. If the keyboard were more reliable, this device would be nearly perfect.]
  • Tuesday, April 06, 2010

    Waist Deep In Gasoline

    Matches on NASA aerogel, with a flame underneath. A demonstration of aerogel's insulation properties.The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.

    -- Carl Sagan (1934-1996), astronomer and writer, debate transcript with William F. Buckley, aired after the first showing of the ABC TV movie "The Day After", November 20, 1983

    Monday, April 05, 2010


    If I'm having trouble with my wife, I come here and watch the traffic. I thought I had problems, but look at these poor people. They sit in this traffic every day. These people have it so bad compared to me.

    -- Angelo Ramirez, a retired police officer, on the Cross Bronx Expressway, New York Times, 2 April 2010

    Thursday, April 01, 2010


    The Flammarion WoodcutAn age is called Dark not because the light fails to shine, but because people refuse to see it.

    -- James Albert Michener (1907-1997), novelist, Space (1982)