Archive for July, 2004

The sack of New Rome

Jul 31, 2004 in Current Events

Rome wasn’t built in a day, so it’s fitting that after more than a year’s effort, the tiny Ohio village of New Rome is finally being dissolved.

For those of you who missed New Rome’s national notoriety last year, this tiny municipality of 60 residents that spans 1000 feet along US Route 40 has become one of America’s most notorious speed traps. A full-time police force collected over 90 percent of the town’s revenue through traffic stops, often for minor infractions such as a cracked windshield or a busted taillight. Numerous village officials have been convicted over the years for theft, and the town itself has been run by a small cabal of council members led by the Chapman family.

I have been in New Rome exactly once, when I dated a girl who lived on the other side of town. We had pizza in a small New Rome pizza shop, and watched as several town cops had a field day pulling over drivers on a Friday night.

Secret History (Conspiracies and Coups Galore!)

Jul 31, 2004 in Linkage

An interesting post from MeFi: The linked articles detail the secret history of an planned coup d’etat by wealthy American industrialists against President Roosevelt, in an attempt to restore the recently abandoned gold standard. The man they approached for carrying out their plans was US Marine Major General Smedley Butler, who turned them in to Congress as soon as he realized the full details of their plot.

Butler was a highly decorated, well-regarded and very outspoken man. An apparent bundle of contradictions, Butler spoke at pro-Communist gatherings, but opposed fascism long before it was trendy to do so. Butler wrote a short book in 1935 called War is a Racket, in which he argues that war is often an imperialist enterprise designed to make a few people very wealthy.

Also linked to is part of a comprehensive and frequently digressive anti-war essay called “This War is About So Much More.” The material here would seem very left-wing-conspiracy-theorish if not for the fact that the author backs up at least some of his assertions with legitimate media and news reports and declassified government documents.

A huge freaking box of potato chips!

Jul 30, 2004 in Personal

My roommate woke me up today, dragging in a large package addressed to me. I wasn’t quite sure what the package might be, but it was addressed from Pennsylvania, where my family lives. I opened the box, and laughed out loud when I discovered that it was full of potato chips.

Middleswarth Bar-B-Q flavored Old Fashioned Ket-L Chips to be exact. Five “Weekender” sized bags, and six 5.5 oz. bags. Plus a bottle of peanut sauce (I live on tofu, stir-fry veggies and ramen coated in peanut sauce).

As anyone from central PA will attest, Middleswarth makes the best barbeque chips in the world. Everytime I go home to visit, I inhale whole bags of these things. I just hope I don’t eat them all in a week.

This was a birthday present, by the way. I remember joking to my mom that she should ship me boxes of these chips. I’ve been noticing lately that my mom has a tendency to take things literally. Thanks Mom! You know you’re going to make me fat! :-P
For those of you who have never been to the Keystone State, Pennsylvania is the potato chip capitol of the world. Many local and regional brands such as Wise, Snyder’s, Utz, Gibble’s, Good’s, Herr’s, Martin’s and others are manufactured here. In fact, I’d wager that Pennsylvania has a better choice of local brands than just about anyplace else.

Middleswarth chips are very popular in central Pennsylvania, and are only available there. Why they haven’t expanded their market throughout the northeast is beyond me. For those of you who’d like to try Middleswarth chips, this website sells 3 lb. boxes for $5.95 + S&H.

This song is your song, this song is my song

Jul 30, 2004 in Current Events

Jibjab, the fine folks who brought you the hilarious “This Land is your Land” flash parody, have received a cease-and-desist order from Ludlow Music, the copyright holders of Woody Guthrie’s work.

As the Wired article states, it’s unlikely that Guthrie would support the actions of the current copyright holders: “This song is copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don’t give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do.”

“This Land is Your Land” is often held in great regard as a patriotic anthem, which indeed it is. But ironically, Guthrie incorporated socialist themes into the song, as illustrated by the original lyrics:

As I was walking, I saw a sign there:
And on the sign there, it said “No Tresspassing”
But on the other side, it didn’t say nothing –
That side was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, by the shadow of the steeple
By the relief office, I saw my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking,
Is this land still made for you and me?

To add to the irony, the melody to the song (which legal counsel for Ludlow maintains was infringed upon) was lifted from a classic gospel number, “When the World’s on Fire.”

Destroy big media, says Ted Turner!

Jul 25, 2004 in Current Events

Washington Monthly - “My Beef with Big Media” by Ted Turner

Mr. Big Television himself weighs in on media consolidation and the effect it’s had on independent media, entrepreneurship, local programming and objectivity. Of course, all of these arguments against media consolidation are nothing new, but it’s refreshing to hear it come from a former cable TV empire honcho.

What’s truly interesting though is Ted’s simple, yet obvious solution to media consolidation: break up the big companies.

“We’ve done this before: to the railroad trusts in the first part of the 20th century, to Ma Bell more recently. Indeed, big media itself was cut down to size in the 1970s, and a period of staggering innovation and growth followed. Breaking up the reconstituted media conglomerates may seem like an impossible task when their grip on the policy-making process in Washington seems so sure. But the public’s broad and bipartisan rebellion against the FCC’s pro-consolidation decisions suggests something different.”

How to solve the triangle peg game

Jul 24, 2004 in Pop Culture

Anyone who has ever eaten at a Cracker Barrel has played the triangle peg game. The objective is to jump and remove the pegs, leaving as few pegs remaining as possible. One peg remaining is “genius,” two pegs is “purty smart,” three pegs is “just plain dumb,” and four or more remaining makes you an “egg-no-ra-moose.”

Despite the obvious simplicity of the game, two pegs remaining is the best that many people can do. I’ve played this game probably hundreds of times (I used to own one of these as a kid), but have yet to find a one peg solution, except by accident.

Since puzzles are inherently mathematical, the full range of solutions can be found with a simple computer program. Dan O’Brien’s Peg Board Puzzle Page features downloadable text solutions and the source code for his program. This Cracker Barrel page also has instructions, history, and an online version of the game.

Miss me?

Jul 24, 2004 in Personal

I’ve been on “hiatus” for two weeks. More specifically, I’ve been away from home. I went home to Pennsylvania for my mother’s wedding. Stayed at their house for about eight days, pretty much doing nothing…

Well, I did read three or four books: Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them by Al Franken, Heavier than Heaven, the bio of Kurt Cobain by Charles Cross, Bringing Down the House, about the MIT cardcounting blackjack team who earned millions, and Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig. (If you’re not already aware of it, that last book is available for free in many digital formats, and you should read it if you care about the fate of copyright and creativity in the Internet age. For any MTSU recording industry/mass comm. students reading this, this goes double for you.)

I also saw Fahrenheit 9/11 at the same theatre that made nationwide Sunday morning headlines when local Republicans got in to see it for free.

Afterwards, I visited an old friend in Gettysburg, who took me on a tour of the battlefield and the national cemetary (where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address). Being there really gives you a perspective on how bloody and pivotal this event was. While a thousand Americans have died in Iraq, tens of thousands of Americans were killed or injured in Gettysburg in just a matter of days. I also made a quick trip through Washington DC, but gave up and drove home as I found out that parking in downtown DC is about as easy to find as an honest politician.

A few miles past the Tennesee border, my ‘89 Hyundai Excel gave up the ghost on me. A local repair shop told me it would need a new motor. I called it a loss and drove a rental car the rest of the way home. The thing that burns me is that I spent $600 on it just two weeks prior on tires and front-end repair, and I’d only bought it four months ago.

Ever notice how financial disasters happen just after you’ve made a major purchase, such as $400 of computer hardware and OS software? At least the machine on my desk is fast and reliable, although I lament the fact that Windows XP erased all of my Opera bookmarks and my Thunderbird mail.

And I’d be remiss if I made a blog post without including some sort of meme: JibJab has an animated parody of “This Land Is Your Land” featuring John Kerry and George Bush! Hilarious, regardless of your political orientation.

Reheated download of the day: 100 song mix CD

Jul 08, 2004 in Linkage

Is it possible to fit 100 songs onto a mix CD? World of Stuart has explored the answer to this question, and the answer is most definitely yes!

The result is Big Songs for Little Attention Spans. The full mix is available for download, and it looks like a pretty interesting mix. Just in time for the 13-hour drive I have ahead of me in the next two days.


Build your own TiVo!

Jul 07, 2004 in Tech

I’m planning to upgrade my PC soon, and have been pondering the possibility of using a PC as a personal digital video recorder (ala TiVo). Ostensibly, there is a growing movement of computer geeks who are documenting their own attempts to built a PVR (personal video recorder) from PC parts.

The basic, essential step to convert a PC to a PVR is installing a quality TV capture card. The current standard is the Hauppage PVR-350 ($160-180, with hardware decoder, TV-out and FM tuner) or the PVR-250 ($120, needs a seperate video card/mobo with TV-out). The Hauppage comes with a remote control and some PVR software that emulates the basic functions of a digital video recorder . For advanced, TiVo-like functionality, a number of free and commercial software packages are available to make the PVR conversion complete.

You can use your existing PC, provided the hardware is beefy enough, though many prefer to build a standalone PVR unit. Building a full-blown PVR could be an interesting project to pursue if you have the computing power to spare, but you’ll have to do a bit of research and troubleshooting. Building a sleek, top-of-the-line custom PVR can cost much more (in money and time) than a commercial PVR, but the upside is that you won’t have to shell out $12 or more each month for the programming service.

It’s official: Kerry/Edwards 2004!

Jul 07, 2004 in Current Events

As you already know by now, John Kerry has picked North Carolina senator John Edwards as his running mate for president. I, for one, am quite pleased, and feel that Kerry made the right choice. Just about everyone knows who Edwards is by now; He came second in the primaries, he’s a charismatic populist, and a great campaigner. Plus, he’s got a good shot at attracting the rural, Southern, blue collar voters that are still on the fence.

Talking heads have been pontificating on exactly why Edwards was chosen, and the effect he will have on the campaign. Slate’s William Saletan sums it up best in the first two paragraphs of this article:

‘Think about this for a minute: He left college, and he volunteered three different ways. First he volunteered for military service. Then he volunteered to serve in Vietnam. And then he volunteered for some of the most dangerous, hazardous duty you could possibly have in Vietnam. As a result, he was wounded multiple times. He won a whole series of medals while he was there. And now?this is an amazing thing?a vice president of the United States who avoided service four, five, six times?I’ve lost count?[and] a president of the United States who can’t account for a year of his national guard service are attacking John Kerry for the medals he won in Vietnam? You have got to be kidding me.’

That’s John Edwards talking about John Kerry at a Florida Democratic Party fund-raiser three weeks ago. This is why Kerry had to pick Edwards: Kerry sounds so much more attractive when Edwards is doing the talking.”

To put it bluntly, for those of you who are anti-Bush but were less than enthusiastic about Kerry, Edwards promises to alleviate some of the douchebaggery of Kerry’s campaign.