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Chicken little reads TPM?

Evidently that thud last night was the sky falling.

Dana Milbank, Bob Schieffer, and Treasurer of the Regime all promise us that Republicans must give Obama a credit-limit increase or the consequence will be DEFAULT.

Remember, these are the same folks who promised us that the last trillion would “create or save” how many millions of jobs?

The U.S. is not going to default. I won’t bore you with the details. Even Milbank admits we will have $2.2 trillion in cash coming in next year. We can’t run a government on $2.2 trillion? Hmmm. We would have to go all the way back to 1990? 1965? No, 2003. That’s right. We ran an entire country and two wars on $2.2 trillion just eight years ago. And even that was not a particularly lean year by modern standards.

Let’s also keep some perspective: Thailand and Brazil each defaulted, while Mexico opted for a Goldman Sachs–financed bailout. Perhaps default is a necessary prerequisite to offshore drilling.

My son, by virtue of being born, probably owes the government $100,000 for spending that has already taken place. (More on that to come.) Forgive me for preferring to create or save a few grand for him first.

So Obama’s mouthpieces all read the same memo. GM turns a phony profit. Dog bites man. I suppose I never realized how the once-in-a-generation opportunity to raise taxes under the guise of fiscal discipline would seduce even the old-line journalists who are gasping to remain relevant.

Random answers

Question? Here’s the answer!

I don’t ordinarily post random links, but this was too funny to pass up.

Faux-tographers poser-ing for the camera companies

Or, how not to spend $3,000.

Casual SLR owners today have dirt-cheap digital sensors capable of recording an image as useful for most purposes as their medium-format film predecessors a generation ago. Democratization of the Bayer array robbed the competent amateur of a valuable in-group marker: No longer can he assume that a bow of similar craft assures him he has met a man of commensurate abilities.

Spend a week in Tuscany or New York with a DSLR and ask a few passersby at random to take your picture. You will be lucky to get 1 in 10 printable shots (even if you pre-focus). Now spend a second week, but only ask passersby carrying SLRs to take your picture. Maybe you won’t have to pre-focus but I guarantee your odds will not be much better.

As DSLRs are now point-and-shoots for the tech-obsessed, heavy glass has become the only way to separate the Maya from the Cherokee.

So imagine my surprise when a faux-tographer carrying a massive f/2.8 Nikkor zoom had absolutely no idea how to use a fixed-focal-length lens. I know I can’t afford a varifocal worth buying, but I would know how to use such an arrow if I could.

I may be obstinate in my insistence on the superiority of primes, but at least I will never be accused of poser-ing.

Cutting the cord III: How not to spend $4.99

Tonight, randomlymarried and I entertained ourselves for free. Somehow, aTV transformed our own music and photos into an hour of real entertainment. Without asking us for a dime.

Could it do more? Of course. Nevertheless, aTV’s out-of-the-box polish is hard to compete with. Before I really decided on a plan, we had our honeymoon photos set to a slideshow soundtrack rocking the house. (Now that I have seen it in action, that Samsung sure can make me look like a genius.)

Then I started playing around with flickr. Once again, without even really knowing what I was doing, I had my own customized photostream piped into my living room. (Tip: Search for something interesting like “Colorado” or “Egypt.”)

Never to be outdone, aTV’s interface made mundane tasks a blast. Anyone know of a few flickr contacts I could add?

Cutting the cord II: Cancellation

You would think a dying business model, threats to profitability in analogous markets, and nascent but determined competition in a once-protected monopoly would put an old-school Alexander-Graham-Bell “phone” company in the mood to deal. You would be wrong.

Like a good monopolist, AT&T informed me that my rates would be going up $5 per month each for cable and internet. So I called to cancel, knowing I would probably have to keep the internet regardless. (Thanks to an even more entrenched sloth, Time Warner, and a cheapskate landlord, cable broadband is not a viable option.)

Apparently the best they can do is the off-the-rack price of $40, even if you insist you will cancel. Interesting strategy. That will certainly keep the fiber dark.

Still, that’s $60 less than I was paying and $45 less than the stripped-down, sans-DVR, “family” plan. I can rent, or even buy, a lot of aTV entertainment for that price.

Cutting the cord

I finally did it. I cut the cord. randomlymarried and I will review and report periodically on this random, and indeed bold, experiment in coming months. A few first impressions:

  • aTV’s user interface makes cable look like a typewriter. Graphical browsing, animations, and reviews from Rotten Tomatoes beats a long, boring list of text any day of the week.
  • aTV’s quality may not be Blu-Ray, but guess what? It costs about a fourth of that. And how many times are you really going to watch these movies anyway?
  • aTV’s selection was good enough to induce me to spend an average of $1 per hour on new content for the first few days I had the unit. And I haven’t even jailbroken it yet.

Sports fanatics and channel surfers probably can’t pull this off. But with and a creative imagination, I prefer to spend my $60-plus per month on a pair of free market monopolies.

Yes on D-facing

Best sign ever: Ye$ on D

Even on the streets of La Jolla, some jokers managed to add a few punchlines to the Yes on D campaign-slash-swindle.

  • Give more to the bums who got us here
  • Government employee unions say, Vote Early, Vote Often
  • And my personal favorite: How to Bankrupt a City

Which struck me as particularly funny on the day the tough-minded reporters at NPR “broke” the campaign-finance scandal of the decade.

With any luck I will post a picture of this D-faced sign later this week.

The paradox of choice, Episode 1

So the child preparation began in earnest this week. And I never thought I had the tendency to maximize, but if I ever had a doubt, it is now erased.

I have managed to eliminate the compulsion to maximize even the most mundane decisions—brunch, for example, no longer becomes the hourlong agony it once was. (I choose between eggs and pancakes and then get the other “on the side” knowing I won’t eat it all.)

But deciding on a shiny new kid hauler has reignited the insanity. We had a temporary reprieve from the mind-eraser, but that poor thing is now someone else’s diamond in the rough.

So we return to the fundamental questions: budget and body style. You might call it a maximizer’s dilemma. Not that anyone actually reads randomlybolded but I am leaning toward a $20,000 sport wagon.

  • SUVs are overpriced (even in this economy) and really not that much bigger
  • Driving dynamics are practically identical to sedan
  • A liftgate might be a bit easier to load, even if the bed doesn’t hold all that much more

Yet even in this “niche” market, we have no fewer than five options: Volvo, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Subaru, and arguably Cadillac and a few others as well.

Capitalism is a maximizer’s self-scourge.

The point of no return

At a certain point there is just no going back. You create too many dependent classes and allow too much direct democracy and you end up with mob rule.

Somehow the Land of Reagan became the Son of Brown in less than a generation.

If a moderate Republican cannot pull ahead against a legacy admit even in a year where all signs point to a Republican landslide—well, I won’t pronounce it dead until November 3.

Nevertheless, the boldfaced writing is on the wall. You’re-no-Pat Brown sent us down the inevitable road of decline by allowing public employees to unionize, though of course you wouldn’t know it if you get all your political news from Wikipedia. Jerry the Merciful!

This at a time when the scale of the Pyrite State’s pension underfunding boggles the imagination.

Too soon to return California to its ghost-town roots? Perhaps thoughtful California voters should take a lesson from other union-heavy, Democrat-dominated municipalities.

If it doesn’t change this election cycle, when could it?

Accident prone

Apparently today was a day of accidents. Wrecks. Spills. Whatever you prefer to call them. Lance had three—the first of which most considered a “novice” crash. I’m no Lance, but my first wreck since the day I first took out the bike made me look like, well, someone who first took out a bike today.

The worst part of the minor collision was the anticipation. My internal dialogue had echoed my frustration with riding that stretch of road since the moment I doubled back on my initial route rather than completing a true loop.

Fortunately, I left the scene with only a few scrapes and an ego bruise. My bike, however, will need its first major replacement and probably a checkup just to be safe. Of course, this happens the day after I bought brand new pedals and shoes from my new favorite cycling website.

I think I may post the city bike map in my office. One close call is enough.

GPSies: Gets the job done

Ugly but functional, GPSies does what its name may or may not suggest (depending what language you speak). What is GPSies anyway? An odd play on the word “gypsy”?

Effectively a mobile ad you can use, GPSies serves no purpose without being tethered to yet another web-based account. Thus there’s no way to sync your track logs directly to your laptop. But you can set up a fairly useful page to slice and dice your track logs however you wish.

Few apps more flagrantly violate the iPhone human-interface guidelines—and yet the direct-to-cloud sync nearly makes up in utility what the program lacks in design finesse.

Three-and-one-half stars for an app I probably won’t delete. I would give four if you could at least email yourself the track log.

Mac to the future

I am hardly the first to the Leopard-less developer conference blog party. But I will add a few words about why Mail and document controllers and launch services should still matter.

  • Email is not dead. Sure, you can set up site-specific browsers with user scripts to fix the layout of a webmail interface, but at the end of the day, a desktop mail program should “just work.” Forget the *&^@% Finder, Unmangle Mail.
  • Reliability speaks for itself. From Honda to Canon to Sears Craftsman—nobody wants to worry about a machine. The users you want intuitively understand how a well-engineered product behaves. Don’t jeopardize their goodwill with screwy “locked file” warnings and .SoftwareUpdateAtLogout.
  • Smarter is better. Opening things with the application that created them makes sense. Why break years of expected behavior?

I hate needless complexity, so the concept of a lightweight OS will always appeal to me. But let’s hope Apple ends its continued neglect of the goose that laid the golden egg.

.DS_Store, –delete-excluded, and RB at the CLI is back up after a fatal error last night.

The problem

Immediate post-mortem casual analysis: PEBKAC.


In an attempt to remove legacy MacOS junk from my server (.DS_Store, eyes are squarely on you), I used rsync –delete-excluded. Which would have been terrific, except that my auto-update rsync command mirrors at the domain level, not within the various folders.

So rsync deleted every .DS_Store as well as my entire blog. No are-you-really-sure-you-want-to-do-that box, no oh-crap-⌘Z-to-undo-thank-God option, just plunge-over-the-cliff, search-and-destroy madness.

The solution

Backup database. Uninstall wordpress. Reinstall wordpress. Change wp-config.php $table_prefix (new) to $table_prefix (old). Problem solved.

All prompted by .DS_Store.

The glue I’ve been looking for

Seldom do I feel like a genius. But my discovery of sips, Platypus and CocoaDialog has brought me close to the perception of IQ>150.

Simple problem, difficult solution. Ever had that observation in response to technical conundrums? In my case, automating the webpage workflow to save both low– and high-resolution versions of all posted photos—simple problem, difficult solution.

Until now. Using only basic shell-scripting skills, I arrived at an quick, elegant answer to a problem I never thought I would be able to solve. Store and pass an array of paths or drag-and-drop to rename and rescale? No contest.

This is why I bought a Mac.

Snow job

Imagine my shock when, without warning, Snow Leopard 10.6.3 began acting like Windows Vista. Call me naïve, but I do not expect a point upgrade to cause a weird sleep-to-wake glitch, especially when even the Windows web is aflutter about the Mac’s superior power management.

Add to that a login/menu bar oddity. It now takes several extra seconds to replace the default wallpaper with a rotating selection from my iPhoto library, and for some reason the Spaces icon refuses to display the space number until I click on it.

A small price to pay for a virus-free existence, but I subscribe to the broken-windows (no pun intended) philosophy of software development: Quirks tolerated today lead to fundamental design flaws tomorrow.

Dodo bird sighting?

Before I could even finish this post (which I began writing before the fateful vote), Bart Stupak proves my point: A once-thriving species—the “pro-life Democrat”—is nearing extinction. Where’s the EPA when you need them?

Oh, wait, environmentalist outrage extends only to the far side of the primate divide. Perhaps the one-term left-wing hero will find the dodo a post-election habitat somewhere in Chicago?

Truthiness, factuality, &c.

Not exactly a unique link (thanks Drudge), but worthy of comment:

McLean said the call center had been inundated by uninsured consumers who were hoping that the overhaul would translate into instant, affordable coverage. That widespread misconception may have originated in part from distorted rhetoric about the legislation bubbling up from the hyper-partisan debate about it in Washington and some media outlets, such as when opponents denounced it as socialism.

Where does one begin? Whose distorted rhetoric? Which media outlets? And how could certain aspects—guaranteed issue, community rating, and the slap-on-the-wrist tax penalty (essentially a wealth transfer)—not fairly be described as creeping socialism?

Two points for a lithe pigeonhole act. To blame “widespread misconceptions” about Dr. Robin Hood’s brainchild on a Republican conspiracy rather than a presidential administration’s unwillingness to acknowledge costs requires a knack for “factuality” I never learned in law school.


It’s almost comical. Of course, I am hardly the first to have noticed the doppelgänger.

A man who believes in the American League but not in America. Stunning?

A random note on the iPad

Of course it’s for content creation.

Anyone who would buy a quote-unquote netbook for content consumption, let alone creation, over the iPad needs to reset the user agent of his browser. Ninety percent of websites are better viewed as an iPhone than underpowered e-junk with bonus carpal tunnel syndrome in the making.

But for those who haven’t noticed, creation abhors verbosity. From books to pages to blogs to texts to tweets to a photo or video posted without comment, concise but ubiquitous prevails over verbose but infrequent.

Considering that full-featured blogging software weighs in at less than the size of your favorite song, the new sweet spot to post will be from your couch.

On the desktop

Don’t let anyone tell you that the desktop is dead. Attentive rb readers will notice the prodigious blogging of the last few weeks after a long hiatus.

I can only chalk it up to my newly acquired blog software. Not having to haggle with the WordPress “user interface” has made me more productive.

Worth $30? I will let you know if I buy…