What really grinds my gears or signs that the world is coming to an end

Not Art

Last October, when I was in Chicago, Kim and I1 went to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Something struck me as interesting. While there were some amazing piece of work there, there were also lots of things that were not art2. In fact, most of this “not art” I would call crap.

Some artist has an idea, trips out on drugs, and throws some paint on a wall. Voila! Modern Art!


Perhaps that’s my biggest issue with modern art: anything can be called modern art.

What got me thinking about this again was this photo in FILE magazine:

Photo ©2009 <a href="http://laurahartley.redbubble.com/">Laura Hartley</a> (link is NSFW)

Photo ©2009 Laura Hartley (link is NSFW)

Friends, this is not art; modern or otherwise. This is a blurry picture. And like almost all blurry pictures, it belongs in the trash (literal or figurative).

Or perhaps I just “don’t get” modern art.

  1. Ben didn’t want to go 

  2. granted, this is a pretty subjective opinion 

Seattle Refuses to Use Salt

…that’s the headline from today’s Seattle Times. After reading the article (well, the above the fold part at least) I can’t believe how idiotic the city is. This is really just precious:
From seattletimes.nwsource.com:

To hear the city’s spin, Seattle’s road crews are making “great progress” in clearing the ice-caked streets.

But it turns out “plowed streets” in Seattle actually means “snow-packed,” as in there’s snow and ice left on major arterials by design.

“We’re trying to create a hard-packed surface,” said Alex Wiggins, chief of staff for the Seattle Department of Transportation. “It doesn’t look like anything you’d find in Chicago or New York.”

The city’s approach means crews clear the roads enough for all-wheel and four-wheel-drive vehicles, or those with front-wheel drive cars as long as they are using chains, Wiggins said.

The icy streets are the result of Seattle’s refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster used by the state Department of Transportation and cities accustomed to dealing with heavy winter snows.

“If we were using salt, you’d see patches of bare road because salt is very effective,” Wiggins said. “We decided not to utilize salt because it’s not a healthy addition to Puget Sound.”

So quick recap:

  • “Great progress”
  • Snow and ice left on major arterials by design
  • Trying to create a hard-packed surface
  • Refusal to use salt, an effective ice-buster
  • “If we were using salt, you’d see patches of bare road because salt is very effective,” Wiggins said. “We decided not to utilize salt because it’s not a healthy addition to Puget Sound.”
  • “Great progress”

Yup, sounds like a great plan. Sometimes I’m sorry I ever left Colorado.

See also: 2 buses skid down slick hill, barely avoid plunge to I-5 (with amazing picture)


Free Speech

If you haven’t heard, there’s some shit hitting the fan at the University of Washington over an op-ed that ran in The Daily: Gay marriage? Let’s stop and think about this by John Fay.

At a rally today, people protested the publishing of the article:
From seattletimes.nwsource.com:

Protesters say language in the column, including a reference to bestiality, coupled with the accompanying image of a man standing next to a sheep, amounted to hate speech. But speakers differed on whether the paper should be censured.

For what it’s worth, I don’t agree with the content article at all. Fay’s opinion is flawed. He has no grasp on the Constitution and what it means; he is, in short, ignorant…and you know my stance on that. Is it hateful speech? Yes, it hurt someones feelings. Should it have been censored and/or should The Daily be censured? Absolutely not.

Free Speech is still free speech (expect when it’s not, but this isn’t one of those times).

I’m not going to go in depth about why Fay’s argument is flawed. Mostly because there’s already a couple of good rebuttal pieces out there, partly because the reasoning should be self evident, and also because I have a final tomorrow and really should be studying. Thus, if you’re looking for a good rebuttal piece, check out:

Please try to refrain from making jokes about Fay in the comments.


An Open Letter to President Scoggins

Bill Scoggins, the President of the Colorado School of Mines, sent out the following email today:

Dear Mines Community:

I am pleased to report that Barack Obama’s campaign staff has rented Lockridge Arena in the Student Recreation Center for a community gathering, free and open to the public, on Tuesday, September 16. Doors will open at 7 a.m., and the program will begin at 9:30 a.m. We were in talks with the campaign for two days, and an agreement was reached Friday evening.

Since many national media representatives will cover the event, this is a tremendous opportunity to showcase our campus, students, faculty and staff–and the exciting work we’re doing here at Mines.

I am proud we were selected as the venue for this event, as it reflects our growing recognition as a leading, world-class research university. Tuesday’s event will increase our visibility even more. I am also proud that we were contacted by Senator McCain’s campaign staff earlier this summer. Although they chose another location for their event at that time, we welcome further inquiries from them about renting a facility at Mines. We should all be proud that our campus is a place where national policies are discussed.

Of course, an event such as this will cause some inconvenience to our Mines community. I feel it’s worth it and think you will agree. We expect 2,000 guests, plus media and VIPs, on Tuesday morning–with everything back to normal by noon. For those morning hours, however, you can expect parking to be a challenge. Please plan to walk, bike, carpool, and get an early start to campus that day. And plan to be patient.

I know many of you will want to attend the program. We have been given a limited number of tickets. This is not a Mines event–the Barack Obama campaign has rented space on our campus to host a public event. Information about the limited tickets provided to Mines will be announced via email later today or early tomorrow morning.

Together we will make this a positive, memorable event.

Thanks for your support,

Bill Scoggins

Initially, I was rather ecstatic to have a major political candidate on our campus. However, after reading Mr. Scoggins email and finally letting the reality of the situation set in, I realized this was bad. This was very bad. I’m going to vent in this open letter, because frankly, I don’t know what else to do.

Dear President Scoggins,

I do not agree with you. I think this event will cause quite a bit more than “some inconvenience to our Mines community.” And I do not feel it is worth it.

And lest you think that the rest of this letter is a rant from some Republican who just doesn’t want to see Mr. Obama on our campus, I can assure that this letter is not that (nor am I a Republican). My political standpoint has nothing to do with my frustration with your decision, nor should it.

I believe you showed an incredible lack of good judgment in bringing the Obama campaign to campus.

While you believe that this is “a tremendous opportunity to showcase our campus, students, faculty and staff – and the exciting work we’re doing here at Mines” and to tout us to the “many national media representatives [that] will cover the event,” I cannot fathom the horribleness that awaits me and my fellow students on Tuesday.

Are you completely blind to the amount of pressure and stress we’re under already? I have 19 credit hours with 10.5 hours of class on Tuesday, I’m going to have a freaking aneurysm.

We do not need the added stress of having to deal with the logistical issues associated with bringing the next potential President of the United States of America to our campus with less then two months until the election in a swing state. Secret Service, national media, local media, VIPs, the 2000+ people that will be flooding our campus. Need I continue?

Let me give you a picture of what I see: CSM is a school of about 3300 undergraduates. Now, for about 5 hours on a Tuesday morning, we’re going to instantaneously increase the number of people on campus by almost 60%. That’s 60% more cars, which we don’t have parking for and cannot handle. That’s 60% more people walking around campus. That’s 60% more commotion while I’m trying to freaking study!

Our school cannot simply absorb that many people and still function as a school!

Please tell me again how this is a good idea?

And then there’s the fact that all of this went down on a late Friday evening and not an official word about it until Sunday morning? Why was there such pisspoor communication? Why was the student body not consulted before hand? Should we expect more disruptions like this in the future?

I fear that making amends will be tough on this one. Yes, the ideal thing to do would be to cancel Tuesday’s event. But we both know that probably won’t happen. I honestly think the next best thing to do is cancel school for at least Tuesday morning and have classes resume around 1pm. While I’m not a fan of this solution, I believe it is the one that will cause the least amount of stress and disruption for all parties involved.


Andrew Ferguson


No Such Luck

Paying 5.4 cents per a gigabyte seems like it’s going to have to wait for another day. Dell canceled my order:

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for your recent order.

We regret that, because of a pricing error, we have cancelled this order as it relates to a SimpleTech 1.5 TB Hi-Speed USB/eSata-300 Duo Pro External Hard Drive.

As you may have noticed, Dell specifically indicates on our web pages, catalogs, advertising and order-confirmation that Dell cannot be responsible for pricing or other errors, and reserves the right to cancel orders arising from such errors.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. We truly value our relationship and reputation with our customers. Please be assured that we are working hard to avoid similar issues.

We invite you to visit www.dell.com or call 1-800-999-3355 if you wish to place an order for this product at its correct price.



Personally, putting that part about “Dell cannot be responsible for pricing or other errors” is really just a load of crap. I know they have the technology to verify the prices before they go live. I think that all companies should have to honor posted prices no matter what.

Besides, if they really “truly value [their] relationship and reputation with [their] customers,” they would have eaten the cost and sent them out anyway. Or maybe just offer to sell it to us at cost.

But only if they “truly value[d]” us.


Why I Won’t See ‘Untraceable’ or What Code Doesn’t Do

The advertisements for ‘Untraceable’ are pretty exciting. Some sick schmuck kills his victims using a web site. The more people visit the site, the faster the victims die.

From movies.nytimes.com:

You may view “Untraceable,” as I do, as a repugnant example of the voyeurism it pretends to condemn. Or you may stand back and see it as a cleverly conceived, slickly executed genre movie that ranks somewhere between “Seven” and the “Saw” movies in sadistic ingenuity.

Here’s my issue though: the concept is fatally flawed from the get go. In short, all our heroine needs to do is yank the DNS entry for the site and the game is over.

I might let something like this slip if technology were more accurately represented on a regular basis, but it’s not.

Matthew Inman has nice round up of the top 10, What code DOESN’T do in real life (that it does in the movies):

From www.drivl.com:

10. Most code is not inherently cross platform
Remember in Independence Day when whatshisface-math-guy writes a virus that works on both his apple laptop AND an alien mothership? Bullshit!
If real life were like film I’d be able to port wordpress to my toaster using a cat5 cable and a bag of glitter.


Six Years Later

Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot and writes a section for the New York Times Blog called Jet Lagged: Navigating the Unfriendly Skies.
Here’s an excerpt from his latest article, The Airport Security Follies.

From jetlagged.blogs.nytimes.com:

Conventional wisdom says the [9/11] terrorists exploited a weakness in airport security by smuggling aboard box-cutters. What they actually exploited was a weakness in our mindset – a set of presumptions based on the decades-long track record of hijackings.

In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of “passive resistance.” All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.

For several reasons – particularly the awareness of passengers and crew – just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.

The entire article is a great read. The TSA is easily one of the greatest failures of America in the 21st Century, perhaps even greater than the war in Iraq. I suppose it’s fitting then that the TSA is now tied with the IRS for least popular government agency in America.

via Photo Matt and BoingBoing


Psychic Debugging: Why doesn’t XYZ work? It just says LMNOP!

One of the joys of writing programs is supporting them. Actually it really is. I write something that I hope will work, but every once in a while I see a fringe case and have to fix some mistake that I made whilst originally programming it. And I’m really more then willing to fix such things.

However, unlike Raymond Chen, I am not psychic – despite what you may have heard to the contrary.

I received an email sometime ago1 )) to the effect of:
I am using XYZ2, and I have done ABC’s, but in my DEF, it just says “LMNOP”
Can you help me understand what’s going on?

“Well, no. Because I’m not psychic.” That’s what I wanted to say.

Why is this a poorly worded bad question? While XYZ is identified (hey, at least they said ‘I’m having an issue with XYZ’ and not ‘I’m having an issue with your program’), the version number is not. That’s like saying, can you help me with Windows? Well, what version of Windows do you want help with? Vista? XP? 98? (Yes, I know people who still run 98…they are no longer my friends now ;)) Thus, if I were to reword it, I might write something to the effect of, “I’m having a problem with XYZ version 1.1.” An even better rewording would be, “I’m having a problem with XYZ version 1.1 running on PQR version 1.9.”

Secondly, while you say you did ABC, you need to be more specific. Saying, “I clicked the Red button, and then the OKAY button, and typed in some text, and clicked the Enter button” seems like a good start, but what did you type into the box?! If you typed something like, “My Inboxen™”, then I might suspect that entering in a non-ASCII character caused a fart somewhere in the code.

At the end of each email there’s usually a request: “Please fix it!!” or “What did I do wrong?!!?” This emailer actually has a very good request, “Can you help me understand what’s going on?” While there’s a chance that he doesn’t really want to understand, there’s a better chance that he actually does want to know what’s going on (heck, he even asked for more understanding).

In summary: the more information, the better (usually). For debugging WordPress issues, here’s what I think is pertinent:

  • Plugin name and version
  • What version of WordPress
  • Step by step instructions to reproduce the error
  • Anything else you think may be relevant

Here are some things that I don’t particularly care about, but may be of interest in some rare instances (or for metric purposes):

  • Server specs, including what version of Apache, mySQL, etc
  • Other plugins that you have running
  • What you had for breakfast this morning

I received another email from someone else with regard to FlickrViewer for AutoViewer. Here’s literally the extent of the entire email:

Hi, I tried your script but it does not work …. why?

even your gallery that I downloaded does not work?
what is the problem?

best regards

I’m going to be off in the corner banging my head against something.

  1. Read as: anytime between now and 2000 ((This is an arbitrary year I picked 

  2. The program being talked about is not important. It could be my program (which in this case it is) or someone else’s 

Of Insanity and Pessimism

I was doing a bit of cross checking on a IMDB article when I came across this entry from the Aug. 13, 1979 edition of Time Magazine:

From www.time.com:

The pessimist’s short catechism–”It will get worse, it will get worse, it will get worse”–applies to tennis elbow, OPEC exactions, the seven ages of man, Skylab, the Middle East, airline food, the New Conservatism, college tuition, smog and the length and lack of substance of presidential campaigns.

It’s amazing to think that even 28 years later, nothing has really changed. We still face the same problems. Einstein (at least the quote is attributed to him) once defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” [1]. Why are we 28 years in the future and still facing the same problems?

Is it me or are we insane?

[1] http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/26032.html


The Taxman Cometh

This was the first year I’ve needed to pay taxes. I feel, slightly…republican…or something like that. It’s not that I don’t mind paying taxes, I just made a paltry amount last summer and ended up paying two Benjamin’s. That’s on top of the over $600 that was taken straight out of my paycheck for Social Security and MediCare.

I think what aggravates me the most is that I’m paying for school more or less out of my own pocket (via loans for the time being) and amount to over three times what I make per a year. Shouldn’t I be getting money from the Government, not giving money to them?

This whole education and tax thing is ass-backwards if you ask me.

Until the next April 15th, enjoy this money-related Family Guy clip:

Update: Renamed the post

[tags]family guy, stewie, brian, irs, money[/tags]